Married by MIstake Epilogue Or: Chapter 59. In This Corner, The one, The Only…

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Epilogue Or: Chapter 59. In This Corner, The One, The Only…

‟TOM!” Kaylee jumped in his arms and hugged on him, as if she would never let go for all her days. ‟Where did you come from?”

He paused in mid-hug for a moment and gave a crooked smile with his inappropriate humor on the verge of words, pointed down the hallway.

‟Over there, the men’s room around the corner.”

‟Mr. Harte, I am Maxwell Silverham. We have met with these two women here to find a way to have you brought back to the United States. Please, tell me where have you been if you weren’t in Asia?”

‟Yup.” The cowboy hat had a distinct shape to it as he nodded. “I was in Asia on business and had a spot of trouble, but with the help of a local crime lord…” Tom pulled off his hat and scratched behind his ear. The long, red hair that once hung to his collar, now was shaven to a stubble.

‟Crime lord?” Beryon asked.

‟Yes, please don’t interrupt,” Tom gave the lawyer a hard look. “The term is my own. In any event, a well-connected citizen of means,  who’s interested in my children’s books of Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and wishes to open up the market in southeast Asia to publish the book series. He helped me out of Singapore. But at a cost.” Tom smiled. ‟He gets another eighth-cent per book sold.”

“We anticipate a lot of children’s books sold.” Tom rubbed his head. “Hate this haircut but it was necessary.”

‟Very well, but where did you go?” Max asked.

‟From there, I got my plane back, but the custom inspectors took saws to the cabinets, walls and whatever else they thought might have a hidden cache of drugs, they even tore up the carpet.” Tom frowned. “They even shredded my bed with razor blades.”

‟But the lawyer advised  me to leave Singapore with haste. The window for legal departure became more difficult with every minute that ticked past.” Tom took a deep breath of a man who ran for his life, and succeeded if just by the smallest of margins. “So I went to Australia and did my book tour.”

“While I was there, I paid a cabinet company to rebuild the bathroom and bed. All the other cut-up bits and parts were in boxes, I dumped them in Oz. I left my kitchen and laundry machines in Brisbane. It was a long and miserable flight back.” Tom made a sad shake of his head. “But,I got some extra range out of the Pacific Wizard because of the reduced weight. Without the cabinets and furniture, it increased the range by a measurable amount.”

‟Wow.” Melanie looked out the window for the big jet. ‟Where is the plane now?”

‟Well,” Tom smiled. “The Pacific Wizard is in Arizona with the cabinet builders to have a new interior built. I just paid a six-month lease here for the Sea Dragon to have month by month service until I get the Pacific Wizard back.”

‟Serviced here?” State Department Maxwell Silverham asked. ‟Can you elaborate? What do you have done?”

‟I have the plane hauled out and the hull cleaned of sea life.” Tom said as if he described it to a child. “They use a variety of methods, pressure and steam-clean technologies. Then repaint if needed. It is a low copper paint for environmental considerations, but it eliminates cross-contamination of species.”

‟Very good. I think my presence is no longer required here.” The United States agent nodded. “Mr. Harte, welcome back. I have someone contact you for a statement, a mere formality. You have cleared customs?” Max asked.

‟Yes, in Arizona.” Tom said. ‟Not that there was much to hide. It was in locked containers or on my person. Pain in the neck to live out of, but perfect for inspection.”

‟My services are paid in full by Leticia Nesmith on your behalf, Mr. Harte.” Beyron added. “You don’t wish my services?”

“I thought you were free from the Attorney General?” Kaylee asked.

“For you, yes.” Beyron nodded. “In the case of Thomas Harte, he got himself into that situation, my charges are in effect for him.”

‟Please leave me your card, I will need some representation with business contracts of the Singapore business society.” Tom said.

‟I don’t do business law.” Beryon said with his smile faltered.

‟No, perhaps not, but do you know someone who could? In your legal group, maybe?” Tom smiled. ‟Plus, I might still need some representation in the criminal courts before I go back. I won’t go back if the court there wants to prosecute me.”

‟Excellent.” Beyron nodded and his smile widened. “I look forward to see our company to do business with you. I’ll have my secretary find someone and contact you. Let’s do dinner. My wife makes a rum-cake that is to die for and we can burn a few steaks, then map out a strategy for a business model for both legal protection for you and assure that you don’t lose money in the international taxation of the different governments.”

He shook Tom’s hand then turned and walked with Max to the limousine.

“One shark teased and soon ignored.” Tom whispered to Kaylee and Melanie . “He would never leave without questions otherwise.”

‟Why did you go to Arizona with the yacht?” Kaylee asked as the government limousine left. “I thought a better place would be a yacht factory on the coast?”

‟The company in Yuma did the original cabinetry work, I liked  the material’s quality then, and since they have improved on the material technology. They can make the same kind of cabinets with less weight. I can save two-thousand pounds, and still have more cool stuff!” Tom shrugged with a smile. ‟And it is a renewable, fire-resistant wood.”

‟Wait. Wood is fire-resistant?” Melanie asked.

‟It’s treated at the factory.” Tom chuckled. “Spared no expense. It is all custom-built now. In a twisted way, when they gutted the entire plane, it saved me money, a rather uncomfortable ride, but I got my computer and tablets back, and all the rest of it is replaceable.”

“They looked at the drives, one officer recognized a story and told me that he reads it to his children every day.” Tom chuckled. “It helped me get the computers back, the stories on it that one officer didn’t wish to interrupt the book series. Although I think he took copies of the next couple books.”

‟Well, let’s go look at it, you will need an artist’s eye and a woman’s touch.” Kaylee said.

‟Why would I need a woman’s touch?”

Kaylee looked at Melanie and the sisters laughed.

‟This has all the promise of fun and excitement.” The younger sister clapped and laughed while Kaylee kissed him. ‟Tom, welcome to the family. Wait’ll mom and dad meet you. If you live through that, you’ll be famous.”

*I might be safer in Asia.* Tom gave a nervous laugh.

<fin>

Married by Mistake Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

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Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?

“I will make a request that you are on police bail, in the meantime the guards will escort you across the street back to your cell until I find how much the bail will be.”

This deflated Tom, he did not want to go back to the miserable place where odor of vomit and dead cockroaches were common decor.

Before Robert could pick up his phone to call for a guard to take Tom back to his cell, there came a knock at the door.

A young man with a camera stood at the door and two men stood on either side of him. The two men wore matched navy blue business suits with lavender ties.

If Tom was not so terrified of his current future, might have laughed. But the twenty-something man in the middle of the trio did not fit with the group.

The young man looked down, and introduced himself as Liem Han, then one of the men in a gentle motion, a hand on his shoulder.

With a grimace of terror Liem spoke an invitation.

‟Mister Lee would like for you to join him for tea.”

‟Thank you.” Robert said. ‟When.”

A squeeze on Liem’s shoulder made the young man moan in abject fear.

‟Now. A limousine is waits for us outside.”

The men that escorted them, only gave minute professional nods as the two men inside gathered up the papers from Robert’s desk and walked out the door.

‟Please remember to lock your door.” The taller one said to Robert. ‟You will be returned safe and it would be a shame if someone took what little you had left because of an open door.”

Tom actually felt better when Robert locked the door before he turned and walked out of the house to the stretched limousine.

The team lavender opened the limo’s door and invited the three escorted men to climb inside the plush transporter’s interior and they closed the door behind them. Inside, an Indian woman with a strong British accent, faced them as they sat.

‟Mister Lee wishes to meet you both. Mister Liem, you will sell all your pictures with rights to Mister Lee. Interviews may be granted, but only after Mr. Lee approves. In the event there is a paid interview, the payments divided evenly, agreed?”

‟Um.” Liem stammered. ‟Do I have a choice.”

‟Yes. But it would be in your best interests to accept the deal. The consequences would be unfortunate.”

‟Ma’am.” Tom pointed at Liem. ‟Why is he here?”

‟Mister Liem Han has taken pictures of you at the time of your arrest. He sold them to the highest bidder. Mr. Lee has purchased most of the images, but the first few went out to the internet before we were aware of your legal troubles.” She explained in precise langauge.

‟Excuse me, who are you?” Robert asked.

‟Mister Mitch, my name is Mumtaz Nayyar, former legal advisor to the British consul here in Singapore.” She said in an even voice.

‟Why former?” The lawyer asked.

‟Mr. Lee pays a great deal more.”

‟Simple and direct.” Tom tried to chuckle but it came out as little more than a squeak. That Lee Kong Kuen had precise knowledge of where he was, bothered him.

‟Now, Mr. Mitch. My employer wishes to help you along with this case of Mr. Harte here. We have arranged for dropping of the drug charges, but you need to press for the government substantiate the drug charge.”

‟I don’t understand.”

‟The police misplaced the plastic bag as I understand it.” She folded down her laptop lid. ”There are no drugs. The report on that just came through to me.”

‟That is…” Robert searched for a word opened up in a practiced smile and showed perfect, polished teeth. ‟Incredible intelligence young woman.”

‟Do not flirt with me, it does not work.”

‟Mister Harte, you have been in Liem’s pictures. As a result certain elements of politics and some family have contacted the US Embassy here. She claims to drive for your wife. But our sources indicate you are a widower.”

‟I don’t have a wife, and I have a lot of limo drivers.”

She opened her laptop lid and traced her finger over the screen.

‟Lettie?” She read the name on the screen invisible to the rest of the passengers.

‟Oh yes, she owns the company.”

‟Does the name Kaylee sound familiar?”

Robert coughed.

‟I’m sorry, until we are more confident on these recent events, I advise him to say no more.”

‟Of course.” She looked out the window. ‟Here we are. Your mystery will resolve in a moment. Your host is waits there at the front step.”

The elegant car pulled up and a tall, bald elderly man dressed in lavender robes stepped forward and waited while the limousine driver opened the door. The two men in the business suits flanked the newcomers men and remained silent, bowed low to their employer.

Mumtaz bowed, but not as low as the two suited men, introduced the three guests.

‟Mister Harte, Mister Mitch and Mister Liem, this is my employer Lee Kong Kuen.” Then she stepped off to the side and fell silent.

‟Mister Lee.” Robert held out a hand. ‟Pleased to meet you. I have heard much.”

He shook his head, then the old man held out a fist and bumped knuckles.

‟I do not shake hands with outsiders, I understand that this is acceptable among westerners. Please come with me, we have much to discuss, but first you will need a change of clothes.” Mr. Lee turned to the men in business suits. ‟Some comfortable robes for them.”

‟Follow us.” The taller of his soldiers said without humor.

In a half-hour they sat in a room and wore lavender colored robes when their host entered.

He sat on a padded stool near a work of art, a short truncated obelisk with a one-meter-diameter flawless, transparent-quartz stone that rotated on a shallow pool of water.

‟There are few large quartz crystals in this world that are flawless. This is one.” He said, his hairless head gleamed nearly as much as the polished stone.

‟Mister Liem Han. I will pay you one-million Singapore dollars for your pictures, also for your camera and your phone. You will not give interviews unless I say it is acceptable. All interviews will be here under my supervision with Mumtaz in attendance. You’ll be paid and I will get half. If you receive offers of interviews, you will refer whoever asks to Mumtaz for negotiations.”

‟Yes.” Liem said. ‟I was just lucky, I saw the American get detained and taken out of his plane.”

‟Thank you.” Mr. Lee nodded. “You were lucky, indeed, and you’ll be rewarded for your work. You have a job interview with the person on the paper that Mister Hom has handed you. You will need new clothes and, Mister Hom? Please escort Mister Liem and select for him some proper clothes for an interview.”

He watched the men leave, then the eyes became hard and looked at Tom.

‟Your cannabis is high quality from the Emerald Triangle. DNA analysis tells us it is from Oregon. Mr. Harte, you do not plan to import any of this material into or through this part of the world?” The brow on the old man became furrowed with concern.

‟No. I will repeat what I have said, I was not aware it was on my plane. I have no interest in transport or smuggle of any material.” Tom looked at his host with a steady gaze. “I have had a relationship with a woman and we have parted company, I think it was hers.”

‟So I have heard, you sought an annulment in Las Vegas.”

‟Yes.” Tom nodded.

‟Tell me, in truth, do they have an entire street covered in Las Vegas?” The old face was unreadable.

‟Why, yes.” Tom said, careful of his words. “It is animated at night with lights.”

‟I wish to go there and see that, but I will need a tour guide.” A slight smile escaped him. ‟You will need to set that up. A staff of all men, a full floor and skilled escorts to show me around. I don’t trust any place outside my walls. And have all escorts trained in protection. Not all of my bodyguards have passports.”

‟Okay, I can do that. Is this a payment for any help?” Tom asked. “For my freedom?”

‟No, that is a friend who helps another friend in need. I would not ask you to do any illegal activities on my behalf.” He shook his head. “Those needs I can take care of with my own devices.”

“For payments to satisfy the debt incurred of your current legal issues, we will speak of the market you wish to enter with your children’s books.” The lord of the manor nodded. ‟Initial letters of interest we have exchanged, will reflect an extra two-cents per sale in U.S. dollars to me for one year, I expect also to have two-cents per sale on tickets of the movie worldwide release. Not from sales in the US, the convoluted tax laws there are beyond reason.”

‟But, Mr. Lee, There is no movie for the children’s book series planned.” Tom pointed out.

‟Mr. Ritch.” The bald head turned and addressed the lawyer.

‟Mitch. Like Robert Mitchum the actor, but no ‘um’ at the end. Just Mitch.”

‟I beg your pardon, Mr. Mitch.” He gave a slight bow to his head. “You should represent Tom here to negotiate the fine details between our markets.”

‟I am not a contract lawyer.”

‟Then I suggest you find one that you can afford, this market will be worth millions to all of us, in my opinion. Tom, you are a gifted storyteller. I look forward to someone who will read your books read to me at bedtime.”

‟Who… oh.” Tom looked around at the staff. Everywhere, young, athletic men in loincloths of their hosts favorite color performed maintenance on the grounds with brooms and rakes.

‟Most these young men are heterosexual, they are all only my employees. This is not a sex camp, I have my own relationships, but I do like the sculpted male body at work, so they maintain my homes as if they are a haven for monks.”

Robert looked up from his personal digital assistant app with a nod.

‟I accept the offer for the job as Mr. Harte’s representative.”

‟Excellent, Mr. Mitch. We shall communicate by way of computer for business. If we need to meet in person, we can meet in Australia or across the bay, outside of Singapore. Any of my homes are open to meet and for general use.”

‟You have homes in Australia?” Robert asked.

‟Why yes, I have six homes there.” The bald head nodded.

Tom nodded and smiled. He had met Lee Kong Kuen at a dinner party at the old man’s mansion in Point Piper, Australia.

‟Back to business. I would like to meet again, soon. But first we need to get Mister Harte out of the country. For the moment, investigations have come to a halt. There is a judge that will give your passport back to you Mr. Harte. Leave the courthouse, go straight to the airport, file a flight plan and leave the country. Call now to have it fueled and ready.” One of the men in business suit leaned over, whispered into Mr. Lee’s ear and handed him a tablet computer with images on the screen.

He looked with concern at Mumtaz, she nodded. ‟Or buy a ticket to anywhere outside of the country.”

‟What is that Mr. Lee?” Robert asked.

‟I am not sure at this time that Mr. Harte would want his plane back after he sees this. The good news, they have found no further evidence or items but the safe. The safe they will ask you to open tomorrow. Drug dogs have not hit on the safe so there is no pressure to open it. The bad news,” He handed the tablet to Tom. ‟They have stripped it to the bulkheads, all that you had is in boxes now, your plane is as if it came from the builder. It is little more than a tube with wings.”

Tom went pale.

‟Bed, walls, cabinets. What did they do? Use saws?”

‟In my experience, that is the most probable method. You have the good fortune that the wings and engines are still in place.” The wise old eyes sparkled with irritation. “Investigations are required in such cases as this, but blatant destruction without due regard makes me unhappy. People don’t like life when I am unhappy.”

‟He is correct,” Robert agreed. “I have defended people who were in their cars, the government inspectors cut the cars apart. Even the engines, if there is no one to protect the possessions, the investigators do not stop.”

‟Damn.” Tom boggled.

‟I will take care of the issue and see out some recompense for the damages on your behalf. So we will be in touch Mr. Tom.” Lee Kong Kuen said in a soft voice. ‟You are free as of now, if they execute you or you are in prison for the next ten years and spend that time here, you will not make any money for yourself, Mr. Mitch or myself. We need to keep you honest and free.”

‟Miss Nayyar, call the justice house and have them hold Mr. Harte’s passport for pickup, he will arrive in my limousine. Mr. Chen, file a flight plan for our guest’s plane if he desires to fly it and get him to the airport with all haste.”

‟Yes sir.”

‟Mr. Mitch. Gather your team. I predict that your services will come to one-half of one cent per book sold of Mr. Tom Harte’s Sea Dragon books.”

‟Bloody good!” Robert said.

‟Make it so, we will meet again in a month.” He turned to Tom again. “One more item.”

‟Yes?” Tom said.

‟This woman that has caused you much grief. Did she want to stay with you? She had signed all the wrong areas in the papers.”

‟How did you know that?”

‟I have a copy of them.”

‟But you said the government could not open it.” Tom said. ‟How did you get a copy?”

‟My people are far more resourceful, it is why the engines and wings are still on your plane. I did not get involved quickly enough to save your interior.”

“I can have the interior rebuilt.” Tom nodded. “Thank you for all the help.” 

‟Very good, at any rate. Mr. Tom.” He rose to his feet and motioned him to follow.

After they walked among the topiary for a few minutes, the old man spoke like a father to a favorite son.

 ‟Find her, I wish to meet the woman who could cause you such distress. One bit of observation? She left birth control in a drawer, she wants you to return.”

‟I…” Tom looked down. ‟I don’t think so. She went to her boyfriend.”

‟She did not. She looks for you.” The two men locked eyes. ‟Your secret marriage is out of the shadows. You will have paparazzi look for you once again.” The old man nodded. “At any rate leave Asia now or you will never be able to leave. The judge will not let this go if you are still here when the sun rises again.”

Tom nodded and bowed. Tom turned to walk with Mr. Hom as Liem had done, but this time to the car.

This was no limousine, instead an all-electric four-door Tesla with an engine that hummed like an electric transformer.

Tom was not just about to leave and be free, this was a story of speed.

Married by Mistake Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

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Chapter 54. Big Trouble In Little Singapore

The black-irised eyes of the customs officer looked into the emerald-green eyes of the author.

‟You fly alone? This is unusual.” The official was not impressed by the Pacific Wizard, nor did he show any signs of good humor.

‟I don’t need anyone to fly. I have no children or wife.” Tom said with a smile. “The computers and I can do it all with no one else. So I travel by myself.”

‟Why come by yourself? This is quite unusual.” His accent was decidedly British, stern as he was, he was not uneducated. “This is a place for families and tourists. You are no tourist?”

‟Business.” Tom struggled to suppress his knack for inappropriate humor in stressful situations. “I am here to make a contract with a publisher for children’s stories.”

‟In such a big plane?”

‟It is mine and it’s the only one I have that can cross the ocean, Officer. Sir.” Tom was a bit nervous. He disliked confrontations as a habit. The last time he had dealt with the law, the press got involved for years after. “It is my home.”

‟We will check your aircraft.” The officer motioned to some of his team to enter the jet.

‟I will live on my plane, except to meet with Mister Hikaru Ngyen?” Tom dropped the name. ‟I’m sorry, I did not get your name Officer…?”

‟Lieutenant Lai.”

‟I’m sorry. Lieutenant Lai, I’ll stay on my plane, here. I only go to town to meet for business and leave.”

‟We will search the plane.” The lieutenant repeated himself in flat tones.

‟You search for what?” This had to be a bad joke. Somewhere someone had a big laugh.

‟For drugs. You can easily smuggle drugs in such an airship as this, yes?” The Lieutenant’s gaze was steady and he did not blink.

‟Only to smuggle women.” Tom winked, and tried to smile then realized that was a poor move.

‟What? You smuggle women?” He looked at Tom with irritation. ‟Where do you go after you leave?”

‟Australia.” Tom answered. “I have a book launch to do autographs and a convention scheduled to attend.”

‟Where are you from?” He said as he took a close look at Tom’s passport.”You are long ways from home.”

‟All over the United States. But home would be, I would say…” Tom paused. He had no home base, really. He used his agent’s office address in the past, now he could not remember the new address. ‟San Francisco, California.”

‟Expensive place to live.” He looked Tom in the eye.

‟Yes, but I have a comfortable income.” Tom countered. “I am self-employed.”

‟Smuggler?”

‟Smuggler? Me?!” Tom blink and shook his head, this conversation took a decidedly bad turn into the most twisted nightmare he could ever dream up. ‟No! I am an author, a writer of children’s books and adventures. One of my adult novels is a movie, maybe you have seen it?”

‟What movie?” Lieutenant Lai asked dangerously. ‟You write children’s books and adult books?”

‟The movie is Steamland about the book of the same name.”

‟Dogs.” The Lieutenant spoke into a radio microphone attached to his collar. Then to Tom. ‟Do you have any drugs to declare?”

‟What? No. There are no drugs to declare, other than aspirin and prescription medications for depression and panic that I don’t take all the time.” Tom decided he would take some of those drugs as soon as he finished with this conversation.

‟Do you feel panic now?” The eyes tried to pierce Tom’s claims of innocence, the man was on a mission. He took his job with a serious attitude. Or was perhaps he waited for a bribe.

Tom shook his head.

*Good god, I don’t want to open that can of worms, if the officer was an honest man, it would make matters so much worse. It would be better to let the officer ask if he wants some payment.*

‟I’m about to.” Tom admitted.

A small dog, brought up by a woman who did not even look at Tom. She unleashed the hound at the steps of the plane and picked it up the wagging-tailed officer. It reminded Tom of Snoopy the dog.

A beagle. Good noses, no-threat, a good choice of a dog to clear the jet.

Tom sat on the steps while the woman and the dog when through the plane, he could see when they started from the front, where he stowed equipment for water operations.

*The inflatable boat, electric motor, anchors, chains, ropes.*  He ticked off the inventory of the closet.

All of a sudden the dog barked its fool head off and Tom stood up and looked in. The Snoopy lookalike pawed at his refrigerator and Tom relaxed when they opened the door and the summer sausage he had bought in Germany was there, open.

The woman spoke in a harsh voice at the dog when it lunged forward to get the meat of the knee-high storage unit, then continued on its job and sniffed around the inside of the Pacific Wizard.

The lieutenant looked at Tom and then looked away, clearly embarrassed and hung his head.

Tom’s stress level dropped. Then the dog sounded off again.

Tom looked towards the bedroom of the big plane when the woman officer stood up. In her hand she held a heavy plastic pouch, rolled up like a giant burrito of a green leafy… Tom’s heart fell. 

The officers spoke in rapid Malay, then Lieutenant Lai turned to Tom.

‟It is illegal to use marijuana here.” The Lieutenant said and nodded to his officers who took Tom by both arms and pulled him out of the plane.

‟I don’t smoke, I don’t know where that came from.” Tom regretted the words the moment he said it. He sounded like every arrested drug smuggler in history as alarms went off in his head. “Wait!”

‟You are under investigation for possession of restricted drug.” Lieutenant Lai said.

Tom closed his mouth and did not protest loudly.

*I know better than to argue, all research and subjects I have written have taught me that a street fight with the police is just a “no”. Better to wait for a lawyer to find just how bad things are.*

Tom walked upright with the officers, not overly tall at an inch below six-feet tall. But he towered over the police officers and, in an ironic twist, it entertained him in a hysterical, panic driven way.

At the entrance to the air terminal, a freelance photographer that shot pictures of places and people to sell on the open market shot several pictures of Tom as they led him into then out the front doors of the airport.

He switched to the HD video of his camera, Liem Han, future news reporter for a big city news source (Maybe even tv!) recorded the arrest of a pilot of an oddly painted jet that had landed.

The pilot was a caucasian that looked familiar, but he couldn’t put a finger on it. He made a mental note to ask his girlfriend when he got home, Liem walked quickly to his second-most expensive possession he had ever purchased and hit the ignition button on the motorcycle.

He pulled up next to the car that the dog officer poured water in a bowl for her dog on the sidewalk, he asked her what the arrest was for.

‟Drugs. That American is a smuggler.” She said. “He had three-hundred grams of marijuana and a bottle of oil, fifteen millilitres.”

‟American! Thanks.” He slipped her a fifty-dollar bill he sped away and caught up the police car with the tall, redheaded prisoner and followed it at a respectful distance. This was a possible death penalty case with an American.

He kept his distance, Liem watched as the car pulled up at the police center and sat there for several minutes.

Liem linked his phone to his camera with the bluetooth connection and sent still photos that he had just taken to his girlfriend and willed it to upload faster. He hoped she would see the photos right away and text him back if she recognized the red-headed foreigner.

The phone toned with her favorite love song and Cho looked to see what Liem had to say. A single line, “Who is this?” accompanied three photos.

It took her a minute to recognize the images, and instead of a text, she called Liem.

‟You don’t know who that is? That is the guy that wrote the movie you bought me. He is famous in Australia. They say he is dangerous and killed his wife and kids in the USA, he has tried to sink boats of… ”

‟Thanks! More pictures on the way! He hung up on her without a chance for her even finish her sentence.” He turned on the camera again, double checked that the battery pack was at full charge and connected and turned on.

A mistake he had committed once before and lost a chance for photos that would have made a name for him.

He had a famous person in his sights, and the first photos in the world of him under arrest, and Liem smiled.

*It happened right in front of me!*

The American who had beaten the system and got away with murder was now arrested in Singapore, Liem knew he had a gold mine of photos in his camera.

Four officers came out and pulled the American out of the police car and escorted him inside. Everyone had a hand on the tall redhead, they did not take any chances he might put up a struggle.

And Liem recorded it all with his camera, and he smiled widely. More expensive than his motorcycle, the camera and the long lens just paid for themselves, and two phone calls later, he uploaded video to the network to a buyer for a handsome price.

In the days that followed, Liem’s life and career became a roller-coaster ride beyond his dreams.

Tom’s life, however, was a vertical epic descent into hell.

Married by Mistake Chapter 53. Singapore

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Chapter 53. Singapore

After he left Hiroshima, Japan, Tom’s plane traveled over the expansive eastern Pacific Ocean, the early day was clear and broken clouds. The Pacific Wizard’s upgraded twin engines operated so smooth and so well-balanced, one would hardly know they pushed the big plan at hundreds of miles-per-hour as he wandered around the open expanse of the big jet alone.

Tom walked the length of the plane, using the restroom. At his designated altitude, he still flew slow compared to the commercial airliners.

Not meant for blistering speed, his craft and home was a yacht, after all, a flying boat. And even with the upgrades in the engines, it still traveled at a sedate speed of a little less than six-hundred kilometers-per-hour, about thirty-percent slower compared to commercial passenger jet.

But, it was his home.

He passed over the water, the autopilot followed the path programmed in the flight computer. The Japanese were sticklers about accuracy and with the unusual private jet, made good and sure that he had the proper data set logged into the computer.

He stood behind the pilot’s seat, he did not sit back down, just stood there and watched the machine fly on itself with the automatic guidance system engaged. He had spent a lot of time in the plane in recent weeks. Although his arm was no longer oozing blood, he kept applying new, clean dressings, if the air-pressure changes caused some unexpected problems. The last thing he wanted, to lose the use of his injured arm.

It would have a scar for some time that would be impressive to show off. But for now it was an angry line that crossed his forearm, as if someone hit him with an ax.

It was quite impressive to the unprepared, if he could show it off. But there was no one to show it to while being on the Pacific Wizard in mid-flight.

Tom took a deep breath and let it out in a controlled slow exhale, it felt so good, he stretched a second time before he went to his desk and picked up the tablet computer. It was the one he used so often to write on and sat back in the pilot seat, where he could keep an eye on the displays.

Radar indicated several aircraft above and below, a heavy jet was passing over him going the same direction. He read the display and looked the specs up on his computer and shook his head at the numbers it displayed on the size and speed of the larger plane.

Laughing, the engines on the passenger jet was larger by far than the two that powered the Wizard. Even with the engine upgrades when he purchased the big jet through his company, the specs made him a tiny bit envious.

If he could get another upgrade and put those on his yacht.

Laughing out loud again, he realized he would have to have the engines out on longer stalks or have divots pounded into the fuselage of the plane to fit the big fan-powered blowtorches.

A man could stand up inside the big airliner’s engines if he had a mind to.

He could spend all day in the air with Kaylee if he had the plane like those. Except for the cost, some twenty-five thousand US dollars per hour!

She would have to paint a lot to sell her creations to help offset the cost of flying a privately owned seven-eight-seven.

*Even if it is just a fantasy.* Tom shook his head. *There was no way to buy one of those wide-bodied birds.*

The memory of the woman echoed in his head.

His shoulders sagged. He had spent almost the last two hours not thinking of that raven-haired artist.

She had made him laugh, and even if she had not intended to do so, she had hurt him to the core of his heart.

More than he would ever admit to anyone except himself. It was important to him that she kept her promise to… He forgot the other man’s name except he was a congressional aide of some kind.

Shaking his head, he returned to his writing, trying to keep Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and his friend Weeds, on a child’s level of understanding. This story had become one about keeping promises.

“A promise kept, makes a person’s word valued.” He typed on the screen in the word bubble of Wendel, the Weedy Sea Dragon.

Still, as he wrote the adventures of Leonard and Weeds his mind drifted to the mote of loneliness in his mind.

The autopilot computer chimed, it was time to make radio contact with Singapore and begin his descent.

Checking his fuel, he was still had a third of his operational fuel left. Traveling the way he had of late, the service techs in San Francisco had fitted his yacht with fuel cells and turned the luxury jet into a virtual gas-can with wings.

Tom, hopped from one city to the next from book-con to comic-con for signing of books and traveled alone, he had flown the great circle route with no one to talk to in the big plane.

Still, he had the computers and could video chat with anyone he chose. But he had no one to call. So he followed his schedule, his eyes settling on a the event that he had attended after Dr. Manga’s installation, the event where the sponsor set him up with a date-for-hire.

He laughed sadly at his perception of the date, that woman came from a company the organizer hired at the Frankfurt comic-con to escort him so that he would look even better with the beautiful woman on his arm.

Tom laughed as the night had progressed and the escort was in fact, more than an escort. With a Master’s Degree in biology and organic chemistry. She was wonderful to talk with an ability to see both sides of an argument, a quick wit and the ability to shut down the probing questions on her relationship with Tom.

Even when one person tried to prove that she was some gold-digger with no brains.

‟I hoped you would slap down that SOB from the vomit-rag tabloid, but jeeze!” Tom commented when they were alone and he laughed. The sight of the tabloid reporter made to look like an imbecile tickled him. “That was beyond good!”

She called herself Krystal with a slight Saxony-German accent, and Tom immediately doubted that was her real name. As far as her education, he could not prove she lied about a Master’s Degree, and she could talk with anyone about nearly any subject. Even the most recent journals of learned circles of chemistry.

When Tom started to talk to her the next morning, she picked up the phone called someone, then told him to get dressed.

‟We are going to breakfast.” She smiled. Taking him by the hand and led him out the door of the hotel.

‟Sorry about last night, I have a lot of things…”

‟Shhh… Mister Harte. Things happen, sometimes they don’t. You are awesome and you did a lot of public interaction at that event. In total, I am very impressed with your work.”

‟You have read my books?”

‟I’ll read the rest tonight, but I read all the children’s books while you slept.” She tapped her phone.

‟Wow. That’s a lot of books, I’ve written for a quite a few years now.”

‟I can read two-thousand words per minute. That’s measured, sir.” She smiled. ‟I can type one-hundred words-a-minute, and I speak five languages, there is little that gets by me.”

‟Anything else? Why are you with me, why not at your own convention?”

‟I’m still in debt for school and a chance compete for a place on the Olympic Archery team.” She said as they stepped into the elevator, alone. “I need to purchase some equipment to keep up with the other competitors.”

Tom laughed, then she kissed him deeply.

‟That’s for being wonderful.” She said softly, coughing with a guilty sound.

‟You said you couldn’t kiss me last night.”

‟Yes, I broke the rule. Sue me.” She chuckled as the doors opened. No one was there to snap pictures or talk to them. She knew the way around the crowded hotel.

‟You are good.” Tom said, looking around. They had come out of an elevator facing away from the foyer and walked out a side door.

‟Logistics and protection. Part of the job.” Only then did Tom notice that Krystal’s eyes were quick to take in everything.

‟We can walk out now. We have reservations at the Meadow. It is where we will meet some of your cohorts in crime.”

‟My cohort… What?” Tom looked sideways at her.

‟The other authors. Each one has an escort to get them there and on time.”

‟So you are a babysitter?”

Krystal laughed. It was a musical sound.

‟I am an escort, but our company requires special skills that is beyond the typecast Hollywood version.” She said softly. As they got into a dark-windowed limousine. ‟I am here to make you look good and to keep you safe.”

Tom boggled.

‟And I thought you were just smart.”

‟Not bad for a call girl?” Crystal said. ‟Don’t worry about my emotional state. I am well compensated to keep you safe.”

‟Who would want to hurt me? I’m just a storyteller.”

‟You don’t know?” Her face became serious, no longer a tall, Nordic beauty that graced the floor, but a military-esque hard look of a bodyguard. ‟There was a threat to the convention. Because of your novel and movie, it is felt that you are a high-value target.”

‟Oh crap…” Tom boggled. “So you are a bodyguard? But just not armed.”

“Oh yes, sir I am.”

“Please for the thousandth time? Call me Tom.” He said.

“Yes, Tom, I’m armed. I carry devices always within reach.” She slid up her skirt, where he could see she carried four knives and two small pistols with silencers in thigh holsters. “Point two-two caliber with sound suppressors. Power is not as important as placement.”

Tom could not get his mind off what was under her skirt for the rest of the trip in .

That was over a week ago. Today he stood inside the Wizard far above the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean descending into Singapore. Here, he was to meet with a local publisher and distributor for children’s books and he received an invitation to stay at a high-mountain villa. He would to try to get his stories published in the island country. A fresh market for him.

The autopilot chimed and returned control to the human pilot and Tom guided the big jet down into the approach lane.

Slow descent and a perfect touch down with mild weather, the Wizard rumbled down the taxiway to where the crews indicated with their long, bright-colored batons.

The engines powered down with the typical sound of jets and Tom stood out of his seat. Opening the door, and stepped out into the sunshine of the beautiful southeast Asia day.

A few hours later, Tom would wish to never see such a day again.

Married by Mistake Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn On The News!

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Chapter 52. Kaylee! Turn on the News!

In the week that followed the crazy phone call from Melanie , Kaylee’s thoughts spun like a tornado in her head and the idea to stop at the airport to check on when Tom might return seemed more like a good idea every day.

After two weeks of nag texts by her sister, Kaylee took Melanie to the airport to find when Tom would be scheduled to return.

Melanie’s eyes reflected bright surprise when her older sister drove past the commercial airline terminals and followed around Earhart Street to a gate marked ‟Restricted Access”.

‟Now where?” Melanie asked as they rolled up to the gate.

Kaylee just smiled and punched in a code on a keypad mounted on a steel post.

The gate opened slowly with no more drama than if they had pressed the remote for the garage door at home.

‟Oh my god!” Melanie laughed. “You have access!”

‟You know, you say that a lot?” Kaylee chuckled. Sister’s, were the best friends.

‟Well, when did you get Secret Squirrel access?”

‟Tom gave it to me when had the Wizard’s hull cleaned and serviced here.”

‟Cleaned and serviced?”

‟Yeah, things grow on the hull if he leaves it in the water too long and he had to have it cleaned for travel to different places.” Kaylee blinked then covered her face with a hand. ‟Oh crap, I sound like a snob plane owner.”

Melanie laughed harder as they drove around the parking area to the big hanger and parked next to other private cars.

Their car was decidedly out-of-place, even the pickup trucks that were there, were new and expensive looking. Kaylee’s beat-up, creaky import car, in comparison, appeared rather sad among the upscale cars from the ‟Big-3” American builders and one European exotic car that the girls suspected as a compensation for someone’s ego.

Kaylee led her sister to the human sized door in the moving wall and tried the knob and found it unlocked.

They opened the door and walked inside the fluorescent-lighted interior. Several planes sat around while technicians turned wrenches and climbed on ladders as the doctors-with-wrenches went about and serviced their winged patients.

‟This way to the office.” She told Melanie. ‟We’ll ask about the Pacific Wizard.”

Ten-minutes later, they walked out of the office, disappointed.

‟That was a lost cause.” Melanie ground her teeth in frustration.

‟What gets me is that they didn’t even know who he was.” Kaylee answered quietly.

‟Ask the guy with the clipboard?” Her sister pointed to a stationary man in a white coat.

‟It might get us kicked out, but yeah.”

Walking up to the man with the board he was tapping on. It was a tablet computer and he was calling it every vile name in the book.

“You useless piece of electronic equipment, your mom was a pocket calculator and rode in everyone’s pocket…”

‟Excuse me.” Kaylee said, she recognized the man as one of the techs that worked on the Wizard.

“May I help you?” The tech seemed both irritated and relieved at the interruption.

‟The Pacific Wizard, you worked on it last month?”

‟You’ll have to be more specific than that.” Without looking up from his infuriating tablet. ‟Check in the office for the status of the plane.”

‟No, I mean the flying boat that you steam-cleaned and painted the hull last month and did some checks?”

‟Oh yes. Tom’s plane.” Tablet man looked up. ‟Say, aren’t you the woman that lived on it, too?”

‟Yeah, I’m back at school now.” Kaylee blushed. ‟Do you know when Tom will be back?”

‟No sorry, I don’t expect him back. It was the first time he had ever been here for service.” He pulled off his hard-hat and rubbed his bald head. ‟I heard his plans were to go to England, but he was hurt in an accident. So I don’t know if he went but I know he picked up his plane here and left with a full load of fuel a few weeks ago. I was in the office when he paid up. First time I have ever seen a black signature card.”

Kaylee thanked him and began to walk back to the car with Melanie when he called after them.

‟Miss?” He pulled at his salt and pepper goatee. “He mentioned plans about business in Japan and Singapore then to Australia, or the other way around, I don’t remember.”

‟Thank you.” Kaylee smiled sadly.

In the car on the way out, Melanie watched her sister.

“He will never be back.” Kaylee said with a sob after they got on the highway.

‟Maybe you can find him in the email?”

‟I never emailed him, I was always with him. I don’t know how to get ahold of…” Then her eyes got big and said one name. “Lettie.”

‟Who?”

‟Limo company owner in Northern California, Tom’s supported her in the past. They’re friends.” Kaylee sounded pleased remembering Lettie’s name.

Back at the apartment, Kaylee called Lettie’s number and she picked up on the first ring.

‟Kaylee ! I had a thought about you the other day.” Her smile could be felt through the phone. ‟I didn’t want to have you as a lost friend. How are things?”

Kaylee updated Lettie while Melanie made some tea.

‟Tom has an itinerary to go from Japan down to Australia in his new jet.”

‟New jet?”

‟The Pacific Wizard.”

‟Oh, I didn’t know it was new.”

‟Oh yeah, less than a year old, he got it to replace the Sea Dragon when his novel got picked up for a movie.” Kaylee could hear Lettie coördinate her business operations and tell her cousin ‟Limo-3 got requested for this.” A sigh and the sound of papers and the tap of keys. ‟Sorry, Kaylee .”

‟No problem.” Kaylee smiled. Lettie was an awesome person. ‟I just want to find out how to get ahold of Tom again.”

‟You did the deed and now want it back. The normal answer is ‟no”. A pause as she typed again on the keyboard of her business. “But I like you and I think Tom would like me to help. The only contact information I have is through his agent.”

‟Yeah, that is not a good email anymore. He fired her.”

‟I recall. Sorry Kay… Uh, Kaylee ? Do you have cable tv? You might want to turn on a headline channel. Tom’s in the news.” Lettie sounded alarmed. “It looks like he’s been arrested!”

“What!” Kaylee stood up from the chair she had settled in.

She pointed and waved at Melanie to get her to turn on the TV they flipped around the channels until they found a headline news station and there, in an Asian airport surrounded by armed guards, was the Pacific Wizard.

‟Lettie, I gotta go!” Kaylee gasped out. “Thank you for all that you have done for me!”

Kaylee hung up the phone and both sisters stood in front of a television transfixed by a news reporter who spoke in even tones of a news story about a reclusive man who insisted that people call him by his first name where ever he went.

They had found Tom.

Married by Mistake Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

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Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

*Homework!*

*Ugh!* She had cottonmouth from the awkward sleep position on her tablet. In a moment she laughed when she sat up. She left a face print on the smooth, high gloss finish of the computer’s screen. *So much homework! Not enough coffee!*

Every night. Kaylee had not taken time to smoke even one bowl in two days. She sketched every day and, after the first few days, it brought her no joy. A still-life of the bay from her balcony, then she went to the beach and painted there.

One late afternoon the memory of Glenn returned in a blast of fury, in a heated moment of inspiration she threw sand on the paint, before it dried, unable to rework the image, she displayed it in class.

She expected Doctor Fayse to reject the sand-textured painting out of hand, but he instead gave her extra points for the painted colors and strokes of the brush and sand effect, giving the feeling of emotion of anger and rage that she had created.

Rage?

Yeah. Oh yeah, she was angry. She kicked Tom out of her life in favor of Glenn.

And then Glenn screwed the pooch on that subject. Samantha, too for that matter, and his life.

That he could not see his way to keep his DNA in check, really did not hurt.

*It’s that he is, rather was, supposed to be my best friend, too. He should have talked to me, not just give a half-limp kiss and never say a word about a pregnant wife.*

*Yeah, he screwed his life up, all right.* She kicked an innocent stick of wood on the ground hard enough that the little driftwood twig skipped across the parking lot. *But so did I.*

Tom was overdue in the bay and she was unable to keep away from his website. It was no help, just an information page, no “Contact Me” information, there was no way for her to email him.

Georgia closed his email that she had in her phone, after he dealt with that agent, it looked like he signed with another company and there was no direct contact with him through that web-site either.

Never in the news and the events on his web page were out of date and ended with Doctor Manga’s installation at Cambridge University in the UK.

Still, everyday she went to the beach with an occasional drive past the airport, but the closed football-field sized hanger doors looked as if they had not been used and there was a noticeable lack of activity around the building.

Another week dragged past and the wet season was coming, she would go home for Christmas soon and Tom’s plane still had not returned.

Early Saturday, Kaylee was in a deep sleep and the sun had not yet come up. She had spent her Friday night in deep study and memorized her half-dozen assignments and typed her class reports on each with an original point of view as required by the professors.

Seven hours a day in classes, another four-hours at home on her computer, another shift at the beer and ribs cook-house. She felt overwhelmed, as so many college students do.

She had nightmare dreams of the reports when her phone rang, saving her from being attacked by a anthropomorphized, giant report on an artist that she could not recognize. She was thankful for that save.

It was Melanie. She loved her sister more than anyone in the world at that instant.

‟Mmph. Hel-” Kaylee yawned and dropped her phone on her face. ‟Lo? Melanie ?”

‟Tiny! I found him!” Melanie was wide awake. ‟I know where Tom is!”

‟Whath timeish ish it?” Kaylee was almost incoherent. She had not slept well, then it had hit her in last night’s studies and she slept like the dead without any sleep aid or to cook hash-brownies to assist in her stress. “Tom? Who’s you talkin’ ’bout?”

‟It’s quarter of three. Why are you sleeping? You are always up at this time.”

‟Not th’ last four days… Mel, I was asleep, issa ya drunk?” Kaylee slurred her words as if she had was drunk herself. “Wha’ di’ you say about who? Wha’ Tom?”

‟No! Noooo…I have been on the hunt for Tom.” She sounded like she found a gold nugget after a long search. ‟You know I had Steven check some things for me?”

‟Sheven? Ahem..Steven? Th’ Stalker?” Kaylee interrupted. “Wonder” *yawn* “Ful. C’n I g’back sleep now?”

‟Not a stalker.” A pause as her sister contemplated the conversation. ‟Okay, well, maybe I am. But it’s for a good cause!”

Kaylee laughed while she balanced the phone on her head and pulled her arm under the blanket while her younger sister babbled news about a guy named Tom and his travels.

‟Did you hear me? He is in Australia.” Mel said to her sister in a sad tone of voice. ‟Aw. Kaylee, I think he has moved there.”

‟Moovmmph… Moved there?” Kaylee ‘s brain did not register the conversation still.

Then she blinked and stared into the dark.

She was wide awake with a sudden rush of thoughts.

“You mean TOM? My Tom?” She said loud enough and had to grab at the phone. ‟Tom has children’s books published there. Southern Oz.” 

‟Where?” Melanie did not catch what her older sister said.

‟Australia, he called it Oz a lot.” She did not want to wake up this much, but now she was awake and not happy. ‟Can I sleep? I need to sleep. I’m too awake, I don’t wanna be awake.”

‟Well, you need to stop by that hanger and go ask. Not just drive by.”

‟I won’t stalk him.” Kaylee said, she struggled to dive back into sleep and try hard to forget that screwed up chapter of her life.

‟You’re not a stalker if you’re worried about him.” Melanie said in conspiratorial tones. ”I was worried. You remember the look on his face when you and he were here?”

‟I remember you squeaked like a mouse and fell off of the sofa.” She grumbled and snuggled back under the blankets.

‟That never happened. He startled me.” Her sister was defensive. ‟But he did have a big smile. Tiny, you made a happy man.”

‟You just want me to hook up with him again.” She mumbled. “Melly, I’m going back…”

‟If you don’t, I will.” Melanie interrupted.

“…to sleep.” Kaylee finished.

‟If you keep on that subject, I’m going to hang up on you.” Kaylee twisted the phone around so the light from the screen didn’t bother her.

‟Okay, I’ll let you go.” Melanie said.

‟Good.”

‟You need to get some sleep, you are a bitch at night.” Younger sisters, sometimes, annoy and Melanie was making it her number-one trait as far as Tom was concerned.

‟Good night, Mel.” And she broke the connection, laughing herself to sleep.

*When she gets older, she will be the most famous busy-body in our family.* Was Kaylee ’s last thought before sleep reclaimed her.

The morning after the phone call. Kaylee walked around in the apartment, off in her emotional bubble. It took two-hours for her to figure out what was bothering her.

That phone call at zero-dark-thirty by her over caffeinated sister who was more insane about Tom than cats were about laser-pointers.

She made coffee in an old-school way of heated up water in a pot, then she poured the scalding liquid over Kona coffee grounds in a single-cup filter.

Not for the first time, she drank her coffee on the balcony and looked towards the picturesque bay.

And not for the first time, she saw only beautiful blue water and boats.

And not for the first time…

She wept.

Married by Mistake Chapter 24. A Phone Call

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Chapter 24. A Phone Call

‟Agent of Success” Her business card read. She had been Tom’s second agent after he got started selling his books out of the back of his closet and over the internet. 

She stroked her cat, Bond, while she mulled the situation over.

*If it was not for me, he would have been just like the thousands of authors of talent who stayed in the pits of obscurity fighting over morsels. I am more of a wife to him than that… That… Bimbo… stealing my position and probably would cause Tom to change agents.*

*This is not acceptable!* Tom represented three-fourths of Georgia’s current income. If he knew just how much she got in commission, there would be an investigation. She — legally — charged for her various services with a contracted percentage over her base.

She had taken Tom on as a flat rate as she did with all her clients, but when she read one of the children’s books she was showing to a bookstore, she knew then that she could do a percentage and still Tom would make money, enough money to keep him from the thoughts there was another way.

When his books took off, they automatically renewed the contract as a shrug and handshake over drinks and a launch party.

Tom did not think of the amount of money involved, especially when she couched the terms in a positive light.

*In this case, ignorance is bliss.*

At least for the Georgia Hershey Agency.

Dialing an often used number from her early days, she called Trevor Charles, private investigator.

She had used his services for finding agents that were taking advantage of clients, then springing the information on the client in an engineered ‟casual” conversation.

‟Mister Charles. Georgia Hershey. Yes, it has been awhile. I’ve an assignment for you, there is this young woman I need to know everything about…”

Married by Mistake Chapter 15. Kaylee Simone Grant

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Chapter 15. Kaylee Simone Grant

She sat quietly in the big plane with “Pacific Wizard” painted on the outside in big letters in thought. The flying yacht that was Tom’s home, she looked at the ring on her hand for a moment, feeling torn.

Normally she would at the academy of martial arts at this hour. Her next level required her full focus. If the Guru knew what had happened, the rapist, the professor, getting married, he would surely tell the Grand Master. A tiny Filipino man, who had been born before god invented hair.

He liked Kaylee , saying she had speed and skill to wear a black shirt (with an orange stripe on one sleeve now.) and in the years that followed she had gotten that coveted black shirt. Even her orange show uniform she folded with great care, was a gift from the man, whom she counted as among her most cherished of friends as well as a mentor.

She knew he liked the girls and kids. Having little use for the brawny male adults that thought all they needed to do was muscle their way through a fight, the Grand Master who stood only an inch above five feet tall, would throw the hulking soon-to-be-ex students around the academy’s floor, much to the pleasure of the students that watched this event time and again.

Children were a favorite of the Grand Master. (Occasionally, she felt it was because they were the only people who were shorter than him.) Taking a great deal of patience and time to teach the children the angles of attack and defense.

She pulled pants and shoes, it was time to head over to her apartment and pay the rent.

*I hate this first-of-the-month chore. The power and water are all due in the mail today. Ugh. And I need to beg for her job back.*

She did not want to have the thought that she was sponging off of Tom, even though he had given her a card. A bank signature card with no limits, is what he said, and it made her feel special. When she looked it up on her smart phone, he was telling the truth!

*I could pay my entire tuition at once, all four years. Including post-grad classes, new tires— even a new car!* That made her hands sweat. That one moment of clarity, of what could be. *But, if I do that, then I am just a user.*

It was an embarrassed her to even accept the card from him to carry around. She pulled it out and looked at it, holding it by the edges. It had her name on it – her married name – it took him no time at all to order it.

He was taking care of her and the life he was imagining he might have married into.

What kind of life was Tom thinking?

She was angry again.

*He would take care of me alright, he would make me into his version of a kept woman! A mistress with a ring!* She growled in her heart at the thought that grew in the deepest recesses of her mind. Like a whisper that would not fade.

*I need to change this accident. I want Glenn as a husband!*

*Except…*

Except… Tom.

*A gentle and kind soul, Grandma would say.* Except Kaylee still didn’t know much about him. Sitting alone with her thoughts, she watched the workers climbed up and down ladders at with indistinct conversations spoke of subjects that didn’t interest her.

Then her eyes focused the computer on Tom’s desk.

*Oh my god!* It struck her, *I know enough to search him!* She nearly face palmed herself in frustration. *How could I be so dense!*

With everything going on, she was just going for the ride. She only looked for information on the man as she might with another date – not that she ever married anyone else while baked and drunk. She had not looked in-depth on Tom, what his notes might be like.

The weed she smoked made her open to a life with Tom that was fantastic, the drinks with the guardian angel of a man, made it more exciting.

Now, she sat at his computer and turned it on. The jet, plugged into giant power cables the thickness of a man’s arm to the hangar, and the Pacific Wizard was fully operational with all the amenities, including the computer.

The built-in desktop booted into an unfamiliar operating system, she bit her lip as she moved the cursor around the touchscreen, she had no idea what Ubuntu Linux was, but forged ahead anyway. Tapping her finger on “Guest” she opened a screen with an empty desktop. It was like the one that she knew, so she tried to navigate around with her fingertip.

A fascinating system with a virtual keyboard that Tom used.

She smiled. Never would there be a popped-off key or polished with repeated keystrokes until the letters were obliterated, it all impressed her with the system that was unlike the more mainstream and bug-ridden offering.

She continued exploring around the system programs finally finding an icon for the web browser. Using the virtual keyboard, she entered Tom’s name and read the listing.

And boggled…

*Oh, crap on a cracker!*

Not only had Tom been writing, he had started a company that had imported the kind of plane she was sitting in for firefighting and modified them for use in the United States.

Bigger engines, more capacity. The government contracted to use the modified planes all over the country and Canada, a young and growing air transport company. The second listing had a page that offered his name in a link, she clicked on it and uncovered his two dozen children’s books… and his unauthorized biography.

Tom never spoke of his past family. Never hinting at the past catastrophe that drove him. The biography showed a red-headed girl with curls and a blond boy with brilliant blue eyes. The children had their arms around Tom and a woman she assumed was his wife in child-sized bear-hugs.

Reading further, he was a small-business owner and was active in various activities with students and children. He trained with FEMA and belonged to a volunteer fire department.

She continued and an entry covered one early evening when Tom responded to a call, police evidence showed his pregnant wife took the children in the family car and were driving towards where Tom was working at a fire in a barn.

Somehow they had gotten off the road on a train track in the dark and was hit by a freight-train at more than seventy-miles-per-hour. In the accompanying photo with the article, the family car was unrecognizable.

*It’s inverted!* She gasped. The car’s engine was missing and the seats were on the ground outside of the car.

A second image of the scene had two sheets covering the tiny bodies, a larger sheet hung on the remains of the car covered what was left of the mother. The archived words on the news page said there were no survivors, the children died at the scene.

More chapters of the unauthorized biography revealed that Tom closed his business, filed for bankruptcy and locked himself in his house. His name showed up on the internet a year or so later with the first of the Leafy Sea Dragon children’s book that sold in local stores along Australia’s southern coast. The books became an instant hit locally and motivated Tom to come out of his seclusion.

The light illuminated Kaylee’s eyes and her heart.

Paparazzi followed him often to the family house, which he sold shortly after that. Rumors that he had murdered his family the internet tabloids wrote, but the internet and local news services showed he went to the accident as a first-responder only to discover that it was his car and family destroyed by the train.

*He was the first one there! He found them like that.*

It was after his first made-for-tv movie in Australia had gotten him enough funds to first live on a boat. Then, when that did not deter the constant hounding with the photographers on motorbike and speeding cars or hiding in bushes using long lenses with expensive cameras, he bought at first a float plane and a high mountain lake. But the predatory creatures with cameras continued to stalk him.

Rumors began that Tom was hiding something– and again with innuendo and hints that he was running from the law. Hounded by the conspiracy press, he ran as far as his budget could take him.

Great efforts in print by the tabloids showed Tom in the company of known gay men and women that were strong-willed.

“None of your business, next question.” Would be his response at any press conferences, comicon’s or interviews that questioned the events surrounding the death of his family.

Men and women that had little to no contact with Tom would claim his involvement in drugs and sex. They told stories of his involvement with Satan churches, drugs, slavery. Nothing that was close to the truth.

In the end, the tabloids did damage enough to effect some of the sales of his books in religious dominated communities that burned anything with his name, prompting Tom into action, and he retaliated with fury and lawyers.

After a series of lawsuits, he had driven one tabloid into oblivion and severely reduced the size and operations of three others, then used the proceeds of the billion-dollar awards in purchasing of larger fire-fighting planes that could scoop up water and drop on wildfires.

Tom, now capitalized, in turn published more novels which earned him more income.

*He said he had made inroads in the United States.*

In the United States? Kaylee laughed. He had kept three books on the best seller list for children’s books six out of the last eight years. *Every year a new one on the list before the others dropped off.*

His books that followed,  he published while writing the children’s books were adventures for the young adult reader. Pirates, vampires, even mainstream zombie apocalypse type stories.

One mention about his changes to a scoop-plane used for water drops on wild land fires. In one website dedicated to such planes, it was the first one that they had just nearly wrecked in the wine country of northern California.

Then a second article about the this jet she was in, he was still being reclusive as he kept offshore and away from stalking paparazzi. Whenever they came close with their boats, he left or, in one case, turned the plane and used the engines to swamp the boat as he left the area.

It had become a game of tag when a few speedboats moved directly in front of him on purpose to stop his leaving, but the boats were no match for the twin-engine jet and the FAA with the United States Coast Guard issuing citations to all involved.

The Coast Guard cleared Tom of any wrongdoing as the speedboats cut in front of the flying-boat to prevent takeoff and get chances shoot pictures of the reclusive author.

Tapping on the screen, she opened another listing with Tom’s name and it was much of the same. Nice-guy this, great philanthropist that. It showed him with families and children.

But it became obvious – never did he have a date. No girlfriend, no scandal. A boy scout?

Hardly, Tom was toe-curling funny and lovable when they were together. He was just private, no telling the number of women he had dates with.

In fact, she was not even mentioned in any of the web pages. Suggesting that his private lifestyle kept her out of the public eye.

Nodding while she read the web page and noted the lack of information that the world did not know she was his wife. Glenn would not find out that this mistake of a marriage ever happened.

It was…

It… She did not know what “it” was.

Shaking her head.

Kaylee knew what it was.

It was a mistake.

Growling inwardly, which part of this was a mistake? She was starting to second guess herself. She had read enough and sat back.

*Perhaps I’ve read too much?* She blinked her eyes. *I have to digest all this. It is one thing on my phone, but wow. This is so much more.*

Shaking her head, Kaylee stood up with a sigh and walked out the door of the plane. Her feet leading her to her apartment.

*I have to remember, I am mad at him.* She had a soft smile while she walked out of the hangar.

And he made her smile in countless ways.

*I still want the annulment. I love Glenn more than anyone.*

*Pretty sure I do.*

*Perhaps.*

*Maybe.* Then Kaylee cussed for no reason in particular.

Flee

Standard

Flee

Fracking.

That’s what they called it, but whatever the title it might have, it was a disturbance in places long hidden from the light.

Humans dug deeply into the earth, disturbing the ancient bedrock. Minor quakes rattled places that humans had yet to explore.

Perhaps they should not. For there are places in the earth that were buried so deep as to be forgotten.

They should remain forgotten.

But not this day.

All that remained for those still standing, with all their maps and explorations, was

Flee 2nd cover

1. Brisbane

The red haired Yank drew his bow and sighted over the arrow at the horror that approached him from forty-paces away.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly.

Thirty paces and closing, its breath wheezed audibly in decaying lungs. This was a fresh-dead human that could walk faster than the other undead.

Twenty paces.

His focus was a laser point as he aimed, he pushed fear of approaching death down into a small compartment in his soul.

He waited, measuring.

Fifteen paces.

The eyes of this once-human had not yet become milky. Its vision was nearly equal to the living. The Archer took a deep breath and let it out slowly, at one time this was a handsome youth.

Five paces.

Archer shot the arrow into the left eye of the walking nightmare, it stiffened and fell over backwards.

“Why do you shoot them in the eye like that?” Alexander Frobisher asked.

RCMP when he was working, he was a Sergeant and a leader of the Emergency Response Team in his section, now he was not so sure since the fall of society.

“Bone is thinner there, with luck it’ll punch through hole that the optic nerve passes. It’s less stress on my arrows and I hate trying to build new ones. I have tried build wood arrows, but I failed. Wood arrows are a challenge, even starting as dowels.” Archer said. “But, I’m learning. Each time I work one, I’m better. We need to figure out how to build these in case we cannot find any high tech arrows in stores someday.” The Archer pulled out a straight dowel of a wood that Frobisher could not recognize. It was fletched and had a tip made from a silver spoon he had pounded into shape with a discovered hammer, but was no arrow that Archer was willing to shoot. “Ah well, let’s take the food to the group. ” Archer said, as he pulled his arrow out of the head of the nightmare that had been walking at him— it was an odd moment of black-humor that struck his mind as Frobisher watched.

A dead-dead person.

“Stay close to the flat of the buildings, away from the bushes.” The Sergeant said as they headed out. His own weapon at the ready, made of a cricket bat and the front chain-wheel of a bicycle. An effective battle-ax with a spiked edge.

The Archer carried a bow that he had found in a house. A simple recurve bow, he shot with an instinctive skill. Always in the eye of his target with devastating effect, they always went down in a mundane, quiet fall.

You could say that they were longtime friends if you met them on the street. But they had only met three weeks prior when the world fell into ruin.

Funny how such bonds are forged in the crucible of chaos.

Chaos.

It began in the land of Oz.

In Darwin, the first news of it hit the television. A virus the newscasters said.

A jetliner had declared an emergency, crash-landed, breaking into two large sections. The walking cadavers emerged from the debris, quickly overwhelming the emergency crews and security forces.

The Archer figured out the secret with head shots. Gunfire attracted attention and mobbed those that used such weapons. The silent arrows made a path without attention.

The shuffling dead did not know or communicate when an arrow had stilled one of their own.

The pair made their way to the bank that the group had held up in. Hiding behind a blast-resistant wall, the group was a mix of people who followed the Archer after he walked down the boulevard, creating a hail of death that cleared a path through the Edgar Allan Poe nightmares pounding on the walls of their tourist coach.

Andrea St. George the tour guide and her driver Jameson Curtis were the first to join the Yank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight, an attorney from the United States that worked for the ACLU, Zac Wood from Scotland, a student ambassador, joined the group on another of the Yankee’s forays at a bus depot. Now they stood behind the cage where they could pull the safe door shut if they needed to, while Andrea held a single-shot rifle ready.

The Archer and Sergeant Frobisher tapped on the doors to be let into the bank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight of the ACLU opened the door, holding a shotgun she had discovered in the bank. The men stepped in while the sharp eye of the lawyer watched the street.

Behind Stormy stood, with a pump shotgun taken from an abandoned police cruiser, Gallisa “Gail” Blachere, Ph.D, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ed.D had a barely controlled rage in her eye, welcomed the two explorers back

“Mighty hunters bring food!” The Archer laughed and opened his bag of canned goods. “Sorry there are no fresh foods.”

Stale biscuits and beer were common in the second bag that the Canadian carried. Two jars of Vegemite he set on the counter.

“You have taste for a Yank!” Andrea laughed and picked it up. “A bit of heaven on earth you have here.”

“Maybe. I bet Al has done better with the beer and biscuits.” The Archer said. “Eat up, we need to move out as soon as we finish. There is a police station down the road with a gated fence. “

“Why do we need to move?” Zac asked.

“The bank is too soft of a target.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “A police station is more easily protected I’d say, it’s safer.”

Praise the lord and pass a biscuit.” Archer said. 

#

Chapter 2. Eating Well


“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” The archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

Aw, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

The archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” The archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns equal attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by running, it was FUBAR.”

FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What’s FUBAR?”

Fucked up beyond all repair.” The archer said.

Or reason.” Al injected.

Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. But… Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene, looking at a bit of plastic on his finger.

It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew anything, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on the archer’s shoulder.

Let’s walk, no tripping.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”

#

3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidenced of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with these dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until this entire building is cleared.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandolier with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.

#

4. Revelation

 

The door was ajar to the training room, only tables and chairs.

Vampire Skull Northern Ondode/Nosferatu

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

But they were not alone.

Movement…

Weapons turned the same time and Andrea hissed at the Archer.

Stop walking.”

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something hissed at Andrea, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It went under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger and drove the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment, an arrow buried its tip into the head of the shadow causing a shriek of anger, a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earpeice buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot an arrow at the wrong shadow and it stuck out in a stupid angle that made him shake his head while nocking another shaft to the string, tracking the correct shadow – the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell. An arrow intercepted the creature, penetrating it in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, knocking over a video projector that shattered on the floor. The creature landed on all fours and its face unbelieveably rebuilt as it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, but suddenly bi-pedal. Still, its features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However it was immensely strong and changing shapes, wriggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it.

Point-blank range, she fired another load into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her head.

The angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked, clawing at a wooden arrow stuck in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

You shouldn’t talk, that thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes in the sheetrock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had too many fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.”

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means,” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creature, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skul

#

 

 

 

5. Debriefing


The group walked into the cafeteria , Zac was carrying the skull, carefully turning it over in his hand as they all sat down..

Archer poured himself a coffee in a styrene cup from a stack he had found in a cabinet, handing one to Andrea and to Al.

So what happened down there?” Al asked.

Archer took a tentative sip of the steaming black water while Andrea spoke.

“We entered the classroom and I would hazard a guess that it was asleep and we surprised it. It wasn’t even aware we were in the building.” Andrea said to Al as she sat with the others in what was once a cafeteria.

“If Andrea had not seen it and fired first, I’m not sure we would have survived. It came straight at her and my aim was not on. I shot the wrong shadow.”

Stormy found some herbal tea in a cabinet, saying it would be better for Archer, she took away his coffee.

You sure I can’t have the coffee?”

Stormy gave Archer an icy look and shook her head. “I’m worried about your caffeine intake.”

“I was lucky, it happened to come over the table where I was pointing the riotgun, I pulled the trigger when it startled me.” Andrea said.

Al chuckled and turned to the Archer.

“How did you decide to shoot it with that arrow you made from a dowel? I know you carry that one you keep fooling around with. What made you think of that?”

“Well, I wasn’t sure, but if I was wrong, we were in for a hell of a fight. But, one way to destroy a vampire is to run it through the heart with a stake.”

“Okay,” Al pulled at his ear. “What you are getting at?”

“Okay, wooden stake in the chest. Can it be thrown? Could it be larger? A spear? Wooden shafted and driven through the chest?”

“Um, yes, it follows.”

“Okay then what is the difference between an arrow and a spear? A javelin and an arrow? Size? So, I used that wooden arrow that I have been working on.”

“You thought that during the fight?”

“Well,” Archer chuckled, “A significant deal more than that, but I’m being succinct about it.”

“Heh, my friend, if you think that fast after you drink your coffee, don’t you ever quit.”

Everyone except Stormy chuckled, who failed to appreciate the humor in Archer living on caffeine.

#

6. A Good Night


“Okay, we are cleared, top to bottom. Windows are secured, we have a room for us to sleep in. Who will take the first watch?” Al asked.

The Archer raised his hand.

“I’ll take the night half.”

“No.” Stormy, Gale and Andrea made a harmony of the word.

“Sorry, you need some sleep.” Gale said.

“Besides, you reek.” Andrea pointed out. “If I wake up and you are standing there, I will shoot your Yankee arse for one of those walking dead.”

“Okay, shower. Then I will do the watch.”

“No,” Stormy Knight argued. “Is it true that you have not slept at all? Then you need to sleep.”

Archer shook his head.

“Okay, just lay down for awhile. Rest.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll relax and recuperate for a bit. Al could you do first watch?”

“Naw, right now I need some shut-eye for a couple hours. I’m beat. I’ll volunteer Jameson. He’s slept quite well the last few nights.”

Jameson cleared his throat.

“Archer never woke anyone for the next watch, he did the whole shift!”

“No matter.” Andrea said. “You have first watch. Archer has a night off.”

The Archer shook his head slightly and winked at Jameson.

“YOU!” Stormy pointed a finger at the Yank. “Gingersnap, off to the showers with you. The men’s side has a shower system. I looked it over when checking out for any nasties that might be lurking there. You wash up and then lay down.”

“Your clothes, too, deposit them outside the door of the showers. There is a laundry . We’ll need to wash all our clothes.”

Heh.” The Archer said without trying to hide the humor. “Lawyers will always take the shirt off your back.”

The look from the attorney of the United States was enough to for the fearless Archer to move quickly at her command.

Archer spoke loudly as he walked down the stairs, “Clean mind, clean body; pick one.”

Anyone else want to cross swords? I will send them to the showers, too.”

Gail raised her hand. “With him?”

Andrea laughed and raised her hand. “Community shower?”

Oh hush. I’m first in that case.” Stormy laughed. “I like the redhead.”

We all do.” Andrea and Gail said in chorus.

#

7. Morning’s Early Light


Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.

“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.

Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.

“Wh’.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“The Archer is gone. Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter

“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”

“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”

In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.

“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.

“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”

“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping.” Rachel said.

“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”

Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.

“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.

Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.

“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.

“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”

“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.

The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.

“I have not heard that in over a month. Birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”

“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy sighed at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”

“Are they gone?”

“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”

“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”

“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”

After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.

Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”

Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”

“Yes, I would venture a guess that that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”

“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”

“That is what I’m supposing.”

“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.

“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the scantest of information.”

“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”

“In the way it appears as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, a sort of control that is passed on by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or even if the leg is amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something to be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”

“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it is spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”

“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”

“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.

“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”

The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”

“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but has been connected to the mainland by bridges. Like your Manhattan island, for example.”

“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base, it will be defended, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”

“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.

Archer agreed.

Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you were finished. The mum’s would not let me stay up.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.

Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.

I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.

Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”

A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”

This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It is called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the boyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”

Name?” Zac asked.

A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”

She?” Andrea laughed lightly.

Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”

Oh! You could use your nickname with it and call it Midnight Thunder!” Zac was pleased with his thoughts on the subject.

Archer chuckled and looked down. “Maybe. We’ll see.”

“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.

Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.

I keep getting a danged wedgie.”

#

8. Recognition

The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.

He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.

“Any changes outside?”

“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”

The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.

“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”

“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.

“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought you equipment and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”

“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”

Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.

“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”

“You have a family. Your son is supposed to be one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”

“Yes, I opposed him being pushed to be an archer on the team by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed the suit for an invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”

“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.

“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer sighed. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”

He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.

I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”

He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.

“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”

“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.

“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”

“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”

You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”

Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did.”

From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.

“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.

Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. There were bodies with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.

He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.

“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”

“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.

They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.

The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.

#

9. Out On The Docks

For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The presence of ravens feeding on the dead was oddly reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens to be a good sign.

The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.

Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.

I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.

There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”

A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.

By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”

Stormy?” Archer asked.

Yes, love?”

You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”

You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.

You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”

They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.

As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.

Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.

Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.

Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”

Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.

“Hey!” He yelled.

Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.

“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”

“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.

“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”

The skipper paused.

Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.

“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”

“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”

“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.

The skipper swore under his breath.

“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”

The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium sized, but well appointed.

“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and have been waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”

“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.

“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”

“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.

Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.

“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”

“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.

“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”

The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.

“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”

“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.

“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”

“Here here!” Andrea laughed.

Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.

“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”

“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”

The Captain stopped talking for a moment.

“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”

Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.

The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.

“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.

“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.

“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.

“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”

The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”

“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.

“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”

Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”

Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.

“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”

Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.

You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.

Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.

Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”

Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that should be impossible.”

The Captain shook his head land laughed.

Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”

#

10. Ocean and Freedom

The Calliope gathered speed, passing ten-knots and they turned south. Following the shore with the land on the right, they sailed into the gathering darkness.

Captain Roberts sat back and sighed.

“We are clear. Radar shows us with no traffic near and sonar shows that the water depth is increasing nicely. We are in the channel.” The Captain nodded. “Now… I have something to celebrate our escape.”

Hopping off his seat Captain A. J. Roberts opened up a trunk he had lugged from Maribella without a word on what he had inside.

Bottles and bottles of exotic liquors. The largest of which he pulled up.

“RHUM!” He laughed. “All the way from the Caribbean! I bet you have not seen the likes.”

The Archer laughed.

“Actually,” Archer said softly to Rachel, “I have been drinking that brand for years.

Rachel laughed. “I have a bottle of that in my house now.”

The drinking went on for some minutes, The Archer was working on his second cup over ice to the Captains third. The two were seemingly getting into a race.

Suddenly the radio crackled and the Captain choked on his fourth cup of the dark liquor.

“Emergency channel is working! Huzzah!” He grabbed the microphone and called.

“Emergency caller, this is the Calliope out of Brisbane bound for Sydney. Go ahead with your traffic.”

“This is Royal Australian Navy Destroyer Guardsman. Reverse your direction return the way you came.”

“Negative, Guardsman, we are out of Brisbane, all on board are healthy and are seeking asylum from the chaos of the area.”

“Calliope, this is your last warning, the quarantine has been extended to Brisbane, come about now and return to your point of departure.”

“Guardsman, we have women and children on board, we cannot return. Do you wish to condemn them to deal with the collapse of government there?”

“This is Captain Monroe of the RAS Guardsman. Calliope, please reverse your course, I do not wish to fire upon you. Heave to and prepare to be boarded.”

“We are making our way to Sydney. Board us there.” The Captain Roberts replied to Captain Monroe.

“Heave to, or we will fire.”

“Captain.” The Archer was looking out a window. “We have a problem.”

In the air, a heavily armed helicopter suddenly lit up with navigation lights in the failing twilight of the coming evening. Already airborne, missile pods were visible on the sides of the rotary-winged gunship.

Captain Roberts looked out.

“Oh f’kn’ bloody brass nuts.” The Captain said loudly. “If you folks believe in a hell, you might wish to call ‘em an’ ask if they have exchange programs, it is about to become worse than that here. Guardsman is a Hobart Class ship, that there bird be one o’ its hammers.”

“What are those?” Stormy asked as two, then four pinpoint lights seem to move towards them from a mile out.

“Archer?” Andrea asked, pointing out at what Stormy saw.

Incoming! They’ve opened fire!” The Archer yelled. He reached down to his quiver and pulled out a rolled up plastic bag. Holding two locks of hair close to his heart, he watched the missiles track towards them at unimaginable speed.

“I”m sorry.” He whispered to the last remains of his family as he dropped the baggie over the rail of the yacht. “I’m so sorry I failed.”

OUT! Abandon ship!” Al was like a bull shoving everyone he could reach towards the railing. The only time in his life he used his hand to hand training to shove a group.

“Abort! ABORT! Do not fire! ABORT! ABORTABORT! We are…” The Captain screamed into the microphone.

It was his last conscious thought as the missiles impacted into the bridge of the Calliope. High explosive warheads sent shockwaves through the vessel. Air heated to thousands of degrees shattered doors and bulkheads as the yacht disappeared in a fireball of continuing weapons fire as the helicopters their weapons repeatedly.

Only after the Calliope’s shattered, burning hull slipped beneath the surface of the water the gunships returned to base on shore.

The haze and smoke slowly dissipated as the killing machine moved off, returning to the carrier.

There would be no rescue boats launched as the Guardsman followed orders and turned away back to its patrol.

#

Epilogue


Radio transmission on shore after the military radar had detected the contact:

Captain Michael Monroe made his report to the base. “Contact made. Illegal threat neutralized. No spread of infection or contamination. End of report.”

Rear Admiral Shyldon Gillette, Commander of the Royal Australian Border Protection Command read the electronic report out loud and turned towards a shadow in the corner with red eyes glimmering in the dark.

“The secret remains safe, my Lord, the operation will be able to continue to relocate the human blood sources into the feeding reservations.”

“Excellent. Keep the fear up. Any human that finds clues to the real source of the undead slaves, kill them. The living cannot know what is happening until the whole of the world is under our control.” The lips of Lord Maldark’s ghostly face barely moved to create a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of a muddy tomb. “Tell the lower caste to increase the numbers of the risen and to drive herds of the food towards the reservations, do not give them a chance to contemplate their position in the food-chain. That is key to our success.”

Yes, my Lord.”

The face that appeared to float in the shadow twisted unnaturally into a grin, long fangs glittered like glass in the subdued light, but the admiral was under the ancient one’s control now and was no longer afraid as he was the first night.

That night, over a month ago.

Out on the water near the sunken Calliope, a plastic sandwich bag floated on the water stuffed with two gently cut locks and five hastily pulled blood-red strands of hair sealed inside.

Together the hairs drifted towards the land of Oz in the prevailing current with wreckage from the destroyed yacht.

A bow floated on the wreckage, an unusual penobscot bow made of exotic woods. The bow lay on a raft of floatation devices, hastily lashed together, clear of the water with a quiver of arrows as the land grew closer with each passing moment.

<Finis?>

United States Thanksgiving: Please be with family. In or out of US.

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In this time of the season, whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. take time sometime this week and give thanks for the family you have. So many lose a loved one, sometimes we don’t tell them– out of anger or oversight, or the most wrong thing.

We take it for granted.

Tell them. Hug them. Enjoy the family. It doesn’t matter if you are a New Zealand, Aussie, Yankee, Canuck, Russian, Chinese, Mongolian and any of the others I am too danged lazy to write out. Take your mom, dad, brother or sister, son or daughter and give thanks that they are in your life.

No borders need stand in the way of that thanks.

Have a good week folks. I am taking a few days away. You all might get ONE chapter, but I won’t promise for the next week.

 

Even the Bradach Ard Ri gets a week off sometimes.

 

 

Flee Epilogue

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Epilogue

Radio transmission on shore after the military radar had detected the contact:

Captain Michael Monroe made his report to the base. “Contact made. Illegal threat neutralized. No spread of infection or contamination. End of report.”

Rear Admiral Shyldon Gillette, Commander of the Royal Australian Border Protection Command read the electronic report out loud and turned towards a shadow in the corner with red eyes glimmering in the dark.

“The secret remains safe, my Lord, the operation will be able to continue to relocate the human blood sources into the feeding reservations.”

“Excellent. Keep the fear up. Any human that finds clues to the real source of the undead slaves, kill them. The living cannot know what is happening until the world is under our control.” The lips of Lord Maldark’s ghostly face barely moved to create a voice that sounded like it came from the depths of a muddy tomb. “Tell the lower caste to increase the numbers of the risen and to drive herds of the food towards the reservations, do not give them a chance to contemplate their position in the food-chain. That is key to our success.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

The face that appeared to float in the shadow twisted unnaturally into a grin, long fangs glittered like glass in the subdued light, but the admiral was under the ancient one’s control now and was no longer afraid as he was the first night. That night, over a month ago.

Out on the water near the sunken Calliope, a plastic sandwich bag floated on the water stuffed with two gently cut locks and five hastily pulled blood-red strands of hair sealed inside.

Together the hairs drifted towards the land of Oz in the prevailing current with wreckage from the destroyed yacht.

An odd-shaped bow made of exotic woods float on the wreckage drift behind bag of saved hair. Lifted clear of the water on a small raft of floating wreckage, it sat securely on the quiver of arrows as the land grew closer with each passing moment.

 

<Finis?>

Flee Chapter 9. Out On The Docks

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9. Out On The Docks

 

For the first block where birds sang, streets were eerily empty of the walking horrors as they headed to the marina. The death of the vampire seemed to have a chilling effect on the animated dead. Decaying and partly mummified bodies lay everywhere. The ravens feeding on the dead was, oddly, reassuring to the group. Where the dead walked, birds were absent and silent. Everyone considered the ravens a good sign.

The closer they approached the marina, the air seemed to change. Like a heaviness in the atmosphere they had not noticed before, it suffocated the mood of the armed human centipede. They had started their walk to the marina in the best spirits they had been in days, but the farther they walked, the more melancholy the group became. It was as if the soul of the land they walked on was dying.

Moments later, another group of tattered, half-rotted bodies appeared from around the corner of a cross-street and began to approach the heavily armed group.

“I thought we killed the vampire.” Zac said in a frightened whisper.

“There must be more than one.” Al answered quietly as he walked backwards, protecting the rear of the group as he scanned back and forth with his vertical limbed crossbow. “There ain’t any of those shufflers following us.”

“A range? Like with a cell phone?” Archer asked.

“By deduction there is more than one kind of vampire.” Stormy said, keeping her sound suppressed weapon against her shoulder. “Some more powerful than others. Foot-soldiers, like Renfield in the classic horror novel. You might have some vampires that would be the generals, they would… maybe… channel the power to the lower caste. Then the zombies are the shock troops that are unstoppable.”

“Stormy?” Archer asked.

“Yes, love?”

“You are giving me a panic attack, please talk about something else, something nicer, like how lions eat baby zebra.”

“You killed one vampire already.” Stormy nudged Archer with her hip.

“You weren’t down there with the Yank and me.” Andrea said. “That was a serious piss-fight brewing.”

They began to use the arrows to take down the mob of horror that was approaching as they headed to the marina in a controlled pace. Sound suppressed, special weapons did their jobs brilliantly, but the tinkling of spent brass on the ground rang loudly in the silent area that no bird song could reach their ears or any winged life flew. Even the insects had abdicated flight in the area.

As they approached the marina, Archer pointed out a large ketch with sails rolled up on the booms, well tied up. It would be easy to prepare the boat for departure.

Al jimmied a lock of a barred gate that stood as a silent sentinel across the dock. It opened with a loud shriek of partly rusted hinges and closed with the sound of a steel drum full of marbles.

Looking back over the way they had come, several of the animated dead had heard and were drifting in towards the marina as if they were not sure where the sound came from, wandering aimlessly with ever more gathering in the street between the buildings.

“Okay, it’s safe.” Gail said. “They are not coming at us directly. We need to walk carefully on the dock to keep the noise down, or we will bring all of Brissy down on us.”

Walking down the dock to the sail-yacht, a large man with a side-by-side shotgun stepped out into the open deck of a tour-boat.

“Hey!” He yelled.

Archer and Al stopped and drew their bows. Andrea, Zac and Stormy pointed their own weapons at the armed man, Zac’s shotgun now loaded with sharpened dowels.

“Ahoy.” Called Archer. “We are seeking safety only. We are not looting. Just need to listen to a radio and find a way to travel south.”

“You are under quarantine. Don’t c’me closer, you are no going to pass on dat virus to me.” He shouted.

“We are alive and breathing, when was the last time you saw one aim weapons at you and hold a conversation?”

The skipper paused.

Archer took advantage of the pause and spoke again.

“There is no virus. All this? It’s vampires— They are using the zombies as war dogs.”

“Bah! There are no such things as vampires!”

“There are no such things as the dead zombies that walk, either! But there they are!” Archer pointed at the bodies that ambled up and down the street. Still milling about trying to find the source of the sound that the gate had made.

The skipper swore under his breath.

“C’me ab’ard befer any of doze still walkin’ sees ya. Git below.” He lowered his shotgun. “I didn’ wanna to shoot an’way. I’m down to whut gravel, nails and bolt-heads I c’n scrape up off teh ground. I has lots o’ powder, but nothin’ fer shootin’, I has ta make do with scraps. Bloody awful whut it is.”

The group sat down around the inside of the cruiser. It was medium-sized, but well-appointed.

“I chartered until two months ago. The damned demon-things put an end ta dat overnight. I usually walk ta town ta live, but dis is my home now. Dis is de Maribeth an’ welcome ab’ard. She don’ run, though. The engine is farked fer awhile, I ordered a new fuel pump and waited fer it fer six weeks before dis all started. I don’ think I’ll be gettin’ it in now.”

“What if you took parts from the other boats around.” Andrea asked.

“I dun’ thin’ the other owners would appreciate it, besides, tha’s stealin and what good would I be if’n I were in jail? They’d bust me for sure an’ take me boat.” The skipper nodded. “By da way, me name’s Roberts. Abraham John Roberts. I’m cap’n of this vessel, whut’s left of ‘er an’way.”

“There are no police to arrest you. And the owners of the boats around here are gone. You are not stealing. You’re salvaging.” Archer said slowly.

Captain Roberts looked at Al, then Archer, then to the ladies for a moment.

“Whut are we waiting fer.” He chuckled. “Damn, I is getting old, I could ha’ been salvagin’ all dis time!”

“We would like to listen to the radio, too. Everywhere on the land most power is out and no radio is working on land.” Rachel said.

“Aye, we can do dat. Marine radio and I has a world short-wave radio set built-in. Digital radio is available, too.” The Captain said. “I ha’ no listened to it much. I worry that de sound would bring them, so’s I just walk in ta town ta de stores, avoidin’ them ta hunt up food.”

The women turned it on low and sat drinking the Captain’s coffee. Andrea offering “a cuppa” every few minutes. Captain Roberts told stories of how the world changed from the south up north to the marina. How the changes came from tourists to the biters that came later.

“We get the parts in the morning. This will be hell of a better watch than being here alone.”

“Then we put into Sydney or some other town with an enclave or sanctuary?” Al asked.

“Aye, we can.” Captain Roberts answered. “But fer ta-night? We DRINK!”

“Here here!” Andrea laughed.

Archer, atypically quiet, just sat at the top of the steps. Dusk was more than two hours away.

“Once it’s gone dark, w’ pull all da tarps over de glass and git below. I keep lights ta minimum. I ha’ LED lights that adjust low.” Captain said. Then coughed. “We needs fuel, too, for such a trip. We will need to take on at least three-thousand liters of fuel or we run a chance o’ rowin’ b’fore we get ta where we wants ta be.”

“Hey, what if we just take a boat?” Al asked. “There is a whole fleet of vessels out there that have no one to claim them.”

The Captain stopped talking for a moment.

“Well, I don’ know de other boats as well, but it’ll sure’n satisfy a few cravin’s. We kin upgrade. I never thought about takin’ another boat. Hum…”

Unpacking the maps from the Maribella, the group now including the Captain walked down the moorings assessing each yacht. Finally settling on the Calliope. A luxurious world-class sixty-meter yacht that showed full on all six tanks. Checking the staterooms confirmed the crew was alone on the yacht.

The Calliope, secured and they moved slowly to the unplug the yacht’s power cables from the end of the marina.

“The radio is broadcasting that the area north of Sydney is under quarantine, they are blocking all roads.” Rachel said as the Captain had started the engines warmed them up.

“Here comes the farewell party.” the Sergeant shouted. Shuffling dead were attracted to the sounds of the vessel powering up.

“Dey’ll hold up at de gate.” The Captain said.

“Yeah… no. They have pulled the gate down already.” The Archer said, the sounds of rending metal attracting more walking horror. “Captain, we need to leave.”

The redheaded Yank looked back out the window at the failed gate. “As in now.”

“As in… We has ta get de fark outta here,” Captain Roberts said.

“Agreed,” The Al said. “Forget leaving on the turn of the tide. Let us just cast off now.”

“Bloody hell! If yer’n not cast off now, just cut lines. Theys not organized, theys keep fallin’ off into the water, but I won’ ‘ave any o’ ya out dere as bait.”

Casting off, the sixty-meter yacht pulled away from the dock slowly. The motion was not missed by others on the edge of town. The dead, under control of their masters began to walk down towards the marina stopping only at the edge of water.

“Set a course,” The Captain ordered. “Use dat GPS dere, and indicate Sydney.”

Archer gave a rare smile to Stormy, putting down an arrow from his bow, Midnight.

“You were going to make a stand?” Stormy frowned.

“Stand? Hell no. I was going to shoot that transformer on the pole over there and drop the power line into the water. I’m sure we would be safe, but anything standing in the wet areas would have an exciting moment or three.” Archer winked.

“Wi’ one o’ da li’l sticks?” The Captain asked. “F’k’n’ Bullshit.”

“Captain.” Al said. “With all due respect, that man could do it. I have seen him do things a hundred paces away with those “li’l sticks” that you swear is impossible.”

The Captain shook his head land laughed.

“Den I’s glad ta has yer on my side, Yank.”

Flee Chapter 8. Recognition

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8. Recognition

 

The Archer came back out after he pulled on his pants and socks. His shoulders were a testament to the skills he had with a bow as he carried a dark-gray polo shirt over his right shoulder.

He sat down by the armored glass and looked out, pulling on heavy black boots.

“Any changes outside?”

“None.” Al said as he surveyed with a pair of binoculars he had found. “It has been quiet, what can be seen, however, there is some movement six intersections distant heading away from the water, but I don’t have a view down towards the marina, it could be a Grateful Dead party down there for all I know.”

The redheaded Yank chuckled grimly and started to pull the polo shirt on over his head.

“Archer?” Stormy asked. “The tattoo you have on your chest? I recall seeing it before. I needed to think about it for a moment, but I remember you.”

“My tattoo?” He touched his chest. The Celtic heart with the black lightning bolt across it had been there so long, he had forgotten about it.

“You are T.H. Harte. The U.S. Olympic Archer that took the team to the finals, they said your form was all wrong, but it kept working for you. I helped sponsor you. My firm bought your equipment, and some bows. Three of them if I remember.”

“He is… you are Thunder Harte?” Al blinked, looking from Stormy to the Archer. “He wrote a few books and is the host of the outdoor channel’s show “Against all odds”. Wow!”

Archer looked down and gave a heavy sigh. The sound of a man haunted by ghosts and tortured by a shattered soul.

“Yes, yes, and yes, I was Thunder Harte. But I cannot use that name anymore. I’m no longer that man.”

“You have a family. Your son is one of the youngest to ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Archery team.” Rachel said. “There was a legal challenge about minors in the sport.”

Yes, I opposed him being pushed into the sport by the media. Their attitude was beyond the pale and I filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy. It was his choice and his choice alone.”

“You keep talking about him in the past tense.” Al pointed out, his three-decades of police skills coming to the fore.

“Yeah,” Archer said softly, as if he did and did not want to talk about it. It was a wound that still made his soul bleed and began to pour out of him as if he could not stop his words. “We were overrun by those shuffling nightmares. So, my wife and son took shelter in a quiet, dark house and I drew off the mob by using fire bombs and a shotgun. There was a minor problem, and then my son came out to help, the courage of a pre-teen. ” Archer took a deep breath as if to clear his soul. “They caught him and began to drag him off. My wife ran out with a stick to beat them away and they grabbed her too.”

He choked and his knuckles turned white as he squeezed the edge of the desk, the veins stood out in his forearms and neck. A man about to scream in agony.

“I was a half-block away, semi-auto shotgun was stovepipe-jammed and I had the bow and four jars of turpentine.” The deep sound of a heart breaking sob came out of the one they called Archer. “It took too long to clear the jam, the shotgun wouldn’t cycle so I could clear a path. Then I finally cleared the jam and needed to eject another shell before I could jump back in the fight. But I was too late.”

He took another deep sigh as he pulled himself together.

“I shot them both.” He said quietly, almost inaudibly. “It was the best I could do. They were both bloodied already and I believed it was a virus at the time.”

“You didn’t know about the vampires.” Rachel said, showing her less stormy side.

“No. I could have saved them.” Archer drew a breath and looked out the window. “I failed them. I killed my family and there is no deeper Hell than what I’m in. I couldn’t even bury them.”

“I’m no longer a Harte.” He said in a strangled voice, anguish showed his face as he covered his eyes as if to blind himself to a vision remembered. “I have no name. Just… Archer. It is well enough of a name.”

“You will need to forgive yourself, you will need time to find your way.” Gail said, putting a hand gently on his shoulder. “You need to put this behind you, the world has nearly come to an end.”

“Forgive?” Archer shook his head. “No. I should live with this forever. There is no forgiveness for what I did, I failed them, then I killed them.”

From his quiver, he pulled a plastic baggy that contained locks of hair.

“I cut some hair from their heads after I drove the zombies back. The blond is his and this, ” He reached in the bag and touched a lock of red hair. “Is from my wife.”

“Compared to my hair, she is more of an orange color, but she was a warrior from the north of Glasgow. By the time I got to her, they had bitten and severely tore her up, but she had given better than she taken. Bodies lay with their heads stove in all around her.” Archer stroked both locks of hair as if there was some magic in them. Magic that he could not unlock, but refused to let go.

He rolled the plastic baggy up and put it back into a pocket in his quiver and closed the flap.

“Let’s hunt up something with working radios that won’t draw a crowd.” Gail said softly, taking her hand from Archer’s shoulder and stroking his hair. “Down by the marina, we can put to sea, zombies are not able to sneak up or mob us. I would bet the long dead ones would sink anyway.”

“Let’s pack up.” Archer said. Anything to draw attention away from him.

They were ready in moments and formed up under the watchful eye of Al.

The group headed out in the practiced cover pattern that Sergeant Frobisher had taught them to do.

Flee Chapter 7. Morning’s Early Light

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7. Morning’s Early Light

 

Stormy nudged Andrea before dawn.

“Mm- mmph.” It was Andrea’s wittiest conversation she could have before morning coffee— her “Cuppa”.

Looking around Andrea nudged Gail.

Wh‘.” Was the best that the petite, muscular blond woman could verbalize as she stirred out of the best nighttime hibernation in a long while. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

“The Archer is gone and Jameson is asleep.” Stormy said, matter-of-factly, but her eyes were sparkling with anger.

“Jameson!” Andrea threw a pillow at the coach driver with uncanny accuracy. “When did you come in?”

“Not long after Archer finished his shower. All you shelia’s went to bed, Al was asleep, he was up and said he was my relief and you were okay with it.”

In the control room, Al and the Archer were talking.

“ARCHER!” The women yelled as they came down the hallway.

“Uh-oh. Busted.” The Canadian chuckled. “You violated curfew.”

“Better to apologize than to ask permission.” Archer winked.

“You’re supposed get some sleep in.” Rachel said.

“You said to rest, and I did. I rested for an hour but could not catch any luck on sleep, so I came up here so that I would not disturb anyone.”

Stormy grumbled like distant thunder with lightning flashing her eyes, living up to her nickname.

“Men and children, the only difference are their sizes.” She said to Andrea.

Andrea laughed, looking at the two men that continued to gaze out the window at the outside world.

“What are you blokes looking at?” Andrea asked.

“Well,” Al said and looked out the window. “Birds.”

“Listen.” The Archer opened the heavy, armored-glass door to the outside courtyard.

The sounds of birds singing in the early morning light.

“I have not heard that in over a month. The birds stopped singing when all this happened.” Andrea said as she walked to the door listening to the music of nature’s composition for the first time in a long while. “What’s changed?”

“I’ve been standing watch for the last four hours. ” Archer said, Stormy gave an exasperated sigh at this news with fire in her eyes. “There has been not a single shuffler meander by. Not one.”

“Are they gone?”

“I couldn’t know about that, just that I have not seen them from the observation area. The only change is that we destroyed that vampire yesterday. After Al and Jameson ran down the street and took it into a church. We can rest assured it is not in control of anything at the moment.”

“Control?” Jameson yawned as he stumbled in. “Y’all disturbed m’ sleep.”

“I’ll do more than just disturbing your sleep.” Gale was dangerous sounding. “I should kick your arse down the hallway and back for not finishing your shift.”

“After my run down to the church there and all.” Jameson said, sounding a little more awake.

“Shut it!” Gail said, then turning to the Canadian. “Taking it into a church killed it?”

“Zac, Jameson and I took it down the road to the church— Catholic by the by— and when Jameson dropped it into a baptismal tub full of water. It bubbled and then burst into a flame, it was quite impressive.” Al said. “You’d think we dropped it into a vat of acid and gasoline, eh. It was quite exciting for a moment.”

“Yes, I would venture a guess that did it.” The Archer continued. “I’m not positive, just a theory. Now that it is lighter, there are bodies are visible, lying all around out there. Those bodies— over there and there — we didn’t shoot them. It looks like they collapsed suddenly, what ever it is that energizes them was abruptly cut off.”

“The vampire?” Stormy’s asked. “Are you saying the vampire controlled these zombie creatures?”

“That is what I’m supposing.”

“So you think it was controlling them.” Gale asked.

“I cannot say that for sure. It could just be motivational. A bit like saying ‘rise up and walk’ and then just let them shuffle around, aimlessly. No direction, just setting them loose to put pressure on the humans.” Archer shrugged. “It is a hypothesis based on the smallest bit of information.”

“So.” Stormy’s logical side took over. “You are saying that it is not a virus?”

“In the way it seems as of now. The jury is still out. If you excuse the term.” The Archer winked. “It could be a sort of, I do not know, maybe it is a sort of control opened by senescence – death. You become dead, your systems are inert and are open to control. A frog’s leg, for example, can move even though the frog is dead or the leg amputated. That could explain why those shufflers out there are not something that can be reasoned with. There is no mind. Just a power control.”

“That kind of power is unknown, nothing I have ever heard of can do that.” Gale said. “And it’s spread by contact with the zombies, not vampires. That makes no sense.”

“Yes, and true.” The Archer answered, nodding. “But it is all I have for now. Bigger brains than mine will need to think it over. One more reason to find a military center where they may have a fortress and are holding out against this. This started in Darwin, Sydney is the largest city, it should have a military base somewhere around the water.”

“Yes,” Jameson nodded. “There is a naval base on Garden Island there.”

“Perfect. An island is easily protected!” Al said. “That’s our destination.”

The Archer nodded. “Agreed.”

“No, it is not what you are thinking. It’s an island, but they have built so many roads and streets it don’t look like an island. Like your Manhattan island.”

“Still.” The Archer said slowly. “It is a base with defenders, I hope, and a place we can dock a boat to without walking across land with those flesh-eaters hunting fresh meat.”

“Okay, then prepare to leave. Pack light. We leave at sunrise.” Al said.

Archer agreed.

“Archer.” Zac said sleepily. “You were in the showers when we came back. I wanted to give this to you, but I was asleep before you finished cleaning up. The mum’s would not let me stay awake.” Zac pointed at the women as he held up an exotic shape of limbs and string.

“Where did you find that?” Archer’s eyes widened.

“I found this in a shop, it was in a glass case. The Sergeant said you would like this.” Zac smiled.

“Thank you,” Archer smiled as he ran his fingers over the four limbs of the bow. “You have any idea what you have here?”

“A bow. It is unusual, I have never seen one like it.” Zac said, his eyes glittering with glee that the face of the redhead lit up with a rare smile. “I never saw one with forked arms before.”

“This is a Penobscot style bow, it is custom-made by White Wolf in the United States. Look at this here. It’s called a Wind Warrior. And here? This is the number of the bow, the bowyer’s name and the draw it has. This one goes up to seventy-pounds. I don’t think I have heard of one that went that high before, the name etched into it here “Midnight”. I don’t know if that is the color or the name of the bow.”

“Name?” Zac asked.

 

Midnight, the bow.

Archer’s New Favorite bow

“A few shooters named their bows. I was one, but I’m considered a bit eclectic. My favorite bow was the Gertrude. But this one is my favorite now, she is beautiful.”

“She?” Andrea laughed lightly.

“Beauty, thy name is woman.” Archer said, looking again at the four-limbed bow as he held it up to the light. “The name of the bow is Midnight. Thank you, Zac, this is a wonderful gift.”

“Now if someone can point out the direction to my clothes, I have gotten chafed wearing this prisoner’s jumpsuit. It rides up a bit.” The Yank said, changing the subject.

Quiet snickers could be heard as he disappeared with Stormy down the hallway towards the laundry room, pulling at the prisoner garb uncomfortably.

“I keep getting a danged wedgie.”

Flee Chapter 4. Revelation

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Dracul/Nosferatu Type Vampire Skull

Image of Ondode/Nosferatu type Vampire Skull.

4. Revelation

The door was ajar to the training room, only long tables and chairs filled the room. Andrea and the Archer stepped in slowly and quietly so they could hear the typical wheezing of those horrors that could be hide in the dark.  

But they were not alone.

Movement… Weapons turned the same time. Archer lightly bumped a chair with his hip.

“Stop walking.” Andrea hissed at Archer.

It was a shadow that did not fill with light — then it was gone.

Something moved and echoed Andrea’s hiss, avoiding the lights as it moved.

It moved quickly, a blur under the corner of a table, knocking over chairs.

“Come out!” Andrea sounded braver than the Archer felt.

The shadow charged as Andrea pulled the trigger on her weapon. The flash of expanding, burning gunpowder illuminated the room for a less than a blink of an eye, driving the serpent-like shadow backwards for a moment. Another hissing sound and an arrow buried itself into the head of the shadow and the hiss became a shriek of anger.

Bits of a desk erupted into splinters and sawdust as a dozen pellets tore apart the pressed wood construction whilst Andrea tracked the shrieking creature that moved like a cat on crack cocaine and too much espresso.

Clawed hands gripped the arrow and pulled the shaft out of the right eye socket, the eye reforming as it did.

The Archer’s earphone buzzed. “REPORT! Who is shooting?”

“Sorry, busy!” Archer answered as Andrea rocked the room again with her scattergun.

Archer blinked to clear his eyes from the dust fell from the ceiling. He shot the wrong shadow with an arrow and it stuck in a stupid angle in the wall, the sight of it made him shake his head while he nocked another shaft to the bowstring, tracking the correct shadow this time– the one with teeth.

“Call back later!” Andrea yelled into in her mic. “We’re killing shit!”

The shadow was too close this time, charging like a cat as she racked in another shell, brass bounced off the floor in slow motion as the black-shadow charged Andrea. In that moment an arrow intercepted the creature in the left eye and knocked the attacker off-balance.

The shotgun fired again, destroying its face and the arrow. The black creature did a back-flip, landing on all fours. Its face rebuilding and it launched at Andrea again as a winged quadruped.

A flash of inspiration, Andrea kicked a table against the wall and pinned the attacker — It was no zombie, and suddenly bi-pedal would have stood nearly to the ceiling if it got to its clawed feet, the shriek becoming a drawing out roar as it tried to stand. Still, its facial features could not yet be determined beyond fangs and cat-like eyes— struggling against the wall, pinned in an awkward way.

However, although it was immensely strong and changing shapes, it was in a twisted  position, struggling from behind the heavy desk that Andrea held against it with her foot.

“Shut up!” Andrea yelled as she pressed the tip of the barrel into the dark visage of this solid shadow. A contact shot, she fired into the inhuman face. The shotgun blowing a hole in the wall behind the attacker the size of her fists. But she might as well have spit on it for all she had done with the gunpowder and lead.

Gristle and meat, black blood and bone exploded and splattered on the wall, and then just… jumped… back to the struggling body. Then a tickle of wind and a swishing sound at her ear and would later be angry with Archer over how close the arrow was that flew past her.

Suddenly the angry shriek and gnashing of teeth stopped as the creature choked and clawing at the arrow stuck that in its chest, then collapsed into a pile of bones and ash.

“Wh-wh-w… ” The Archer, already nocked another arrow. “The.. Son of a… Holy… Shiiii…Fuuu… what… HELL!” His eyes as large as a car’s headlight as he searched for the best profanity.

“F’k’n oath!” She said, nodding with the Yankee. Still tracking what was left of the attacker with the pool of light that was the aim-point of the twelve-gauge.

Thundering footsteps down the hall announced that Al and company were coming as backup.

“No sneaking up on a bloke with that crowd.” Andrea said to Archer as the Al kicked the door open and entered with a shotgun at the ready, followed by Stormy and Gail each with submachine guns, lasers crisscrossing, looking for a target.

“You shouldn’t talk, that damned thing is LOUD.”

“What the hell was going on down here? Could you keep the room at least in one piece?” the Canadian Cop surveying the room and the holes  and arrows stuck in the sheet-rock.

The Archer picked up a skull off the floor and walked out of the room. The skull had two huge fangs in its mouth as he looked it over in the lighted hallway, then he handed it to Al.

“This is what attacked us.” Archer said. “I believe we woke it up.”

“It’s so light.” The flesh crumbled under his fingers leaving polished bone if he rubbed firmly. “It’s so dry.” Sharp teeth glinted in the harsh hallway’s light.

“Not when I first shot it. It crumbled and dried up in seconds when I hit it with my wood-shafted arrow.” Archer reported.

“Aluminum arrows had no effect.” Andrea nodded. “Neither did the buckshot from the riot gun.”

“Wood-shafted arrow? What are you talking about?” Al asked. “What the hell?”s

Andrea and The Archer looked at each other and laughed.

“My words precisely.” Archer said. “We are fighting something besides a virus I would say.

“What does that mean?” Gale asked. “You’re talking in riddles.”

“It means, ” Archer said, “that skull you hold, goes into a consecrated cemetery. One blessed by someone of the cloth, toss that in a hole of a cemetery and it won’t rise again.”

“Rise? A-a-again?” It was Zac.

“That,” The Archer pointed to the skull. “is a vampire, a Dracula-like creäture, I would wager. It kept changing shape while we fought it.”

“BULL!” Jameson yelled. “The news explicitly said it was a virus!  We are not fighting something so profoundly… so profound…. so… F’k’ng WRONG!  NO! You are not telling me that it’s a lie! An explicit, bald-faced LIE? THIS IS JUST A…

“Jameson! CALM DOWN” Gail slapped the coach driver so hard he fell over.

“Coincidence.”  The downed man moaned out.

“There is nothing in real-life as vampires!” Zac said, echoing Jameson’s disbelief. “That is only in movies.”

“There are no zombies, either. But we have seen otherwise, haven’t we?”

“Is it dead?” Jameson pleaded.

“No.” Gail said. “If Archer is right and the legends hold true, it is in a hibernation state, drip some blood into the skull and it will wake up. That is why we need to separate the head from the body and buried at a blessed cemetery.”

“Blessed cemetery? Aren’t they all?” Jameson asked. Coming back to grips with himself. “I’m sorry about that.  Vampires terrified me as a child.”

“No.” Stormy said. “Some even have consecrated and unconsecrated ground within a single graveyard. We need to choose where to bury that skull carefully.”

“Should we put garlic in it?” Zac asked.

“You brought back some garlic powder and garlic salt with the last shopping spree you and the Canadian did.”

“Stuff it, bag it and bury it.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “But where?”

“There is a church up the way.” Andrea pulled at her ear. “I don’t recall the kind of church. Catholic maybe, but I am not positive.”

“Catholic, Jewish,” Archer shrugged. “Could be a Shaolin temple for all I care, so long as it involves holy ground.”

“Let’s make it done.” Al ordered.

2 Dracul Skulls ("Noble" caste, Possibly "Royal" Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, "Identification of skulls" Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views.  Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

2 Dracul Skulls (“Noble” caste, Possibly “Royal” Ref. Van Helsing, Et al, “Identification of skulls” Copyleft 1901 Royal Underground press.) in 2 views. Left skull buried in bag of garlic under unknown church, skull on right was placed on display in London Museum until lost during air raids of WWII, presumed destroyed.

Flee Chapter 3. Stepping Out

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3. Stepping Out

 

The door of the bank opened quietly, there were few creatures in the street, not one of them alerted to the humans.

“Okay, quiet, cover each other’s back. I’m first, Stormy to my right, Andrea and Zac in the middle, cover sides and up. Gail, Al, you have the rear and up. Keep them from dropping in on us from fire-escapes or windows.” Archer said as he placed an arrow on his bow.

“Why is the Mountie not first?” Gail asked.

“I shoot faster with my rig than he can until he gets practice.”

Al loaded up a vertical crossbow, holding it so that anywhere he looked, the arrow aimed naturally.

When they stepped out into the street, a single shabby ex-human shambled towards them from where they were going. The Archer loosed his arrow and it fell to the ground as they walked quietly towards the police station. No other of the animated dead that patrolled the area

The Archer paused as they walked past the body and pulled the arrow out of the head of the horror-come-archery target.

The Archer kept his place on point as they headed to the station, an arrow nocked, his bow ready to draw in a heartbeat if a need arose. and carefully moved forward to the gate of the fortress-like structure. It stood ajar and opened silently on high security hinges.

They dragged the body of a large Rottweiler by its thick harness, Al cried when he saw it wore a badge. The head of a half-eaten corpse of the police dog blocked the spring-loaded gate from fully closing. Toothmarks on the badge where something had chewed, obliterating the badge number. Torn bodies lay about, decaying in the concrete courtyard. The K-9 cop did not die gently, as evidence of a furious fight by the bodies in the courtyard.

“Never thought a dog could tear limbs off of a body.” Jameson said.

“Canine officer. They teach them well and they require robust intelligence with the dogs.” Al said softly, tracing his index finger over the mutilated badge.

A bullet-proof glass and steel enclosed observation area inside the building controlled the gate.

Sergeant Frobisher, quickly figured out how to operate the lock and secured all the exits with a control panel.

“Excellent.” Al said. “Now we can relax.”

“No, now we need to check all the cells and rooms.” The Archer said. “I’m not sleeping without clearing this place from top to bottom.”

“You need to sleep, no matter what.” Andrea told The Archer. “When was the last down-time for you?”

“It has been a day or so.” The Archer nodded. “We will rest when the building’s secure.”

“Al and Zac stay here. Stormy, Gale and Jameson upstairs. Andrea and I will search below.” Archer said.

The Sergeant nodded.

“Here,” The Sergeant reached over into a locker as the groups were getting ready to leave. “I found these radios. Keep them on this channel I selected. Radio checks every five-minutes, everything is voice activated, so I will hear you the moment there’s a sound louder than a deep breath. As the Archer said, no rest until we clear this building.”

Archer taped an LED torch (as the label on it said) to the side of his bow and he adjusted the beam to fill a room with the glow from the diminutive light. Andrea stood next to him loading a police shotgun liberated from a gun-rack they found. She had used a key she found in a drawer and was quite proud of her discovery that allowed all the other firearms in the station available to the others.

“Right, ready.”  Andrea said as she racked the riot gun and chambered a shell. “Buckshot and slugs. That’s what this girl is made of.”

For good measure, the Aussie filled her pockets and a bandoleir with shotshells she had found while digging around the observation port. Al pointed it was not police issue.

But Andrea could not care less.

Flee Chapter 2. Eating Well

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2. Eating Well

 

“We need to move before sunset. Tomorrow we need to head down to the marina.” Archer said. “I’d say if we head south, we will head into the mess at Darwin. Sydney is the best way out of this hole.”

“Aw, Archer, you don’t like my BrissVegas?” Andrea laughed.

Archer chuckled while accepting a biscuit from Andrea, who was instructing the Yankee on how to eat the Vegemite and bread before he continued.

“The boats down at the marina will allow us to sail with safety.” Archer said softly as he choked on the Aussie treat. “Damned lucky for beer.” He gasped out.

“You Yanks have no taste.” Andrea laughed. “I told you to take a bite, not pop the whole muffin in your mouth. It will pull your tongue out by its root and beat you over the head with the bloody end.”

“I do have a taste, I like beer.” He winked. “And it was bite sized after all! This is saltier than ocean water.”

“We will need to fight our way to the marina.” Al interrupted. “It’s a long ways there to run and the how those creatures move about, we need more ammunition.”

“Guns will attract attention.” Stormy said. “I watched it happen when they first attacked the police roadblock. Shooting our way there isn’t viable.”

“The chance that saved your ass in that bus.” The Archer said as he stood. “These… zombies… were going after the cops and their guns, that kept them away, they were inside the terminal going after the officers that were making so much noise. Those that were injured, turned. The others won’t be awarded medals for bravery, but they lived by not standing their ground and getting bitten, it was FUBAR.”

“FUBAR?” Zac asked. “What is FUBAR?”

“Fucked up beyond all repair.” Archer said.

“Or reason.” Al injected.

“Or recovery.” Gail added.

Nodding and chuckling, the Archer continued. “I needed to choose, clear the coach or the cops out. I opted for the civilians, it was a tough call. Who lives, who dies. Cops took an oath, you folks did not.”

His lowered his voice to almost a whisper describing the scene as he looked at a bit of plastic that stuck to his finger.

“It was a nightmare. I took down thirty of them beasts before they knew I was there. Before they knew I was human, I had recovered enough arrows to cover the difference. That’s when I yelled through the door.”

“Well. Let’s dash over to the police station. It’s six blocks away, but in the right direction of the marina.” Al said putting his hand on Archer’s shoulder.

“Let’s walk, don’t wanna trip.” Andrea said softly, kissing the crimson-haired Yank on the cheek. “Archer, I’m glad you made the choice.”

 

Flee Chapter 1. Brisbane

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1. Brisbane

 

The red haired Yank pulled his bow to a full draw and sighted over the arrow at the shambling horror that approached him.

Forty-paces away.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly.

Thirty paces and closing.

This was a fresh-dead human that could walk faster than the others of his kind.

Twenty paces.

His focus was a laser point as he aimed with instinct and he put the fear of death in a controlled area of his soul.

He waited, measuring the distance.

Fifteen paces.

The eyes of this once-human had not yet become milky. Its vision was nearly equal to a living person, the Archer sighed with deep grief. At one time this was a handsome youth.

Five paces. It did not realize the threat of the living man and the bent wood and string he held.

The human loosed the arrow that flew straight and true into the left eye of the walking nightmare, it stiffened on the impact of the projectile into its brain and it fell over backwards with a quiet thud.

“Why do you shoot them in the eye like that?” Alexander Frobisher asked.

Late of the RCMP, now on vacation. When he was working, he was a Sergeant and a leader of the Emergency Response Team in his section, now he was not so sure since the fall of society.

“Bone is thinner there, I might pass it through the optic foramen – the hole that the nerve passes through. It’s less stress on my arrows and I hate trying to build new ones. I have tried wood I find, but I failed. Wood arrows are a challenge to find, even as dowels. But, I’m learning. Each time I work one, I’m better. We need to figure out how to build these in case we cannot find anymore in stores someday.”

The Archer pulled out an unfinished wooden arrow. An almost straight dowel of a wood that Frobisher could not recognize. It was fletched and had a metal head, but obviously was not one that the Archer was willing to shoot.

“Let’s take the food to the group. ” Archer said as he pulled out his arrow— it was an odd moment of black-humor that struck his mind as Frobisher watched.

A dead-dead person.

“Stay close to the flat of the buildings, away from the bushes.” The Sergeant said as they headed out. His own weapon at the ready, a wicked, edged weapon made of a cricket bat and the front chain-wheel of a bicycle. An effective battle-ax with a spiked edge.

The Archer carried a bow that he had found in a house. A simple recurve bow, he shot with an instinctive skill. Always in the eye of his target with devastating effect, they always went down in a mundane, quiet fall.

These friends, you would say that they were longtime friends if you met them on the street. But they had only met three weeks prior when the world fell into ruin.

Funny how such bonds are forged in the crucible of chaos.

Chaos.

It began in the land of Oz.

In Darwin, the first news of it hit the television. It was a virus the newscasters said. A jetliner had declared an emergency, crash-landed, breaking into two large sections. When the walking cadavers emerged from the debris, quickly overwhelming the emergency crews and the security forces.

The Archer figured out the secret with head shots. Gunfire attracted attention and mobbed those that used such weapons. The silent death of the arrows made a path without attracting.

The shuffling dead did not know or communicate enough to discover that an arrow had stilled one of their own.

They made their way to the bank that the group had held up in. Cowering behind a blast-resistant wall, the group was a mix of people who followed the Archer after walked down the boulevard, creating a hail of death that cleared a path through the Edgar Allan Poe nightmares pounding on the walls of their tourist coach.

Andrea the tour guide and her driver Jameson Curtis were the first to join the Yank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight, an attorney from the United States that worked for the ACLU, Zac Wood from Scotland, a student ambassador, joined the group on another of the Yankee’s forays at a bus depot. Now they stood behind the cage where they could pull the safe door shut if they needed to while Andrea St. George, the tour guide, held a single-shot rifle

The Archer and Sergeant Frobisher tapped on the doors to be let into the bank.

Rachel “Stormy” Knight of the ACLU opened the door, holding a shotgun she had discovered in the bank. The men stepped in while the sharp eye of the lawyer watched the street.

Behind Stormy stood, with a pump shotgun taken from an abandoned police cruiser, Gallisa “Gail” Blachere, Ph.D, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Ed.D had a barely controlled rage in her eye, welcomed the two explorers back.

“Mighty hunters bring food!” The Archer laughed and opened his bag of canned goods. “Sorry there are no fresh foods.”

Stale biscuits and beer were common in the second bag that the Canadian carried. Opening a third bag, the Archer set two jars of Vegemite on the counter.

“You have good taste for a Yank!” Andrea laughed and picked it up. “A bit of heaven on earth you have brought here.”

“Maybe. I bet Al has done better with the beer and biscuits.” The Archer said. “Eat up, we need to move out as soon as we finish, we need to vacate. There is a police station down the road with a gated fence. “

“Why do we need to move?” Zac asked.

“The bank is too soft of a target.” Sergeant Frobisher said. “A police station is more easily protected. Bulletproof glass, iron bars, locking doors. I’d say it’s safer.”

“Praise the lord and pass a biscuit.” Archer said.