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.

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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”

Alaska

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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The Train: Episode 73

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

“Come on,” Elliot instructed.

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

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

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

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

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

Elliot just nodded.

“What happened, Lucy?” Michael asked.

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

“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” she cried.

Michael patted her back and said,

“It’s okay, Lucy. We’ll find him.”

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

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

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

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

“Where is she anyway?” Michael asked.

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

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

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

“The killer took him,” Michael whispered.

“When? How?” Nicole asked.

“When you were away,” Michael snapped.

“Me?” Nicole defended.

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

“Silence!”

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

“Others? What others?” Michael asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Michael looked at Nicole.

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

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

“Because otherwise we have nothing,” Michael replied.

Nicole nodded then gazed out the window.

“Who is this person?” she asked.

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

How to evade capture in a manhunt:

Step 1: Stay in a rural area.

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

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

Step 2: Seek help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s the nearest expensive motel?”

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

“Take us there,” Michael directed.

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

Published in: on June 18, 2017 at 10:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 18

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

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

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

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

“Impressive,” Nathan complimented.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nathan followed him inside an old grocery store.

“What’s going on?” he asked Gold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, sir,” Nathan replied.

Gold pulled Nathan into a chair and whispered,

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

“Sorry,” Nathan said.

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?” Dukes asked.

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

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

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

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

Minutes later, every enemy soldier was down.

Dukes’ men all turned to look at Nathan.

“What?” Nathan asked worried.

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

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

“What’s the name of the universe?”

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

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

Nathan hesitated then said,

“Starfall.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s him,” she said.

The man took a good look at Nathan then said,

“Nah. That’s not him.”

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

“What’s going on?” Nathan asked.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

The Train: Episode 72

As the gunman ran through the library, Nicole kept after him. She couldn’t get a good look at his face with the cap pulled down over his head. Like a gazelle, he bounded down the stairs taking three and four at a time. When he hit the first floor lobby, he ran through a large group of people without slowing then exploded through the front doors, flipping forward over the stairs and hitting the pavement in a full sprint. Nicole kept him in her sights, knowing he’d tire before she. Across an open courtyard and around a fountain the gunman ran without slowing. Nicole easily cleared the fountain and was just gaining ground when the killer entered a tunnel that ran from the courtyard to the street. The well-lit tunnel was empty except for a woman walking with her small child.

Nicole pushed herself, picking up speed. If the killer held the woman at gunpoint, Nicole knew she’d have him. She was a crack shot and never missed her target. Suddenly, the killer headed towards the mother, unaware of the danger, and dipped, scooping up the child in his arm and snatching her away.

“No! Stop!” the terrified mother screamed as the killer fled with the startled child.

Concerned for the child’s life, Nicole raised her pistol, aiming for the man’s shoulder.

But when he reached the street busy with traffic, he leapt over a parked car and dropped the crying child in the middle of the street. Nicole quickly cleared the parked car and grabbed the child before she could be hit.

After returning the child to her mother, Nicole patrolled the area, walking back and forth as she searched for the killer.

All of a sudden, she spotted him standing on the roof of a four-story apartment building across the street, shaded by the rays of the dying sun.

Nicole squinted against the light to get a better look.

“Same height, same clothes. That’s got to be him. But how did he get up there so fast?”

The killer stood perfectly still as he watched Nicole for a moment before turning and disappearing.

“Something’s not right. I wounded him. How is he moving so fast,” she wondered.

“Thank you,” the mother said as she came up to Nicole. “Who was that horrible man?”

“I wish I knew,” Nicole replied, her eyes scanning the area.

 

*          *          *

 

Out of time and nowhere to hide, Michael set his jaw and turned to face whoever was coming through the door. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but this crazy plan of his to distract the cops had gone south quicker than he expected.

Light poured into the room and Michael saw the silhouette of a man standing in the doorway.

“Idiot!” muttered Elliot Tombs.

“You?” Michael asked.

“Yes, you imbecile. Hurry and get out here!” Elliot ordered.

Michael quickly slipped through the door into the train station.

“Thank you,” Michael said.

“Just doing my job,” Elliot replied as he closed the door.

“What now?” Michael asked.

“Well first,” Elliot said, “this.”

He reached out and smacked Michael upside the head.

“You never leave your team!” Elliot barked.

“But I needed to draw the cops away,” Michael defended.

“Noble causes aside, you can’t protect someone if you’re nowhere near them. Leaving them in a safe location instead of dragging them into a firefight may feel like the right thing, but when things go bad as they usually do, you’ll be nowhere near them to help. Now because I’m busy helping you, there’s no one watching out for the others,” Elliot argued.

“Nicole is with them. She’s more terrifying than anyone I’ve seen so far,” Michael joked.

“Enough!” Elliot snapped. “You’re not taking this seriously, and it’s going to cost you dearly.”

“Wait,” Michael said. “What do you mean?”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Dr. Ricer hurried over to the woman and checked her pulse. When he saw that she was dead, there was nothing he could do for her, he awoke Lucy and headed for the nearest phone.

“This doesn’t fit. No one was supposed to die here,” he thought.

Once he found a phone, he told Lucy to stay beside him while he made a call. He dialed 911 and waited for an operator to answer. When she came on the line, he told her about the woman’s body, what had happened, and explained that he only got a glimpse of the man as he fled the library. She told him to wait on the line, but he quickly ended the call.

Looking down at his side, he saw that Lucy was no longer there. He spun around and sighed in relief when he saw that she had crawled onto a nearby couch and fallen asleep again.

As he watched her sleeping, he couldn’t stop worrying about her.

“I wish I had just called your parents to pick you up. This is no place for a child,” he said softly.

At that moment, Ricer felt someone move up behind him. But before he could turn around, a man’s voice said,

“I could not agree more. This is a dangerous place for one so young.”

Ricer froze. He had heard this same voice in the bookshelves before the woman was shot.

“You know it’s quite noble calling the police like that,” the man said. “Shame they’ll be too late.”

Turning slowly, Ricer saw the man’s face, his eyes staring deeply into Ricer’s.

“You!” Ricer said in surprise.

“So that’s who you are,” the killer laughed. “You’re the smart one.”

“How did you—” Ricer began.

“Get here?” the man interrupted.

“Even an alpha wolf needs a pack,” the killer smirked.

Looking back toward the aisle where the dead woman lay, the man said,

“Sorry about her, but you know how rambunctious kids can get.”

As Ricer backed up to shield Lucy he said “If you hurt her,”

“Don’t worry. I’m not here for her,” the killer smiled as he reached out for Dr. Ricer.

 

Published in: on May 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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