Unsettled: Episode 12

The Coldwater Crown Hotel was the crown jewel of Coldwater’s buildings. Its penthouse suite was reserved for only the most influential and powerful. Kristina had always hoped someday to spend her honeymoon in one of the spacious plush rooms with its chandeliers and marbled bathroom. Now she was in the hotel all right but gagged and tied to a chair opposite Detective Marquez while Charles Heath watched them with his strange little eyes.

“Sorry, boss,” Charley said. “I did what you told me, but I wasn’t sure if I should kill these two or bring them here. So I brought them here.”

Heath looked up at Charley in exasperation.

“Charley, you are an idiot. I want you to know that. But I can work with your incompetence. Now go on downstairs and wait for our guest. He should be arriving shortly.”

As Charley and Gordon left the room, Heath said,

“It’s tough to find someone this day and age that you can trust.”

Heath looked from Marquez to Kristina waiting for some sort of reaction. When neither of them responded, he nodded.

“Solid point. Wait right there. I want to go tell them what you said.”

Heath turned and headed for the balcony, closing the door behind him.

Kristina frantically looked around for a way to escape, something to cut her restraints. But when she spotted two men watching her, she sighed and started working on a different plan.

* * *

Stationed on the balcony of the Coldwater Crown Hotel were four of Heath’s best men. Councilman Parker was seated beside Police Commissioner Victor Thorn while Shaun Lambert, a member of Coldwater’s city council and Parker’s rival, stood in a tight group with Scott Marshall, owner of Foundation Financial, and Terrance Marsh the mayor.

“Well everyone,” Heath greeted as he walked out onto the balcony. “I’m certain you’re wondering why I called you here.”

“You didn’t call me! You kidnapped me!” Marsh complained.

“Yes, yes. You and Marshall. But I knew you wouldn’t rsvp a party invite, so I had to improvise,” Heath laughed.

“I brought you here because, as you know, things in Coldwater are changing. Unfortunately, I will not always be able to run the day-to-day operations, so I have gathered you here because you will run things for me,” Heath said.

When Parker stood up in protest, Heath held up a hand to quiet him.

“Right through those doors, I have a police detective and a civilian who saw you come out here, so I will put this as simply as I can manage. Join me or I tell them how evil every single one of you is then let them go. Or agree to work for me, becoming incredibly rich, and I deal with the witnesses. What’s it going to be?”

“I hired you to clear my name so I wouldn’t have to worry about prison,” Parker roared. “You work for me, and I will not stand here and let you take over my city!”

Anger flashed in Heath’s eyes and he grabbed Parker by the shirt, lifted him, and tossed him off the balcony. As Parker screamed, Heath waited until he hit the pavement below with a thud then said with a smile,

“There now. You no longer have to worry about prison.”

Turning around to the other men, Heath gestured to the balcony.

“Of course if you don’t like either option, you can always take the express exit. Think about it. I’ll be right back.”

* * *

A few feet away, Billy stood on the sidewalk in the pouring rain and watched as people gathered around the dead body of Councilman Roger Parker.

“Well it would seem their arrangement has come to an end,” Jack said.

“Shame it had to end that way,” Victoria disapproved.

“He had it coming,” Lucas growled.

“Nothing more we can do about him,” Dylan sighed. “We need to rescue the others.”

“Yes we do. My favorite part,” Eddie said with a broad grin.

Billy slipped through the crowd to the front doors of the Coldwater Crown Hotel. The lights were out and the building was empty.

“How did he empty out the building?” Victoria asked.

“Who cares? Gives us the environmental advantage,” Lucas pointed out as he pulled the doors closed and locked them.

* * *

Heath came in off the balcony and walked over to Kristina and Marquez.

“Look. I don’t want to kill either of you, but this is a business deal, so I would like to offer you something other than dying.”

He began to pace as he spoke.

“The man I released from jail, the same one who’s been on my heels a little closer than I like, is on his way here. I need you two to do me a favor. When the smoke clears and this is over, I want you to tell everyone that he was responsible for everything that happened here. After all, what good is a plan without a fall guy? Can you do that for me?”

Heath removed Marquez’s gag.

“Release me at once, and I’ll tell the DA you cooperated.”

“Well that wasn’t what I hoped to hear,” Heath said slipping, the gag back over her mouth.

Turning to Kristina he said,

“Let’s hope I have better luck with you.”

But when Heath removed Kristina’s gag, she snarled,

“Untie me so I can stab you in the neck.”

Heath quickly slipped the gag back on Kristina’s mouth despite her protest.

“Well that was worse.”

“I guess you’ll both just be two more victims for the crime statistics.”

Suddenly the door to the suite opened and one of Heath’s men burst in.

“Sir, he’s here,” he warned.

Heath smiled and answered,

“Good. Now I get to find out how good he really is.”

“Do I tell the others, boss?” the man asked.

“No, no,” Heath corrected. “We don’t want to spoil the surprise, do we?”

* * *

Connor Lawton, one of Heath’s men, led a team of four through the halls of the Coldwater Crown Hotel’s first floor. Their orders were to clear the hotel and let no one slip in. Connor had complete confidence in his team. So far, there had been no radio chatter. This job would be a piece of cake, much too easy given the experience and training of his men.

Up ahead, Connor spotted a light just beyond a small dining room.

“Squad on me. Move with caution,” Connor ordered.

Quietly he and his men crept toward the room, stopping at the door marked Kitchen. The light was coming from under the door. Ordering his men to watch for any movement, he slowly opened the door. Connor knew they would follow orders and watch his back.

Whoever turned on the kitchen light could be hiding somewhere in the kitchen. Connor led in his men, stopped to listen, then continued all the way to the back.

“All clear. False alarm,” he said.

Turning to face his squad, he froze when he saw his men had disappeared.

“They wouldn’t have left me,” Connor thought. “Something’s wrong!”

Just as he reached for his radio, from behind him Connor felt a knife press to his throat.

He stood perfectly still and waited for the right moment to redirect the attack.

“Call for help,” the man behind him whispered.

“What?” Connor asked confused.

When Connor didn’t cooperate, the man reached around with his other hand and removed Conner’s radio. Holding it up to Connor’s mouth, he repeated,

“Call. . .for. . .help.”

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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 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 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.”