Unsettled: Episode 9

“Where are we going exactly?” Rory asked.

“I don’t know. I’m not leading this parade,” Ray replied.

After Detective Márquez returned to the crime scene and Jack announced they needed a safe place to talk, Kristina had offered to take them to the perfect place. Climbing on her bike, she pulled into the street and headed north.

“So we’re just going to follow her to this mysterious location?” Rory asked.

“It would appear so,” Ray replied. “Based on the amount of time we’ve been on the road, I figure we must be on the other side of the island by now.”

The farther north they drove, the higher the elevation. At the top of the next hill, Ray looked back and saw the expansive bridge that connected Coldwater to Whitelake. When the sun’s rays hit it just right, it looked golden. Up ahead, Kristina slowed to a stop in front of two large black iron gates. She waited while the gates opened then drove her bike through with Mavis right behind. When Rory pulled through in his Bronco, Ray noticed the sign on the gates.

“Wintervale,” he read. “Wintervale. Where have I heard that name?”

After a few curves in the road, a massive red brick mansion came into view. The three-storied structure stretched out over rolling hills with oaks and dogwoods lining the drive. Kristina pulled up to the main entrance and killed her engine as Mavis and Rory parked alongside her bike.

“Where are we?” Mavis asked as she climbed out of the Jeep and twirled around, taking it all in.

“Wintervale Manor,” Kristina said.

“Mathias Wintervale built this place along with a mental hospital in Blackrock. The hospital’s been closed down for years, but at the time it was a top-notch place for the patients,” Kristina said.

“That’s nice and all, but why are we here?” Rory asked.

“I live here,” Kristina said with a smile. “My mom was the granddaughter of Mathias Wintervale. After my dad died, she married Oswald Zamora, a stage magician. He was my step-dad. The week before I graduated from high school, my mom died. Right after the ceremony, he disappeared, leaving all his possessions to me. I haven’t seen or heard from him since.”

“Man, this place is insane,” Billy said, taking it all in.

“You’d know!” Rory quipped.

Mavis quickly bent over, grabbed a rock from the driveway, and threw it at Rory.

“It’s okay, love,” Jack said. “We have more pressing matters to attend to.”

“Now that we’re someplace safe, tell us what happened back there,” Ray requested.

“When I got inside the building,” Lucas said, “Heath had left, probably in that helicopter lifting off.”

“And Dale?” Kristina asked.

“Upstairs in his office. Dead, the poor thing,” Victoria answered. “Beaten near to death with a hammer.”

When Kristina lost it, Mavis scolded Victoria.

“Do you have to be so graphic?” she snapped as Kristina walked away to compose herself.

“He didn’t go there just to kill Tanner,” Dylan interrupted. “This was more aggressive, angrier.”

“It is possible he was venting some pent up aggression,” Jack said. “On the other hand, maybe it was some sort of sick game to him.”

“What makes you think that?” Ray asked.

“A gunshot wound was what killed Tanner. Heath could have easily killed him with the hammer, but it looks like he struck him in such a way as to inflict the most damage yet leave him alive. Long enough to kill him anyway,” Jack explained.

“This is more than a killing spree or a cleanup,” Dylan insisted. “Heath is after something. Otherwise he’d be more focused or at least have a cool down period. He’s ramping up to a finale, and my gut tells me he’s just getting starting.”

“Somehow Parker is connected to Heath,” Ray said. “You should have seen his reaction when we mentioned him.”

“You hit a nerve. Aggression at a sensitive subject,” Jack said.

“Rookie mistake,” Eddie said. “Gave himself away. But he’s new at this. Probably the first time he’s ever worked with a cleaner.”

“Sounds like the fire’s jumped out of the firebox onto the curtains,” Jack replied.

“Anybody lost here?” Rory asked.

“It does,” Ray replied, ignoring Rory’s comment. “I have a suspicion where he might be headed next. When we were in Parker’s office, I saw a picture of him with three other men. The mayor, the police commissioner, and one other guy I didn’t recognize.”

“It could be he’s planning to completely wipe out the city’s infrastructure, leaving it in chaos,” Mavis proposed.

“There is one other possible answer,” Jack suggested.

“What?” Mavis asked.

“A hostile takeover,” Jack replied.

 

 

*          *          *

 

Gagged and tied to a chair facing French doors that opened onto a balcony of one of Coldwater’s tallest hotels, Councilman Owen Parker tried to calm his nerves. A short while ago, he had found his secretary Veronica dead in his outer office and Charles Heath standing over her body, along with one of his goons. At gunpoint, he had forced Parker to the top floor of the hotel.

Heath walked over and stood next to Parker, placing his hand on the nervous councilman’s shoulder. He slipped past Parker and opened the french doors, stepping outside to enjoy the view of the city and feel the soft breeze ruffle his hair. Taking a deep breath to draw in the fresh air, he said,

“You know, I really love this city. Not because of the people but because of the ambiance. On the surface, it feels warm and inviting. Underneath? Underneath there’s a hidden malice lingering just below the surface. Like the archetypal deformed cousin everyone keeps hidden in the basement,” Heath paused then laughed at his clever simile. “It’s there reminding us that we aren’t as perfect as we pretend to be.”

Just then one of Heath’s men walked onto the balcony and handed him a small cellphone.

“It’s ready,” the man said.

“Oh good,” Heath replied. Then taking a quick look outside, he turned to Parker and said,

“You’re going to enjoy this!”

Turning back to face Coldwater, Heath asked,

“Did you know that in ancient times when a city or kingdom was overthrown, the new monarchy would kill anyone loyal to the old king then destroy any buildings or statues built in his name?”

As Parker looked up at Heath, beads of sweat trickled down his face.

After a moment, Heath turned toward Parker.

“Well at least that’s what I believe they did. I couldn’t find any solid references to make my point resonate more, but you get the idea.”

When Parker began to glare at his captor, Heath complained,

“Now don’t look at me that way. I thought if anyone would enjoy this, you would.”

“Do you know what is so great about our emergency services?” Heath asked. “It’s their reaction time. In the city of Coldwater, most fire department and emergency services are on the scene within 3-4 minutes.”

“Aside from a mass disaster, there isn’t a single challenge the fire department could not handle,” Heath said, a wide smile on his face.

“Now I know you must wondering what that has to do with anything. Well I’ll tell you.”

Heath stepped off the balcony and knelt down in front of Parker, placing his hand on the councilman’s knee and addressing him like a small child.

“That kind of timing is perfect for when Mommy accidentally burns the rolls and the drapes catch fire. But for someone like me? Well it makes burning a few strategic buildings to the ground a bit difficult.”

Heath stood up and turned to look out over Coldwater. As he pressed a few buttons in the cell phone, he said,

“So a man like me has to plan ahead, and the best way to deal with quick response fire departments is to overwhelm them.”

Heath paused as he turned from the city and smiled at Parker.

“And the best way to overwhelm emergency services is not to give them one problem to deal with but. . .”

When Heath pressed another button on the cell phone, five separate explosions went off across town, one after another. As fire lit up the sky, Heath held up his hand, fingers spread wide, and mouthed the word.

“. . .five!”

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Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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