Richard L Smith's blog
Jennifer Gibson cursed herself. She should have run to a well lit public place with lots of people around, but she followed the lessons drilled into her by her paranoid, batshit crazy, survivalist father and went for cover. Now she was trapped at the end of a blind alley staring up at the tallest brick wall in the world.
Her father may have been insane, but he was insane on principle. The psychopath advancing on her armed with a crowbar was insanity in its rawest form. She determined not to be like the girls in horror movies who spent their last moments sobbing, screaming and begging. Jennifer stood firm and met her killers gaze as he approached. She wanted to sob and scream, but she did not.
“I swear I saw him.”
April Gardener rolled her eyes. She had several good reasons to keep Mike Bishop around, but brains and nerve were not among them. “You didn't see anything, idiot.”
“He was standing in the corner. I saw him.” Mike was carrying the lion's share of the take. He was a big boy and that helped him earn his keep.
“And I didn't.” April wished she had parked closer. She was afraid a car parked behind the pawn shop would attract attention, but they were in and out so quick that it would not have mattered.
“They say he walks through shadows. He's there one minute and gone the next. That's how he works.”
“There we go,” Magnus Ford said. “Back home safe and sound.”
Magnus was leading wild-eyed Scott Lane into the dorm room they shared.
“Let's not go back to that club, okay? It's a bit too exciting for my taste. Edgy is not always a good thing... apparently.”
Scott just stared.
“Are you thirsty? I bet you're thirsty. All that smoke in the air. Disgusting habit. You look thirsty. Here.” Magnus grabbed a sports drink from their dorm fridge and tossed it to Scott who made no effort to catch it. The bottle bounced off his chest, hit the floor and leaked a citrus colored trail as it rolled across their thrift store rug.
Scott just stared.
“Is he still here?”
Vinny Rio nodded as he held the car door for Salvatore “the Salamander” Zaffarano. Salvatore eyed his lieutenant as he exited the car.
“What the hell's wrong with you?”
“I'm fine,” Vinny said as he approached the large, block building, entered a code and opened the heavy steel door for his boss.
“You're not fine. You're a pussy. Is this still because the guy makes him self up like a clown? Jesus Christ, you're a grown man.”
Vinny flipped a switch and fluorescent lights blinked on down the length of the long utilitarian corridor. “It ain't make-up.”
“What ain't make-up?”
“Don't you care for brandy?” Mister Seven asked.
Magnus told himself it was just a dream, and he was sure it was, but somehow that gave him no comfort.
“Seriously?” Magnus said.
Magnus was in a Victorian study decorated with rich colors, dark wood and charming light fixtures that could not seem to pierce the gloom. Mister Seven sat across from him in a red upholstered chair, and a smoking jacket. The antique man-cave was inviting and cozy until you looked close and noticed that every object and every surface was composed of living insects. Occasionally a spider or scorpion would break character and scurry from one place to another, but otherwise the illusion was tight.
Magnus Ford stirred but refused to open his eyes.
“Magnus. Wake up, sweetie.”
His head ached, and why was he so tired?
“Oh god, Magnus, please wake up.”
He complied, but it wasn't easy. It was like each eyelid weighed a ton. His vision was blurry, but he recognized Mom and Dad standing over him.
“Oh, thank god,” Mom said. “Thank god.”
“What... what's going on?”
“You were in an accident,” Dad said.
Magnus sat up in bed. It made his head pound. “Was anyone hurt?”
“Just you,” Mom said. She had to choke out the words.
“How's my car?”
“Don't worry about the car,” Dad said.
“Where have you been?”
Jen Nash, Soldier Boy’s publicist and handler, furrowed her brow and had her hands on her hips. Soldier Boy had been married often enough to recognize that look. It was not a good look.
“What?” Soldier Boy said. “The speech isn’t until 11:30. I’m here with ten damned minutes to spare.”
“There you go, Madison.“
The body was past the rigor mortis stage and so it was supple as Michael Carman removed it from the bag. It was a good looking corpse; young with no signs of trauma. That would make the job easier. If he were merely to add a little color to the dead flesh she would be presentable enough for viewing.
He would have to open up the mortuary’s entire public area to handle the mourners. Young corpses drew big crowds and Madison Whit would be no exception. Michael had met her years before, but he didn’t really remember the occasion. She was just a child then and she blended in with all the other noisy little screamers at the church picnic.
Augustus Silver rushed into the library where Inspector Nesbitt and Professor Pinkley were discussing matters of an extremely British nature. Augustus slammed the double doors behind him and turned to display a broad smile.
"I've done it," he said. "I've solved the murders."
"Excellent, lad," Nesbitt said as he puffed on his Meerschaum pipe. "Don't keep us in suspense. Who is the murderer? Out with it."
"I'm afraid it's a fairly involved story."
"Nonsense," Pinkley said. "The guilty party is that Doubleday chap. Why, it must be him. He's quite disagreeable."
"He plays a role," Augustus said, "but not quite as one would expect. You both recall, of course, that this began as a missing person case."
I was expecting so much more,” Peterson said.
“Leave the guy alone,” Denner replied.
“He’s Soldier Boy. He’s supposed to be saving the world, not sitting on his ass.”
“Watch your mouth, okay? He’ll hear you.”
“He can’t hear us.”
Soldier Boy could hear them just fine. He had little else to do but listen as he bled out on the upper floor of an ancient stone bell tower. Peterson and Denner guarded the stairway entrance while four other commandos were spread out around the parapet. The company medic patched Soldier Boy up as best she could, but the wound in his side, left there by alien mobile artillery, was a nasty thing.