The Train: Episode 79

“I’m sorry, a demon in the form of a man?” Nicole asked, looking highly skeptical.

“Let me start at the beginning,” Serena said.

“Father Salvatore came to us three years ago and turned this place around. Please walk with me,” Serena asked.

While she explained, she led them to the main building and the pool. All the guests seemed to be getting along well, laughing and playing in the water, visiting by the pool.

“What was this place before?” Michael asked.

“Before Father Salvatore, it was pretty much empty except for a few bikers and drug addicts. But Father Salvatore changed everything, made this into a resort and spa, a place of peace and relaxation.”

“What about Morgan?” Nicole asked.

With an intense glare, Serena turned to face Nicole.

“Do not let anyone hear you call him by that name. No one here except those loyal to Father Salvatore calls him by his given name. They must call him Saint Suriel.”

“So he’s Saint Suriel unless you say otherwise,” Michael said. “Got it.”

Serena’s glare melted into a sweet smile, and she beckoned them to follow her.

“Come. Let us go meet the guests.”

She whipped her hair around in the breeze for a moment then headed for the pool.

“Did we have to get one of the inmates to show us around this asylum?” Michael laughed.

“I’m afraid for now, she’s all we have,” Nicole said.

“Just once I’d like to get help from someone who’s actually helpful,” Michael sighed.

As they approached the pool, an older man, his black hair thinning on top, slipped out of the water and walked over to them. He wore a rosy smile as he shifted a little girl from his right arm to his left.

Extending his right hand, he greeted,

“Hello. I’m Marvin Clark and this little angel is my daughter Judy. That’s my wife Susan with our boys Gordon and Paul.”

Marvin pointed to a redheaded woman in the pool, the length of her bright hair floating in the water as she played with two small boys.

“So what’s your name, or do I get to make up one for you?” Marvin asked.

“Pete Shepherd,” Michael said smiling.

“This is my sister Erika,” Michael said, pointing to Nicole.

As Marvin shook Nicole’s hand, Michael pointed to Dr. Ricer and added,

“And that’s my dad David and my niece Marie.”

“A pleasure to meet you all,” Marvin said. “Please, let me introduce you to everyone here.”

As they followed Marvin around the pool greeting people and shaking hands, Nicole watched the windows and scanned the open areas of Tearmann River Spa & Resort. Everything seemed normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

“My name’s Brad. Let me show you to your rooms,” a young man said as he approached them.

“We don’t have rooms,” Nicole answered.

Cursing herself for speaking without thinking, she realized she had become so wrapped up in the calm of the resort that for a moment she’d forgotten why they were there.

“Yes you do,” the attendant said.

“Serena told me your rooms were assigned late due to a mix-up on our part, but she’s sorted out everything. You’ll be staying in Maple. We’ve put you in adjoining rooms with a beautiful view of the gardens.”

Brad pointed to one of the larger buildings close to the main building.

“We apologize for the loss of your bags. Serena said they arrived but were misplaced. Entirely our fault. We’ll bring them to your rooms as soon as we find them. In the meantime, we will provide clothes for you and anything else you need. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Brad cheerfully said.

“Thank you,” Nicole smiled.

“Oh Pete,” she called to Michael who was talking to a young couple. “We’re going to see our rooms.”

* * *

The Maple building was decorated with polished wood paneling and soft grey carpet. Soothing music played over invisible speakers as a fountain’s streams of water cascaded over polished rocks creating a restful, tranquil atmosphere.

“Here we are,” Brad said, stopping just down the hall from the fountain.

“The dining room serves breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and of course you may have meals delivered to your room if you’d prefer,” he said while opening the door. “Each of the rooms has an itinerary of events. Everything is included in your admission fee. No hidden charges. Our goal here at Tearmann River Spa & Resort is to make certain your stay is happy and peaceful.”

When Brad finished with the information, he handed Michael three room keys.

“We can arrange for a wakeup call over the phone or in person. Might I suggest you start your stay here with a relaxing massage? I find its the best way to unwind and fully enjoy your day.”

“Sounds great,” Michael responded.

“One last thing, the gates will close after midnight, but the grounds are always open to any of our guests who wish to enjoy the stars, the fireflies, or maybe a romantic tryst in the moonlight,” Brad informed.

With a slight bow, he said,

“I shall leave you to relax and settle in. Thank you for choosing Tearmann River Spa & Resort.”

Then he clasped his palms together, and pressing them against his chest, he sighed,

“Have a blessed day.”

Michael waited until Brad was gone and said,

“Well that was creepy.”

“He seemed nice,” Ricer said.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not used to the whole smile and wave happy family thing. Always puts me off,” Michael replied.

“Most likely the knowledge of the impending mass murder has you off about this place,” Ricer suggested.

“No, Doc, it’s this place,” Nicole said. “I’ve been to plenty of places like this, but this one is different. Something about it makes me feel like I’m being hunted.”

“I didn’t get that impression, but I do agree with you that this place is an 11 on the creepy scale,” Michael said.

“What about the people you talked to?” Ricer asked Michael.

“Okay. I met five couples and several singles. Most of the singles were just doing what single people do. I had two girls hit on me, which is odd because girls never hit on me. Let’s see. What else? Oh yeah. Marvin and his wife Susan aren’t the only ones with kids. Another couple Thomas and Charlotte are expecting their first child. Charlotte’s two months pregnant, so they came here to enjoy one last romp before their child is born.”

“Any word on Scott Morgan?” Nicole asked.

“Now, now. Remember it’s Saint Suriel,” Michael corrected.

Nicole rolled her eyes and began to check the room.

“Nothing yet, but I did notice one thing. The staff is always close by, always within earshot and always watching the guests. It’s almost like we’re being guarded, not tended to,” Michael pointed out.

Suddenly the doorknob of the adjoining room, Michael’s room, began to turn. Michael moved Ricer and Lucy out of the way as Nicole reached for her pistol.

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Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 92

The next morning, Zephryn woke to the rumble of distant thunder. For just a moment, he indulged himself, letting his mind drift back to Lillian’s night visit, her soft kiss before she stole away. With a heavy sigh, he rose to his feet and walked over to the window. Looking up into the heavens, he saw that the sky was filled with dark clouds. An approaching storm. He quickly said his morning prayers then left his chambers, heading for the castle and the meeting with King Isembart.

As Zephryn crossed the courtyard, an unseasonably cold wind struck him, stirring leaves and dust in its path.

“Good morning, Priest Zephryn. Unusual weather for this morning, is it not?” Caulder, a local fruit vendor, said to Zephryn as he passed.

“Good morning, Caulder. Yes, it is, but nothing to fear,” Zephryn smiled.

“Thank you,” Caulder sighed with relief.

“Blessings upon you,” Zephryn replied.

Zephryn’s thoughts were filled with the beautiful Lillian as he hurried to his meeting. Nothing could dampen his spirits. When his father died, leaving him an orphan, Zephryn had no hope, his only future begging on the streets. But in his mercy, the high priest Zephryses found him and raised him as his own son. Now he held a high seat in the church and every day could see the woman who won his heart. Truly the gods were favoring him.

“You are looking well,” Genfyre said catching up with Zephryn.

“Yes. I enjoyed a good rest and was blessed with a dreamless sleep,” Zephryn smiled.

“Alas, I did not get to my bed until quite late,” Genfyre said.

“Something troubles you?” Zephryn asked.

“No, no. When we reached the home of Hannable, we discovered that his daughter Ahnkaret had been awakened by a frightful dream and would not close her eyes again in sleep. Hannable insisted on staying up with her, convincing his wife Anastas to let them play hide and seek out in the front yard. I, of course, was pulled into the game,” Genfyre laughed. “I can deny my niece nothing.”

“My brother may be skilled in hunting and combat, but he cannot hide. Everything he chose as a hiding place was much smaller than he,” Genfyre said.

“Perhaps he was hiding poorly for the sake of his daughter,” Zephryn suggested.

“Perhaps,” Genfyre said. “I am just on my way to his house. Enjoy this glorious day, my friend.”

“You as well,” Zephryn said.

The market was coming to life as Zephryn ascended the steps of the castle. Just as he reached out for the front doors, they opened.

Standing in the doorway was the Princess Lillian, her eyes bright with merriment. She wore a sky blue gown, and her gleaming hair was pulled back with matching ribbons. Zephryn’s gaze traveled the length of her graceful neck. If only he could touch her, kiss her as his heart commanded.

Instead, he said,

“Good morning, Princess Lillian. I have come to speak with King Isembart.”

Lillian smiled and responded,

“He is expecting you.”

As she escorted Zephryn through the passageways, she repeatedly brushed against him, touching his hand. And with each touch, she politely excused herself.

When they finally entered the king’s court, Lillian announced,

“Father, I found Priest Zephryn at the door. He says he is here to speak with you.”

With a jolly smile, King Isembart reached out and hugged Zephryn.

“Greetings, my boy. What brings you here this morning?”

Trying to recover from the king’s crushing embrace, Zephryn took a deep breath and said,

“High Priest Zephryses regrets that he cannot attend the meeting with King Stephanus. He is in his private sanctum conducting his morning prayers and cannot be disturbed. He sent me in his stead.”

At this announcement, King Isembart’s posture quickly shifted from cheerful to restrained anger.

“Peace between Ethion and Acimeth is delicate, and a union of marriage would ease tension between our two countries as well as heal old wounds. The importance of today’s meeting is beyond mere words! You have done well, my boy, to come here as the high priest’s representative, but I will have the high priest himself in attendance today! His far-reaching reputation is one of the reasons King Stephanus agreed to meet. I do not care that Zephryses is otherwise engaged. Return to him and tell him that his king demands his presence now!” Isembart shouted.

“Yes, your majesty,” Zephryn replied, bowing.

Lillian protested, “But, Father, Zephryn is more than capable of—”.

“No!” Isembart snapped.

Zephryn hurried out of the castle and rushed to the church to retrieve the high priest Zephryses.

Racing through the halls of the church, Zephryn pushed past the high priest’s assistants until he made his way to the private sanctum of Zephryses. Taking a deep breath for courage, Zephryn pushed open the door and stepped inside.

“My apologies, High Priest, but King Isembart insists on your presence at once,” Zephryn explained.

As soon as the words were spoken, Zephryn’s eyes grew wide as he seemed paralyzed by what he saw before him. His chest bared, Zephryses stood in the center of a pool of blood encircled by a ring of fire. His skin was covered with cuts and markings Zephryn had never seen before. With his left hand, he held a woman by a rope tied around her neck, and with his right palm open towards her face, he drew a blackish energy from her eyes and mouth. Zephryn could hear the woman trying to scream, but only a low gurgle escaped her mouth. Behind her, suspended in midair, hung the emaciated body of a man, blood trickling down his arms and legs. From his mouth poured a black fluid, running down his chin and dripping to the floor. The high priest Zephryses turned and with oil black eyes, screeched,

“Get out!”

Zephryn managed to turn and flee from the room in a state of shock. His blood rushed through his veins, his heart raced, and he felt as though he might fall to the stone floor senseless. He could neither fathom the horror he had seen nor speak a word of it to anyone.

Behind him he heard the high priest screaming,

“Guards! Find Priest Zephryn and bring him to me at once!”

Fleeing from the church, Zephryn stumbled out into the courtyard, gulping the fresh air. His head was spinning.

“What should I do? Where can I go?. . .Lillian!”

Now seized with desperation, Zephryn ran for the castle, pushing aside vendors and knocking over stalls as he scrambled to get away. Once he reached the castle, he bounded up the stone steps, pulled open the doors and ran inside, hurrying to King Isembart. But when he reached the king’s quarters, he slid to a stop. Standing beside the king was Zephryses the high priest.

“Seize him!” the king commanded.

“No!” Lillian screamed as the guards descended upon Zephryn.

“What has he done?” Lillian demanded. “What crime has he committed to receive such treatment?”

“He came to my chambers, and when he saw that I was not there, he engaged in unspeakable acts of heresy. When I returned to my chambers a moment later, I saw him offering up a prayer to Authrax. I am sorry, my king, but it seems Zephryn has joined the children of dusk,” the high priest accused.

Turning toward Zephryn, the king said,

“You will no longer bear a holy name,” King Isembart commanded. “Henceforth, you will take up the name of your birth Allaster. You will be thrown into the dungeon, and at the first rays of dawn will be burned at the stake for heresy.”

“But, Father, he is innocent!” Lillian cried. “You will see this truth when the gods deliver him.”

“Take him away!” King Isembart ordered.

As the guards dragged Zephryn away, Lillian dropped to her knees heartbroken, her tears splashing against the stone floor.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 24

Not sure what to do, the bartender at Eight Ball’s looked nervously from Nathan to Elizabeth.

“Look, Jacob,” Nathan said. “May I call you Jacob?”

“My name’s Bam Bam,” the bartender growled.

“Jacob, I don’t want any trouble. I j—.”

Nathan suddenly stopped and asked,

“Bam Bam? Really?”

The bartender responded with a scowl, keeping his eyes fixed on Elizabeth as she picked up a knife off the bar, slowly bent the blade into a circle, dropped it then checked her nails.

“Look, Jacob, what I need is a package left here by Daniel Lincoln. I know he frequented this place,” Nathan insisted.

When the bartender didn’t budge, Nathan sighed,

“C’mon, Jacob. His name is scribbled by the dartboard on the list of scores to beat, and the initials DL are carved into this bar right there,” Nathan said pointing. “Besides, you have his picture on the wall behind you with ‘Pay first. No credit’ written across it.”

Then he leaned over and whispered,

“Listen, Jacob. Daniel’s dead. Somebody blew him up, and the package you’re hiding for him might give me a clue as to who killed him.”

“Lincoln’s dead?” Jacob asked.

Nathan held up both fists then expanded his fingers while mouthing the word boom.

“Hey!” someone yelled from across the bar.

Nathan slowly turned to see a giant of a man standing well over six feet, his arms like tree branches as he flexed his thick muscles. Shoving aside the bar patrons in his path, he slowly made his way through the crowd and stopped just short of the bar.

“Meta or not, no one comes into my bar and throws my boys around,” he barked.

“And who are you?” Elizabeth asked.

“Let me introduce you to Hank,” Nathan explained, “or as his friends call him, Jackal. He owns this place.”

“That’s right, pal, and no two-bit supers are going to come in here and threaten me or my boys. We don’t bend to The Shadows, and we won’t bend to you,” Hank asserted.

“Now this should be fun,” Elizabeth smiled. “I skipped the gym this morning, so I’ve been looking for something to balance that out.”

“You may be tough, lady, but you ain’t bulletproof!” Hank sneered.

“Let’s go,” Elizabeth challenged, taking a step forward.

“Wait,” Nathan said, reaching out to stop Elizabeth.

“What?” Elizabeth asked.

“Our buddy Hank is right. You’re not bulletproof,” Nathan pointed out.

“What?” Elizabeth asked in surprise.

Just then front doors swung open and Jericho stepped in.

“But he is,” Nathan smiled.

Suddenly the bar went quiet and Hank took a step back as Jericho walked through the crowd to Nathan and Elizabeth.

“What are you doing here?” Elizabeth asked him.

“He’s been tracking us,” Nathan said.

Outraged, Elizabeth snapped, “What?”

“Now don’t be upset, Elizabeth. I know Nathan can be a bad influence on you,” Jericho teased.

Then he turned to face Hank. Although Hank stood a full three inches taller than Jericho, he slowly backed down.

“They attacked two of my patrons,” Hank said, his voice a bit softer.

“Well I’m sure they didn’t want to, and I’m certain they’re sorry,” Jericho said.

Turning to Nathan and Elizabeth, Jericho asked, “Aren’t you?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, paused then nodded reluctantly.

“See? No problem,” Jericho said.

Nathan turned back around to Jacob and asked,

“Now, Jacob, what about that package?”

Without a word, Jacob left the bar and disappeared into a back room.

“It’s a good thing my meeting with the mayor ended early. What are you two doing here in Sandy Grotto anyway?” asked Jericho.

“The victim Daniel Lincoln lived just up the street from here,” Nathan said.

“And you’re investigating his murder alongside the police?” Jericho asked.

“Sure we are,” Nathan answered, turning away from Jericho.

“Nathan, what’s going on? I don’t mind helping out, but I don’t like getting involved with a murder investigation outside police jurisdiction.”

“Oh we’re not,” Elizabeth assured him. “Detective Shields knows we’re involved.”

Jericho’s eyes grew wide as he asked,

“Cassandra’s involved in this?”

Then he paused and relaxed.

“Well if she knows, I guess you’re okay.”

Jericho turned away trying to hide the blush that crept up his cheeks.

Before Nathan could make any snide remarks, the door behind the bar opened and Jacob came out carrying a thick envelope.

When he dropped it on the bar, he said,

“Daniel told me to hold onto this in case anything happened to him. Look, he was a good guy and we all want whoever killed him to pay.”

Inside the envelope, Nathan found photos of an older man with a younger woman. Pulling some of the pictures free, he spread them out onto the bar.

“Any idea who these people are?” Elizabeth asked.

“Nope,” Jericho said.

Nathan studied the pictures for a moment then said,

“The man is Martin Armstrong, chairman of the board for Pearson Plasma Technologies. The girl is Jessica Alexander, an engineering student at Crescent Bay University.”

The photos seemed innocent enough until Nathan emptied out the rest of the envelope’s contents and saw shots of Armstrong and Alexander in a nightclub, embracing at their table, kissing on the dance floor.

“Armstrong is married but not to Alexander,” Nathan explained.

“You think Lincoln was blackmailing Armstrong and got killed for it?” Elizabeth suggested.

“Good chance,” Jericho replied.

Stuffing the photos back into the envelope, Nathan said,

“We’ll have to question Armstrong and find out.”

“No you won’t,” a voice behind them said.

Turning toward the doorway, Nathan saw Graham Prescott followed by four men. He wore the same dark blue suit from earlier in the day.

“Did I not tell you to stay out of this?” Prescott asked.

“Technically, you threatened me,” Nathan replied.

“You say potato; I say tomato. Point is, you’re still involved. Now I’ve got to rectify that,” Prescott said as he unbuttoned his jacket.

“None of you are cops, so get out, every one of you,” Hank demanded. “I’m not having any metas throwing down in here, messing up my bar. Get out!”

Suddenly a shot rang out and Hank fell backwards dead. Prescott returned the pistol to one of his men then retrieved his cane.

“I wasn’t asking his opinion. Does anyone else here wish to share their thoughts?”

“You’re going to pay for that,” Jericho said, stomping forward.

Slowly, Prescott turned sideways, flipped his cane upside down, and held it like a golf club. When Jericho drew closer, Prescott swung the cane up. As it made contact with Jericho, a flash of blue energy shot out, sending Jericho flying backwards, crashing through the back wall.

Then with a flip of his wrist, Prescott turned the cane right side up and suggested to the crowd,

“Unless you want to die, I’d leave if I were you.”

As bikers stumbled over each other scrambling for the exit, Prescott’s men poured into Eight Ball’s.

“Do what you want with the girl,” Prescott told his men. “Makes no difference to me.”

Then looking towards Nathan he said,

“Since the king’s off limits, I guess I’ll have to settle for the Prophet.”

Unsettled: Episode 6

The building that housed the Coldwater Chronicle had once been a proscenium theater whose doors were closed after the leading lady died on the opening night of the theater’s first major production. It sat empty for years until it was sold and converted into an office building. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the Chronicle, the city’s largest newspaper, had leased the entire upper floor for his staff’s offices. Seated in the largest of the suites was Dale Tanner, the Chronicle’s chief editor. On his desk, papers lay in great stacks, spilling onto the floor, as he scribbled some notes to pass off to one of reporters in the morning. Tanner gave the best of himself to his mistress the Chronicle, and after two failed marriages, he had settled for meaningless affairs with more lovers than he could remember. In his 40 years at the Chronicle, the only thing that remained constant was his paper.

A light rain rolled down the windowpanes as Tanner removed his glasses, resting them on his notes, and stood to stretch his back muscles. He knew he spent too many hours hunched over his desk or staring at the computer screen, but the Chronicle was his baby. Turning to face the window, he watched as the drops splashed against the glass. He remembered when he took the job as editor. He was a handsome young man who could have landed a modeling contract. Now his reflection reminded him that he had more hair over his ears than on his head. Over the years, he had put on so many pounds that he started wearing loafers so he wouldn’t have to reach over his gut to tie his shoes. It had been a long day and was turning into an even longer night. Except for a murder downtown at the police station, the day had been quiet so he couldn’t complain.

His tie felt like a noose, so he loosened the knot and rubbed his temples. Spent and past ready to go home, he sighed,

“I’ll just finish the notes in the morning. I can’t think straight anymore.”

When he turned away from the window, he saw a stranger standing by the door with another man beside him.

“Can I help you?” Tanner asked.

“Yes. I do believe you can,” the man said.

Tanner had been in this business long enough to recognize a dangerous man.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“My name is Charles Heath, and I believe we work for the same gentleman,” Heath said walking into the room. “Councilman Parker sent me.”

Tanner knew where this was going and he had to stop it at once.

“Look, you can tell Parker that just because I helped him one time doesn’t mean he owns me. I only buried that story because his daughter was fresh out of rehab. I’m not burying anything else for him,” Tanner clarified.

“Oh something will be buried this night,” Heath said, “but it won’t be a story.”

In his right hand, sheathed in a black leather glove, Heath held an old claw hammer with a wooden handle. In his left hand, a nickel-plated revolver.

“You will die tonight. No way around that. Only question is, how would you like to die?” Heath asked.

“What?” Tanner said. “You’re insane! I’m calling the cops!”

As Tanner reached for his cell phone, Heath took two steps forward, closing the gap between them, and struck Tanner across the knee with the hammer.

Screaming in pain, Tanner grabbed his leg and fell to the floor.

“I will ask one more time before I choose for you,” Heath shouted over Tanner’s cries.

Holding up the hammer and revolver, he asked again, “How would you like to die? The hammer or the gun? The choice is really quite simple.”

Terrified and helpless, Tanner managed to answer, “The gun, I guess.”

Heath shrugged then handing the gun to the man behind him replied,

“Personally, I would have gone with the hammer.”

As Heath raised the hammer, Tanner instinctively lifted his hands in defense.

“This will hurt you more than me, but to each his own I guess,” Heath added.

Then with the coldness of a machine, he swung down with the hammer.

* * *

The rain was just beginning to slow as Mavis and Billy pulled up out front at the Coldwater Chronicle. Admiring the building’s decorative stonework, Mavis noticed that the lights seemed to have an ominous glow in the cold rain. As Kristina shut off her motorcycle, Mavis and Billy climbed out of the Jeep.

“This is the place,” she said. “Dale is a good guy. He kind of looks like a troll, but he’s a good man, always working late and coming in early. He practically lives here.”

“You think he’ll know anything about Parker?” Mavis said.

“If anyone does, he will,” Kristina assured her.

“Okay. Then let’s go talk to him,” Mavis said.

Suddenly Billy clamped his hand on Mavis’ arm and Lucas said,

“Wait. It’s not safe. Someone else is here.”

“What makes you say that?” Mavis asked.

Billy released her hand and Jack explained,

“That car up ahead matches the one we were chasing earlier. Based on the amount of water under the car versus on the street and the amount of rain coming down, I would estimate it’s been here for at least five to seven minutes.”

“Heath is here?” Kristina asked.

“It would appear so,” Jack said.

“Everyone stay by the car,” Lucas ordered.

“Wait a minute. You can’t go in there alone,” Mavis pleaded.

“We have to,” Lucas explained. “There are two more vehicles around the side of the building that have been here as long as the one carrying Heath.”

“So?” Kristina asked confused.

“He brought backup,” Dylan said.

“I’d guess eight to ten men, based on how many would fit comfortably in each car,” Jack estimated.

“And they’re probably armed, so you can’t go in alone! Let’s just call the police or at least Ray,” Mavis insisted.

“No, we have to go in now,” Dylan said, “and you’ve got to stay here. It’s not safe for you. Besides, Billy would be distracted.”

“But you can help,” Lucas pointed out.

“How?” Kristina asked before Mavis could protest.

“Wait five minutes then turn off the power. Then wait two minutes and turn the power back on. Then after one minute, turn the power back off and run. I’ll attend to the rest,” Lucas instructed.

When Mavis started to protest, Kristina grabbed her.

“Let’s go!” she said.

* * *

Rowan, one of Heath’s men, stood in the lobby of the Coldwater Chronicle. He and five others guarded the bottom floor while two more men secured upstairs. His job was simple. Watch the front doors. Suddenly he saw a man cross the street and head directly toward the building, his hands balled into fists.

“We’ve got company!” he warned.

The other five men entered the lobby, each armed with a pistol and machine gun with a mounted tactical light.

As the man drew closer, Rowan saw who it was. Mr. Heath had given orders to watch out for him.

“It’s that guy Mr. Heath released from prison,” he said, raising his weapon. “The boss wants him alive, but shoot to kill if necessary.”

A few seconds later, the lobby doors opened and Billy stepped inside.

“Mr. Brannon, Mr. Heath asked you to stay away until he calls for you. I will shoot you, if I have to.”

The look on Billy’s face made Rowan nervous. He took a deep breath to calm his rattled nerves.

“Please leave the building at once or we will open fire,” Rowan warned.

Without a word, Billy stood still, his eyes unblinking.

“Please leave now!” Rowan insisted.

Billy slowly tilted his head to one side, holding Rowan’s gaze.

Suddenly the lights went out, draping the lobby in darkness.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 78

“I’m not happy about being here, I can tell you that,” Michael said, growing increasingly uneasy.

“I wish I could say something that would reassure you, but unfortunately, I have nothing beyond what I’ve already told you,” Dr. Ricer said, keeping a tight hold on Lucy.

“There’s a killer here somewhere, like every other mission we’ve dealt with,” Nicole said, “but there is something else, something darker.”

“A malice that sits in the air and blows on the back of your neck,” Michael responded with a shiver.

“We’ve got to be alert, eyes and ears open,” Nicole warned. “Don’t trust anyone!”

“Why don’t we start by establishing our cover then gather some information about this place, who here might be a threat,” Michael suggested.

“Are we certain it’s just one person?” Ricer asked.

“It could be a team,” Nicole said.

“With such a high body count, it follows that there has to be more than one,” Ricer explained.

“Great! Multiple killers,” Michael sighed.

“You said that thirty-seven people were never found. So what if we aren’t dealing with a lone killer or a group but a cult?” Nicole asked.

Then thinking aloud, she added,

“It could still be led by one person, though, with a group of mindless followers.”

“So we have to smash the head of the serpent and the rest should fall,” Michael reasoned.

“That should be easy enough,” Nicole said.

“I agree, but separating him may prove difficult,” Ricer pointed out, “if his followers are willing to die for him.”

“We need to find an informant, someone who can show us around,” Nicole proposed.

“Look, Grandpa,” Lucy said, pointing toward the tree line.

A woman was struggling against two men who were dragging her into the woods. Her hair flew back and forth as she fought against their strength.

“We may have found one,” Michael said.

“Hurry! We have to help her!” Ricer insisted.

Michael ran ahead of the others, and when he was near the woman, he asked,

“What seems to be the problem here?”

He noticed that the two men were dressed in identical light brown cotton clothes, roughly cut.

“No problem, sir. Please return to the main building. We will soon start the grilling for supper, and there will be lively music and dancing in the moonlight for you and your spouse,” one of the men said, displaying a smile with joyless eyes as he tried to distract them. His attention shifted from Michael to Nicole.

“I am not his spouse!” Nicole corrected.

“Yeah, that wouldn’t work out for me,” Michael replied.

Michael could see panic in the woman’s eyes and a plea for help that countered the smooth assurances of the man’s claims.

“Well then might I suggest our singles’ night filled with music and dancing,” the man offered, keeping a tight grip on the woman.

“Now that does sound like fun, but I have a problem,” Michael said, lowering his bag to the ground and opening the flap.

“I just arrived with my friends here, and I can’t seem to locate my cabin. I was hoping you could point me in the right direction?”

“Of course, sir. What room were you assigned?” the man asked.

“Hold up. It’s in here somewhere. Where did I put. . .,” Michael said trailing off.

“He’s always losing stuff,” Nicole smiled as she played along.

After a few seconds of shuffling, Michael finally said,

“Here it is!”

Quickly he pulled out his shotgun and fired one round into each man, throwing them backwards.

Nicole flew at the two men, knocking them out before they could say anything.

Michael pulled some rope out of his bag and tossed a piece to Ricer.

“Quick, Doc. Let’s tie them up and get her to safety,” Michael ordered.

As they secured the two men with the ropes, Ricer noticed that there was no blood.

When he started to ask, Michael said, “Beanbag rounds. Doesn’t kill but it hurts like the devil.”

As Michael and Ricer dragged both men behind a nearby tool shed, Nicole comforted the woman.

Michael stacked one of the men on top the other then headed over to Nicole. When Ricer turned to follow, he glanced back toward the trees where the men had been dragging the woman. For a moment, he thought he saw a tall man wearing an old straw hat and overalls standing just inside the tree line. But when he looked back, the man was gone.

Dismissing it as his imagination, he hurried to Lucy and the others.

“Are you hurt?” Ricer asked the woman.

Holding tightly to Nicole’s arm, she took a deep breath to calm her nerves then let go. Once she smoothed the front of her plain cotton dress, the same color and cut as the clothes of the two men who had held her, she looked up and her eyes met Ricer’s.

“Thank you for rescuing me. My name is Serena, and I usually greet the new guests. I would have remembered you.”

“We just arrived,” Michael said, “and w—.”

“Why were those men trying to carry you off?” Nicole interrupted.

“Because they have been brainwashed,” the woman said with deep sadness.

“Brainwashed? By whom?” Ricer asked.

“Scott Morgan,” Serena said, contempt in her voice.

“Who’s that?” Michael asked.

“Scott Morgan used to work here at the resort. He was my friend, that is until he almost drowned in the river. Father Salvatore saved him, but since that moment, Scott believes he has been chosen, brought back to life to enlighten those who do not share his vision. He took the name Saint Suriel and declared himself a god. Because I refused to worship at his feet, I was to be removed. I know what he did, and I will not be silenced.”

“What did he do?” Nicole asked.

Serena looked at everyone then settled her gaze on Nicole.

“He killed our leader, our patriarch, Father Salvatore, and anyone who refuses to kneel before him is dragged off into the woods never to be seen again.”

“Why the woods? What’s in the woods?” Ricer asked.

“A monster. A demon that has taken the form of a man.”

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 91

Before Zephryn could respond, he heard the soft melodic laughter of Princess Lillian. When he turned around, she reached up and began kissing him.

After a long tender kiss, Lillian pulled away and smiled at Zephryn, her eyes full of adoration.

Dressed in a long white gown covered by a black hooded cloak, she slipped off the hood and her golden brown hair fell below her shoulders, shimmering in the moonlight. Zephryn felt his heart beat faster and his knees weaken.

“You never could stand on your own,” she teased.

Zephryn shook his head clear and nervously asked,

“Did you come alone? What possessed you to come here?”

“I missed you,” Lillian said, her fingers playing with his hair. “If you think hiding out in this damp old building will keep you safe from me, you are mistaken. I will always find you.”

Then she twirled across the room on the tips of her bare feet.

“But if you are found here, it will be the end of me,” Zephryn warned.

“Who will catch me? No one knows I am here. I sent away my handmaidens and gave the guard strict orders not to disturb me until morning,” Lillian explained.

Overcome with emotion, Zephryn crossed the floor to her and kissed her as though he would never have another chance.

Then he asked,

“Do you know what your father will do if you are caught here?”

Lillian sighed, “He will scold me and punish me, but I do not care. Being with you is worth the risk of his displeasure.”

“I will not receive a scolding, Lillian. You must realize that he will have me executed!” Zephryn pointed out.

“Nonsense!” Lillian insisted, removing her cloak. “I will not allow that.”

“The king does not always listen to you,” Zephryn reminded her.

“Then we will run away together,” Lillian giggled. “I care not whom my father wishes me to marry. I shall tell him that my heart is gone, stolen away by a priest.”

As she twirled on the tips of her toes, her gown billowed and rippled.

“You will be the death of me one day.”

“Then I will send the greatest warrior in the land to find you and bring you back,” Lillian promised, looking deeply into his eyes. “I will always find you, my love. You are mine and no one can take you from me.”

“What if the gods do not want us together?” Zephryn asked.

“Then I will defy them,” Lillian said, lifting her chin in unwavering determination.

Zephryn laughed and acknowledged, “You will surely make a great queen one day.”

Lillian stopped dancing and sat down on the edge of Zephryn’s bed.

“And with you as my king, we will reunite the lands then throw a wildly lavish party and invite no one,” she laughed as she fell back onto the bed.

Gazing at her in wonderment, Zephryn felt truly alive. Every moment away from her was like travelling in shadows for without her, the light was gone.

“The people will never accept me as their king. You know that,” Zephryn said. “Even with your father’s blessing.”

“Then we shall run away together,” Lillian said once again.

She sat up in the bed with a faraway look and watched as a cloud slowly drifted across the face of the glowing moon.

“We will steal two horses and ride off into the night to a land far away where no one knows us, and there we’ll grow old together, husband and wife, father and mother.”

Zephryn let himself imagine, just for a moment, a life with Lillian. His heart seemed to stop as though a single beat would tear him away from the dream.

“Are you ready?” Lillian asked, breaking the spell.

“R-r-ready?” Zephryn stammered.

“To run away together, silly,” she laughed. “I do love it when passion steals away your tongue.”

Suddenly there was a knock at the door and Zephryn jumped.

Lillian quickly rose from the bed and slipped into a dark corner of the room.

When Zephryn opened the door, he saw a servant of the high priest Zephryses.

“Yes?” Zephryn asked.

The servant bowed then said,

“Please forgive my intrusion at this late hour, but I bring a message from the high priest.”

Zephryn took the parchment scroll and broke the seal.

“As you know, tomorrow King Isembart is meeting with King Stephanus of Acimeth to negotiate a union of the two kingdoms through marriage of his daughter Princess Lillian to King Stephanus’ son Prince Lanidus. Although my presence is required, I will be unable to attend due to prayer time in my private sanctum where, as you know, I am not to be disturbed. You are to go in my place.”

While Zephryn read the message, he struggled to ignore Lillian tickling him.

“I will expect a report once I have completed my prayers.”

Zephryn closed the scroll and looked at the waiting servant.

“Tell the high priest I will do my best.”

At that, the servant nodded and turned away as Zephryn closed his chamber door.

He waited a few moments then turned to Lillian.

“Are you mad?” he questioned.

When Lillian did not respond, Zephryn bent down to look under the bed. Lillian jumped out of the shadows giggling.

Whirling around, Zephryn repeated,

“Are you mad? What if he had seen you?”

“Then you would have no choice but to run away with me,” she teased.

“We cannot run away, Lillian. It would break your father’s heart.”

After a pause he added, “And place your brother Nesmoru in line for the throne.”

The smile dropped from Lillian’s face and she grew quiet.

With a sorrowful tone, she said,

“My brother is selfish, wicked, and cowardly. He would tear the kingdom apart.”

“I shall return to my quarters,” she sighed. “Why must you spoil passion with reason?”

“I am sorry, beautiful Lillian, but I must speak the truth,” Zephryn said.

“Yes you must, and that is one of the reasons I love you,” Lillian admitted.

She cupped his face in her hands then softly kissed him on the lips.

Pulling on the cloak, she said,

“Goodnight, my love.”

Then she raised the hood over her hair and slipped out the window into the night.

Zephryn watched her until she disappeared into the shadows. He crawled into bed, feeling the sweet warmth she had left behind, and stared up at the moon until a cool night breeze soothed him to sleep.

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 23

Daniel Lincoln had leased an apartment on the fourth floor of Medallion Heights, a rundown building in the low rent part of Sandy Grotto.  Nathan maneuvered his bike around the potholes and pulled to a stop. Trash piled up in the alleys outside the long neglected and overlooked buildings. It was a place of gray despair. Nathan let his eyes wander over the boarded up broken windows, graffiti, and filth of Medallion Heights. This was what Lincoln had called home.

Sandy Grotto was an island just off the coast of Crescent Bay. The poor part of town, it was a thorn in the side of Crescent Bay’s city fathers, one they would like to remove, especially the wealthy who lived in Blackstone, the jewel in the city’s crown. To that end, the small, humble housing for low-income residents was gradually being converted to upscale lofts for young professionals, housing far beyond the reach of the poor.

Nathan heard the sound of children and turned to see three kids playing ball in the grass of an empty lot while another child played alone, chasing a plastic bag that danced through the air just out of her reach. Watching Nathan were three men sitting on the steps leading into Medallion Heights. They wore matching colors, the uniform of The Shadows, and Nathan had dropped himself right into their territory. One of them stood, the leader Nathan figured, and started walking toward the bike, followed by the other two men. His head was cocked to one side, and he wore an arrogant smile.

“Marco Collazo,” Nathan thought. “Overcompensates for his lack of esteem. Afraid of the dark and snakes.”

“Nice bike. You lost?” Collazo asked.

Just then Elizabeth landed behind Nathan with a thud. When she kept her wings extended, the men hesitated and stepped back.

“Is there a problem?” Elizabeth asked.

“Not anymore, chica,” Collazo said. “You know who I am?”

“Should I?” Elizabeth returned.

“Mr. Collazo, I need your help,” Nathan interrupted. “I want to take a look inside the apartment of one of the tenants, Daniel Lincoln.”

“Why would I help you?” Collazo asked. “What’s in it for me?”

“I know who keeps breaking into your mom’s house,” Nathan said.

Collazo went white with rage and took a step toward Nathan.

“You?” Collazo demanded.

“No, not me. But I can give you the name of the guy. And if that isn’t enough, I can always inform Shadow Leader why your crew came up short two weeks ago,” Nathan explained.

“You threatening me?” Collazo barked.

“Nope. I don’t threaten. . .,” Nathan paused to point to Elizabeth.

“She does.”

Taking Nathan’s cue, Elizabeth walked over and picked up a discarded water pipe then bent it into a circle. She held it up for a moment, bent it back to its original shape then tossed it aside.

Collazo’s eyes grew wide with amazement.

 

Nathan slipped his hand into his pocket and removed a small notepad. He scribbled something then tore the sheet free.

“I need for you to run interference for me while I check out Lincoln’s apartment. Here is the name of the individual who has broken into your mother’s place twice. He’s caused people a lot of pain, and in two days he’s going to murder someone. Don’t be gentle.”

Nathan handed the paper to Collazo then stepped around him.

As he watched Elizabeth walk away with Nathan, one of Collazo’s associates said,

“Esa chica está bien, pero ella es peligrosa.”

The other man smiled, “Estoy enamorado”

As they stepped inside the shabby lobby of Medallion Heights, closing the door behind them, Elizabeth asked,

“They’re with The Shadows?”

“Yep,” Nathan replied. Sensing her next question, he added, “The Shadows don’t discriminate based on race, nationality, gender or even living status. Anyone can join.”

“Oh,” Elizabeth said. “Wait! What?”

“Julian Sharpe, or Shadow Leader, is a meta with the ability to summon and control the dead. He formed the gang and because he can manipulate shadows, his gang took the name The Shadows and he became known as Shadow Leader.”

Nathan and Elizabeth walked up four flights to Lincoln’s apartment. Trying the door, he found it was locked.

“The manager has a spare key. Let me go find him. I’ll be right back.”

“You certain it’s locked?” Elizabeth asked, hitting the door with her open palm. Under the force, the lock splintered and the door swung open.

“Oh look,” Elizabeth said coyly. “It’s unlocked.”

“That’s against the rules,” Nathan chided.

“What rules? I didn’t sign any special employment contract. I can do whatever I want,” Elizabeth said, sashaying into the apartment.

Lincoln’s place had a musty smell. In several spots, the wallpaper was peeling, exposing patches of mildew from leaky pipes in the walls. The carpet, once a plush rich tan, was now flattened by years of footsteps and covered with brown and black stains. Opposite the door sat an old couch, its bright, vibrant colors faded into dull weary reminders scattered across the torn fabric and misshapen cushions.

The moment he walked through the door, Nathan was flooded with the apartment’s secrets down through the years.

Lincoln’s sister had slept on the couch during a bad snowstorm that kept her from flying home after her visit. It was the same couch where Lincoln suffered a bad reaction to drugs bought from money he’d stolen from his sister’s purse. At his feet, Nathan could feel the memory of the wet carpet from the many times Lincoln had walked home in a rainstorm drunk and crashed to sleep off hangovers. One large window to the right of the couch was stained brown from the mud and paint that had been thrown at it during a riot that took place years ago.

Nathan closed his eyes and concentrated on blocking out the flood of foul memories.

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked.

“I will be,” Nathan responded.

“This place is absolutely filthy!” Elizabeth said, curling her lip in disgust.

“You have no idea how filthy,” Nathan said as another memory made him gag.

“Any idea where Lincoln would keep his blackmail file?” Elizabeth asked.

“None. If I open my mind, I’ll be inundated with every revolting thing that happened here, so let’s try doing this the old fashioned way,” Nathan insisted.

“Okay. We can start by looking around,” Elizabeth suggested.

“Right. Just be careful not to touch anything. The cops haven’t searched this place yet,” Nathan advised.

“Of course,” Elizabeth replied.

After searching for five minutes, Elizabeth called out from the bedroom,

“You find anything?”

“No blackmail file but a lot more than I wanted to know,” Nathan frowned.

Joining Nathan in the living room, she saw him looking intently at something out the window.

“What are you looking at?” she asked, coming alongside him.

“That bar across the street with graffiti and bars on the windows. Coltrane’s. Looks like it might be the watering hole for the locals.”

“Can we go now? I don’t think Lincoln ever cleaned up! This place is littered with trash and matchbooks from some bar called Eight Ball’s.”

Nathan turned away from the window and looked at Elizabeth.

“What was the name of the bar?” he asked.

“Eight Ball’s,” Elizabeth repeated. “Why? Is that important?”

Nathan took a second look at Coltrane’s and said,

“Let’s go find this bar Eight Ball’s. See what it has to offer in the way of information. What’s the address?”

 

 

*          *          *

 

Eight Ball’s turned out to be a biker bar less than five miles down the street from Lincoln’s apartment. Out front, motorcycles were lined up like horses outside a saloon. Nathan got a few side-glances while Elizabeth was welcomed by a chorus of catcalls.

The wood porch thumped under the weight of Nathan’s boots. When they stepped inside the bar, they were hit with thick smoke, suspicious glares, and excessively loud music.

Elizabeth followed Nathan as he headed over to the bar. The bartender, a short man sporting a Mohawk, stopped wiping a glass long enough to ask,

“What’ll it be?”

“I’m looking for information a friend of mine may have left here. His name’s Daniel Lincoln.”

“I might be able to help you,” a man’s voice said behind them.

He walked straight to Elizabeth, winked at her, and said,

“Name’s Gordon, little lady. What’s your name?”

“Just tell me what you know,” Elizabeth ordered.

“Not here,” Gordon said. “Follow me.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Nathan advised.

“I’ll be fine,” Elizabeth assured him.

As they walked away, Nathan said,

“I was talking to him.”

“What’s keeping me from having you thrown out?” the bartender asked.

“Wait a minute and you’ll see,” Nathan said.

A few moments after Elizabeth disappeared into a back room with Gordon, there was a loud thump and the door splintered as Gordon crashed through it, flew across the bar and smashed through a window. Elizabeth stepped out of the room, brushing herself off. The bar patrons quickly backed up as she walked over to Nathan.

“That’s why,” Nathan told the bartender.

Turning to Elizabeth, he asked, “Did he know anything?”

Elizabeth carefully smoothed her hair, returning loose strands to their place, then said,

“No, except where not to put his hands.”

“That was my boy!” one of the bikers growled as he stormed up to Elizabeth.

With one of her wings, she grabbed the man by his shirt, slammed his head into the bar and threw him backwards across the room.

When he crashed into the jukebox, the bar went silent.

“Sorry about your jukebox,” Nathan said nonchalantly. “Now what can you tell me about Daniel Lincoln?”

When the bartender hesitated, Elizabeth glared at him and Nathan asked,

“Please?”

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 5

It was getting late when Billy, Mavis, Ray, Kristina and Rory crowded into a booth at the all night diner Seaside Sunset. Rory grumbled in between every sip of his third cup of coffee as Billy polished off a hamburger and plateful of ketchup soaked fries.

“First he escapes the nut house then he breaks out of jail and steals a car,” Rory complained, ignoring Mavis’ glare.

“Technically, it was a truck,” Jack clarified.

“Somebody explain to me why we haven’t turned him in yet,” Rory asked.

“Because I will kill you if you try,” Mavis threatened.

“Easy, May,” Kristina said. “Why don’t you calm down, Rory, and have a slice of pie with that coffee?”

“What about we make a plan? Heath is still out there, and right now he seems focused on Billy,” Ray pointed out.

“Not interested in me yet,” Billy said before shoving a handful of fries into his mouth and washing it down with a swig of soda.

“Explain,” Ray asked.

“Back in the jail, Heath told Jack that he wants me and the others to try and stop him but not yet. Said first he wants to take care of things.”

“What things?” Ray asked.

“And what others?” Rory asked.

“Sorry,” Billy said. “The other personalities.”

“Oh them,” Rory said with a snort.

“He’s aware of them?” Kristina asked.

“It comes and goes. Right now the others aren’t in control. They sometimes go into a state of sleep, leaving Billy’s higher brain functions free. That’s why he acts clueless sometimes and other times he’s rational. It depends on how much space they’re using,” Mavis said. “That’s the way the doctor explained it.”

“Clueless is right,” Rory sneered.

“Please, Rory, you’re not helping,” Ray criticized.

“Billy,” Ray asked. “Where are the others right now?”

Billy stuck out his thumb, pointing over his right shoulder to an empty table and said,

“Over there discussing something.”

“What did you mean when you said Heath wants to take care of things first?” Kristina interrupted.

“Heath mentioned Councilman Parker and said that Parker worked for him,” Billy said.

“Councilman Parker has been under investigation recently for suspicion of corruption,” Kristina said. “I’m friends with the editor of the Coldwater Chronicle. I’m pretty sure I could get him to talk.”

“The councilman is certainly involved, but I believe his motives may be self-preservation rather than power, love, or money,” Billy said with a British accent.

Mavis removed her arm from around Billy’s shoulder and sighed,

“Hello, Jack.”

“Sorry, my dear,” Jack said. “Heath is working with or for Parker. Based on what we heard and recent public events, I believe Parker is trying to protect himself by getting rid of any loose ends.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” Kristina thought aloud.

“But why wait till the last minute and why hire someone like Heath? There has to be a bigger reason,” Ray said.

“There is, and I believe I know what that reason might be,” Jack said with a wink.

Jack paused for effect then said,

“Captain Bonkers.”

“The killer clown?” Rory asked. “Now I know you’re off your rocker. He’s dead.”

“No, he isn’t. The police killed an imposter, and Parker knows that. Bonkers is the reason Parker’s rushing to clean things up. He sat back and watched as Bradford King’s empire was cut down piece by piece and King was shot in his prison cell. Parker was afraid his small web of corruption would be dismantled like King’s was. I believe Heath is a cleaner, someone Parker hired to get rid of any hint of corruption,” Jack said.

“If that’s true, then why threaten to burn down the city?” Ray asked.

“Because much like when you’re using fire to clean up debris from your yard, if you are not careful, it can get away from you,” Jack explained.

“So we need to get to Parker before Heath can go too far,” Kristina said.

“That’s what I propose,” Jack said. “However, I think it best if we speak to your editor friend first. He may be able to provide us with a list of Parker’s known associates.”

“All right. Now we have a plan,” Ray said. “Rory and I will go pay a visit to Parker. Mavis, you and Billy go with Kristina to talk to the editor.”

“One problem,” Lucas chimed in.

Billy motioned to the parking lot as Lucas said,

“A black four-door town car has been parked out there since we got here. The two people inside haven’t moved. They’ve just been sitting there waiting.”

“They’re here for us?” Mavis asked.

“Most likely a warning,” Dylan said. “Someone like Charles Heath wouldn’t go through the trouble of releasing us just to turn around and kill us.”

“Unless he enjoys the chase,” Eddie replied.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lucas said. “You guys wait here. I’m going out to have a little talk with our friends.”

When Billy stood up, Rory stood as well.

“No chance, cowboy! I’m not letting you go out there alone.”

“Billy, please!” Mavis pleaded.

“Don’t worry, love. We’ll keep him safe,” Jack said as Billy left the diner with Rory.

“He’ll be okay. Just wait here a minute while I pay the tab,” Ray insisted.

“Hey! Billy took the saltshaker,” Kristina said.

 

*          *          *

 

The front door of the diner closed behind them as Billy and Rory stepped out into the parking lot. When they approached the town car, the two men inside climbed out.

Turning toward Billy, one of the men said,

“Mr. Heath wants you to stay out of this. He is not yet ready for your part—”

Before he could finish, Billy, his hand wrapped around the saltshaker, struck him across the face, knocking him to the pavement. Then he threw the shaker like a fast-pitch softball at the man standing by the passenger door, smashing his nose. Before the driver could recover from the blow, Billy pulled the pistol from his holster, struck him across the jaw, and then took aim at the passenger as he reached for his weapon.

Rory, making his way around the trunk, stopped and watched as Billy looked down the pistol sights at the passenger.

“Tell your boss I won’t stand on the sidelines while he commits murder,” Lucas ordered. “If he wants to play a game, he needs to understand that the game has already started.”

As the passenger cupped his bleeding nose, Eddie spoke up.

“If I were he, I’d just wait till your back was turned then shoot you. Who’s to say he’s not already planning his next move?”

“We have him cold,” said Dylan. “He’s too stupid to try anything.”

As the other personalities chimed in, the man on the ground shook his head and slowly reached for his back up pistol.

“Watch out!” Eddie yelled.

Before Rory could react, Billy, his eyes still trained on the passenger, switched the pistol to his left hand and shot the driver in the shoulder.

“Now go tell your boss what happened here,” Lucas said.

“But you may first go to a hospital. That wound doesn’t look good,” Victoria instructed.

Billy turned to Rory, ejected the pistol’s clip, and then threw the pistol into a nearby trash can.

“We should get back to the others,” Jack said.

After a moment, Billy shook his head and said,

“Wonder what they have for dessert.”

Coming Up Next on “The Prophet of Starfall”

Nathan and Elizabeth confront a gang led by one of Crescent Bay’s meta villains.

Published in: on October 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 77

In the wake of Kenneth Cooper’s death in 1970, Dr. Ricer quietly listened as everyone tried to figure out what had happened.

“So because we saved Cynthia Cooper, she turned her little boy into that?” Nicole asked.

“Kenneth said we should have let his mom die. According to him, she ruined his life and things only got worse after that,” Michael explained.

By now, Lucy was sleeping peacefully, her head resting on Ricer’s lap as he stroked his granddaughter’s long blonde hair. Had he know what taking the train that night would do to their lives, he never would have climbed aboard. He would have taken her straight home or at least put her in a cab. Anything but have her see what she’d seen. Ricer hoped in time her young mind would gloss over the memories and she wouldn’t need therapy.

“According to recorded history,” Ricer explained, “Cynthia Cooper was a drug addict who had men pay her bills in exchange for favors. Some of those men were also interested in Cynthia’s little boy. Although we don’t have any information about what specifically happened to Kenneth, we know that he suffered at the hands of his mother. At worst, she abused him. At best, she left him outside on the fire escape while she entertained her visitors. After her death from a drug overdose, Kenneth was too old to enter foster care, so he ended up on the street. He’s lost to history after that. I don’t know what drove him to become who he was.”

“A need for vengeance and a desire to fix his life,” Elliot said, patting the head of his gray and white husky.

“Obviously his anger towards his mother and the abuse he suffered at her hands led him to hate her. He knew the train existed—”

“How is that even possible?” Nicole interrupted. “I thought the train existed outside time and space, where there are no witnesses.”

Elliot continued, “The people you encounter out there in the real world start to forget about you soon after you leave. After a while, even the people you saved have only faint memories of you, and before too long, their imaginations have filled in the details. However, some of the more obsessive minds can latch onto the details and run over them again and again. This leads to stories being told that eventually grow from legends into myths. Kenneth Cooper knew the train existed because he saw it back in 1943.”

“And when he saw us the same age we were when we saved his mother, he knew,” Michael reasoned.

Elliot nodded, “Yep.”

“That was the moment he knew what he saw was real and how he could finally fix his life,” Michael added.

“That’s why he wanted on the train,” Nicole replied. “He wanted to stop us from saving his mother.”

“I’m sorry we couldn’t save him,” Ricer said.

The face of little Kenneth Cooper floated through Nicole’s mind. She remembered him staring at her, devoid of any expression.

Suddenly the whistle sounded and the train began to slow.

“Next stop,” Roscoe called out, walking through the cabin.

“May Lucy stay here?” Ricer asked.

“Sorry, Dr. Ricer, but she’s part of the team. She has to go with you,” Roscoe apologized.

“But she hasn’t done anything, really,” Ricer pleaded. “I know she’ll be safe here.”

As Michael stood up and grabbed his bag, he tried to sound reassuring.

“We’ll keep an eye on her, Doc. Don’t worry about Kenneth Cooper. He’s dead. It’s over now.”

Reluctantly, Ricer scooped up the sleeping Lucy and carried her off the train.

* * *

“Ripples: The Saint”

Alaska

October 2008

Michael and Nicole pushed against the rotting cabin door and stepped out into a forest of trees heavy with moss. The thick clouds overhead draped the woods in twilight. Dr. Ricer maneuvered his way through the narrow opening as he carried his sleeping grandchild. When he came alongside Nicole, the door closed behind them.

Straight ahead was a narrow path covered with autumn leaves in shades of brilliant golds, oranges, and reds. As Michael started down the path, the dying leaves crunched underfoot and the woods grew thicker until they could no longer see the sky.

“Where are we?” Michael asked. “It’s getting dark up ahead.”

Ricer looked around and said,

“Hard to tell. This place isn’t on any maps. I can tell you, though, that its late October 2008, and we’re in Alaska.”

A slight chill in the air heralded the coming winter. Nicole shivered and pulled her coat tightly around her. Farther down the path, they came upon a sign.

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Michael read, struggling to see in the fading light. “Well, I guess this must be where they need us.”

“Something about this place feels wrong,” Nicole said uneasily. “Weird.”

“Probably just the weather and the lack of a day or night cycle. That’s Alaska. You’ll get used to it,” Michael assured her.

“Why doesn’t it bother you?” Nicole asked.

“The way I was raised. My father always kept the lights on in the house with the windows blacked out. He didn’t want me to develop sleep patterns dependent upon the cycle of night and day,” Michael explained.

“Are you aware that what your father did could be considered child abuse?” Ricer pointed out.

“I know,” Michael admitted. “But my father used to say that the hottest fires make the strongest swords.”

“Of course he did,” Nicole said, rolling her eyes.

The path turned up ahead and as the trees opened, light poured into an idyllic scene. Ten buildings encircled one large one whose gardens ran along a peaceful river bubbling over rocks. Near the main building, a pool was filled with laughing children and couples splashing and swimming as a small band played cheerful music in the background. Warmth radiated from the captivating scene of welcome.

“So where are we again, Doc?” Michael asked, feeling himself relax a little.

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Ricer answered.

“Why are we here?” Nicole asked.

“A week from now, a truck carrying supplies will make its usual delivery here. But when the driver gets out of his truck, he will discover twenty members of staff and sixty guests dead,” Ricer said.

“How do they die?” Nicole asked.

“Most of them are poisoned. Others are killed in more brutal ways, and some are hanged. Those are just the ones the authorities find,” Ricer explained.

“What do you mean, find?” Michael asked.

“The resort currently has over ninety-seven guests and twenty-seven on staff,” Ricer said.

“One hundred twenty-four people total,” Nicole said, “and only eighty-seven were found. That means. . .”

Nicole trailed off, wrapping her coat more tightly.

“Eighty-seven people will be killed, and thirty-seven will never be found,” Nicole finished. “I told you there was something off here.”

“What is this place?” Michael asked with growing uneasiness.

Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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