Fatal Introductions

Fatal Introductions Chapter 20

monument

Six deaths were the record prior.  Clemmons had counted the current year’s deaths and they had eclipse the half dozen from a decade ago.  The area was becoming more desperate.  The blame was everywhere.  Less jobs, weather, alcohol, even those born out of town, all took a fair share of the blame. 

Walking the concrete path around the lake, Clemmons wanted to find his care.  It had slowly been lost.  So much happened in the city, but the lake in the center always pulled him.  He hoped it would help him find the reasons to keep the faith that he was making a difference.

The Biblical Butcher was still on the loose, now there was an arsonist.  The evidence was stacking against him.  It was hard being dedicated when you see so little good as a result of your vigilance.  It was a mile around the whole track.  A mile of thought before he returned to his cruiser.

The names confronted him.  All the city’s veterans were listed by the conflict they had fought.  It made him drop his head and wonder, did those who fell know the difference they were making?  The inspiring moment made him raise his head and smile.  He may not see it but he had to believe he had made a difference, just like the names on the monument.

A second inspiration confronted the veteran officer.  The morning sun was cresting the church across the street.  He wondered if the watching the churches immediately after a murder would yield results.  If the murderer was truly religious, he would feel a bit of guilt.  That guilt may lead him to seek forgiveness.  They could not ask the preachers and priests about confessions due to privacy restrictions, but they could see who was entering and exiting the churches.

There were more churches than there were officers so it would take a gamble.  As much as Clemmons wished there would not be another murder, the killer was heavily invested in the role.  More importantly evil never took a break.  Someone seeking divine justice would never find an end of targets as long as there was greed, lust, and something to be gained through sin.

Ending the murders would define if there was truly a difference being made.

 

***

bar 4

Harold was at home in his stool. His drinking partner’s face was flashed all over the muted television.  He could not hide the fear in his mug no matter how many times he lifted it to his lips.  Antonio was the only person that had been trusted with the entire plan.  Being the mastermind, Harold felt he was making all the decisions for both men.  Murders of others, were not in his plan or awareness.  His apprentice had placed all their work into danger.  Sienna, figuring out she was being used would be the ultimate problem this arrest would create.  Harold was enjoying the trust she had placed in him.  Things were progressing fast.  Antonio’s arrest could be a setback.

Drinking every opportunity, he began to worry was not solving the problem.  There was a real use for alcohol, to celebrate, or to relax. Harold used it to the extreme.  Antonio had always been there to keep him in check.  Now, he was unbound from any outside voice to activate his conscious. Slipping deeper and deeper into a pessimistic cloud that he had wasted the time invested on his revenge caused Harold to want more drink.  Low level lighting did not help brighten his mood either.  The corner bar was not exactly the best place to feel better.  Despite knowing that fact, Harold always ran to its embrace whenever he felt threatened.  Located on the edge of the industrial part of the city, and a part of the city that never seemed to benefit, no one in his circle of friends and family knew its location.  Rough clientele and rowdy nights made the former factory worker think the police were not too aware of its location either. 

Worn green felt adorned the top of the social highlight of the entire bar.  Most conversations happened at the pool table.  Sometimes for fun, sport, other times for money the table was the one place where patrons were not engrossed in their drinks and misery.  Like many other things in this neighborhood, Harold assumed the owner started this business with dreams of creating a highlight to the area. Maybe a live band played blues on the stage at one point.  Probably a local band at that, community was strong in this part of the city.  Snydertown felt the wave of hurt from the economy before the rest of the city.  The bar was just another victim of that. 

Harold was a proud owner of alcohol stamina.  The last decade of training allowed him to run up large tabs in places such as this. Where his liver could resist the poisoning effect of over consumption, his brain and judgment were never shielded. Even on mute the news was constantly covering Antonio’s story.  Not hearing the words of the young preppy anchor, made his partner assume the worst. Hard times to his small revolution were ahead.  Antonio was chosen because Harold felt he could manipulate him.  There was no doubt the police who were more persuasive would be able to get all the information he held.

“Good riddance,” a drinking companion, due to location on the bar, uttered as he watched the news.   It was apparent by his youth the young man had not been coming to the bar long.  Rocking in his stool and slowly drinking the rum in his glass, it was becoming clear to Harold that the kid was probably there on a fake identification.  No one really seemed to care.  Not the bar tender, not the bouncer, no patron paid him any attention.  Words that escaped his lips awakened Harold to his presence.  This kid did not know his partner.  Not even old enough to know what struggle was, Harold channeled all the rage that had been building into this kid.  How could someone not old enough to lose his family, job, and now best friend even comprehend?

Once a frosted mug, the chilled exterior had now become glass sweat.  It splashed the side of the young neighborhood kid cheek before impacting with a full force. A testament to fine craftsmanship, the mug did not break.  Where the bottom rim struck along the cheek it had loosened a tooth.  With no warning the young man was about to graduate from getting into a bar to his first bar fight. His head turned quickly to see Harold stumble off the bar stool. 

Three observers became active participants when Harold started approaching the kid.  Arms caught Harold and pulled him back.  He had caused enough of a disturbance to their mood for the day.  The bouncer made sure the assailant was not going anywhere.   Pulling him slightly off balance and off his feet, Harold could not advance.  Seeing a chance to take advantage of the situation the rookie bar fighter threw well placed punches into the man’s stomach.  Growing up the youngest surrounded by older brothers, punching was a skill he gained for survival. 

Harold doubled over at the hip to prevent his stomach from taking more shots.  The jerking of muscles caused the bouncer to lose his grip.  Harold fell to the ground, as the other two activated observers swarmed to the bouncer.  “He wants to be here let the kid prove he deserves to be.”

Free of the obstacle Harold gained his footing. Spreading his legs into a boxing style stance, he faced off on the initial target.  Harold was not a boxer but he had spent enough times drinking and watching fights.  Confidence in his observations was boosted by the beers.  Despite his wobbling and lack of a solid form, the drunk felt his stance was firm.  To the other observers, he was the typical drunk who thought he was a golden glove fighter.  “You can’t say anything about him.  You are not the man he is, nor will you ever be.” Small amounts of spittle chased the slurred words. 

Backed up to the green felt pool table the young man was not sure what to expect. He reached behind him and discovered the long cue.  Grasping it in both hands he turned to Harold to show the drunk he was armed.  Swinging to miss but showing he could reach the want to be boxer the kid wanted this over now.  He was by himself as some of the patrons were enjoying the show.  A beer and a fight were a pretty good evening. 

Harold lunged as the pool stick swung. Catching and redirecting the average height, slightly overweight man in the jaw.  Teeth were loosened as the kid returned the earlier favor.  When Harold landed it was to the left of his initial target spot.  Off balance as his feet met the ground Harold stumbled forward.  His upper body carried by momentum bent his figure in half, exposing his back.  The pool stick took full advantage of the easy target.  A bit of extra weight did not provide enough protection as the stick hit his lower spine.  Pain shot through him as he went to his knees.  Hands collapsed to the floor preventing the fight’s initiator from falling prone.   As his eyes lifted with his head Harold caught the break he needed. 

A few feet in front of him under the table of a lady there was an empty beer bottle.  Lurching his hand forward he wrapped his hand around the dark neck of the empty container.  Harold regained his feet despite his world swirling from drink and pain.  Stunned, the young kid stood there choking up his hands on the pool stick.  Harold took the break and shattered the bottle in his hand against the ladies table.  The pool stick was a good defense but the jagged shards of glass changed the dynamic of the fight.  A dynamic of death was added and quickly calculated by the kid. 

Harold moved closer slowly.  As long as the kid did not swing the make shift club he was going to move closer.  Being the prey the kid felt the closing of his stalker.  Feet did not have awareness as the young man backed away slowly.  Soon there was nowhere else to go.  He had placed himself into the corner.  There was no longer a place to run.  That panic caused the kid to swing.  He missed. 

Broken glass directed by the drunk struck out into the kid’s hand.  Drawing blood, a burning pain shot to each finger causing the stick to fall free.  He was now defenseless.  He was now pure prey.  A shriek of pain revealed the youth in the developing voice. The clanking of wood against the dirty orange tile floor alerted everyone the end was imminent. 

Harold glanced around the bar.  Every set of eyes were placed upon him, weighing his heart.  All the judging faces were easy to ignore, except the lone woman.  He had not noticed her all evening but there she sat, pulling away his attention.  Halfway staring at the events unfolding, her other half was focused on the paper she was writing upon.  Harold knew he had seen her before but could not place where.  The oddities of her presence and the choice of her quill pen should have been memorable.  Even with the alcohol in his system she should had stood out. His arm extended to pin the young man into the corner.  Despite his belief in not causing a death the broken glass in his hand went across the throat of the young kid.  Instantly spraying along the arm Harold was using to pin the now lifeless body, the blood made its mark.  Remorse ran quickly through the drunken man.  At the moment part of him died along with the kid. 

Fresh in its status as a corpse, the body hit the floor when a stunned Harold released it.  Looking around at the faces who were just as stunned as he was, it became obvious, he had to get away. Ducking his head to avoid anyone else being able to see his features, he rushed toward the door.  It was not hard to miss the absence of the woman taking notes.  The blood spilled must have scared her away.  It had definitely scared the one who caused it. 

Crossing the threshold of the door, Harold entered a new world.  Doubt his future would avoid blood was erased.  Irony hit him, as he did not even have to kill the kid that opposed him.  He was avenging a man’s reputation that he had opposed when it came to taking lives.  Antonio had finally gotten his way.  Harold would have to take lives.  Blood would be drawn by his hand.  He had to use better judgment next time to make sure it was justified.

***

Fatal Introductions Chapter 19

Hazy speed of his initial court hearing did not give Antonio much time to catch his breath.  Accusations of crimes he had not committed ended up on his charge sheet.  Antonio had rejected the deaths as his fault.  That did not matter.  Some eye witnesses placed the blame on his shoulders.  Now it was his assigned lawyer’s job to prove his innocence.  A trial date had been delayed. The lawyers from both sides needed time to make a solid case.  Since some of the charges were murders he would have to spend some time behind bars, awaiting the fight of his life.  Antonio knew exactly where his guilt stood.  He had no blood directly on his hands as stated in the charges.  Shock was still rumbling through his being. 

Pits of torment made anything want to escape.  Even lowly beings, felt the despair of a place that served as a prison.  Those who made the decision to be there baffled him.  Trapping their souls through bad decisions was the consequence they freely chose.  Antonio was created in that world.  Having never known the luxury of free will, he could only look with envy.  Lords of the dark world had been sent to their own prison.  A major difference in what Antonio was facing and the prison in which they existed was the ability to send others to do the bidding.  Emotions of the damned spawned the creatures molded to their purpose by the dark overlord.   

War had been waged in the shadows and in quiet for longer than man had walked the Earth.  Those forces had been around long before humanity took the journey to sentience.  Free will was the weapon that Antonio and his colleagues tried manipulate for their master.   Their master had fallen from grace.  When he hit the realm of prison he swore to punish all the creations of his master.  Evolution made the need to change the demons and give them different purposes.  The mortal realm was created as proving grounds.  Free will determined the outcome of those tests.  To feed his purpose, the fallen favored son fed on the spirits of those who failed.  His appetite was unquenchable.  He desired every free soul killed and the spirits brought to him. 

To win the eternal war, the fallen one created the demons to subvert free will.  When he had gathered enough to field an army he would storm the land he was from which he was exiled.   It would be his poetic justice to turn the creations against their maker.   Hatred darkened the last bit of his light.  Even the slightest bit of faith or hope hurt.  A three pronged attack would shield him from those two things making it to his realm.  Each class of demons would do his bidding on the surface.  To protect the others, a strong breed would exist.  While under their protection the others would do their jobs of tormenting or corrupting.  A final type would exist to take advantage of the small amount of power that could be held on the mortal realm.  That power shifted fate lines to make deals happen. 

The warrior class was the first creation.  They were made strong enough to fight the Angels that threatened the others in the realm.  So strong, that the fallen one himself feared the possibility of them uprising and demanding control.  As a precaution he limited those created.  To assert his and the other dark lords dominance the created demons were kept in Hell tortured and kept submissive.  When they submitted completely to their masters, they were allowed to the surface world.  Some creations resisted and were destined never to leave.  Antonio was a quick convert to his side.  He understood he was at the low end of the creation hierarchy and he accepted his purpose. 

When the assignment out of Hell was earned a host body had to be found.  Souls were in the way of any demonic spirit taking a body.  Some attempted to despite the impending struggle.  A simple exorcism and show of faith would banish the demon back.  If a person used free will to choose greedy or harming others they would chip away at their soul.  Sometimes another demon assisted in that process.  Other times human nature made the decision to be selfish easily.  The bodies became unguarded.  When Angels roamed the world they would eliminate those unguarded bodies before they could play host to Satan’s spawn.  Those days seemed to be gone in the new world.  It was an open playground if a demon could earn his way out of the pits.

Failure meant a return to the torturing world.  Antonio and other corruptors task was simple.   Create the situation where the wrong decision seems to be the best decision.  All they had to do was open the door.  Harold took that option.  Marie and Judith took that option.  Many took the wrong option; Antonio had earned a long stay.  Nathanial was a tormentor. He gained strength through the suffering of mortals.  Often not willing to work in any organized fashion with the others they existed to visit Hell on mortals.  Tormenting souls to defeat hope and test faith.  This type also kept the same job when they returned to the fires that spawned their existence.  Making sure nothing ever had hope of escaping the cruelty of that sentence.  They were the only things that enjoyed their time in Hell.  Some of the longest tenured demonic forces existed to do one thing, getting a person to voluntarily commit their spirit to the flame was easier as greed rose.  In exchange for whatever worldly promise gained, the individual would take the place of the demon in the pits upon their death.  Demons of this type were usually smart witted. They constantly had to have promised spirits ready to take their place. Pleasant in appearance and charm they were created to gain the trust of humans.  When their last bargained person died they would have to return.  It created a need to get any deal possible even if it meant destroying one of their own.

Antonio had done extremely well up until his arrest.  Human justice meant he would not be convicted because in the charged offense, he was innocent.  Still it was a delay to what he needed to pursue. He had worked with the several dozen others in the city to make their jobs and existence easier.  It would take just one of them to help him out.  Laws of man were silly to those fighting a greater battle.  In fact, they helped by denying some from what they truly wanted to choose.  Free will does not always mean making the best choice for all concerned.  Antonio would go to his holding cell.  Perhaps he would be able to spread even more of his gift.  With his folded uniform and linen set tucked under his arm, Antonio proceeded with a bit of optimism.

What would become his home for the next few days was smaller than even his hole in the pits. He would share this hole with another.  Linen already covered the top bunk letting anyone know that it would be occupied.  In a way Antonio was happy.  It would give him a chance to prevent someone to make the decisions needed to save their spirit.  He held that outlook until the occupant returned from his smoke break in the outside area.

“I never would have dreamt I would see you again.”  Vincent’s words carried the guilt of the murder he had committed.  He was awaiting final sentencing as the facts did not take long to link together.  Riga mortis had not yet set in when the flashy salesman was proven guilty.  There was no fight in him, he did not even burden with a true lawyer.  He wanted the shadow of guilt gone.  All his hopes would lie on the sentencing.  Nothing up to this point lifted the dark cloud.  “You know you set me up.  I am the one who did the deed, but you set me up.”  Teeth gritted as the cloud needed to be shared.  Vincent took his end of the responsibility.  Now, his roommate needed to take his own.

“You chose to end that man’s life.”  Antonio could sense the tension and desperation in the man’s words.  He loved it.

“You escalated the situation to the point someone was going to die.”  Vincent’s temper rose quickly in the man’s words.  Accusations took the form of stated fact as they left his lips.

“You both only needed an excuse.”  Antonio answered flatly. 

“Maybe,” Vincent clenched his fist and finished the sentence.  The pain he had throughout the hasty trial was released into one final strike into Antonio’s jaw. “Maybe we both should have targeted you.”

The demon let out a small hiss as he stumbled against the bunks.  Impacting the side of his knee into the corner of the metal bed frame, he fell.  A sharp pain shot through his mortal body.  Finding the thin mattress with his rear, Antonio sat.  He weighed the situation.  All he would have to do was end this man.  If it were not for the obvious death on his hands, it would not take this much measuring. 

Decisions would have to wait as the lights shut down and a dark fog concealed any light from the windows.  It was pitch black.  Two small flames appeared beside Antonio.  The flames formed into two eyes creating a glow around the hooded face.  Bravado sprinted away from Vincent within an instant.  He was frozen in fear.  The dark cloud was no longer a metaphor, he was surrounded by it.  The handsome man in the cloak had to be the devil, here to punish him for all the crimes he had committed.  So much fear ran through the consultant that he was frozen from speech.  Mindlessly clawing at the back wall of the cell, he had to get away.

“I love that effect on people.”  Sinister smiles became illuminated from the burning eyes.  The cloaked figure was thoroughly entertained by the bloody nails on Vincent’s hand as he tried in vain to burrow away. Antonio had no problem revealing his true self in the darkness.  A second set of flame eyes watched in glee.  “We only have a moment.” 

“Are we escaping or doing this the way we have in the past by manipulating the system.  With no proof and no intent, I should be able to walk.”  The forked tongue flicked the air after his words. 

“Neither,” the answer was firm.  In an instant a single voice turned into many originating from the four walls of the cell.  Powered by the tormented, these beings used every ounce to gain access to the mortal world.  Damned voices spoke the demon’s words.  “Prison has become a place where many find religion.  Some even find a true salvation and rebuild their souls.  We are diverting you to the goal of assisting an end to that.” 

“So I am being sacrificed to the mortals?”   Discussing the topic took away from Vincent’s presence in the corner.  With his finger nails worn off and blood pouring down each tip, he gave up hope and began hyperventilating.  To meet the echo of voices he perceived as a threat, Antonio spoke with many as well. Deep male voices conveyed his aggression.

“You are not being sacrificed.  We have a new purpose for you. The mentor has chosen you specifically for this.”  Reassurance did not do anything to sway Antonio.  He felt perhaps a threat may.  “Do you really want us to release something to enforce this decision?”

Time to fold his bluffing hand had come around.  Antonio could not take on something created to orchestrate the maneuvers.  The voices fell submissive in his reply. “What do you need me to do?”

Vincent had passed out and missed the point where the lights returned.  Whatever had haunted his cell was gone.  Hope was betting on it was gone.  Regaining his footing, he noticed the seated Antonio was still present.  With fear in his voice Vincent searched for answers.  “What happened?  What are you?  What was that?”  He wanted to know yet feared the answer. 

“You don’t remember?”  Antonio said with a little pride.  “I know my punch knocked you out.  I did not realize it also wiped your memory clean. Maybe, it is the drugs you are on?”

“I know what I saw.  I am not even on drugs.” Vincent was adamant in his self defense.  Raising his hands to Antonio to show the dried blood along his fingers, Vincent entered a scared depraved state. “You did this to me, you and your friend!”

“Are we really going down this road again?”  Antonio was a bit smug in his answer.  “This is what got you knocked out the first time.”

Screams caught the attention of a guard.  He had made his way to the cell that held the two newly minted nemeses.  “Be silent!”  The command was even more firm than the voices Antonio had just mustered.  “What is going on?”

“I was just informing my friend here that I am going to confess.”  First to speak was usually the first believed.  Antonio learned that lesson long ago.  Leaning against the cell wall to whisper to the guard, “he is having an,” the fingers of Antonio made air quotes, “episode.”

The county deputy had a little more weight than when he was a new recruit.  He also carried a little more wisdom.  He knew to hear both sides of the story before rushing to judgment.  Knowing that not too many people became one of his guests by being honest, both sides needed to be heard. “Is that what happened?”

“Not even slightly,” Vincent slammed his body against the jail cell.  Bloodied hands wrapped tightly around the metal cell bar. “This man is not a man!”  The statement hit the other two with a bit of instant scoffing.  “When the power went out, he and his friend both came to haunt me.  Look at his eyes and tell me he is normal.  I have already been found guilty what else do the ghosts want, my blood?”  Frantic words did not convey sanity to the jailer. 

“We will get to that.” Hiding his ridicule was hard.  There had been no power outages that were known. Fortunately, he was a veteran. “What happened to your hands?”

“I don’t know!”  Words escaped Vincent’s mouth as desperate as he had become. “I am telling you they did this to me!” 

“Just tell me how then.”  Signaling for assistance the deputy knew when a drug addict was coming into a serious incident. 

“I don’t know!”  Vincent just needed someone to believe him.  The irony struck him that he could sell a lie anytime he wanted to, but getting someone to believe the truth, was not in his tool box.  “I just need you to believe me.”  Hope had left him.  When the assistance showed up it increased his struggle.  Three guards rushed the cell and pinned him to the ground.  “Why won’t you believe what I saw?”  He kept repeating those words as they wrestled him out the door and down the hall. 

When the struggling prisoner disappeared down the hall, the deputy returned to Antonio.  “Eh, he will be just fine. What were you saying before that unpleasantness?”

“I want to make a statement.”  Antonio portrayed the humility of someone making a guilty plea.  “Can you get me my lawyer?”

Smiling, the deputy wondered if they should put anyone awaiting a murder charge in a cell with a lunatic.  He could revolutionize the judicial system with the act.  The detectives had failed to get a confession but not even an hour into the holding cell, this man was confessing.  “Before I waste their time on this fine evening, would you care telling me what it is that you want to tell him?”

Ohio still had the death penalty.  If he gambled with his innocence, there was only a slim chance he would be convicted.  Rewarding that slim chance with the number of murder he was charged with committing would surely mean his end.  Death of the body meant he could not do the mission the mentor had chosen for him.  A deal could be made however.   He could plead guilty in exchange for a promise to get life in prison instead of death.  Deals such as that were common. It would not take much effort.  The only problem he would face was being immortal in this realm.  A life sentence could outlast the prison.  Someone would eventually notice after he had served the equivalent of several life sentences.  His mentor would find a solution when that time came.  If he was obedient they would keep him in this realm and avoid the real prison of Hell.  “Tell him I want to make a deal.”Street view

Fatal Introductions Chapter 18

Barberton grill 1

Every relationship starts getting serious.  One of the key indicators was to meet each other’s friends.  Harold was up first.  He had planned to gain even more trust from Sienna by introducing Antonio to her at a bar.  The laid back meeting place was to help things go right and drown out if things went wrong.  Antonio always seemed to be at home in a bar.  Sienna was not a bar person but Harold would be there for her.  Besides she had the night off.  A night where Sienna could unwind was rare, and she was going to enjoy it. 

The relationship was a fake.  Harold knew he had to make it real in appearance.  Trust was the only way to gain access to the camera monitors.  As minor as it seemed, the building he was targeting was essential for shipping the inventory all over the country.  It would also be another fire that a public relations guru could not make disappear without explanation.

Following the first fire, a company spokesman immediately reacted.  Successfully diverting the blame for leaving the building in a state where it could catch fire.  The focus was shifted to the heroics of the police force saving the homeless man from death.  A well funded legal team ensured the investigation did not ruin the company name.  Harold hated watching the company act like they had the politicians in their pocket.  He wondered if they did.  The effort and risk he took yielded no rewards.  The next target had to be located in a highly populated area.  It would have to be a blaze that was not simply extinguished.  The fire would be fueled by the inventory to create a sore the company could not easily explain away.  Black smoke from burning rubber would beacon all eyes to the company that ruined his life.

Sienna would be a casualty of the financial fallout.  He had grown attached to her but not enough to keep from reaching his goal.  Any act he did and was caught doing would be traced back to her.  Perception was reality in the court of public opinion.  The sentence would be handed down to her family.  It was a sacrifice Harold was willing to make.  He felt the least he could do was to take her out to a nice dinner and drinks.  When this was all over he may even want to date her without ulterior motives.  Surely she could understand the need for such a sacrifice, Harold justified. 

Sienna had dressed like a real person she thought.  It was a chance for her to get out in a dress.  The fit was a little bit snugger since last time she wore it.  Quite some time had passed since she was able to justify wearing date clothes.  If it was not going to be tonight, what major event would have to happen for her to pull them out of her closet?  Debating with herself had become one of Sienna’s past times.  The usual answer was the least attractive one.  Tonight, she was bucking the trend.  She was choosing to feel the most attractive.  The kids were with a babysitter so tonight it was time to have real adult fun.  Harold had brought that back into her life.  She did not want to say anything and chase him away, even though, she was falling for him.  It had been so long since she reached this point with anyone, that it scared her on how he would react. 

Antonio was running a bit late, giving Harold time to show his getaway place to his date.  Times where she would send him a message were answered from this very bar he said almost proudly.  He did not include the part where it was the safe haven after Jess left him.  Calling the regulars and bartender by name and getting a return of the salutation, made Harold appear to be important.  He at least felt that way.  It was nice to see her guy was popular.  Part of the single mother wished it was not in a bar.  Confidence was not lacking from him here though.  That part impressed her. 

Bar scenes were abandoned far into her past, Sienna barely remembered them.  She whispered a joke to Harold she figured it would be a man who drove her back to one.  Shared laughs were part of the bonding of their relationship.  It had been a long time since she allowed her guard down enough to risk forming that bond.  Even her children were noticing the change in her demeanor.  The smile she carried had been permanent for the last few times she had talked with him.  It had been awhile since she had called herself anyone’s girlfriend. Harold was going to change that.

Drinks flowed as the wait for Antonio drug on.  Her rule of a two drink maximum had already been broken.  The words started flowing more as the wall of niceties were drowned away.  The volume of her voice was getting loud enough to compete with the growing background noise of the jukebox.  Smiling was a new constant as the jokes between her and Harold revealed a genuine chemistry.  Then in one quick flashback the laughter was cut.  Memories from work rarely were happy.  The memory of the slender but somewhat tall man approaching the table was a work memory.  Fears were realized when Harold rose to greet him.

“Antonio, this is the woman who has been stealing my time.”  Harold announced proudly as he pointed toward Sienna.  Those words created a nightmare scenario.  Antonio was the man, who more than likely was the murderer from the other day.  She had already given his description to the police.  Part of her wondered if she should sneak away and call the police. 

“Nice to meet you Sienna,” Antonio presented his hand for the greeting.  Holding it in place awaiting the seated woman, Harold’s friend wanted to make a good first impression.  Her tension was not hard for him to sense.  One of Antonio’s natural gifts was to understand other’s feelings with a few hints.  A few drunken nights Harold told him he missed his calling.  The occupations he stated how it would help ranged from poker ace to psychologist.  “Harold has told me so much about you.”

Reluctantly Sienna offered her hand back.  Her line of work must have already been known if Harold mentioned much about her.  “Nice to meet you, too,” the tone was a little more flat than his greeting.  Acting was never her strong suit.  Her kids made sure she was well aware of that fact.

“Do I know you?”  The bit of familiarity struck Antonio quickly.  He knew exactly where he had seen the security guard before.  Several times their paths seemed to cross. one in recent enough memory where she would remember.  “I swear you look familiar.”  Tension had developed the moment their eyes met.  Antonio was just adding to it by bringing the question up. 

“I agree you do look a bit familiar.  Do you work at Stanley?”  Sienna caught the misdirection of tension and shifted it back to him.  She knew he was not an employee, but mentioning where she had seen him might make him uncomfortable.  She honestly wanted the tension to reside entirely with their dinner companion.  A confession of why he was at the location of the murder might give her clarity on what to tell Harold.

“I used to.” Anger mixed into the answer.  “Moved on to better things,” Antonio was trying to make himself sound better.  He had experienced the judgment of people when they heard of a lost job.  Pride was struck when they cast their eyes.  The reasons for the job loss never seemed to matter.  Unemployment was a status that people immediately inserted into a stranger’s character. 

Tension doubled in the air as Antonio took his seat.  It almost knocked Harold over.  Girlfriend and friend were the two assets of his life.  Both the plan and the cover relied on the two sitting at the table.  Harold would have to cut the tension to save the separate relationships.  “Sienna works for their central security.”  Fake pride was a smokescreen to subdue her.  Antonio would follow his lead he hoped.  There was too much at stake for him to chase her away. 

“Must be a nice job,” Antonio picked up on Harold’s lead.  “When I worked there we never ran into them, but we knew they were there.”  Wounded pride shrank.  “I have to admit it is work I could not do.  Staring at the same screen for hours would put me to sleep.”

“There are days.” Harold interrupted her intent.  For the sake of the evening she would move forward with the conversation.  Wary that she might be having dinner with a killer Sienna kept her guard up.  No matter what she was doing she would keep a watchful eye on their dinner guest.  “You learn to make a game of it, craving every little movement.”

“I bet.”  It was not hard to see that Harold’s romantic interest was not going to trust him.  All the sidekick could do was to play the small talk game.  It may be a form of communication, but all he was doing was making noise with the other two.  Antonio wondered which of his acts of defiance was caught on camera. 

Her patrol revealed Antonio’s victim.  Media went wild when the police reported the body.  Sienna kept her mouth shut about what she had seen.  The attention on the News would put a spotlight on her that she did not want.  Harold was the only person she had informed.  One thing she did not mention was a description of the man she witnessed fleeing.  If she had discussed that with him this meeting might have never take place.  Their relationship might not be strong enough yet for her to cause legal problems for his friends.  As much as Sienna wanted to do the right thing Harold might be her future.

“What was that murdered body found on your guy’s property all about?”  Antonio wanted to play off what he did know.  There were few brief moments he could recall about that night.  After the news announcement there was a bit of wonder if Harold had anything to do with it.  Antonio was well aware of Harold’s stance on taking a life, but part of him wondered if he had broken that yet.  They had a mission and some of his partner’s convictions were getting in the way. Still, there was a moment where Harold had ventured away by himself.

Sienna could not believe the guy she had just met was fishing for inside information.  The report she gave the cops was not public knowledge as far as she was concerned.  There was a line she did not want to cross and become one of ‘those’ girlfriends, but Harold’s friend was not winning her over.  “I was actually stuck behind the cameras that night.  No one tells me anything.” 

Harold chimed in.   He knew they were there that night and caught a break by not going through with their plans.  “Don’t worry. I am sure with all the hassle that would ensue; you got a break not hearing anything.”

Conversations can provide entertainment or information.  They can carry reassurances or humor.  The trio’s talk was nervous attempt at killing time.  The laughs were few and far between.  Forced interest was a prevalent cloud.  Antonio had started off on a bad side of Sienna and did nothing to change her opinion.  Interrogating the security guard, provided no real information for Antonio.  It was a waste of an evening. 

Sliding his chair away from the table, Antonio prepared to depart.  “The evening has been fun, but I am afraid, I am getting too old to stay up much later.  You two have fun and be safe.”  He was younger than Harold but Antonio was well aware of his status.  The longer the third wheel stayed the longer his friend had to entertain him.  Nothing was truly gained for him from the meeting. He had plans of his own that required his focus and energy.

“Are you sure you have to go?”  Feigned concern would earn Sienna points.  She liked Harold.  His friend’s approval meant nothing in the grand scheme.  She invested a lot into this relationship.  Faking sympathy for someone he cared about was not that much more of an investment.

“I am afraid I must.”  Maybe Harold was deceived but Antonio knew the ploy she was playing.  He was not wanted there.  They needed her as an unknowing accomplice. Money was running low. An outside motivation from personal justice was driving Antonio.  Harold had not yet reached the level of desperation where he could partner with Antonio’s other schemes.  The forces out in the city were darker than his blue collar life could currently comprehend.  Antonio was ready to be a tutor. The student was not yet ready to accept the lesson. Slamming his last twenty dollar bill on the table, “you two have a drink on me as payment for the company.” 

Harold rose to his feet.  “I appreciate it. Are you sure you cannot stay?”  Sienna was not happy in the delay.  The option had already been presented and turned down.  She just wanted him gone. She craved have alone time with her possible love.

“Really, you two have a good night.  I will look you up tomorrow man.”  The departure was a game.  Sienna had played it well.  She displayed a care for his friend’s company when there wasn’t any.  He knew Harold was smart enough to see it as well.  A final verdict Antonio issued was that Sienna would be no problem to their plans. 

As his friend departed through the door, Harold returned his attention to his date.  She was anxious and ready to ambush him with all the questions she had been holding back.  “How long have you two been friends?”  The opening question was pretty harmless.  It would take a little stealth to work up to the actions of the other night. 

Harold had been ready.  The spotlight had clearly hit him the moment the two people left in his world met.  “We have been friends for over a decade, ever since I taught him how to steal a pop from the machine at our old work place.”  Bragging about ripping off his former and her current company, made Harold feel a little empowered.  He spent the next few minutes relaying the story, and how stingy the break room machines were.  Even after they had been paid, they still had to be shaken to pay out their end of the bargain.

A long detailed explanation did not dissuade her from her goal.  After a few more harmless questions she struck straight to the point.  “Did you hang out with him a few nights ago?”  The thought of the murder and Antonio at the scene, made her pray Harold had not been involved.   

Immediately a fear that they had been spotted and identified put Harold at unease.  If she placed him at the place of a potential crime, he would never be able to use her.  The access Sienna’s job provided him would be closed off.  All the effort placed in earning the trust would be wasted.  “No,” hiding the defensive tone was hard. “I told you I was home and went straight to bed.”  Showing her the text messages they exchanged that night as proof.

The bar seemed to enclose on Harold as he felt the sudden judgment.   If he failed to convince her, all was going to be lost.  Something in particular seemed to draw a judging look on him.  It was a face he swore he had seen before but could not place where.  The woman was enjoying her drink as she was writing notes with her quill pen.  He had to be drunk Harold justified.  No one used quill pens anymore.  He had to deflect the questions back to Sienna.  Whatever she knew he had to dig out, He wanted to confront and disarm it.  “Why what did he do?”  Ignorance played in his tone.   Pride was taken in the ability to portray a clueless man, when it came to these types of conversations.  Jess had helped him perfect the art when they were married.

“I am just curious.”  Sienna was not as good as playing ignorant.  Telling her partner that his friend was a murderer would place a strain on their future.  Still she wondered if he would be strong enough to handle the truth.  Truth would eventually come out.  Would she be punished for hiding it from him?

“There is more to it isn’t there?”  Harold felt compelled to call out her lie.  It would be the only way to get to what she truly knew.  “You have seen him before with your work haven’t you?” 

Saying anything would have been the way to avoid this confrontation.  She lacked the foresight to know that.  The struggle in her mind was larger than she perceived it would be.  How much would be lost if she spoke the truth?  How much respect would she lose?  The fear of going back to being alone was trumping all other emotions.  She did not want to lose her man.  The bar was full of women who would gladly take him off her hands.  One particular woman caught Sienna’s eyes, the reddish haired woman with that stupid pen.  The woman’s face was familiar, and even though the city was pretty big, familiar faces crossed paths often.  Still Sienna could not place where.  The intrigue did not take her prisoner as she turned to her man.  “I was curious how much time you two spend together.”

***

A sight that was not common enough for the rest of the worker’s at the shelter, was the young college girls on the serving line. The two girls were both owners of flawless faces, painted more for a night out than serving the poor.  Their hair must have taken hours of time. Men who had been without real food for days were more distracted by the two girls then they were finally beating starvation.  Holidays brought an influx of volunteers but not usually during this time of year.  There were no holidays close enough to guilt the young, obviously rich girls to the shelter.  They were either doing the act out of kindness or because it was to be closer to someone else in the volunteer staff.  Antonio could sense things like that at any distance.  It was a common act with people their age.

The shorter blonde was visibly unhappy to be there.  She looked to be out of her element by not being in charge.  It added to her discomfort.  Not to the point however where she would be a suitable candidate to recruit.  He needed desperation.  The darker haired companion invading a coworker’s personal space would never let her leave anyway.  While the two young girls were pleasant to his eyes, they were not conducive to his plans.  

Long bench seating provided an excuse to slam his tray and body down next to someone and start a conversation.  Antonio could almost smell desperation levels on anyone.  What got in his way were personal morals the person may have.  He felt his job in finding the right partner, was to find someone who he could persuade away from those moral obstructions.  He prided himself on never being stopped by those morals.  Some targets took longer than others. 

Part of the free meal that was received was hearing a sermon.  For most it was a small price to pay for a meal that was not from a dumpster.  Antonio used the sermons to gauge his potential targets by how well they were paying attention.  He wanted someone who was either too intent or too disinterested.  Too intent meant they were at a point where they had hit rock bottom if he could reach them they would be easy to manipulate.  He could use one last crime as a means to a better life.  If the target was not interested, it was due to the belief they did not think the sermon applied to them.  Their luck had been down for so long that they no longer believed anyone was looking out for them.  It was sort of a game to him to find the right ones. 

Judith and Marie could not be more opposite than the two girls in the serving line.  Both had experienced real life.  Scars of wisdom had covered their faces.  Their hair had dulled a little bit from the time they were the serving line girl’s age.  The roads life had lead them on, ultimately, ended up in this shelter.  Misery bonds friends quickly, and the two had become inseparable, even though they were opposites.

Marie was listening intent to the sermon.  Each word drilled a permanent look of attention on her face.  Latching onto the message as if it were meant entirely for her, she had become a focus of Antonio.  He was immediately sold on the duo when he noticed the disdain Judith recoiled with every moment she heard a word over the slurping of her soup.

Antonio became the snake moving silently weaving through the forest of people.  Sitting across from the women they immediately had the sense not to talk to him.  His words came out so seductive to changing their lives, they had no choice but to listen.  “How would you like to change your lives for good?”

***

store streets

Marie sighed a bit of relief as she was finally brave enough to fund her redemption.  Each handful placed into the bag was a step closer to climbing out of the gutter.  It amazed the former clerk that a store would keep this much cash at its location.  The other troubling part was that for as much money that was kept on location, there was no real security in place.  It was the blessing she had hoped and prayed for all those times.  The ease of the moment assured her conscious that this was meant to be. 

Judith did not believe in the answered prayer theory.  She bought into the naïve owner theory.  It amazed her that such carelessness would have been taken in handling someone’s assets.  Having never spent much time around a business that produced money she could only speculate one would take better care.  The small store had existed only a short time, and from what she could tell, its main item was lottery tickets.  No inventory seemed to be that attractive even to slip in a pocket.  The target made the older woman feel insecure about the safety and ease of the cash.  Feeling the store had another purpose, could not be easily dismissed.  Despite Antonio’s explanation of immigrant owners Judith had been around long enough to know something was not right.

Shadows seemed to have become Antonio’s comfort zone.  While the women did the work, he hid in them.  Even an easy mark needed a lookout to make sure schemes went smoothly.  Whether the scheme was to turn a good natured woman into a thief or a good hearted man into a murderer, it always helped if there was no interference.  Antonio was there to prevent the interference of wealth changing hands.  The women’s lives would be changed forever after this.  It would not hurt that he got a boost from it as well.  Bringing Harold down this path seemed impossible but he was not going to give up.  Profit was to be made now that the doors had been opened.  Greed had a way of trumping desperation.  Antonio was leading the desperate away from their shadows. 

Whipping the money into the bag at a faster pace, Judith felt the growing sense of impending doom.  They had to hurry and get the deed done quickly.  She had a trust in Antonio but it was not enough to overthrow her growing suspicion.  Something was going to happen, even though they had taken precautions, it would not be enough to deter the bad.  Every change of light, every flicker of a bulb on the flashlights grew the unnerving feeling.  It was becoming well fed at the buffet of Judith’s worry.  The creaking in the floor originated at Marie’s feet.  The money was not going into the bag fast enough.

A hand flew up quickly from Antonio.  He needed all the movement to stop as a familiar feeling had crossed him.  New accomplishes did not catch the signal right away.  Annoyance replaced the worry for a moment as he repeated the action.  Finally, the rookies to crime caught the meaning.  Their muscles tensed as all movement stopped.  Sound of each breath magnified.  A threat to his profit and safety had made itself known. 

Painted glass flew as it shattered.  The projectiles sliced the skin of Antonio’s cheek.  Pain did not follow the trickles of his blood.  A warning gave him enough time to lower his head out of the brick’s way.  It was a distraction to the trio as soon after the soft thud of six shots chased in the open window.  A suppressed flash meant the gunman was not a minor thug.  Familiar noises can trigger memories, this time it triggered another robbery gone bad.  The party that looked over the other shop a few streets down apparently also watched over this place.  Silenced pistol shots had created a memory that Antonio had hoped never to repeat.  To his dismay, he was reliving that moment now. 

Concern for his two minions disappeared the second the window shattered.  Escaping became his only purpose.  Survival outweighed the need to keep the two women alive.  He knew he made the right decision when his legs pushed him past the two slumping bodies.  He almost tripped over Judith.  Painful desperation had caused her hand to lurch forward.  She had survived on the street for a long time. Sadly, she was going to die when she tried to leave it. 

The groans of pain from Marie let Antonio know both women were still alive.  Two deaths would not be added to his tally today.  Their passing truly would not have bothered him.  Real damage would come if it became his reputation that partnering with him would lead to certain death.  Bleeding to death may be in their future that blood would not be on his hands.  The crime’s lookout could live with knowing that.  A quick kick of his leg freed him from Judith’s dying clutch. 

Springing to his feet Antonio once again was upright.  Silenced shots no longer were a threat as the flashing of sirens replaced them.  Silent alarms must have informed a monitoring company that the store was being robbed.  Whoever was the guardian of these neighborhoods would have to wait for his justice later.  The police were calling dibs on bringing Antonio in. 

Reaching the back door, he noticed the familiar red and blue lights shine through the cracks around the door frame.  He had no choice he would have to find a place to hide.  An opportunity to escape would have to present itself.  Antonio felt too important to go down by a petty break in and robbery. 

Clemmons was the first one in the door. Within a breath behind him followed his back up.  With weapons raised, their arms crossed with flashlights to make the light parallel to the barrels.  Nerves stayed focused as the possibility of an armed bandit became a real possibility.  Two bodies with non lethal shots in their shoulders were on the floor.  Writhing in pain on the floor in a growing pool of blood, it was not hard to know they were part of the original crime gone wrong.  The lack of a gun meant there was at least one other person to find. 

Nights like tonight made time go by fast for the officers.  A bit of adrenaline hit Clemmons when he noticed the two women.  Robberies were one thing but the area seemed to have more than its share of bodies the last few days.  Securing the scene was a priority. They could get paramedics in to look at the women’s injuries as soon as it was safe.  Each minute the search took lowered the women’s chances for survival a percentage.

Ever since the first statement about Antonio that the veteran officer took he had painted an appearance in his mind.  Vision of what the man’s appearance would be had occupied Clemmons.  When the flashlight shined on the hiding man, Clemmons knew he had met the man.  There was no real place for him to hide; Antonio had hoped the injured women would have distracted the officers.  Any delay in the police search would have created the cloak Antonio could use to make his escape.  That cloak never shrouded the look out.

“Get on the ground and keep your hands visible.”  The stories had created a bias Clemmons could not hide.  He could not blame bad decisions on the man who was getting in the prone position in front of him.  It was very clear that Antonio was a catalyst. 

Judith looked at Marie.  The women had gone this route to get out of the gutter.  They had placed a lot of trust in Antonio’s promise that he would get them out of the shelter.  Neither woman could have imagined they would replace the shelter or street with prison.   She let out a painful grunt as she had a moment of clarity that the recruiter to the life of crime kept his promise.

 

Thanks to Rick Rupert for the excellent photography for this chapter.  Contact him at Rupertrick@gmail.com to inquire about his work.

 

Fatal Introductions Chapter 17

Poor maintenance kept the lights flickering as they should have been replaced long ago.  The strobe effect of the lights allowed the shadows to dance with gloom.  It was an especially late night for the high paid errand runner. Even without the lights playing their game with his imagination he kept a wary almost frightened vision of everything around him.  Kristopher hated late nights. After his last stop to a southern city near the capital, he had no choice.  When he returned, it was already way past his normal departure time.

Cool night air had made his breath create a vapor from the warm breath.  He had a dozen keys on his key chain.  Being an older model car to avoid attention two of the keys belonged to the automobile.  Those two seemed to hide on the ring that held all dozen together.  It always caused a delay in leaving for anywhere.  Every time he was delayed, he thought of getting them a separate key chain.  That thought was quickly dismissed as it would create another item for him to lose. 

Hooded sweatshirts were practical in two ways.  On nights like this, they provided the extra warmth needed to get from the building to his car.  It also proved a camouflage of his wealth when he travelled to less trustworthy locations.  Problems arose only when he had to look more professional.  Tonight, he was pulling every bit of warmth out of the sweatshirt.  He guessed with some of their business it was probably a good thing they had no larger finger print.

***

“I am telling you, hitting the parked cars is a smart move.”  Antonio was adamant in his target selection.  Holding tight to a can of gas he was ready to spring when Harold gave the word.  “It is close to their offices. It won’t harm anyone. And it will create a discomfort for all those who work in the nearby office.  The same people who had no problem putting us on the street.”

Clear lines in Harold’s mind could not trace how it would hurt the company with the fire in a parking lot.  The damage would be minimal.  It would not even cost much funds to repair what was destroyed by the fire.  Structural design made it impossible to destroy in a simple fire. “So you want to burn something that will be hard to burn?”

“No, I want to destroy it.”  Antonio snapped back. “Just like they destroyed our life, piece by piece chipped away.”

“With one can of gas?”  Harold had a bigger idea of how to hurt the company.  This plan seemed to have more risk than reward for minimal damage.

“No with this,” Antonio peeled back his jacket.  The revealing of three sticks of dynamite taped together with a long fuse. 

“Okay, I guess you are dedicated.”  The sight was startling.  “Where did you get those?”  Still the shock having never been this close to explosive, Harold was stammering over his words.  Somehow, the dynamite placed a level on their actions that Harold had not realized.  He knew they were going to after Stanley Tire and Rubber with everything they had.  They wanted to make a stand. The thought of crossing into terrorism was a step Harold did not think he would take.  It was amazing those brownish red sticks represented a reality of the situation.  A reality where the News would not dismiss their actions as accidents was harnessed in those sticks.

“Do you really want to know?”  Antonio was a man of means with connections Harold did not know about.  Harold knew how much Antonio’s life shadowed his.  Harold was told Antonio’s wife took his kids shortly after Jess took Harold’s.  The layoffs hit them both the same day.  And the jobs they applied for were always the same. Antonio was essential in the plans they made up until this moment.  Still there was so much Harold did not know about his friend.  He did not know the criminal side.  He did not know the side of Antonio that fed into other schemes. 

“No, I guess you handled logistics before I even thought of them.  As long as you can keep that supply line open I don’t need to know.”  Harold resigned to the fact he had to trust others to do their jobs.  It was hard not doing and planning every part.  He knew the job he was capable of doing.  Leading his movement was the first real leadership Harold had ever done.  Even in his family, Jess for the most part, made the hard decisions.

“Don’t worry I got your back.”  Slapping Harold on the shoulder, Antonio was ready to move forward.  “Now let’s go get on the front page.”

***

Factory 3

Sharp eyes had taken over monitoring the cameras.  Sienna was beginning her shift and complacency had not yet set in for the day.   The other shift was still present and her supervisor still had not hid in the back office.  She had unloaded her lunch into the refrigerator and took up the better chair.

Eight incredibly boring hours awaited her.  There were always two chairs in the computer room. The padded one stolen from an office cubicle, and the cheap folding chair, bought to satisfy the contract.  Sienna had been in the company long enough to know the good chair.  She knew how to get it, when to arrive and who to talk to get the chair secured.  It usually cost her a homemade treat but it was well worth the cost.

Images shifted over the eight screens.  Each screen representing a property under their eyes.  Cameras were always recording.  The eight screens changed views in a timely manner.  Rotating along their preprogrammed routes the view scanned along the paths to give the on shift officer an eye almost everywhere.  Along with the alarms and other prevention techniques gave many possibilities for an issue to happen.  Unfortunately for the late night shift those possibilities never paid off.

The alarms misfiring made watching the abandoned factories a necessity.  Missing one alarm that turned out to be a real incident would mean finding new employment.  Leniency was not something that described any action from her supervisor.  The whole point of her job was to watch over, to know what alarms were real and which ones were fake.

Coffee was the only thing that could get her through the later hours, she needed to keep her mug full.  Sienna feared the day where the caffeine no longer affected her. Once again, the shift prior did not make a pot.  Courtesy was not a daily occurrence in the workplace.  Sienna figured there were others still around that could cover watching the cameras while she made another pot.  Being one of the older guards she knew more about making coffee than the prior shift.  Coffee she could drink, and not just try to get down to deliver caffeine.

Sizzling as the last few drops finished the brewing process and fell into the pot.  Sienna was about to finally get her first mug.  Anticipation over something so trivial, gave her pause to wonder what her life had become.  She whispered to herself that her kids were right, she became lame.  Just when she was ready to harvest a cup the shift supervisor pulled her away to go over some instructions. Sienna mumbled about how it is always something.  She just wanted the one thing before she gave the company one hundred percent of her effort.

Disappointment and frustration hit her in the face the moment she returned.  The previous shift officer was filling his thermos with the entire pot.   “Thank you for making a pot, now I don’t have to stop at home.”  The short man from the previous shift announced, not sure who left the pot full.  Sienna wanted to raise a fuss.  It would not have done her any good the man was already heading out the door.  She would have to keep her lips shut on yet another travesty at work.  Everyone had things they kept bottled up she justified.  Sienna thought the late shift had more things they had to accept because they were not the star employees.  They were not in the spotlight unless things went wrong.  Blame was easy to pass to them.  The office workers barely ever saw any of the late shifts.  They were simply names to the ones who made decisions.

Part of her memory made the single mother wonder if she was the only one who knew how to do anything.  She did the cooking and cleaning at home.  She did the laundry.  She helped with homework.  At work, Sienna made sure the supplies were stacked.  Coffee seemed to be only made by her hand.  If there were extra tasks to the guards to accomplish they were left for her.  The whole process was tiring.  With the coffee finally made again, she sat down to drink her reward.

Slowly the day was starting as the hot coffee hit the back of her throat.  The caffeine fix did not cheer her up past the frustration of the shift, the coworkers, or her children’s dismissal of her contributions to their lives.  She was thankful that she at least had Harold.  Sending him a quick text message over her phone would brighten her day.  He always knew when to reply.  It was not what he said, it was the fact he replied at all, no matter the time was what she needed.  To be thought of by anyone would be a welcomed change. 

The screens in front of her had distracted her from her phone.  Daily patterns told her the parking deck should be empty this time of night.  Instead, there was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt taking a long time at a car.  Sienna wondered, should she call the police or if this would give her an opportunity to get away from the prison that was the security room.  If the man truly was a thief stealing the car, he would probably be gone by the time she got there anyway.  There seemed to be no real danger.  Besides she wanted to get away for a bit.  “Hey watch the monitors I am going to check out lot three.”  She did not give her boss an option, Sienna was going.

***

Finally finding the key Kristopher breathed a heavy sigh of relief.  Air around him turned into an even heavier cloud of steam.  The cloud of relief meant he could finally go home.  Days like today were ones he would think about when he started to love his job.  They would be a reminder of the bad that went with the good.  A heavy payday might make him forget days like today, but it would have to be an amazing amount to get his mind clear of this memory.  Turning the key the door became unlocked, and Kristopher took one last deep breath before getting ready to get in.  The cloud of fresh steam moved to join another cloud slightly behind him. 

Before he could react the knife tip burst through his sweat shirt.  His heart instantly pierced the messenger’s muscles contracted, arching him back. Yancey caught Kristopher before the body hit the ground.  Blood soaked a circular pattern in the sweatshirt turning the grey material crimson.  The urges had been met.  Kristopher had paid the price for his role in poisoning the weaker willed.

Yancey could go into work now without them harassing him. The only thing he had left to do was place the body into the car behind the driver seat to delay any watching eyes.  When the urges subsided, he had a great sense of accomplishment.  Yancey could not help it.  He had justified the mental disorder that his ancestors suffered were genetic, and it was just smarter to give into it.  Shutting the door of the car, he closed the memory of the kill.

***

The plan would be to place the gasoline fire on the top floor and the dynamite on the bottom floor.  A fire would draw attention while they lit the explosive, and then ran away.  Harold was quite proud of his plan even if it was made in haste.  Since Antonio had more experience with explosives he would have him find the main support column to target.  Harold wanted nothing but rubble left.  If they were going to make a statement they were going to make it loud.

He started the walk up the ramps with the gasoline in hand.  A pocket started to vibrate and chime loudly, informing Harold of the text message.  The buzzing of his phone would have attracted anyone within ear shot.  Only one person would text him at this hour, and she was too essential to the next step to ignore.  Harold sent a quick reply.  Sienna’s trust was too vital to be lost on a missed text.  Today’s message would be loud but the plan she was providing intelligence vital to the next major step.

Harold reached the top without another message being sent or received.  He assumed that work must have taken her attention away.  The plan called for him to pour the fuel along the decorative walls along their base.  The fire would then appear from the outside as bigger than it was.  There was one problem to his plan.

Harold noticed right away the car sitting on the deck.  Moving closer to investigate, it struck Harold odd that anyone would still be at work.  He assumed the car would be empty.  Most likely it was left overnight by some worker who had other plans.  As he closed the distance the old phrase that went along with ‘assuming’ hit him hard. It hit hard enough to knock his plan out. 

There sat someone on the driver side.  Signs of wear and tear on the car hinted that the person was probably living in the car.  Harold knew what it was like to have to struggle and live in your car.  The last decade had been rough on him.  An instant kinship was bonded with the man sitting in the driver seat.  The plan would have to be cancelled.

When he reached Antonio, Harold broke the bad news.  “We have to postpone it man.  Not that it isn’t a good plan, I just am not sure we can do it without casualties.”  Harold relayed about the man in the car.

“Just tell him to leave.”  Antonio had thought of all the details prior to this obstacle.  He had taken ownership of the plan before he sold it to Harold.  The fact that a homeless man was the reason for cancelling it, made him irate.

“If we show him our face, he will go to the authorities the second the fire starts. That is if he makes it out before the explosion.  If not we are murderers.  Are you ready to be a murderer?”  Harold’s temper was growing to match his partner-in-crime’s anger.

“Fine, but one day we may have to weigh what is an acceptable loss.”  Getting ready to walk out with Harold he stopped a moment.  “Hey I am going to get the dynamite, you go get the car.  No need to waste anything.”  Antonio disappeared into the shadows.  As Harold headed to where they staged the car.

***

Any gasoline the late shift used would always be questioned.  It was a cost that management hated to justify.  Sienna justified it by keeping her sanity.  Justification and truth were two things she could not report.  Reporting this expenditure would be wrapped around possible trespassing.  She had been taking notes already.  Any report of the incident would take some time to write.  That time would be more time away from the monitors.  Days that broke up monotony were rare, Sienna cherished how long she could drag this out.

The blue jean jacketed man ran out the entrance of the parking deck.  Sienna could not recognize him or the object he was carrying.  Something struck her imagination that it was dynamite but she dismissed the thought.  Who would blow up the parking deck at night?  It would be a waste of time.  The thin man looked to be slightly younger than Harold, but had similar features. 

People who lived on the street would sometimes take refuge in the stairwell.  The rushing man most likely had been scared away from doing the same thing.  Sienna felt a bit of pity if the story described his purpose for being there.  He only was wearing a jacket.  Tonight might be okay if he could find shelter but it was going to get worse.  Lake effect snow in northeast Ohio made the next few months deadly.  Sienna was not going to pursue the man. She would pray he would find shelter. 

It took a few minutes for her to get to the top floor.  The car was still in the same place.  She could tell the hooded sweatshirt man had slipped into the car.  Sienna did not truly care if he parked there overnight but had to by law give him warning.  Checking the activity off the procedure list meant she had done everything within the limits of her job.  Sienna had a bit of sympathy but not at risking her family’s income. 

She parked her vehicle with the headlights aimed directly into the side of the older car.  The light would provide better illumination than any hand held flashlight.  Plus, keeping the truck running meant keeping the heater running.  Sienna hated being cold, she even stated she would rather burn in a fire than ever freeze to death.

Closing the distance, Kristopher’s unblinking eye caught her sight first.  A haunting look on his face scared the security guard.  She stumbled backwards a bit before going back to the truck.  There was not a need to look down at the growing blood stain to know he was dead.  The question on whether to call the police earlier was answered.  The mundane shift went from routine to one which could never be forgotten.

A memory of the man running had become a more important vision in her mind.  The blue jean jacketed man was to be the killer.  He was dressed for just a short time, time enough to become a murderer. He would not need anything heavier.  The running was probably to get away before he was noticed.  Details of his face were becoming clear.  When the police arrived she would make sure they got an accurate description. The dead man would have his justice. Sienna felt she already solved the man’s death.  The police just needed to pick up the killer.

Once again thank you to the photography of Rick Rupert (Rupertrick@gmail.com)

Fatal Introduction Chapter 16

Accurate strikes drove the nail deep into its target.  Years of skilled labor made the movement almost instinct.  Mindless muscle memory allowed Harold time to think about his next move.  He had made one minor sabotage strike that had gone mostly unnoticed.  Yes, he had cost his former employer money, however he had not attracted the negative media attention he craved.  The minor repair of some furniture was not a major issue.  It gave him time to go over his thoughts.

Sienna and their budding relationship were going to be keys to the next step. The morals Harold possessed made it hard to use someone.  Misleading the woman was a necessary evil.  Jess left him when he lost his job.  The other reasons she left were inconsequential to the loss of his job in Harold’s mind.  Romancing Sienna may lead him to some moments of fun.  Long terms plans were not in their future.  If the suitor had his say, she did not have to know that fact.

He had already planned on a victimless crime.  His schemes were not ready to be discovered by a police force.  The police were biased for the rich when he thought of them.  Violence and injury would have to wait. Funds would have to be raised before they went violent.  Lawyers and soldiers would have to be hired.  Those affected by the economy were good followers. Out-of-work minions had no problem with the bloodless tasks.  The hard work would have to be done by those who did not have the same ethical obligations.  Family men, who were just trying to change their part of the world, had ethics. Ethics might have been real or imagined by Harold. They were still an obstacle to the need for bloodshed.  No true revolution had been without violence and sacrifice.  Harold wanted the sacrifice to be with the executives of this world.  They were same executives that sacrificed family welfare and income for bottom lines and profit margins. For once, they needed to be the ones who made the sacrifice.

Lawyers would provide him a route through legal forests.  They were the pathfinders who could find loopholes to allow crimes to pass without punishment.  They were essential to keeping the movement from serving major time in detention.  The attraction of client confidentiality meant he would not have to hide his intentions, save for the vilest of plans.  The mastermind felt he would be protected.

Professional soldiers meant former military and police. Former armed professionals who discovered the profit they could make using their unique skills.  Those who could pull the trigger or detonate an explosive without second thought cost more than lawyers.  They were essential; they were the knights and rooks of his game.  Harold would utilize them when the time came.  Soldiers would bring terror to his enemies. Terror and fear would bring others into the fold to pressure the real targets.  This was not time for that, yet.

There were steps that had to be taken, steps where he slowly moved into his true intentions.  Patience was not his virtue but it was a needed commodity.  He would have to let things develop.  Impatience would alert those who would bring him down.

The text message caught him off guard as he was unaccustomed to receiving anything over the phone.  No one really had a need for him in their life.  He was too embarrassed to show his face around his kids.  His ex wife was always complaining about the lack of support checks. Harold held no job, thus no real income.  There was a strong sense of shame, soon all that would be gone.  He was doing something to change his means.

Sienna’s message gave his plan more of a chance.  When they talked earlier Harold found out she was working a double shift.  Double shifts lead to tired eyes.  Harold wanted to appear to be her shining knight.  Even the innocent inquiry about how his day was going, was a door opening.  Communication meant he was gaining her trust.  Trust could be used to progress his own agenda. The greater goal meant he did not have to have sympathy for Sienna if things went wrong.  There had to be acceptable sacrifice.  A family to feed and her own bills to pay was not the mastermind’s concern. She chooses to keep working for that company even with the public layoffs and moving of jobs overseas.  She seemed innocent and some would even say sweet, unfortunately she made poor choices. Choices have consequences.

Several texts were exchanged between the two of them as he worked his way into her trust.  A mention of how coffee was horrible there and how good some coffee from a local coffee shop would be.  The hope was that he would pick up on the hint.   Fulfilling his earlier promise would make Harold standout.  Truth was she did not mind the coffee, mostly because she made it, but she wanted quality company.  The chance to lure over a potential suitor would test his commitment to a developing relationship.

This was the opening he had hoped to achieve.  A chance to gain access to the camera layout seemed to be worth the trip.  Today might be about building trust.  It was all part of a grander plan. His plan was coming together.

***

Bar (2)

Bars were a perfect place for Antonio to fulfill his role.  The place was a lot higher quality than he usually quenched his thirst.  Tall plants kept the corners company.  Lights were kept at a brighter setting than his usual bar.  Perhaps, they were kept bright because the patrons did not have a desire to hide from themselves and their demons.  Happiness was not something Antonio was used to in a bar.

The clientele was much different than his normal drinking companions.  Being part of an upscale hotel meant very few patrons were locals.  Drowning out the cloud that covered much of Northeast Ohio was not part of their needs.  Not all of the area had a cloud just men like Antonio and Harold, semi-skilled workers who waved goodbye to their lifestyles.  Antonio needed a drink to see past his cloud.  Avoiding some like the killer of Glen, meant a different local.  Bringing the cloud to downtown was the one way he could hide.    He could see why the establishment had higher class drinkers.  The leather on the bar stools was new.  Mirrors behind the bar sparkled clean.  Antonio looked around the bar hoping to bring some familiarity.

Striking up a conversation was a way to scout the possible targets.  A way to gage the sobriety of his potential partners was in their words.  Mischief pushed up against the calm in the bar.  Antonio had no problem being the channeling force for it.  Chaos that ensued from the channeled force provided hours of entertainment.  After Glen’s death he could use some fun.  Sometimes his bored schemes paid off, other times, they went bad.  In a world of free will, the end could not be determined when he started his game.

It did not take long for Vincent to start bragging about his career.  As a consultant, he made a decent amount giving advice on how companies could get more efficiency out of their employees.  Bringing in the modern age of computers he made a case in their short conversation how soon everything would be automated.  Automated workers never needed breaks, they could be programmed to do what the company needed, and they did not require much pay.  Consulting would also have to change.  The more he drank the more Vincent told Antonio how bright the future of his field would become.  Vincent was never a production guy, he was always in sales.  The point was driven home time and time again as he pointed out why he continued his bragging.  If Harold was around, Antonio was convinced he would start beating the man senseless.

Whispered comments get louder when the sender is disturbed.  To Antonio’s left, the man on the brown leather stool had enough of Vincent.  It was apparent the two had not crossed paths before or Vincent’s arrogance would not have festered in the man.  Vodka raised the man’s volume as he loosened his solid colored tie.  Grey suit and the blue tie broadcasted to the world that Kurt was content without flash.  Kurt had recently changed his employment due to his old job becoming automated, thanks to a consultant’s advice.  The words Vincent spoke were adding fuel to Kurt’s fire.

Talking to Antonio brought out all the suppressed bravado Vincent held.  It was not in his nature to strike up this type of conversation.  He was on a business trip, humility with strangers was not necessary. The man in the bright colored collared shirt seemed to be enthralled.  He kept feeding Antonio his story.  In turn, Antonio’s attention was feeding his ego.  Vincent could tell by the look on his face that his drinking companion was entranced by his life.  “What it boils down to is we have to sell these corporate big wigs a product.  It just so happens that I am an excellent salesman.”

“You mean con man.”  Kurt had heard enough.  As a rule of his life he should have left three empty glasses ago.

“Excuse me,” Vincent could not believe someone would compare his career to a crime.  “I think, either you misheard me or have no idea the value we bring to a company.  Either way I think you need to keep your nose out of my business.  You aren’t even part of this conversation.”  The more he spoke the more the words were slurred.  Tempers started to rise.

“Why should I?”  Spinning away from his glass, Kurt stumbled to his feet.  The approach was slow but each step brought more anger and confidence.  “You should really do your homework on where you drink.  Do you know why people like you are hated in a town like this?”

Dark thick frame of his newly angered drinking companion, made Vincent shrink back.  Being more a talker than a fighter meant he had to use his wits.  In a case like this where he had already crossed a line with a man who was past clear thought it was best to avoid confrontation.  “Look can’t we just enjoy our drinks?  Tell you what, I will even cover yours.”

“You did not answer his question.”  Antonio was changing sides. Easing out of his own barstool, he slipped behind Kurt.  The large frame made the diminutive Antonio disappear from view.  Kurt was going to get his answer.  Shoving the Barstool out of the way he headed straight to Vincent.   Antonio was making his way to the other customers.  Drawing attention to the altercation, he polarized the other customers toward one of the two sides.

Knuckles stretched the skin at the point of their impact.  At the moment, Vincent had represented every smug person who made Kurt’s life hard.  The punishment was not going to be a simple tongue lashing.  Screaming obscenities, the attacker was delivering a therapeutic beating of the more extravagant target.  The red spots on Vincent’s tie soon had competing red blood spots.  A busted lip meant the meeting in the morning would have a few awkward questions.

Two skinny arms of an onlooker wrapped around Kurt.  In a sudden jerking motion, they removed him from bloodying Vincent further.  With his arms restrained all Kurt could do was to deliver a few more strikes with his legs.  His shin made contact on the thigh of the loud mouth.  Kurt was too drunk, and the man pulling him back prevented a serious kick to be sent.  A few others joined to help the pair of skinny arms as they dragged Kurt to the ground.

That moment of bravery would have ended the fight if the bar was only on one side of the fight.  The man separating the two was blindsided by a chair from the seating area near the bar.  That assault with the chair was met with a spray of self defense spray from a frightened woman.  Rubbing his eyes, the pale skinned lawyer here on business would have a new lawsuit when this was over.  Sight was taken from him at the moment as the chemical dug deeper into his eyes. Stepping back away from the fight, he tripped over the body of the man who caught his chair.  A loud thud announced that his back had hit the floor.  Sharp pain originating from the middle of his back was the reward for trying to help.

Vincent took a breather from the pounding to regain his feet.  Madness was the only word he could think of to describe his surroundings.   In the few minutes of the fight, his lip was bloody, his silk tie was ruined, and the bruises on his face would ruin his meeting in the morning.  Part of Vincent knew his arrogance stirred the pot, the other half of him felt those who threw the punches were jealous.  It was not the best moment to have an internal philosophical debate as he dodged a thrown beer mug.  Regaining his senses just long enough he took another strike as he spun into Kurt’s recovered fight. The initial spark of the maelstrom had been knocked out possibly for the entirety of the fight, but that did not halt the escalation.

Kurt was the next one to fall as the bartender took a club and struck him across the head.  In twelve years there the small version of a bat had rested under the counter.  Today, it made its public debut.  Kurt probably wished it stayed hidden.  A small trail of blood trickled from the point of impact.  He would be the first casualty of the riot as it was developing.

Watching the man die turned a few spectators’ stomachs.  A feeling of desperation and panic ran over the half dozen patrons who had backed away.  News media made them very aware things like this become uncontrollable.  Danger gave them a sense to get away as soon as possible.  Exit doors were blocked by the melee but the group had to get out.  Fear held them back.  They were facing the dilemma of only two choices available to them: run or hide.  They could fight.  Other than survival, there was no cause stirring their loyalty.  Kurt’s trail of blood started to pool at their feet as a warning of what was at stake if they joined the fight.  Traveling business people did not ever expect to be in a bar fight in a hotel like this.

Antonio was amazed how quickly the fight escalated.  He slipped in with the spectators when the chaos camouflaged his movement.  Violence was not his strong suit.  Antonio was also wearing his one good shirt, why risk getting blood on it.  Life was meant to be lived he always told Harold when his friend seemed down.  Why would he risk that by choosing a fight he had no loyalty to either cause?  “We need to get out of here!”  Excited words did not calm the woman next to him.  She was only here to teach first aid to a local corporate branch.  Tears streamed down her face as she screamed, adding to the tension.

Words and sounds rattled against another woman’s ear drums, causing her to fall on the ground.  The danger hit home as one of the assailants fell on top of her.  Being a victim of a wild haymaker from a fist that was twice the size of his did not give him a fighting chance.  A tooth flew out of his twisting mouth as he fell back hard.  The body of the cowering woman caught the brunt of the impact.  With a snapping noise announcing the impact was absorbed in her neck. A limp body was now another obstacle as the once plentiful room was shrinking in the size of the conflict.  When the fight was over the woman’s neck would get the proper attention.  Right now however, she would have to wait.  The terror unfolding around all of them, meant everyone not throwing or catching strikes would have to wait.    Even the participants of the fight had forgotten how it started or what side they pledged allegiance.  Two sets of empty staring eyes let the on lookers see their own futures if they could not escape.

Antonio’s group had lost another spectator.  “We need to get out of here, now!”  Nodding in fear, the group agreed.  It would not be long before one of them joined the broken neck victim.  A clear path to the door was not making the egress easier.

Screaming, the corporate trainer had been through enough.  Dainty arms curled up over her head as she rushed out the door.  A hurdle over one of the bodies was difficult in her skirt. Adrenaline made the task possible.  Unknowingly trailblazing a path for the rest of them she made her way to the door.  The night cold air never felt so much like freedom as it did at the moment.  It only took a few more seconds for the others to start making their way out.

Most awaited the police arrivals, but not Antonio.  He and Harold had too much time invested.  Delaying for a police inquiry, did not seem to offer Antonio anything.  A crash of breaking glass, offered the distraction he would need to get away.  No one noticed him escape into the darkness.  Once again, Antonio disappeared into the shadows in the city nightline.

***

Clemmons would have never imagined a riot starting here.  The silver lining was it was the beginning of his shift.  There were two shifts worth of officers to respond, the shift change over was happening when the call went out.  With issued riot gear, they all headed straight to the center of downtown.  A rush of fear met his experience as it had been a long time since Clemmons even set eyes on his riot gear.  Other than cleaning and maintenance, the gear had been in its storage locker for a few years.  Day to day crime did not require the face shield and hand carried shield.  Strapping on the extra padding, reminded Clemmons, he had packed on a few pounds since he last wore it.

It was going to be impossible for the responding police officers to arrest everyone.  They formed their line facing the commotion.  A few of the rioters peeled off from fighting each other.  Police officers in the heat of the moment seemed like the perfect target.  They were there expecting a riot.  Drunken troublemakers had waited for this moment for a long time.  Bravery mixed with the rush of violence as a group of three locals threw beer bottles against the shields of the police line.    Small groups would be dealt with but the priority was arresting the leaders.

Cutting the head off would end the riot.  Standing officers in the front line allowed the shift leaders to figure out who were instigating the crowd.  Getting to those instigators was the first step in handling the situation, at least in theory.  The practice had never been used by any current city police officer.

Times were tough, prior to today, things never escalated to this point.  The kindling of tensions only needed a spark. Clemmons had watched the warning signs for months.  Nothing ever developed from his suspicions or warnings to his bosses.  Without substantial evidence, the only thing that could come from reports on the mood of the city was a heightened sense of awareness.

Advancing in step, the line moved toward the crowd.  The sight alone sent many running.  Tonight was meant to be a night to get a drink; they had no intention ending it in jail.  The line moved forward getting close to the instigators.  A trio of larger officers moved in and cuffed those identified.  Pinning the instigator to the ground created the News some footage it would use later.   Not helping the situation, were officers who enjoyed getting physical.  Hiding a smile from the camera during detaining of victims would have helped the department.  Public relations with the police never were reconciled with the public.  The officers did their job and still looked like the villains.  Clemmons hated that.

The majority of the crowd had been either arrested or ran home.  Their fire was lit but the fight was not there.  People wanted to burn off tension.  That was the assumption when the crowd quickly dispersed.  Plenty of injured people were left on the scene.  Many were seriously injured leaving plenty of work for the paramedics.

Somehow, the veteran officer was in the bar with the two bodies where the activity all started.  The sheet draped over both the dead kept them from the public eye.  Their deaths were already burnt into the memories of the witnesses.  Clemmons was applying a bandage over the head of a blood splattered covered man.  It was obvious that his patient had seen too much already.  Eyes of the fancy dressed man could not even focus on Clemmons as they were lost on one of the sheet covered bodies.   “Did you know him?”

Vincent was still lost in the moment that Kurt was struck dead.  All he wanted to do was to impress a few strangers and feed his ego.    It had all gone wrong.  All he had to do was answer the question with a bit of humility.  Tempers would not have flared and spiraled out of control.

“Are you okay?”  Clemmons took out a penlight.  A head wound might be a sign of something not easily detected.  Shining the light into each of Vincent’s pupils to verify the paramedic’s initial assessment Clemmons tried to keep him focused.  “Can you answer me?  Did you know him?”

Blinking as the light hit his pupil, Vincent was drawn from his better timed introspects.  “Sorry,” shaking off the vague feeling of the calming of the situation.  It was only yesterday that a rental car was waiting for him and he would drive for what he thought was a normal work day. “No, I did not know him.  He is the one that made my face look like this but he did not deserve that.”

Clemmons heard a key phrase which might piece the whole night together.  “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

“I was sitting there,” one hand held the bandage to his face as his left hand pointed to his bar stool.  “I did not catch his name.  Well, I was telling him what I did to earn my pay, when that guy,” the hand repositioned to point to Kurt’s body.  “That guy came up and asked me a question.  I did not answer him.  I can smell a set up.  Part of being good at my job is smelling a set up.”  The humility of the self reflection was lost.  “And I am good at my job. Anyway, I did not answer then this guy.”  He pointed at the stool next to his. “He riles everything up.  And now we are here.”

“Can you tell me what he looks like?”  Clemmons was signaling for a detective with one hand and clarifying the bar stool with another.

Vincent was a bit drunk but he was still able to provide some clues.  The clothing and grooming were different but Clemmons had heard the same physical description before.  The veteran officer was painting a picture in his mind as Vincent described the man.  A feeling he was forging an original work ran through his mind.  He painted the same portrait of the man who was reported at the homeless shelter.  It was a portrait of a man Clemmons felt he had to meet.

 

Thanks again to Rick Rupert for the Photo.  If you want to inquire about his services he can be contacted at Rupertrick@gmail.com

Fatal Introductions Chapter 15

Blind dates can be tough, especially when it was someone met online.  Sienna had not had much luck in the boyfriend department.  She had turned to the internet to help her solve her dilemma.  Being a divorced mother of two, scared away a lot of men.  Looking for a partner was harder than she thought. A provider was not what she needed.  It would be nice to have that in her life, but Sienna had spent a long time as a single mother.  The house her family lived in she owned. The car was not top of the line but it was hers.  Adult conversation and company were the real goal.  Occasional moments of intimacy would be nice too.  There was also the hectic schedule that had to be overcome.  Working security as video monitor and dispatch, was usually boring. Cancelled shifts of coworkers added to her need for a larger paycheck.  The trouble with that strategy was Sienna stayed on call all the time.  Having a babysitter in the form of her worried mother also on call helped.

The guy she met yesterday online messaged her continually as quickly as she responded to him.   He seemed like a good guy, good enough to get coffee.  He was a divorcee.  From their twenty some messages back and forth, she could tell he was ready to move on.  He had kids that stayed with their mother. Sienna thought he was not afraid of a woman with kids because he knew all the intricacies of her priorities.   That was a bonus for him, along with his blue collar looks.

Harold waited patiently for his date. Ordering them both a cup of house blend, he wanted to show he was thoughtful.  He knew he would get brownie points, remembering she always put two creamers and three sugars in her coffee from the messages they shared.  He had not been on a date in a long time. Earning the valuable second date, meant he would have to meet whatever standard she set.  Part of the messages were set up to gather what those standards entailed. Harold needed to get close to her. Sienna was the key to success on the next attack.

The woman had been his match a few times on the website.  Harold never paid much attention to her until she became his lucky break.  He never really paid attention to any woman outside his race.  Watching a shift change early one morning he made the connection to his long term plans.  Seeing her depart, he knew she was the target for a minion that he needed.  His face on the former employee list was the one thing that could end this plan way before it started.  As she approached he stood, and moved around the table to pull out her chair for his date.  The smile she carried told Harold he may not have forgotten the entirety of dating.

“Afraid you were going to back out,” she started before he could even get a word in.  She removed her jacket then draped it over the chair. She allowed him to help ease her to the table after she sat down.  It was rare to see these types of manners in the dating scene these days. 

“Of course not, you are a very intriguing woman,” taking his own seat across from her.  He grabbed the handle of his coffee cup taking a small sip.  “So tell me how your day was?”

“Nothing major had to fight to stay awake.” Taking her own coffee in her hands testing its warmth against her lips, she took a drink.  Perfect, he got it right she thought. “Could have used about three of these today,” she took a long drink from the cup as a means of not being too talkative.

“Well maybe next time I will have to bring you one,” he stated changing his tone to a little flirty. 

“That may have to happen.” Sinking back into her chair, she took a good look at him.  “Half the night I was by myself.  My supervisor was off doing things on the computer.”

“Doing work?” He inquired.  Making sure his tone portrayed a level of concern for her life.  It went beyond the concerned interested man he portrayed in the messages.  Harold was gathering information of what else might be awaiting his plan.

“I doubt it. He has the only computer with web access, probably looking at girls.”  The weary Sienna caused them both to laugh a bit.  She was used to the younger boss taking advantage of unmonitored computer time.

They continued their small talk filled with long stories that had been told thousands of times.  Occasionally they would laugh or create references back to each other’s stories.  They seem to be hitting it off well. Sienna was happy to finally have a break from the annoying guys who were more interested in staring at her figure then getting to know her.  Then again sometimes she did not care.  Sometimes company was all she needed, so she could put up with that kind of treatment.  Finding a conversation in a companion like this one was becoming more a fairy tale than a goal.  The men who had trickled into her life   had begun to convince her of that.  Harold seemed different.

The information he was gaining made the would-be mastermind smile.  While the company was not bad the intelligence he was gathering was more important.  There would always be two sets of eyes on any shift.  The images of a room full of security guards monitoring every second was disproven.  The knowledge of shift changes also allowed him to know when weary eyes would be replaced with fresh ones.  He just needed a moment to see inside the control room to find the blind spots.  Harold knew how to do it now.  Gaining her confidence was the next goal to be achieved.  Then a late night delivery of coffee with the right mix of creamer and sugar would allow him in.   When Harold gained access he would have to be sharp.  Taking accurate mental notes was the key to not draw suspicion.

The walk to the car was one final chance to impress his future minion.  He would be able to get a glance at her car and items about her life when he looked in.   Harold was not sure how that information would help him but knew every little bit might help his cause.  The day had been productive.  He felt he earned a reward so when saying goodbye, he leaned in for a kiss. 

Sienna was surprised by the reaction.  The date went well but not enough to break her rule about kissing on a first date.  Turning her head to let his lips catch her cheek, the veteran move was intended not to scare him away.  Knowing that next date, if it went this well, she would let him have a real kiss.  She wanted to find a real romance and to be someone’s treasure. If that meant being a little guarded so be it.  “I had a great morning.” Harold might be her chance at real romance.  The man had spent the morning trying to win a second date.  Sienna wanted to make sure he knew he had been successful.

“I hope we can repeat it.” Harold was stalling to make a mental inventory of every detail Sienna was showing the public. The various toys spread in her backseat let him know the ages of her children.  The fast food wrappers told Harold what she either liked as a quick meal or what was near her home.  The knowledge would be useful for later conversations.

“Soon,” her lips rose into a warm smile.  Easing into her car, she began to depart. Harold did not move from his post until she was gone.  He gathered the information on her but was not ready to return the same about him.

***

stor front (2)

The alarm sounded a loud pounding ring.  Antonio did not care.  The duo was going to be out of the place before the cops were able to respond.  The small shop was too enticing for desperate men.  Antonio was moonlighting from being Harold’s sidekick. 

There was something else that needed to be considered.  Money was a need, especially when it could be traded for a fix.    

Green paper was very enticing to the petty thieves.  A small safe in the office held just enough of them.  They could take the safe back to their home and crack it open.  A portable safe was fine for short term. But the owners were about to learn a valuable lesson thanks to Antonio and his new sidekick.

Glen was a nervous guy who had many bad habits.  He had more bad habits than common sense which made Antonio’s suggestion worth his ear.  It takes money to fund a habit.  He had already expended all other sources to get the funding.  Friends were scarce, family had long given up on him, and all his possessions had been sold.  Theft was the only source left.  Glen did have a bit of caution when they selected the target. 

The screaming alarm sounded in Glen’s ear, feeding his paranoia with the sense of doom.  A driving need to satisfy his addiction put the paranoia second.   The plan was sound.  He once did a few odd jobs for the remodeling of the target shop. Like Antonio, Glen’s job went overseas causing him to dive deeper into the embrace of the needle.  Now he just found ways to fund his escape.

Antonio struck a conversation with him at the bar.  Before Glen knew it he had come up with a plan to steal some money.  Antonio pointed out, when the initial plan was to steal everything, money did not need pawned.  His new friend was very encouraging, when it was done, Glen felt confident they had made all the proper preparations.

The life Glen lived was not one of glory or fame, but it was his.  Since being let go from the plant his life could not gain any traction and he slipped downhill fast.  The screaming alarm reminded him of the old time clock at the plant.  The plant whistled every significant time to the workers.  The alarm was doing the same this time for a deadlier change in his life.  All it would take would be for the wrong person to get there before the duo escaped.

Snapping fingers broke Glen out of his moment of self-reflection.  Antonio needed his help to lift the small safe so they could make their escape.  It was not as heavy as it was awkward.  And if they were going to make it out of the broken window they both would have to carry it.  Antonio headed out first.  Gaining his footing to hold the majority of the weight until Glen made it out.  The plan was going just as they had drawn up.  The cash would be a short term relief to fate throwing him into the gutter.

The financial breather he gained would only last if Glen could stop the impulses of wasting money.  There was always some magnet that pulled Glen towards it.  Temptations were always going to test Glen.  He had yet to have his will power overcome the test.  Guilt was the failing mark on his emotions.  His muscles strained as the rusted metal safe rested against his chest.  Glen was of slight frame, the weight of the safe seemed immense.  The weight made the wait for Antonio seem like an eternity.  It was beginning to last longer than Glen could hold.  Strained muscles pushed past their limit as the metal safe weighing more than he did, tumbled from Glen’s hands.  The corner chipped a bit of the concrete as it made impact.  The ear piercing impact announced to Antonio that his accomplice had added some time to their plan. 

The clang of the metal safe was louder than Glen had imagined.  It sounded like an explosion.  There was another sensation he failed to notice at first glance.  Burning, the new sensation erupted, as the blood began soaking his shirt.  Skull met the rusted metal, Glen was no more.  Antonio faded quickly into the shadows before the silhouette of the gunman could come into view. 

The store owner had made his way down the stairs to protect his livelihood.  The gun in his hands was frozen.  When he purchased the revolver he did so just to provide a sense of security.  There was never an intention to use it.  There was never an intent to end a life.  He had to protect his shop, for the sake of his family.  He felt there was no choice.  The police did not arrive fast enough, and action was needed.  That action was to pull the trigger.

When they started this venture, Glen held misgivings about the target. Antonio used a silver tongue and the timing to coincide with a drug induced haze to bring Glen to trust him.  Antonio promised him that if there was a price to pay to keep the area crime lord away, he would pay it.  Now he was paying the boat man to cross the River Styx.

The corruptor had done his job.  Self-destruction was not necessarily a damning event, having an impact on another was.  Money was never the prize it was always about getting Glen to make a bad decision that harmed another.  Free will had been altered.   

Antonio faded away.  The gun shot was still echoing in his ears.  The crisp night air could only magnify it, still not a single flashing light.  Melting into the dark spots of the jewelry store, Antonio was gone.

***

End of his shift was Clemmons time to get back and file paperwork.  Nights like last night could be especially boring.  A few speeding tickets handed out, broke up the fight of sleep.  Coffee helped, though it was not a cure for the dilemma.  Clemmons had spent a few months on the late shift which disappointed him more that he had yet to adjust.  When he was a rookie officer he was on an earlier shift.  It was easy to watch the time fly.  So far the only night that time flew by was the night of the fire. 

Dispatch needed a responding officer for one last call.  Complacency dictated, an early morning call, was most likely a fender bender of two people rushing to work.  Early morning was rarely anything else.  Beginning of the shift was heavy in drunk drivers and domestic disputes.  End of shift calls were more for closing out paperwork.  The only clue the dispatch gave was the brief alert they received.  Clemmons knew he was going to a disturbance.  Perhaps the prime time for a domestic had not passed. 

When the patrol car came to a stop, the location did not really surprise Clemmons.  The homeless shelter had been filled to capacity more and more every year.  Overwhelming numbers meant some of the personalities would not mix well. Situations rarely got out of control as most of these mini-communities were able to police themselves.   

Stepping out of the patrol car, it did not take long for Clemmons to get a good idea of what was happening.  Seated on the bench was a prisoner with a group of captors surrounding him.  Dirty hands were wrapped together with duct tape restraining them at the wrists.  Clemmons had a pretty good idea whatever happened, it happened before he had a chance to shower.  It did not take much longer after that realization than the gang made their way toward the police officer.  To add difficulty to Clemmons’s day, they did not have a designated spokesman.  What could be made out in the ruckus of voices was the fact the group had caught a thief.

The thief would have gotten away with the task but he turned himself in.  The group reacted by raiding his bag and taking what they claimed had started as their possessions.  Bruises covered the surface of his face letting Clemmons know the mob decided to perform their own justice.  Clemmons took out his pen and paper to jot down a few of the notes that were assaulting his ears.  Out of the corner of his eye he caught he was not the only one taking notes. 

Clemmons noticed the red haired woman with her eyes on the notepad.  The quill pen in her hand seemed out of place.  The aged officer knew he had seen the woman before but could not place her.  A logical conclusion would be she was part of the staff of the shelter.  He would have to talk to the woman after getting a statement from the prisoner.

Meeting the officer’s eyes, the greasy haired man spoke first.  “I did it.  I saw something I wanted.  Something I should have had. Something I used to have and I took it.”

Clemmons was assaulted by the confession.  He did not know what the stolen property even was.  Truth was in the homeless man’s words as Clemmons could read it in his eyes.  The pen dropped to his side.  “Do you want to tell me what this is all about? Before I read you your rights,” the words were a preamble for the man to be careful to admitting to a crime when there was not one.

“When I first came to this place I noticed the office had a portable radio.  It must belong to the cleaning lady, but it was just like the one I used to have.”  A bit of reminiscent sadness passed over his words.  “I wanted it to be just like I used to be.”

“So a radio caused you to get beaten?”  Clemmons was sure no matter how desperate the mob was it was not just one thing.

A replay of how this week passed brought up a chuckle.  “No, I do what I can to get by.  I guess I got by at the expense of others.”  He shook his head.  “I guess I really did deserve this.”

“I hate to ask this but have you been drinking?”  Clemmons offered the man an excuse.  One of the inherent gifts he seemed to have, was hearing a confession when he did not even ask for one. 

“They pulled the body of a good friend out of the canal yesterday.  Of course, I have been drinking.”  The eyes of the man drifted out past the conversation.  “Glen must have either been stupid and took his own life.  It was probably by accident.  The other explanation was he stole from the wrong person.  The police did not tell me anything.  And he did not rate news coverage.”

“I read the report.”  Shoulders of the officer had spent a lot of time being there for others.  He thought it had come again.

Shivering, the taped up man thought about what could have been the cause.  “Glen’s demise was probably his fault but it got me thinking.  How close am I to suffering the same end?  My hands get sticky sometimes.  What if they got sticky at the wrong time?”  Shaking his head as the cold chill travelled down his spine.  “I could have gotten away with it ya’ know?”

“I am sure you could have.”  Clemmons felt he was giving a true confession to a real crime and was not going to scare the man away.  “Your friend, Glen, did he have other friends with sticky hands?”

“Glen’s only friend was the needle.”  A confession for thieving was easier than admitting he had the same friend.  The realization that the friendship with the needle would be his downfall gave the man a pause.  Eyes glanced up catching the woman taking notes with her quill pen.  Though he could not place her face, her demeanor meant she was probably staff.   Looking upon the woman he had a feeling that there was hope.  The bad choices of the past did not have to define the end.  “My problem was the same.  We both met a guy who told us he would help us find the money to keep that friend.”

“Would you be able to describe the man?  More importantly would you be willing to if we get you help and help this situation?”  Clemmons was trying to get a piece in solving a murder.  It was obvious the man he was speaking to did not know the true fate of Glen.

“I would be willing to help.  I feel I need to serve the punishment for my crimes.”  The glare in his eyes toward the officer confessed the bit of self-imposed punishment was necessary to his own rehabilitation.  “I have a long road ahead. But I am ready to get out of this lifestyle.”

“Then help us find the man who was involved and we will help you get on your way.”  Clemmons read him his rights and took him to the car.  The two drove toward the station to end Clemmons’ shift and start the thief’s new life.

***

Thanks again to Rick Rupert for providing the amazing photos.  Inquiries about his photography services can be directed to Rupertrick@gmail.com.

Fatal Introductions Chapter 14

Once Again thanks again to my amazing photographer Rick Rupert (rupertrick@gmail.com) 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.”

***

church-1.jpg

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.