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Chapter 10

I shoved my skull key into the ignition, fired up the bike, and sped off down the street. Very few street lamps still illuminated this road. It gave the street an unnaturally dark feeling. It felt like I was in the woods or on a mountain side road that had no electricity. I felt all alone with nothing to guide me. It was spooky. The only light I could make out was coming from off in the distance, from the Neon District. They were spotlights shining from the heart of it all, the long arm of seduction.

I parked my bike on the street a few stores up from the restaurant. I pulled the key out of the ignition and murmured aloud, “Stay.” The bike had a different theft deterrent than the church’s door. It was simple really. When the key was out there was no way to start it. You couldn’t hot wire it, you couldn’t break the steering lock, and you couldn’t push it. I gave the bike a little more help when I worked up an enchantment to coincide with the anti-theft devices. It worked like the others. When the key wasn’t in place the bike couldn’t be picked up or moved in any way. It was the opposite of anti-gravity. You could have a crane intended for building bridges and sky-scrapers and you still wouldn’t be able to lift this bike. I left knowing when I returned my transportation would be waiting for me, in the same place, and exactly how I left it.

The neon lights highlighted the stragglers as they staggered out of the various places, trying to find their way home. It looked like they had made an unwise decision to have that one more round and they were paying for it. Cabbies lurked near by, coming and going with precision, darting between other cars and, on a far too often occasion, people. They staked out the hottest clubs and patiently waited for the last call; their meters were always running.

I found the entrance to Forever Dark…or Void of Light…or whatever the name was for the restaurant-bar-club-brothel-drug den I had finally arrived at. I tried the door and it was locked, the open sign had already been turned off. I started to politely knock when I remembered why I had come here to begin with…noise, and lots of it.

With my left hand balled into a fist, in my mind I imagined spikes six inches long coming from the end of it. I then pushed my will, my power down my arm and into the steel door. It was as easy as punching through a wet paper towel. The hardened door ripped from its hinges taking the coat rack with it. It slid across the tiled floor, settling 30 feet away. Now, that was more my style.

A worker came running out of the kitchen and into the waiting area to see what had made such a noise. I stood in the empty doorway marveling at the impressive work I had just done.

“What the heck happened?” The kid asked.

“I’m sorry,” as I spoke, I looked at the kids work attire and found his name tag, “Chris, but the door was sticking when I tried to open it. I thought it was a heavy door, so I gave it a little nudge.” I threw my hands in disbelief, it was my, I was just as surprised as him, look.

He looked bewildered, bright eyed and all. His mind was frantically racing, trying to come up with a logical explanation for the door being 30 feet from where it normally hung. The kid was the definition of gawky to me with his skinny body framed with his red hair, his slouched posture and his un-tucked shirt.

“How do you know my name?” He asked with a touch of squeakiness in his voice.

Ha. Poor kid was obviously tired and rightfully so; it was almost 5am. Either he was at the end of his shift or at the beginning of it; either way he seemed a little off his game. I’d better take it easy on him, he didn’t do anything wrong. He shouldn’t have been the one to deal with me.

“You’re wearing a name tag, Chris.” He looked down to confirm what I had told him. “I’m looking for the owner. I was hoping to catch him on his way out. Is he available?”

“I’ve never met the owner. I wouldn’t be able to tell you who he was if he was standing right in front of me.”

I exhaled ever so slowly, frustrated with life at the moment.

“Is there someone else here that could help us?”

The kid was thinking awfully hard for such a simple question. Maybe I gave him too much credit earlier, maybe this was him at his best.

“I dunno man, I just clean after closing.”

“Don’t worry about it, Chris. I’ll come back at a more appropriate time.”

“I can leave a note or something, you know, try to get a message to the manager,” he said, doing his all to help.

“Do you have a marker or sharpie…or perhaps a crayon?” I asked.

He dug around in his pockets, but to no avail. He spotted something near him behind the counter, grabbed it and handed it to me. It was a red sharpie…perfect.

The door, mangled on the ground looked like a pup tent. I used big, bold, block letters to write a note on the door, making sure they would know it was from me.

Wes was here

It was simple, effective, and juvenile. I liked it.

I tossed the sharpie back to Chris and with a bounce in my step I made my way to the empty doorframe. It’s the little things that kept me going.

“Lay off the drugs Chris, you’ll need all the brain cells you can muster.”

I left the restaurant, pretending to open the door as I stepped through the empty threshold. The sun had started to show itself in the east. It was still more-dark than light but then again this town had always been that way. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

The ride home was cool and refreshing. It felt good to do some damage. It had been a while since the last time I was able to destruct property like that. I parked my beautiful bike in its plot, said good-bye, and it disappeared back into the earth. I lumbered up the three flights of stairs and hugged my terrier good-night. I passed out. No dreams, only the passing of time.

I woke up refreshed and strangely happy. I went to the kitchen and poured out a delicious cup of coffee–extra creamer. I always make my coffee in the evening and have it on a timer for noon the next day. Even if it wasn’t that late of a night, coffee would always be good at noon.

Gizmo received fresh water and a cup of food. We would have to go out back in a little bit but for now he looked content in our “morning” routine. I turned the TV on and flipped to the local news channel…nothing. I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t make the news, but it would’ve been cool if one time I could be a side story or something. I should think of a pseudonym, you know a code name I could go by. Rick Deckard could work, yeah I like that one. I may need a good alias someday and that one would do fine.

I feel like I wasted a day. I’ve gone nowhere. Besides some light vandalism, I was still at the beginning with nothing to show for it. Now, my helpy-helper, Harry, has lost his cool and Eddie is–well Eddie is a dick. Speaking of Eddie I should go play my N64; Bond, James Bond–007. Top ten games of all time, all platforms included. No, no, I can’t be distracted; perseverance, dedication that’s me.

My left arm twitched. It was never a good thing.

Bang, bang, bang. The front doors of the church echoed throughout my home. Crap, I knew I was in too good of a mood.

I took my time going down the stairs, waking up, enjoying my coffee.

Bang, bang, bang. The front doors shook a second time.

I walked even slower, my guard dog at my side.

I cracked the door slowly, two police-people stood there impatiently. An annoyed look on their faces as I opened the doors fully, greeting them in my PJ’s which were the same clothes I wore earlier that morning, minus the coat and shoes. I hadn’t even had a chance to brush my fangs yet.

“Good morning Officers or should I say good afternoon,” I said greeting them with as much politeness as I could.

“Sir, we’re responding to an incident that happened earlier this morning. It took place at…” he flipped open his little notebook, “the restaurant, Eternal Night.”

“Can’t say I know what you’re talking about. I was here asleep. What happened? I hope there wasn’t another shooting. I saw that the other night on the news. It’s terrible, things like that happening in our great valley.”

The officers exchanged a glance. I don’t think they believed me.

“We have reason to think you were there…” he checked his notebook again, “around 5am. We have a witness saying a man in a black coat, that fits your description, was there. And his name is Wes.”

Before I could make up some lie, the officer’s radio went off; it sounded important. There was something about a high speed pursuit on the southern end of town; I didn’t know all the cop codes, but they looked fired up.

“Sir, we will be back at some point to finish this conversation.”

That’s all he said and both of them went to their cruiser and left, quickly and abruptly.

Well…shit. Am I the only Wes in this town or what? I closed and locked the front doors with my eight foot oak lock. It felt like I was securing a castle and that was fine by me.

The police had to be randomly going to people named Wes in a ten block radius or something. They were grasping at straws, right? Admittedly, it was a little nerve racking to think that they might come back, but my little shenanigans should fall between the cracks. No one was hurt and a door was broken; no big deal, right? Yet, I still didn’t make the news. I felt like punching myself in the face for using my real name when I ordered power and water and all that stuff for the homestead. I should have used an alias. Rick Deckard, how may I help you? The restaurant probably had to file a police report to get the insurance to cover the damages. I wish that little red-haired kid kept his mouth shut. I thought I was pretty nice to him overall. I gave him a story to tell all his ginger friends. If anything, I helped his life; a good story can do wonders for your reputation. Embellish a little here or there and say I tried to punch him, but he blocked it and threw me to the ground and I went off crying. I wouldn’t have minded if he helped himself.

I’m glad it was past noon. I needed an adult beverage.

On your mark, get set, and go.

Gizmo took the early lead up the stairs, but I was right on his stubby tail. We rounded the second floor platform neck and neck. I abruptly stopped half way up the third flight of stairs, turning to head back down. Gizmo stopped and headed back towards me–where I went he would follow. I quickly darted back up the stairs and passed him with a juvenile cry of joy. One word described how I felt…winning.

We made it back to our room; Gizmo sulking only a little bit. I collapsed in my recliner in the corner as if someone pulled all my bones out of my body at once. I had to get back to the beginning, the basics of the investigation. I started with the newspaper from the morning after the shootings. The paper, Heretic Herald, gave the shootings a front page spread. Usually you would find it on the back side of the page. It must’ve been a slow news day.

Two individuals, both men, were gunned down outside of a local nightclub. Around 2am the partiers exited the building and were waiting for a taxi. A black SUV with tinted windows pulled up. Two masked people leaned out and opened fire. The club, Night Shade, known for keeping the inside barely visible, declined to answer any of our questions. The club has resumed its normal operating hours after the police finished their investigation of the crime scene. One of the men, David “Deals” Hester, a local drug runner and dealer died on the scene. The other victim, N other information could be given at this time. The authorities are awaiting the contact of any family members before they are able do anything else. David is survived by his grandmother Pearl whom he still lived with. Anyone with any information please call the H.V.P.D. @ 1-555-276-6533.

I put the paper down. I felt a slight frown surfacing. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt anything to go by the club. Going to the scene of the crime is generally a useful tool for a private investigator. But, I’m not really a private investigator. There was a problem with that idea though. Jace’s place was only a block away from the club and though I’m not scared of him in general, I shouldn’t draw any more attention to my unforgettable face. I felt like I was in the same place as before. I was in that proverbial tar pit watching the world change as I became a skeleton of my former self. Yikes, that was a little dreary even by my standards. It must be lunch time.

My lunch: a PB & J sandwich on buttermilk bread, an apple, pretzel sticks, and a glass of water to wash it all down. It was better than it sounded. I ended up adding some peanut butter to the apples as well. Gizmo received a couple treats, but the bag was nearly empty. A trip to the pet store was due; he needed to relieve himself anyway.

The sun still tried to make itself visible through the clouds as we stepped out back, but like before the light couldn’t find its way through. It was a typical afternoon here.  The walk to the pet shop took 4 minutes on average. It’s quick and short enough that I didn’t complain. The pup produces a lot of strength within his little frame, pulling me the whole way. I’m not gonna complain about it, he saves me from using too much energy. I wouldn’t want to break a sweat.

Before us, stood a two story brick building with a small sign, handwritten with the name of the store, Pets are People Too. In between two windows, a single glass door held another sign declaring it open. Gizmo pulled us in.

There wasn’t another soul present except for the owner, Charles, a man in his late 70’s. He had thin white hair covering 60% of the area that it should’ve covered. His light brown sweater vest screamed old man and he wore it proudly. He was doing today’s crossword. He was always doing the daily crossword. His glasses rested on the tip of his nose, but not to worry, his slender, silver chain attached to each ear piece would prevent any damage being done if they were to fall. His trusty companion Charge: an enormous, massive, beast of a dog, rested by his side. The bull mastiff, one of the largest breed of dogs, looked nearly as old as Charles. Don’t let his lethargic appearance fool you, Gizmo would attest to that. He learned a very valuable lesson one day: never wake a sleeping bear or in his case a bull mastiff.

Charles greeted us with a genuine smile, few that had ever been directed towards me, (even though I knew it was mostly meant for Gizmo).

The quaint shop looked out of place in the Valley. It belonged in the country side, off of a dirt road, nestled under a sycamore tree. Charles exuded that country, grandfather appeal.

The pet store never sold any pets, it only provided you with the tools and supplies to take care of the ones you already had. Charles did have a fish tank in the middle of the shop with a school of fish in it: a white angel fish, many goldfish, guppies, and a clown fish like ‘Nemo’. These fish were not for sale, this was Charles personal tank.

An aisle on each side of the tank held the various dog and cat supplies. One of the walls was dedicated for fish and the other for rabbits and various vermin. The back aisle had been dedicated to our products. It was our very own special wall.

“Good afternoon Charles, how are you doing today?”

“Hello Gizmo. Hello Wes. I am doing as well as the last time I suppose. I’m still able to get up every morning, open the doors, and go about my business.”

“The little tyke here ran out of treats. Are they still on the back wall?” I asked knowing the answer. “His puppy chow should still have over a week left, so only the treats for today.”

“He looks a little portly, maybe you’ve been giving him too many of those treats. And yes they are on the same wall as last time,” He answered with a smirk.

Gizmo wasn’t portly. He could run circles around any person or any dog for that matter. I have to cheat just to beat him up or down the stairs. And I’m sort of fit.

“Don’t say that Charles. He already has one complex, he doesn’t need another.”

I went over to Charge and gave him some firm pets and how-do-you-do’s before finding my way to the back wall and to the pup’s veggie-friendly treats. Gizmo went to Charge tentatively, giving him a quick lick and a wag of his tail before joining me to pick out his snacks. Last time he had the fake-fish snacks, this time I picked the fake-chicken flavored snacks but the dog in command brought over the bacon flavored snacks. I couldn’t say no, they were shaped like real bacon.

We made our way back to the counter. Charles was still working on the daily crossword. Like I said, he was a typical old man.

“There you go sir, just the snacks.” I said interrupting his concentration.

“Huh? Oh, yes you’re still here. Sorry, today’s questions are harder than usual,” he said motioning to the newspaper.

“What are you stuck on? Maybe this young gun can get his good deed out of the way early today.”

“We’ll see about that, Wes. It’s 12 down. I can’t for the life of me think of the answer.”

“If you think any harder that vein in your forehead may burst, you better relax and let me have a look.”

“Fine, kid, here’s the question,” he said. “The now destroyed home planet of Princess Leia. It’s 8 letters.”

I shook my head and laughed. He pulled one over on me, there wasn’t much else I could’ve done but smiled.

“Good one old man. You got me. If you didn’t want my help you could’ve just said so. I can always help an old lady get through an intersection later or something. I don’t need your help fulfilling my self-appointed daily quota for good deeds.”

“What?” He asked abruptly. “No, that is the question. I’m not trying to trick you,” he said seriously. He looked down his wrinkled nose, “Who is Princess Leia?” He asked pronouncing her name incorrectly.

My jaw dropped. Whatever look I had on my face wouldn’t have been enough to display my shock. Even in his late 70’s he should have known the answer to that question. The original Star Wars movies are the most widely known trilogy of all-time. It hurt me to know there were still people out there that hadn’t experienced the “force”.

“If you really are being serious Charles, the answer is ‘Alderaan’. The home planet of Princess Leia is Alderaan. I would love to go into great detail about the movie but I’m afraid the information would fall on deaf ears.”

“Huh?” He asked turning an ear to me.

“I said, the answ…” he interrupted me before I could finish.

“I know what you said. I heard you loud and clear.” He said with a smile. “Please don’t go on about anything though; I’m too old to learn new things.”

I nodded in agreement. “That’s very true.”

I try to forget how this store stayed open on our desolate street, but if it wasn’t for me our favorite little pet shop would’ve been long gone by now. I only wished that we hadn’t met under such circumstances.

Shortly after I found myself with a dog, I found the store. I started going there almost every day getting something for the puppy. Gizmo was as demanding then as he is now. On one of our daily trips we came in to find Charles behind the counter, but he wasn’t doing the crossword; he was on the ground, bleeding.  It turned out he had been pistol-whipped. The butt of the gun split the middle of his forehead, causing blood to spurt out of the two inch gash. He had been going in and out of unconscious. I remember seeing the faint white coloration of his skull in between the rag changes.

I waited for the paramedics to show up, doing the best I could until they arrived. His dog, Charge, had been locked up in the back room. By the time I let him out the door had all been knocked off of its hinges. Charge had two nails ripped out of his left paw and one out of his right. He never stopped trying to get to Charles, to his family. From that day on nothing would keep Charge away from Charles. I doubt Death himself could.

When Charles returned from the hospital two days later I went over to the store to see if I could help. He gave me the same details as he did two days earlier while we were waiting for the police: two men, both wore masks, one talked with an English accent, and the gun was a revolver—a big one.

The police told him they weren’t very hopeful if no one else were to come forward. The police never particularly cared about this part of the valley; except if someone broke down a door and then left without further incident. If that sort of thing happened they would get that case solved A.S.A.P.

I asked Charles to walk me through the robbery, step by step.

It happened very quickly. They came in waiving the gun, ordering Charles to put Charge in the back room. He did. When he made it back, the one with the English accent smashed the butt of the gun straight down on his head. He fell back behind the counter in a heap on the floor. The other assailant went to the register and hit his hand on the top of it when it stuck halfway open. He snatched the $100 or so that had been in the register. The robber looked down at Charles bleeding and as if he was trying to add lemon juice to his wounds, he ripped the wedding band off of Charles finger.

Charles remembered that the bastard cut himself; an important fact that he hadn’t remembered until that moment. The thief had cut himself hitting the register. Blood…blood was good. I could do something with that.

Magic, energy, aura, or whatever you want to call it, lives inside of everyone. Small, trace amounts in most people but in cases like mine, it thrives and empowers me to be able to do extraordinary things. One of those things is being able to locate anyone, anywhere if provided with a sample of their DNA, their energies fingerprint. And there are no two alike.

I gathered the dried blood from the register and placed it in the middle of my left palm and closed it. I shut my eyes and relaxed, focusing on the energy I felt pulsing on my palm.

It hit me in the face like a freight train. I could see the path this coward had taken to get to the shop. I could’ve seen his whole life if I had wanted to but all I cared about was his location then, right then and there.

He lived close to the shop, within 2 miles. I should’ve taken a minute to think about what I was going to do, but I didn’t. Instead, I made a direct line for the apartment that he was in; the second floor of a three story complex. Shabby and run down but mostly occupied. His name was Scott Miller.

 

 

 

Chapter 12

Apartment 26.

I stared at the mustard-colored paint peeled door. I could feel him in there. I would always be able to feel his breath crawling on my skin if he was anywhere near me. It was the cost of taking his blood. I didn’t knock, I knew he was home. I kicked it in and let my rage wash over me. He sat on his torn couch eating a bowl of fruit loops. Even bad guys liked fruit loops. He was scared and I could feel it. I wasn’t in to torturing people but I knew the longer it took for me to talk it would be like pulling his finger nails off…one…by one.

I waited…and waited some more. I waited until he was prime for what I was about to say.

“You hurt a friend of mine,” I said through clenched teeth. “I don’t have many friends so when something like this happens to one of them I take it very personally.”

“Please, take anything you want, just leave me alone.” He said sinking into his couch, motioning around the apartment, spilling his milk on his already dirty t-shirt.

“Scott, it won’t be that easy. How do I know you won’t be out there tomorrow night? How do I know you will change? There’s only one way I will be sure.”

“I’ll turn myself in man. Call the cops, I’ll confess.”

“Not good enough.”

I closed in on him and grabbed him by the throat with my work hand. I squeezed and he couldn’t do anything about it. Although, it wasn’t for his lack of trying; I was abnormal. I put my mouth as close to his ear as I could and whispered. “I can always find you–remember that.” I lifted him from the floor and threw him against the wall. He landed awkwardly and I heard a snap. He screamed in agony and I didn’t care. His foot pointed in the wrong direction, a moment of satisfaction entered my mind.

“I need you to tell me your partner’s name, Scott. I need to have a conversation with him,” I said, my eyes fixed on his watery ones. “I know he was the one who hit the old man in the skull. The only reason you’re in one piece is because you weren’t.”

Through his tears he answered me.

“I don’t know who he was man. He came to me and asked if I wanted to make an easy $500. All I had to do was help him knock over a pet store. It sounded easy, so I said yes.”

“Why pay you so much? All you stole was a fifth of that and a wedding ring. Speaking of which, where is the ring?” I asked.

He pointed to the top of the T.V. where a tin container sat on top. I went over and lifted the lid. A simple gold ring, dull and dented, rested inside. It hadn’t been forged in Mt. Doom, or meant to rule them all, but it was special to the man who it was taken from. I grabbed it and stuffed it in my front pocket.

“What about the man with the English accent?”

“I don’t know where to find him, I already told you that. All I know is what he called himself.”

“And what was that?”

“King, he’s called King.”

I walked over to him. “You are leaving this valley tonight. Don’t come back. I’ll know if you do, I’ll always know. Every day you stay in my town a new bone of yours will be broken. Every day I will shatter a bone like I was snapping a pencil in two. Today it was your ankle, tomorrow who knows what I will feel like smashing.” I punched him across his temple and grabbed his cell phone. I flipped through it but nothing with the name King; I wrote a few numbers down just in case. I tossed the phone towards Scott, who was “sleeping”, and I strode away. When he woke up he could call for help. I wasn’t going to do it for him.

I returned to Charles and gave him his wedding band back. His wife passed away 8 years earlier from a heart attack. They never had any kids. All he had had in this world had been taken from him, except for his ring. His devotion to her was everlasting. When I gave him his ring back he lost control of all emotions, crying from his beloved’s memory.

I gave him my word that I would be there to protect him and to ensure that nothing like that would never happen to him again. I gave him a vial with a piece of my hair and a piece of my magic sealed inside. It was a way for him to call me if he was ever in need of my assistance again. It worked like a fire alarm: first break glass and alarm will sound. I would know immediately once the vial had been broken. So far there had been no need for such measures.

I’ve still never found who this King character is and it eats away at me every day. There will be a day where we meet and for me that day couldn’t come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chapter 4

Four blocks down and four to go.

Those two gents are exactly what’s wrong with the valley. They’re career criminals; an acceptable way of life in these streets. It was a tough situation for me to be in. I didn’t have a reason to flat out kill those two, granted it had crossed my mind, but I don’t do the cold-blood-murder-thing. If I had “detained” them, I would’ve still had to press charges, make statements, and answer questions. Considering I’m the one that assaulted Tim, proving my side of the story would be a tall order.

Talking to the police wouldn’t be an ideal scenario for me. They aren’t very fond of me at HVPD, we’ve had a few run-ins before and the fact I’m not in jail was some sort of miracle.  They considered me a nuisance and thought I was in the way of real police work; I think they’re delusional.

I really wanted my message to be well received by those two evil-doers. I really didn’t want to see them again. Promises from me are like Bruce Willis in a M. Night Shyamalan movie…Unbreakable. If they didn’t like the taser they sure as hell wouldn’t like what my left arm would’ve brought to the party.

The last leg of my journey went as smooth as the first half should have gone. The closer I came to my destination the number of people grew. Groups of friends headed into the early night laughing, eagerly awaiting for what the night held for them. Nothing in their life would compare to an adventure in the Neon district.  They were all looking for a good time, in a very bad place.

Entering the first block of the district was like stepping into a trashy amusement park. The neon signs hummed with life, calling to the patrons, acting like masked sirens, singing their sweet lullaby, luring the hopeless people, enchanting them to their demise. A blank stare or even a smile would hang on the faces of those lost souls. The lights were glowing from every window and doorway enticing any passerby in; to see what wonders would welcome them. You could find all of your favorite ways to sin and many other ways that you never knew existed. This place is a disease, an incurable cancer, and black as death itself.

I found the store I had been looking for. It was a pawn shop, Last Chance Pawn. Many shops like this occupied this condensed area. There were many customers who came here looking for that last dollar to get that last high. Like most businesses people’s addictions were their gains.

I stopped in front of the entrance, surprised there wasn’t a line around the corner. I pushed the buzzer, looked up to the security camera and gave it a one finger wave. The heavy security door buzzed and popped open. I walked in casually, as because that’s the only way I knew how.

To my left, on the other side of the bullet proof glass, he stood, Eddie Deville–a name fitting enough to call this place home. He was an average man, of average height, and average weight. His eyes are what stood him apart from anyone else, they were unmistakable. They were extremely dark, not black but midnight, and they looked hungry. Eddie thrived where others couldn’t survive. His bland look was merely a facade; he’s a survivor, a predator.

His look was completed with one of his customary silk shirts; this one was a rich burgundy to go with his black slacks. He looked up from counting his money and greeted me with a big toothy smile.

“Mr. Andersen, what brings you to the depths of human turmoil?”

The sound of his voice had always made me uneasy. He wasn’t a big time criminal, but his lack of humanity in conducting his business had always disturbed me. If I wasn’t in a bad mood already, his voice pushed me to the brink.

“First, knock that crazy grin off of your face. Second, you already know the reason why I’m here,” I answered with more of a scowl on my face than intended.

“First, you flip off my camera. Second, you come into my store and try to tell me what to do. Third, why are we counting?”

I had to keep a grin from creeping up on my face. If he knew his antics so easily amused me I would’ve lost any upper hand that I had worked so hard to establish. I needed to focus and remember why I was here. Eddie could be the only person I knew who could help me get the information I needed. If this was an organized hit, I needed to figure out who ordered it and fast. There’s enough senseless violence and killings that kept happening in my town, I’ve made a small dent where I could but if this was indeed a mob hit, I would need all of the help I could get. Right now it was entirely necessary to keep a straight face.

“Well, aren’t you quick tonight; however, I wasn’t flipping the bird. No, I was showing you the I.Q. of your average customer.”

Eddie grinned even wider. “Maybe you see my customers making stupid decisions Wes, but I see them as brave people. They’re willing to sacrifice their antiques and their family heirlooms for a chance, a hope of a better future. I am always ready, waiting to give them the fresh start, a new chance on life that everyone deserves.” As he said the last few words he gave a short bow of his head, something a man of nobility would do.

“I feel like I should be building a gold statue of your likeness right now.”

“No, that won’t be necessary. As always our arrangement is still in order. Please, feel free to look around. I’m sure you will find my prices to be quite…generous.”

“Generous for whom?” I asked.

I stepped away to browse the shop. Two workers were positioned in opposite corners of the room. They were large men; they were as wide as they were tall. They wore black t-shirts with the stores logo on the left breast, matching black slacks, and work boots. The giant in the left corner wore his blonde hair slicked back and he was clean shaven. The mammoth in the right corner was bald, Mr. Clean style, and he had a phenomenal fu-Manchu. I did the best I could to ignore them.

I looked around at all of the various things Eddie had collected through trade, barter, or some other methods that were not of the legal nature. He was as slick as they came and savvy enough to stay under most radars. He was a man who could locate certain things from time to time if need be, but there was always a price. I came through here for the first time ten months ago in search of answers. I needed information and he named the cost. Now if I ever required anything from him, I must first pay his toll.

There were three glass display cases, each roughly twenty feet long and three feet wide. They held the fancy jewelry, guns, swords, smaller trinkets, and any other tiny knick knacks. The walls were decorated in signed memorabilia, posters, paintings, and also held a wide array of guitars. There were acoustic and electric and even some banjos. There was a door at the back wall leading to his warehouse. All of the bigger stuff was stored in there: mountain bikes, Harleys, street bikes, cars, trucks, grandfather clocks and I even remember seeing a suit of armor straight out of the Middle Ages. People sell anything to feed their addictions.

The glass case furthest from Eddie had an item in it that caught my eye. I wouldn’t have expected to find it in a glass case, but there it was a Nintendo 64 game console, with controller. I haven’t had the fortune of playing one of these for many, many years.

I told Eddie of my interest in the console. The giant came over and opened the case, retrieving the item for me.  I gazed upon it with a big, goofy smile and walked over to the counter where I could set it down. The N64 was in surprisingly good condition and even the controller moved smoothly. The buttons weren’t gummed up, a very good sign considering kids would’ve owned these and kids have very sticky fingers. Now it was to the hard part…negotiating the price.

“Alright kind sir who owns this fine establishment. I have intent to purchase this old, useless, and probably broken down video gaming system. What kind of deal can you give me to take this dusty, ugly item off your hands?” I asked with a big cheesy smile plastered on my face.

“Cut the shit Wes; you pay what I ask or you get nothing. You’ll get no information and no game for the grown child,” he said motioning to the console. “I know you might give up the information out of spite but the excitement is practically oozing out of you over that gray box.”

We were face to face by now, well as close as you could be when there was a one inch sheet of bullet proof glass between the two of you. I didn’t know why I was so easily getting upset with him, but I just had a feeling that my night would never get any better. I needed to change topics quick, before one of us pushed the other over the edge. Preferably I wished that we would both settle down and stop baiting each other. The two men behind me were two of the most menacing counter people I had ever seen. I’m coming to the conclusion they weren’t hired for their knowhow in spotting the difference between a real and a fake Rolex. It would be wise of me to try and keep my temper from reaching its boiling point.

“Do you have any refill cartridges for my taser?” I asked.

“Why? You would only need more if you had used it. Did you use the taser you bought from me?”

“Indeed I did,” I said proudly. “In fact I used it right before I arrived here this evening. And might I say it worked phenomenally. I barely had to move. Those two amateurs didn’t know what hit them, well one of them didn’t. The other I think learned a valuable lesson; you’re never too old to change your life around.”

Eddie just stood there shaking his head, letting out a chuckle when he could no longer hold it back.

“You’re a sucker. Your empathy has gotten the best of you once again. Those animals would’ve taken everything from you in a heartbeat. If they could do it all over again they would, but with one difference; they wouldn’t give you a chance to talk. That was the only lesson they learned; they were animals Wes, simple as that.”

I started to feel a little warmer than I had a minute ago, my temper started to reach its point of no return. Changing topics apparently wasn’t working, but I am only a man, and having this creep mock me was something I couldn’t let slide.

“Animals? Funny, I would’ve put you in that category. The way you feast on the weak without a hint of remorse. It’s in your DNA, your instinct. It’s your own process of natural selection. You sit behind that protective wall counting your money, while confused and misguided people fall deeper into the void–lost to the world forever. You help them get closer and closer to the point where they can never return from. All they would need is a kind deed or a simple helping hand to put them on the right path.

“You couldn’t do that though, where would you be without the frail or the helpless little sheep? You may be someone I conduct business with, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re any better than the scum I’m trying to get rid of. One day Eddie, our time will come. Our dealings will be finished and there will be nothing left to do but see who the true survivor is.” I said the last words pressing my forehead to the glass, spitting the syllables with contempt.

Eddie arched a brow and gave a look to one of his goons. They, Eddie and the goon, communed with an exchange of a glance and quickly two guns were produced and pointed at me–one gun from each goon. And both guns were pointed at me. I usually loved it when I was right, but not this time. I knew they didn’t really work the counters. On the bright side I have graduated from knives to guns in a shade under an hour. I paid them no attention, if I didn’t want to switch my nationality from Irish to Swiss, the man in front of me would be the one to convince. Eddie regarded the situation briefly and then replied.

“One should be careful to throw such disrespect around in another man’s house, especially when they are out-manned and out-gunned. I don’t think your little electric shaver will get the best of my men.” 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

I regarded the situation briefly, and then did what I did best. I reacted.

I lifted my left hand and pressed my palm to the glass. The sleeve of my jacket slid down my arm revealing my secret. My entire left arm had been covered in deep sigils and runes that had been pain-stakingly carved into the flesh. Hours upon hours of meditation, power, and blood went into the craftsmanship of my appendage. My mentor, Marcus, had guided me through the process. He said he’d never applied the craft to an actual body part before. He’d always performed the ritual in a more traditional sense, on a staff. A staff was used as a way to harness your power and expel it in an efficient and accurate way. I asked him what if I lost my staff or it was misplaced? What would I have done then? I was devoted to my craft because of the guidance I had received from Marcus. This was my purpose I had always been looking for.  I was in it to win it, and carrying an eight foot long hunk of wood didn’t work for me. I applied the same art and ancient technique of staff carving into my left arm. If I were to ever lose the arm I wouldn’t want it to be my dominant gaming arm, so the lefty it went. I’m always thinking one step ahead.

Eddie had never seen what I was capable of; in fact most of our meetings go down as pleasant as they could. He probably didn’t think much of me considering I bought and used the taser I had purchased here. It’s not considered the manliest weapon I could’ve wielded. I must admit I was a little on edge already from my rumble in the streets. My adrenaline kicked in when I had fired the taser, and it was still in charge of my emotions. I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize my relationship, if you would call it that, with Eddie. He was valuable to my efforts in cleansing this diseased place. If he wanted me to pay his overpriced costs it was worth. In the end it would be a small cost to the bigger payout.

I let a smirk slide up on my face as I focused on my arm. I sent energy into my extended limb and eased it forward, keeping constant eye contact with Eddie as I did so. My arm slid through the bullet proof protection like bare toes through a sandy beach. It was like the bullet proof glass was only an illusion, and in reality it was nothing more than water. Of course in reality it was glass, but I don’t live in the same world as many other people.

My arm, up to my elbow, was clean through the other side. I didn’t grab or touch Eddie; I gave him a wink and brought my hand back where it belonged—on the other side of the glass with the rest of my body. I was trying to make a point to him; nobody was out of my reach. I put my hands up in the air to make sure goon #1 and goon #2 wouldn’t get trigger happy. Eddie remained calm and stoic as usual, pondering his next words carefully.

“Wes, I must admit that I am not surprised often,” he said, “but that was most interesting.” He looked at his men and raised a brow; they lowered their hand guns and stepped back a couple paces. “The shooting that occurred was not a random act. I can tell you who was behind it, but I know you won’t like it. In fact I was partially hoping I could piss you off enough that you would leave and that would be the end of it. Are you sure you need to know who the puppeteer is?” He asked, but his tone held uneasiness in it. I really think he didn’t want to be the one to tell me.

“I came back to clean up my town, Eddie. I’m not here to sit motionless on the sidelines. I’ve dealt with that feeling of helplessness before, but never again. I have changed and with me this Valley will change too. I need to know who was behind this. I have to know.” I answered him impatiently. If I couldn’t find out who was behind all of this I wouldn’t be able to sleep or do anything until I had found out. Even if I could do nothing about it; the fact of me not knowing who or what was behind the attack would drive me insane. Gizmo would go un-walked and un-loved; I couldn’t be responsible for that…I had to know.

“Though I disagree that our town needs to change; a deal is a deal. Even I think a gentleman should always keep the promises he makes. I believe you know the man pulling the strings–Jace Pirelli.”

My vision left me, and darkness took over. I felt like I had been kicked in the balls by Bigfoot; it hurt like hell and I’m pretty sure I was going to throw up. I threw money at Eddie and grabbed my newly acquired merchandise as I stumbled through the door and back to the street. The district was spinning round and round like a rickety ride at this horror of an amusement park.  If you have never seen the delicious snack known as goldfish being thrown up, I envy you. Orange colored minced up crackers, bathed in the sewer color of my Mt. dew soda splattered to the curb. Not as refreshing as when I first had them. I gathered myself the best I could and hurried down the road, back to the safety and solitude of my home.

 

 

Chapter 6

Jace Pirelli was the catalyst to my world changing experience. He’s played the biggest role in my life, more than Marcus, Harry, or even Gizmo.

When I was young school had always been uninteresting to me. Coming from my background or the little background I had, hindered my ability to be accepted by other students or even the wanting to be accepted. Normally an orphan would go through his/her schooling inside the orphanage. But me, being the super smart person that I am, wanted to be with the “normal” kids. I told myself it would be the only way for me to find normalcy.

I started going in the 7th grade. By the 2nd week of school I realized I had made an inaccurate hypothesis of what would transpire during the course of my schooling. But, I did learn some big words. Going to school away from the orphanage proved to be more stressful than I could have ever imagined.

I was hated by most and ignored by those who remained. I couldn’t go back to the orphanage and tell them I was wrong; I was young, an orphan, but I still had my pride. I told myself I would be able to handle it, that I would eventually win them over.

I developed my game addiction through the shunning process known as junior high and the part of high school I had attended. I would spend my days in the computer lab or under a tree far away from others playing my game boy I had traded for. All it cost me was a year’s worth of homework and my chocolate pudding snack I had in my lunch every day. The kid was spoiled anyway; he didn’t care about the game boy and I didn’t care about my pudding. The extra homework was easy enough. I would just copy my homework and change some of the subtleties to make it a piece of its own. I gave the effort I thought the teacher would’ve expected from that kid.

I was teased, razzed, pushed, mocked, slapped, poked, and constantly the butt of all jokes. The joke that stuck with me for the longest came from the other boys in P.E. class, actually the entire male population at the school. When they headed to the bathroom they would say, ‘I am going to go take a Wes’.

I thought participating in sports would change their opinions of me, but no dice. I was decent at sports, but I was never accepted by the team. They had already made their collective minds up on me and to them I would always be that person. Nothing would change their opinion of me. I did my best to stay out of the way and go through each day pretending I was never there.

It was in the 10th grade when everything changed. It was then I escaped my school and my city.

The day had been shaping up to be pretty standard. I was transitioning myself from the computer lab to my first class after lunch, Biology 101. I was stopped outside of one of the class rooms by a trio of kids in my grade. Jace was in the group, he was the group.

“Look everybody, it’s Wesley. Where do you think you’re going?” Jace asked.

“Just going to my class, the bell is about to ring. You guys should get going too; you don’t want to be tardy.” I replied with a hint of sarcasm. I didn’t care if they were late and neither did they.

“Why are you still here?” Jace asked. “You have zero friends and you know nobody wants you here. Hell, even your own parents didn’t want you.”

The other kids laughed and even exchanged high fives, content in the anguish they caused on their fellow student. It was then when I felt my first trickle of energy. The hairs all over my body stood on end; they were at attention waiting for an order. The boys continued their verbal assault on me; well Jace did but the other kids eagerly listened and waited with anticipation for the next round of high fives and laughter.

“I hope you don’t think you are going to embarrass us again by playing basketball this upcoming season. Just because everyone can be on the team, doesn’t mean everyone should be on the team. You aren’t fit to hand us water bottles, let alone sit on the end of the bench with a uniform on.” Jace barked at me.

Jace was the all-American kid every parent dreamed of. Being captain of every sports team gave him the privilege to get away with anything and everything he wanted to. His parents were from wealthy backgrounds and on top of that his father was the Mayor of our illustrious city. He was tall, smart, and handsome; a walking cliché every teen movie portrayed. Years of the abuse taken by him and the others would drive a lot of kids into insanity or into a deep, dark place where they could never crawl out from. I was able to escape that fate…I was lucky.

“You know, Jace, every time you stop me, you say the same shit. If you don’t have anything new to throw at me you are wasting my time and the time of your lackeys. If you can’t summarize your deposition of my inadequate qualities in a more expediently superior fashion, I will be tardy for class,” I said with as much elegance as I could muster. That was me taking the high road.

Blank stares were glued on the other kid’s faces, but Jace understood what I had said and he didn’t like it one bit. His face contorted in a fit of rage. No one had ever dared to stand up to him in any fashion. He was Jace Pirelli. He was strong, smart, and he was the leader.

I had forced his hand and his hand struck. He punched me above the left eye, close to my temple. I went down to a knee in a reflexively submissive position. The three kids then took their turns kicking me in my ribs and stomping at my back wildly. My brain had been jarred and my sight became blurry. My arms raised themselves of their own volition. In that moment, every time I had been pushed, kicked, teased, or punished for being different came to the surface. My emotions raced with rage, envy, and hatred. I hated these kids, but I envied what they had: Families, friends, and acceptance.

I screamed a war cry worthy of William Wallace and let go of those emotions that had haunted me for so long. I released the energy through my arms and out into the world, bringing stillness to my body; for the first time in my life I was calm. It was over as swiftly as it had begun. There were many students and part of the faculty staring at me by the time I had stood up. I had a cut on my temple and my ribs hurt with every exhausted breath I took. Three bodies lay twenty five yards from where I was standing; their fingers twitched and their legs kicked sporadically. I didn’t know how they got there, but I knew I was the reason. I picked up my back pack and disappeared as fast as I could from everything and everyone I had ever known.

I still don’t know why that was the moment where my magic showed itself. There had been plenty of opportunities over the years where I felt I was at my limit for the abuse I endured. I had to grow up fast and grow up hard from day one. My life had been difficult before but I had never truly been on my own until after that day.

Our lives would forever be entangled since that fateful day. Jace brought out my true potential and he was the one who had paid the cost. His arm had been broken in three places and he had two broken ribs. He never fully recovered emotionally from what had happened and he turned from his promised life, to a life on the wrong side of the law. He built an underground empire of thieves, drugs, and murder. He wasn’t just a gangster; he was crime–everything that it entailed. I knew a face to face meeting between the two of us was inevitable. Every person I have thrown off my streets was in some way connected to his vastly growing kingdom. The question was–where do I go from here?

 

 

Good evening everyone,

After a long Hiatus I am back and ready to do what I love to do: Write about anything and everything. I hope you have all survived without a little sample of me every week. I hope everyone has had a great Fall and a good start to what looks like a very cold Winter.

I have put my book on sale in the Amazon Marketplace. Here is a link there if you want a fun read to curl up to on these cold nights: “Welcome to Heretic Valley”.

If you have a topic you would like to know my opinion on or news about my other writings let me know in the comment section or find me on twitter @HereticValley. I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for enjoying the things that I put on here and trust me there’s more to come. Have a great night.
B. McGee

For one day only you can get my book for free on Amazon here, “Welcome To Heretic Valley” Not everything on this day is a trick, treat yourself to something awesome and free. Thank you for everything.
Brian

The awkwardness of Middle school and High school didn’t end when the final bell rang. It continued, through after school affairs such as sports and clubs that you’re pushed into by your parents. But through all that one thing in my life remained constant: video games. After a hard day of social ineptitude and sporty awkwardness I could always count on the power button to release me from my ever changing world. I was playing Super Nintendo in those days, racing around the track in Super Mario Kart, clinging to vines in Donkey Kong, and hitting home runs in Ken Griffey Jr. baseball. If I had a guilty pleasure game for the Super NES it would be The Lion King video game. I can’t explain it but I have so many fond memories of playing it that game is always the first I think of.

There were so many great two player games that you and a friend could play for hours without an inkling of boredom. As mentioned previously, Mario Kart was one of those games as was Street Fighter. You could use several different characters each with their own special abilities and you wouldn’t get tired of them. That was the beauty of games back then. They were made specifically for two players. Their levels were made to keep you on your toes and make the two players work as a team. What they lack in the graphics department compared to the new generation games they made up for in how they were played.

Yes, my nostalgia sometimes gets the best of me. I know the Super NES shouldn’t be compared to the consoles of today but I can’t help but think that somehow the new gen systems missed the mark on two player capability. And no I don’t mean online, that’s a completely different topic.

Regardless, my thumbs were sore most weekends or rainy days–Especially when the Sony Playstation came out. I was one of the idiots that traded in the Super NES to get a better deal on the PS. Maybe it was the only way I could afford it, but more likely it was the ONLY way I could afford it. Lucky for me my good friend kept his Super NES so I was able to get the best of both worlds.

The Playstation came out with a plethora of games and the game itself was on a disc just like in the music world everything changed over from tape to disc as well. With the PS came my first taste of a Naughty Dog game in, Crash Bandicoot. This system also brought us big franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, and Tomb Raider. I remember trying to play Resident Evil without my Mom knowing because she said it would be too scary for me and she didn’t want it in her house. And boy was she right. I freaked out. But you’re also talking to the kid who couldn’t watch Jaws because it was too scary. Obviously, I overcame my fears of the walking dead and big, man-eating sharks. My Wife and I play all of the Resident Evil games in co-op mode. In fact that’s what we did on Valentine’s Day. For us, playing video games together is one of the most romantic ways of spending an evening.

The Playstation was a beautiful beginning in Sony’s PS franchise. It further developed my video game addiction. Now, not only did I still play the Super NES, I had a second system with completely different games and construction. Further I went down the rabbit hole in a virtual world where anything was possible.

After High School: Video Game Graduation….coming soon

 

For most people it started early in their life. For some, the addiction didn’t come until they were in high school or perhaps even later in life. It will keep you up at night and sometimes through the early morning hours. The disappointment of defeat or the glory of victory goes hand in hand in this virtual world. You can be anybody or anywhere you want to be. You can travel to France in the 1600’s or you can go to planets in the farthest of galaxies. Anything and everything are in the realm of possibility.

Hi, my name is Brian and I’m addicted to video games. And I don’t ever want to give it up.

My story begins when I was in the 5th grade. I can’t remember when we got it but I can remember how much time and fun I had with it: The Nintendo NES. I will give you my top five games played and would play if I had one today: Contra, Super Mario Bros., Paper boy, Excitebike, Duck Hunt. This system provided the game groundwork for nearly thirty years. I’m enjoying theses same story lines and characters to this day.

Growing up with the NES did more than pass the time on a slow Saturday; it provided my two brothers and me a platform to settle our disagreements without the usual aggression and physical contact. Although, playing the system also caused many other fights. There were many times when my Mother would have to unplug the console and take it away from us. Or she would use it as a bargaining chip to get her three sons to do their chores. And more often than not it worked.

There were many days punching in the Konami code and seeing who could have the most kills or how far could we get as a team in, Contra. Some days were spent challenging each other in, Duck Hunt but usually that ended in a fight because one of us would slide to close to the screen. Those days unfortunately came to an end when the NES over heated and never worked again. It didn’t matter how hard we blew into the cartridges or how hard we slammed them in there; the beast would not wake up.

It didn’t matter. The code was awoken inside of me and my life would never be the same. There wouldn’t be a house or apartment that didn’t have a console in it. I didn’t care if I had to ride a Huffy bike and wear hand-me-down clothes just as long as a video game station was in the living room.

I would always sacrifice for the love of the games.

 

Part 2: The High School Years, coming soon

There are few things in this life that are constant: Time is always ticking away whether we like it or not. As long as we, the human race, occupy this dirt time will always be against us. And the second is the natural opposites that white and black are, have been, and always will be.

I live neither in the light nor completely in the dark. Although it’s not from lack of trying. I merely don’t belong in the light and each day the darkness call to me. It wants me. It beckons me to bathe in it’s allure. To let it wash over me like a waterfall of sin. If I gave in my city would be lost forever. The city would be devoured by the darkness, swallowed whole and to never return. All the work I’ve put in would be erased and the thin line holding the dark at bay would be severed. (And yes, I’m thin.)

I’ve been called many things but a do-good-er or protector or hero has not been one of them. Mostly I’ve been called Wes, simply Wes. There are few who know me and of the things I do to keep the shadows from advancing each night and that’s OK by me. I don’t do it for the publicity. I do it because it’s the only thing I’m good at. I do it because I have to. I need to.

So you rest easy, Heretic Valley. I’m not gonna let the Boogeyman get you tonight.

There I stood, staring at an empty building, waiting for the answers to suddenly appear. For months now I’ve come to this place and waited, hoping that one day it would all become clear.
The cold rain beat down on my hard head. The night sky held not one star, not one pin drop of light to comfort those who needed it. The Moon was out, but in no way was it reassuring. The street was still dark. I was alone. It was the same old story.

Sample of Chapter 1 from Book #2.

Sorry, I’ve been gone a while. But I’ve been a very busy boy. I’ll tell you about it soon…

To all my nerds and procrastinators out there it’s finally time for you to get going. The final countdown is upon us. A mere 24 hours left to download your digital copy of, Welcome To Heretic Valley on Amazon. Go to http://www.Amazon.com and search for either my name, Brian McGee or the title, Welcome To Heretic Valley.

Thank you to everyone who has done just that so far and to those of you who haven’t you better hurry. In the words of an old, wise being–“Fly you fools.”

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