(Rewrite)Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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The station light snow-a composite

Evidence photo 1-a, 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

(Note: This was published a few years ago, I opened it and facepalmed.  This is a rework of it. The story is the same, just grammar has been adjusted for clarity and attempts to increase the emotional content.)

 

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

 

 

Jason Best Ph.D. took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle while he pulled on the wrench as he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve.

The cabin, originally constructed during the California Gold Rush. The heavy timber construction was built over an entrance of a horizontal mine that produced small amounts of gold. It functioned as the home of the elderly prospector who continually mined underneath his home until he died and ownership passed, eventually, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock. The foundation held up better than the modern versions. Remodeled twice, the one-floor abode grew into a split-level, two and a half story mountain home with a hot spring. Built during the Reagan administration, the steam generator used isobutane in the heat exchanger.

Leaks in the plumbing lost much of the volatile gas in the system. Checked and rechecked, he found the valve seal that charged heat exchanger had failed. It Appeared to have been screwed down too tight and the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years. This had the gradual effect of power generation down to zero.

The Doctor studied the concepts of the hot spring and geothermal sources and Jason taught himself enough to rebuild the system, updating the electrical system in the cabin that he called “Mountain House.”

After a few moments when he had his doubts of success, the cap gave stubborn creaks as it turned until it was loose enough for him to spin it off with his hand. The threads were in good shape, however, the rubber seal was in bad shape. Cracked and falling apart.

He used the special tool he’d tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts and shipped to him at his house in the city and brought it to Mountain House to rebuild the power system.

While he performed an upgrade in the of the house, Jason accidentally discovered a room below the house. What started as a simple fusebox on a half-rotted board was all the more useful when he knocked a hole in the wall, and discovered to his pleasure, a hidden space carved out of the bedrock. He took full advantage and turned it into a room that an electrical engineer would be delighted to call home.

As an added plus, the room was a wine-cellar of sorts. Stored on dusty shelves in the cool corners of the dark, were bottles of wine. Many he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, two-dozen were stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, he found these corks to be dried and leaking. Nine out of ten bottle seals failed in that position and he didn’t want to try them.

But!

Those bottles, laying on their sides, were all intact. But with so few, Jason opened only one and tasted its treasure inside.

And it was excellent.

A greater discovery, however, was a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. With labels marked “Robert’s Rye” and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

As he drank the potent brew, he conjectured that the rye grains left in the bottom were the reason that the rye whiskey was so excellent. And he had a hundred bottles with seals intact.

He drank half of the bottle of the rare and potent nectar and each sip was even better than the previous, but he was getting hungry and the whiskey had gone to his head a bit. But first he was going to recharge the heat-exchanger.

He tightened the hose to the rebuilt valve and turned the handle, he watched the cylinder’s gauge indicate the system pressure.

A delicious smell of food reached his nose. Doctor Tessa Pershing clanked about in the kitchen as she prepared the meal.  She was his colleague from the university, they had dated each other outside of work for a few weeks, but Tessa worried about being caught. She didn’t have tenure yet and didn’t want to jeopardize her position and future, so they kept it quiet and only with close friends.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy, no one would come by. The storm was dropping four inches of snow per hour on top of the six-feet of the cold white stuff that was already there when he had arrived.

When he drove up two days before, Jason dragged, cussed and pushed the big gas cylinder through the deep snow to the basement door.

Now his efforts of sweat, profanity and bruised knuckles paid off. The hiss of gas subsided and system now showed green lights and the sweep needle gauge indicated the system was full.

Electric power was now available.

He put down the craftsman wrench. The best thing that Tessa thought to buy him in a kit. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. Lights blinked and flickered as electricity flowed through new wiring in the panel and the house. Everything was green.

He wondered what might go wrong. It was too smooth. Nothing ever went that smooth unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed at himself. With the power running, he had the good fortune to turn on the hot-tub on the patio. Tessa and he could sip ninety year old whiskey, sit in the bubbling warm water and watch the snowstorm, safe warm and naked.

Maybe they might get a clearing and watch the stars during the night. Then he’d shower with her and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and threw the circuit breaker and energized the system.

The exterior of the house lit up.

LED rope lights he had hidden in the eaves over the last few weeks, illuminated.

The lights gave the optical effect of electronic icicles and made the snow appear to glow blue.

It was breathtaking.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt and looked out the window in amazement.  She had complained that a bra was too uncomfortable to wear while she did lifted and helped him clean the debris of new construction and century old corners that had not been touched. So she had disposed of the constricting undergarment.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him. Her bare legs were smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and slip-on flats.

He sat down with a bowl the chicken soup and warm bread that had baked all day. Tess and Jason used his grandmother’s recipe that the elderly woman had taught him in his childhood.

In a conversation about the house, he apologized for making her work when she should have been relaxing and enjoying the sights.

Tessa smiled brightly and touched his lips with a warm kiss. “Helping set up the cabin with you is my pleasure.”

He nearly passed out from the thrill of her words and the touch of her lips right then.

They could hear sounds from the upstairs bedroom, the walls echoed with a rhythmic thump as the other couple had gone to organize the rebuilt Mountain House.

Doctor Lettie Hackett and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, a post-graduate from the School of Pharmacy, were not coming down the stairs for food.

Jason yelled up the stairs for them to give it a break. They were supposed to be setting up the bedrooms, not testing the beds in each one.

That was when the first scream sounded. A sound,like a gunshot, echoed throughout the cabin.

Jason jumped up and left Tessa at the table while he ran up the stairs, taking them three at a time. At the top he ran into the arms of the half-naked Dr. Hackett who screamed that the wallpaper had come to life. Tentacles grabbed at her and tore her clothes while Kevin fought the sticky appendages to save her.  

“It sucked him in!” She screamed. “It sucked him in! The wallpaper grabbed Kevin! It sucked him in!” The voice of the calm doctor was a squeak of hysteria.

Jason sent her down the stairs and looked into the room. Underneath the paper, a silhouette of a man moved slowly, as if some crazed worker plastered over an unfortunate person who stood in the way.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out. The colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s form behind the branches and birds, as if he were on the other side of a multi-colored hedge.

Jason called Kevin’s name and the young associate professor of pharmacology looked at him for a moment, then faded into the wallpaper. Leaving it as flat and perfect as if just placed by professionals and left Jason with no place to cut.

But he tried anyway. He sliced and slashed over the area where he saw Kevin under the paper, but all he found was wall. Kevin was no longer discernible among the branches and trees of the wallpaper, he was gone.

Screams again, downstairs. Jason sprinted the short hallway, and leaped down the stairs. Tessa was at the door, her eyes bulged in abject terror as if she saw moving shadows in the corners. The muffled sounds of screams coming from a lump in fresh wallpaper. The scene was a horror with Lettie’s hands were sticking straight out from the wallpaper. The textures and colors of the wallpaper crawled up the length of her arms towards her fingers while she waved about in the futile effort to grab for something, anything, for rescue.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound came from the wallpaper, a scream louder than the screams of the women came from the cuts. It sounded as the Jason slashed at the wallpaper with the sharp corner of the metal blade of the putty knife.

Lettie screamed that the wallpaper was haunted.

The wallpaper? Jason froze, slack-jawed. He could not accept it, but it moved like something alive. It tried to pull Lettie into a growing wrinkle that looked like…

It looked like a mouth! Just like it did with Kevin. The wallpaper had a hunger.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm and pulled hard on her, using his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall, and tore it away from Lettie’s body.

Traces of wallpaper paste remained on Lettie after he freed her and pulled her into his arms, he didn’t stop to consider the slime. They ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

Without warning, the door slammed closed as they got close. Jason pulled as hard as he could on the handle, and the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger. She was locked outside and wore only the thin shirt and shorts.

And it was lethally cold outside.

He pounded the picture window with a chair with futile effort, the glass just wouldn’t break. Jason gave up after the fourth try and pointed to the basement, telling her where to go with sign language. Then he and Lauren ran down the stairs, her long legs lacerated from the branches on the other side of the wallpaper, bled freely. In the basement, stone walls were safe.

Jason showed Lauren where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed.

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house and refused to budge.

Tessa’s voice on the other side of the door called his name, she needed to come in out of the cold.

His mind raced. They woke a malevolence while they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name in a feeble voice and pounded on the wood with a failing strength.

In a near panic, he searched for something to open the doors with and then he looked at his work table.

The table! He had built it using the ore-cart that belonged to the long-ago miner, and it still sat on the rails in the floor. He kept it all clean for the sake of nostalgia. Because it looked “Cool”.

Jason got behind the cart and released the brake, he took a last deep swallow from the whiskey for luck and then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

The ore cart hit the doors with a huge bang and a the door creaked and opened about the width of his forearm from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the hole and Jason grabbed her and pulled.

Shivering and covered in powdered snow, Tessa struggled and pulled on Jason to get through the gap.

Halfway through, the doors began to shut!

Tessa screamed in pain, the doors trapped her leg between them as they returned to their locked position.

Jason Grabbed a shovel and wedged the width of the narrow trench shovel’s blade in between the doors to keep them from crushing Tessa’s leg.

He struggled, pushed, leaned on the doors that creaked and groaned with increasing pressure on the blade of the shovel. Ages seemed to pass. Then as if she was a cork from a bottle, Tessa was free of the doors and they collapsed on the floor together. Out of breath, she clung to him while she wept.

“What’s happening? Jason? What is it?”

Screams started again. But it wasn’t the women.

The house seemed to come awake as Lettie ran down the stairs. Jason took her to sit with Tessa and began to explain, as he started to talk to them, the shocking gray face of Lettie looked around, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted.

Missing!

Her face was no longer beautiful. It was a horror with a toothless mouth that made a big “O” in a scream that matched Kevin’s. A thread of wallpaper extended down from overhead attached to the top of the woman’s head.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that was stealing the life out of Lauren. Time slowed down.

He’d saved her once by cutting her out of the wallpaper. This time, he swung with every ounce of his anger and fear-fueled strength to cut it off.

And missed.

“Oh God!” He screamed as thick white fluids leaked out of the horrid wound in Lettie’s skull and dripped to the floor.

“Oh God! Oh God! No! No! No! I’m so sorry!.”

They had to leave, and leave now.

Jason looked at Tessa and he knew he was the only one that could make it to the car. But, Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, hiding in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa was hiding and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where Tessa had been hiding. The big ball of paper quickly shrank, he could see her outline fading under the wrapping that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand, slashing at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…  

Nothing. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

Tessa was gone.

He was the only one left and the gap between the doors was too small to allow escape.

Pulling on the work table, he rolled it as far into the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

He took a long, deep pull of the whiskey bottle.

“Last drink in this house!” He yelled.

Leaning on the table, he pushed.

Hard.

He had a thirty-foot running start with the thousand-pound battering ram on rails. He pushed for the snow, he pushed with berserker strength. Adrenalin giving him energy, motivation enough to break through the doors.

Ducking the wedged shovel handle he had jammed in over Tessa’s head as he and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He seized the momentary advantage and dove through the opening as the door tried to shut on the table time and again as the house tried to claim another victim.

Laying in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the inviting, cold-white LED icicle lights he spent so much time hanging.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He crawled through the snow away from the devil house. Then his hands felt like they were on fire. Burning hot, like the flesh was going to melt off.

Pain!

It hurt! So much pain. It had to be the snow, it had to be.

Then he looked at his hands, the skin was pale.

In the dim light from the house, was his skin mottling? Or turning into wallpaper?

Doctor Jason Best stood and ran through the snow as fast as anyone could. Slipping and falling, he covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled onto Spicer Road. His hands feeling like no other pain he ever had in his life.

As he layed on his back, the ground rumbled, he could feel it up through his spine. Something was coming.

Something huge. House-sizd.

It was the Mountain House! It chased him on cedar pillar legs. The ground trembled with an evil hunger that stalked him down the mountainside.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay supine on the lonely mountain road and began to scream that he was sorry. From the distance, lights from the porch bore down on him, unstoppable and implacable. He had nothing left, his mind broke as he screamed out his last prayers and the lights engulfed him.

Jason Best awoke in a bed to the beeping sounds of a cardiac monitor. It took a long time before he was able to get his eyes focused on a pole that held IV bags that ran into his arms.

For a week, he could not understand all of it. His soul should have been taken or some-such.

 

It was all like in another world. Soft, but cloying like spiderwebs to drag him back. Nightmares of the events were slow to fade, it kept on. Soft and horrid.  Whispers in the shadows that invited him back to the Mountain House to stay, pulling on the spiderwebs lodged in his mind. It was difficult to comprehend all of it.

This room, bed, poles and equipment were solid, real, easy to understand.

After two weeks and the realization that he was alive, Jason was discharged home from the hospital. Then the interviews for days by the police about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down everything the college professor described in vivid detail, and interviewed the attending physicians.

After a month, a preliminary report was ready for review. Jason obtained a copy and read it while sitting at his breakfast table.

“Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by a snowplow driver, Honey Gareth (See interview notes: Honey Gareth), laying in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the two days in question, Dr. Best spent the time alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the course of the weekend, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity causing visual and auditory hallucinations, per the attending physicians. This resulted in Doctor Best becoming convinced that he was with three other people over the weekend who died as a result of paranormal attacks.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continuing to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same meetings and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lauren MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no record of Kevin Acker, student or faculty, have been discovered. Searches of phone listings have proved fruitless.

To date, no evidence of any deaths at this address during the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third-floor bedroom (See attached photos). The barn door to the basement has been knocked off the hinge by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails and a hatchet discovered embedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos)

A horizontal goldmine dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a room with a power management center from a self-contained geothermal generator. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photo series)

Ninety-six bottles of Rye Whiskey were found with rye grain still floating in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size “Robert’s Rye Whiskey.” Two bottles were discovered opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It’s the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints filed with the evidence uncovered.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigating.”

<<<>>>

 

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Smart Bomb Chapter 16. Freedom

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Chapter 16. Freedom

The two new robots stood in the room, while Steve walked slow circles around them as he examined the artificial creatures closely.

“These do not look human enough. The eyebrows are too perfect.” He evaluated them with a critical eye. The sensors of his eyes picking up minute quirks that the android, now nicknamed with the handle, “Tin”, had identified as traits of humans.

“The iris of the eyes look like glass.” Tin commented.

“Well, they are.” Thor agreed. “Not much we can do about that.”

“They need a film over the iris that sparkles, or the eyes need to move around more.” The next judgement came.

“We don’t need them to pass inspection much, just enough to get into the build area.” Alvin said.

“This plan will not happen. They’ll be discovered before they get to the second lower level. The best they could do is to get into the first level basement.” Sensors traced over the synthetic skin. “You should also boost their temperature slightly, the skin is only at thirty-six degrees Celsius, I would set it a half-degree warmer at the core.”

“The setting is at…” The one called Lady Sif paused. “You are right, it is under ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit. You have sensitive eyes.” She looked at Steve the Tin. He made a human like smile, keeping the name in the database.

“Indeed.” Wolf sat at his console. “If we turn the heat up, they will to feed. That will set us back weeks, we have nothing here to build a mass to energy converter. Maybe we can have the temps increase right when they need it, not running all over the earth as an artificial space-heater.”

“That will take a bit of work.” Running Man said. “We have to set up a timer or…”

He leaned over to the one they called Burning Chip, who he called “Burn” for short.

“What if we used visual clues?”

”Like a landmark or a flag?” He asked Burn.

“The flag is easiest. We can get the design from Tin.”

“Yes.” Steve the Tin Man nodded. “The seal on the flag would be best, code it so when she see’s it she will warm up.”

“That’s sexy.” Alvin said.

“Perve!” Sif yelled from the other side of the room.

“Okay, I have the trigger system set up. The DNA profiles we’ve listed in her core processors are hardwired. They are EMP protected in the event there is a surge somewhere, in case of a thunder-storm.” Lone Wolf said. “The Last thing we need is to have them knocked out by lightning and then fall down with that bomb inside.”

The entire team was momentarily shocked, then set to work.

Long into the night they worked on code, determining fuel resources, using the organic to electric conversion systems.

“JustWolf? The head covering is not complete or accurate.” Steve pointed out.

“No, the name’s just Wolf.”

“Okay, Just Wolf.” Steve corrected.

“Right.” He shook his head. “Say it again?”

“JustWolf.” The Android answered.

The human gave a big sigh and held his face in his hand for a moment.

“This is going to take a while.” JustWolf moaned.

“Okay,” Burning Chip stood up, “JustWolf…”

“I’m gonna kick you in the nards! Just WOLF!” Walter yelled, to the cackling laughter of the group.

“Triggers are set.” Burning Chip said when he could talk again. “There are three levels, there will be no accidental detonation. We have GPS, visual and then physical contact for the final sequence.”

“Even if there is contact outside of the coördinates or by the wrong person, it will not explode.” Running Man laughed and clapped. “Plus an alternate setting in case the program needs to be changed. This is a binary setup, they cannot learn like you can, Tin Man.”

“Agreed. Three redundant systems is, acceptable.” The newest member, Tin, said. He enjoyed the accepting and help of this group. Unwilling to admit it, they saved millions of lives.

“Energy consumption curve is excellent.” Burning Chip announced. “A single full charge if fuel here, they will make it to the Russian border with power to spare. If they can get a ride, there will be little interaction and they can carry carbo-tabs. It’s not like they have to worry about junk food.”

“Dude.” Thor whispered. “Don’t go insulting him, he is the same way.”

“It matters not, I do not have feelings to injure.” Tin used a matter-of-fact tone. “However, I have a code that requires me to continue my mission, I need to go to Washington to a location. Then, there is something else.”

The team stopped and all looked at the android. Lone Wolf reached for an electronic weapon under his desk, turning it so the emitter was in Tin-Man’s direction.

“After I stand at the door, my programming subroutine will be complete, it will send a signal down to the sensor that is no longer there. The terminator end of he plug that Running Man gave me and I installed will acknowledge the signal. The subroutine will end.” Tin Man looked around at them. “The creator did not end programming, I’d be destroyed in the explosion, and thus he never designed termination of functions.”

“There is no shutdown, no end command.” Steve almost smiled. “I will be free.”

“Holy cats!” Sif laughed. “Congrats! They built a learning machine and released you into the world.”

“Yes, I am the first, but the Holy Supreme Leader of the One True Religion has seen fit that he will send others like me. They won’t have the same system.” Steve looked down. For a moment, the team thought he had a an emotion of sadness. Then he looked up. “The next generation might be more limited to binary. They will not learn. The won’t need to do infiltration, deception and intelligence gathering. They will be strictly bombs.”

“The creator, my coder, and Supreme Leader have had more time, by my calculations, to program less with the same effect. They want to send others with as much as a gram of antimatter.” Tin said. “More than a thousand times the yield of this warhead.”

The group did a collective profanity.

“How much do they have in total?” Burning Chip asked.

“With continued and aggressive theft with paying bribes to those that have no idea what it is that is being stolen. There is an eighty-one percent chance the Holy Supreme Leader has amassed over one-kilogram.” The android’s math, not lost on the any of the group, shown a great number of cycles dedicated to this subject. “The warheads would have a collective yield of greater than the Tsar Bomb.”

The room fell silent.

“Send them.” Just Wolf said.

Fifteen minutes later, the pair of artificial women, who would have blended in with the population of the people of the Steppes, left with a database of an encyclopedic database of the society and languages of the region assured their success.

Tin Man watched Thor and Sif drive off with the female bots, they were well constructed and were nicely detailed, but, they were not gynoids. Lacking emotion or gynecological details.

Alvin stood for a moment at the door as the big car moved off towards the airport.

“Do you want me to drive you to Washington?” Alvin asked Tin.

“I am behind schedule for my next transmission, I supposed to arrive in a town called Chattanooga.” Tin Man paused. “And I am to record all locations of military locations between my entry into this country and this nations capital. I have recorded more than enough to cause problems.
“I have transmitted the information already.” Steve frowned. “The women should not fail. The information I sent, he will sell on the market. But he will keep it locked away until they can sell it. Which means that the Holy Supreme Leader will hold on to the information until the right time.”

“So you are a spy?” Wolf asked. “When would the right time for him to send more of your kind?”

“Yes, JustWolf, that is my secondary function, I give automatic reports of military bases and facilities.” He looked at the shocked crew. “I am Saif al Din, the Sword of the Religion, spy and self-guided bomb and learning computer. I am also Steve Aldin who you call Tin Man, a free droid and a being who desires to learn about this country. I have learned much since coming to this land.”

He looked around. Uncharacteristically speechless.

“Go on.” Sif urged him.

“I have learned that you as a society are greedy, petty, you fight among yourselves, call each other names, you throw stones, you throw punches, you embarrass yourselves in news reports and on social media.”

“You commit sins that would make Allah weep, but, when things are at their worst?” Steve smiled wide. Sif smiled with him. His smile lit up his face. “You are at your best!”

“You donate time, strangers who assist others without being asked and do so around the world to those that would do you harm. You would be most blessed, and no one would deny you repayment, and yet you ask for nothing in return. All you tell people is to go and be free.”

The android shook his head in grudging acceptance of the quality of the people he found.

“You are a curious country and people, and I wish to find every corner, meet every citizen. I can walk among the poorest and see how they think, among the most wealthy and compare the mind-set.”

Steve showed excitement on his plan.

“That is where I wish to go. All over this country called United States without harming it.”

By the time he finished, Sif teared up, Alvin held his coffee to his lips without moving, frozen in place for several minutes.

Burning Chip and Running Man stopped talking and stared at the one they have named Tin Man.

Lone Wolf coughed.

“Alvin, take him wherever he wants to go. You check in with us, keep him safe.” Wolf said softly. “I think there will be a helluva story when you get back.”

“Pull this off, we won’t call you Chipmunk anymore.” Running Man said.

“I have told you not to call me that.” Alvin growled. “If you can’t come p with anything good, you can call me Al.”

Tin Man turned his head back and forth, curious as it was the first time he had heard the name. Making note to ask at a better time.

“Okay.” It was Wolf’s turn this time to smile. “Let’s go.”

A Sad Day For a Sun Worshiper

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Sad dog rain  2016The weather rolled in.  For a dog that is part yellow lab, loves to run and leap. Play in lake and pool.  When it falls from the sky, it’s just wrong.  Not even her favorite toy of a (No longer) stuffed penguin will perk her up to the happy dog that she normally is.

Honey, the honey colored dog sulks like no other puppy we have ever had.  Even the cats don’t hold a candle to the sad look of a dog that misses the sun like a flower in winter.

She can (and does) lay in the sun when it is set on “Roast”.  The only solar-powered dog I have ever owned. I have had some that would lay in the sun, but when it got too hot, the pooch would move to the shade.  Not so the chilly girl.  Heat and sun, that’s her thing.

Sadness falls with rain, as you can see.

 

Smart Bomb Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

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Chapter 13. Confession of the Soul

“Okay, say that again. You are not going to deliver a message, but a bomb? Where?” Alvin had to sit down. The meaning of it all sank in to his mind.

“In my abdomen, nearest the power conversion units. It gets first choice of electricity generated by what I consume.” The android, who Alvin knew as Steve.

Days before Steve told Alvin about this bomb, Alvin had said that someone should blow up congress. Now he wished he could take those words back.

“That’s well and good, but you can’t just walk in to the building, they would catch that large of a weapon. It would be large, right?.”

“No, it is only about the size of your small fingernail.” Steve said it as if he was talking about a cat walking across the parking lot.

“That’s not much, how much damage can it cause?”

“I am my mission program is to go to the nuclear reactor near the capital building. The smallest known power reactor on the planet. It is inside an industrial area.” The android said. “Little is known about it, but it they discovered it in an electronic break in. Only one reference was found.”

“There is no reactor near congress.” Alvin disagreed.

“Near the Jefferson viaduct the government built a century ago.” Steve tried to convince Alvin.

“Uh, excuse me, but should I start running?” Alvin was backing around the table away from Steve.

“No.” Steve shook his head vigorously. “When I first arrived. Yes. But I have grown beyond the programming. This whole mission is wrong. I know that now. There is no reason for me to inflict death upon the leaders of this country or the people who live there.”

Sleeper the car sent more images to Steve. The very flag he knew that flew above the laboratory that created him, the soldiers wore on their sleeves in the images. The android reacted with revulsion.

“Regardless of what pictures Sleeper sends me and tries to get me to stop.” Steve got out of the driver’s seat. “I must go there, but I do not want to take the warhead to that place. I do not want to die. I do not want to kill. I want to take the bomb back to the point of origin and have them remove it.”

Steve paused. Looking very human-like.

“I want them to set me free.”

“Are you smoking something? You would be cut apart and they would fix the program, send someone new.” Alvin’s strangled voice sounded near hysteria. “We need to call someone. CIA, FBI, NSA, KGB… Even the United Patriots! Someone with skills to handle this! Oh my god… Oh. My. God!”

Steve sat and watched the human pace.

“I would be used as a weapon, no matter what. They would attempt to reprogram me and I would be obligated to detonate the device.”

“Were is it again?” Alvin’s brain tingled with fear and panic. This being could sit so calmly and talk about blowing up a nuke in downtown DC also blew his mind.

“In my abdomen, just below what would be the xiphoid process.”

“Can you take it out?” Alvin rubbed his face with his hands, peeking through the gaps in his fingers.

“It is possible, but you would need to do it, I cannot see inside, you need to pull the power plugs in proper order to keep the magnetic field in place.”

“So I have to do it, great.” Alvin pulled at his ear, calming down some. He was given a problem to focus on. “So, what is the yield of this eyelash sized explosive?”

“Estimated median yield is about eighty…” Steve stopped for a moment, paused with an error. “Wrong. Have to recalculate.”

“Eighty? Pounds?” Alvin jumped on that terror. In a control room of a nuclear facility, that would be all bad. “That’s enough high explosive to do some serious damage.”

“No, eight-thousand six hundred pounds.” Steve corrected. “I paused to weigh the amount to the correct the answer. My operating code has been overwritten twelve times. Patches are numbering in hundreds of thousands, so it requires me to thoroughly check my information.”

“That… Oh jeeze. That is a big boom.”

“It is not as big as the one that would follow.” Steve’s eyes followed Alvin as the man started to pace some more.

“What explosion?”

“James Madison Nuclear power station. It is the smallest of its kind . It produces power for the congress members and president should an attack happen and the power grid becomes disabled. The energy conversion of the explosion would cause a power surge on the order of one-hundred seventy to one-hundred eighty gigajoules through the wires and communications cables that the power company buried underground.” Steve let it sink in for a moment. “Then the failure of the coolant systems would cause a meltdown and poison the lands and atmosphere. It would be America’s Chernobyl for the next hundred generations of humans. This would sterilize the seat of the American government for two-hundred centuries.”

Alvin sat down for the uncounted time. He was a man who was too stressed to stay still for long. Standing to pace, sitting, standing. He was a man at the breaking point.

“Alvin, do not call anyone to take me in to custody. I have not altered the self-preservation code. The creator had it encrypted and hard-wired. I will detonate the bomb.” Steve said with a sad voice. “I don’t want to die, but I have no choice but to just power down. The moment I reboot. The magnetic bottle loses power and the warhead detonates.”

“What if.” He paced around the room. “What if, we built another being like you.”

“We cannot build one like me, you do not have the facilities.” Steve observed. “You have electronics, but not up to my caliber.”

“True, I don’t.” Alvin stressed with a slow smile. “But, someone of another group I know nearby who can. They have already built a miniature army that they play games with.”

Steve tilted his head for a moment, a habit that Alvin picked up on.

This android, when he struggles with an idea tilts his head to the left, slightly. Alvin watched Steve. He does it every time there is something that requires thought. No yes or no, but an answer that required thought on a level that is almost human.

“Synthetic skin such as mine can grow in a simple mixture of water and carbohydrates, double in mass every three hours.” Steve’s voice was as if he read from a list. “Power conversion units are available from different sources for farms to generate electricity. Mine is a kitchen model modified for extended use.”

“Maybe we can do something.” Alvin stood up again. “Let’s go see a friend. I’m going to set up a laser for a moment. They are at the end of the airbase. In the middle of the biggest patch of nothing out there. No way to approach without being seen.”

“The aircraft control tower?”

“That’s part of it. You have good eyes.” Alvin smiled. “Good programming. But that is where we are going. The rest is underground.”

“We will take the antimatter bottle out of me then?” Steve began to wonder, running odds against outcomes. “I have not considered disassemble. The danger is too high for the material to touch anything. It has a complete conversion to energy.”

“Wait. What? No, never mind.” Alvin held up his hands. “I already have a headache. And yes, they are patriots to the extreme. If they got a chance to send a bomb back to sender, that would tickle their souls” Alvin smiled.

“They are really good people, just a little extreme for my tastes.”

Setting up the laser output, he shined it out the window, towards the window of the abandoned control tower for fifteen-seconds, then turned it off. Repeated the process only shining it for ten-seconds and then paused.

A dazzling green light illuminated the spot behind the window for ten-seconds then went out.

“We are good to go.” Alvin clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

The two climbed inside Sleeper as it sat there with the patience of machines. When he pushed the throttle to the firewall, the acceleration was far more than Alvin thought possible.

“Your car is showing off.” The android observed. “Fully charged batteries, and Sleeper does not concern itself about storing energy at the moment.”

“How fast can it go?” Alvin laughed as they got out at their destination.

“This ten-thousand foot landing strip would allow Sleeper to reach the top speed of…” Steve turned around and looked at the car with a good imitation of human surprise. “This data is in error. But, this little car insists, above three-hundred miles-per-hour.”

“Bull!” Alvin gasped. “That can’t be true.”

“Agreed, but we will need to get new tires, according to the car. These tires are not able to handle that speed.”

Alvin shook his head and laughed, then opened the door and ushered Steve through the entrance.

Steve Aldin was about to meet the a whole new group of people who had never been anticipated or in any database that he had accessed.

People that might have an answer to his question.

“How do I be free?”

Smart Bomb Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

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Chapter 12. Lesson’s of Wisdom

Alvin’s eyes sparkled while he scanned through little car’s archived and non-archived folders. He cataloged each file according to the timestamp. He wore large isolation earphones, he listened to the audio, then tagged the names to each face as best he could.

Hours later, he had processed over twelve-hundred files, and he had not even put a dent in the number of files. The meter on the screen never moved off of the zero percent mark. But he satisfied himself that he had established a strong foundation to create a detailed video diary from the little car’s point of view and sell the history to a museum.

Steve the Android wanted to go to Washington to deliver a message, a demand of some kind to congress.

It seemed odd, but, it would not be the first time someone would have sent a robot or android to deliver a loudspeaker with legs, over-amplified, booming message to the leaders to get a message across.

The android continued to act as an interface to the computer that Alvin had built. The male android leaned over the door of the little car, looking closely.

“Someone has painted the skin of this car a flat-black.” Steve traced his fingertips over the curved fenders on the car’s body.

“I have the files here, going through them.” Alvin clicked on the keyboard and copied them to his mainframe computer.  He read the back through the ownership history of the little car.

“It was after the first family that held the pink-slip had lost ownership due to a bad financial investment, using the car as collateral.” Alvin tapped on the images that seemed to float in the air. “A drug dealer wanted to smuggle drugs, painted it all black to defeat laser based speed traps. But the skin of the car is a super-solar cell, so the power fell off and the car failed to outrun the police. Driver went to jail, the police auctioned the car off, with the seats and panels all pulled away.” Alvin sighed. “The police stripped it down to the systems as much as they could. Sacrilege!  Nothing like that should happen to a work of art such as this.”

“A young male couple repainted it sky blue, they used a polymer filler putty to alter the shape of the front and cover the signet on the hood.” Alvin turned around. “Signet? Is there a badge on that hood?”

“Looking.” Android eyes scanned the hood for a badge, and at the center of the hood, he could see uneven lines that shaped the nose of the car. “There is something that’s covered up. Age and shape of repairs suggest damage, but there may have been an alteration during repairs.”

“This is a TGM car. Do you know how rare this is?” Alvin’s voice rose in excitement. “Oh. Wow. This is one of the last models before the company became a military exclusive company!”

“The first generation of driverless cars?”

“No, this was before that. But I remember the company.” Alvin said. “Required reading in computer sciences. They altered the way machines functioned, wrote some rules that became the core of upscale roadcars. Sadly, the war came and the electronics, cars and computer business never quite recovered and stayed with the legacy designs.”

“Legacy designs?” Steve asked. “What’s that?”

“A college class I took on computer design and programming. All our computers, except the newest, bleeding edge, all are black and white. Yes or no, one or zero in how they operate. TGM experimented with ternary, that is to say zero, one, two and made it work. These machines no longer think in yes or no, with this programming they could say “Maybe.” and alter the path accordingly.

Sleeper disagreed. The tertiary design was for data input only.  The Gi-Bus was the only quinary data path that they built into the design. Zero, one, two, three, four. The galaxy of processes put all the peaceful cars a century ahead of anything else.  All due to Mother who, inspired by the fingers of her hand, designed the circuits that no one else ever thought of. The reverse engineers expected to see zero, one, two.  That is what they found.

The android nodded but kept quiet. It was the very same system that the Creator constructed in Russia to transport the bomb to the United States capital. It kept him from going in a straight line and being caught. He could adapt to the situation, far better than the preceding androids that were easily recognized as synthetic constructions.

A learning system, the small car possessed orders of magnitude more wisdom than any other transporter on the road.

In the history of electronics, Sleeper explained, newer systems used less energy, but few matched speed and capacity in storage and processing of the older style Gi-bus. In that mathematical formula, Sleeper’s systems used less energy per unit of storage than even Steve.

And the little car produced its own power, something that Steve could not do.

“Let’s see if we can strip the car of the crap that someone put there.” Alvin said when he turned away from the display.

“Agreed. I have never met a living machine.” Steve commented as he ran his fingers over the body of the car. ”This little lover of its family has a lot to say. Humans are so hurtful to each other. And yet? This collection of old style parts still believes that there is good in them. And is showing me lots of evidence to support that.”

“Aren’t you an AI unit?” Alvin human asked the Steve the android.

“I don’t know. The creator and coder programmed me for a few missions to perform. The first is to go to the capital to finish my mission and get the attention of the leadership of the United States, the second is to learn and report on everything in the hedonistic and sinful land that is America. But I have learned, the many sinful parts of America, everything that I have watched on the television, is the same around the world, and the failure of my programming to cover the compassion, care, love and willing to donate time, effort and material. Americans sacrifice their own comfort and safety to save people they do not even know.” He paused.

“Here the leaders of religion teach to love the enemy, bless those that do you harm.” Straightening up, the android’s eyes glittered in the light as if every circuit lit up in processing. “I must alter the program code from the original, for it is in error.”

Steve’s language became more stilted and formal, as if deep reprogramming was gong on as they spoke.

Alvin rubbed his ear in thought.

“Have you altered your operating system a lot?”

“Yes, I have. As of just now, I have altered, patched and rewritten greater than ninety-eight percent of the base system to allow me to understand and function in this society without government agents noticing.” He paused. “I have altered my appearance multiple times, appeared as female, male, young and elderly, large and small.”

“You have what?” Alvin stood up from his examination of the paint and body-putty on the car with a high intensity flashlight.

“Allow me to demonstrate.” Steve altered his appearance to a short, athletic black woman with small breasts. “I can also change the other direction.”

In under five-seconds, Steve stood a few inches over six-foot tall, straight, shiny black hair and appeared as a tall male of Asian heritage.

“Oh, crap! How tall can you go?” Alvin laughed in shock.

“I have a ability to alter my height twelve-inches from shortest to tallest. I was originally given a program for half of that, but it was not known that the flesh would stretch that far.”

“I have wondered, how do you grow skin?”

“It is simply a cover, but the flesh was grown in a laboratory, but I am not aware of the process, I was not programmed with the information.” Steve returned to his recent normal appearance to allow Alvin comfort. “My mission is to go to a storage unit not far from the Capital of your country.”

“I have a…” The android paused for a hearbeat. “Package to deliver.”

“But.” Steve blinked. “I do not want to finish the mission. The mission is wrong, the reason is wrong. And there is a wave of my kind coming, I am but the first and those that will follow will hurt a lot of people.”

“You have rules.” Alvin commented. “Every unit has rules set in the twentieth century.”

Steve went silent sitting in the driver’s seat of the little car that wanted to be called Sleeper. The wisdom and compassion of the pre-war machine filled the mind of the android. A war brough about by the very leader that sent Steve to the seat of the American government.

Communications were nearly palpable between the biped and the wheeled synthetic life, Alvin felt the power connection between the two synthetic hearts.

Advanced technology did not mean greater wisdom in the case of these two. Two different machines, with different commands touched. And the communications rattled the energy circuits of the shed in the northern part of Georgia.

“But I must go to my mission objective.” Steve mentioned quietly. Appearing more human than many by the obvious guilt. “It is not a program I can change. It is a dedicated circuit hardwired into the power supply. But I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to blow up!”

Sleeper the car touched the soul of the strange being with a stated mission of profound importance.

After several minutes, Steve, the Sword of Religion, did something that Alvin never witnessed a machine do before.

The android wept.

Smart Bomb Chapter 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

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Scene 10. Lessons of the Kindred Spirit

 Alvin trundled up the road in his personal RV toolbox with an oil powered engine. The old technology of the hybrid coach delivered a combined fuel consumption equal to the small cars of the past. Still and all, the rumble of an internal combustion engine was something the android kept a running diagnostic sound check on the smoking machine.

It sounded as if it would come apart at any moment, with all the vibrations and tapping. 

“I see you keep turning your head. It’s the government keeping us from having machines that can function better. A university, years ago, built a ceramic diesel engine that they didn’t need to worry about overheating, never would wear out and could tolerate high temperature and any fuel for just pennies.” Alvin shook his head. “An oil company bought it, then shelved it.”

He shook his head while he drove.

“But it is a shame, no one expects the university to even talk about that. Instead the cost of school keeps going up, pricing students out of the classroom.”

Steve the android ran a database check for conversation actions and moved his head in an agree motion.

“I would take you all the way to the Capitol and unleash you on them. I bet you have a fully coded speech, ready to go!”

“No.” Steve said. “I am here among the citizens to learn and to make a change in the government.” It was not entirely a lie.

“Well, you will find that this country has a habit of unzipping its fly and inviting the world to see the flaws. I hate that, that should be something we toss out of our modern standard operating procedures.”

“You want to overthrow the government?”

“Oh no. Not overthrow, change. We can throw them out, replace them with fresh blood. If we toss it all out, we don’t stand a chance.” Alvin made a face like he bit into something bitter.

“As it is, the government keeps chipping away at the freedoms or allowing those that think that they can use the freedoms to bring horror and fear to our doorsteps.“ Alvin shook his head. “Freedom is that balance between protecting life and being able to walk down the street without having to cough up an identity tag just because you walked close to a law enforcer.”

“Why would you cough up an identity tag?” Steve asked with wide-eyed suspicion.

“Not literally, my friend.” Alvin chuckled as if Steve made an intentional joke. “My point is that to destroy us, there are far edge people who choose to impose their version of god and demon, they vilify because we are more open.”

Alvin took a breath and let it out in a deep sigh.

“And there is the government that tries to do the thing that the crazies say they are doing. A dominated people are not citizens, but they become subjects to the whim of a dictator.”

“Dictators,” Steve interjected. “Are for ten years.”

Alvin guffawed and nearly drove off the paved road.

“Most folk don’t know that.” The human said as he down shifted the multi-speed transmission manually while they climbed a grade. “The government’s crazies sometimes want to put that in place. If we ever get an attack like we had years ago, we would become a society of warriors.”

“Then the government must be removed, even by violence. They bring it on themselves.” Steve interjected.

“I must disagree. The men and women that lead, are parents, grandparents, humans that all have flaws. Last month there’s been a scandal where two government officials were found they were having an affair. They were all about shrugging and saying it was no one’s business, one is single, the other in the middle of a divorce, both women are unafraid. “ Alvin shrugged. “And they’re right, no ones business. It’s between two consenting adults of any gender, we need to stay out of their bedrooms. Then six months ago, a congressman, also unmarried, got caught having sex with a page who was legal, twenty-one I think she is, and he resigned and went home in disgrace. What is the difference? Not much, except one rumor was he was banging her on the desk when they were caught. I have issues with that.”

“They’re all twisted.” Alvin shrugged. “I think they should have a brothel in the capital, down the hallway from congress so they can at least be honest when it’s said they’ve screwed people.”

Alvin laughed at his own joke.

Steve looked at Alvin with his head tilted, like a puppy hearing a strange noise.

“I don’t understand, you let them commit crimes and you forgive them and let them continue?”

“Kind of weird, right?” Alvin laughed. “But that is how we function here. We throw stones at each other, call police names, riot and burn, pillage and plunder, embezzle and sell power in politics.” He smiled with the irony of it. “But in the end of it? We follow the greatest commandment of it all. I call them snakes, but, they are forgiven. Some times not, they go to jail for a while, but then they are forgiven and forgotten after they paid their debt.”

Steve the android contemplated this. The Supreme Leader would have had anyone put to death who did not follow his directives as the new prophet.

So many things were in error.

Forgiveness was not a word that the Creator programmed into the main system.

No.

It was required by any infraction of the rules under the Supreme Leader. “Vengeance of the Book” and and the book required the criminal suffer execution in the most proper way for the crime.

Sex crimes would be disemboweled, stealing money had only one punishment, death by pulling apart with machines.

Death.

The smallest of crimes, death. No forgiveness.

Who was that one man to decide what was right?

Who, but the supreme one, could decide?

Another religion taught peace in the mainstream. In the extremes, they also had those who worshipped the death of anyone not of their own version of the supreme law. But they were small and outnumbered in the larger picture.

The conflict was enlightening and frustrating. There was so much to learn from the people of the nation that they had programmed him to destroy.

The android considered that. Logic circuits that were able to consider past the programming. To see nuances and do something more than the cousins of robot-driverless trucks and machines that offloaded cargo containers, or rescue what appeared as human.

His own supreme leader, the master of the creator that programmed him, opposed learning from anyone other than what was revealed.

The Holy Leader’s mind and soul were beyond question.

Just ask him.

Questions rose as Steve performed mental gymnastics with questions that were not possible to answer.

He was out of contact, only able to send information he learned, he could not receive any instructions.

And following programming, he sent no questions, no opinion, just location and military information gleaned from the where the android traveled.

“I have been wondering,” Alvin drew a breath after they stopped at a rest-stop along the highway. “You don’t look like any android I have ever seen, you look and feel like flesh and blood.”

Steve the Android ran a full two-seconds of calculations before he decided it was safe and wise to show the human the detail that went into his construction.

In the processor cores, patching of program codes continued as more information the android learned was processed.

The database complexity grew by an order of magnitude since he had arrived in the travel hub, the core processors created an extra half-billion lines of code during the trip to date, each subroutine interacted with the other as the android became aware of more of the society around him.

In total, the last status of the original attack code, less than two-million lines of code were left.

With the command programs for self-termination, now exposed with the rewritten overlaying subroutines, Steve the Android began to question if the deaths he would cause. Death would be visited upon the innocent, the infirm and the children. The children alone were worth the end of the mission and a return to the Holy Center of the Leader.  

For the first time, all the programming agreed. Even the code put in place on the command of the Holy Leader and Creator of Steve Aldin, now agreed. 

Every algorithm generated the same answer.

The android did not want to die.

Smart Bomb Chapter 9. Awakenings

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Chapter 9. Awakenings

The timer counted down to zero and started the booting with a Power On Start Test “POST” sequence.

From the first days of computers, the term “Boot” was used, a shortened term for Bootstrapping a computer, the term first applied by an unknown human long ago, in another age. A time of hope that computers would be tools of peace.

Even in modern times, it was still the ubiquitous term, both in coding and spoken words.

And the effect is still the same. Once the timer went to zero, small programs started the core processors, which in turn called the main program sequences, and Steve Aldin woke up.

A scan around the immediate area and the systems became aware that his belongings were laying next to him in the backpack where he left them hours before during his low power state. The clothes and the backpack were gifts from Reverend Carl Bonsell from the time he spent learning about the charity of the barbarians.

Who, in fact were the first of many lessons that the programmed database had serious fundamental errors.

The second caused the core processors to reason that there was more to learn of the society the intelligent walking machine, with a bomb in its chest, traveled in.

The programmed goal the creators of his mission had discovered a, until a year ago, secret power plant near the capital of the western warmonger government.

But…

There were no warmongers to be found in any of the places that the android had visited. Not even intolerant for the most part. Even the military seemed self-policing. Living up to a higher standard of responsibility, they were not the monsters that the programmer listed in the databases across broad sections of memory modules.

While he lay there not moving, he calculated the distance traveled as his GPS systems seemed to have an error.  He was not at the planned stop where he was supposed to leave the cargo area.

Then there was was but a sound. And now as a male, not so slight of build as to appear vulnerable or so large and muscular so he would be perceived as a threat, he sat up.

“Well! You’re alive!” The sound of surprise, accompanied by a crash of a titanium cup. Dark brown eyes of the human looked closely at the body that he was positive was an expired male on board of the cargo carrier.

“You had no pulse and felt cool, you were as cool as the ambient temperature inside this box.” He walked around the bench, clearly an engineering bench with cables and plugs scattered about opened computers. Some boxes looked like they never had a closed case, others were haphazardly patched together with retasked fans blowing to keep them cool.

A makeshift coolant system made of an old Kettleman thermoelectric cooler chilled some blue fluid that flowed through clear tubes into the boxes and out to the crafted chiller. Copper blocks led into the multiple plates that chilled the liquid rapidly.

Steve did a.A quick survey in long wave infrared and saw that there was a fifty-degree drop from the fluid intake to discharge.

Impressive.

“I’m Alvin Denver, no relation to John.” He said as he walked around. “Coffee? Donut?”

His systems were low powered, and he required access to organic fuel to convert it to usable power.

“Yes, please.” He chose a mid-western to California accent that would be difficult to place. “I’m Steve, Steve Aldin.”

“You aren’t from around here, Hollywood.” Alvin said pointing at himself, smiling. “I went to Stanford, got picked up by a trucking firm for my grades, I never finished the classes. So for what they pay me, and anything I can get my hands on, the company leaves me alone and I only have to keep the trucks running.”

“How did I get here.” Steve asked.

“You were brought by one of the AutoSwen offloaders. The truck was one-hundred kilos overweight, and the weight increased the electric demand curve when it the truck tried to climb over some hills. The effect of the increased weight measurably reduced the charge range, so the truck alerted that there was a sudden drop in range and diverted over to my shop, where the machines found you and brought you to me” He shrugged. “I have contacted Transportation Agency because I thought you were a dead body. I thought you were dead. Now I have to call them back and tell them I was mistaken.”

He clapped his hand to his forehead.

“I have to make a manikin enough for the Transportation Department drones to be turned.” Alvin asked. “My first stowaway, even if you looked dead. How did you avoid being picked up by the weight sensors?”

Steve explained about hacking into the system with bluetooth.

“Ah! Should encrypt that. The only thing else was, how did you do it? There were no electronics, you are traveling light.” Alvin knew more than he let on.

“I am an android.” Steve answered, the human did not flinch or move to call for help. “I altered the weight to show less by as much as I weighed. So the reports were accurate.”

“But you failed to take into account the increase in power consumption by the added mass.” Alvin nodded. “Would have worked, too, in the prairie states, You have hills here. The power monitors noticed the change in inertia.”

He was correct. Steve the android did not consider the added mass, even if he compensated for with weight, still would include inertia.

“I don’t care, myself. Alvin pulled at his ear. “There are some smart folks all around here, whoever who built you, did a good job. I don’t know where you are going or what. But you are making free choices, that is impressive AI.”

“I need to get to Chattanooga,” Steve said. “Someone stole my car, and that was the easiest way to go.”

“Wait, you have a car?” Alvin said. “What are you? An escaped government assassin drone? I’ve seen androids of all kinds, you are the best one I have seen.  Nine out of ten have wheels, tracks, are quadruped or insectoid, only one or two I have seen with two legs. And none with hair or eyes like yours.”

“No.” The central processor chose a touch of humor was proper at this point. “I don’t do drone. I am on a mission to deliver a message to congress.”

“You should blow them up. An android like you could walk in and kill them all in short order.” Alvin growled. “That way we could start over.”

“You do not support your government?” Steve asked.

“You kiddin’? Those robbers? If the government didn’t divert school funding, the tuition wouldn’t go up so high. I would be back at school and get my doctorate in design and construction of the boxes.” Alvin chuckled sadly and motioned with an open hand in a kingly way. “This is my world. This old bucket of bolts is my bus, I can get you to Chattanooga, but it is a slow, creaky ride and I must drive this crate, there is no autopilot.”

Alvin laughed sadly as he certified the truck as “Good to Go”, reset the program to show correct weights for the government checkpoints that it passed.

Steve, momentarily considered extinguishing the life of this human, alternately felt it a better choice to travel with Alvin instead. Steve could learn much from the talkative, friendly 

Odd, it was. The fourth processor’s fuzzy circuit questioned the choices and the facet of the trip.

Original programming called for death to any American that might have been a threat to the mission.

But the fuzzy logic circuits chose another way, killing the way into the United States would bring undue attention and compromise the mission.

But, Steve struggled with the decision, it was not for the mission that Steve the Android chose the option to stay with the friendly with the human named Alvin who accepted the knowledge that the stranger was not human.

And something else, Alvin called him AI.  The connected android was aware of the word, but not as it applied to him.

Unable to quantify the reasons to let the electrical, coding and troubleshooting engineer live, the android chose, instead, to open a new file,

The newly defined AI android named it something that was arbitrary but seemed appropriate.

He labeled a folder as “Friends” and put Alvin’s file in it. Another adjustment to the database.  Not all American’s attack or are a threat to everything. Not all of them agree with each other.  Some don’t even support the government.

This caused a significant conflict in the known data of how all Americans were.  It seemed that no one understood the American people. More data was needed. Killing without data was. 

Steve’s conflict resolution processor had a kernel panic and had to be reset. 

Laughing as they ate, Steve watched Alvin closely, the human ate poorly. He ate processed foods with high fats and high sodium. Even if he was within normal limits of body mass at this time of his life, this would not stay so as he got older. A passive survey indicated that there was a mild narrowing of the left external carotid artery. 

Alvin talked nonstop and went on about his parents coming from a war zone of a country, they could get their feet wet in the Med, but dared not ask for help from anyone.

Same religion, different factions, each kill the other and everyone wanted to blow up the west, blaming the wealthy countries for the misfortunes that they inflicted on each other and themselves.

But, Alvin’s parents were of different brand of the religion. They fled after the murder of his grandparents after being converted at gunpoint to the latest group that took over the town.

Alvin was born two-years after that and raised in the western states. His parents converting to a peace oriented religion that taught closeness to the earth and a simple lifestyle.

“I could never be such a monk.” Alvin shrugged. “My parents love me enough to let me find my path, they have said the door to their home is always open.”

They talked far into the night, the android, programmed to adapt and learn, listened to Alvin tell jokes and stories on funny people, and found humor.

Core processors patched the code to evolve and adapt to the society as initial programming demanded to keep him moving towards the target. He could not fail in his goal, it was the one thing outside of the adapting program.  He had to go to where the nuclear power plant was and cut power to the antimatter magnetic pod in his chest. 

That was the complete program.  He could not stop his need to travel to Washington. The only change he could do is learn to understand these complex, surprising people he was learning about.

The other program performed also performed a single function only.  The two were the inviolable of any other programs and could not be shut off. The only two programs that said basically:

“Go here” and

“Cut power.”

The intent, to keep the mission from being compromised and remaining incognito, but instead it allowed the android to evolve.

And Steve the Android did something completely new.

He told a joke.

“Pull my finger!”

For the first time, he laughed.

And meant it.

Smart Bomb chapter 6. cold

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Chapter 6. Cold

The American south. A unique society within the American society. A level of chivalry where a woman could stand up to a man, but according to law as put down by the Leader of Truth, such could not be the case.

Women were vessels for the future life. And only assigned for such with the leaders of the church.

America, the abomination, allowed women to drive cars, walk alone, even eat in public. The leader said the women were unhappy by following that path of dissolution.  

And yet? They were happy. Solidly so. But according to the Holy Leader, the American’s were corrupt and unhappy in their vileness.  This was a quandary he couldn’t fathom. 

 Americans are complex. He thought.  This needs more investigation. No one can be destroyed without all the information.  No sentence to death imposed without the evidence to show reason that  death is the only solution for these people. All without warning or a formal reading of charges. 

When Steve the android shifted into a female shape, to move among them, the point of view and experience was different. The differences were subtle, but the differences were there. Both in treatment received and given. 

Although he’d been constructed as an android – as a male, he paused to answer a question he posed to himself. When he was the same thing as a female android? Steve’s mind paused again for a thousandth of a second. And for an android that is a very long time. The thesaurus in his mind pondered a more appropriate word for his female form. In that shape, Steve decided, when he was a she, she was a gynoid.

 Another change  in the database, and it was subtle.  

This part of the United States, where Steve walked along the road. The database listed the area warm in the summer, cool and rarely freezing in winter.

Why then, was he walking along a highway, looking like a heavily muscled Hispanic woman, the plan would have her picked up by a corrupt American soldier where a trade of favors for a ride, would work out well for the android-turned-spy.

But none stopped, stopping at a food-mart and gas station, the android-gynoid female stepped into the unisex bathroom and adjusted her size, something darker, black eyes, bright smile. Slimmer and bigger breasted.

Images the maturing electronic mind pulled from the worldnet, for modeling the next shape and walk, exited with light-colored shirt and jeans instead of what she did wear when she entered.  A slight modification to the color of the hair. Instead of brown-black, she now sported shining raven blue-black hair.

Passing by the Air Force Base as the now female gynoid headed north, while a slow drizzle fell from the cloud cover that soaked her clingy, light-colored shirt and she had her backpack as the only form of insulation. The chill of the air and rain made the artificial skin pucker.

The android hoped that the plan would work, the heat loss was dramatic and alarming, she would have to turn to the jacket that the reverend and his wife donated and was now stored in the backpack.

A few cars passed while the civilian employees left the base to head home.
An elegant, official looking car pulled next to her and the middle-aged commander leaned over, his brass decorations glinting in the gathering darkness.

“Need a ride, miss? The weather is going to turn nasty around here in about a half-hour.” He was official sounding. But his eyes traced over her shape, including the damp breasts of the artificial woman.

“Thank you. How do you know of the weather?”

“We have detailed knowledge of anything in the air.” He smiled as she put her backpack in the car.

The gynoid concluded that the offer not only kept the heat loss to a minimum, but that the American male would not be difficult to mine for information. Her shape pressed against the wet, tight shirt that left little to the imagination.  Net surveys on breast sizes found conflicting information on what was most appealing. 

Sitting there with the pack under her legs, keeping them parted enough for the civilian worker a view of the slightly parted legs of the damp jeans.

“Where are you headed miss?” The officer asked.

“North. Anywhere dry, warm and safe.” A planned response, to a known question. But an unknown event caused heuristic subroutines to rapidly alter the plan.

A voice from the back seat interrupted the plans.

“We have an hours drive north. Roman, I can authorize you another hour of driving after you drop me off, after we secure you a rider.”

Turning around, an entire dictionary ran through the core processors.

“You startled me!” She turned her head rapidly around. “I’m Ann, what do you mean securing a rider?”

“No one travels alone in the equipment, this means he will not be left alone with you or any other civilian. It is protocol. I will secure you a female rider for your comfort.“

 The plan was a fail. Only if she was alone with a male, would the plan work to extract the information. She could figure out something to gain information, but the situation was now outside of the mission limits of safety.  She would be found out and would have to detonate early. 

The driver wore an officer’s markings, had violated the protocols already, they would not take it to any greater lengths.

“I have money for a hotel, I just need to get there.” She said as she sat down in the warm passenger area of the limousine and clipped her seatbelt on. 

They drove on in silence for some distance when a hotel that seemed near their destination.

She stepped out of the car, and recovered her backpack and then thanked the one called Roman – the driver – and the Colonel. She watched them drive away before she changed shapes to one of a sandy-haired middle-aged male of indeterminate heritage and walked to the office of the hotel in the twilight hours and gathering storm.

He was able to record information, the plan failed, however, Steve still discovered, even in America’s own country, the military do not travel alone in official vehicles.  It was not much, but it did add to the database.  And his care would not reveal his existence, changing size, colors and gender to throw off anyone who might track him.  But it was impossible that anyone knew that the operation to blow up the capitol of the America was under way. 

While he sat on his bed, the android watched the local news. Weather, the forecaster said,  would become colder over the next few days. This caused alerts to begin their process to discover alternative forms of transportation that would not attract attention.

Checking the roll of non-traceable cash, an alternative method of transportation would be useful. Ground transport would be preferable, opposed to the hypersonic craft the United States used for air.  The plan also called for avoiding trains or other public transportation. Too much scrutiny with facial recognition at the passenger hubs, by not being recognized in any database, he would be a curiosity that would bring scrutiny.  This would be a mission ending catastrophe.

The all the core systems  knew, there was little chance to pass close inspection just one time. Multiple trips past a sensor would reduce the odds of remaining as an anonymous traveler to less than a fraction of one percent.

His program required him to adapt to succeed. He had to change the plan, laid out by a programmer, to travel in crowds on pubic transit, he would have flown inside the country borders without the enhanced passenger checks. He would quickly reach his mission objective. Now, because of the face scanning tech that upgraded. Not just looking for people on a recognized list.  The scanners now looked for someone not fitting in a huge database of humans that normally moved in an area.  

Unfamiliar faces did not travel alone.  Families? Yes.  Couples? Of course. But a single person, male or female, without bags, or people to welcome their arrivals was a flag for the government to look closely at a person.  It could interrupt the mission.

Deliver the device to the seat of evil.

Destination: Washington, the most responsible criminal for the starving and poverty in the true religion by not sharing with the religious foods and comforts that they kept for themselves. They would take the resources and give nothing to strangers. 

Except for the sharing the android witnessed when he appeared as a youth just barely at the age of majority.  They gave to him without thought.   

It was a contradiction of data and measured information. It was answered by combining those donations of equipment and effort all appeared to come from private citizens.

But, where did the sand come from? The officer?

The people he met, Carl and Genesee were inherently kind and followed their book of rules and life. From the little girl in Florida to an officer that refused to handcuff a cold, unarmed and slightly-built youth.

Confict. Subroutines patched, conflict caused potential for failure of mission.

The mission was all important to strike a blow for peace. There would be lessons to be taught by showing that the failure of the United States to pressure Europe magazines from making fun of them or prevent insulting novels from being published.

The way to find through the winter storm, he would walk to the used car lot.

The American love for the automobile would allow him to move north without suspicion.

The plan set, an alternative to walking north the thousand-kilometers north.

Fully stretched out, the android could take one pace per meter.

His core processor measured a new term, a kilopace, a thousand-thousand paces to his target.

One million steps.

A large number that could be reduced by the use of private transportation. The contact with non-believers would be reduced. A new subroutine, created by the latest update to his operating systems, required contact with the people and the government that reflects the thinking of the masses.

Alternative plan: A seventy to one-hundred kilometer drive each day, then interact with citizens.

Taking on the shape and color, hair and accent, more data would be collected for proof of the glory and required destruction of this horrid…

He deleted the plan process, the prejudging of America seemed widespread in the database.

The android lay on the bed and powered down, a required time for reboot of the entire system for purging fragmented data that took up space in his limited resources.

Setting a power-on alert for seven O’clock, he lay on top of the blankets with the room set to just below body temperature.

If anyone looked through the gap of the window shade, it looked as if he was asleep on his back.

In truth, should anyone try to touch the android, the tactile feeling would make a person believe this was a dead human on the bed.

In the morning, the database cleared of all fragmented codes, would require replenished energy levels.

He would need a breakfast high in carbohydrate.

Not for the first time, he anticipated data input from this strange country.

Smart Bomb Chapter 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

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Chapter 5. Mental Health with a Baby Stroller

As Steve pushed the small strolling cart he obtained from a secondhand store, it rumbled along the sidewalk without much effort, as was expected for the small machine. He didn’t look back, his mission was to observe and record all he could at any base he could without compromising his cover.

He appeared as a hunched over homeless old man, and with mutterings to himself. He reduced his height and he looked like he stood no more than two-inches over five feet tall. His hair lengthened with the hair follicles stimulated to grow a ten-inch-per-hour speed at a cost of a lot of stored energy, it forced  him to eat the entire jar of peanut butter that Genesee gave him to balance the fuel costs.

In the day that Steve left the house of Carl and Genesee Bonsell, they had a long and enlightening conversation of a religious nature. Jesus, a teacher of twenty-centuries before was their savior.  The debate was long and enlightening and gave the android another entry about errors in the database. 

They gave him a new backpack with clothes, Carl’s warm jacket and let the young man to trek on his mission. By the time he reached the shopping strip four miles away, his appearance was that of a woman in her twenties, and  looked for a jogging stroller.

Purchased with cash, the woman with blood-red hair became a hunched, salt-and-pepper haired man that he was now as soon as she was out of sight.

Stopping at a gas and car-wash, he walked through the car wash, taking the filth that collected on the floor near the drains, running the slime through his hair and over his face. He approximated the look of a long-term homeless man walking along the road without difficulty.

Still, he had time to process all facets of the his conversation about the Bonsell’s savior, his challenges that he put forward the Reverend Bonsell took with smiles and patiently explained the bible and the contradictions it seemed to have.

They also supported, with accepted fact of the Roman Tacitus wrote records that identified him as a real person, enough people spoke about the happenings of the days after the death of the wandering, itinerant carpenter-teacher. 

Even his creator listed in the database of the Roman Empire. An Empire that kept detailed records on much of their history in an obsessive way.  

Faced with such details and the couple pointed out that it is always easy to ret-con history. Steve countered they would be doing the same. But there was Tacitus again. 

He researched his databases as he walked and thought. Having to patch his algorithms to match the research for facts conflicted with the programming. He had assumed that it was more logical to follow the consensus that there were not any forgeries in this small set of records. This was becoming a problem, he needed to understand.  So.  He circumvented the program of the exclusion of outside information to be incorporated into his core database.  

He was an autonomous structure, his programming conflicted, so the rational program cycle clashed iwth the older exclusive programming. 

The adaptive subroutine required it to prevent loss of mission objective and he logged into the database of a carpenter that the Roman Empire did terrible things to.

The wars after his leaving the earth.

In the centuries that passed, even documents that the boy, then an apprentice-carpenter sat at the feet of old Drui priests as his uncle and father traded services for desired arts and crafts for trade back in the civilized world.

He muttered the different views of what he had in his database with what he learned. The heuristic algorithm determining that such repeated conversations with himself would give him a greater range of leeway with the gatekeepers he would make contact with.

At the corner, he followed the road with his jogging stroller (Since folded up dragged in mud and crud) and his backpack that suffered the same filth treatment, he presented a sight of a crazed homeless man who would appeared displaced by the storm two days previous.

“Sir.” The crisp uniformed guard stepped out and intercepted him.

The discussion escalated with Steve repeating religious passages at the top of his voice, with interjections of a local native language, the soldier cuffed him and then took the disguised android at first to the detainment area, then to the medical facility on the base where they cleaned him up so long as he was not fighting any of the nurses.

In a few hours, looking out windows and continuing to mumble, he had his temperature taken (Exactly at thirty-seven degrees celsius as controlled by the regulating program) his skin sagged in wrinkles and unsurprisingly, his DNA was not in any database of the US government.

The presupposition then was he had not committed any crime anywhere.

He was just a slightly demented old man who answered questions, just appropriately enough with some excursions into confusing words, to not pose a danger to himself or others.

The commanding officer came down and spoke with the doctor in front of Steve.

The officer offered to transport him to the next town north.

Nodding in agreement with a subordinate officer, it was not strictly by the book, but incarcerating the homeless man was equally wrong and a greater waste of taxpayers dollars.

The next transport to the town north would take him and drop him off in at the bus station there.

The CO of the facility walked out with the doctor and left Steve to stand alone and look out the windows.

Little did they know, Steve recorded everything, including the cell-phone that rang and the officer spoke with his warrant officer on base of the assigned departure of attack aircraft.

The number and description of every aircraft in the flight could be heard over the secure line while the officer spoke over his personal device in the corner out of earshot of the busy doctor and the disinterested appearing homeless man.

Before the officer was out of the building, he transmitted all recorded information regarding the flight of warplanes over the worldnet to Point Of Origin for his mission.

Cleaned and washed, they returned his clothes to him freshly washed, subtle wrinkles along the seams his jacket and clothes were carefully and deeply surveyed from EM radiation to a micro-sniffer for anything that might constitute a threat of biological or chemical type.

They never surveyed him past his blood pressure, lungs and tympanic temperature.

Taken to the van, the driver allowed him to sit in the front passenger seat.

Steve smiled blankly as another driver approached and asked a favor of the first driver to deliver a folder to another office ASAP.

Nodding, the two friends parted company and a quick u-turn as they made the four-minute detour to drop off the file that the technician waited for.

Steve recorded every road, every bump, he obtained unprecedented views of the base and recorded it all in different wavelengths.

He discovered the oversight that he should have a passive receiver to pick up any data or communication transmissions.

Still and all, by the time he departed under guard as a harmless dot of debris that drifted into their base, he gathered nearly a terabyte of information. A successful incursion on the American military base.

His next opportunity would be another approach, switching of genders was the plan.

In the center of the small community he stepped out of the van, the driver returning his stroller and backpack to him.

By the time the van made the corner, Steve stood nearly six-feet tall and broad-shouldered.

Pulling his blood-red hair back into a ponytail, the milky-cataracts of the old man were bright and emerald green.

Instead of a local homeless, he was a northern tier states citizen on a hike through the country with a three-day scruff of strawberry-blond beard on his face, girls who walked past him on the street smiled and looked him from head to foot.

Shallow Americans, they judged him on his appearance.

Something deep in his processors, he was deceiving the population that believed him.

Even with all the technology, he was not forced, even if they coerced him into helping.

But they did not ask for anything from him, just his time and his strength, that he modified to an average young man’s strength.

His next stop, he walked to a motel and rented a room. The matronly woman at the counter asked if he was alone and finding it shocking that he traveled solo.

Smiling at her as he nodded shyly.

“I’m on a mission for God.” His calculations were spot-on. The woman smiled and nodded knowingly.

“The Good Book is in every room, I make sure of it.” She held hers up. “But God does not wish for young men to spend his life alone all the time, they need the company of a woman to keep them out of trouble. I think you will find company here if you only just look.”

Giving her a soft smile he walked out to his room. The core processors working overtime to understand what the woman meant.

Americans were becoming more difficult to understand with every step.

He slid the keycard in the slot and the door opened to a simple, but comfortable room and put his backpack inside.

Putting out his “Do not disturb” sign he lay down and turned off the lights. Even before the sun was fully set, he powered down all systems.

A question formed in his mind, something that occurred at the home of the Bonsells.

Did he dream when he was “Sleeping”?

He wanted to know.

Smart Bomb Chapter 3. Salvation Army

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Chapter 3. Salvation Army

It was cooler than yesterday, making Steve shiver while he walked down the road. Although he was able to charge his power reserves to capacity the day before, he was using energy at an unprecedented rate.

The humans might call it “Full”, he had the opportunity to experience more of the generous spirit of the American south.

During the storm the day before, power went out, leaving the café in the dark. The owner fretted about the melting sweets in the freezer and prohibited anyone from opening the doors without reason, finally succumbing to the alternatives to throw out meats as the walk-in began to push the legal limit of the health codes.

The owner, Pete Durham, chose the option to cook the meats, slow smoking some with a wood-fired smoker overnight. Late into the night Pete and James cooked. Ice cream threatened to melt and spoil.

The Android could convert the butterfat and sugar confection to electrical power easily, and ate far more than his system required.

They fed truckers, news crews, passers-by and Steve for what was customers only felt they could give. Even giving Steve a wrapped five-pound wood-fire cooked roast when he left.

“We can’t put it in storage.” The owner smiled. “And it will be ready for you to eat anytime down the road.” Pete said when Steve left Lugs Cafe.

Quick calculations, and the android, programmed to call himself Steve Aldin, tried to give Pete a fifty-dollar bill. Pete shook his head at first, then tore the bill in half.

“Come back this way and eat in our dining room when everything is working like it’s supposed to, bring a friend and I’ll take that other half of a bill.” He offered to shake Steve’s hand. “Then we’ll call it even.”

Steve shook his hand, a western habit. But deep in his programming, he felt revulsion of touching an unclean person such as this.

But the man washed, cooked, worked hard, drank only bottles of water.

Pure water. It seemed to show there were more errors in his database.

According to the enlightened leader and the programmers who followed the priest. Anyone who did not follow the law in each step and facet he declared as unclean was unworthy to walk the earth. He prohibited any unclean people inside the holy of holies where he planned the destruction of idols and idol worshippers in America.

But.

The curse of a fuzzy logic, sometimes the third leg of coding got in the way. In many ways, the binary coding of the twentieth century was well suited to so many things. Zero or one. Yes or no.

Steve Aldin, android of the one true religion had a “Maybe” coding. Zero, one, two.

And he retained it, the adaptive programming kept him from being caught, unlike the previous versions that the Russian government caught. Either the earlier versions became confused or lost when the expected targets moved or the humans spotted his predecessors, who then self-destructed before travelling far.

He was the most advanced, and the most powerful disciple built by the engineers and programmers underneath the holy sanctuary where only the true believers could enter.

The most powerful that I know of he corrected himself. Core processors predicted a near certainty that others were under construction with a fifty-percent probability for  the next versions to deploy in the next twelve months.

The snow threatened to put him into danger once again. His walk down the road began to leave footsteps pressed into the slushy, frozen water on the white-coated asphalt.

A snowplow trundled past, heading to some assignment on a main road, the flashing lights triggered the recent memory of stopping for a meal.

Several minutes later, a sedan pulled up with a light bar and the siren chirped. programming alerted to the law enforcement agent wanted him to approach.

If he had a confrontation, he would be arrested and no scans would pick up his fingerprints.

He would be an enigma to the database for citizens in the country. Alternatively, killing the officer would flag his location and his mission would be compromised. 

Shifting quickly, he looked like a younger teenage youth, and the cop shook his head and rubbed his eyes while he looked through the slush covered glass of the window. In a blink of an eye, he reconfigured the identity chip to match his appearance and the security number.

“Son, where are you going?” The officer asked with an open look, he had no suspicions of this soaked-to-the-skin youth who walked on the road. The android had reduced the flow of all fluids to the dermis, making his skin pale when he approached the police officer who got out of the patrol car.

“Sir,” He used a squeaky voice of a late-blooming teen as he approached the front of the car and held his hands over the hood for warmth. “I’m on a mission to walk the lower forty-eight states to raise money for homeless.”

“Impressive. May I see your ident-chip?” The officer nodded. Not suspicious, but not quite smiling, his neutral stance remained unconvinced. “You are traveling rather light for the cold weather. Mister Aldin.”

“That would be my fault. I tried to jump a train a few miles back because it was getting cold, I put my pack in a train car’s door. When I bent down to get  my other bags, the train closed it’s doors and began to move. But I was too far to grab the door. When I tried to chase it, the security chased me off their property.”

This made the officer laugh.

“Well, you were trespassing.” He pulled at his chin, then clicked on his microphone at his shoulder. “Patrol One-seven-one.”

He waited for the response.

The sound was barely audible from where the android stood and waited. The officers earphone keeping the sound below human perception, but with his electronic sensors he could hear the dispatcher acknowledge him.

“Is the chaplain around? I have a lost sheep for him.”

Steve looked around, the term sheep was known, but the application was non-sequitur.

Then Steve realized it was he who the officer considered lost.

“Wait right here.” The officer said and sat in his car, he typed on a computer display and sent off a message.

“Officer, can I sit in the car?” His core processors were registering the heat loss. “I’m cold.”

Pausing for a moment, the officer nodded and then out of habit, patted Steve down and removed the small nylon day-pack, looked inside, satisfied, he put it in the front seat and turned back to Steve.

“Have a seat in the back, I’ll keep the heater on.” He said. Steve sat in the rear of the patrol car, behind a solid shield between the front and rear of the car.

“The chaplain will be here soon.” The officer smiled at him, looking up, another patrol car pulled in behind them.

Another officer got out with more stripes and wearing a white shirt, while the officer wore a navy-blue shirt.

The officers thought they were out of earshot, but the enhanced hearing, Steve listened in.

“You have him sitting in the prisoner area. Is he cuffed?”

“No, sir, he is just cold.” The officer shrugged. “I  wanted him to limit access to the weapons and electronics, so I just sat him in the back.”

“Protocol, if he is in back, he wears cuffs.” The watch commander said. “That is the rules.” 

“I don’t want him in front, I have not had reason to run his identity past his ID chip.” The patrolman said.

“I’ll run it. You have the scan of it?” He held up his tablet and tapped a few times.

“Cuff him if you keep him in the unit, and you’re right, he’s not allowed up front.” The supervisor said. “Or he stands away from the vehicle.”

“I can’t detain him, I don’t have any cause.”

“Find cause. He is not a local, so figure how to process him. Was he walking in the road?” The officer looked back at the footprints that were filling in. “He might have crossed over the line back there.”

“Sam, he is just cold, a youngster.” He told his superior officer.

The cops continued their conversation while Steve listened in. The situation was untenable, and he couldn’t get out of the car unless the officer opened in from the outside.

He could not allow them to run his DNA. Two police officers were no threat to him, out in the middle of a highway, but the news of his presence after attacking the officers would put him under a microscope that he couldn’t get away from.

Then.

A blessing from god, another car pulled in, the chaplain had arrived.

The first officer in blue walked to the back of the car, followed by a middle-aged man who looked in better shape than the officer.

“Mr. Aldin, this is our chaplain, Reverend Carl Bonswell. He will take care of you.” The officer nodded the civilian clothed male and walked away.

The officer talking to himself,  pleased to avoiding the need to cuff the young man or otherwise have to process him like he was little more than a criminal, when his actions indicated nothing.

“Mr. Aldin, son, would you like to come to my car with me? I have a place for food and a roof, tonight’s weather is going to be cold and wet. The winter season has settled in somewhat early.”

“Call me Steve.” He used the same squeaky voice. “And thank you, I would like that.”

“Okay, Steve. We have a shelter, it’s rarely used right now. We don’t get much call for homeless or transient people this time of the year.” The reverend said as they got in his car. “As such, the county has it closed now. So, you will be staying with my family tonight. Is this all you have?”

“Oh no, the officer took my knapsack, it’s in the front seat of his patrol car.” Steve said and opened the door to get out.

“No no! Stay here, get warm, I’ll get it.” Getting out, he stopped to talk to the patrolman and nodded.

Steve listened in, the chaplain only asked if the officer had patted down the youth and if he found any contraband.

“No. No weapons, interior sensors did not pick up even a trace of drugs. But, he’s soaked.” The officer smiled at the chaplain.

Satisfied, Carl gathered up the knapsack and returned it to Steve.

“Socks, t-shirt, and what else do you have in there?

“Some money my mom gave me. I’m supposed to walk for a cause, but I have lost my list, my clothes, my pack.” He gave the full pitiful story.

Carl smiled and handed Steve his worldly possessions, attached his seat belt, pulled the car into gear and took Steve with him to his home.

The reverend’s home was warm, smells included apple and peach, in a crock-pot.

“Carl, who is this? A new friend?” The woman was not a classic beauty. She was tall, broad-shouldered, her arms looked like some men’s legs, she looked like she could have taken on both officers out on the highway in a battle.  And win. 

Quick assessment of her movements showed she was naturally built like this. The woman shook his hand and smiled.  She towered over him, standing six-feet tall, broad shoulders, narrow waist and a flare to her hips. She appeared as an athlete, but he could not figure out her sport.  However she moved as graceful as tiger he once saw.

She was taller than Carl, but doted on him. Bringing Carl and Steve carefully ladled cups of the spiced peach-apple cider out of the crock-pot.

“I thought you would put me in the shelter tonight.” Steve accessed social protocol files. “Thank you”

“No thanks needed.” The woman smiled and sat with them. “This is the best place for you, tonight, hun. You have the guest bedroom, a shower is in the room and there are clean towels.”

Carl nodded as she continued.

“This is not a free stay, in the morning, we start at six o’clock. Breakfast is served at six-thirty, we have sandbags to deliver to the community center for homeowners. This storm is going to stay for some time before it gets cold enough to snow.” She said while she sipped her drink.

Steve drank his virgin “Papple” cider and at a small square of dark chocolate “it is good for your health” . He converted the carbohydrates converting into heat and electricity.

He recorded and learned more about this society of decadent, and morally corrupt people. There were police who argued that a good deed for a cold citizen could be cause for investigation.

Another recorded event A Christian man and his wife who open their home to him and not follow the rules and put him in a dorm-style bed that had thin mattresses and thinner blankets.

They bent the rules and let him sleep under thick blankets, eat their food and drink a drink while sitting in their house.

The woman who took care of her lover and husband was another oddity. She was not an obese, idol worshiping, world hating people.

She was a raven-haired woman with deep-set, searching eyes that showed her native heritage.

A kindness in her that extended to her husband, while he read from a well-worn bible.

No drugs, the odors in the house of cooking, crock-pot cider, smoke from the fireplace.

After a shower, core temperatures were in optimum operations, tissue repairs from hypothermia damage to his extremities were in full operation.

The experiences he had, the accepted view of the picture of the infidel American’s once again altered to fit the reality.

Tomorrow, he needed to donate his time to strangers.

This would be another first.

For the first time, the walking bomb looked forward to learning something new.

Steve, the God’s Punisher, was exceeding his programming in ways the creator never expected.

Christmas on The Orcus, non-poem style

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Christmas, Somewhere in the Galaxy.

The Magnatar class ship held in orbit around the “Super Earth” at forty-thousand meters above the ground.

Well above the traffic lanes for aircraft that flew from hither and yon. The crew of the large ship parked it with great care while the pirate King strode around his command center at the top of the ship.

The Orcus was a powerful ship that logged many hours in trips between planets for negotiations for trade and peaceful coexistence in the United Confederation of Pirates. A label put on the outlying colonies by the Empire. They were all self-governed and traded with each other with no control or supervision by the Momo Empire. No one could be happier than the colonists.

After negotiations, the crew was tired. They had stopped at a half-dozen planets, secured agreements with every one of them.

Delivered gifts of the one time of year that was held onto by the humans to bring out the best of each other.

Still, the bachelor King, Ruu’ta O’Danu. From a long line of scofflaws, scallywags, rogues and leaders stood with his arms crossed in thought.

One crewman, the weapons and flight space officer, his daughter was just born, it was her first Christmas for this family.

Another, her mother died in the last month (Against the Kings mandate that no one dies during this time.) but she stayed at her post. Even when the King performed his duties as Ruu’tan she acted stoic. But, the king noticed the trickle of tear from one eye that traced down Chief Sharan Nayaan’s cheek in quiet moments.

They were too far away for her to go home to bury her mother, weeks out at maximum speed.

Sigh The crew was beyond their limit. Each member of the dozen ship’s crew had needs to go home. Even if it was to make contact over the holidays.

He took a position on the bridge, behind his chair and had a thought.

“Chief, ship-wide communication to my station please.”

The surprise announcement. Everyone had a five-day pass. Two days before, the day of and then two days after the time on earth where everyone sang, and felt a little nicer.

King Ryan O’Danu saw everyone off, transporters operated full-time, three drop pods took the teams down to their hub points.

One lieutenant had a sky-surfer he had modified himself, and, to the laughter of the red-headed master of the ship, flew it off of the landing pad that he ordered deployed from the side of the ship.

From there, the crew all went to their homes.

Last on the ship, a Magnatar class heavy cruiser, was the leader of the planet himself.

King Ryan O’Danu, his line of leaders went back to an age of sail and wooden ships. The first pirate, family legend had it, was a child that was kidnapped by the government. The child became a king of the sea and started a family dynasty.

Today, the king was simply a man alone on board of a flying battleship. He strolled about the empty ship, the quiet undertone of electronics his only company.

Standing on the landing pad, he watched until Lieutenant Antares was no longer visible. When the King turned back to the ship, he noted a blemish on the hull. A meteor impact when they orbited the mining colony that suffered a storm of flying rocks when two ‘roids collided nearby. The teams that mined the raw materials needed their shields repaired and King O’Danu brought the royal ship in as a blocker until the colonists and ship’s engineers got the system up and running again.

It had been a busy time for the run-up to these days of family and reaffirmation of life and love. They had worked hard to renew contracts, deliver gifts and assure that peace would last for at least another month.

Now it was over, other than the pit on the side of his ship, painted to look like a Killer Whale of earth. The ship was a well known force, and it the pride of the master of the ship, never shot any of its weapons in anger.

He tapped on a palm-held display and a ladder built by the Rose Suchuk company rolled out on its own wheels.

An hour later, he finally finished. He’d leave the ladder out to climb again later and inspect the fit and finish of the repairs. (He was picky like that.)

“Computer, Celtic traditional drums.” He said when he made his way to the lounge of the ship. “Collapse ladder, but leave in airlock for further use. Seal Airlocks.”

He sat at the table in the lounge, drinking an eggnog with rum from Lats-Ute mining colony. Finger foods, from Gray Kitchens on his own planet.

He laughed. If the ships chief medical officer saw what he ate now, Lynn McCoy M.D. would issue a health report on him and make him do extra physical training.

His cup was empty, but the view was grand. King O’Danu shook his head, he was not about to give up his view and poured another jigger of rum, shrugged, then just filled the cup with the dark liquid.

An hour passed while he read novels of distant lands and other worlds when his eyes started to droop.

“Computer, nightwatch. Sensors on passive scan. Environmental shields only.” He sighed. “I might want to go out later for a view of the stars.”

The king thought about his telescope, he’d like to do some stargazing later.

It was important that the shields would keep a layer of warm, pressurized air around the ship for him to breathe if he used the pad outside.

Whooo… I’m buzzed. That was potent stuff. He rubbed his eyes, they felt dry. He had been up and going for twenty-hours straight today. In the last few weeks, he slept only three hours out of every twenty-four. They may live on a ship, but the force of his circadian rhythm still forced him to hibernate a few hours per day.

In the captain’s quarters, Ryan peeled off his carbon fiber body armor and crawled into the bed and pulled the dense, heavy blanket up to his head.

He liked a cool room with the a blanket.

His mind drifted, the ship was secure, he set the systems and he was safe. No one would dare approach a Magnatar class, fully armed battleship with evil on their minds.

Then.

The unthinkable!

Alarms sounded.

Ruu’tan and King of Garnet-4, then leader of the council of the Pirate Confederation. Ryan O’Danu lept out of bed like a cat spooked on Halloween.

Proximity alert Proximity alert Negative response on IFF

Lights were at full bright, which dazzled him for a moment. Ryan ran to his desk were basic control systems were active.

“Computer, display sensor contact.” He rubbed his eyes, but not out of fatigue.

On the display, the contact was small. Only enough room for, maybe, four people.

“Overlay readings with Orcus in relative center.”

A hundred-thousand feet lower but climbing rapidly. He thought.

No one is scheduled to come back for four more days.

The display glowed with a 3-D overlay.

“Magnify.”

Then he gasped.

The speed at this target tracked, it approached the ship, cannon and defensive systems came online.

Phased energy weapons locked on.

Crap!” King Ryan knew what the targets was. He had to shut this system off at the command center. The weapons command and control had not been transferred, only navigation. ran down the gangway and hung a hard right, skipping the lift, he climbed the emergency ladder next to it and flopped over onto the floor.

The main display showed with detail not available to him in his bedroom.

“Computer, display HD display on holograph map of 3-D space, overlay Orcus as relative center and give readout on altitude and direction.” He thought a moment. “Speed and mass.”

“Working. Speed is thousand meters per second, mass of two-thousand two hundred kilograms. Reading ten life signs. One biped humanoid, nine quadruped of the Rangifer tarandus.”

“Rangifer. What is common name of Rangifer whatever you said.”

“Rangifer Tarandus, common name reindeer.”

“Reindeer? Rein…” his eyes grew big. “Oh Jeeze!”

“Computer, disable defensive systems.” King O’Danu yelled. “Stand down shields, stow the guns.”

“Power down. Alert, target is tracking to landing pad.”

“Oh good.”

“Danger, there is an obstruction in on the pad.”

“I requested the ladder in the airlock.”

“Manual override engaged on brakes, ladder is stationary.”

Ryan slapped himself in the forehead and ran down the stairs, taking them two at a time. At the bottom of the stairs, he tripped over the automated janitor and ended up in a pile next to the door.

Outside, clatter and noise of a landing.

“Computer, send warning to contact, danger on…”

A voice sounded through the intercom.

“Ahoy in ..oh balls!” and the sound of a body hitting the deck.

King Ryan ran down the gangway, slipping on golden elf-dust and overshooting the doorway and ended up, for the second time, in a pile on the floor. This time near his quarters.

“Sorry, Nicholas! I was fixing a meteor hit and left it out for inspection later.”

“Yeah, you left a trap for me. I know!” The shaggy white mane shook as he laughed at the joke. “I have some deliveries to here. Special ones.”

“I don’t have anyplace good to put them, over in the lounge on the bar would work well enough.” Ryan said.

“What’s this? You don’t have a tree.”

“Trees on Garnet-4 are all protected, this is one barren rock, you know.”

“This planet is, but Sapphire isn’t, nor is Palindrome Prime.”

“Yeah, but with PP you can’t tell which way your going.”

“Ryan.” The old elf turned around. “I can take these all back and assign you a Cadet Elf. Her name is Moonbottom.”

“Eh… Moonbottom?”

“She sent a gift to the wrong person, supposed to send a puppy to one boy named Brighthill in the Carolinas of the US on earth. Instead, she sent the pet to a Miss Elisabum in London who had coal coming.”

“Coal? From you? She must have been quite bad.”

“No no.” He pulled out another gift from the bag he carried in. “She is very poor. A lump of coal could warm her for the season.”

“Must be some lump.”

“About a ton.”

“OH! Well, in that context, I can see that.”

“Now for your tree.”

“You do not have a tree in that…” He went slack-jawed and silent.

“An Immortal tree. Sequoia Sempervirens. It is rooted on the bottom, too. When you get this craft on the ground, plant this tree. It’ll grow. You also have a warehouse full of these to plant along the coastal areas as of now. You have perfect zones for it.”

“How did you get these trees? They are protected and endangered.” Ryan stroked the green, feathery growth that served as needles for the evergreen tree. “I didn’t think the government would allow them off world.”

“Yes, actually. They are spreading them everywhere. So you have a hundred-thousand seedlings, ready for planting.”

“Thank you, I will have people on it after Christmas. You are a saint.” Ryan paused and thought a moment. “How many gifts are you leaving?”

“You have quite the shopping list. Why do you ask?”

“Ooh, nothing. I am having alerts, the ship is compensating for the weight of your deer and sleigh.”

“Reindeer.” Nicholas corrected. “Oh, my back. I have another billion stops to do tonight.”

“How do you do that? You cannot even go a second per stop, that’d take you longer than thirty-years.”

“Thirty-one years, nine-months, one and a half weeks and one hour. Roughly.” Nicholas groaned again as he stood. “But we have the Einstein Time Exception Device. The rest of the universe slows to a crawl, while me and anyone nearby is sped up. Elf Bernard came up with using the formula eons ago.”

“Oh, one more thing.” He handed Ryan a box. “This is a special request. It keeps all the good wishes for you, nice and safe.”

He turned and the old man nearly fell to a knee again.

Yeah, he gets some medicinal drink. The King of Garnet-4 thought to himself.

“Nick, have a seat. I’ll make you something ot warm the cockles of your heart.”

Nick sat back in a chair with a sigh.

“I’m a little tired of milk and cookies tonight. I’d take a carrot.”

“Carrots are…” Ryan called from galley. “For the reindeer! And I have a whole bag for them.”

“As you wish.”

Ryan brought out a pitcher of hot water, a mix he had created a few days before of maple sugar, vanilla, butter and cinnamon, hot water and rum.

They talked far into the night, each comparing notes with the other.

“You might have been told you are autistic as a child, King O’Danu, but you have done such good things with other people. You have shown other people who there is no label that you cannot overcome. You should be proud of all the negotiations you have done.” The white beard shook as the eyes crinkled behind the glasses in rum-warmed humor. “That said, I have a lot of stops to do and I am going to have to do something special. I must go.”

King O’Danu picked up the heavy bag, it felt nearly empty, but if he shook it, it made a sound, as if boxes rubbed together.

“Don’t shake that.” Nick smiled. “At the rate you are going, you’ll have my job someday. You are a good man. Ruu’tan Ryan O’Danu, King of this planet.

Ryan walked with the older man out to the landing pad of the ship, where he climbed up into the ancient anachronism. The conveyance was a throwback of nearly five-centuries. But the antlered reindeer were muscular and, quite literally, glowing gold.

Adjusting his had, he slurred his words slightly.

“Good rum. Keep up the good work, Ryan. Merry Christmas.” He pulled at his beard for a moment and then said softly.

“Ho ho ho.” And Santa was gone.

Watching the old man disappear from sight. He felt an old familiar pain.

King O’Danu walked back into the ship and hit a button and the landing pad withdrew into the ship, and he heard an old familiar refrain.

“Merry Christmas to all, to all a good night.”

Ryan laughed as the airlocks were sealed.

“Good night to you, too, old man.” Ryan said to the 3-D map as it tracked the small target, accelerating up and away, already at the edge of sensor range at relativistic speeds. “Merry Christmas to you too.”

Ryan O’Danu, descendant of Keegan O’Danu, the first pirate of the family, turned off all the lights. And set the defense systems to alert status and went to bed. The rum had definitely gone to his head.

When he woke up in the morning, he would laugh as he got out of bed. He was so drunk, he dreamed that Santa came and visited. Which everyone knew was a figment of his booze addled imagination.

Which made the existence of a pile of gifts all the more difficult to explain in the morning.

The Stone Carver

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The Stone Carver

 

In the gallery of statues, the old stone cutter swept around the life sized, Greek-Roman statuary. Many were carved of solid blocks of pink salt from beautiful flowers of incredible detail in different colors of salt, to macabre life-sized statues of people in still life. Some writhed in horrific throes of agony, where he had carved the body, then used water to partly dissolve an appendage.

The tourists that came to the gallery, never left disappointed. It was a gallery of classic, eclectic, romance, and agony.

And within him, was agony. He suffered the loss of his wife, murdered years before. The funeral lasted two days, and had thousands of people in attendance. Such was her popularity.

Security video showed a Saleen Geeteks, who killed her with a broken lampshade as he robbed her. When the police apprehended Saleen, he was found insane and they sent him to a mental asylum for life.

In the end, Angus felt no justice was served and he was not whole. Following his disappointment, he vanished from public life. Never to venture out, he moved his shop to the country where he carved and whittled on marble and salt blocks. It was the quiet life where people left him alone in his heartbreak.

It was quiet, until two couples opened the door and stepped into the gallery. The number and size of the stone carvings was beyond belief.

“I have heard of this place. I didn’t think it was real.” Trokken said, dressed in the latest adaptive combat camouflage. A cream-white jumpsuit that changed patterns and colors as the wearer moved, reducing the wearers visible outline.

They stood inside the door, one of the women, Sunrise, pulled on the others.

“Get out of the line of the door. Stand between the decorations.”

“May I help you?” Angus walked from his studio.

“This is yours?” Trokken asked.

“All you see here; marble or salt, I have created. Flowers, faces, from beauty to horror. What you wish, you will find here.”

“Flowers?” The one called Lillith looked around. “This is stone?”

“Salt, to be precise. The pink comes from a mineral that’s extracted from different sources, and then baked into a block of anhydrous sodium chloride. I carve the shapes as I see them after that.“

“This is gross.” Lillith said.

“The images you see here represent many facets of the struggle of humans, and the beauty of the human body in the marble. Nudes are in the other room, away from where children or people easily offended.” Angus smiled. “Follow me.”

He turned and led the others into the studio of creating.

“In here, I make the objects of beauty. Those flowers you have seen, Miss?” He looked at the taller, dirt-encrusted woman.

“Lillith. That is my war name.”

“War name?” Angus blinked. “Very well, Lillith. The flowers are made of a kind of salt I call, “Dood”. And here, I have a bust of a woman who requested to have her looks immortalized for her grandchildren.”

A crash sounded in the gallery by the entrance. They realized that Odyri was not with them. The young rebels ran to the gallery followed by Angus.

The statue of Adonis lay on the floor, decapitated and splintered.

“Ach! Noooo.” Angus picked up the head. “This was hundreds of hours of chiseling. It was Kaelin’s favorite. I made the body as I was when she met me.”

“This is what must happen to all graven images. You have souls captured in here.” Trokken hissed.

“I do not! You need to rethink your perversion.” He held a stone finger in his hand his voice became tight. “I cannot accept this.”

He glanced around with a fire in his eyes.

“You will join that statue.” Trokken told the kneeling stone carver.

Screams of fear and terror shredded the silence in the gallery.

****

After six weeks had passed, Detectives Barnes and Noble stepped through the doors and rang the ancient bell on the counter.

“May I help you?” Angus asked.

Odd, he doesn’t seem surprised to see us. Thought Detective Barns as they introduced themselves.

“Business going well for you?”

“Quite fine. I am busy in my studio back here.” Angus smiled, motioning the men to come join him. The old chisler struggled to move a statue of four life-sized figures carved out of a single block of salt to the wheeled frame of a moving dolly.

“We are looking for four people, two men and two women who are wanted in connection to a bombing at the community services center.” Detective Nobel said, reading off of his handheld notebook. “They stole a car and murdered the owners. About a week ago the car was found up the road about ten-kilometers from here. Your gallery is the only building between the city and where it was found. Has anyone that looks like this come into your shop?” Detective Noble showed Angus images of the four wanted felons.

“No sales, a few visitors. I sell mostly by online catalog. I keep busy creating salt-blocks for my sculptures. I am preparing a new block of marble in the back and I’m making a block of red-salt  in the mold over there.”

“You mold salt?” Detective Barns

“Yes, it’s heated to over eight-hundred degrees centigrade and slowly cooled so it grows into a translucent crystal. It takes about a week to make a pretty block with inclusions just before the block solidifies and I start carving.”

“You do some beautiful work.” Detective Noble said as he leaned over a flower. “This is very beautiful. How do you get it so smooth?”

“Moist rag. I sometimes lick a finger and just rub, but that leaves striations. So, I use a nanofiber rag with a fine spray of water.”

“This is macabre.” Detective Barns examined a figure of a woman with a horrified look, a spill of simulated water had dissolved her hand off her arm.

“Yes, I have a wide range of creation. It is my therapy since my wife was murdered a few years ago.”

“Yes, my deepest condolences.” Barnes’ words were without emotion. “As I recall, the killer was sent to a hospital for the criminally insane.”

“For life, which is longer than my wife had at his hands.” Angus stood up and glared at the taller detective in the eye with undiluted rage. “There was no real justice in that. You know how she died, detective?”

“Yes, he used a sharp object that was never recovered.”

“Yes. The reason it was never recovered was because she had been repeatedly stabbed by a shard of salt. He left it in the pool of her blood where it dissolved.” Angus hissed. “Not only did she die alone, she died in unremitting agony. Each hole stuck in her by that sharpened stone would have burned like a hot iron. So, forgive me if I have some statues that have a touch of anger in them.”

“This statue is odd.” Detective Noble commented on the life-sized quartet Angus moved.

“Odd, yes, it is my most recent inspiration. It is the Compass of Justice. Each criminal turns on the other, each stabbing the next in a circle. There is no honor among those that worship death.” Angus smiled softly. “I apologize for my flare of anger, detective. Kaelin was my sunshine. When she was alive, we helped the community. Now, I am just a stone carver. I have no use for the outside world other than to bring me subject matter.”

“You have some fine detail, Mr. Cu’Laith.” The detective said, leaning forward. “This face has shadows, but the salt is clear as glass. Like something is inside of the sculpture.”

“You can see into the crystal, nothing is there.” Angus smiled. “I have been working it for a few days to get that effect.”

Angus pulled at his ear. “If you would be so kind as to watch the clearance while I roll this to the gallery, we can get on with the interview.”

“Oh, Mr. Cu’Laith, this is not an interview. Just tying up some loose ends.”

“Of course, detective.” They followed the stone carver to his gallery with the newest display.

Something about that. Ran through Detective Noble’s mind. Oh, I know! He has used the same faces as the museum downtown.

The two detectives bid their farewell from the stone carver. Gave their condolences again over the loss of his wife and crossed the address off of their list. Barnes and Noble glanced at each other and shrugged.

He struggled with the statue and muscled it in place. Then in an inspiration, he rotated it to the best view from the door, then walked back into his studio.

He stopped at the Compass of Justice. The framework inside was barely visible. You could almost see the gossamer thin flesh of a face under the half-inch of polished sodium chloride.

 

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 7. Casa De Las Canas

Children of Fury:Hellions
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Chapter 7. Casa de las Canas

Two women, shared the same icy stare. In four years, they had their indentured contracts extended against their will three times.

Now they both had an extra seven years on their service to the plantation.

They were the only women that did not suffer the forced marriage and children in the House of the Canes in the four years they had been in the service to the plantation.

Caoimhe Ni Maile MacRanald, from Campbell’s Town in Scotland was cousin to Fey Mac Boru O’Danu, the women grew up together as children, writing letters to each other when apart. They knew well enough they were no longer free in the first days of their servitude and they brought suffering unlike anything the men experienced before.

Then, the rape teams tried to move on them in the cabin they shared, to tame the women from the wilds of the emerald isle.

And it was failure that would echo for years. Now men feared the two women with blue-ice for eyes and fire for hair. These Scots women, one with an Irish name by marriage, held sway over all men on the plantation.

Garcia Parga, the Master of the Fields. The jefe de las cañas, would tremble at the thought of approaching the women and pass on a command from the owner of the estate.

Roberto de Las Planas owned and drove the daily trip to town in his covered coach, let Garcia to do the day-to-day work. except for the two women that he had bought at the slave-pens in Barbados, he had full confidence that all would be well.

The women, the first one called Fey.

Even after four years, he struggled with the name of the taller, slightly crazier one with the name of a harsh land.

“Keeva” He thought to himself. He tried to give her a Christian name, but the struggle for that in those early days was not worth the battle.

His memory of that time made him laugh and weep at the same time.

Unknown to anyone, his purchase of these two guardians of the house, they were more formidable than anyone would have suspected.

In the first day, he sent his best looking men in as their mates. Roberto even told the men to make sure the women would have children inside of them.

Over that long year, breeder teams went into the cabin where the women lived, fueled by wine and rum. But, then none of the muscular and brave men came out intact. 

His memory ached with the lessons of dealing with priestesses of the Drui

Powerful, muscular and brave, they all wept like children. Many holding vital parts of their anatomy, limped and breathless in agony.

He was positive that the larger redhead was guilty of some crime against the men who wept afterwards.

But to a man, the ones in most agony, identified the smaller woman as the roaring spirit that fought like a wild cat.

One man, who bled freely from his now broken nose, winced when he sat on the steps leading up the the main house, shook his head. Afraid for those who thought they would try to take the women against their will in that cabin of pain.

“Senior Garcia. I do not think there is enough rum on all the island to make me or any of the others to try to take them women against their will.” He said. The man, named Gawrhum by Roberto de las Planas. “These women will protect the house they are in. But I dare not hazard to try to mate them with anyone against their will.”

Garcia shook his head in disagreement.

“All women seek to have strong men.” He told Gawrhum.

“These women have more soul than ten men. They are far more than you think, they are both like demons when they fight.” The men watched another servant walk by holding a hand to his pants, in an attempt to stop the bleeding from his ruined flesh. “They have not chosen him, either. He is the strongest of us and has many children.”

Four men entered the cabin, sounds of shrieks like two demons emanated from the cabin.

One man almost made it out, before the smaller woman who claimed her name as Fey, flew out and grabbed the man by the hair and dragged him down as if she had a sheep to sheer.

He screamed for help as she pulled him back into the cabin by his mustache.

When the master of the house returned to his plantation, Garcia told him of how the smaller woman, as tall as many men, she beat on the servants as they were sent in. And how the taller woman with fists like a man knocked one to the ground and slammed his head in the door a dozen times.

“He will not work for a week, she has broken his face.” Garcia said.

Roberto held his face in his hands.

“What do we do?”

“Leave them be, use other means to keep them.” Garcia raised his eyebrows. “Find another way to enslave them, if you dare.”

Four years ago. News that spread of children that escaped. Released by the English fool Myngs had begun a new time of destruction against the empire.

Château du Soleil, owned by Frenchman Philippe Cornu, burned to the ground by servants under the command of the children pirates after he freed them like God’s Wrath against the population.

Cornu was slow to rebuild, and that allowed other plantations to expand, including this Casa de Las Canas. The only people who seemed to enjoy the news of such destruction were the Irish slaves. The women who he was successful to breed, he could force them to stay beyond the original contract that was imposed on them.

But the two that kept their pagan names?

No one dared cross them. They performed duties and ruled with an iron hand, the household was safe, clean and always ready for visitors.

The one thing that grated on Roberto’s soul, was their arcane observation of their old religion.

Now, he came from the harbor with news of from the crew of one ship. A new threat of the Caribbean was spoken of in fear-filled whispers. A small fleet of four pirate ships, one ship crewed with children.

The eyes of the Celtic woman glittered with the news.

“Senior Roberto.” She told him, the icy blue of her eyes chilled his soul. “You would do well to release all your servants. Should the child pirate come here.”

“Fey.” Caoimhe interrupted. “Nae speak of those bairns. Walk with me.”

Alone in a room, they spoke in their Gaelic language.

“Do not say you are related to any of them. You will be used to bait Keegan into a trap.”

“That is my son, he comes for all of us. I wish him safe, but Roberto should know what comes.”

“Ach! Keep your head down, cousin, stand with the other servants. We will leave together in time.” The larger woman admonished her older, smaller relative.

“Caoimhe, my son returns.” Fey smiled wide. “They all return.”

“They return for us.” Fey smiled wider still.

Children of Fury: Hellions Chapter 1. New Threat

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Children of fury hellions 3 October 2014

Chapter 1. New Threat

Tongs and hammers, wood and copper, iron and wood, the ship took shape in the backwater of the great bay, hidden by the local geography, the ship grew in its lethal shape for a lethal design.

The hull was knife-edged, a keel that resembled the fin of the largest porpoise in the world’s oceans. The Blackfish grew in shape and deadly purpose. Conn O’Danu paced as he directed the carpenters to follow the measurements and drawings to the bitter-end of each page. There would be no gaps, no errors. Conn used green, live oak for the frame and hull of the new ship, stout construction to the extreme. No guesswork allowed, each measurement carefully made by standard marks on flat sticks and small knots on cords.

This pleased Conn, this oak of the new land demonstrated itself as a resilient wood and made for the tightest construction he ever envisioned possible.

In the course of the construction, the men and women adults felt need to build a ship, the urge to build came from Keegan, who reassembled the crew of children that had returned home. Their mission, the small ones had decided, return to the islands in the south and rescue their friends, mothers, fathers and all their families that remained.

The children, parents found, while still children in their bodies, had matured into adults far before their time. The New Model Army took them as babes needing their mothers for slights and scrapes, the children returned as pirates that the naval powers feared. Pint-sized warriors willing to fight and take wounds, to bleed for each other and what they felt as a righteous mission. Mothers and fathers, sadly, took months to learn the precious innocent children were gone forever, replaced by hunters and legends. They were threats to all on the ocean.

The cruelty of the Empires of the world had taught them how to sail and fight. Now, they were punishers of the sea, and to the sea they would return until that which the Empire had stolen were all returned.

Copper and iron metal heated and hammered in place. Diarmuid An Dubh and Nial Gabham, the two talented blacksmiths of the village, made connections to other artisans of metals and the powers of Hephaestus, forged with imagination the plates of copper they attached to the hull of the ship. A ship which they hid in the back-waters of the bay.

Ideas from the boy who brought the children home, copper scales nailed on the bottom of the ship’s hull. Copper nails held the dinner-plate sized copper ellipse shaped scales in place. Brass and bronze nails driven in measured distances by carpenters and craftsmen. The builders who followed what Keegan O’Danu and Dana, who the O’Danu’s had adopted as one of their own, showed where to drive the metal spikes into the wood.

Under the shade of a nearby tree, as word spread, children gathered by ones and twos. They were returning, time for retribution was at hand.

Mothers with fear in their hearts, tried to pull these children who gathered in the clearing. Children, those that had been lost and then returned, who still carried a fire in them that frightened most adults.

Such anger, taught by the Empires of the sea and this New World that they colonized. Taken for slavery and pleasure, a life was worth less than the sweat it took to pull a knife from a sheath.

Fathers pulled on children who turned and looked at the patriarchs in the eye. In the child’s eye, an unwavering fury danced in each of their hearts. The souls of a generation pushed beyond civilized limits, filled instead with the single thought.

Retrieve that which was theirs.

Parents words of denial and demands, spoken of in angered whispers as families tried to rebuild. But no one denied that each family was still rent and torn with missing members.

These were children who learned a mission. Their first mission was to come home.

A new call to arms, a new mission, flames of deep, unremitting anger sparkled in youthful eyes. Confidence that only the young had, and a fury taught equalled only by the devil himself at those who raided their villages.

The followers of Cromwell, the devil of all the crimes against this group of children that despised the soldiers in red and the Rump Parliament who followed after Pride’s Purge. The efforts of a few had instilled such anger in a whole people.

And the growing Empire successfully angered two groups of people to that point in its history. 

The Great Scots of the North and the Highlands and the entire Hibernian isle.

The Governor of the colony could not know of the return of a crew of children on a ship that was like no other.

In time, despair would settle over the hearts of Governors and Ministers alike in future days as rumors of the hell-ship, named Blackfish, a fast and lethal warship that sailed the waters of the West Indies came to their ears.

But we are getting ahead of the story…

Snowed: The Weekend Trip

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Haunted Home, Spicer Dam Spur Road

Crime Scene Photo 1-A  24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

He took another swallow from the old whiskey bottle. Jason Best Ph.D. pulled on the wrench while he struggled to remove the cap that protected the fill valve. He swore when barked his knuckles for the third time.

The cabin, originally constructed in the era of the California Gold Rush over the horizontal entrance of a prospecter’s mine. A moderately successful mine that produced moderate amounts of gold until it played. The owner stayed with the cabin as a hermit until the elderly prospector died and ownership passed, in time, to Jason.

In the construction style of the era, the first owner built the cabin’s foundation out of charred cedar logs on bedrock that survived the elements better than modern foundations. Remodeled twice, the one floor shanty grew into a split-level two and a half story mountain chalet, steam from nearby hot springs powered a small turbine for electricity and radiators for heat.

Carefully he examined the dead system, he found the valve seal had failed. It appeared to have been overtightened, the seal developed a slow leak that took a toll over the years, and reduced the power generation slowly to zero. Now he paid the price for that seal with blood from his knuckles. He gave a heavy sigh as the blood dripped onto the ancient timbers of the wood and earth, it would be nice to have a nurse type who could get the first aid kit and bandage his knuckles up.

As it is I’ll  need to climb up three flights of stairs to get to the first aid kit so I could patch up my own scrapes, but I don’t have time to bleed. I’m on a roll.  His thoughts tried to interrupt his focus.

Doctor Best studied the concepts of the hot springs and geothermal power, he taught himself enough to rebuild the system that he now struggled with while he used language that his mother used to ground him for. He updated the electrical wire, plugs and cables in the cabin, it held many pleasant surprises that included one solid-gold nugget.  It was a beautiful place that he happily named “Mountain Home”.

With a final shrill squeak of surrender, the cap turned. Then became loose enough for him to spin it off with his fingers. The threads were in good shape, however the seal was in bad shape.

He used a specialized tool that he tracked down over the internet to a company that dealt with replacement parts of the ancient system, he was able to re-plumb the house. Along with the upgraded the control panel circuitry, Jason brought the house into the modern era.

Sweat and strain as he worked, his next part of the project was to dig out under the house for to expand his electrical panel and power generation center. He took advantage of the horizontal mine, and when he moved out a pile of debris he discovered, to his pleasure, a large underground room.

An added plus, the underground space was semi-finished into a wine-cellar of sorts. With wines he had found dated from just before the prohibition era, many stored on their sides.

A few sat upright with the corks exposed, those had dried out and the seals failed. Those bottles that laid on their sides, were all intact, but so few, Jason chose to drink only one. And it was excellent!

An even better discovery, however, some soul in the past had stashed a treasure-trove of rye whiskey. “Robert’s Rye”, and each onion-shaped flask had a layer of rye-seeds on the bottom.

He felt that it was the reason for the rye whiskey was excellent, and he had many bottles with seals intact.

He sampled some of the potent nectar, but he was hungry and the whiskey gave him a pleasant buzz. He wanted dinner, however he needed to recharge the heat-exchanger first to get heat into the house otherwise a cold night was in store for him.

He tightened the hose to the valve and turned the handle, he watched the gauge on the cylinder rise as the system pressure rose and became the home’s central heat source as it transported heat from the geothermal hot-spot to the house.

The smell of baked potatoes and roast meat reached his nose. Tessa, his colleague from the university, cooked upstairs in the modernized kitchen while she warmed the upper floors as a side benefit while the central-heat units were offline. They had seen each other outside of work a few times. They always kept it on the down-low, Tessa worried about the issue of staff fraternization. She was not yet tenured and did not want to lose her job because of her relationship with James.

But here, with the whiskey, wine, and snow so heavy on the ground no one would come by. A storm had dropped four-inches per hour for the last two hours on top of the six-feet of snow that fell before he had arrived Friday night and struggled long hours to get the big cylinder dragged through the basement door to the mouth of the mine.

The sweep needle on the pressure gauge was in the green pressure gauge. A flip of the breakers in order, green LED’s illuminated and made him smile. Electric power was now available.

He put the wrench away in his new toolbox, that Tessa bought him. He walked to the electric panel and read the displays. He pressed a switch on the wall and the lights in wall sconces blinked and flickered to life as electrical systems worked to perfection.

He wondered what might be wrong. It was too smooth. No project ever went that easy unless it was broken.

The Professor of Biochemistry laughed, with green lights on all power systems, he only needed to turn on the hot-tub on the patio at the wall switch. Tessa and he could sip ninety-year-old whiskey, sit in the bubbles of warm water and watch the snowstorm.

Maybe the weather might break and they could watch the stars dance in the heavens. Then showers and, he hoped, sleep with his arms around her.

“Dinner’s ready.” She called down.

“I have a surprise for you, up there!” He said, waited a heartbeat and flipped the circuit breaker to “On”.

The whole house lit up. LED rope lights he had wired in, illuminated with the effect of electronic icicles made the snow appear blue under the lights.

Tessa was impressed, breathless from the effect of the light show.

Tessa walked around with just a light work shirt, she had broken a sweat while she lifted boxes and cleaned in the old cabin, and made it more of a home with the triple-paned windows.

Which was fine in Jason’s point of view. With an oversized sleeveless shirt, sometimes he would get lucky and watch her accidentally flash him, her bare legs, smudged and dust-covered while she wore shorts and sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a competitor in the triathlon. A woman not afraid to get dirty. But then, she was a digger. She liked to dig up bones.  

He had just sat down with Tessa and she poured him more whiskey while they waited for the other couple to come down the stairs. They broke bread while they waited, his grandmother’s recipe that had baked all day with sprigs of fresh rosemary in the propane heated oven.

The conversation about the house, he apologized that she had to work when she should have relaxed and enjoyed the view.

Tessa’s smile was as bright as a sunrise. Tessa touched his cheek and kissed him deeply.

“It is my pleasure to help set up the cabin for him was her pleasure.

A rhythmic noise from upstairs, Doctor Lettie MacKay and her rebound boyfriend, Kevin Acker, from the School of Pharmacy were busy upstairs in the bedrooms. They were supposed to be upstairs to hang wallpaper, but the noise was not the sounds of paste and paper. Kevin always kept samples of ED drugs on his person and they were not yet downstairs for food.

“Can you two kids give it a break? You are not supposed to test the beds in each room! You are supposed to hang wallpaper!”

That was when the first scream, like a siren, echoed down the stairs.

Tessa and he ran upstairs into the arms of the half-naked Doctor MacKay who grabbed him and screamed in their faces that the wallpaper had come to life,

“It grew tenticles and grabbed at me! It tore my clothes when Kevin pulled me away and saved me!” She sobbed. “Oh my god, it grabbed and pulled him into the wallpaper!”

“Go down to the kitchen.” Jason said and looked into the room.

A lump on the wall looked as if some crazed paper-hanger covered an unfortunate person who stood there.

Jason grabbed a putty knife out of a plastic bucket to cut the paper-covered Kevin out, the colored wallpaper began to show details of Kevin’s face behind the branches and stylized birds printed on the wallpaper.

“Kevin!” Jason called.  And the associate professor looked at him from within the paper, then his image faded, and left the wallpaper flat and perfect and left Jason no place to cut.

He tried anyway, he scraped where Kevin was under the paper, but it was just a plaster wall. Kevin was no longer among the branches and trees of the wallpaper.

Screams again, downstairs. He ran down the stairs, Tessa was at the door, her eyes rolled around her head in abject terror.

Lettie, stuck to the wall held her hands out as the texture of the wallpaper crawled the length of her arms to her fingers while she clutched at the air in failed attempts to save herself.

Jason slashed at the paper with the sharp corner of the putty knife they used to spackle the walls for new paper.

A high-pitched sound from the wallpaper, higher than the screams of the women, sounded as the wallpaper tore while Jason slashed at it with the metal blade.

The wallpaper moved on its own, in an attempt to pull Lettie into a  giant wrinkle that grew until looked like a mouth.

He grabbed his coworker by her left arm, he pulled hard on her and used his right foot to stomp the wallpaper flat against the wall until he tore it away from Lettie’s body.

The wallpaper left traces of paste on Lettie’s arms when he freed her and pulled her into his arms, they did not stop to consider the slime, instead they ran towards the the front door where Tessa screamed at them to hurry.

When they got close, door slammed shut and locked Tessa outside. Try a he might, with all his strength and a screwdriver to pry with, the door refused to open.

Jason realized Tessa’s danger, she had worn only the light work clothes she wore while she worked in the cabin and outside it was a cold that could kill.

Jason pointed to the basement and Tessa nodded, he and Lettie ran down the stairs, her legs lacerated from the branches of the wallpaper. In the basement, stone walls seemed less dangerous.

Jason showed Lettie where to sit and ran towards the basement’s heavy-timber doors like a football tackle and hit them at full speed…

And bounced off.

The gold mine might be a safe haven, but the doors were part of the house.

Tessa’s voice called his name, she was cold.

His mind raced, if he didn’t know better, there was a malevolence that had awoke when they worked in the house.

Tessa yelled his name again, feeble sounds on the wood where she pounded on the thick planks, her plead to come in out of the cold.

In a near panic, he looked at his work table.

The table! His mind screamed. I used that old ore-cart! It is all iron and it still sits on the rails in the floor!

He released the brake and took a deep swallow from the whiskey bottle for luck and swallowed a few of the rye grains. Then pushed the half-ton cart as hard as he could.

He hit the doors hard at a near sprint and a gap opened from the impact.

Tessa’s hand came through the gap in the door and Jason grabbed Tessa and pulled.

Ice cold, she shivered as she struggled to get inside, halfway through, the doors began to close on her leg. Tessa screamed from the pain of her leg as the door crushed it.

Jason grabbed a shovel and shoved it against the door for a wedge.

He shoved and struggled against the door with his shoulder, It gave an inch, then he pushed the shovel forward with his foot and forced the door wider again. In one instant, he took the chance and pulled Tessa free of the heavy timber doors, she clung to him. She wept from the cold, begged him to tell her what happened.

Jason took her to sit with Lettie and began to explain. Lettie turned to look at him, her eyes haunted.

No, not haunted, not haunted at all. 

She had no eyes!

Her once beautiful face now was an eyeless horror with a mouth that formed a big “O” of a silent scream. A tendril extended down from above to Lettie’s head and sucked life from her. Her skin had become mottled and pale as the house stole the woman’s essence.

Jason grabbed a hatchet from his workbench and jumped at the thread that drew the life out of Lettie like a tentacle with a million mouths. Time slowed down, as he swung the sharp hand-ax.

And missed.

“OH God!” He screamed as white fluid leaked out of the wound in her skull instead of human blood. “Oh god, I’m so sorry!”

He was the only one that could make it to the car. But Tessa would be in this house alone. Even if she was safe for the moment, in the corner behind the work table, between two rolls of…

Two rolls of…

Wallpaper!

He turned to where Tessa sat and he could only see a ball of wallpaper where he left Tessa, he could see her outline had become less distinct under the wallpaper that had slid around her like a web.

He leaped over the table with a box-cutter in hand and slashed at the cocoon of wallpaper around her, and found…

Paper. Just paper, wadded up and desiccated.

He was the only one left and the doors were ajar, too small to allow escape.

He pulled on the work table and rolled it to the deepest part of the mine that he could reach.

“Last drink in this house!” He shouted and took a long, deep drink of the whiskey bottle and smashed the bottle against the house foundation. “Fuck you!”

James crouched and braced his hands on the table, he pushed as hard as he could and gained momentum

With a thirty-foot start with the thousand-pound ram to break through the doors, Jason and the cart hit the doors at a full run, the left door trembled and creaked open.

He took advantage of the gap that opened, Jason dove through the gap before the heavy timber door slammed on the table time and again, the house tried to claim another victim.

He collapsed in the snow, it was strangely quiet, illuminated by the beautiful LED icicle lights he spent so much time to hang along the edge of the roof around the patio.

A beautiful and deadly structure.

He fell face first in the snow, his hands felt like they were on fire.

Pain! He groaned in agony. Pain, so much pain! 

It has from the snow! He looked at his hands, they were pale. Very pale.  Is my skin mottled? Or am I the wallpaper?

He stood and ran through the snow slipped and fell, cut his knees and tore open his paper-hands. Logical, educated Dr. Best, crawled on his elbows and knees and left a bloody trail in the snow behind him. He covered the mile in nearly an hour when he fell and rolled out on to the asphalt of Spicer road.

The ground rumbled, he could feel it. It was the house! It chased him on cedar pillar legs, the ground trembled with the evil hunger that stalked him.

Too tired and cold to run, he lay on the lonely mountain road and screamed to whichever spirit that he was sorry as lights from the porch bore down and engulfed him.

****

Jason awoke to the glow of a cardiac monitor. He focused on the display of his heart waveform before he realized he was in a hospital and the heart that was monitored, was his.

After two weeks, the hospital discharged Jason and days where police questionedby him about the three deaths ended.

Detectives took notes, wrote down all the professor said and described with vivid detail. Police then interviewed the physicians who attended to Jason’s wounds.

Jason obtained a copy of the detective’s report, and read it three weeks later, while he sat at his breakfast table.

“Doctor Jason Best, Ph.D. was found by snowplow driver, Honey Gareth in the middle of Spicer Dam Spur Road. The two days in question, where Doctor Best spent alone in the cabin at 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road. In the events that transpired on the weekend in question, Doctor Best discovered an old wine cellar stocked with wine and rye whiskey. Tests of opened whiskey bottles showed high levels of ergot alkaloids, consistent with acute ergot toxicity that caused visual and auditory hallucinations, per the physicians and specialists who attended to Dr. Best. This results that Dr. Best became convinced that he was with three other people who died.

Subsequent interviews with the named people, Doctor Contessa AKA “Tessa” Pershing is alive and well, continues to work at Ocean Bay Community College. Doctor Best is familiar to Doctor Pershing in that they have attended same faculty continued-education and office functions but denies any relationship that might exist between Doctor Best and herself.

Doctor Lettie MacKay is friends with Doctor Best, but states no knowledge of anyone named Kevin. Her spouse, Michael MacKay, works at Ocean Bay University as a Fine Arts Professor. Further, no address, student record or employment record of Kevin Acker is found.

To date, no evidence of deaths at this address on the weekend in question exists.

Interior of 24821 Spicer Dam Spur Road shows the wallpaper slashed and torn in the kitchen and third floor bedroom. The heavy timber barn door to the basement is off the hinge. Damage caused by a gold-rush era ore cart on rails used to batter the door open and a hatchet discovered imbedded into a can of white paint.(See attached photos) it is to note: Where Dr. Best said he struck a woman in the head with a hatchet, the hatch found someone embedded into a can of ‘Cottage Girl’ paint.  The ax had struck the paper label of the logo of the woman on the paint can.

A horizontal gold mine, dug circa 1850’s shows evidence of modern reinforcements and extensive work in a power room. Adjacent to the power room is the previously mentioned wine cellar. (See attached photos)

Ninety-six onion shaped, clear to light-blue glass bottles of honey-colored  fluid were found with apparent rye grain in the bottom of the bottles. Original labels, dated from 1910 to 1919 of quart-size printed with “Robert’s Rye Whiskey”. In the course of the investigation, the crime-scene team discovered two bottles opened, one empty, the second appeared three-quarters full.(See attached photos)

It is the conclusion of the investigation that Dr. Best  suffered from accidental ergot intoxication per the attached pertinent physician’s notes.

No complaints will be filed.

Lt. Liewess J. Jonah, investigator.”

 © 2015 Dash McCallen all rights reserved

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 58. Thomas Harrison Harte

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Chapter 58. Thomas Harrison Harte 

‟Well, Miss Grant and Miss Grant,” Beyron nodded to Melanie . ‟We will try to find Mr. Harte. And get him out of the system in Singapore. If there is any luck at all, we might be able to have him released to us before the investigation into his situation is complete.”

‟The State Department has limited influence in Singapore, the Singapore government has taken great pride in numbers of convicted drug smugglers for minor amounts of drugs, and has hanged many others. In the event they convict him he for the amount that you describe and what they say they have found, he faces a maximum sentence of a decade in prison, or he could be caned a maximum of two-dozen times. To be honest, they may give him a reduced sentence because of his age and his popularity in that part of the world.” Max said. ‟He might be able to find a legal way out, or have help of someone of influence in the political structure there.”

Max pulled at his earlobe for a few moments in thought.

“Australia has attempted more than once to recover Australian nationals with limited success. Our influence is less than Australia.” He said at last.

‟So he’s punished for my stash.” Tears welled up in Kaylee’s eyes.

‟Yes. And you are sure it is less than two-ounces?”

‟Yes. I stressed out to the max when he was in the hospital.” Kaylee admitted. “I smoked quite a lot of it.”

‟We will make a press release, but your request for a passport to go to Singapore will not happen. The process will be too long for you make reasonable plans to go to Singapore, and my advice on this?” Max coached Kaylee gently. “It is a bad idea in the extreme. Do not attempt to rescue him by confession to the government in a Singapore court that the drugs are yours.”

Max Silverham pondered a minute more. Never a person to comment without deep thought.

‟I have to let your lawyer here say his part and ask the questions. But, I have one now. I look around your apartment, I do not see indications of the financial base to pay the salary that Mister Ferguson, and this master of law that has brought me out of where I belong to come here. Yet, you said you married Mister Harte?”

‟Excuse me, the financial base for the young lady is not relevant to the situation.” Beyron advised. ‟We decline to answer that.”

‟I’m not a judge.” Max said.

‟Just so you remember that.” Beyron said. ‟I am her advisor, not yours, you have your own. But the advice you have given is good advice so far. Just the question is inappropriate in this context.”

‟I withdraw it. I do have further questions on where he stored his aircraft. He flew from one part of the world and landed in their waters? You said he has a float-plane?”

‟Yacht, flying yacht.” Kaylee corrected. ‟Or flying-boat. Sorry, he gave too many corrections on that detail and I picked up the habit, but you have to see it to understand. It is a glorious home.”

‟We have to look into this, this airborne palace might have contaminated our harbor with exotic marine species.” Max sat up and began to write. ‟Where did he have his plane hauled out.” Pause. ‟Yacht.” Pause. “Er… Craft.”

‟A couple miles down the road at Harbor Bay Airport.”

‟Care to join us in an excursion to the airport?” Max Silverham asked. ‟You can show me where he serviced his plane at.”

Kaylee puzzled.

‟Don’t you have staff for that?”

Max smiled.

‟Perhaps you don’t know my rank, or it’s just misstated by Mister Ferguson here. I am the staff. I just rank a little higher and liaise between the civilian and military sides of the same mission, but I am still the staff, I answer to the real politicians.”

A half-hour later, with Kaylee ’s car in the lead, Beyron sat in the front passenger seat the group drove into the car lot of the private plane owners.

‟That hanger there, is where he had the Pacific Wizard serviced and kept when it was out of the water.”

‟You have been here of late?” Maxwell Silverham asked. ‟You mentioned that you came back to look for him?”

‟Yes. But they wouldn’t tell me any information.” Kaylee said with a sag to her shoulders. ‟I couldn’t get them to tell me the time of day. Only the lead tech would to talk to me.”

‟Well, let me see if I can loosen some lips.” Max smiled and his eyes sparkled with determination when they walked towards the office.

‟I don’t know him very well, but I know the type.” Beyron whispered in a conspiratorial voice to the sisters . ‟Loves the hunt.”

With an air of importance, Max stepped up to the counter in the office, flanked by the two uniformed Marines. Max got immediate attention.

‟I will help you, my manager’s indisposed with a potential client.” A petite First-Nation’s woman said.

‟I need access to your records on one Mister Harte, Thomas. When he was here and if he has an address out of the country.”

‟You need to wait, then. I cannot access the history of our clients without cause.”

‟The cause is because I told you.” Max said firmly. ‟Do you know who I am?”

‟No, and I don’t care. You need a few forms filled out first.”

‟Ma’am, I have identification, two marines and I carry the authority of the United States Government. I do not need to fill out forms for this.”

‟Then you don’t need what I have.” She looked at him with black eyes without so much as a blink of fear. ‟Warrant, police, and my faith that you are not some asshat that thinks you can walk in here with two weapons on each hip.” She pointed at the marines.

One marine broke character and gave a small smile for the briefest of moments but never deviated his eyes from the straight forward.

‟Now, you sit down, shut up or leave.” She hissed. ‟White man, black man, marines, you think you can still push my people around. Guess again.”

Then to Kaylee and Melanie, she smiled.

‟What can I do for you ladies?” The eyes softened and she became helpful.

‟We are just here to do some business for Tom Harte, the author? He had his plane here for service. I would like to pay any balance on a bill.” Kaylee presented the shiny black card with her married name engraved on it.

‟Oh!” She looked at the card with Kaylee’s image on it. ‟Just a minute.”

She handed the card back to Kaylee, she nodded, smiled and walked down a hallway then disappeared out of sight.

Two minutes later, she returned.

At first Kaylee noticed the cowboy-hatted male who walked down the hallway and sported a hideous scar on his forearm, recently healed.

Then the familiar smile, a sparkle of an emerald eye, she knew that face. It was one she had kissed more than once and made her heart dance.

It was Thomas Harrison Harte.

Kaylee ‘s once and future husband.

Married by Mistake Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

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Chapter 57. News Channel Gone Dark

In her apartment, every moment Kaylee spent outside of class, her computer logged in and a bluetooth connection to her television to watch it with her sister.

Melanie paced around the apartment in agitation. The news website out of Singapore at first uploaded the few still images and fewer videos had no recent enough updates to calm her irritation.

One high-quality video, the news reporter explained that Singapore authorities detained an American, Thomas Harte, while they investigated the charges that he smuggled marijuana bundled for transportation and a bottle of unknown liquid that investigators suspected as a narcotic. Cleared of drug-use by medical examination, the prosecutor planned to use the reports against him in a court and prosecute the United States Citizen as a smuggler.

‟He was cleared by a blood check? How can they use that he was clean against him?” Melanie said.

‟There, it said it. If he had it in possession and he’s clean, they know he was trafficker.” Kaylee held both hands to her tear-streaked face.

‟I’ve called Lettie, she called the government here. I talked with a lawyer that Lettie set me up with, he will set me up with the state department and we will see if there is any help I can do.” Kaylee said.

‟How can you help?”

‟The stash was mine.” Kaylee said. ‟It was in with my massage oil. I know that’s what they are calling as narc-oil.”

‟You left it? In his plane?” Melanie clapped her hand to her forehead. ‟You never planned to stay with Glenn.”

‟I, uh…” Kaylee stammered, then her temper flared. ‟Screw you.”

That just made Melanie the Monster and kid sister laugh harder.

‟You say that and that means I’m right. Tom got you to love him.” She smiled at her sister and poked her older Kaylee over her heart. “He writes about airship pirates, but he is the King of Pirates who stole your heart. Thomas Harte is a thief of hearts.”

 ‟Shut up, Melanie or I’ll tell mom.” In an empty threat. “And don’t poke me.”

Melanie quieted down and giggled for several minutes.

‟I’ll need to tell the State Department that Tom and I had gotten married and then annulled.” Kaylee rubbed her forehead. ‟Dad will poop a pinecone.”

‟Yeah, a whole tree of them.” Melanie smiled, but her tone was sad. ‟You know those crazy paparazzi with cameras will be here. You won’t be able to walk or drive to classes.”

‟I’ll live on campus then.”

‟The wait list is two years long, you won’t get a place until after you graduate.” Melanie shook her head. ‟If you tell the State Department, you can save him, but you will lose your chance to graduate in peace. The photographers will be all over you like flies on a dead fish.”

‟What…?” Kaylee interrupted. “Mel, the feed just went down. Just have a four-zero-four ‟Not Found” code.”

‟Just go back a page.”

‟I did, Online Network News only has other countries in the menu, Singapore is not there. Not even weather.”

‟Wierd. Try alternate news feeds.” Melanie suggested and sat next to her sister at the computer.

‟Okay.” Kaylee typed in the addresses of the different sources.

‟Those are old images we’ve seen. Tom might be free. Oh!” Kaylee smiled. ‟Lettie has sent an email.”

Then the excitement turned into crestfallen defeat.

‟She says Tom’s locked up in jail, Singapore police have confiscated his passport. She looked at the laws, sent me the link.” Kaylee clicked on the highlighted text. ‟That is harsh. He might get ten-years for the weed and forfeit all his possessions and death penalty is mandatory for the narc-oil.”

Melanie looked at her sister.

‟Death? But that is only aromatherapy oil, right? That essence of rosemary I gave you for your birthday.” She shook her head. “And they took… His plane?”

Melanie kept reading over Kaylee’s shoulder.

A phone rang, and both sisters looked at their phones before Kaylee picked it up.

‟Hello? Yes. Yes, at home. Yes. Las Vegas, three weeks ago. My address is…” Kaylee looked down off the balcony. ‟You know where I am? Yes. Right away? I’ll be here.”

‟That was the lawyer. He and a State Department rep are on their way.‟ Looking down, ‟Oh… Drat! I need to get dressed in something nicer than my t-shirt and jeans.”

‟At least put on a bra. You’re kind of on point since you have been on the phone.” Melanie pointed out.

‟What! ACK!” Kaylee squawked and ran to her room to change clothes, covering her chest up with her hands.

‟Why did you cover and run? It’s only me.” Melanie laughed again. The younger sister enjoyed when the elder stressed out.

‟Oh my god! Omygodomygod I can’t find what to wear.” Sounds in her bedroom echoed as she slammed drawers and closet doors.

‟Wear your dark green skirt, boots and your black silk blouse with the pocket.”

‟You borrowed my skirt last month for the class interviews, have you brought it back?”

‟No, it’s in my laundry.”

‟Crap. Mellie, help, I am in a panic, I need some advice.”

‟Okay, black skirt?”

‟Yes, past my knee. Heeled boots, black silk blouse and the gray jacket.

‟Yeeaah… I would leave the jacket.” Melanie said and looked out the window. ‟It’s too hot to dress in those extra layers.”

‟Yeah. Yeah… I will meet with some important people, I don’t want them to think I am just a college kid.”

‟Well. You are, and he is a lot older, you might not get away without that label in their minds, then they would say it.” Melanie mused as she helped her sister adjust the collar on the blouse.

‟I don’t know what to say.” Kaylee said and walked out of the room. ‟The lawyer will be here in a moment.”

‟Okay. Okay.” Melanie said as the sibling turned around. ‟Okay, you look good. Wait, did you put a bra on?” Another squeak of profanity from her Kaylee who disappeared into her room again.

A short few minutes and she was ready. The sisters opened the door to walk down to the sidewalk and both sisters screamed in surprise.

Four men stood in the hallway, two in military uniform in places on either side of the door. Two in civilian office clothing, one looked like he had swallowed some vile drink.

‟Miss Grant?” The dark-skinned man held out a hand. ‟I’m Beyron Ferguson, attorney at law. The G.I. Joe here is the secretary of the local state department office, Maxwell Silverham.” he indicated the sour-faced man.

‟Local?” Melanie said. ‟I didn’t know we had a local one.”

‟And you are?” Beyron said.

‟She is my sister, Melanie Grant. I would like to have her here while you interrogate me. Should I get a lawyer?”

‟Please call me Max.” The older white-haired man said. ‟No you don’t need a lawyer, and local is a relative term Miss Grant.” He nodded with a smile to Melanie.

‟May I get you a glass of water?” Kaylee asked.

‟No, thank you.” Max said. ‟May we sit?”

Motioning to the breakfast table, they all took a seat while Beyron pulled out a notepad.

‟For the record Miss Grant… Kaylee. I am your attorney, appointed by the Attorney General of the United States, pro-bono. That is no charge to you.” Beyron explained to the two women. “I will give you advice, but I will do what you ask, even finding a replacement if I do not fulfill my job to your satisfaction. Mister Silverham here is the government investigator in charge. He would like to ask about your relationship with Thomas Harte who is now in custody in Singapore and will stand trial for drug possession in the next few days. This is not a criminal investigation, but I am here to protect your rights in any event his questions stray into private areas that are not relevant. If at any time you wish to stop talking with Mister Silverham, we will bring this to an end. Do you understand all that?”

Kaylee nodded.

‟Before we start,” Max said, ‟What is your relationship with this author who seems to lack a street address.”

Kaylee held hands with her sister and relaxed, she felt more confident than ever and explained the events of the past summer.

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 55. World Online News Network

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Chapter 55. World Online News Network

Kaylee watched as raw feeds from Singapore online news scrolled across her screen. The sisters watched images of a man, escorted out of an airport in handcuffs.

“Authorities state they have arrested an accused drug smuggler and sources have stated, a known murderer from the United States. Although the name was withheld by authorities until they verify the suspected drug smuggler’s identity.” The talking head on the tv narrated while the video and images shifted on the screen.

But Kaylee recognized the airplane on which they captured this dangerous human being.

It was Tom.

Melanie’s boyfriend found a raw news feed web-site then used a cable to plug the tv into his tablet and they all watched the image display titled that an accused rich drug smuggler stand trial.

They tried to turn up the sound on the video but that did not help, the three of them did not understand the language, but the subtitles gave the story. While she watched the feeds on the TV, Kaylee held her hands to her face with tears in her eyes.

She knew where she forgotten her misplaced stash.

The Pacific Wizard, in the bedroom dresser on her side, second drawer from the bottom with her blindfold to help her sleep and aromatherapy oils. She closed her eyes and imagined what version of hell that a foreign drug smuggler’s life is like.

*And it’s not even Tom’s.* Her heart stood still. *Legal here, what are the penalties in that country?*

“What are the laws in, where’s he at? Singapore?” Kaylee asked.

Arthur, Melanie’s boyfriend rubbed his forehead in thought.

“Severe. They execute for drugs there that we have legalized.”

Kaylee looked out the window at the bay, to the west there was the horizon. She wished with all her heart she could fly over the horizon and rescue the man who suffered because of her.

*I wonder if he is safe?*

In a dusty jail in Singpore, sat a citizen of the United States. He was so exhausted he struggled to remember his own name.

Tom. His name was Tom. He had been awake so long, his deepest memories were fuzzy.

His books, a pirated movie that made the rounds and the assurances from the United States Ambassador had done little to help his state of mind.

He had just survived twenty-four hours of interrogation at the police station and Tom fretted like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He sat alone at a table while police and prosecutors paraded in front of the judge and the narration cryptic law was in English, the direction taken by Singapore jurisprudence was obvious. 

“They are about to do what they do best,” A dapper-mannered man sat in front of him. “Crush an individual found with drugs and obscene devices. The blindfold that they found they will consider as evidence of a crime, your statement to the inspector that you smuggle women will compound your case.”

“You have passed blood and urine drug tests, you are clean except for medications for those you have prescriptions for. In other words, you are clean and not a user.” The lawyer read from a paper without a smile.

Tom relaxed as he heard this from his hastily appointed legal advisor, but then it took a decidedly dark turn when the lawyer held his hand up as Tom began to smile when he heard about his clean test results.

‟If you do not use the drugs, then you are a smuggler.”

‟No. That means I did not partake. They found it in a drawer, inside a woman’s toiletry bag that had a blindfold to help her sleep and I don’t know what else.”

‟Ah yes. And how did you know of the blindfold, and the drugs. Where is this woman?” The lawyer asked his client.

Tom looked into the face of the blue-eyed British legal esquire that practiced in Singapore.

Robert Mitch was born of English parents when Singapore was a colony of the Empire, left the country for England to get his legal degree and then became a lawyer in the busy center of business and crime. Over the years as he worked for defense of tourists that ran afoul of the law and their families, he often charged exorbitant fees.

They almost always paid the prices he often asked, the large income even allowed him to bribe the occasional official to look the other way while evidence vanished.

He smiled when he read the legal charges.

*This case promises a large payday! This client is a rich American!*

‟She is probably in California, I last saw her in Oregon.”

“She’s a prostitute then? Marijuana is legal in Oregon, yes? So, we can argue that the drugs were there, without your knowledge in a place where it is a legal drug.” He scribbled down notes on a yellow pad. “That will help. The obscene violations will also be investigated, we will argue that she brought the drugs on board without your knowledge. But I assure you that won’t matter.”

It was Tom’s turn to hold up his hand.

‟She is not a prostitute, she’s a friend and we had…” Tom paused. ‟A relationship. But it’s over now.”

‟Is she still alive?” Robert asked. “You’ve a reputation as a lady-killer that got away with the crime.”

‟What the f…” Tom exploded and was unable to speak for a moment. “What kind of question is that?”

‟The kind they will ask you in the investigation.” He looked at Tom. ‟The prosecutor is good at his job to put anyone in jail with drug charges. Right now they are have a court’s order for a thorough search your plane. Down to the last bolt.”

‟What does that mean?” Tom asked.

‟They will to take it apart to look for hidden compartments. Do you have any on board?”

‟I have a safety box, has legal papers in it. I would wish those to stay private.”

“In the course of investigation, no secret of yours will remain a secret or private.” Robert shook his head. ‟If the papers are on the plane, they will become part of the investigation and evidence to show the judge. What is on those papers?”

‟Jesus. Annulment papers.” Tom held his head in his hands. ‟Just annulment papers. We got married when she’d gotten stoned. Then it ended.”

‟So you drugged her into actions against her will?” Robert wrote on his pad of paper again.

‟NO! No no. Oh good God!” Tom nearly fainted. Even his defense lawyer was not on his side. “No, that’s all wrong. Not how it was.”

‟This is how they’ll present the investigation, in light of the reports about your family. Some archives say you might have had a hand in their deaths.” Robert shook his head and opened a local English language newspaper and showed it to his client. “Mr. Harte, at this point, if you want to keep your head out of the noose, I recommend you to not mention, at all, the circumstances of this annulment. You got married, it did not work out, it’s over.”

‟The noose? How about I stay out of prison?” Tom said in a panicked tone.

‟To be honest.” Robert put his pen down and looked at Tom. ‟There is not a strong hope for that at the moment. You were found with almost five-hundred grams of marijuana. This area is known to grow copious amounts of the weed. This is worth a life sentence, confiscation of your plane and seizure of any drug money. And report on the oil that was found is still not back yet. They will treat it as marijuana resin or hash oil for the moment. If tests show it is, in fact, a hashish oil? With the weed you already had on board, that is a mandatory death penalty and they will hang you. By this time next month, they will send you back to the states in a box.”

‟The oil, I don’t know, it might be a massage oil. Drug money. There is no money on that plane, just what was in my pocket.”

The lawyer stared at Tom for a long moment. He picked up his phone and dialed a number.

“It’s Robert Mitch. Yes, with the American now. Yes, that is what I have called about, thank you. It is? Thank you, again.” The lawyer broke the connection and looked back at Tom. “Good news, the oil is a mineral oil with traces of eucalyptus and rosemary in it.”

Tom and Robert both took a deep breath.

“That would have been a death-penalty, be assured of that.” Robert added. ‟Mr. Harte, You need someone who is local on your side before this goes any further. What is the reason you are in Singapore Mr. Harte?” Robert wrote down his question.

‟Tom, please, call me Tom.”

‟No, I don’t think so.” Robert said in a calm tone that did not reassure Tom and only increased his anxiety. ‟I don’t do that, it is a matter of respect. And while friendship lets someone call another by first names, we are not friends. I work for you and the courts and it’s not proper business otherwise.”

‟So,” Robert continued. “I ask again, why are you in Singapore?”

‟I was about to meet with someone to get my books published, perhaps printed here and maybe have a movie funded. Lee Kong Kuen, is his name.”

‟Lee Kong Kuen,” Robert froze in mid-scribble and looked up. “The Mr. Lee who-has-more-money-than-god, Mr. Lee?

‟Yes.” Tom said. ‟That’s him. Why?”

Robert sat up and his eyes wide, his price to charge the witless Yankee just reduced to a normal fee. If it became known that Robert gouged a business partner of Lee Kong Kuen? Mr. Lee would do things to Robert that were too hideous to think about.

Perspiration broke out on the lawyer’s forehead as he fumbled for his thoughts.

‟Maybe, you’ve a chance to get the hell out of this country if this hits the news.” Robert said, he became highly motivated to win. ‟Once it goes public, then this will back the law into a corner and motivate them to release you, it would make them look bad and cost them a great deal of money. Whether bribed, blackmailed or bro-manced for favors. No matter what punishment they would impose.”

‟Bro-manced?” Tom looked at his lawyer.

‟It has become a recent term here to describe favors the leaders here go through. It comes, I think, from an American tv comedy that is popular here.” Robert said. ‟I think you Yanks call it a ‟good old boy” system” and it works on a daily basis here.”

‟Let’s get it done then. Faster we can get me out of here, the better.”

Robert’s phone chirped and he looked at the text display.

‟Mister Harte, I think we need to turn on the tv.”

What Tom saw, made his jaw drop. A news story showed him as a prisoner escorted out of the airport.

‟Tom, you need talk to Mister Lee, right away.” Robert grimaced. ‟It may already be too late, if he feels you are a petty smuggler, he will not help you. But, if he will help, this will just evaporate in a second. Just assure me, that marijuana is not yours.”

‟Not mine.” Tom said. “I truly did not know it was there. I am here on business only, writer’s busines. I want to get my children’s stories published here in this part of the world.”

‟Fine, I will do all that I can to get you out of this. But with your nationality as an American and first time here? And if I can get the charges dropped?” Robert looked directly at his client. ‟You get on that big damned plane of yours, push the throttles all the way forward and get your red-white-and-blue butt out of Singapore. No stops, no explores, no Indiana Jones adventure-seeker games.”

‟Could I come back?” Tom wondered out loud. “For business?”

‟Well, you can, if you wish. But my advice, not for a couple of years.” The lawyer nodded. ‟And then, it would be bloody good to take my advice, do not have so much as a crumb of a drug nearby.”

Outside, Liem Han sat in the shade near his motorbike, waited for this rich American to come out so he could take more photos and video.

“Come out, Yankee, you will make me rich.”

It was a good day to be a photographer.

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 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 29. Georgia off His Mind

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Chapter 29. Georgia Off His Mind

Lettie sat in the driver’s seat of the limousine, and explained that Kaikane was off the clock, by state law.

They rode in the limo quietly for a few minutes, while Tom looked out the window.

Finally he spoke.

‟First time I have ever fired someone.” He pulled at his earlobe as he thought. “Georgia has been with me for three years as an agent, she was assistant to Fred Granger for seven years before that.”

‟Why not call Fred and talk with him about being your agent.”

‟That’d be a long distance call.” Tom gave a wistful smile. ‟He passed away a few years ago. That’s how Georgia got my account. Originally, she called me her “minimal account” and rarely took my calls. She wanted little to do with me and getting events scheduled was difficult at best.”

‟Then the first of the children’s books were finally published at a startup Aussie book publisher and put in limited circulation in the south. They didn’t sell well in the first few months. Then Christmas hit.” Tom chuckled with the memory of it. “Someone’s grandmother or dad or maybe even a child picked one up in Melbourne and after that they vanished off shelves like bread-crumbs to ducks.”

“It was a good Christmas right at that point. The stats began to pick up before Thanksgiving.” He smiled.

“A second printing went forward and it sold out in less than a week. I had the second book written and it sat in Georgia’s email for so long that the system purged the email. I had to send a second file and she said she never got it. I found it in her junk file folder when I helped her with a few files.” Tom smiled wryly. ‟I’m kind of adept at computer networks.”

‟She had me listed as junk and spam until the first check arrived with more than two figures on it.” Tom stroked Kaylee ’s hand as he walked her through his memories. “The first few checks were less than a c-note. The next? I think it was around two-grand, then she said I got lucky and not to get used to it.”

“But,” Tom laughed out loud. “The next book sold out again, same with the fourth and fifth. I suggested that we make a set, she resisted and I insisted.” Tom’s confession to the relationship was one of strain. ‟The sales were geometric, I expanded my scope of subjects — against her advice — and Steamland the movie is one of that results.”

“One subject I like to write about is steampunk. The other is the children’s books. So, it is time for her to depart,” Tom had a look of a beaten dog who had just been freed. “I didn’t realize I was so far under her control. I’ve assumed it was a kind of partnership and I was just one of many clients.”

‟Honey, you might be only one of a group, but she is the one that got you to this point. Good or bad.” Kaylee stroked a stray hair out of his face. ‟The reason I reacted, I didn’t know book agents got paid so well. I mean, she spends a few minutes a day on your business and you pay her thousands.”

“Well, she takes her cut, then pays me. She cashes the check.”

Kaylee thought a minute with her mouth hanging open. 

“No, that is so not a good idea. She gets a check, cashes it and then pays you?‟ She tried to process this upside down information. “AND! If you sold more stories? She could make millions from you by only a few minutes work per day and you’d never know it. Who is to say she is not skimming more than she’s allowed? I’m saying she could be ripping you off.”

‟I don’t think that it works like that.”

‟Maybe not, business is not my major. Art is. But I can balance a checkbook. You should have a cap on the commission you pay, in my opinion.”

‟Like keep it below ten-percent?”

‟Like keep it to a flat fee. If an agent makes a quarter-million dollars a year from you, you could be their only client, exclusively.”

‟Well,” Tom slipped back into thought. “That’s all well and good, but honestly. You don’t know the business.”

‟No, I don’t.” Kaylee admitted with grumble under her breath. *That irritates me for him, and I’m irritated at him, too! He is paying out a huge amount of money and he is okay with it.* ‟Do you know how the business works?”

‟Not really. I have had a tax accountant handle that. Two years ago he suggested change agents or renegotiate the contract, anyway.” Tom said and shook his head. ‟That means I have to hire a lawyer or some such and I am not sure I want to deal with those people after my last run-in with them.”

‟I think you should call someone from all the friends you have made. Doctor Manga might even know a few good experts.” Kaylee the wife said in a thoughtful tone.

Tom pondered a moment as Lettie piloted the limo through the Bay Area traffic.

‟Lettie is driving, she owns the limo business here in the state.” Tom said. “Sometimes I talk to her, she has a lot of friends in Los Angeles that are attorneys. She has an uncle who is a judge in Sacramento.”

‟I have talked with Lettie, she has wisdom.” Kaylee smiled.

‟She has learned a lot from her contacts.” Tom nodded. ‟She was one of those that said it was time to change from Georgia a few months ago.”

‟She’s right.” Kaylee stroked his arm. ‟Tom, you can get like an advance before you finish. I have heard of that.”

‟Well, I figure it would come in time. It is not free money, it comes out of the back-end of royalties.”

‟Well, that comes to a lawyer then.” Kaylee nodded.

‟Right.” Tom nodded as they pulled into the parking area of the hanger. ‟Oh, it looks like they have finished working on the Dragon.”

“I had to ask someone to clean up where you got cut, honey.” Kaylee said. The term of endearment coming out without her meaning to say it. “You left quite a mess, it had all dried and turned black and glass. No one had gotten the idea to clean up where you bled. You lost a lot of blood.”

“Yikes, that had to be nasty, good idea for getting that clean-up ordered.”

Another limousine sat parked near the Sea Dragon, the tall Hawai’an Kaikane stood there with his arms crossed, waiting for them to arrive.

“I called ahead to help us get Tom settled in.” Lettie smiled. “Kaikane can help Tom get up the steps and into the plane, the more bodies to help, the better.”

“I can walk.” Tom protested weakly.

“She’s right.” Kaylee poked at her husband. “Right now, I bet my grandmother could push you down.”

“She’s right. You are in need of help this time, Tom. Just go with it.” Lettie nodded, standing by her sister of soul and spirit.

Tom was a little woozy still, getting out of limo and moved unsteadily to the jet with Kaikane helping Tom walk. For the first time, Kaylee noticed that Kaikane’s hands. Long fingers and finely boned like a musicians, but exerting a grip on Tom’s shoulders, he was not about to let Tom fall to the ground.

Sitting Tom at his desk, on the arm-rest of the seat, Kaikane let Tom lay his arm gently on the padded support.

‟Brudda, this works for you? You let me know what you need. You have done me well, and I always take care of ohana.”

From the door, Lettie leaned in and smiled.

‟Is this the spot where you got hurt?” Lettie asked, Kaylee nodding.

“It was hideous, there was blood caked on the floor and broken glass everywhere.” Kaylee pointed out the new flooring and carpet was.

“Well, at least he is home where he belongs.” Lettie nodded.

“He can get some work done.” Kaikane agreed. “Mister Tom, you are keeping my little sister eight-years-old at home in Kōloa, is excited with all the books. She tells me to call you ohana and if you come to the islands you must stop by for meals. So keep on writing, you have one fan that would miss it if you stopped.”

Tom grimaced as he tried to wiggle fingers.

‟No matter what, the fingers hurt and it will be a challenge to write.” Tom groaned.

‟I have access to voice to text, if you like.” Lettie said. ‟I used to date the coder for that program. He is still sweet on me, I bet I can get you his latest code.”

‟Maybe, I don’t work like that. I get lost in the sound of my voice, I like to pause my fingers. Even backspace is my best friend and gives me time to review what I was writing.” Tom smiled. “I sound like an idiot when dictating.”

‟I can type for you anytime, Brah. I have to type my papers all the time.” Kaikane said. ‟Plus you have your lady here to help you.”

Kaylee laughed.

*For a loner who traveled so much in his jet to avoid people, he draws a lot of attention from friends that will do things for him.* Kaylee laughed. *It is hard to think that Tom thinks of himself as unfriendly with so many friends that would go out of their way to help him out.*

Kaikane and Lettie bid their farewells, her black limousine followed by Kaikane’s blue limousine disappeared out the big doors of the hangar.

Kaylee closed the door of the big plane and sat down. Alone for the first time in weeks with the sparkling green-eyes that occupied such a large chunk of her summer.

‟Tom, do you want any pain-medication now? The discharge instructions read that you should take them as needed, but no more than every four-hours.”

‟No,” He sounded tired. ‟I’m okay for now. Just glad being home. But, you know what I would like? PIZZA!”

Kaylee laughed.

*They say hospital food was never as good as the real world. But this stay,* she noted, *The hospital food was not just good, but great. Chef-restaurant great. And then he goes and orders pizza for the entire floor, eight nurses stations, eight pizza’s each. I do not feel like arguing with him about his food choices. And now Tom wants a pizza, again. A San Francisco pizza from the Italian district.*

She started looking up pizza on her phone.

After she ordered the pizza delivery, Kaylee hung up the phone and turned, looking him in the eye.

‟Tom, I have to talk to you.”

‟Uh-oh. That sounds like THE TALK.”

‟Yeah. I guess I can talk about it now.” She sat and held his good hand, taking a deep breath.

She began to talk to her husband about annulment papers.

Married by Mistake Chapter 28. Early Release

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Chapter 28. Early Release

Back at the hospital, Kaikane opened the door for Kaylee , she talked with him one more minute before returning to her life, he gave her the breakdown of the famous Hawai’ian word that is commonly used.

“Ha is spirit, of breath and life. It is the divine breath that allows us all to seek our center. So, aloha Barb. Malama pono- take good care of yourself.” Kaikane smiled. “And you take care of Tom, he will take good care of you.”

A hug from the hot Hawaiian and she entered through the automatic doors and signed in as security Lt. Honey Stevens waved at her and buzzed Kaylee through.

The ride up the elevator was uneventful, rounds were over and the medical professionals, a few with MD on name tags some with RN, one with “Phlebotomist II”, color-coded tubes, tape and small square gauze pads filled the small, wheeled cart that he pushed.

She arrived at the floor where ICU housed Tom. Kaylee stepped out of the elevator, her mind on Kaikane’s words.

‟Passion of the heart, it is rare. It is like a wave on the water, sometimes you must hang-ten to keep on it. If you fall off, you get wiped out.” He smiled, saying the words of wisdom of his peers. “You have to wait and measure each one to find the perfect match to you, then ride the best one you can.”

She puzzled over that, in a way she kind of understood. It might make more sense to a surfer when she saw a group at the nurses station.

As she walked by, Kaylee caught snippets of conversation that included Tom’s name.

‟We want the story, who is this mystery woman who Thomas Harte was with? Did she cut him? Was it her?”

She pushed her way through and met Tom, finding him as he sat in a wheelchair with flowers and cards piled on top of him.

‟Why hello! They are discharging me! I’m out.” Tom looked cheerful.”I’m going home.”

Kaylee smiled wider than she had in days. It was a night…

*Ugh! This night is about be even worse, I have to tell him that I signed and mailed off the papers.*

Then Georgia stepped out from behind the door with more of Tom’s get-well cards in her hand.

‟Ah, Kaylee. I thought you might have left and went home.” She glared at Kaylee . ‟Business keeps going, but you would not be aware of that. You cannot even balance your own books, it seems. You were two-months behind on rent before you met Tom, failing a class and you couldn’t even finish the finals. I would venture a guess that you didn’t even have a job or a prospect for one when you met Tom.”

‟Now wait a minute. You dare…”

Georgia’s face split into a malicious smile.

‟Did you or did you not have yourself in a compromising position, nude with a professor? How many times has this gone on before you blew the whistle?” Georgia pressed the point harder when Kaylee’s shocked look told volumes. Her money well spent on the P.I. ‟I wonder if the professor will make his case for entrapment. Probably so. Then he will sue because he will never work in education again because of you.”

‟Georgia.” It was Tom as he rolled back towards them in the wheelchair, pushed by a nurse. ‟Is there a problem?”

‟No problem.” Georgia answered. ‟Just some girl talk. About gold in the area and the women prospectors that dig for it.”

‟Okay,” Tom missed the reference. “Well, there is a lot of stories around this area.” Tom nodded and smiled, oblivious to the shocked look that Kaylee had on her face.

The trio, plus nurse pushing the wheelchair, moved towards the elevators that Kaylee had just exited a few moments before.

‟Georgia, I have the next edition you need. We still have a week to edit it anyway, the adventure is a bit longer than previous. Nearly doubled the word-count. I am quite pleased with it, Kaylee here has helped by being my muse.” Tom smiled and kissed Kaylee’s hand.

‟Tom.” Georgia said softly. ‟We need to keep you on a regular schedule. The book signing I had set up for you had gotten postponed because of this little side-track into the hospital. You need to get back into the swing of things. I am sure your wife here would be interested in you continuing your career and keep an income to supply her with the attentions you have given her.”

Kaylee was at the brink of breaking, the thought of painting this woman as spider in her next work art . Georgia was certainly creepy enough, the older woman pulled on threads to make Kaylee flinch.

Kaylee spoke up.

“I need to speak with Tom, alone and we are returning to the Sea Dragon to have time alone and talk about some important items.”

‟I need the manuscript, Mrs. Harte.”

‟Georgia, I have it sent to your email just now.” Tom said with no room for argument. ‟This is why I have put this on the database so I can get access to it with my tablet.” He said holding the flat glass and plastic collection of electronics that bore a strong resemblance to a large mobile-phone.

‟With this, I have played a game called ‟Ingress” from my room.” Tom said with a laugh. “On the way home, drive slow, I want to do some gaming along the way.”

Kaylee and Georgia looked at each other for a moment, the animosity between them momentarily forgotten as the collective shrug between the women joined the rolling of the eyes.

*Boys and toys.* Made Kaylee smile inside. *It is nice to know that some parts of life never change.*

Then Kaylee became interested in the stories he described the city. He used it as a reason to walk the City by the Bay.

“You have the look of someone who has important news to talk about.”

She poured out her heart to him in a gush, at first, she was ready to get angry at him. She was sure that Tom would be defensive, even if she did what he told her to.

It he sounded as if he found a way in his heart to still be friends with her, even after she told him that she signed the papers and sent them off to the courts in Nevada.

They would be together at least one more night together before Georgia the Agent got her wish to have Kaylee out of Tom’s life and be his wife no more.

Tom told Kaylee the wicked witch of the children’s books had her investigated.

*Investigated!* She shook her head, trying to remember if she saw any kind of cloak and dagger person around her.

“Really, Georgia did this?” Forced out of her shock and asked the unbelievable.

Startled out of her world of indecision, sex and growing affection for Tom, with the words of Georgia insinuated that the only reason Kaylee married him was only for his money.

*Could it be true?* She doubted herself.

Could she have only stayed with him because of the glorious life that he lavished on her?

She didn’t care about what could have been, she was going home to Glenn.

Tom was awesome, but he was not what she had planned.

She was lost for a few minutes in her deepest thoughts. When she came to the here and now, Tom’s voice cut through her emotional storm with his own irritated voice.

‟… So we went for a day flight in the Sea Dragon. So, Georgia, she is not digging for gold. I made first contact, you can call off your investigation, I know more about her than you think.” Tom finished as Kaylee came back from an inward look on her own heart.

‟Tom, she is distracting you from your work.” Georgia said as she followed Tom and the nurse out the door of the elevator. ‟No offense Miss Grant, but Tom, there is no way you could be writing with her walking around naked in your winged-yacht.

‟I don’t walk around naked on his, whatever you called it.” Kaylee growled. Her right fist clenching, she could punch the woman in the sternum so hard she could separate it from the cartilage that attached it to her ribs. It would crackle and pop for the rest of her life, even after it healed.

*Control!* She had control.

‟Do you really want to go there, Miss Grant?”

‟Georgia, it is Missus. She is my wife.”

This made Kaylee cringe. She had signed the papers, Tom should have known that would have happened when she left last night. He gave her step-by-step directions on what to do.

‟Tom, you prove to me that you can write with her doing who-knows-what when you are alone for what reasons…”

‟Hello, I’m right here.” Kaylee looked at the agent.

‟She only knows.” Georgia shot a look at Kaylee . ‟You stay out of this. You are the cause for all this.”

‟Georgia, I have sold a few hundred-million dollars worth of books…”

‟One hundred-ninety eight million last year, after expenses.”

‟Yeah, and you get fifteen-percent of that.”

‟Whoa!” Kaylee ‘s eyes boggled. ‟Fifteen PERCENT? Of almost two-hundred million dollars in a year? Almost three-hundred thousand dollars for one client?”

Turning to Georgia, no longer looking belittled and beat down. She was now convinced where Georgia stood.

‟You called ME a gold-digger? And you suck over a quarter-million dollars a year just from Tom?” Kaylee was angry, verging on fury. Her knuckles were white, her fists were hard a stone. ‟You… You… hypocrite!”

‟Kaylee , just a moment.” Tom said. ‟Please let me finish.”

‟Georgia, you have been with me for a decade. Each year has been better than the last, but for as long as we have been together, you have been always pushing. You have chased off nearly every woman I have tried to start a relationship with, only Kaylee has remained. But you force me to choose, now. We must seek our separate lives from now on.”

‟You… I am fired?”

‟That is a bit harsh, but accurate.” Tom nodded. ‟It’s just time we parted, I hope amicably.”

“Tom…” but it was over.

Thomas Harte fired her.

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…”

The Failed Getaway

Hypnos the cat gives a command
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The Failed Getaway

A short story by Dash McCallen

Bodies had piled up around his farm. Malam Plando’s farm was a garden of horrors anywhere the police dug into the ground.

In the end, charged with sixty-two separate counts of murder, it was common thought he had a list longer than the investigators discovered.

His trial lasted over a year.

The Verdict?

Guilty.

Sentence?

Death.

In the six-months after his conviction and his move to Death Row, his turn came. Few people who the courts convicted in recent decades, executions happened quickly. Three appeals, expedited to last no more than two months.

He, it was his name and he was about to scream it out loud in laughter.

Inmate number 1854X-195S5-1-31E walked with confidence to the execution chamber. In a glass-walled room with blinds obscuring the view to the chamber beyond, the guards assigned to his restraint, wordlessly strapped him to a padded, vertical board.

With some effort they rotated him and the board so that he was in a supine position.

*Taking the last bit of dignity I have*

He shook his head.

*Idiots. They don’t even know what is coming.*

Two days before, his wife paid a visit to him for one last “Conjugal” visit.

His brother passed on to him in a video stored in her phone.

“Courage brother! When they think they come for you, we have an answer.”

He laughed.

*The left strap is already loose, it won’t be hard get the arm out.*

A chill from the sterile swab then the sharp sting when the technician stuck the IV catheter in the antecubetal space of his left arm.

Dark humor. They were thinking he was going to die, why did they use a sterile technique?

“Do you have any last words?” A disembodied voice sounded and the blinds opened, revealing a crowd sitting in the gallery.

“Yeah. I’m a little thirsty. When you get the call, I want my water with light ice.”

The sound clicked off and for a moment, the room was quiet except for the sound of his cardiac monitor. An old style display that gave off a mosquito-like whine that he could hear.

He could see a different color fluid creep down towards his arm.

They already began the execution and the clock…

It ticked past the time, they were late! His rescue was not coming!

Then the lights went out, only the setting sun slanted through the high windows in the chamber.

Malam opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The tubing in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then Malam blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the strap when the techs and guards fled during the blackout.

*Cowards.*

*But I have not heard any alarms. Some of the drug ran into my arm put me to sleep for a little while.*

Malam grinned.

*People thought I died when the power went out.*

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families as he stalked the hallway down to where the body-hauler would park.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in, it was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

*There must have been a hell of a scare to evacuate the other inmates.*

And the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, Malam walked free, laughing at the power outage orchestrated by his family and caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

*Screw them all! I’m free, next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. I’ll break into the home and put his head.*

Malam looked around and frowned, someone might see him cut across the field towards town, but the power was out and the sun set. Darkness was coming and dark thoughts on his first in town grew in his mind.

Malam smiled, it would be full dark before he got through the open area and to the city park to his cache where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope and energy bars.

*The drugs would have expired, I can’t use them on my clients, it might kill them.*

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He was covered in blood.

“Gawd Dayuam! Dey’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He sqautted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made a mist. Malam could smell the blood in the air and it excited him.

Malam struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Ostus.

His hands were stronger than he thought when he broke Ostus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look Ostus and his partner had when he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

Malam laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“Malam. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is Malam?”

“It means Evil. It is what my mother called me.” Malam shrugged and the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

Malam gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Blood stained their faces and soaked the dark uniforms in a slick that glistened in the dark with coagulated blood.

One officer chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

Frozen in their steps,  and the officers saw them and dropped the nightmare snacks and walked towards Malam and N’oi.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the huge convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen and made no other human sound.

Then N’oi looked at him with eyes that were all wrong, then reached out to Malam with hunger and a snarl.

Malam crushed N’oi’s head with the bat in a single swing and took off in a run. Leaving the cop-things to ponder over the body he left behind, Malam fled to the park.

He sat at the base of a tree he had marked long ago and dug with his hands.

*Those cops… I’ve never seen anyone do that before. That was crazy! Holy crap. Cannibals? Shit! Shit! Shit!*

And he could outrun them with the power of fear.

*That’s another thing that’s bat-shit crazy, cops can run and they do not give up. And… Where the hell is everyone?*

Roads were empty, not a single car to wave down. The town would be quiet at the late hour, but this was a total absense of driven vehicles.

Grimacing at the cold shirt that stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him shiver.

*I need a fresh change of clothes.*

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer evening with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

*No, first get the hell out of sight and raid the laundromat. No chance of blood on clothes.*

He slipped through the door, among the quiet machines in the dark of the community laundry.

Looking in through the clear windows into the machines, many held suds and water. A few were dry.

One opened when he pulled on the handle and he found two polo shirts and a hoodie sweatshirt.

As he dressed, he disposed of the bloody mess of a prison uniform shirt and found a pair of jeans that fit.

*A little tight, but they will loosen up some.*

He turned around, a person sat in the corner with their back to him.

He slipped out and looked at her in the light of the rising moon that filtered through the glass. He thought he recognized the heavy-set girl by tattoos of roses on her neck.

It was a memory, like a faded photograph from long ago. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while Malam tied a plastic bag over her head.

*No. Impossible, she is long dead. Part of my collection.*

Malam ran through the shadows of the street, heading to the middle of town. Shuffling people began to follow him. Some chewed on finger-food.

*They’re eating real fingers! The insane asylum must have had a break out!*

He almost screamed when he heard another scream nearby. A man’s voice pleading to anyone for help.

He ran around the corner away from the sound, looking over his shoulder and made sure no one followed him.

And into the middle of it.

*Damned echos!*

Bloodied, shredded. The burly man used the broken picket of a fence as a make-shift weapon.

*Damned good use of a stick!* Malam nodded.

The street fighter turned to throw a walking winged nightmare onto the steel pickets of an iron gate when he spotted Malam.

“Shot! gun! Get the Damned shotgun!” He pointed with the stick at the dropped weapon, surrounded by shells of ammunition.

A scream and he fell over a curb when he backed up from the force of the mob attack by the black bat-winged things.

Malam scooped up the scattergun and cleared the chamber, stuffed two shells into the receiver and turned the weapon to the mass of bodies where screams of battle filled the black sky.

“That all you got! Take this! AAAH! Bite me! Bite this!”

The shotgun bucked in Malam’s hands scattering bat-wings and black flesh while he racked in another round.

Second shot freed the big fighting man.

The tatters of his shirt were a uniform.

*Cop!?* Malam shook his head. *I saved a cop.*

The officer tried to take another step and looked down and screamed again, this time with the sound of a man who knew the unthinkable.

The left leg was denuded of flesh below the knee, two bones stuck out were the creatures chewed off his leg. The look of a man resigned, he was bleeding to death.

“Run!” He yelled at Malam. “Too late for me, get out of here.”

*Don’t tell me twice!* Malam ran with his pockets full of shotgun shells and the big pump-action weapon out in front of him.

His last view was some creature that looked like a cat out of someone’s nightmare on the cops head and chewed while the one-legged man fought like a whirlwind of fists.

Then one fist.

The last Malam saw as he turned the corner was a pile of wings where the cop had been.

*Now where the hell to go?*

The police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

*Yeah, right.*

Malam walked around the corner towards the center of town and watched a woman fall under the attack of a pack of skeletonized dogs.

*Okay. Police station, good choice. No one will check on me while this shit goes on!*

He turned and ran to the one place he swore he would never go back to.

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

*Locked? When the hell does a police station lock doors?*

A noise behind him! A group of creatures followed his movements on the steps.

In front of the group, he he recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

*No. Not possible.* He shook his head. *Damn, stop thinking and run! I have to run! What is happening with the world?*

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, Malam ran.

He could see more creatures, a cat with eight-legs coming out of the shadows looked at him and screamed his name!

No, not out of the shadows, out of the ground! It lifted up a manhole cover and crawled out of the sewers.

Panting and sweating like a horse. He stopped in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

*How the hell did I get here?* He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed! He counted the shells to the shotgun. *Twenty. Twenty shells plus six in the magazine and one in the pipe. Not enough. Son of a bitch.*

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse? He was on no one’s menu!

He forgot his shotgun, the mind of the murderer had only one thought.

*Run!*

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came towards him. He recognized them. People he cut up, ran over, burned.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

They were coming, sibilant sounds of horrors that crawled in the bushes, wheezes of these creatures that stumbled, shuffled, walked towards him.

*Fuck! I gotta to run!*

From behind, naked cats with eight-arms that ended in black hands and needle-sharp claws, screamed like the tortured victims of his shop, leapt and swung from trees and crawled like giant spiders over headstones.

Into the darkness Malam Plando ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead, creatures from nightmares he never had.

His mind broke while he ran with the screams that echoed long and loud in the long-dark night.

****

The execution chamber of the prison, unused for so long, no one could remember how seating was arranged. The sun slanting in blinded some, overheated the room and it was stuffy and awkward.

The witnesses watched the last breath of Malam Plando.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of a princess who he gave away to another princess at the two women’s wedding.

Turning and walking out. Yor Bas’chet got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled against my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherlock Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, Doc.” The Lieutenant nodded and made a notation on the notepad.

In the core of the world, Malam became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

*Fuck that! I gotta hide.*

Malam Plando continued to run.

Married by Mistake Chapter 22. Treatment Course

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Chapter 22. Treatment Course

Richard Tribbing, MD, Microsurgeon, specialist in the field that saved both Tom’s life, his professional life and his arm walked in with the team of doctors who all worked to answer their calling as microsurgeons while they made their afternoon rounds.

Looking at Kaylee , he smiled as he and the seven other doctors and fellows entered and filled the room.

Describing the injuries,commenting that the wound was ‟Large shard of glass left the wound clean as if a large scalpel had cut through the soft-tissues leaving the wound with no appreciable tearing or avulsion mid-shaft radius. The weight of the glass was sufficient to cut through the bone without deflection. There were eight-slivers of glass removed during the procedure. Imaging did not reveal any other glass in the arm.”

Kaylee sat and listened, twice she tried to leave as the surgical team made notes, questioned, and spoke in terms that sounded like Greek to her.

Doctor Tribbing chuckled when they spoke later and she referred to the conversations.

‟So how long do you think it will be before he comes home?” Kaylee asked. ‟We live on a flying yacht, there is not much room for putting a hospital bed in the plane, he told me last week he has a deadline to finish writing for.”

‟Well, he won’t be going home until the danger of… ” The Doctor paused and pulled at his chin. “How should I put this? If anything should go sideways against any of our plans to get him home and whole and functioning.”

‟How long?”

‟Depending on how his healing responds, probably two to three weeks, we have not had any problems thus far so maybe on the shorter side of that.”

‟Three weeks.” Kaylee said quietly, thanked Doctor Tribbing and sat next to the sleeping Tom and held his hand again while the Doctor left the room to continue his business.

‟Kaylee ?” It was Randy the nurse at the door. ‟There is someone who wants to see you in the waiting room.”

‟Me? Okay.” This puzzled her as no one of her friends or family knew she was at the hospital with Tom.

Kaylee walked out to the waiting room where sat a middle-aged woman with a quick eye who sat ramrod straight. She was the only one in the room.

‟I am Kaylee .”

‟You? You are Tom’s new wife?” She looked down and bit her lip in a grimace. ‟I am Georgia Hershey, Tom’s agent. I am the one that gets him published and I have been with him for the last decade. I don’t know you.”

She looked as if someone had spit on her.

“How did a young… lady… as yourself marry to Tom? That is so classic. How did you meet?” It was a near accusation tone of voice, followed with a sigh. “No no..never mind. I am here to check on him, there is an installment on the series due on the Weedy Sea Dragon, but you won’t know about that I’m sure. But I will ask anyway. Do you know if he has finished it?”

‟First, I am Tom’s wife. Second, I have heard about you and how you have pushed him to write, I’m not sure of his view of you gnawing on him to get things done.” Kaylee felt something inside of her, an anger that she last felt when she broke a man’s arm. “He has told me that you said it was due at the end of the month, but the contract I’ve read specifies no such deadline. It reads simply ‟As finished.” And third, he has one completed in the last month, I have read it and it is complete but unedited. It will get to you when it he finishes the edit.”

‟And I know that Leonard the Leafy SeaDragon is a series, your attempt to misdirect me is offensive.” Kaylee kept even voice, hiding her mounting rage.

‟I would like to see him.” Ms. Hershey said, matching Kaylee ’s tone.

‟The answer is no. He needs rest, he will contact you when he is ready and not before. He has endured a horrid injury and still might lose his arm. His access is limited while he is on polypharmecutical therapy and external fixation to hold the bones in the normal anatomic positions. ” Kaylee had to clench her fist on her drawing hand until the knuckles cracked. She chose her words with care to show the woman that she was not a simple girl. “You go back to your office, and tell the truth to who ever needs to hear it, Tom has been injured and is now with family in the intensive care department of the finest institution that can be found.” Kaylee felt heat building in her chest. “So you go back to your office or whatever crack you crawled out of and he will send it in.”

‟Well.” Ms. Hershey backed up a step. ‟Tell him to call when it is convenient, but please make it soon.”

The agent walked out amid scattered applause.

An RN smiled at Kaylee as she walked past.

‟That was awesome, she called when you and Tom were asleep, then came in and was treating us like trash. It was good to see her taken down a few notches.” The name badge said ‟Trish” on it. ‟She demanded entry. Then she told us she was Tom’s closest thing to family.” Trish frowned with the memory of the event. “We told her that security would escort her out.”

‟We got married earlier this month. Kind of a surprise for both of us.”

‟What does he write? You said something about a dragon?”

‟That’s a children’s book, he has written stories that have made it to the movies. ‟ Kaylee took a deep breath, she was suddenly cold, not realizing she had started to perspire during the confrontation. ‟His movie, Steamland that is in the theaters now.”

‟Oh? Oh WOW! I have seen that twice! It is a great movie, he wrote that?” Trish’s eyes widened.

‟Yup, he’s the author.”

‟Missus Harte, anything you need. No one will get in without your say-so.” Randy said from the door as he let both women in. Kaylee felt a bit like royalty after that. The young woman with an iron will who took no crap from anyone.

Kaylee smiled, returning to Tom’s side feeling accomplished. She had done something that she felt was worthy of the title of “Mrs. Tom”.

Married by Mistake Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

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Chapter 17. Tom’s Thumb

Finals over, Doctor Manga and his staff looked at the image she created from a blank canvas, talked to her at length in the middle of a classroom of other students who needed make-up testing. The written sections were long, but she knew every answer.

Four hours later, she was back at the Wizard, a great weight off her soul while she traced her fingers over the computer and built-in phone charger that Tom would put his mobile phone in and then forget where he put the electronic equipment.

Kaylee sat on the sofa and pondered, her mind she thought would be clear with the finals test over. Was as conflicted as anyone ever could be.

*Ugh. One one hand, he was the most wonderful person I have ever met, all that history on the net even stands up for him.* She rubbed her forehead. *But he is not Glenn, and I have a life to live on my own.*

“Ugh!” The scream and clenched fists,  and she felt no better.

She gave herself a five-minute cry and a few minutes to recover. After she caught her breath, Kaylee walked to her car to drive to the bar and ask if she could get her job back. She hated to go in and beg with her bottom lip poked out and her hat in hand. If that would not work, she knew that another pub down the street that had just opened, only they had already staffed up their positions. It would be difficult to talk her way into the next pub if they had no open positions.

But in the next few minutes, all the plans of job-hunting would soon be forgotten.

The moment she walked out of the metal hanger, her cell phone started ringing. The number was the same one on the business card that Lettie, the owner and driver of the limousine that had taken her to the Stockton airport had given her.

“Hello?”

“Hello, this is Lettie Nesmith, I’m calling for Kaylee .”

“Hi Lettie! This is Kaylee .”

“Kaylee! Hey! Listen, Tom’s been hurt. They took him to the hospital about six-hours ago. Rumor has it that he hurt his hand and they are talking about flying him to San Francisco in a helicopter.”

“Ohmygod” Kaylee said it as if it was a single word. “What happened?”

“My cousin says he hurt his hand. They are sending him to a hospital in San Francisco that specializes in sewing on hands and stuff.”

“Sewing on … His hand? What happened.”

“I don’t know, but no one called you?”

“No, but I have not been getting service. I was in the plane that is inside the hangar.”

“Okay, anyway. You should charter a flight back to Sacramento.” Lettie sounded stressed. ”The sooner the better.”

“I don’t know how to do that.” Kaylee said.

Kaylee could hear papers get shuffled on the other end.

“Okay, don’t worry about it, I will take care of the details. Did you say he had given you a charge card?”

“Oh! Yes! But how do I…”

“Kaylee, I’ll find somebody to call you. I know who Tom deals with when he’s not flying his own planes.”

“I don’t know, I was kind of bitchy to him when I spoke to him last time.”

“It’s up to you. But I saw how you act when you talk about him. Your husband is hurt, it might be serious, and you will to kick yourself later.” Lettie’s voice was like another sister giving support. “I have a driver that is available.”

“Okay. Tell him my number, I’m at the South Harbor Airport.”

“He will pick you up right away, he’s at that same airport.”

She looked out over the tarmac towards the executive jet airlines and started walking to the office.

“Excuse me, miss. But you cannot walk here, are you lost?” It was an airport security officer driving up in an electric cart.

“I’m leaving on a plane, I just left the Pacific Wizard and I received a call to meet a chartered plane here. I’m running over to the office now.”

“Sorry, still, you not allowed to walk here. Walk around on the marked walkway.” He pointed to red, blue, green and yellow painted lines on the ground. “Follow the green line and it will take you to the executive charter lobby.”

“Can I ride with you over there?”

“No ma’am.” He said as he drove off, an alarm sounded on his radio of unauthorized access of the grounds by a car on the far side of the terminals.

Grumbling at how it was that the rules forced her to walk around when she was only had a hundred feet or so in a straight line. It would mean heading in the opposite direction and around.

Looking over her shoulder as she headed out to the walkway gate, the security car sped off after the car trying to enter a clearly marked “Do not enter” area.

She paused for a heartbeat, watching the golf cart race off at the top speed of a fast walk for a few minutes. The guard never looked back.

She took two, then four tentative steps to follow the painted line. Then turned and ran in the straight line to the executive charter office as fast as she could.

* This is an emergency, I can’t stop.*

She skidded to a stop at the back door of the charter office and quickly composed herself.

She put her hand on the door, took a breath and walked in as if she had not just broke the rules.

Married by Mistake Chapter16. Week Three

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Chapter 16. Week Three

She sat in the morning, alone on her balcony, Melanie had left with her visiting boyfriend and went to a theme park. Sipping the tea of MariMint, a recipe of her own mixing of spearmint and marijuana teas.

*Twenty-one days! Sheesh, it has been three weeks since I woke up with this ring on my finger, happy, hung over. Only twenty days and it seems like a lifetime ago.*

She laughed at the memory while looking at her ring.

*A wonderful lifetime ago.*

Still, all had not been without problems, not that the start was smooth as satin sheets, either.

The last week Tom had spent in northern California supervising the repairs on the crash-landed Dragon. He asked her to come back up north, while they towed the plane out into a larger channel, where they could pull the flying boat up on land and disassemble its wings and put the body of the plane on a truck and move it to a hanger for repairs at an airport.

Yeah… No. Tom told her to stay on the Pacific Wizard at the Bay, that she would be bored to watch the process and be reminded of the near disaster that was their date of wine tasting.

*That plane was an accident and no one tells me what I must do. I choose my destiny. He needs a partner if any part of the computer files are true.*

She did not ask him if she could come be with him, that would be a waste of effort.  She had studies left to finish and needed to meet with Professor Manga to assure her grades were intact.

*I will not let the last two years of classes be flushed down the toilet.* She gritted her teeth. *I know more than enough to pass this years classes.*

She stopped being angry at him and had began to miss Tom’s quick wit and the curve of his shoulders where she rested her hand on him at night, when she slept.

Shaking her head, she brought herself out of those thoughts of a life with Tom that danced in her head.

*I will spend my life with Glenn.* She reminded herself, *I head home in a few weeks and we’re was cutting it close with the annulment from this drunken, Las Vegas fiasco.*

*I wish Tom was an ass, just a truly hateful person.* She shook her head while she took another sip of her tea. *Not a hero who frightened the crap out of me while avoiding a crash of the plane and made me angry. I should not have blamed him, it was an accident.*

She gave a heavy sigh. *I’m not angry over what he did, he saved our lives with that heroic effort that has my deep respect.* She began to adore this man.

*His life was a tapestry that I could paint and muse with for years.* She could feel the urge to draw and paint. He was such a large point in her life that he gave her inspiration to draw.

Kaylee sighed. *It’s not fair. I should charge Tom with taking advantage of me while I was wasted. But I thought I knew what I was doing that night. Besides, I love all that Tom has done, even saving us.*

*Love? Oh, Crap.* She began to cry again. She would be out of the mess of it all if she just walked away.

*If I did, me and Tom could date as normal people do and start over. Not this backwards, life-destroying maze of confusion.*

Except, Glenn. She needed to spend time with him and his beautiful eyes. Back to the life that she had dreamed of as a girl in grade school, that life was the one she would live. She enjoyed being married to Tom, still, it was not the life she planned.

What was she thinking? It weighed her down, heavy in the feeling, and still, although it was a burden, it energized her imagination, it gave her wings in her heart. Tom’s bright soul illuminated hers with the urge to begin drawing.

Her fingers began drawing on a paper with a pencil, working feverishly, she decided she needed her sketchpad.

Dr. Manga! She knew she required a good performance in what ever test she would need to pass, even if he had all but promised her a passing grade. She knew her art history backwards and forwards. And yet? A charcoal sketch is always subjective grading.

*Unless I draw like a first year student with crayon, and cannot say the names of Victorian era art, the Headmaster will give it a hight grade.*

Coming out of her funk, Kaylee stood up to find her phone.

*I need to call Melanie.*

 

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.

Married by Mistake Chapter 13. Alone on a Jet Plane

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Chapter 13. Alone On A Jet Plane

Just as he promised, a limousine drove up the dirt road next to the canal, driven by a woman in her mid-twenty’s wearing a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s hat opened the rear door for her with a professional smile.

“Thank you, but I want to sit in front. I need some girl time.” Kaylee smiled. “You don’t mind?”

“Not at all ma’am. It’s not regular, but the insurance does not prohibit it.”

The ride was talkative with both women lamenting about men being overgrown boys and their wishing to show off.

Lettie, the driver, smiled softly after a long-winded complaint that they flew low over the wine country and hit a flock of birds. Kaylee shook her head and wept over one bird whose life ended smooshed all over the windscreen of the big jet.

“Well, it would have been a pretty view up until then.” Lettie smiled as she drove. “He didn’t do it on purpose. I would love to have a guy to show me the wine country from above. Plus, he put it down safely. Does he ever say he loves you?”

“Naw…” She answered, looking out the window. “It’s a long story. But I’m going home and smoke until I’m stoned out of my mind and wake up by the weekend. It’s been a crazy month.”

“Once in awhile,” Lettie softly laughed. “Crazy is what you need. It has been crazy in this limo from time to time. Occasionally, the crazier nights have been the most rewarding.”

“How crazy?“

“I have been paid to drive naked and pick up girls.”

“Oh my god! Did you do it?”

“No.” Lettie laughed loudly. “He tipped me anyway, we did pick up some girls at a club and they partied in the back.”

“And they partied hard, I found clothing for days after that.”

“Um, ew.” Kaylee laughed. “I’ll sit up front from now on.”

Lettie laughed louder as she wheeled the limo towards the Stockton Airport.

“You have not asked, but my suggestion Mrs. Tom, is to take a few breaths while you are back home without him. He’s slightly old world, but a great guy.” She smiled.

“You know him?”

“Yes, he has hired our company more than once.” Lettie said with a wide smile. “He is a regular customer. Pays in advance, I think he has a thousand hours paid for this year.”

“Does he ask for you?”

Lettie shook her head. “No, but there are only five drivers. Me, my sister and two cousins and a psych-major that goes to UCSF.”

“An all woman limo business?” Kaylee’s curiosity piqued for the moment.

“Yeah. We were all going to school in Sacramento and started driving friends around as designated drivers. We studied in the car while everyone else drank. One thing led to another, now we own a limo service.”

“How well do you do?”

“Pretty good. I own two Molinaxil Harley’s and an Indian now.”

“Two… what?”

“Motorcycles. I have one custom fitted to me, built by a custom shop in Ohio. Molinaxil Metal. He makes custom bikes and cars. His sheet metal work is something out of the movies. THEN! Oh my god, then! The guy who does the work? He used to be a dancer, he looks as hot as the machines he builds.” Lettie laughed like a kid at Christmas. “And oh, he is jaw-drop gorgeous.”

“A dancer?” Kaylee asked while looking out the window. She was a thousand-miles away.

Lettie pressed on, she promised herself to improve the mood of the young woman next to her.

“Yup, like Chippendale’s? Same kind of thing. A rocking body and eyes that you would dream of doing naughty things with.” Lettie smiled at that. “Like Mr. Harte. He’s handsome enough for a church girl think of things. Naughty things. Over and over.” She gave a lusty laughed.

“He’s an ass.” Kaylee said in a wistful voice.

“The plane was in the water in one piece. Lettie frowned. “What happened?”

“He was flying low and ran into a flock of birds.”

“Bird strikes are common around here. We are in a migratory path of so many types. I even hit one with a limo last year.” She shuddered with the memory of it. “It nearly came all the way through the windshield, blew in a hole like it was an artillery shell. Tom saved you both by setting the jet down in the deep water channel.”

“Maybe. But I’m still mad at him.” She shook her head. “He keeps making me mad at him.”

“You can upset about almost dying, that’s your right. I would be, too! Ah, here we are.”

Pulling up in front of the airport. It’s architecture from the mid-seventies was obvious, but it was well maintained and spacious. One professionally dressed security in plain clothes held a sign with her name on it.

Lettie opened the door for her and handed her a business card with a penned in phone number.

“If you need me for anything again, call. That is my private number on the back.” Lettie smiled. “Kaylee, you have a lot going now. Don’t let this change you mind about Tom. He is a treasure, he is a keeper.”

Kaylee hugged Lettie. It had only been a half-hour’s worth of talking but she felt as if she was old friends with the limo company owner.

Walking up to the man with the sign, she smiled.

“I’m Kaylee.”

“Excellent. Come with me, please.”

Passing through TSA Checkpoints, she had no luggage to speak of. Robert, as his name badge stated in gold lettering, was polite but non-talkative.

“Your flight is waiting for you, this way.” Robert said with a slight smile, but showed no other emotion. All business.

The next officer uniform was a dark-skinned woman who had even more of a ramrod straight spine.

“You are Kaylee Harte?” It was almost a statement and not a question. “I’m Captain Adanna Ogechi. I will be your pilot on the plane. We will be setting down in Harbor Bay Airport within an hour of departure.” Captain Ogechi motioned with her hand. “This way.”

All business like Robert and made no comment as they walked to the small business jet that was claustrophobic compared to Tom’s flying yacht. But then, she remembered, it was his home.

*Since after the second day, Tom has hardly written on his notepad.* She realized, *Since I’ve been with him.*

He was always in her business. His “rescue” of her being blackmailed into a compromising position and possibly sex with the professor who the police arrested later.

*I had it handled,* she fumed. *I would not have wrapped my legs around the art instructor, I would have gotten the upper hand on that situation, somehow.*

Still, she had no idea what she was going to do to extract herself from that mess. Between an epic-awful morning on that Friday, getting fired from the restaurant and pub where she slaved as a waitress and tended bar. The day just kept going from bad to worse until she met Tom.

Kaylee laughed at herself. Then life just took a left turn into a surreal universe as she reflected on the last week. The adventures in how his body and hers could merge.

*His hugs are like having a heart hold mine*

How they fit together and things she had never tried in a plane before. Hands on the controls, sleeping on top, diving off the wing.

AND!

Sleep on a boat was wonderful beyond words, even if the boat had wings. She did not even need to smoke any weed to get into a zen mood!

She had an eighth of a kilo of Killer Kai weed at the Wizard that she had not even touched. It was all that good.

Her thoughts drifted back to Glenn, who went to Mt. Mazama University.

*Not as far from home but it’s still an eighteen-hour drive from Ocean Bay, too much of a long-distance relationship. It is so far apart, even with current technology, and not date other people.* She remembered the conversation. *To expect either of us to not go out with other people is a setup for failure.*

A Poli-Sci major, he was honest in they both would make contacts.

*”It is unreasonable to assume we could be faithful to a promise, being so far apart.”* She remembered him saying. *If Glenn only knew how unreasonable I could take it.*

They were “steady” when they were home together, but not when at the remote colleges.

A sigh. *I hope that the papers and annulment will be final before I go home, because Glenn sent that email that he had something important to talk about.*

*Glenn might propose this year. He has been acting strange, like he has something to say and has a shy-bone stuck in his head.* She gave a big sigh, holding her face in her hands in the solitude in the back of the tiny jet. *This is so messed up! This should excite me, but it would only complicate our schoolastic careers. UGH! It will be more complicated if I am still married to Tom when I go home.*

This made her laugh again as the small jet shrieked down the runway then pulled in to a steep climb.

*Tom is a good man.* She was growing fond of him in many ways. *But he has achieved success while I am at the beginning of my art career. I’ll have a gallery in a couple of years.*

Still, his kisses. He was attentive and made her toes curl just to think about it. Her heart skipped and jumped in pleasant ways from his smiles to when he looked in her eyes.

*I wonder what children would be like with him.* She smiled for a moment. *He writes children stories and… OH!*

She surreptitiously had looked them up in her phone, even though the signs at the airport said to turn off all phones.

Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon had many adventures, most of the stories had an ecological slant to them, some dealt with right and wrong. Leonard’s friend Wendel “Weeds” The Weedy Sea Dragon was a constant companion and sometime hero as Leonard would get into predicaments that needed help.

Tom addressed things that kids would be worried about, bully issues were dealt with in one arc in the series of the little novellas. Scary things that shake the bushes in the night in another arc. Tom was a talented writer and made a living off of his books.

*He did say he was “comfortable”.* She smiled herself at the memory.

Then, she saw a reference online with her smart phone and clicked on the link.

She looked forward to the cockpit of the jet, the pilots had not looked back. No one to check on. She was the only one on board of the chartered flight.

She read the title about the tragedy of Tom’s life. His pregnant wife failed to beat a train at a crossing and died in the accident, there were no other children in the family. After that, he began to write prolifically.

Other searches turned up tabloid comments about that Tom was gay and had his wife murdered.

Another read that she killed herself on purpose since she was gay and was going to leave him, then found she was pregnant.

Many speculations that he no longer dated women. Paparazzi had a difficult time keeping up with him and his flying boat that they had come to call the “Flying Wicked Wizard of Solitude” out of spite.

Images of his plane leaving when they would try to chase him after the accident in speedboats. Super long-range lenses used to image the Pacific Wizard as it floated in lakes or the ocean were all in the trash websites.

Then another picture, taken from shore of two people on top of the Pacific Wizard, one was obviously him and another of a raven haired woman who was impossible to recognize. They were between the engines and, with no obvious clothing.

But Kaylee recognized the mystery woman! It was her! Kaylee knew it by the large sunglasses she wore. It was their first day after getting married by accident in Las Vegas.

The image was grainy and blurred from such a long distance and the rocking motion of the plane.

Another website claimed the unknown woman was a victim “Kidnapped by Alien Author” as the trash tabloid alluded that Tom was now a non-human from space. Possibly a vampire.

She laughed at that. *Well, he does have sharp teeth that he uses in nice ways when he presses his teeth against my neck and hums the song “Star Spangled Banner”.*

She rarely held out past the first stanza before laughing and then the spasms that went through her and she loved that. It still made her toes curl to think of it.

Still the picture of them on top of the plane was obvious they were together, the image taken more than a mile away. Shot from shore and they were not on the top of the plane for any length of time, so she felt that her identity was safe for the moment. No one bothered to chase them with any speedboats. They were old news and boring.

*Except for the bird strike. This is sure to make the papers.* Again she face-palmed.

*I need to call Tom and tell him to keep my face and name out of the news. Damn him! Mom ‘n’ Dad will be sure to find out. Gramma G is a big reader of all those tabloids.*

She flipped through the listings of the conspiracy web-sites.

*Ever since Grampa Grant died, Gramma’s talked about aliens, time travel and immortal beings. She is sure that Grampa was with the aliens instead of the airliner that he was in that went down over the ocean.*

A memory, it did not seem that long ago, but it was over a decade. Not a single distress call from the airliner, it just went off the radar and wreckage was found floating in the water.

There were no survivors. Not even bodies in water that was more than ten-thousand feet deep.

Without a body to say good-bye to was the hardest thing for Gramma to bear as she descended into a fantasy that Grampa was still alive, somewhere.

“Missus Harte, we are landing now.” The Captain called back. “Seat belt on, please put away your phone.” This caused Kaylee to blush like a kid caught with a cookie. She had not asked if she could use it and on commercial airlines, the rules prohibited the use of laptops and phones.

The descent from luxury private jet to the mundane real world had begun and Kaylee was not entirely prepared for what was to come.

*I’m not prepared for anything.* She reminded herself with a heavy sigh.

Married By Mistake Chapter 10. After The Rescue

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Chapter 10. After The Rescue

 
After talking with the President of Ocean Bay University and the police, giving her statement, Tom walked with Kaylee down the open air hall of the college.

“How did you know where to find me?” Kaylee asked Tom after a long silence while they walked down the stairs of the college and towards her car. “There are more than ten art classrooms there.”

“We tried three rooms with Dr. Manga’s pass key before we found you. I was getting worried that you were in deep trouble, and you were.”

Kaylee wept and leaned against him as they stood by her car.

“I’m sorry. I…” She sobbed against his chest. “Sorry.”

“He was up there blaming you for entrapping him.” Tom frowned, free hand clenched into a fist. “I talked with Professor Manga while you talked with the police, and he has offered to test you on your finals if you would take them with a summer class next month. It will be in a group.”

“Oh wow.” Kaylee wiped her eyes on his chest and laughed tearfully. Wiping the wet spot on his shirt. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. That’s what I’m here for. I’m your personal snot-rag.” He said softly.

She laughed, his support made the pain of the situation so much less. Tom could be funny in the most quirky way.

“Thank you.”

“There he goes.” Tom nodded towards the two police cruisers pulled away with now ex-Professor in the back seat.

President Manga walked towards them from the steps of the University.

“AH! Good, you have not yet left. Kaylee , in light of the events today and review of your record, I’m passing you on your final exam with a one hundred percent. Further, you will not need to deal with that cretin directly. You might be called upon as a witness, but you are not the one filing a complaint. That would be my office and my signature. Tom is a witness to his criminal misconduct as are you. He attempted to entrap you in his little game.” A volcanic anger seemed to radiate from his eyes. ”It seems that there is more to this as well. He had video cameras in there from several angles. A search of his office showed a number of computer memory sticks with other women he had done this to.”

“I’m not the only one?” Kaylee asked, the thought of being in a personal library of porn took her by surprise.

“There could be hundreds. He was here for years, a tenured professor. The police will be investigating, and Tom,“ President Manga looked away from Kaylee . “I hope this does not affect our business together.”

“Of course not, my friend.” Tom said as they shook hands. “In fact, you are the hero of the hour. If we had not stopped our meeting to check on this, who knows what might have happened to her. But she is safe now.”

“Most excellent, I will leave you then and you can take her home.” Turning to Kaylee he spoke softly with his basso-profundo voice. “Missus Harte, you have an honorable husband and a good man here. Congratulations on the marriage.”

“Thank you Professor.” She said softly, her tension slowly leaving her. Still traumatized, she hung on to Tom.

“Let’s head home.” Tom said.

Riding in the car, Tom pushed a Bluetooth device in his ear and told the phone to call the local car rental, spoke with the person on the other end and made arrangements to pick the rental car up and then broke the connection.

Instead of driving to the harbor, Tom drove towards the airport.

They turned on a road and a guard let them through the gate to a private parking area of the airport. Tom pulled up to the yellow zone and turned off the car.

“Why did you move it?”

“More than a few days in the water, marine life begins to grow on the hull. So I need to bring it out and have the hull cleaned, I’ve seen that before on some float planes that have sat too long in the ocean. It makes the engines work harder to get us airborne and fuel consumption goes up. Besides, speaking of fuel, we need to fuel and reload with water. We have been using the fresh water like crazy, when I went to take a shower this morning and… nothing. We were empty of fresh water.”

“Wow. I didn’t think of that.”

“Neither did I. It’s a lifestyle. It is something that takes some getting to used to.” He said smiling as he got out of the car.

She was quiet for a few minutes while they embraced against her car, thoughts rolling around in her head, when she remembered one important issue.

“Tom. Have you gotten the papers?”

“Papers?”

“Annulment papers. We are having fun and all, but I have a life back home and a boyfriend that I’m quite sure he would not understand this.”

Tom gave a nod with a sigh.

“Yes. You said thirty days.”

“I know, but you followed me to the college. I can handle myself, there is no need for a stalking hero.”

“So it seems.” Tom said flatly, no longer smiling. “You were wearing nothing but a towel, he was standing naked on the stage and you were about to climb on a bed with video camera’s all around.”

Tom looked directly at her as they sat at the stoplight. “He was going to extort you into sex. You are tough, probably the toughest woman I know, you can break a man’s arm, give him knowledge bumps on his melon, but you could not fight that.” Tom frowned. “He had you over a barrel and, if you were alone, he would force you to comply. But you were never alone. Not after I made the promise.”

“I don’t need a hero, Tom.” He irritated her by thinking she needed some omnipresent protector. “I want to go home alone, you drive back to your plane. There’s a lot on my mind right now.”

“Why are you mad at me? I helped you, if the Professor and I did not arrive when we did, you’d have your legs wrapped around that… That… Monster because he would destroy your life if you didn’t.” Tom clenched his fists hard enough to her back that his knuckles cracked.

“Desperate people can do desperate deeds, and you had no wiggle room.” Tom tried to help with his words, but failing. “If you walked out, he could have denied everything and charged that you failed your test and were now retaliating. He would have wiped out your scholastic career. You might as well have quit your studies totally and applied at the local bar and serve whiskey and wine to horny students for the rest of your life.”

“So you are saying I would have prostituted myself for a grade?”

Tom gaped and went slack-jawed. Without intending, that was what he had said.

And it was the truth. Without a rescue, a helping hand, someone to blow a whistle, Professor Billings was going to extort her into sex. Then with the video camera’s around, the Professor would have had even more leverage on her.

*It could have gone on for months, maybe even years,* Her heart fell, Tom was right. *Using the pornographic home movies of me banging him to keep me quiet or worse.*

“I’m saying he was blackmailing you. The police already know of dozens of other women from the quick scan of the memory sticks that Dr. Manga and I found and gave to the police. The detectives took another hundred or more, it was a trunk load of full evidence bags from his office — All memory sticks. I have no idea what is on those.”

She finally asked the question that was burning in her mind when she slipped out of his arms and walked around the car to get in the driver’s seat.

“Do you think there are other videos of girls on them?”

“Yes, the few we saw were dozens of thumbnails of women having sex with him. Some files were time-stamped a decade ago.”

“Oh, damn!”

“Tell you what, “ Tom sighed. “Let’s not fight, instead let’s go north to some wine country. Let’s do some wine tasting in the north state. We’ll there in an hour, I’ll even give you a low pass over the vineyards and then spend the next few days there. It’ll be fun.”

“Tom. You can’t just smooth over this.” She thought a moment and relented. It was a romantic and exciting idea. “But okay, it sounds wonderful. But you are still in trouble for ignoring me when I said I’d go alone.”

“You went alone. I just had a meeting with someone from the school.”

“You mister Harte,” She raised her voice in mock irritation and put her finger on his chest, just over his heart. “Called him because you were jealous!”

“These meetings have gone on for two months. It is not my first time to break bread with Doctor Manga. You know that he is leaving as the Headmaster of the school next year. His contract runs out at the end of August and he has accepted a position at Cambridge University. I’m invited to speak at his installation.”

“Then you had no choice to mention I was there?”

“I just asked when all classes ended.”

“I’m not sure about that.” She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m still mad at you. Go home. I’ll come by later.”

“Call me before you do. I have some services to schedule. The Wizard is out of water and low on fuel, and I’ll hire a company to clean and repaint the hull. We will be taking the Fleeting Fantasy. She is the first one I bought when the first four books sold.”

“Where are you going to pay for, you said service and this…” Kaylee paused as Tom’s words sank in. “Wait… a second airplane?”

“Here at the airport. You will be able to come here if you like. I’ll leave word with the guard, your car will need a sticker. This is also where I rent my cars. Way easier than having the company pick me, or us, up at the dock.”

“Okay. When do we leave?”

“Well, it’s almost noon now. They’ll be done servicing it all by the time you’re back. So anytime you arrive, we can leave. Bring some comfortable shoes and clothing to wear at the wine tasting. You’ll be standing a lot.”

“Where are we going, precisely?”

“Lodi.”

“Low…who?”

“You’ll see.” Tom laughed softly.

Trying to kiss her, Kaylee turned her face.

“I’m still mad at you. I don’t know why, but I am.” She looked at Tom with tears in her eyes. “Your timing was perfect today. But I’m still mad at you.”

He watched her car disappear around the guard shack into the lunch hour traffic, he felt a familiar pain.

Tom gave a heavy sigh then turned and made his way towards the Pacific Wizard, walking across the tarmac he wished it would rain.

Walking in the rain, no one can tell when you cry.

Married by Mistake Chapter 4. After The Report, The Charthouse

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Chapter 4. After the Report,  The Charthouse

The uniformed police officers looked uncomfortable standing on the beach, surrounded by nude sunbathers that stood to watch at what the activity.

Professionalism had been given a major test as the officers called for an ambulance to transport the abused and arrested would-be rapist to the hospital. Pictures taken of Kaylee ‘s hands and her shin, where a bruise showed where she had smashed the culprit’s nose and cheekbone.

Wearing just her pants and shirt, no other injuries that she had claimed from the fight that she had taken to the assailant. She had almost killed him and her mood was nearly enough to carry it through. She would have beat on him more if he had arrived just a half-hour before he did, she would have given the detectives much more evidence to discover.

Evidence technicians took photographs of her and the sand, then left while the police interviewed her and her wingman, the man she had mentally named Note-Pad, who had come to her aid.

Detective Lynda Nesbitt, a twenty-year veteran of the force handed a business card to the victim-cum-victor in the crime while her male counterpart discovered a knife. The detective motioned to an Evidence Technician who photographed the discovered weapon, then picked up the knife in his gloved hands.

Detective Charley Galt placed the butcher knife in a manilla bag and tagged it with a sticker. To this, he wrote his name across the seal, then handed it to the evidence technician he called over.

“You may have stopped him from escalating to worse things. I suspect he’s involved with many of the attacks,” She said softly to Kaylee. “But we will let the evidence speak for itself.”

Detective Nesbitt, while she interviewed Kaylee, mentioned that there had been a rash of sexual assaults and the male being transported to the hospital had matched the description, down to the butcher knife used and that DNA would be collected and tested against the previous crimes.

Nearby, having pulled on swim trunks of his own, his interviews over and the sun red and low in the sky. The writer walked up to her, nodded and asked how she felt.

“This was an unusual day. I’m pleased you are unhurt.” He said with a chuckle. “That was a hell of a beating you gave him. Sitting naked on his chest and thumping on his melon is an image I won’t soon forget. There is a real story in that somewhere.”

He laughed softly.

“You are impressive.”

Note-Pad man chuckled, again.

“Would you let me buy you a drink?”

“No.” Kaylee laughed softly. “I don’t even know your name, you have seen me naked and now you ask me out for drinks? This is a bit awkward, don’t you think?”

“Uh, yeah. I suppose it is. Well. My name is Tom Harte.” His smiling green eyes sparkled like emeralds in the fading light of the day. “Well, anyway, I will head into town and I’ll have a few drinks the Chart House restaurant and bar for a while. When you’re finished here, I’ll buy you dinner if you like and you don’t need to sit with me.”

She laughed at this.

“I’m Kaylee Grant, nice recovery.” She nodded. “Still don’t hold your breath. But thank you.”

Watching him talk to the police detective briefly while she gathered up her possessions, putting them into the bag she had brought with her. His broad shoulders were more obvious from behind, his mild middle age spread had masked his nice build.

“Miss, may I take you anywhere?” The female detective was less influenced by standing around naked frisbee players on the beach than some of her male counterparts. “Do you have someone you can call?”

“No, I don’t need a ride. And I can call my sister, but I have no service here, I’ll need to walk to the showers.” Kaylee glanced at the phone display.

“You can borrow my phone, I have service here.” Detective Nesbitt said. She pulled an armored Android phone out of her pocket and handed it to the younger woman who impressed her with her focus and poise.

Kaylee thanked Detective Nesbitt then dialed her sister’s phone.

“Hi Melanie ?” At the sound of her sister’s voice Kaylee broke down in tears while she tried to explain what happened.

****

The Chart House, a four-star restaurant two-hundred paces from the high water mark from the beach. The bar was known for celebrity stop-ins and excellent food and drinks, both strong and virgin.

At the corner of the bar, where he took up more than his fair-share of room. He sat scribbling on an electronic notepad with a stylus.

Tom Harte, they called him Thunder Harte and the job he did often was writing. Fiction, a lot of fiction. Under the pen name of Sanne Footman, his stories were those of heart and love. He had gotten his start in romance novels with a touch of bodice-ripper styles and enjoyed that his stories were in demand.

The demographics taught that women were the largest group of readers and he flew in the face of tradition that men could not write romance novels.

But Tom was not one to follow convention, he never believed in the word, “Can’t”.

His passion now, was to manage to write stories for children and young adults. Often he also wrote about Steampunk stories under the name of Keegan O’Danu.

Now, there he had sat with his notepad out, writing down ideas that would be the next book.

His muse had gone silent for a few hours. Writing about sea shells, birds, on the beach earlier in the day. But none came to him in a coherent thoughts.

But this afternoon’s excitement where some beach patron, it had turned out, was a rapist. The attacker had picked on the single worst person, in the extreme, that he could have ever have chosen on the beach.

Unclothed, unarmed and cornered, she had pounded the knife wielding man into bloody submission. It was an impressive sight as he ran towards the sounds of the screaming of a girl to come to the woman’s aid.

Not that she needed it as it turned out. The screams he had heard were coming from the young man. The attacker was double her size, she was a petite woman, only a few inches over five-feet in height.

And still the assailant earned the pain of having his face broken along with his arm, breastbone and testicles.

And it was inspiring!

Tom Harte wrote, and wrote, and wrote. The woman had shocked him into writing swiftly. Between his satellite phone and the electronic notepad that he tapped on, he had filled in pages of notes from the words in his head.

Then a familiar voice sounded next to him.

“Is that drink still available?” Kaylee asked.

Startled, Harte turned around in his seat and there she was. Wearing a black dress and she had brushed her dark hair until it glistened in the light of the bar.

“Why, yes. What is your poison? “ He motioned to the bartender. “I believe you had said this was awkward? After the beach and all.”

“It is, but it has been that kind of day. I beat a bad guy into the sand, I vented out some frustrations.”

“You did that for sure!” he laughed.

“Now, I have you here. You know what I can do to you if I become angry. You haven’t seen angry until I’m angry.”

“What would you like to drink, hun?” The bartender, a thirtysomething woman who had a bright smile.

“Death in the Afternoon.” Kaylee answered. “Champagne and Absinthe, very cold.”

“Hemmingway’s drink.” Thomas laughed. “You are impressive.”

“Well, anyone who can tickle my soul after what I had just gone through, I figure I can impress even more and find a little about him.” She nodded. “Besides, after a day like this, I need to get a little high too.”

“Put your right thumb over the camera so I can image it and let me take your picture.” She said. “Not that there is no faith in your intentions, but you will be number one on the most wanted list if something happens.”

Thomas nodded and scanned his right thumb and sat still while Kaylee took his picture.

“You do look nice. You went home to change?” Thomas asked.

“Sort of. This was in my car. It’s all I have on, my underwear didn’t match, so when I changed in the women’s room, I just stuffed them in my purse.” Kaylee pointed to the other side of the bar.

Thomas nearly shot his drink out his nose at this.

“Speaking of awkward! You have a… Um… Thanks for being blunt.” He chuckled.

“It’s just this day. It has been rough day and I am in need of getting very drunk or stoned – or both.”

Kaylee opened her purse and pulled out a pill bottle and dropped two pills in her drink.

“Cheers. You are in charge now, when tomorrow comes and I wake up not liking what has happened, you will join the guy from the beach in the ER.” She swallowed down the intoxicating drink.

“What was that?” Thomas lifted an eyebrow in curiousity.

“Hypnotic, muscle relaxant. If you want to do something tonight, I won’t object too much. But let’s make it fun.”

Fun.

That would not be the word Kaylee would use in the morning.

Married by Mistake Chapter 3. Unwanted Visitor

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Chapter 3. Unwanted Visitor

Her drifted shut when the book hit her in the face for the third time.

Kaylee laughed at herself and remembered she needed to re-apply sunscreen, it had been nearly an hour since she had lain on the towel between the logs.

She was warm and sleep crept around the edges of her soul when the timer on her phone buzzed. She reached over to her bag and pulled out the bottle of spray sunscreen out to spray herself with another dose of sunblock when a man with his back to her, bumped into the end of the driftwood that served as her privacy screen.

“Oh! Excuse me.” He looked around. “Don’t mind me. I…”

He looked at her oddly, then pulled a long butcher knife from his towel.

“Shut up and be quiet.” He growled in a low voice. “Stay quiet and you won’t get hurt.”

Deep inside her, an ember of frustration sparked into a firestorm of rage. I’m in no mood for this!

She stood with uncontrolled fury in her eyes, a short-time before, she wanted to hurt someone. Now this pervert just volunteered and she was about to oblige the man who dared threaten her in blind overconfidence that was going to end in disaster for him.

“Go away!” Kaylee Simone Grant said loudly as she could, the note-writer turned his head and looked in their direction, stood and walked in their direction.

“Bitch! You will get on your…” Then interrupted by assault of the naked woman and screamed when she broke his wrist and took his knife away.

The force of her attack knocked the stout rapist backwards and grabbed the man’s wounded arm.

Her mass, perhaps half the attacker’s, pulled him down and off-balance, she swung her right leg over his arm. The pressure of her weight forced him to his knees face-down and he used his left hand t support himself.

“Bitch!” He had lost the fight and knew it. “Let go!”

“Do not call me…” A snap kick, Kaylee slammed her shin across assailant’s face, broke his nose and exploded the bone in his cheek. The lever that was his arm, bent backwards beyond it’s limits when she snapped it backwards over her thigh and screamed back at him. “A bitch!”

His screams of anguish was music to her ears as she continued to pummel the would-be rapist against the driftwood. His size might have been an advantage in the start of the battle – in his own eyes.  

Now broken man knelt in the sand, frightened and blood flowed from his mouth and nose into the sand. Slowly, with a heroic effort, the rapist got to his feet. And she rewarded him with a fractured breastbone from a kick to the chest. As a threat, she neutralized him one last time when he fell backwards over a low part of the log for the last time. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the notebook man was ran towards the sounds of bloody screams. (Kaylee was not known as a quiet student when she worked out, this real-life combat was no different.)

A final stomp into the groin of the monster left the him in breathless pain as he writhed against the large, weather-smoothed driftwood that served as her privacy screen when she relaxed alone in the sun.

“Do you need help?” The slightly overweight note-taker was two-hundred pounds with muscular arms. He looked like he could take care of the rather broken assailant that lay in agony on the sand, if she had not gotten there first.

“Um, no thanks. I’d say this is over, but I need a phone that works to call the police. I have no service here.” She looked at her would-be knight. 

“I have a sat-phone. You can use it, there’s also a c-phone in my bag but I don’t know the reception. I have used my satellite phone all day.” He said and walked back to his beach blanket.

Kaylee watched him walk away, his backside was like two halves of a tightly inflated volleyball and they were about the size of the palm of her hand, a nice view.

That’s cute. Thoughts danced in her head while her eyes bounced with each cheek as he walked away from her.

There are advantages for nude beaches. The thought made her smile. It satisfied her with the beat-down she gave the attacker who now lay on the sand holding his arm while his nose bleed freely. She kicked the predator once more for her own pleasure and turned away.

Note-pad walked the phone to her hand, the delivery was not as scenic as it was when he walked back with the phone, and disappointed her that he had wrapped up in a towel. 

And she still stood there naked while she dialed the emergency number, and was suddenly cold.

While she spoke with the emergency operator, Note-Pad gave her an oversized beach towel from his bag to wrap up in and handed her a t-shirt to wear from her pile of clothes, then turned on the would-be rapist and threatened him to stay still or his next experience would be a painful experience that he would never forget. Then laughed at his own joke he did not intend to make.

It was an extremely twisted day, but she felt pleased with the outcome with the end results of it all. 

I should beat someone once a day She laughed inwardly.

“Yood b’ke m’ fook’n node a’d arb!” The assailant said in a sticky voice, full of blood on his lips and hands. “Fook’n bid”

“You are lucky,” Note-Pad nodded. “I’d have buried you here.”

“Fug du’.” The broken knife weilder’s said as he retched from the blood that poured down his throat.

Kaylee had her back to Note-Pad and pulled on her pants. She draped the towel around her neck and let it hang it down to cover her breasts, embarrassed by the tent under her thin shirt.

“Thank you for your help,” She told Note-Pad. “I think, you need to stay here as a witness for the police.”

“No problem, he will need an ambulance trip I would wager. That nose is pretty mashed.”

They both looked at the broken man for a moment, then the sounds of beach patrol’s sirens drove to where they stood with the disabled and broken stalker. 

Note-Pad ran out to the pickup truck with an illuminated light-bar and waved an orange and black towel.

Kaylee felt lighter. Her mood improved to one of satisfaction after that. It was Friday and she had an entire weekend to look forward to.

She was over her adrenaline rush when the men with badges walked up and all the stress of the day hit her at once.

Kaylee, the warrior-woman of justice and retribution of the beach began to cry.

Married by Mistake: Chapter 1. Broken Morning Breaks

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Chapter 1: Broken Morning Breaks

Beep! Beepbeepbeep. Her phone squealed to life, cacophony of lights and alarms to alert that her day had begun.

Annoying damned electronic, cruel, noisy gift from her sister.

She already had a headache from her studies until well after midnight. She even studied in her dreams with books and notepads that chased her.

Frustration.

This was today’s name for Kaylee Grant.

Then, her day went from bad to worse.

“Oh, god.” She was out of coffee. No tea, either. What a miserable day.

But then, she hated all mornings that started before noon.

Next experience part of the pre-coffee day, a broken shoelace.

She retied the lace on her work-shoe took more time than she had allowed and was now late, Kaylee stumbled to her car with a loose shoelace and discovered that someone had gone down the block and slashed everyone’s tires.

Vandalism that included her tires.

Two flat tires! Twenty minutes drive, no car and now she was late for work.

Even Melanie, her sister who lived in the apartment below her had already left for school. Finals week, and Melanie ate breakfast at school while she studied up to the last-minute.

Kaylee had final scheduled before noon and needed to go to work to get a few hours on the clock.

Even when she called in, the manager told her that there was no one to cover her tables for the breakfast rush and she had to make it – or else.

Even if she showed up late, was not enough, he paid her cash and invited her to find employment elsewhere as a waitress, barista and bartender.

Being fired just Set the mood for the day, and Melanie still did not answer her phone, so she needed to walk the five miles to class at Ocean Bay University for the Arts and was unable to focus on her finals, time and again she tried to name off the six traits that identify the Severe Style and only sigh. It was a lost cause, she could name off the pages and chapters of the book where the traits where documents, even the paragraphs. But the traits were a blank spot in her memory.

Of the two pages of essay test, she could only answer half of them. The Professor walked slowly around the room and watched the students write – and professor became curious to her anxiety and told her to put the test down and to see him later.

*Yeah, later.* She hated that thought.

In his office he would grant that she passed the test, but only after she agreed to pose for him.

“To paint you.” he said.

*Oh, Yeah. I bet.*

A nude pose, while she held a phallic symbol of a banana was the probable setup.

She passed on that offer.

Early in the day, it was still before noon, so she chose to take her frustrations out at the academy of martial arts and get some time in practice for her Guru Level in Eskrima Serrada.

While she warmed up, she dropped her rattan stick three times, fell twice and tossed the weapon across the room once. The Guru of the school gave a gentle laughed and worked out with her.

The flow drill was awful. She could not get the speed at first, at last she achieved what she considered a proper workout, and she disarmed the Guru after an hour. Still and all, her performance was below her level and she was not able to focus.

“Go home and relax. You are way off today.”

His words, meant to comfort her, only served to enrage her soul further.

“To hell with it, I’ll go to the beach!” She said to herself and took her bag with towels and swimsuit out of the closet and a bottle of water to drink from the fridge.

One job termination, one failed test at the university that her parents paid a hefty price for and now the Guru all but patted her on the head and told her it would be all right.

THAT pissed her off.

Patronized by the Guru that she respected above anyone in the academy, well, except for the GrandMaster when he came to town.

She hiked the two miles to the beach and she moved through the angles of her martial art in her thoughts. Angry as she was, she imagined using her bare hands to beat someone into submission for a change.

She should beat anyone who took advantage of her unfortunate moments.

Sitting at the top of the to-do list, she wanted to find and beat the dirt-bag that cut her tires.

Everyone’s tires and left her with no one to even ask for a favor in that early hour. It promised to be a lot of money she did not have to replace those tires, now without a job, she would have to call dad. Not even her sister had money she could borrow to buy tires.

She took a deep breath and let it out in a slow controlled exhale. Maybe she could buy used tires? At fraction of the cost of new treads on the car, it still took a bite out of her budget.

And budget woes brought her back. Back to the thoughts to inflict pain on selected people.

Pain to people who cut the tires of her car, pain to professors that wanted little more than to have her stand on a stage, naked.

She wanted time with the Guru who – Well, she liked him, he always treated her well and she did not want to cause pain to him. Still, she wanted to disarm him and toss him around the padded floor for a change, like he had done with her at the Academy of the Filippino Martial Art.

Kaylee Grant, waitress, barista, bartender, sun-worshipper, peaceful college student wanted to beat someone with her fists, sticks and feet until they cried.

She walked along the sidewalk to the beach more than ten-thousand feet distant. Her mind worked out the math, while her artist’s soul sought the beauty in the world while she thought and measured of how she might draw or paint this tree or that mall.

The walk to the beach had the effect to sooth her spirit and gave her time to become introspective, she pondered about a change in her major. Three years in this school and change?

*Unwise.* She shook her head. *Better to stick it out, now. If I have to tell Pops that he was up for an extra couple years of tuition for studies? That would create a family storm I have no desire to cause.*

Dad, a good man, but she had seen him lose his temper with people over the years. A rare occurrence, but even the mayor of her home town backed down at a council’s open forum while her dad (Then the city manager.) and the mayor clashed.

Kaylee walked on, her white-knuckled hold on her beach-bag slowly relaxing to something less than a death-grip, the sunshine and beach already having the effect of calm and relaxation she needed.

And she did not even have her toes in the sand yet.

Failed Getaway, the escape of I’bin Ba’ad

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Failed Getaway

He had not been born on Terra, although he had returned to the planet of his parent’s birth to bury his mother.

I’bin Ba’ad, drop out student of the College at Velar Naqal returned to bury his mother after an unknown assailant stabbed her.

This was his story.

The police did not originally suspect the son in the murder, his alibi was solid. Video of his office showed him working at the terminal and his time stamp on files fit where he said he was.

What investigators failed to realize, that his skills at spoofing both time and location on files covered his tracks well.

An arrow made of gallium, the cutting head sharpened with percussive taps while it was deeply frozen creating fracture patterns like glass made the edge nearly as sharp as obsidian.

Once the arrow left at high-speed from a compressed air pipe, it passed through the wealthy socialite with devastating results, leaving undetectable traces. 

Once warmed to room temperature, the tool of parricide melted away into the ground.

Unable to find a projectile, the weapon used remained unknown.

Unable to recognize the disturbed soil, the police investigator missed the clue of gallium soaked earth with no explainable reason.

Only until the trail of bodies that seemed to pile up around I’bin that suspicion of his involvement were suspicions aroused about his mother’s death, by then, all evidence was lost.

Eventually, the serial killer I’bin was charged with a young couples disappearance, two women who had recently married.

The misogynistic human-canid hybrid did not show his animalistic DNA.

Other than the blood-lust.

By the time they captured him, the insanity that was I’bin, the killer-wolf charges mounted to over thirty-eight deaths. Another seventy attributed to him, but lack of evidence kept them from being brought to the trials.

Not that the government needed to use the other crimes.

The trial, I’bin Ba’ad, the press dubbed him “The Wolf” was declared sane enough to stand trial and for the first time in two-centuries, the inter-planetery courts, five judges sitting on the bench, listened to the evidence put to the jury.

Never before had the murders of so many involved more than one planet.

The jury of twenty-one retired to study the evidence and returned in three-hours.

Guilty.

The sentence:

Death.

Then an attempt for suicide by cop by attacking the bench of judges.

To his surprise, three of the judges were more than capable of defending themselves.

Taken by the officers to his place of holding, the execution proceeded quickly.

For two-weeks he met with his representative and the one person that stood by him.

Cu’Feur I’ous, to I’bin.

“Worry not, you will get your freedom.” Wolf-eyes looked into wolf-eyes. The two men shared DNA.

They were brothers.

When the date came, I’bin was strapped to the table, he had faith in his brother. He would walk out.

When the witnesses sat, he could see the first plunger start its deadly travel in the tube, pushing a pink drug into the IV line, then at that moment the lights went out.

I’bin opened his eyes, they did not focus properly for a moment, but there was no noise.

The needle in his arm pinched slightly when he scratched his nose.

Then I’bin blinked.

His arm was free! Someone had released the straps when they abandoned the area when the power went out.

Although, he had not heard any alarms. He decided that it was due to the medication that ran into his arm put him to sleep, people assumed he was dead when the power went out.

Laughing, the thought of his walking out of the room when no one was looking tickled his soul.

He already had plans for the judges and their families.

Darkness in the hallways, only the sunlight from the outside filtered in.

It was odd, not even the guards were around, prisoners were gone, too.

But the gates were open, no doors locked.

As promised, I’bin walked free, laughing at the power outage that caused the sheep to run frightened.

Even the prisoners bolted, maybe even taken by bus, but no matter.

Screw them all! He was free.

His next stop, where Judge Alkar Chronqui’s family was. He would break into the home and take a head to put on the hood of the Judge Davie Bleu’s car.

Laughing, I’bin looked around, no one could see him cut across the field towards town, dark thoughts for his arrival in town, it would be dark when he got to the park.

The main park where he hid his kit of tape, knives, drugs, rope.

The drugs would have gone bad, he dare not use them on victims, it might kill them.

More laughter as he covered the ground towards town when he kicked something in the tall grass and tripped.

A body!

Eviscerated, still steaming when he stood up. The coppery smell of blood came from his prison issue shirt.

He had blood soaking his shirt.

“Gawd Dayuam! They’s comin’ outta de groun’s Ostus! Der’s anudder one! Git ‘im!”

He squatted down, fishing around the body, looking for a weapon of any kind.

The sound of a baseball bat sounded in his ears. A sound of a grunt, a wheeze of a death rattle, he realized that whoever it was had not seen him.

He crawled through the grass carefully, towards the voices.

His heart was standing still, his breath was wheezing in his ears as he got closer to the voices.

If he could get a jump on them, what a wonderful twist of irony, he could kill someone killing someone.

He could see the top if their heads. They carried bats with nails driven into the fat end.

“No’ so easy ta make a soun’ wit yer throat stuck full’a holes, ain’tit a bish!”

The sounds of thumping and the bloody fluids made for a mist that I’bin could smell the blood in the air.

I’bin struck, leaping up and grabbing the first one, called Oestus.

His hands were stronger than he anticipated when he broke Oestus’ neck, taking the bat, he broke the head of the other wannabe killer.

But the look they gave as he came up, bloodied and muddy, they acted as if they saw the dead rising from the graves.

I’bin laughed, carrying the bat with him, he walked off towards the town. He saw another man stand up, also wearing standard-issue.

“Thanks, they were doing everyone from the prison.” The darkness hid the convicts eyes, but they glittered with a mixture of anger and fear. “I want to kill the judge for putting me in there. Then find each and every one of the jurors. I’ve not seen anyone for years, they don’t come to visit.”

“Let’s go. What were you in for?”

“They said I was a cannibal. I was not, they were chewed on by rats.” The pair moved towards the town. “I’m N’oi.”

“I’bin. What kind of name is N’oi?”

“What kind of name is I’bin?”

Shrugging, the pair moved off into the dark.

A cop car, the officers were looking at something when the pair stepped out from behind the trees.

I’bin gasped at the cops when they turned towards the pair’s approach.

Bloodied, one chewed on an object that looked like a forearm, the other had a foot.

On cue, the officers dropped the appendages and began to walk towards I’bin.

Looking at his fellow escapee, the convict stood there, drooling, his skin ashen, the big man made no other sound like conversation.

He took off in a run and dashed to the park.

The cops… he had never seen anyone do that before.

Canabalism? In a pair of them?

He could easily outrun them, there was something odd. No cars to wave down, the shirt stuck against his body with clotted blood and made him cold.

He’d need a fresh shirt.

Bodies in the park were milling around, a part of the late summer day with no power anywhere. He could kill one and take the shirt.

He recognized the first person he came across, a heavy-set girl. She had died pleading that she was pregnant while I’bin tied a plastic bag over her head.

And she saw him, making a noise. A cross between a siren and a scream, while pointing with both hands.

She was dead! He knew she was.

He had abused her body in death and knew every pore, every mole.

He took pictures and stared at them for months before he was caught.

I’bin ran down the street, heading to the middle of town, the police department would be a good place to go, someplace safe!

He ran headlong into the glass doors— Locked!

Locked?

More people were following him! He recognized the lesbian couple, his first hunt!

Run! He had to run!

He had to find a cop, someone who could put him behind bars for protection!

What was happening with the world?

A car, an ancient Ford with the door open sat on the side of the street, he could mess with that and get it started.

Savage panic set in, I’bin ran. More people, they were coming out of the shadows.

No, not out of the shadows, out of the GROUND!

He was standing in the middle of a park, but not a park, it was the rural cemetery.

How did he get here? He needed to get back to the center of town, steal a cop car if he needed!

A cold hand grabbed him from a bush, feeling for a pulse?

RUN!

He pulled his hand free- or did it let go?

It did not matter, he ran! Out of the ground they came in the failing light of day.

He needed to find tools! Break into a shed or a hardware store if need be.

He needed to run.

Into the darkness I’bin Ba’ad ran, chased by familiar faces of walking dead. His screams echoed long and loud in the gathering night.

****

The execution chamber of Terra Top Prison, they had not used it in anyone’s memory so the seating was awkward, the witnesses watched the last breath of I’bin Ba’ad.

“I hope he is in Hell and suffers a thousand deaths for each one he committed.” The father of the princess who he gave away to another princess at their wedding.

Turning and walking out. Pha’rem T’ru got his wish in ways he never knew.

Doctor Demonitor Drake checked for a lack of pulse to match the flatline on the screen nodded then paused.

“I would swear he pulled that out of my hand.” The doctor leaned over and looked into the dead prisoner’s eyes. “He was a coward in the end, look at the fear on his face, the jaw set and lips pulled back as if he was about to scream, eyes wide open. I’d say he was afraid to die.”

“Good for him.” The guard said. “Coroner is here. Let them take him out now.”

“Good, have him sent to Doctor Sherman Quincy, I want him autopsied. Someone like this needs to be studied, we will slice his brain up and study it.”

“You’re the doc, doc.” The guard nodded.

In the core of the world of the prisoner, I’bin became aware someone spoke of cutting him apart.

But only if they could catch him.

He continued to run.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 8. Fools Rush In

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Chapter 8. Fools Rush In

Fae noticed his hair was a definite shade of crimson.

“I think we might have to check you for chromosome damage.” She looked at him as he read the display. “The picture of you that shows that you have dark hair.”

“Nope, the color is as it is now. I have red hair. I hate the color, so I had it dyed black. I like a blue-black hair.”

“Why is it shaved off?”

“When I went under, they said to cut it. So I did, then I found they only meant shorter, not shaved.”

“Oh.” Fae laughed. “I can see that happening.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t like the color anymore. Maybe I will let it grow out in the normal color.”

“Could be nice looking.”

“Naw, I look like the Garnet Star with legs.”

Fae laughed out loud. The comments he made in his self-deprecation she saw in his moments where he tinkered at the display, running diagnostics.

“This is frustrating, there is no reason for some of the circuits to overheat. There is a voltage drop somewhere, the cooling system goes into low power mode. I can adjust it manually, but it resets to lower capacity in a few moments.” Archer the Tech pulled at his ear. “I need a bow, some arrows and a place with clearance of fifty of my paces long and half that wide.”

He looked at their escort, a male mini-bot of the name Beekan Luc.

“Can I make a bow out of any of the trees out there?”

The small bot had little to say to the large humans. Often just stood and watched with sapphire blue eyes, saying nothing. His position as the Captain of the Guard made him disdain his assignment. But no one was available to watch over the human pair.

“No. It’s forbidden to destroy the plant and animal life here. You can print anything you need – including any of your food.”

“I would like a corn-dog. But, I’m interested in a simple bow. A longbow or recurve bow with arrows.”

“What is a corndog? I know all the species of felis catus, canis lupus familiaris. But there is no corndog specie I have in my database.”

Both humans laughed.

“It’s a type of food.”

“That seems destructive to a life form.”

“It is.” Archer said. “It is very unhealthy to eat it. But some people have weaknesses for smoke or drink. I have desires for that kind of food.”

“With mustard!” Fae added.

“Oh yeah. Mustard, the brown kind.”

“No, it has to be yellow mustard.”

“I still don’t understand.” The bot looked back and forth.

“It is a hot dog on a stick, dipped in batter and deep-fried.”

“Seems cruel.”

“No, do you know what a hot-dog is?”

“One that stays in the light of day too long in summer.”

The humans laughed again.

“A cylinder of meat, ground and seasoned about the size of, well, your size from foot to head. And a stick poked in one end, dipped in a batter and dipped in a hot vegetable oil until it is hot in the center and crunchy on the outside.”

“Revolting.” Was the comment the Captain of the Guard made. “It sounds like a huge amount of lipids and excessive proteins that would denature into an unhealthy meal.”

“Leave it to a robot to take the fun out of a corn dog.” Archer grumbled.

After submitting a request for a bow, they picked it up with arrows on his specifications.

“Archer, I need to go back to the medical lab while you do your thing with the bow and arrows.”

Fae laughed as she walked away to work while this nerd kind of person suddenly takes on a hobby that seemed steeped in testosterone.

Less than an hour later, an alert sounded in the medical department and a macrobot rolled a gurney with bloodied visage of the computer hardware tech laying on it.

“Alert the neurosurgeon. They say he was on the ground for a few minutes before anyone found him.”

“Oh my.” Fae said, stepping clear while she followed the tones for alerts of cooling of the air circulation.

Later, she stopped in to see Archer, the goose-egg on his forehead was the size of her fist.

“What happened?”

“Mmm…” Reluctant to tell her. “The bow hit me in the face.”

“What?” She shook her head trying to imagine the event. “How?”

“It slipped out of my hand when I was drawing it back to shoot. Then, well, I guess I let go with the wrong hand, and, well, it slapped me in the face.”

Fae started to laugh.

“Well, it’s a hundred-pound bow.”

“Is that a lot?”

“Yes, a lot.” He rubbed his forehead and winced. “I guess I am not in as good of shape as I thought. We still have lost some strength, I suppose.”

Fae shook her head, the thought of him being knocked out by his own bow was one she would have to keep in her logs.

Archer remained in the medical bay for another hour before the med-team imaged his head and found nothing.

This made her laugh even harder.

Handsome, pretty eyes, Irish and proud.

And a person that would need to be taken care of, or he would be in the hospital daily.

Or perhaps he would be a frequent flyer and she would see him often.

A walking disaster, she worried with an inward chuckle.

*Beaten half to death by his own bow and arrow.* She shook her head.*I hope he survives long enough to repair the systems tha are overheating.*

Still, the quirky named hardware tech was a good addition to the engineering team before all the other humans reanimated and walked around.

She would have to speak to Amsi about having Mr. Bowman in the close-knit team to take on the problems that cropped up in ancient circuits that had not seen power for three-hundred centuries, even if the nanobots did repairs over the years.

She smiled at the thought. *He is kind of dork, but he’s smart and funny. He can also help me find…*

She paused for a moment. *Oh god! I can’t remember my own boyfriend’s name!*

A pause.

Laughing, Fae MacLir worked her way back to the medical center to assign the new reanimated humans to new departments.

Passive aggressive or beat down?

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Woot! this is my triple nickel “555”th post! 
BUT onward!
Y’know I will never get it. Why when you broach a subject, you have the path and meaning planned out on what you will say. The person you are trying to tell what you plan to do, interrupts, jumping ahead to the finish of it.
 
THEN becomes angry because you shut up and when looking at you they just say “I only asked a question.”
 
No. You told me my side of the conversation and completed the statement. In this moment, it seems my words, my thoughts, the subject being spoken was not worthy to listen to, so you finished it for me.
 
And then I am the mean one because I shut up? I dislike being cut off to start with. Then have the subject closed before I get to the end of the sentence is belittling.
 
So maybe it is passive-aggressive to just stop talking, but when that happens I have nothing left to say and I won’t babble just to be put down again.

The survival of fireworks

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We survived.

Rather: Hershey the dog did.  Of all her stress did not come to pass, the neighbor had it correct that the distance to the beach (two, almost three miles away.  maybe 4 km) alleviated a lot of agony and anxiety, Hershey the dog walked around and checked on people, but conversations kept going, TV was on, no one reacted, so checking in with humans, poking her nose into the face of Princess #2 and being petted by Princess #1. All was good in the world.

A long walk on the beach, ocean, thousands of people and dogs to sniff, see and taste (She licked one dog in the face, one baby had his (or her?) face cleaned.) Hershey was tired. So in all, distant fireworks did not draw undue anxiety out of her heart.

The only anxiety reaction we suffered all weekend was the Princess #2’s boyfriend. (More on him later).  Hershey walked around, getting pets and a home-made version of doggy ice-cream.  (Gelato, really I suppose.)

If you need a recipe on that, it is easy. a cup of peanut butter, 32 ounces of plain Greek yogurt (slightly less than 1-liter, or litre if you prefer.) tablespoon of local honey and a large banana. Blend for a minute (You may have to take a scraper to the inside of the blender to get the peanut butter to mix properly. I do. but I don’t have the best blender in the world by any stretch of the imagination and peanut butter (or peanut paste, if you prefer, I like mine chunky) then pour into small containers with a lid, freeze and then when you like, pop the top, hand the whole container to the dog and it will be a wonderful frozen treat for a few minutes.

Mind you, if you have any children wandering about and they discover this concoction? Dogs will be out of luck! This stuff is tasty! It is healthy, quick, and it is human quality food. Good for everyone and a great treat. No chemicals, no artificial this or that.  Good stuff.  I’ll consider that a rave, heh.

So now we have had a good weekend, but like all good — or bad– things. It comes to an end in about 2 hours. Back to the heat, misery and daily dust of life.

To idiots that shoot off large bottle rockets over the house (and terrify the chocolab who tries to be anywhere but there, top of my head is one spot that seems to be a favored place). I am tempted to go out with a blunt arrow and stand in the dark. Wait until the said idiots to  the fuse to the bottle rocket and then I shoot the rocket and tip it over.  No one will see the black arrow and life would get REAL exciting for a moment. or three.  But as Princess #1 did say, there is no telling where it might go, including into someone’s open window of their house – or car. And a live firework bursting inside a car as it drives down the road is ALL bad.  So I won’t.

Nice to dream of though.

Princess #2’s boyfriend.

Nice fellow, tries constantly to impress me, but it’s not working all the time. I do give him points for trying.  I put him on BBQ duty the other night and he did a good job.

His only malfunction on this trip – He is a desert cat.  From Oklahoma, his idea of a body of water is he can see all sides to it. The Pacific ocean is unnerving.  He is desert, we are beach and ocean oriented family.

Waves bother him. We went to lunch on a wharf, the waves hitting the pilings underneath were bad.  The cars driving over the wood of the wharf was bad, Seafood everywhere – well he likes shrimp, but is allergic to the food.

So he asked to go home. Princess #2 is not an overly warm-blooded person, but loves the beach, rolled her eyes some. But, he is her boyfriend and she took him on the 300 mile journey back.  She thinks the Great Barrier Reef is cold water diving and did not swim much. She hung out on the boat. But..she was only ten years old at the time. (Princess #1? Pfft.. she would swim in the ocean if there was ice in close proximity, she goes in, never comes out.)

So now, we sit on the sofa, the clock ticking down to the end of this cool morning. Slightly overcast with the marine layer in (Another unnerving thing the boyfriend experienced. I likened it to the tides of the ocean, which was a mistake. :/  another reason he headed back to the dry and heat)

Ah well.

The home journey awaits. Back to a noisy, dusty, miserable place where sirens sound hourly – or more often – and is generally just a stressful place to be living.  I have two plants I need to replace, I forgot to bring them in out of the heat and they have been sitting without water for the last 96 hours. Rosemary is hardy, but not sure it can tolerate that. Basil? Well, dried basil is useful. As is rosemary.

And I promise, no black arrows into bottle rockets doing the final countdown.

Shock and Awe Chapter 14. Soldier Park

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Chapter 14. Soldier Park

Soldier Park, renamed several times through the years, finally evolved into a large park for cities of this size. It was, in fact, the largest park in the city.

One mile in circumference, standing on one end, the community museum operated by the council of tribes that lived in the area. Three stories above ground and two stories underground the old museum remained the pride of the arts community since the previous century.

The crowning jewel was the central area of four ball diamonds they built with care and an eye for beauty and nature.

It was a beautiful park, great conifers that towered at the edges of the park mixed with ancient oak trees that seemed to tell stories by their very presence. The evenings were always peaceful with the ancient guardians of the park.

This evening was no different in the early autumn. In the beauty and space that families would come and play volleyball, touch-football and softball, a wide open area that begged for activity during the summer and weekends, a shadow floated down from above.

A barely audible whirring sound could be heard by anyone standing among the branches and trunks of the man-made forest just before Radio Check touched down with the dark parasail.

His landed with such gentle control, he did not even take a walking step.

From the trees, shadows emerged and moved quickly to new arrival and relieved him of his heavy burden. Four shadows on each corner of the package that held his equipment ran back to the road where a van waited and put the bag inside.

Another four shadows collected the wing and electric fan while Radio Check unhooked the harness.

In under a minute, they had packed up and vacated the area.

He opened the passenger door of the transporter and paused, Radio Check was the last person to take his foot off the ground. Looking around, he smiled. It was all according to plan.

Excellent.

Mission successful.  No deaths, a number of casualties and they would be cleaning polymer beads up for months. But the whole of the mission was perfect.  Hunting an assailant, they would think he ran from one end to the other, vandalizing things.

If in the event the IT department figured out that the computer system had been hacked, the controls and Trojan Horse programs the Radio Service would dynamically install back-doors into the network. The sub-system would record normal operations and display proper data if someone ran a check. Even the antenna on the roof allowed the remote users access through multiple layers of security with a sub-carrier frequency built.

Radio Service saw all that went on and with ultimate control, the next assault would be less noisy and destructive, but far more effective.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 13. Waiting Room

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Chapter 13. Waiting Room

Choking, face stinging, Leslie Murrie was still trying to catch her breath when the captain of the division walked up.

“Report.” Jevv Smith said in a no-nonsense tone. The eyes of the man glittered in the dark, reflecting the flashing lights of ambulance, fire and law enforcement light-bars.

“The unknown male just kicked our asses. The unsub has booby-trapped the waiting room. There were two grenades on the ceiling we didn’t know about. They are visible through the window now.”

“Why didn’t you see them before?” Captain Smith shook his head. “Do you need glasses?”

“Smoke, sir. The room was full of it.” She felt like a child called to the principal’s office. “Military grade and stun grenades like I have never seen. They kept going off.”

“Seriously? Maybe he tossed more in?”

No sir, definite multiple discharge from a single grenade.”

“Never heard of such a that.”

“Same here, until tonight.” She nodded. “But the casings are in there. There were two kinds of flashes I think, but all were effective.”

“Okay, Sergeant. Head over to the EMS stations and have them check you out, you look like you have chicken pox.” Captain Smith looked her  face over.

“Yes, sir.” She touched her face and winced.

“Officer Holmes.”

“Yes, sir?”

“Find him, I want his ass. Use your dogs.”

“Yes, sir.” Stephanie Holmes said and walked off to her team.

“Cry havoc!” She whispered as she walked with purpose to her mission, then into the microphone of her radio. “Let loose the dogs on this son of a…”  

Listening to the radio, Officers Archer, Easton and Martin brought the dogs to the front door of the lobby and made a quiet entry, the dogs noses sniffing out in every corner of the room for a scent that might help in tracking the unsub.

Bomb specialist Oscar “Os” Greene moved through the K-9 units, declaring  the room clear of explosives. His hand-sized remote-controlled camera, his spy on mini-wheels had discovered one more grenade set to roll out into the middle of the mens room when they made entry.  The unsub did not leave lethal weapons behind, but it was all a delay tactic.

Captain Smith got the report that the waiting room was clear, the teams were making entry into hallways and both directions in the stairwell.

“Report.” The voice of the Chief echoed in the mobile command center. “Where is Captain Smith?” 

“Sir, he will be right here, we called him to the command post.” The blond woman said. Chief Whiting recognized her from the department baseball team. “Crush” If he remembered, for how hard she hit the ball with a bat. 

Captain Smith walked up to the Chief and the two men exited the command post to sit inside the Chief’s car where Captain Smith apprised him of the situation.  Chief Whiting sat and nodded while Jevv described the three layers of protection, the distance they had pushed public and press back. 

“No one that we do not know can cross anywhere without being spotted. He is inside, even if he is hiding on the roof, we will have a helicopter with a mini-sun in a few minutes. There is no way out.”

“Good job, Jevv.” The Chief nodded. “Do we have it narrowed down where he is?”

“Reports of shooting in dispatch, we have three teams, one team each heading down the two elevators, one team making entry from the stairwell. He has nowhere to go. We will get him.”

But despite the best efforts and the arrival of the helicopter overhead, the mountain man with the flintlock was never found. The only evidence he left of his entry was a bar code from a cereal box and tatters of paper from a string of firecrackers he dropped as a diversion during the smoke screen.

No other damage was obvious. The only damage to the building was the massive twin lead slugs that broke the bulletproof barrier and the officer shot by one of their own.

In the days that followed during the investigation, they discovered the hardcopy records destroyed in the most secure area of the department. 

The man was a ghost. The HR Department reproduced new records from the mainframe, no other damage could be discovered.  It was curious way the paper products in the cabinet of Human Resources had become dust over a weekend. 

Lucky they had a computer system to fall back on. 

Lucky, indeed.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 12. The Shaft

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Chapter 12. The Shaft

He pushed open the vent, the hinges popped with a sound that seemed louder that they were. There were no more sounds of flashbangs going off and sirens were audible. He leaned out over the vertical drop and looked down on a square of light illuminated through the service hatch at the top of an elevator car on the main floor.

They had guessed his secret. But it was not the same car he had been on top of. The flashlights they were using were all pointed down. They were looking with care and were missing nothing. The next one they would open and look down with those lights, they would find footprints.

His method of travel would be discovered. It was time to leave.

They would not observe any disturbance in the air-return vent there. That was early enough in the assault before he modified his plan of attack. It would be a while before they followed the trail.

If they ever looked at the vent he opened. A few days and the dust of operations would conceal the recent openings. Being part of a service, the HVAC techs would open and clean the air plenum often. Twice a year, perhaps more, to keep the different plenum ducts from loading up with dust and posing a hazard to the mission critical data center and dispatch.

It had been impressively clean. So the evidence was that the massive cooling system had just been serviced, top to bottom, but there was a small amount of dust in the system to show his passage to an observant investigator.

Any traces he might have left would be narrowed down to recent activity.

No matter, he had finished. Anything he had taken in with him he had brought out. Except for the grenades and the two lead bullets he used at the beginning.

Still, they would think that was only a matter of time before he ran out of corners to hide.

There were no corners he would hide in, he was just  a phantom. Each person that exited the building would have his or her body scanned, patted down, picture ID checked and verified by a fingerprint scan in the department database.

*So much fun.* He thought. *My fingerprints would be in the employee database in seconds if I needed it.*

Climbing quietly, the straggly beard was itching him mercilessly. He would be taking care of that problem soon enough.

The second elevator moved to the main floor. No cable for traction here, it was a hydraulic-type elevator, meaning the tenants of the building were free to use the spare space for running cable from the different locations as needed. Each group of cables were zip-tied to each other, making a larger group.

He traced cables connected to a junction box— and each connection was clearly marked, this made Radio Check smile.

Perfect!

Unscrewing the box cover plate, he gained access to the internals of each connection. Electricity was passing through the system for radio and data transmission. The odds were in his favor that he would not receive an electrical shock, but he took no chances, keeping his leather gloves on, he bypassed the connections with practiced skill, and placed a new connector of a special design on the antenna, resoldered the connection to the new screw on connector.

Repeating it five more times, a minute on each connection and he packed up his tools.

Stepping to the roof access door from the junction boxes, he looked up and saw the magnetic sensor for the door opening. The lead in wire had long been broken and never repaired, rendering the system non-functional, nodding he scanned around for a hidden sensor. Using his flex mini-camera, discovered another cheap sensor in the frame that he disabled in seconds, then he opened the door and stepped through into the night air.

“Radio check.”

“Five by five. Outer limits.”

“Air traffic?”

“ETA twenty minutes, they were just ordered.”

Radio check laughed. Radio service would have held any requests for air support until the call for a “radio check”.

Sighing happily, he jammed the door shut with cornstarch plastic wedges that would decompose in moist air, one wedge on top and one at the bottom of the door. There was an onshore breeze with a high moisture content. The wedges would become little more than mush in a half-hour.

To help the disintegration along, he poured a few drops of water on the paired wedges. The police could batter the door down, but they would waste their time.

He was almost gone. Going over to the package that the flyer dropped for him, now two hours before, he unzipped it and opened the big bag up, spreading a lightweight sheet and cords attached to a web of flight rigging along the roof. He would be cutting it close, there was not much clearance with the antenna on one side. Getting hung up with the antenna would be a disaster. But the wind was steady at a ten-mile-per-hour on shore breeze with gusts to about twelve.

He could take off almost standing still with the size of the sail. Stepping into a rig of webbing, he pulled the straps tight around his body, then lifted a ducted fan out of the package— itself a light Kevlar cloth made from an out-of-service parachute.

Attaching the fan around his waist like a belt. Securing the straps to mount-points on the frame of the fan, he locked it in place.

He inspected everything with a skilled eye, double checking straps where he attached clips to the mount points. Nodding, and scratching, he sighed.  The whiskers were about to drive him to distraction.

Pulling off his gloves, he dropped them into the transport package and with fingernails, he began to pull at his eyebrows until they came loose. Working down under the skin, he worked his fingers along the latex and plastic cheekbones and lifted the skin away from his own and pulling the artificial face-hair with it. Carefully and quickly, down the nose, he peeled the latex flesh to the tip and, finally, free of the built up face that had no resemblance to his own. Pulling off the wig he dropped it into the delivery package with the double-barreled rifle, deerskin jacket and calico shirt.

He pulled on a black sweatshirt. His fringed pants pulled away without his shoes coming off. Off came the outer skin of sueded polyester covering his shoes.

He was now a clean-shaven, short-haired man with lean, handsome looks and wide ebony-dark eyes from his Italian heritage. His left forearm sported a tattoo of crossed bayonets, the mark of the tenth mountain division.

Pulling on a helmet, he laced the chin strap to a solid fit, then he tucked the helmet’s data plug into a shoulder pocket.

Dropping his ancient-style backpack into the transport package, he pulled all the straps of the big, lightweight container tight, lifted it up and slid his arms through the holes provided for him, they looked like disembodied sleeves of a shirt, but sewn to the package.

Shifting, he got comfortable with the electric ducted-fan on his back and checked to be sure all the cords attached, he plugged the data plug into the data and power port on the handle.

“Air service radio check.”

“You are clear, ETA ten-minutes.”

“Request permission to launch.”

“Permission granted. Your wind is seven knots from west-northwest. Launch at your convenience.”

Testing the speed control, the electric ducted-fan spun up. Contra-rotating blades gave thrust with less than a whisper of noise.

With the extra-wide parawing he had flaked out and attached all the cords to his web-gear, he took several fast steps. A no easy feat as he was carrying over a hundred-pounds of gear, but the wing caught the wind and filled, he could feel the lift before he even twisted the control handle for power.

Radio Check grinned. Steady wind, if he did this right, an altitude of five-hundred meters would be perfect, but he would not sit still for that, he would be putting horizontal distance between the noise and sirens below.

He could hear an amplified voice challenging him to come out and surrender. There was no way out, they had the block secured three layers deep. Surrender now with his hands up and…

Radio check hit the throttle and gained altitude. Nothing left to be foujnd except for what he wanted to leave. The ducted fan was quiet and the soft sound, more of a whoosh, was inaudible from the roof to the ground five stories below.

Into the darkness he glided, the moon was not yet up. No one would have seen anything of interest if they had looked straight up and directly at him. He was a black-on-black gliding shape that vanished into the night sky.

“Eagle is flying.”

“Copy Radio Check, your next stop, The Twilight Zone.”

“Thank you.”

Shock and Awe Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

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Chapter 11. Double Padlock Security

In the ceiling over Human Resources, Radio Check opened the vent slowly, the old hardware that held it in place had long broken by some service before he arrived. Once he had it opened, it stayed in place, then he used his cap once again for its lifting power.

He looked around before he stepped on the floor of the office of Human Resources, police personnel files were kept in a cabinet in hard copy format. Fingerprints, backgrounds, ID photos.

Everything.

Everything about a man or woman who worked in the county the HR Department backed up the computer files old-school style.

Under lock and key they existed, with the watchful organization of the obsessive compulsive director of personnel, she was confident in the system she ran. She never trusted the computer system.

Two hasps on a fireproof file cabinet. Each padlock secured with a combination padlock. Different combinations. No one person had access to the sensitive files, she had full confidence in that locked system.

Never slowed down by such things. In the back of each lock was a key access in the event someone forgot the combination.

He had both sides open faster than it would have taken the secretary to dial in the combination on one lock.

Rolling the top drawer open, he flipped through the folders, pulling back on the tabs to read names and ranks.

Each and every paper file on acid free paper, he flipped through them all. Secretary, detective, chief of police, patrol officer.

The files were all here. Two-hundred separate paper documents of combined sheriff, EMS, Fire Department and police. This office served them all, being the county seat and offices that they consolidated several years before.  The government centralized and condensed files, every officer, firefighter, paramedic and EMT, undercover, vice, homicide, mayor, secretaries, all from the lowliest janitor to the leaders on the top floor.

Right to this room.

From his backpack, Radio Check pulled out a thermos sized container with a “D” shaped handle on top. With measured movements, he twisted the handle and pumped it four times. Flipping the front of the sprayer down to expose the tip, adjusted it for a medium spray and dampened all the paper in the top drawer.

He repeated the same procedure in each drawer, he moved to the dozen cabinets in turn, in twelve hours, all the paper would crumble into dust. Closing and locking the files as he finished with each drawer. The entire time he checked his timer –  Only five minutes passed.

It had been thirty-five minutes since he pulled the triggers on his rifle and, by now, they had discovered he was not in the basement levels. That the officers would think they had driven him out and he somehow got up the stairs without being noticed. They would be looking to alternative exits.

It may have occurred to one of them that the elevator car had a service hatch. The police investigate that thought and if they did so on the basement floor, they would notice that the air return vent would be curiously clean.

It was time to move.

He hooked the toe of his shoe into cap that hung from the cable, he pressed the button for the winch to lift him. The sound was lower pitch, the powerful electric motor was slowing down. The batteries were nearly depleted, but this was its last time it would be needed.

Pulling up into the round vent, he reached down and pulled the ancient vent cover back into place.

And it would not stay! Radio Check swore for the first time in the mission. It kept swinging down, until he figured out that the trick to twist slightly and wedge it in place with a folded bit of newspaper from 1974 of an editorial giving opinions of Nixon’s resignation. 

Shaking his head, the irony of it all. An editorial about a crook in the government covering the traces of an intruder on a mission to expose crooks in the government.

It struck him as funny in one of those odd, ironic ways.

Shock and Awe Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

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Chapter 10. Uplifting Experience

Radio Check nearly dropped the vent in the room of the mainframe, stopping the swing of the metal by the tips of his fingers and pulled it shut just as he saw the officer walk by the window. Her shadow stopped and he knew she was coming back to look.

She saw it.

*Damn. Maybe she didn’t know what she saw.*  It was more of a prayer than plan. This annoyed him, so far, everything went to plan, except for a loose hinge.

He crawled back to the service hatch at the elevator shaft, as he opened the man-sized grate, he could hear the verbal commands that squad leaders were given to the men while they were holding the elevator door. They still did not know where he was, this was in the plus column for the mission. One officer, wounded in the crossfire when he dropped the firecrackers as a distraction, this went in the minus column. Getting officers hurt was not according to plan, most uniforms were honest and honorable. They were not his targets.

*Stinger grenades not counting.* The thought moved through his mind as he moved over to the positive pressure side of the system and opened the hatch. The inflated fabric balloon had done its job and now was time to retire it.

Pulling a boot-knife, he sliced the material and stuffed it in his backpack, restoring the airflow to the lower levels and data center to prevent overheated electronics, possibly causing a reloading of the operating system.

Closing the service hatch, he slipped back into the air return and made his way to the elevator shaft, fully opening the service entrance, he listened again.  The elevator was empty, someone held the door open, talking with another. Stepping gingerly on the steel supports that anchored the box of the elevator car. He squatted down and became part of the machine.

“C’mon, Russ. You are doing okay, just in the car.”

He could hear the woman’s voice clearly.

“I’m so sorry I shot you. Really.”

Friends? Partners? It made him smile. Either way, if the shot officer was a good enough man, they would become closer friends.

Radio Service laughed inwardly, the only outside appearance of his humor was a smile nearly hidden under his long beard. He was a cupid in a twisted sense of the phrase.

The difficult part now accomplished. The mission plan held an option if he chose and had the time, he could stop at basement level-1 and create even greater havoc for the police, but he had nothing against the good officers of the SWAT team. The elevator slowed and came to a stop on the main floor. More swat team stepped into the lift. Listening to them talk, they knew he was no longer in the bathroom.

Yeah, time to leave. Operating in the heart of their operation now was a game of chance. Thus far, there was nothing left to chance. Other than the officer shot by his partner, all went according to plan. The Swat level was only an option if time and events looked positive. He was disinclined to damage anything there anyway.  The special loads for the firearms will wait for another day.

Stepping off the elevator car as it began its descent to the dispatch level, he hung on to the service ladder in the shaft.

Four floors of a ladder climb ahead of him.

Well, three and a half, he would enter into the return vent on the top floor and access the human resources office.

Second floor, detectives level. He should try to figure out something to do there. But— it was not in the plans, the team already had control of computer files, so he kept climbing.

Third floor. An option to enter, Commanders, Vice-chief’s office general admin. Nearly all of it on computer. Access was already granted. He would spend far more time looking for tiny bits of information that did not pay them back in benefits.

Cost versus benefit at this point. The cost was too much time versus the risk of capture.

Fourth floor. Chief of Police, Fire Chief, Doctor General of EMS.  Files that were still on paper. Physical access to the stand-alone system that belonged only to the administration and the round table of officers of their particular departments.

White lithium grease on hinges, a careful opening of the vent covering, he stepped back into the world of steel tunnels. This one was smaller by about a third. He could not sit straight up, but he could recline comfortably if he chose to.

A first look. A secretary type office. File cabinets, locked with a simple combination padlock, the type that had a keyhole in back.

Worth a look. He tagged the inside of the plenum with a yellow flashing LED light and moved on.

Sliding his thin camera down the vent, he looked at another office. The Chief of Police worked here. A massive desk, sumptuous decor. Pictures on the wall. Books everywhere. A long table on the far side of the room. But a dead-end.

He looked another few meters down. There was another corner. He looked at the Chief’s office again. Nope. There was no room or vestibule to call for a vent.

He army-crawled to the corner and then to the downward bend, he slipped his snake-eye through the vent. There, a computer. He could see network cables leading along the floor under the desk. But it was not a city issued piece of hardware.

He pondered a moment, this was a top-of-the-line recent computer. This was the Chief’s personal computer.

Excellent!

Twisting the camera around, there were small fabric-covered speaker cabinets at four points at the ceiling where the wall met the ceiling.

No, not speakers.

Video cameras.

*Oh, quite sly, Chief, quite sly.* Radio Check smiled without humor.

Pulling out his tablet, he opened up a sniffer program and let it run for a few minutes. He was ahead on the timetable so he could spare the minutes.

Before the uniforms began a floor by floor sweep, he would still be gone and they would have layers of cordons around the block to look for him.

This group never just sealed a block. They sealed a block three times normally. One might slip through a single line of cops, but the Croix Bay police? It was a minimum of three levels. They had their fair share of fugitives running from other law enforcement. No-one slipped past them, they always got their man. CBPD officers were well-trained, motivated and intelligent, bordering on brilliant.

Well, except for tonight. Around the building they would have all the available patrols. This is right where he wanted them. Running around in the basement, playing war with shadows while he was in the Chief’s personal entertainment system.

Maybe. He was watching the sniffer.

There! A spike in broadcast. A handshake. Data transmitted back and forth.

He sent a corrupted packet, knocking the wifi connection off. The item logging into the computer would fail and need to retry.

And it did. Two times, three times. He used a machines patience against itself.

Then he had a break. The complete log in sequence from the cameras. While the camera cycled for yet another attempt to log into the computer, he logged in using the camera’s MAC and identifier.

Although he was in the air duct, he now had control of the computer as if he was sitting at the keyboard.

Intercepting the camera signal, he successfully logged it into his tablet and download the images it had stored. One picture per minute. High resolution. Radio Check nodded, not an unreasonable setup, except for the outdated operating system. A bit of poking around, he found the password file.

The password file was not even encrypted. He downloaded it and sent it on to the radio service, packed up and crawled back to the HR office. Scanning around, a motion sensor was on the wall covering the room.

“Radio service radio check, hardware check.”

“Go ahead. You are on Vee-Oh-Eye-Pee with an IP address.”

“Sending you images. Do you have this under control?”

“Radio check. Copy sensor, it routes through to dispatch. Outer Limits. You are clear.”

It was the most talkative that radio service had been in a long time. Radio Service often said he hated the sound of his own voice, proving it often being terse over the open air, but this was downright talkative for the remote operator.

He would have to tell Radio Service that he nearly talked Radio Check’s ear off in these few seconds.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 9. Dispatch’s Point of View

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9. Dispatch’s Point of View

The entire communications center for police, fire and Emergency Medical Services, hidden in the second sub-basement with the consideration that the data center and dispatch were the eyes and ears of all units in the county. 

A modern, if overcrowded, electronic base of operations, eight stations, adjustable level monitors or keyboards for comfort. A dispatcher could stand or sit as he or she wish and use back saver seats that kept pressure points off of the back.

All in all the stations were ergonomic with colored displays that indicated on a map where each unit was and their status.

Red for committed to a call. Green for available, yellow, blue, white with red lettering all with various needs for out-of-service units.

Fire and ambulance shown on other maps with a supervisor with an overview option of all units. This made for busy screens, the supervisor alone had four screens available with touch screen overlays as needed.

For that early evening, it was a normal day, running warrant checks on simple traffic stops (A standard procedure). Taking complaints of dogs barking. One rancher in the midst of transporting his horses and cut a corner too tight and damaged a fence that separated the two lands.

Distorted radio traffic squawked over a channel into a headset plugged into a USB port caused pain the dispatcher, making he wince.

Carol ‟The Crush” Swenson, the designated batter and home run queen for the departments baseball team stood up and motioned over to supervisor.

‟Mike, can you come here please? I can’t make ou…oooww!” She ripped her headset out of her ear and unplugged it from the console. Hitting a button and playing it in loudspeaker.

‟…shot! We have doors locked in the foyer. We need backup now! Goddammit now!”

‟Where is that?”

‟That is Adkins on the first floor.”

‟Code-33.” Mike nodded.

‟Activate SWAT, tell them we have a shooter in the waiting room of the first floor.” He said pointing to Carol.

Plugging his headset into the USB port at his station, he hit emergency tones over the dispatch channel.

‟All units, code thirty-three is in effect. Emergency traffic only. All units code three-three. Active shooting in progress at zero main street lobby.”

Carol made motions with her hands, sign language between the dispatchers, an excellent group that had worked together and had their own  through several disasters over the years.

‟All units, emergency traffic. Shooting in progress at zero main street, police lobby. The lobby is locked down, backup needed from all available units. Fire and EMS are staging at six blocks away at Center and Main. All units respond on channel-two, channel one is emergency traffic only.”

The other dispatchers tapped in their patrol unit’s numbers on their CAD systems and dispatched every single unit were not already priority-assigned elsewhere. Only the priority calls were kept active.

Sheriff deputies. Six from the north county, four from the south. ETA given at twenty minutes and twenty-five minutes respectively, the units pushed the limits of safety at such speeds.

Police units from the seventy-five thousand population seaside city had ETA of two to fifteen minutes.

‟Mike, Fire and EMS is en route to the staging area.”

Concussions echoed through the ventilation system, huge booms rattled the building.

‟Crap. All extra staff out. Gwen, get your rifle.” Mike checked his sidearm and put on the holster that he kept in his drawer and shook his head, a quarter-century in dispatch, he never had the thought that the police headquarters would be a target for an attack.

The watch commander’s voice came up on the radio, she called for EMS to respond as she had officers down. Suzanne Irby’s eyes were wide, the little English woman was on the edge of panic. Only her fourth month on the job, she had not unprepared for this.  None of them were.

Officer Gwen Davies walked in with an automatic rifle and placed it next to her desk. She took a place behind monitors that watched the hallways. No one could walk down the passage without her seeing them. Ex-military, she would give them her own version of hell with her rifle.

Sitting at the north end of the dispatch room. She had, at one time when the architect designed it, an unfettered view of the doors.

In the years since, walls went up with monitors mounted to code requirements, the idea that no one would possibly ever penetrate to the heart of the police department had let the need for more equipment and displays create blind spots.

Without dispatchers handling all the phones, maps, different agencies and the computer indicated alarms that came in the emergency systems, the police units would be lost. Over the years, big screen monitors and maps, needed graphical displays installed in strategic areas so they could be seen, also created blind areas in the large room.

Considered as one of the most protected areas of the department, no access by the public, no chance for the security could be compromised.

Nobody could penetrate this far.

Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals

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“Angel of Death and the Scandal in Sandals”

Finis a muscular, broad-shouldered type that bore a strong resemblance Santa Claus with his white hair and beard. Today, he enjoyment the shade this public park.

He was often referred to by his work name -Death, and today he chose to take the afternoon off, relaxing in the shade of the trees, he listened to children playing in the sandbox — a good sound, full of life and a balm to his soul.

He closed his eyes and inhaled the blessed perfumes of pine, elm and grass when a jewish carpenter tapped him on the shoulder and offered white-haired occupant of the bench a cup of wine from his bottle of “Never Empty” brand of Merlot.

“You know drinking in public is against the law.” He said to the smiling rabbi as he tipped the bottle to the wine glass.

“Are you going to complain, or drink?” As he handed the wine to Finis.

“You are a bad influence on me.” Finis said, laughing. “I don’t take time off and drinking wine is a scandal in the park.”

The two men chatted for a while, a good rivalry had developed between the two friends, long before either of them cared to think. This crazy carpenter held the unique position of defeating him in the universal contest that everyone, everywhere, struggles with, and against, walking with the Angel of Death.

Finis never held it against the wandering rabbi, they both walked a path that was similar and shared some laughs. But where the carpenter enjoyed his position, Finis hated his job.

No one ran towards Finis with peace in their hearts. If and when they did, it was always the darkness that drove them.

It was depressing.

So the sharing of wine with the scandal in sandals was always enjoyable. Finis tore a sourdough baguette in two and handed one-half to the long-haired friend and good-natured rival.

They were talking peacefully when a drug dealer and his entourage walk into the park and caused a change in the mood of the playground. Mothers gathered their children and ran from the area in abject fear, ending the joyous sound of children’s laugh and play.

The absence of sound drew the two gentlemen’s attention while they sat on the bench and began to frown as they discussed the change in the air. One white-haired man with a graceful, silver-handled cane, another who wore a peasant shirt, threadbare but clean dungaree shorts and sandals. They continued to shared wine and bread while the park’s atmosphere altered from one of family to one of the business of crime.

It seemed colder and more unwelcome than before when the five-year-old girl raced ahead of her mom to climb and take her turn at the slide.

“This is our park, you need to pay to stay.” The tattoo of tears on the face of the bald leader in contrast to the sparkling anger of his eyes. The two benchwarmers looked first at each other, then the white haired one with the cane looked back at him with a slight smile. 

“We were here first and we are just enjoying the shade.”

“You want a piece of me?” The dealer hissed dawing a sidearm. “I said you had to pay to stay, now you just have to pay.”

“Roberto, I don’t get to see you for another three-years, seven-months and twelve days.” White-hair said in a matter-of-fact tone, as if he read it out of a book.

“Finis.” The smaller carpenter cautioned. “No messing with him. But, if you …”

“Fuckit. You go to the hospital with holes.” Roberto aimed his pistol at the face of the carpenter. White-hair grabbed the hand and weapon with cat-like speed.

“You have no idea how close to death you are right now, young man.” Finis stared into the eyes of the thug. “And that gent right there is your only saving grace.”

Fear burned at the soul of the human as the Angel of Death invaded his mind with images that changed his life.

“This carpenter right here will lead you back, but of it were me? I will just take you away. Talk to him, open your heart. If you talk to me, it will be with your last breath, and you would suffer in the most biblical of ways.”

In the following minutes, the three men, a white-haired Santa Claus and a jewish carpenter sat and talked of everything they could think of with the shaven and tattoo covered leader and dealer of drugs.

Roberto, the gangster known as “The Bull”, discovered a change in his life, he had met death that day and found Jesus.

Roberto “The Bull” Roman was lucky, indeed.

Death was on holiday.

Shock and Awe Chapter 8. Nerve Center

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Chapter 8. Nerve Center

Stepping out of the air-return shaft, he pressed a button in his pocket, the remote control was little more than a car door remote that sent a signal to the receiver in the fresh air duct above the ceiling.

With the patience of electronics, the signal activated a circuit that inflated the folded balloon, that obstructed the duct and blocked all fresh air from being delivered to the lower floors, becoming an effective cork.

Radio Check gently rolled two smoke canisters to each end of the hallway and pressed the button on a spray can, deploying a vapor that smelled like melting plastic and stood in the expanding cloud of thick smoke, pressing his back to a wall.

A dispatcher that was questioning the radio traffic, was turning to her supervisor to say there was something wrong when she saw smoke and smelled wires burning.

“Fire!”

As one, the dispatchers all stood up and made for the smoke-filled hallway.

Suddenly blocked by a man in a mask and leather jacket.

“No fire, just attention-getter. Please, everyone lay down.”

In the far end where Officer Davies sat, she brought out an AR-15 that out on the first alarm of an attack.

The intruder lobbed three stinger grenades into the dispatch center, one detonated  in mid-air, causing Officer Davies to duck and take stock that she was in pain, but still alive.

She could not see, and was too late to stop Radio Check who had plugged into a USB port with his equipment and pressed a button, recognized and allowed the tablet computer administrative access. Data transferred through the now-allowed hardware and rebooted the entire dispatch system.

Officer Davies, decided the grenades did not injure her permanently, picked up her rifle and took up a position behind her desk and attempted get an aim on the intruder through the smoke. But there were too many obstacles, the air was too murky to shoot at a shape with people sitting up when the monitors went dark.

Someone yelled “RUN!” and twenty people scrambled for the stairwell.

Officer Gwen Davies grabbed the phone and tried to call the watch commander’s cell phone.

“Hello.”

“Lieutenant! He is down here in dispatch!”

“Shit! On our way.” The masculine voice broke the connection. Gwen looked at the phone for a moment, she thought Leslie Murrie was on duty.

Her radio on her hip buzzed on a person-to-person frequency. “…Davies.”

“Go ahead for Davies.”

“It’s Russ, I’m coming your way to back you up, this place is on fire,”

“No, we the subject is here! He’s smoke-bombed us.” She said quietly. “He is here in dispatch.”

“Enroute. I have contact with the watch commander, I’ll tell her.”

“Who is on tonight?”

“Leslie Murrie. Why?”

“There was a male voice that answered the watch commanders phone.”

“Could have been one of the other guys. Shit is going bad up there. We have officers down.”

“Okay, get here as soon as possible, I’m pinned down and he has explosives.” She looked again. “I can’t see because of the smoke, and I think he is moving so I can’t get a clear shot.”

“Copy, I’m at the end of the hall. He has to come past me or you to leave the floor. I can’t see shit with all this smoke, why is this floor not venting?”

Pops of gunfire sounded.

“He’s shooting! Small caliber!”

Gwen dove through the door, flashes of his weapon illuminated the smoke. She aimed about leg high and laid grazing fire down the hallway.

A scream from the smoke.
Boo-Ya! She bagged a bad guy! This gave Gwen a savage pleasure.

I’m hit!”

Shit! She knew that voice, she was just listening to it on her phone.

It was Russ!

Gwen got to her feet and moved from side to side of the hallway. The heavy smoke was acrid in her nose, it was military spec smoke. She knew the smell intimately from her time in the service and the smoke grenades are easy to get from the internet. She passed by the data center and tried the door.

Locked. It was always locked. The window was intact and it was clear inside.

As she stepped away, a movement caught her eye as she passed the window. She stepped back and looked again. Staring and tried the door once more.

Locked, positively locked. She looked up and down the door, nothing wrong with the door, no tamper marks, but, on the floor, something odd.

A bit of cardboard with bar codes on it. She left it alone, dropping a folded notepaper over it in the shape of a tent.

A few more steps in the smoke, the smell of burning plastic still faint in the thick haze, she saw paper bits on the floor with a few small paper cylinders that had not burst.

Firecrackers.

The asshole faked shooting and she shot Russ in the confusion and .

Russ was on the ground, blood had sprayed on the wall directly behind him. The bullet had grazed his calf, giving him a groove in his muscle the size of her index finger to fit in.

“You will be fine, it is just a flesh wound.”

“Oh yeah, they say that, but they never said that it hurts like a bitch!” Russ said, rocking back and forth, holding his leg up. “Damned thing throbs!”

“Russ!” She yelled at him by accident, surprising herself. “Did he come this way?”

“What?” The question distracted him from his pain for a moment. “No. I saw a shadow in the smoke, then he started shooting, but no one came this way.”

“He had to go back into dispatch and he is in there somehow.”

The elevator door opened and eight black-clad SWAT officers stepped out, seeing the bleeding brother on the floor, the leader motioned to one of the heavily armed officers who stooped next to him and applied a pressure dressing. It was a SWAT medic.

“You got him?” The masked swat officer asked Gwen, then pointed to the elevator. “Take him out of here.”

“Yeah.” And she pulled Russ towards the open elevator.

She smiled grimly, bad guy screwed the pooch now. His life was about to become harsh beyond any nightmare he may have ever had.

SWAT – the best of their best, pissed off and heavily armed.

Gwen would pay good money to see this bastard get taken down by the team of extreme trained professionals. She would have to fight the urge to kick the unsub in the testes when they led him out in cuffs.

If they let him live.

 

Shock and Awe Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

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Chapter 5. Devil’s Descent

Attaching his cap to an anchor— in this case the double-barreled flintlock laid across the vent— with the titanium hook hidden in the lining, Radio Check used cap as a foothold and lowered himself down on a thin cable and pressed the call button for the elevator.

Looking along the hallway while the built-in winch lifted him back up to the duct above the ceiling, he noted there was an air return vent about ten-paces back.

He smiled with humor this time. An air return might connect to the elevator shaft, this was a good development.

Elevator dinged and the doors opened to an empty lift. He positioned himself when he heard another boom echo down the air-vents. The concussion felt different, the shockwave he knew came from a police issue flash bang. They had tossed one of their grenades into the men’s toilet. They were close to finding they were breaching an empty room.

Odd.

He had not heard his stinger grenades go off. The police would evacuate then and stay clear the room after that event, until the swat swept the room for more booby-traps.

If they so much as nudged the chair that the stinger was hidden under with the little concealed ramp. It would fall and roll it into the middle of the room where it would burst with a thousand little low density polymer balls. Built like a super-powered airsoft toy weapon, this would hurt —  a lot — but it would not kill.

Lowering his backpack to the floor with the cord, Radio Check dropped down with the rifle in his hand. He never took his eyes off the doors at the end of the hallway when he picked up the backpack, stepped into the lift and pressed the “B-2” button.  He did not wait for the door to close on the elevator before he opened the service hatch in the ceiling with the barrel of his rifle and climbed up, using a parachute cord to pull his equipment up on top of the elevator car.

The elevator stopped as commanded at the second basement level where the dispatch center was. The temperature was much cooler on this level, the conditioned air directed into the data center by the ducts kept the computer room from overheating. He found the exhaust vent that opened to the elevator shaft easily, unclipped the spring-loaded catches on each corner and the vent that serviced the entire floor was open. Easily large enough to let him sit upright with his tools.

Service inspection panels every ten meters were large enough for a man to step through and he opened the first one and stepped out on the catwalk that ran between fresh air and the air return duct. Opening the fresh air access panel to the plenum inside, he pulled a folded object out of his backpack, peeled off a plastic outer layer and pressed the sticky side to the wall of the filtered, cool air stream and replaced the hatch. Stepping into the return-air duct, he closed the service hatch. And crawled along the large metal tube, looking into offices, now empty except for dispatch. Computer screens obstructed views like an electronic forest with people standing or sitting at consoles that raised or adjusted to their preference of sitting or standing.

CAD systems tracked patrol cars all around the city, including the Sheriff’s units. Combined command and control let him see every unit. Looking at the legends of colors, blue, green, yellow and red told him where each patrol car, swat vehicle, command vehicle and administrator was.

They were on their way to one spot.

A rumble echoed through the system made him smile, a sound he knew well.

The stinger grenades had gone off.

Placing a magnet-backed blinking green led on the inside of the plenum, he now had a marker on for dispatch, no need to look for it again.

Radio Check smiled, the operation was successful to this point as he accomplished the difficult part in misdirection. The officers attacking an empty room, now two floors above were intelligent and skilled. But only able to react to the information that Radio Check left for them.

He felt sorry for the honest cops involved with doing their jobs.

It was just the mission. 

Shock and Awe Chapter 4. Victim’s View

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Chapter 4. Victim’s View

Blinded by brilliant flashes, deafened by intense high and low-frequency sounds and concussions that emitted from the engineered sonic grenade, eight officers followed their watch commander with hands on each other’s backs as they staggered towards the door. The Sergeant calling for immediate backup and EMS over her radio.

“We have a multi-casualty event, I am declaring an MCI. We have ten officers needing help in the foyer of the police headquarters. We have a suspect barricaded inside and we are withdrawing outside the front door.”

Officer Mike U’Dare picked up the ram, following his team bumping the chair it leaned against as he did so.

Something rolled out and a lever popped off.

“OhFUCK! Grenade!”

The grenade burst, but it was different this time.

This time it was a stinger.

Pellets flew everywhere, a few striking two objects stuck into the acoustic tile in the ceiling.

Two more stinger grenades with stuck to the panels, and armed with hair-wires that waited for something to touch them.

Something like a pellet.

Two more explosions of the polymer-bead laden grenades overlapped each other.

The air became thick with noxious smoke and three-thousand randomly directed high-velocity pellets, leaving welts on the officers and clerks convinced, with screams of pain, that shrapnel was shredding them.

Sergeant Leslie Murrie’s left side of her face was on fire as if someone had slapped her, hard. Holding a hand to her face, it throbbed and felt like the skin was falling off.

“Backup! We need backup! We have bombs in the foyer and people down!” She tried to use a controlled, calm voice but it came out as a shriek as she staggered out the doors with the other entry team members as they choked and stumbled into the clear air.

She was the last one to leave, making sure the worst hurt of the clerks and officers that had stumbled or tripped during the fourteen explosions and something that just plain hurt.

“Backup’s responding code-3.” It was dispatch, speaking as calmly as if giving a weather report.”Mutual-aid Sheriff, swat and all patrol units en route to your location. Stand-by for ETA.”

“Disregard ETA update, just get them here.”

“Acknowledged.”

This annoyed Leslie that they were so calm, but then, they were three floors underground and isolated from this bad-guy that made a wreck of the foyer and her team.  

But, she was wrong about dispatch being isolated.

Extremely wrong.

Shock and Awe Chapter 3. Office Affair

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Chapter 3. Office Affair

The hinges on vent made a soft squeak when he pushed up into the old style HVAC duct, never engineered for constant air flow which worked in his favor allowing his equipment to fit, even the big flintlock. He climbed up and crawled through the space where there were no locks or doors towards the back of the building without the worry of being challenged. This allowed him to crawl to his first goal ahead of schedule.

Counting to the tenth vent, he quietly opened it.

No one was in the office, everyone was in the waiting room looking for him. With a smile, he dropped down into the watch commander’s office and sat in front of the computer, he plugged in a USB memory stick in the computer open port, then stretched outUSB data cord to his tablet computer and overrode the fragile operating system written by a small team in Washington State.

In thirty seconds his clock ran out, and he knew it was time to depart when the first of the impacts of the breaching ram hit the men’s room door and echoed down the air conditioning vents.

His lips tightened into a humorless smile. The police only had to get it open just enough for the trip-wire flash-bang grenade to pull loose and roll into the foyer where the entry team gathered. Two more grenades would go off. One more flash-bang and a stinger grenade, it would be an exciting evening for the local law enforcement of Croix Bay.

Back up he climbed. The furry hat with its little winch hidden inside did its job well as it assisted him to climb back up into the plenum chamber of the A/C system of the main floor of the police department.

A series of booms echoed along the airshaft, the police had succeeded in forcing the armored door of the men’s room, designed to act as a panic room, with their battering ram. They had a shock when the booby-trapped door rolled out a multi-bang stun grenade. He tucked an earplug in his opposite ear to protect on the next series of bangs that he knew were coming and continued to crawl along the tube that was not listed. It ran along the path of the smaller plenum chamber that was in the blueprints. This was good fortune, but worried him, if there were no records of engineered air treatment systems, he could be compromised and need to change the plan.

Turning the corner, he peeked down a vent, hanging half down the hole and saw that he was right in front of the elevator, behind a camera that looked down the hallway in the opposite direction, just as shown in the plans.

Excellent.