The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 30

On the roof of the Pearson Plasma building, as Martin Armstrong held a gun on Elizabeth insisting that she fly him to safety, Nathan saw three possible outcomes to the events unfolding before him. He hoped he could guide Armstrong to the best one, which really wasn’t that good.

“I’m not helping you escape, Armstrong,” Elizabeth growled. “Now get that gun out of my face before I tear it from your hand!”

“Martin,” Nathan said, trying to sound calm.

His nerves growing more and more frayed, Armstrong’s eyes darted back and forth from Elizabeth to Nathan.

“You have kids don’t you?” Nathan asked.

Armstrong nodded.

“A boy and two little girls. Am I right?” Nathan asked.

At the mention of his children, Armstrong began to focus on Nathan more than he did Elizabeth.

“How long has it been since your wife passed?” Nathan asked.

Armstrong hesitated then said, “Three years.”

“Renee was only two at the time, wasn’t she?” Nathan asked.

Armstrong nodded, tears filling his eyes.

“She won’t remember her mother. Do you really want her to grow up without a father as well?” Nathan questioned.

Armstrong shook his head.

“What was your wife’s name?” Nathan continued.

Armstrong swiped at a tear running down his check and answered,

“Annabel.”

Nathan smiled and said, “Annabel. But she didn’t like that name, did she?”

Armstrong lowered his weapon just a hair as he replied,

“Said it made her sound like a fairytale princess. She preferred the name. . .”

Armstrong trailed off and Nathan finished his thought with,

“Bells.”

Armstrong nodded and smiled at the memory for a moment. Then he looked up at Nathan and said,

“I didn’t hurt anyone. I couldn’t hurt anyone. Jessica came onto me. It was during a field trip Hastings had arranged for his class. I didn’t take advantage of her I swear. She made the first move.”

Nathan nodded as he slowly moved closer.

“You’re being set up, Martin. I know that. But if you don’t turn yourself in, you’ll not only make it easier for whoever murdered Lincoln and Hastings to get away with it but you may also deny your kids their father,” Nathan said.

“What kind of a father could I be from prison?” Armstrong asked.

“You won’t be there for long, Martin. I promise. Whoever is doing this has targeted me as well. They’ve tried to take me out because they know I’m getting closer to finding out who the real murderer is,” Nathan said.

When Armstrong began to lower his weapon, Nathan’s instincts took over causing him to suddenly duck and turn out of the way just as a rifle fired somewhere behind him. The bullet sliced through the air striking Armstrong in the shoulder and throwing him backwards. As he fought to regain his balance, he fell over the side of the building. Elizabeth took three steps and dove after him.

Slowly Nathan got to his feet and looked around him. The shot could have come from only one direction. Nathan knew the sniper was long gone, so he ran toward the stairs and headed for the ground floor.

* * *

Elizabeth felt the wind rush past her as she quickly caught up with Armstrong and matched his speed. She grabbed his leg then moved to his side. Wrapping her arms around his waist, she spread her wings and slowed their descent.

The moment she touched down, she shouted,

“Need a medic here!”

Detectives Shields and French hurried over and saw that Armstrong was unconscious. Blood from the bullet hole in his shoulder soaked into his shirt.

“You shot him?” French snapped as he applied pressure to the wound.

“No!” Elizabeth defended. “If I had, he would need a priest not a medic.”

“Calm down,” Shields said. “What happened?”

“He—,” Elizabeth began.

“Move aside,” the EMTs interrupted.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” French barked, stepping out of the way. “She tried to kill our suspect!”

“If I had tried to kill him, he’d be dead. I don’t miss,” Elizabeth retorted.

“Everyone quiet now!” Shields ordered as the ground rumbled.

“I’ll ask again,” she said. What exactly happened?”

“Somebody shot him,” Nathan said jogging up to them, “but the bullet was meant for me.”

“What? Someone tried to shoot you?” French asked, his words dripping with sarcasm.

“Yes,” Nathan said, ignoring the insolent remark. “Apparently I’m a difficult target.”

“Thanks for bringing him down safely,” Shields said. “Armstrong has a lot to answer for.”

“I don’t think he’s guilty,” Nathan offered.

“Trust me,” Shields said, patting Nathan on the back, “he’s guilty.”

The moment Shields touched Nathan’s back, his vision went white.

* * *

When his vision cleared, Nathan was standing in the street across from Sapphire City Park. Frantic parents grabbed their kids as uniformed police hurried everyone to safety. Nathan stepped back when a vehicle roared past. Printed on the side in bold letters was CBPD Bomb Squad.

Nathan slipped through the crowd and headed into the park. No one seemed to notice him. A fallen banner announcing the Crescent Bay Founder’s Day Picnic lay across his path. Up ahead on a stone bridge a few feet near a monument dedicated to the sailors who founded Crescent Bay stood Jericho, a bomb strapped to his chest. Nathan saw that it was identical to the ones that had killed Lincoln and Hastings. Detective Cassandra Shields stood just in front of Jericho with the sun behind her.

“I need to get out of here,” Jericho said. “The bomb won’t hurt me, but it could kill hundreds.”

“No, Jericho. Don’t move,” Shields pleaded. “If you don’t stand still, the bomb may go off.”

“I can’t risk anyone getting hurt. If I jump high enough, the bomb should go off in midair,” Jericho explained.

“It’s too risky,” Shields said. “Let the bomb squad try and remove it first.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let anyone else get hurt,” Jericho said, bending his knees to jump.

“Jericho, wait!” Shields pleaded.

“Perhaps I can help,” a voice boomed from behind them.

Nathan turned around to see a figure floating in midair. The sun behind him obscured him from clear view, but Nathan could see that the sunlight reflected off his suit.

Before he could get a better look, Nathan’s vision went white again.

* * *

When Nathan came to, he saw Detective Shields staring at him with a look of concern.

“Are you okay?” she asked. “You kind of wandered off there for a moment.”

Nathan laughed it off and said,

“I’m fine.”

“Good, good,” Shields said. “Okay you need to spin by the station later to make a statement. I don’t know about you, but the chief will be glad to hear this is all over.”

As Shields walked away, Elizabeth stepped close to Nathan and asked,

“What did you see?”

Nathan paused still trying to take it all in.

“This is not over,” he sighed. “Not by a long shot.”

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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.”

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.

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Unsettled: Episode 9

“Where are we going exactly?” Rory asked.

“I don’t know. I’m not leading this parade,” Ray replied.

After Detective Márquez returned to the crime scene and Jack announced they needed a safe place to talk, Kristina had offered to take them to the perfect place. Climbing on her bike, she pulled into the street and headed north.

“So we’re just going to follow her to this mysterious location?” Rory asked.

“It would appear so,” Ray replied. “Based on the amount of time we’ve been on the road, I figure we must be on the other side of the island by now.”

The farther north they drove, the higher the elevation. At the top of the next hill, Ray looked back and saw the expansive bridge that connected Coldwater to Whitelake. When the sun’s rays hit it just right, it looked golden. Up ahead, Kristina slowed to a stop in front of two large black iron gates. She waited while the gates opened then drove her bike through with Mavis right behind. When Rory pulled through in his Bronco, Ray noticed the sign on the gates.

“Wintervale,” he read. “Wintervale. Where have I heard that name?”

After a few curves in the road, a massive red brick mansion came into view. The three-storied structure stretched out over rolling hills with oaks and dogwoods lining the drive. Kristina pulled up to the main entrance and killed her engine as Mavis and Rory parked alongside her bike.

“Where are we?” Mavis asked as she climbed out of the Jeep and twirled around, taking it all in.

“Wintervale Manor,” Kristina said.

“Mathias Wintervale built this place along with a mental hospital in Blackrock. The hospital’s been closed down for years, but at the time it was a top-notch place for the patients,” Kristina said.

“That’s nice and all, but why are we here?” Rory asked.

“I live here,” Kristina said with a smile. “My mom was the granddaughter of Mathias Wintervale. After my dad died, she married Oswald Zamora, a stage magician. He was my step-dad. The week before I graduated from high school, my mom died. Right after the ceremony, he disappeared, leaving all his possessions to me. I haven’t seen or heard from him since.”

“Man, this place is insane,” Billy said, taking it all in.

“You’d know!” Rory quipped.

Mavis quickly bent over, grabbed a rock from the driveway, and threw it at Rory.

“It’s okay, love,” Jack said. “We have more pressing matters to attend to.”

“Now that we’re someplace safe, tell us what happened back there,” Ray requested.

“When I got inside the building,” Lucas said, “Heath had left, probably in that helicopter lifting off.”

“And Dale?” Kristina asked.

“Upstairs in his office. Dead, the poor thing,” Victoria answered. “Beaten near to death with a hammer.”

When Kristina lost it, Mavis scolded Victoria.

“Do you have to be so graphic?” she snapped as Kristina walked away to compose herself.

“He didn’t go there just to kill Tanner,” Dylan interrupted. “This was more aggressive, angrier.”

“It is possible he was venting some pent up aggression,” Jack said. “On the other hand, maybe it was some sort of sick game to him.”

“What makes you think that?” Ray asked.

“A gunshot wound was what killed Tanner. Heath could have easily killed him with the hammer, but it looks like he struck him in such a way as to inflict the most damage yet leave him alive. Long enough to kill him anyway,” Jack explained.

“This is more than a killing spree or a cleanup,” Dylan insisted. “Heath is after something. Otherwise he’d be more focused or at least have a cool down period. He’s ramping up to a finale, and my gut tells me he’s just getting starting.”

“Somehow Parker is connected to Heath,” Ray said. “You should have seen his reaction when we mentioned him.”

“You hit a nerve. Aggression at a sensitive subject,” Jack said.

“Rookie mistake,” Eddie said. “Gave himself away. But he’s new at this. Probably the first time he’s ever worked with a cleaner.”

“Sounds like the fire’s jumped out of the firebox onto the curtains,” Jack replied.

“Anybody lost here?” Rory asked.

“It does,” Ray replied, ignoring Rory’s comment. “I have a suspicion where he might be headed next. When we were in Parker’s office, I saw a picture of him with three other men. The mayor, the police commissioner, and one other guy I didn’t recognize.”

“It could be he’s planning to completely wipe out the city’s infrastructure, leaving it in chaos,” Mavis proposed.

“There is one other possible answer,” Jack suggested.

“What?” Mavis asked.

“A hostile takeover,” Jack replied.

 

 

*          *          *

 

Gagged and tied to a chair facing French doors that opened onto a balcony of one of Coldwater’s tallest hotels, Councilman Owen Parker tried to calm his nerves. A short while ago, he had found his secretary Veronica dead in his outer office and Charles Heath standing over her body, along with one of his goons. At gunpoint, he had forced Parker to the top floor of the hotel.

Heath walked over and stood next to Parker, placing his hand on the nervous councilman’s shoulder. He slipped past Parker and opened the french doors, stepping outside to enjoy the view of the city and feel the soft breeze ruffle his hair. Taking a deep breath to draw in the fresh air, he said,

“You know, I really love this city. Not because of the people but because of the ambiance. On the surface, it feels warm and inviting. Underneath? Underneath there’s a hidden malice lingering just below the surface. Like the archetypal deformed cousin everyone keeps hidden in the basement,” Heath paused then laughed at his clever simile. “It’s there reminding us that we aren’t as perfect as we pretend to be.”

Just then one of Heath’s men walked onto the balcony and handed him a small cellphone.

“It’s ready,” the man said.

“Oh good,” Heath replied. Then taking a quick look outside, he turned to Parker and said,

“You’re going to enjoy this!”

Turning back to face Coldwater, Heath asked,

“Did you know that in ancient times when a city or kingdom was overthrown, the new monarchy would kill anyone loyal to the old king then destroy any buildings or statues built in his name?”

As Parker looked up at Heath, beads of sweat trickled down his face.

After a moment, Heath turned toward Parker.

“Well at least that’s what I believe they did. I couldn’t find any solid references to make my point resonate more, but you get the idea.”

When Parker began to glare at his captor, Heath complained,

“Now don’t look at me that way. I thought if anyone would enjoy this, you would.”

“Do you know what is so great about our emergency services?” Heath asked. “It’s their reaction time. In the city of Coldwater, most fire department and emergency services are on the scene within 3-4 minutes.”

“Aside from a mass disaster, there isn’t a single challenge the fire department could not handle,” Heath said, a wide smile on his face.

“Now I know you must wondering what that has to do with anything. Well I’ll tell you.”

Heath stepped off the balcony and knelt down in front of Parker, placing his hand on the councilman’s knee and addressing him like a small child.

“That kind of timing is perfect for when Mommy accidentally burns the rolls and the drapes catch fire. But for someone like me? Well it makes burning a few strategic buildings to the ground a bit difficult.”

Heath stood up and turned to look out over Coldwater. As he pressed a few buttons in the cell phone, he said,

“So a man like me has to plan ahead, and the best way to deal with quick response fire departments is to overwhelm them.”

Heath paused as he turned from the city and smiled at Parker.

“And the best way to overwhelm emergency services is not to give them one problem to deal with but. . .”

When Heath pressed another button on the cell phone, five separate explosions went off across town, one after another. As fire lit up the sky, Heath held up his hand, fingers spread wide, and mouthed the word.

“. . .five!”

Published in: on March 19, 2018 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 8

It was late evening when Ray and Rory pulled up outside the city capitol building. Work had just been completed to stabilize the building’s foundation and repair damage from the recent hurricane that had blown through town. The street lamps cast a soft glow onto the three-story red brick building as the wind stirred the towering pines that formed a border across the front.

As Ray and Rory climbed the front steps, Rory asked,

“Aren’t these places usually closed after five?”

“Some,” Ray said, testing the door.

When he found it unlocked, he smiled at Rory and added,

“But sometimes people work late.”

Rory followed Ray inside, stopping at a directory to find the listing of Councilman Parker’s office.

“Third floor, room 304,” Rory said.

At the lobby elevator, Ray tapped the button, and after a moment the doors opened.

“What if he’s not in?” Rory asked as he punched the button for the third floor.

“He’s in,” Ray assured him.

“What makes you so certain?” Rory asked.

“Oh just a feeling,” Ray replied.

“More like wishful thinking,” Rory commented as the elevator doors opened.

When they stepped off the elevator, the only sound was the tap of their shoes on the highly polished tile floor. The white sterile hallway was empty as they headed for Parker’s office.

At the door of 304, Rory turned the knob. The door was unlocked, so they stepped inside. The front office was empty.

“See,” Rory laughed. “No one here.”

Ray saw a second door just past the secretary’s desk. The gold lettering on the door’s frosted glass panel read Councilman Owen Parker. Ray listened for a few moments then knocked. He heard a loud thump and a man’s voice yelled,

“Just a moment.”

After the sound of muffled voices stopped, the door opened and a young woman came out of the office. She quickly smoothed her hair and began to close the three open buttons on her blouse.

“May I help you?” she smiled.

“Yes. I’d like to speak with Councilman Parker, please.”

“I’m afraid he’s busy right now,” the woman answered.

“I can see that,” Rory said. “But this is important.”

When Ray glanced past her, he saw Parker quickly throw on a pair of glasses then grab a gold wedding ring off the desk and jam it onto his finger. He was around middle age with graying hair and a slight paunch.

“Now is not a good time,” the woman insisted.

“That’s all right, ma’am. I’ll just go have a word with Mrs. Parker. This matter concerns both of them,” Ray returned.

“What matter?” Parker asked, walking to his office door.

“Nothing that can’t wait. I’ll speak with your wife first. Of course I do tend to share too much and may tell her what I saw here. Hope she doesn’t misunderstand,” Ray said.

“It’s okay, Veronica,” Parker said. “I can speak with them now.”

Ray sweetly smiled and excused himself as he walked past Parker’s secretary.

In a huff, Veronica marched toward her desk, loudly closing the councilman’s door behind Ray and Rory.

Parker offered Ray and Rory a chair and sat down behind his desk.

“Now what can I do for you gentlemen this evening?” he politely asked.

“I am a voter,” Ray said, “and I have a few questions.”

“Well I’m here to help. My door is always open,” Parker said.

“Excellent,” Ray replied. “My first question is what is the city council doing about the crime rate?”

“Crime is down,” Parker said, leaning back in his chair as he laced his fingers across his chest, “and City hall will continue to work with the police department to guarantee it stays down.”

“Next question,” Ray said. “Does the name Charles Heath mean anything to you?”

Suddenly Parker’s friendly expression changed to a scowl.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“Name is Raymond Slats, and I was wondering why is it you hired Charles Heath to in his own words ‘burn the city to the ground?’ ” Ray asked.

Parker stared at Ray for a moment then said, “Wait a minute. Raymond Slats. I know that name. You’re from Whitelake not Coldwater. Why did you tell me you were a voter?”

“Well technically I am a voter, just not in your district,” Ray said.

“I don’t have anything more to say, Mr. Slats. You can find your way out. Bother me again, and you’ll need an attorney,” Parker threatened.

As Ray stood to leave, he said,

“This kind of thing usually doesn’t end well, Councilman. If I were you, I’d get help before things get away from you.”

“Out!” Parker barked.

Turning to leave, Ray noticed a photograph of Councilman Parker with three other men on a golf course. Three of the men were laughing as the fourth retrieved his golf ball from the hole.

When they reached the elevator, Rory asked,

“That’s it?’ We just walk out?”

“I already got all he was going to give. His reaction said enough. Plus, I saw a photo of Parker with the mayor, the police commissioner, and another guy I didn’t recognize. I’d bet my social security check that those men are on Heath’s hit list. We need to find Billy and the others,” Ray said.

As they stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the lobby, Rory asked,

“And by the others you mean?”

“Mavis and Kristina,” Ray replied.

“Good,” Rory said, relaxing a bit.

“And Billy’s other personalities,” Ray added.

Rolling his eyes, Rory groaned as the elevator doors closed.

* * *

As Ray and Rory pulled up outside the Coldwater Chronicle, a uniformed police officer stopped them and told them to stay behind the cordon tape. Squad cars filled the lot as officers and Crime Scene worked the area.

“What’s happened?” Rory asked.

“More importantly,” Ray said as Rory parked near the street, “where are Mavis, Billy and Kristina?”

“Hey, there they are, across the street,” Rory pointed out.

They got out of Rory’s Bronco and crossed the busy street.

“What happened here?” Rory asked.

“I have no idea,” Billy said.

Mavis looked around to see if anyone else could hear before she explained,

“When we got here, Lucas told us to stay outside while he went in. He told us to wait a bit, turn the power off and on, then get into our car, which we did. A few minutes later, we saw the lights of a helicopter as it lifted off the roof. Next thing we know, Billy’s walking out of the building and asking us what happened?”

Rory looked at Billy and inquired,

“What happened inside?”

Billy shrugged and said, “I honestly don’t know. Last I remember, we were at the diner.”

“Wait a minute,” Ray said with skepticism. “You mean to tell me you don’t remember anything?”

Mavis nodded and said, “I believe him, Ray. Sometimes the others block out Billy completely, like when they do something they don’t want him to remember. That way, he stays completely innocent.”

“In that case, I need to speak with the others,” Ray said. “How do I get one of them out here?”

“Won’t work,” Kristina said. “Afraid we already tried. They’ve gone into hiding, I’d guess until things calm down.”

Before Ray could continue his questioning, a slender young woman in a crisp suit, her brown hair pulled back in a bun, walked up to them, her eyes on Billy.

Removing a police badge from her suit, she introduced herself,

“Detective Joeslyn Márquez, Coldwater PD.”

As she slipped the badge back into her pocket, she watched Billy.

“I saw you at the police department earlier. You were there just before detective Ethan Snow was murdered.”

“Detective Snow is dead?” Billy asked in surprise.

Márquez studied Billy’s face as though the answers were there.

“You were there. You didn’t kill him, but you know something. First Snow’s murder, then this? You’re involved all right.”

“What happened in there, Detective,” Ray asked.

“Dale Tanner was murdered. We also found several armed men unconscious and tied up. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” Márquez asked Billy.

“Tanner is dead?” Kristina asked, her hand covering her mouth.

Seeing her grief, Márquez said, “Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“I honestly have no clue what’s going on. Last I remember, I was at a diner with these guys,” Billy said, an innocent look on his face.

Márquez watched Billy for a moment then ordered, “Don’t leave town. I may have other questions.”

As Márquez returned to the crime scene, Jack suddenly spoke up.

“So much has happened. We need to get to safety and figure out Heath’s next move.”

“What happened in there?” Mavis asked.

“Not here, love,” Jack replied. “Later, where it’s safe.”

* * *

Irritated by Ray’s visit and threat to tell his wife, Parker gathered his papers, shut off the desk lamp and walked to the door. As he closed and locked it, he said,

“Veronica, I’m sorry, but I’m too upset right now. I’m heading home for the night.”

When he turned around, he froze. Veronica was face down on the floor in a pool of blood. Standing over here was Charles Heath with his bodyguard.

“Hello, Councilman,” Heath sneered. “It’s time for phase two.”

As Heath’s bodyguard pointed a pistol at Parker’s head, Heath asked,

“Won’t you join me for the rest of the evening?”

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 25

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

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

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

“Stay out of my head!” Prescott ordered.

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

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

“Who are you protecting?”

“Stay out of my head!” Prescott snapped.

As Prescott started to move forward, Nathan advised,

“I wouldn’t do that.”

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

“Don’t kill him,” Nathan said.

Elizabeth growled and dropped the man to the floor.

Prescott saw his chance and ran for the exit.

“No!” Elizabeth roared, running after him.

“Wait!” Nathan yelled as he followed her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you okay, Jericho?” Nathan asked.

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

Just then, Detective Cassandra Shields arrived on the scene.

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

“Stand down! He’s with us.”

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

“What happened?” she asked.

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

 

*          *          *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what is this place?” Elizabeth asked.

Nathan turned to face Elizabeth.

“Are you following me?”

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

Nathan shook his head in mild exasperation.

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

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

Elizabeth watched Nathan as he shared the information,

When he finished, she said,

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

Ignoring her comment, Nathan added,

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

“What about Brian Pearson?” Elizabeth asked.

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

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

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

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

“Do you have an appointment?” Jeff asked.

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

“One moment please,” Jeff responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff punched in something on the tablet before saying,

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

“Thanks,” Nathan said with a smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who on earth was that?”

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

“He seems pretty angry,” Elizabeth said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait!” Nathan yelled.

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

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

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

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 21

Officer Sawyer was clearly taken aback by what Nathan told him. Without leaving his post, he turned toward the scene behind him and called out,

“Hey Detective!”

A slender man with clipped black hair, a thick black mustache and dark skin strolled over to Sawyer.

“Yeah? Whatcha got?” he asked.

“This guy says victim’s Daniel Lincoln,” Sawyer said.

The detective looked at Nathan as he considered the information, but when he saw Elizabeth, his expression twisted into a scowl.

“No supers right now!”

“Detective William French,” Nathan began. “Your mother is from Iran, your father from Boston. Your father was killed by a meta human, and since then you have had no use for them, especially after they stuck you with Detective Cassandra Shields.”

“Who is this guy?” French asked Sawyer. Then looking back at Nathan, he demanded,

“How do you know so much about me, pal?”

“Because he is Nathan Nichols, the Prophet of Crescent Bay,” a young attractive woman said, the curls bouncing in her long brown hair as she walked over.

“Detective Shields,” Nathan said with a nod.

“You know this guy?” French asked with a full measure of contempt.

“Yep. Commissioner Robbins called ahead about him,” Shields explained.

“He can’t enter, Shields,” French insisted. “He’s one of them.”

“One of them?” Shields repeated with a hint of disapproval.

“Relax, French. He’s signed the V.E.C. Let him pass,” Shields instructed.

“Fine! But if we don’t have her signature, she stays on the other side of the tape!” French snapped, pointing to Elizabeth.

“She’s with me,” Nathan said.

As Shields lifted the police tape, Nathan and Elizabeth slipped under. After glaring at them for a moment, French rolled his eyes and walked away.

“Well, prophet,” Shields said, “I know you didn’t murder these people because I just heard you on the radio. But why should I believe you’re not involved?”

“Because I’m willing to pinky swear that I’m innocent?” Nathan teased.

“I don’t think that’ll hold up in court, but okay,” Shields responded with a smile. “Now what can you tell me about the victims?”

“Victim. Singular,” Nathan corrected.

Shields smiled.

“All right you pass. Come with me. You’ll need to speak to the head of Crime Scene.”

As Shields led them onto the scene, Elizabeth asked,

“What’s a vec?”

“The Vigilante Employment Contract, V.E.C. for short, is an agreement every super has to sign. Both the mayor and police commissioner have made it mandatory. Basically, it says that if the hero promises to behave, to cause no unnecessary death or destruction of property, then the city will treat the hero as an employee, covering any lawsuits, injury, or property damage as a result of the hero’s combat. In my case, they added psychological invasion which means that I can’t read someone unless they give me permission or it’s necessary to an investigation.”

“I haven’t signed one,” Elizabeth confessed.

“Don’t worry. You will soon,” Shields assured her.

Turning her profile to them, Shields called out,

“Doc.”

A tall thin balding man rose to his feet and slowly walked over. Removing a pair of large, black goggles, his soft brown eyes twinkled when he smiled.

“Nathan Nichols, this is our head of Crime Scene Dr. Miles Makaw.”

Dr. Makaw extended his hand and when Nathan took it, he saw a flash of a charging rhino and a laughing man.

Pushing aside the vision, Nathan shook his hand and greeted,

“A pleasure, Dr. Makaw.”

Makaw released Nathan’s hand then reached for Elizabeth’s with a smile.

“My dear.”

Turning to Shields, he said,

“I really must be getting back to work. We have debris scattered everywhere, and it will take a while before I can piece together enough of our victim to get a positive id.”

“That’s why I called you over, Doc. Nathan Nichols here is kind of a psychic. He can help with that,” Shields explained.

“Psychic visions and psychometry will not tell me who this man was. Now, please, I must get back to work,” Makaw insisted.

“His name was Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan said.

Makaw looked at Nathan skeptically and responded,

“If you say so.”

As Makaw turned and walked away, Shields apologized.

“I’m sorry. He’s very dedicated to the procedure.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just wait a minute,” Nathan said.

Shields turned and looked around then asked,

“So what are we waiting for? He’s not going to change his mind in a snap.”

“We’re not waiting on him.” Nathan corrected.

A moment later, one of the crime scene techs stood up and started running toward Makaw.

“We’re waiting on him,” Nathan said.

“Sir, I found a wallet,” the tech said.

Makaw took the wallet, opened it and flipped through the contents. When he found a driver’s license, he dropped his head. Slowly he turned and looked at Nathan.

Walking over, Makaw took a deep breath and said,

“All right. I’m listening. What can you tell me about the victim?”

“His name was Daniel Lincoln. He was the only victim in this explosion, but others will die. He worked as a custodial engineer at Crescent Bay University,” Nathan said.

“Anything else?” Makaw asked.

“He was a blackmailer,” Nathan answered.

“Who was he blackmailing?” Shields interrupted.

“That information isn’t clear. I can’t tell. Sorry,” Nathan apologized.

“Well at least you got us closer than we were,” Shields admitted. “Anything else you’d like to share?”

“Detective Shields,” Officer Sawyer called as he approached with a middle-aged woman at his side.

“This lady says she saw the killer.”

“There is one more thing,” Nathan added.

Nodding toward the middle-aged woman, Nathan said, “She’s lying. She didn’t see anything.”

Then he turned and headed back to his bike with Elizabeth following closely behind.

* * *

“That’s it?” Elizabeth asked when she came alongside Nathan.

“Yep,” he said. “I’ve learned all I can from here. Time to go find out more about Daniel Lincoln.”

Nathan slipped under the police tape and was headed back to his bike when he looked up and saw someone standing close to his motorcycle. The man was dressed in a dark blue business suit with matching tie over a black shirt. Nathan watched as he ran his fingers through his short hair then removed his sunglasses to clean them before slipping them back onto his face. In his right hand, he held a black cane encircled with blue stripes.

“May I help you?” Nathan asked as he resisted the urge to read him.

“Yes,” the man said in a silky smooth voice.

Reaching into an inside pocket, he removed a card from his jacket and passed it to Nathan. On the white card in basic black print was a picture of a pit bull over the company name Street Dog Security and a phone number.

“My name is Graham Prescott, and I would like to make a formal request.”

“What can I do for you?” Nathan asked.

“I need for you to leave this case alone. I represent interested parties who don’t want this tragedy to be turned into a circus, and the involvement of meta humans promises to make it. . .,” he paused, “. . .a public spectacle.”

Unsettled: Episode 3

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

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

Mavis nodded as she concentrated on the wet road.

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

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

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

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

Mavis nodded and bit her bottom lip.

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

Mavis quickly looked at Ray then back at the road.

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

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

“That’s fine,” Ray said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May?” Ray asked.

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

Suddenly Rory chimed in,

“Kristina Kay! I remember you!”

“Stop it!” Mavis snapped at Rory.

“What’s going on?” Ray asked.

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

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

Kristina turned to Ray to explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy released Mavis’ hand and stepped up to Ray.

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

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

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

“What?” Rory asked.

Billy turned to Rory and said,

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

Billy turned to Kristina and said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Be right back, lads,” Jack said.

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

Mavis softly placed her hand on Billy’s shoulder.

“Billy?” she asked.

“Yea?” Billy replied, suddenly snapping to.

“Are you okay?” Mavis asked.

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

“Who are they?” Ray asked.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

Ignoring Victoria’s concern, Jack replied,

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

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

“Told you so,” Lucas said.

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

“That’s him!”

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What guy?” Ray asked.

“Where’s Billy?” Rory asked.

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 2:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 20

Thirty minutes later, the interview concluded and Brian and Bonnie went into a commercial break while Nathan and Jericho slipped out of the studio.

“I’ll be right back,” Nathan told Jericho as he headed for the bathroom.

While Nathan splashed cold water on his face, Jericho went outside to make a call.

The cool water helped revive his weary muscles and give him a bit of an energy boost. Grabbing a few paper towels, Nathan stepped out of the bathroom and looked around to find Jericho. As he patted his wet face with the coarse paper towels, Brian White walked over.

“Hey, man, thanks again for your help with my sister. That was amazing!”

When Brian extended his hand, Nathan gladly accepted it.

Having just seen Nathan exit the bathroom, Brian looked down at the wet handshake with an expression that tried to hide his disgust.

In a rare mischievous moment, Nathan took the opportunity and said,

“Oh sorry. Haven’t had a chance to wash my hands yet.”

As Nathan released Brian’s hand and walked away, drying the water off his hands, he imagined the look on Brian’s face and chuckled when he heard the bathroom door open behind him. Seeing Jericho outside on the phone, he headed for the exit, tossing the wad of paper towels in a waste receptacle.

When Nathan stepped outside, the warm breeze tousled his hair and lifted his spirits. For just a moment, he forgot about what he had seen in the latest vision.

“Today is the kind of day when family and friends should get together and cook out, play ball,” he thought.

Jericho saw the smile on Nathan’s face and asked,

“What’s so funny?”

“Oh nothing. I was just enjoying the weather,” Nathan said, crossing to his motorcycle.

“Hold up a minute,” Jericho called.

“What is it?” Nathan asked, looking back.

“I’m waiting for somebody,” Jericho explained. “How about you wait with me?”

Putting aside his thoughts of cookouts and ballgames, Nathan turned away from his bike, sat on the bench with Jericho and closed his eyes while they waited.

A few minutes later, Jericho saw the shadow of Elizabeth cast across the sidewalk as she flew in and landed. She was dressed in full gear, a yellow and black body suit, a gun belt, and a pair of tinted flight goggles.  As she walked over to Jericho, she lifted the goggles to her forehead and folded in her wings.

“Hi. What’s up?” Elizabeth asked. Then she added,

“How’s Nathan? He looks a bit rough.”

“He says he’s okay, but I’m not so sure. According to him, he hasn’t had a full night’s rest since he got here,” Jericho replied.

“Seriously?” Elizabeth exclaimed. “But that was four weeks ago. How is he even able to function?”

“I have no idea,” Jericho admitted. “That’s why I called you.”

Suddenly Nathan snapped awake with a snorting sound. After he blinked a few times to clear his eyes, he spotted Elizabeth.

“Hey, you. Good to see you up and about,” he smiled.

“Thanks. Are you feeling all right?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yes ma’am,” he yawned.

Nathan stood, stretched his muscles, and wiped his weary eyes.

“May I go now?”

“You seem to be in a hurry,” Jericho pointed out. “What did you see back there in the studio?”

“What are you talking about?” Nathan asked.

“You know what I’m talking about. After the interview in there. I know you saw something, Nathan. You got that look. Your face goes blank and, I don’t know if you know this or not, but your eyes go white like all the color drains out. When I first saw it, to tell you the truth, it was a little creepy,” Jericho explained.

“Is that what that was?” Elizabeth asked.

Jericho nodded then asked again, “What’d you see?”

“Nothing,” Nathan lied.

“Please, Nathan, tell us what it was,” Elizabeth pressed.

“I saw Jericho in the park playing with puppies,” Nathan replied.

“Fine. Keep it to yourself,” Jericho said.

“Look I’ve got to meet with the mayor about clean up after the Thymatec incident. He wants to discuss options to prevent future robbery attempts. While I’m gone, Nathan, Elizabeth’s going to keep an eye on you.”

“She is?” Nathan asked.

“I am?” Elizabeth asked.

“If you don’t mind. It’s just until he can get some rest,” Jericho clarified.

“Cool,” Elizabeth said. “We had fun last time.”

“Got to go. You two be careful,” Jericho said as he left.

Elizabeth turned to Nathan and asked,

“So what’s up with the insomnia?”

“It’s nothing really,” Nathan said.

“Tell me or I’ll body slam you from a thousand feet,” Elizabeth demanded, hands on her hips.

Finally, Nathan relented.

“I can’t say too much. It’s just that every time I close my eyes, I only get a few minutes sleep before a vision of the future shocks me awake.”

“How bad is it?” Elizabeth asked. “Must be pretty bad to keep you awake.”

“I can’t say, Elizabeth. But believe me, it’s important. Save the world important.”

“How so?” Elizabeth pressed.

“Right now the future is undecided, and any hasty decision I make may change things for the worse,” Nathan said.

“Nathan, you can’t carry this burden by yourself,” Elizabeth protested.

“Hopefully, I won’t have to for long,” Nathan said.

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked.

Before Nathan could answer, they heard an explosion in the distance.

When Elizabeth whirled around to pinpoint the area, she heard Nathan’s motorcycle start up. She turned just in time to see him pull away.

With a deep sigh, she slipped the goggles over her eyes, spread her wings, and lifted into the air.

 

*          *          *

 

Elizabeth flew over the city toward the area of the explosion, following Nathan below as he masterfully maneuvered the motorcycle in and out of the stream of traffic. She couldn’t help but worry about him.

“I’m afraid this sleepless night business will eventually catch up to him,” she thought.

Up ahead she saw a billowing tower of black smoke and slowed her speed. They were right above the train yard where police were busy cordoning off the blast area and moving people back behind the yellow tape. Firetrucks screamed through the streets on their way to contain the blaze, and ambulances pulled up from every direction to tend to the wounded and dead.

Nathan parked the motorcycle a safe distance away and shut off the engine just as Elizabeth swooped down and landed beside him. Nathan figured that with her skill, she could probably land on a dime.

“You can’t end a discussion by driving away you know,” she scolded, removing her goggles.

“True, but right now, this is more important,” Nathan pointed out.

“What happened?” Elizabeth asked.

“Someone was murdered,” Nathan told her.

Moving through the crowd of gawkers, Nathan made his way up to the barricade tape and got the attention of the nearest police officer.

“I need to speak with Detective Shields.”

“No supers right now,” the officer said. “Not until Crime Scene has finished up.”

“She’ll want to speak to me,” Nathan assured him.

“And why is that?” the officer asked.

“The victim’s name is Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan said, “and he was murdered.”

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 19

A light wind swept away the clouds, and sunlight broke through as a flock of birds passed overhead. Sirens, gunfire, and cries of the wounded interlaced into an urban fugue. As Nathan fell backwards away from the building, he looked into the face of the man who murdered him, and time seemed to slow.

“When I first landed in Crescent Bay, the city of heroes in the universe of Starfall, everything felt like a wonderful dream. Fighting alongside my favorite heroes, saving lives, bringing evil doers to justice. Looking back, it sounds corny, but isn’t that how dreams seem when you wake up? Sadly, this dream turned into a nightmare, as clichéd as that sounds. Now here I am, after having single-handedly started a war, falling to my death, failing once again. If I’m right and this is all just a dream, I sure hope I wake up before I hit the ground!”

 

The Fall of Jericho

Previously

 

It was Monday, 6:00 a.m., and Jericho waited on a bench outside the WLIM radio station. In the studio, “Brian and Bonnie In the Morning” had just come on the air. The show was slotted for 6-10 every morning and featured Brian White and Bonnie Baxter. Today’s special guests were Crescent Bay’s heroes Jericho and the Prophet. In the days following the failed heist at Thymatec, reporters were scrambling to get an interview with Jericho who had once again saved the city. This hero was no glory hound, though, for he took every opportunity to remind people that the victory had been a team effort with exile alien soldier 4 21, Scorpio and the Prophet doing their part. In order to protect their identities, Jericho never referred to Elizabeth and Nathan by their real names. Nathan didn’t care if people knew his name, but things were different for Elizabeth. She had her father to think of. Whenever she wasn’t saving the day, she attended community events with him, wearing the leather band Lavinia that Ethan Evermore had given her to conceal her wings. Nathan had grown distant over the past weeks, disconnected as though he had bigger things on his mind. Jericho felt sorry for the weight Nathan carried, the burden of always knowing what was going to happen. He wondered how anyone could live like that.

Jericho shook the daydream away as Nathan pulled into the parking lot on his motorcycle. Wearing a new outfit, thanks to Elizabeth’s father, Nathan retied the laces on his sneakers, brushed some dirt from his jeans, and loosened the top button on the blue dress shirt. After adjusting his leather jacket, he slipped off the Yankees cap and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Morning,” he said with a smile as he walked up to Jericho.

Jericho noticed the stubble on Nathan’s chin and the bags under his eyes.

“Did you sleep last night? Man, you look drained.”

Nathan shook his head and said,

“Nope. Haven’t slept well in a while. That’s why I’m late. Come on. They must be waiting for us.”

“When is the last time you slept?” Jericho asked.

Without responding, Nathan walked up to the front door security pad, punched in the code, and opened the door when it clicked.

“How did you know the. . .,” Jericho began. “Never mind.”

Nathan stopped in the lobby and looked back at Jericho.

“Sorry,” he said. “Was I supposed to wait for them to buzz me in?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Jericho said. “When was the last time you slept?”

Nathan thought for a moment then asked,

“How long since I landed in the middle of the street?”

“Two weeks, give or take,” Jericho answered.

“About that long,” Nathan said.

He turned and started walking toward the confused and awestruck receptionist.

“That way?” Nathan asked, pointing past the receptionist to a closed studio door. “They don’t have a commercial break for another three minutes. I promise I’ll be quiet.”

The receptionist, a young girl with round apple face, just nodded without a word.

“It’s okay,” Jericho said, trailing behind Nathan. “He’s with me.”

Nathan opened the studio door and he and Jericho slipped inside. At a large desk in the center of the room, each wearing headphones and speaking into mics, sat the morning show hosts Brian White and Bonnie Baxter. They motioned for Nathan and Jericho to sit across from them and put on the earphones.

“Well everyone can officially be jealous of me,” Brian said. “Our city’s savior Jericho has just entered the studio with who I can only assume is the Prophet. Am I right?”

Jericho pulled the microphone in front of him closer and said,

“Yes, Brian. He is definitely the Prophet of Crescent Bay.”

“Wow!” Bonnie exclaimed.

Brian laughed and said,

“She’s sitting next to Jericho and gives you a wow. I’d say someone has a crush.”

Brian, the older of the radio hosts by a couple of years, exuded charm. He smiled even though no one could see him but the guests and director. Scratching his scraggly dark blonde beard, he looked at Bonnie for a retort.

“That’s not what I meant, Brian,” Bonnie laughed. “I’m just surprised that he’s sitting next to Jericho yet looks so unassuming.”

“Well, my director’s telling me it’s time for a commercial break, so I guess we’ll see you guys when we come back. This is Brian White,” Brian said.

“And Bonnie Baxter,” Bonnie responded.

“We’ll be right back with “Brian and Bonnie In the Morning” on WLIM 572.2 FM,” Brian finished.

When the director gave them the all clear, Brian and Bonnie removed their earphones and Brian said,

“Wow, guys! Thanks for coming!”

Just then, Brian felt his phone vibrate and excused himself to answer it.

“Hey, sis. I’m on the air right now. What’s wrong?”

While Brian continued his conversation, Bonnie looked at Nathan and asked,

“So what type of prophet are you? Can you see the future or are you more of the tarot cards and lucky numbers kind of psychic?”

“I can’t really see the future. I only see the immediate and certain future. Anything beyond that is still undecided. It’s kind of like when you’re driving through a fog, you can’t really see anything far ahead of you unless it’s something big,” Nathan explained.

“So you can see big events like natural disasters?” Bonnie asked.

“So far catastrophic events,” Nathan said.

“Cool!” Bonnie responded.

Brian reminded Nathan of an upbeat game show host whereas Bonnie seemed a serious, ambitious woman willing to work for what she wanted. A little one-dimensional though. Nathan thought them an odd pair for a radio show.

“Don’t let him fool you. He can also tell you almost anything about someone,” Jericho bragged.

“Really?” Bonnie asked.

“Yep,” Jericho said. “To tell you the truth, I was a little creeped out at first. But now? I just think it’s neat.”

“I can imagine,” Bonnie smiled.

Brian’s phone call drifted back in to the conversation.

“No, sis. I don’t know where your keys are,” he assured her. “Sorry, Janine, but I really don’t know.”

Nathan reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He slid it across the table to Brian and tapped it, indicating for him to open it.

“No, I’m not teasing. If I knew where they are, I would tell you,” he said, opening the note.

When he paused to read the note, he looked up at Nathan confused.

Nathan just nodded his head.

“Janine, listen. Try looking in the guest bedroom under the bed,” Brian instructed.

“I don’t why they’d be in there. Just look.”

After a few moments, Brian’s face showed an expression of surprise.

“Excellent! I’m glad you found them. No, Janine. I didn’t hide them there,” he sighed.

As Brian tried to end the call, Bonnie’s face lit up.

“Amazing!” she said.

“Told you,” Jericho said, reaching out and slapping Nathan on the back.

The second Jericho’s hand touched Nathan’s back, his vision went white.

 

*          *          *

 

It was a bright sunny day with dense beautiful clouds floating across the blue sky. Balloons of every color filled the air at Sapphire City Park. On the ground, people who had come to celebrate Crescent Bay’s Founder’s Day Picnic were screaming in panic, running in every direction. Police officers had surrounded a man standing on the park’s small stone bridge. He wore a large, polished breastplate with an elaborate bomb fused to it, far more sophisticated than a typical explosive made with C4. As the digital time on the bomb ticked down from 5, the man looked up with tears in his eyes. It was Jericho.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

The bomb exploded, jerking Nathan back to the studio.

Brian and Bonnie looked confused and a little uneasy. Jericho moved his hand from Nathan’s back and looked into his eyes with concern.

“Are you okay, buddy?”

Nathan, struggling to make sense of what he had seen, murmured,

“No. No I’m not.”