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New writing…untitled and unedited…incomplete…

In hindsight, I never should have called Rhea’s bluff.  Of all the people in the world, I should have known better. She and I had grown up in Mississippi. We both were dirt poor and orphans. 

My parents, Jayce and Hannah Wellspring, died on while sailing at sea. I was left to live with my grandmother, Anna Marie, but she passed shortly thereafter. The doctor claimed that her heart gave out. I have always believed she passed away from sadness. 

Rhea’s dad, Luke Carver, died in the War on Terror. He was killed in an ambush. An IED was listed as the cause of death. His closest friend, Abraham Watkins, had told Rhea’s mother the details.  While on patrol Luke’s squad had come under fire.  They were forced to separate. Luke and his comrades were killed by a buried IED.

Rhea’s mother, Twyla Carver, turned to alcohol and drugs. She ran with those who shared her interest in her newfound hobbies. Twyla died of a drug overdose in the arms of someone she had known for less than an hour. 

A tragic past has never sidelined a magnificent future. The tragedy of a dark past makes for strong character. Rhea had impeccable character, a strong sense of justice, a quick wit. Her intelligence was above par.

None of that matters now. 

Rhea was buried at the orphanage we both were sent to when there was no one left to care for us. I stood to the right of her casket. Apparently, she had made many friends during her career. People stood ten deep to say goodbye to Rhea. She had that kind of personality.

Mistress Tonya Donaldson, headmistress of Mother Tanya’s Home for Wayward Children, stood next to me. She had the same stern look on her face now as she did when I would terrorize my classmates when I was younger.

“How have you been, Chris?”

“Oh, you know how it goes. Some days are good, others, like today for instance, are not so good.”

“Rhea never disappointed. She was driven, determined, and accomplished her goals with such ferocity.”

“Yeah, that was her.”

“You on the other hand…”

“What about me?”

“There are rumors about you, and what you do for a living. It is far from what you were taught here.”

“Well, a man does what he must to make a living.”

“You became a savage, Christopher. Goodness dwells in light, you stalk the shadows.”

“You forgot the part about bringing punishment to the evildoers.”

Mistress Tanya frowned at me. I shrugged. The more things changed and all that. I had never been able to please her. Rhea and I tried to please her. When we first arrived in December both of us hoped to find a place where we belonged. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but we had sat beside each other on the bus. I was a scrawny six-year-old with sandy blond hair. My face looked like I had been shot in the face with a freckle gun. 

Rhea, was one year older than me, was taller than me, and smiled more than me.  For some reason, she befriended me.  We stood in line to be assigned to our rooms, in the cold December air. 

She turned and faced me. She stuck out her hand and politely said, “Hi. I’m Rhea. It’s nice to meet you.”

I wiped my nose on my sleeve and shook her hand. She never flinched away, nor did she shout gross.  I was at a loss. 

 “Chris.”

“I think this is the beginning of a good thing, Chris.”

“I hope so.”

Brothers…new writing…untitled and unedited…

Raphael Jafar stood on the precipice of greatness. The sun blazed at its apex; the sand seemed to be on fire underneath his bare feet. He was surrounded by the lifeless bodies of his enemies. His soldiers raised their weapons into the air and fired.

“Praise be to God. He has given us victory over our enemies. He has led us to this great moment, and we have not failed.”

One of the bodies coughed. Raphael pulled his sidearm and aimed it at his enemy. “Praise be to God,” he whispered as he unloaded his weapon into the face of the wicked.

Thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world, a group of contractors and soldiers attempted to move a generator from the border of Syria to Southern Baghdad. Al Walker, code named Ghost, rode in the front seat of the second Humvee.

His driver, Timothy (Ghost could not recall his last name) stared at him from time to time.

“Where are you from, Al,” Timothy asked.

“Mississippi, born and raised.”

“I’m from Nebraska. Born and raised a Husker.”

“How about that,” Ghost responded. “A Husker and a Rebel lost in the sands of-“

“RPG,” the gunner yelled. The lead Humvee exploded into a fireball. The gunner shed lead into the vicinity of the RPG gunner. As the gunner provided suppressing fire, the vehicles circled the disabled Humvee.

People gathered in the street. Many had looks of fear upon their faces, weapons were aimed at them as they encroached ever closer.

Some stayed in the door stoops of their homes, some on the roof. Those on the street drew closer and closer. A shot rang out from the crowd and hit one of the gunners.

The world went mad. Machine guns roared alongside of rifles and sidearms. Civilians rushed in every direction. Two men with rifles fired back at the convoy. It was over as soon as it began. Lifeless bodies lay on the side of the road and in the ditches. Everything was still.

“Jesus,” Ghost muttered. The dismounted troops grabbed fire extinguishers and battled the fire that had consumed the Humvee. The bodies of their friends were loaded into the back of the CASEVAC vehicle. Once the wounded had been treated, and the deceased had been loaded up, the convoy headed back to base.

Once they arrived at base, the group of men received their debriefing and was released to rest. Ghost showered and took a nap. A knock sounded at his door.

“Yeah?”

The door opened and the company commander came in. His name was Alec Something-or-other. Ghost had been too busy to get to know him. Alec was furious. Words refused to come out and he gestured angrily with his hands.

“What happened out there,” Alec finally shouted. Ghost leaned up on an elbow and squinted at the officer.

“What do you mean?”

“Four men died today, six were wounded. Were you not paying attention?”

“I was there, sir. It’s the nature of combat for these things to happen.”

“You are on loan to my unit because of the number of casualties we have suffered. You are not here to make things worse! This may be acceptable in your old unit, but it is not acceptable here,” Alec huffed indignantly.

Ghost scowled at Alec. “What a freaking diva.”  Alec glared at Ghost. Silence grew between the two men. Finally, Alec snapped, “What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Nothing. What do you want me to do, sir? Should I call up the insurgency and ask them to take it easy on your unit? Maybe we could work out a deal where they let us kill them in equal numbers.”

“How about you shut your mouth?”

“Sir, if I want any lip from you, I’ll scrape it off my zipper. Good men die in war. That is the simple truth of the matter. We did everything we could to minimize our losses. If you think you could do better, we are headed out again tomorrow. You could take lead.”

Alec slammed the door on his way out. Ghost leaned back and fell asleep. He slept soundly. It would not be long before he faced the darkness again. He needed to be ready.

The sun came up right on cue and brought with it an influx of rockets. Projectiles slammed into the barracks and knocked Ghost from his bed. He scrambled to his feet, slipped on his shower shoes, and grabbed his rifle.

He made his way down the hall. White plaster fell from the ceiling. Soldiers rushed out into the hallway for accountability.

“Leaders, check on your men. Report when you’re up.”

One of the newest guys in the unit nodded at Ghost. “Looks like they decided to jump on us first thing, huh?”

“Yep.”

One of the team leaders tapped Ghost on the shoulder. “We’re up.”

“Alright. Get ‘em geared up. We roll out in ten.”

“Roger.”

His men were gathered into a loose gaggle. They spoke in hushed whispers, one of them, Jameson was his name, looked up when Ghost approached them.

“The locals are hot about yesterday, huh Sergeant?”

“Probably. Since my driver was injured yesterday, you’re my driver today. Let’s move.”

“Roger.”

They walked toward their vehicle and Jameson stowed his gear in the back.

“Ole Betsy looks kinda rough,” Jameson hollered. The impact of bullets had knocked the paint off. Thanks to modern engineering, the armor had not been penetrated.

“Yeah.”

The convoy leader, a Sergeant First Class from the regular Army, gave the convoy briefing. He worked in tandem with a Lieutenant Gaylord. Rally points and check points were given to each vehicle commander. Ghost took his and looked it over.

“If something should happen to me, the next highest ranking takes over,” Gaylord said. “The mission is all that matters. It’s gets done, understood?”

A mixture of ‘rogers and hooahs’ came from the convoy. Then they loaded up for another day outside the wire. “Hello danger, my old friend.”

New writing…untitled, incomplete and unedited…


“Rain. Why not? I have always wanted to investigate a murder in the middle of a freaking hurricane.”
Thermopolis Konan lifted his collar to shield his neck from the deluge, his ride was supposed to have been here ten minutes ago. “Typical crap, make the new guy wait.”

An unmarked Crown Vic pulled up next to the curb. The driver rolled down the passenger window about an inch. A curly haired brunette sat behind the wheel.

“Are you Detective Konan?”

“Yeah, the wet version.”

“Get in.”

Konan got in and the brunette extended her hand. Konan shook her hand. “I’m Lilly. We have been paired up as partners. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, you to.”

“Sorry I am late. I stopped to get us coffee, and the bottom fell out while I was inside.” She handed him a lukewarm cup of coffee. “You do drink coffee, right?”

“I do. Thanks for making the gesture.” She handed him sugar and cream. “I didn’t know what you took in it, so I brought everything.”

“Just sugar. A lot of sugar.”

They mixed their coffees and Lilly made small talk. She would glance at Konan from time to time to see if he were following the conversation. He never seemed to be lost. So far, so good.

“So, you came to us from 112th.”

“Yeah.”

“I heard that it’s a great department.”

“No, you haven’t. They are tore up from the floor up.”

“Yeah, that’s what we heard in the 117th. I was trying to tiptoe around it, but you’re like a bulldozer in a trailer park.”

“Let me guess, you were told I betrayed my last partner, right?”

“Yeah, that’s the rumor that’s going around.”

Konan nodded his head. “Figures.” Lilly started the car and began to drive. The rain had not let up any. Heavy raindrops crashed into the windshield; the wipers slapped it away. Konan listened to the rhythm of the wipers for a while. Hurricane Antoine was ripping.

“So, did you betray your partner?”

“No. I turned him in for corruption. He took bribes from politicians, abused his authority, broke the rules, and tried to set me up to take the fall for all of it.”

“Why did they send you to us?”

“Who’s the victim?”

“I don’t know.”

“Okay.”

Their conversation died down for a while and they rode in silence. Lilly stole glances at Konan but gave him his space.

“So,” Lilly began, “you were in the military, right?” Konan nodded.

“Yeah. I was in the Army.”

“What did you do for the Army?”

“I killed our enemies abroad, so we don’t fight them here at home.”

“You just bounce from one thankless job to the next, don’t you?”

“It has seemed that way from time to time.” Lilly laughed and punched him on the shoulder. Konan grinned.

“Well, don’t you worry that pretty head of yours, Konan. I’m in your corner.”

“Yeah.”

Lilly guided the car into an all-night convenience store, and the pair walked into the store. Broken liquor bottles were scattered on the floor, the strong smell of whiskey saturated the air. A pool of blood was next to the Slurpee machine. Yellow ticker tape marked off the crime scene.

A young officer stopped them short of the ticker tape. Lilly forced a smile at him. “I’m Detective Lilly Thompson,” she said. “This is Detective Konan.” The officer broke into a laugh.

“Conan, you said. If he hit a side pose, he would disappear.” A small giggle escaped from Lilly, and Konan sighed.

“Wonderful. Another Neanderthal who has confused size with intelligence and prowess. Maybe I should reintroduce myself.”

“Sure thing, Conan.”

“I’m Chief Kick-A-Bitch from the Slapaho tribe. Get out of the way.”

 Lilly laughed as the young officer turned red in his cheeks. “That is rather good, Konan. Let”s get in here and do our job.”

They were guided to the first body; it lay between the Slurpee machine and the coolers. Two rounds had penetrated the clerk’s chest. Two more bodies were next to a cut out of the mascot of a favorite brand of chips. Both had deep cuts in the jugular and had been shot twice in the chest.

The medical examiner had knelt by the pair. Dr. Stephen Michel Quinn was an older man. He had spent his years in the medical profession, first as a medic during the Vietnam War, then as a doctor in the town Fredericksburg. He was of average height, average weight, and had thin hair. He refused to relinquish his grasp on his hair. “It’s a matter of pride,” he would often say.

“Who’s your tag-a-long, Lilly?”

“Dr. Quinn, this is Detective Thermopolis Konan, he came to the 117th from the 112th.” Quinn nodded and Konan nodded back. “Glad to have you on the team, Detective.”

“Thanks. What happened here?”

“A murder.”

Konan frowned. Quinn and Lilly both laughed at the small joke. They composed themselves when Konan did not join in their laughter.

“The first body died from lead poisoning. Both rounds went straight into the heart. This pair are a bit trickier. They both would have died from the wounds to the neck, so double tapping both to the heart seems like overkill.”

Konan thanked the Dr. Quinn and excused himself. He walked to the officer first on scene. “Did anybody see anything?” The kid nodded. “Yeah, one of them said they saw a woman come from the store.”

“Did they get a description?”

“Yeah, but who knows how accurate it is.”

“Let me have it.”

“They said she was between 5’8 and 5’10, probably 135 pounds. Witness said she had on a black raincoat and had a black umbrella. She got in a late model car, no ID on what kind of car. Witness said it was fancy and black.”

“They didn’t get a look at her face. No license plate number?”

“No sir, but they said she had greyish-blond hair, and it was straight.”

“Alright, thanks.”

“You bet, Konan.”

Lilly walked up to Konan when he was finished questioning the officer. She sipped at her coffee. “I don’t know about you pard, but I’m famished.”

“I could eat.”

“Did you learn anything useful?”

“The killer had training.”

“How do you figure?”

“The double taps to the chest. A witness said a woman left the scene.”

“So? You think a woman did all this?”

“Maybe. Whoever did it, they never lost their composure. They left no witnesses.”

“So, why just shoot the clerk and then cut both jugulars on the other two. How did the killer manage that?”

“I don’t know.”

Lilly waved the officer over. “Has anyone looked at the security feed?”

“No, not yet.” Lilly nodded and walked behind the counter. Six security cameras were placed in various locations around the story. Only two were on. She pressed the eject button, but there was no disc in the tray.

“The killer took the disc. We have no idea what the killer looked like.”

“There’s still the traffic cams and the bank across the street.”

“Yeah,” Lilly huffed. “The traffic cams are for show. In case you have not noticed, this is not a nice part of town. The chief sends two cars on patrol in this area.”

“Well, let’s have the videos pulled anyway. Maybe we will get lucky.”

Lilly and Konan walked to their car. Life had a funny way of reminding you that sooner or later, everyone’s luck ran out.

Old writing…untitled…incomplete and unedited…

“In the silence there is truth.”

Taped to the front door of my 14X70 mobile home was a black card with a Spartan helmet on it. These words were printed on the back and sent a chill down my spine. I read the words again. My memories are stirred by this small phrase, but I failed to put it together. “Where have I heard this before?”

I opened the door and stepped cautiously inside. Everything appeared to be just as I left it, nothing was out of place. I walked over to the couch and lifted one of the cushions, my weapon was still under it. As I lifted the weapon and slipped the magazine out, there was a knock at the door.

“Yeah? Who is it?”

“Agents Dynar and Fitzgerald. We are with the FBI. May we come in?”

“No, I will come out.”

It was three steps to the front door, so I cracked open the door and peered out. Sure enough, two agents stood out in the yard, their blue jackets sported the yellow letters FBI on the back. I walked down the concrete steps and gave them a smile.

“What can I do for the FBI?”

A tall blonde with frizzy hair extended her hand. 

“Mr. Freeman? I am Agent Fitzgerald; this is my partner Agent Dynar. We have some questions concerning your service from 2008-2010.”

“That’s a pretty specific block of time, what do you want to know?”

“Where were you during that timeframe?”

“I was on the move constantly. Europe, the Middle East, back home to the States, why?”

Agent Dynar had sipped at his chocolate milkshake and interrupted our conversation with his attempt to get every drop out. He wiped at his moustache and belched. 

“You country folk know how to make some serious grub. Do you know this man?”

He handed me a photo; it was of a friend from my time in Europe.

“Yeah. His name is Thom Hurst. We served together in Europe.”

“Have you heard from him?”

“No. I rarely hear from anyone I served with in Europe, why?”

“If you hear from him, we would like you to contact us. Here is our card. Thank you in advance for your help.”

Agents Dynar and Fitzgerald walked to their rental car and left. I stood alone out in my squared off yard and watched them disappear. “What in the world is going on?” I made my way back inside and looked at the phrase.

“In the silence there is truth.”

Well into the evening, I pondered these words. Enlightenment did not come from my ponderance, so I took a Tylenol PM and laid down on the couch. The new Star Wars movie was out, so I purchased it and watched it until sleep took me. 

I slept soundly until I felt another presence in my room. Slivers of light beamed through the cracks of my blinds, and I slipped my hand under the cushion for my handgun. It was gone.

“You want this, brother?  He asked, while waving the gun around. “I haven’t seen you in years. Surely, you aren’t still angry after all this time.”

“Hello, Thom.”

Thom Hurst smiled as he handed the weapon back to me. He looked the same as he did when I left the military. He stood over six feet tall, broad in the shoulders and back, he appeared to have the world in the palm of his hand. His presence was as powerful as his build.

“Come on, Freeman. Let’s grab some coffee and catch up.”

I nodded my head and yawned. Slowly, I followed him to the kitchen.

“You know, Thom, the FBI was out here yesterday asking me about you. What have you done now?”

“Oh, you know, bent the rules and made some money.”

“Bent the rules how, and why did you leave the team’s phrase on my door?”

Madness…new writing…incomplete and unedited…

I dreamed of fire. The world was on fire, madness cackled from the flames.

Yellow sand was so thick you could hardly breathe, when I stepped from my hooch. I pulled my gatorneck up to my nose and tucked my head against the sand. In times past I had spent time on beaches, but this was ridiculous. Iraq was not a beach, it was a sandpit where your worst nightmares waited in the shadows for their chance to kill you. The canvas flap was down when I got to the truck. I climbed in the back and dropped the flap. My friends stared vacantly at the floor.

“If there ever was a look that screamed I want to go home, it’s here in the back of this truck.” We were halfway through our 15-month deployment to the sandpit. Yesterday we lost nine people. Nine souls vanquished into the darkness. Today, we hunt the people responsible. 

It has never ceased to amaze me that after so many patrols and convoys; you developed a skill of knowing where you are, even when you had no visual landmarks to go by. The brakes squealed, and my best friend George looked at me. 

“Mike gate,” he said. I nodded and checked my weapon. We remained silent. Usually, we would hear the gunners shout ‘test fire, test fire’ and then they would fire a 5-or-10 round burst with the machine gun. It was eerily silent, as if Death stood behind the gate. 

“Hey, Corporal. They want you up front,” came a voice outside of the truck.

“Roger.”

I dismounted and made my way up front. A group of soldiers stood in a gaggle; I made my way to them. When I got there, I saw why they stood together. On the ground were seven heads. The youngest was probably five. 

“Looks like we found our interpreter,” the convoy leader said. “I hate this place.” None of us said anything. It was a sentiment that we all agreed with. Our interpreter, we called them terps, had gone missing for several weeks. We had not heard a word from him. His name was Rashad, (I think) and we figured he had quit. 

“Looks like he didn’t quit,” one man muttered. Two men brought coolers, and we placed the severed heads in them. “They deserved better than that,” I thought. For seven months I fought to hold on to my humanity. It was becoming harder and harder to hold on to it. I walked back to the truck and climbed inside. 

“What’s going on, Corp?” George studied my face. I struggled to keep my eyes dry. Some people gave themselves willingly to the madness that is war. I was trying to beat it back, but I slowly drowned in it. The more I struggled with it, the deeper I sank.

“We found the terp.”

“Oh. Is he alright?”

“Yeah.” I met George’s eyes. There was no way I could hide it from my friend. There were a couple of new guys in the back, replacements for the souls we had lost in combat. They stared at us. I forced a smile and nodded at the nearest one. 

“Where are you from, Private?”

“Los Angeles, Corporal.”

“You’re a long way from home.”

“Yeah. I want some action.”

The tailgate dropped, and they shoved the coolers into the back. I laughed. “You want action. Okay. You may regret having said that.”

Everybody snickered at our conversation. Those of us who had survived to this point were not eager for action. We longed for quiet days. Quiet days were just as deadly as firefights and IEDS, though. Your thoughts could kill you as quickly as any man or bomb.

The private motioned at the coolers. “What’s in there? Rip-Its?” Rip-It are energy drinks that we drank when the sun drained us of our energy, or when you needed an artificial pick-me-up.

“No, private. Those are the severed heads of our terp and his family,” I answered. The kid turned pale. He laughed. 

“Whatever, Corporal.”

“I don’t like being called a liar, boy.” I gripped the lid and lifted. The new guys lost their lunch. I shut the lid and leaned back. The darkness encroached further in my mind, as we traveled to the next destination in a world full of madness.

Truth Seeker…new writing…incomplete and unedited…

Hi, I am Jake Franks. There was nothing special about me. I have been a soldier, a milkman, a construction worker, a scout, a ditch digger, and a short order cook. The one thing I have never been is a Truth Seeker.

At 48, I was told that I am a Truth Seeker. “Why not,” I thought. “I’ve been everything else.” Truth Seeker sounded like a cool job. Except it’s not.

I should have started at the beginning. Sorry, old age has caught up to me. It was a hot day down south, and I had to stop to pick up some dog feed at the feed mill. The usual old men were sitting on the porch. They sipped lemonade and played checkers. One of them nodded when I walked up.

“Help you, young’un?”

“Yes, sir. I need some dog food.”

“How much?”

“Hundred pounds should do it.”

“Alright.” The old man nodded to a scrawny teenager with a pockmarked face. The boy pulled a cart into the warehouse to get my feed. 

“What do I owe you, sir?”

“45.00”

I handed him the money and he went back to playing checkers and sipping lemonade. It wasn’t long before the pockmarked teen had put the food in the back of my truck. 

Outside of my truck was an old woman. She looked at me when I walked up. Her greyish hair was neatly brushed, her teeth were the whitest I had ever seen, and she was dressed for comfort.

“Hi,” she said gently. “Is this your truck?”

“Um, yes, it is. Do you need something?”

She smiled and her eyes lit up. They were the palest shade of blue I had ever seen. It seemed as if she stared straight through me.

“I have been searching for you, Jake.” 

“Okay.” I tried to smile but it wasn’t happening. “Why are you searching for me exactly? I don’t know you.”

“Because you are a Truth Seeker. I am Janet Lynx. You could say I am your consultant or trainer.”

“Yeah, okay.”

She smiled again. “Dang, she has a beautiful smile for someone that is a lunatic.”

“You think I am crazy, right? That I made all this up?”

“Took the words right out of my mouth.”

“You have a blog and regardless of how hard you have tried to curb your political postings, you still write them, right? You also have maintained your belief that there is only absolute truth, correct?”

“How do you even know that? The blog you could have stumbled over, but how do you know my opinion on absolute truth? Who are you?”

“Sweetie, you’re dense. I already told you who I am. Now, can we please leave?”

And that was how I learned that I was a Truth Seeker. I would avoid the feed mills. You might run into a lunatic if you go there.

Nothing changed really when I learned that I was a Truth Seeker. I kept my blog going, I was still a hardheaded old man. Janet explained to me that America was not my only area of influence. We sat on the porch of my mobile home and ate corn dogs. She explained it as such:

Truth Seekers are not concerned with just their country of origin. The entirety of the world is their sphere of concern. There are only four in the world at any given time. Some are artists, some are writers, others are political figures.”

“Political figures? I thought you said we used creative means to influence the world.”

“Could you think of anything more creative than creating cultivated stories to support your agenda?”

“I guess not.”

“Truth Seekers are hated, Jake. Your inability to accept that there are varieties of truth will not endear you to people. Still, your faith must hold, you must not be moved.”

I freely admit that I lost my taste for corn dogs upon learning I would be hated. Between the insomnia, nightmares and severe PTSD, I had a hard enough time being social, now I was going to be hated for being myself. 

Ah well, the truth is that I gave up on humanity a long time ago. I had lied and convinced myself that friends were necessary, and love was the ultimate achievement a person could attain. 

So far, I was a failure on all fronts. 

A Hot Day Down South…new writing…incomplete and unedited…

Freaking politicians. It would be different if they brought something to the table other than their complaints and demands, but that was seldom the case. Konan put the phone down and decided to step back from everything. His mind was overwhelmed with doubts. Facts were few and the killer was relentless. “He has tormented me every step of this case!”

Konan looked through the first case file. The victim, another woman, had long cuts in her face but it appeared less practiced than the cuts on Amber and Lilly.

“This could be one of his first victims. Or maybe he changed tools.” He sat the case aside and pulled out another. A knock sounded from the door. He looked up; Ashton stood in the doorway.

“Whatcha got, IT?”

“I have,” Ashton flashed a two-inch thick file in front of him, “every deleted email and file from the mainframe.”

“Thanks man. I appreciate your help.”

“You didn’t ask for help. You demanded it.”

“I see. Let me ask you something Ashton, if you don’t mind.”

“Knock yourself out, slugger.”

“If it was your wife, daughter or sister lying there on a slab would you mind if we sat it to the side and investigated when we had time?”

Ashton shook his head. “You misunderstood…”

“No, I didn’t. You have a job to do, and it is an important part of our investigations. If you don’t like being held up or working late, quit.”

Ashton sat the file down on a stack of files by the door and walked out. “This dude’s a punk. He doesn’t even work here anymore.”

Konan picked up the file and locked up the Records cage. He took the elevator to the main floor. Chief Janko waved him to his office. Konan nodded to Wiggins and Tomas and closed the door behind him. Janko motioned to the chair, Konan sat down.

“The Mayor called,” Janko said.

“Yeah, I spoke to him.”

“He’s not happy.”

“Are they ever?”

“He claimed that the people of Fredericksburg have lost faith in the police. What do you think?”

“About?”

“About the murder, Konan.”

“I think I found the first victim. I have to do more studying, but I think I found where it all began.”

“Well, that’s something at least.”

“Yeah. This whole thing is personal. Or at least that’s what I think.”

“He’s fixated on you.”

“Yeah. He has kept referring to the crimes as a game. It’s my belief that he is an intellectual, and he wants to be challenged.”

“Why does he go after women?”

“That’s the question isn’t it? He may like women but had a bad experience that warped his perspective. Or maybe, he hates them. I don’t know yet.”

Janko’s lips tightened into a fierce smile. “That is paper thin, Konan. We need something solid. What’s in that file?”

“Every deleted file and email from the mainframe.”

“Do you think the killer is a cop?”

“Maybe. It would explain certain things, such as why he has never been caught.”

“Jesus. So, you’re taking it home to do some light reading.”

“Something like that.”

“Okay.” Janko had a few follow-up questions. Konan answered them as succinctly as he could. The goal was to provide information but not reveal everything at once. Konan departed when the phone rang. He exited the building and walked to the nearest bus stop.

Konan caught a bus and sat on the back row. He didn’t want to go home straight away; he wanted to ride and think. He opened the file and began to read. Most of the deleted files and emails were unimportant memos, memes and other garbage. However, one thing stood out to Konan. It was an email from Mayor Smith to Tomas.

“Tomas,

I don’t care what must be done to secure this verdict. You do what is necessary. Don’t worry about repercussions, I have always taken care of you. Remember, you owe me.”

   Timothy Smith

Konan got off the bus near the main square and walked to the nearest pay phone. Yes, a few pay phones were still in existence, and Konan preferred the old ways to the new-fangled way of doing things. He dialed Tomas’s cell.

“Yeah?”

“Tomas, it’s Konan.”

“Hey, what’s up.”

“Can you meet me at Mary’s Pub? I am half-starved, and I want to run something by you.”

“Sure. Give me fifteen and I will be there.”

“Alright, thanks.”

Konan walked to Mary’s Pub and took a seat in the back corner of the room. He told the hostess that someone would be joining him. She nodded and said she would bring them to the table when they arrived.

Twenty minutes later, Tomas walked into the pub. He smiled at the hostess, she smiled back. She and Tomas walked to the table. After placing their orders, Tomas waited for Konan to open up.

“I have something I want to ask you, Tomas.”

“Alright.”

“Does Mayor Smith get involved with many cases?”

“What do you mean?”

Konan sipped his water and paused for a moment. He pulled out the email and showed it to Tomas.

“I mean, does he often tell you to violate your oath. How often does this type of behavior occur?”

“Now hold on, Konan. You don’t understand what that was about.”

“I’m listening. Explain it to me.”

“That case was bad. We knew it was this guy, and we couldn’t find the first piece of evidence to convict him. He was hurting kids, Konan.”

“So, you manufactured evidence and framed him.”

“You don’t understand, man. He was hurting girls no older than six. He was….” Tomas trailed off and Konan watched him. “I have a six-year-old daughter, Konan. I just wanted her to be safe.”

“I get it. Nobody is going to raise a stink about a baby-raping pedo. Did the glue stick?”

“Yeah. There was enough evidence to convict him.”

“Did the crimes stop?”

“Yeah.”

“Mayor Smith never interjected himself into another investigation?”

“That cat is weird, man. It was like he got off on setting this fool up, but no, he never got involved again.”

“If Mayor Smith applies any pressure to you on this case, I want to know about it. You best not forget, understood?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

The Recluse…Part V…incomplete and unedited…

Davy Walker kept a journal. In the journal he detailed his day-to-day activities. It was a safe space, some place that Davy could write down exactly how he felt about everything. Annabelle had gotten herself in trouble with her mother, and Davy had feelings about it. “It takes a demented person to harm a child.”

There was a fine line between disciplining your child and abuse. Davy looked at what he had written and shook his head.

I should have done something. Anything. I did nothing and Annabelle paid the price for my inaction. Her mother, if you could call her that, was always high and in bouts of sobriety she revealed the darkness in her heart.

It should have been as plain as the nose on your face. I missed the signs. Call it apathy or a lack of empathy. I did nothing. It should not have fallen to Billy to confront the darkness alone. It is as I have always feared. I am a monster.”

Davy stared at his reflection in the mirror. He checked his tie and made sure the knot was in line with his gig line. Then he pulled on his jacket. His marksmanship badge and medals were within the guidelines, his shoes were shined to the maximum.

Billy’s funeral was held on a cliff overlooking the Tombigbee Waterway on the outskirts of Fredericksburg. Friends and family stood around the casket. Annabelle gave a small wave to Davy. He nodded to her. She sat in a wheelchair; her broken leg stuck out like a large eyesore.

Davy could not look at her. He could not look at Billy who had died trying to protect Annabelle. He could not face his failure. The minister stood beside the casket and made his remarks.

In this time of grief, the Lord shows us His comfort. We do not know why Billy decided to fight against the darkness alone, but we do know that Billy took a stand for what was right. The right thing should never be confused as the easy thing. It takes guts to stand your ground. I am sure the Lord has welcomed Billy to His side. Heaven is a better place because Billy is there.”

People walked by and put their hands on Billy’s casket and muttered a few words. Davy was the last one to visit the casket. He placed a Silver Star on the lid.

“I’m sorry Billy. I should have done something, but I was too focused on my past. You paid the price for my inaction.” Davy got choked up with emotion and he paused. A small hand gripped his, it was Annabelle.

“It’s okay, Davy.”

“No. No it’s not okay. A child should never have to die for any reason.”

Annabelle and Davy stood by the casket in silence. There were no words to convey what was in their hearts. Dark clouds loomed on the horizon. The air smelled of rain.

“Did the cops find your mother?”

“No. She must have realized what she had done and took off. I don’t know where she would go, but I hope she never comes back.”

“I should have done what Billy asked me to do.”

“What did he want you to do?”

“It’s nothing. He wanted me to do something, and I told him no.”

“I wish she had died instead of Billy.”

“Yeah. Life is full of regrets and all too often injustices.”

“I guess.”

“We should go.”

Davy pushed Annabelle to the car that brought her to the funeral. He helped her in and waved goodbye. She waved back. Her aunt got in the driver’s seat. She gave Davy a disapproving look.

Davy turned and walked back to Billy’s grave. There were some things he needed to get off his chest. The graveside was empty.

“I know you can’t hear me, son. I am terribly sorry I failed you. I am going to make this right. Annabelle will be safe, no more harm will come to her. I promise you, Billy. I will unleash the monster war turned me into so I can protect her. Forgive me for failing you.”

Billy was gone and there was nothing Davy could do about it. Dorthey had killed Billy. It was time for Davy to return the favor.

Hell’s Basket…new writing…unedited and incomplete…

Jayce Wellspring sat in the main square of a small town called Hell’s Basket. It wasn’t much of a town. People clumped together in the square like wet dog hair. Children walked hand in hand with their parents. One of those children, an ashy skinned young’un with bright red hair and green eyes, looked at Jayce.

“You got many friends,” the child asked. Jayce looked at him and spit in his direction. Jayce shook his head and looked away. “Naw, I ain’t got none.”

“Why not? Everybody has a friend.”

“It’s been my experience that friends are temporary stop gaps in life. You might call ‘em seasonal. They’re here one minute and gone the next.”

“I got tons of friends, mister.”

“Well, I ain’t. Go on, boy. Get some yonder.”

The child turned and gave him the finger. Then, he disappeared in the nearest clump of people. “Figures,” Jayce muttered. People wandered through and Jayce gave ‘em not a look. He was in this dumpy town for a reason. The flyer he had shoved in his pocket said the city council had need of a hunter. He had to kill time until the council would see him, so he sat on the bench.

As I said earlier, Hell’s Basket ain’t hitting on much as far as towns go. There was a lot of people out, and every block seemed to have a religious center. Some people had a dire need for religion. Even Jayce. The problem was that in the evolution of humanity all sorts of religions had spread across the globe.

There seemed to be as many varied religions as there were varieties of people. So, Jayce figured you picked one until you found one that fit your situation. It’s what Jayce did. “Everybody wants to be right; no one wants to be wrong.” A malnourished woman with skinny hair walked up to Jayce. She pulled out a piece of paper and studied it. Satisfied, she put the paper away and pushed herself to her full height.

“You’re Jayce Wellspring, correct?”

“Yep.”

“I am Model 1010110. Please follow me.”

“Yeah, ok.” Jayce spit and the woman led him to a massive building in the center of the square. The council was situated at the top floor of the building. It too was narrow. Somehow skinny, narrow, and malnourished seemed to fit the town image. Even the buildings were starved.

Model 1010110 led Jayce to a small area and motioned for Jayce to have a seat. A row of television screens were on the table. They all clicked on and the faces of the council appeared on the screens. Unlike the town folk and the buildings, they seemed relatively healthy. “Strange.”

“Good afternoon, Mr. Wellspring. We trust you had no issues finding our town.”

“Nope.”

Every face stared at Jayce and they all appeared to have had a cactus shoved up their chimneys. He leaned back in his chair and waited for them to continue.

“We appreciate that you answered our request for help. We understand you have no friends?”

“That’s right.”

“That is unfortunate. Who do we call if you should expire?”

“If I have expired you should call no one.”

The room grew quiet. Finally, the silence was broken by a small voice. “Would you like to know the job?”

“That’s why I am here.”

“Certain parties have shown themselves to be traitors to our cause. We want them removed in a timely fashion. Do you accept?”

“Yep.”

Model 1010110 brought in a package about an inch thick and handed it to Jayce. The voice continued. “Inside the package is the list. Should you fail, your body will not be recovered. If you succeed, you will have riches beyond measure. Do you understand?”

“Yep.”

“Good luck.”

The room went black when the screens clicked off. A soft hum sounded when the room lights clicked on. Model 1010110 came into the room and escorted him back to the town square. Jayce took the package and went off in search of a room. Along the busy square were several hotel rooms. They were all expensive. Jayce continued to walk until he came upon a raggedy hotel on the edge of town. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.

The only light in the foyer was natural light, the curtains had all been pushed back and sunlight drifted in through the dirty pane glass. An old man, skinny of course, with a walrus mustache was half asleep behind the counter. Jayce walked up and the old man peeked at him through one cracked eye.

“Help you?”

“You have a room?”

“Yep.” Jayce nodded and reached for his money. The old man rang him up and handed him a key.

“You’re in room 6. Keep trouble to a minimum.”

“What’s the name of this joint,” Jayce asked.

“Hell’s Homey Corner.” Jayce arched his eyebrows and nodded. “Figures.” Room 6 was in the middle of the hallway. Jayce inserted the key and opened the door. The kid from earlier sat on the couch and watched cartoons.

“Hiya, mister.”

Jayce nodded and walked to the bed. He placed his bag on it and sat on the couch with the kid. Jayce picked up the phone and called the kitchen. He ordered himself a turkey wrap with guacamole.

“Alright, kid. What are you doing here?”

“I’m watching cartoons.” Jayce growled and the kid looked at him.

“You’re Axelrod Carter. CEO of Rankin Enterprises. What are you doing in my room?”

“My, my, look at that. You figured that out all on your own. I am on your list but before you kill me, I want to talk.”

“Of course, you do.”

“I would like to make a counteroffer and explain why I am on your list.”

A knock came from the door and Jayce answered it. It was his wrap. He paid the skinny woman who brought it to his room. She too had skinny hair. She held out her hand for a tip. Jayce nodded and closed the door.

“You have until I have finished this wrap to make your offer.”

“Okay. I was on the council. What happened here in Hell’s Basket was supposed to be an isolated incident.”

Jayce motioned for Carter to continue. It’s hard to talk with your mouth full. “The people of Hell’s Basket are poisoned.” Jayce stared at the child. “Mmmhmm.”

“We took away all positive things in Hell’s Basket. They have been bombarded nonstop with bad news for years. The council wanted to see what would happen if we narrowed their focus.”

“They’re starving to death.”

“Yes. They have begun to turn on each other. At first the incidents were isolated. A murder here, violent protests and mob slayings there. Now, it has started to happen more frequently.”

“You want me to believe mobsters are causing this? You just admitted to being the force behind this crap.”

“No, mobsters have nothing to do with it. Mobs of people go out and kill people. They’re feral.”

“Mmmhmm.” Jayce wiped his mouth and nodded. “Let me guess, Axelrod. You want me to kill the council, right?”

“I want you to kill all of us, and free the people of Hell’s Basket.”

“Alright, then.”

“I’m not done. Before you can strike the council, you must weaken it.”

“And how, pray tell, am I supposed to weaken it IF I decided to take you up on your offer?”

“There are five communication arrays. If you take them out, then the people will gradually snap out of it, but first, you must kill me and everyone on the list.”

Jayce nodded and waved his hand as if to say ‘duh.’ Jayce went to his bag and pulled out his sidearm. Most hunters used laser blasters or some other fancy type of weaponry. Jayce preferred the old-fashioned stuff. His weapon of choice was the 9mm.

“I haven’t finished. Before you kill me, you will need my help to destroy the arrays. It’s no simple task. After the arrays are down, then I want you to kill me.”

“Why?”

“Because I have sinned. There was no reason for us to do what we did. We just wanted to mess with people. Now it’s out of control. Look at them, hunter. They don’t smile. There is no laughter, the people are downtrodden. We killed hope.”

“If I kill you all, I won’t get paid.”

“Yes, you will.”

“How?”

“Underneath the council’s building is a vault. It is filled with gold, jewels, and rarities galore. I will give you the combination of the vault prior to my death.”

“Deal.”

Axelrod and Jayce shook hands, and the deal was sealed. It was time to get to work.

The Recluse…Part IV…incomplete and unedited…

Dorthey May, drug addict and whore, watched as Billy walked to her house. She had got a fix of heroin and the drug had addled her brain. Everything seemed slow down when she was high. “Look at this little judgmental prick. Here he comes.” A wood bat was propped against the run-down porch. With her record firearms were out of the question for personal protection.

Billy walked into her yard. He waved at Dorthey. She sneered at him.

‘What do you want?”

“Please stop hitting, Annabelle. She doesn’t deserve to be slapped.”

Something in Dorthey’s mind snapped. It was like someone had thrown hot water on her. She gripped the bat and pointed it at Billy.

“Who are you to tell me how to raise my kid?!”

“Ma’am, I ain’t trying to tell you how-“Billy’s words were cut off when the bat crashed into the side of his head. Billy’s body crashed to the ground. Dorthey stood over him and continued to slam the bat into his head.

“How dare you! This is my house; Annabelle is my daughter! I do what I want. No one tells me how to raise her!”

Annabelle watched as her mother bashed her friend’s head in with the bat. She screamed. Annabelle raced out of the house and tried to stop her mother. Dorthey turned her attention, Annabelle. She swung the bat and it collided with Annabelle’s hip. The snap could be heard a mile away. Dorthey’s eyes were filled with rage. She dragged the bat to where Annabelle had fallen.

“You ain’t worth it. Go be someone else’s kid. Go back to that stupid killer.”

Dorthey dropped the bat and walked out of the yard. In the distance sirens sounded. Annabelle crawled to Billy. Blood pooled around his small head. He wasn’t breathing.

“Billy? Billy wake up! Momma’s gone.” She patted his face but there was no response. “Billy! Come on, Billy! It ain’t funny!” Strong hands pulled Annabelle from Billy. Cops and paramedics rushed to where Billy was, but Billy was gone. Annabelle was loaded into the back of an ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

Davy scarcely watched television; it was even more rare for him to watch the news. Today, for some unbeknownst reason, he flipped on the television. Commercials were shown for new medication that would kill you as assuredly as the disease you had, pets were shown in horrible living conditions, and the newest truck with the newest feature only cost you an arm and a leg.

The newscaster came on and she looked troubled. “Um, we have some breaking news to report. An enraged woman killed a young boy with a baseball bat. After she finished with him, she turned on her daughter. We will have more details a bit later.”

“What is the world coming to?” Davy had heard the sirens and seen the vehicles as they passed by, but he thought nothing of it. “Oh Lord, what if it is Billy and Annabelle?” Davy grabbed his keys for his 1999 Dodge Ram and rushed out the door. The truck started right up, and he raced down his drive.  He drove until he saw the flashing of police lights. A lone patrol officer stood in the middle of the road and directed traffic. Davy pulled to the side and parked. He started down the sidewalk. An officer stopped him short of the scene.

“Can I help you, sir.”

“Yeah. I am here to check on Billy and Annabelle.”

“Are you kin?”

“No, they are my friends.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t release any information at this time.”

Davy looked across the ramshackle fence and saw blood. The ground was saturated with it. Davy could smell it in the air. He cleared his throat and thanked the officer. Slowly, Davy walked back to his truck. He drove home and parked it under his carport. The television had an update when he walked into his house.

“We interrupt this program to provide further details concerning the travesty that happened earlier. Police suspect that the person responsible for today’s horrendous actions is Dorthey May Withers. Billy Thompson, age 9, was killed. Annabelle Withers, daughter of Dorthey May, is being treated at Memorial Hospital, and her condition is listed as stable. Police have been unable to locate Ms. Withers. We will keep you updated as details come in.”

Davy Walker sat in his recliner and stared at the empty wall. “How pathetic am I? I refused to help when asked, now Billy is dead. Annabelle is hurt. Some soldier you are.”

A tear rolled down Davy’s cheek, he wiped it away with the back of his hand. “I promised Billy I would talk to the police. I did nothing. The kid confronted the darkness and paid the price. Once again, I am complicit in evil because I did nothing.”

His phone rang. Davy walked down the hall to where his phone hung on the wall. He picked it up and softly said, “Yeah?”

“Mr. Walker?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, you don’t know me, but I am Thelma Withers. I am Annabelle’s aunt.”

“Okay.”

“Annabelle wanted me to call you and let you know what happened.”

“I know what happened, ma’am. I went to what I think was Annabelle’s house. The cops would not tell me anything.”

Thelma sobbed and Davy waited for her to compose herself. “Annabelle wants to know if you would come to Billy’s funeral.”

“Of course. It’s the least I can do.”

“I will call you with the details as soon as I have them, Mr. Walker.”

“Thanks.”

Davy hung up the phone and walked into his bedroom. He pulled his chest from under his bed and opened it. Medals and ribbons filled the chest. He took out a Silver Star. It had been awarded to him for service in some dump, where he had killed someone who had been labeled evil by his government.

“Billy should have it. He didn’t shy away from the darkness, he confronted it.”