Wednesday, September 20, 2017

(11) When all else is lost the future still remains

One look at Race’s face as the young man came into the living room told Shan that something had happened. He gave him time to put down his pack and collapse onto the sofa before asking what. Quickly and succinctly Race told him. When he’d finished Shan asked, “Are you certain it was the same man?”

“I wouldn’t take a blood oath on it, no. But if it wasn’t it was his doppelganger, unless there’s a whole troop of men wandering the city dressed like that. And in this heat I sort of doubt it.”

“I agree.” Shan paced for a moment before saying, “This sort of puts a whole new light on things. After all, the man who gave you the message obviously knows where I live.”

“That’s what I was thinking, so why follow me?”

“As a part of his game, especially if he’s aware that you didn’t leave here until this morning.  Quite possibly he intentionally allowed you to see him at the end so you’d come back and tell me.”

“It worked. So what are we going to do now?”

Shan smiled slightly at the ‘we’. “I am going to go get a friend of mine and bring her back here. You are going upstairs and unpack your bag while I do.”

“I can’t come with you? Bummer.”

“Trust me we’ll be back before you’re half finished. Now get.” Shan pointed to the stairs.

Race muttered softly under his breath about bossy men as he headed up. Shan chuckled, not bothering to inform him that, with his hearing, what he's said had come across loud and clear. An instant later he was gone from the room, only to appear two minutes later with Addie.

She grumbled, as always, about how much she hated teleporting and then looked around the living room. “So, where’s the kid?”

“I’m not a kid,” Race announced as he came down the stairs.

“I can see.” Addie smiled, holding out her hand. “I’m Addie and you must be Race.”

Race hesitated for a moment, glancing at Shan, and then touched Addie’s fingertips. “Another one,” he said, drawing his hand back.

“Non-human but a different species,” Shan replied in agreement.

Monday, September 18, 2017

(10) When all else is lost the future still remains

Mid-morning of the next day, at Shan’s insistence, Race had gone to collect what little he owned from the two spots he’d called ‘home’ for the last couple of years. He’d always considered himself lucky that no one had hassled him at either place, or stolen any of his meager belongings, which amounted to one battered backpack crammed full of stuff—all he had to show for his life on the streets.

He headed back to Shan’s later in the afternoon, wondering how soon it would be before he ended up out on his ass again, searching for a new spot to call his own. He knew good and well that the two squats he’d been using would be snapped up within days by other unfortunate kids needing a safe place to bed down.

As he walked the narrow path along the edge of the river he got the creepy feeling that he was being observed. It came from the sort of sixth sense any long-term denizen of the streets developed in order to avoid cops and other predators. Clambering up the grassy bank to the sidewalk above, he shaded his eyes, searching for the source of his nervousness. There were plenty of people around, as he was fairly close to tourist section of the city, but none who seemed the least bit interested in him.

Adjusting the pack on his shoulders, he joined the flow of pedestrians along the walkway leading to Riverwalk and the Aquarium. A few minutes later he was sitting on one of the benches between Jackson Park and the Cathedral, trying to look like nothing more than a wore-out tourist taking a break. With the shadows lengthening as the sun began to go down, he decided he’d better keep going before Shan began to worry, presuming of course that he would.

As he stretched and started to get up, he again had the sense of being watched. Casually he looked around. He was about to give it up as before, thinking it was just nerves, when he caught sight of someone standing in Pirate’s Alley deep in the shade of the Cathedral wall. He might have thought nothing of it but the person, a man from his height and build, was wearing a long coat that reminded him of the one the guy who had hired him had worn.

Now why are you following me, if you are. You know perfectly well where Shan lives so you can’t be trying to find that out. He started walking slowly down Chartres in the opposite direction from Shan’s place, dodging tourists while using them to cover him as he checked shop windows to see if the man was behind him. At first he though he was in the clear, then he saw the man’s silhouette in the last light of the sun on the horizon. 

Turning the next corner onto one of the side streets, Race ducked through the first open door he saw, finding himself in a small knick-knack shop. The cluttered aisles gave him a perfect hiding place, while allowing him to watch the window. Moments later he saw the man pass by. Race waited for several minutes, toying with the ubiquitous strands of beads that almost every shop in the Quarter carried, and then cautiously he left, retracing his steps back toward the Cathedral and from there he hurried on to Shan’s home.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (10)

"Just because I'm a one-man operation doesn't mean I don’t call in help when I need to," Vic said. "Well, unless doing so means breaking my confidentiality agreement with a client. Of course, if I find out my client is doing something illegal and is using me to further their ends then all bets are off."
Evan chuckled. "Now I'm picturing you in a dingy office in one of the older downtown buildings—a battered desk, a coat-tree in one corner where you hang your fedora."
Laughing, Vic shook his head as they went back inside. "I'm really very up-to-date. I've got a nice office, computers, modern furniture, and a receptionist. I've even been known to wear a suit and tie when meeting with prospective clients."
"So did Sam Spade, at least in the movies."
"That was in the forties. Everyone did, back then."
"True," Evan agreed. Changing the subject, he set the gun down on the kitchen table, asking, "What do we do with this? Do you know how to lift fingerprints? And even if you do, what good will it do us?"
"I can, but obviously not here. I don't have what I need. At the moment though, that's beside the point. Whoever tried to break in must have been looking for me, which means I definitely need to get out of here before they try again."
"You're jumping to conclusions. How would they know you were here? I mean, here specifically. Yeah they lost you somewhere in the neighborhood but…"
"You think they were going to break into every house on the block to check? No. Somehow they narrowed it down to this house. Maybe they came back earlier today and found something. I wasn't exactly in the best shape when I got away from them. By the time I got to your yard, I'd already fallen a couple of times and I crawled across it to where you found me."
"Then why the hell did they leave? They did start to open the window."
"Instinct, maybe. Or they heard us coming. Maybe they had someone watching the back of the house and he saw you come out. There could be a hundred reasons." Vic sighed as he sat down. "Whatever it was, you can bet they'll be back again and next time, they might come in guns blazing."
"Why didn't they this time?"
"Damn it, Evan, I'm not a mind reader. How the hell would I know?"
"Sorry," Evan muttered.
"No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have bitten your head off. I'm tense. I hurt. I'm worried that I've put you in jeopardy by being here. So, as I said, I should go."
"That won't stop them. If they see you leave, they'll follow you." Evan frowned. "You know, that could be exactly what they had in mind. Make it look like they were breaking in to force your hand and get you out where they can grab you again."
"Possible… I guess." Vic leaned back, staring off into space. "If that is why, and I do leave…"
"They beat the shit out of you again."
"No, maybe this time they take me to their boss and then I find out who's behind the blackmail."
"And end up dead in the process, which is sort of counterproductive."
"I can take care of myself," Vic grumbled.
"Yeah, I saw how well you did that."
"I'll be prepared."
"Vic, right now you couldn't take down a baby in a fair fight and you know it. It's been less than twenty-four hours since they beat you up. If it weren't for the pills, you'd be in a hell of a lot more pain than you are. So do not think you could handle—anything."

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Meet 'The Runaway and the Enforcer'. Out today!

The Runaway and the Enforcer
Beau, thirty-five, is a gangland enforcer who has gone into hiding rather than following the orders of his boss, Mercer, to harm a rival's kid. Now, all Beau wants to do is eliminate Mercer before getting out of town.

When Rick, an eighteen-year-old denizen of the streets, witnesses Beau killing one of Mercer's men who has found him, Beau takes Rick under his wing instead of killing him, as well. He offers Rick a place to stay while he figures out how to put his plan to take Mercer out into action -- without ending up dead himself.

Befriending Rick is an act Beau may come to regret. Rick convinces Beau to take him along when he leaves town -- thus working his way into Beau's dangerous life on the run -- and perhaps, into his heart, if Beau can come to grips with the fact that Rick is half his age.

Note: This story contains scenes of graphic violence.

    Resting his elbows on the table, Rick stared at Beau, asking, "Why are you in hiding, and from who?"

    "Whom," Beau replied with a trace of a smile, getting a raised finger from Rick in return.

    "Well?" Rick said when Beau remained silent.

    "I refused to do something my boss ordered me to. He took umbrage with that and decided I was a loose cannon who had to be eliminated."

    Rick nodded slowly. "Who did he want you to kill?"

    "Kid, you're too smart for your own good."

    "But I'm right, aren't I?" Rick leaned back, looking hard at Beau. "That's what you do. You kill people."

    "If I said yes, would you pack up and leave?"

    "I saw you kill that guy last night, and I came home with you."

    "That doesn't answer the question. As far as you were concerned, you put it down to self-defense, which, to a certain extent, it was. Him, or me, and I like living."

    Rick got up to pace the living room. He stopped to peer out the window for a moment. Then he turned to ask, "Good guys, or bad guys?"

    "Competitors, mostly. Sometimes our people," Beau responded, understanding what he meant.

    "So people from another ... gang? The Mob? Whatever you want to call it?"


    "And you're okay with that?"

    Beau nodded. "It's a job. It pays well. And I'm protected, or I was. There's no way the cops could get to me, because I was always alibied."

    "If they did, you'd sit in jail until your boss's high-powered lawyer got you out."

    "It's been known to happen. Not to me, but to guys I work with."

    "Doesn't it bother you, at least a little bit, that you're hurting or killing people?"

    "They're our competition," Beau replied.

    "You don't go after normal citizens, or cops?"

    "First off, killing a cop would be stupid. They don't stop looking for the killer when that happens, which makes things harder for everyone, us and the other guys doing what we do."

    "And civilians?"

    "In my defense, for what it's worth, I haven't killed any, and I wouldn't."

    "What if you were ordered to deal with, oh, I don't know, the wife or kid of one of your competitors, to teach the guy a lesson?"

    Beau tapped his fingers together. "That's why I'm sitting in a rented, furnished apartment, instead of in the nice house I own halfway across the city."

    Rick smiled. "So you do have some morals."

    "Damned few." Beau smiled briefly. "One of them, maybe the only one, is that I won't kill a kid, or harm one, no matter what."

    "Nice to know," Rick replied dryly, "since you seem to think I'm a kid."

    Beau chuckled. "You're under twenty-one, so in my book, you qualify."

    Rick came back to sit at the table. "Why are you here, instead of on the other side of the country?"

    "I've got something I need to do, first. And no, I'm not telling you what."

    "If this place is rented, can't they track you that way?"

    Beau snorted. "How stupid do you think I am? It's not in my name, or any name I've ever used."

    "That's good to know, I guess."

    "You don't sound too sure."

    "I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything," Rick replied. "I see a man killed, I end up hanging with his killer, then find out you're, I guess a mob enforcer?"

    "That's what my boss calls me." Beau smiled sourly. "Among other things, now, I'm sure."

    "I can think of several things to call him, if he wanted you to kill a kid," Rick said angrily. "Like a little kid?"

    Beau shook his head. "Not kill. Beat up. And he was sixteen. His father wanted to go off on his own. My boss didn't like that."

    "And you refused?"

    "For what it's worth, yeah. And that's all I'm saying on the subject. The less you know, the better -- for both of us."

    Rick frowned. "What if he sent someone else to do it, since you wouldn't?"

    "The kid's safe, now. I dropped a hint that it might be a good idea if he vanished."

    "That must have pissed your boss off."

    "No shit."

    "So, you vanished, too. But not so well, since that guy found you last night."


(9) When all else is lost the future still remains

A few hours later, once Race had chosen a room, settled in and gone to bed, Shan made a phone call.

“Addie,” he said when she answered, “I may have a problem.”

“May?” she replied and he could envision her eyebrow cocking up in question.

“Alright, probably do. A message was delivered to me a few hours ago. It said, ‘Bang, bang, you’re dead’.”

There was a long, drawn out pause before she asked, “How was it delivered.” He could tell she gone immediately into ‘investigator’ mode.

“A young man brought it. A street kid, though he’s hardly a kid. And before you ask, no he couldn’t give me any real description of the man who paid him; just that he was tall and dark-haired.”

“You’re certain this kid was telling you the truth about that?”

Shan chuckled. “Certain enough that he’s now sleeping in one of my bedrooms.”

“Shan! Damn it. You’ve got some punk off the streets living in your house?”

“I do, but he’s different Addie. Special. He can sense us even though he can’t tell what kind of, as he puts it, ‘non-human’ we are. And, so he says, he can also tell if people are good or evil.”

Shan heard a tapping sound and knew it was Addie’s fingernail on the phone as she thought about what he’d said. “When do I get to meet him?” she finally inquired.

“Tomorrow night if you want, assuming he doesn’t cut and run come morning after he’s had time to think about things.”

“Does he know about me and if so did you tell him what I am?”

“He knows who you are; he saw the pictures in my office. But I didn’t tell him you were a vampire.”

“Good. Alright, now for that message, do you have any thoughts on who sent it?”

“Not really. We can rule out anyone blonde which narrows the field by one.”

Addie agreed. “That one is, let’s pray, gone forever now. One option is someone from the King, although why he’d target you instead of me would be the question.”

“And why warn me ahead of time. If he wanted me dead he’d just send a couple or ten of his minions after me.”

Addie laughed. “It would take ten and even then I think you’d win. But still, let’s not rule him out. He could be threatening you knowing that you’d let me know about it.”

“Good point. And honestly I can’t think of anyone else who hates me enough to play games. There are a couple who wouldn’t mind seeing me dead but they don’t know what I am so they’d just send a shooter if they wanted me eliminated.”

“Think about it Shan and make a list. We can go over it tomorrow night.”

“Will do. See you, when, around eight?”

“That works.” She blew out a breath. “Come and get me, just in case whoever sent the message is watching your house.”

“Got it, and good point. Later Addie.”

“Night Shan.”