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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Unsettled: Episode 6

The building that housed the Coldwater Chronicle had once been a proscenium theater whose doors were closed after the leading lady died on the opening night of the theater’s first major production. It sat empty for years until it was sold and converted into an office building. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the Chronicle, the city’s largest newspaper, had leased the entire upper floor for his staff’s offices. Seated in the largest of the suites was Dale Tanner, the Chronicle’s chief editor. On his desk, papers lay in great stacks, spilling onto the floor, as he scribbled some notes to pass off to one of reporters in the morning. Tanner gave the best of himself to his mistress the Chronicle, and after two failed marriages, he had settled for meaningless affairs with more lovers than he could remember. In his 40 years at the Chronicle, the only thing that remained constant was his paper.

A light rain rolled down the windowpanes as Tanner removed his glasses, resting them on his notes, and stood to stretch his back muscles. He knew he spent too many hours hunched over his desk or staring at the computer screen, but the Chronicle was his baby. Turning to face the window, he watched as the drops splashed against the glass. He remembered when he took the job as editor. He was a handsome young man who could have landed a modeling contract. Now his reflection reminded him that he had more hair over his ears than on his head. Over the years, he had put on so many pounds that he started wearing loafers so he wouldn’t have to reach over his gut to tie his shoes. It had been a long day and was turning into an even longer night. Except for a murder downtown at the police station, the day had been quiet so he couldn’t complain.

His tie felt like a noose, so he loosened the knot and rubbed his temples. Spent and past ready to go home, he sighed,

“I’ll just finish the notes in the morning. I can’t think straight anymore.”

When he turned away from the window, he saw a stranger standing by the door with another man beside him.

“Can I help you?” Tanner asked.

“Yes. I do believe you can,” the man said.

Tanner had been in this business long enough to recognize a dangerous man.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“My name is Charles Heath, and I believe we work for the same gentleman,” Heath said walking into the room. “Councilman Parker sent me.”

Tanner knew where this was going and he had to stop it at once.

“Look, you can tell Parker that just because I helped him one time doesn’t mean he owns me. I only buried that story because his daughter was fresh out of rehab. I’m not burying anything else for him,” Tanner clarified.

“Oh something will be buried this night,” Heath said, “but it won’t be a story.”

In his right hand, sheathed in a black leather glove, Heath held an old claw hammer with a wooden handle. In his left hand, a nickel-plated revolver.

“You will die tonight. No way around that. Only question is, how would you like to die?” Heath asked.

“What?” Tanner said. “You’re insane! I’m calling the cops!”

As Tanner reached for his cell phone, Heath took two steps forward, closing the gap between them, and struck Tanner across the knee with the hammer.

Screaming in pain, Tanner grabbed his leg and fell to the floor.

“I will ask one more time before I choose for you,” Heath shouted over Tanner’s cries.

Holding up the hammer and revolver, he asked again, “How would you like to die? The hammer or the gun? The choice is really quite simple.”

Terrified and helpless, Tanner managed to answer, “The gun, I guess.”

Heath shrugged then handing the gun to the man behind him replied,

“Personally, I would have gone with the hammer.”

As Heath raised the hammer, Tanner instinctively lifted his hands in defense.

“This will hurt you more than me, but to each his own I guess,” Heath added.

Then with the coldness of a machine, he swung down with the hammer.

* * *

The rain was just beginning to slow as Mavis and Billy pulled up out front at the Coldwater Chronicle. Admiring the building’s decorative stonework, Mavis noticed that the lights seemed to have an ominous glow in the cold rain. As Kristina shut off her motorcycle, Mavis and Billy climbed out of the Jeep.

“This is the place,” she said. “Dale is a good guy. He kind of looks like a troll, but he’s a good man, always working late and coming in early. He practically lives here.”

“You think he’ll know anything about Parker?” Mavis said.

“If anyone does, he will,” Kristina assured her.

“Okay. Then let’s go talk to him,” Mavis said.

Suddenly Billy clamped his hand on Mavis’ arm and Lucas said,

“Wait. It’s not safe. Someone else is here.”

“What makes you say that?” Mavis asked.

Billy released her hand and Jack explained,

“That car up ahead matches the one we were chasing earlier. Based on the amount of water under the car versus on the street and the amount of rain coming down, I would estimate it’s been here for at least five to seven minutes.”

“Heath is here?” Kristina asked.

“It would appear so,” Jack said.

“Everyone stay by the car,” Lucas ordered.

“Wait a minute. You can’t go in there alone,” Mavis pleaded.

“We have to,” Lucas explained. “There are two more vehicles around the side of the building that have been here as long as the one carrying Heath.”

“So?” Kristina asked confused.

“He brought backup,” Dylan said.

“I’d guess eight to ten men, based on how many would fit comfortably in each car,” Jack estimated.

“And they’re probably armed, so you can’t go in alone! Let’s just call the police or at least Ray,” Mavis insisted.

“No, we have to go in now,” Dylan said, “and you’ve got to stay here. It’s not safe for you. Besides, Billy would be distracted.”

“But you can help,” Lucas pointed out.

“How?” Kristina asked before Mavis could protest.

“Wait five minutes then turn off the power. Then wait two minutes and turn the power back on. Then after one minute, turn the power back off and run. I’ll attend to the rest,” Lucas instructed.

When Mavis started to protest, Kristina grabbed her.

“Let’s go!” she said.

* * *

Rowan, one of Heath’s men, stood in the lobby of the Coldwater Chronicle. He and five others guarded the bottom floor while two more men secured upstairs. His job was simple. Watch the front doors. Suddenly he saw a man cross the street and head directly toward the building, his hands balled into fists.

“We’ve got company!” he warned.

The other five men entered the lobby, each armed with a pistol and machine gun with a mounted tactical light.

As the man drew closer, Rowan saw who it was. Mr. Heath had given orders to watch out for him.

“It’s that guy Mr. Heath released from prison,” he said, raising his weapon. “The boss wants him alive, but shoot to kill if necessary.”

A few seconds later, the lobby doors opened and Billy stepped inside.

“Mr. Brannon, Mr. Heath asked you to stay away until he calls for you. I will shoot you, if I have to.”

The look on Billy’s face made Rowan nervous. He took a deep breath to calm his rattled nerves.

“Please leave the building at once or we will open fire,” Rowan warned.

Without a word, Billy stood still, his eyes unblinking.

“Please leave now!” Rowan insisted.

Billy slowly tilted his head to one side, holding Rowan’s gaze.

Suddenly the lights went out, draping the lobby in darkness.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 78

“I’m not happy about being here, I can tell you that,” Michael said, growing increasingly uneasy.

“I wish I could say something that would reassure you, but unfortunately, I have nothing beyond what I’ve already told you,” Dr. Ricer said, keeping a tight hold on Lucy.

“There’s a killer here somewhere, like every other mission we’ve dealt with,” Nicole said, “but there is something else, something darker.”

“A malice that sits in the air and blows on the back of your neck,” Michael responded with a shiver.

“We’ve got to be alert, eyes and ears open,” Nicole warned. “Don’t trust anyone!”

“Why don’t we start by establishing our cover then gather some information about this place, who here might be a threat,” Michael suggested.

“Are we certain it’s just one person?” Ricer asked.

“It could be a team,” Nicole said.

“With such a high body count, it follows that there has to be more than one,” Ricer explained.

“Great! Multiple killers,” Michael sighed.

“You said that thirty-seven people were never found. So what if we aren’t dealing with a lone killer or a group but a cult?” Nicole asked.

Then thinking aloud, she added,

“It could still be led by one person, though, with a group of mindless followers.”

“So we have to smash the head of the serpent and the rest should fall,” Michael reasoned.

“That should be easy enough,” Nicole said.

“I agree, but separating him may prove difficult,” Ricer pointed out, “if his followers are willing to die for him.”

“We need to find an informant, someone who can show us around,” Nicole proposed.

“Look, Grandpa,” Lucy said, pointing toward the tree line.

A woman was struggling against two men who were dragging her into the woods. Her hair flew back and forth as she fought against their strength.

“We may have found one,” Michael said.

“Hurry! We have to help her!” Ricer insisted.

Michael ran ahead of the others, and when he was near the woman, he asked,

“What seems to be the problem here?”

He noticed that the two men were dressed in identical light brown cotton clothes, roughly cut.

“No problem, sir. Please return to the main building. We will soon start the grilling for supper, and there will be lively music and dancing in the moonlight for you and your spouse,” one of the men said, displaying a smile with joyless eyes as he tried to distract them. His attention shifted from Michael to Nicole.

“I am not his spouse!” Nicole corrected.

“Yeah, that wouldn’t work out for me,” Michael replied.

Michael could see panic in the woman’s eyes and a plea for help that countered the smooth assurances of the man’s claims.

“Well then might I suggest our singles’ night filled with music and dancing,” the man offered, keeping a tight grip on the woman.

“Now that does sound like fun, but I have a problem,” Michael said, lowering his bag to the ground and opening the flap.

“I just arrived with my friends here, and I can’t seem to locate my cabin. I was hoping you could point me in the right direction?”

“Of course, sir. What room were you assigned?” the man asked.

“Hold up. It’s in here somewhere. Where did I put. . .,” Michael said trailing off.

“He’s always losing stuff,” Nicole smiled as she played along.

After a few seconds of shuffling, Michael finally said,

“Here it is!”

Quickly he pulled out his shotgun and fired one round into each man, throwing them backwards.

Nicole flew at the two men, knocking them out before they could say anything.

Michael pulled some rope out of his bag and tossed a piece to Ricer.

“Quick, Doc. Let’s tie them up and get her to safety,” Michael ordered.

As they secured the two men with the ropes, Ricer noticed that there was no blood.

When he started to ask, Michael said, “Beanbag rounds. Doesn’t kill but it hurts like the devil.”

As Michael and Ricer dragged both men behind a nearby tool shed, Nicole comforted the woman.

Michael stacked one of the men on top the other then headed over to Nicole. When Ricer turned to follow, he glanced back toward the trees where the men had been dragging the woman. For a moment, he thought he saw a tall man wearing an old straw hat and overalls standing just inside the tree line. But when he looked back, the man was gone.

Dismissing it as his imagination, he hurried to Lucy and the others.

“Are you hurt?” Ricer asked the woman.

Holding tightly to Nicole’s arm, she took a deep breath to calm her nerves then let go. Once she smoothed the front of her plain cotton dress, the same color and cut as the clothes of the two men who had held her, she looked up and her eyes met Ricer’s.

“Thank you for rescuing me. My name is Serena, and I usually greet the new guests. I would have remembered you.”

“We just arrived,” Michael said, “and w—.”

“Why were those men trying to carry you off?” Nicole interrupted.

“Because they have been brainwashed,” the woman said with deep sadness.

“Brainwashed? By whom?” Ricer asked.

“Scott Morgan,” Serena said, contempt in her voice.

“Who’s that?” Michael asked.

“Scott Morgan used to work here at the resort. He was my friend, that is until he almost drowned in the river. Father Salvatore saved him, but since that moment, Scott believes he has been chosen, brought back to life to enlighten those who do not share his vision. He took the name Saint Suriel and declared himself a god. Because I refused to worship at his feet, I was to be removed. I know what he did, and I will not be silenced.”

“What did he do?” Nicole asked.

Serena looked at everyone then settled her gaze on Nicole.

“He killed our leader, our patriarch, Father Salvatore, and anyone who refuses to kneel before him is dragged off into the woods never to be seen again.”

“Why the woods? What’s in the woods?” Ricer asked.

“A monster. A demon that has taken the form of a man.”

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 5

It was getting late when Billy, Mavis, Ray, Kristina and Rory crowded into a booth at the all night diner Seaside Sunset. Rory grumbled in between every sip of his third cup of coffee as Billy polished off a hamburger and plateful of ketchup soaked fries.

“First he escapes the nut house then he breaks out of jail and steals a car,” Rory complained, ignoring Mavis’ glare.

“Technically, it was a truck,” Jack clarified.

“Somebody explain to me why we haven’t turned him in yet,” Rory asked.

“Because I will kill you if you try,” Mavis threatened.

“Easy, May,” Kristina said. “Why don’t you calm down, Rory, and have a slice of pie with that coffee?”

“What about we make a plan? Heath is still out there, and right now he seems focused on Billy,” Ray pointed out.

“Not interested in me yet,” Billy said before shoving a handful of fries into his mouth and washing it down with a swig of soda.

“Explain,” Ray asked.

“Back in the jail, Heath told Jack that he wants me and the others to try and stop him but not yet. Said first he wants to take care of things.”

“What things?” Ray asked.

“And what others?” Rory asked.

“Sorry,” Billy said. “The other personalities.”

“Oh them,” Rory said with a snort.

“He’s aware of them?” Kristina asked.

“It comes and goes. Right now the others aren’t in control. They sometimes go into a state of sleep, leaving Billy’s higher brain functions free. That’s why he acts clueless sometimes and other times he’s rational. It depends on how much space they’re using,” Mavis said. “That’s the way the doctor explained it.”

“Clueless is right,” Rory sneered.

“Please, Rory, you’re not helping,” Ray criticized.

“Billy,” Ray asked. “Where are the others right now?”

Billy stuck out his thumb, pointing over his right shoulder to an empty table and said,

“Over there discussing something.”

“What did you mean when you said Heath wants to take care of things first?” Kristina interrupted.

“Heath mentioned Councilman Parker and said that Parker worked for him,” Billy said.

“Councilman Parker has been under investigation recently for suspicion of corruption,” Kristina said. “I’m friends with the editor of the Coldwater Chronicle. I’m pretty sure I could get him to talk.”

“The councilman is certainly involved, but I believe his motives may be self-preservation rather than power, love, or money,” Billy said with a British accent.

Mavis removed her arm from around Billy’s shoulder and sighed,

“Hello, Jack.”

“Sorry, my dear,” Jack said. “Heath is working with or for Parker. Based on what we heard and recent public events, I believe Parker is trying to protect himself by getting rid of any loose ends.”

“That makes a lot of sense,” Kristina thought aloud.

“But why wait till the last minute and why hire someone like Heath? There has to be a bigger reason,” Ray said.

“There is, and I believe I know what that reason might be,” Jack said with a wink.

Jack paused for effect then said,

“Captain Bonkers.”

“The killer clown?” Rory asked. “Now I know you’re off your rocker. He’s dead.”

“No, he isn’t. The police killed an imposter, and Parker knows that. Bonkers is the reason Parker’s rushing to clean things up. He sat back and watched as Bradford King’s empire was cut down piece by piece and King was shot in his prison cell. Parker was afraid his small web of corruption would be dismantled like King’s was. I believe Heath is a cleaner, someone Parker hired to get rid of any hint of corruption,” Jack said.

“If that’s true, then why threaten to burn down the city?” Ray asked.

“Because much like when you’re using fire to clean up debris from your yard, if you are not careful, it can get away from you,” Jack explained.

“So we need to get to Parker before Heath can go too far,” Kristina said.

“That’s what I propose,” Jack said. “However, I think it best if we speak to your editor friend first. He may be able to provide us with a list of Parker’s known associates.”

“All right. Now we have a plan,” Ray said. “Rory and I will go pay a visit to Parker. Mavis, you and Billy go with Kristina to talk to the editor.”

“One problem,” Lucas chimed in.

Billy motioned to the parking lot as Lucas said,

“A black four-door town car has been parked out there since we got here. The two people inside haven’t moved. They’ve just been sitting there waiting.”

“They’re here for us?” Mavis asked.

“Most likely a warning,” Dylan said. “Someone like Charles Heath wouldn’t go through the trouble of releasing us just to turn around and kill us.”

“Unless he enjoys the chase,” Eddie replied.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lucas said. “You guys wait here. I’m going out to have a little talk with our friends.”

When Billy stood up, Rory stood as well.

“No chance, cowboy! I’m not letting you go out there alone.”

“Billy, please!” Mavis pleaded.

“Don’t worry, love. We’ll keep him safe,” Jack said as Billy left the diner with Rory.

“He’ll be okay. Just wait here a minute while I pay the tab,” Ray insisted.

“Hey! Billy took the saltshaker,” Kristina said.

 

*          *          *

 

The front door of the diner closed behind them as Billy and Rory stepped out into the parking lot. When they approached the town car, the two men inside climbed out.

Turning toward Billy, one of the men said,

“Mr. Heath wants you to stay out of this. He is not yet ready for your part—”

Before he could finish, Billy, his hand wrapped around the saltshaker, struck him across the face, knocking him to the pavement. Then he threw the shaker like a fast-pitch softball at the man standing by the passenger door, smashing his nose. Before the driver could recover from the blow, Billy pulled the pistol from his holster, struck him across the jaw, and then took aim at the passenger as he reached for his weapon.

Rory, making his way around the trunk, stopped and watched as Billy looked down the pistol sights at the passenger.

“Tell your boss I won’t stand on the sidelines while he commits murder,” Lucas ordered. “If he wants to play a game, he needs to understand that the game has already started.”

As the passenger cupped his bleeding nose, Eddie spoke up.

“If I were he, I’d just wait till your back was turned then shoot you. Who’s to say he’s not already planning his next move?”

“We have him cold,” said Dylan. “He’s too stupid to try anything.”

As the other personalities chimed in, the man on the ground shook his head and slowly reached for his back up pistol.

“Watch out!” Eddie yelled.

Before Rory could react, Billy, his eyes still trained on the passenger, switched the pistol to his left hand and shot the driver in the shoulder.

“Now go tell your boss what happened here,” Lucas said.

“But you may first go to a hospital. That wound doesn’t look good,” Victoria instructed.

Billy turned to Rory, ejected the pistol’s clip, and then threw the pistol into a nearby trash can.

“We should get back to the others,” Jack said.

After a moment, Billy shook his head and said,

“Wonder what they have for dessert.”

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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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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The Train: Episode 75

Bleeding from his broken nose, the glowering man hung upside down above the pavement as Michael quickly ran over the steps in his mind.

How to interrogate someone:

Step 1: Be calm, casual and in control.

Most people who are being questioned just want to leave, get back to their lives. Showing them you’re in charge leads them to believe that if they cooperate, you’ll let them go. But if you threaten them, they may become afraid and hold back. And if you’re quick to become angry, they may believe they can manipulate you.

Michael looked at Nicole and laid his hand on the pistol she was pointing at the injured man.

“Lower the gun,” he said.

“What?” Nicole asked in surprise.

Michael turned back to the man and assured him,

“We’re just here to talk. I have some questions I believe you can answer.”

Step 2: Create a bond of trust.

Should the subject see you as a threat or an obstacle, they will shift their thoughts into a defensive position. It is important that the subject sees you as a friend who is just doing a job and will help them if they help you. To create this impression, you must show them kindness, try to learn more about them, and converse with them on other unrelated subjects.

Michael reached into his bag and pulled out a tissue. Moving closer to the man, he gently dabbed at the blood on his face.

“Sorry about your nose. I was going for a surprise. I certainly didn’t meant to smash your face. I’m just looking for a man, your boss I assume.”

Michael paused then introduced himself.

“I’m Shawn Carver. What’s your name?”

The man became stone-faced.

When Nicole caught his eye, Michael moved back a few steps.

“This is not working,” Nicole whispered. “Let me try. I’ll make him talk.”

‘Torture may get you an answer but not necessarily the one you need,” Michael replied.

Nicole looked at the man’s face and said, “Not the way I do it.”

Step 3: Ask only 5 questions.

Avoid the temptation to lead your subject to the confession you want. This tactic reveals what you’re after, giving the subject an advantage. Instead stick to five types of questions: (1) closed questions requiring a yes or no answer, (2) open questions that require a full answer, (3) funnel questions that narrow down a topic to the answer you seek, and (5) descriptive questions that force the subject to think.

“You look like a James,” Michael said. “May I call you James?”

The man gave no response.

“Look. Like I said, I don’t want you. I want your boss. If you tell me where to find him, I’ll let you go. You do want to go, right?”

The man remained quiet.

“Your boss took a friend of mine. He’s a simple man with children and grandchildren. Help me rescue him. What if he were your grandfather? Wouldn’t you want to help him?”

The man’s face showed no reaction.

Step 4: Use tricks of the trade.

Sometimes the right questions and perfect environment aren’t enough. When this is the case, you must resort to dirty tricks. The subject may already be uncomfortable, especially if they are trying to get on your good side. When the interrogation starts to sour, first, become silent and stare at the subject as an angry father. The subject may divulge information just to break the silence.  Next, try using props. This trick is basic bluffing as you try to make the subject believe you have a key piece of evidence that will convict them. If effective, the subject will be frightened into confessing, hoping for mercy. Finally, feign prior knowledge. Let the subject believe you know more than you’re letting on. This technique will often scare the subject into confessing in order to get ahead of a conviction.

Michael knew nothing about the man and even less about the murderer. Without Ricer, he knew he was dead in the water. Nicole had no information either. Plus her only interest was to kill the injured man.

Step 5: Ignore what Hollywood says.

You have been lied to. Techniques like good cop bad cop don’t work, and using them risks derailing your interrogation before it even starts. Secondly, torture is only successful in getting a subject to confess anything in order to get the torture to stop. Fear of torture is a better motivator. Actual torture will get you an answer but not necessarily the one you want.

Michael was running out of ideas, and the time they might need to break the man was something they didn’t have. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Michael thought long and hard about where the murderer might go to hide out.

“My turn!” Nicole spat.

“Wait!” Michael exclaimed.

Just then the door to the roof opened and out stepped Roscoe.

“You need to hurry!” he insisted. “Elliot is in trouble!”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Keeping a firm grip on his weapon, Elliot did not move for fear that the maniacal killer might pull the string and put an end to Dr. Ricer. The stench of the decaying body in the room behind him nauseated Elliot, but the man leaning against the wall didn’t seem to mind. With a self-satisfied smirk, he watched Elliot, enjoying the game.

“Now put that pistol away. We’re all friends here, right?” the man laughed.

Elliot hesitated then slowly holstered his weapon.

“That’s better,” the man said. “Friends don’t shoot one another, now do they?”

“What do you want?” Elliot asked.

“I have already told you. I want to hear all about the Train.”

“What train?” Elliot asked.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’ m talking about. I know it exists. I’ve studied everything I can find about it since I was a small boy. How does it do it? Is it time travel or some other dimensional trick?” the killer asked.

Elliot started to throw out another response but the man kept talking.

“Did you know there are sightings of a mysterious group of people matching the descriptions of your team dating all the way back to the 1800’s? Is that where they met you?”

Before Elliot could answer, a thump downstairs drew the killer’s attention.

“Now I could call out,” the man said, “but if that’s one of your people, I would be giving away my position and where’s the fun in that?”

The killer motioned for Elliot to follow him into one of the rooms, and just before closing the door he said,

“Now be a good boy and don’t say a word or try anything. You’ll ruin all the fun if you do.”

Then he snickered and whispered,

“And your friends won’t be amused when they have to scrape the good doctor off the walls.”

Published in: on August 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm  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 74

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

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

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

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

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

“What is their room number?” Carver asked.

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

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

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

Agent Carver took the key then headed for the elevators.

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

 

*          *          *

 

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

“He’s an idiot,” Nicole replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

*          *          *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not here for you,” Elliot said.

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

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

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

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

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

“About what?” Elliot asked

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

 

*          *          *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But she’s not as nice as I am.”

Published in: on July 17, 2017 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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