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.

 

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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

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 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.

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.

The Dog and The Scarecrow

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Howard the Scarecrow, has long been part of the archery range.  He is not a target, his goal as an obstacle  standing the place where not to shoot with arrows.

Howard has lived over half-year, after last Halloween.

Today, however take your hat off and bow your head in remembrance.

Howard is dead. He lived a life of danger and adventure, dodging arrows slung his direction.  Occasionally he got hit, but he always came back smiling.

But, his days were numbered.  Howard the scarecrow, skilled and dedicated he was to Archery.

Honey the dog became bored and the tragedy of his demise at the hands (Paws?) of the out-of-control dog.  He looked like the Scarecrow off the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys finished with him.  Parts of him were ………………………………….>over here!< and some were……………………………….>over there!< ………. His head was ……………………..>lost for awhile.< …. found under a pile of rags.

I have put his legs and arms on the table in the patio, tomorrow is Saturday, I’ll try to see if I can reassemble him, but I think Howard is a multi-trauma victim and has injuries incompatible with life.

Howard is retiring with full honors. He  gave his all, stout of heart, strong of fiber, just not dog-proof.

Good bye Howard the Scarecrow, you’ll be missed.

 

The Weekend Trip: Snowed

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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 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 was 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 with 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 were smudged and dust covered while she wore shorts and sandals, she was an impressive person. A brilliant Doctor of Anthropology, a comptitor 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 for a moment 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 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 agian. In one instant, he had a chance and he 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

Cellular Justice Chapter 7. A work of art

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Chapter 7. A work of art.

Walking down the hallway, Stephen turned into Doctor Kane’s office with a bounce

‟Carol, this study you sent us. This is amazing. I had to bring it down to you.” He held up a thumb drive. ‟Report is here but also I have video that approximates the construction techniques, but we are still missing some, rather important, details.”

‟Stephen, come in. Please have a seat.” Carol chuckled. ‟Been into the espresso this morning?”

‟Yes, but that is not what has me excited. THIS! Plug it in.” He waited impatiently while the program booted and the Open Office presentation software began to show assumed wireing diagrams. ‟This is a work of art. Insulated wires made of copper acetylide, the insulation is a plasticized TATP. Extremely low concentration and, in the explosion, not a significant addition to the explosive force.”

‟What is the use of it then?”

‟Simply as an insulator that consumes completely in the explosion.”

‟How did you find it, then?”

‟We are the best. Ve haff our vays.” Stephen said with a mock accent and continued. ‟Flexible, polymer battery, made with a consumable polymer. Itself not explosive, but it is a kicker to direct and accelerate the shockwave.”

‟In this chart,” Stephen pointed with a stylus in his hand, ‟It shows the measured velocity of the explosive used. The mainboard in the object, we suspect, is the primary part of the bomb. The screen is thinly coated with porous silicon, on detonation of the motherboard, by the way also made of silicon, deflagrates between several hundred to several thousand meters-per-second.”

He shrugged when she opened her mouth to ask why he had such a wide range.

‟We don’t have enough of this material to study it fully. All we have is a miniscule amount that we tested and then we used computer modeling for how fast this might burst.”

‟How would someone get enough to build, well, anything?” She looked at Stephen.

‟Not my department. The detective will have to figure that out.”

‟But you can’t just get the explosive just anywhere.”

‟No, but creating it is not difficult, if one has the proper equipment. It would take a lab like we have. From analysis, this design is a work of art. The motherboard’s built of the por-silicon, coated with a chemical accelerator and oxidizer, the glass face’s coated with the silicon on the inside and then coated again with a sealant we’ve not yet established. Even the wires themselves are explosive, leaving only carbon, silver and copper as residue.”

‟You sound like you admire this.”

‟Not the application, but one can admire the design. This is something that would work on a basic level calculator, basic phone and such. But it’s a bomb with a minimal target. Double-oh secret agent stuff, it’s really cool. Whoever built this, it’s for one target. You could stand next to the target and the only injury you might have is ringing ears.” Stephen said. ‟Even if they stood right in front of you, the carbon-carbon backing makes it a directed explosion with a forward range of, perhaps, two hand width outward.”

‟But how does it kill the holder then. Why not just the hand blown off?”

‟That’s the beauty of it. Between the hand and the backing, it becomes a directed explosion, the kill-range of the explosion on the glass side is about a meter. We suspect it is in a nearly zero degree dispersal pattern, as measured from the injuries. We cannot figure that part out, yet. If we can get an unexploded version, it would be months of study on just the design.”

‟Well, that is not going to happen soon. We are coming late to the party, the only clue are the torn up bodies.”

‟Oh! The injuries, the reason you are not finding normal shrapnel, because it’s sand.”

‟Sand?”

‟Silicon dioxide, the silicon oxidizes into sand, accelerated with the explosion, the grit slows down almost immediately. But in that meter, it shreds anything that is in the way.”

‟Like flesh and bone.”

‟Precisely.”

‟Thank you, Stephen. I have to send this to the Vice-Chief. She is expecting updates as soon as you can get them to me. It has not yet hit the media and she wants prior briefings for when it does.”

‟No one cares if someone kills bad-guys with a bomb?”

‟So it seems.” Carol nodded. ‟No one has put together that innocent people might be next.”

‟This could be horrid. If released into the public at large?”Stephen pondered behind his glasses. ‟A single phone call could kill thousands.”

‟We need to find who is doing this.” Carol said. ‟Find me suppliers Stephen, we need to know where it comes from and who is buying it.”

‟I’ll find out all there is to know about the materials.”

Tunnel of Darkness Section 3. Challenged

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Section 3. Challenged

 

Data incoming, the Seraph was on a defensive footing, reporting that the perimeter was under assault and the hospital ship was using all non-lethal means to keep the killing and marauders  at bay. Each group claiming a holy right to kill anyone they deem unworthy of life.

Those wounded that approached with hands up and asking for help, they treated without hesitation, but the armed militias required the Seraph to raise shields.

Those wounded that did not move inside the perimeter before the hospital ship powered up, became stranded. The mob murdered dozens full view of those that swore to treat life as precious. To help and aid, to use wisdom for the healing of those that needed and asked, however they could only watch.

One technician thought to send a message to the rescue teams. The was closed. 

Safsy read the data as it came over the terminal and shook his head.

“James, we have a problem. Exit is cut off.”

“Well, this makes it a lot more difficult. Secondary zone, then. Tell them we’re heading that way now with an ETA of fifteen.” The pilot read his navigation display.  “We will need to take the long way on the water, might be choppy because of a breeze, but it will be safer.”

“Plotting now.” The Colonel looked over the live sat-nav display.  “James, we will head into a large group boats that are moving between us and the secondary, how if we do the tertiary?”

“Negative, that is an hour away as the crow flies and I cannot promise you a straight line.”

“Defense systems up then.” Safsy tapped the smooth panel, powering up the protective hardware.

“Do you have training on the defense systems?” James asked.  He was well versed in the protective hardware of the hover-hybrid, but his task now was to get them to the hospital ship. 

“Minimal, I know how to use the electric hull defense.”

“Excellent! That one’s difficult. We have also noxious gas. Just remember, there is a limited amount of that. The only resource we have in abundance is electricity.”

“Noxious…?”

“Specifically, it is a skunk oil. And not the nice kind, either. This is a mercaptan that they concentrated in the worst possible way and a permanent pink dye.” James laughed. “It can be detected by a human nose in one-part per quadrillion. If you get doused in this stuff, you will be easy to sniff out, and you will be a color that does not exist in nature and lonely.”

“Wow, pungent and pink.” The Colonel gave a grim laugh. “Should be easy to find, they would be alone.” 

“Yes, press the button on that, yell and I will be moving this crate. I want clear out of the area before the canisters discharge, that crap is hell to scrub off the paint and no one wants it in the hangar.”

“Then we are leaving. We have an hour of travel.” Safsy ordered.

“Yes, sir. And Colonel? There is a marsh nearby that leads out over the water, we can move over that and be clear of any crowds, I just cannot navigate this glorified shanty-town.”

“I’m ahead of you, working on an exit route now.” The Colonel spoke into the man-to-man mike. He spoke in relaxed tones with the pilot. “Direction and speed on your display now.” 

“I’m heading away from the groups, to some lower buildings. These skyscrapers around here are an advantage for anyone wanting to take a shot at us.” James said, dust of impacting projectiles were visible across the path they just covered.  But the shots were wide and hit ground in the distance.  They were just shooting wild in their  direction.

“Engage, put distance between us and the rioters.” Safsy had seen the puffs of dirt nearly a thousand paces behind them and did not wish to waste time.

The hovercraft was steady as it moved over the marsh. Surgery continued in the operating theater as the craft navigated the open area.

Saving the wounded pilot continued as the teams repaired the insult to the pilot’s body. The lead surgeon ordered that the moving emergency room be shown more care or cause the surgeon to become unhappy when James and the Colonel headed out over the water where the craft began to sway unacceptably.

“O.R. to the Colonel. We are working back here, please keep the rocking down to a gentle quake.” It was “Stormy” Knight, six-feet tall of surgeon that was frightening when she became angry. She had no tolerated no interference when it came to caring for her patients.

Sensors beeped and displayed information.

“Seraph is passing overhead. They’ll land on the other side and extract us there.”

“Outstanding.” James sounded pleased as they crossed from the open water back to the marsh area, the rocking motion of the hovercraft subsided. “Thank you for that info.”

In full hovercraft mode over mud and reeds , the surgical team in the operating room remained undisturbed as they repaired the shrapnel filled wounds of the pilot.

Approaching the Seraph, it was a bittersweet end to the mission. The Colonel achieved a successful mission resolution, inwardly pleased as they arrived at the hospital ship. Deploying the tank treads, James rolled them up the ramp into the hangar and powered down the engines once they were safely inside.

The melancholy set in as this would probably be the last time he would head out.

The wounding of the pilot created questions that they required to answer for. Safsy would be held responsible for injuries of the pilot, perhaps relieved of duty.  It was the way of the corporation. 

Downloading the logs into the larger ship’s memory, Safsy shut down the on board computers and stood up, stretching. He needed some fresh air, it would probably be the last time to do so while wearing a uniform.

Walking off the ramp of the Seraph, Colonel Safsy stood on the soil of Sapphire with his hands in his pockets and inhaled the breeze that blew gently into his face.

It was a nice planet, perhaps they could become a tourist destination. Safsy shrugged inwardly.

“COLONEL! Watch out!”  Shouted  a hanger technician.

Safsy looked around and saw a sentry drone with a projectile weapon locked on to him, this was not alarming, corporate drones operated with programing to follow commands of anyone wearing the ID badge with the chip in it.

“Drone! Disarm, power down.” Safsy ordered while approaching. For a moment, it seemed that the machine was turning away when it fired with a strange buzzing sound, blowing a hole in the Colonel’s chest.

The buzzing sound echoed in his dying brain.

Darkness was all around him, the insistent buzzing was annoying, the last sound he would hear in this life.

Yawning, the webs of the dream faded and the Colonel wondered why the buzzing reminded him of a gun.

“Incident assigned.” They received a dispatch to the planet Sapphire for victims of riots. The most violent planet in the outer systems.

Colonel Safsy Gliese sighed, he wished someone would shoot him. 

Dear Universe: letters from the past

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Dear Universe:

Letters from the past

Dash McCallen

1. A Letter From Dad

I don’t know yet if you are a boy or a girl, but WELCOME to the family. I apologize right now for all the mistakes I will do– You don’t have an instruction book. I have asked your grampa a few things and all he has done is laugh that I will find out!”

She read on, the words written in business like block lettering with a pen on a notebook that looked as if it had been written on a vibrating surface of the helicopter that he rode in.

Right now, we are flying into the back country for a fire spotted by a mountain lookout. I am in a helicopter with eleven other firefighters, the person next to me is Linda Martinho and she says “Hi from the past!”. A nice lady, quite, pretty and tough as they come. (A secret, she is tough, but smallish, about the size of your gramma Ida). We are flying in to the fire lines, we have to cut lines around a big burn and… Will have to finish this later, we are landing now.”

The smell of smoke was still on the paper that was also stained with his perspiration after riding in his pocket for an unknown amount of time.

She held the paper to her nose and close her eyes. Imagining her dad young and strong. Appearing as he did in the pictures. Broad shouldered, smiling, soot covered. He was handsome as they could come. Her mom always talked about how he looked in the cut-off jeans he wore in lieu of swim trunks, she almost always blushed and giggled like she must have when she was only eighteen.

Tall and red-headed. Her dad often told her stories about the history of their family with the joy of the legends of the O’Danu family dancing in the glittering green eyes. As she grew, his red hair became laced with white.  There was no middle ground with her personal hero.  Like him the hair would not find an in-between color of fading red. It was red — or white.

2. be Continued

Smoke was heavy as the “heelo” came in for a landing on the mountaintop. Winds were unpredictable but the hand crew deployed quickly as they expertly handed out the tools of their trade.

Brush hooks – a kind of ax that looks like a shepard’s staff with a razor’s edge that they used to cut and drag brush out of the fire break

Pulaski grubbing tools – An ax on one side and a trenching and grubbing tool on the other. Looks like a cousin to a pick.

McLeod – a hoe and rake combination built on the toughest proportions. Probably the least favorite tool that the crews used, but the most useful.

The R-5 Fire shovel. A short-handled round nose shovel with a sharpened edge for cutting through roots and digging quickly. Used for scraping ground and throwing dirt on fire for direct suppression. Often used to do final clean up by the firefighter crew and are last in line of a firefight often called the drag shovel.

Firefighter bodies trained, hardened by repeated morning abuse called “Physical Training”. The team of men and woman would perform a series of stretches and aerobic exercises that ended with a five-mile run. All before sunrise and breakfast.

All summer, they would sweat more before breakfast than most people did all day. Polishing and sharpening their tools, checking equipment, then a half hour after breakfast they would load up and head to scheduled  projects for inspection or maintenance of brush clearing on roadways in the back-country. Gloves and hard-hats worn, and test or inspect construction areas. There was little area that they did not step foot in, a thousand square-miles that they protected with their brothers of other stations. Dad often called her “Princess” and tell her of things he did during the days he was away.

Continuing: It is twelve-hours later, we have cut almost five-kilometers of line in an area that is too hazardous for bulldozers. I’m seriously tired, but we have to eat here in a bit. I see a comfy rock that we are going to sleep on in a little while. In the meantime, my meal is cooking in a can. Someone brought some spam (Yes, I know, but when you are hungry and tired, everything is a banquet!) and we are cooking it over a candle powered stove in its own can.”

Cassie made a face at the thought of can-poached spam.

We have to eat and then get back to the line, we are to join up with another crew that is cutting towards us. The fire is about two miles off.. probably you use metric when you are reading this so that would be a little over three kilometers and moving in our direction. We are cutting this line below the ridge top and backfiring as we go. (That is, we are burning it up to the ridge.) Food! Be back later. Don’t go away.”

She laughed. Writing on paper and he puts her on hold. “Don’t go away.” She remembered his sense of humor.

Back! It is now another ten-hours later, I am on a hike out. We had crews airlifted in, but we were out of position to get a ride, so… While we are on a break from our walk out I had to catch you up. We cut a line around this old hill and hooked up with the Pine Mountaineers crew. Your mom’s old party station. My crew, Iron Canyon Kings and the Blue Mountain Forest Rangers did a backfire that did not go as planned. (HAHAHA!) The small backfire kinda backfired. But it stopped the main front in the end. It was USFS’s game plan, but the vegetation was dryer than predicted and a bit of an uphill wind did more than expected. No one was hurt, but I don’t think the US Forest Ranger will handle a drip-torch like that again. HAHA! The backfire flared a bit more than planned and there were a few moments of a significant pucker factor.”

She laughed. His stories of the line were always of adventure.

Anyway, I have to get hiking again. We have fifteen miles to go, after that? I get on a bus and head back to the deployment area. We have been out here for two-weeks now and I expect the fire  will be fully contained by the end of our down-time. Three days before this all started your mom said we were expecting you to join us in less than a year. This is simply awesome! Anyway. Not much to write as far as a letter goes. This little bit o’paper will get stuffed into a file somewhere along with many others I hope. Anyway. Love you, (baby boy or baby girl!) Dad.

PS. Have to get used to that now, don’t I?”

She missed him, wherever he was. The advertisement in the magazine for wildland firefighters to go to a third world country that was suffering from a severe drought and fires that were threatening to devastate the ecology and economy.

The salary offered was too good to pass up. So Dad went when it was winter in the northern hemisphere to fight fires at the bottom of the world for six months.

And never came home.

A year later, a the government sent a half-dozen boxes back. The helicopter transporting firefighters crashed with only one broken radio call for help. The pilot called the identifier with “Mayday!” then silence. Destruction of the air transport was complete and some of the local war-clans had stripped the aircraft and burned the rest. Of a dozen-firefighters and two pilots in the flight, the charred remains of the only ones that could be identified were in coffins.

The search and rescue reported that the area around the Blackhawk transport was:

Complete combustion of airframe and personnel.”

Official speak for nothing was left.

So she sat there with a file folder of hand-written letters, looking over the rail of the bridge and a jar of ashes that a fire liaison had collected at the scene and sent to the remaining six families.Five years since the crash, mom still talked as if he were just about to walk through the door.  When she was fifteen, it made an odd sense of being closer to him and she was wishing she was a witch practicing “white magic” and had said a spell over a few hairs she had recovered from a brush he used and some glitter that they used to make a family portrait frame years ago. She and mom had a huge fight over that, it was disrespectful mom said.

It was the last time she tried any kind of magic, until now.  Now it was in the water, the final act of the spell.  She had one last thing to do, it was an immature effort, perhaps.

Cassiopeia O’Danu dropped a yellow rose into the waters as they flowed out into the Pacific ocean with the wish.

Dad, come home.”

3. Dad’s Next Letter

“Hello and good morning!  My first day home and I’m up before the sun. Ugh!  Your mom is still in bed and I am making some chamomile tea and sitting on the back porch.  The only one else that is up in the house is the dog.  Cats barely moved out of my way when I got up.  But I was too tired to sleep from so many days on the fire line that I could not sleep. I am still so tired I can’t think straight, so a letter to you while everything is quiet. It is a Saturday and your mom will not roll out of bed until noon. Here I am, stuck on the porch with the dog looking at me like I am about to throw the pen across the yard. Oh! Just a moment!  Tea is ready.  Don’t go away.”

She smiled. He even drew time notations in his letter in the form of an hourglass going empty.  Her dad was creative, she had to give him that.

Somewhere in the world was a red- going white- haired man that she needed to find.

“Back, some diphenhydramine (an antihistamine known to make me sleepy) and chamomile tea.  I’ll write this until the tea is gone and I go to bed.  Again.”

He drew a frowning face. It was a glimpse into the part that she remembered as a little girl. Sometimes he sat on the back porch alone and looking unhappy.  She would go up to him then, and he would always smile.  Sometimes, she got the feeling that he was very sad.

One time Cassie asked the great god of her life.

“Why are you sad, daddy?”

He had smiled, hugged her tightly.

“I miss some people.  Friends who were in a plane crash.”

“Okay baby girl or baby boy.  I’m going back to bed.  I think Buzz the dog even has gotten tired of my tossing the stick so early in the AM. For a puppy, he goes until he is pooped.  He does not sleep– he recharges.”

She had not thought of the Irish Wolfhound in a long time. He lived until he was ten-years old — for a Wolfhound, that was ancient.  She still loved that old dog.

She packed up her letters.  The teenage spell completed, but with the lack of hope of a cynical adult.  She knew it was a wasted effort.

Maybe. The wish in the back of her mind tickled annoyingly.

4. Leaving (and written) on a Jet Plane

Dear Princess! Last few months I have done all this training to go to a country to help with wild fires they are having. The entire country is smaller than Texas they say, and half of it is burning. They have had a tremendous drought there, so now we go to the country of eastern Quo Rhea. Their national bird is a Rhea, I think that is interesting. It would be like the United States Calling itself United Eagle or some such. Britain could be Bulldog Kingdom. Anyway. I’m sitting in the plane, if I look hard, I think I can see you waving. I will be missing your fifteenth birthday, I apologize. When I come back, we will have a belated party, just you and I. You have your diving license now, so maybe a dive in Lake Tahoe? Or a week in Hawaii and dive there. Such a birthday it would be. What do you think of that?

Anyway. Plane is now rolling, I have twenty hours of flight with a stopover in Australia. We have two-hundred firefighters on board, every one of us in uniform, and another hundred in support staff I think. It looks like a weird kind of convention.

Odd don’t you think that while the glaciers have begun to spread again, that there is a fire disaster in a tropical jungle? You will have to explain that one to me when I come back. They allow us in the country no longer than ninety-days. When I come home, we will have another six weeks before they call me up again for the fire season at home. I will be home a lot more often, there is a change in schedules coming. I will take the best one. Tuesday through Thursday and every other Friday. Not counting working fires of course. So you and mom have me every weekend. Like it or not. (Hahah!)

That’s it for now. I’ll write more tomorrow, we land in twenty hours, so I am not sure I will have much to write about, so I might write after I get situated at the fire base.

Just know I love you, Cassie.

Dad”

The tears crept down her cheeks. He never wrote again, it was his last letter. Catching a whiff, a long ago spill of his favorite drink. Water with lemon. Dad never drank his rum when even close to being at work.

5. Government Fail

Cassie was driving home when the phone ran. Tapping her wireless earphone her mother’s voice filled her ear.

Cassie, I have a letter from the government. I think it says I owe back taxes because your dad is not dead and I have received survivor’s benefits.”

Mom, what?”

I have a letter. Your dad is not dead, according to the letter. We need to get him declared dead I guess.”

Mom, I’m fifteen-minutes away in my car. I’m coming over to look at this letter.”

She broke the line and tapped the button again.

Dial Union lawyer” She was going to get this snafu taken care of right away.

She almost thought that the mobile phone had dropped carrier when it was quiet for so long until the most annoying voice in the world came on and the pre-recorded greeting gave her a dozen selections for languages, if she wanted to hear the latest news, inquiries for contract negotiations. Upcoming elections in the union.

I’ll drive there faster! Sheesh!”

Then the-most-annoying-voice announced the option that she wanted.

Checking her mirrors and all around for any law enforcement, she glanced down and pushed the number to select.

And a motorcycle officer pulled up behind with his lights flashing.

Cassie’s heart fell, until he drove around her with his siren blaring and shifting gears as he accelerated away.

Holy crap, that was close.” Cassie broke out in a nervous laugh. “Damn non-voice activated automated voice menu systems.”

A voice email of Tyson Reddit said he was not in and to leave a message.

Hi Tyson, it’s Cassiopeia O’Danu. My dad was one of the firefighters that went down on the helicopter? Anyway, I’m heading to my mom’s house right now. The government has sent her a notice that she has unpaid taxes because my dad is not dead? They are the ones that said there was no survivors in the crash.”

She broke the connection and turned right at the next corner towards her childhood home.

6. Bluetooth Insanity

The phone rang and she tapped her earphone.

May I speak to Cassiopeia O’Danu?”

Speaking. Hi Tyson.”

Hi Cassie. I have spoken to several people today. You are not the only ones to have received the letter. I have been on the phone most of the morning with the tax rep at the IRS. We have some serious information that we need. We have…” The earphone was unintelligible…” meeting in the case of that helicopter crash.”

What? You broke. Say that again.”

There has been a development. The radio that the pilot used while flying – their identifier. They were Fire-Crew Two? Someone used that identifier again to talk with air traffic control.”

WHEN?! How? Who?” She had too many questions and the bluetooth headset was not responding.

Tyson, hold on. I’m pulling in front of my mom’s house now.”

Trading the wireless headset for the phone, she turned off the engine of her car.

Now, what are you talking about.”

The United States base in T’Sett got a radio contact on an emergency channel with the pilots call sign, he was calling a mayday and that they were on foot. The signal was lost then.”

Who is ‘they’?”

The people I have talked with don’t know. The signal was lost, whoever was speaking turned off the radio.”

When was this? We need to start a search in the area.”

There was silence on the phone for a heartbeat.

It was, um…” the sounds of papers being moved around. “February of last year.”

Cassie was about to scream in fury.

EIGHT MONTHS AGO? Tyson, I want someone’s ass!” Cassie said. “That is… that is… just wrong!”

Cassie. It’s worse than that.”

How could it be worse?”

It was not LAST February, it was a year ago last February. February of LAST year.”

It was Cassie’s turn to go silent.

Quietly, she said into the phone when she could think again.

I am getting my mom and we will come down to your office right now.”

Bring the letter you mom has, there are other families here, we will meet and I will tell you all what I know.”

Thank you I will. Have you spoke with my mom, yet?”

No. You are the first one of your family I have talked with.”

How long have you known this development, Tyson?”

About an hour. The phone calls started yesterday afternoon.”

7. Speechless in Stress

Cassie almost ran up the steps to the door of her mom’s house. Opening the door with her key, she yelled for her mom immediately.

Cassie! Why are you rushing so? It is a letter, no one is here.”

Mom… Mom…” She could not get it out. Looking around, nearly five years had gone past since dad was here last. His clutter he left, mom had picked up but his chair was still there. His laptop was gone, stored somewhere but now hopelessly out of date. “Mom…get the letter, we are going to the union office to meet with Tyson Reddit now. There has been someone down in that country that called on the fire radio.”

What? What country? What radio? Cassie, you are not making any sense.”

Mom, just get the letter, I’ll tell you in the car.”

They rode for the first two blocks in silence.

Cassie?”

Mom.” She realized she was crying. “They got radio contact with someone from dad’s fire team. Maybe the pilot.”

Mom gasped as the thought sank in.

Mom. It was almost two years ago!” Cassie almost screamed the news. “They heard and never let us know. Now the IRS tells us he’s alive in a back-handed way.”

He’s alive?”

I don’t know. But if they have not started any rescue teams, it is way too late now.”

They pulled into the union parking lot, it was exceptionally crowded and dozens of people were standing around outside the door.

Are you waiting to see Tyson?” Cassie asked the woman who stood near the door. The woman looked familiar.

Then she remembered! Suzanne Riley, the sharp-eyed woman who had her husband only two years before he went on the fire fighting job. She had immigrated from South Africa to avoid apartheid. Although she was ten years older than Cassie, they looked the same age. Her skin still glowed with the smiles she carried within, but her children were now walking.

Did you get a letter too?”

Suzanne almost burst out crying.

They say I owe all the money back, because August is still alive. I have to prove he is dead, and I have no body. They never brought anything back. No funeral, no flag. All I have are papers that said he was missing.”

Several others gathered around. One Cassie recognized as being the son of one of the firefighters, he was easy to recognize. Same eyes and build, it was not hard to tell that the seed did not fall far from the tree.

Tyson finally walked out to the lobby.

Folks, if you please walk with me, we have a room set up for you and I will explain this serious issue.”

A serious issue? Thought Cassie. This is getting better all the time.

8. The Meeting Room

Take a seat, please. Every one in? Good, good. Okay…” Tyson started, he was wringing his hands in a slow cycle. He was not nervous, but looked like a man who had a big secret to tell.

Tyson.” A voice came from the door. “Phone call, you need to take this.” An young man with thinning hair stood behind Tyson.

Folks, excuse me.”

Cassie was fidgeting and then opened the file and pulled out another letter dated six-months before she was born.

Dear baby-bump.

Training day! Pain in my knees! Dang, we are hill-humping hose packs up mountains with tools, I’m on lead shovel at the moment. I usually do lead hook, but we have some new folks that need to train in that position. I am training others on how to throw dirt and how to clean up those things that the pulaski’s leave behind. There is very little with my crew. HAHA! Still, after so many seasons, I am getting aches in places I did not know I had places. Still, the competition for fire crews is a month off. We need to have everyone up to speed. Cross training on engines and in hand-crews is tough. But we won the golden-nozzle two years ago and the golden-shovel three years in a row, but we missed last year. We came in sixth. We were just were tired from a long spike and then we had to travel overnight to get there. We just were too tired to make a line fast enough, our tools and chain-saws were dull. I needed a bottle of aspirin, a bottle of rum and about five days sleep. Oh well, this year will be better!

Okay, we are on the move again Baby-bump! I’ll write later. We have a doctor’s appointment when I am off duty next week. We’ll get a sonogram and find if I start buying pink or blue. I want to buy hunter-green and black paints (for shadows) and paint a forest in your room, but mom has already crushed that idea.

Love you!

Dad

PS. When you grow up? Do not do what I do! Be a doctor! I don’t care in what. Doctor of Law, a veterinary, dentist! I want you home, always. Being in my business would not let that happen.”

Tyson walked back in and sat at a table with a laptop that he plugged in a cable.

Sorry about this old-school connection to the monitor behind me. But I do not want this being picked up by any snoops outside the office. I have just had this sent to me. It is a transcript and one other thing that has been found. Using an Earth-veiwing software.

First the transcript. I will preface this as it is not verified who it is.

Tyson tapped a few buttons and a .pdf file opened on the screen.

Unknown source: Any station any station. Fire-crew strike team two. Mayday mayday. Any station any station. Mayday mayday mayday. Fire-crew strike team two out of Iridium Fire Base calling any station. Mayday.

Remy Radio Control: This is Remy Naval Station on emergency channel. Go ahead with your Mayday traffic.”

Unknown Source: Remy Station, Fire-Crew Two…

Remy Radio Control: Fire-Crew two, go ahead with your emergency traffic.

Remy Radio Control: Fire-Crew Two, go ahead with your emergency traffic.

Remy Radio Control: Fire-Crew Two. This is Remy Station, do you copy?

Remy Radio Control: Negative Contact. Remy Radio Control clear of emergency channel 1506 hours local time.”

Tyson stood up and pointed out the timestamps on the file. “From the first call of ‘mayday’ to when contact attempt ended was five-minutes. We do not know precisely who it was. They ran the voice through some-sort of secret systems and still can not tell who it was. I have asked to have the recording released to us so we can identify the voice. But I have had no calls back on that note yet. I have worked on these things in the last eighteen hours. Mr. Yount, you called and left the first message at about quarter to five. I started making calls the minute I got the message. About five minutes later. No one was in at that time, I stayed until midnight last night and emailed everyone I could think of. Ninety-minutes ago, I got this file when I took that call. Officially we do not have this transcript.”

Who is keeping it? Who is saying we do not have the right to know anything?” It was Reberto Emba. The father of the Captain of the fire crew.

I do not know specifically – yet. I can’t tell you if it is military, cia, nsa ..or any of the -ia things. All I know so far, is it seems that the IRS knows more than we do. I have a couple calls in to different people. This is why I need your letters. Stanford will be coming around and collecting your letters to make copies, I’ll have your originals returned to you. I might be able to find someone in the IRS to do two things.” Tyson smiled. “ONE. Get your taxes deferred or eliminated and TWO! We will find out more information on your missing family that the government is not providing. The IRS is not overly secretive, they want their money. If we work with the IRS, they can get their money and we get information on where these missing firefighters are.”

A hand raised up. “Question?”

Mrs. Yount. Yes.”

First, my name was Baker. Kate Baker, my husband worked in Yountville.” Tyson had the look of a man shot in the face with a horse tranquilizer. “Now my question: my husband was in a box that I put in the ground three-and-a-half years ago. I remarried and I am four-months pregnant with my new husbands child. You are telling me that my dead husband is – maybe – not dead? One other thing, there were twelve crew on that ship plus a pilot and co-pilot. I count twelve families here.”

Everybody went quiet at the implication. The IRS sent letters to every family that was there.

And one other thing!” Kate Baker’s temper was rising. “WHO the FUCK DID I BURY?”

Tyson, obviously without the information he had, now also got angry.

Mrs.” He stopped. “What is your married name now?”

Castro.”

Mrs. Castro, I will find out. We will use the IRS to crack open this problem. What do they know about your loved ones. You have that right under the tax laws. They cannot tax you without cause, so what is the cause? They have to tell us what they know or scrub the amount you owe. They will not let money go without a fight and there are very few people who can push the IRS around. Not even the President of the USA.”

Can we make a class action with all of us to sue for the information?”

Tyson nodded. “We can sue anyone for this. The most difficult is finding which of the government is involved who we want to address. We can drag the feds in and win, but they would shrug shoulders and say “We don’t know” to the demands of the judge. But there is something more.”

He tapped on a world view software, bringing in to focus the island nation.

This was found by my assistant last night. We cannot be the only ones to see this.”

As he zoomed in on the southern most end of the island, the closer he got, there appeared numbers cut into the forest near a community. Tyson moved the mouse around and zoomed in on one number, 4440 then 4488 then another number 2500.

Gasps all around. The lines cut in the jungle were unit and station designator number, someone had cut the numbers into the forest along strangely appearing fire breaks.

What is the date on those images.” A uniformed man asked. “My wife was among those not found.”

“The dates on these images are,” Tyson looked at the copyright date. “two years ago.”

The families exploded in anger with Tyson holding hs hand up for deflection of the attacks.

Please! Please! Don’t kill the messenger. I am sharing what I know at the moment. We will know more in a day or so. I need to email more people tonight and call more in the Internal Revenue Service. I will need all your email addresses. Leave them with my assistant, he is moving around taking down the emails as we speak. Us finding anything useful out tonight is unlikely. Please return home and check emails often. Also if you can, please make sure I have your current phone numbers. Please call tomorrow, or I will call you by one o’clock in the afternoon. It  will be a conference call. You won’t have to come down here, there is more to this to discover if each family received a letter from the IRS.”

Kate Baker spoke again as they headed out. “Tyson, you have done us well. You get this taken care of, please.” Her eyes glittered with anger.

Cassie was in tears, biting her lip. The number 4440 was well-known even outside the area that used it. One of the chiefs that used those numbers was famous outside of his own ranger unit until his death in an accident when he was off-duty. Struck by a car on a dark night in winter, a fractured skull and other severe injuries, Chief 4440 never woke up.

Her dad had nothing but great things to say about the chief.

Subtle and striking, if the firefighters those numbers…

If? Who else would cut such lines? Without anyone knowing, it would take great skill and speed to cut eighty-foot long numbers in a jungle. Cassie knew this well. Golden Shovel crew can do such a thing in an hour.

IF IT WAS THEM Cassie’s mind yelled at her.

10. Hope

During the ride home mom became animated and talking like a child loaded up on soda and candy on Christmas eve.

We have to get the house cleaned up. I need to dust his chair off. He won’t like it if it is in the wrong spot. I need to go on a diet. Cassie, do you think he would miss the oak tree I had taken out after it broke the main branch? We need to go to the store and buy his brand of ale. He never liked those little yellow beers. OH! And rum! Remember that, Cassie. Rum.”

Mom, slow down. Dad is not coming home tomorrow. We have some information that makes it look like that someone of their team is alive. It has been five years, mom…

Mom- Beulah Kate Archi O’Danu was not listening, she kept talking. Deaf to her daughter’s words. In her mind, her best friend inthe world, the only man she had ever loved was alive and coming home!

“MOM! Calm DOWN. Take a deep breath. Dad is not coming home today.”

CASSIOPEIA GRANUAILE O’DANU! You do NOT talk to me like that. Your father said he was coming back, he is late, but he keeps his promises! And I am your mother and…”

And high-priestess of the women’s druid society, yes, I know.”

Mom’s eyes got glass-hard and she turned away. Saying nothing for the rest of the ride home.

Mom, what I mean is we have not yet found dad. The information they have is almost two-years old. Why they have not done a rescue? Why, oh my god why did they not tell us?” Cassie’s voice broke into sobs so deep she had to pull over.

Mom never turned her head or said a word.

11. Night Life

The expensive German luxury car was weaving too much to remain unobserved by law enforcement. Intersection cameras designed to catch red-light violations photographed a car driving through the traffic light at speed. Even midnight, it was illegal to go through controlled intersection. The traffic citation generated was mailed within a few minutes.

By the time the company processed the citation, law enforcement pulled in behind the weaving car and attempted to pull it over, although not going fast, the import’s erratic moment was getting progressively worse. Illuminating the interior of the car with the intense spotlight of the patrol car, the two officers saw the head come up and the expensive go-fast car pulled over, climbing up the sidewalk and destroying part of a picket fence. The officers called for backup in the event the stop turned into a chase.

The driver’s door opened and the driver leaned out the car, commands shouted to stay in the car by the officers, until the driver got out on his hands and knees – covered in blood.

We need medics at our location code 3, we have a man down and bleeding. Looks like a throat cut.”

Tyson Redditt went into cardiac arrest before the arrival of the paramedic unit, even with the early attempts to stop the bleeding by the EMT certified officers, his heart could not be restarted despite the best efforts of Medic-27 and the fire department.

The investigation that followed video camera’s back to the parking lot showed Tyson had worked late this night and then stopped at a convenience store where he bought a coffee, small bag of ice, the most expensive single-malt scotch in the cheap store and a large bag of pretzels. Outside of the store, two men with hoods over hats approached Tyson as he got into his car, it appeared that one of the assailants punched Tyson in the head and then the two figures ran off.

Tyson drove out of the parking lot and stopped at the next red light before proceeding through. One minute later,three-quarters of a mile down the road, his image of him driving and running a red-light was taken. The image showed that Tyson was driving with both hands on the wheel but was bleeding down the front of his shirt, looking as if he did not know that his throat was cut just under his left ear.

12. Morning Call

Cassie called the union in the morning. Tyson’s line kept going to voice mail, so Cassie called the receptionist.

O’Danu for Mr. Redditt? Yes, ma’am, please hold.”

Hello, Mrs. O’Danu?” It was not Tyson, this voice was more clipped and slightly deeper. “This is Detective Todogs. What is your business with Tyson Redditt?”

He was getting some information regarding my father. We had a phone meeting arranged this morning.”

Yes, well, when did you happen to see Mr. Redditt last?”

About four-thirty yesterday with all the different families.” She paused then asked.“What is going on officer? Is Tyson in trouble?”

“Someone killed him last night in what appears like a robbery and assault, someone cut his throat after he left the office.”

They spoke further for a few minutes and he confirmed her address with the one that the secretary gave him.

We have a couple of detectives driving to everyone’s home now, you are available for a few minutes to do an interview?”

Yes. Oh god, am I a suspect?”

Should you be?”

No, and I take offense to the question.” Cassie said coldly.

Well, then you have nothing to worry about.” The voice was unapologetic.

I will be here with my mom.” She broke the connection. “MOM! Oh my god, MOM!”