The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 20

Thirty minutes later, the interview concluded and Brian and Bonnie went into a commercial break while Nathan and Jericho slipped out of the studio.

“I’ll be right back,” Nathan told Jericho as he headed for the bathroom.

While Nathan splashed cold water on his face, Jericho went outside to make a call.

The cool water helped revive his weary muscles and give him a bit of an energy boost. Grabbing a few paper towels, Nathan stepped out of the bathroom and looked around to find Jericho. As he patted his wet face with the coarse paper towels, Brian White walked over.

“Hey, man, thanks again for your help with my sister. That was amazing!”

When Brian extended his hand, Nathan gladly accepted it.

Having just seen Nathan exit the bathroom, Brian looked down at the wet handshake with an expression that tried to hide his disgust.

In a rare mischievous moment, Nathan took the opportunity and said,

“Oh sorry. Haven’t had a chance to wash my hands yet.”

As Nathan released Brian’s hand and walked away, drying the water off his hands, he imagined the look on Brian’s face and chuckled when he heard the bathroom door open behind him. Seeing Jericho outside on the phone, he headed for the exit, tossing the wad of paper towels in a waste receptacle.

When Nathan stepped outside, the warm breeze tousled his hair and lifted his spirits. For just a moment, he forgot about what he had seen in the latest vision.

“Today is the kind of day when family and friends should get together and cook out, play ball,” he thought.

Jericho saw the smile on Nathan’s face and asked,

“What’s so funny?”

“Oh nothing. I was just enjoying the weather,” Nathan said, crossing to his motorcycle.

“Hold up a minute,” Jericho called.

“What is it?” Nathan asked, looking back.

“I’m waiting for somebody,” Jericho explained. “How about you wait with me?”

Putting aside his thoughts of cookouts and ballgames, Nathan turned away from his bike, sat on the bench with Jericho and closed his eyes while they waited.

A few minutes later, Jericho saw the shadow of Elizabeth cast across the sidewalk as she flew in and landed. She was dressed in full gear, a yellow and black body suit, a gun belt, and a pair of tinted flight goggles.  As she walked over to Jericho, she lifted the goggles to her forehead and folded in her wings.

“Hi. What’s up?” Elizabeth asked. Then she added,

“How’s Nathan? He looks a bit rough.”

“He says he’s okay, but I’m not so sure. According to him, he hasn’t had a full night’s rest since he got here,” Jericho replied.

“Seriously?” Elizabeth exclaimed. “But that was four weeks ago. How is he even able to function?”

“I have no idea,” Jericho admitted. “That’s why I called you.”

Suddenly Nathan snapped awake with a snorting sound. After he blinked a few times to clear his eyes, he spotted Elizabeth.

“Hey, you. Good to see you up and about,” he smiled.

“Thanks. Are you feeling all right?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes ma’am,” he yawned.

Nathan stood, stretched his muscles, and wiped his weary eyes.

“May I go now?”

“You seem to be in a hurry,” Jericho pointed out. “What did you see back there in the studio?”

“What are you talking about?” Nathan asked.

“You know what I’m talking about. After the interview in there. I know you saw something, Nathan. You got that look. Your face goes blank and, I don’t know if you know this or not, but your eyes go white like all the color drains out. When I first saw it, to tell you the truth, it was a little creepy,” Jericho explained.

“Is that what that was?” Elizabeth asked.

Jericho nodded then asked again, “What’d you see?”

“Nothing,” Nathan lied.

“Please, Nathan, tell us what it was,” Elizabeth pressed.

“I saw Jericho in the park playing with puppies,” Nathan replied.

“Fine. Keep it to yourself,” Jericho said.

“Look I’ve got to meet with the mayor about clean up after the Thymatec incident. He wants to discuss options to prevent future robbery attempts. While I’m gone, Nathan, Elizabeth’s going to keep an eye on you.”

“She is?” Nathan asked.

“I am?” Elizabeth asked.

“If you don’t mind. It’s just until he can get some rest,” Jericho clarified.

“Cool,” Elizabeth said. “We had fun last time.”

“Got to go. You two be careful,” Jericho said as he left.

Elizabeth turned to Nathan and asked,

“So what’s up with the insomnia?”

“It’s nothing really,” Nathan said.

“Tell me or I’ll body slam you from a thousand feet,” Elizabeth demanded, hands on her hips.

Finally, Nathan relented.

“I can’t say too much. It’s just that every time I close my eyes, I only get a few minutes sleep before a vision of the future shocks me awake.”

“How bad is it?” Elizabeth asked. “Must be pretty bad to keep you awake.”

“I can’t say, Elizabeth. But believe me, it’s important. Save the world important.”

“How so?” Elizabeth pressed.

“Right now the future is undecided, and any hasty decision I make may change things for the worse,” Nathan said.

“Nathan, you can’t carry this burden by yourself,” Elizabeth protested.

“Hopefully, I won’t have to for long,” Nathan said.

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked.

Before Nathan could answer, they heard an explosion in the distance.

When Elizabeth whirled around to pinpoint the area, she heard Nathan’s motorcycle start up. She turned just in time to see him pull away.

With a deep sigh, she slipped the goggles over her eyes, spread her wings, and lifted into the air.

 

*          *          *

 

Elizabeth flew over the city toward the area of the explosion, following Nathan below as he masterfully maneuvered the motorcycle in and out of the stream of traffic. She couldn’t help but worry about him.

“I’m afraid this sleepless night business will eventually catch up to him,” she thought.

Up ahead she saw a billowing tower of black smoke and slowed her speed. They were right above the train yard where police were busy cordoning off the blast area and moving people back behind the yellow tape. Firetrucks screamed through the streets on their way to contain the blaze, and ambulances pulled up from every direction to tend to the wounded and dead.

Nathan parked the motorcycle a safe distance away and shut off the engine just as Elizabeth swooped down and landed beside him. Nathan figured that with her skill, she could probably land on a dime.

“You can’t end a discussion by driving away you know,” she scolded, removing her goggles.

“True, but right now, this is more important,” Nathan pointed out.

“What happened?” Elizabeth asked.

“Someone was murdered,” Nathan told her.

Moving through the crowd of gawkers, Nathan made his way up to the barricade tape and got the attention of the nearest police officer.

“I need to speak with Detective Shields.”

“No supers right now,” the officer said. “Not until Crime Scene has finished up.”

“She’ll want to speak to me,” Nathan assured him.

“And why is that?” the officer asked.

“The victim’s name is Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan said, “and he was murdered.”

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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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The Train: Episode 74

Marvin Campbell loved working night shift at the front desk. Most of the time, the only people he had to deal with were a handful of drunks, good for a laugh or a big tip. But occasionally, a man would come in with a woman on his arm, clearly his mistress, and clever Marvin would check him out for any signs of money. Blackmail had proved profitable on many occasions, if he could get a picture of the couple.

Tonight had been pretty slow, that is until now. Marvin watched as a tall blonde with crazy long legs approached the front desk. She walked with purpose, assurance. Beside her was an average looking guy, nothing special. When they reached the desk, the man pulled out a badge and said,

“I’m Shawn Carver, FBI. We’re looking for two people who checked in recently, within the last few minutes. They would have paid in cash. Probably acting nervous, looking around.”

As his eyes swept over the blonde, Marvin was only half paying attention.

“Uh. . .yea. There were two people. Checked in about five minutes ago. Guy and a girl. Kept looking around and watching the door. I just figured they were worried about getting caught in their naughty affair,” Marvin laughed. “That happens a lot here.”

“What is their room number?” Carver asked.

“Yea. Right here,” Marvin said, checking the register. “3A.”

Carver paused then added, “May I have the key?”

Lost in the blonde’s eyes, Marvin held out the key without looking.

Agent Carver took the key then headed for the elevators.

Marvin watched as the elevator closed, taking with it the agent and blonde angel.

 

*          *          *

 

“I think he liked you,” Michael smirked as the elevator carried them to the fourth floor.

“He’s an idiot,” Nicole replied.

“True, true,” Michael laughed, nodding his head.

When the elevator doors opened, Michael and Nicole stepped out and checked the hallway. Empty. Following the room numbers, they headed for Room 3A. Michael put the key in the lock and turned the knob without opening the door.

After knocking, he waited a few seconds then flung the door open with as much force as he could muster. When the door hit something and bounced back, Michael charged into the room. Quickly, Nicole ran past him in pursuit of a female fleeing to the balcony.

Behind the door, Michael found an unconscious man, his broken nose bleeding into the carpet.

As Nicole cornered the girl on the balcony, she saw the girl look down, her short hair falling into her face. Leaning back against the railing, the girl clung to the balcony’s edge.

“Easy now,” Nicole said. “We just want to talk.”

Her eyes darting from Nicole to Michael, suddenly the girl flipped over the railing. Nicole watched as she fell the three stories down, bounced off the side of a car and hit the pavement, snapping her neck.

“Help me get him out of here before security shows up,” Michael called.

Angry at the girl’s suicide, Nicole left the balcony and helped Michael carry the man out of the room, closing the door behind them.

 

 

*          *          *

 

Having decided to leave Lucy behind on the train where he knew she would be safe, Elliot opened the door and stepped out of the station into a musty room filled with furniture draped by mildewed cloths. The only light in the room was a single beam of sunlight streaming in through a break in the heavy brocade curtains. Pictures of faraway lands and nature scenes covered the four walls. One picture over the fireplace stood out from the others. It was of a young couple, smiling as they stood close together holding hands.  Elliot stood still and listened. In the silence, he could hear himself breathing.

“All right. Where did you stash him?” Elliot wondered as he drew his pistol.

He quietly stepped out of the room into a large foyer with a grand staircase leading up to a second floor. A single light burned upstairs as he slowly made his way up the steps, his senses on full alert. He knew he was taking a great risk, but he had no choice. He had to rescue Ricer.

When he reached the top of the stairs, he slowly stepped into the room, leading with his weapon. Searching from corner to corner, he saw that the only person in the room was a woman who looked like she had been dead for several weeks. Elliot shielded his nose against the foul stench of decay and slowly backed out of the room.

“It’s a shame, isn’t it,” a man spoke behind him.

Elliot spun around to see the killer casually leaning against the wall, a string in his right hand.

“I’m not here for you,” Elliot said.

“You’re here for the doc, right? I wondered if you were involved. I remember seeing you there, but at the time, I thought it was a coincidence,” the man said.

“I just want Ricer, and I will go through you if I have to,” Elliot declared.

“Oh I don’t think so,” the man sneered. “Something tells me you’re the ‘bark orders but don’t get involved’ type. Just in case I misjudged you, this string in my hand is tied to the pin in a grenade taped to the good doctor’s chest. I just want to talk.”

Elliot hesitated then asked, “What do you want?”

“I want to know about it,” the man announced.

“About what?” Elliot asked

“About the Train, of course,” the man giggled.

 

*          *          *

 

Standing on the roof of the building across the street from the hotel, Michael knew he had no time for subtlety.  They needed answers fast. He and Nicole had bound the unconscious man from the hotel room and hung him upside down in view of the street where his female partner had plunged to her death.

“If this doesn’t work,” Nicole said, “I’ll make him talk.”

“Oh don’t worry. He’ll talk,” Michael returned.

When the man began to come around, Michael leaned in and tapped him on the tip of his broken nose.

“Hi there,” he greeted. “Your boss has crossed the line, and you’re going to tell me where he is. If not, I’ll let you talk to her!”

Michael motioned to Nicole who wore a scowl that could freeze an ocean.

“But she’s not as nice as I am.”

Published in: on July 17, 2017 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 87

The Priest

 

 

 

Settling into a chair by the fire, Brother Egil thought carefully about how he would begin the story of the king’s father.

King Alidus gazed into the flames, waiting patiently.

After a few moments, the old monk began.

“The Kingdom of Ethion has a troubled past. First came the Valkovian invasion then the Children of Dusk—”

Alidus raised a hand to interrupt.

“My apologies, but what is the Valkovian invasion?”

Brother Egil studied the king’s face for a moment then his eyes lit up with understanding.

“King Lanidus did not tell you. Despite his love for your mother, he was ashamed of the history of Ethion. The Valkovian invasion took place one hundred forty-seven years ago when a race of men known as the Valkovians took control of the kingdom, ousting your great-grandfather Tobias Ashblood from the throne. After a time, King Tobias regained the throne and exiled the Valkovians from the land.”

“What kept them from returning?” Alidus asked. “Could they not enter the land and live hidden among the people?”

Brother Egil nodded and said, “Valkonian men and women are born with the same physical traits, a gem the size of a coin imbedded in their right hand and small spikes running down the back of their neck. Among the Valkonians, these strange features have many different colors, passed on from parents to children. But whatever color a child is born with, both gems and spikes share that color. More importantly, these unusual traits store a great amount of magical energy.”

“Making obscurity difficult. I understand. And who were the Children of Dusk?”

“The Children of Dusk were a small faction of religious zealots within the Valkovian race who worshiped an ancient evil named Authrax. They believed Authrax lived in a cave deep beneath the castle. They would capture people from the surrounding villages, drag them into the caves under the castle, and sacrifice them to their god. When Tobias Ashblood exiled the Valkovians, he commanded that the Children of Dusk be burned alive for heresy.”

“And what about my father?” Alidus asked.

“Your father did not enter into the history of Ethion until many years later, after the siblings Dellano and Arabella. They were known as the Troll King and the Warlton Witch. When your grandfather King Isembart heard that the siblings were marching on the kingdom, he sent his high priest Zephryses to find the source of their power. That search led the priest to Wildeye Woods and the water where the siblings had gained this force. When he drank from the pool, that same power coursed through his body and he returned to drive out the siblings and their army of trolls. But in the aftermath of the battle, Zephryses made the first of two mistakes that would one day end his life. The first mistake was adopting an orphan boy named Allaster. That boy, sire, grew up to be your father.

 

*          *          *

37 years ago

 

The high priest Zephryses stood on the battlefield of Ethion, its lush green hills covered with the dead of both men and trolls. Overcome with grief, he wept at the sight of the city, its walls blackened and crumbling by the hand of Arabella the Warlton Witch.

“Many have fallen in this grievous battle,” lamented Captain Dellmore of the King’s Army.

“The price of peace is always high when those who oppose it crave blood,” Zephryses said.

“This new power you wield is like no weapon I have ever seen,” the captain exclaimed. “Did my eyes deceive me or did you move the ground? It was as though you commanded the elements!”

“Perhaps. I do not yet know what powers I drew from the water of the pool,” Zephryses said.

“Soon people may perceive you as a god,” the captain laughed. “I would be most uncomfortable were people to worship me.”

Zephryses laughed in agreement.

“Yes, indeed,” Zephryses said.

At that moment, his attention was distracted by a small boy wandering through the battlefield, his red face stained with tears.

Zephryses walked around the bodies to reach the child.

“What troubles you, my son? Why have you come to his place of grief?” Zephryses asked.

The boy, no older than ten, looked up at the priest, sniffled and said,

“I am looking for my father. He is a soldier.”

“You should be at your mother’s side,” Zephryses said.

“Wolves took my mother last winter. My father told me to stay at home. But I was frightened, so I came looking for him,” the boy explained.

“Come with me. Let us see if we may find him,” Zephryses said

Zephryses lifted the boy and carried him to Captain Dellmore.

“Captain, I am searching for the boy’s father. He is a soldier.”

“What is your father’s name?” the captain asked.

“Ardouin,” the boy answered.

The captain’s face darkened when he heard the name, but before he could speak, Zephryses told the boy,

“Son, your father has gone to be with your mother. They are at peace.”

The boy’s face went pale and he dropped his head. After a moment he looked up and said, “I am alone now. I do not have any other family. I do not know how to be alone.”

Trying to comfort and reassure the child, Zephryses patted the boy’s back and gently set him down.

“Then you shall not be alone. I shall adopt you. Would you like that?”

When the boy failed to respond, Zephryses knelt down and asked,

“What is your name, son?”

The boy looked at the priest and answered,

“Allaster.”

“That is a fine name. From this day forward, Allaster, you will no longer be alone. I shall take care of you.”

When Zephryses opened his arms to the boy, Allaster stepped into the embrace with fresh tears.

Then Zephryses lifted the boy and said,

“Because you will be taking a place in the church, I shall give you a new name, a holy name.”

Zephryses thought for a moment then asked,

“How does Zephryn sound?”

As the child shyly nodded his agreement, Zephryses patted him on the back and said, “Yes. Zephryn will do. Now let us leave this place of sadness and go home.”

At that, the high priest and the boy walked away from the battlefield.

Published in: on July 17, 2017 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 19

A light wind swept away the clouds, and sunlight broke through as a flock of birds passed overhead. Sirens, gunfire, and cries of the wounded interlaced into an urban fugue. As Nathan fell backwards away from the building, he looked into the face of the man who murdered him, and time seemed to slow.

“When I first landed in Crescent Bay, the city of heroes in the universe of Starfall, everything felt like a wonderful dream. Fighting alongside my favorite heroes, saving lives, bringing evil doers to justice. Looking back, it sounds corny, but isn’t that how dreams seem when you wake up? Sadly, this dream turned into a nightmare, as clichéd as that sounds. Now here I am, after having single-handedly started a war, falling to my death, failing once again. If I’m right and this is all just a dream, I sure hope I wake up before I hit the ground!”

 

The Fall of Jericho

Previously

 

It was Monday, 6:00 a.m., and Jericho waited on a bench outside the WLIM radio station. In the studio, “Brian and Bonnie In the Morning” had just come on the air. The show was slotted for 6-10 every morning and featured Brian White and Bonnie Baxter. Today’s special guests were Crescent Bay’s heroes Jericho and the Prophet. In the days following the failed heist at Thymatec, reporters were scrambling to get an interview with Jericho who had once again saved the city. This hero was no glory hound, though, for he took every opportunity to remind people that the victory had been a team effort with exile alien soldier 4 21, Scorpio and the Prophet doing their part. In order to protect their identities, Jericho never referred to Elizabeth and Nathan by their real names. Nathan didn’t care if people knew his name, but things were different for Elizabeth. She had her father to think of. Whenever she wasn’t saving the day, she attended community events with him, wearing the leather band Lavinia that Ethan Evermore had given her to conceal her wings. Nathan had grown distant over the past weeks, disconnected as though he had bigger things on his mind. Jericho felt sorry for the weight Nathan carried, the burden of always knowing what was going to happen. He wondered how anyone could live like that.

Jericho shook the daydream away as Nathan pulled into the parking lot on his motorcycle. Wearing a new outfit, thanks to Elizabeth’s father, Nathan retied the laces on his sneakers, brushed some dirt from his jeans, and loosened the top button on the blue dress shirt. After adjusting his leather jacket, he slipped off the Yankees cap and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Morning,” he said with a smile as he walked up to Jericho.

Jericho noticed the stubble on Nathan’s chin and the bags under his eyes.

“Did you sleep last night? Man, you look drained.”

Nathan shook his head and said,

“Nope. Haven’t slept well in a while. That’s why I’m late. Come on. They must be waiting for us.”

“When is the last time you slept?” Jericho asked.

Without responding, Nathan walked up to the front door security pad, punched in the code, and opened the door when it clicked.

“How did you know the. . .,” Jericho began. “Never mind.”

Nathan stopped in the lobby and looked back at Jericho.

“Sorry,” he said. “Was I supposed to wait for them to buzz me in?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Jericho said. “When was the last time you slept?”

Nathan thought for a moment then asked,

“How long since I landed in the middle of the street?”

“Two weeks, give or take,” Jericho answered.

“About that long,” Nathan said.

He turned and started walking toward the confused and awestruck receptionist.

“That way?” Nathan asked, pointing past the receptionist to a closed studio door. “They don’t have a commercial break for another three minutes. I promise I’ll be quiet.”

The receptionist, a young girl with round apple face, just nodded without a word.

“It’s okay,” Jericho said, trailing behind Nathan. “He’s with me.”

Nathan opened the studio door and he and Jericho slipped inside. At a large desk in the center of the room, each wearing headphones and speaking into mics, sat the morning show hosts Brian White and Bonnie Baxter. They motioned for Nathan and Jericho to sit across from them and put on the earphones.

“Well everyone can officially be jealous of me,” Brian said. “Our city’s savior Jericho has just entered the studio with who I can only assume is the Prophet. Am I right?”

Jericho pulled the microphone in front of him closer and said,

“Yes, Brian. He is definitely the Prophet of Crescent Bay.”

“Wow!” Bonnie exclaimed.

Brian laughed and said,

“She’s sitting next to Jericho and gives you a wow. I’d say someone has a crush.”

Brian, the older of the radio hosts by a couple of years, exuded charm. He smiled even though no one could see him but the guests and director. Scratching his scraggly dark blonde beard, he looked at Bonnie for a retort.

“That’s not what I meant, Brian,” Bonnie laughed. “I’m just surprised that he’s sitting next to Jericho yet looks so unassuming.”

“Well, my director’s telling me it’s time for a commercial break, so I guess we’ll see you guys when we come back. This is Brian White,” Brian said.

“And Bonnie Baxter,” Bonnie responded.

“We’ll be right back with “Brian and Bonnie In the Morning” on WLIM 572.2 FM,” Brian finished.

When the director gave them the all clear, Brian and Bonnie removed their earphones and Brian said,

“Wow, guys! Thanks for coming!”

Just then, Brian felt his phone vibrate and excused himself to answer it.

“Hey, sis. I’m on the air right now. What’s wrong?”

While Brian continued his conversation, Bonnie looked at Nathan and asked,

“So what type of prophet are you? Can you see the future or are you more of the tarot cards and lucky numbers kind of psychic?”

“I can’t really see the future. I only see the immediate and certain future. Anything beyond that is still undecided. It’s kind of like when you’re driving through a fog, you can’t really see anything far ahead of you unless it’s something big,” Nathan explained.

“So you can see big events like natural disasters?” Bonnie asked.

“So far catastrophic events,” Nathan said.

“Cool!” Bonnie responded.

Brian reminded Nathan of an upbeat game show host whereas Bonnie seemed a serious, ambitious woman willing to work for what she wanted. A little one-dimensional though. Nathan thought them an odd pair for a radio show.

“Don’t let him fool you. He can also tell you almost anything about someone,” Jericho bragged.

“Really?” Bonnie asked.

“Yep,” Jericho said. “To tell you the truth, I was a little creeped out at first. But now? I just think it’s neat.”

“I can imagine,” Bonnie smiled.

Brian’s phone call drifted back in to the conversation.

“No, sis. I don’t know where your keys are,” he assured her. “Sorry, Janine, but I really don’t know.”

Nathan reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He slid it across the table to Brian and tapped it, indicating for him to open it.

“No, I’m not teasing. If I knew where they are, I would tell you,” he said, opening the note.

When he paused to read the note, he looked up at Nathan confused.

Nathan just nodded his head.

“Janine, listen. Try looking in the guest bedroom under the bed,” Brian instructed.

“I don’t why they’d be in there. Just look.”

After a few moments, Brian’s face showed an expression of surprise.

“Excellent! I’m glad you found them. No, Janine. I didn’t hide them there,” he sighed.

As Brian tried to end the call, Bonnie’s face lit up.

“Amazing!” she said.

“Told you,” Jericho said, reaching out and slapping Nathan on the back.

The second Jericho’s hand touched Nathan’s back, his vision went white.

 

*          *          *

 

It was a bright sunny day with dense beautiful clouds floating across the blue sky. Balloons of every color filled the air at Sapphire City Park. On the ground, people who had come to celebrate Crescent Bay’s Founder’s Day Picnic were screaming in panic, running in every direction. Police officers had surrounded a man standing on the park’s small stone bridge. He wore a large, polished breastplate with an elaborate bomb fused to it, far more sophisticated than a typical explosive made with C4. As the digital time on the bomb ticked down from 5, the man looked up with tears in his eyes. It was Jericho.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

The bomb exploded, jerking Nathan back to the studio.

Brian and Bonnie looked confused and a little uneasy. Jericho moved his hand from Nathan’s back and looked into his eyes with concern.

“Are you okay, buddy?”

Nathan, struggling to make sense of what he had seen, murmured,

“No. No I’m not.”

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.”

The Train: Episode 73

Without another word, Elliot turned to the station door and opened it. When he stepped through with Michael, they were in the library.

“Come on,” Elliot instructed.

He led Michael to a couch near the lobby where he saw Lucy, crying and distraught.

“What happened?” Michael asked, rushing to her.

“I woke up and. . .and Grandpa was gone,” she said between sobs.

Michael bent down and slipped his arms around Lucy, trying to comfort her.

Looking up at Elliot, he asked, “Is this what you meant by something costing dearly?”

Elliot just nodded.

“What happened, Lucy?” Michael asked.

“I don’t know. Grandpa went over there to use the phone and he told me to stay with him, but I got sleepy, so I came over here and lay down. Then when I woke up, he was gone. I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find him,” the words tumbled out.

“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” she cried.

Michael patted her back and said,

“It’s okay, Lucy. We’ll find him.”

When Michael stood, Elliot motioned for him to come closer.

“The killer took him,” Elliott whispered. “Don’t worry. He’s still alive.”

“Then let’s go get him,” Michael said.

“Not yet,” Elliot replied. “When Nicole gets back, I’m going after him. You still have a murder to stop.”

“Where is she anyway?” Michael asked.

At that moment, Nicole walked into the library. When she saw them, she came over.

“I lost him,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “Frustrating!”

Then looking around, she asked, “Where’s Ricer?”

“The killer took him,” Michael whispered.

“When? How?” Nicole asked.

“When you were away,” Michael snapped.

“Me?” Nicole defended.

Before either of them could say another word, Elliot barked impatiently,

“Silence!”

“You both did what you thought was right. Unfortunately, neither of you thought ahead. This killer is on to you. He knows all about you. That’s why this has been so difficult. How and why he knows, I can’t say. But now that Ricer’s been taken, it’s time for me to get involved. I’ll get Ricer back. You two deal with the others,” Elliot ordered.

“Others? What others?” Michael asked.

“I think there’s more than one killer,” Nicole explained. “I chased one out of the library but lost him in traffic. Then I saw another one atop a four-story building not seconds after losing him. I was supposed to think this was the work of one person, but no one could move that fast. There’s got to be at least two.”

“Given what’s happened, you’d better hope the killer and his helpers haven’t had the chance to regroup. Get back on this while I find Ricer,” Elliot ordered.

“Come on, Lucy. Let’s go find your grandpa,” Elliot said as he extended his hand to her.

He walked her over to the stairwell door, opened it, and just before they stepped through to the train station on the other side, he turned toward Michael and Nicole.

“Hurry!” he warned, closing the door behind them.

Michael looked at Nicole.

“We have to assume this killer has a fallback position for the other two, a place they would meet up,” he said.

“Why do we have to assume that?” Nicole asked.

“Because otherwise we have nothing,” Michael replied.

Nicole nodded then gazed out the window.

“Who is this person?” she asked.

“Someone who has had contact with us before. Otherwise, how would he know anything about us? Ever since we started this train thing, I’m been worried that one day we’d run into an old enemy or contact,” Michael confessed.

“I have to admit, I never thought about that,” Nicole returned.

“Take me to where he lost you, where the two tried to trick you,” Michael suggested.

* * *

A few minutes later they were out on the street. The sun had gone down and traffic was light. People headed home from work while night crews arrived to start their shifts and restaurants and clubs filled up with patrons ready for a night out on the town.

Michael stood on the curb and closed his eyes, listening to the city.

How to evade capture in a manhunt:

Step 1: Stay in a rural area.

Most manhunts start in the city or somewhere near the scene of the crime. Police may quickly set up roadblocks and establish checkpoints. In the city, you will have difficulty finding your way through the maze of streets without running into law enforcement, but since rural areas are too expansive for the police to search thoroughly, the country is a better place to hide out.

They were far away from the country, so Michael marked that possibility off the list.

Step 2: Seek help.

If you know someone you haven’t spoken to or contacted in a while, that person may be able to help you hide out, especially if they don’t know what you’re going through. You do well to leave your hiding place early in the morning and try to disappear in the morning traffic.

Since this killer was confident and probably domineering, insisting his followers stay loyal to him and keep their mouth shut, Michael knew it was unlikely his helpers would run to friends. He dismissed this possibility as well.

Step 3: Stay away from all motels within a fifty-mile radius of your escape.

Usually the first place the police will check is parking lots for stolen or out-of-state license plates. They will question the motel staff to find out if anyone matching your description has recently checked in. If you have no choice but to stay in a motel, avoid the low-rent ones and stay in expensive ones instead. Police are more likely to check low-rent motels, assuming you have little to no cash. Always pay in cash or use prepaid credit cards.

The killer and his crew weren’t running from the police, so they wouldn’t be concerned about the fifty-mile radius. But a hotel or motel would be a good place to go, especially if they needed somewhere safe to hide out.

When Michael opened his eyes, he looked around for the first available cab.

“Come on,” he said as he hurried over to catch a ride.

Climbing in the back seat, he waited until a confused Nicole slid in beside him. Then he asked the driver,

“Where’s the nearest expensive motel?”

The cabbie thought for only a moment before rattling off a name.

“Take us there,” Michael directed.

“Can’t wait, huh?” the cabbie laughed as he started the engine and pulled out into traffic.

Published in: on June 18, 2017 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 86

The sun’s rays poured through the open window, resting on the face of the sleeping king. The warmth slowly roused Alidus from his deep slumber, and he raised his head, shielding his eyes from the light.

“For three days and three nights you have slept, sire, but on the morning of the fourth day when the sunlight broke through the clouds, I knew you would rally.”

Alidus struggled to see who was speaking.

“Who is there?” he asked.

A figure stepped into the light then moved close to the bed.

“Degan,” Alidus greeted.

There was peace in his eyes as a soft light shone forth from Degan’s face, a light Alidus had never seen before.

“Are you well?” Alidus asked.

“I am more than well, sire,” Degan said. “I am free. When Zulagareth died, I felt his power leave me. No longer am I an outcast followed by the dead.”

“Wonderful news. What will you do now?” Alidus asked.

“My father worked the land, so I thought I might take up the plow. It will be most rewarding to work with living things,” Degan laughed.

Alidus felt something bump against the bed, but before he could react, Degan reached down and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Olon has not left your side since you fell unconscious,” Degan explained.

Alidus peered over the edge of the bed and saw Olon raise his long black snout and look up at him.

“What about Atol and Idrian?” Alidus asked.

“Idrian is on the roof where she awaits news of your health,” Atol said, climbing in through the window, “and I am here.”

For a moment, Alidus looked far away then closed his eyes.

“The dragons are gone,” he said. “I can no longer feel them.”

“Soon after you fell, they flew away, returning to their home. The ruby dragon, though he bears the wounds of battle, will heal in time. The pearl kept close by his side in their flight,” Degan explained.

“Already the carpenters and stone workers bid to build a statue in honor of the two great dragons that bravely fought to save the people,” Aric said as he entered the chamber.

“I am pleased to see that all is well,” Alidus smiled. “But where are Razham and Brius?”

“Razham had to return home, and Brius chose to follow his old friend.”

Aric’s countenance grew sad.

“This displeases you?” Alidus asked.

“Before they left, Razham buried a dear friend of mine.”

“I am sorry for your loss,” consoled Alidus.

Aric shook off his grief then said,

“Enough. Now that you are awake, there is much to do. The king’s army must be rebuilt and properly trained. The city needs repair, and an ambassador from the faraway land of Kallimandil has arrived. He requests an audience with you.”

“Indeed. There is much to be done. I will speak with the ambassador at once. Thank you, Aric,” Alidus said.

When Aric bowed and turned to leave, Alidus said,

“Aric?”

“Yes, my liege?”

“To begin, remember that you are a prince. Do not call me liege. And secondly, you have skills as well as my trust. Begin rebuilding the king’s army as you choose.”

Aric nodded and left.

“So now what for you?” Alidus asked Atol.

“I must be going as well, sire. Idrian is nearing her birthing cycle, and I know she would like to be home when she gives birth.”

Alidus was surprised.

“There are others of her kind? I did not know this.”

“No, sire,” Atol said. “I believe she was born pregnant and will not stop growing until she reaches her birthing cycle.”

“When she does give birth, you must send word. I would like to see them.”

“I will, sire,” Atol smiled. “Olon, it is time.”

Olon came out from under the bed and followed Atol out the window to where Idrian waited. Alidus rose from the bed and watched as they climbed upon her back and Idrian lifted into the clouds.

* * *

In the days that followed, Alidus, King of Ethion, repaired the castle, while Prince Aric rebuilt the army. Under their watch, the kingdom flourished and the royal coronation was the grandest anyone had ever attended.

The dragons were never seen again, but it is said that should the king ever need them, they will return.

One wintry day, as Brother Egil stoked the morning fire in the great room, one of the other monks Brother Bavan stepped in.

“Good morning,” Brother Egil greeted.

“Good morning. A representative of Ethion is here. King Alidus wishes to speak with you,” Brother Bavan announced.

“Thank you. I will leave at once,” Brother Egil said.

Brother Bavan nodded and hurried away.

* * *

At the castle, Brother Egil was led to the bedchambers where King Alidus, now dressed in royal robes, sat by the fire. The king rose and walked over to the old monk, extending his hand.

Brother Egil took his hand and asked,

“Why have you summoned me, my liege?”

“After all this time, the title still sounds strange to my ears,” Alidus confessed.

“I am afraid it is part of being king,” the monk laughed.

King Alidus sat back and looked deeply into Brother Egil’s eyes. After a moment, he said,

“I want to hear about my father.”

“The king?” the monk asked.

“No,” Alidus answered. “My true father.”

Published in: on June 18, 2017 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 18

It was about 8 o’clock in the morning when Ryan Hayes left the hospital. He would let Nathan into Elisabeth’s penthouse in Sandy Grotto then grab some of his daughter’s things before heading back to the hospital. The doctor had said she was on the mend, but right now she needed her dad.

“I know it’s a bit much,” Hayes said as he opened the penthouse door, “but it’s my little girl’s first place of her own. I admit I spoil her, but what can I say? She’s all I have left.”

When Hayes turned on the lights, Nathan was stunned. The place was amazing, better than anything he could have imagined.

“Polished wood floors in the living room, carpet in the bedrooms, and marble tile in the kitchen and bathrooms,” Hayes announced. “At 3400 square feet, my girl’s got lots of room. If she had asked, I’d probably have bought two. The main bedroom is Elisabeth’s, but there are two spare bedrooms. Choose whichever one you want. I have groceries delivered, and a cleaning service comes in every two weeks.”

“Impressive,” Nathan complimented.

“Oh let me show you this,” Hayes beamed.

Hayes hurried over to a large set of double glass doors, unlocked them, and pulled them open. A massive balcony looked out over the lake.

“It cost me a little more than I had planned, but an unobstructed view of Sapphire Lake was a must.”

Hayes turned to Nathan and asked, “Did you know that the people who settled Crescent Bay came up with the name Sapphire Lake because the water is as blue as a sapphire?”

“I did not know that,” Nathan said. “It is blue, isn’t it!”

“It is! Anyway, I’m talking your ear off. I’m going to throw a few things in a suitcase and get back to Elisabeth. Do you have anything to unpack?” Hayes asked.

“No sir. I didn’t bring anything with me, other than what I’m wearing,” Nathan said.

“Well tomorrow, I’m taking you out to pick up some things, and when Elisabeth is well, we’ll take you shopping for a proper wardrobe,” Hayes replied.

“No, really, sir. That’s not necessary,” Nathan protested.

“I insist! It’s the least I can do. Mind you if you refuse, I’ll just have to guess your size,” Hayes laughed.

Nathan paused then said, “Thank you, sir.”

“You look exhausted, Nathan. Go get some rest. I’m just going to jump in the shower then get back to the hospital. I’ll lock up behind me,” Hayes smiled, patting Nathan’s shoulder.

“Thank you again, son. My little girl means the world to me.”

While Hayes headed off for Elisabeth’s room, Nathan chose one of the spare bedrooms and collapsed on the bed without bothering to take off his shoes. Glancing at the clock, he saw the blue digital numbers change to 9:00 a.m. He was out before 9:01.

* * *

When Nathan came to, he was lying on the hood of a car looking up. The clouds were a mix of black and deep blue. His head ached, his joints were sore, and he felt as though a great weight were pressing down on him. Slowly he sat up and saw that he was dressed in combat fatigues and a gas mask with a rifle at his side.

Dead bodies and stalled cars filled the streets, and the pavement was buckled and cracked. Some buildings lay in piles of rubble while others stood undamaged. Nathan slid off the car, bracing himself against the hood as he struggled to stand under the weight of the gear. When he walked around to the side of the car, he glanced at his reflection in the glass. Lifting the gas mask, he was shocked to discover that the face staring back at him was not his own.

“What are you doing?” someone yelled. Running up to Nathan, a man yanked the gas mask down over Nathan’s face.

“This air is poisoned! Do you want to die here in the street?”

Nathan looked up to see a soldier frowning at him from behind his own gas mask. His name tag said he was Sergeant Braden Gold.

“Come on! Get inside before somebody sees you!” Gold instructed.

Nathan followed him inside an old grocery store.

“What’s going on?” he asked Gold.

“Don’t be stupid, rookie! You know what’s going on. Captain wants to brief us before we move out, and I was sent to find your dumb butt,” Gold complained as he lead Nathan through the store’s aisles past armed soldiers standing guard in pairs.

“Why do I get stuck with the idiots?” Gold grumbled as he walked through a pair of swinging back doors into the storage area. Standing before a large map facing a platoon of soldiers was Captain Stanley Dukes.

“Thanks for joining us,” Dukes said sarcastically. “Gold, what was West up to that just couldn’t wait?”

Nathan glanced down to see the name tag on his shirt. David West.

“West was out front patrolling. Thought he saw movement. False alarm,” Gold lied then glanced back at Nathan with a scowl.

“Well next time, don’t go alone, rookie,” Dukes ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Nathan replied.

Gold pulled Nathan into a chair and whispered,

“Keep your trap shut and your head in the game. I can’t babysit you and fight at the same time.”

“Sorry,” Nathan said.

While Nathan tried to figure out where he was, what was going on, Dukes continued his briefing.

“At 0100 hours, a scout returned with intel on more food and supplies. I don’t have to tell you how important this is. The enemy is heavily guarding this location, so we’re going to split into teams. Team Alpha will make a direct assault while Team Beta and Charlie will hit the flank. Team Delta will move in from the back and engage any targets guarding the supplies. We need this win, men, so stay focused and don’t be a hero. Follow orders and we will win this day.”

As the men cheered, a side door opened and a large figure walked in wearing a gas mask and long coat.

“What’s wrong?” Dukes asked.

Suddenly gunfire erupted outside. As the soldiers readied their weapons, the masked figure drew two pistols from the coat.

Just then a group of enemy soldiers poured into the room.

In the middle of the gunfire, the figure in the coat fired off the pistols then holstered them and began tossing the enemy around like rag dolls.

A door opened behind Nathan, and he felt himself move involuntarily as another enemy soldier charged in firing his weapon. Nathan spun then ducked, dodging a spray of automatic gunfire. Without looking, he reached out and fired his rifle at the soldier, killing him and two more who ran in behind him.

Minutes later, every enemy soldier was down.

Dukes’ men all turned to look at Nathan.

“What?” Nathan asked worried.

“That was amazing,” Gold said, “the way you avoided the bullets. I haven’t seen anyone move like that since the Prophet.”

At that remark, the figure in the coat whipped around, looked at Nathan then lumbered over. Grabbing Nathan by the collar, the figure lifted him into the air and demanded,

“What’s the name of the universe?”

“What?” Nathan asked, thinking he recognized the muffled voice.

The figure pulled Nathan closer and demanded, “What’s the name of the universe?”

Nathan hesitated then said,

“Starfall.”

The figure paused a moment. Suddenly two bat wings exploded from under the long coat and the figure flew out the open door, taking Nathan along.

Up into the sky the figure flew then dropped down onto the roof of a greenhouse. When a door opened, Nathan was dragged in. After a hiss of air, a second door opened and the figure tossed Nathan inside.

“Who is this?” a man asked. Nathan noticed he was wearing a pair of old Converse high tops with the laces untied.

When the figure slipped out of the coat, Nathan saw that it was a woman. Tossing the coat aside, she reached up and removed the gas mask.

“Elisabeth! Nathan thought. “Older, but Elisabeth!

Her face was scarred, and she wore a patch over one eye.

She reached out and pulled off Nathan’s gas mask.

“It’s him,” she said.

The man took a good look at Nathan then said,

“Nah. That’s not him.”

“Yes! It is,” Elisabeth insisted. “Remember he said he would return through the eyes of another.”

“What’s going on?” Nathan asked.

“No time for questions, Nathan. I have a message from you. This is not a dream; this is real. The butterfly was released and we’re fighting for our lives against Dr. Gishlain and his army. You made a terrible mistake, and now it’s time to wake up and fix it. Do you hear me, Nathan?” Elisabeth asked.

“Nathan,” Elizabeth shouted, slapping him across the face, “it’s time to wake up!”

* * *

Nathan snapped awake in bed at Elisabeth’s penthouse where he had fallen asleep. He looked at the clock. It was 9:30 a.m.

“Nathan?” Hayes called as he walked into the room. “I heard you thrashing about in here. “Did you have a nightmare, son? Is everything all right?”

Nathan looked around and said, “No. I don’t think so.”

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 86

It was dark by the time they reached the Woodland Hotel where David Crandall waited.

“This isn’t a good idea, Ray,” Richard warned.

“I know,” Ray said, “but I have to try.”

Richard signaled one of the officers to bring a bulletproof vest for Ray.

“Thanks, but I can’t breathe in those things. Besides, I’m trained to work without one,” Ray said as he headed for the hotel’s front entrance.

“Wait. What?” Richard asked, but Ray was already inside.

He kept close behind the police officers, following them up to the fourth floor. At the end of the hall, the lead officer cautioned,

“We’ve been ordered to stand down and let you try an approach alone. Remember that Crandall is armed and he’s already fired at officers. There’s no safe way to do this.”

Ray nodded his understanding then walked down the hall toward Crandall’s room. The last five years were weighing on him, and he was worn out.

When he reached Crandall’s door, he knocked twice and called out,

“David, it’s Raymond Slats.”

When no answer came, Ray knocked again.

“David?”

Finally, he announced, “I’m coming in.”

He turned the knob slowly and pushed the door open, pausing for a few moments. Then he walked in and closed the door behind him.

Crandall stood at the window, looking out. Ray saw that he gripped a pistol in his hand. When he looked around the room, Ray spotted a 2008 calendar on the wall.

“That was the last thing my daughter gave me. She circled my birthday with a heart,” David said, slowly turning to face Ray.

Downstairs in the parking lot, police officers were still arriving. The red and blue lights danced across the walls in time to the sirens as Ray moved slowly into the room.

“Isn’t this what you wanted, Detective? You wanted me. Well here I am.”
Shadowed from the police lights outside, Crandall stepped away from the window. All Ray could make out was the pistol and part of Crandall’s shirt.

“Why me?” Ray asked.

“Don’t play games. You know exactly why. First, there was the church and then your actions in the play,” Crandall said.

Ray moved closer, trying to close the distance between them.

“By that time, you were just an annoyance that should have been paid off, even though you thought you were too good for that. But what you did at the carnival, I’ll never forgive. She was mine. How could you have done such a thing?”

“I didn’t mean to,” Ray pleaded. “I tried to—”

“I don’t care! It’s too late now!” Crandall yelled.

“But—” Ray began.

“No more excuses!” Crandall said. “That heart attack should have killed you. You’ve escaped death too many times. But no more.”

Crandall raised his pistol and fired.

The bullet sliced through the air and slammed into Ray’s chest, throwing him backwards.

* * *

As Ray went down, Crandall felt a pang of relief. He knew the cops would be breaking down the door any moment, but he didn’t care. When movement from the bathroom caught his eye, he whirled around to see Captain Bonkers step out.

“You!” Crandall snapped.

But before he could fire, Bonkers raised his pistol and shot Crandall squarely in the heart. He was dead before he hit the floor.

* * *

When Ray came to, he was in a hospital bed, an IV in his arm and bandages covering his chest. Asleep in a chair near him was Deborah.

Ray loudly coughed then moaned at the pain, snapping Deborah awake. Joy filled her tired eyes as she looked at him.

“Daddy!” she cried, moving to his bedside.

Ray weakly smiled, “Hey, pumpkin.”

Deborah leaned over and gently hugged him.

“What’d I miss?” Ray asked.

“You’ve been out for a couple of days. The doctor said the bullet didn’t hit any vital organs. He said you’re lucky to be alive, especially given your advanced age,” Deborah replied.

“That’s a nice way of saying I’m old,” Ray joked.

“Daddy, he’s right. You shouldn’t have gone in there, let alone without protection,” Deborah scolded.

“I know, I know,” Ray confessed, patting her hand. “It’s just that—”

“I know you were bored, Daddy,” Deborah interrupted, “but you can’t keep risking your life like this. I’m all worn out from worrying.”

Before Ray could respond, the door opened and in walked Richard and Tommy.

“Great! I wake up after being shot, and the first thing I have to look at is you!” Ray teased.

“I’d say that gunshot improved your looks, old woman,” Tommy returned.

Ray laughed, wincing at the pain.

“What about King?”

“He’s going to be tried on so many counts, I’d need a note pad to remember them all,” Richard smiled.

“How’s my boy Pete?” Ray asked.

“Going nuts!” Deborah replied. “A friend of mine who’s watching him while I’m at work says he keeps trying to escape.”

Richard laughed and added, “He’s gotten pretty good at it too.”

Just then the door opened and Mavis stepped into the room. Her auburn hair fell forward, covering her red eyes and splotched face. When she looked at Ray, fresh tears washed down her cheeks.

“Don’t worry, sweetie,” Ray comforted. “I’m okay.”

Mavis weakly laughed then said, “I’m glad. I was worried about you. . .a lot. But there’s something else.”

“What’s wrong?” Ray asked.

Mavis worked to stop crying and get control of herself. Finally, she said,

“I’m leaving.”

“What?” Ray asked.

“Why?” Tommy asked.

Struggling to appear lighthearted, Mavis smiled and explained.

“I got a call from my father in Coldwater. He wants to retire, and he’s asked me to move home so he can teach me the business.”

“Business?” Deborah asked confused.

“The bar is his, of course, but he also has three other bars as well as two nightclubs and a restaurant. His plan is for me to manage all of them so he can retire in the next year or two,” Mavis answered.

“I’m sorry. Doesn’t seem like you’re too happy about that,” Ray pointed out.

Mavis started crying again and said,

“He’s my daddy, and he’s getting old. It’s just that I’m really going to miss you guys.”

Mavis moved in closer and bent over to hug Ray, crying into his gown.

* * *

3 Months Later

Bradford King sat in the dingy cell scowling at his reflection in the polished metal mirror.

“Considering my net worth, these buffoons should have at least given me suitable clothes.”

Frank Granger, one of the guards, walked up to the cell and banged on the door.

“King, you have a visitor,” he announced.

“My attorney?” King asked.

“I’m not your secretary,” Granger complained.

Then as the cell door opened, he added,

“Your daughter. Let’s go.”

Magdalene was King’s only daughter. Shortly after his wife died in a plane crash, he had enrolled Magdalene in a private school in Switzerland. With King’s promise of a sizeable donation to the school, the headmaster had promised to keep a close eye on her. King made a note to punish the man for not telling him she had left. He followed Granger to a private visitor’s cell. When Granger opened the door, King saw that another guard had been posted inside the waiting room. The black stubble on his face made him look dark and angry. As though frozen in place, his arms were crossed as his cold black eyes stared straight ahead. Although he stood at an angle behind one of the chairs, King could see part of his name tag. His first name looked like it was Joseph.

“That’s not my daughter,” King said sarcastically.

“Sit down! He’ll be watching you while you visit,” Granger explained.

As he took a seat behind the new guard, King protested,

“I don’t even get a private visit with my daughter?”

“You’re lucky you’re getting this much,” Granger retorted.

When Granger turned and left the room, Magdalene walked in, closing the door behind her.

“Maggie,” King greeted, pleased to see his daughter.

“Hello, Father,” Magdalene said, sitting down across from him.

Magdalene brushed her red hair out of her face and removed her sunglasses, revealing her different colored eyes, one blue and one green just like her mother.

King smiled and asked,

“Sweetheart, what are you doing out of school?”

“I heard you were in trouble,” she answered.

“It’s nothing my lawyers can’t handle. Just trumped up charges to get me out of the way so they can stop some deranged clown-faced killer,” King explained.

Magdalene smiled.

“Oh good. I was worried, afraid I was going to lose you like I lost mom.”

“That was a tragic accident that killed your mother. But don’t worry, Maggie. I’m not going anywhere,” King assured her.

Magdalene gazed into her father’s eyes then corrected,

“Murdered.”

“What?” King asked.

“Mom was murdered,” Magdalene said.

“Why would you think something like that?” King asked.

“Because she called me before she got on that plane,” Magdalene said, keeping her eyes fixed on King.

“She told me what she found out about you. About your business. Then the next thing you know, the plane she’s on goes down suddenly. Engine trouble they said.”

With a look of astonishment, King said, “You can’t think I did that!”

“You started this, Father,” Magdalene said, “and now we’re going to finish it.”

“We?” King asked nervously.

Magdalene’s eyes shifted from her father’s face to past him. King hesitantly turned around and saw that the guard who had been standing behind him was now Captain Bonkers.

Suddenly everything fell into place as he nervously swiped at his sweat-beaded forehead.

“You didn’t think we’d let you escape, did you?” Magdalene asked.

“Huh?” King responded, his thoughts muddled.

He watched as Magdalene slowly stood and walked over to the door. When she tapped on the glass, Granger opened the door and stepped forward.

“In a few moments, my father is going to kill himself. Please wait until I’ve left the property to call it in,” she instructed.

“Yes ma’am,” Granger answered.

As though in a daze, King stared speechlessly at his daughter while she walked back to him and kissed his forehead, placing a chess piece, the king, in front of him.

“Goodbye, Father,” she said without looking back.

When the door closed behind her, Magdalene walked away in peace, her eyes straight ahead. This was finally over. The guards nodded as she passed by moving down the hallway toward the exit. Suddenly from the room where she had left her father, she heard him yell,

“NO!”

When a gunshot rang out, the guards didn’t flinch and Magdalene kept on walking, a smile slowly spreading across her face.

* * *

Late in the middle of the night in a condemned, burned out house, the front door slowly opened. Roaches scurried across the floor, disappearing under the baseboard. The floor creaked beneath his feet as Captain Bonkers stepped into the room. He walked through the house and out to the back porch where he started up a small generator. Reaching down to grab the attached extension cord, he pulled it inside the house and lay it on the floor next to an old chair, its stuffing spilling out through the scorched fabric. Years earlier, the house had caught fire and suffered extensive damage before firefighters arrived on the scene.

Bonkers headed toward a nearby closet then pulled an old TV VCR off the top shelf. Centering it on a stool next to the chair, he plugged it in and sat down.

As he watched the screen, the white light danced across his cold dead eyes beneath the clown mask. He pressed the play button and a video started, a video of his boy surrounded by friends celebrating his birthday at a pool party. The boy looked up at the camera with a big smile and said,

“Watch this, Daddy!”

The boy turned away and ran towards the pool leaping off the side and splashing into the water. Just as the child’s head bobbed to the surface and he began swimming toward the pool’s edge, a young woman came on camera and said,

“Joseph, will you put that camera away for once? You’re missing your son’s birthday party.”

Bonkers watched without movement, without expression, as the tape played on.

* * *

It had the makings of a perfect day as Ray eased back onto the cushioned rocking chair. Across the room, Deborah rested on the couch, a pillow at the small of her back, with Pete her protector curled up beside her. Tommy whistled in the kitchen as he made tea and sandwiches for everyone. Just then the key turned in the lock and Richard walked in.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he greeted, bending over to kiss Deborah.

“Hey, babe,” she returned.

When Deborah started to get up, Richard stopped her with,

“You shouldn’t walk in your condition.”

“What condition?” Ray asked,

With a look of surprise, Richard asked,

“You didn’t tell him, hon?”

“I was waiting for you to get home,” Deborah responded.

“What condition?” Ray repeated. “What’s going on?”

“Deborah’s pregnant,” Tommy said matter-of-factly as he brought in the tea and sandwiches.

“Tommy!” Deborah said. “How did you know?”

“What? I thought everyone knew?” Tommy answered.

“You’re pregnant?” Ray asked, obviously elated.

“Almost a month now,” Tommy said.

“Tommy!” Deborah scolded, leaning over to pop Tommy.

“What?” Tommy asked confused.

“How did you know?” Richard asked.

“It’s what I do,” Tommy replied.

“That explains why Pete has been keeping so close to you lately. I thought he had abandoned me,” Ray laughed.

“Well, congratulations you two. I am de—”

Just then a frantic knock sounded at the door.

Richard quickly got up and answered it. Leaning against the doorpost, trying to catch her breath, was Mavis. She was disheveled, as though she had dressed in a great hurry and neglected to brush her hair.

“Mavis? What’s wrong?” Richard inquired.

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

“Sure. Come on in.”

Mavis hurried into the room and crossed to Ray.

“Ray! I need your help!”

THE END?

To be continued in Unsettled