The Last Contract
UPS knocked on Room 1021 at precisely 8:30 on a cold Monday morning on Dodge Street, in Omaha, Nebraska.
The door opened slightly at first, then a bit wider as Stan, nearing sixty, and balding, with deep-set cat’s eyes, and a physical build that belied his years. Stared at the package a not so unattractive brunette held, along with an electric light pen to sign the standard receipt form.
Not giving another thought, Stan scribbled a signature other than his own, closed the door not hearing her thank you, and immediately sat on one of the twin beds, carefully opening the package.
It was always the same way. Finish a job, maybe have a week, sometimes a month’s worth of free time before he was contacted, told where to go and simply wait for instructions. Stan was used to all the cloak and dagger shit by now. This wasn’t exactly his first dance with madness.
“Let me look at who I’m being paid half-a mil for. Must be one important sonuvabitch.”
Inside the package was a cream-colored folder with one photograph and a full-page bio on the individual.
James Oliver, 34, married, one child, 6’3”, 180. Brown hair, green eyes, lives in Arlington, works in Dallas. Former marine, currently Assistant Federal Prosecuting Attorney, three years.
Tell me something I don’t already know, Stan thought.
“Something ain’t right about this. This can’t be right. I’ve been doing this crap over thirty years, and now I’m expected to drop everything like this was nothing!”
Stan slammed the folder to the floor, the picture of James Oliver staring back up at him.
“Dammit, when the courier dropped this off, I figured it was going to be just another hit. But this? This is fucking crazy. I need to call the man on this one. No way can I do this.”
Stan pulled his cell phone from his suit jacket that hung on a corner of a chair next to the bed he was sitting on and hit speed dial for a 215-area code. The phone rang twice before a young voice answered. Behind the voice, Stan could hear more voices, laughter, and live music. Awful damn early for a party, he thought. Lucky bastard. His money. Me? I’m stuck in a Motel 6 in Omaha, with a view of a shopping mall and traffic.
“Mr. Amayia, please. Tell him Stan Oliver is calling.”
Two minutes later, Amayia answered.
“Mr. Oliver, how nice to hear from you. I do want to congratulate you on the fine work you recently performed. My client was most pleased with how things turned out. That’s why, if you noticed, the added bonus placed into your account. Very well done.
“I take it you received the information sent you?”
Smooth talking sucker, Stan mused to himself.
“That’s why I’m calling. I don’t know if you know this or not, but I can’t do this contract. At least not this one. No way can I hit my own kid.”
There was a terse moment of silence on both sides before Amayia spoke.
“Ah, but Mr. Oliver, you can, and you will. You have already received an advance for this assignment and you know how much it displeases me when any contract is broken because of personal reasons, or people telling me what they will or won’t do.
“You must understand it creates an aura of negative diplomacy between I, and of those clients who come to me in search of a way to have their; shall we say, needs taken care of. Neither does it bode well to have dissension among the rank and file.
“Besides, my understanding is that the both of you have been essentially estranged for a number of years. Mr. Oliver, regrettable as this may or may not sound, even though he is your son, the first rule of my rules always apply: work comes first, family comes second. You always do the former before the latter.
“This shouldn’t be an issue. The two of you had a serious falling out years ago. There hasn’t been any correspondence, no phone calls, not so much as a text message, birthday or holiday card sent; not even one visit since your son married. To me, he is more a stranger than blood.
“And you wouldn’t want me to engage someone else to do this, now would you.” That came out more statement than question.
“I shall expect the assignment carried out as is stated in the instructions for tomorrow evening,” Amayia paused. “Oh, one last thing, Mr. Oliver; don’t do anything foolish. Fail, and you know what will happen. You have been in my employ a number of years. I would hate to lose you. But, then again, that is why I chose you. You never fail to deliver.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am in the middle of preparations for guests this evening and I must make certain that things here are in order. These parties can be such a bore but in order to make my clients happy, I must play the gracious host. Goodbye, Mr. Oliver.”
Stan held onto his cell phone for a full minute, listening to a long since dead span of silence. He couldn’t believe this. Amayia acted as if family didn’t take precedent over anything. If it were his boy, I bet his ass would be singing another tune.
The message was clear. Take out my kid or get hit myself; and he’d still find someone to do the job.
It wouldn’t be the first time a job has been turned down by a shooter. Stan had personally taken out two men in the last three years. One, who let drugs and booze overrule his mind and body, while the other one just couldn’t stomach the work any longer. Just like a regular contract, only with a little less pay; you make it quick and as painless as possible.
There was only one possible way out. Live to be a ripe old age and if you’re lucky, no one will walk up behind you and blow out the back of your head. Lights out.
Stan hadn’t seen James in over fifteen years, not since his son found out what he did for a living. He couldn’t blame James. Stan though, had used a portion of his income to put James through college; watched from afar as his military career took off until an explosion curtailed him in Iraq. He lost his left arm, but he never lost his will to succeed.
James returned home, honorably discharged, hailed the quiet hero, went back to school, and eventually passed the bar exam (where he met and later married his wife, Kellie), to become a hard-driven attorney until he was lured into a bigger title, more money and prestige within the federal government. Special Prosecuting Attorney.
The title alone turned heads. Other men and women representing their clients in the same courtroom as James, were never fully prepared for him no matter what they did. He was tenacious. His record spoke volumes about his accomplishments. Sixty-six cases.
Sixty-six convictions. Before he was persuaded to join the feds as an Assistant D.A., he had posted eighty of eighty-one convictions. The one he lost was due to a physical condition. The defendant suffered a stroke and died two days before James would have made his final deliberation to a jury.
According to the file in front of Stan, in two weeks, James is prosecuting Donald Jerriossi on criminal charges of conspiracy, extortion, Interstate transportation and possession of both high-tech weapons, ammunition and explosives, and over nine-hundred kilos of cocaine. And, to top off the charges, five counts of murder. Murders that were ordered by Jerriossi.
Jerriossi is currently out on a one-million-dollar bond. The only witness for the prosecution is to be eliminated by another shooter before the government goes to trial, but with James out of the picture, the witness silenced, all the charges would be dropped, and at best, any evidence would become circumstantial. In turn it would create delays, resulting in several years of legal strangling before Jerriossi would be inside a courtroom again.
Lately, the press hadn’t been good for Jerriossi, and he hates bad press. It’s bad for biddness, Stan’s colleagues would say, but these days, bad press was everywhere.
But his son? It all comes down to this, he thought.
Stan called the airlines and booked a flight to Dallas. Looking through his contact numbers, he hit speed dial on the one number he thought he would never call. But he had it there just in case of an emergency. This was an emergency.
“Yes. Who’s calling?”
Nervously, Stan cleared his throat and said, “Hello, son.”
“Oh, it’s you. Great way to start a conversation. I wish you hadn’t called me, especially at home. What do you want?”
“Such a warm welcome. It’s good to hear your voice, too. I called to let you know I’m flying into Dallas tomorrow. We need to talk. It’s urgent.”
“I don’t believe we have anything to discuss. Not for about the last fifteen years. I’m sure the, ah, business you’re in keeps rather busy. I’m surprised you actually found time in your busy schedule to even make this one phone call. Or is business a little slow these days.”
“Cut the crap, James. This is important. It’s about you and Jerriossi.”
“What about him? Why the all of a sudden concern for my welfare?”
“I can’t tell you over the phone. My plane’s due in tomorrow at 12:18. Meet me in the airport lounge. Just be there. I’ll explain things to you then.”
James held his breath a moment before saying anything.
“I shouldn’t, but I will meet you long enough to hear whatever it is you have to say. But I’m telling you right now, whatever it is, isn’t going to change my mind about Jerriossi. It’s my job and I intend to put that piece of slime away for as many years as I can squeeze out of the legal system.”
“Nice to know you haven’t changed. Still as stubborn and one-sided as ever. I can’t fault you for that. Just listen to what I have to say, face-to-face.”
“Too bad you didn’t try that years ago.”
“James, that isn’t fair.”
“Not fair! After what you put mom and me through, and you say it isn’t fair?” James inhaled, slowed his breathing, willing himself to regain control of his voice. “Never mind. We’ll talk tomorrow.” James hung up the phone.
Once again, Stan listened to dead silence. Getting up from his chair, he placed his cell phone back inside his suit jacket, walked to the closet, pulled down a black briefcase, laid it on the bed, turned three tumblers on the locked, flipped the latches and stared at the components of his Smith & Wesson .44, with an extended long barrel, complete with a compressor silencer and three loaded magazines with hollow point shells.
The father instinct said to not bring it along, but the professional in him, said ye. The airport wouldn’t detect the gun as the case held two different compartments. The outside lining would show a few papers, pens, a cell phone, and a calculator; all the things a businessman would carry. The inner lining was treated with a thin tri-steel composite which would conceal his weapon from the airport’s x-ray scanning system used. Since 911, modern technology has come a long way.
Just more cloak and dagger shit.
Stan didn’t sleep well that night. He didn’t want to do this. Not at all.
Airport Lounge – 12:31 p.m.
“What was so important you had to leave Omaha that you couldn’t tell me on the phone?”
They sat opposite from one another at a small cocktail table in a far corner dimly lit. Stan had a whiskey-sour in front of him. James had a martini. Neither man smiled.
“No sense beating around the bush. You’ve known about me and what I do for a helluva long time and never said a word. I respect you for that. I know I’ve never been the father you hoped for, and maybe this might make up for things a little, though I’m not yet sure of that.
“This case you plan to go to court with; this Jerriossi thing.”
“What about it?”
“James, son—I have been given a contract to kill you.”
James stopped his right arm in mid-air as he was about to sip his martini and looked directly into Stan’s eyes.
“You are joking, right? This is some sort of sleazy threat to stop me from prosecuting Jerriossi. Whoever it was that hired you figured I would back off and that would be the end of it, right? Send daddy. I listen. You can go back where you came from, call or tell them to their face it didn’t work.”
“You don’t seem to get the big picture here, James. I don’t want to do this, but it’s what I’ve been hired to do, I haven’t a choice in this unless you back off.
“You mean, paid to do,” shot back James.
“Fine. I know I can stop this contract if you dismantle everything you have on Jerriossi, and just toss it in the trash. Just bring up some kind of legal whatever you use words to have it quashed. Just walk away from this one.
“Do you really believe; can you honestly sit there and expect me to simply throw away over three years of solid investigation work, and make any type of compromise with you or any other thing for that matter? This conversation has gone too far. If you’ll excuse me, I have to be getting home. Unlike some of us, I have a family waiting for me.”
Stan ignored the heavy dig.
“James, please, for God’s sake; say you won’t go through with this. Dammit, boy, let me off the hook for once!”
A few people sitting at various tables in the lounge looked up. Stan hadn’t meant to raise his voice. Last thing he needed was unnecessary attention.
“Hook? You’ve been on the hook all your life. When you went to prison, my mother had to live with the shame of what you did for almost two years before she decided we had to move out of the neighborhood. Shame that you brought on by lying to her, deceiving her. And yet, she couldn’t bear the fact you were in prison. She still came to see you every chance she could, and it was eating her up inside because she promised herself and to me, to never let you back into our lives again because your word couldn’t be trusted.
“Mother died worrying about you long after the divorce. Deep down, even in death, she was still in love with you. You never knew that did you? I lost a father because of a hook. A father I thought I knew and trusted, only to find out it was a father with a second life far more important than the first one. My daughter only knows one grandfather instead of two because of your hook. Hook? One more time isn’t going to hurt you.
“The only upside to this if there is one, is all the money you put into my savings account. I wasn’t going to touch it at first. After the military, I was actually planning on giving it away. But then I decided why not use your dirty money for something good. I won’t thank you, but at least I am in a position to make a difference.
“So you do what you have to do because I am. I have to go. I wish I could say this has been a fun reunion, but I would be lying. Goodbye.”
Stan watched as his son stood away from the table and walked out of the lounge and in moments was lost in the crowd of people walking around the airport. Raising the last of his drink to his lips, he knew deep down, James would stay true to his convictions. His mother raised him right.
He ordered another whiskey-sour.
When the twenty-something waitress brought his drink, he took a long pull, then mentally conjured up his wife; his ex-wife, Lizzie.
Why she fell in love with him is anyone’s guess. She was barely five-foot, and soaking wet, maybe a hundred pounds. She had shoulder-length curly brown hair, and deep-set brown eyes that could penetrate your very soul.
Back then, Stan was first running numbers and doing a few neighborhood collections for Mr. Jacobi until he died. By then, Stan and Lizzie were married and expecting their first child. Their only child.
Lizzie was an X-Ray technician at St. Vincent’s Hospital. As far as she knew, Stan dealt in real estate, and according to their bank account, things were doing just fine.
When James was two, Johnny Ashe, who was put in place of Mr. Jacobi, was taken out by a higher order which came from Amayia. Johnny had been skimming off the top once too many times. Stupid man. Amayia made Stan an offer. Twenty-grand. Make it clean. Pull the trigger. Walk away. Np regrets. It was easy.
From that point, things went even better for Stan. He would take Lizzie and James to various vacation resorts all over the world. Real Estate was booming, he would say.
The marriage was rock solid. He and Lizzie attended all of James’ baseball and hockey games (when Stan wasn’t attending to real estate deals). Stan would make other arrangements if it got in the way of birthdays, holidays, and his wedding anniversary. He would just push things up by one day. Back then, Amayia didn’t care as long as the deal got done. Yes, life was grand.
Until Sarasota, Florida.
For the first and only time, Stan was seen doing a hit in a parking garage. A Congressman and his wife. Simple.
The witness was in another car, speed-dialing 911 on her cell phone. Within a few minutes the parking garage was sealed off. Stan barely escaped but the witness gave an accurate description and a police sketch artist drew Stan on paper as if he grew up with him.
As Stan was driving away from the scene, he felt something had gone terribly wrong. He went back to his motel room, cleaned things out, destroyed other things, drove the rental back to the agency, and hailed a cab for the airport.
Car rental agencies, the bus and train terminals and airport were all covered. As careful as he played it, Stan was picked up as he was walking through the airport, arrested, and taken downtown, and booked for murder.
Stan had one phone call. Amayia. In twenty minutes, a lawyer showed up. In ten minutes, Stan was a free man. They had no weapon. No fingerprints at the scene.
It was Stan’s word against an obviously frightened woman who confused his looks with that of the real killer. After all, the lighting in the parking garage isn’t exactly screaming with daylight. Stan was a free man until a court date would be set. The lead D.A. on the case would press for a conviction.
It hit the news locally as well as nationally. Bits and pieces of Stan’s real life crept to the surface. Allegations were made but nothing confirmed. His wife, Lizzie confronted him with the truth, and in the scheme of things, it was the truth that destroyed his marriage and his relationship with his son.
The State of Florida built an imposing case and try as much as Stan could, he was found guilty and received fifteen years, but for second-degree murder. He was out in seven and off paper in three. In between all that time came a very quiet divorce.
Amayia told him to lay low for a year and let things die down.
Losing his family was as low as Stan would ever get.
No one knew he was in the crowd on a slightly rainy Saturday afternoon. Stan got to see her one more time before the casket lid was closed. She was a beautiful woman once; and on the day she was buried, she was every bit as beautiful then.
James was right.
He had killed Lizzie as if he had used his own gun and pulled the trigger himself. It was all those years in the middle that aged her, broke her spirit, her heart, and eventually her life spilled out of her like an open wound.
Blinking away the mental image, he tilted his head back, draining the last of his drink, set the empty glass on the table, fished in his pocket, and threw a twenty next to the glass for the twenty-something waitress, and reached down for his briefcase and left the lounge.
Walking outside into an already hot Texas afternoon, Stan walked over to where a row of cabs sat waiting to take on passengers for any destination. Stan slid into the backseat of a black and white cab and said flatly, “Best Western off Haney in Arlington.”
“Ya, sure,” said a somewhat young looking Greek. “That is like a forty-mile drive. About eighty bucks, mister.”
“If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t have mentioned it.”
The look from the backseat told the driver to keep his mouth shut and just start the meter and go.
Fifty-three minutes and seventy-nine dollars later, along with a twenty-dollar tip, Stan checked into his room under the name, Louis Grover, a salesman for a textile firm.
The first thing he did was open his briefcase, extracted part of his weapon; first cleaning each part carefully. When Stan finished, he put each piece together in a knowing but fluid motion, then slammed the clip in place, placing the silent compressor on the barrel end with a slight twist to the right. Then he tucked it smartly in his holster sleeve under his left shoulder coat jacket.
Stan picked up the in-room phone, pressed eight for the restaurant, and ordered a cheeseburger, fries and three beers.
It was 2:27.
Stan went over everything once more in detail as to what he had to do, none of course to his liking. Satisfied, he called a cab. Within twenty minutes, he gave the driver James’ address in Arlington.
The thirteen-minute drive was spent in silence. A tearful look came over Stan, which any other time, were steely, without emotion.
He wished there could be another way.
Stan sat on a park bench across from his son’s home, watching whatever activity he could from his vantage point through partially opened windows. Earlier, the park had been filled with quite a few people, but now it was practically a desolate place. A lonely place.
In the last thirty minutes all he had seen were two middle-aged women heading in the same direction, each walking their dog, and on the far side of the park; two kids were just finishing throwing a Frisbee around and took off running. Stan didn’t think kids still did that kind of stuff.
Less than four hours from midnight. Four hours in which he must kill his own son.
Amayia wouldn’t have it any other way.
Stan pulled his coat flap back, looked ate the walnut grained handle of his Smith and Wesson, sighing, he let the coat flap fall back into place, and stood, stretching for a few seconds, and started walking toward the house.
“I have to try one more time.”
Walking up to a set of oak wood doors, Stan pressed the buzzer. Before he could exhale the nervousness out of himself, one door swung open from the inside and a small child, perhaps five, stood in the open doorway.
“Yes sir? You want to see my mommy or daddy? My name is Jessica, and I’m this many.”
She raised both hands, holding up three tiny fingers on one hand while the other was bunched together in a fist with only her thumb raised proudly in the air.
Close, thought Stan.
“What’s your name, mister?”
“Jessica? Who is at the door, honey?” came James voice. Stan could only stare at his granddaughter for the first time in his life. He couldn’t help but let a small smile escape his lips.
“I don’t know, Daddy. It’s a man and he wants to talk with you.”
Jessica ran from the door, giggling and skipping away at the same time.
James came to the door.
“What are you doing here? I thought our conversation was finished.”
“Not quite. First, let me say you have a fine looking little girl and she’s very polite. It’s the first time I’ve seen my granddaughter.”
“You didn’t come here to see Jessica. Say what you came here to say and just go away.”
Stan lifted his coat flap back, exposing the walnut grained handle of his Smith and Wesson.
“It isn’t talk any longer, James. It’s business.”
James backed up a step but there wasn’t fear in his eyes like so many others Stan had terminated over the years.
“It’s finally come to this.”
“I’m sorry, son. You don’t leave ne any other choice. If I don’t do this, someone else will. As much as I hate to say this, I’d rather be the one.”
Still holding his coat flap open with his left hand, Stan reached for the .44, silencer intact with his right hand and pointed the barrel at James, chest high, and cocked the hammer back in deathly silence.
“I often wondered if you would ever kill one of your own. Tonight, you’ll prove my belief. Family doesn’t matter to you at all. It didn’t matter years ago when mom died of a broken heart. It doesn’t matter now that you’ll leave my wife, Kellie, and Jessica, without a husband and a father. In a sense, killing me gets rid of the past for you once and for all. You’re nothing more than a killing machine. A mechanical being whose buttons, once pushed, set off your program for destruction.
“While you’re at it, when you finish with me; why don’t you just come inside the house and kill my family while you’re at it? Go ahead, pull the damn trigger! Just remember, when your time comes, I will see that you end up in hell along with the rest of your kind.”
Stan raised the gun a little more, barrel level with the point above James left eye. Sweat burst out across Stan’s heavily furrowed brow.
“Last chance, James. Tell me you’ll drop the charges against Jerriossi, and I walk away. Tell me you’ll do it.” The Smith and Wesson quivered slightly in his hand.
“I can’t, and you know I can’t. In one small way we are both alike.” We are both dedicated to our professions. In a way, we are both locked in.”
The .44 stopped quivering. Stan slowly pressed his index finger against the trigger and started to squeeze it back. Back. Back.
“Daddy! Daddy! Come back in the house and finish playing the game with me and Mommy! You promised! Remember? Please!”
Jessica came running right up to the front door tugging at James hand. In that brief instant, Stan let up on the trigger and quickly concealed his gun from Jessica’s sight.
“Honey, daddy will be there in just a few minutes. Just go back and keep your mother company.”
“Okay, Daddy.” Jessica turned and bolted off leaving the two men alone again.
His eyes locked onto his son’s.
“Maybe it’s better I don’t do this. I wouldn’t want you on my conscience, not like your mother’s has always been. That, and having the little one grow up hating me the rest of my life. Having you hate me is bad enough.
“James, you know they will send someone else after you. Might be in a day or a week. You won’t be safe, and neither will your family.”
Stan pulled the gun from behind his back, and slowly released the hammer of his Smith and Wesson and slipped it back into his shoulder holster.
“I can be safe if you are willing to give me a name, or names.”
“I’ve never snitched on anyone. But there’s always a first time for everything I guess. Since I’ve signed my own death certificate tonight.
“The man’s name is Kirsten Amayia. He heads up the Boston to D.C., drug market among other things. He holds connections with just about every mainline dealer on the East Coast. You nail him, you’ll take a big chunk of the drugs off the street. He also sets up about eighty percent of the contract hits, from Chicago down to Miami.”
Stan decided against telling him about the state’s major witness being set up for a hit. It was probably too late anyway. The guy was due to be hit the same times James was. Stan gave him other information as in Amayia’s address, cell number and other points of contact.
“Thanks for the information. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an anxious four-year old waiting for me. As far as Amayia is concerned, I’ll make a call tonight and have him picked up tonight or tomorrow morning. By then, there will be a hundred Fibbies up his ass with nowhere to go. There will be plenty of warrants served to keep him and his lawyers busy for a long time to come.
“He won’t be able to touch you, so rest easy. If you like, I can arrange to have police protection for you until this is all over, but somehow, I have a feeling that that doesn’t appeal to you.”
“You’re right, it doesn’t. Look, it really was good to see you again and seeing Jessica, too. Just sorry it had to be this way. James, take care of yourself.” Stan extended his hand. James looked down for a moment, then placed his own within Stan’s grasp.
“Thanks … Dad.”
Stan looked into his son’s eyes and in the faint light of the moon’s glow, silver tears formed in his own. Another smile creased his features as he nodded his head, turned, and walked away.
“One other thing,” called out James. “I never hated you. I was just disappointed. I’m not any longer.”
Stan heard the words but kept on walking, only he walked a little taller and straighter as the shadows of the night swallowed him away.
James stood in the doorway watching as Stan disappeared with Jessica returning, pulling at his shirtsleeve. His wife, Kellie, came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his stomach.
“Who was here to see you?”
“Someone from out of my past. My father. I’ll explain it all to you later.”
Breaking his own misty mood, he turned to Jessica, swooping her up in his arms, exclaiming, “It’s starting to get chilly! Let’s close this door and get back to our game. But before I forget, I have to make a quick call, and I promise I won’t be long. Then it’s game on.”
As James was closing the door, he was hard pressed to see Stan anywhere.
The Swede found Stan sitting in a darkened area of the park. The Swede was hired to watch Stan’s movements. The Swede was hired for something else as well.
“What took you so long, Swede?”
“How’d you know it was me, Oliver?”
“It’s your after shave. I can smell that crap three states away. You can step out from those bushes anytime now.”
Swede stepped out and was every bit as big as Stan. Only three differences: he’s younger by ten years and bald with coal black eyes.
“Couldn’t waste him, could you?”
“If it was your boy, could you have done it?”
“I don’t have kids. Too much of a liability.”
Stan saw the motion the Swede made.
“Oliver, you know this is business. I have to take you down.”
Stan stood tell, hands at his side.
The Swede pulled out a Krueger .45 semi-automatic, silencer attached and cocked the hammer back.
“Got anything you want me to tell Amayia when I get back?”
“You aren’t going to make it back.”
That made Swede’s eyes blink long enough for Stan to reach for his Smith and Wesson, and have it cocked and aimed at Swede’s heart.
“But if you do, tell him I said he could go straight to hell. I’ll meet him at the door when he shows up.”
Stan could feel the barrel of Swede’s .45 pointing straight for the spot between his eyes.
He stopped shivering and that nervous feeling he had when he faced his son earlier, was gone.
As both men squeezed their triggers, as guns roared silently, Stan watched as the Swede sailed backward.
Although Stan wasn’t aware of just how fast a second could pass, there was that one second before the bullet from Swede’s gun slammed home into his brain when Stan whispered his last words.
“He called me, dad.”
Return Trip – Part One
It’ll be good to get out of the city for a couple weeks. I’ve been planning this vacation for three months. I’m off to spend time with the sweetest woman I know.
She is such a vibrant woman, as well as witty, smart as a whip, and one with a fiery temper. She’s Italian, what can I say? In ninety minutes, I’ll be out of Manhattan and in a few hours after, I’ll be in her bed in Somerville; getting the best back rub a man could ask for.
After I stop by my place, take a quick shower, grab my already packed bag, I’ll be off and running. It’s just past one, and with any luck, I’ll be in her arms sometime around six or seven depending on traffic.
I met Gina a year ago through a party my sister gave. Julie and Gina had been college roommates. It was interesting how we met. I was standing next to Julie, asking her what she was going to do with her life now that she had her degree. Gina was to her left.
“Probably go on unemployment.”
We laughed, and Gina laughed along with us.
I looked at her and suddenly was taken by her strikingly beautiful looks and couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to be in bed with this woman. She was utterly desirable looking, and I felt drawn to her like a magnet. Can we say, drop-dead gorgeous?
Gina smiled, raising her drink to her lips and with a trace of her accent, said, “You shouldn’t have thoughts like that; they could get you into all kinds of trouble.”
I feigned surprise when she explained I had the look in my eyes she had seen in other men. From there, the conversation the rest of the night went far better than I expected. Gina went home with me.
Since that night, we get together twice a month. Her coming to me, and me going to her. She took a job near Boston, which was good for me since my family lived in Brookline. Once, I hinted at marriage with her, but she never wanted to take it seriously.
“Derrick,” she once said on a Sunday afternoon after we returned back to her place from spending the day sailing in the Charles River, “please, let’s enjoy each other for what we have. If you married me, you might regret it later. Let us just enjoy what we have, the way it is.”
That was seven months ago. I have the next two weeks being around her. Maybe this time around, I can change her mind.
I love this woman.
Thank heaven the freeway is less than a block from my place. If I had to fight traffic right now, I’d scream. There; there’s the entrance ramp.
Hot damn! Home free now, baby!
What a beautiful day. A deep rich blue sky, and not a cloud to be seen. And, like me, cars running along the freeway looking for places to go, except I know my destination.
Man, there sure are a lot of hitchhikers out here. I must have passed seven or eight people already. Most have signs, but if you don’t pay attention or drive by too fast, you have no clue what they say. I did manage to catch a sign for a couple people. One going to Hartford, another to Providence, and one going all the way to Bangor.
Passed a couple, probably married. Wonder where they were headed; no sign. Man, these people are out in full force today. Hell, it’s the weekend, why not.
Only just because; the next person I see that looks decent, I’ll pick up as long as him or her are going at least as far as I am. I used to thumb these roads when I was in college, and I know what it’s like to stand around for hours waiting for someone to come along and offer a ride.
Looking through my rearview mirror, I caught a fading glimpse of the city behind me laced in blue sky. I love Manhattan, but it can be a real bear at times.
“Now there goes a guy that looks okay.”
I pulled my car over from the center lane all the way over to the shoulder and slowed down to a stop about ten yards past him and honked my horn. I hit the automatic button to let the passenger side window down.
Watching him in my rearview, I noticed he walked a little funny. Maybe he had a bad leg or something. But I thought if the guy were gay, I hoped he wouldn’t try to hit on me. If he does, I won’t care where we are, I’ll drop him off in a heartbeat.
He was bending over looking at me through the open window.
“Hi there. I’m going to Somerville, just outside of Boston.”
“That is good. I need to be in a place called Cambridge.”
“Hop in then. Cambridge isn’t all that far from where I’m headed. I can drop you off close to downtown.”
“This is far better than hoped for. Thank you.”
Swinging back onto the freeway, making sure I had plenty of room to get back without colliding into someone not paying attention, I look at my passenger for a second, and then settle back to concentrating on the road.
“Hey, no problem. My name is Derrick, Derrick Henderson. What’s your name?”
“My names is, ah, Dallas Maryland.”
Rather odd name. What the ll. Not my problem.
As I continued driving, I would glance over at him periodically, and one time I noticed he had a white streak running from front to back in the center of his scalp. His ears were squared off at the bottom as well. Must be the sun, the excitement of seeing Gina, making me see things that weren’t there before, but I would have sworn he wasn’t like that when he got in the car.
“Yes, it is quite hot today, isn’t it?”
“What? Oh yeah, yeah it is.” How did he know what I was thinking? Maybe he’s just making conversation.
“We’ll be pulling in about seven this evening. I love coming into the city when the sun is setting. Boston looks great that way, especially when you catch a view of the Charles River.”
“Seven? That late? Is there any way you can arrive sooner? It is imperative I be at my destination no later than six.”
“Sorry, Dallas. As you can see, I’m doing the driving. I get there when I get there. What’s the rush? Somebody going to die or something?”
“One never knows what will happen.”
Dallas wasn’t smiling.
The clock on the dash read 3:37 when I glanced over at Dallas and saw a worrisome look cross over his eyes. His eyes. They too seemed different than from before. Earlier, they looked dark, like a deep brown. Now, they appeared glassy, almost as if you were looking through a window-pane.
As I continued to weave in and out of traffic changing lanes, I looked down at his hands for a second and almost lost control of the car. It started to swerve left into a car passing on my left. Regaining control, barely missing the car, I flipped on my right-hand turn signal and pulled off into a rest area. It wasn’t until I came to a complete stop that I realized I was sweating and shaking.
“Okay, Dallas, or whoever, or whatever you are; get out of my car!” I knew my voice was loud, me words shaky, but I was more scared than angry.
“I can explain, Derrick. You have seen my fingers have to nails. If you look closer, you will see that my ears grow smaller. The whiteness in the hair is also becoming clearer and widening. The longer we sit here, the more danger I am in. Just as another may be.”
“Danger? What danger! Just what and who the hell are you? A forgotten lab experiment? A creature from outer Mongolia or something?”
I pressed against my door, left hand on the handle, prepared to bail out just in case this guy started to wig out on me.
“Your comprehension may not adjust to what you are about to hear, Derrick.
“I am losing life-force. I must be in this place called Cambridge no later than six this evening. If I am not; within the span of one of your earth seconds, my death will be immediate. I must be in a precise location at the time specified, where I will pass from your world into my own. If I fail, I will be lost. My atoms will separate between both worlds and will no longer exist.”
“You mean you are actually from out there somewhere?” I looked into the sky pointing my finger, feeling stupid at the same time.
“Not precisely, Derrick. My world lies beyond The Alpha-Crytonen Dimension, which is about three-million lights years from your universe. It is a world of gases and energy. My world consists of nothing more than that. But it is the stars surrounding my world that emanates freedom and the singleness of hope that gives me courage to take this journey each year. But the stars, Derrick, such beauty, and in the blink of your eye, a new one is born.”
Yeah, that’s it.
“Look, Dallas or whoever you really are, I picked you up because you look decent and going as far as I am. But it’s time you get out of my car and lay that story on someone else. If you think I’m buying all this crap; your nuttier than I already know you are.”
“My name is not Dallas, it is Tobemo. You cannot leave me here. Leaving me here would be an act of murder. Leaving me behind would be the creation of my demise.”
“Watch me. Get out before I throw you out!”
My courage was returning, and I wasn’t about to let this clown pull one over on me.
“I don’t have anything to put over you. But I see you do need proof. If I can show all you have done today, and show that Gina waits for you, would you believe me then?”
I was startled.
“Gina? How do you know about her?”
“I have certain powers that enable me to read minds, alter my structure and see both past and future.
“A few moments ago, I mentioned that I may not be the only one in danger. Gina will have your favorite meal for you when you arrive. But, if I do not arrive at my departure location on time, you will not be able to prevent her from having a terrible accident. My being in Cambridge will prevent that was happening, for it will give you enough time to save her life.”
This guy was going way too fast for me. What accident? I looked into his eyes and could see my reflection as if staring into a mirror looking back at me. Scary.
“I don’t know….”
“I will slow down for you. I see you need further convincing.”
Tobemo reached into his coat pocket with now very thin fingers and removed what appeared to be a pocket watch. He waved his hand over the facing and a brilliant glow appeared. I was both confused and scared.
Tobemo extended the watch where I had a better view, when I saw myself driving back to my apartment from work, showering, changing clothes and grabbing my bag and heading for the freeway. I saw myself pick Tobemo up.
Then I saw, Gina. She was in the kitchen boiling water with a large pot filled with spaghetti inside it. She’s using a gas stove, and one of the burners is turned one, but with no flame. Then she walks out of her apartment to go to a corner store to make a purchase. When she comes back, she goes straight into the kitchen and a few seconds later, the gas from the unlit burner catches from the other lit burner and the whole place erupts in flames.
Tobemo waved his hand over the watch facing and the image, and the glow are both gone as if they were never there at all.
“If we arrive at the precise time necessary for me to depart, there will be no accident.”
“Accident, hell! That explosion will kill her!”
None of this made any sense to me, but as crazy as this all sounded, I had no choice but to believe him.
“Okay, call me crazy because I know I have to be to believe you. I don’t have a choice any longer. Hell, I thought I was going to have a nice, normal, relaxing vacation.”
Sitting there for a moment thinking about my next move, I got the car in gear, thinking I couldn’t waste any more time.
“Yes, Derrick, we cannot waste any time at all. Lives depend on you.”
He did it again.
Looking down at my speedometer, instead of driving my normal sixty-five, I was almost at eighty-five. This was crazy. I wonder how he made that watch do all that stuff to begin with.
“Neither wonder nor worry, Derrick. You drive. I will take care of things.”
Mother, I believe your son just entered the Twilight Zone and doesn’t know how to get back.
If you can believe I believed him, then I guess we’re all crazy. He started explaining about his world as if we were old friends.
“Our world is slightly larger than your own. In my atmosphere, sexual mating is unheard of because gas and energy cannot interchange. However, on your world, we can take shape and be every bit as human as you and accomplish all a normal human can.
“I have been on your world four-quads, or thirty of your earth’s calendar days. Now it is time to return home or I will dissipate.”
“And if that happens, I take it there’s no coming back for you at all.”
I felt like I was in my apartment in front of the tube watching a movie on the Sci-Fi channel of an old rerun where all the words were in a foreign alien language.
Who would believe me if I told them I was taking a guy (thing?) to Cambridge so he wouldn’t disintegrate. Take him to Cambridge so he could return to a place no one’s ever heard about before.
I couldn’t believe my luck.
It was almost 5:30 and still haven’t been pulled over. If I had done this any other time, I would have probably gotten a dozen speeding tickets by now.
“There it is, Exit-129A to downtown Boston. Five miles to the city and another ten to Cambridge. You are almost home free, Tobemo.”
There had been hardly any words exchanged during my frantic driving, and in the last hour, Tobemo had changed even more. His hair had fully crystalized. His features were constantly changing as if his skin were melting. His fingers were gone as were his ears.
Tobemo had no bone structure.
The clothes he’s wearing seemed loose and baggy, almost wilted. Shades of Night of the Living Dead, for heaven sake. Gina might die, and if I don’t hurry, Tobemo surely will.
Looking through the rearview mirror, I saw red and blue lights flashing from a police car right behind me.
“It isn’t fair! I have to stop. How do I explain this one, Tobemo?”
Derrick, I can no longer verbally converse with you. We are mind-linked, but do not be concerned or alarmed. I will handle everything.
“Yeah, sure thing.”
I rolled down my window just as the cop approached my driver side door.
“You New Yorker’s are all the same. Think you can come up here and you think you own the road. Let me guess; going to a fire?”
He looked at Tobemo, who had turned sideways facing the passenger door, so that his appearance wouldn’t startle the cop.
“Nah. Your friend over there is sick and you’re taking him to the hospital, all the way from New York, right? Whip it out, buddy-boy. License, registration and proof of insurance.”
Do not be concerned, Derrick. You need not be so worried. There will be need of his services elsewhere.
How do you know? Never mind, forget I asked.
“Stay put buddy-boy, the cop said tight-lipped as I handed him what he asked for. “I’m going to run your plates and check you out.”
I watched as he walked stiffly back to his car through my side mirror, thinking he would be better off as a rodeo cowboy; he walked as if he had a horse under him. In my head, I heard Tobemo garbling a sound similar to a chuckle.
The cop was talking into his car’s radio, running that check on me.
“Hurry up, man. Time’s running out.”
Two minutes later, the cowboy-cop returned.
“Must be your lucky day, buddy-boy. I got a call about a robbery in progress. Seems they need all available units within the area. Here’s your stuff back. I’m giving you a verbal warning, but next time I run into you, you better have the lead out of that shoe or I’m running you in; you understand me, buddy-boy?”
I nodded my head and watched the cowboy-cop quickly return to his car and took off spinning gravel behind him as he sped right past me. I watched as his flashing reds and blues, with the siren making that wailing cry of the damned, almost mesmerizing me before Tobemo jolted me back to the real world.
Derrick, we must hurry. There is not much time left.
I looked at the clock on the dash, and we had twenty-one minutes before the witching hour.
Have to admit, it was a stroke of luck about that robbery. We could have been here another twenty minutes or longer with that cop. Well, I would have been. I wonder how I would have explained your disappearance right in front of him.
You need no longer worry about that man in blue. The robbery is at the Plaza Hotel, and he will help in securing the person’s arrest. Now, please hurry.
Yeah, sure. You’re something else. I can’t believe I just said that.
On the road again, I started to feel more secure in knowing everything will turn out okay. Tobemo would be home free, and Gina would be safe. Everything will be just fine.
Yes, Derrick, you have nothing to fear. Turn right at the second light after you cross the bridge.
Crossing over the bridge, I couldn’t help in spite of what’s happened, how the magic of the Charles River has a hold on me. I can see a few early evening people running their yachts and skips, as the early evening sun slowly winds down, creating a multitude of colors across the water.
Yes, very beautiful. You, and those of your kind, are fortunate. On my world, we can only imagine the colors you see and feel. On your world you create images. We can only dream them.
But you came here, became one of us; why can’t you do that where you come from?
It is because of your yellow star you call the sun. Like the creature I read about in your books; the one called, Superman. Like him, it gives me power to recreate external images internalized into our thought process, allowing me to become like one of you. On our world, our sun is pale blue, and our powers are limited to dreams of colorless imagery. Were I to take a human form there, which is impossible, but if I did, it could not withstand the gases that float throughout my world.
You never mentioned, but how did you get here in the first place?
Once a year, when your moon passes over your yellow star, our own moons shadow our land, but create a gateway. Each year since its discovery, I have entered this world in hopes of finding a way to live here permanently. There has yet to be any scientific explanation on a way to achieve this. One day, perhaps. One day.
What cannot yet be understood is why the gases that are of female origin, can readily adapt to their new body here and manage to live out a normal life without having to return back to my world.
Wait, are you saying a female gas has taken on a woman’s body? And doesn’t ever need to go back? They can just stay here, like for good?
Correct. I can alter my gaseous state if I choose, but to become a female gas is out of the question. I choose not to be the weaker gas. I would rather perish first then to take the alternative.
Tobemo’s mental voice became excited; at least that was how it sounded to me.
There! Turn at that light up ahead. This is the place!
Turning right, I parked in a lot at Tully’s Supermarket. There were very few cars parked there, and I hoped no one would notice what was about to happen.
I got out of my car and ran around to the passenger side to help Tobemo. The last few minutes had seen serious changes to him. His arms and legs completely disappeared. I carried what remained of his torso as he instructed me to behind Tully’s and set him down in front of a garbage dumpster. A damned garbage dumpster!
His breathing was distant, almost non-existent.
Stand away, Derrick. There will be a bright flash of light, and then I will be gone. Just know that because you will arrive earlier than planned, Gina will be unharmed. I thank you for your help. Farewell.
I started to wave goodbye when it happened. A bright bursting light surrounded Tobemo. I had to shield my eyes but managed to see the light as an aura around him, and the light just vanished. So did Tobemo.
Walking to where Tobemo was, I noticed the pocket watch on the ground which convinced me to do all this to begin with. I bent over and picked it up and rubbed my fingers across the casing. It didn’t feel or look different from any other pocket watch. I got back in my car and put the watch in my shirt pocket.
Sitting there for a moment, I sensed, more than felt, the sweat rolling down my back; realizing I actually saved someone’s life, even if he did come from a place no one has ever heard of before. I met my own version of E.T., but who would ever believe me?
Turning the engine on, I head over to Gina’s. I remembered what Tobemo said about my being early. I can still save Gina. If I do get a ticket this time, I’ll gladly pay it to keep her from being harmed.
Turning the corner at Elmhurst and Rivers Street, I could see the corner store Gina shops at now and then. As I got closer, I saw Gina coming out of the store and I honked my horn. She stopped at the curb, smiling. Hitting my brakes, I jumped out of the car and pulled her toward me.
She could sense my urgency.
“My goodness, Derrick! Are you happy to see me, or are you practicing to be a horny, dirty old man!” Gina smiled and laughed, returning the embrace.
“Both, sweetness. Both”
She got in my car and I drove us to her apartment complex, where I parked my car alongside of hers.
Now I had to figure out how to get her to stay out in the car while I don’t sound like a crazed maniac, telling her I want to go into her kitchen and shut off all the burners, so the place doesn’t explode.
“Earth calling, Derrick. Come in, Derrick.”
“What? Oh, sorry. Just got lost in a thought.”
“Then mull this over. Tonight, the two of us over a candlelight dinner, and then ….” her voice trailed off with a seductive look in her eyes.
“And then what?” We were smiling at one another; both of us knowing the answer.
“By the way, what’s for dinner?”
“Your favorite, of course. Spaghetti and meatballs. The spaghetti noodles are in the bag. I bought everything else yesterday but the noodles. I bought these at the store as you drove up.”
“Wait a minute. You haven’t started anything yet?”
“You aren’t upset, are you?”
“No, not at all; just a little surprised.”
“You know me, Derrick. It won’t take long. Dinner will be ready in thirty minutes.”
My being early somehow changed the events of what could have happened. They say you can’t change the past, but if you know the future, and this is just a guess, you can alter a timeline. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I looked into the sky slowly deepening with a bit of orange and purple, and silently thanked Tobemo. I bet he knew this the whole time. What a sly creature-guy.
“Coming, day dreamer?”
“I’ll be up in a minute. Going to get my bag out of the trunk.”
After a quick kiss, inhaling her scented beauty, I waited for her to walk away when I reached inside my shirt pocket for the watch and looked at it again. Opening it, I thought no one but no one would believe what I went through.
My eyes went wide as the numbers and hands on the facing started dissolving and were replaced by a thin, green gaseous light. Then I heard a voice.
“Derrick, thank you for your courage in helping me to return home. I understand the difficulty in trusting and believing in others when you do not know or understand their beliefs.
“Once accepted, trust becomes imbedded in the mind constantly. For many, for which I do not understand, it is a hardship. One day, I will return, and we will trust each other. I also tell you; trust the judgement of Gina. She will bring you much that your life desires.
“It is good to call you, friend. Until our paths meet again, Derrick; long life and happiness to you.”
“Derrick? I never knew you to be a clock watcher before. Are you already planning when you will be leaving?”
Somewhat startled, Derrick quickly put away the watch.
“Sorry, Gina. Got caught up in a thought. No, not a clock watcher and have no plans of leaving anytime soon. And to tell the truth; there will come a time when I can’t wait for the time to happen again.”
With an almost knowing look in her eyes, she said, “Excuse me, but that one sailed right over my head.”
“Let me get this bag up to your place, and I’ll explain everything to you. You will not believe what I’m going to tell you, but I have to tell someone, and you I trust to not think I’m crazy.”
I carried my bag in my right hand and with my left, I put it around her shoulder, and asked, “Is the spaghetti sauce real, or Ragu?”
“Nothing but the best. Ragu, what else?”
After dinner, I explained to Gina everything that happened. She didn’t laugh at me or call me crazy. She just gave me that mysterious smile of hers. When she smiles like that, I get the feeling she knows more about me than I do. Maybe that’s why I love her like I do.
It was close to one in the morning before we retired to the ‘bedaroom’. Love that accent.
Sunlight was slowly seeping through her lace curtains after two very long and very satisfying lovemaking sessions. We each settled against one another, each trying to get our breath back to something called normal.
“Derrick, do you love me?”
“I’ve probably told you that a million times. Why? I do something wrong that’s upset you?”
“No, silly. You’re a great lover, but do you really love me?”
I pitched myself on my left elbow, looking directly onto her face, into her eyes. Smiling, as my other free hand stroked the top of her forehead, gently brushing away her hair, then I leaned over and kissed her there. I was trying to figure out what she was driving at.
“Derrick, what I’m driving at is that what I’m about to tell you might change things between us forever,”
“Nothing is going to change.” God, I love her.
“I love you, too, but if you love me, you have to listen, please.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll listen. Honestly though, I don’t know how you do it. Every now and then you know exactly what I’m thinking or saying, just like it was when Tobemo was in the car with….”
Then it dawned on me! No way!
“Yes, Derrick, way. Tonight, you told me your story about meeting with Tobemo; my brother.”
“Your wha … your brother! Get out of here; you’re kidding, right?”
I bolted to a sitting position staring down at her as if I woke up in one of my own dreams. Maybe I’m sane and everyone else had jumped off a building!
“I’m not kidding, and don’t worry; I’m just as sane as you are. I came to earth ten years ago just as my brother first did. He was here only a month. From what you have told me and from what I’ve read from your thoughts, he has tried again with the same results.
“The males of my world cannot adapt for a reason we do not understand; although the female species can, and lead a normal, healthy existence. We can practically do everything an earth woman can do. Work, play, have children, and grow old and die. My only so-called alien power is to intercept or read minds. I can’t see into the past for foretell the future. Other than that, I am pretty much like any other woman.”
I listened to her and remembered what Tobemo said about trust being imbedded in the mind. I smiled.
“You caught me off guard, Gina. After what I’ve been through, I think; no, I know one thing for sure. You’re right about one thing; you aren’t different, I’m different. I also know you aren’t like any earth woman I’ve met before. And I thank God for that.”
“Derrick? Does this mean what I read from your mind that, that you really love me?”
“You got it.” I bent over and kissed her lips lightly, and grinned. “Besides, being a mind-reader, you should have known that all along.”
“I did, but you didn’t know the truth about me. I was afraid no matter how much you love me, knowing who and what I really am, would change your mind. But I see now I worried over nothing.”
Lying next to her in bed, I thought that tomorrow I would take her sailing on the Charles River, and ask her to marry me again. This time it just might work. The only thing; she has to promise to stop reading my mind.
“I love you, Derrick.”
Snuggling close against her, I whispered in her ear, “Love you. But, Gina, you have to….”
“I understand. The answer is yes, I will. And I promise I will try to never read your mind.”
Return Trip - Part Two
Tomorrow’s the big day. It’s been a whole year since Gina finally agreed to marry me. A year has gone by since I helped her brother, Tobemo, get back to his own world.
What a crazy day that was. Here was a guy looking for a ride from me and in the beginning, he freaked me out, especially when he started talking outer space and when parts of his body started disappearing right in front of me. Once I got him where he needed to be, to be, I guess, teleported; Tobemo was caught up in a blinding light and the next thing I knew, he was gone. Tobemo vanished and have always assumed he made it back to his world.
What followed that was even more surprising. After I told Gina what happened, then she lowered the boom on me with a story of her own. I had ended up helping her brother. Talk about a double whammy. But you know what? I am more in love with her than I ever was before.
She tried really hard to keep her promise to me, to not read my mind; a talent she acquired once she settled here to live. But in a broad, and I mean in a very broad sense of the word; she’s only human.
It doesn’t matter. Tomorrow, she will be Mrs. Gina Henderson, and … cell phone’s buzzing on the desk.
“Of course, it is. Hi, Gina. What’s up, honey?”
“Derrick, I need to see you right away. It’s important.”
“Something wrong? Gina, you aren’t changing your mind about the wedding, are you?”
“No, silly. It’s nothing like that. Can you get here, say within an hour?”
“Sure. Relax, okay. I’ll be there as quick as I can. Love you! Bye!”
I looked around for my jeans, slipped them on, stashed my phone in my pants pocket, slipped into a pair of loafers and grabbed a shirt off the back of the chair.
Out the door I went, ran to my car, got in and took off like a shot. I didn’t know what was wrong, but Gina was excited about something.
Ever since I quit my job in Manhattan and moved back to Somerville, we’ve been getting along even better than when we started being together. Since I opened my own practice, the days have been long and somewhat boring, what with searching the stacks for case histories, filing writs, and just three days ago, I finished a four-month-old court battle over a child-custody case.
Because of that, it took a lot of my time and Gina and I had been seen seeing less of each other which didn’t make me happy. Right now, it seemed like she had a problem, and her problems were my problems. I would drop anything for her. Call it what you will but I call it love. Unconditional. I just wish I knew what was going on right now. Yeah, I almost wish I could read minds.
“Gina, do you think he will be shocked by my visit?”
“Shocked? Not hardly. I believe surprised or thrilled would be better word choices.”
“I wish I could stay longer.”
“Me, too. But from what you have told me, each visit seems to last a little longer each time you return.”
“True, but I have yet to find the one thing on this planet that can help me sustain permanence.”
“You could if you became like me.”
“Never, Gina! I could never subject myself to live in a female form. It is intolerable and unthinkable. Why are you laughing at me?”
“Because you look so funny when you get agitated.”
“I want no more discussion on this until after Derrick arrives. I will get his perspective on all of this. You know as I, this marriage will be the first the first between our worlds, and we want it to be the best, as well as producing the finest genesis.”
“I know. Derrick and I have discussed having children before and we decided to wait a year after we get married before we begin a family.”
“Wise decision in one respect, but to another; have you told him what will happen after the genesis id born?”
“No. I don’t want him to know for the time being. But I will make him aware of what will happen.”
“Have it your own way. That is one decision I leave to you. Just remember, he has to know before I leave tomorrow night.”
Gina walked to the window, held the curtain back to look out into a muddled blue sky. Holding back tears, she whispered, “I understand. I hope he does as well.”
Since I have a spare key to her apartment, I let myself in and went straight to the living room and saw her standing by the window. Gina turned at the sound of the front door closing behind me.
“Hi, Derrick. Record time. It only took twenty-three minutes this time.”
“For you, I’d break every land speed record set. So tell me, what’s so important that you couldn’t tell me on the phone?”
“I have a surprise for you. One I know you are going to love.”
“Surprise? What surprise?”
“She means me, Derrick.”
I spun around, and didn’t recognize the face, but I knew that voice.
“Tobemo! What? How? When did you get here?” A smile spread on my face and we clasped hands and hugged.
“Derrick,” said Tobemo, “sit with me and I will tell you the story you need to hear.”
We sat in two large chairs facing one another while Gina went to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner, but not before I got a hug and a kiss from her. In case you are wondering; spaghetti and meat balls.
“Derrick, do you remember the words I spoke to you through the scanner after you dropped me off when we first met?”
“I think so. You said something about trusting and believing in people when you don’t understand what’s going on, or something like that.”
“Close. Trusting and believing in a person when you do not know or understand their beliefs takes great courage is what I said. You accepted my sister for what she was and now is. This means you also accept me as I accepted you one year ago.
I put my trust in you and you did not fail me. Although it takes great patience to accept this union between the both of you, I have resigned myself to accepting you, even if you are human. It will make for an interesting marriage. I wish both you and my sister many years of good health and good will.
“Thank you, Tobemo. Somehow I get the feeling there is more.”
“More behind my words other than congratulations?”
I forgot for a second that Tobemo can read minds as well.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that. I’d like to be able to finish what I have to say with any help if you don’t mind.”
“Sorry, Derrick,” smiled Tobemo. “I won’t do it again, that is, unless a policeman is nearby.”
We laughed heartily over that.
“Thanks. But I get the impression you’re here to tell Gina, or us, something. What is it?”
“There isn’t anything for me to tell. I have only two days left before I have to return to the Alpha-Crytonen Dimension, but before I do so, I wanted to witness the event of your union. Is that so terrible a thing for a brother-in-law to want?”
“Of course not. I wasn’t trying to imply anything. I have to admit it is good to see you again. I take it by your leaving soon, you still haven’t found a way to stay permanently.”
“He could if he wanted,” shouted Gina from the kitchen. “But he prefers the male body to that of a female.”
“That, sister, is because where I, where we come from, in case you have forgotten, I am a red gas; and red gas is the gaffer species. I think being on this planet has dulled your intelligence.”
“I take it gaffer means male or masculine.”
“Correct, Derrick. On our world, red denotes male, pink is for female. For the young ones until they become a stronger gas; the male gaffer is blue, and the female known as the Geggi, is yellow. When we become older and thinner in texture, there is no difference as we all become silver.”
“That’s amazing! How do you survive the weather? How do you eat? Sleep?”
“Silly questions, my friend. On my world there is no bad weather. Eating isn’t an issue as gas thrives on air around us, and once it has passed through us, that same air is passed onto another. Sleep isn’t a necessity. We never sleep, have no need for it. Gas is a non-dying continual energetic aeriform. We never tire except in human form. I find here, however, with this human form, Food and sleep is required.
“I have come to believe permanent fusion on earth for the male gaffer is impossible, but we can still continue to travel the barrier in hopes of finding that one certain chemical balance allowing us to maintain this physical form as Gina and many female Geggi have.
“At least we can return to continue the search, and I can visit from time to time. This last trip, I was able to afford ten other gaffers the opportunity to travel with me and help in the hunt for the answer we seek.”
“They aren’t spread out all over the place, are they?”
“No. They are all within the city of Boston getting their first taste of human form. They have been looking at historical sites and learning the culture that encompasses what it means to be human. On our next trip, they will have specific instructions to search for the cure, for lack of a better word.”
“That’s a relief. At least you know where they are, so you won’t have to hunt all over the place for them, when it’s time to leave. You said you leave in two days, right?”
“Yes. After your wedding, I will be leaving, and meeting with everyone at precisely six tomorrow night.”
“I hope it’s a better location than that garbage dumpster.”
“No,” smiled Tobemo. “This time we are to be in a field a mile from here.
“One other thing about my visits, which is good; this is the first time I will be on this world for thirty-two days.”
“Sweet. Generally, what? Thirty is what you said before. Maybe, and I’m no math genius or scientist, but maybe that may be the clue you’re after.”
“How so, Derrick?”
“The more you return, the more adaptable you become. I don’t know. It was just an idea.”
“It is a good one that I will explore in the coming visits. We shall see.”
“You two can talk all night if you want, but I thought I would let you know dinner is on the table.”
Tobemo turned to Gina and said, “Don’t forget to tell him, Gina.”
“I won’t forget. Let’s just eat.”
I noticed the look on Gina’s face. If scowling is a look, Tobemo was scowled at by her.
“Explain what, Gina?”
“I’ll tell you later, Derrick, after Tobemo is gone.”
“That wasn’t the agreement, sister. I must know the outcome before I leave.”
Gina had sizzle in her voice.
“Drop it, Tobemo. I said I will handle it. Let’s just eat, please.”
“Hey, look you two; I feel like I’m being held in the dark on purpose. I wish one of you would just tell me what one of you are talking about, or do that mind-reading, mental transference thing. I am beginning to think maybe I should learn how to read minds.”
“Derrick,” said Gina, “later tonight, I promise I will tell you.”
“Sure, later then. Right now, it’s time for some of your world-famous spaghetti and Ragu sauce.” I smiled, then looked over at Tobemo. “You are hungry, aren’t you?”
“In this body, I have found I am always hungry.”
All three of us laughed and that seemed to break the tension between them. I couldn’t help but wonder what the deal was between them.
After dinner, I helped Gina clean up the dishes and put what food was left in the fridge.
“Gina? Want to take a drive out to South Shore with me?”
“Sounds like a plan, Derrick.”
We left Tobemo to enjoy as he put it, “The earthlings in the tiny little box who run around making fools of themselves.”
Twenty minutes later, the car parked, and we were walking barefoot in the wet sand.
The early evening sky was filling with lazy reds and lavender colors with silver-black clouds closing down the shoreline as Gina and I held hands. Now and then the water would glide easily across the sand and curl around our feet before retracting back to where it came from.
Ten minutes of silence, other than the gentle rushing sounds of water breaking in and out before Gina broke the silence.
“My brother thinks very highly of you, Derrick.”
“I hope so. I’m marrying his sister tomorrow and that’ll make us in-law’s. But you know he’ll have to visit me. It would be a little hard me thinks to drop in one him and say hello.”
“I know. Derrick, his concern for you is because of me—because of us.”
“Just tell me what’s in your head. I can’t read your mind so give me a break and just tell me what’s bugging you.” I kept feeling she was going to put the wedding off or postpone it altogether.
“This has nothing to do with the wedding, so you can quit worrying. It’s something that might affect our marriage later on. That is what I need to explain to you. I should have done this sooner.”
“What could possibly change the future when it hasn’t happened?”
The wind blew off the water and started picking up some added strength. We both felt the spray of the incoming water on our face’s now and then.
“Feels good, doesn’t it, Derrick?”
“Yeah, but near as good as you feel.”
We stopped for a few seconds, long enough for me to pull Gina up against me, and I kissed her hard and deep. I wanted her to know that no matter what she had to tell me, it wasn’t going to change the way I feel about her.
“Maybe not right now,” she said when we broke from our kiss, “but you might change your mind in time. The concern Tobemo and I have is not only for now, but for our future and the future of a family we want to have one day. But even family, has a price to pay.”
I realized this conversation was about to get even more serious.
“Okay, Gina. I promise, no more kidding around. Talk to me and let’s see what we can do to fix the problem. But what price about the family are you meaning?” I squeezed her hand gently and smiled. She half-smiled back.
“Right now, we don’t have a problem, and we won’t after we get married but we might have a serious problem when I get pregnant.”
“How serious are we talking here?”
“When we made plans for the wedding, I got caught up in all the excitement and everything surrounding it, I forgot about our having children.
“My giving birth isn’t hard or life-threatening, so stop worrying. What may prove to be extremely hard are three things. One, because I’m not a naturally born woman of this world, I would have to return to Alpha-Crytonen to have the child delivered. Second, I won’t show as other women do when they carry a child. Lastly, if I give birth to a son, he must stay on our world until he becomes old enough to travel as Tobemo does. For me to bring him back as an infant, he would die. I mean die, as in his gas state he cannot regenerate his body to become human, and he would.
“If the child is female, she can sustain here normally as an infant and grow to be a normal healthy child.
“I wish there were another way for me explain all of this to you, but there isn’t. Can or have you understood any of what I’ve explained?”
“Sort of. I can see problems out of this. My sister, Julie, for one. I spoke with her three days ago and she was excited about coming to the wedding and went on about one day she’ll be an aunt. I don’t know how we can hide any of this from her let alone my parents. We already have you covered, what with you telling Julie back in college how you became an orphan and all that, but covering a pregnancy? One that won’t even happen here? Which brings the next question; how long will you carry before you have to leave to give birth? Full term? A year?”
My eyes had to have fallen out of my sockets because everything went blank on me for a minute.
“It depends. If the baby is a girl, eight hours. A boy, ten hours.”
“Eight to ten hours! My God, Gina, that’s humanly impossible! Ah, sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize. We know I’m not completely human and this confirms it even more.”
I looked at her, and then I looked beyond her where the horizon finally met the shore’s background and they seemingly melted in a serene landscape only nature could paint.
“Gina, as much as I’d love to have children, I guess I can live with this, I think.”
“No you couldn’t, Derrick. I know you better than any woman could, even better than your mother and sister. I know you wouldn’t want to lie to them or make excuses to them either.
“If, if, if you want to call the wedding off,” she turned her back to me and I could hear her cry. “I, I, will understand.”
I walked up behind her and put my arms around her waist.
“Gina, if you think after all this time I’m giving up and quitting on you, then you’ve been reading the wrong mind. I love you.
“I know there has to be a way we can work this out. Maybe we just sit Julie and my parents down after we come back from our honeymoon and then tell them the whole story; they might understand.
“Though my mom is really my step-mom, her and dad think you are the greatest thing that’s ever happened in my life. You know Julie loves you; you’re like the sister she never had.
“We can tell them together, say about a month after we’re married. Does that sound like a plan for now, or what?”
Gina twisted around facing me and smiled as she wiped away her tears. She raised one hair to stroke the back of my neck as she gently kissed me. Pulling her head back slightly, she looked me in the eyes, she whispered, “Sounds more like a what. I so love you, Derrick Henderson. I want this to work. I wouldn’t want you to lose your family because of me.”
“That’ll never happen. I know it’ll take some getting used to, especially the part of having kids every eight to ten hours. If you don’t mind, let’s do some serious family planning. I love kids, but not one every other day, all right?”
She laughed, and I grinned.
“I know it isn’t funny, Derrick. It was just the way you looked when you said it.”
She read my mind again, but hell, I love this woman too much to let her go. I know we’ll find a way we can live with this, but there is one other thing I need to know.
“Yes, you will be able to see your son, but as I said, only once a year for thirty days once he is strong enough. Unless Tobemo or one of the visitors can find a way to make it permanent.”
I looked at her with raised eyebrows but said nothing, holding a trace of a smile on my face.
“Sorry. I love you as well, and you are right, we will work something out. You have to admit I have been good about not reading your thoughts aloud until now, right? Admit it, haven’t I?” She began poking my sides causing us both to laugh; more me than her. I’m ticklish.
Just when I was about to say something, she pressed herself against me and kept pressing forward until I found myself flat on my back on the sand and continued poking my sides making me laugh even harder. I couldn’t take it any longer.
Grabbing both of her wrists, I finally got the upper hand and rolled her over on her back and kissed her. Lightly at first, then the kiss deepened. If I could bottle and package the love we have for each other, we could be zillionaires, but I’m not selling something as priceless as this.
“Hey, lover-boy, it’s starting to get late. You have to take me home and you have to go back to your place and get some rest for the big today tomorrow.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You aren’t the one that has to explain all this to my family.”
“You won’t be alone. We will do this together.”
“Let me break the news to them. Believe me, I’ll want you there with me, and if I end up needing your help, I won’t hesitate to ask.”
We got up off the sand and Gina hugged me tightly.
“That is another reason why I love you so much.”
“You read my mind again, didn’t you?”
“I couldn’t help it. Sometimes you make it so obvious that it is hard not to do. I do like your thought you would go to the ends of the world for me, even if it is round. In a way, I wish you could go back to my world, but that is impossible.”
We walked back to my car hand in hand under the brightness of a quarter-moon. On the way home, I knew I would have to talk with Tobemo. When we arrived at her apartment door, Gina said, “He will listen to you, don’t worry. He is my brother, but you are also his friend as he is yours. Just be yourself.”
After I got her home and kissed her goodnight, Tobemo and I took a little walk.
“Derrick, my friend, I know what troubles you. It is one thing for you to believe and another for your family to comprehend what is happening and with what yet will be.
“You feel as though they will not understand about Gina. You believe they will either see this as a joke or some kind of sick game the two of you will have thrown at them. You also believe that if they do believe you, they will not accept Gina as a real member of the family.
“I ask that you trust me. After tomorrow, Derrick, any fears and concerns you will have will be unfounded. In truth, you underestimate your family. They are strong and proud just as those on my world. You will see everything will be all right between you and your family after the wedding.”
“All that’s easy for you to say, Tobemo. I hadn’t planned on telling them anything until after Gina and I came back from our honeymoon. After all, don’t you think this is just too much to hit them with?”
“No. When we first met, I involved you in a great deal in a short period of time and you overcame it what thoughts ran through your mind that very day. If you are a true representative of your family; they will be as you. Trust me. Tell them after the wedding. If all does not go well, I have an alternate plan that will convince them almost completely.”
“Tobemo, don’t be playing any mind games or tricks with them tomorrow. I don’t think I can take any more surprises.”
“Remember what I said. It takes courage believing in others when they do not know or understand another’s beliefs. When trust is believed, it becomes embedded in the mind for all time. They will trust you. I know they will.”
“I hope so, Tobemo, for all our sakes. But I guess what you’re saying is true. Gina and I might as well break the truth after the wedding instead of prolonging the agony. She said she would be there with me when I did. I guess tomorrow will tell the story for all of us, one way or the other.”
“Derrick, tomorrow will not be a story, it will be a truth. Your family will know this, and that is all that will matter.”
I shook Tobemo’s hand, and we made our goodnight’s to each other, and I got in my car and drove back to my place.
All the way back, I started rehearsing different ways of telling my family the truth. Each time I started, it sounded like a jumbled Stars Wars fantasy run amuck.
Just when I thought things were going to get easy. That’s what I get for thinking.
“… and by the powers invested to me by the Commonwealth of the State of Massachusetts, I pronounce you both, husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
Gina and I turned toward each other. I pulled back her veil and stared into the most alluring eyes any man would ever see. We leaned into each other slightly, brushing our lips together for what seemed to be the longest and most interesting second of my life.
“Congratulations, son!” boasted my father, as he slapped me on the back. “Now stand out of the way and let an old man get a hug and a kiss from his beautiful daughter-in-law.”
Looking over at his wife, my step-mom, Elaine, and my sister, Julie, he smiled and beamed with pride saying, “I’m a very lucky man today. I have three beautiful women in my life to love.” He hugged Gina, as she smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
My mother hugged me, tears in her eyes from being so happy; I almost wanted to cry along with her.
“Derrick, I have waited and prayed for this day for so long. I don’t know why the two of you waited so long. You should have gotten married months ago. I can tell you right now, she is a very special girl, son.”
“I know, mom. Believe me, I know,”
“Hey big brother, what about me?”
Julie held out her arms and we hugged and shared a few cheek-to-cheek kisses when she whispered in my ear, “You know what? I sure would like to get to know Gina’s brother. He’s cute, but he’s kind of tight-lipped if you know what I mean.”
“Julie, trust me, Dallas (who would believe Tobemo), isn’t the talkative type. He just here for the wedding, then he has to go back home.”
“I know. There is something so sexy about him. I think it has to do with that white strip running through the middle of his hair, and my God! Those eyes! What a hunk. My luck. Well, I’m going over to talk with just the same. You know, give him my number so he can call me sometime. See ya!”
I put out the mental vibe.
Tobemo, can you hear me?
Yes. Do not worry about, Julie. I will play the game with her. Later, she will come to believe I am like other human males of your world. All talk and no show, I believe is how it is said.
Thanks. But you can’t stay too much longer. Your hair is starting to grow wider. If I remember right, you have very little time left before you have to go.
I have precisely four hours and one minute before things get out of hand. I will be all right.
Here she comes.
I watched as Julie and Tobemo started exchanging pleasantries when I turned my attention back to my wife and parents.
“You know, son, this is a great day for all of us.”
“Thanks, dad. You know, in a way I wish my real mom could have been here to be with all of us. No offense, mom. You’ve been about the best mother a son could have ever hoped for, but—”
“You don’t ever have to apologize, Derrick,” my step-mom said. “When I met your father after you and Julie were born, I had already known how much you both cared for her, and I would never want you to forget her, or your feelings for her.”
I stepped between my parents and hugged them both. “I love you both, very much.”
Julie came back with a smile on her face.
“Derrick, I think I have him hooked. He said he would call the next time he gets into town.”
I shook my head as I looked over at Tobemo.
She is persuasive, Derrick.
Tell me about it. Never mind. I don’t want to know.
“Derrick,” said Gina, “It’s starting to get late, and Dallas, will have to be going soon.”
We excused ourselves as we walked Tobemo outside the small chapel.
“Derrick, Gina; I wish you both a long life blessed with many happy events.”
“You too, my friend. See you next year.” I put out my hand in friendship and we clasped hands.
“I will return without fail. And remember what I said. Tell them. I think you will be surprised by the turn of events.” Then he turned and faced Gina.
“Sister, you have done well. You could not have chosen a better life-mate.” Tobemo stepped in to kiss Gina on her forehead. In return, he bowed her head, so that she too could kiss him on the forehead as well.
“Perhaps next year Tobemo, may be the year you can stay forever.”
“Perhaps, sister, we shall see. If not, I will continue to find a way, and get that thought from your mind. I refuse to take the female form. The gaffer species will never lower its priorities.”
Tobemo walked away, reached the end of the street, turned right, and he was gone from our sight.
“Come on, Gina. Let’s get back inside and round everyone up and get to my parent’s house. I’m already nervous as it is, and I really don’t want to do this, but we might as well get it over with.”
I found out later when Tobemo and Gina gave kisses to the forehead, which was their way, without words, to tell each other how much they are loved.
Sitting in the living room, Gina, and I, seated on the couch, my parents each setting in a recliner, facing us, and Julie, sat to Gina’s left. I inhaled and exhaled sharply.
“Derrick,” said my dad, “whatever you have to tell us, you better hurry, or you two will be late for your honeymoon.”
I laughed nervously.
“Okay everyone. Gina and I talked this over and we decided to tell you something that might change things for all of us. I wanted to wait until we came back from our honeymoon, but somehow it seems more important to just get it out of the way now.”
“I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about, Derrick,” said my dad. “Quit talking in circles and just say what you have to say.”
I started with how I first met Gina and how we developed our relationship. Then I told them how I met Dallas, Gina’s brother, Tobemo, and what transpired during that first meeting. I explained that I thought I was going crazy at first, but when I told Gina what had happened, that was when things took another turn, when I found out Tobemo is her brother.
I felt like I was rambling at a thousand miles an hour, but I knew I had to get it all out. I went on to describe to them the conversation I had with Tobemo over telling them now, or after we came back from our honeymoon.
I kept watching my parents and Julie’s eyes, trying to see a sign of either shock or dismay; perhaps confusion. All I could see was the same look they showed earlier when the wedding ceremonies were over; understanding.
“That’s it. I know it sounds absurd, crazy, and out of this world, which in a way it is, but it’s the truth. Now, I’m ready for you to tell me how much of a fruitcake I am.”
I held onto Gina’s hand; my palm sweaty. I didn’t know until just then, just how nervous I really was.
“Derrick,” my step-mom said, smiling, “I know all about this and so does your father. Julie just learned of it herself only yesterday as your father and I decided it was time to let her in on our secret, and we have sworn her to secrecy. We felt it was time to tell her as we also knew after the wedding, or at some point, the entire story would have come out.”
“Ah, mom, do you want to back the tape up? I think I missed something here.”
“What she’s trying to tell you,” interjected my dad, “is that your mother is the same as Gina.”
I never knew three seconds of quiet could last so long.
I looked at Gina.
“Tell me my hearing is all right? Tell me I’ve not just gone to the Twilight Zone. Tell me you don’t know what’s going on?”
“Honestly, Derrick, I didn’t know a thing. I am surprised as much as you are.”
“She would have no way of knowing, Derrick,” my mother said. Since your father and I married nearly thirty years ago, we have kept it a secret just as the two of you would have kept it a secret.”
Looking at Gina, she continued.
“You never knew because I have learned to separate my thoughts where you would never learn the truth. It was a learned practice. It took several years before I was able to shut off my ability to read David’s mind.” She laughed heartily. “He would get so frustrated when I knew what he was thinking before he said it. Now, except for our chat, I haven’t read your father’s thoughts in years. Of course, all the time you roomed with Julie in college, you never would have found out because she knew nothing at the time.”
“Both of you knew all this time and never said a word? Why?” I asked.
“Your father and I look at it as simple trust in one another. We agreed to tell you when the time wasn’t just right, but when it was perfect.”
“Yes,” said Julie. “I just found out about Gina and Tobemo just last night. It was a chunk of info for me to digest, but I get it. I’m even happier now that Gina’s my sister-in-law. And, big brother, I think I got to Tobemo. I told him before he left tonight that when he came back next year, I would make his stay as enjoyable as possible. I think he’s about the most intelligent and sexiest man I’ve ever met.”
I looked at Julie and said, “Keep in mind, he can only stay so long, Julie. Thirty days does not a relationship make.”
“I know, but zero days makes even less. I’ll take what I can get until with any luck, one day he can stay here for good.”
We sat around and talked another two hours before it was time for Gina and I to go on our honeymoon.
I finally understood Tobemo when he spoke of trust. You have to believe in what’s said when it comes from the heart. When you do, it stays with you forever.
After we loaded our bags in the trunk, I hugged my mom and dad, and Julie, as Gina and I said our goodbyes, and off we went.
An hour into the drive, I looked over at Gina.
“You really didn’t know, did you?”
“No. I had no idea. It was as much a surprise to me as it was you. She is the first Geggi from my world I have met. Sorry, I mean female.”
“Look at it like this, Gina. When we get back you’ll have a mother-in-law you can talk old times with.”
“Perhaps. I don’t know if you saw or not, but I could see the look in your father’s eyes when your mother spoke, and I could see his emotion for her swell deeply inside him.
“When we come back, I want to see the same look in your eyes for me as well.” She reached over and squeezed my right hand which was reaching for hers as well.
“That goes ditto for you too, Gina.”
I pulled off to the side of the freeway into a rest area.
“We just got started, why are we stopping so soon?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, if you haven’t read my mind that is.”
I reached into the glove box for a small black pouch that holds the stop watch Tobemo left for me over a year ago. I opened it, and like the last time, the hands and numbers disappeared, and were showing a multi-colored bright gas from Tobemo’s world.
See my brother? Your fears are unfounded, and all is as it should be. I shall see you both within a year’s time. Sister, if you come with child, I shall see you sooner.
Tobemo, you are better than a friend could ask for. I pray you find a way next time where you can stay for good, or longer at least. Oh, and you better get plenty of rest because Julie has a hot thirty days planned for you. Goodbye, my friend.
As I said, Julie is persistent. I shall be up to the task. Take care brother and sister. Farewell.
Farewell, my brother.
I closed the watch, and the gases of Tobemo’s world disappeared. Those final words came as a hushed whispered from Gina.
“He was wrong, Derrick.”
“Huh? Wrong about what?”
“He thought our wedding was the first between our worlds.”
“Yeah. Know what? It kind of makes me wonder just how many other women from your world are here and married.”
“You mother confided in me the number; at least what she believes is correct. Almost twenty-thousand. But she said that number was from about five years ago.”
“Wow! So, we aren’t the first to have kids then, I bet.”
“No, but we will be the first to have children with the Henderson name.”
That made us both smile and laugh for a few seconds.
I started the car as I told Gina it was time for us to get back on the road. I didn’t want to waste another minute of our vacation at a rest stop.
“I love you very much, Derrick. For an earthman, you are all right; you know that?”
“Yep. And you, young lady, are a real gas to have in my life.”
Gina slid a little closer to me and said, “Now remember, you promised I would get to meet Mickey and Minnie, and Donald and Pluto and….”
“Yeah, I know, I know. But that’ll be a little later into the honeymoon, okay?”
Steel Cage Match
It was another in a long series of sweltering days as Bob, an ex-jock, and out of work construction worker, decided weeks ago to take in the sights and smells of the country before he became too old to appreciate what’s available to see from one coast to the other.
At least that was what he told himself.
Bob isn’t really a nature boy. The real reason he was on the road, hitchhiking, is what money he did have, ran out when he was in Des Moines. Two weeks prior, he had a job offer in Boise that wouldn’t start for three more weeks, and he knew he had plenty of time to get there.
He was thirty bucks and sixty something miles almost straight north from Boise, taking the scenic route over State Highway 55. The last mileage signs read: BOISE 77. Jasper 5.
Gray clouds were starting to crowd out the blue of the afternoon. Bob could only hope the weather would hold off long enough for him to find shelter somewhere, or he would be soaked clean through. As far as he could tell, Highway 55 held no shade, no cover.
Continuing his walk, he heard sounds of cars coming up behind him, headed in the same direction as he was, but how far, he had no clue.
Turning around to face the oncoming vehicles, he stuck his thumb out, and displayed his best smile of pearly whites. Bob is thirty, but when he smiled, he looked a good five years younger.
Three cars and a pickup truck whizzed by him, swirling up a breeze all around him. Bob lowered his well-practiced thumb and settled back into walking.
Shaking his head, he looked ahead at the road before him.
“Can’t they see I’m going in the same direction? Doesn’t matter to me if it’s five, fifty of five-hundred miles; a ride is a ride.”
Walking another five minutes, he saw the same pickup truck that had just passed him, coming back up the other side of the road.
“I guess that’s why they didn’t bother to stop. They only went a short distance to begin with. Must be locals.”
The pickup began to slow down, until it came to a complete stop opposite where Bob stood.
“Hey, mister! How far ya headed?” asked the driver.
“I’m on my way to Boise.”
“Well it ain’t much, but I’m goin’ as far as Idaho City, that’s about an hour or so from Boise. You’d be in better shape to catch a ride from there into Boise.”
“I’ll take it. Every little bit helps. Much obliged.”
Bob smiled his pearly whites at the driver, walked to the side of the truck and threw is duffel bag in the back, and easily vaulted himself over the side and found a corner he could rest against.
He thought to himself, “Might not be much, but I can rest my legs a bit.”
Bob looked back over his shoulder threw the pickup’s back window and saw two other men in front. He didn’t notice them at first, and he couldn’t remember if they were in the truck the first time the driver passed him.
As the driver turned around and sped away, Bob couldn’t hear any of the conversation going on up front because of the racing winds speeding by, whipping his thick shock of shoulder-length hair into his eyes.
If he had, Bob would have risked breaking a leg jumping out of the truck as it went around a bend in the road.
“What’cha think, Frank?” asked the driver.
“I think he’ll do, that’s what I think.”
“Sammy, do ya think Old Bennie will like what we brung’em?”
“Old Bennie likes everybody we bring’em. Especially like that fella in the back. Old Bennie will teach that boy what it means to be an outsider in these parts,” said Sammy, the driver.
“Sammy, ya done the right thing comin’ to get us. He’s a big’un alright,” stated Frank.
Turning to Stu, Frank said, “Just remember, when we git him back to the house, you break out that pipe and lay him a good’un. Like I said, he’s big, and I don’t want ya takin’ no chances with him.”
“You don’t have to worry none about me, Frank. I’ll take real good care of our friend back there.” Stu reached under the seat and gripped a pipe about ten inches long and smacked it into his free hand. “I’ll pop him like a watermelon.”
In the back, Bob leaned against the cab’s hard metal, humming a tune, and feeling good about his life as the wind continued to pummel his face and hair.
Ten minutes into the ride, the pickup made a right hand turn and was bouncing and wobbling over a dirt road with mud holes every four or five feet. Bob leaned over the driver side and yelled, “Hey! Why are we turning? This isn’t the way to Boise.”
“I know,” yelled back Sammy. There’s somethin’ I need to do up at the house. Won’t take but a minute.”
“House? You live up here?”
“Yup. All three of us. The other two are my cousins. We got us a small place up this here road. Just need to stop for a bit and let Old Bennie know what’s goin’ on.”
“Yup. Don’t worry none. You’ll git to meet him soon enough. Just be careful what ya say and don’t git to close to’em; he can be a mean cuss at times.”
Bob nodded his head and sank back down onto the truck’s floorboard again. “Well,” he said quietly, “whatever they need to do can’t take long. I do need the ride, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”
Two more minutes of bumpy, choppy and dipping riding, the road finally leveled out before the pickup came to a jarring halt much to Bob’s pleasure. Both doors from the pickup flew open and slammed shut. Sammy spoke first.
“Mister, ya might as well climb down outta there and stretch them legs of yours. I know this place ain’t much, but yer welcome to look around if’n ya want.”
Bob vaulted over the side as easily as he did getting in. His feet hit the ground with a dull thud and he didn’t look directly into Sammy’s eyes, or if might have seen something that wasn’t right. He was about to say he would grab his duffel bag and head out on his own when from the front of the pickup, Frank appeared.
Bob heard footfalls behind him. He started to turn around when he felt the weight of the world come crashing down on his head. As Bob saw the ground rushing up to meet him, he thought he heard Frank say something odd.
“Ya done good, Stu. Yup, he’ll do fine. Old Bennie’s gonna like this old boy just fine.”
Thunder roared, and lightning raced across the hills and lit up the skies behind mountain peaks as the clouds ripped apart into a raging downpour.
It was pitch black outside. The rain had long since ended. A sliver of the moon could be seen from a single small window inside a room with an overhead light, uncovered but barely bright.
Bob regained consciousness; seeing the world through hazy eyes that were slowly focusing on his surroundings. Each slight moves he made sent a painful pressure to his head as if broken bones were rattling around.
“I see you’ve finally come back to life. How do you feel?”
Bob’s head turned in the direction of the voice, his eyes no longer seeing double, but he did see a man chained to a wall opposite him about twenty feet away. Raising his hand to rub the throbbing pain in his head, that was when he realized he too, was in chains.
“What the hell is going on around here? Who the hell are you? Why the damn chains?”
“First things first. As to what’s going on; the same three men who brought you in here, brought me as well. They didn’t like me, and it’s obvious they don’t like you either. They have this thing about outsiders. I was headed east to Lincoln, Nebraska. My car broke down and they offered to give me a ride to a gas station, so I could get my car towed for repairs. My name is Mike Ziggy. The chains are to make sure we don’t get away and go to the police.”
“Mike, my name’s Bob Teague. I was on my way to a job in Boise when they offered me a lift. What are they going to do to us the law can’t know about? Kill us?”
“Yes and no on the killing part. They have a steel cage about a hundred yards or so from here. What they do is throw you inside and wrestle Old Bennie.”
“Old Bennie, Old Bennie; damn, I’ve heard that name enough times. Who the hell is Old Bennie?”
“Old Bennie isn’t a who; but more like a what. Old Bennie’s about ten feet tall, and I’d guess close to a thousand pounds. Old Bennie is a killer bear.”
“A what! Killer bear? You have to be kidding me.” Seeing no smile on Mike’s face, Bob continued. “No, I guess you aren’t. Why in the hell do they have a killer bear to begin with?”
“The way I see it; just for sport. Those three guys are as crazy as crazy gets. They don’t like strangers in this part of the country. When someone comes along they shanghai them and bring them here, like you and me.
“There was another guy, Jack Masters, who was here the night I was brought here. The next morning, they marched Jack and I down to the cage. They made me watch as they threw Jack in there against Old Bennie. I guess the same will happen to me now that you’re here.”
“What happened to Jack, or do I want to know?”
“Old Bennie tore him apart. Ripped him to shreds and snapped every bone in his body; at least that’s how it looked and sounded to me. That was about two weeks ago if I remember right. Seems they like to have a new face around before they put someone else in the cage. It makes you think the whole time you’re chained up, what it’ll feel like when it’s your turn to be in there with Old Bennie.”
“This is insane. Why hasn’t anyone reported them before?”
“Hell, man, wake up and smell the toast burning! Who is going to call the police? Me? You? Fat chance considering our circumstances.”
“Yeah, but you have friends, family; someone that should be concerned about you, right? Someone worried enough if you didn’t write or call, or something.”
“I know what you’re saying, Bob, but people come up missing all the time. Out here, there is a lot of blue sky, mountains, trees, rocks and rivers; no telling when a person might be found, if ever. These three circus freaks bury the bodies, or what’s left of them.”
“I hate to say this, but good point. They’ll come for us in the morning, put you in the cage, and I have to watch Old Bennie maul you to death.”
’That’s right. After it’s over, you’ll do what I’ve been doing. Praying each time that pickup leaves, it comes back with no more than three people in it. The longer you stay by yourself, the longer you stay alive. While you were unconscious, I called you every name in the book.”
The door opened, and Sammy stuck his head inside.
“You two becomin’ good friends? Ain’t it a shame ya won’t be friends fer very long. Brought you fella’s dinner.”
Nodding his head at Bob, he said, “Since yer new, might as well get use to Stu’s cookin, quick. It ain’t the best, but it’s sure enough better’n eatin’ dirt.”
Since the room was completely empty of any kind of furnishings, Sammy set a bowl of soup down on the floor in front of each man, along with a package of crackers, and a paper cup filled with water. Sammy turned and walked back to the door.
“Almost forgot. After breakfast in the mornin’, you two fella’s gits to go fer a walk.”
Looking directly at Mike, Sammy grinned.
“I sure hope ya give Old Bennie a better fight than that last fella did. He weren’t no competition at all. Nope, nary a bit. Have a good night’s rest. See yawl bright and early in the mornin’.
“Oh, and you,” Sammy’s grin grew wider looking at Bob, “you’ll have a ringside seat. Hahaha! A ringside seat; that was a good’un.”
Sammy turned, walked out of the room, slammed the door closed and locked it from the other side.
Bob and Mike could hear his cackling laughter as it echoed in the distance until he was back inside the house.
“Any ideas how we can get out of this mess?”
Silence filled the room as Bob surveyed his surroundings. One window next to the door and not big enough to crawl out of to escape. The only other exit is the locked door. The chain links were secured tightly to the wall, but Bob pulled and yanked on them anyway.
No give. Like Mike, his ankles were shackled.
It was impossible to break free.
Bob couldn’t tell what time it was. With only the one window, he couldn’t see a piece of the moon that might have helped gauge the time.
Seconds ticked away to minutes, then to hours. Not able to handle the quiet any longer, he looked over at Mike who had been falling in and out of sleep.
“Mike, you awake?”
“Sort of; what’s up?”
“Let me ask you something. When Jack went in the cage, were his hands free?”
“No. They were in handcuffs, and he still had the shackles on his ankles. It made for slow moving and it was awkward as hell for him. It’ll be the same way for me, and for you when your time comes. Jack fell two or three times trying to dodge that damn bear before a paw caught up with him. I still have nightmares hearing his screams.”
“Do you consider yourself pretty agile?”
“I take it you have a plan?”
“I don’t know. I was thinking if there would be a way you can somehow get behind that bear, use the chains between the cuffs, and jump up on his back; you might be able to get him in a choke hold, and maybe choke him to death.”
“Believe me, I’ve run that scenario in my head a thousand times. It’s the only real chance I have. Come morning, first chance I get in the cage, that’s exactly what I’m planning to do, or at least try to do.”
Mike shook his head sadly.
“The only problem is; if I do kill Old Bennie, there is nothing stopping them from killing us anyway.”
“True,” Bob whispered, as if cooing to a new born baby.
“If you can get a handle on Old Bennie though, I can try getting the drop on one or two of them. All three of them stacked side by side couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag with a hole in the bottom.”
“What the hell, Bob, I’m game. It’s a slim chance but better than no chance at all. If we pull this off, we’ll be home free. If it doesn’t work, at least I’ll be free from the waiting.”
Both men settled down to get as much rest as they could. Sleep didn’t come easy for either one, knowing what was facing them come the morning light.
Before Bob was pulled into the abyss, he thought if their plan failed, he would have a second chance at escape. That was more than Mike would get.
As the sun was making its presence known, a cackling sound could be heard. At first, Bob thought it was a rooster, but never remembered hearing one sound quite that bad.
It was Sammy’s laughter. He unlocked the door and brought Bob and Mike their breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal, two slices of bread and a cup of coffee for each man.
At least it was hot.
Bob and Mike sat without eating, especially after Sammy had said, “Yawl enjoy, now. Nothin’ like havin’ a dying man’s last meal.”
Each were sipping on their coffee, neither saying a word as waiting became the primary issue. They didn’t have long. The door opened twenty minutes later.
“Okay, you two,” Frank said dully. “It’s time. Now Stu and Sammy are gonna unlock you from the chains, but everything else stays on. Make any kinda sudden moves, and Old Bennie won’t have a live body to kick around, but he can still kick around a dead one.”
That’s when Frank pulled out a gun and waved it back and forth between Bob and Mike.
Once they were unlocked, each were unceremoniously herded outside and close to sixty yards behind the house where the steel cage sat.
Bob and Mike moved as slowly as possible, trying to delay the inevitable as much as possible. Frank shoved each man behind the back.
“Pick it up, you two. We ain’t got all day. Move yer asses!”
Bob realized of the three, Frank was the most dangerous. Somehow, Frank would have to be the first one he took down.
That last sixty yards was a slow walk, what with only a four-inch gap on their ankle bracelets. What might have been a sixty second walk took closer to five minutes. But they arrived.
Standing next to Mike, Bob stared at the cage. Twenty feet high, with a twenty foot in-ring, but unlike wrestling, no ropes. The roof was made from a wire mesh and the floor of the ring was concrete. And the only way out was the way in; a metal door being unlocked by Stu.
With the door wide open, Sammy grabbed Mike’s arms and half-led, half-dragged him up four plank steps to the center of the ring, then walked out, and relocked the door.
Sammy then went with Stu, and each man grabbed ahold of Bob’s arms and guided him to a small bench to sit and watch the spectacle. Sammy stood behind him, cackling away, while Stu went with Frank to get Old Bennie.
He could have jumped Sammy right then and there, but it wouldn’t have done any good. Frank had the keys and without the three of them close together, the chance of him breaking free were slim to none.
“Bob!” yelled out Mike. “If things don’t work out, best thing I can say is let the bear be quick about his business. A slow death is a bitch.”
“What’s he meaning, if things don’t work out?”
“He means if he can kill Old Bennie, I won’t have a thing to worry about.”
The cackling laughter returned even louder this time.
“Kill Old Bennie! That’s a good’un, mister. You two sure are funny. Kill Old Bennie. Ain’t gonna happen. Old Bennie’s a pro at this. Kill Old Bennie; yeah, that’s funny!”
Bob listened to Sammy and felt what he was saying was true. Looking over at Mike, he could see the fear and sweat on his face. Without Sammy hearing, he said softly, “If this doesn’t work, there’s no telling what will happen. Good luck, my man.”
He thoughts hit the brakes as he watched Frank and Stu returning with Old Bennie strutting behind them. He was the largest bear Bob had ever seen. Mike was wrong. He had to weigh a ton if not more and probably closer to fourteen feet tall. Mike didn’t stand a prayer and he knew it. Bob’s chances for survival were as good as Mike’s. Zilch.
“Open up the door again, Sammy,” commanded Frank.
When the metal door swung open, Frank herded Old Bennie up the four steps easily and released the chain leash from around the bear’s neck. Once Old Bennie was inside, Frank left the ring area, and locked the metal door.
There was no bell to start the action, but the crowd of three cheered, even frank, who, up until this moment was usually very quiet.
The hunt was on.
Mike stayed in one corner as Old Bennie started his swaying movements side to side toward him. Hedging left, the right, Mike did a forward somersault catching Old Bennie by surprise. So much so that it angered him. Old Bennie stood on his back legs and roared with a deadly purpose. He almost sounded like thunder rolling across the sky.
It was a pitiful and sickening scene to watch. Mike, almost six-eight, against a creature that dwarfed him in both size and weight. This was no contest. This was a slaughter.
Mike feinted to his right, then left, and threw himself feet first squarely into Old Bennie’s ankles. This sent the bear stumbling backward, tripping over his own back legs and fell with a jarring impact to the concrete floor.
Mike struggled to his feet and moved as quickly as he could to get behind Old Bennie, and wrapped the cuffs around the bear’s throat, and pulled back to choke him to death.
All of his energy, courage and determination was directed around Old Bennie’s throat.
Bob made his move.
Sammy was slapping his knee and laughing at the comical team inside the cage but stopped laughing when he saw Old Bennie being choked. He stopped thinking altogether when Bob clamped his hands together and smashed him in the mouth, knocking him out before he hit the ground.
Making a desperate rush at Frank and Stu, their backs facing him, Bob threw his body at them like a defensive tackle in football. All three hit the ground, sending Stu into a daze, Frank into a seething rage, and Bob, dizzy as well.
Shaking it off, Bob started to get to his feet when he heard the sound of a hammer being pulled back.
“Make one more move, and Old Bennie won’t have a playmate; just leftover parts after I splatter yer brains all over my yard!”
Bob looked up into the bore of a handgun. Bob looked over into the cage with a feverish look and could only mouth the words, “I tried.”
The whole time Mike still had a stranglehold on Old Bennie, he kept an eye on the movement outside the cage. Things looked good for a minute, but he knew if he couldn’t kill this smelly, hairy hunk of meat soon, he was dead. After two grueling minutes of pulling on Old Bennie’s neck, the muscles in both arms were weakening. Mike didn’t want to quit. He continued to pull back harder and harder. Veins were bulging and pulsating in outlines along his face and neck. His nose started bleeding from the exertion, and he was slowly losing his grip. Mike could feel his strength fading and fading fast. He held on a few seconds longer before Old Bennie had finally had enough.
Old Bennie roared with hatred and walked backward into the steel cage’s chain-link wall. The impact forced Mike’s grip to finally let go. The impact, so immense, so sudden; Mike’s face held more surprise than pain from a man who had just had his back broken.
In a frightening, sickening way, Mike’s body slid down instead of slump or fall over to the concrete floor. He laid in a slumbered-over fashion until Old Bennie turned, reached out with both of his huge arms, lifted Mike, and hurled him across the concrete flooring.
Mike screamed in mid-air. The screaming stopped abruptly when he hit the concrete face first. He lay still. Face up, eyes wide open and vacant of life. His skull was split wide open and blood dripped out of both ears and his nose.
Old Bennie went back down on all four legs, lumbered over, and swiped his right paw against Mike’s face. Seeing no movement, he lifted his head high and roared out his victory.
Bob stared at the macabre scene, not really wanting to believe what he witnessed, now knowing he would be next for the mammoth brute.
Bob was brought out of his revelation when Frank spoke.
“Thinkin’ about what’s gonna happen to ya, eh? Ya won’t have to wait much longer. We usually wait until we can find ourselves another person before we’d put ya in there; but ya went and done somethin’ real stupid. Old Bennie’s gonna have himself a new playmate, tomorrow.”
Bob jerked his head toward Frank’s eyes which held a sadistic gleam. Bob’s eyes held fear.
“Don’t look so scared, boy. Ya just tried playin’ hero. Who knows? Next time ya might get lucky.”
Sammy came up behind Bob and kicked him in the back of the head.
“That’s for hittin’ me, smart ass. Nobody hurts me and gets away with it.” Sammy was going to kick him again when Frank grabbed his arm.
“That’s enough. Save some for Old Bennie. This fella here, we’ve got to get rid of him plenty quick. In the morning, Old Bennie will do the job.”
Looking at Stu as he was finally back on his feet, he said, “Take’em back to lockup. Then you and Sammy get the body outta there, get the shovels and bury his dead ass with the others. We don’t need him drawin’ flies around here. Don’t forget to come back and wash the blood away, too.
“I’m takin’ Old Bennie back to his pen where he can eat and get some rest. He’s gonna have a busy day tomorrow, and I want him at his best. Not too often he gets to play two days in a row.” Frank actually smiled that time.
After Stu and Sammy had Bob safely in tow again, they climbed into the steel cage with each man grabbing an ankle and dragged Mike’s dead body out and down the steps, and then dragged him another two hundred yards where he was to be buried, right alongside twenty-eight other men.
Bob had no idea how much time had passed before he heard voices and then heard the pickup take off and thought he could hear it hit all the holes as it went bouncing up the dirt road.
“Probably gone searching for someone else. I wonder if they all went this time. If so, maybe I can break the door open. Those two idiots forgot to chain me to the wall.
“It’s not going to be easy, but even if I am hobbled, with these ankle chains, I can hop my way out of here, or roll, or something to get as far away from here as I can. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that bear get his paws on me.”
Standing, Bob took four-inch steps, being careful to maintain his balance. Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot. When he was within what he felt was a good distance to propel himself into the door; he only hoped this would work.
Staring at it, he willed it to open and fall away under its own power.
That didn’t work.
The door was your standard type door that might be used for a bathroom or bedroom. Nothing metal that Bob could see. On the inside there was just the door knob and one lock. Of course, that didn’t mean it wasn’t double or tripled locked on the other side.
Inhaling and exhaling, trying to build his energy level to break the door open, he leaned forward and threw all his weight against the door.
It didn’t work.
He tried again. Nothing.
Again. That time he heard the doorframe crack.
Leaning back, throwing his head back to get his hair out of his eyes, he propelled himself again.
The door gave way and Bob fell through, pitching forward into the dirt, landing on his left side and arm. The fall hurt, but he knew nothing was broken. Looking up quick, half-expecting to see Frank standing over him with his gun, Bob was relieved to see no one.
“Now what?” he questioned himself.
He spotted a barn off to his left about seventy feet away. He made up his mind to roll there instead of tiny steps. He was already losing precious time as he had no idea when Frank and his cousins would be back.
Two minutes later he reached the double set of barn doors, grabbed the handle with his two cuffed hands and swung one door open. Squinting his eyes to adjust to the barn’s filtered darkness, Bob started hunting for anything that he could use to get the chains off.
While looking, he estimated they had been gone at least twenty minutes. If his memory served him right, he might have another twenty tops to get free and get gone from there.
“Better to think ten and rush like hell, Bob. What do you think?”
“I think you’re right, Bob.”
“Great. Now I’m talking to myself.”
He spotted a long work table and saw what he needed: a power-saw. Hobble-stepping over to the table, he saw it was still plugged in. He flipped on the switch and the blade revved to full power. He just had to be careful with his wrists, or he might lose one, or both hands.
He placed the short links of the handcuffs against the spinning blade and watched as metal clashed with metal. A few sparks flew, a few that landed on his face and lightly singed his cheeks. It was going to be slow. Too fast and the blade might break and possibly jump from its brace and who knew where it might end up.
But they finally came apart.
Just as the links separated, Bob could hear the pickup coming up the dirt road.
Frantically, he searched for anything to snap the links holding the cuffs around his ankles and spotted a hammer and chisel. He grabbed both and started beating hard and fast where the links met solid metal.
The pickup was getting louder. Another minute and they would be in the yard. Another minute after that, they would know he was missing.
Another minute was all he needed.
The doors to the pickup slammed shut and Bob heard voices as he continued to free his ankles.
“Damn shame we couldn’t find nobody to replace that old boy, Frank.”
“Ain’t no big deal; Stu. He’d be too much trouble to have around too long anyway.
Sammy, you go to the shed and check on’em. Get him some food and make sure he ain’t tryin’ anythin’ funny, ya know?”
“Got’cha, Frank. He won’t pull nothin’ funny with me.”
“Ya mean like this mornin’,” laughed Stu.
“Ha! He might have got me a good’un, but if’n I remember right, he got in a good’un on you, too.” Sammy headed in the direction of the shed.
“I’m gonna go out behind the barn and check on Old Bennie and see how he’s doin’.”
“I’ll go with ya, Stu,” said Frank. “I sure do like that old bear. I’d really hate to see anythin’ bad happen to’em. Be a damn shame I tell ya.”
Inside the barn, Bob was still banging on the ankle cuffs when one side finally gave way. Couldn’t have been fast enough is all he could think.
Bob held onto the hammer and looked for a place to hide. Looking behind himself, he saw a built-in ladder that led to a hayloft and he went up it quickly. He no sooner got to the top when Sammy started yelling.
“Frank! Stu! He’s gone!”
He watched from the hayloft as all three men rushed inside the shed to the far right of the barn, and then they came out again.
“Didn’t you two chain him back to the wall!” Frank was livid. He slapped both men hard across the face.
“He can’t get too far. He’s still in chains. Spread out.” That was when Frank turned around and had a clear view of the barn door, wide open.
“Go look in the barn. The door is open unless one of you numbnuts left it that way. I’m bettin’ he’s in there.”
All three men headed to the barn and slowly went inside, cautious as to not get jumped like they were earlier. Stu was the first one to notice the broken links by the power-saw.
“I think he went and got himself free, Frank.”
“I can see that, stupid. He still can’t get far. I knew I shoulda blowed his head off this mornin’. Spread out. We got to find’em before he brings the law down on us.”
“Damn outsider!” Sammy screamed. “If’n people like him never came around here in the first place, we wouldn’t be doin’ stuff like this.”
A few strands of some hay fell to the barn floor settling at Frank’s feet. He looked up. He motioned for them to follow him outside.
Outside and lowering his voice, Frank said, “Stu, you and Sammy get Old Bennie from his pen and bring’em here. That old boy is up in the loft. If Old Bennie can’t finish’em, we sure as hell can’t. Go on, get movin’.”
Bob’s heart was pounding like a trip hammer. That was too close for him. He had to wait for them to split up before he could make his escape after dark or try to take them out one at a time.
A few minutes passed. Bob hadn’t heard any noise and started down the ladder when he froze halfway down.
The barn door opened, and he heard Frank’s voice.
“Boy, I know yer in here, so I brought ya some company. Old Bennie’s been dyin’ to meet’cha.”
The barn door then slammed closed.
Bob stared down into Old Bennie’s eyes. Old Bennie stared directly up at him, cocked his head to the right, let out a deafening roar, bared his sharp yellow-stained teeth at him, and roared again, sending shivers scrambling throughout Bob’s skin.
Bob started climbing back up the ladder when Old Bennie came charging in a standing position and with his right front paw, swiped at Bob’s left leg missing by a single breath, but instead, by knocking the ladder so hard, it trembled and caused him to lose both his balance and his grip, sending him to a six-foot jarring landing, less than five feet away from Old Bennie.
Old Bennie backed up but remained standing as Bob looked up from the floor and saw death snarling down at his face. Bob’s back and left shoulder hurt from the fall, but he couldn’t concentrate on the pain. He had to get away from Old Bennie.
Despite the fall, he still gripped the hammer in his hand.
Rolling in pain to his right, he put another five feet between him and the shaggy, smelly brown bear.
Raising the hammer in a defensive position he yelled out, “What are you waiting for, you bastard! Come get me. I got something for your ass!”
Old Bennie came forward with deadly menace in his eyes, hatred in his growl, and whatever stood in his path, he thrashed it to the side.
Bob backed up to the other side of the table where the power-saw sat, and he spotted a three–inch bolt to the other side of the saw, picked it up, aimed and hit Old Bennie squarely in the head.
Old Bennie stopped, shook his head, and with one massive-sized paw, rubbed at the spot that hurt him for a moment but made him even angrier and roared louder. No one has ever struck him before and now his anger intensified.
Bob watched as blood trickled over the bear’s left eye. Looking around for something else to throw, he reached down and picked up a flat piece of metal, about two by three inches long and an inch thick, and this time when he threw it, it hit Old Bennie squarely in his right eye. Old Bennie gave out more of a shrieking yell than a roar.
Old Bennie dropped down to all fours and then sat up, so he could attend to his injury and forgetting all about Bob for now. Old Bennie didn’t know how to fix this. Old Bennie never knew pain before.
Bob circled behind Old Bennie and brought the hammer down hard right in the middle of his head with everything he had, and again, Old Bennie screamed out his pain in a drawling roar.
Outside the barn, all three men thought that last scream came from Bob. They’ve never heard Old Bennie in pain before and it did sound somewhat human.
“Won’t be much longer,” Frank said, smiling a real smile for the second time that day. Stu and Sammy smiled right along with him.
Inside, Bob came down with the hammer, a second, and then a third time before Old Bennie, in an effort to defend himself for the first time ever, used his left arm to thwart off his attacker. His aim was true, but his swing was weak.
Bob felt the blow, heard a rib crack, and he grunted in pain. Gripping the hammer even tighter, his hand and most of his shirt, covered in blood, he believed one or two more shots would finish the bear off. Getting back to his feet, Bob continued the assault, ignoring the cracked rib as much as he could, and swung the hammer twice. Old Bennie was all but dead.
The next swing was the final one.
Old Bennie lay still as one dead sigh escaped his mouth. The handle of the hammer rattled with the last jarring hit, and it split and fell away from Bob’s hand, leaving splinters in its place.
He started pulling pieces of wood from the palm of his hand, but his eyes never left Old Bennie. Blood was rushing out in several places along his skull, and suddenly, Old Bennie stood abruptly on his back legs, and roared in what sounded like mad triumph at last.
Bob stood back several feet.
Looking around for something, anything to defend himself and put an end to this madness. Finding nothing, Bob gave into the fact he was about to die.
“What does it take to kill you, you ugly bastard!”
Old Bennie took two lumbering but dizzying steps forward. Bob closed his eyes waiting for that final moment when the bear would tear right into his soul, when Old Bennie teetered to his left, and his back legs buckled, and he fell over like a huge oak tree and made a thunderous plunge to the floor.
This time Old Bennie didn’t move, didn’t breathe. No more second chances for him.
Bob breathed a big sigh of relief.
Then he remembered about Frank and the others outside the barn.
“Now I have to deal with them. I know Frank has a gun, but what about the other two? They have to have more weapons around this place somewhere. I’ll just have to deal with it when the time comes.”
Looking around, he saw a window big enough for him to climb out. He walked over to it, opened it, slipped outside, breathing heavily from his cracked rib and the energy he used in killing the bear. Once outside the barn, he took no time at all hiding himself in the bushes behind the barn and watching.
Out front, Sammy said, “Seems awful quiet in there. Frank, ya don’t suppose somethin’ happened to Old Bennie, do ya?”
Frank slapped Sammy.
“Nuthin’ better have happened to’em, or I swear that boy is gonna die a real slow death. Let’s get in there and take a look. I think he tore that boy up anyway.”
Stu swung the barn doors open, and all three men rushed in to see another victory by Old Bennie. Frank was the first to see Old Bennie lying in a pool of his own reddish-brown encrusted blood. He screamed as if he had just lost a son.
“I don’t know where ya are, boy! But I’m gonna hurt ya bad! Can ya hear me, you summanabitch! Yer ass is mine now!”
Stu and Sammy looked all over the barn and found no sign of Bob. Stu noticed a window open. “Looks like he went out that way, Frank.”
Frank walked over to the window and shouted, “Don’t matter much. He can’t get by us without takin’ the main road outta here. If’n he tries goin’ through the woods, either the tar pits or quicksand will get’em.
“Ya hear me out there, boy! I’m sayin’ that so I can save your ass for me to kill; and I sure as hell will. Slice the skin right off ya bones nice and slow like. Then I’m gonna cut you into small pieces. Ya killed Old Bennie, boy, and now yer gonna pay big time!”
Turning back to the other two, he said, “Sammy, you take the west side of the house. Stu, you take the east side. Be careful. He’s dangerous as hell now that he’s free. Go on, get back to the house and get your shotguns. When ya spot him, wing’em. Killin’ him is my job.” He looked past them.
Frank thought back to when he first found Old Bennie as a cub, caught up in one of their traps they set out to catch game for food. There was something in the cub’s face that softened Frank then, and he ended up taking him back to the house. From there, he fed him, and trained him to obey commands and to kill.
“It’s for Old Bennie.”
Staring out from behind bushes and weeds at the barn, Bob heard everything and knew there was only one way out. He knew he had to get to Sammy and Stu first, before Frank found him. Thinking back for a moment, he somehow managed to find some light humor.
“Damn, I’d have been better off being flat broke in Des Moines.”
Not waiting any longer, Bob stayed deep in the brush to avoid being seen and circled around the barn until he was in a westerly direction of the house. This was the area Sammy would be. He figured Sammy to be the easiest to take care of first.
Grabbing at his injured rib, lungs wheezing, he waited patiently for Sammy to start searching for him. While waiting, he willed his mind to tell his body to forget the pain.
Five minutes went by before he heard the underbrush being trampled by one set of foot falls.
Peering through the bushes, he caught Sammy carrying a shotgun, muzzle facing upwards on his left shoulder. Sammy’s eyes were darting left and right.
Sammy was fifty feet away. Then forty, thirty, twenty, ten. At five feet, Bob made his move and sprang like a cat and lunged his body into Sammy’s.
Sammy was starting to level the barrels of the shotgun at Bob’s chest, his fingers cranking back the hammers, and his trigger finger about to squeeze off both barrels when Bob leaped three feet from the air sailing into Sammy.
The shotgun sailed backward and high into the air and the early afternoon stillness was shattered by the powerful twin blasts as Sammy and Bob hit the ground.
Pinning both shoulders with his knees, Bob hit Sammy with a hard right. He could feel bone crunch under the blow as Sammy was out of the fight. Bob stood up, clutching again at his cracked rib, feeling the pain even more. So much for pretending it doesn’t hurt.
Looking around, he found the shotgun, ejected the spent casings, and hurriedly went through Sammy’s pockets and found six more shells. He reloaded and went looking for Stu.
Stu heard the blasts and thought that Sammy got that old boy. He started running in the direction of the blasts when Frank appeared out of nowhere and stopped him.
“Don’t go chargin’ over there until ya know for sure Sammy winged’em for me. And that’s all he better have done, too. He ain’t yelled out or nuthin’ yet.”
Stu nodded his head.
“If’n we don’t hear from’em in another minute, you swing left, and I’ll go right. Just in case he got Sammy; there ain’t no way he can cut us both down from different directions at the same time.”
Bob heard every word. He was squarely in the middle of both men less than forty feet away. He kept his eyes on Stu but kept his hindsight on Frank.
They split up as agreed.
Stu was about ten feet from Bob when he came charging from his hiding spot and brought the butt of the shotgun down on top of Stu’s skull, sending him roughly to the ground. He grabbed Stu’s shotgun and tossed it as far as it would go.
Now it was just him and Frank.
Sweat was pouring from his body; his breath coming in shock waves, and his heart was beating to beat the band. His rib wouldn’t quit giving him fits, but of it all, Frank scared him more than anything else, except for Old Bennie.
That was all he had time to think about before he heard, rather than felt the bullet tear into his upper thigh sending him falling to the ground.
Rolling with a new pain, clutching his leg, Bob had just enough time to hide in the bushes as Frank yelled out.
“Boy, it’s like I told ya. Just you and me! I got me five more bullets that says I win and you lose. That scatter gun ain’t no good from where ya are! It won’t even get close.
“Yer bleedin’, tired, hurt, and scared. I know it. I feel it. I can taste it. You murdered Old Bennie, the one thing I ever cared about! I’m gonna make ya pay for that, you sunnsabitch!”
“I murdered!” Bob yelled back. “What about Mike? What about all the others you and your two dimwit cousins rounded up for that damn bear to kill? What do you call that?”
“We were doin’ what any self-respectin’ citizen should be doin’; keepin’ our town, our valley safe from people like you. I don’t like outsiders comin’ in and takin’ jobs away from people who live here. I don’t like yer kind comin’ round, tryin’ to build on our land. This country is filled with mountains and a lotta fine soil, and its people like you that come in here and destroy it all. I won’t have it happen while I’m alive, and I ain’t gonna let you stay alive to pol-lute it none either.”
“Frank, I was just passing through here. I have a job waiting for me in Boise. That’s where I was headed. All you had to do was ask. All you had to do was ask any of those people you buried. I bet none of them wanted to stay.”
“Yer lyin’, boy. Nuthin’ but lies and I ain’t gonna listen to a one of’em. I’m comin’ to get ya, boy!”
Bob was exasperated. Frank didn’t want to understand, or he was more stupid or out of touch with the world than he thought he was.
At least Bob was able to buy a little time. While talking to Frank, he had pulled off his belt and used it to tie off his thigh and stem the blood flow. The bullet only ripped a hunk of skin off, but as far as he could tell, no muscle tissue was torn, and nothing else was broken. The rib still hurt as he breathed, and it was hurting more as his breathing became gasps of air.
He could hear Frank tearing through the underbrush like a wild man. Bob settled his fingers on the triggers of the shotgun, bracing the butt against his right hip, barrels pointing in whatever direction he could hear Frank moving from.
Another bullet kicked up some dirt about a foot from Bob’s right leg. He quickly pulled his leg out of sight.
“Almost got the other one, didn’t I, boy!” Frank laughed sadistically.
In an effort to appeal to Frank’s moral values and his own sense of justice, Bob had an idea.
“Frank! Can you hear me, Frank!”
“I hear ya, boy.”
“I’ll make a deal with you.”
“No deals, boy.”
“Not even if it means you get a chance to kill me where Old Bennie did all his killing?”
“Ya mean the steel cage?”
“Yes! You and me, one on one. No guns, no hiding. Whoever loses—dies.”
Silence. A full minute went by.
“Well, Frank, how about it?”
Bob heard a hammer click back. Looking over his shoulder, he stared at Frank standing over him, the muzzle of his gun pointing right between Bob’s eyes.
“I seem to remember ya in this same position this mornin’. Get on yer feet, boy. I kinda like that idea of yer’s. That’s why I’m not gonna take ya back to the barn right now and start slicin’ ya to pieces. I was thinkin’ about just blowin’ yer head off while standin’ here.
“I kinda like yer idea though. I think it would be fittin’ I kill ya in memory of Old Bennie. I’d like to think he would like that. Let’s take a walk to the cage.” Waving the gun in the direction, Frank ordered, “Move! I don’t wanna have to tell ya again.”
Bob’s insides were trembling as he was walking back. His ploy worked, but nearly cost him his life before his plan even got started.
He came up with an idea at the right time, or else Frank might have ended his life right there in the brush.
Bob had one last chance at freedom. Failure this time meant certain death.
He knew Frank had the advantage. He was bigger, country-tough, and he didn’t have a cracked rib or a hole in his leg.
After a few minutes of slow moving because of his leg, Bob and Frank were in front of the steel cage. Bob closed his eyes, remembering what he had witnessed earlier that morning.
“Sammy and Stu ain’t around. Ya kill’em, boy?”
“Don’t make no difference. Get yer ass up in there. It’s unlocked.”
Bob grabbed the handle, opened the door and stepped inside. Once he was, he only now realized how huge the cage was, yet how small the space for survival had Old Bennie still been alive.
“I’m gonna give ya the whippin’ of yer life. When I’m done, yer gonna lay in yer own blood like Old Bennie’s layin’ in his. Then I’m gonna drag yer ass to the barn and begin to slice you up real slow like.”
Frank laid his gun down on the last step in and entered the cage. As he entered, Bob attacked quickly, hitting Frank with a series of left jabs, a couple right hooks, and another right, hard into Frank’s nose. Frank went sprawling back against the steel-meshed wall.
Frank shook his head, wiped the blood flowing from his nose and mouth, and took a second to lick the blood from his hand, and then he grinned in his sadistic manner, bent low with his arms outstretched and rushed Bob, grabbing him around the middle, sending both men to the concrete floor.
Bob screamed in pain from the jarring landing that reminded him of his injuries. Frank sat astride Bob’s chest and started hitting him with left and rights. Bob tried using his arms to block several of the blows, but too many found their mark.
Bob was losing, and he knew it. In desperation, he grabbed below Frank’s beltline and squeezed for all he was worth, sending a shocked look of howling anguish coming from Frank’s mouth. With a flailing overhand right, he connected with Frank’s temple, sending him backward on the concrete in a sitting position and Frank holding his crotch, wincing in pain.
Breathing heavily, Bob lunged up onto Frank’s chest, sending him flat on his back this time, and Bob returned the favor with several left and rights pummeling Frank’s face. He kept swinging and swinging with more of his punches connecting than were Frank’s earlier.
He felt the gristle give way as he broke Frank’s nose, as he felt it shift to the left. He felt Frank’s jawbone break in three different places, and his blood splatter up, and coated his fists, and felt some coat his cheeks.
After what felt like hours, but were just a few minutes, Bob stopped. Frank wasn’t fighting back. It was over. The whole nightmarish ordeal was finished.
Bob slowly stood up, wobbling somewhat from drained of energy and because his leg was bleeding again. He looked at the cage door, the door to freedom.
Just as he reached the final step out of the steel cage, he heard Frank’s voice.
“It ain’t over yet, boy!”
Hearing the wheezing garbled words out of Frank’s broken mouth, words droning through his nose, Bob turned to see a battered and bloodied Frank, whipping out a Bowie knife from his boot, arching it high in the air, racing to the door.
Seeing the gun where Frank left it, he reached for it, pulled the hammer back and yelled, “Hold it, Frank! I don’t want to have to kill you.”
“It’s you or me, boy. Take yer pick.” Frank lunged from the top step.
Frank dropped to the bottom of the steps face down. Slowly turning his face to the side, he looked at Bob, then looked down at the bloodstain forming under his chest, not believing Bob would shoot him. With an animalistic surge of strength, Frank managed to right himself back to his feet, and raising the knife, Frank screamed and lunged at Bob again.
This time the gun roared three times.
Frank pitched sideways, and fell head first onto the steps, and bounced off them to the dirt. This time there was no coming back. Frank’s eyes were wide open, seeing nothing.
Lowering his arm, Bob looked around, seeing the pickup standing like a lone sentinel. He half-walked, half-dragged his injured leg, sweat on top of sweat sticking to every fiber of his being as he made his way to the truck. Once there, he looked inside for the ignition keys; not there.
“Frank must have them, or one of the other two do. I’m not really liking the idea of digging through a dead man’s pockets, but I have to get the hell out of here.”
Walking back toward Frank’s body, he caught sight of Stu and Sammy making their way back. Realizing he still held the gun, he trained it at them, pulling the hammer back.
“Okay, you two. Stop right where you are. It’s over. Frank’s dead.”
Both men stopped short when they saw Frank’s gun in his hand.
“Is there a phone in the house?”
“Sure is,” Stu said. “What? Ya think we’re hermits or somethin’? Hell, mister, we got cell phones, too.”
“No, not hermits, just crazy is all. Both of you get inside the cage. Might as well drag Frank up in there with you.”
Nervously, Stu and Sammy each grabbed a useless arm and dragged Frank’s body up the steps and let him fall to the concrete about three feet from the door. Bob found the padlock and snapped it shut. Now he had nothing to worry about. As he started for the house, one booted foot stepped on the Bowie knife.
He bent over, picked it up and actually admired it, then stuck it right into the bench he sat on this morning when he watched Mark die. “Lucky for me I had the edge when I did, or he would have gutted me with that thing.”
Limping toward the house, he was determined to get help. He would call the police first, asking they send an ambulance.
Looking around the house for the phone wasn’t easy. The inside of the place didn’t look like it had been cleaned in years. Dishes piled on top of dirty and food encrusted dishes.
Strewn about the living room and kitchen were to-go bags and wrappers from Burger King, Taco Bell and even Mickey D’s. He even found some in the bathroom. Neat and tidy they were not.
Finding the phone in between three pizza boxes, he hit three numbers.
“911. What is your emergency, please?”
Bob explained everything.
“All right, sir. I have already dispatched two patrol units and an ambulance to your location.”
“You know where I’m at? Because I sure don’t.”
“Yes sir. Our state-of-the-art phone system is similar to a satellite tracking system. We can pin your location down within one hundred feet. Help will be there and estimated to arrive within eighteen minutes."
With no more to be said, Bob hung up, walked outside, and sat on the top step of the porch nursing his thigh, and clutching at his cracked rib as the pain in both places were really beating the drum inside his body.
Within that eighteen minutes, he heard sirens and saw flashing lights of red’s and white’s coming up the rutted road followed by an ambulance.
Watching as they pulled up to the house; it was then he believed it was finally over.
After thirty minutes of answering questions and another twenty being attended to by paramedics, by then, another four police cars, another car reading: Idaho Animal Control Unit, and a large van that read: Idaho State Forensic Unit, with the state seal in the background.
Stu and Sammy were handcuffed and put in separate police cars, but not before they gave the location where they buried all the bodies, starting with Mike’s. His would be the freshest.
Looking at one of the paramedics after she had sutured and bandage his thigh and wrapped his chest to keep the rib steady, he smiled at her and said, “I guess you’ll want to keep me around for a few days, won’t you?”
She looked at him. “Excuse me?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean you personally. I meant the hospital.”
“They might, but it’s your choice. Personally, I wouldn’t advise any travel for several weeks, or any unnecessary movement until you get some strength back in that leg and your rib heals.”
As the ambulance pulled away, followed by another unmarked van holding Frank’s body, in a body-bag, Bob started whistling a Willie Nelson tune, On the Road Again. After a minute, he said to no one in particular, “I know one thing for sure. After I get to Boise, I’m going to make sure I’m never broke again. If nothing else, I’ll go Greyhound when I need to get some place.”
“So, what is your last name, Bob?”
He looked at the female paramedic. The one driving, was a man about his size and weight.
“It’s Teague, pronounced like league.”
“I’m Sandy Cole. Nice to meet you, even if it is under such bad conditions. Since you’ve gone through such a rough patch, and since you’re a stranger and all; if you decide not to stay in the hospital, I can be a nice enough person to buy you dinner. After all, you did go through one hell of an experience."
“Yeah, I did, Sandy. And I think I might take you up on your offer. It’s not every day I damn near get mauled by a bear and three crazies in a strange place. And follow that up with an invitation by a pretty woman such as yourself, for dinner.
“I can say that, can’t I? or do I say, pretty paramedic?”
She laughed. “Woman is just fine.” She smiled.
Boise can wait a few more days.
It would be the talk in six counties and all over the news as to what happened.
The investigation took over seven months to process before the D.A. would take the case to trial.
Twenty-nine bodies were recovered and over time, identifications from dental records for many were made, and many families finally had the closure they had sought after for a very long time. There were three sets of remains that couldn’t be identified. Of the twenty-nine, five were females.
It was found from testimony from both Stu and Sammy; Frank had raised the bear from a cub and trained it to kill people it couldn’t recognize or was familiar with their body odor.
At the trial, Stu and Sammy were found guilty and each received a sentence of 999 years and a day for multiple murders.
This just shows that in some respects, taking the scenic route isn’t always the best choice made.
Bob, never did get that job. The company couldn’t wait on him and hired someone else. It didn’t matter. He found work in Jasper with a construction outfit.
And Bob and Sandy got married.
Imagine that. A happy ending after all.
There were four classes of people after the big blast in 2219. There were Tacticitions. They represented the military who controlled the many sectors, very similar to the old-style police force. Their laws were harsh.
To break even one minor law, they would be killed where they stood. Laws were made to be rigid since the acid rain and dust cleared two-hundred years prior. Those who survived the blast went underground and lived in darkness. When the air had finally become breathable, the four classes were formed.
In the beginning, everyone had to wear protective lenses as it took a long time for the eyes to adjust to the glare of the split sun. It was then the separation of classes began.
Nest, were the Performers. They provided the land with work, restoring what had been destroyed in the big blast. They provided the ideas for restoration and materials. Other Performers were also healers, taking care of the injured and the ill. The Performers did only what was instructed of them by the Tacticitions. They, along with the remaining inhabitants, were also ruled by them. To refuse or decline a directive from the Tacticitions, meant certain death.
Another class: The Drudges. They built what the Performers designed. They earned no money. They were paid in terms by the amount of work completed. The more they finished, the longer they were allowed to stay alive, have a cubicle to share with five other Drudges for sleep, and, if they worked hard enough; their ration of food increased from one meal a day to two.
Tacticitions and Performers were allowed to give birth to children. The law stated only those within a position of power could bring life. Performers were allotted two children, and the Tacticitions, five children.
Drudges were caught and captured every day. Drudges were known as the final class: Outcasts. They were the ones who resisted the Tacticitions and for what they stood for. When any of them were caught, they were placed in servitude as Drudges, and many had died doing the work required of them. Drudges never attempted escape, it was impossible.
The Drudges were granted by law, not by right, to have one child. If the child was male, he would be put in servitude. If the child born was female, she would be used to sire children by either the Tacticitions or Performers, and once she met that obligation, she would be killed.
As to the Outcasts, they had no rules on how small or large a family should be.
The Tacticitions held strongholds across the land and ruled with absolute authority. The refused to buckle under demands from the Outcasts to put away differences, and work as a single unit to make this country and the world a safer place to live, and work as brothers and sisters. No longer harbor hate and animosity, but instead, to love and help one another.
The Tacticitions believed in order to maintain order and keep control of all things, was to rule with an iron fist, and never relinquish their dominance.
To allow one or more groups of people to have independent action without authority was to allow communistic thoughts to pervade the new ideals that had been established. The Tacticitions would not allow this to happen.
They would maintain order, as the Performers would create demanded of them, and the Drudges would rebuild the order forced on them by law. It was the remaining Outcasts who were the problem.
Soon, the Outcasts would be nothing more than a forgotten page in history books reminding everyone that the law is the law.
Of course, the Outcasts had another opinion of the Tacticitions.
The Outcasts lived in the valleys, the mountains, underground; anywhere the Tacticitions couldn’t detect them.
The Outcasts were many small groups from fifty to a hundred in size. They live on their intelligence, and what it could bring them. Some were farmers, others were builders. In each group you would find a healer, and there would always be one leader to guide the group.
Each man had a mate, and some had a family from one child, to several. They had no law to say when a man must work or what should be built. It was law that each man should decide for himself when he should work and provide for his family.
The women; different from the Tacticitions and Performers women, worked right alongside their mate. They worked the land, cooked the meals, mended torn clothing and shared whatever the work might be when work was to be done. There wasn’t any class difference with the Outcasts. It had been agreed long ago, each Outcast was one and the same.
The children were taught how to build things and how to farm the land, and how to hunt for food, but they were also allowed to play and not lose their childhood to rigid rules.
Outcasts thought differently, remembering what they learned from stories handed down to them as children of how things were before the big blast. The Outcasts shared these same stories with each generation of children born
They would speak about a great man who was put upon to large sticks and died for all of man’s weaknesses. Stories were told about the many wars between nations that saw peace come become races of people. Stories of a war centuries ago that freed Drudges. It was a war between brothers that brought their own nation, one once called America, together. There were many stories of great leaders in that America, but history only ever remembers one woman being one of the leaders. Many stories told and retold, but it was the only way the Outcasts could insure the generation to follow them would know the truth.
The Outcasts spoke of justice, not control. About freedom, not being a Drudge. They spoke of the right to speak freely at any time.
Several groups of Outcasts had pieces of paper showing what they spoke about. Some of the pages had to be kept hidden away as they aged badly with time. They were frail and needed protected. One such page in large fancy scribbling, was one big word: CONSTIT. It had all the laws man had lived under before the big blast, and those laws were better than those of the Tacticitions.
Another pile of papers, badly aged as well, had more fancy lettering at the beginning that read: DECLARATION. About a fourth of the first page was missing, but there was enough there to understand what the rules use to be like.
Then there was: THE BOOK. It explained how the world began. It told how the world would end, and it was almost correct. THE BOOK portrayed many events and the Tacticitions had this book banned and ordered destroyed.
The Outcasts were also planning to overthrow the Tacticitions, but they had very little in the way of weapons, manpower and strength; but they had determination. If the man called, Sampson, could defeat so many with only the jawbone of an ass; why then couldn’t the Outcasts defeat the Tacticitions?
They had decided the time was drawing near where running and hiding had to end. In a statement found later; the Outcasts declared the following:
It is time once more for man to step forward and create one last war to get one step closer to absolute freedom. In order to know peace, one has to destroy those who create destruction. Such a strange way to exercise tranquility, but the Tacticitions must be eliminated. As a people, we vow to fight the Tacticitions to the final man; rather than become enslaved as Drudges.
On the night of the split sun’s rising, in a portion of the valley not yet discovered by the Tacticitions, the leaders of each band of Outcasts, met to cast their option as to who should lead everyone into battle. After the options were decided, three names were picked randomly from all mentioned.
After long hours of debating which of the three should lead, instead, it was unanimous that all three would lead their forces from different fronts. The strength of the Outcasts would not be denied, and their strength in numbers from different angles would increase their chances for victory and overpower the Tacticitions; or so they believed.
All plans were set in motion.
In the Central Government of the Tacticitions, a rule of law was handed down, stating it was time to bring about absolute world domination. The first step was to bring in every Outcast, and those who rebelled, were to be put to death. The Tacticitions could no longer afford to have Outcasts roaming free, believing in old world-order. The Outcasts would become Drudges or be annihilated.
The Tacticitions gathered their troops throughout all cities that were being rebuilt. They came from New York, New Philadelphia, New Boston, and New Washington. The soldiers mounted and all-out assault to the west, and the orders were only the males from those left alive from the Outcasts were to be brought back to serve as Drudges. The women, the old, and the weak were to be put to death, and any female children under the age of sixteen, were to be brought back to the Tacticitions. Over time, they would learn the Tacticitions way of life and provide children for them and the Performers and remain enslaved. It would be the only life they would ever know, until they were no longer needed.
Soldiers marched, tightly bunched together, a full mile long and a mile deep, and began their long trek to the valleys of the Outcasts. The Tacticitions ordered over 800,000 soldiers to put an end to the Outcasts once and for all.
Once this would be accomplished, the Tacticitions would then set their sights on the rest of the world.
The Outcasts gathered every member together in the great mountains of what is now called Old Denver. From there, they would split into three groups. Their weapons were standard fare as those used during the big blast. They spent many long days learning how to use these weapons and preparing different strategies of battle. They also hoped that this would be the last war they would ever see.
Their numbers were less than 400,000 to what the Tacticitions sent, who were now heading in their direction. The Outcasts knew it was freedom or death; they would have it no other way.
The march for both sides continued for several weeks as transportation couldn’t carry everyone. Most vehicles were long ago destroyed and only those in command of the soldiers sent by the Tacticitions, rode, while soldiers marched at a maddening pace nearing a full run.
Like the soldiers, the Outcasts weathered the long journey, but had to battle the elements as well. Even though acid rains and the dust had long since settled into memory, the winds that came from somewhere and went nowhere were of such magnitude, that both Outcasts and soldiers alike were hurled into the air and dashed to the ground, crumpled, and broken.
Other days, the rain would fall, and it would be a hot rain. The Tacticitions and Outcasts had to find shelter until the storms passed. To not do so, the rain would burn your flesh leaving blisters that could become infected. By the tenth week of the march, the Outcasts lost a fourth of their brave men, women and children.
The Tacticitions had the same problem as the Outcasts, but they lost nearly half their soldiers between the forced march, and when not far from a place once known as Iowa; the ground opened and swallowed many of the soldiers from sight.
By week thirteen, the Tacticitions and Outcasts met at the Great Divide, a portion of lands that once determined the center of a once powerful nation. There, among the dried riverbed between what was once two places known as Omaha and Council Bluffs; the battle began.
It started in the tenth month of the eleventh day of the year, 2419; precisely two-hundred years to the day of the big blast.
Screaming, shouting, running, and dying could be heard that day as bodies collided against one another in a frenzy to dominate and rule on one side, while the other side fought to live freely and independently. The dry riverbed filled that day with the blood of the dead.
After three days of relentless fighting, when the gray-black smell of gunpowder disappeared from the air. It was the Outcasts who were victorious.
Bodies laid in heaps from both sides, as many as four high upon the Great Divide’s land. The tightly packed dirt was soaked in blood that turned stale as the remaining Outcasts buried their dead, and the dead of the Tacticitions soldiers. When finished, they continued their journey to where the remaining Tacticitions dwelled.
There number was now under 200,000. The newly victorious Outcasts continued their march which took forty days.
The place they left behind, they now called, The Land of Fallen Hero’s.
When they arrived, the Outcasts defeated the remaining Tacticitions first in New Washington and released 10,000 Drudges. The Performers weren’t harmed as the Outcasts knew how important they were in helping to rebuild a world long ago lost in madness.
New Philadelphia, New York, and finally, New Boston; the Outcasts were victorious. Another 300,000 Drudges were released. In the course of one year, the war, the struggle for freedom was over. There wasn’t a single Tacticition left alive.
Those Tacticitions who survived, were offered to live in peace among the Outcasts, but those remaining cried out in foul tongue’s, refusing to live with what they called, 'scum; not fit for living’. Those who remained, rebelled in their final moments. Before the evening split sun settled, not one Tacticition remained alive.
Within a short period of time, the classes of all the people were then divided into two groupings. The Performers became Technicians, and Outcasts became Liberators.
From their first day of freedom, Technicians and Liberators, worked hand in hand, day in and day out to rebuild a new city where everyone could work together as equals. Those who were Drudges, also became Technicians and helped to build a new life alongside everyone else.
Money never became a necessity. Food, clothing, and housing were provided for every family and single person.
The new laws were put in place, and those who chose not to abide by them, were allowed to go their own way away from the new city called, Freedom. No limits were placed on how many children could be born into a family, and no one was worked unfairly.
The city of Freedom, became a reality for all people and education is provided for all children. By age ten, each child will have learned the beginnings of their heritage.
Tomorrow will begin your education in language and mathematics. That will be disc scan: C2B.
This now concludes audio and visual history introduction disc C1A. Press, end. Thank you.
“What did you think about your lesson, David?”
“Mother, we live in a very organized world compared to what father’s from long ago endured. Can I watch the history disc again?”
“Yes, but dinner first, David. Afterward, you can come back and replay the disc, but tomorrow you must continue your studies and broaden your horizons. Knowledge is what will keep you in a position to always make the right choices.”
“I’m curious, mother. What would happen if we went through another big blast again?”
“That was a thousand years ago, but it scares me to think about it. If that ever happened again, I fear there would be no one left alive. As you will learn in the disc, in regards to science; the lands we live in and have managed to cultivate our foods from, would split into pieces and the lands would be drawn into the split sun.
“This why all weapons were abolished. Long ago, any plans for any form of weapons were destroyed. This is why the Neutralizer was created. Its sole purpose is to rid our memories of any criminal act or purpose to create a need or desire for violence.
“Enough, for now. You will learn all this on the vid-enhancer for your education. Hurry, and get ready for dinner. Your father will be home soon.”
David scampered off to prepare for the evening meal. His mother went back to the kitchen to finish tonight’s synthetic meal.
Things are different than what the ancestors endured, she thought. At least David will live in freedom, in Freedom, and all things will be what dreams, and THE BOOK, lead us to believe; peaceful and a place where truth and love both light the way for us all.
Three Short Short Stories
Mack had it all once upon a time.
He had the money. He had the cars, twenty-five to be exact. From a Rolls Royce to a Bentley, to Corvette’s, Maserati’s, and Lamborghini’s; to even collector cars such as one he bought from Dale Earnhardt before he died.
He had five homes across the country and three villas’ overseas.
He had the women. American women, Brazilian, European and Oriental women. Didn’t matter to Mack. He was all for living the high life.
He started running numbers in the neighborhood when he was ten and worked his way up the ladder until one day he got as far as he could get on the food chain as he could go. And that was okay with him. A good Irish Catholic kid makes good with the Italian Mob. Whatever they asked of him, he did. No questions asked.
Along came a day when the Mob told him he had to take a fall. He had to go down, but that all his possessions would be protected, and he would be well taken care of while in prison. Mack wasn’t worried. Besides, five years was nothing.
The Mob kept their word. Everything he owned was still where it was when he was released. There was even a coming home party. A party the Mob knew nothing about.
A party Mack wasn’t expecting.
He arrived home, as he walked into his favorite home, he saw and read banners strung out over the front door welcoming him home. Mack smiled. When he stepped inside he saw more banners, and when his eyes darted to his left, he saw a huge cake sitting on his dining room table, with several bottles of champagne sitting one ice. Mack kept smiling.
Everyone was hiding, he thought. Soon, they would all stand up shouting “Welcome home!”
He was right, but the smile on his face turned into a puzzled expression.
They were all women.
All the women he had had and then dumped.
His latest stayed by his side the entire five years he was locked up, but the party was her idea, especially after she found out about the prior women in Mack’s life. She didn’t want to be another kicked-to-the-curb bitch that no longer interested Mack.
She and twenty-eight other women at Mack’s coming home party were going to celebrate, and celebrate they did.
Mack tried, oh how he tried to talk them down, to cajole them, to let them know that each one still meant something to him, but they weren’t buying his lies.
Surrounding him, he saw they all had knives. He tried to escape through the front door.
He cursed. He screamed. He died.
And the girls drank champagne and laughed.
Nursery Rhyme Killer
“Mary, Mary, how does your garden grow?”
Henry buried old Mrs. Mary Hanks in her own backyard next to her roses.
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.”
Henry beat old Mrs. Rose Smitters to death with a combat boot.
“Mary had a little lamb.”
One Mary Ellery was found behind her barn and beside her was a lamb with its throat cut just as Mary’s was.
“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.”
Jack Haney wasn’t quick enough. His legs were found on the other side of the road.
Henry just loves nursery rhymes.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Twenty-nine long, deadly and fearful lonely days, never knowing when I would die, yet alone worried about living.
When the boat went down about a hundred miles south of the Bahamas, one of the last things I remembered were the people screaming, clamoring to get to a life boat while others jumped into the cold Atlantic.
I swam as hard as I could to get away from any down-pull from the sinking ship. I didn’t want to become a permanent part of its dying vortex as it spiraled to a blackness below I wanted no part of.
But I did have some luck where a portion of the ship broke off and was every bit a flotilla that worked for me. I climbed atop the broken structure and sprawled across it though my feet dangled in the water from time to time. Not knowing if sharks were in this area or not, the only times I would let them be in the water was when I was awake. Last thing I needed was to feed the fishes and bleed to death from two mangled stumps. I’d sleep in the fetal position. Better that than dead.
Never saw a soul after the ship sank once daylight first hit. Now after all these days, my body is blistered from the heat of the sun during daylight, and at night I nearly freeze to death.
And I am starving. I’ve probably lost twenty or thirty pounds. Not good when you were a buck-forty going into this nightmare.
Unless I’m seeing things from being out here too long, it sure looks to be real trees coming out of real land and getting closer by the minute.
I arm paddle blistered arms to try to get there faster. A hundred yards out. Seventy-five. Fifty.
I dive in the water and swim the rest of the way until my hands and feet reach a point where I can stand up for the first time in twenty-nine days, chest high in water and begin walking forward as water drips off me to a dark brown sand where water rushes over it and my steps take me further in until I find myself standing under tree limbs.
Such a small thing is shade. Right now, it’s worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. I lie down beside a huge thick tree, its large leaves protecting me from a sun bearing down without mercy.
I lay there for what I believe is forever when I hear noises coming from all around me.
I sit up and then I feel the first piercing pain thrust into my back.
I feel another that slams between my shoulder blades. I want to scream out, but my lungs are dry, my lips blistered and cracked many times over.
I roll to my hands and knees and struggle to push myself to stand up.
Standing, I turned my body slowly around, my hands reaching behind me and I feel two sticks stuck into my back. Arrows.
Five people come out from hiding behind the trees, each brandishing a bow and arrow at the ready; each man holding a menacing look about themselves.
They aim directly at me and I know I’m about to die.
Twenty-nine days, only to die like this.
As they release their arrows, I see that each person has a small head tied by string or rope around their necks.
I almost want to laugh as I realize I may be their dinner tonight.
The Wayfaring Stranger and The Lady
After traveling by foot for so many days, I found myself less than twenty miles from Courte, the city of Plenty.
It is said that in this city, be it man or woman, a life can be had without fear of the King’s demands and his soldiers.
Of which, I had a brush with another far more evil of a king’s soldiers, not more than a week ago, and now, I am considered a criminal because I defended people poorer than I, and in defense, had run my sword through four of the seven soldiers demanding food and money on behalf of the king before they turned tail and went back crying to their king how they were attacked by dozens of men. Surely they couldn’t tell the king it was but one man that wrecked the king’s plans.
I go to Courte, for there, I will be given refuge. It is the only place across this vast country the King cannot cross. It is said The King of Courte is mightier than all the kings for a thousand lifetimes.
I whistle as I continue my journey and finally reach a small hilltop to see the road that leads me to my destination. And it was then my eyes took in a terrible sight.
There sat a coach in the middle of the dirt road, surrounding the driver and whoever may be inside, were five of the evil king’s men. This amazed me that they would be this close to Courte. Is their King perhaps planning something?
Being careful not to be seen, I run further down the hill, keeping myself hidden among trees and bushes until I can hear voices demanding all to come out of the coach and for the driver to hand down all valuables he is carrying to the Kingdom of Courte. The driver says there are no valuables.
The one who demanded valuables, brutally reached with his arm, and left a slashing cut across the driver’s face with his sword and laughed. He then turned to his men and told them to ransack the coach for anything of value.
It was then, the only one inside the coach stepped out. My heart be still. A true beauty could be found no place else but at this moment.
I quickly snapped my mind away from her beauty and then thought, these soldiers would look upon her as a prize and abduct her away, or far worse, take charge of her person and sully her flesh and her name. I could not allow that.
Reaching for the hilt of my sword, I quietly eased it from my scabbard, I continued to inch my way forward. Within moments, I was less than a few feet from the side of the coach where I couldn’t be seen, and the voices became clearer.
“You and your men shall face severe wrath from the King of Courte, I assure you.”
“Sweet wench that you are, I take no care for your king. I serve but one, and he will fall upon Courte like the devil himself and will be boasted of for all time as the owner of the Earthlands and none shall defy him, ever.”
“Captain, we have been through everything, and have found nothing of value.”
“There is one thing of value, if even for but a short while. Take her into the bushes and have your way with her.” He laughed loudly. His men joined in.
She protested. She struggled. She could not fight away.
As they turned the back corner of the coach, they stopped abruptly as a man stood before them who wasted no time as he quickly thrust his sword into two men and cut the throat of another. The fourth, released the woman and ran to the Captain.
“We are attacked, Captain!”
The Captain dismounted, withdrawing his sword, and started to make his way to where the trouble stood in his way, his lone soldier behind him, now scared.
The Captain now faced the menace of his source and the woman, now off to the left, stood with a resolve of vindication for what was about to happen.
“Captain, you will not return to your King, but I will return you to hell where you belong.”
Swords clashed, a thrust here, a swishing sound there, a pivot, a parry, and this was not to be easy as he was defending against two blades at once, but a good-stepped pivot and twist, the soldier fell from a thrust to his heart.
The Captain crisscrossed his blade in sweeping massive arcs trying to find the one open space to end this stranger’s life, but it was not to be. For just as he was set to lunge forth to the chest, the stranger had roiled away and on bended-knee, thrust upward until the blade ran through the Captain’s stomach. And with a single twist it was removed. The Captain staggered backward, unbelieving this happened to him, then dropped to his knees and made a final garbling threat and pitched forward.
Sheathing his sword, he turned to the most beautiful woman his eyes have ever seen, an image that would burn in his soul for all time, but he did not say that.
“M’Lady … no harm shall befall you from this moment forth. You are free to travel now.”
“Kind sir, I thank you. For was it not for you, my life would have been forfeit. You have my gratitude for all time.”
He helped her back into the coach. The driver had tended to his own wound and would take the reins to hurry faster to Courte.
“Where stranger, do your travels take you?”
“To Courte, to begin a new life, away from times like these.”
“Then I pray, I ask you ride with me, for Courte is my destination.”
“Your offer I thank you for, but my travels have been on foot after long days and nights and I would like to say I have made my journey on my own terms in my own way.”
“As you wish. But if I may inquire, what do I call the man who has saved me this day?”
“I am the son of D’Artagnan, my name is Charles.”
“Then Charles, I bid you farewell and a long life.”
The coach took off but not before it left my line of vision, and very briefly, I saw her look out from an open window and waved with a silken handkerchief which she let the wind take away. And he did not even know her name.
Never before had he been or thought so taken with a woman as she. Charles hurriedly ran forth until he found this silken cloth, shook it free from the dust, brought it to his nose and inhaled. A fragrance akin to a field of wild flowers filled his senses.
He knew then, he let a true Beauty, and might he add, one without fear, get away from him.
Charles continued the journey to Courte. She would arrive within a day. Charles knew he would need at least another three days. But first, there are bodies to bury, for even Charles cannot stand the thought of buzzards picking at the dead.
Charles walked into Courte and saw the many shops, houses and the castle standing proudly where he first saw it from a mile away, but now, it’s massive setting seemed to rise even taller, as if implying its true reason for being a protection for the people.
Continuing his walk, he then spied a massive throng of people, all of which were cheering someone above them standing out on a landing. Looking up, he saw what and who they were cheering, and his eyes could not lie to him.
High above, stood the King as he made his announcement.
“People of Courte, my friends, today is a wonderful day for I present to you, my daughter, Goldina. She is to be wed to John of Cuttingsail in three days hence. A feast will be held for all.”
Charles, one of many who heard these words, smiled. Beauty though she be, my luck has once again run the gamut. But I would defend her again if the moment ever arose.
Goldina. stepped forth and gazed down at all the people and waved to all, with a simple but honest smile for all to see. As her eyes traveled from one side to the other, she spied Charles, and then for him, she waved and nodded her head.
Charles saw this and waved back. Then, both she and the King turned away and reentered the castle.
Charles ended up making for himself a new life as a master builder of swords.
Goldina. went on and would become Queen of Courte and Cuttingsail after her father died and would reign as he did. Her husband would die in their eighteenth year of wedlock.
It was a year after when she visited Charles.
“I have never forgotten your bravery nor your kindness toward me.”
“Nor have I ever forgotten your beauty.”
“Beauty?” she laughed. “I am now fifty and wrinkles surround this beauty you speak of.”
“You shall remain beautiful in my eyes.”
“I thank you for this, Charles. But I must go. I have much to do, and tomorrow is the baptism for my son to be announced as Prince, who shall one day step onto the throne as Courte’s new King, and will one day rule in my stead.”
“If he is anything like you, Courte will continue its ways of peace.”
Goldina stepped within a breath of Charles and kissed him lightly on the lips.
“That is for saving my life, and for being a good man. You will be forever my true Knight. Goodbye, M’Lord.”
Charles bowed, then watched as she returned to her coach as it wheeled away.
Turning back to his work, he whistled no known tune when his son and wife came out of the adjoining house to his shop.
“Was that the Queen who just left here?” asked Alexia.
“What did she want here?”
“Tonight, after dinner, I will tell you and Braxton, a tale that is true. One that even I sometimes find too good to be true, but—it is.”
Only Time Is
There was a time when Jim and Larry were the best of friends; brothers in a time when friendships went beyond blood, but two boys forged a bond they promised would never be broken.
Years passed. Age has a way of changing people and attitudes, and new roads are walked with a purpose.
So it was in a courtroom where fate would reunite Jim and Larry but for all the wrong reasons.
Jim was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a triple homicide during a failed robbery of a local mom and pop corner grocery store. He used a Remington twelve gauge, semi-automatic.
Larry, the sentencing judge, could only shake his head and then said, “Were it not for the years past, I would have sentenced you to death by lethal injection. Sometimes in life, we still have to remember the good we have seen, and still see in people.”
Larry stood and left the courtroom as Jim was led by a deputy sheriff back to the county jail to await transport to the state prison.
Jim knew, that even though they had walked separate roads, that deep within himself, he knew his friendship with Larry was over.
And that forever isn’t forever after all.
The end of the world came, but not how books and movies portrayed the end to actually be.
I was ten when it happened. My parents had me go into a specially designed shelter they made to keep us all alive, but things happened so fast, they never had time to join me.
I had enough stuff; food, bottled water and all that, and I didn’t have to worry about being bored. Plenty of DVD’s, and CD’s to entertain me for at least a year, and there were six small gas-powered generators to keep things going. In one corner of the shelter was about four-hundred gallons of gas.
I had over a thousand books I could read, and a computer I used to write a daily log on what happened and my day-to-day existence. I even managed for a short time to stay in contact with a few friends until the end came for them, or, like me; just cut off from the world with no way to communicate, but I refused to buy into that thinking.
I’m fourteen now, and the computer still works where I can get online to my Facebook. Not all the power has disappeared as of yet. I leave messages every day. I send emails to my friends and they go through, but I don’t hear back from them.
Four years after the big blast, I stepped out of my shelter and found that the buildings, though destroyed, and dead bodies decaying everywhere; that everything else was working. Electricity, fresh water, freezers, and the like.
Places like Burger King, Arby’s, and Mickey D’s, were all in a strip mall a mile away from me and they had meats and burgers in refrigerator’s, along with lettuce, onion’s and various other stuff that was still somewhat fresh after all this time. I knew I wouldn’t go hungry. My favorite store, although ruined; I had access to what games and movies weren’t destroyed, which was way cool. I took a whole bunch back to my shelter.
On my fourth day out and about, I stopped at a Radio Shack to see what I might find to put to good use. A cell phone on the floor started ringing. That freaked me out! I still ran over to it, picked it up and said hello. No answer. I screamed, “HELLO!”
I heard a voice.
“You are still alive. We will find you. Destroy you!”
I dropped the phone. Then I picked it back up.
“Who is this?”
“General Xythos from Aerona, of the Twenty-Fifth Quadrant. We will destroy you.”
I dropped the phone again and ran as fast as I could back to my shelter. Once inside, I closed and locked the heavy steel door, and kept the lights off, computer off.
They can’t see me in here.
I am so alone.
Why can’t this just be a movie?
The Effect of Change
By today’s standards, Andrew Duggin was a relatively young man, but by the standards of the Old West, Andrew Duggin was an old man at forty-seven. Andrew had lived in a time of change. Where sidewalks were once made out of plank wood, now they were concrete. Where saloons held piano players, dancehall girls and wild Saturday night fights and shootouts; now the saloons were called eateries, and they held waitresses, no piano player, and closed early. Hardly any fights to speak about, and don’t get caught brandishing a gun any longer. It’s against the law.
Andrew use to be a lawman. He retired in 1883, and now lawmen are called policemen. Horses tied to the hitching rail are rarely seen, and the dust from cattle drives that came and went through town, to the stagecoach; nothing more than a memory since most of the cattle is shipped by train as well as passengers and the mail.
Andrew remembered how life was. He fought at sixteen in the last year of the Civil War, even got himself a medal from President Lincoln, personally, He hired on with a few cattle drives, braved dust storms, flash floods, fought off Indians and cattle rustlers. Andrew even scouted for the U.S. Calvary. One day he rode into Silver Creek and took on the job of sheriff.
It wasn’t easy. He jailed many a drunk, stopped a gang of bank robbers once. There were also be the gunfighter who rode into town to see if he could make a name for himself; a reputation larger than life. Killing Andrew Duggin, most gunfighters figured, would be like taking on Masterson or Earp. Every western town has its own Boot Hill. There’s a lot of would-be fast guns buried there who found out just how wrong they were.
After twelve years, Andrew Duggin hung up his guns and retired to make way for a new era coming. New rules about law and order prevailed.
One day, late August of 1896, a man named, John Miller, rode into Silver Creek. John was near Andrew’s age. Just out of prison. Because of Andrew, he was sentenced to ten years for robbery. John came back to settle the score.
Andrew had just stepped outside from the LiverMoore Grain & Feed store and stared at John, standing there with his gun drawn. It was the last thing Andrew ever saw as John fired three times, hitting Andrew twice and killing him before Andrew could utter a word.
John holstered his gun, got on his horse and started to ride out of town before the local sheriff tried to stop him. John didn’t see them until too late, but funny-dressed lawmen came at him from three sides, firing at him. He drew his gun to return fire, but he was beaten before he started. Bullets ripped into his flesh, ripping him off his saddle. Before the final seconds of permanent sleep over took John, he realized what Andrew knew. The end of an era had passed him by and it was over.
There wasn’t a future left for John. No more train robberies, no more banks to holdup, no more Saturday night fights; no more women to have. The old days left him where he lay, in the dust.
Andrew Duggin and John Miller, oddly enough, were buried side by side in Boot Hill.
And Silver Creek moved into the future leaving the past buried on the hill.
They were two of the many men who made up part of the Old West.
Just thought you would like to know.