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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Unsettled: Episode 7

His hand gripping the bloody hammer, Charles Heath looked down at what remained of Dale Tanner. He watched as Tanner struggled to draw his last breath. Heath had to admit this attack had been just the stress relief he needed after William Brannon almost ruined his escape. From the look of Tanner, a couple more strikes was all he could hope for. Just as he raised the hammer, the lights went out.

Heath froze then looked up toward the ceiling.

“What is it, sir?” Heath’s security guard asked.

“Brannon’s here,” Heath said.

“In that case, sir, I recommend we leave at once,” the guard advised. “There’s a helicopter waiting on the roof to take you to safety.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Heath said. Then after a pause he added,

“I’m done here.”

Heath handed the claw hammer to the security guard, exchanging it for his pistol. Then turning to Tanner, he smiled,

“Thank you. This was just what I needed.”

Tanner looked at Heath through his swollen bloody eye. He saw Heath raise the pistol and heard the shot just before he slipped into eternity.

After holstering the pistol, Tanner removed his gloves and stuffed them into his pockets. Running his fingers through his short hair, he said,

“Now we can go.”

Exiting Tanner’s office, they headed for the stairs leading up to the roof and the helicopter.

 

*          *          *

 

 

When the lights cut out, Rowan felt his heart race. With trembling hands, he reached out and switched on his tactical flashlight, at the same time ordering the men to follow suit. A surge of panic ran up his spine when he saw that Brannon had disappeared.

“Sweep the room,” he ordered. “Keep your radios on. Target is in the area.”

After searching the room twice, Rowan called out to his men,

“Anyone see anything? Check in.”

Four of the five men gave an all clear. After a moment, Rowan called to the man who had not responded.

“Alexander, check in.”

“Sorry, sir. Thought I saw something. All clear,” Alexander answered.

Rowan ordered the men,

“Keep your eyes open. He’s here somewhere.”

Suddenly Alexander’s tactical light went out.

“Alexander!” Rowan called out.

When no answer came, Clark, the man nearest Alexander, said,

“I’ll check, sir.”

Rowan watched as Clark’s tactical light turned in the direction Alexander had last been seen. Clark did a quick sweep and came back on the radio,

“There’s no sign of him, sir.”

“Keep at it. He has to be there somewhere,” Rowan replied.

Before Clark could respond, another tactical light on the opposite side of the room went out.

“Carter, turn your light back on,” Rowan ordered.

When Carter did not answer, Rowan knew he was losing control of the situation.

“Someone check on Carter.”

Before anyone could respond, Clark’s tactical light went off.

With three men missing, Rowan slowly backed up towards the wall. There were only two men left.

“What are you?” Rowan asked into the darkness.

“There’s no sign of Carter, sir,” Briggs replied.

“Keep looking!” Rowan snapped.

Before Briggs could answer, his light went out.

In a panic, Rowan began frantically to sweep the room.

“Please don’t kill me,” he whispered.

“Forget this,” Granger said. “I’m out of here!”

Rowan watched as Granger’s tactical light moved toward the front door. Suddenly it stopped. Rowan tried to shine his light toward Granger but was terrified of what he might see. Then he heard a slow click that echoed off the walls as Granger’s light went out.

Rowan could hear his heartbeat in his ears as he slowly stepped toward the front door. The only light in the room was his tactical light and a low glow from the streetlamp outside. He figured that if he could just make it to the front door, he could escape with his life. The other men were on their own. His knees shaking, he inched his way toward the front door of the lobby, moving his light from left to right as he went. When he was about halfway to the door, the lights suddenly came on, blinding Rowan for a moment before he adjusted his eyes to the light. The room was empty. No sign of his men. No blood. No equipment.

As a chill ran up his spine, Rowan did what he’d seen every stupid teenager do in every horror movie he’d ever watched. Instead of running for his life, he slowly turned around, sensing something was behind him.

Standing just a couple of feet behind him with one fist clenched and the other open was William Brannon.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Rowan whimpered.

Then he screamed as the last thing he saw was Brannon diving for him.

 

*          *          *

 

 

Leo Walker and Chad Burns, two of Heath’s men, were stationed in the second floor hall leading to the editor’s office. Both were under orders to stay behind and cover Mr. Heath’s escape. A few moments after the lights came back on, they heard someone downstairs crying for help.

“What is that racket down there? Sounds like a bunch of little girls,” Walker sneered.

“With Rowan in charge, could be anything,” Burns said.

“In charge? That guy is useless!” Walker said.

“All they have to do is deal with one guy while the boss escapes,” Burns said.

“Leave it to Rowan to make a mess. No telling what he’s up to,” Walker said.

At the entrance to the hallway, a man suddenly appeared. Taking a few purposeful strides, he stopped in full view of Walker and Burns.

“Hey! Isn’t that the Brannon guy Mr. Heath warned us about?” Walker asked.

“Well he’s not one of our idiots,” Burns replied.

“That’s far enough. We’ll shoot if you come any closer,” Walker ordered Brannon.

“Heath said not to kill him,” Burns whispered.

“If it’s down to my life or his, I’m shooting the guy,” Walker said.

“Turn around now!” Burns yelled.

Keeping a steady eye on the two men, Brannon did not move.

“Who is this guy?” Walker asked.

“I don’t know. Mr. Heath didn’t say much about him. Just said he’s important and not to kill him,” Burns replied.

All of a sudden, Brannon began walking forward.

“Stop right there! Don’t come any closer!” Burns demanded.

Brannon ignored the warning and kept walking.

“Forget this! I’m shooting him!” Walker said, taking aim.

Suddenly the lights went out, plunging the hallway into darkness.

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unsettled: Episode 6

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

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

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

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

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

“Can I help you?” Tanner asked.

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

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

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What makes you say that?” Mavis asked.

Billy released her hand and Jack explained,

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

“Heath is here?” Kristina asked.

“It would appear so,” Jack said.

“Everyone stay by the car,” Lucas ordered.

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

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

“So?” Kristina asked confused.

“He brought backup,” Dylan said.

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

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

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

“But you can help,” Lucas pointed out.

“How?” Kristina asked before Mavis could protest.

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

When Mavis started to protest, Kristina grabbed her.

“Let’s go!” she said.

* * *

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

“We’ve got company!” he warned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Please leave now!” Rowan insisted.

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

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

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The 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.”

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 Cadillac Diaries: Episode 81

When Ray came to, he was lying on a stretcher with an EMT standing over him.

“Just lie still,” the young woman advised. “You’ve suffered a minor concussion and some bruising. Can you tell me your name?”

“Raymond Slats,” Ray answered, closing his eyes against the pain in his head.

After a few moments, Ray heard Richard’s voice and opened his eyes to see him standing by the EMT.

“He’ll be fine. Mr. Slats is far too stubborn to die.”

“I know that sounds cool on television, but in real life, he’s lucky to be alive,” the EMT pointed out as she stepped up into the ambulance’s rear entrance.

Ray tried to sit up, but his throbbing head cut short that idea and he lay back on the stretcher.

“I remember the roller coaster and Rebecca Conrad, but then something hit me, and everything went black,” he said.

“You don’t remember who struck you?” Richard asked.

“Uh. . .No I can’t. . .,” Ray trailed off. “Wait a minute. . .It was Bonkers. I remember now. I turned around and came face to face with him. He looked at me for just a second then struck me over the head.”

When he tried a second time to sit up, Ray’s head began to spin and he fell back against the stretcher.

“Ohhh,” he groaned as he touched the wound.

“What about Rebecca Conrad?” Ray asked.

“We found her beneath the roller coaster,” Richard said remorsefully. “Dead before she hit the ground. Shot once through the back of the head.”

“Detective,” an officer called out as he approached. “We found another body.”

With a heavy sigh, Richard answered,

“Be right there.”

Richard looked around for the nearest uniformed officer.

“Get over here,” he ordered.

When the officer walked over, Richard said,

“Stay with him. Watch him, and do not let him leave.”

When Richard was out of sight, Ray tried once again to sit up. This time, with the officer’s help, he was successful.

“Thank you. . .,” Ray paused to look at the officer’s badge. “Officer Finn.”

“You’re welcome, sir,” Finn responded.

“What’s your first name, son?” Ray asked.

“Edgar,” Finn replied.

“Edgar Finn?” Ray asked.

“Yes sir. My mom was an avid Edgar Allan Poe fan. I got teased a bit at school, though,” Finn smiled.

“Actually, I was going to say with a name like Edgar Finn, you should be walking the streets fighting crime on your own terms. You know. A gumshoe with a drinking problem. Some woman loves you, but you keep her at a distance because she’s too good for the likes of you,” Ray joked.

For a moment, Finn looked confused. Then slowly he understood what Ray was getting at.

“Oh wait. You’re talking about those old detective stories. Right?”

Ray slowly nodded.

“Yea,” Finn smiled. “My dad used to read those. I’m more of a fantasy guy, though. Knights fighting dragons, rescuing the princess. Or maybe a group of outsiders venturing through a rough and dangerous wilderness to stop some terrible evil that’s rising to take over the kingdom and enslave humanity.”

“I see,” Ray smiled.

“I’ve actually got this one fantasy quadrilogy Dragon Fire written by Robert Burns. It’s about this prince who’s kidnapped the day his father dies. But while they’re trying to kidnap him, he breaks away, escapes over this waterfall and loses his memory,” Finn explained enthusiastically. “Then these two guys come along in a cart—”

“Wait,” Ray interrupted. “Robert Burns. I know that name.”

“Yea. He wrote the Starfall Trilogy which was this three-part graphic novel about the rise and fall of a hero named Jericho,” Finn explained. “He also wrote a bunch of episodes of the television series Stackhouse where—”

“No, that’s not what I’m thinking of,” Ray interrupted.

“Well, let me see,” Finn said. “Oh yea. He also kind of co-wrote the comic series Captain Bonkers.”

“That’s the one,” Ray said.

“After that boy was murdered, Burns just disappeared. No one’s seen or heard from him since,” Finn said.

“Well, my point was that you have the name of a detective,” Ray replied.

“You think so?” Finn asked excitedly. “I have been thinking about putting in for a transfer to Coldwater. I know there’s less crime there, but I have a friend on the police force who says if I pass my detective exam, I’m a shoo-in.”

“Well good luck to you, son, but be careful. My father used to say the more expensive the door, the darker the secrets behind it,” Ray advised.

With a look of confusion, Finn asked,

“What—”

“Officer Finn,” Richard called as he approached. “Go help over there.”

As Finn walked away, Richard turned to Ray.

“Okay. Here’s what we’ve got. Officers impaled, hung, and torn limb from limb. One looks like his head’s been ripped off. Another’s head is crushed. The mayor’s steamed. He’s called for a strike force to bring in Captain Bonkers,” Richard said.

“And you’re off the case?” Ray asked.

“Nope,” Richard corrected. “I’m out of the hunt for Captain Bonkers, but he still wants me to investigate King’s connection to all this.”

“Well. . .,” Ray said trailing off.

“What do you know?” Richard said.

“Who Bonkers is probably going after next,” Ray replied.

Richard raised his eyebrows waiting for an answer. Then he said,

“Tell you what. Just tell me on the way there.”

“Let me grab something first,” Ray said, standing up from the stretcher.

 

*          *          *

 

While Richard drove, Ray filled him in.

“Shouldn’t you tell the strike force leader about this?” Ray asked.

“I did. He told me to get back to him if it became a credible threat and not just a theory,” Richard explained.

“Okay,” Ray said. “Evelyn Caine is the real name of the woman people have started calling the Black Queen. Rumor has it, she’s the one responsible for the death of the boy and his mother.”

“Wait a minute. You mean the one Bonkers is avenging?” Richard asked.

“That’s the rumor,” Ray replied. “She runs a high-priced gentlemen’s club called Apollo Fire. Usually a gentlemen’s club is a ruse, a front for something else, but in this case, it’s less so. This place not only has dancers and rooms for private dancing, but it also has an area for fine dining, gambling and even a VIP suite with a private waitress. Ninety per cent of what goes on there is illegal, but no one has been able to touch the place. Anybody who tries winds up burned to a crisp in a ditch somewhere or just disappears,” Ray explained.

“Why am I just now hearing about this place?” Richard asked.

“Because up until now, anyone with any power kept it quiet. King’s been laundering money through it or buying the people who could shut it down,” Ray explained.

“But now those people are dead because of Bonkers,” Richard said.

“Correct,” Ray replied.

“Where did you hear all this?” Richard asked.

“From Tommy. . .mostly,” Ray mumbled.

“Mostly?” Richard pressed. “Who else?”

“A friend of a friend who lives in Coldwater. He’s not important, but I know Mavis trusts him,” Ray explained.

 

*          *          *

 

Evelyn Caine took a seat near the club’s entrance. Her informant had told her that the cops were on their way, so she waited patiently for the inevitable knock.

A few seconds later, it came.

“Ahh. There it is. The knock,” she said.

Removing her personal key, she unlocked the door and opened it. Two men stood outside.

“Now you’re a police officer,” she said, pointing a long red fingernail at the youngest man. “And may I say, delightful.”

Looking at the older man who stood back a bit, she purred, “You, I don’t recognize, but I bet you’re experienced.”

“Evelyn Caine? I’m Detective Richard Clay of the Whitelake Police Department. Mind if we come in and ask you a few questions? The police department is concerned for your safety, given the wave of murders.”

“I appreciate your concern, Detective, but I’m not afraid for my safety. We’re entertaining guests this evening, so I can’t let you in without a warrant. . .” she paused, giving Richard the once over. “That is unless you want to come up to my private office and protect me body and soul.”

When Richard didn’t flinch, she shrugged and said,

“Your loss.”

Closing and locking the door, she turned back to the club.

As she headed down the hall toward the office, unbeknownst to her, someone slowly walked up to the club’s entrance and installed a small metal plate over the front doors, locking them together, then poured Superglue into the lock.

The figure then turned and vanished, leaving the club’s doors permanently sealed shut.

The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 12

Silence hung in the air as Jericho and Kyran stopped fighting and stared at the gun pointed at Kyran’s head. Holding the Colt 45 with a steady hand, Nathan stood rigid and unyielding, his eyes locked onto Ian McAddams.

“Did you say stop?” Nathan asked, feeling a little smug.

“Enough!” Ian barked. “Everyone sit down.”

Nathan lowered the hammer on the weapon and holstered it.

As Jericho and Kyran slowly walked back to the table, each watching the other like guard dogs eager to pounce, Ian said,

“I am certain we can handle this. . .,” he said, struggling with the last word, “peacefully.”

“I didn’t know you could pronounce that word,” Jericho joked.

Kyran started to rise but Ian pressed a hand on his shoulder to keep him seated.

For a moment, Ian closed his eyes to calm his nerves. Then slowly he opened them and settled a glare on Nathan.

“What is it that you wish to know?” he asked.

“Why were your men trying to rip off the truck leaving from Thymatec labs?” Nathan asked.

“Braden Cole was a simple technician in charge of waste disposal at Thymatec. A low-level nobody who could leak information back to me. The research team had been working on a chemical weapon called the butterfly, and I saw an opportunity to get some for myself, a slice of the pie. I know parties engaged in civil wars, wars on foreign soil, and a chemical weapon like that would prove useful to them. But because of this weapon’s limited shelf life, I had a guarantee it would never be used on Americans. I’m a business man, not an animal.”

Nathan could see that Ian was fighting with himself to remain calm.

“Everything was going according to plan until a woman, some local meta, started following Cole. He got nervous and sent two associates, the men you ran into downstairs, to have her killed. I had no part in that.”

Nathan knew he was lying but decided to keep quiet for now. The timeline depended on Ian McAddams confessing his involvement in the theft, not Elisabeth’s death.

“Do you know who’s behind the production of the Butterfly?” Jericho asked.

“No,” Ian lied.

Nathan let that pass as well. Suddenly his head began to spin.

“I heard that Braden Cole might be dead. I haven’t confirmed that yet, but given his mistake in involving you two, it would be in his best interest to disappear,” Ian said.

“He’s dead,” Nathan said as he felt a flash of pain in his temple.

Jericho looked from Ian to Nathan.

“When?” he asked.

“Recently,” Nathan replied, rubbing his temple.

Just as a sharp pain tore its way up his spine, his vision blurred and went dark.

* * *

When his eyes opened, Nathan was standing in one of the long hallways of Thymatec Laboratories.

He watched as a group of men, all dressed in crisp business suits, attacked Elisabeth and 4 21. Elisabeth tossed her assailants aside like an angry child with her toys while 4 21 moved with blinding speed, dodging, striking, and firing his pistol when needed. Nathan saw that most of the men were clones of Dr. Ghislain.

The scene seemed to shift to slow motion as Nathan watched Elisabeth in fascination. Although she was brutal with the clones, throwing them against the walls, slamming them to the floor, she moved like a dancer, balanced and fluid. Nathan couldn’t help but admire her grace.

“Enough!” a man called from a nearby doorway, snapping Nathan out of his reverie.

When Nathan turned toward the voice, he saw John Stafford the attorney with his arm wrapped around Charlene Reynolds. He held her in a tight grip with a gun pressed to her neck.

Elisabeth whipped out her pistols and pointed them at Stafford’s head.

“I won’t miss,” she warned.

“Nor shall I,” Stafford sneered.

Elisabeth held her gaze, her hands steady, until she heard 4 21 say,

“Drop your weapons.”

Keeping her weapons trained on Stafford, she looked over at 4 21 and saw that his guns were on the floor and his hands raised.

Elisabeth hesitated then unwillingly holstered her guns.

“Fine,” she spat.

“As I expected,” Stafford said turning his pistol to Elisabeth.

Just as he pulled the trigger, Nathan snapped awake.

He was back at the restaurant of the Emerald Garden club.

“Are you okay?” Jericho asked. “You said Cole had died recently then you spaced out for a second.”

Nathan looked at Jericho and said,

“We need to get to Thymatec now! They’re in trouble!”

Somewhat confused by Nathan’s behavior, Jericho watched as Nathan turned to leave, but a moment later, he quickly followed him down the stairs.

When the door swung shut behind them, Ian McAddams stared daggers at the door.

Kyran fiddled with a napkin then cautiously asked his father,

“What do we do now?”

Rubbing his hands together, Ian McAddams seethed with anger.

When Ian gave no answer, Otis Morton and Joseph Horton slowly approached the table.

Horton softly asked, “Sir?”

“What?” Ian snapped.

Recoiling at the quick response, Horton asked,

“What do you want us to do?”

Ian thought for a moment then slowly a smile worked its way across his face.

“Kyran,” he said.

“Yes, sir?” Kyran answered, straightening up.

“Take your men. Take my men. Take everybody. If they’re too stupid to handle a gun, give them a knife or a bat. I will not sit back and let some arrogant punk make a fool of me,” Ian snarled.

When Kyran and the men stood awaiting further instructions, Ian leapt to his feet and shouted,

“NOW!”

“Where are we going, sir?” Kyran asked.

“Thymatec Laboratories. Burn the place to the ground if you have to, but bring me the Butterfly.”

“Yes, sir,” they answered in unison.

“Kill that girl, the one you failed to kill the first time. Then kill that so-called prophet and bring me his head,” Ian said.

“Sir?” Morton asked confused.

“You heard me! Bring me his literal head!” Ian snapped. “Now get out of here! Kyran, hold back a minute.”

Ian waited until the men had left before he turned to his son.

“No playing around! I want you to bury Jericho so deep in the ground his friends will have to travel to Asia to find his body! Now go!” Ian ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Kyran said.

As Kyran turned to leave, Ian added,

“And, boy?”

Kyran turned to face his father.

“No witnesses,” Ian growled.

Kyran nodded and hurried to leave.

“That should teach them to cross me,” Ian smiled, settling down in his chair.

The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 77

Sandpark Carnival stood shadowy and still. Two years ago, the smooth cry of its persuasive barkers and the screams of its electrified patrons had been silenced. The ancient death-defying rides with their squeak and pop had slowed and ground to a halt. Now they rested in the scattered moonlight like giants, frozen in battle.

When Raymond Slats reached the front entrance gates, he saw that the locks were broken, rusted long ago.

As he stood at the gates trying to spot the roller coaster track, he remembered Rebecca Conrad’s chilling words.

“I know Bonkers is coming for me next. I know there’s no stopping him.”

Pity stirred in his heart at the tremor in her voice.

Suddenly his phone rang. When Ray slipped it out of his pocket, he noticed that the caller ID read “Unknown.” He decided to answer it anyway.

“Hello?”

“Slats, David Crandall. Look. All bets are off. I’m not going to bother hiding anymore. Yea, I work for King. So what. And yea he’s not a nice guy, but I don’t much care anymore. I’m only interested in my wife. I lost my daughter, and I’m not losing my wife too. I know Rebecca’s at Sandpark Carnival. It’s where we used to take our daughter on her birthday. I’m heading that way now and bringing every cop willing to work if the money’s right. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me if they’re on King’s payroll. They don’t know you, and I don’t care. This is a courtesy call, Slats. You stay out of this! I won’t warn you again.”

Before Ray could respond, Crandall ended the call. He pocketed his phone and looked down at Pete.

The eager pup was intently watching Ray, waiting for a command.

“What do you think, boy?” Ray asked.

Pete looked toward the gates then gave a low-pitched growl and a couple of slow barks.

“You sure?” Ray asked.

Pete kept his eyes on the gates as his ears moved forward to catch a sound.

Just then Ray’s phone rang again. He saw that it was Richard.

“Hey, Richard,” he answered. “How are you?”

“Tired, Ray. I feel like I’m chasing my tail,” Richard sighed.

“Kane?” Ray asked.

“Something doesn’t make sense, Ray. Kane was locked inside a panic room with the door sealed shut. We just now managed to get the door open, and. . . ,” Richard paused, “. . .he’s dead, Ray. Explain that to me. How can someone all alone locked behind a six-inch steel door and bullet-resistant glass be murdered?”

“Bonkers must have been waiting inside the room,” Ray suggested.

“What are we dealing with here, Ray?” Richard asked.

Ray thought for a moment then said, “Someone who’s had a long time to plan his revenge.”

Richard let out a long, loud breath.

“Well at least you’re safe. That’s one less thing Deborah can hound me about.”

“Well. . . ,” Ray trailed off.

“What?” Richard groaned.

Pete looked up at Ray and barked,

“Harr-ruff!”

“Pete says hi,” Ray laughed.

“Ray, where are you?”

“I don’t want to say. You’ll just yell at me,” Ray teased.

“Ray, either tell me or I’ll let you explain yourself to Deborah,” Richard threatened.

“I’m at Sandpark Carnival,” Ray confessed.

“Ray, you know that place is a haven for drug addicts and homeless psychos,” Richard scolded.

“Right now it’s where I’m supposed to meet Rebecca Conrad,” Ray said.

“Crandall’s ex-wife?” Richard asked. “Why is she there?”

“She’s next on Bonkers’ list and she knows it. Before Bonkers kills her, she wants to hand over everything she has on King. She was his bookkeeper,” Ray explained.

“Ray, get out of there!” Richard demanded. “I don’t want you involved in this anymore.”

“I don’t have a choice, Richard. David Crandall already called me. Said he’s headed this way with an army. He’s going to shoot anyone who isn’t his wife,” Ray said.

“Everything is spinning out of control,” Richard growled.

“Why do people always say that just before the end?” Ray wondered aloud.

“Ray, this is an order! Stay out of there! I’m on my way!”

Suddenly the line went dead.

Ray knew he should listen, but Richard was over in Coldwater, a good thirty-minute drive to Whitelake. Even if he floored it, he’d never make it in time. Ray knew what he had to do. He bent down to Pete and scratched him behind the ears.

“Buddy, promise me if things go south, you’ll run for help.”

Pete sat still with no response.

“Please?” Ray asked. “I need to know you’ll be okay.”

When Ray stood up, Pete snorted then ran through the open gate into Sandpark Carnival.

“Okay then,” Ray said opening the gate and following him in.

* * *

David Crandall pulled to a stop just outside the gate to Sandpark Carnival. When he climbed out of his car, he spotted Slats’ black Cadillac.

“I’m getting sick of that car and the old man!” he told himself.

He stood in the pale mix of moonlight and dull street lamps as he looked out over the park. For a moment, he could hear the rush and clack of the roller coaster.

“Daddy, Daddy! I want to ride!” his daughter squealed.

Suddenly the night’s breeze blew through his hair, taking with it the sweet memory.

Now the park looked like a nightmare’s paradise, but he knew all about nightmares and monsters and demons. Not even they would stop him from saving Rebecca.

Just then three cars pulled up at the gate and a handful of men got out. Crandall knew some from the police force. Others were ex-military. Each man wore a bulletproof vest and carried an automatic rifle.

“Okay. You know the rules. There’s a woman somewhere in there,” Crandall said, pointing toward the grounds. “I don’t care what you do to anyone else, but she is not to be harmed. Is that clear?”

Some of the men shook their heads while others gave no response.

“Burn the place down if it suits you. We’re not cops tonight. We’re hunters,” he said.

One of the men raised his hand and asked,

“What about the clown?”

“Shoot on sight. Don’t let the clown mask fool you. This guy’s dangerous. Another thing. There’s an old man, a P.I., in there. Name’s Raymond Slats. You find him, let me know. I want to shoot him myself,” Crandall said.

As he looked over the men, Crandall decided that letting them go solo was a bad idea.

“Higgins, you and Ford start at the east end of the park at the concessions and move in towards the center. More, you and Seal start on the west side with the offices and move inward. Newton, you and Price start on the north side that’s directly opposite the gate, and I’ll start here. Check everything. Oh and forget what I said earlier about Slats. Shoot anything that isn’t my wife,” Crandall instructed.

“Go!” he ordered.

After the men moved out into the park, Crandall checked his pistol and shotgun then slipped inside the gate. He would fight the devil himself if it meant saving his wife.

* * *

Standing on a maintenenance platform atop the highest part of the Shadow Serpent, Rebecca Conrad waited. Ever since the death of her daughter, she had felt dead inside. That day, all the color and music went out of the world. Only one thing kept her from killing herself. She wanted to be certain Bradford King paid for his crimes, paid for the families he had destroyed. She knew everything, every dirty secret. After her daughter died, she had divorced David and gone to work for King, a man far worse than the monster who had murdered her daughter. King took advantage of her grief and used it to entrap her so deeply in his business that every day she felt like she was drowning. When word of a Captain Bonkers spread through the city, she had felt relief. Here was a comic book clown, making his way through King’s army, killing anyone connected to King by even the frailest of threads.

Finally her pain would end and she would be with her daughter. Once she was sure Bonkers was successful, she had contacted Raymond Slats. She knew he could be trusted.

Now as she waited for her meeting with him, she looked out over the park from its highest point and saw David and his men spread out like a small army, moving through the park searching for her. He had come to save her even though he knew she didn’t want to be saved.

“He was never good at listening,” she laughed under her breath.

Somewhere out there in the dark was Raymond Slats. She had seen him pull up to the gates in his black car shortly before David arrived. She would give the evidence to Slats then wait almost eagerly for the clown.

Captain Bonkers wasn’t a murderer. He was her angel of mercy, come to send her home to her baby girl. She smiled as a light breeze blew through her hair. She was tired but in just a little while, she could rest.

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 Exile: Episode 65

My arm in hers, Delilah steered me into the crowded grand ballroom. Guests were scattered in all directions, some on the dance floor and others in groups throughout the room sipping their drinks while they exchanged small talk. A dozen or so wait staff furiously scrambled to keep everyone’s glass filled as light, assorted hors d’oeuvres on gleaming silver trays seemed to float through the crowd. A band played classical dance music amid the tinkling of wine glasses and laughter.

“It’s great to see you,” a man said approaching me. “I heard terrible rumors that you had died. Glad to know they aren’t true!”

Just as I smiled and began to offer a halfhearted thank you, he waved at someone across the room and hurried away.

“Who was that?” I asked Delilah.

Suddenly standing in front of me, a woman said, “You’re looking marvelous, dear. It’s so good to see you.” Clasping my hand, she added, “You’ll have to save me a dance.”

She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek before disappearing into the crowd.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Delilah reached into her purse and pulled out a small ear bud. I had seen them before and only recently had had the occasion to use one. Wiggling it into my ear, I heard Achilles’ voice,

Okay, sport. Now for the part we didn’t tell you. I leaked a few rumors that your brother isn’t dead on the chance that Isabel, your abductor, hasn’t told anyone, and what do you know, it worked.”

“What worked?” I asked.

They think you’re him,” Achilles said.

Just then a waiter walked up to me and greeted,

“Good evening, sir. We have your place right up front as you requested.”

Against my better judgment, I let myself be escorted to the head table where this Isabel was talking with a guest.

Now when you sit down, say only what I tell you to,” Achilles ordered.

The moment she spotted me, her smile seemed to slide off her face. When I took my seat next to her, she leaned over and through clenched teeth whispered in my ear,

“I don’t know how you got out, but you’re going back right now.”

She motioned to a guard who started making his way towards her.

Remembering to repeat whatever Achilles said, I responded,

“Just relax, Pushpin, or you’ll never have any fun.”

At that, the expression on her face froze, and after a moment, she said, “Pushpin?”

Suddenly her eyes grew wide and she whispered,

“David?”

“Missed me?” I repeated.

“Only because you haven’t given my men a clear shot, dear,” she answered.

“Is that any way to talk to your ex? You did promise to love, honor, and cherish me,” I repeated.

“As I recall, the rest was till death do us part,” she replied.

“You may get your chance, my love. I’ve wired the ballroom to explode. Do exactly as I say, or they’ll be finding pieces of you on the next lunar mission.”