Once Again thanks again to my amazing photographer Rick Rupert (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the photos to go with this chapter.
Some drinks are to forget some are to celebrate. The beer raised in Harold’s hand was the latter of the two. This beer was to celebrate. He now had a plan. Harold knew the residue of many years of the chemicals used to process the products had left a permanent hazard in the warehouse. Placing a fire in a former plant, would be a bigger impact. The chemicals that had left a presence for the century of use would burn. The flames would release the poisonous gases. Environmental concerns long hidden would be brought to the public spotlight.
The frosted mug held the liquid reward. There would be no connection that linked Harold to the fire. Other than a driving under the influence conviction, he had no other crimes. He wasn’t the only person out of work thanks to the relocation. If detectives used that as a reason, after a decade of the move they would have to question almost a couple thousand.
The beer tasted better than it had ever before. He was planning the perfect crime.
As mastermind, Harold was not done planning. Stanley Tire and Rubber would never be done suffering. The price Harold had paid meant they were never going to be even. Every missed birthday had no dollar amount. The time the business stole, not to mention the loyalty taken were just a down payment on his demise.
He wanted the company dead. It wouldn’t even be murder. It would be self-defense. The company had cost Harold his life. If allowed to live, how many more lives would it claim? How many more loyalties would be betrayed? he needed to set an example for others going through the same thing. Not just his former employer was trading loyalty for profit. War on the working man had been declared.
Antonio and Harold spent many days in this bar, watching the spreading epidemic. Jobs went away, crime increased. The increase struck Harold’s friends and family.
Antonio introduced him to so many people who were also suffering. Antonio was ‘good people’ trying to help those down on their luck by buying them a beer and giving them advice. Harold had heard enough, it all traced back to the lost jobs a decade ago.
A perfect plan would take time, and allies. Not too many allies were to be trusted. Too much trust in the wrong person and the names of Harold and Antonio would be sold to the cops faster than the potential reward money could be spent. They needed to recruit carefully from the suffering masses. Antonio would be key for that. He had a way of finding out people’s motivation, or helping them find it.
Harold and Antonio had seen enough. There was a shrinking area where they could find a good use of their time. Every year the opportunities to apply their experience fell into the ocean arriving at a different shore. The fire was inevitable both men concurred. If they did not strike the match, someone else would. Harold needed to be involved, he was a natural leader. The fact he gave up so much meant he had the biggest stake in revenge. There was no doubt that others could claim the same thing, but Antonio felt they needed to claim the lead.
Getting ahead of the others, would place them ahead on getting followers. Antonio convinced Harold the news would report them as terrorists, but the history books would remember them as heroes. Implying when it was done, everyone would understand. Tasks heroes undertook were not smooth or easy. Antonio was the perfect sidekick. He kept Harold focused, his plan staffed, and acted as a cheerleader when surrender would appear easier. He was there for suggestions when a block in planning was reached. Antonio even carried the lighter they would use to start their worker’s revolution.
The fire would involve one of the followers that Harold wanted to keep in the dark. The man was not a friend, simply someone who was within earshot when the two planned the strike. He was not an employee that was laid off from the tire plant. The third wheel was someone who recently lost his job and needed the payback. Harold knew, the larger the group the more the chances were for the plan to slip. The mastermind really did not have a choice. Exclusion meant there was nothing holding him back from telling the authorities when the fire hit the news. There was another reason.
Harold knew the kid at the bar who had just begun his downward spiral was like looking back in time. He was witnessing himself when he had it all. The revenge would keep the kid from wasting a decade. Destruction would give him a purpose.
Harold moved to the back booth. He learned it prevented too many eyes from being cast in suspicion. Privacy in public was not too hard to come by. Clientele in this bar wanted to keep mostly to themselves. Still there would be reward money from the fire. Reward money that may be attractive to an unemployed family man. Harold could not blame anyone. If it meant keeping Jess and the kids he would do the same. He would tell anyone and everyone to earn enough to keep them.
Shadow covered back booths kept those who did not wish to be detected hidden. Mood is a product of environment. The environment was a somber one. Since the plant packed its last job and shipped it across the shore, the duo had occupied the booth more than they occupied their own bed. A revolution takes time and planning. It also takes deliberate and timely action. Like a game of chess, the next move was crucial. Strategy in both was never about the previous decision it was about the next. Bold action that drew the attention of those hoping to see the company that betrayed them suffers. Eyes scanned the list of assets still held by Stanley Tire and Rubber.
A human victim was never in the plans. They just wanted their former employer to suffer. “There should not be outside casualties in this war. We need to be careful. Only those who wronged us should suffer.”
“You just said it yourself, this is a war. War is going to have casualties outside of just us. There will be crossfire in any war. We cannot start an action with the fear that we are making a mistake. End results have to matter more than the sacrifice.” Being the perfect sidekick was Antonio’s calling.
A battle between Antonio’s words and the guilt of harming another, raged in Harold’s thoughts. Guilt was an emotion that was easily washed away by the bottle. The thought was how many bottles in the future would he need for innocents? “Is it worth it?” The question was aimed toward his drinking companion, but was intended for himself. “Are we doing the right thing? We need to be cautious for sure.”
“You are ignoring that when we started this, we said we would see it through.” With a raised glass Antonio pointed it toward Harold. Each syllable accentuated with the waiving of the glass. The ice cubes and whiskey swirled as he waived them. “That means we will have to spill a little blood along the way.”
“Don’t you think this will take away from the message?” The thought a casualty would draw sympathy in the news and their story would be lost. Harold was not callous against the man it was not taken into account.
“I think the more that die, it will help us.” Antonio remarked before chasing the drink down his throat in one long pull. A quick cough drowned out the next sentence. Recovery took a few seconds. “Think of the press coverage. It would be national. The word would be out that we struck a major blow with a small fire.”
“We would be murderers!” Harold countered returning the pointing with his beer bottle. The scruff stubble of his face added shadows to his serious tone.
“We would give their lives purpose. Some people are made to be victims to draw a spotlight on a cause. They will highlight our cause.” Antonio had filled his brain with liquid courage, even sober he would have stood on this. He strongly believed eventually a life would have to lost for their cause.
“It isn’t time yet.” Harold was gaining the courage to counter Antonio’s logic. “A death would also bring a spotlight to us. We are not ready to face the authorities.”
Antonio sunk back into his seat. “I guess you have a point. For now, we will make sure that no blood is shed. When will we know it is time to have casualties?”
“When there is no other choice. I feel every death is a mark against us.” Harold took another swallow of beer. He had to chase the thought of going beyond punishing those that started this. The thought some innocent soul would be caught up in his plans haunted him every night. Murderer was a label he shivered at earning. The only harm he meant to cause was something that leads to the path of his end goal.
Antonio appreciated the new found determination. He had watched as the mastermind went from doubt to headstrong leader. The candor that came from Harold’s lips was words that any follower needed to hear. Change was coming and Antonio was glad to be part of it. He lived his life inspiring others to change. Now he was the man in the background watching the inspiration take hold. “So what is our next move?”
Harold took another drink of his beer. Tipping the bottle back, he reached a level of clarity. The thought of his victim was replaced with the next step. “The next step will see how close we can get to an active work site.”
“Active work sites will have people watching.” The warning was meant to bring thought to the earlier statement about no innocent casualties.
Harold repressed a burp. “You have a point. We will have to get a crew and make sure they are trained.” Thinking on the task, he figured they would be facing cameras, guards, and maybe alarms. Someone on the inside could save them both. “I think it is time we make some friends.”
Sirens and flashing lights were getting old for the veteran officer. He wished at times he had accepted the detective job when it was offered. He chose to serve his community on the front lines as a patrolman. The third shift patrol leader meant he spent the good part of the night watching over the city streets for the after effects of alcohol. There would be drunk drivers, arguments that turned heated and other public disturbances that were fueled by strong drink. Every once in a while, some local company would need an alarm answered, Clemmons was the one who would pick up the answer.
Stanley Tire and Rubber had taken most of their jobs overseas. The small crew that was left was to manage the sales and other income generating portions of the company. Environmental cleanup costs meant it was cheaper to keep the abandoned factors. A few security guards watching cameras was fiscally smarter, than turning the abandoned buildings into something.
Sienna had taken this night watch shift of the monitors. The only shift she was able to secure was third. This meant she had to leave her kids under the watch of her oldest while she went to work. She appreciated the fact she could be there during the day at the cost of a good sleep. The income was pretty decent for not falling asleep as the cameras spent the entire eight hours not changing. When they did show activity it was usually a rodent.
It was easy money. She needed something in her life to go easy. Sienna had spent the majority of her family’s life without a partner. Without someone to share the costs, share the struggles or share the responsibilities life was difficult. She raised her family to be as resilient as she had been, mostly by example. The thought of dating had always ended poorly. Friends kept pushing the issue of her finding a man. Sienna was waiting for the right one. She doubted anyone would ever be the right one.
The alert came through on the computer console with a flashing light. If Sienna had been a new hire she would have been nervous. She remembered those days well. She was a veteran now. Situations like the alarm did not scare her. She knew to call the police and have them respond to whatever building the alarm originated from. It had happened more and more as the company had relocated over a decade ago. The amount of homeless that were taking shelter in the cold winter had triggered many alarms.
The police officer stepped out of his patrol car and into the area caught by the camera. A nod to the camera was Clemmons way of showing his face to the monitoring personnel. Using his access key, Clemmons entered the door and headed to another camera’s view. The flashlight highlighted areas for Clemmons and Sienna at the console as he checked for the source of the alarm. The area was mostly open old industrial shelves present many hiding places that Clemmons needed to verify were harmless.
There were no signs that would cause Clemmons to think something was wrong His gut taught him never to overlook any situation. A lazy approach could mean opening himself to harm. Precautions could save him from the criminal element. Criminals were not the only threat to a patrol officer. Sometimes a startled homeless man could be in places like this. Like the man in the fire, the homeless made their way into abandoned buildings to avoid the weather. Unaware of alarms, they just wanted to find a warm place. Clemmons had heard stories where the trespasser would be startled lashing out.
Turning the corner, the overhead light flickered. Changing lighting created the effects of movement in Clemmons’ peripheral vision. Dancing shadows were enough to trigger motion detectors. To avoid a return trip in a few hours after the alarm was reset, Clemmons wanted to make sure the area was clear. Experience had taught him that taking a short cut meant he would be back in this same location later.
Highlighted by the flashlight the skeleton of the industrial giant haunted the officer. The ribs of metal shelving once held inventory to be distributed. Now it held just dirt. Clemmons could still hear the hum of machines and workers toiling their shifts. He remembered as a boy how this place was part of the life blood of the industrial north. The company made quality tires here once. Clemmons remembered when it turned sweat into a paycheck for many neighbors.
When he was satisfied the building was truly empty, Clemmons made his way to the door. Notes had to be taken for the end of his shift when the paperwork was filed. The cold night air was going to be common for a few more days. That always led to more calls, more notes.
When he wore a rookie uniform there would be no doubt he would kick the man out if one was caught. Now decades of service had softened him with wisdom. Unintended consequences can sometimes happen when someone who is desperate loses a safe place. Clemmons watched as an evicted man turned to mugging or theft as a means to try to regain some form of value. Not all crime was a result of circumstances but circumstances created some crime.
Tonight he would not be tested. The question would go unanswered another day about the type of man he became. A short call back to the dispatch would end his commitment. The city was changing. The result was something Clemmons would fear unless hope returned.
Clemmons made his way to where the call originated. It was courtesy to do a face to face meeting with those who were concerned enough to call the police. Late night security guards usually were the other face. Part of the bonus as well as the problem of the midnight shift was that few people were awake. His mentor once taught him there were two people up on third shift, those who were trying to get into trouble, and those trying to prevent it. Clemmons never agreed with that statement, but it was pretty obvious that many did. If they did not, he would not have to answer so many calls.
Sienna met the officer at the door. He was a bit older, handsome, but older. Judging anyone who came to this door at night was a tool to break the routine. It was a quiet game to play in her mind. People watching taken to the extreme.
“Are you the one who called?”
“Yeah, had to, my supervisor is asleep so he couldn’t do it.”
“Well there is nothing to worry about. Probably an animal or two scurrying through the building. I am sure an exterminator can take care of it.”
“Maybe the rats are what is keeping the building standing?” the comedy was wasted; Clemmons did his best to present a professional appearance. What he deemed as professional at least. That included no laughs when answering the calls to the public.
“hmm, still might want them to call an exterminator.” Clemmons closed his notepad.
“Are you going to be the one who always comes when we call?”
“We try to do a rotation, but I am a hands on kinda guy, so there is a good chance it will be me.”
“Good, it is always good to know who has your back.”
Clemmons did not say a word. He loved security officers but their job and his duty varied wildly from each other. They had a purpose, but Clemmons felt he had a calling. A calling to protect his community, that meant his duty was to everyone. Most of the security detail’s loyalties extended to those they were assigned to observe. Clemmons did not want to look down to them, but he was not going to feed the theory they were all part of the same blue line.
“I hope we don’t run into each other like this a lot then. I think it will create more paperwork for us both.”
Finally, a smile from Clemmons. “Have a good night ma’am.”
The morning light silhouetted the church. Yancey did not really care for the view. He felt wondered if he should enter to say his prayer or if God could hear his request on the steps. A lot of his wonder was spent on did he even belong to the church now. There was no denying it, he was a killer, even worse a serial killer.
The last kill troubled him more than the others. Normally instinct helped him through the task. He had never remembered the task pulling a spirit from a body. How was that even possible?
Gore or blood was never a worry. They occupied his dreams but he had grown a bit of callousness to them. The spirit made the last kill unsettling.it erased all doubt in his mind about a soul, or spirit. That is why the church he stood before now raised more questions. The lessons learned in this building provided a faith, but he had never applied it to a real world equivalent. He went to church because it was the right thing to do. It was how he was raised, he never failed to follow the lesson into adulthood.
There was a change to his perception now. A horror with the realization that each drop of blood spilled would have real consequence. In the back of his mind there was always a fear, now he witnessed true proof.
He no longer felt good enough to enter the sanctuary. His past deeds were a mocking of the teachings he paid attention here. Urges and an internal drive would have never let him stay clean. He felt weak for it. All he could do was ask for forgiveness of others.
“Lord please, I know I have given into sin but please hear my prayer. Please understand I cherish you and your words always and I understand the penalty I must face. I wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness but cannot promise to keep from committing the deed again. I ask that I alone face the punishment of my actions and allow my son to prosper, and achieve his destiny to the fullest. In your name I pray.
“Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Interruption of thought. Something was too close to him someone, no it was definitely a something, stood on the banks of the lake looking toward the church.
The Church was not the target of the thing’s gaze; it was his opponent. He could feel the ancient rivalry. Yancey did not know why but he wanted to kill in a brutal manner the handsome man across the street. The prayer was forgotten even though the words were instinct. The prayer talks of forgiveness, the man across the street deserved none.
“You will not win. They will turn on you. You still have to play by the mortals’ rules.”
With the smell of sulfur, the handsome being was gone. Bringing more questions to Yancey’s perception of reality once he left.