The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 33

By the time Nathan reached Sapphire City Park, the Founders Day Picnic had disintegrated into chaos with people screaming as they ran in every direction. He pulled up as close to the bridge as he could and shut off the engine.

“What in the world?” Elizabeth asked, landing beside him.

“We have a precious few minutes before it’s too late, so I’ll give you the short version,” Nathan said.

Nathan hurried toward the founders statue, pushing his way through waves of panicked people as he struggled to stay on his feet.

“The villain of our story grew up with heroes fighting villains, epic fights in the streets and in the sky above. He decided that just hearing about the stories wasn’t enough. He wanted to live them, so he made plans to step forward and be a part of this world. But there was a problem, a large undeniable problem.”

Nathan stopped suddenly and waited.

“What was his problem?” Elizabeth asked.

At that moment, a woman broke free from the crowd. Struggling to carry one child, she almost dragged another. The tiny feet of the little boy barely touched the pavement as his mother pulled him forward. Suddenly, his hand was torn from her grip and he started to fall.

Quickly, Nathan reached out and caught the child.

“Ashton!” the woman screamed.

Running to Nathan, she grabbed the boy’s hand, and hurried toward the park entrance.

“So what was his problem?” Elizabeth asked again.

“He had the means to be a hero. He even had an established reputation. The only problem was a very large shadow he had to get out from under.”

When Nathan saw the police up ahead moving into position, he stopped just as a Crescent Bay Police armored bomb squad vehicle roared past him. He hoped they would have the time they needed.

“Will you please finish the story?” Elizabeth growled.

Above the crowd, Nathan saw Jericho standing by the park’s statue, a bomb vest strapped to his chest.

“It’s tough to be a hero when the city doesn’t need one,” Nathan said. “So the villain of our story, wanting nothing more than to be the hero, set about a plan of action, a plan that would remove everything from his path and give him the perfect chance to make a name for himself.”

Nathan stood still and closed his eyes. He knew that for this crisis to end well, his timing had to be flawless. He sensed that the villain of this story had almost reached the park. In order for the villain’s plan to work, Jericho had to stay right where he was, surrounded by police and citizens too foolhardy to run.

“Why do you keep stopping?” Elizabeth growled. “I thought time was of the essence.”

“It is,” Nathan responded, “but I can’t arrive too soon.”

“Fine. Then at least tell me who’s behind these cheap theatrics,” Elizabeth insisted.

Over the sirens and screams of terrified people, Nathan heard the faint whoosh of a rocket. When he started walking again, Elizabeth shook her head and said,

“I’m going to hurt you when this is over.”

“How do you become a hero everyone talks about when the city already has one?” Nathan asked.

“I don’t know! Get a good publicist?” Elizabeth asked with aggravation.

Turning toward Elizabeth, Nathan said,

“Come on, Elizabeth. You’ve been paying attention! You know the answer!”

“I’m running out of patience with you, Nathan! I swear!” Elizabeth complained.

“Just think about it,” Nathan said. “How do you become a hero everyone talks about when the city already has one?”

Elizabeth glanced over Nathan’s shoulder and saw the fear in Jericho’s eyes as the bomb slowly ticked down. Suddenly, she got it. Her eyes grew wide and she asked,

“By saving the city’s hero?”

“Exactly!” Nathan said confidently.

“You mean everything that’s happened wasn’t some elaborate blackmail scheme or cover up but just. . . , ” Elizabeth trailed off.

“Testing,” Nathan finished her sentence. “More importantly, it was so that the villain could remove the one person standing in his way.”

Nathan turned and started walking towards Jericho. As he drew closer, he could hear Detective Shields pleading with Jericho.

“The villain couldn’t just kill Martin Armstrong,” Nathan continued. “That would be too obvious. He had to ruin Armstrong’s credibility first. Armstrong being blackmailed helped with that. The villain just stepped in and killed the people involved, making Armstrong appear guilty. Then when Armstrong was arrested, the killer had him silenced, eliminating any chance the truth might come out at trial. Now all he had to do was swoop down and disarm the bomb he designed, thus saving the city’s hero.”

“But who would go through all? Murdering four people just so he could save the day and be a hero?” Elizabeth asked.

Nathan stopped, turned on his heel, and pointing past Elizabeth said, “Him.”

When Elizabeth looked behind her, she saw someone flying through the sky. It was a man wearing a suit of armor. As he got closer, she recognized the suit. It was the Knightlight armor she had seen earlier in Pearson Plasma.

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

“Hold up there, champ,” Nathan yelled, running up to him.

“Nathan, what are you doing? Get out of here!” Jericho insisted.

Nathan closed his eyes, remembering the vision he had earlier of Knightlight disarming the bomb.

“What happened to you?” Jericho asked, noticing the bandages on Nathan’s arms and head.

“I was blown up. Nothing serious,” Nathan said as he reached up and punched in the twelve-digit disarm code.

“Perhaps I can help,” Knightlight said swooping in.

“No need,” Nathan said, turning to face him. “We’re good here.”

Obviously perplexed, Knightlight floated in place for a moment. This was not going the way he had imagined.

“What did you do?” Knightlight barked.

“Just saved the hero,” Nathan said smugly.

“Why did you do that?” Knightlight demanded.

“I didn’t actually,” Nathan said. “But I knew you wanted to. This scene was supposed to be the culmination of everything you planned, wasn’t it? River Hastings, Jessica Alexander, and Daniel Lincoln meant nothing to you, just a pimp, his best student and a blackmailer who got greedy. Martin Armstrong wasn’t guilty, just stupid. He was the victim of this whole thing. Jessica was seducing him for the power he wielded, River Hastings was after the money he’d get from Jessica for arranging the meet, and Lincoln was a filthy blackmailer who wanted money from Armstrong in exchange for keeping his mouth shut. You hated Armstrong didn’t you? For years you’ve wanted to get out on the street, live up to the family legacy by bringing back the city’s once beloved hero Knightlight.”

“Armstrong fought me at every turn,” Knightlight sneered. “Every bid I made to reintroduce the armor he shot down. That’s not the face of the company anymore. You’d be introducing us to lawsuits. Blah, blah, blah! He always had excuses. Always had reasons to keep me under his thumb.”

“So you did what had to be done,” Nathan said, “didn’t you Brian?”

“Brain Pearson?” Elizabeth asked.

“But I thought he was retired,” Shields said. Then feeling stupid the moment the words left her mouth, she quickly corrected,

“No, Brian Pearson the second. Grandson of Milford Pearson.”

Shaking with rage, Pearson slowly removed the mask. As his eyes grew dark, his thin lips pressed against clenched teeth.

“I told Graham Prescott and Street Dog Security to keep you out of my way,” Pearson growled. Then growing a bit calmer, he added,

“But I never meant for him to harm you. I could never be a hero in a town that didn’t need one.”

“Why plant a bomb on Jericho,” Shields asked, “if Armstrong was all you wanted?”

“Because the only way to be a hero in this town is to save one,” Pearson explained.

Although the police had cleared the park as the bomb squad moved in, Nathan saw scattered groups lingering here and there.

“Prescott’s men,” he thought.

“You should’ve let me kill him,” Graham Prescott said, stepping out from behind the founders day statue.

“It’s tough as it is to keep a secret in this town, but now that the Prophet of Crescent Bay prowls the street, it’s near impossible!” Prescott complained.

Moving over to one side, he said,

“If you had let me do things my way, this would be over by now.”

“Heroes don’t kill,” Pearson said.

“Still clinging to that dead philosophy,” Prescott said with a derisive laugh.

“Yes!” Pearson snapped. Then in a somewhat kinder tone, he added,

“Detective, you and your officers have nothing to do with this, so I’ll let you go unharmed. Same for you, Jericho. This is between me and the prophet.”

Elizabeth raised her hand in irritation at having been ignored.

“Let’s just kill them! No witnesses means you can still be the hero,” Prescott proposed.

“Heroes don’t kill!” Pearson snapped.

“You’re no hero,” Nathan scolded.

“Because you won’t let me be one,” Pearson shouted.

Then with a sigh, he said, “If I can’t be a hero, . .”

Slipping on the Knightlight helmet, he pressed something in his hand and the blasters on his wrists began to glow.

“Then I guess I’m the villain.”

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Unsettled: Episode 15

Detective Marquez locked eyes with the man Charles Heath had left behind to kill them.

“Look I’m a police officer. Let us go and I’ll tell the judge you helped us out. It’s not too late to do the right thing. Believe me your boss isn’t going to stand up for you.”

The man sneered but said nothing.

“Don’t throw your life away for your boss. He’s only out for himself! He doesn’t care what happens to you!” Marquez yelled.

When the man gave no response, Marquez sighed then said,

“Well at least give me the name of the man who’s going to kill me. You owe me that much.”

Just as Heath’s man opened his mouth to answer, a rope lashed around his throat. Dropping his weapon, he clawed at the rope, fighting for breath. As he was pulled out of the room, the choking man’s body concealed the figure Kristina had seen in the shadows. After a brief shuffle out in the hallway, everything went silent.

“What was that?” Kristina asked, feigning ignorance.

“Your friend?” Marquez replied.

Quickly Kristina tried to come up with a plausible lie.

“I hope it is,” she said, her eyes widened. “Honestly, we just met.”

Suddenly Billy came bouncing into the room looking neat and orderly.

“Is everyone okay?” Victoria asked.

“Fine. Just untie us. He’s getting away,” Marquez requested.

“Oh don’t worry, Detective,” Jack replied. “He shouldn’t get far.”

Marquez studied Billy for a moment, wondering at his remark.

“Who are you?” Marquez asked.

Instead of answering her, Billy untied Marquez and Kristina. Looking up at Marquez while he worked, Dylan said,

“Look, Detective. I know you have orders and protocol you have to follow, but we don’t have that kind of time. He’s getting away. Where did he go?”

The contradiction in Billy’s remarks confused Marquez for a moment and she could only stare at him while the seconds ticked by.

“He’s heading to the roof! He has a helicopter waiting!” Kristina said, interrupting the silence.

Kristina watched Marquez staring at Billy as the others argued among themselves.

“We need to get to the roof before he escapes!” Jack said.

“We can’t just leave them here,” Victoria disagreed.

“They’ll be fine. She’s a trained police officer,” Dylan assured her

“We need to get to the roof before he escapes!” Lucas growled.

“That’s what I said,” Jack reminded them.

“He probably sent reinforcements to slow us down so he can get away. That’s what I’d do,” Eddie smiled.

“Then we’ve got to move! We’re going to lose him!” Lucas snapped.

“I don’t think it’s safe to just leave them,” Victoria said.

“Guys!” Kristina yelled.

Immediately Billy stopped talking and looked at her.

“Go! Get him! We’ll be fine,” she insisted.

Billy nodded agreement then hurried out of the room, pausing in the hall to bend over and snatch up the unconscious guard’s pistol.

In the aftermath of Marquez’s first encounter with the others, Kristina took a deep breath and asked,

“Would you prefer staying in the dark or shall I explain a few things?”

Without a word, Marquez stared blankly at the door.

* * *

Up on the roof of the Coldwater Crown Hotel, Charles Heath hurried to the waiting helicopter. His cohorts Marshall, Lambert and Marsh were already on board buckled in while two guards stood by with their weapons drawn.

“Ready to go, sir,” one of the guards yelled.

“Good!” Heath replied. “Someone will be coming through that door in a moment. If he reaches me, I’ll decorate my office with your heads. Understand?”

“Yes, sir,” the men replied.

Just as Heath climbed into the helicopter and gave the signal for the pilot to lift off, the door to the roof burst open and Billy stepped out. With only two shots, he immobilized both of Heath’s men, sending them to the concrete. When Billy looked up at Heath and raised his weapon, Heath quickly pulled out a cell phone and held it up.

“Can you kill me with one shot cause if you fail, I’ll send the signal to detonate every bomb I’ve planted in this building!” Heath yelled.

“You’re bluffing!” Billy shouted.

“You willing to risk it?” Heath yelled back as the chopper lifted off the roof.

Billy hesitated then lowered the gun.

“This was fun. I look forward to our next encounter,” Heath yelled above the noise of the helicopter rotors.

He kept his hand on the cell phone and his eyes on Billy until the bird was well out of range.

* * *

In the aftermath of Heath’s escape, Marquez sat on the edge of a patrol car while an EMT checked her for injuries and internal bleeding.

A few feet away, she saw Kristina talking to a young redheaded woman and two men. The redhead had her arm around the man who had untied them.

“You’re good to go,” the EMT said when he finished examining her.

“Thanks,” Marquez replied.

She waited a moment then stood up and walked over to Kristina. Everyone in the group stopped talking when they saw her.

“What happened back there?” Marquez asked.

At first no one answered but then the redhead said,

“Detective Marquez, my name is Mavis Warner, and—”

“And all that really matters,” the older man in the group said, cutting her off as he stepped forward, “is that he didn’t hurt anyone. The bad guy escaped, but I wonder how much worse things could have been if someone had not intervened.”

“I can’t just ignore what I saw,” Marquez said. “I have to file a report. There will questions that need answering.”

“It would be in the best interest of everyone involved if you were to,” the old man paused, “forget certain details.”

Marquez eyed the old man considering his words.

“He just wants to help,” Mavis said standing in front of the man who had released Marquez.

As bold and forceful as he had been up there, he now seemed strangely afraid, withdrawn.

“What am I supposed to say?” Marquez asked.

Kristina Kay held out her hand to introduce herself.

“My name is Kristina Kay, and I want to thank you for untying me up there.”

“What?” Marquez asked. “Who are you guys?”

The old man smiled and said,

“Just innocent bystanders.”

“Marquez!” Detective Miles Stavros yelled as he hurried over.

Bending over as he tried to catch his breath, he managed to ask in between gasps,

“Are you okay? It’s a mess in there. Three dead and a bunch incapacitated. No idea yet but looks like they were all connected, maybe working for whoever was behind this.”

Straightening up as his breathing slowed, he said,

“Something weird happened in there. Looks like an army poured in and took everyone out. Who was in there besides you?” Stavros asked.

Marquez glanced at Billy for just a moment then turning back to Stavros said,

“Just this lady.”

When she pointed to Kristina, Kristina smiled and extended her hand, introducing herself.

While Stavros questioned Kristina, Marquez looked back at Mavis.

“Thank you,” Mavis mouthed with a grateful smile.

Marquez wasn’t certain what she had seen, but until she had a better handle on it, she decided to keep quiet. If Heath was still in the area, she was going to need help. Turning to look once more at the man who saved her life, she thought,

“If I’m going to stop a madman, it might help to bring one of my own.”

* * *

The next day Mavis sat in one of the rocking chairs on the circular porch of the Wintervale mansion. While she rocked and sipped a cup of hot coffee, she realized how contented she was just watching Billy play Frisbee in the yard with Rory’s dog Roddy, a fragile peace in the wake of Heath’s attack and escape from Coldwater. It felt like days had gone by since she drove to get Ray’s help, but looking back she realized it had only been the course of one really long night.

As Billy ran and dodged Roddy, laughing with the heart of the young, he seemed like his old self again, without the others. Mavis wanted to pretend they were gone for good, but she knew better. Behind her the front door opened and Ray stepped out, taking a deep breath of fresh air.

“Morning,” Mavis said.

Before he could respond, Mavis was distracted by a car coming up the long driveway.

“Wonder who that is,” she said.

“My ride home,” Ray answered.

Mavis stood up and turned toward him, a frown on her face.

“You’re leaving?” she asked.

“Yes,” Ray said, moving in to hug her. “You don’t need me anymore.”

Mavis felt her eyes well up and her contentment evaporate.

“I’ll always need you, Ray,” she replied.

“Not anymore,” Ray smiled, patting her on her shoulder. “You’ve grown into a strong independent young woman.”

Then he laughed and added, “I barely helped on this one.”

“No! You helped a lot!” Mavis defended. “I would have been terrified without you.”

Ray smiled as he said,

“You’ll be fine, my dear. But no more cowering. You can handle yourself. You’ve just got to start acting like it.”

“I’ll try. I’m going to miss you, Ray,” Mavis said, tears running down her cheek.

“Now, now,” Ray said. Then he looked over at Billy and after a moment asked,

“Are you sure about him? It’s not going to be easy.”

Mavis watched Billy running with Roddy as carefree as a child and felt her heart swell at the sight of his smiling face.

“I’m certain. He was there for me during a rough time in my life. I don’t know if I would have made it without him,” Mavis said.

Then looking to Ray she added,

“Now he’s lost, and I want to help him find his way back.”

When the car reached the front of the house, it stopped and waited.

“You’ll have to tell me more later,” Ray said as he walked up to the car. “I want to hear the rest sometime. Right now I’m going to be a grandfather! I shouldn’t be doing stuff like this.”

Ray called out to Billy,

“Keep her safe, son.”

Billy grabbed the Frisbee from Roddy and answered, “I will.”

Then Ray climbed into the car, pulled the door shut and looking at Mavis said,

“Take care.”

With tears streaming down her face, Mavis watched as the car took Raymond Slats out of her life and back to Whitelake. She kept her eyes on it until the car was out of sight. Then she brushed away her tears and ran out to join Billy and Roddy.

Published in: on September 15, 2018 at 11:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 31

“What do you mean this isn’t over? What did you see, exactly?”

After Nathan shared his vision with Elizabeth, she asked,

“Why would the killer target Jericho? He has nothing to do with this.”

Then Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide as she realized something.

“Wait a minute. What if Jericho was investigating things and got too close so they’re going to try to kill him with one of the bomb vests? They may even come after us.”

Before Nathan could say anything, Elizabeth shook her head dismissing her own idea.

“Never mind. A bomb wouldn’t hurt Jericho. So that brings us back to why someone would involve Jericho in this.”

“I don’t know,” Nathan admitted. “Everything that has happened so far ties back to Armstrong. I can’t figure Jericho’s connection to this no matter how I look at it.”

“If you take Jericho out of the picture, everything makes sense,” Elizabeth said. “Someone wants Martin Armstrong out of the way, and they’re willing to murder over and over to make that happen.”

“Jericho is the piece that doesn’t fit,” Nathan said. “He’s connected somehow, but I just can’t figure that part out.”

“Nathan,” Detective Shields called out.

Nathan turned to see Detective Cassandra Shields walking over to him, an envelope in her hand.

“A messenger just delivered this. It’s addressed to you.”

Nathan thanked her and took the note. The second his fingers touched the paper, his vision went white.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

 

In a parking lot across the street from Crescent Bay Capital Bank, Nathan watched as the bank’s digital sign flashed the time. It was 30 minutes ago. The lot was full of cars and one large white van with its rear doors facing Nathan. Standing at the back of the van, holding the very note Shields had given Nathan, was Graham Prescott.

“Prophet, if my theory is correct, then you’re seeing this,” Prescott said. “If not, the note itself should provide enough details for you to find the place.”

Prescott opened the note and held it up for Nathan to read. Clipped to the top of the paper was a photograph of Jessica Alexander with an address scribbled below. Nathan could see from her smeared mascara that Jessica had been crying.

“My client is very protective of his privacy and believes that you will not stop investigating these murders until you find out who he is and why he is responsible,” Prescott said. “He wants me to let you know, though, that despite how it may appear on the surface, he is not a killer. Like you, he is a good guy, a hero, albeit a misunderstood one. His only crime is resorting to extreme methods to deal with corrupted people. Every person involved in this case has been guilty of one thing or another. Jessica Alexander was prostituting herself for good grades, selling her body and her looks to get what she wanted without working for it. Granted, that’s common for some people who want to get ahead in life, but an act like that perverts our educational system. River Hastings was pimping out his students, promising them good grades if they went along with him and failing grades if they didn’t. As for Daniel Lincoln, well Daniel was a blackmailer, plain and simple. No mystery there. Now Martin Armstrong has committed no crimes per say, unless you consider having an affair with a younger woman a crime. I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind being guilty of that myself.”

Prescott laughed then continued.

“Martin Armstrong’s only real crime was getting in the way of progress. He is the CEO of Pearson Plasma Technologies, and he is interfering with inventions, advancements in science and technology that would improve life for everyone in Crescent Bay. And the only reason he stands in the way of progress is because there is no profit in it.”

Still holding the note, Prescott turned to the van and opened the doors. Pressed up against one of the wall panels was Jessica Alexander, strapped to a bomb vest like the ones Hastings and Lincoln had worn. With terror in her eyes, Jessica sobbed, begging for mercy the best she could through a gag. While Prescott continued talking, the vest began to tick down from 5 minutes.

“You see, Prophet, what happens next is up to you. You can try to save the life of this little street corner student and further impede progress that will move Crescent Bay into the next century, or you can do the truly heroic thing and wait five minutes, letting events unfold. The choice is yours. Just remember, I’ll be watching.”

Prescott let the note slip from his hand and flutter to the ground. The moment it touched the concrete, Nathan snapped out of his vision.

 

 

*          *          *

 

“Nathan? Nathan?” Detective Shields called. “You just went blank for a second.”

Before Nathan could answer, Shields said,

“Wait a minute. I heard about this. You just had a vision, didn’t you? Something about the future. Right?”

“No time!” Nathan explained. “We need to get to the parking lot across the street from Crescent Bay Capital Bank now!”

“Which one?” Shields asked.

“Just follow me!” Nathan threw over his shoulder as he jumped on his bike.

As Nathan pulled out into traffic, Elizabeth lifted into the air and in seconds was flying over the motorcycle.

Two minutes later, Nathan pulled up to the parking lot he had seen in his vision. Quickly checking the time, he saw he had two and a half minutes before the bomb on Jessica’s vest exploded. Parking the bike, he began frantically searching for the white van.

“What are you doing?” Elizabeth asked.

“A van. Look for a white van!” Nathan returned.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Watching through the hotel window a safe distance away, Graham Prescott kept his eyes on the parking lot as he waited for Nathan Nichols to show up and try to rescue Jessica Alexander. Suddenly he spotted Nathan as he pulled into the lot.

“See. I told you he’d show,” Prescott said. “He’s nothing if not predictable.”

“Won’t he see it coming?” the man behind Prescott asked.

“You’d think so, but that’s the brilliance of my plan. Nichols is so preoccupied with saving Jessica that he won’t see the explosion coming. He knows the van is going to explode when the bomb goes off. What he doesn’t know is that we’re waiting for him before we set it off. Now when he’s really close, trigger the bomb.”

“Yes sir,” Prescott’s man said with a chuckle.

“What is your name again?” Prescott asked.

“Lester, sir,” he answered. “Lester Chadwick.”

Prescott studied Lester for a moment then said,

“I’m not calling you Lester. Too slimy. What about Daniel or even better Flame?”

Lester grinned and said, “I like Flame, sir.”

Prescott looked back at Lester and repulsed by his grin said,

“You know what, Lester is perfect for you. Now pay attention.”

Lester turned back to the parking lot. When he saw Nathan get close, he hit the switch. The van exploded, killing Jessica Alexander and throwing Nathan backwards to the pavement.

“Is he dead?” Prescott asked as he stared out the window.

“Has to be, sir,” Lester said.

“He’d better be,” Prescott threatened. “Now while I make myself scarce, make sure the cops get the next clue. If they aren’t at Sapphire City Park in time to see the fireworks, everything will have been a waste of time, which means the client will want to start over again because you screwed up, which means I’ll have to kill you. Got it?”

Lester shrank back and answered, “Yes sir.”

“Good. Now go away,” Prescott sneered. “You really are a creepy thing.”

 

 

*          *          *

 

When the bomb went off, Elizabeth almost fell from the sky. Regaining her balance, she swooped down to find Nathan.

Checking his pulse, she breathed a sigh of relief when she felt it strong and steady. He was alive but unconscious and covered with cuts.

“You really are hard to kill,” Elizabeth said, cradling Nathan’s head as she waited for the police.

“Ma’am?” a high-pitched voice called.

Elizabeth looked up to see a small man with a narrow face.

“I’m sorry about the Prophet, ma’am, but Mr. Martin Armstrong wants revenge. He put this into place before he was arrested in case things didn’t go his way. He told me to warn you and the cops that if he isn’t released, Jericho will be killed in Sapphire City Park today during the Founders Day Picnic.”

Suddenly, the strange little man turned and hurried away. If she had not been holding Nathan, she would have snatched him up and dropped him in the nearest police station. Instead, she reluctantly watched as he disappeared around a corner.

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 cheek 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.”

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.