Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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



“Yes!” Race pumped a fist in the air when he and Shan entered the bathroom and found a pool of water sitting on the shower floor and dripping from the showerhead.

“Don’t cheer too soon,” Shan chuckled. “That’s not nearly as much as we poured into the opening of the pipe.”

“But still some of it made it this far. Maybe the pipe’s got dirt or something in it that soaked up the rest.”

“Only one way to find out,” Shan said.

“Pour more water in and see what comes out. But we gotta get the showerhead off first.” Race reached for it, managing to wrench it loose with Shan’s help. “Fuck,” he shouted as he jumped back. He was drenched in slimy, dirty water.

“Guess you were right.” Shan shook his head. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” He resisted looking at the shorts and shirt now plastered against the younger man’s body, accenting everything in high relief. “Strip,” he ordered, tossing Race a towel. “I’ll get you a clean pair of pants.”

“Then what?”

“Then you get to find out just how cold that stream is below the surface, where the sun doesn’t hit.”

“Oh hell.” Race shivered at the thought. “You know,” he said with a sly grin. “You could use a bath too.”

“Naw, I’ll just shift. That’ll do it.”

“Not fair,” Race grumbled as he pulled off the sodden shirt and worked at untying the strings on the shorts. 

Shan turned away swiftly. He didn’t need to see this. Didn’t want to, he told himself, even though his body was saying otherwise. “I’ll be back in a second,” he almost growled, his voice low and rough.

“I’ll be here.” Race bit his lip as he watched Shan hurry away. At least I know he’s a bit interested. He finished undressing and wrapped the towel around his waist.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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



“Race.”

The young man felt someone shaking him gently and sprang awake immediately, finding himself staring into dark brown, concerned eyes. “Where…what?” he asked before he realized he’d fallen asleep at the edge of the trees surrounding one side of the Compound.

Shan smiled, sitting back on his heels now. “Bad night?”

“More like morning,” Race admitted. “I couldn’t get to sleep so…” he shrugged.

“So you came out here to commune with nature. I’ve been known to do that a time or three, though usually in my leopard form.” He searched Race’s face. “If you want to go back inside and get some more rest that’s fine, I can handle what I was planning on my own.”

“No. I’m not going to be slacker and I sure don’t want you coddling me.” Race licked his lips, realizing they were dry and he was thirsty. “Just give me a few minutes to go get some water.”

Shan smiled, handing Race a bottle of water that had suddenly appeared in his hand.

“Whoa,” Race whispered, even as he uncapped it and took a long drink.

“Faster than your way.” Standing, Shan held out a hand, pulling Race to his feet when he took it. For a long minute they stood there looking at each other. Then, with a shake of his head Shan turned away. “We have work to do even if some of it can be accomplished using my magic.”

With a soft, frustrated sigh, Race followed as Shan started up a narrow path between the trees. Soon he heard the gurgle of water and then saw a small stream. “This is going to be our water?” he asked.

“Once we divert part of it, yes. Before I woke you, I did a bit of searching and found one of the pipes leading into the Compound. As far as I can tell it seems, somewhat miraculously, to have survived the explosion undamaged, though we won’t know for certain until we get water running through it.”

“It leads to the lowest level?”

“Another thing we’ll need to determine. So…” with a flick of his fingers two buckets appeared. “We pour some water into it and see what happens. If we’re really lucky we’ll find a puddle of it somewhere in the bathroom.”

“If not?”

“Then we punt.”

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (19)

"Oh no, you don't," Evan growled. "You're not setting yourself up to be grabbed again."
Vic smiled wickedly. "Why not? Paddy's got my back now. They get me, take me to their boss, and…"
"It could work," Paddy agreed, almost gleefully.
Evan looked at Vic in dismay before returning his attention to driving, muttering, "You're crazy."
"I have to stop the blackmailer before he forces Frank Marshall to pull out of the primary race and like I said, I only have a couple more days to do that. So unless you have a better idea…"
Evan sighed. "I don't."
"Then drop me off back at my office. That's where they got me last time."
Dom, who had been fairly quiet during most of the discussion, spoke up now. "Unless I'm mistaken, someone's following us."  
"For how long?" Vic asked, glancing in the sideview mirror. "What's he driving?"
"A green car. I don't know what kind. It's"—Dom turned slightly to look out the rear window—"four behind us right now. I noticed him when we turned. He sped up to make the light. Maybe I'm being paranoid but…"
"Easy enough to find out. Evan, turn right at the next corner." Evan did and Vic told him, "Now a left onto Elm and another left onto Franklin."
"He's still behind us," Dom said a couple of minutes later.
"Yeah, I see." Vic chuckled. "He's an amateur at this."
"Should I lose him?" Evan asked.
"No. Do like I said, drop me off at my office building."
"What about Paddy?"
"He can… come with me, but only as far as the entrance. Then he'll take off in the other direction, do his thing, and meet me inside."
"I don't like this, but I suspect I'm out-voted," Evan grumbled.
Vic reached over to pat Evan's leg. "You are, but it's really the only way to do it."
Before Vic could move his hand, Evan took it, holding it tightly for a moment. "Just be damned careful. Okay? And Paddy"—he looked at him in the rearview mirror—"if anything happens to him…"
"It won't," Paddy replied firmly. "Believe it or not, I've been watching over my various charges for more years than I like to think about and I haven't lost one yet."
"Good." Evan released his grip on Vic's hand. "Maybe Dom should go with you too."
"I already told you. I have to stick with you," Dom said. "I wouldn't be here if there wasn't the possibility that you're in danger as well, which we know you were, at least for a while. I seriously doubt that's changed."
Evan blew out a long breath. "I suppose not." He veered off the street into a vacant spot in front of Vic's building.
Vic and Paddy got out, but not before Vic said quietly, "I have plans for taking you out for dinner when this is over."
"Then catch the bastard, without getting the shit beaten out of you again." Evan's lips turned up in a weak grin. "I gave up being a medic years ago… well, until I met you. I really don't want patching you up to become a habit if we can help it."
"I'm not too fond of that idea myself." Vic leaned closer momentarily as if he was going to whisper something, shook his head, and he and Paddy got out of the car. 
Evan watched them play out their roles, talking briefly before Paddy walked away and Vic went inside. "Just…stay safe," Evan said under his breath. "I want that dinner you promised me."
As he pulled the car back out onto the street, Dom said, "You'll get it. And by the way, our follower was watching from across the street, so with luck, this might be over soon."
"Your words to God's ears," Evan said in reply.
Dom laughed. "That happens. Rarely, but sometimes."

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Release day for 'Bill and Erik'!

Bill and Erik
 
Bill Hawkins owns a bed-and-breakfast in the small mountain town of Middleton. He loves his life, his family, and his friends. The only thing missing is someone to call his own. A man he can love who will love him in return.

Erik King takes off when he catches his boyfriend in bed with another man. He's looking for somewhere away from that city. Perhaps a small town where life is less hectic and the people are friendly. What he is not looking for is a new man in his life.

When a winter snowstorm lands Erik at Bill's B&B, he finds the younger man too interesting, and goes on the run, again. The question becomes, will he realize he can't run from his feelings and return in time to celebrate Thanksgiving—and admit to Bill that he cares for him -- giving them both a reason to be thankful?

EXCERPT:
    When Erik woke Thursday morning, it took him a few seconds to figure out where he was. Then it all came back to him. If I never see the bastard again, it'll be too soon.

    He dressed in a fresh pair of jeans and a heavy sweatshirt, once he'd checked the weather, which predicted the high would be in the mid-fifties, with possible rain. He wasn't all that surprised, considering the time of year. He topped everything off with his leather chaps and jacket, packed up, and headed down to check out. By then, it was just after ten.

    He got back on Sixth, heading west, looking for a fast food place where he could get something to eat. He ended up at a subway shop. After ordering a chicken and bacon melt and coffee, he found a table away from a family with three noisy kids. As he ate, he contemplated what to do next.

    Go back and find a new apartment? I've got a job, which is a plus. The minus is, the bastard knows where I work. If he shows up there, trying to apologize, I might knock his ass into next week. End of job, and probably an assault charge on top of that. Head back home? That idea held no appeal at all. He'd left years ago to get away from his smothering parents.

    Keep on moving west. Who knows what's out there? Maybe I'll find a vacant mountain cabin and settle in to live off the land. Uh-huh. More like starve to death, if I didn't freeze to death first. Winter is a coming in.

    Still, the idea of the mountains appealed to him at the moment. Something very different from what he was used to. Taking out his phone to check what there was in the way of small towns, the first thing he saw was that he had four voicemails -- all of them from his ex. He deleted them without listening to whatever the SOB had to say. Then, because he knew it was something he should do, he called work.

    "Pat, it's Erik," he said when the day manager answered the phone. "I hate to do this on such short notice, but I got a call from my mother. My dad's real sick and I've got to go back home." He listened and a moment later said, "No, I don't know when I'll be back, or if I will." He nodded. "Yeah. Thanks. I hope so too."

    After the call ended, he brought up a map of the mountains to the west of Golden and planned his route. He figured he could check out a couple of the towns along the way and make a decision once he'd seen them and what they had to offer.

    Probably not much in the way of jobs, this time of year, unless they cater to skiers. Not sure I'm up for dealing with them, since himself spent half the winter on the slopes.

    He finished eating, got a fresh coffee which he poured into his travel mug when he got back to his bike, and took off.

    * * * *

    "The weatherman loves us," Mrs. Greene said, as she and her husband checked into the White River B&B Thursday afternoon.

    "Yep," Bill agreed. "Maybe we should keep you around all winter to make the snow stays away."

    She laughed. "If only it was that easy."

    Since they were a pair of his favorite guests, Bill personally escorted them to their room. He smiled when, as soon as they entered, Mrs. Greene gasped in surprise. A large vase of flowers sat on the dresser. Next to it was an ice bucket holding a bottle of champagne. A banner hanging over the dresser proclaimed, Happy Anniversary.

    "Oh, Bill, you shouldn't have," Mrs. Greene said, hugging him.

    "It wasn't me. It was the winter elves," he replied with a grin.

    "Whoever it was, thank you," Mr. Greene said. "This added to the celebration."

    "I presume you're having dinner at the Dusty Rose."

    "Of course," Mr. Greene replied. "I called to make reservations a week ago. You're invited, if you want."

    "Thank you, but this is your special day. Candlelit dinner, a romantic walk along the river afterward…"

    "Freezing our asses off," Mr. Greene said. "Maybe there's no snow, but it's colder than sin out there."

    Bill chuckled. "I noticed. Anyway, happy anniversary. If you need anything, anything at all, let me, Mattie, or Roger know."

    "We will. Not that we ever do. It's one reason we like coming up here. You anticipate everything and there's never a problem."

    With a slight bow, Bill thanked him and left, going back to the foyer.

    * * * *

    Bill sighed as he watched from the front window of his house while snow began to drift down, just after dinner. "Let's hope it stays light," he said to War. The dog didn't seem to agree. Instead, he pranced to the door, looking back at his owner. "Right. Now you want a walk. An hour ago, I had to drag you outside."
 

Friday, November 17, 2017

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



The ‘high-class sleeping arrangements’ as Addie had called them turned out to be three small connecting rooms that she told Race had been used for counseling when the fighters at the Compound got overly stressed. She’d pushed the desks in each one to the side walls to serve as dressers, and then swept them out and put down the workout pads, topped with sheets and blankets.

Now, Race lay on his ‘bed’ staring up at the ceiling. Not that he could actually see it as it was pitch dark, but he knew it was there, looming over him, the weight of the destroyed Compound just above. And it felt like a weight—not in reality but the history behind it that had shaped the lives of Addie, Shan, and so many others who had once lived there.

Despite what the others had said, he didn’t belong here and he knew it. In case of trouble, and he had no doubt that before this was over that would happen, he’d be more of a hindrance than a help. If he were anywhere else but here he’d leave, but he didn’t even know where ‘here’ was. Restless, unable to sleep despite the fact that he was bone tired, he got up, lighting the stub of the candle he’d used earlier before inching his way to the door. He opened it as quietly as possible and slipped into the hallway.

From there he made his way to the first tunnel and started up the incline. When he reached the top, he carefully slipped through the brush he and Shan had put at the entrance to hide it and stepped out into the early morning light. Shivering as a chill breeze hit him, he realized that the clothes he’d taken from Shan’s island home were no proof against the high mountain temperatures at this hour of the day, even though it was summer. Wrapping his arms around himself he moved to the closest tree and settled against its leeward side, out of the wind’s path.

He had to admit that it was beautiful up here. Even the ruins had a sort of strange grandeur, covered as they were with new growth and trailing vines. He wouldn’t really mind being here if he could be more than the stray kid Shan had taken under his wing. And therein lay the main problem, as far as he was concerned. He didn’t know how he would deal with living here for however long it took, knowing that all Shan saw him as was a kid, and a possible student if he really did have the magic potential Kayne though he had.

As the sun rose, beginning to warm him finally, his thoughts went around and around with not resolution. Finally exhaustion took over and he slept.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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



“Come on Race, we’ve got shopping to do.”

Race looked at Shan, then Addie, then Shan again. “We’re not leaving her here by herself are we?”

“Why not, I’m quite capable of taking care of myself? Vampire here, Race, an old one, and if you’re worried because I’m female, don’t be.”

“But…” One scathing look from Addie and Race shut up, turning to Shan. “They have a WalMart somewhere around here?”

Shan burst into laughter. “Not quite, but there’s a small shop we used to use in emergencies. Well stocked with local fare and a few basic necessities of life. You ready?”

A few seconds later they were standing in a narrow alley between several small stone buildings. “We’re definitely not in New Orleans any more,” Race muttered.

“Or in Kansas,” Shan replied, chuckling as he opened the wooden door in front of them.

As soon as they were inside, a portly middle-aged man greeted Shan with a wide smile, rattling off something in what Race could only presume was the native language. Shan responded in kind, accepting a hug before apparently telling the man what they needed. Then Shan handed Race a basket, picked one up himself, and with the man’s assistance they were soon full of tins, plus dried meats, fish and fruits. Shan stopped at one shelf, taking down two cases of bottled water to add to their purchases. Race saw a shelf of soaps, toothbrushes and toothpaste and added some to his basket. Satisfied they had what they needed for the time being, Shan paid the man and then started setting the bags and cases of water outside the shop in the alley. After bidding the man good-bye and closing the shop door behind them, Shan piled Race’s arms high with bags, grabbed the rest, plus the handles on the cases of water, and moments later they were back at the Compound.

Addie greeted them with a smile and led the way to one of the rooms along the hall. It was apparent when the men stepped inside that she’d been busy while they were gone. It had been cleaned up and a table with three mismatched chairs stood in the center. There were shelves along one wall that they proceeded to fill with their purchases.

Race suddenly realized that the light in the room came from candles stuck in several holders instead from Shan’s magic. “Very romantic,” he commented with a laugh. “Now all we need is a good wine to go with this.”

“Unfortunately, I didn’t find any down here. Maybe we should send Shan back for some.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t,” Shan told her. “I’m exhausted and you two should be as well. We have a lot to do tomorrow to make this place a bit more habitable, so I suggest we get some sleep.”

“I did find some sheets and blankets in one of the storerooms, no mattresses though, but the workout pads in the practice room should do us. As for a bathroom, with no running water I guess we’ll have to suffer.”

“That’s one of the things Race and I will deal with tomorrow afternoon, when we get up. Now we eat. Addie, are you okay for the time being?”

“I’m good for another couple of days. You eat; I’ll finish with our high-class sleeping arrangements.”

Monday, November 13, 2017

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



“How long will we be here?” Race asked as he continued following Addie down the hall.

“I suspect that will depend on what we can find out about the being in the Messenger’s body, and then decide how to deal with them.”

“I will make it my job to see what I can determine about him. I have some sources that might have ideas about that.” Kayne said. “I would have done it earlier but there were things on the other plane that needed my attention. Things I preferred to handle myself rather than leave them in Shelagh’s hands.”

Addie cocked an eyebrow. “I hope for the sake of your relationship you didn’t tell her that.”

Kayne chuckled. “I may be male, but I am not that stupid.”

“Then there’s hope for you yet.” She grinned at him before opening the wide double doors at the end of the hall.

“Whoa,” Race muttered when Kayne produced more light so that the room was fully illuminated. It was huge. At the far end he could see a firing range, at one side hung heavy and speed bags, and other workout equipment stood close by. Across from that were cabinets, as well as a full range of larger weapons in standing racks.

“This was a fully equipped paramilitary compound, Race,” Addie explained. “We didn’t always use magic in our battles; in fact that was a rarity.” When he asked she gave him a brief run-down of what the group had done and why.

After she’d finished Race asked tentatively, “Will someone ever start it up again? It sounds like you were doing a great deal of good.”

“I seriously doubt it, but there are other ones like ours waging the same battles.”

Race nodded as he wandered over to check out the weapons.

Kayne came to stand beside Addie. “Are you certain?”

“About?” She looked at him in question.

“Anything,” he replied with a chuckle, “but right now, that you and Shan might not form another group like Lorcan’s.”

“If we do anything with this place,” Shan said as he strolled in to join them, “it would be what you suggested, as a school for battle-mages on this plane.”

“So you’re actually considering that?” Addie asked, a bit surprised though she suspected she shouldn’t have been.

Shan shrugged. “They’re needed. It’s not as if there was an over abundance of them. And it might give me some sense of real purpose, something I’ve been lacking recently.”

Addie nodded. “What about Race?”

“That is something I’ll have to find out. Having potential and learning how to use it can be two very different things. First and foremost he has to want to.”

“It will be interesting to see if he does, once you’ve dealt with this personage who is after Addison,” Kayne said. “This reminds me, I should leave the three of you. If I am going to find out anything about him, I can not do it here. Is there anything more you need of me before I go?”

Shan shook his head. “Other than some basic supplies, we should be good for a while and those I can get in the nearest town.”

Race came over in time to hear the last of the conversation. “But if you teleport can’t that thing track you?”

“He has to know where I am in order to do that, and thanks to Kayne that’s virtually impossible.”

Kayne cocked an eyebrow. “Totally impossible.” He hugged Addie, wished them well while promising to be in contact as soon as he had any information, and then vanished.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (18)



As soon as Vic and Evan were in the car and driving away with their invisible passengers in the backseat, Vic asked, "You're sure that mechanic is the same guy you interrogated, Paddy?"
"Definitely. The question is, why was Peake's phone stolen?"
"For the phone numbers. He said he had ones on it for his mechanics. The description Mrs Peake gave us of the guy? If he'd been there before but without the glasses, the mustache, and the graying hair…"
"He cased the place," Paddy said. "Maybe did the same thing then, posed as a potential customer, talked to the mechanics, and figured one of them might be up for some fast cash. He sees the guy's name on his coveralls but has no logical reason to ask for his phone number so… Yeah, he figures Peake would have the guy's number on his phone, comes back in disguise, hoping he can get his hands on the phone, and gets lucky." 
Dom laughed. "You're getting a kick out of this detective work, aren't you Paddy?"
"Yeah, I am. I finally got put with someone who leads an interesting life. The last assignment I had with Hal and Dave, all I got to do was hang around guarding a woman with two kids. Bo-oring."
"It's usually not this interesting," Vic said. "Mostly leg-work and computer searches."
Evan arched an eyebrow. "You implied at one point this wasn't the first time you've been beaten up."
"Yeah, but the couple of other times it happened, it was someone who resented my digging into their less than legit business. I told you that—a punch thrown when I caught them, or a couple. Never did anything more than leave me with a sore jaw or bruised ribs, if they got lucky."
"Why the hell did Samuel wait until now to put me with him?" Paddy asked Dom mind to mind, so that the other two couldn't hear.
"Because until now, his life wasn't in danger?"
"Yeah, probably. Would have been fun, though, following him around, learning the business from the inside out."
Dom just shook his head.
"We need a plan of action," Evan told the others.
"Using the mechanic who tried to break into your house?" Paddy said.
"You're certain it was him?" Evan used the rearview mirror to look back at where Paddy's voice had come from. "And can you two materialize? It's disconcerting talking to thin air."
"Yes, Evan, I'm certain," Paddy replied with a bit of asperity, becoming visible again.
Evan tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "What if we followed him when he left work? Find out where he lives…"
"What if we follow him." Paddy pointed to himself and Dom. "He won't know we're there, since we'll be invisible."
"Just one of us," Dom said. "We can't leave these two unprotected, even if we can sense if they're in danger from a distance. It's not worth taking the chance that we wouldn't get to them in time."
            "No," Vic said after a moment's thought. "That won't lead us to whoever hired him because the only contact they have is by phone." He rapped a knuckle on his lips. "There's one way to find our man, because he's not going to stop until he gets his hands on me."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

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



“You look, you will pardon the expression, like hell,” Kayne said when Shan reappeared in the command center, with Race following closely behind.

“I’d say I feel like it too, but surprisingly I don’t. The kid there could use some cleaning up though.”

“Both of you are bleeding whether you realize it or not,” Addie pronounced as she went to one of the closets to dig out a med kit.

“She didn’t even see me, barely,” Race whispered to Shan.

“Vampire here, Race. I could smell it.” She returned with the kit and told him to sit so she could take care of his arm. “And you, mister, off with those jeans so I can deal with your knees,” she ordered Shan.

“Excuse me,” he grumbled, “but I’m not…well…”

She laughed. “Do you ever wear underwear? Okay, Mr. Modesty, find a towel and then take them off.” As she started to work on Race she shook her head. “Kayne, a bit of your magic here please, this antiseptic is way past its sell date.” While Kayne obliged, he pointed out she could have healed the wound just as easily.

She disagreed. “Somehow I doubt Race would feel comfortable with my licking him, even if it is just his arm.”

“At this point I doubt it would have bothered me much,” Race told her, more than a bit stunned as he watched the deep gash slowly knit together.

“Now you.” She turned to Shan and shook her head in amusement when she saw him standing there in leopard form. “Guess that’ll work just as well.” ::Coward,:: she added in his mind.

::Didn’t want to embarrass Race.::

Addie’s eyebrow shot up. ::Somehow I doubt that embarrassed is what he would have been feeling.::

::There was that, too.::

::Such a sensitive little leopard.:: When he chuffed in annoyance she scratched behind his ears before telling the others, “Let’s run a check down here to see what’s left that could come in useful, while Shan finishes his healing.”

“What else was down here?” Race asked as he trailed after her.

“At the far end of the hall is the weapons and practice room. That,” she pointed to one door as they walked past it, “leads to Shan’s training room. It’s very well reinforced and was warded, though I doubt they’re standing anymore.”

Kayne stopped for a moment, pressing his hand against the door. “Amazingly, there are a few wards still, although far from what’s needed.”

“Training for sorcerers?” Race asked.

“Battle mages,” Addie told him. “Although if we stay here long enough he might just use it to work with you, I suppose.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

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



“I can’t.”

“You can," Race replied. "You must. Listen to your heart. It knows. Now is the time. Go.”

Tears slid slowly down Shan’s cheeks as he stumbled blindly down the hall. As if guided by an unseen hand, he safely traversed the rubble-strewn floor to the room. His hand gripped the handle and he hesitated.

At the far end of the hall Race watched, his nails digging into the palms of his hands as he resisted the urge to go to him; to give him the strength to take the last step into the room. Please.  He looked up, closing his eyes. Please help him.

Shan pushed the door open. The room was in shambles, furniture crushed under fallen bricks and plaster. What was left of the walls shattered, destroyed. Just as he was. 

Wiping a hand across his tear-streaked face, Shan’s gaze searched for anything that said this was the room that had once been filled with love and happiness. Bits and pieces of his life with Lav lay strewn around. Clothing spilled from the broken dresser, now moss and mildew covered, almost unrecognizable for what it had been as was the rest of the destroyed furniture. The bed where they had loved each other, slowly or passionately as the spirit had moved them, was now in shattered pieces. He crossed to it with hesitant steps, stood looking down at what remained, remembering, tears coursing down his cheeks.

“I loved you, damn it. Why did you have to die? Why you?” Dropping to his knees, heedless of the sharp shards of brick that tore into them, he wrapped his arms around himself, rocking back and forth as sobs wracked his frame. “I miss you so much, my love. It’s hard, so hard, so lonely, so empty without you.”

Eventually the sobs lessened, the tears stopped. He was drained, empty. He lifted his head, staring sightlessly ahead. Then a faint sound, as if something small had been dropped, hitting the floor with a soft, bright clink, brought him back to reality. He looked, trying to find what it was. In the thick dust beside the dresser he saw something glimmering in the faint light.

Standing, he inched his way across the room and knelt, picking up the small silver object. His heart beat faster as he stared at it. It was the pendant Lav had given him their last Christmas together. A simple circle, a leopard’s head etched on one side, a panther’s on the other, with the words ‘I will love you’ under the panther, and under the leopard, ‘forever’. The chain had broken the morning of the explosion, he remembered. So he’d set the pendant on the dresser, vowing to get a new chain after he’d completed his day of training with the Master.

Now he clutched it, bringing it to his lips. “And I will love you forever,” he murmured. Then he lifted his gaze, staring up at the thin shaft of moonlight slipping through the shattered ceiling of the room. “I will, forever, but now…” One last tear rolled slowly down his cheek. “Now, I think I can move on.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

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



“Screw you!” Shan turned away, taking a step toward the control room below them.

“It won’t end till you face it Shan.” Race’s voice although shaking, was soft, pleading.

Swinging back Shan growled, “It ended when this place blew up.”

“He died then, but it hasn’t ended.” Race backed away when Shan stormed towards him, ending up in the shattered, rubble-filled hall of the second level. As he did his foot hit something and he stumbled, landing hard on his ass.

Shan’s shadow darkened the doorway as he stared down at Race. Then, with great reluctance, he stepped inside. Looking at the fallen young man he held out a hand. “You all right?”

Ignoring Shan’s hand Race stood slowly. “I think so,” he replied, rubbing his ass. “Mostly,” he qualified when he felt something damp running down his forearm.

“What does that mean?” Shan moved closer and Race carefully backed away again.

“I’m bleeding a bit, but nothing that’ll kill me. I don’t suppose you have a handkerchief or something.”

“How bad?” Shan pulled off his shirt. “And stand still damn it,” he added when Race took another step backwards. “Next time you might hit that hard head of yours instead of your elbow.”

Figuring he was far enough into the hall now, Race did as Shan asked, staying where he was, holding out his arm to him as Shan approached.

Shan took it, checking the damage and then wrapping his shirt around the long, bloody gash. “You’re right, you’ll live. But we should get some antiseptic on it. The med room’s right down…” He froze as the reality of what he was saying hit home. He looked down the hall and shivered. Then he began to shudder, his gaze turning dark when it landed on one of the doors.

“That was his room?” Race asked; his voice soft with concern.

“Our…room.” Shan gripped Race’s arm so hard the young man knew there would be bruises later. “I need… I have to…”

“Finally say good-bye.” Race’s words were barely spoken, just a ghost of a whisper.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

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

“This could be perfect,” Race replied, not really answering Shan’s question as he studied a spot along one wall of the tunnel. “How does this open?” He touched what at a closer glance appeared to be a steel door that matched the surrounding rock.

“It doesn’t,” Shan growled. “So forget it.”

Shan turned to look at him. “It does and you know it. It has to lead to the level above the one we were on. If you don’t open it, I’ll get Kayne up here to do it.”

“Fuck that.”

“Then get it open. Are you afraid to? Afraid of what will happen if you do?”

“Meaning what?” Shan leaned a foot back against the tunnel wall and crossed his arms as he stared at Race.

“Meaning that if this place was set up as a military compound, then the living quarters would have been above the command center and whatever else is down there. That way, personnel could go either way depending on the situation. I bet there’s another floor above this one with a dining room, rec room and all of that stuff. At least that’s the way I would have set things up, if it were me.”

“Your point being?” Shan asked, although he knew exactly what Race was getting at.

“Meaning this level,” Race smacked the palm of his hand against the door, “was where you and Lav had rooms, or a room, however it was set up. So did Addie and her family, and probably everyone else who lived and worked here.”

Shan nodded, scrubbing a hand over his face. “It was and it’s been destroyed so we are not opening that door. It would be a waste of time and energy.”

Race started down the tunnel. “I’ll get Kayne to do it.”

“Get your ass back up here!” Shan’s tone was low, deadly and filled with pain.

“You’ll open it?”

Without answering, Shan pressed his hands against the door. There was a low rumble of protest as it moved a few inches and then stopped. Trying again, he managed to push it a few more inches to make an opening large enough for a man to squeeze through. Stepping back he said, “Have at it.”

“Not without you. Your magic is my light source.” Race pointed to the small radiant ball hanging above their heads.

“It will follow you,” Shan said succinctly.

“Please come with me, Shan.”

“Afraid of what you’ll find?”

Race stared at him, into his eyes. “No, but you are.”

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (17)

"He doesn't look like a dastardly criminal," Evan said. They were sitting in his car, parked across the street from the auto repair shop, with Paddy and Dom invisible in the back seat. The man he was talking about was standing in the shop's doorway smoking a cigarette, a billed cap pulled low, probably to shield his eyes from the sunlight.
"You're presuming that's him," Vic replied.
"From what I can see of his face, he looks like the picture you found, so yeah."
Vic laughed. "Touché."
Everyone got out of the car, the two angels remaining invisible. They crossed the street and were greeted by, "May I help you?" from the man when they came up beside him.
"Mr Peake?" Vic asked.
"That would be me."
"A friend recommended you."
"Does this friend have a name?"
Vic glanced around before saying, "Can we go into your office to talk?"
"We can, as long as you realize it's Saturday and I close at two." Peake dropped his cigarette butt on the ground and headed inside. As they followed, Vic heard Paddy say, "The man working on that red car at the back of the garage is one of the pair who tried to break into Evan's house."
Vic quickly ducked his head, getting between Evan and the mechanic, just in case the man looked their way. He was—to put it mildly—startled to hear Paddy's voice in his head. But then, given what he is, I suppose he can do that. I wonder… "I thought you said they didn't know who hired them." Vic figured he'd try the whole 'mind talking' thing, since it worked one direction, maybe he could do it too.
"They didn't, since it was all done by phone. Perhaps Mr Peake disguised his voice?"
"Or it wasn't Peake who hired them. We did consider the phone might have been stolen."
By then they were in Peake's office. The man sat down in a battered chair behind an equally battered desk, looking up at Vic and Evan. "So who's this friend?"
"I have a question first," Vic said. "Do you have a cell phone with the number 555-6162?"
"Not any more." Peake's mouth tightened angrily. "My wife watches the office sometimes when it gets busy and I'm needed out there"—he pointed to the garage area—"so I leave the phone in here with her.  A couple or three days ago, she's helping some guy who says his car needs worked on. Stupid…" He shook his head. "She goes out to look at it with him and when she gets back, the phone's gone. I asked the guys about it. They said they didn't see anyone take it, so I figure maybe it was the man she was helping who copped it. If it was, who knows where it is now?"
"Did she get his name or a description of the car?"
"Name? No. The car was blue, like a million others in the city." Peake shrugged. "She may be good with people; she's lousy when it comes to identifying cars. Just said it wasn't old, whatever that means."
"Not a Model-T," Vic said with a grin.
"Yeah, that would be about it. Anyway, the phone is long gone so I got a new one, which sucks because I had to go through the records to put in all the numbers I had on the old one—suppliers, customers, and what have you."
"Employees?"
"Yeah, them too. Why you asking?"
"I think that phone was used in the commission of a crime."
"Damn. You're a cop?"
"No, a private investigator." Vic took out his wallet to show Peake his ID.
"And you thought maybe I was involved because it was my phone number."
"Yep."
Peake shook his head. "I got enough to keep me busy running this place. Besides which, it brings in good money. I don't need to be doing anything illegal to blow that." Peake smiled when someone came into the office. Vic turned and saw a woman who looked vaguely familiar, although he couldn't put his finger on why. He figured she must be Peake's wife and found out he was right when Peake introduced her as "Virginia, my better half. You can ask her about that guy."
Virginia tilted her head in question. "What guy?"
"The one you were helping when my phone disappeared."
"What did he look like, Mrs Peake," Vic asked.
"Maybe six foot, dark hair graying at the temples, horn-rimmed glasses, mustache. I've never seen him before—or since, as far as that goes. I asked him if he wanted me to get one of the mechanics to come with us to look at his car. He said no, that he could show me the damage, I could tell Carl, and find out what he thought it would cost to fix."
"What kind of damage?"
"Bent fender. Nothing big. I told him what our usual rates were for that. He said he'd get back to us and that was it."
"Was he alone in the office at any time?"
Virginia nodded. "Only for a second. He had a coffee mug with him when he came in and left it on the desk, so he went back to get it. Like I said, it only took him a second."
"Long enough to pick up the phone too," Peake grumbled. "If it was him that took it and right now, I'm betting it was."
"No bet," Vic said with a brief smile. "Okay, I guess that leaves you in the clear and me no closer to finding the guy I'm after. Thanks for your time."
"No problem. I hope you locate him."

Friday, November 3, 2017

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



Race shivered as he stood in one of the empty rooms along the hallway. He wished with all his heart he’d remained behind and taken his chances at staying hidden in the city until the evil entity in the Messenger’s body had been taken care of. Instead he was stuck here with a man who at best saw him as the ‘kid’ that he called him, and at worst despised being encumbered with a human he’d have to protect while trying to deal with keeping Addie safe.

Sinking down, he leaned back against the desk that sat askew in the center of the room. Wrapping his arms around his knees he closed his eyes.

“Okay kid, come out where I can see you,” Shan growled.

Race’s eyes flew open in surprise. He was tempted to ignore Shan’s order but had the feeling that if he did the man would just come in and drag him out from behind the desk. Somewhat sulkily he stood, turning to face him.

“Look, I’m sorry that I came across as such an ass back there,” Shan said in way of apology. “I’ve just got too much on my mind right now.”

Race shrugged. “No problem. I understand.”

“Do you?”

‘Yes. You have to figure out how to catch the sorcerer and keep Addie safe at the same time.”

“Exactly. And since you seem to think you have some ideas how to secure the tunnels I’d like to hear them.”

“Seriously?” Race looked at him in shock.

“Yeah, seriously. I have a feeling you’ve done that kind of thing before during your stay on the streets.”

“Yeah, well, more to keep my stuff safe when I wasn’t there than to keep me safe. It’s all in creating an illusion is the way I think of it. See what you have to do…”

“Come and show me.” Shan stood at the door waiting for Race to join him.

An hour later, some what dirtier than when they’d started out, the two men made their way down the second tunnel, Shan doing some magical reinforcing of broken walls while Race made suggestions on what could be done in the way of camouflage. They were almost to the bottom, the light from the command room showing dimly ahead of them, when Race stopped suddenly.

“Now what kid?” Shan asked, barely avoiding bumping into him.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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



“No way in hell,” Shan barked out before realizing he was being a bit of an ass to so forcefully deny any wish to train Race. “Sorry kid but I really don’t have the time either.”

From behind him Kayne winked at Addie. She bit back a grin, knowing it wouldn’t help defuse what could become a situation. Instead she patted Race’s arm. “Don’t mind him,” she said in seeming innocence, “he’s just a bit stressed right now. Once all this is over I’m quite sure he’d love to teach you.”

Shan scowled at her then turned away from all of them to check out the computers lining one wall.

“I don’t think he’s interested,” Race said quietly, his gaze locked on the back of Shan’s head.

“Of course he is. He’ll see the logic of it, just give him time.”

::Addie, quit,:: Shan growled in her mind.

::Quit what?:: she responded, her tone amused. ::I think you’d be the perfect tutor. You’re quite skilled…in magic and sorcery.::           

::That is not what I meant. Don’t encourage the kid. I’m not the least bit interested in…anything he might have to offer.::

::Of course you’re not. I know that. However…::

Shan spun around then took a deep breath. “With no power, the computers are useless, which means so is the security system.”

“Even I could have told you that,” Race commented. “But, unless whoever the sorcerer is who wants Addie can teleport in here, this place is easily secured without electronics. Especially,” he shot a rather scathing look at Shan, “since you’re such a powerful magician. Do you pull rabbits out of hats too?” With that said he turned on his heel and left the room.

“I do believe you’ve hurt the boy’s feelings,” Kayne commented.

“Yeah, well he’ll get over it. Right now we need to decide if we’re actually going to stay here or find some other place.”

“I shall tell you right now we are not taking this to the alternative plane. The students are still on edge after the battle there. My personal opinion is you could not do much better than here. I know it will be hard on both of you, but you could consider it a way to exorcise the last of your ghosts. Besides,” Kayne tapped his lip thoughtfully, “with some work after this small problem is dealt with, this place would make an excellent site for a school to train battle-mages. It is remote; no civilians would be harmed if someone’s magic went awry. Consider it, Darshan.”