Dragon Fire: Episode 95

As High Priest Zephryses quickly descended the stairs, two of his guards stepped forward and slipped a chain around the stunned Allaster.

“I do not understand. The potion was to have worked only once,” Zephryses cursed, pacing across the courtyard as the wind lifted his robes.

“What shall we do, sir?” one of Zephryses’s trusted priests asked.

“As yet, I have no answer. I could spend the rest of my life killing him, but he will keep rising from the earth,” Zephryses complained.

“King Isembart expects a report on the prisoner,” the loyal priest said.

“Precisely. I was to find a way to kill him and send a report to the king. Now, that is not possible. I cannot leave him alive in the dungeon for fear someone might free him or listen to his account of what happened. He must die once and for all!” the High Priest fumed.

As Zephryses continued to pace, a giant of a man bearing dual swords at his sides and another strapped to his back strode through the doorframe.

“How have you ever tasted victory?” the man asked.

The towering man was known as Riscio, the leader of the mercenary group Zephryses had engaged to compliment his small army of loyal soldiers. An outlaw in his own land, he moved freely in the kingdom of Ethion, safe from all but the bounty hunters.

“What is this you say?” Zephryses asked enraged.

“You have been given the perfect opportunity to win the king’s favor yet you waste time whining like a woman. Lock the prisoner away in a deep dark hole—,” Riscio began.

“I cannot do this for the king will want proof of death,” Zephryses interrupted.

“Then you must tell the king that the prisoner has escaped and assure him that you will faithfully search to the ends of the earth until he is found,” Riscio answered with a dramatic wave of his arm.

“But of course I cannot make this adventurous journey but must remain in Ethion to protect the kingdom,” Zephryses responded, considering the plan. “Perfect.”

“Of course,” Riscio said with great self-satisfaction.

High Priest Zephryses leaned toward Allaster and peered into his eyes.

“These men will take you to a place where no one will find you,” Zephryses explained, smiling as his eyes grew wide with delight, “and there I want you to stay. Never forget that I will always be within reach of the princess. If I hear of your escape or attempted escape, she will be dead long before you can save her. Do you understand?”

Weakened by his helplessness, Allastar bent his head and slowly nodded.

As Zephryses turned, he gave instructions to Riscio.

“Far out in the sea is an island where no one goes. Legend has that it is haunted. Take him to the prison there and lock him away. Once you have secured his chains, you and your men are free to go. If I have need of you, I will send word.”

“What of my people? I have men locked in the dungeons of Acimeth, imprisoned by King Stephanus,” Riscio said.

“After the marriage ceremony of King Isembart’s daughter, I will see to it that your men are released. Until then, stay out of my way,” Zephryses said turning.

“You are in error. We will take this prisoner to the island after my men have been released. They will not be freed at your pleasure.”



*          *          *


As the horses pulled the wood and iron carriage down the narrow, well-worn road that cut through the king’s forest, Prince Lanidus rested his throbbing head against the soft cushions. The fragrance of wild flowers filled the air as the birds greeted the new day.

“You know, your majesty, if you had slept last night instead of gambling and drinking, you would be in better spirits,” Derali the Captain of the Guard pointed out.

“I am to wed soon,” Lanidus reminded him, “so why not have fun before then?”

“Marriage is not something you should resign yourself to. It represents the union of two souls, two travelers who will forever journey together,” Derali said.

“What would you know of this?” Lanidus remarked.

Derali’s expression grew somber and he lowered his eyes, aimlessly adjusting the ring on his finger. As soon as Lanidus realized what he had said, his heart sank.

“I am sorry, my friend. How long as it been since she passed?”

“The last full moon,” Derali said.

“I forgot. I was not thinking of your loss. I am just concerned about my upcoming marriage. How can I be joyful?” Lanidus asked. “This marriage is merely a union of the kingdoms Acimeth and Ethion. I wish to wed for love.”

“I hear the Princess Lillian is quite beautiful,” Derali said, trying to encourage him.

“Surely you know that the bride of an arranged marriage is never beautiful,” Lanidus said, “only convenient.”

Derali shook his head in laughter. “I wish to be there when you meet her so that I can see your surprise and delight.”

“I have heard that until recently the kingdom of Ethion was beset upon by a demon of some sort,” Lanidus said.

“Not a demon,” Derali corrected. “A priest of Authrax who was immune to death. They burned him alive yet he rose from the ashes. The townsfolk call him the burned priest. But truly such things are but legend.”

Lanidus laughed and said, “And I suppose it is also legend that giant plants grow in Ethion that can consume a full grown man? My favorite story is the one about a large pantherlike creature with the wings of a bat.”

“All legends,” Derali assured him. “Ethion has been thriving since Tobias Ashblood drove out the Children of Dusk.”

“I was taught about Valkovians in my youth,” Lanidus said, “but I never saw one. My teacher said some of them were kind and honorable.”

“That may be so, but many who have been seen have tried to kill anyone who is not a Valkovian,” Derali informed.

“So I am to be king of a perilous land,” Lanidus said. “Wonderful.”

Prince Lanidus did not realize the truth of his words for unbeknownst to him, Riscio and his soldiers were hiding in Ethion, and Riscio would do anything to free his men locked away as prisoners of the kingdom. Hearing of this threat, King Stephanus had commanded Derali to accompany his son the prince.

“Well I am not a weak man,” Lanidus continued. “I was one of the greatest soldiers in the last war. I can defend myself and no demon priest will stop me. I will marry King Isembart’s hideous daughter and make this cursed land my own!”

Derali could not help but laugh at the prince’s words for he had seen drawings of Princess Lillian and knew Lanidus would be at a loss for words when he saw her beauty.


Dragon Fire: Episode 93

Late that night in the palace dungeon, Allaster sat on the floor of his cell, chained to the wall as he watched the rats scurry back and forth across the cold stone patiently waiting for the prisoner to surrender to death. Allaster considered all he had lost as he thought back over his life. First, wolves killed his mother as she gathered firewood at the edge of the forest. Then his father died on the battlefield of Ethion. The only light in his dismal childhood was Princess Lillian, and in a matter of hours, he would lose her as well. His father used to tell him there was a time and place for everything. Soldiers did not cry on the battlefield, and Allaster knew he was in a fight for his life. He had fixed his heart on hope, determined not to yield to despair, but as the hours passed, his resolve weakened and he broke down and wept until his tears were spent and he slipped into a troubled sleep.


*          *          *


Allaster woke suddenly to a rapping on his cell door. When he lifted his head, he saw through the bars of the cell door High Priest Zephryses flanked by two of his personal guards.

“You were having a nightmare it seems,” Zephryses said.

“Oh sir, have you come to help?” Allaster asked, knowing the answer the moment the question escaped his lips.

Zephryses laughed, “Dear me no. I have come for another reason.”

With a wave of his hand, the cell door unlocked and opened.

Giving orders for his men to stand guard, Zephryses stepped inside the cell and stood over Allaster.

“The king is convinced of your heresy. Easily done. However, not everyone is convinced. Tomorrow when you die, I fear the princess will use her influence to plead your innocence. So to guarantee my legacy, you must appear guilty.”

“What do you mean?” Allaster asked.

“I will simply see to it that your alliance with Authrax manifests itself,” Zephryses said.

Zephryses took a step back and from his robe removed a small vial. Black flecks whirled through the deep purple liquid.

“What is that?” Allaster asked recoiling.

“A potion I have been working on. It is not as yet perfected, but its power will serve my purpose,” Zephryses boasted.

Allaster drew back against the wall in fear, struggling to distance himself from the mysterious liquid. But with a wave of his hand and snap of his fingers, Zephryses lifted the helpless Allaster into the air then opened his mouth.

He uncorked the vial, releasing a strange, unpleasant odor, then drew near Allaster and poured the foul mixture down his throat.

“Do not worry, my boy. Tomorrow you will die, but it will not be the last time.”

Allaster choked as the purple liquid made its way down his throat. When the vial was emptied, Zephryses stepped back and Allaster fell to the floor.

Slipping the bottle back into the folds of his robe, Zephryses turned to leave but stopped when he heard Allaster cry out in pain. Looking over his shoulder, he watched as the young man he had once called his son clawed at his stomach and writhed in agony.

“Oh yes. I neglected to tell you about the painful effects of the potion. But have no fear. The pain will soon subside and then you will die,” Zephryses smiled.

As Allaster’s cries grew louder, Zephryses moved his hand in a circle then closed his fingers, sending Allaster into a deep sleep.

“Much better,” Zephryses said. “We must not have your cries disturbing the palace guards.”

Zephryses stepped out of the cell and ordered his guards,

“Stay here until dawn. No one is to see him, especially a wayward princess with illusions of liberation.”


*          *          *



Princess Lillian begged her father to show mercy to Allaster.

“He is innocent, Father. He did not do this!”

At last the king shouted,


Her heart broken, Princess Lillian fled to her chambers. All through the night, she paced the floor, planning how she would free Allaster. She would summon help with the reward of a rich purse. Her mother’s jewelry should buy some loyalty. Once Allaster was free, they would leave the country forever. But Allaster had been accused of joining the Children of Dusk. Would anyone dare to help him? Would they oppose the High Priest? As the sun’s crimson light appeared on the horizon, Lillian knew she had no choice but to charge the pyre and free Allaster herself. She cared not what happened to her nor what her father wished. She would gladly die to save her true love.

She quickly dressed in her hunting clothes and waited in the shadows until she saw the guards leading Allaster out of the dungeon. His hands were bound and his eyes wore a look of hopelessness. With bowed shoulders, he stumbled along, turning his head away as the villagers cursed and threw rotten food at him. Lillian steeled herself as they tied him to the stake. As the guards poured oil over the pyre, King Isembart rose and said,

“On this day, it is with great sorrow that I put to death Allaster—.”

Overcome with grief, the king suddenly stopped to compose himself.

“As a boy, he was like a son to me, but when he grew into a man, he joined the Children of Dusk, lost to the darkness that once poisoned this kingdom. I will not let my people suffer that evil again, so by the law set down by Tobias Ashblood the Great, I decree that Allaster a priest of Authrax will be burned at the stake until dead.”

Turning to Allaster, the king said,

“If you wish forgiveness, now is the time to ask for it.”

Overcome by sorrow, Lillian watched as Allaster struggled to speak, to lift his head and once again plead his innocence.

“You have nothing to say?” King Isembart asked. “No defense to offer?”

When Allaster remained silent, the king nodded toward the executioner then walked away, his chin pressed against his chest.

“This is my chance!” Lillian thought.

But when she tried to race forward, she found that her body was frozen. As though bound with rope, her arms and legs would not move.

One by one, the guards lit the torches then turned toward the pyre and lit the wood.

Lillian tried to scream but found she could not speak.

The only sound that filled the air were the cries for mercy as the fire consumed the helpless Allaster.

Suddenly the mysterious hold on her disappeared and Lillian fell to the ground unconscious.

The fire climbed higher and raged until it had finished its work. As the flames died and smoke filled the air, the satisfied villagers began to return to their homes. Lillian slowly awoke but had no will to rise. She heard footsteps approaching her and a man’s voice say,

“Your Majesty.”

“What do you want?” Princess Lillian asked.

“My name is Genfyre, and I believe he was innocent.”

Lillian looked up to see Genfyre extending a hand of help.

Reaching up, she took his hand and fought to stand on her trembling legs.

“You do?” the princess asked.

“He was my friend, ma’am,” Genfyre said.

“Look!” someone screamed. “Something stirs!”

Lillian and Genfyre whirled around and saw movement in the ashes of Allaster’s death.

“What sort of magic is this?” Genfyre asked, his eyes widened.

Suddenly a hand covered in soot exploded out of the remains and the form of a man stepped forth from the ashes.

“Who is that?” Genfyre asked

“It is he!” Lillian said, her heart overjoyed. “My one true love!”

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 6:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 25

In a blur of motion, Elizabeth spread her wings and withdrew her weapons. Closing her eyes to block visual distractions, she used her natural radar to move with grace and precision.

Four of Prescott’s men, their rifles raised, surrounded Elizabeth but just seconds before they fired, she dove for the two who were closest. Hooking one with her wing, she spun and hurled him across the bar and through a front window. Then tossing the other into the air, she raised her pistol and shot him before he hit the floor.

“The King?” Nathan asked as he circled Prescott.

“Stay out of my head!” Prescott ordered.

“Why? What are you afraid I’ll find?” Nathan asked.

When Prescott swung out, Nathan ducked and rolled. Then jumping to his feet, he asked,

“Who are you protecting?”

“Stay out of my head!” Prescott snapped.

As Prescott started to move forward, Nathan advised,

“I wouldn’t do that.”

Prescott sneered and just as he took a step closer, one of his men came flying across the room, crashing into Prescott and knocking him over the bar. When Nathan glanced over to check on Elizabeth, he saw she was lifting one of the men in the air by his throat.

“Don’t kill him,” Nathan said.

Elizabeth growled and dropped the man to the floor.

Prescott saw his chance and ran for the exit.

“No!” Elizabeth roared, running after him.

“Wait!” Nathan yelled as he followed her.

When Prescott reached the parking lot, he stopped behind one of his SUVs and struck the fender with his cane. A burst of blue energy flashed, and the SUV went flipping through the air towards Elizabeth.

Just before the vehicle crashed through the front wall of Eight Balls, Nathan grabbed Elizabeth and pulled them both to safety.

When they hurried outside through the gaping hole left by the SUV, they saw that Prescott had fled.

Police cruisers tore into the parking lot and Crescent Bay’s finest jumping out, weapons drawn.

“Freeze!” one officer yelled at Elizabeth. “Drop your weapons!”

Elizabeth, her adrenaline still pumping, tightened her grip on her weapon.

“Wait, Elizabeth,” Nathan said, placing his hand over hers.

“Get down on your knees and place your hands on your head!” Detective French demanded.

“They’re innocent,” Jericho said, stepping in front of Nathan and Elizabeth.

“Jericho, move out of the way,” French ordered.

“Are you okay, Jericho?” Nathan asked.

“My head’s going to be ringing for a while, but I’ll live,” Jericho said.

Just then, Detective Cassandra Shields arrived on the scene.

When she jumped out of the cruiser, she ordered the officers,

“Stand down! He’s with us.”

Shields walked over to Jericho and looked past him to Nathan.

“What happened?” she asked.

“They started it,” Nathan said with a sheepish smile.


*          *          *


After being questioned most of the night about the scene at Eight Balls, Nathan was finally sent home.

He spent the next eight hours trying to catch some z’s, but when dawn’s light peeked through the draperies of Elizabeth’s condo, Nathan gave up and hopped into the shower.

As he quickly dressed, he made a plan then left the building, hopped on his bike, and headed for Pearson Plasma Technologies.

Pearson Plasma stood tall and bright, its panels glistening in the morning sun. The long public pool that ran from the parking lot to the stairs leading up to the front door was filled with kids playing and splashing, their innocent laughter lifting Nathan’s spirits.

Nathan left his bike in the parking lot and headed for the front entrance. When he passed a placard posted near the pool, he stopped to read.

Pearson Plasma Technologies’ public pool and playground are dedicated to all the children of Crescent Bay. These facilities were built by Milford Pearson, Crescent Bay’s beloved hero known as Knightlight. Mr. Pearson loved children and said their laughter always gave him strength.

Nathan looked across the street at the playground, swarming with happy children, and breathed deeply, taking it all.

“So what is this place?” Elizabeth asked.

Nathan turned to face Elizabeth.

“Are you following me?”

“Yep,” Elizabeth replied. “Don’t trust you on your own.”

Nathan shook his head in mild exasperation.

“So tell me what this place is,” Elizabeth repeated.

“Started by one of Crescent Bay’s earliest superheroes, Milford Pearson, also known as Knightlight, Pearson Plasma Technologies uses an engine invented by Pearson that could generate super-heated plasma for use in weapons and engines. When he retired, Pearson put his engine designs to use in ridding Crescent Bay of its dependency on fossil fuels. His empire invests in hospitals, aeronautics, and shipping. Plus, over the years, it has secured a lot of government contracts. Today, Pearson’s company is worth $10 billion. When he died, sixty per cent of the company stock went to investors he had handpicked with the other forty per cent going to his son Brian Pearson.”

Elizabeth watched Nathan as he shared the information,

When he finished, she said,

“You know, you should be a tour guide.”

Ignoring her comment, Nathan added,

“This is where Martin Armstrong works. He’s chairman of the board of directors.”

“What about Brian Pearson?” Elizabeth asked.

“Retired a few years ago. His grandson Brian hasn’t fully assumed control. Right now he still answers to the board of directors,” Nathan explained.

Elizabeth followed Nathan past the pool and through the front doors. The inside of Pearson Plasma was clinical white with neutral tone back accents. Monitors throughout the main floor played videos advertising the company’s goals and current projects. As soon as Nathan and Elizabeth stepped forward, a young man approached with a smile of welcome.

“Hello. I’m Jeff. How may Pearson Plasma help you today?” Jeff asked.

“We’re here to see Mr. Armstrong,” Nathan answered.

“Do you have an appointment?” Jeff asked.

“No, we do not. Just tell Mr. Armstrong it’s regarding Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan said.

“One moment please,” Jeff responded.

Jeff moved away a few steps as he spoke into an earpiece. A minute later, he returned and said,

“I’m afraid Mr. Armstrong will not be able to speak with you at this time. But if you would like to make an appointment, I can help you with that.”

Nathan glanced at the large clock on the wall. It was almost 9:30 a.m. He looked back at Jeff and said,

“I’d like to make an appointment for 9:30.”

“I’m afraid that time is already filled,” Jeff apologized, after checking a tablet he held in his hand.

“That appointment is about to cancel,” Nathan informed.

“Really?” Jeff said in surprise. Then checking his tablet again, he said,

“I don’t see. . .,” Jeff began. After a pause, he said, “It would appear that Mr. Armstrong’s 9:30 just canceled. Let me fit you in.”

Jeff punched in something on the tablet before saying,

“All set. Mr. Armstrong will see you now.”

“Thanks,” Nathan said with a smile.

As Nathan and Elizabeth rode the elevator up to Mr. Armstrong’s office, Elizabeth said,

“I remember my dad telling me about Knightlight, but I never really knew much about him until now.”

“Milford Pearson was ahead of his time with the invention of his plasma engine. He named the hero he created Knightlight because a nightlight is used to comfort children. By using the word knight, he hoped to create a sense of bravery and chivalry that kids could aspire to. Pearson really loved kids. That’s why he had that pool and playground built in front of Pearson Plasma.”

When the elevator doors opened, Elizabeth followed Nathan through a series of busy hallways and crowded offices until they came to a large door. Just as they reached out for the handle, the door swung open and a man stormed out.

“I don’t care what you think! We’re doing it my way!” he shouted.

As the young man headed down the hall, Elizabeth asked,

“Who on earth was that?”

“Brian Pearson, grandson of Milford Pearson and heir to the family fortune.”

“He seems pretty angry,” Elizabeth said.

“Frustrated for sure. He’s not old enough yet to take control of the company, and right now the board is fighting his every decision,” Nathan explained.

When they stepped inside the office, Nathan and Elizabeth heard Martin Armstrong instruct his secretary,

“Nancy, cancel my 9:30. I’m going to be on the phone for a while.”

“That would be me, Mr. Armstrong,” Nathan called out.

Armstrong looked up and when he saw Nathan and Elizabeth, he said,

“No supers. I have nothing to say about the bombing. Talk to my attorney.”

“It’s about Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan explained. “I have just a few questions.”

“As I said, talk to my attorney,” Armstrong instructed.

“In fact,” Armstrong said, pulling out his cell phone and hitting the speed dial, “You can talk to him yourself.”

Nathan was close enough to hear ringing, but no one answered.

“Why isn’t he picking up?” Armstrong wondered.

Suddenly, Nathan got a flash of a man wearing a cardigan sweater jammed over a bomb vest. He was sweating profusely, and panic filled his eyes as the phone strapped to the bomb began to ring. Nathan snapped out of his vision and leapt at Armstrong’s phone.

“Wait!” Nathan yelled.

Surprised by the aggression, Armstrong pulled back the cell phone.

“What’s wrong with you?” Armstrong asked.

Before Nathan could answer the question, an explosion went off nearby, shaking the building and blowing out the windows.


The Train: Episode 79

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

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

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

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

“What was this place before?” Michael asked.

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

“What about Morgan?” Nicole asked.

With an intense glare, Serena turned to face Nicole.

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

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

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

“Come. Let us go meet the guests.”

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

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

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

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

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

Extending his right hand, he greeted,

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

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

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

“Pete Shepherd,” Michael said smiling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes you do,” the attendant said.

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

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

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

“Thank you,” Nicole smiled.

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

“Sounds great,” Michael responded.

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

With a slight bow, he said,

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

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

“Have a blessed day.”

Michael waited until Brad was gone and said,

“Well that was creepy.”

“He seemed nice,” Ricer said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Any word on Scott Morgan?” Nicole asked.

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

Nicole rolled her eyes and began to check the room.

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

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

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 77

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elliot nodded, “Yep.”

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

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

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

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

Suddenly the whistle sounded and the train began to slow.

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

“May Lucy stay here?” Ricer asked.

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

“Ripples: The Saint”


October 2008

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

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

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

Ricer looked around and said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tearmann River Spa and Resort,” Ricer answered.

“Why are we here?” Nicole asked.

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

“How do they die?” Nicole asked.

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

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

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

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

Nicole trailed off, wrapping her coat more tightly.

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

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

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


The Train: Episode 76

They were less than twenty seconds through the door when a frightened cat bolted, knocking over a potted plant balanced on an antique pedestal table just inside the entrance to the old house where Roscoe had brought them before he returned to the train. Michael looked at Nicole and whispered,

“Well, there goes our advantage. Be careful.”

Indignant that he felt the need to say that, Nicole glared at him and tilted her head.

The smell in the old house was overpowering. Michael’s eyes slowly began to water at the stench, but Nicole didn’t seem to notice. With revolver in hand, Michael pointed at the stairs then crept past toward the back of the house.

Nicole nodded and headed for the staircase, leading with her silenced pistol. Ready to fire, she kept her body low and slowly ascended the stairs, stopping to listen between steps. On the landing at the top were two closed doors. She followed the smell to the first and cautiously opened it. Inside the room, she discovered the rotting corpse of an old woman resting in a chair. After a cursory scan of the room, she saw no obvious hiding places and silently closed the door. Turning away, she moved to the other door opposite the hall. When she slowly opened that door, she saw Dr. Ricer tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth and a grenade taped to his chest. Quickly she pulled out her knife and sliced through a string tied to the grenade pin at one end and at the other to a door leading out.

As soon as she pulled away the gag and began to untie him, Ricer warned,

“We must hurry! He has Elliot!”

“Who does?” Nicole asked.

“The killer!” Ricer responded.

“I deduced that much. I meant who is he?” Nicole replied.

“Forgive me. I am quite frazzled,” Ricer said.

“The killer is Kenneth Cooper.”

“Who?” Nicole asked.

“Do you remember the little boy from our last stop when we saved Cynthia Cooper?” Ricer asked.

Nicole took a second to think as she pulled off the last of the tape.

“The little boy. Her little boy? Yes, I remember him now. Why is he the killer?”

“First, let’s save Elliot, and then I will tell you everything I know,” Ricer returned.

“Okay. Where did they go?” Nicole asked.

“Through there,” Ricer said, pointing to the door with the string still attached.

When Nicole tried the door, she found it was locked.

“Come on. We need to go help Michael!” she ordered, grabbing Ricer and pulling him from the room.

* * *

Michael cleared the living room and what looked like a spare bedroom. As he entered the kitchen, he saw over the sink a large window that gave a full view of the backyard. At the edge of the yard was an old split rail fence with a drop off on the other side leading down to the ocean. Through the open door, Michael could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks below.

Suddenly he spotted movement in the yard. A man, his back toward the house, was leading Elliot at gunpoint towards the split rail fence.

Michael crept up to the open door and quietly slipped outside. Inching his way through the grass, he moved closer until the same cat bolted past with a loud yowl. Michael mentally cursed the creature for given away his position twice.

The man grabbed Elliot’s arm and spun around, putting Elliot between him and Michael as he pressed the gun to Elliot’s throat. Michael kept coming closer.

“Stop or I will kill him. I know you don’t want that to happen. And don’t try and bluff me.”

Michael recognized the man holding Elliot.

“You!” Michael said.

“You remember me. I am flattered,” the man said with a smirk.

“Lincoln,” Michael said. “Why are you doing this?”

“My name is Kenneth!” the man snapped.

Suddenly it clicked where Michael had first seen Lincoln. It was right after they had arrived here. He had helped Michael stop a purse thief. At the time, he had thought the man looked familiar but until now, he hadn’t placed him.

“Kenneth Cooper,” Michael said. “We saved your mother.”

“You should have let her die when she was supposed to. She made my life a nightmare that only got worse after she finally died. All you had to do was stay out of it, but no, you had to get involved,” Kenneth snapped.

Michael moved a few steps closer.

“Stop moving or I will shoot him!” Kenneth barked. “I don’t need all of you to be alive to get what I want. I just need one of you.”

“What is it you want, Kenneth?” Michael asked.

“He wants on the train,” Elliot said.

“Shut up!” Kenneth shouted. “Now toss your gun away.”

Michael hesitated for a moment, but knowing Nicole wasn’t far behind, he decided to comply.

When he tossed his gun towards Elliot, it bounced and landed on Elliot’s right boot.

“I don’t know what you did with my servants, and I really don’t care. I want on the train so I can go back and fix things, clean up your mess. Now tell me where the door is that gets us out of here,” Kenneth ordered.

“What door?” Michael asked.

“Stop stalling,” Kenneth growled, his teeth clenched, as he turned the gun on Michael.

Elliot saw his chance and grabbed Kenneth’s right wrist, twisting it as he kicked Michael’s weapon off his right boot and dove out of the way.

When Kenneth cried out in pain and dropped his gun, Michael turned and flipped through the air towards him then dove for the revolver and caught it as he slid on the wet grass.

Pulling back on the trigger, Michael’s revolver bucked as a bullet fired from the chamber and struck Kenneth in the chest. Recoiling from the shot, Kenneth crashed into the split rail fence and stumbled toward the drop off. As he fell, he grabbed the fence with his left hand.

His grip was weak, and his hand started to slip just as Michael scrambled to his feet.

When his eyes met Michael’s, he smiled then began to cackle hysterically as he fell to the waves and rocks below.

Elliot came alongside Michael at the edge and looked down at the water. There was no sign of Kenneth.

“Where’s Kenneth Cooper?” Ricer asked as he and Nicole burst from the house.

“Down there,” Michael said.

“Come on. It’s time,” Elliot responded as the train whistle blew.

He walked over to the back door of the house and closed it. Waiting until the whistle sounded again, he opened the door to the station on the other side.

“Are you certain he’s dead?” Nicole asked.

“I sure hope so,” Michael replied as they stepped inside the station and closed the door behind them.

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 3

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

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

Mavis nodded as she concentrated on the wet road.

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

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

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

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

Mavis nodded and bit her bottom lip.

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

Mavis quickly looked at Ray then back at the road.

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

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

“That’s fine,” Ray said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May?” Ray asked.

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

Suddenly Rory chimed in,

“Kristina Kay! I remember you!”

“Stop it!” Mavis snapped at Rory.

“What’s going on?” Ray asked.

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

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

Kristina turned to Ray to explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy released Mavis’ hand and stepped up to Ray.

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

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

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

“What?” Rory asked.

Billy turned to Rory and said,

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

Billy turned to Kristina and said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Be right back, lads,” Jack said.

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

Mavis softly placed her hand on Billy’s shoulder.

“Billy?” she asked.

“Yea?” Billy replied, suddenly snapping to.

“Are you okay?” Mavis asked.

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

“Who are they?” Ray asked.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

Ignoring Victoria’s concern, Jack replied,

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

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

“Told you so,” Lucas said.

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

“That’s him!”

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What guy?” Ray asked.

“Where’s Billy?” Rory asked.

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 2:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 88

When the high priest Zephryses neared the castle of Ethion, he saw King Isembart strolling along the porch. Bending down to the young boy Zephryn, he said,

“There is the king. Stay by my side, bow your head in the presence of his majesty, and do not speak unless the king questions you. Do you understand?”

After Zephryn shyly nodded, the two began to climb the stone steps leading up to the porch.

King Isembart, a tall robust man with a beard reaching down to his stomach, saw the priest approach and with surprising exuberance and agility bounded down the steps toward him with the palace guards, the queen and the princess close behind.

“Zephryses, my dear friend. I knew sending you to the woods was a wise decision. There is no man I trust more,” Isembart said with a deep laugh.

Clapping the priest on the back, Isembart looked at Queen Calathene and asked,

“Did I not tell you?”

Turning back to Zephryses, he continued.

“She did not believe you would succeed. Why the news reached my ears that you moved the elements themselves!”

With a hearty laugh, the king said in jest, “Perhaps I should build a temple to you instead of the gods.”

Although Zephryses found himself somewhat uncomfortable at the idea, he could not help by remember that the captain of the king’s army had made a similar remark.

Suddenly King Isembart noticed the child standing next to the priest and asked,

“And who are you?”

“Al—,” the boy began but was interrupted when Zephryses corrected him.

“Zephryn. The boy’s name is Zephryn. He is my son now and shall be joining me in the church, taking the title of priest when he grows up.”

“Well it is a pleasure to meet you, little priest,” the king greeted. “You know my daughter Lillian is about your age.”

Turning to Princess Lillian, Isembart instructed,

“Lilly, show Zephryn around the castle while I speak with the high priest. Take care that you do not wander beyond the castle walls.”

“Yes, Father,” the princess answered.

As King Isembart continued his stroll along the castle porch, with Zephryses at his side, Princess Lillian walked up to Zephryn and introduced herself.

“I am Princess Lillian.”

“I am Al—Zephryn,” the boy said, still struggling with his strange new name.

Princess Lillian looked around to see if anyone was listening. Then she softly asked,

“What was your name?”

“Allaster,” Zephryn answered, “but the high priest said that I am to be called Zephryn from now on.”

“This change of names is a tradition here in Ethion started long ago by my great-great- grandfather King Estmon. When he was chosen to marry the princess and become king, he wanted to be seen as king and not the boy who grew up in the streets. So he made a law that all who take up the rank of royalty or a position in the church must adopt a new name so they will be seen as a new person for a new age.”

As Princess Lillian recited, she held her hands together and slightly raised her head as she had been taught.

With the sweet smile of innocence, she giggled then said,

“When I become queen, Father says I shall adopt the name Lachert, renouncing my birth name.”

Shyly, Zephryn softly said,

“I like the name Lillian better.”

Princess Lillian leaned in and whispered in Zephryn’s ear,

“I do too!”

As she reached out and took Zephryn’s hand, she said,

“The high priest spends a great while counseling with my father, so we have a lot of time to play games. My favorite is hide-and-seek. Do you want to see some of my favorite spots?”

“Yes,” Zephryn agreed.

With her best smile, Princess Lillian whirled around and hurried into the castle, pulling  Zephryn along with her.


*          *          *

15 years later



Valdis and Trystan raced across the field, the pouch of gold bouncing with each step.

“Why did you have to stab that man?” Valdis demanded.

“He saw you stealing his gold! You would have felt the blade of his knife! What choice did I have?” Trystan snapped.

“Not to stab him! Now we are running for our lives. Know this! I will crawl over you to survive!” Valdis warned.

“If we can just reach the others, we should be safe,” Trystan said, ignoring his threat.

They dove behind a fallen tree in their path to hide and catch their breath.

“Yes, if we can. But in truth, we will be fortunate if we live long enough to be arrested. Did you not see who is after us?” Valdis asked in exasperation.

“A creature?” Trystan answered.

“He is a man, a warrior called the Animal. There are tales of him prowling through the forest at night with a large wolf at his side. They say he never brings anyone to prison because he eats them instead,” Valdis claimed.

“Foolish tales,” Trystan insisted.

Suddenly a long howl came from the grove of trees behind them.

“You may wait and discover how foolish the tale is, but I will not!” Valdis said.

When Trystan tried to rise and flee, he found that his legs would not move.

Valdis jumped up, flew over the log, and tried to dash away, but before he could escape, a man with skin browned from the sun and red hair bright as fire leapt out from the trees and grabbed him, pulling him into the tree line.

Trystan listened in horror as Valdis pleaded for mercy. Then he heard a thump and silence.

From out of the woods, the brown man tramped, blood on his chest and pants. As he held a dagger dripping with blood, his wild eyes seemed to look through the terrified Trystan. With each breath, his great chest heaved. Then he slowly came toward Trystan, growling as he moved closer, his bare feet crushing the roots and rocks beneath them.

Published in: on August 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 2

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

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

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

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

Mavis nodded.

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

“Yes,” Mavis nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How are things with you?” Ray asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell him or I will!” Rory snapped.

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

Mavis hesitated then agreed.

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

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

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

Mavis stopped to catch her breath.

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

“Yes,” Mavis said.

“No it’s not!” Rory corrected.

Mavis sighed and said,

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

“The others?” Ray asked.

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

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

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

“Fiancé,” Mavis corrected.

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

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

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


*          *          *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not this,” the man said.

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

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

“What can I do for you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow hesitated then turned and unlocked the cell.

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

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

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

“Now what?” Snow growled.

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

“I did,” Snow grumbled.

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

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

“You have your orders.”

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

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

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

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