The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 29

Martin Armstrong sat in his office nervously typing away on his keyboard, paying no attention to his fingers as they pounded the keys. He just needed something to keep his hands busy while he figured out what to do next. His relationship with Jessica Alexander had been a stupid mistake. Yeah, it was completely mutual. In fact, she had come onto him. But now she was talking to the cops saying he had taken advantage of her, claiming he was responsible for the deaths of Daniel Lincoln and River Hastings.

“That’s not possible!” Armstrong snapped as he suddenly struck his desk. “Lincoln was a little toad. Why waste my time killing him? And Hastings? Hasting was a dear friend of mine. No way would I kill him. Besides, I had far too much to gain from the position he was in. Killing him would only hurt me financially.”

Someone knocked on his door.

“Not now!” he yelled.

“I need to talk to my lawyer,” Armstrong told himself.

Turning the chair around, he snatched up his cell phone off the desk and punched in the number.

After three rings, voice mail picked up.

“Pierce, this is Martin Armstrong again. I need your help. Where in the world are you? Call me back as soon as you get this. I don’t pay you to sit on the beach and seduce interns.”

When Armstrong ended the call, he thought about how good it would feel to slam down a phone handset a couple of times.

The knock at the door sounded again.

“I said not now!” Armstrong yelled.

“Jessica probably just wants money,” Armstrong said. “Well fine. When Pierce calls me back, I’ll just tell him to pay her off. This whole thing is ridiculous!”

When the knock came again, Armstrong stormed over to the door and jerked it open shouting,

“What’s your problem? I said not now!”

Standing just outside the door was a large man with short-cropped hair clutching a large manila envelope. He shoved the package into Armstrong’s arms and turned to leave.

When Armstrong stepped out of his office to watch where the man was headed, he saw his secretary Charlotte lying dead on the floor, a bullet hole in her chest. He froze in horror then looked up to see that the large man had stopped and turned toward Charlotte’s body. He seemed to be waiting for something.

“Waiting for what?” Armstrong wondered.

Inside the envelope, a phone began to ring. Armstrong tore open the package and jammed his hand inside. As his fingers fumbled for the cell phone, they brushed against something metal. Once he pulled the phone free, he held it up. The caller ID read Unknown.

Lifting the phone to his ear, Armstrong answered,

“Hello?”

“Martin Armstong.”

The voice on the other end was scrambled, making recognition impossible.

“Y-y-es?” Armstrong stammered, glancing down at Charlotte’s dead body, its blood soaking into the thick carpet.

“The police are on their way to arrest you, Martin,” the voice said.

“For what? I didn’t do anything wrong,” Armstrong defended.

“That doesn’t matter now, does it?” the voice said. “Daniel Lincoln is dead, River Hastings is dead, and soon Jessica Alexander will be dead, a victim of your terrible vengeance. All that’s left to complete our tale is the fall of the villain.”

“What villain?” Armstrong asked.

“You, Martin. Don’t you see? All this is for you,” the voice said.

“Are you insane? Why me?” Armstrong asked.

“In time, Martin, in time. Right now there are only two choices left for you. You can leave the building in handcuffs or a body bag. Choice is yours. I know what I would prefer, but if you choose handcuffs, you must understand that anything less than a full confession will result in a very uncomfortable time for you in jail. If you do survive the ordeal, I doubt you will choose to remain among the living afterwards,” the voice said.

“Who is this? You have nothing on me. I have a great lawyer, pal, and he will—”

“Sue me?” the voice interrupted. “Ruin my reputation? There is nothing he can do that you haven’t already done. And before you ask that inevitable, cliché question ‘why you’, I will tell you the answer. Because you are a bully. You hide behind the law and manipulate it for your own gain. But now you’re done, toppled. Okay so maybe I had to break a few rules to do it, but that was necessary.”

Armstrong could hear the man on the other end of the call stop to catch his breath. He seemed to be trying to calm himself.

“There is no one who can help you. In case you were stupid enough to reach into the envelope instead of looking inside or emptying it out first, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. You have left your fingerprints all over the very pistol that shot your precious Charlotte and your favorite bloodsucker Pierce. There’s no one left for you, Martin. Do yourself and the rest of us a favor. Take yourself out of this world!”

Suddenly the line went dead. Armstrong felt clammy and nauseous. He slowly looked up and saw that the man who had been watching him had disappeared.

“What should I do? What should I do?” Armstrong cried out in his mind.

He fled down the hall toward the elevator, but when he turned the corner, he saw two men dressed in identical suits standing by the elevator door. He stopped himself and slowly backed down the hallway until he was out of sight.

Retreating to his office, Armstrong paused at Charlotte’s desk to think what to do next.

“I’m ten stories up, but taking the stairs down won’t be so bad. I can do that,” Armstrong assured himself.

He ran for the stairwell and breathed a sign of relief when he saw that the stairwell door was unguarded. But when he pulled it open, he froze. A guard was positioned by the stairs going down. As he closed the stairwell door and turned back toward his office, he saw two men standing in the hallway. The only escape now was the roof, just above the floor of his office. Aware that he was being herded, he pulled open the stairwell door and made his way up the stairs to the roof.

When he reached the door to the roof, he opened it and slowly stepped out, the wind whipping his hair.

Walking to the edge, he looked over and felt his legs go weak. Police cars filled the parking lot below. Armstrong reached into the envelope and pulled out the pistol. Five shots left.

 

*          *          *

 

Nathan pulled up outside Pearson Plasma’s office building. Police cars were out in full force. As he turned off the bike’s ignition key, Elizabeth touched down next to him.

“You think Martin Armstrong is being set up?” Elizabeth asked.

“Someone is going to a lot of trouble to make sure Armstrong and Jericho are killed, or at the very least ruined,” Nathan said.

Nathan walked past the cops as they cleared out employees and gawkers. When he reached Detective Shields, he saw that she was busy giving orders to a group of officers.

“Detective Shields,” Nathan called.

“In a minute,” she replied.

“It’s important,” Elizabeth pushed.

“She said not now,” Detective French snapped, moving them back out of the way. “Interrupt again and I’ll arrest you both for obstruction.”

As French walked away, Elizabeth returned,

“Try it.”

“That won’t do any good,” Nathan said.

“Who cares? He deserves it,” Elizabeth sneered.

Nathan closed his eyes, trying to focus on Martin Armstong. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and said,

“We need to get to the roof.”

“All right, brace yourself,” Elizabeth advised.

“Wait!” Nathan protested. But before he could resist, Elizabeth had wrapped her arms around his waist, spread her wings and shot into the air so quickly that Nathan felt his stomach plunge.

In only a moment, Elizabeth had covered the distance to the roof and released Nathan.

Nathan looked at her and asked,

“Why is it I needed to save you from falling off the Crescent Bay Queen?”

“Because my wings were bound. Shut up,” Elizabeth said.

When Nathan and Elizabeth took a step toward Armstrong, he warned,

“D-d-don’t try to stop me!”

“Armstrong, look. I know you’re being set up,” Nathan said.

“Can you prove it?” Armstrong asked.

“Not yet, but I will. You’ve got to give me time,” Nathan pleaded.

“There’s no time left. He said either I leave here in cuffs or in a body bag. I can’t go to jail. I’ve seen TV. I know what happens to guys in prison. I won’t survive!”

“You don’t have to go through that,” Nathan said. “Give me time, and I’ll find the one responsible for this.”

“No, no. It’s too late. There’s no way out now,” Armstrong said.

Nathan saw two possible endings to this scenario. Neither were good. His only chance to stop this was to get through to Armstrong.

“Please, Armstrong, I need you to trust me.”

Armstrong looked at Elizabeth, and after a moment he realized something, something that gave him hope.

“You have wings. You could fly me out of here to safety.”

“I’ll fly you to the police department, but I won’t help you escape the police,” Elizabeth declared.

Suddenly Armstrong pointed the gun at Elizabeth and said,

“I’m sorry about this, but I’m desperate, and there’s no time to ask nicely.”

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Unsettled: Episode 10

Muttering to himself, Billy paced the floor, his shoes clicking on polished wood. Ray sat at Kristina’s laptop searching for a name to go with the face he had seen in the picture at Councilman Parker’s office.

“Do you need the little boys’ room or something?” Rory complained to Billy. “Stop that infernal pacing!”

“Just standing around here while some madman tears Coldwater apart is insane and cowardly!” Lucas snapped.

Billy straightened up and looked off in a different direction as Jack spoke.

“We cannot just go running off blindly. We need to know exactly who we are after. Wisdom dictates ‘Knowledge proceeds victory; ignorance—”

In mid-sentence, Billy’s head snapped to the right. With his right index finger pointing to no one, Lucas finished,

“Proceeds defeat. I know, I know. Don’t quote that tired old line to me again.”

“We must be patient,” Victoria pointed out as Billy’s demeanor softened.

“You know, I think he missed his calling,” Rory said. “With this routine of his, he should be an entertainer. He’d be the top act in the ward.”

When Mavis, tired and nervous, stormed at Rory, Kristina stepped in between them.

“Ray’s trying to find out who the fourth guy is in the picture, okay? Cool it,” she insisted. Then turning to Ray, she asked,

“You said the other three were Councilman Parker, the police commissioner and the mayor, right?”

“Uh huh,” Ray mumbled, keeping his eyes on the computer screen.

“Well then why don’t we go and warn the ones we know?” Kristina asked.

“May not be a smart move. If the mayor and the commish are loyal to Parker, all we’d be doing is letting them in on what we know,” Eddie pointed out.

“On the other hand, if Heath is killing everyone connected to Parker and they’re not in on it, they may be willing to turn on Parker to save themselves.”

“It would be tricky getting either of them to turn, but since the mayor has a public image to protect, we might have a better chance with him,” Dylan suggested.

“Then let’s go talk to the mayor,” Kristina suggested.

“Count me out. I need to stay here and find out who the fourth guy is,” Ray replied. “You two go.”

“All right,” Kristina said as she turned to Mavis. When she saw that Mavis had fallen asleep on one of the couches, she stopped.

“She needs her rest. I’ll stay here with her,” Rory said. “You know that when she wakes up, she’s going to be upset you left her behind.”

“I can deal with it.” After grabbing her jacket, Kristina looked at Billy and said,. “Come on,. . .all of you.”

Kristina led Billy through the house to the garage and opened the door. After she grabbed a set of keys off the wall, she passed her bike and headed deeper into the garage.

“We’re not taking your bike?” Billy asked.

“Nah. It’s not really two person friendly. Besides, we need something a little less conspicuous,” Kristina said.

She walked past several cars before stopping at a 1950 blue panel van, its paint scared and peeling. On the side written in white just above a pale yellow stripe were the faded letters,

‘he Amazin Oswal Zamora.’

“What’s it say?” Billy asked.

“The Amazing Oswald Zamora,” Kristina explained.

“This was my stepfather’s van that he used in all his performances. I never had a reason to drive it, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it,” Kristina said.

“Why didn’t you fix it up?” Victoria asked.

“It looked like this when he married my mother. She loved its charm, so I left it just the way it was,” Kristina said brushing away a tear.

Turning to Billy, she asked,

“Does one of you know how to drive?”

“We have the knowledge and a basic understanding of how the process works,” Jack replied.

“Groovy,” Kristina returned.

The musty scent of gin and sugar filled the air as Billy opened the door and climbed inside. Kristina slid into the passenger seat and buckled up. When Billy put the key in the ignition and turned it over, it wouldn’t start.

“Hold on,” Kristina said.

She climbed out and walked around to the hood. Sliding her hand across its surface, she stopped when she felt a small dent. Then she raised her hand and whacked the dent as hard as she could. After a moment, something under the hood thumped and she said,

“Try it now.”

Billy turned the key again and the engine roared to life like a confident beast that had been asleep for too long.

Kristina laughed as she climbed back into the van.

“Oswald taught me that. This old van is full of little tricks.”

As Kristina used the remote to open the garage door, Billy backed out the van and headed for the mayor’s office.

 

*          *          *

 

 

Councilman Parker watched in horror at the blackened sky over Coldwater’s burning buildings. The day had just started, and already it had been marred by tragedy.

Staring out over the city Charles Heath said, “You know, there’s nothing better than watching the sun rise next to a warm fire.”

“Are you insane?” Parker snapped. “You were supposed to protect me from corruption charges, not burn down the city and murder people.”

Heath turned and walked toward Parker.

“You say insane, I say free rein. May cause you pain, but I can’t abstain. May hurt your brain, but there’s something to gain.”

When the door behind Parker suddenly opened, Heath looked up as the smile disappeared from his face.

“You interrupted me,” he scolded.

“My apologies, sir,” a man said with an Australian accent.

“Never mind. I couldn’t think of anything else to rhyme with gain anyway.”

“Blood stain,” the Australian man suggested.

Heath considered this and said,

“That could work.”

“Why am I tied up?” Parker asked.

“Why I couldn’t leave you out. You’re part of the plan,” Heath said, patting the chair. “I need you right here until it’s your turn on stage,”

“This was not part of the plan. None of this,” Parker protested.

“I know, but I tossed out your plan when I met him,” Heath said.

“Who?” Parker asked.

“That enigma wrapped in a puzzle, deep fried and smothered in a riddle,” Heath said jubilantly.

“Who are you talking about?” Parker pressed.

“The man who stopped my assassin,” Heath answered. “Come to think of it, I’ve never been stopped before. Is this what admiration feels like? Or is it just indigestion.”

“What was wrong with my plan? It was perfect,” Parker argued.

“Oh it was hardly perfect. When I met him, I saw a real challenge. A good game needs a clean slate, a fresh board on which to set the pieces.”

“So you started murdering people and burning down buildings? My buildings?” Parker barked.

“Just for starters,” Heath snickered. Then looking at someone behind Parker, he said,

“You two go and get the rest of our guests. It’s almost time for the show to start. Oh this is so exciting, isn’t it?”

“Right, boss,” the Australian said then added, “Come on, Gord.”

After they closed the door behind them, Heath looked down at Parker and said,

“Oh I really wish I hadn’t said the show is about to start. That expression is such a cliché.”

“You know you’re demented, don’t you?” Parker remarked.

“That term is acceptable,” Heath replied then smiled as he turned away to stare out over the city.

*          *          *

 

“What happened?” Detective Marquez yelled.

“Looks like five separate buildings were rigged to explode,” Officer Lawton answered. “Emergency services are still putting out the fires. We got dead and injured, no count yet on the number.”

Marquez slowly ran her fingers through her hair. After being up all night in the rain and mist, she longed for a hot shower and a few hours of sleep.

“Call in backup, and secure the scene,” she ordered.

Officer Lawton nodded and hurried away.

“What is going on?” Marquez asked herself.

“No idea. I’m still new here,” an officer answered as he walked up behind her.

Standing the allowable minimum height at 5 feet 7 inches, Detective Miles Stavros had recently transferred in from Beech Bay Homicide on the west coast. Rumor was he made up for his short stature with both charm and a volcanic temper.

“What brings you out tonight, Detective,” Marquez asked.

“I transferred to Coldwater Homicide a week ago, and already this city is trying to eat itself,” Stavros said.

“Beech Bay may be where college kids go for spring break, but Coldwater is where the rich play footsie with the homicidal,” Marquez responded.

“That’s exactly why I transferred here,” Stavros said. “Got tired of chasing drug addicts and oiled up gym jockeys. I wanted something more, a challenge.”

“Well you picked a great time to join us. Apparently a new breed of madman has burrowed under the city’s skin,” Marquez said.

“Maybe what we need is our own madman to root him out,” Stavros suggested.

Before Marquez could respond, her phone went off. Lifting it out of her coat pocket, she answered,

“Detective Marquez.”

After a few minutes, she ended the call.

“Got to go. That was the mayor. He needs to speak with me now.”

“Go. I’ll keep things running here,” Stavros said.

“Thanks,” Marquez answered as she turned and headed for her car.

“What could be so important he would call me to his office now, in the middle of this chaos?” Marquez asked herself as she got in her car and started the engine.

Published in: on April 17, 2018 at 1:27 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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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 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 64

The average human mind can process 5,000 pictures in the five seconds it takes to inhale. For someone with Michael’s training and skill, five seconds was a long time. While the three men circled around the car to confront Michael, their boss stayed in the back seat watching what he figured would be a quick fight. Michael’s mind moved with lightning speed as within seconds he recalled years of training.

How to defend against multiple attackers:

Step 1: Focus on the leader.

Packs are led by an alpha. Take out the alpha and most of the pack will retreat.

This wasn’t an option for Michael since the leader was staying out of this fight.

Step 2: Know your surroundings.

The best way to lose a fight is to rush in blindly. Take note of obstacles, blind alleys. At all times, keep an eye on the position of your subjects as well as weapons or objects that might be used to protect you.

The driver of the car swung out at Michael with a sluggish obvious outside punch. Michael easily ducked the punch, struck the man in the gut then came up with an uppercut that knocked him backwards.

Step 3: Keep moving and stay on the offensive.

Remaining in one place allows your opponent to regroup, plan and eventually surround

you. Constant or aggressive movement will keep your opponent off balance, forcing him to make rash decisions.

Michael moved quickly onto the next man coming around from behind the car, his pistol raised. Michael stepped in, punched the man in the nose, causing his eyes to water, then twisted the gun from his hand and struck him across the jaw with the butt.

Step 4: Plan each impact to do the most damage.

Most fights are not about honor but about destruction or protection. Never flail

wildly. Be certain your opponent feels every strike, and fight dirty if you have to. If your opponent doesn’t fight with honor, you shouldn’t either.

With two men down, Michael took a couple of steps toward the last guy as he passed across the front of the sedan. The first step put his right foot on the running board. A second step, and his left foot was on the driver’s side fender. Before the thug could raise his pistol, Michael brought his fist down hard and struck him across the temple, knocking him unconscious to the pavement.

With the three men out of the fight, Michael collected all their weapons, tucked one inside his coat, and climbed into the back seat of the sedan with the boss.

“What do you want?” the little man sneered.

“Just a talk,” Michael said.

“Not interested,” the man spat.

“All right then I’ll talk and you listen. I want a promise from you that you’ll leave Cynthia Cooper alone, at least for the foreseeable future,” Michael said.

When the man started to speak, Michael raised a hand saying,

“Before you turn me down, let’s be clear on one thing. It would be easy to kill you right now. But since I’d rather not do that, how about we play a little game. I call it the “Do what I say or I’ll shoot off parts of your body till you do” game.”

The little man’s face showed a mixture of fear, surprise, and anger.

“Won’t this be fun?” Michael said with a grin.

* * *

Nicole crept through the narrow dark hallways of Cynthia Cooper’s apartment house. She could hear the rhythm of the rain beating against the windowpanes. The wooden floors creaked under her feet, and the air was filled with the sound of crying babies and television sets on high volume. A door opened a crack and a small child peered out. The hopeless expression on the small face stirred Nicole’s heart. When the child caught sight of Nicole, she quickly shut the door.

Once Nicole reached the stairwell, she pulled the door open and was hit with the stench of ripe garbage and moldy drywall. As she climbed the stairs, she couldn’t get the child out of her mind. From the moment she had seen Lucy, she knew she had a weakness for children. It was always her fear that one day a child would be her downfall. At one time, she had had a little sister whom she loved with her whole heart. They spent hours together reading books and imagining. But all that ended when she lost her to the first man she killed. After that, killing was easy for her. Stalking her prey became second nature. But she always kept a special place in her heart for children.

Reaching Cynthia Cooper’s floor, Nicole turned the corner and saw a young boy standing at the far end of the hall. A single lightbulb flickered overhead. She watched the small boy for a moment before stepping forward.

“Hello,” she quietly called.

The child gave no response.

“Kenneth?” she said.

At the sound of his name, the child took a step backwards, disappearing into the apartment.

Wait,” Nicole called.

Nicole hurried down the hall after the boy, worried he would fall into the hands of Morgan Lindsey. When she reached the door, she stepped into the apartment.

“Kenneth?” she called.

Cautiously she entered the kitchen but found it empty. Just to the left was what looked like the dining room. Nicole saw Kenneth seated at the table busy with crayons and paper as he worked on his picture.

“What are you drawing there, Kenneth?” Nicole asked. “Where’s your mother?”

“Mother is busy preparing for a visitor,” Kenneth said woodenly.

“A visitor?” Nicole asked.

“Mother has lots of visitors over when she isn’t at the club,” he said without looking up.

Nicole was beginning to form an image of the woman they had been trying to save.

“I wait on the fire escape when she has someone over, but it’s raining, so she put me out in the hall. The McPherson’s are out of town till Monday, so I used the key they gave me to sleep here tonight,” he explained.

“So this is the McPherson’s apartment,” Nicole said, moving closer to the child.

“Are you safe here?” she asked.

Kenneth nodded then looked up from his picture.

“Hi, Officer Lindsey.”

Nicole spun around to see Lindsey standing in the doorway pointing a gun at her.

“I don’t know who you are or why you’re here, but I’m running out of options. If you want to live, you’ll do exactly what I say.”

Published in: on September 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 63

Michael and Nicole raced back to the club only to find it closing for the night. Hurrying up to the front door, Michael tried to slip inside.

“We need to get back in there,” he told the manager.

“Sorry, buddy, we’re closed,” the man said, turning the key in the lock.

“But my friend is still in there,” Michael tried to explain.

“Place is empty, pal. I’m the last one out,” the man insisted, pushing past Michael.

“Where could Ricer have gone?” Nicole asked.

“I don’t know. He was supposed to keep an eye on Cynthia Cooper. She’s most likely headed home, so maybe the doc is tailing her,” Michael suggested.

Quickly they headed over to Cynthia’s place, hoping they were not too late.

Just down the street from her apartment, they stopped and ducked behind a car when they saw a black sedan pull up in front of her building. Four men got out followed by Morgan Lindsey.

“Hey, Michael. Hey, Nicole,” they suddenly heard Lucy say behind them.

Straightening up, they turned around.

“Hey, Lucy,” they both said.

When their eyes met Dr. Ricer’s he mouthed,

“They’re here to kill her.”

“You mean tonight?” Michael asked. “I thought we had another day.”

“The timeline has been in a complete shambles since Armstrong’s death,” Ricer explained.

“Sounds like someone can’t make up his mind,” Michael said rolling his eyes.

“It’s not my fault,” Ricer defended.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” Michael said.

Michael looked toward the building and grew silent, lost in thought.

“Michael,” Nicole called.

Turning back to Nicole and Ricer, he said,

“Nicole, go around back and check on Cynthia to make sure she’s okay. I’ll keep the crowd out front busy while you move into position. Doc, are there any changes I need to know about?”

Ricer shook his head no.

“Good. You two stay here,” Michael said, pointing to Ricer and Lucy.

Ricer took Lucy’s hand and moved her to safety, while Nicole headed towards the back of the building.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as the dark, black clouds overhead slowly began to empty themselves of rain.

“Oh great. A showdown in the rain. How film noir are we going to get?” Michael asked, walking toward the men lingering outside Cynthia Cooper’s apartment building.

As Ricer watched in surprise, Morgan Lindsey left the group and went inside.

“Lindsey is the killer now?” he asked. “How many times will we have to prevent her death?”

“Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results,” Elliot said as he approached.

Ricer turned and said,

“Herman Melville.”

Elliot scratched Samuel behind his ears then waited as the dog settled down at his feet.

“What is happening? Why is it so difficult to save one woman’s life? It seems as though no matter what we try, she still dies, just in another way,” Ricer asked.

With the hint of a smile, Elliot answered.

“Since the first man took his first steps, time has been composed of moments linked to critical junctures, moments in time that define how the next stretch will go. This moment in time, Dr. Ricer, is critical. What happens tonight decides what happens next.”

“What if we fail?” Ricer asked.

Elliot paused then said,

“It’s too late to change things now, so I will tell you this. As far as I can see, there are three possible outcomes. One will leave the next stretch of time quiet and peaceful. Two will cost several lives,” Elliot said.

When Elliot didn’t continue, Ricer asked,

“And the third?”

With a deep sigh, Elliot said,

“The third will take the lives of possibly hundreds.”

“Which outcome are we headed for now?” Ricer asked.

“Too soon to tell,” Elliot replied. “All we can do is wait and watch.”

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Michael casually walked over to the four men who were shuffling back into the car.

Once they were seated inside, he reached out and tapped on the glass. The driver looked up at him then rolled down the window.

“Beat it, Mac, we’re busy,” the driver barked.

“I just need to talk to your boss,” Michael explained, leaning down.

The man reached into his jacket, pulled out a revolver, and shoved it into Michael’s face.

“Like I said, beat it!”

Michael stepped back and swiftly pulled the gun from the man’s hand.

As the angry driver flung open the car door and got out, Michael smoothly disassembled the revolver.

“Give me that back now!” he demanded.

“Which part?” Michael asked, opening his hands to reveal the weapon pieces.

Then he flung the broken weapon over his shoulder, scattering it on the street behind him.

As a taxi flew by, two of the men climbed out of the car and slipped weapons from their coats.

“You’re going to pay for that,” the driver protested.

Michael smiled and said,

“Pay close attention, now. Things are going to happen fast.”

Published in: on August 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One journey ends as another begins

“The Exile” will be ending this year, and in January, 2016, a new story “The Prophet of Starfall” will begin. I decided that a little audience participation with this story might be fun. Starting December 1, on the The Masthead Blog or the Facebook page (The Masthead) post a name you’d like to see in the story. When I’m writing the next episode, I will peruse the names and randomly select however many I need. Thank you to those of you who have been with me from the beginning, and thanks to all who have come on board along the way. I hope you are enjoying the stories! Let’s hope I don’t run out of ideas.

 

The Exile: Episode 64

As we rode the elevator down, Achilles whistled along to the bland music playing over the speakers.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“To the ball, Cinderella,” Achilles smiled.

“What?” I exclaimed.

“Now I know what you’re thinking,” Achilles said, “but don’t worry. You may not be suitably dressed for a ball, but fear not. Once they see you, everything will hit the fan. I don’t think they’ll much care what you’re wearing.”

“Wait a minute! When they see me, they’re going to start shooting.”

“Well yea,” Achilles said with a laugh just as the elevator reached the ground floor and the doors opened.

“I’m counting on that,” Achilles said.

“But—,” I protested.

“Ah. Here’s your date,” Achilles interrupted.

When I turned, there stood Delilah wearing a shimmering low cut red dress that clung to her like a second skin.

As she floated up to me and took my arm in hers, my mind went blank and I could no longer form words.

“Delilah, you remember the Exile?” Achilles asked.

Her eyes sparkling, she purred with a thick Dutch accent, “Hallo.”

“Don’t worry, mate. She’ll keep you safe,” Achilles assured me.

At that moment, a burly tank of a man with a thick bushy black beard lumbered over to us and said,

“The harpy’s almost made her entrance. Is the kid ready?”

Achilles looked at me, lost in Delilah’s eyes, and said,

“Hey kid?”

Bewitched by her beauty, I stood mute.

“Hey, turn that off for a minute, will you? You’ve stupefied the boy.”

“Het spijt me,” Delilah said as she waved her hand in my face.

As she smiled, she pointed to Achilles.

The spell broken, I shook my head then noticed a very large man scowling at me.

“This is Blackbeard. Blackbeard, the Exile.”

“I hope you’re everything we’ve been promised, boy. We’re betting on you,” he said in a gruff voice.

“Well I. . .Wait what?” I asked.

“Just go on in and don’t worry. Delilah will keep you safe,” Achilles smiled.

Looking past me to Delilah, he said,

“Gaan.”

She nodded then escorted me toward the ballroom.

“Fifty bucks says we get that boy killed,” Blackbeard said.

“Nonsense,” Achilles replied.

“A hundred,” Blackbeard amended.

“Deal,” Achilles replied.

Published in: on August 19, 2015 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Exile: Episode 62

I watched in stunned silence as the woman disappeared into the hallway.

Everything I had gone through, everything I had done, was ending in what might be the worst possible way—watching my friends die.

I kept quiet and studied the two guards in the room with me. Although each man carried a holstered gun, I knew I had to try to get away and warn my friends. How could I just sit in this chair and wait for their execution? The two men were under strict orders to keep an eye on me until she returned, which might not be long. I figured I didn’t have much time.

I decided to try and talk to them, maybe negotiate. What could it hurt?

“What now?” I asked.

“Shut up!” one of the guards barked.

As the other guard walked toward a nearby door, he said,

“Hey. Watch him. I gotta’ go to the john.”

The first guard nodded and the other man opened the door, stepped into a bathroom, and closed the door behind him.

“May I go too?” I tried.

“I said to shut up!” the guard barked.

Negotiating with these two was not going to be easy. So far, I hadn’t been able to say much of anything. Trying not to panic as my time ran out, I looked around for something to serve as a weapon. Just then there was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” the guard in the room yelled.

“Open the door! It’s important!” came the answer from the hallway.

“Who is it?” the guard yelled again.

“Now!” the voice barked.

The guard paused for a moment then walked over to the door and opened it.

Standing in the hallway was a young man with his black hair slicked back. He wore snug blue jeans and a crisp white button up shirt.

“There’s a problem. One of his cohorts,” he said, nodding toward me, “showed up and is waving a gun around. Idiot’s probably a distraction, but she needs help down there.”

The man’s eyes swept the room then asked,

“Where’s the other guard?”

“In the can,” the guard answered.

“Well there’s no time. Get down there, and I’ll bring him up to speed when he comes out.”

When the guy hesitated, the young man snapped,

“Now! There’s no time.”

At that, the guard scrambled out into the hall.

“Go! Hurry!” the young man ordered.

He watched as the guard disappeared down the hall then turned toward me and smiled.

“Greetings,” he said. “That was kinda’ fun.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“You’re the exile,” he said, “and they call me Achilles.”

“Achilles?” I asked. “Why Achilles?”

“Because like the mythical figure, I have only one weakness.”

Before I could ask what that was, the bathroom door opened and the guard came out.

He took one look at the young man and his eyes bugged out.

“You!” he snapped.

“Me,” Achilles said.

Just as the guard dove at him, he stepped to the side, sending the guard slamming into the wall.

“I’m gold. . .unless someone recognizes me,” Achilles said.

Published in: on June 22, 2015 at 12:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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