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!”

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

The updates will be here soon but due to a minor medical emergency there will be a delay. My most sincere apologies and thank you for you devotion and patience.

Published in: on March 15, 2018 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Unsettled: Episode 8

It was late evening when Ray and Rory pulled up outside the city capitol building. Work had just been completed to stabilize the building’s foundation and repair damage from the recent hurricane that had blown through town. The street lamps cast a soft glow onto the three-story red brick building as the wind stirred the towering pines that formed a border across the front.

As Ray and Rory climbed the front steps, Rory asked,

“Aren’t these places usually closed after five?”

“Some,” Ray said, testing the door.

When he found it unlocked, he smiled at Rory and added,

“But sometimes people work late.”

Rory followed Ray inside, stopping at a directory to find the listing of Councilman Parker’s office.

“Third floor, room 304,” Rory said.

At the lobby elevator, Ray tapped the button, and after a moment the doors opened.

“What if he’s not in?” Rory asked as he punched the button for the third floor.

“He’s in,” Ray assured him.

“What makes you so certain?” Rory asked.

“Oh just a feeling,” Ray replied.

“More like wishful thinking,” Rory commented as the elevator doors opened.

When they stepped off the elevator, the only sound was the tap of their shoes on the highly polished tile floor. The white sterile hallway was empty as they headed for Parker’s office.

At the door of 304, Rory turned the knob. The door was unlocked, so they stepped inside. The front office was empty.

“See,” Rory laughed. “No one here.”

Ray saw a second door just past the secretary’s desk. The gold lettering on the door’s frosted glass panel read Councilman Owen Parker. Ray listened for a few moments then knocked. He heard a loud thump and a man’s voice yelled,

“Just a moment.”

After the sound of muffled voices stopped, the door opened and a young woman came out of the office. She quickly smoothed her hair and began to close the three open buttons on her blouse.

“May I help you?” she smiled.

“Yes. I’d like to speak with Councilman Parker, please.”

“I’m afraid he’s busy right now,” the woman answered.

“I can see that,” Rory said. “But this is important.”

When Ray glanced past her, he saw Parker quickly throw on a pair of glasses then grab a gold wedding ring off the desk and jam it onto his finger. He was around middle age with graying hair and a slight paunch.

“Now is not a good time,” the woman insisted.

“That’s all right, ma’am. I’ll just go have a word with Mrs. Parker. This matter concerns both of them,” Ray returned.

“What matter?” Parker asked, walking to his office door.

“Nothing that can’t wait. I’ll speak with your wife first. Of course I do tend to share too much and may tell her what I saw here. Hope she doesn’t misunderstand,” Ray said.

“It’s okay, Veronica,” Parker said. “I can speak with them now.”

Ray sweetly smiled and excused himself as he walked past Parker’s secretary.

In a huff, Veronica marched toward her desk, loudly closing the councilman’s door behind Ray and Rory.

Parker offered Ray and Rory a chair and sat down behind his desk.

“Now what can I do for you gentlemen this evening?” he politely asked.

“I am a voter,” Ray said, “and I have a few questions.”

“Well I’m here to help. My door is always open,” Parker said.

“Excellent,” Ray replied. “My first question is what is the city council doing about the crime rate?”

“Crime is down,” Parker said, leaning back in his chair as he laced his fingers across his chest, “and City hall will continue to work with the police department to guarantee it stays down.”

“Next question,” Ray said. “Does the name Charles Heath mean anything to you?”

Suddenly Parker’s friendly expression changed to a scowl.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“Name is Raymond Slats, and I was wondering why is it you hired Charles Heath to in his own words ‘burn the city to the ground?’ ” Ray asked.

Parker stared at Ray for a moment then said, “Wait a minute. Raymond Slats. I know that name. You’re from Whitelake not Coldwater. Why did you tell me you were a voter?”

“Well technically I am a voter, just not in your district,” Ray said.

“I don’t have anything more to say, Mr. Slats. You can find your way out. Bother me again, and you’ll need an attorney,” Parker threatened.

As Ray stood to leave, he said,

“This kind of thing usually doesn’t end well, Councilman. If I were you, I’d get help before things get away from you.”

“Out!” Parker barked.

Turning to leave, Ray noticed a photograph of Councilman Parker with three other men on a golf course. Three of the men were laughing as the fourth retrieved his golf ball from the hole.

When they reached the elevator, Rory asked,

“That’s it?’ We just walk out?”

“I already got all he was going to give. His reaction said enough. Plus, I saw a photo of Parker with the mayor, the police commissioner, and another guy I didn’t recognize. I’d bet my social security check that those men are on Heath’s hit list. We need to find Billy and the others,” Ray said.

As they stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the lobby, Rory asked,

“And by the others you mean?”

“Mavis and Kristina,” Ray replied.

“Good,” Rory said, relaxing a bit.

“And Billy’s other personalities,” Ray added.

Rolling his eyes, Rory groaned as the elevator doors closed.

* * *

As Ray and Rory pulled up outside the Coldwater Chronicle, a uniformed police officer stopped them and told them to stay behind the cordon tape. Squad cars filled the lot as officers and Crime Scene worked the area.

“What’s happened?” Rory asked.

“More importantly,” Ray said as Rory parked near the street, “where are Mavis, Billy and Kristina?”

“Hey, there they are, across the street,” Rory pointed out.

They got out of Rory’s Bronco and crossed the busy street.

“What happened here?” Rory asked.

“I have no idea,” Billy said.

Mavis looked around to see if anyone else could hear before she explained,

“When we got here, Lucas told us to stay outside while he went in. He told us to wait a bit, turn the power off and on, then get into our car, which we did. A few minutes later, we saw the lights of a helicopter as it lifted off the roof. Next thing we know, Billy’s walking out of the building and asking us what happened?”

Rory looked at Billy and inquired,

“What happened inside?”

Billy shrugged and said, “I honestly don’t know. Last I remember, we were at the diner.”

“Wait a minute,” Ray said with skepticism. “You mean to tell me you don’t remember anything?”

Mavis nodded and said, “I believe him, Ray. Sometimes the others block out Billy completely, like when they do something they don’t want him to remember. That way, he stays completely innocent.”

“In that case, I need to speak with the others,” Ray said. “How do I get one of them out here?”

“Won’t work,” Kristina said. “Afraid we already tried. They’ve gone into hiding, I’d guess until things calm down.”

Before Ray could continue his questioning, a slender young woman in a crisp suit, her brown hair pulled back in a bun, walked up to them, her eyes on Billy.

Removing a police badge from her suit, she introduced herself,

“Detective Joeslyn Márquez, Coldwater PD.”

As she slipped the badge back into her pocket, she watched Billy.

“I saw you at the police department earlier. You were there just before detective Ethan Snow was murdered.”

“Detective Snow is dead?” Billy asked in surprise.

Márquez studied Billy’s face as though the answers were there.

“You were there. You didn’t kill him, but you know something. First Snow’s murder, then this? You’re involved all right.”

“What happened in there, Detective,” Ray asked.

“Dale Tanner was murdered. We also found several armed men unconscious and tied up. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” Márquez asked Billy.

“Tanner is dead?” Kristina asked, her hand covering her mouth.

Seeing her grief, Márquez said, “Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“I honestly have no clue what’s going on. Last I remember, I was at a diner with these guys,” Billy said, an innocent look on his face.

Márquez watched Billy for a moment then ordered, “Don’t leave town. I may have other questions.”

As Márquez returned to the crime scene, Jack suddenly spoke up.

“So much has happened. We need to get to safety and figure out Heath’s next move.”

“What happened in there?” Mavis asked.

“Not here, love,” Jack replied. “Later, where it’s safe.”

* * *

Irritated by Ray’s visit and threat to tell his wife, Parker gathered his papers, shut off the desk lamp and walked to the door. As he closed and locked it, he said,

“Veronica, I’m sorry, but I’m too upset right now. I’m heading home for the night.”

When he turned around, he froze. Veronica was face down on the floor in a pool of blood. Standing over here was Charles Heath with his bodyguard.

“Hello, Councilman,” Heath sneered. “It’s time for phase two.”

As Heath’s bodyguard pointed a pistol at Parker’s head, Heath asked,

“Won’t you join me for the rest of the evening?”


Unsettled: Episode 7

His hand gripping the bloody hammer, Charles Heath looked down at what remained of Dale Tanner. He watched as Tanner struggled to draw his last breath. Heath had to admit this attack had been just the stress relief he needed after William Brannon almost ruined his escape. From the look of Tanner, a couple more strikes was all he could hope for. Just as he raised the hammer, the lights went out.

Heath froze then looked up toward the ceiling.

“What is it, sir?” Heath’s security guard asked.

“Brannon’s here,” Heath said.

“In that case, sir, I recommend we leave at once,” the guard advised. “There’s a helicopter waiting on the roof to take you to safety.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Heath said. Then after a pause he added,

“I’m done here.”

Heath handed the claw hammer to the security guard, exchanging it for his pistol. Then turning to Tanner, he smiled,

“Thank you. This was just what I needed.”

Tanner looked at Heath through his swollen bloody eye. He saw Heath raise the pistol and heard the shot just before he slipped into eternity.

After holstering the pistol, Tanner removed his gloves and stuffed them into his pockets. Running his fingers through his short hair, he said,

“Now we can go.”

Exiting Tanner’s office, they headed for the stairs leading up to the roof and the helicopter.


*          *          *



When the lights cut out, Rowan felt his heart race. With trembling hands, he reached out and switched on his tactical flashlight, at the same time ordering the men to follow suit. A surge of panic ran up his spine when he saw that Brannon had disappeared.

“Sweep the room,” he ordered. “Keep your radios on. Target is in the area.”

After searching the room twice, Rowan called out to his men,

“Anyone see anything? Check in.”

Four of the five men gave an all clear. After a moment, Rowan called to the man who had not responded.

“Alexander, check in.”

“Sorry, sir. Thought I saw something. All clear,” Alexander answered.

Rowan ordered the men,

“Keep your eyes open. He’s here somewhere.”

Suddenly Alexander’s tactical light went out.

“Alexander!” Rowan called out.

When no answer came, Clark, the man nearest Alexander, said,

“I’ll check, sir.”

Rowan watched as Clark’s tactical light turned in the direction Alexander had last been seen. Clark did a quick sweep and came back on the radio,

“There’s no sign of him, sir.”

“Keep at it. He has to be there somewhere,” Rowan replied.

Before Clark could respond, another tactical light on the opposite side of the room went out.

“Carter, turn your light back on,” Rowan ordered.

When Carter did not answer, Rowan knew he was losing control of the situation.

“Someone check on Carter.”

Before anyone could respond, Clark’s tactical light went off.

With three men missing, Rowan slowly backed up towards the wall. There were only two men left.

“What are you?” Rowan asked into the darkness.

“There’s no sign of Carter, sir,” Briggs replied.

“Keep looking!” Rowan snapped.

Before Briggs could answer, his light went out.

In a panic, Rowan began frantically to sweep the room.

“Please don’t kill me,” he whispered.

“Forget this,” Granger said. “I’m out of here!”

Rowan watched as Granger’s tactical light moved toward the front door. Suddenly it stopped. Rowan tried to shine his light toward Granger but was terrified of what he might see. Then he heard a slow click that echoed off the walls as Granger’s light went out.

Rowan could hear his heartbeat in his ears as he slowly stepped toward the front door. The only light in the room was his tactical light and a low glow from the streetlamp outside. He figured that if he could just make it to the front door, he could escape with his life. The other men were on their own. His knees shaking, he inched his way toward the front door of the lobby, moving his light from left to right as he went. When he was about halfway to the door, the lights suddenly came on, blinding Rowan for a moment before he adjusted his eyes to the light. The room was empty. No sign of his men. No blood. No equipment.

As a chill ran up his spine, Rowan did what he’d seen every stupid teenager do in every horror movie he’d ever watched. Instead of running for his life, he slowly turned around, sensing something was behind him.

Standing just a couple of feet behind him with one fist clenched and the other open was William Brannon.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Rowan whimpered.

Then he screamed as the last thing he saw was Brannon diving for him.


*          *          *



Leo Walker and Chad Burns, two of Heath’s men, were stationed in the second floor hall leading to the editor’s office. Both were under orders to stay behind and cover Mr. Heath’s escape. A few moments after the lights came back on, they heard someone downstairs crying for help.

“What is that racket down there? Sounds like a bunch of little girls,” Walker sneered.

“With Rowan in charge, could be anything,” Burns said.

“In charge? That guy is useless!” Walker said.

“All they have to do is deal with one guy while the boss escapes,” Burns said.

“Leave it to Rowan to make a mess. No telling what he’s up to,” Walker said.

At the entrance to the hallway, a man suddenly appeared. Taking a few purposeful strides, he stopped in full view of Walker and Burns.

“Hey! Isn’t that the Brannon guy Mr. Heath warned us about?” Walker asked.

“Well he’s not one of our idiots,” Burns replied.

“That’s far enough. We’ll shoot if you come any closer,” Walker ordered Brannon.

“Heath said not to kill him,” Burns whispered.

“If it’s down to my life or his, I’m shooting the guy,” Walker said.

“Turn around now!” Burns yelled.

Keeping a steady eye on the two men, Brannon did not move.

“Who is this guy?” Walker asked.

“I don’t know. Mr. Heath didn’t say much about him. Just said he’s important and not to kill him,” Burns replied.

All of a sudden, Brannon began walking forward.

“Stop right there! Don’t come any closer!” Burns demanded.

Brannon ignored the warning and kept walking.

“Forget this! I’m shooting him!” Walker said, taking aim.

Suddenly the lights went out, plunging the hallway into darkness.

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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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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.”


Unsettled: Episode 4

“That barefoot guy stole my truck! He’s wearing a shirt with birds or something on it. I don’t know who he is. He was talking to you!” the truck driver yelled.

“Sir, please calm down,” Ray asked. “I promise we will see that he returns your truck. What’s your name?”

“Brian Hunter, and I’m going inside the police station right now to report this, pal.”

“No, please,” Mavis pleaded. “He didn’t mean to. He just got out of the hospital and he has impulse control problems. I’ll get him to bring back your truck.”

“We need to get after him,” Rory said. “If he’s chasing someone, he’s on his own.”

“I’ll get him. Don’t worry,” Kristina reassured them.

“If anyone leaves, I’m calling the cops!” Hunter threatened.

“Please don’t do that. I’ll contact him right now. Just don’t call the police,” Mavis begged Hunter.

“We’re wasting time,” Rory growled.

As Rory started moving towards the truck driver, Hunter raised his fists in self-defense.

“Rory, calm down. You’re not helping,” Ray scolded.

“Oh for crying out loud,” Kristina snapped in exasperation.

Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a checkbook and quickly filled out a check. Then tearing it free, she said,

“If I don’t bring your truck back, you can keep this.”

As she slapped the check into Hunter’s hand, she announced,

“I’m going after him!”

Climbing on her motorcycle, she pulled on her helmet, started the engine and sped away.

Ray turned to see a slack-jawed Hunter, staring with amazement at the check he held.

What’s wrong?” Ray asked.

Hunter showed Ray the check made out for $50,000.

“That’s a lot of zeroes,” Ray said.

“My truck didn’t even cost that much,” Hunter gulped.

“Where did she get that kind of money?” Rory wondered aloud.

Mavis hesitated for a moment then said,

“When her stepfather died, he left her his entire estate worth about 15.6 billion dollars.”

Ray and Rory were stunned into silence.

* * *

“I can’t believe we stole that man’s truck right after we got out of jail,” Victoria said.

“I wasn’t going to let him get away, especially after killing that cop,” Lucas insisted.

“Technically, we didn’t steal the truck. Stealing is defined as the taking of another person’s property without permission or legal right with no intention of returning said property,” Jack explained. “We have every intention of returning it once we have detained Mr. Heath.”

“The only reason we were able to take this truck is because I’m amazing at sneaking around. That schmuck back there was so busy tying his shoes he didn’t even notice me,” Eddie laughed.

“So how do you plan to stop Heath if we catch him?” Dylan asked “Growl at him?”

As the semi gained speed, Lucas saw Heath’s car up ahead, turning right at a traffic light.

“There he is,” Lucas said. “Someone take the wheel! I’m going after him!”

“Take the wheel?” Dylan asked.

“What are you talking about? No one can take the wheel, Lucas. We may be five minds but Billy has only one body,” Jack explained.

“Then we’ll have to do things the old fashioned way,” Lucas said.

Pulling the semi up next to the car, Lucas clipped the back end, causing Heath’s vehicle to spin out of control.

* * *

Charles Heath braced himself as his driver struggled to regain control of the car.

“What happened?” Heath asked.

“That semi clipped us,” the driver explained.

Heath climbed out of the car and looked in the direction of the semi. It had slowed down and was turning around to come back at him.

He saw that the driver of the truck was the same man he had released from jail.

“Oh this one is going to pose quite a challenge,” Heath said smiling.

Climbing back into the car, he told his driver,

“Lose that semi or I’ll throw you under it.”

The driver quickly started the car, slipped it into drive and pulled away as fast as he could.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, he saw that the semi was coming up fast behind them.

“Things are not looking good for you,” Heath said, removing his pistol and pointing it at the driver.

Swallowing nervously, the driver pressed down hard on the gas in hopes that the engine had been holding back.

As the semi drew closer, Heath pressed the pistol against the driver’s throat.

“3. . .2. . .1,” he counted, pausing between each number. Just as he pulled back on the hammer, he spotted a motorcycle flying toward them. From what he could tell, the driver was a female.

“Saved at the last minute,” Heath said.

Lowering his window, Heath leaned out. As he squinted against the wind, he aimed and fired twice at the motorcycle. The first shot missed but the second one caused the driver to lose control.

“For your sake, I hope that works.”

* * *

“Oh dear. Someone has wrecked,” Victoria said.

“They’d better be okay because I’m not stopping,” Lucas growled.

“That is Kristina, Mavis’s friend,” Jack said.

“Please! We have to stop. She may be injured,” Victoria insisted.

“I’m not letting that guy get away!” Lucas roared.

Suddenly the brakes engaged.

Shocked by the sudden stop, Lucas yelled,

“Billy, wait! We can’t stop! He’s getting away!”

“Sorry, mate,” Jack said. “Kristina is Mavis’ friend, and Billy isn’t going to let her get hurt.”

As Heath’s car drove away, the truck pulled to a stop. Billy downshifted, cut off the engine and climbed out.

Kristina was sitting on the side of the road, holding her arm.

“Don’t move, dear,” Victoria said as Billy checked her for injuries.

* * *

In her fear, Mavis didn’t bother obeying the speed limit as she and Ray raced after Kristina.

“I lost her,” Mavis said. “Where is she?”

“Keep going this way. They couldn’t have gotten far,” Ray assured her.

Up ahead she spotted Kristina sitting in the grass on the side of the road with her arm in a makeshift sling. Billy was busy attending to her wounds.

Mavis pulled the Jeep to a stop and killed the engine. Climbing out, she ran over to Kristina.

“Everyone okay?” she asked.

“No!” Billy snapped.

Billy spun and stared past Mavis. Then in a British accent he argued,

“Now, Lucas, don’t be that way. It was not her fault.”

Still staring off at nothing, Billy said,

“Really? I was this close to catching him.”

As the other personalities continued the argument, Ray checked on Kristina.

“You all right?” he asked.

“I’m fine. When that guy shot at me, I overeacted and lost control, wrecking the bike. I just twisted my arm when I fell. Billy, no Victoria, checked my arm and said I should be okay provided I get plenty of rest and take it easy,” Kristina said.

“Victoria said that?” Ray asked.

“Yea,” Mavis replied. “Victoria has extensive medical experience.”

Ray looked over at Billy, still yelling at no one, and asked,

“So what’s going on there?”

“Looks like Lucas and Jack are arguing,” Mavis said.

“It’s my fault he got away. I shouldn’t have rushed in unprepared,” Kristina admitted.

“No, it’s not your fault. Heath sounds pretty dangerous. You’re just lucky he didnt hit you,” Ray pointed out. “Come on. Let’s take the truck back to the owner and get you properly checked out.”

Ray helped Kristina to the Jeep while Mavis tried to calm the personalities. Finally, she convinced Lucas to take the semi back.

“Come on, Lucas. You did your best. Let it go. We’ll get Heath another day.”


Unsettled: Episode 3

On the way to the police station, Ray thought over Mavis’ story as he listened to the heavy rain pelting the Jeep.

“So that’s why you were available some times and not others?” Ray asked.

Mavis nodded as she concentrated on the wet road.

“I went to see Billy as much as I could. I’m sorry if my being gone caused a problem.”

“No problem at all,” Ray said. “I was just worried about you.”

Ray grew quiet for a moment then looked intently at Mavis.

“And Billy, you’re certain he’s the one, dear?”

Mavis nodded and bit her bottom lip.

“Don’t worry, sweetie. We’ll get him out,” Ray assured her as he reached over and patted her back.

Mavis quickly looked at Ray then back at the road.

“Thanks,” she said as a tear ran down her cheek.

“He’s still at the police department. A friend of mine who’s watching the place promised to phone me as soon as she sees him.”

“That’s fine,” Ray said.

When they reached the police department’s parking area, Ray noticed a woman across the street leaning against a motorcycle. As the wind whipped her short brown hair, she pulled a green army jacket tightly around her to keep out the rain.

“Is that your friend? The one watching for Billy?” Ray asked.

“That’s her,” Mavis said pulling into a parking space.

Reaching into the back seat, Mavis brought out a golf umbrella.

“Wait until I come around,” she said, climbing out of the Jeep.

As Mavis and Ray squeezed under the umbrella, Rory pulled his Bronco into the spot beside them and popped on a hat before stepping out. Just before they crossed the street to Mavis’ friend, the rain suddenly stopped.

The woman, standing 5 feet 7 inches, looked like she could take care of herself in a fight.

“He hasn’t left yet,” she said before they reached her.

“Raymond Slats, this is Kristina Kay,” Mavis said, closing the umbrella.

“Slats. Yeah. Mavis told me about you. You’re a regular Kojack. She’s always going on and on about the criminals you stopped and the lives you’ve saved.”

“Nice to meet you, Kristina. I’m afraid I haven’t heard much about you,” Ray said.

“No problem. May’s always been a live-in-the-moment kind of person. Other than you, she doesn’t talk much about her life in Whitelake,” Kristina explained.

“May?” Ray asked.

“Yea,” Kristina smiled. “When we were kids, I called her May, and she always called me Kris. That’s the one nickname I didn’t mind having.”

Suddenly Rory chimed in,

“Kristina Kay! I remember you!”

“Stop it!” Mavis snapped at Rory.

“What’s going on?” Ray asked.

“Nothing,” Mavis answered, a scowl on her face.

“It’s okay, May. Really. I don’t mind so much anymore,” Kristina said.

Kristina turned to Ray to explain.

“People around here consider me bad luck. Mavis was the only one who didn’t let that bother her. I was born on Friday the 13th at 1:13 p.m., and my mom’s hospital room number was 913.”

“I get Friday the 13th and of course 1:13 p.m. is 13:13 in military time, but what about the room number?” Ray asked.

“The room number has the number thirteen in it plus, if you add 9, 1 and 3, you get the number 13. People always avoided me like the plague because they just knew I would bring them bad luck.”

Mavis glanced past them to the police station door and spotted Billy leaving.

“There he is!” she exclaimed, pushing past them and running toward Billy.

Ray watched as Billy’s face lit up at the sight of Mavis. He dropped his shoes and caught her as she dove for him. Lifting her up, he brought her close as she enthusiastically hugged and kissed him.

After a moment, Ray saw Mavis whisper something in Billy’s ear. Reluctantly putting her down, he took Mavis’ hand and followed her over to her friends. Ray had never seen Mavis look so happy.

“Everyone,” Mavis said, “this is William Brannon.”

Billy released Mavis’ hand and stepped up to Ray.

“A pleasure to meet you, sir,” Billy said.

“Oh you can call me Ray, son. Everyone does,” Ray said with a smile.

“Yes. Raymond Slats,” Billy said with a British accent. “Retired cab driver responsible for bringing Bradford King to justice. Raymond Slats is the name you’re currently travelling under.”

“What?” Rory asked.

Billy turned to Rory and said,

“Gregory Tavish, formerly of Scotland Yard. Now retired freelance detective and muscle.”

Billy turned to Kristina and said,

“And you are Kristina Kay, stepdaughter of Oswald Zamoura and local expert on bad luck.”

“Mavis?” Ray asked hesitantly. “Is this one of them?”

“I’m terribly sorry. My name is Jack and to answer your question, yes I am one of the personalities residing within William’s fractured mind. I do appreciate everything you have done for Mavis, and I hope to have your continued support should I need it in future.”

“How come you know so much about us yet you’ve been locked away chasing butterflies?” Rory asked.

Mavis clenched her jaw and shot Rory a hostile glare as Jack said,

“Not to worry, my dear. When you were attempting to stop Captain Bonkers, I offered you help, did I not? But before I was ready to assist you, I had to learn as much as I could about you. After all, knowledge precedes victory.”

“Ignorance precedes defeat,” Kristina added. “Sun Tzu.”

“That is correct,” Jack said looking off to nowhere. “I like her.”

Suddenly Billy whipped his face in another direction and in a different voice said,

“We don’t have time for chit chat. That cop could already be dead.”

“Be right back, lads,” Jack said.

Billy’s face suddenly went blank and he stood perfectly still.

Mavis softly placed her hand on Billy’s shoulder.

“Billy?” she asked.

“Yea?” Billy replied, suddenly snapping to.

“Are you okay?” Mavis asked.

“I’m fine. Jack and Lucas are just having another argument,” Billy responded.

“Who are they?” Ray asked.

“Jack is the oldest and smartest. Lucas, he’s the physical one. Always on the lookout for threats. Always protecting me. Then there’s Eddie. He’s sneaky. Talks a lot about hunting. Victoria is the nice one. Whenever I get nervous, she always calms me down. And then there’s Dylan Desmond. He’s kind of what I imagine an older brother would be like,” Billy explained.

“Those are the other personalities I was telling you about,” Mavis said.

* * *

While Ray and Mavis watched with Rory and Kristina, the personalities began to engage in a full debate.

Angrily pacing back and forth, Lucas snapped, “We don’t have time to sit around yakking like old friends. That cop could be dead already.”

“Yea. You just said that. But listen. He’s not going to murder a police detective inside a police station. That would be stupid, suicidal,” Dylan pointed out.

“Technically, if there are no witnesses, he could get away with it,” Eddie suggested.

“Guys, we really should consider how this is making Billy look to Mavis and her friends,” Victoria said.

Ignoring Victoria’s concern, Jack replied,

“There’s not much we can do for the detective right now but keep an eye out. Once he leaves, he will be in grave danger.”

At that moment, an alarm went off and Ray saw police officers near the front entrance jump up from their desks and run toward the sound.

“Told you so,” Lucas said.

Just then Lucas spotted a vehicle pulling out of the police station parking lot. When he saw Charles Heath in the passenger seat, he yelled,

“That’s him!”

* * *

“What in the world is going on?” Ray asked.

“The detective is dead, and his murderer is driving away,” Billy exclaimed as he pointed to Heath’s vehicle.

“Quick. Somebody get the license plate,” Ray answered. “Rory, can you tail him?”

“I’m on it,” Rory said, heading for his Bronco.

“Too late. Someone’s already on it,” Kristina said, pointing past them to a semi in hot pursuit.

At that moment, a man ran up to them, red-faced and angry.

“That guy just stole my truck!” he shouted.

“What guy?” Ray asked.

“Where’s Billy?” Rory asked.

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 2:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 2

The rumble of thunder grew louder as Mavis sped past the Coldwater city limits sign and up to the first traffic light.

“You know, Mavis, there was always something about this town that made me uncomfortable,” Ray confessed.

“Tell me about it!” Mavis agreed. “When my family first moved here, it felt like Paradise. A beautiful new world filled with fantastic possibilities. But the more time we spent here, the more the veneer seemed to crack, letting the darkness beneath show through.”

“So let me get this straight,” Ray said. “William Brannon is a friend of yours who’s just been discharged from the hospital. He sees a man with a gun approaching two police detectives and decides to step in and help. He engages the armed man, takes him down before he can fire a shot at the detectives, and in the scuffle, the man’s gun falls to the pavement. Then the detectives arrest William and the armed man until they can sort things out. Is that about right?”

Mavis nodded.

“And you’re worried that the police may run William’s name through the system, discover he has priors, and assume he’s guilty?” Ray asked.

“Yes,” Mavis nodded.

Ray eyed her for a moment then said, “Mavis, I have a hunch there’s something you’re not sharing.”

“Nope,” Mavis said, keeping her eyes fixed on the road.

Ray wasn’t buying it. He sensed there was more to this story.

As the approaching storm moved closer, the wind picked up and the sky darkened with the great rolling clouds. When it began to sprinkle, Mavis was glad she had put up the top before leaving Richard and Deborah’s house.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Ray asked.

“We’re here,” Mavis said, changing the subject.

Coldwater was an island about thirty miles off the coast of Whitelake. The first thing newcomers saw when they hit the city limits was the city’s oldest restaurant. Its name a play on words, the Cold Waterfront was an icon to the town. Ray spotted Rory’s Bronco in the restaurant’s parking lot. Rory was leaning against it playing a game of fetch with Roddy.

Mavis pulled to a stop, killed the engine and climbed out of the Jeep.

“Glad you’re here,” Rory called. “Let’s get out of this rain.”

Taking the lead, Rory headed for the restaurant’s breezeway.

“How are things with you?” Ray asked.

“Could be better,” Rory answered. “Mavis fill you in?”

“Pretty much. Mavis’ friend William Brannon was arrested after saving a police detective from being shot. The detective arrested both William and the gunman until he can figure out what happened. Mavis wants to get William released before the detective discovers he has a record,” Ray summed up.

“So Mavis told you about the institute?” Rory said.

“You mean the hospital? She said he just got out, but that shouldn’t be a problem,” Ray said.

Rory had a look of confusion then turned his head and frowned at Mavis. When Mavis quickly averted her eyes, anger washed over Rory’s face.

“Mavis Marie Warner! You didn’t tell him did you?”

“I was afraid he wouldn’t help,” Mavis confessed.

“Tell him or I will!” Rory snapped.

“Tell me what?” Ray asked. “What’s going on?”

Mavis hesitated then agreed.

“Okay, here goes. I met William when you were in the hospital, Ray, when you had that mild heart attack. William was recovering from a severe car accident. He had to have extensive facial reconstructive surgery and physical therapy. But he was getting better, just not fully up and walking yet. The moment we met, we fell in love, pure and simple. He was in the hospital for six more months, and I visited him every day. All I knew about him was that he had been a soldier. Really, that’s all he knew, based on his admittance papers. The accident left Billy with severe amnesia, and the only thing he knew about himself was what they told him. The good news was a company called The Neverland Foundation was paying all of his medical bills because he had signed up for a harmless experimental procedure that might restore his memory.  The day he left the hospital was the saddest day of my life. I wasn’t going to see him again for years.  And because of the secrecy of the experiment, he couldn’t even call or write. I didn’t hear from him again until three years ago when I got a call from a doctor at the Morris Greystone Institute about a John Doe who had just been admitted. Whoever submitted the commitment papers had signed my name. When I drove to the institute, I saw that the patient was Billy. He had scars he hadn’t had before, and he was clean-shaven, even his eyebrows. But the worst part was he was catatonic.”

Mavis wiped at a tear running down her cheek before she continued.

“The doctors couldn’t get any sort of response. I started visiting him as often as I could get away, and a few weeks later, he began to show signs of life. The doctors said he started moving, even saying a few words. The only problem was he used a lot of different mannerisms and voices. The doctors concluded that whatever happened to Billy had left him with severe dissociative identity disorder. He showed other signs of the disorder, but the only one they could pinpoint was that he seemed to have five different personalities, not counting his own. The weird part was that while the doctors studied him, they noticed that the personalities seemed to coexist. When they tried to explain all this to me, they said that normally with dissociative identity disorder, one personality at a time is in control. But with Billy, the personalities seemed to be able to interact with each other, even control different parts of the body at one time. One doctor observed that Billy could watch television, read a book, play chess with one of the orderlies and solve a crossword puzzle all at the same time.”

Mavis stopped to catch her breath.

“And that’s what you’re afraid they’ll find out?” Ray asked.

“Yes,” Mavis said.

“No it’s not!” Rory corrected.

Mavis sighed and said,

“Technically, Billy left the hospital before he was cured. The others kind of tricked the doctors.”

“The others?” Ray asked.

“The other personalities. They decided the only way to uncover what happened to Billy was to start investigating, and they knew that wasn’t going to happen inside a cell,” Mavis explained.

Stunned by Mavis’ story, Ray tried to take it all in.

“Now you know,” Rory said, “the real reason why Mavis needs your help. She’s afraid the cops are going to find out her boyfriend is an escaped mental patient.”

“Fiancé,” Mavis corrected.

“What?!” Ray and Rory asked in unison.

Mavis held up her left hand to show her gold diamond ring.

“Before Billy left the hospital in Whitelake, he proposed and I said yes.”


*          *          *


Billy rose from the cot and walked over to the cell bars. With his forefinger, he traced the outline of the colorful parrots on his shirt. Just behind him, Lucas paced back and forth, growing more agitated with every step.

“We’re getting nowhere locked up like this,” Lucas growled.

“I already know how to get us out. Just say the word,” Eddie bragged.

“For the billionth time, we’re not breaking out!” Dylan said, brushing back his salt and pepper hair.

“I fear we may have to, if something doesn’t happen soon,” Jack pointed out.

“Oh yes!” Eddie exclaimed. “It’s go time!”

“Wait!” Victoria said. “Breaking out of jail right after getting him out of the hospital isn’t going to help Billy at all.”

“We may have no other choice, my dear,” Jack replied.

“Quiet! Someone’s coming,” Lucas whispered.

A medium build man, around 6.2 tall, dressed in a dark blue Italian silk suit with a grey pocket handkerchief, walked up to the cell and looked over Billy. The pomade on his crew cut had a faint vanilla scent.

“When I heard that someone had taken out one of my best men, I had to see this hero for myself. I have to admit, I thought I would be looking at a soldier stepped right off the pages of a magazine. But—.”

The man suddenly stopped talking when he saw Billy’s feet. Billy’s shoes were gone, and he stood in a pair of blue socks.

“Not this,” the man said.

“My shoes were too tight,” Billy said matter-of-factly.

Then his posture straightened as he spoke with a British accent,

“What can I do for you?”

“Nothing really. I just had to meet you. I’m Charles Heath, and I’ll be frank with you. It’s unusual for a man of my expertise to encounter a challenge, so for your sake, I’ll give you a head start.”

Heath paused, put his face close to the bars and said,

“I’m going to burn this city to the ground, and I’m going to give you a chance to stop me.”

The door at the end of the hallway opened and Detective Ethan Snow walked in, followed by the armed man who had attempted to kill him.

“I do hope you try to stop me. Not tonight, though. Tonight we’re just cleaning the board. Before we set up the next game, we need to reset the pieces,” Heath whispered as the detective approached.

“All right, I got him. What do you want?” Snow asked.

“Release this man,” Heath ordered gesturing toward Billy.

“I work for Councilman Parker, not you,” Snow protested.

“Now that is true. But you see, Parker works for me. So if A equals B and B equals C then,” Heath paused, “you work for me.”

Snow hesitated then turned and unlocked the cell.

“You should go,” Heath told Billy. “This next part isn’t for innocent eyes.”

Billy paused, wondering what he meant, then slowly left the cell with his shoes tucked under his arm.

After Billy was well out of sight, Snow faced Heath, turning his back to the failed assassin.

“Now what?” Snow growled.

“I gave you an order. I expect you to finish it,” Heath said.

“I did,” Snow grumbled.

Suddenly the man behind Snow slipped a garrote over the detective’s head then began to tighten it around his neck. Heath stared into Snow’s terrified eyes as he struggled to breath.

As the assassin lowered Snow’s dead body to the floor, Heath watched then said,

“You have your orders.”

“Yes, sir,” the man answered then walked into the nearest empty cell and closed the door behind him.

“Good boy,” Heath said. “Looks like I have a new toy.”

Charles Heath exited the holding cells, leaving behind Snow’s dead body, his eyes fixed on the ceiling.

Published in: on August 17, 2017 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 1

The Garden Path




A blanket of heavy rain clouds covered the sky over Coldwater as Mavis flew across the causeway in the chilly air. She looked up, hoping to see a break in the clouds, but it seemed the sun was not coming out of his tent today. Three months ago, Mavis had been pleased that her father had enough confidence in her to pass his properties into her hands after his retirement. But the joy she felt had been brief, diminished by the thought of leaving behind her friends in Whitelake. She had grown to love them like family.

She glanced at the speedometer and gasped when she saw how fast she was driving. Her new blue Jeep Wrangler was barely three months old, and already she was driving it too fast. She had promised her father that she wouldn’t exceed the speed limit. With the top down, the wind was whipping her hair around, tying it in knots, but Mavis had too much on her mind to care. Most of the half hour drive to Whitelake was over bridge spans with stretches of road and white beaches creating a beautiful scenic route. Despite the menacing weather, speedboats and fishing boats bobbed in the choppy water, the captains seemingly oblivious to the approaching storm. On the surface, Coldwater was a utopia, a vacation paradise where only the rich came to play. That atmosphere is what had drawn Mavis and her family away from their home in Montana. Regrettably, after living there for only a few months, they saw that the charming tropical spot was a façade.

Seagulls flew alongside her, squawking as though pleading with her not to leave, but Mavis had no choice. She had promised herself she would let him rest, but circumstances had grown worse, much quicker than she had expected. Shaking her head clear of doubts, she reminded herself whom she was doing this for.

“He came back for me,” she told herself, “so I won’t give up on him. Ray will know what to do.”

The moment Mavis entered the city limits of Whitelake, the clouds parted and the sun appeared. For a moment, Mavis looked up and let the welcome sunshine warm her face. Then she pushed in her music for the road cd and hit the play button. Steve Winwood’s soulful tenor voice soothed her as “Roll With It” played over the speakers. Mavis tapped her hand against the steering wheel and sang along.

She figured she would find Ray either with his daughter or at his own house, so she took a shot and drove to Richard and Deborah’s neighborhood. She was thrilled when a few minutes later, she spotted Ray’s black Cadillac parked in their driveway.

Mavis pulled up to the front of the house and cut off the engine. She took a deep breath, pulled the keys out of the ignition, and tried to smooth her hair.

When she slipped out of the jeep and crossed the lawn, everything came flooding back to her. At the front door, she stopped and listened. She could hear laughter inside as she reached out and knocked frantically.

After a moment, Richard opened the door.

“Mavis? What’s wrong?” he inquired.

“I need to talk to Ray,” she said, a worried look on her face.

“Sure. Come on in.”

Mavis hurried into the room and crossed to Ray.

“Ray! I need your help!”

“What’s going on?” Ray asked.

“A friend of mine is in jail, and I need you to get him out.”

“What did he do?” Ray asked.

“He stopped a hitman from killing a Coldwater PD detective.”

“Which detective?” Richard asked.

“Ethan Snow,” Mavis answered.

“And he was arrested for that?” Deborah asked.

“Snow said he could not be certain who was attacking and who wasn’t, so he arrested both men,” Mavis explained.

“That’s Snow all right,” Richard said, shaking his head. “He doesn’t like being saved. Thinks it makes him look weak. He’s done this before. So sad.”

Richard turned to Deborah and said,

“Sweetheart, let me borrow your phone.”

“Where’s yours?” Deborah asked.

“In the bedroom charging,” Richard replied.

“Oh. Okay,” Deborah said, handing him her phone.

“What are you doing?” Mavis asked Richard.

“Calling the CWPD Commissioner. He’s a friend of mine. I’ll straighten this out.”

“No!” Mavis cried out, almost slapping the phone out of Richard’s hand.

“Sorry, Richard, but the less people know about this, the better,” Mavis said.

“Okay, Mavis, what’s going on?” Ray asked suspiciously.

“My friend. . .,” she hesitated, “has a record, and I’m afraid if anyone finds out what he’s involved in, it will cost him.”

“Please, Ray, help me,” she pleaded.

“Are you talking about William?” Tommy asked.

As tears filled her eyes, Mavis looked at Tommy and nodded yes.

“Ray, you’d better go,” urged Tommy. “There’s no time to waste.”

“What is going on?” Richard insisted.

“I’ll explain later,” Tommy said. “Right now, these two need to get moving. The sooner the better.”

Ray slowly stood and planted a kiss on Deborah’s forehead.

“Come on, buddy,” he said to Pete. “Let’s go.”

Ray headed for the front door but stopped and turned when the little dog didn’t follow.

Pete stayed curled up beside Deborah, refusing to move.

“How about you stay here and protect them?” Ray asked.

When Pete barked, Ray couldn’t help but smile as he left with Mavis.

“I’ll drive,” she said, heading for the Jeep.

“So why don’t you tell me what’s going on and who William is,” he said when she started the engine.

“First, I’d better tell you how we got to this point. William might be a little harder to explain. He’s. . .,” Mavis paused to search for the word, “different.”


*          *          *



Billy sat on the prison cot and picked lint off the ugly mud brown polyester pants the staff had issued him when he left the hospital. His shoes were a bit too tight, and the tacky Hawaiian print shirt covered with its neon-colored parrots, palm trees, and flamingos scratched his skin. There was one good thing, though. He was out of the hospital, at least for the moment. Talk about short-lived freedom. As he tried to figure out how he got here, he sat back against the wall and watched the other prisoners wander around the cell like restless caged animals at the zoo.

“I don’t understand it,” Lucas said.

Lucas paced in front of the cell door like a trapped coyote, his muscles flexing under his faded blue muscle shirt. Slipping the black cap off his head, he began to twist it in frustration.

“What’s not to understand?” Eddie asked from the wall he leaned against. His brown leather jacket squeaked when he shifted his weight on the cold stone. Running his fingers through his short brown hair, he pulled back a loose strand and let it drop to the floor.

“He saved the cop and got locked away for his effort. Clearly that cop wants something, or he wants Billy out of the way.”

“Why would he want Billy out of the way?” Dylan Desmond asked.

Dylan Desmond was the second oldest in the group, trained in law and order. He scratched his chin as he stared at Eddie and waited for an answer.

“Cause he’s a bad cop,” Eddie said, putting a finger to his temple. “Duh.”

“Corrupt cops don’t arrest you, Eddie. They take you out back and shoot you,” Dylan said sarcastically. “Duh.”

“He probably wants to make sure Billy is innocent and really a hero before he lets him go. He’s being wise, cautious,” Victoria said.

The only girl in the group, Victoria was the voice of compassion, always looking for the best in people. With her long blonde hair and soft blue eyes, she was the embodiment of subtle sexiness. Everyone usually listened to her. That is, unless Jack had a different opinion.

“No, my dear,” Jack said turning away from the wall he had been studying.

Jack, the oldest, was the patriarch of the group. His white hair and beard gave him an air of wisdom. With his thick British accent he said,

“It does not make sense that he would arrest William out of caution. Involves too much paperwork. But he does not plan to kill him. If he did, he would have done so instead of arresting him.”

Jack paused to consider his next words before speaking.

“This behavior is closer to someone who is taking orders. If someone else is dictating his actions, the detective probably arrested William because it was the best way to secure him until the boss could tell him what to do.”

“So what happens next?” Lucas asked, turning to Jack.

“I do not know,” Jack said. “But it would be wise to exercise caution. I do not have enough information to predict what will happen next.”

“Just say the word, boy,” Eddie said with a Texas drawl, “and I’ll have us out of here in no time.”

“We’re not breaking out of jail,” Dylan Desmond growled.

“Not yet anyway,” Jack added. “For now, we wait for our opponent’s next move.”


*          *          *


Officer Dixon’s shoes clicked on the tile floor as he walked back to the cells. When he came to the first cell, he tapped on the bars. Sitting alone in the cell on a cot across from the door was a young man wearing brown pants and a cheap Hawaiian shirt. With his short, spiky hair and close-trimmed beard, the ugly clothes made him look out of balance.

“What’s your name, son?” Dixon asked.

“William Brannon,” the young man answered.

“I thought I heard voices. Anyone back here with you?” Dixon asked.

“No sir,” he answered with a distinct British accent. “As you can see, I am quite alone.”

When the young man smiled, Officer Dixon nodded and said,

“All right. Just keep it down.”

“Thank you, Constable,” Brannon answered then corrected himself. “Officer.”