We have gone over your recent application to join the faculty here at The University of Regina. You’re credentials are most impressive indeed. We believe you would be a perfect fit to our staff.
We look forward to seeing you. We are hoping you can begin work in four weeks time. Looking forward to your reply.
Well I used to be a farmer and I made a living fine,
I had a little stretch of land along the CP line,
But times went by and though I tried the money wasn’t there,
And bankers came and took my land and told me “Fair is Fair”.
I looked for every kind of job the answer always “No”,
“Hire you now” they’d always laugh, “We just let Twenty go!” (Haha)
The government, they promised me a measley little sum,
But I’ve got too much pride to end up just another bum!
Then I thought who gives a damn if all the jobs are gone,
I’m gonna be a pirate, on the river Saskatchewan!
And it’s a Heave (HO) High (HO) Comin’ down the plains,
Stealin’ Wheat and Bareley and all the other grains,
And it’s a Ho (HEY!) High (HEY!) Farmers bar yer doors,
When you see the Jolly Roger on Regina’s mighty shores.
lyrics from The Last Saskatchewan Pirate as performed by The Arrogant Worms
Lyssa paid little attention to what was going on around her as they made their way to the ship that would take them to Waterdeep. Her mind was focused on other things. Andar was her main concern. She needed to find him. The only clues they had to go on was Shani’s spell that pointed them south, Ari’s scrying which showed Lyssa the torment her husband had been suffering. The scrying only seemed to work at certain times. Those times usually involved Andar being beaten and tortured into unconsciousness. Lyssa never saw him at any other time.
Each time she had to watch, she prayed he would hold on a little longer while she, Shani and Ari got organized. Time was now the most important thing.
The massive ship sat at the dock. Lyssa couldn’t recall a time she had ever seen one this large. The name The Red Rose was carved into fine oak, and cared for as could be seen by the detail given to the coat of paint. It was brightly colored with various shades of red and green. The tall masts pierced the early morning sky. The mainmast with it’s crow’s nest sitting at the very top. White canvas sails were rolled at the base waiting to be unraveled to fill with wind and take the passengers and it’s cargo to the next port. Everything about this ship was impressive to the point of intimidating.
Lyssa stared at the ship coming out of her thoughts. Her eyes wide with the size of the ship. Like horses, she didn’t care much for ships either. As long as it didn’t leak in places where it shouldn’t. Her eyes moved along the ship taking in the fine detail. The bow of the ship impressed her the most. A large, red rose seemed to snake it’s way along the bow. It was quite evident that whoever crafted this piece for the ship was either paid well, or had a great attention to detail. With the added moisture from the waves, it almost looked as though morning dew had settled on the petals of the rose.
Ari eyed the detail of the ship. It was a fine ship, definitely well kept. The ships coming and going from Port Llast were nothing compared to this one. His glance raised to the Crow’s Nest. That looks like a rather nice spot… he thought to himself.
Shani strode up the docks with confidence, smiling as she brushed her fingertips along the hull. A familiar old girl. Captained by one of the quietest pirates to sail the sea. If I wanted fame, she remembered Richard Falcon telling her once, I’da b’come a bard. Fame jus’ puts a target on me back. But what little fame he got was seen by the Lords Alliance, and eventually, he became a scout and cargo service for the Alliance. And, from time to time, the galleon would cruise into battle taking pot shots whenever it could. But the ship and her crew was crafty.
Shani grinned as soon as the ship’s captain came into view. Richard Falcon stood taking notes of all the cargo being loaded onto the boat. He looked up for a moment, checking the sky, muttering to himself something about rain. Then his eyes focused on the white elf that came to stand before him. Falcon let out a breath and shook his head. “I shoulda figgered tha’ ye’d be the one boardin’ when I seen the manifest. ‘Ow the world been treatin’ ye, Wendy?”
“Doin’ alright,” she giggled and slid beside him, taking a quick peek at the manifest. As Falcon held the clipboard close to his chest, the elven bard huffed, but turned her attention to her two companions. “Jist wanted ta git passage ta Waterdeep’s all. Me an’ my friends ‘r lookin’ fer passage.”
Falcon looked to Shani, then checked his list again. “I s’ppose ye be the ones with the ‘orses.”
“Yep, thet’s right.” She grinned as she rocked back on her heels.
“Shouldna be a problem,” he replied quietly. “Bring ‘em o’er, tha’ way. I can meet ‘em an’ set the rules. Which remind me, I assume that ye gonna be takin’ ye ol’ position with crew?”
“Dang straight!” Shani replied quickly as she waved over Ari and Lyssa. As the pair moved closer, Shani made the proper introductions. “This here’s Lyssa, an’ thet’s Ari. This here’s Richard Falcon, captain o’ this here sailin’ vessel,” she said turning to Lyssa and Ari with the final introduction.
“Captain.” Lyssa said in greeting.
Ari offered a smile. “‘allo!” he said to the captain in greeting.
Falcon looked over the pair with a scrutinizing eye. He took note of Ari’s tail, but said nothing. He’d seen strange sights before, and this could be lumped into that category. “Either o’ ye ever ‘ad time sailin’ fer as long a distance as we gonna be ‘eadin’?”
Ari looked to Lyssa, hoping she would respond for them. His tail was wagging back and forth from the short attention it got.
“Aye, I have sail from here to Athkatla before,” Lyssa said calmly, her fingers tightening on Triumph’s reins. “Not my favorite way to travel, but I’ll survive.”
“Not really…” Ari said, shaking his head. “Though I have sailed before. Just not over a long ways like this.”
“Tell me Captain. How long will it take us to get to Waterdeep? Time is very precious to me right now and I don’t have the time nor patience for side trips.” Lyssa said in a commanding sort of tone.
“It’ll take us a coupla days,” Falcon replied quickly. “Any faster either need aid o’ spells ‘r an psychotic b’hind the runnin’ o’ the ship. Neither o’ which is what I’ve go’. I’ve some rules ta adhear by on this boat. If either o’ ye ‘as any shred o’ respect, then yer gonna take ‘eed.”
“Rules?” She said, like it was an alien phrase. “Captain, I can assure you, I’m not going to do anything to hinder my getting to Waterdeep. You hardly need to waste your breath.”
“Lass,” Falcon said with an even voice. “Whether ye care ‘r no’, there’s rules. An’ I tell ev’ryone. No followin’, no trav’llin’. Understood?”
“Aye, Captain,” She said tersely. Already Lyssa decided that she was going to spend her time in the cabin, avoiding the deck if at all possible. Her knuckles turned white as they tightened around the horses reins even more. “So what are these rules?”
“Most people what come on this crew work,” he said in a serious tone, getting straight to the point. “Wendy’s been a part o’ tha’ fer a few year with us. Dunna mean I force any ta do so. If ye do, there’s cost o’ passage deducted. Crew cabins’re available, but with two women on board, ye bunk in a separate cabin o’ the ship. Too many times I’ve ‘adda break up fights b’cause one o’ me crew’s desided ‘e’s taken a likin’ ta one o’ the women. Granted, usually ended with ‘im on the pointed end o’ a blade. Let’s jus’ say I like ta end trouble b’fore it start. What ye do b’hind closed doors o’ yer cabin’s yer own business. ‘Long as it dunna bring any fleet o’ ship down on me ‘ead, tha’s fine.” His attitude seemed to soften, just a bit as he finished. “Any questions?”
“Just one,” She said, smirking. “How much for myself and the horse?”
“Fer y’self, fifty gold. The ‘orse,” he said as he took a look at the mare. “Tha’s 100. 200 fer bringin’ a stolen paladin’s mount.”
Ari blinked, looking to Lyssa. How in the nine did he know?
“She’s not stolen. I left a note. But fine, three hundred should cover everything” She said taking several platinum pieces from her coin purse. “Half now, half when I get to my destination safely.”
Falcon took the platinum and inspected it, then waved over his first mate. A tall, well muscled, black man approached them and wordlessly nodded to the captain. The captain instructed him to tend to the horse and handed him the platinum before turning to Lyssa. “Lass, if we dunna make it ta Waterdeep, we’ll more ‘n likely be sittin’ at the bottom o’ the sea. An’ I’m not willin’ ta take a chance o’ us dyin’. But I can wait.”
“Well Captain, if we don’t make it to Waterdeep, then I suppose I wouldn’t have to settle that debt,” Lyssa said with a slight grin. “That being said. Which way to my cabin?”
“Umbatu will come back an’ direct ye all ta sleepin’ quarters,” Falcon replied and then turned to Shani. “Wendy. Cannon detail.” He did not say another word as he walked past the white elf, leaving Shani to mutter slightly as she moped her way up the plank.
“I see y’all later this evenin’. I gotta… go clean… the cannons.” She sighed and trudged toward the hold.
“Shoulda paid for the whole trip instead of working. Have fun.” Lyssa said, giggling slightly. She also walked up the plank, moving to the bow of the ship to disappear into her thoughts again. Ari followed along, still eying the Crow’s Nest.
The water started to glitter from the rising sun. Lyssa’s eyes gazed over the water, perhaps this trip would be different for her. Her last voyage didn’t go so well. Lyssa spent most of her time with her head hanging over the starboard of the ship feeding fishes with the contents of her stomach. Doing that on this ship didn’t appeal to her in the slightest. Knowing her luck, Captain Falcon would rub her nose in it and make her clean it up. She climbed into the safety net of the bowsprit, and laid in it like a hammock. Lyssa paid little attention to what was going on around her. If she was told to move, she would. Here she was out of the way of everything.
want to see the world alone again
to take a chance on life again
so let me go
lyrics from Hunter as performed by Dido
Max turned a bit and looked in the man’s direction. “Yes?”
Max narrowed his eyes. “Yes.”
The pounding of hooves echoed down the streets of Port William. Citizens ran out of the way, onto the sidewalks as the three horses carried their riders down the pathways. Gangers and Mafia ducked into the shadows of alleyways, not wishing to be seen by those three who tore down the street.
The trio spurred their charges on, galloping up the hill toward the mark where Fort Jasper and Port William joined. Mafia gunsels just watched, hoping that none of the riders would look their way, with a sudden desire for extracting justice.
As the sun set on the island, the three riders stopped their mounts at the top of the hill. Each surveyed the village below with a watchful eye. They were in hell, and each knew that was where they were eventually destined for, but at least for now, they could try to make good on their sins from the past.
It may take a while, but they’d make this village their own.
“Well, mates,” Monty said as the grey shifted under his weight. “What now?”
Walker looked toward the villas that dotted the beach front, a small smile cracked on his face. “Mafia’s got an illegal gamblin’ an’ racin’ operation goin’ on,” he said quietly. “Even under the law o’ this here island, it’s still illegal.” He looked to Marianne and Monty for a moment. “Let’s go misbehavin’.”
I love love love this video. You can’t help but be amused and impressed at what this man does.
I been down this road just searching’ for the end
It don’t go nowhere, it just brings you back again
Leaves you lonely and cold, standin’ on the shoulder
But you’ve come too far to go back home
So you’re walkin’ on a nowhere road
lyrics from Nowhere Road as performed by Steve Earle
Borrowed your horse. I’ll bring her back. I promise.
Short, sweet and to the point she thought as she placed the note on her bed for Pania to see when she woke. Quietly Lyssa packed a few things that she knew would be handy on her journey. Hoisting the pack up, she moved back to the bed, giving Pania a quick peck on the lips. Lyssa didn’t know when she would see her again. If ever.
Lyssa left the apartment without so much as a look back, the door clicking softly behind her. The hall of the Prancing badger was quiet. She glanced to around the darkened hall and made her way to the stair well. Once Lyssa was at the bottom she took note of the empty pub, then made her way out unnoticed.
The day greeted her with a sharp blast of cold air. The wind bit at her face and neck, forcing her to draw her cloak around her tighter. She moved to the stables where Pania’s horse, Triumph, had spent the night. Lyssa didn’t like the horse, but she could at least tolerate it. Lyssa’s decision to borrow Pania’s horse had been due to the lack of horses in the area.
As she entered the stables, the smell of hay and horse dung reached her nose. Quietly, she moved to where Triumph stood and climbed up the gate to look at the horse. Triumph was a huge Arbian, sleek and lithe, almost like the one who rode her. A coat of pure white, a long, flowing mane and eyes that held a wisdom of their own. Triumph looked to the hin for a moment, chuffling as she recognized the scent that came from Lyssa.
“We’re going on a journey.” Lyssa said to the horse. “I don’t like horses so try to not act like one.”
Triumph cocked her head to the side a bit and snorted her response.
“Good. I’m glad we understand each other. Now then, lets get you saddle.”
She opened the gate to let the horse out. After a moment of struggle and not really much help from Triumph, she gave up trying to saddle the horse. Looking around for a way to get up on the horse, her height was really beginning to hinder what she needed to do. Once she managed to get the bit and bridle on the horse she took the reins and led the horse out.
“I don’t know how long we’re going to be Triumph, but I know it’s going to be longer than a week or so. We’ve got a lot of work to do, I’m depending on you to keep going. I’ll take care of you, but I can’t promise I will be as affectionate as Panny is.”
Again Triumph snorted, sending a stream of breath from her nostrils.
“You’ll have to help me take care of you okay? I don’t know much about horses other than they get up and go when you want them to… most times.” The horse chuffled in response. It almost sounded like a slight mocking sound, similar again to the Sunite Knightess that was the horse’s companion.
The moon was still out, though it was lowering in the sky. Again the wind picked up, forcing Lyssa to shiver as she couldn’t hold her cloak tightly and lead Triumph at the same time. Without running, Lyssa moved as fast as her little legs could carry her. Soon she had reached the town of Port Llast, the guards gave her an odd expression as she moved through the streets with the large horse. The destruction from the recent attack could be seen almost everywhere Lyssa turned. As she made her way south, the damage was even more appearant.
The orphange had definently seen it’s share of better days. It was nothing more than a pile of rubble. She kept moving silently, her legs taking her to the gates of the city.
“Be careful miss. The brigands are attacking travellers again.” The guard at the gate said.
“I’ll be fine.” Was all she could respond before passing through the gates. Lyssa knew the road to Neverwinter all too well. Voices traveled on the wind to Lyssa’s ears.
“Stay here.” She told Triumph.
Using the shadows to her advantage she moved with a quick stealth that allowed her sneak up on the voices she heard. Several men and one woman stood around a small fire trying to ward off the chill.
“Bloody cold out isna it,” one of the men said.
The others just nodded. The woman looked to each of them and then chuckled.
“Don’ ya just love the winta” She asked almost cheerfully. Her fingers moving to cast a spell.
“Oh yah. You an’ yer finger wiggling magic keepin’ all the spells to ya self,” one of the smaller bandits scoffed.
“Well I’ve gotta be prepare with something to defend myself.” She replied snobbishly.
Lyssa chose that exact time to slam her dagger at the base of the mage womans’s back. Blood spurted from the fresh wound as the mage screamed in pain, finally ending as blood rushed into her throat, cutting the sound forever. The others took a moment to let what just happened sink in as the mage’s body dropped to the ground with a sickening wet bone crunch as blood continued to pour from her body following the life that had just ended. It was a moment too long, as Lyssa’s small legs allowed her to move quickly enough to avoid getting hit. The bandits swung at her, but she only rolled out of the way. One by one the men fell to her dagger, the cuts deep and fatal, until it was just her and the largest of the band of brigands.
“If I were ye, hin,” the bandit sneered as he drew a greatsword. “I best make ye way back ‘ome. ‘Course, with this, yer ‘ome’s gonna be six feet under. ‘R maybe feedin’ the fishes offa the coast.” He held the blade in front of him as his eyes glared at her. His hatred was more than evident.
“You’ve gotta catch me first.” She countered as she pulled her rapier from it’s sheath with a hiss.
Lyssa and the bandit circled each other, both with their weapons in hand. It was only a matter of waiting to see who would make the first move. Sick of waiting the bandit swung the heavy blade at Lyssa. She moved out of it’s way quickly. It had begun. Lyssa was going to have to be the quickest she’d ever been. The bandit was slow with the blade and had a hard time keeping up with the quick movements that Lyssa pulled trying to stay out of range of the blade.
Lyssa saw her opening and tumbled forward, weaving her way so that she moved through his legs. His wide stance didn’t help him, as she was suddenly behind him, climbing his back like some motionless rock. He cried out in pain as she used his pony tail like a grapple line. Stars in his eyes, she planted herself firmly on his shoulders, holding her blade to his neck. The bandit didn’t move as he gritted his teeth in anger, knowing that if he did, it could very well be his last move, as he felt the point of the blade penetrating his neck.
“You are seriously starting to piss me off.” she whispered in his ear. “Now either you can bugger off down the road and tell your little friends to let me pass without being hindered or I take them out just as did here. So then, your choices are really… Live or die”
The bandit knew he had be bested by the hin girl and yielded by dropping his blade tip to the ground.
“Smart man.” She said, swinging herself off his back. The man then swung the massive blade to try and hit Lyssa once more. Having sensed that he would pull something like this, she ducked just in time and shifted her stance. Her blade flicked swiftly through the air and she once again tumbled forward. This time she landed between his legs.
“I didn’t want to do this, but you leave me no choice!” She screamed at the bandit, thrusting her blade up before he had a chance to move. For a brief moment, the bandit saw his life flash before his eyes. He had no doubt that he was going to die. But something much, much worse happened.
Like a dog needing to be kept, the bandit would soon begin to feel complacent and somewhat lazy. That’s usually what happens when an animal is fixed. Incredibly, they’d still be with him, but the thrust of the blade ensured that this bandit would never, ever breed again.
“I did give you a choice.” Lyssa said standing again once she had moved away from the now fallen bandit and wiped her blade off on his tunic. She let out a sharp whistle for Triumph to come. The horse trotted over to her glancing around at the mess Lyssa had created, then gave her a look. The hin was covered in blood from the fight, having only a few minor cuts and scraps of her own, once more she took the reins and started for Neverwinter City. Triumph chuffled, shaking her head, almost as though showing her disapproval.
“Don’t look at me like that. I gave him a choice. It’s his own fault he didn’t listen to me,” she replied to the horse. “He should be grateful I did that much.”
“I need ta use Callipso an’ there ain’t nuthin’ gonna stop me,” Shani Wennemein said as her brother simply watched. He knew that when his sister had made up her mind, there was nothing that could stop her. Sywyn had tried, and failed. He was a knight of Tyr, and he had failed to change his sister’s mind. “‘Sides. What I’m gonna do’d be purty good. I’m goin’ ta save someone’s life.”
“I understand that Shani,” he replied with a sigh. “But must you take Callipso?”
Shani merely shrugged and smiled as she readied the saddle. “Oh, c’mon. Cally likes me. An’ y’all don’t ‘xpect me ta buy some nag what gonna run first sign o’ trouble do ya?” She finished preparing Callipso’s saddle and reached over to pat her brother’s cheek. “‘Sides, this’ll give ya more time ta spend with Vindy.” She smiled as she saw his cheeks turn a slight shade of red. “Callipso trusts me,” she said as the horse nudged her shoulder. “An’ I trust him.”
“I think he’s looking for a treat, actually,” Sywyn seemed to mumble as he shook his head. “You feed him enough apples.”
The lithe elf expertly climbed into the saddle, sitting tall and looked to her brother before expertly coaxing the horse to move. She pulled back on the reigns just slightly and grinned, nodding to Sywyn. “See? Horse an’ rider, movin’ as one.”
Again he shook his head and sighed. “At least tell me where you are going. If there is anything that would happen, at least I will have a place to start looking for you.”
“We leavin’ from Neverwinter,” Shani said with a confident nod. “Ya kin start from there.” She prodded the horse gently, and together they rode down the path at a slow pace. Shani called out over her shoulder as Callipso almost seemed to know exactly where he was going. “Ifn we don’t come back in a year, send the posse!”
Sywyn shook his head as he watched and merely whispered to himself. “Take care of her, Callipso. She can be strong headed at times, and she will need you to be there.”
Ari’Kavain silently flew over the gates of Neverwinter City. From the casual onlookers, he’d have appeared as a bird overhead in the night sky. Looking down upon the lone citizens still wandering the streets, Ari glided around the church to a secluded alley in the dock area. The sewers wasn’t quite his first choice, but ever since the recent happenings, many more sailors were wandering about the docks.
One of the dockhands overheard an obnoxious hissing sound coming from the sewers. He called to his mates, peering into the smelling gates.
“Waddaya suppose tha’ was? Think one of them nasty tree-huggers are tryin’ somethin’ on th’ city?” he asked. His friend merely shrugged in response, returning their attention to the sewer gate. After a minute or so of boredom, the men turned and resumed their duties. Quietly, the lone elf slid through the wide bars of the sewers, coughing softly.
“Last time I’ll ever try that,” he muttered. He climbed over the short wall, his eyes softly changing as they adjusted in the moonlight. The dockworkers were busy tonight, and paid little to no heed to the “tailed fiend”. Ari headed for the central part of the city.
The streets were next to completely empty, an eerie experience since the city was wide awake just hours ago. He scanned around, hoping someone was earlier than him.
He sighed. “Goin’ to be a long night,” he muttered softly. He leaned back against the lightpost, glancing up and down the road. He rubbed his eyes as a few thoughts began to run through his mind again, trying to push them back.
It wasn’t long before the sound of horses hooves clomped along heavily on the road. They didn’t sound tired, the horse wasn’t ridden at a full gallop. But they did sound like the hooves of an animal that knew the first leg of it’s destination was complete. The horse and rider came into view, and the pale elf, Shani Wennemein grinned as she saw Ari. “Howdy!” she called out in a gleeful voice. Callipso chuffled lightly as if to add his own voice to the greeting.
Ari looked up, spooked as he just realized Shani was there. It took a moment for it to register, then he smiled softly. “‘ey there!” he called back to Shani. His eyes drifted down to the horse, noting the artistic work on the saddle. “… I guess ya ‘borrowed’ him from your brother?” he said, smirking.
“Borrowed?” she said with a chuckle as she ran her fingers through Callipso’s mane. “Hell, I tol’ Sywyn I were takin’ ‘im.” She brought the stead to a stop and dismounted in expert fashion, as though she’d been riding horses all her life. Callipso chuffling softly, nudging her as if to say ‘alright, we’re here. Give me my apple.’
Ari looked up the road again, toward the northern gate. “So how much longer ’til Lys gets here y’think?”
Shani looked around as she rooted around in her pack. “She prolly comin’ from the Prancin’ Badger,” she replied as she found an apple and held it out for Callipso. “Gonna be a tough haul on the road,” she said chuckling as the horse quickly gobbled the apple. “Never know what she gonna meet on the road b’tween the Badger an’ here.”
Another set of hooves and a smaller pair of footsteps moved across the cobble from the north. Even in the dark, her red hair stood out. Even as a hin, Lyssa was very recognizable. Just as the horse that she lead, the bridle and saddle depicting the etchings of Sune on it, just as Callipso had the etchings of Tyr. “Sorry I’m late.” Lyssa said, approaching Ari and Shani. “Had a small problem with a big choice.”
“How big, now?” Ari said, looking to the new arrival. As Triumph was lead to stand beside Callipso, the male seemed to perk his ears and chuffled to the other horse. Triumph merely whinnied and shook her head, then inspected Callipso for a moment. She nudged his neck lightly, then looked to the three elves… rather two elves and one hin, almost as if to say ‘Could you excuse us for a moment.’ Ari looked to the two horses with perked ears, watching curiously.
“Hey, none of that now.” Lyssa said, pulling Triumph away from Callipso. “You’re on my watch horse. Do that shit on your own time.” Triumph chuffled loudly, as if annoyed and reminding the small hin that there was such a time that she felt like pulling two people apart. “The problem wasn’t that big. But bigger than me. Needless to say there won’t be anymore problems from him or his loins.” She said grinning sadistically.
Ari blinked, shifting a bit uncomfortably as Shani just snorted and shook her head. “Been a few times I felt like doin’ jist thet very thing ta a few bandits. Bastards ain’t gots no right ‘n the road, ya ask me.” Callipso chuffled and nudged Shani. She jumped and looked back to the horse and mumbled.
“Wanna try that again? In Common?” Lyssa said to Shani with an amused grin.
The pale elf looked around for a moment, then in a very quiet voice, she asked, “Whut?” It took a moment to sink in, but finally, she remembered her lessons while the three sat on the beach. “Oh. Yeah.” She cleared her throat and tried again. “Bandits don’t…er… have… any right ta… to be on the road. In my opinion.” She sighed and mumbled again, just as Callipso whinnied, almost laughing.
“Let’s go.” Lyssa chuckled and started towards the docks. The trio, and their mounts, had a long journey to Waterdeep ahead of them, as they would need the assistance of a powerful mage.
John Walker cocked his head as he heard the noise come from the back room. He got up from his desk and wandered through the storage areas, past the make shift medical bay and to a large door that lead to a room not yet cleared. He’d heard the sounds, hammers banging and saws cutting, but had at first thought nothing of it. They still had repair work to do, and this wasn’t exactly something unexpected. But to go on for eight or nine hours was something else.
He grabbed the handle of the large sliding door and attempted to push it open. Locked. Or at least it was held firm by something. Drawing his pistol, he stepped back from the door and took a deep breath before calling out. “Annie? Monty? What the devil’s goin’ on?”
There was a sudden sound of scrambling, followed by… was that hooves. “What the hells goin’ on in there?” he shouted again.
“Sorry boss,” Monty’s muffled voice called back. “Just fixing up a few things, mate. Be right there.” Walker could hear a hushed conversation between Monty and Marianne, but couldn’t catch the details. The sound of metal being pushed back indicated that the lock, or whatever else it was, being opened. Slowly, the large sliding door was pushed back.
“What in blue blazes…” Walker began before his eyes finally registered what was in the room. Like entering into a holy place, he removed his hat and studied the three new faces that turned to greet him. The chuffling sound each gave as they looked to see who this new person was that entered their new home. The back room had suddenly been transformed into a rustic stable.
Monty stepped up beside Walker as the elder was standing solemnly in the entrance. “Um… yer not gonna start ta cry, are ya, mate?”
Walker looked to Monty for a moment and just chuckled. He approached the brown quarter horse cautiously. The animal craned it’s neck to inspect Walker carefully before reaching down to nuzzle Walker’s hand, sniffing to see if there might be some food held there. Walker ran his hand down the length of the animal’s neck, marveling all the while. Still standing beside the creature, Walker looked to the pair. “You two set all this up?”
“Don’t look at me,” Monty replied. “Blame her fer alla this, mate.”
Marianne smirked at Monty before looking to Walker. She explained what happened, starting with the disease containers, staying cramped in a cubby hole for three or four hours, and seeing the treatment of the animals upon returning to port. Walker nodded as the blade mistress retold the story. “This probably won’t sit right with the Family,” Walker mused. He looked back to the brown quarter horse and sighed. “Screw ‘em. Who cares if they can’t take a joke,” he said with a smirk. Marianne and Monty looked between each other before offering a kind smile toward the old gunslinger.
But each of them realized one thing. They were in a hostile land. More than likely hated already by most of the organizations on this island. Probably being gunned for at every turn.
But at least this was now home.
This weekend has been a crazy one. Hockey games, craft sales, people getting ready for Christmas. But the craziest thing happened on Sunday. Saskatchewan became Grey Cup champions. Not that I didn’t believe it could happen, but that it is the icing on the cake of a season that has been an incredible turn around. The Roughriders won it all on Sunday in an extremely huge defensive game.
I had faith they could beat the Lions in Vancouver. After all, their one win against the Lions came in BC.
And then to watch the 95th Grey Cup and have the Riders come away with a victory was sweet. But one thing impressed me much more than the win itself. It was how the players said that the fans were a big reason why they are where they are. All year long, each member of the team always pointed to the fans. In Kent Austin’s words “what a place to win a championship.”
Needless to say, the atmosphere in Regina today will be insane. A parade is planned for Tuesday, and from there, we can dream of the Grey Cup in Saskatchewan once again. Now, we just have to get ready for the encore.
Until next time…
Keep ‘em flyin’.
The pair walked slowly along the dock, letting the kinks work out of their muscles. They stayed in that compartment for three hours before it finally pulled into port in the William. The man who owned it was a legitimate businessman, even if her captain, hired to sail her, was not. The coast guard detained the ship, then sent her back. The containers of the disease were confiscated and sent to the CDC labs in Atlanta. All in all, a days work complete.
But it wasn’t over yet.
“This’ll be a hoot, explainin’ this ta Walker,” Monty commented as he rubbed his shoulder.
“Walker will understand,” Marianne replied. A small ruckus along the dock caused her to look up. A ship was unloading horses, and the handler was being none to kind to the cargo. Smacking a grey filly viciously. Marianne scowled, and without thinking, she dashed off toward the handler, ignoring the pain that screamed in her muscles. She reached the handler, threw him up against a wall, and backhanded him across the face. For good measure, she slapped him with a hard, open hand. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” she said with venom. “Give me those reigns,” she added, ripping the leather reigns from the handler’s hands.
“This is Don Maximus’ goods,” the handler spouted as he wiped blood from his face. “They gonna hear about this.”
“Go ahead and tell them you lost the shipment, then,” Marianne said with a smirk as she began to lead the filly down the length of the dock. There were two other horses standing at the dock and the former Sister with the Sisters motioned for Monty to lead them as well.
“Great, Annie,” Monty called out to her as he held tight the reigns of a chestnut mare and a brown quarter horse. “Lovely, we saved the horses. Now what?”
Marianne just looked back without any answer. The action was implusive. The horses reminded her of the time she spent show jumping when a little girl on her family’s estate in Sussex. But what to do with them now. They really couldn’t keep horses. Unless…
“The back room, behind the storage area in the Safehouse,” Marianne explained. “What about there?”
Monty blinked as he came to a stand still. The brown quarter horse nudged his shoulder, seemingly interested in this human, one of his saviours for rescuing him and the other pair from the hands of these men. “Ya sayin’ we make a stable?”
“Why not?” Marianne shot back, and continued leading the horses off the dock and down the street of the William. “We’ll keep the horses out of sight as we construct it. Should take only a day, if we work quickly enough.”
“Marianne,” Monty replied with a snort. “Walker’s a Texan. Trying to hide horses from him is like trying to hide cheese from a mouse. The man probably already has some sixth sense that says we’re bringin’ horses home.” Marianne didn’t reply. She’d think of something, she always did. At least they saved the horses. Right now, that was the only thing that mattered.
Sometimes yer gonna find that the best way we can help ourselves, is by doin’ worse ‘n what some men do. We may have ta take jobs we ain’t gonna like. But we make a promise. Ain’t gonna take no job ‘gainst no honest folk. Any o’ them scumbags out there, if we get word on somethin’ they got an’ we can use, then we take it. Just pray that we may be judged in a way less harsh.
Marianne and Monty quietly entered the ship. The old barge creaked as it rocked on the waves. They’d heard word that the vessel was carrying some cargo that might help them build their medical center. Because they certainly didn’t trust the island’s Medical System. They were given the job, snatch a few boxes, deliver them to their contact and leave.
The boxes, they found, were crates that they had to divert to the United States. And they contained a disease.
“Annie,” Monty said in a whisper. “I gotta say, don’t feel right ’bout this, love.”
Marianne looked to Monty for a moment. She’d grown used to the nickname that he and Walker had given her, asking that they only use it while they were in the field. “Bloody hell. You pick now of all times to grow a conscious? We’re halfway to Paragon. What do you propose?”
Monty furrowed his brow, and then gave Marianne a stern look. “There’s a coupla people I know in Interpol. Give it ta them, an’ then we scram.”
She gave him an incredulous look. “Interpol? Are you completely loony?” She sighed in frustration and looked around the cargo hold of the ship. The containers of the disease sat in a false wall, just in case the coast guard stopped the boat for inspection. “Wait a minute. I’ve got an idea.” She opened the false compartment, dragged out the four containers and moved toward a few packing crates. Carefully openning them, she slipped the containers in amongst food stuffs. “This will nail the boat captain. I’ve seen him around, not a very nice fellow. Come on.” She motioned toward false compartment, and crawled in.
Monty stared in wonder at the woman. “You expect the two of us to fit in there?”
Marianne had crawled in and was sitting in what appeared to be a rather uncomfortable position. “Fine. Then you explain to the coast guard what your doing in the hold of this ship.” Monty looked around for a moment for another hiding spot, then moved to the false wall, muttering as he crawled into cramped quarters with Marianne. “Get your bloody foot out of my face.”
“Little hard, mate.”
Once they both were comfortable, they replaced the false wall. “There. Now just to make sure the coast guard gets a call.”
“Marianne,” Monty said quietly as they sat in the cramped space.
“What is it?”
“Shouldn’t we have done that before crawlin’ into here?”
“Grab my comm, it’s on my left hip,” Marianne replied in a huff. “That’s not my bloody comm, you pervert!”
“It’s bloody dark in here.”
Mariannne’s muffled voice explained the situation to the coast guard. All they had to do was wait and it would be all over. In their cramped quarters, Monty spoke in a near whisper. “Marianne?”
“You owe me a back massage for this, mate.”
“This ain’t fair,” the ganger screamed from behind a row of crates. “I carved this little piece of heaven for myself and I’m gonna keep it.”
“Ain’t nothin’ personal,” Walker shouted back as he squeezed off another round from his assault rifle. “We just need a place ta hunker down, an’ Frankie tol’ us ya might be willin’ as long as ya vacated this here spot.” Walker wasn’t exactly impressed with what Heck had told them. Originally, the deal was take down Fancy, and he’d find them a place. There was nothing stated about having to clear out a den of gangers.
“Blood hell, mate,” Monty shouted as he put two into an advancing Hellion. “Frankie never said a damned thing about us having a place filled with scorch marks ‘r removing bodies from it.”
“Maybe Frankie should be talked to,” Marianne suggested in a calm and rational voice as she fired her crossbow.
“I doubt that any amount o’ rational conversation’ll sway the bastard fer us,” Walker replied as he pushed a crate out of the way, revealing Guido Franetti, cowering against the wall. “Get yer ass up!”
“Don’t shoot me. Please don’t kill me.” Franetti had been turned into a quivering puddle as he found it difficult to rise from the floor. Monty stepped forward and frowned, muttering about the stench. Bloody pissed himself. “Look, I’ll… I’ll leave. Just don’t… don’t shoot me, ‘kay.”
“Goddammit! Yer just some squirt kid,” Walker observed with a sigh as he cradled the rifle. “Get yer ass up, an’ get the hell outta here. An’ don’t let me ‘r any o’ us see ya in the William ‘gain. Got it?” Guido crawled past the three before managing to find some purchase on his feet and sprinted out of the warehouse.
Walker took a cursory look around before giving out details. “Monty, that room over there looks like it’d be a decent one fer storage. Annie, see if ya can find what sorta electrical system we’re lookin’ at. How old it is. We may have ta start cullin’ parts t’gether. I’ll handle the bodies. When we’re done the initial with the buildin’, drag ‘em down ta Sharkhead an’ give ‘em a proper burial.” Both Monty and Marianne nodded, quickly moving out to take care of their orders.
Walker looked around one last time. Even with the death, scorch marks and all, he smiled.
Home. They finally found a home.
Bullets flew across the room. Walker and Monty hunkered down behind a row of beaten up slot machines. Not that they weren’t good before this little fire fight, in fact, they were being used quite a bit. Until the bullets started flying. The pair of Ex-Illuminati agents had busted into the speakeasy quickly, the intent was a warning for one cell of the Family mafia. Frankie Paddaluchi had told the two about this operation, after claiming to know of a good safe house they could use as a base of operations for themselves.
Do this for me, an’ I’ll hook you two up, capisce?
They never really expected this to be easy, but they also weren’t expecting this kind of resistance. And then, they also weren’t expecting the Capo to be a woman.
Fancy was her name, with mannerisms that would appear as unseeingly for someone to be associating with the hired gunsels of the Maximus Family. But she was as deadly as she was refined. “I always find it interesting when brutes such as yourselves attempt to rest from my hands the territory and materials that I have worked so very hard to acquire,” she called out as she fired off a few rounds from her .38s. “Allow me to ask you gentlemen, what exactly do you believe that you were attempting to accomplish by an action such as this.”
“Can I squeeze off a few rounds an’ hope ta take her head off, mate,” Monty said in a hoarse whisper. “Her bloody limey’s the worst I’ve ever heard.”
Walker would have laughed had the situation not been so dire. “Way I hear it, Ma’am, you been puttin’ the squeeze on some honest folk ’round these parts. Somethin’ like that just ain’t right.”
“My word, someone with a heart of gold,” she called back with a laugh. “Such a thing as that is not commonly found in the Isles.”
“Whyn’t ya come here an’ I’ll show ya my heart o’ gold while I’m puttin’ a bullet through yer skull,” Walker suggested, a touch of venom in his voice. He looked to Monty as he heard the shuffling of feet. The shooting had died down, and gunsels were moving into a better position. Walker and Monty wordlessly positioned themselves.
The guns started blazing again as gunsels tried dropping in on them, only finding ripping death as the guns held by the gunslingers took them out quickly and effortlessly.
“She in that bunch?” Walker asked in a loud voice, knowing the answer, using his words to taunt.
“No, mate,” Monty replied, just as loud. “Dare say that’s a lotta Armani that just got wasted, though. Bloody shame, ya ask me.”
“Nah, it ain’t no shame. I’d rather go fer a good pair o’ Wranglers any day.”
Fancy shook her head as she listened to the words coming from the pair. “Dreadful, truly dreadful that such as yourselves would even consider yourself at such a station as we are.”
“Hell, Shiela. Ya boys’re dead, an’ we’re still breathin’. I would gather that we’re doin’ alright. Whaddya say, mate?”
“Hell, boy,” Walker replied with a chuckle. “I wager I’m gonna haveta agree with ya.” Walker’s voice had a smile in it, knowing right away, even before asking, what Fancy’s answer to his upcoming proposition would be. “Darlin’, tell ya what. Whyn’t ya make this easy on yerself. Just call it off, agree ta Heck’s terms an’ we’ll stop shootin’.”
Fancy laughed aloud as though she were on stage. The mere thought of such a suggestion was, in truth, laughable. “And where, pray tell, would the profit be for such a venture as that?”
“Well,” Walker replied with a smile. “Fer one, we’d stop usin’ so many bullets. I think Monty here missed a coupla times.”
“I bloody did not, mate,” he remarked with a voice that sounded angry, but he couldn’t help but smile as he spoke. He knew what Walker was doing. Wearing down the opponent with verbal jabs, and keeping them off guard. “Not like you hit one hundred percent…”
“Oh for!” Fancy finally cried out in dramatic voice and posture. “I give you… gentlemen the same offer you gave me. Give up, and I’ll allow you to crawl back to Heck, and receive whatever punish…”
Her words were cut off as she stared at the serrated blade that now protruded from her chest. She marveled at it for a while as she watched the blood begin to drip from the wound. And then she felt the arm wrap around her throat, and her body thrust backward, held fast by a muscular, yet lithe individual.
“Let me guess, Miss Fancy,” Marianne Wollcott whispered in Fancy’s ear. “A little girl from Oregon wished to be British, and far higher than her station. So, she joined with Don Maximus, first as a whore, and then worked close to the Don and secured herself some property. All the while pretending to be, oh so Shakespearean. How borish. Bloody colonial.” Marianne pulled the serrated blade back, ripping new wounds into the woman’s flesh. Fancy fell to the floor, tears streaming down her eyes.
“I could… I could have had everything…”
“No,” Marianne replied with a whisper, knowing full well that the life had ebbed from Fancy. “No you couldn’t. Because this was always your fate.” She surveyed the room as the gunsels looked to her. One held up his gun and Marianne replied by pointing her blade in his direction. “If any of you fools knew who you were dealing with, then all of you berks would have run scared well before this fight ever started. Your so called boss was an ignorant bitch. She deserved what she got.”
“Is she bloody dead?” Monty called out as he peeked over a crate. “Shite! Walker…” The gunslinger sat up, and peeked over the crate. What he saw was an amazing sight. The gunsels tossed down their weapons as they warily watched the woman who had just killed Fancy.
“Son of a bitch,” Walker whispered.
“Aren’t the Sisters sticking close to the Web?” Monty asked in a hoarse whisper.
“She ain’t a Knife,” Walker said with a smile as he pointed toward the woman. “The patches. They been ripped off. She cut an’ run, just like us.”
Marianne stood her ground as the gunslingers crawled out from their bunker, weapons trained on her. “This is not exactly the reception I had hoped for,” she said with a scowl.
“Then respect the fact that it ain’t usual procedure fer a member, whether ties ‘r cut ‘r not, o’ the Sisters come save us poor ass the Illuminati.”
“Ex-Illuminati, if I remember correctly,” Marianna replied.
“Bloody hell,” Monty said as he lowered his gun and looked to Walker. “She’s good.”
Walker nodded to the woman as he lowered his rifle. The frays on the patches weren’t new. They’d been ripped off a while ago. “What’s yer name, darlin’?”
“Marianne Wollcott,” she said quickly. “And if I might say, Operative Violet Rose, your reputation proceeds you. Your exploits are known amongst the members of the Sisters.”
“Why you quit?” he asked as he pointed to the torn patches.
Marianne looked down to her shoulder and then back to Walker. “Do you know of Stewart Industries?”
“‘Course I do,” Walker said with a scoff. “One o’ the biggest biogenetic an’ pharmaceutical companies in the western hemisphere. Have ta be an idiot not ta know. Why?”
“My sister, Maxine Wollcott, was the personal secretary for the CEO, Derrik Stewart,” Marianne explained, a cold look in her eyes. “A sect of the Sisters killed her when Mandrake attempted a very hostile take over of the company. Mandrake failed, and my sister paid the ultimate price. I left the Sisters as soon as I learned what happened.”
Walker nodded as Marianne gave her reasons. He studied her for a long while, sensing there was no disception at work. “Ya realize what me an’ Monty ‘re doin’?”
“Law in a lawless land?”
He smirked as he heard the answer. “Well, I guess ya do. Ya ain’t gettin’ no feelin’s o’ takin’ that pig sticker ta me ‘r Monty, an’ darlin’, we’ll get ‘long just fine.” He looked back to Monty and smiled. “Three o’ us is better ‘n two. What say we go back ta Heck an’ see what he’s got fer us in the form o’ property ta set up our shingle.”
Monty nodded and flashed a smile to Marianne. She merely responded with a nod, not falling for the perceived charm from the Aussie. But at least now, she had allies. And ones she had known of from her former life. Things in the William were about to get more interesting.
The limp form of the monstrosity slipped into the sludge quietly. A woman pulled out the serrated blade with ease and moved back into the shadows. The frayed edges where the arm patches were still bore some of the insignia of the organization she called home. The Sisters of the Blade. Long ago, after hearing of the death of her sister at the hands of one sect of the Sisters, she decided to leave. The group was no longer a family of hers. They had struck out and killed one of her own. And now it was time for revenge.
A comm on her belt chirped a low sound. She narrowed her eyes as she studied the readout. Blast! she cursed under her breath in a near perfectly enunciated British accent. She hit the receive button as she crept deeper into the shadows. “This had better be important, Eleanor.”
“Marianne,” the voice on the comm spouted excitedly. “Do you realize how long I’ve been trying to find you?”
“I really wish you hadn’t, Eleanor,” Marianne replied with a hint of disdain. “I love you dearly, but you shouldn’t try and contact me.” She checked her position, taking note of the Mafia gunsels and local government soldiers that patrolled near what was called the Web.
“Marianne, I noted some movement in the Isles,” she said, trying to get her sister to listen. “There’s someone there who can help you. Someone you can trust.”
“I take it you found all of this via the company you work for,” Marianne remarked, a small smirk tugging at the corners of her lips. “How is it, being the personal secretary of Derrik Stewart?”
“Marianne,” Eleanor replied with a shocked tone. “Enough. Will you take this information?”
The blade mistress paused for what seemed forever before answering. Having allies in this wretched place would be worth it. And she knew that Eleanor had connections, even more so now that she worked with Stewart Industries. “Who is it, Eleanor?”
“Ex-Illuminati. Codenamed Operative Violet Rose. And his second in command, Omega Six. Both are situated…”
“I know where they are,” Marianne said as she typed on the keys of her lap top. While her sister was talking, Marianne connected to the central hub of the web, tapping into the security cameras that dotted the islands. “Port William. I just watched them take out a group of Don Maximus’ men.”
“How did you…”
“You have your connections, dear sister,” Marianne came back with a smirk. “And I have mine.” Without another word, she clicked off the comm and gathered her things. It was time to head toward Port William. She knew who John Walker was. She’d undertaken a pair of missions with him during her time with the Sisters. He was good, and he knew the value of honour.
And that was something sorely needed in this lawless land.
to be continued…
Johnathon Tiberius Walker stepped off the unmarked Blackhawk helicopter, stepping lightly on the cobble stones that made up the streets of the town. Port William. One of two communities on an island chain at the tip of Bermuda. The other, Cinco Muerta. He looked back to the Blackhawk and waited for it to lift off before moving. It sat for several more minutes, giving Walker a moment to pause. Why would they just sit there and wait? It made no sense.
And then the answer came.
A tall, dark haired man stepped off the transport. Walker knew who it was, he’d been the gunslinger’s second in command in the the Illuminati unit they ran. Walker gritted his teeth and shook his head. “Omega Six, what the hell ‘re you doin’?”
“I’m with you, mate,” Omega Six replied in his thick Australian accent. “The way I see it, if I stick it out I’m as good as dead. Especially if I ever have to face off against you. With you, I’ve got a better chance.” He paused for a moment as he studied Walker’s reaction. “Besides. You could use my help.”
John Walker shook his head and wordlessly waved the Aussie gunslinger over. They both watched as the chopper lifted into the air, and out of sight. “That may have been the dumbest thing you ever done, Monty,” Walker said quietly.
“Explain to me how joinin’ the Illuminati was smart?”
A chuckle escaped Walker’s lips and he shook his head. “C’mon, Monty. We gotta find digs ta settle down in. May as well start huntin’.” Monty grabbed his gear and followed the old gunhand. They were fresh and green on this island compared to some, but they had tactical smarts, and that alone would be their saving grace.
to be continued…
Christa Rayne, a.k.a. Red Surge, high ranking officer within the RCMP and on loan to Interpol, slammed her fist onto the console in front of her. “Dammit, Johnny! Damn you!”
Christa looked to her tactical officer and glared. If Violet Rose escaped now, it could be months, years before they could pick up the trail again. “Get to work. Now! I want him found. If we can bring him in, then there’s a damn good chance we can bring the Illuminati to it’s knees.”
John Walker gently lay the woman’s body onto the ground. She wasn’t dead, but merely knocked out. A much more merciful thing to have happen than what the Sisterhood would have done to him. But he needed to be here, he needed to see her. Sister Jade, a woman that for some unknown reason, he felt drawn to. So much so, that together they had a child. And because of that child, he realized that what he did, was no longer an option.
Maybe it was his age, maybe it was the child, he didn’t know what it was, but he couldn’t do it anymore. He snaked his way through the base, bypassing security and stealthing past the Sisters that were on patrol. He had to get to her room.
And then he felt it. He cursed himself as the blade rested on his neck. Slowly, he rose to his feet, hands held up to show he had no weapon drawn. “Do yer worst,” he said in a gruff voice.
“You are very fortunate that I was the one who found you,” the woman said as John felt the blade leave his neck. “Anyone else would have killed you where you were.” John Walker turned slowly, and took a deep breath. Sister Jade stood before him.
“You could come with me,” he said to her. “Gather up Danielle’s things an’ come with me.”
“You know I can’t,” she replied in a voice that bordered on pleading. “If I were to leave, you know that both the Sisters and Illuminati would search the world over for us.”
John took a step closer to her, feeling the tip of the blade touch his chest. He didn’t look down as he effortlessly pushed it to the side. But then, Jade wasn’t about to use it on him. “Jade, I don’t know what it was, but somethin’ came alive in my heart. For years, I’d only known one thing. An’ that was what I did for the Iluminati. An’ I was damned good at it. But when I met you… my world suddenly changed.” He held up a hand as Jade began to speak, stopping her. “Don’t say anythin’, darlin’. Don’t. I thought I’d come here, convince you ta come with me. You an’ Danny. But I can tell how you feel just by lookin’ in yer eyes. Alright, I’ll leave. But I will wait fer you, Jade. If I have ta wait ta be on my death bed fer you ta come ta me, then so be it. But if all I have is those final few moments with you, then I know it were worth it.”
Jade sighed deeply. She’d trained hard with the Sisters, worked to obtain her station with the Knives, and was a well respected member. But this man had done something to her. He had filled something in her that she desperately wanted, but knew she couldn’t have. “You know what the penalty is.”
“I do,” he said with a firm nod. “An’ I ain’t ’bout ta risk yer life b’cause o’ me. When yer ready, come lookin’ fer me. I’ll leave a trail only you can follow, darlin’. When yer ready, I’ll be there.” He took one last look into her eyes, then took a deep breath and moved past her. It was the most difficult thing he’d ever have to do.
to be continued…
The computer screens flickered back and forth with information vital to the existance of the Illuminati. And Operative Violet Rose watched everything carefully. Every so often there seemed to be what appeared as a small glitch in the system. Violet Rose smirked slightly as he recognized it right away. He tapped a few keys on the keyboard and lifted the mask over his features. The middle view screen came to life, and the features of an attractive red head began to come into focus.
“Well, well,” Violent Rose drawled as he sat back in the chair. “Look what we have here.”
The woman on the view screen shook her head and sighed deeply. “What makes you think I was on the look out for you, Rose,” she replied in an even toned voice. “Or maybe I should start calling you by your real name, John. Seems only fair, as you managed to deduce mine about two months back.”
Rose, or John as was his name, laughed aloud. “Now, I guess I shoulda figgered you’d pick up on that soon ‘nough. You bein’ the only one smart ‘nough ta figger it out. Shoulda known it’d come ta that, Miss Rayne.” He paused and studied the view screen for a moment. “Or maybe, seein’ how we’ve upgraded ourselves ta a first name basis, would it be too forward o’ me ta call ya Christa.”
“I don’t see any reason why not, John Walker,” she replied, finally letting a smile show on her face, softening her voice somewhat. “I have to admit, the chase has been entertaining, but I’m just one step behind you now, John. It won’t be long.”
John Walker’s tone became very serious, the smile seemed to fade just slightly. “I hate ta disappoint ya, Christa. I really do. But maybe I seen the light. What we had b’tween us, this game o’ cat an’ mouse, been fun an’ all, but I realized somethin’. It ain’t gonna last ferever, an’ somebody’s gonna get killed b’cause o’ it. Now maybe I started ta grow a soft spot fer ya, ain’t too sure, but I do know this. A man b’comes dangerous when he starts spoutin’ that he’s got God on his side. A man also b’comes dangerous when he’s weilding a gun. He b’come down right fanatical when he’s got both.” John sighed and pulled down the mask as he reached for a pack of cigarettes. “That’s sorta what’s happenin’ with this branch o’ the organization, an’ while I may be a God fearin’ man, I ain’t ‘bout ta start sayin’ it were God tol’ me ta do the things I set out ta do.”
“What are you up to’, John? What are you scheming” Christa’s tone had become very even, and even more serious than usual. She knew John Walker well enough that he was capable of calling on an air strike from any military in the world. His connections and his ability to subvert had become that great. “Because if it means the taking of lives…”
“No Miss Rayne. No worries there.” He lit the cigarette and reached for a bottle of JD. “I’m out. I’ve had ‘nough.”
“Come to me, Walker. We can cut you a deal, get you relocated….” Her voice held some desperation to it, as she knew if she could not get John Walker to agree, then she’d spend the next few years, and limitless Interpol resources trying to find him.
“Hell, no,” he said cutting her off quickly. “I done too much ta too many. I know when I die, I’m gonna burn in hell. But let it come ta that when I die. In this life, I gotta make amends in my own way. The only way I can.” He took a pull off the cigarette and exhaled deeply. “Wish I could tell ya more, Christa, really wish I could. Be nice ta have a fine filly like you with me, but I can’t risk it. I’m sorry.” He tapped a few more keys on the keyboard and suddenly the connection was gone.
John Walker, formerly Operative Violet Rose, rose from the chair and gathered up what few belongings he intended to take. A pair of Colt .45s, a Derringer, and an assault rifle. The rest, would go up in flames. He removed his jacket and tossed it onto the chair, then looked back to the computer console. “I need ta see someone I care ‘bout, Christa. An’ then I need ta disappear, so I can take care o’ her.”
to be continued…
It’s been a while, yes, since I’ve posted anything at all. I’ve been a bit busy, but felt as this is Veteran’s Week (November 5th to November 11th) I would put up a post from a story I wrote about a grizzled old gunslinger I created. This story, I dedicate to all the men and women who have made sacrifices during times of war.
Johnny Come Lately
I was born and bred in the USA
So listen up close, I’ve get something to say
Boys, I’m buying this round
Well it took a little while but we’re in this fight
And we ain’t going home ’til we’ve done what’s right
We’re gonna drink Camden Town dry tonight
If I have to spend my last pound
When I first got to London it was pourin’ down rain
Met a little girl in the field canteen
Painted her name on the nose of my plane
Six more missions I’m gone
Well I asked if I could stay and she said that I might
Then the warden came around yelling “turn out the lights”
Death rainin’ out of the London night We made love ’til dawn
London, England, 1944
She pulled her coat closer around herself as she walked down the street as the cold wind picked up. Olivia Gallant muttered to herself as she moved through the cobble stone streets toward the medical station. Her journey would often take her past one of several stations that housed either American or Canadian troops, most fly boys, too cocky for their own good. More than once she had to cross the street to avoid some leers and wolf whistles. And this night was no exception.
“Hey, cold wind t’night, you tink.” A Canadian airmen, obviously from Quebec with his thick Quebecois accent betraying him. It wasn’t Parisian, of that she was certain. It sounded too, what was the term she’d heard her friend say once. Ah yes. Hillbilly. A strange American term if anything.
“I’m fine, really,” she replied in her crisp English. “If you’ll excuse me…”
“Ah, Miss. Just wanna give ya an escort.” An American airman, and from the sounds, quite drunk. When they weren’t flying missions, they spent most of their time drinking. There wasn’t much else they could do, really.
“That’s ‘nough, boys,” a gruff voice called out. It was the kindness in the voice that caused Olivia to stop. The man who approached her did not make her draw back, but for some reason, there was a feeling of complete safety with him. “Hit the sack. Some o’ you got missions ta fly soon. An’ Pierre, I figger Halladay’s gonna have yer hide, what bein’ ‘way from the Canuck barracks.” The Quebecois made a rather rude gesture once the man’s back was turned, but walked away nonetheless. “Ma’am. Sorry ’bout the ruckus.”
“It’s quite alright, really. None of them actually do anything.” She couldn’t help but stare in amazement at this man. The smart airman’s uniform, complimented with a stetson. “I was hurrying to attend my duties at the aid station.”
“Well now, ma’am,” he replied as he tipped the hat slightly. “Would ya mind an escort?”
She gave a nervous laugh and her hand clutched the scarf she wore to keep her neck warm. “Really, I’m alright. I don’t even know your name.”
“Major Caleb Walker, Ma’am,” he said in his lazy drawl. “Eighth Air Force. Me an’ the boys ‘re takin’ a rest b’fore the big one. Hope none ‘re botherin’ ya ‘tall.”
Olivia shook her head and smiled. She felt safe with Caleb for some strange reason. “I suppose an escort wouldn’t be too troubling. The streets are rather empty and cold.”
“Always nice ta have some comp’ny, ma’am,” Caleb remarked as he offered her his arm. Olivia gently placed her hand at his elbow and the pair began walking together. “You from ’round here, ma’am? Ya don’t mind my sayin’, but I ain’t heard anyone like ya in these parts b’fore.” He meant no slight, it was his polite way of commenting on her accent.
“I moved here three years ago.” She chuckled nervously for a moment as she corrected herself. “Well, I should say I was transfered here. I worked at an aid station in Swansea, Wales, where I grew up.” She smiled and looked up to the tall man beside her.
“Beautiful country in Wales,” Caleb replied. “I managed a stay with the rest o’ my men when we first come here two years ago. Been flyin’ missions ever since.”
“And where are you from, Mr. Walker. I have to admit, most Americans I have meet are from Boston and New York.”
Caleb chuckled a bit. “I grew up in what my daddy always called God’s Country. Texas panhandle. Amarillo, ta be precise.” The thought of a real Texas somewhat thrilled Olivia. She’d heard about men of the plains, but had never met one before, and at this moment, she was excited. Her lonely walk had turned into an adventure, albeit, a very calm one.
“I’ve never been away from the British Isles,” she replied with a smile. “And I’ve only seen pictures of much of the Americas.”
“You should come out that way some time,” Caleb replied with a nod. “If ya came out in fall, then ya see some o’ the most picturesque sunsets.”
The pair walked together for a few more blocks, talking, sharing their experiences since the beginning of the war, and laughing together. Olivia looked up as she saw the sign denoting the aid station. Her heart sank just a bit as she didn’t wish for the walk to end. They both stopped and Olivia turned to face Caleb. “I must thank you for your escort, and the conversation. It’s a lonely walk sometimes, and having someone to talk to is wonderful.”
“My pleasure, Ma’am,” Caleb said as he tipped his hat. “Any time you need an escort, just come ta the barracks. I’ll let the boys know, an’ they won’t do nothin’ ta disrespect ya.”
“I appreciate that, Mr. Walker.”
“Please, Ma’am. Call me Caleb.”
She smiled as she quietly voiced the name to herself. A very different name than she’d heard before. “On one condition, Caleb. If you would, call me Olivia.”
Caleb smiled and his eyes seemed to sparkle. “I think I can do that, Olivia. You take care, now. Hope yer shift goes without any problems.” He tipped his hat again and walked back toward his barracks, leaving Olivia to watch after him, smiling as she tried the name again for size.
“Olivia,” a woman called from the doorstep. “Love, ye gonna catch ye cold out there.” Alice McGuinty, considered to be the den mother of the nurses at this station. Alice gazed off in the direction Olivia was looking and smiled. “Ye get yeself a bit o’ an escort t’night?”
“Yes,” Olivia said with a shy smile. “It helped keep the cold away.”
Alice laughed out loud and shook her head. She knew that many of the American flyboys would often sweep the local girls off their feet, and it seemed as though it had happened with a chance meeting tongiht. “Well, get yeself inside. Dunna need ye catchin’ yer death from the cold.” Olivia climbed the stairs to the aid station, the smile never leaving her face. Her duties would be completed with cheer, but the hours which she would see Caleb again would be long.
With a chest full of medals and a G.l. loan
They’ll be waitin’ at the station down in San Antone
When Johnny comes marching home
Olivia stood outside of the barracks and watched the men come and go through the chain link fence. She actually had some time off and decided to use it tending to some chores and a bit of relaxation. Tensions weren’t nearly as high as they had been in the past. There was a rumour that the end of the war was in sight. Four days before, the air field was a buzz of activity as planes took off on a massive mission. Nothing had been leaked but everyone had their own theory.
But Olivia knew. Caleb told her that they were about to move out, there were orders coming and he wouldn’t be around for a few days. They’d spent the night together before he had to join his airmates. It was only four days. She had so much that she needed to take care of during that time to take her mind off Caleb, but she always drifted back to him. The warmth in his voice, the touch of his hand, the sparkle in his eye. She hadn’t thought that she could be swept so easily off her feet, but she had. Caleb Walker had been the man she had been looking for, without even knowing that she was looking at all.
Olivia bit her lip in nervous anticipation, watching as pilots began filtering into the buildings. The mission was complete, and from all appearances, they were victorious. But she didn’t care of the outcome of any battle. Olivia only looked for one man.
Alone, and haggard looking, one lone pilot walked the tarmac to the bunkhouses. Carrying his gear under his arm, he wiped his brow and seemed to take a deep breath, one that he could have been holding from the shores of Italy until he landed on English soil. Caleb Walker looked up as though something inside him told him to. He smiled as he saw Olivia, and began walking toward her.
Olivia laughed a nervous laugh that allowed her worry to shed quickly. She wanted to burst through the fence, not waiting for the airman that opened it to finish. She wanted to burst through and run to Caleb, but she composed herself as best she could. Still, her excitement pushed her to rush toward Caleb. Throwing her arms around his shoulders, she sobbed into his chest, not tears of sorrow, but tears of absolute joy.
Caleb smiled, dropping his equipment to the ground as he placed comforting arms about her. “Olivia,” he said softly. “Darlin’, ain’t no cause ta weep like this.”
“I thought I’d never see you again,” she sobbed as she held tight to him. “I didn’t realize that the time we’d spent together…” She let her voice trail off as she looked up into his eyes.
“Darlin’,” he said softly as he smiled his comforting smile. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere. God didn’t want me, b’cause he knew there were an angel here on Earth I needed ta come back ta. Up in the skies, I couldn’t stop thinkin’ ’bout ya. I knew I had ta come back ta ya, darlin’. An’ there weren’t nuthin’ them Jerries could do ta keep me ‘way.”
They stood in silence for what seemed forever. In that moment, Olivia knew she had been truly blessed. With Caleb Walker by her side, there was no reason to fear and no reason to cry.
And she took a round coming cross the Channel last trip
I was thinking ’bout my baby and letting her rip
Always got me through so far
Well they can ship me all over this great big world
But I’ll never find nothing like my North End girl
I’m taking her home whh me one day, sir
Soon as we win this war
1955, San Antonio, Texas.
Olivia held the small child in her arms as her oldest son stood beside her. Neither boy could understand what the scene was about. Neither child knew why the tears ran down her cheeks. A soldier dressed in his military best presented her with the flag that drapped the coffin. And the tears flowed even faster. The soldier lay a comforting hand on her shoulder, and whispered words of encouragement to her, words that told her that her husband had died completing his duty. She had only pride to keep herself standing tall.
But even though the words held some strength for her, she still felt a great loss. This man she had met only a decade before was now taken from her.
She would strengthen herself, however, as she looked to the two boys. Caleb’s boys. Christopher Malcom Walker and Johnathon Tiberius Walker. She would teach them about their father and let them know the kind of man he was.
And perhaps, they too would grow to be their father’s sons.
Told me about London when the Blitz was on
How he married Grandma and brought her back home
A hero throughout his land
Now I’m standing on a runway in San Diego
A couple Purple Hearts and I move a little slow
There’s nobody here, maybe nobody knows
About a place called Vietnam
Washington DC, National Vietnam Memorial, present day
John Walker stared at one row of names intently as he stood solitary before the wall. He’d served with most, made friends with a few. It was almost forty years ago, but he remembered. He’d lied about his age when he enlisted, at the age of sixteen. His first tour was on his seventeenth birthday. His mother never knew until he had returned, believing that he’d gone to look for work. She was angry, but the angry turned to relief that he was alright.
As the sun shone brightly down from above, John Walker said a silent prayer. Only the foot falls behind him made any noise that someone had arrived. Nothing was said, whoever it was kept quiet, respectfully allowing John to finish. And as he placed his hat back on, Marianne Wollcott finally spoke.
“I apologize for the interruption, Sir.”
John turned to face her, a small smile on his lips. “It’s alright, Mary. Ya ain’t interruptin’ none ‘tall.” He looked back to the wall and sighed before turning to face Marianne. “Been comin’ out here on this date every year now since they built this. Only seem right.”
“Vietnam?” Marianne asked quietly.
John nodded his response, the memories coming back to him of the hell on earth he’d survived. “One tour o’ duty. Commandin’ officer tol’ me ta go home after he found out how old I was.” He chuckled slightly as his commanding officer’s words came back to him, crystal clear. “Truth is, I don’t blame ‘im. I’d o’ done the same thing in his situation.” He studied Marianne for a moment, for the first time since she’d joined him noticing her smart military uniform, a good pairing with the one John wore. “You served back in Britain, didn’t ya?”
Marianne smiled with a small nod. “I never saw any action. Never was sent overseas. I was still a cadet when the Persian Gulf War began. They sent me to Haiti to assist with efforts there. But outside of that…” She merely shook her head. “I can’t imagine the things you’ve experienced, Sir. I don’t know what any of it was like.”
“I pray ya never do, Mary,” John replied softly. “Ta be shoved inta a war like that,” he stated as he motioned toward the wall of names. “Ain’t nobody should see that. Ever.”
“With everything I’ve heard that happened to men that served in Vietnam,” Marianne commented. “I find that you have a strength above that.”
John took a deep breath as he carefully thought his answer. “I live with the horror o’ that war, ta this very day. Like I said, no one should ever have ta go through that. Ever. On that same note, I’m glad there’s men an’ women that have the courage ta stand up. If we didn’t, we might as well roll over an’ die.”
Marianne studied John Walker closely for a moment. He seemed at his most vulnerable at this very moment. The strength he usually displayed was only a glint compared to the pain and sorrow that he felt being here. But there was one thing she knew. Through the horrors of all the wars fought during the last century, if it wasn’t for men like John Walker, then they may as well have just rolled over and died. “In Britain we don’t honour our soldiers until November. But there is a saying, said throughout the Commonwealth. Perhaps it is also appropriate for this time as well.”
John looked to Marianne for a moment before answering. “What would that be?”
“Lest we forget.”
With three simple words, Marianne Wollcott gave John Walker a stiff salute. The tired and worn body of Walker’s seemed to slouch just a bit. The words fit, and with them, gave him some strength to continue on. He returned the salute in kind, unable to find the words he wished to convey to Marianne. None needed be said.
lyrics from Johnny Come Lately as performed by Steve Earl