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Chapter 13

 

“You still have that vial I gave you, right?” I asked.

“Of course I do Wes, it’s underneath the counter,” he answered sternly. “I have it rigged on a string so anywhere from behind here I can let it loose and it will drop straight to the ground. I would never forget something like that—ever.”

“I know old man; I had to double check. Something doesn’t feel right in the valley. Something big is in the works and I think I’m a little late for the party. I can feel it growing by the minute.”

“I’ll be cautious Wes, and you do the same.”

“Aren’t I always?” I said grinning. “Caution’s my middle name.”

I paid for the treats and said my goodbyes to Charles and his bear, Charge. Gizmo gave a quick swat to the half-asleep dog and scurried on after me out the door. We took our time, enjoying the suspiciously nice weather; it was still grey but nice.

We arrived home and I flipped some of the new treats to Gizmo. I went to my closet and changed shirts. Instead of the plain one from last night, I put on something a little more me. A deep red t-shirt with black lettering, ‘Bruce Campbell is God’, on the front and on the back, ‘Gimme’ some suga baby’ was written. It was a personal design of mine. If this saving the valley thing didn’t pan out, it’s nice to know I had a career in clothing design to fall back on.

As I shoved a handful of skittles in my mouth, I left through the back door towards the cemetery to retrieve my bike from its grave. I was headed to Heretic General Hospital. I was going to do what I could to get in the room of Mr. Williams, that’s assuming of course he was still there.

I lived in an abandoned church with its own cemetery in back, yet hospitals weird me out, not the skeletons I have as lawn ornaments. The not quite deceased have more of an effect on me than the already dead. It was weird.

When I first stepped in, the smell of decay, blood, and pain attacked me. Anguish ran rampant through these halls and it stopped me in my tracks. Heretic General was a monstrous building. It was odd for me to describe a building that saved lives as monstrous, but that’s what it was. The building had finished with a remodel recently. New equipment, waiting areas, desks, work stations, bathrooms, and everything else that could be nailed down or screwed in. It made this place look deceptively clean, even the workers seemed a little too joyous about their jobs. They must make a mean cup of coffee. I hate it there; no matter what the coffee tasted like.

Security was tight in most hospitals these days. Getting to Matt’s room could be a challenge. I might have to rely on my charm or wit and that’s never a good thing. It never ends up well.

I found the receptions desk and waited for her to acknowledge me. The middle-aged woman had curly hair, light skin and her nameplate on the top of the desk read Mary. She was on the phone with someone explaining she couldn’t give out information like that unless they came down and had the right identification. I was here, now all I need was the right I.D..

She finally got off of the phone with her head hung low. She let out a quick sigh to gather herself before finally looking up to me. She even managed to have that fake-work smile.

“May I help you sir?” She asked.

“Hello Mary,” I replied with a fake smile of my own. “Long day?”

“You could say that. What can I help you with?”

“I’m hoping to visit my friend, Matt Williams. I wanted a chance to pay my respects. Is he still here?”

“Let me check,” she said as she started typing on her computer, most likely looking for the correct room. “Here he is–room 307, on the third floor.”

“I can go see him?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yes,” she answered looking slightly confused. “The elevators are straight passed me. I just need you to sign this visitor’s form. Print here and sign her,” she asked pointing to the correct line each time.

I did as she asked. I printed my name there and I signed my name here. Rick Deckard. I liked it when things came together like that, it makes me smile.

With an optimistic pep in my step, I made it to the elevators hitting the 3rd floor button upon entry. There was a lady in the elevator with me holding a coffee and the day’s newspaper. She was good looking, even in simple jeans, a light blue sweatshirt, and her soft face free of makeup. Her dark brown hair looked a little unkempt and the bags she carried under her doe green eyes wouldn’t have been considered carry-on. She’s had to have been at the hospital for a while looking like that. I gave a polite smile, but not too big of one. I didn’t want to make the wrong impression. I was a gentleman, not a soon-to-be stalker.

The elevator came to a firm stop at the 3rd floor. We both stepped off and she went left but I stayed standing outside of the elevator. I was looking for the directions; which way was the correct way? Ah there it was, to the left as well. I’m half-way to being a stalker. Chalk it up as a productive day for me.

I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy walking behind this lady; it was worth being thought of as a pervert. She peeled off to the restrooms and I continued to room 307. She probably didn’t even need to pee. She was probably trying to get away from me. I have that effect on women.

The single patient room looked standard for the most part. A couple chairs off to the side and a little table next to them. There wasn’t an armed guard so good news for me. I wasn’t sure if there would’ve been, but I guess since they figured he would never recover they didn’t see the point in protecting him…way to stay vigilante H.V.P.D.

Tubes and lines were everywhere. They went in and out and every which way. Matt looked like a sci-fi’s mad scientists experiment. The machines hummed, banged, and beeped. Life support is such an un-natural visual. It physically hurt me to see it.

Death is a reality everyone must face at one point or another– even me. When the mind is gone but the body remains behind, an unseen battle takes place. He’s trapped between the world he knew and the fate that awaited him. No one knows for sure what happens when you die. There are many gods. There are many immortal beings. They live because people still believe in them. They can’t grant you any wishes, or answer your prayers. They only exist. They’re like tinker bell; if you don’t believe they will eventually die. Instead of clapping hands though, these beings feed off of the sacrifices that each person made in the name of that god’s righteousness.

I ran my hand six inches or so above his body. I was looking for any magical trace left from the attack, but there was nothing magical about what had happened to him. He was shot, plain and simple.

Matt was younger than I had expected, even with the Grizzly Addams facial hair. He had an exhausted expression frozen on his face. Was it because he was ready to leave?

I couldn’t find his personal effects. Perhaps the police were rummaging through them, or maybe he didn’t have much on him when he was shot.

He smelled nice, too nice actually. Generally I don’t go around smelling other men, but this was hard to miss. Plus, this was special circumstances. He smelled like a lilacs first bloom; bringing the fresh aroma of spring. Not your typical manly cologne. Perhaps he left the club with a lady, or maybe it was nothing. But it smelled like something. I’m not sure what good that little tidbit of knowledge would do for me now. But, it did bring such a sweet smell to a place like this.

With nothing else for me to do I left the hospital room. I passed the pretty gal from the elevator earlier. I gave her a small nod and a smile as she went by, unsure how she would take it. I tried my best to keep all creepiness out of it.

I glided home on my bike, hitting all green lights. What can I say, I have a gift. A dark green sedan was having the same fortune as me. It’s not every day I had the feeling of being followed. And it’s not every day that a follower’s actually following me. No one came down my street without an agenda.

I put my bike back in the dirt. I decided to continue on foot to the other side of the building and make my way to the front. The car I had seen following me parked on the other side of the street, a half block down. Someone got out of the car and pulled a hood over their head. He or she was sneaking their way closer to my cave of solace.

The follower went down the other side of the house, the same side I entered with my bike. I continued making a circle to get the beat on the intruder, in the middle of the day mind you, the nerve of some people. The follower rounded the back of the church and I rounded the front corner. I reached the back in time to see a woman, and she was reaching for the doorknob.

 

 

 

Chapter 14

 

“That’s a good way to get yourself killed.”

As I finished my sentence, out of fear, instinct or perhaps both, the lady whirled on her heels, cocked her right hand, and punched me straight in the nose. My eyes immediately started to water. I could feel blood beginning to drip down my nostril as I covered my nose with my hands.

“What the hell!” I screamed at her. “Why did you punch me?”

“I’m so sorry, it was a reflex. I didn’t mean to hit you,” she answered, “but you startled me.”

She seemed genuinely remorseful, but she most definitely meant to hit me.

I should’ve been ashamed of myself, getting punched in the face on my own stoop. Why are there so many awesome things I can do, but stopping a punch wasn’t one of them, but a bullet, a knife, or a trident? Sure, no problem, but a punch to the face, oh no I’m sorry Wes you’re going to bleed (not to mention look like you’re crying).

The lady with a wicked straight right was in fact the good looking woman from the hospital earlier.

“Is this because it looked like I was following you at the hospital?” I asked. “I was being friendly, nothing more to it than that.” I said trying to defend myself.

“No, it’s not because of that,” she answered. “What were you doing in my brother’s hospital room?”

“Your brother,” I asked confused, still holding my bloody nose. “Your brother is Matt?”

“Yes, he’s my younger brother, was my younger brother I guess. They said he’s only alive because of the machines. I want those sons of bitches that did this to him to pay before they take him off of those machines,” she said balling her fists, unable to hold the anger below the surface.

Her defensive walls were down and her emotions were out, the tears rolling down her cheeks were a big giveaway. I never knew what to say in these types of situations. Not what I would call one of my strong areas.

“Would you like to come in? I can put on a pot of coffee and we could talk about your brother. Please?” I asked as I opened the door, motioning for her to come in.

She only hesitated for a moment. What normally would be a risk entering a stranger’s home, was a necessary thing if she wanted to find the answers she had been searching for. She knew the consequences. She had made up her mind that finding her brothers killer would be more important than her own safety. I wasn’t someone who had intention of doing her harm, but it was still a risk for her. She was a good person caught in the crossfire. A family member had been taken from her, more or less anyway. I’ve been going through this town doing what I could but never received a chance to something great. Maybe this was my chance.

I gave her a tour through the back of the church, the old kitchen, and the main floor. She looked transfixed with the beauty of this old place: the detailed wood, the aged pews, the altar, and of course the stained glass window. It’s one thing if you had seen it from the outside but it’s completely different when seeing it from the inside. Being in the presence of the church alone adds to the magnitude of what you are witnessing.

We made our way to the opposite end of the cathedral and headed up the stairs. She was reluctant with every new turn and every step, but she made them none the less.

Gizmo met us at the top of the stairs. He sniffed and nuzzled the lady at once. He had a new friend. She bent down, gave him some pets and attention; his stump wagged wildly. I didn’t know if my room was clean enough for company and I didn’t know if my modified kitchen was either. I peered into my room and…yep it was as bad as I had thought it would be. The kitchen won by default, plus the coffee was in there.

I brewed a fresh pot and grabbed a fold-up chair and placed it by the small table I had off to the side. The room wasn’t small but I didn’t see the point in decorating it. There was the microwave, the fridge, the toaster oven, and a sink. I put in countertops I had found in one of the vacant apartment buildings. I didn’t want to see them go to waste. Same with a couple blocks of cabinets. It wasn’t pretty but it worked for me.

The coffee finished brewing, making the room smell like a fresh start.

“Do you take cream in your coffee…?” I asked, stopping in mid-sentence. I still didn’t know her name. How rude of me to not introduce myself. Did I introduce Gizmo at least?

“I’m sorry, how rude of me. My name is Wes Andersen, and you are…?”

“Drucilla…Drucilla Williams, but please call me Dru.”

“It’s very nice to meet you Dru,” I said. “My nose, however, may disagree but that’s why it’s the nose and not the mouth. My little pooch there is Gizmo. You’ve already won him over. He’s yours for life now.”

We sipped the coffee and smelled the delicious aroma; two of our senses being satisfied at once.

“Why were you at the hospital in my brother’s room?” She asked breaking the silence.

“Well, that’s a good question,” I started. “I will try and explain it to you the best I can. Where do I start? I don’t work for the police; I’m not a private investigator; I’m not even a bounty hunter.” I took another sip of my heavily creamed coffee. What I am is more complicated but not so complicated that I can’t explain it. I used to live here a long time ago. I ended up living in a rather furious way and never thought I would be back here.”

“Why did you come back?” She asked.

“I came back unknowing this was where I was coming to.”

“You didn’t know where you were going?”

“No, not really. For ten years I wandered, and for ten years this place was the furthest thing from my mind. In the end there was nothing I could’ve done anyway. If this place wanted me, it was going to have me. So here I am.”

“That explains why you’re here, but not what you do,” she said a tad annoyed. And the only reason I knew she was annoyed was the slight head tilt she did when she said it. That always meant bad,

“True. I do what most kids dream of when their young. I fight crime.”

“You fight crime? Like with a mask and cape?”

“Uh, no. Usually I walk the streets and help where I can find those who need it. Slowly but surely I’m carving a wake of criminals and their crime in my path. When I found out about the shooting I figured I could do my thing and try and help. That should explain why I was at his room and what I do.”

“What makes you so special?” She asked.

“A lot of things I suppose. My excellent hand-eye coordination, my violet eyes, but most importantly this…” I pulled the sleeve of my jacket on my left arm up, revealing my uniqueness.

“Your tattoo’s…that’s what makes you so special?” She lifted her sweatshirts right sleeve and showed me a four-leaf clover on her wrist. “See, I’m special too.”

 

 

 

Chapter 15

I was staring at her. I didn’t know how to reply to what she had said.

“I can’t fathom the situation you’re going through right now,” I said trying the reasonable route. “I’ve never lost anyone I’d ever cared about before. All I can tell you is that I’m on your side. I want to hold the people who did this to your brother accountable. You must believe me.”

She still looked rattled, frustrated, and the bags under her eyes suggested she hadn’t been able to get much sleep. She only wanted what anyone would want in her position–answers.

“Have you gone to the police?” I asked. “I was under the impression they still hadn’t located anybody in Matt’s family.”

She took a moment to respond. I couldn’t have her freeze up on me now. If we could share any info, hopefully something would make sense.

“I told them I was his friend,” she said. “I told them I would wait with him until they could find his family.”

“Why would you do that? Why hold that information to yourself?”

She stared at the tabletop with a blank expression.

“I want him to still be here when the answers are found. He deserves that much.”

“That’s a good enough reason for me.”

I may not have any experience with what she was going through but my instinct was to help her. There was nothing to it but to do it.

“I know who might have been behind the shooting of your brother. You have to understand though that the man is almost untouchable, or at least to this point in time he has been above the law.” She gave me those wide eyes again and flattened all of my male defenses. She might not have been doing it on purpose, but through the years I’ve learned that most women do in fact know what they were doing. Regardless, I was hooked. I now had someone to let down–a motivational tool if I’d ever needed one.

We finished our coffee. I still wanted to ask her more questions about her brother but I didn’t want to overload her. She was vulnerable and scared. I didn’t want to put any more stress on her than was necessary.

“I didn’t find anything useful in your brother’s hospital room. Did he go to the Neon district often? The newspaper said he was a jack-of-all-trades so to speak, that he was involved in illegal activities. Was that true?” She rubbed her arms together hesitating. Did I push my luck? Did I step over the line?

“Yes, he was involved with some illegal work. He was only doing what was available for him. He tried to get a regular job, I swear. Our mom had a stroke a year ago and the hospital bills started to pile up. I work for the Valley, pushing paperwork. It pays ok but not enough to cover the hospital payments. I don’t know what happened but one thing lead to another and Matt started doing anything he could to make money.”

Dru’s eyes swelled with water from the mention of her mother’s health issues. She was trying to keep it together, keep it all inside, but some things will make their way through no matter what. That concept I did understand.

“Matt began running drugs all over town. There wasn’t too much risk he thought. All he did was pick it up and drop it off and he would get paid,” she said as she again wiped tears from her face. “But he fell in love with the lifestyle, the money, the glamour, the lifestyle that came with the business. He paid the hospital bills every month, but it was never enough. By then he could only see the money piling up, the dollar signs hanging in the air. They were in his reach. He needed to have them. He kept doing what he was doing because he needed to, but in the end it was because he wanted to.”

“I understand, Dru. He was helping the family out at any cost. It’s a hard lifestyle to get out of once you are in. The easy money’s not so easy in the end.” I poured more coffee into each of our cups. It’s funny how something so simple like a cup of java could soothe you—an adult version of a pacifier. “Do you know who he was around the most? Anybody he was close to in the business? If we had someone we could talk to, hopefully they could point us in the right direction.” She took a sip of her coffee and closed her eyes.

“No,” she answered. “I wasn’t a very good sister was I? How do I not know who he was with? I should have done something a long time ago. This is my fault.”

Tears continued to roll down her face as she tried to bury her head into her arms. I knew this wasn’t her fault, and deep down she knew it to. Guilt would block the common sense right out of you sometimes. Her brother was a noble man to her. He ended up sacrificing his life for the family. It didn’t matter that he stayed because he liked it. That was his choice. He was family.

A woman I’d just met sobbing on my little table would be the definition of awkward for me. I’m not trained for that, nor would I ever be. Luckily for me Gizmo stepped up and took one for the team. He stood on his back legs and pawed at her until she picked him up. His slobbery tongue was the cure for her breakdown. He licked the side of Dru’s face and she couldn’t hold back the smile. I even smiled at the magic that he possessed. I hoped someday I could be half as powerful as Gizmo.

“Do you like video games?” I asked wanting the answer was yes. It would be a good distraction for her. “I just bought a Nintendo 64, if you like Bond or Mario Kart.”

“Ummm…I don’t think I have played that before. Is it easy? I wouldn’t mind something right now to take my mind off of my brother,” she replied.

I handed her some tissues and gave her the directions to the bathroom. She wasn’t wearing tear proof make-up. She looked like an extra for an Alice Cooper music video, all that was missing was a snake wrapped around her neck.

I went to the bedroom and set up Mario Kart for her. I only have the one controller. I didn’t think I would ever need a second one. It’s always been just the pup and I. It’s not like Gizmo would be able to play games with me, it would be awesome if he could, but paws and controllers don’t mix.

I quickly made the bed and threw some dirty clothes into the closet and shut the door; out of sight, out of mind.

She came into the room. I stood staring not knowing what to do. I felt wrong for feeling attracted to her, but it had been quite a while since a lady had brought out my google eyes. It was pathetic, I know, but it was nice to feel like that.

“Alright, here is the controller. I think we’ll start off with Mario Kart. It’s a racing game built on chaos. You can throw bananas, red shells, green shells, and you can even zap the other racers so they are tiny. Then you get to run them over. If Nascar was like this I would watch it.” She gave me a forced smile looking only slightly confused. She’ll enjoy it, everyone does.

“The analog stick is used for turning, the ‘A’ button for the gas, and the ‘B’ button for the brakes. Don’t worry about the ‘B’ button though, slowing down’s for suckers.”

The race started and Yoshi (the character she had picked) darted forward, zigzagging from one side of the screen to the other. At least she was going in the right direction. The race went on and the more time that past she loosened up. She started to enjoy it and that was the whole point of the game…to have fun.

We played for an hour and every race she improved. If things kept going this well I would have to find myself another controller. For now, at least, it was good to see her smiling. Look at me go, two good deeds in one day.

“Shoot the red shell, shoot it.” I yelled at Dru. Boom, she nailed that spiky Bowser, 1st place would be hers. In under an hour she was already taking 1st place. She was my kind of lady.

“Nicely done,” I said. “It’s getting dark out; you want to join me on my adventure tonight?” She had as much right as I did to try and find out who murdered her brother.

“What kind of an adventure?” She asked.

“I was thinking about going to the club where Matt was last seen. I think we could find some answers there. This should be relatively low-risk, just poke our nose around and see if anyone recognizes him. What do you say?”

“Of course, anything I can do to help. I can’t sit by his bedside waiting anymore. I’m his big sister, his protector. Let’s get going,” she said throwing the controller to the floor. That was a big gaming faux pa but I let it slide, only once though, only once.

I turned the TV and the N64 off and raced out the bedroom to catch up to Dru. She was already on the ground floor making a b-line for the back door. She was a fiery one and even through the tears she still remained positive, remained even-headed. The people responsible needed to be held responsible. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

She was a guest in my house, she played games with me, she laughed, she cried and now I couldn’t let her down. I may not have had any female influences in my life but my protective nature started taking over.

She stopped before the back entrance to wait for me. Did I mention she was smart?

We stepped out of the back. “What ride do you want to take, Dru?”

“Is it alright if we take yours? I don’t know where we are going.”

“That sounds fine by me,” I replied. She should’ve asked what kind of ride I had first, but she didn’t.

 

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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?

 

 

Chapter 1

The sign said ‘Welcome to Heretic Valley’ but it should have read ‘Welcome to Hell’. If you’ve never heard of this place and don’t know where to find it, don’t worry, there are only few who have. All it would take is one wrong turn and the town would find you. I did something that no one else had ever done before; I went looking for it.

It had been ten years since I laid my eyes on this valley. Ten very long years. I was on the outskirts of town, stepping one foot in front of the other, forcing myself to continue. This place had changed. It was different. I could see it. I could feel it.

Few who sought out the Devil lived to tell about it.

This fallen valley needed something, rather someone, to rescue it. I was called back home to be the light, to guide to the misguided. I am their hope. I will be their compass to follow. My name is Wes Andersen and this is Heretic Valley.

 

Chapter 2

The fields that were once green and rolling were now dead and rocky. The tall oaks were hollow, without leaves and rot with disease. The water had left the Valley long ago and only that which could adapt remained.

I stood on top of the oldest building in the valley.  One hundred and fifty feet of mass sprang out of the darkness like a glowing beacon for the city.  The old stone gave way in many areas, but the ancient structure’s integrity held intact.

Generations of cracks, lifelines of the stone, ran up the enormous formation. The lively green ivy was the only color showing on the building as it mirrored the cracks as they spider-webbed their way to the top.

Huge, thick, wooden doors hung upon three solid black iron hinges, two simple iron crosses displayed on each side. The buildings life began as a beautiful cathedral where thousands of patrons would flock each week to repent and worship.  A magnificent stained glass window above the altar, faded from years of neglect, depicted a child at the foot of Jesus, in awe of the calming presence of her Lord.  Forsaken for decades, the images shine and luster had been long faded, forgotten like everything else in here.

Now, people avoided being on the same street as the church, most of the time unaware of even doing so. There are certain places in the world that have been there for so long you can feel their presence. This town had changed dramatically since the church had been the center, the backbone of the area. Strangled and choked out by man’s need for cruelty and chaos, the church remained but the power it had over the masses had long been taken away. Over time it became just a building, a ghost of its former self.

I had been led here to this place knowing it still held a purpose. I don’t know how I knew, but I did. I had never been on this street before and yet here I was with my life’s new purpose laid before my feet.

I was born with a condition, a condition unseen by any doctor that had ever treated me. There’s no name for it and there’s no cure. I like to call it “Gandalphitus.” If I was in Middle Earth I would be carrying an oak staff with a very long, grey beard on my chiseled jaw.

I hadn’t discovered my “disease” until I was well into my high school years. An accidental release of built up rage and despair washed over my body and leapt through my extended left arm, and with it an invisible force of power ripped its way out. I didn’t know what happened. I turned coat and ran before I ever found out. I left my high school and everything I had ever known without hesitation.

Marcus Cristix found me during my time abroad. He took me in when I was alone and taught me how to control my power, and gave me a purpose in my empty life. For five years we lived, studied, and trained together. He was over 150 years old but you wouldn’t believe he was a day over fifty looking at him. It was one of the many side effects of a common day wizard.

He stood a shade under six feet tall, strong build, and still had his full head of hair (no, it wasn’t long white hair reaching to the floor).  He was a well kept man and always dressed according to the times. He was the only other staff carrier I’d met to this day. Marcus had informed me that there were many other individuals like us out in the world but most of them didn’t know what they were truly capable of. They had been like me, confused and scared.

I hoped someday I would be able to rescue someone like Marcus had done for me. He’s only one of two people in my life I have the pleasure of calling a friend.

 

As I stood, firmly planted on my new home, a fierce wind whipped at my face.  Through the soles of my black & white cons I felt the Relics pulse reach out to me. Centuries of life and energy flooded from the building and flowed through me, from my feet through the tips of my extended fingers in the air.  In that moment I became one with the building, entrusted with all of its secrets and its unnatural power.   

 

 

Chapter 3

The memory of my first time back into my city and my home ended. I gathered myself, all six foot three inches and walked across the rooftop to the edge of the building, resting my forearms on the rock ledge. My hair fell in my eyes and I casually swept it across the side of my face. I liked to keep my hair long, just to the edge of my shoulders, even if it tended to be a little annoying from time to time. The sweeping of my hair is now a reflex…no thinking required. My skin looked pale; some would even say it looked ghostly white. Whatever the description it was always a harsh contrast with my black pea coat.

The view was amazing from up here, it’s always nice to take a minute and just appreciate it. The low, thin clouds hovered above the tops of the buildings. The moonlight did it’s best to reach the valley floor, but only a small portion of its light could make it through. To my immediate right permanently overlooking the building was a massive stone gargoyle. It wore a sinister grin, showing its large pointed teeth. Intense, round eyes etched in the stone, carried a silent fire behind them. Relaxed wings, looked similar to a pterodactyl I’d once seen in a dinosaur encyclopedia, emerged out of the shoulder blades. The perched statue had its knees to its massive chest, and the enormous clawed feet gripped the stone mount. I had been lost in my thoughts admiring the intricate detail when I remembered why I had come up here in the first place–I needed to speak to Him.

“Hello Harry,” I started. “Sorry I haven’t been up here in a while.”

“You could have waited longer, Wes,”  a rough voice replied. “With you it’s always too soon.”

“Perhaps it is Harry, but I don’t have many people I can talk to. Sometimes, even I must do things I don’t like to do. For example: talking to someone or in your case something. Besides, my options are quite limited right now. With that said, I know deep down there’s a little part of you that enjoys our little chats. It’s not like you have anything else to do except hang around.” I said letting a low chuckle escape my throat.

I have never figured out how he can look so annoyed without being able to physically move, it had always unnerved me when he did that. In the human form he wore when we’d met, Harry had been a very powerful being. He was centuries old with wisdom and cunning that could have challenged anyone.

Roughly two years ago Harry and I met under a chance encounter. He had been looking to recover something from his past and our paths tangled in a very loud and fiery way. I’d been lucky to get the best of him. If either of us had time to prepare for one another he would have smashed my pretty little face in. The only thing I could’ve done then was run and to keep running until I hit an ocean. He had been and still is a very scary creature. I put him here, in the gargoyle, because I didn’t know how to destroy him. Also, a little part of me knew he could be very beneficial to have around. So into the statue he went.

He is my little genie in a gargoyle. He has helped immensely, but I would never let him know that. It is and always will be a poker game with Harry–or whatever his real name happens to be.

“Even my only company can be bothersome, Wes. Remember, I had family once but just because they were family didn’t mean they were always welcome. Just because you and that yapping mutt of yours are the only company I will ever have doesn’t mean I have to like the visits. Do you understand?”

“That you’re old.” I answered.

“Nice retort.”

“Nice face.” I blurted out. I enjoyed being childish, as long as I can get that last word in. “We are getting off topic sir. I came here for a reason, not to engage in our usual half-joking banter. What can you tell me?” After I asked my question I think I saw his eyes roll. Was that possible?

“If you are referring to the weapons being fired early yesterday morning, not a significant amount. It happened in the Neon district, so there could be a plethora of possibilities. I remember there were four or five bursts of an automatic weapon and simultaneously six rounds of a big revolver, not sure what caliber though. Both guns were fired from the same party and they claimed the life of one man and another in critical condition at Heretic General. It’s hard to say if they were targeted or if it was a spontaneous act, the Neon District is funny that way.”

“Good point. That was a very nice summarization, nicely done. The Neon district huh? I hate going there, but I know someone who might be able to get me on the right track. I suppose it’s time for me to go shopping.” I said turning to the east towards the district. “Keep your non-existent eyes open Harry. Let me know if anything else happens.”
“I agree with your assessment. I will do as I always have Wes, but I don’t need you to tell me anything. Am I the one who needs help all the time?”

“I don’t need help all of the time. You might need some help in a minute when I push you from your ledge though.” I answered.

“Very mature Wes.”

“That’s me, right down to the core.”

“Are we done now?” Harry asked.

“Yes, we are. Good night Harry, go back to doing whatever it is that you do and remember to keep your nose to the grind stone. Ha.” And with that sly remark I turned and started for the door..

I give that guy a hard time but he and I could have been good friends in a different life. I don’t know his whole story, I never cared to ask. We’ve shared our personal space now for a little over two years, and yes, Harry being on the roof contained in a gargoyle is most definitely an invasion of my personal space. An outside view on the situation one would think I was the bad guy, but believe me when I say I’m still the good guy…or the not-as-bad guy. He helps me because he has no other choice, but getting him to cooperate is like pulling teeth. No, pulling my own teeth out would be a welcome activity if it would get me out of talking to Harry. Before I shut the door I gave one last look over the valley: grey, eerie, and full of mystery. Just the way I liked it.

Note to self, going down the stairs far easier than going up them.

I opened the door to my bedroom and wondered why I took the time to close it; no one but me ever goes in there. It’s the principle of the thing, I told myself. There’s a door, all my worldly belongings behind it, and the door should be allowed to do the one thing it was designed for. Maybe I just like using my doorknob. It’s an original Nintendo controller that I fashioned to mount over the knob. Needless to say I was pretty happy about how it turned out. Pun intended. I know, I could have worked something up so all I would have to do was say a magic word like “Abracadabra” or maybe put the door on a “clapper”, but there’s no substitute for an original.

My oversized bed sits at the far wall under the only window in the room. My lanky frame needed as much room as I could get to sprawl out, plus I shared my bed with my ferocious guard dog, Gizmo, a brown and white Boston terrier. Gizmo in turn shared his portion of the bed with a teddy bear missing an eye and an oversized tennis ball that never quite fits into his mouth. In fact I had no idea how he ever gets the ball up on the bed, it’s a good two feet. I wonder if he could secretly fly, and if so where did he hide his cape. Curious I am.

“Gizmo,” I said with my curiosity getting the best of me, “can you fly?” He better not lie to me. The world said he’s mans best friend. I wouldn’t want that relationship tarnished. He didn’t answer me in an audible form, but he did answer me in another way. He swiveled his head and blinked. He then proceeded to hit his teddy bear, who I had named CY, right in the face. I gulped. “I will take that as a sign to not ask that question ever again. You’re right, we all need our secrets.” Gizmo is my best friend; even if the world never said so. He went back to doing his own thing with a content look on that smooshed face of his.

Gizmo and I draped our four post bed in a luxurious black velvet comforter. We added six pillows for the two of us. There’s no better feeling than throwing yourself into a soft, comfortable bed with so many luscious pillows. It felt like quick sand slowly swallowing you whole as you fell into a state of complete relaxation; all the fun without the consequence of dying.  Lying on the bed I found myself staring at the familiar sight of my high arched ceilings.  The old wood beams, bathed in the warm sunlight for many years, stared back at me. They were thick and I must admit even a little scary to look at, but at the same time their strength was reassuring. I felt safe in here. I picked my room in this giant building because of that reason.

The bed was warm and cozy. Gizmo trotted over and pawed at my chest, ruining my slight moment of pleasure, his nature had come-a-calling. We paced down the stairs and we walked to our normal spot; the alley behind our residence.

The church’s cemetery rested out here as well. It was small, and just as old as the church. There hadn’t been a burial here since the church lost its power over the congregation. A three foot tall, white picket fence squared in the area. The paint cracked, faded, and had been peeled by the weather for some time, but a few spots had made it through all of the seasons.  This abandoned, final resting spot offered little assurance that your body would remain at peace. The grass had died long ago and only brown strands swayed in the breeze against the final words for the deceased.

I have only entered as far as the first row of graves. Most of the plots were modest, but there was a mausoleum that stood out in the center of the cemetery. One day I would grow curious enough to find out who slept their final sleep in there. Today, however, would not be that day.

Gizmo never seemed to mind handling his business in the alley. I would mind, but he apparently cared less. It’s one of the few times he was able to go outside: to go potty, when we went to the roof, and daily walks up and down the street. He received most of his exercise running up and down the stairs chasing that ginormous tennis ball. I may or may not purposely throw it down the three flights of stairs, buying myself a few precious moments alone. He’s always been a crafty little guy and had never failed getting the ball back up.

One time I threw the ball and heard it reach the chapel area on the ground floor. Gizmo went chasing after it like normal. Five minutes went by and I grew worried. I reluctantly paused my video game and went to look for him. I found him on the 2nd flight of stairs. He’d made it that far before laying down with the ball underneath his chin, propping up his head. I bent down to pick up my tired little puppy and carry him back to our room. Before I could reach him three things happened: he forced himself back to his feet, gave himself a good shake, and he unhinged his jaw, securely gripped his tennis ball. He climbed the last flight of stairs with pure grit and suicidal determination. He even made it up to the bed before he plopped himself down and fell into a doggy-sleep coma. Because of witnessing that first hand, I firmly believe that the “Napoleon Complex” applied to people and small dogs alike.

It was 9pm. The Neon district would start to come alive about now, it was time for me to go to work.

I gobbled down a quick snack: a generous handful of goldfish, a Granny Smith apple, and a highly caffeinated Mountain Dew (and of course sugar, mmm…sugar). I made my way down the lair and out the back door. The evening light was fading as I turned toward the Neon district, to the starting point of my search.

My saunter was proudly on display as I chose to walk the eight blocks instead of taking my street bike. I wore my usual garb: beaten black and white converse low tops, relaxed blue jeans, and my trusty black pea coat. I wore this coat ten months out of the year, it’s an extra layer of skin for me, and I must have it on. I had a deep blue t-shirt on underneath the jacket with big, white block letters reading, ‘I am not a model; I just look like one.’ Is it true? I can only be told so many times before I started to believe it myself.

My associate was a gentleman that owned a shop on the same street as where the shootings took place. He helped me out from time to time and in turn I bought something from his store.

Most of the buildings and stores on my block were deserted and had wasted away throughout the years. Cracked sidewalks, broken hydrants, and crumbling walls were all that remained. Even those without a roof over their head wouldn’t cross-over and enter my block. I tried not taking it personally, I was sure the church had something to do with that.

The 2nd block still had an operational, low-end apartment building. I’d have to take a guess to say it’s half full, and roughly half of those tenants paid the rent. There’s also a liquor store, hence half of the people who didn’t pay the rent, and then oddly enough a pet shop. The pet store, Pets are People Too, absolutely loves Gizmo and me. We go there at least once a week to get him a special treat. It also gave us a chance to add to his outdoor time. Generally, I would bring him with me if I was walking somewhere but not tonight, not when daddy’s working, his complex can get the best of him sometimes.

Three blocks down and five to go.

The silver clouds hung lower than usual. They looked as if they were infused with a dark matter, refusing to break, choking the light from the bright moon trying to make its way down. The battle between the two had been going on for much longer than I could’ve ever known. Back and forth they fought, never gaining an inch on one another. The clouds wanted to become stronger, darker. They wanted to rule the emptiness of the sky; to become the sky. The moon wanted to wash away the shadows, the despair from the valley itself, but its efforts have been without result, but it won’t give up, it can’t.

A chilling wind picked up, slapping me in my face; I pulled my jacket tighter around me and flipped my collar up around my neck. As I continued to walk, my left arm twitched sharply, it had the sudden impulse to jump out of my pocket. From an alley, masked in the shadows, two figures emerged.

Two men, both in jeans and black work boots stepped closer to me. I was able to get a better look at them as they did so. The man in front wore an old beat up leather jacket and his associate, flanking him, wore a black and red flannel shirt. They were similar in height and build but the most important likeness was what they held in their hands. In their right hands they each held an army combat knife. Roughly eight inches long with a serrated edge on the back; each of the handles wrapped in dark green tape.

These men weren’t big by any means but I guess that’s why they felt the need to carry cutlery around with them. It wasn’t hard for me to see what they were after–anything that I had.

I had to slow them down, get them talking. I remembered that old saying; ‘when in doubt, talk it out’. Okay, so I just made that up, but nevertheless I wanted to test my groundbreaking new theory.

I stepped forward with a friendly smile, or at least I was going for a friendly smile and used a calm voice as I spoke.

“Gentlemen, how are you doing this fine evening?” I was trying to break the ice, you know, start things off in a positive way, not in a let’s-stab-this-guy-many-times kind of way.

“We are doing good, but you won’t be if you don’t hand over your wallet and jewelry,” the man in the ultra-hip leather jacket answered.

Before my brain could send the signal to keep my mouth shut, I quickly replied. “Well,” I said. “You are doing well. You don’t do good, you do well. Batman does good, but us regular folk, do well. To answer your question I don’t carry a wallet and I’m truly sorry but I have zero pieces of jewelry on. Besides that, may I help you with anything else?” This wouldn’t have been the first time that correcting someone’s grammar led to me having a bad night. I’m betting it wouldn’t be the last.

The man in the leather jacket, who I’m now calling Tim, looked to his partner in crime and then back to me; it was evident to me that he was the leader. The man in the flannel, let’s call him Al, was weary around his edges and carried a hint of uncertainty in his eyes. He seemed to automatically fall into place behind Tim. It gave me the feeling that they had been around each other for a long time and Al had learned his place the hard way. It’s tough to play second fiddle sometimes. But, I also had no doubt in my mind that if Tim gave an order, Al would follow it blindly and swiftly.

Tim’s eyes narrowed and his hand gripped tighter on the handle of his blade, showing me the whites of his knuckles. Al followed his lead and readied himself to also strike. My hands had never left my coat pockets as the muggers now, would-be-murderers, slowly crept towards me. Before they could make their move I skillfully slid my right hand from my pocket and extended it towards Tim, the leader. My taser came to life with a simple squeeze of the trigger. Two barbed ends shot towards him, slipping between the un-zipped leather-jacket piercing his flesh; 50,000 volts surged through him. He went from standing, to a fetal position before I had time to drop my arm. My attention was then turned to Al.

“Now, do you want to end up like that, flailing out of control, lying in your own piss?”
“N…N…no sir.”

“Glad to hear it.” I turned my weapon off. “Now get your pal and get off of my streets. I don’t ever want to see you again. If I do see you, you both will be lying on the ground…motionless.” My eyes narrowed, my jaw hardened, and through clenched teeth I asked, “Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” he answered quietly.

I put Mr. Shockey away and walked past Al as he was helping Tim off the ground. I held back the urge to kick him across his face. Take out the leader and the followers have no one to follow–it’s another theory of mine. The initial test hadn’t worked out as I’d planned but all in all I think the situation went good, I mean well.

 

…….chapters 4-6 to be posted on Wednesday the 21st of September,  2016.

The saying, “One of Those Days” is something I’ve muttered a lot recently. However, this day may just take the cake. I’m not sure where that saying comes from, take’s the cake, but I imagine someone dressed like the Hamburglar stealing a crying babies first taste of sugary sweetness is where it originated from. The things I think of when I find myself hanging upside down.

As the cold grip of steel bites into my ankles and it’s evil twin does the same to my wrists I realize that it may not be day at all. It’s dark but that’s only because I’ve been blind folded. For all I know it could be very pleasant out. I’m sure it’s not. It mostly never is. It’s not for lack of trying, no, I try. I really do. But with great trying comes great capturing. Or abducting. Or murdering, although that has yet to be done successfully. So, all of my trying and where does it get me? I wake up to my hair dangling on the wrong end of up and what feels like blood getting ready to drip out of my eyes, ears, and nose.

I sniff unconsciously after imagining blood coming from my nose and get a scent of something very unpleasant. The smell snaps my head back like a Shoryuken from Ryu. I knew the smell. From the first time you smell it there’s not a day goes by that you don’t think of it. It stays with you forever. The smell of death will always haunt you.

Yep.  My name is Wes Andersen and it’s just one of those days.

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.

It’s 5:17 pm. Thirty eight minutes to go.

My game has been turned off. Clothes have been put on: Black t-shirt with a little v-neck action for the ladies, darker jeans that don’t smell horrible, and black converse all-star low-tops. And the piece de resistance–One black Pea coat. Most people don’t leave home without their wallet or their cellphone. For me it’s my coat, my protector.

Twenty six minutes to go.

I start focusing more on the task ahead of me and not that of Gizmo’s empty food bowl.

Twenty four minutes to go.

With the puppy face overwhelming my emotions the dog has been fed, perhaps with too much food. I think he’s spoiled and out of shape. He snorted the other day. I thought for a moment I had a pig instead of a Boston Terrier. It wasn’t an adorable kind of snort either. It was deep, like his nose cavities were two cavernous trenches creating sounds unknown to mankind. I was startled to say the least.

Seventeen minutes to go.

I fed myself as well. A quick grilled cheese and an apple. Because an apple a day…yadda, yadda, yadda.  A quick glance in the mirror…..

Three minutes to go.

My heart always starts to beat just a little bit faster when the minutes are in the single digits. There’s so much unknown. There’s too many variables.  But I can’t help that. It’s the nature of the beast.

The time is now 5:55 pm.

Goodbye Gizmo. Don’t wait up for me. It’s sunset and it means it’s time Daddy gets to go to work.

And how I do love my work.

 

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…

If you haven’t already, now is the time. Get, Welcome To Heretic Valley, for perhaps the lowest price possible, zero dollars and zero cents. Tell a friend, tell a co-worker, and tell anyone who wants to enjoy a detective/fantasy/humor style book with a fantastic lead character. Here’s one review:
“McGee has developed a narrative voice reminiscent of the great detective noir of the past. Wes, the protagonist, had me laughing with his dry sense of humor and ever pessimistic outlook on the world. Of course, it didn’t hurt that his sidekick, a spunky and smart Boston Terrier, shares his sarcastic outlook. McGee has done a good job building the mystery city- Heretic Valley and weaving characters into complex relationships which keep the reader sitting on the edge of the chair. This is what all heroes need to be – a real person, with doubts, who makes a mistake or two along the way. I am anxiously awaiting for Wes to come back in the next story of the series.”

I hope you all enjoy and please comment, give feedback, and like the amazon page. Thank you.
http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Heretic-Valley-Series-ebook/dp/B008XKV670/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354118702&sr=8-1&keywords=welcome+to+heretic+valley

The book, Welcome To Heretic Valley, will be on sale for the low price of free. I’m doing this in hopes that people who wouldn’t normally try a fantasy/adventure book will give it a try. I hope everyone will share this with those who they know would enjoy a good read in these cold and rainy days. Here’s a link to where it can be purchased: http://www.amazon.com and then search for the title. Thank you for the support.
Brian

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