The trio moved quietly through the alleyways of the slum districts of The William. Nobody ever came here. At least, no one who wanted to live. The lowest forms of life on the face of the planet took this region as their own. Not even Don Maximus ever sent his men here. But Walker knew what lay in the darkness. Illuminati agents and members of the Sisterhood used these places for clandestine meetings and covert practice maneuvers. Walker knew all too well what those were like. These were reserved for those few who had potential, but had failed in one way shape or form. Marianne knew all too well about this area also. She spent time here before hooking up with Walker and Monty.
They steered their horses through the muck and mire, quietly watching for any movement that would alert them to danger. Marianne’s head whipped to the rooftop quickly. She stopped her horse and watched as a figure crouched down on the rooftop above them. Walker and Monty stopped also. Wordlessly, they looked to Marianne, then to the rooftop. They too saw the figure. Whoever it was, they weren’t hiding very well. “Too small to be one of the monstrosities in this area,” Marianne spoke in a whisper.
Walker nodded, never taking his eyes off the figure. “An’ don’t move like any agent I seen b’fore.” The three just watched for a moment, a staring contest in the middle of this danger zone. On the rooftop, Pania Alow stared right back, watching carefully these three horsemen. So far, all indications pointed to them being honourable, if not a little trigger happy at times. But then, she could relate, as her hand hovered over the butt of her Glock. Maybe these three would be of use after all. Eventually, Walker motioned to keep moving, and the three carried on as though nothing had happened.
The destination came into view. An old abandoned warehouse. This region used to be a rich shipping port. But years of thieves and cutthroats moving into the area changed all of that. The respectable clientèle moved away as the bullies began to push them for protection money. The economy of the area began to shatter, and eventually became what it is today. A barren wasteland of abandoned buildings, and rats scuttling around in the darkness. Walker slowed his horse to a stop, taking note of those who guarded it. He furrowed his brow as he recognized the uniforms of those that hurried around, carrying packages and taking stock of inventory. The only sign of life in this ghost town.
“I don’t like this,” he whispered. Monty and Marianne could tell by the sound of his voice what they were about to face.
“Christ,” Monty cursed under his breath. “Illuminati. Dealing with the Front.” And so it was, a well dressed adjutant of the white supremest group Heritage Front, was going over a clip board with, one could only assume, shipping instructions. The Illuminati were supplying them in this region. “This can’t end well, Walker.”
“Maybe we’ll clean out a few rats,” Walker muttered as he pulled his long barrel Colt. “What say you?” The responce was clear. Marianne and Monty both pulled weapons out and quickly dismounted their horses. They’d move together, or not at all. This fight wouldn’t be easy, that was most certain. Soldiers from both the Heritage Front and the Illuminati would start firing. This thought was pushed back in Walker’s mind as the three moved close to the buildings, watching the entrance of the warehouse carefully. Above them, the lithe figure of Pania moved also, and she too watched the entrance of the warehouse. But she had her sniper rifle in hand. These three were going to need backup against this group. And she would give it to them. Her curiosity about the package Amen’Dell wanted from this warehouse had piqued within her. Though she had no doubt that she would have to destroy it.
Take a weapon from the enemy, make them weaker.
She stopped at the edge of the rooftop, glancing to the trio below her. The shadows had ended. The comfort of the buildings had given way to a long stretch of open. Little to no cover. They could be here for a while.
Or she could cause a distraction.
Moving into a prone position, she readied the rifle, making certain her sites were lined up. The adjutant would make an excellent target to begin the chaos that was about to come. Before getting ready, she quickly scanned the area, determining her next position. Staying in one place for too long was not a good idea. Once it was determined, she looked down to the trio’s position. They looked about ready to move. Which was all the signal Pania needed. She lined up her sites, placed her finger on the trigger, waited a moment as everything around her seemed to grow silent.
And then she pulled the trigger.
I’m here without you baby, but you’re still on my lonely mind
I think about you baby and I dream about you all the time
I’m here without you baby, but you’re still with me in my dreams
And tonight girl, it’s only you and me
lyrics from Here Without You as performed by 3 Doors Down
It was quite some time before Lyssa walked out of the house. Her pale face was speckled with drying blood, a look of satisfaction glimmered in her eyes under the full moon. Quietly, she moved to over to Ari and Shani. There was nothing she could say, tears formed in her eyes as she gazed over Andar’s lifeless body. Lyssa collapsed next to Andar, pressing her head against his chest and sobbed hard.
Shani stood by for a moment, feeling the pain that Lyssa was going through, sensing it more than anything else. They had waited for Lyssa to exit the shack, most evident because the pale elf still held onto the scroll that would restore Andar to full life. But they had to act quickly. Time was working against them. Shani knelt beside the small hin and gently rested a hand on her shoulder and spoke in a soft and soothing voice. “Darlin’. We best give this a try. Y’all lemme use it, ya jist stan’ back, ’lright?”
“There’s no point, he’s gone!” She screamed at Shani. Tears flowed freely down Lyssa’s cheeks. She stood up and took off towards the horses. “Everyone I love ends up dead!”
“Lyssa!” Shani called after her, running to keep up. “Lyssa! It ain’t all lost! We still got time!” She ran as fast as she could, trying to keep up as Triumph, now under the command of Lyssa, sprinted back toward Baldur’s Gate. Shani’s sprinting slowed and finally she stopped, resting her hands on her knees to catch her breath. There in her right hand, she still clutched the scroll.
Shani looked back to Ari, and then to Andar’s still body. She took a deep breath and began to jog back. “Hell with this…” she muttered as she stopped beside the still Drow’s body. “Gonna git ’im up.”
“We’ve still enough time,” Ari said, surveying the scene one more time before watching the body again.
She rested her hand on Andar’s forehead as she read from the scroll, hoping that her knowledge of such things was still intact. It had been a while since the last time she had to use a scroll such as this. And the last time the situation wasn’t as dire. As the scroll was read aloud, it burst into a magical flame and seemed to seep into the body of Andar. Shani watched for a moment, and waited. Her eyes drifted to Ari.
Had it worked?
At first, there seemed to be no reaction from the lifeless body of the drow. Suddenly, the first breath of life entered his lungs, causing him to choke on the blood that had filled them, spitting forth in a crimson rain from his lips. When the coughing had subsided, he lay still on the ground, eyes closed and unmoving except for his slow breathing. His mouth moved as if he wished to speak, but lulled to the side as he slipped out of consciousness.
“C’mon,” Shani sighed as she reached down to pick Andar up. “We got a long road ’head o’ us. An’ we need ta tend ta Andar.” She looked off toward Baldur’s Gate, trying to see if the dot that would be Lyssa and Triumph was there. “After thet, we gotta find Lyssa.”
bright is the moon high in starlight
chill in the air cold as steel tonight
call of the wild
fear in your eyes
it’s later than you realized
lyrics from Of Wolf and Man as performed by Metallica
Westing Lokk Keep
The page sat still in the library. The room had become a normal day to day ritual for him. Even more so when the haunting sounds came from the violin that would play as the moon rose. At first, he found it extremely unnerving. But, as time would go on, he grew used to the sound, as much as he grew used to the person who played the instrument.
It was always the same piece, so filled with sorrow and despair that at times he would catch a tear falling down his cheek. He had thought that this woman had explained her faith was that of music, the hunt, and joy. How could such a faith, allow for such a song of sorrow?
The room, the Keep, became deathly silent as the violin ceased it’s playing. This was unusual. Because he had grown very used to hearing the music as it faded into the night. “Is something the matter?” he asked quietly. Perhaps a string needed repairing, or she just needed to rest.
Thradra Argith turned to face him, her dusky features, common among the Drow, seemed to take on a ghostly appearance in the moonlight, helped only by the silver clothes she wore. “Something is wrong,” she merely said as she put away her violin and bow. “Please fetch my weapons.”
“Going on the hunt?”
“Of a sort,” she replied as she placed the leather jacket on her shoulders. “Tell Hugh I may be several days.” She said no more as she dressed in her leathers, waiting for the page to carry out her request. He stood motionless for a moment, but soon rushed off to her room to retrieve her things. Daggers, katana, whip and sling. These things she would place on her person in an almost studious fashion. It was as if she had made it a part of her ritual.
“Where shall I say to Lord Willoud you are going?”
“I do not know,” she answered flatly as she placed the cloak around her shoulders and secured the hood in place. “Tell him that I sense something that worries me.” She said no more as she began to walk the stone steps toward the exit of the Keep. The page could only watch.
And for the first time, he felt a great worry fill inside him
I had always heard that there were a lot of car accidents in Regina.
Now I know why.
On Monday, a co-worker of mine and I made the long, five hour journey to Estevan. It was part of some tips and training for the company we work for, and allowed us to see how things can be done for what we do. Very enlightening, I must say. We went to the Estevan Lifestyles and got a warm welcome and managed to see some incredible things.
But on the journey we saw many different (and unusal) sights. Like drivers in Regina. Drivers in Regina, I have found, are a lot less considerate than drivers in Saskatoon. Perhaps it’s because I know the city of Saskatoon much better. But driving in rush hour traffic on a Tuesday afternoon was like jockeying for position. Let’s just say a few choice words were said while I was behind the wheel.
There was a few stops that were really interesting, however. The town of Chamberlain is very picturesque. When the greens of spring finally come around, that place is going to look incredible. Craik was a mellowing experience, especially when we drove past the Flax House. The Flax House received national attention a while back when the owner of the house showed how much energy was saved by heating his home with bales.
All in all, a very good time during the trip. I wish I could have a few photos, but being behind the wheel did not afford me the opportunity to do so.
Until next time…
Look, listen and learn.
Keep ‘em flyin’.
They steered the horses along the path carefully. So far they had only received a few sideways glances, and nothing more. Walker knew, however, that each of those looks could have meant death. There were enough on these islands who wanted him and his crew dead. But a word of honour from Don Maximus kept everyone’s hand still. No one would draw the blood of these three without feeling the Don’s wrath. Walker still didn’t know why he made that oath, considering the the Mafia’s claim on these islands, and Walker’s wish to change that claim. The old gunhand pushed those thoughts aside as Monty motioned toward the crest of a small hill. There was the contact, dressed in the most exotic and finest of robes.
“Buggerin’ dandy,” Monty muttered.
“Keep the observations ’till after we discuss details o’ the contract, wouldja Monty,” Walker said in a slow and even tone, even if he was thinking just the same thing. The three urged the horses forward as Walker discussed how they would approach things. “We stay in the saddle an’ talk. No movin’. It’ll put us at a bit o’ an advantage. So far, we been lucky in this region. Ain’t seen any agents o’ the Illuminati ‘r the Sisterhood. It might not stay that way.” Walker became silent as they came within fifty feet of the mark. They stopped the horses and waited. The mark wore red and gold coloured robes, his face hidden under a hooded cloak. Two men stood on either side of the man, much larger and seemed to be his body guards. Marianne tensed just a bit as she studied to two flanking the mark and turned to look at Walker. He knew something was up by the look in her eyes and let out a long breath as he reached into his coat pocket for his cigarette holder. “Mornin’,” he called out as he took out a cigarette. “Nice ‘nough mornin’, ain’t it.”
The mark seemed to look up and moved a little closer, closing the gap between himself and the three riders. His bodyguards followed suit. “It is, indeed,” he replied in a calm voice, touched with the sound of nobility. “I assume that you and your friends are ones I have heard so much about. The … sherrif and his deputies?”
“Ya could call us that,” Walker replied as he studied the man. “Word is you’ve got some piece o’ property that needs recoverin’.”
“Indeed I do,” Amen’Dell replied with a smile in his voice. “It is a rather old artifact. It holds a great deal of … what is the word … ah yes, it holds a sort of affection in my family. You could say that it is an heirloom. Something that has been in my family for many a generation.”
Walker’s horse shifted under his weight as he studied the man some more. The tone of his voice indicated something less than honest about his statement, but Walker made no mention of his feelings aloud. He would do that later, out of earshot. “So what exactly is it ya want recovered?”
“Direct and to the point,” Amen said with a grin. “I like that in a man. The object is one of rare value. It has been in my… family, for several generations now. It holds special value to me. And since my arrival here, it has fallen into some rather unscrupulous hands. I believe, as my associates have informed me, that these men are gunslingers. Much like yourselves, as a matter of fact.”
Walker looked to Monty, and then Marianne. Gunslingers. That possibly meant Illuminati. This man’s property was in the hands of his old organization, one he did not look forward to seeing again for a long, long time. “That’s a might dangerous, goin’ up ‘gainst gunslingers. B’cause I b’lieve I know who ya speak of.” Walker’s horse shifted again under his weight.
“Does this pose a problem?” Amen replied in a slightly sadistic tone. “I believe I was very generous in the amount of money I was offering.”
“It ain’t the money,” Walker remarked. “That’s fine ‘nough. But they are dangerous men.”
“I could take my services elsewhere…”
“I b’lieve we’ve got it covered,” Walker replied, seemingly cutting the man off mid sentence. “The three o’ us ‘re ’bout the only ones equipped ta deal with the likes o’ them anyway.”
Amen smiled again and snapped his fingers. “Excellent.” One of his body guards tossed over a satchel that Marianne caught with ease. As she confirmed the amount, Amen explained the details. “I expect my package to be delivered in 24 hours. At that point, I will pay the remaining amount. Should you take longer than 24 hours, you will sacrifice the final amount. And should you fail completely… Well… Let us not hope that happens.” Amen turned and walked down the path away from the small meeting place, leaving the three riders to contemplate his last words.
“Can I put a slug through his brain pan?” Monty muttered lightly.
“Ain’t doin’ nuthin’ o’ the sort,” Walker replied as he steered his horse. “But I sense you have the same feelin’s ’bout this bastard that I do. Best ta keep on our toes.” The three steered their horses back the way they came, concentrating on the task at hand. None of them, Walker and his crew nor Amen, could detect the figure that hunkered down in the grass only fifty feet away. Pania Alow popped up and watched the riders as they left. They might be her best chance. They would be able to get into the compound and secure the object. And then it was a matter of destroying it. But those three…
“Curiouser an’ curiouser,” Pania muttered. “May’aps a new ally. ‘R per’aps a new enemy. Guess we’ll wait an’ see.”
There are many people I come across on the internet. Some hold an interest, others not so much. Those I hold dear to me leave a mark on me so deep that I can’t even put into words how much it helps me to get through the day to day livings. I know people think that much is lost in translation from thought to fingers. In my own opinion, this isn’t true. There are so many people out there who are fake, but it’s the few that aren’t fake that stand out much more.
Over the past few months I have spent my time in a program called moonedit. It’s a notepad style program that allows for multiple people to work on the same thing. I spent probably more time on there working on a story I cannot and will not call my own, because it isn’t. Let me explain. In the process of writing The Hard Road, it wasn’t just me writing the story. I was one-third. The other two-thirds were two of my good friends from a game Neverwinter Nights, I play.
There is Tails, yes this is an alias, but we’ve grown to call him Tails even though he has a real name. He’s been my friend since I started playing NWN. I consider him a partner in crime. Tails and I have been through much over the years that we have been friends. We’ve both said hateful things, and did something to spite one or the other, but we’ve always been there, through thick and thin. I defend him as I would my own brother, and protect him like I would my own child. I worry about him constantly, even though he doesn’t know it.
The other person who helped pull this whole story into perspective was Tim. Tim has been the e-shoulder I cry on when I need it. He has also made the winter time bearable, helping me deal with my seasonal depression. I care a great deal about Tim. The only problem I have is the geographic technicality. You see he lives in Canada and I live in the States. Whenever the urge to run overwhelms me, the first thing I want to do is pack up and run to him. But I know this isn’t possible for several reasons.
I’m poor. Like below poverty level. I struggle to keep apartment over my head. Welfare is completely useless except for food. The government will feed me but they won’t help house me. This is all because I told my caseworker that I wasn’t going to take part in their IMPACT program. This program would require me to call another person every single day like a PO and then go in once a week. Assuming I didn’t find a job within 30 days I would be required to volunteer my time. Sorry but no. I can use that time to be out looking for a job. With in 5 days of telling my caseworker this I started working.
I’m not mentally, or emotionally stable enough to relocate my son to some strangers house. I don’t really think that Tim is really mentally or emotionally ready for me.
I don’t have a way to get there. This also fall under the poor person topic too. I don’t drive either. I have my permit but still no go.
Tim has been wonderful in distracting my mind from the real world. I take a great pride in knowing him. Holding him in close status with friends I have grown up with over the years. Recently, Tim has been working on a story called Canyons of Steel. It’s about an old gunslinger and the adventures he has. To fully read and enjoy it you can visit his blog. Middle of Saskatchewan Mind you it’s still a work in progress so it jumps all over the place.
Tim’s work is inspired heavily by music, a lot of it I like, some of it I don’t. However, the lyrics always go with the chapter, and allows a person to get a summary of the story before they even read it. I would have never thought to put music with my stories ever. Then again I haven’t written much in the way of stories. There are a lot of times where Tim and I will talk on the phone and just throw story ideas back and forth. For the most part it’s me listening to him tell me about certain parts that are coming up in the story. I’ve even been lucky and have helped him with story as well. His old gunslinger, Walker, has a daughter. I’ve given her life, just as Tim has given life to the good guys and the bad guys.
It is with great honor that I work on this story with him. I take a great pride in offering my part to Canyons of Steel. The story has become almost an obsession with me. Addict always have addictions and mine are just healthier. A few weeks ago, Tim had writers block and all story writing came to a screeching halt. This did nothing for my imagination. It was not being properly stimulated. Something that couldn’t be helped I know, but still I was bummed that he had lost an interest in writing. Nothing I tried was curing the writers block.
Then a miracle happened. He started writing again and this excited me more and more. While he was at work one day, Leanne Hynd came into visit. Leanne is a local singer/songwriter in Tim’s area., she and Tim were talking and Canyons of Steel came up. Leanne helped to completely motivate Tim into writing again and in turn she helped me get my fix so to speak. I thank her truly for this.
I’m writing this because I feel I should offer thanks to my two friends for writing a story with me, and also to thank Tim so much for allowing me to be apart of his life, and his story. I also want to apologize if I seem to take over too much, and talk more about Walker’s daughter and getting her into situations that seem silly. I am eager to start righting her parts, so much so that I’ve started writing little bits here and there with her and things she would say to Walker, or any number of people.
Tim is a wonderful friend, who I wouldn’t trade for all the rice in china. I love him in way that the word love can’t even begin to describe. One day I do hope that I am able to meet this man, hug him and personally thank him, face to face, for being such an awesome friend.
There are many other people who have made an impact on my life, but to write about them would take a decade or more. They know who they are, and what they have done to impact my life. Thanks again.
I love you all.
In my line of work I get to meet a lot of different people. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with the different Premiers of Saskatchewan over the years. Such men as Grant Devine and Roy Romanow. I’ve also spoken to one of the most interesting women in the history of provincial politics in Lynda Haverstock. Had things been different, I still believe that she would have been elected Premier of the province at one time in her political career.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet the members of Harlequin when they began touring Canada as a bar band. I’ve spoken with Kenny Shields of Streetheart. I’ve interviewed different members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I’ve spoken to mayors, musicians, athletes. And last week, I met one of the most inspirational people I could ever meet.
Leanne Hynd is a local singer/song writer. And she is one of the most exciting, inspirational people I have met in some time. She stopped by the shop and I had the chance to talk to her. And during our talk, Canyons of Steel came up. I’d been at a road block with the story, and a friend of mine (Tricia) was helping, but I was having a difficult time. Tricia and I have come up with some wonderful story writing ideas, but putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) was difficult. I got that jump start when I met Leanne and we talked. She is such a very positive person and helped out a great deal. And I encourage anyone to go to her site and check out her music. www.leannehynd.com. She plays small concerts around the year, and I’ve listened to a couple of her albums (I have two that she gave me, and I copied them onto my computer into iTunes so I can listen to them while I write). To the left is a photo of Leanne, taken by Susan Ewert. That handsome guy in the background is a close friend of Leanne’s, Charley Edwards. Charley is a great person to talk to as well, and also has that very up and positive attitude.
Thanks, Leanne. You helped me get excited, and in doing so both Tricia and I are back into the swing of things.
Until next time…
Keep ‘em flyin’.
His cloak billowed in the wind as he stood on the rock face that looked out onto the waters of the triangle. These islands, with such history, and he would only add to it. But to do that, he would have to make such alliances as with those that would populate the area. He spent several years studying the different organizations that seemed to be the most powerful and would suit his needs. Interpol, CSIS Paranormal Division and even MI-5 Paranormal Division were definitely out of the question for his needs. He would have to rely on those with much more clandestine actions.
The Weavers at first looked promising, as did the Forgotten Ones. But each in it’s own right held onto the past and refused to accept new ways. This was a problem. Don Maximus was too well known. Illuminati, too secret. This left the organization known as the Heritage Front. They would fit his needs perfectly. Especially when he suggested that he could raise a real vampire to lead their soldiers in battle. This was much more promising to the leaders of the Front. Especially when they spent so much time creating fake vampires and werewolves to fill in for their army.
They just needed the proper materials. And one of those materials needed to be transported by someone unsuspecting. The hiring of mercenaries, while not particularly wanted, was the only solution. And even better when one of honour is found, and with the proper story concocted, then any man would follow along. And now, information had reached his ears that indeed such a man had been reached. His real name was unknown, but he went by one of two names; Operative Violet Rose and Derringer. A gunslinger with old west honour and justice in his heart. The right story would indeed be required. And if they died, then mores the pity. Such is life in the Isles.
“Sir,” a smartly dressed adjutant spoke in a respectful tone. “Reports coming in of three people on horseback.”
The man in the expensive looking robes nodded in response, looking in the direction the adjutant mentioned. “Let them come. We shall deal with the in a business-like fashion. After all, we have the right information to give them. They won’t back down from what we tell them,” he replied finally in his impeccable speech. The adjutant nodded, nearly bowing to the man, and turned to carry out his duties as the man remained where he was. The wind again picked up the cloak, billowing it out just slightly, almost as if it were a signal to him. And he pulled the hood away from his head, letting long, golden trusses of hair flow free around his shoulders. The long hair barely hid his heritage, his finely pointed ears betraying his elven ancestry. And if anyone on Earth were to have an clue, they might have recognized the amulet that hung about his neck. A red wizard. On his world, much more powerful than anything on Earth, but on this third rock from old sol, he had to rebuild his power.
Amen’Dell Ger’utinam breathed deep as he smiled, today would definitely be a good day. He scanned the horizon carefully. The three riders were in the distance. This “sherriff” and his “deputies”, as he learned was the proper term for a man such as this. His mind was distracted as a glint of light caught his attention. Amen’Dell furrowed his brow and snapped his fingers, motioning toward the direction he saw the light. “Please see what that was,” he said in a calm voice. “I’ll not have anything disturb this meeting. And I won’t tolerate failure.” The adjutant snapped to attention then moved to carry out his orders. Amen’Dell turned his attention from the light back to the riders. Nothing would stop him. He was too close now.
Had he continued to study the reflection, he might understand more without having to send troops to investigate. Two hundred meters away, a lithe figure of a woman lowered her binoculars. She quickly stored them and took out a rifle, making certain it was loaded. This woman was similar to Amen’Dell in a way. At least, in heritage. The slender frame, the pale skin, and her sharp tipped ears. The one thing that gave away her elven heritage. But she knew Earth technology all too well. Pania Alow began to hunker down in a small culvert, waiting patiently. She’d been following this elven mage for months since he arrived on Earth from their home plane. He was dangerous. And he had to be stopped. But she needed to find out what he was searching for.
The mark came in. Malcolm Montgomery Watt took the message as he sat at his table, casually drinking his beer. Across the table, John Walker kept his head down as he pretended to work on the daily crossword puzzle. They often did this, the pair of gunslingers sitting in a darkened tavern as they waited for some mark to inform them of some major happening. As they did this, Marianne patrolled the joint, listening for anything of interest. A few of the patrons knew to look for them, as did a few who worked the tavern. Call it payment for protecting the Oakes and Cap.
“We got it,” Monty whispered as he pushed a slip of paper underneath his palm toward Walker. The old gunhand set his pen down next to Monty’s hand and took the slip of paper.
“Got any idea what a seven letter word fer ‘Slipped’ would be?” he asked casually as the Aussie smirked.
“Bananas,” Marianne suggested as she approached the table. Her voice lowered to a whisper as she took a seat. “What have we got?”
John Walker had taken the paper and laid it out on the crossword, making it so it still looked like he was working on the puzzle. “Recovery,” he simply said. “Needa pick somethin’ up from a shipment comin’ in. Guess there’s some gentleman needs somethin’ picked up an’ moved without the Don’s crew findin’ out ’bout it.”
“What’s the pay?” Monty said with interest. A retrieval operation would mean things might move smoothly. As good as they were, the idea of having to work some gun play wasn’t looked upon fondly. If need be, they’d do it, but jobs like this one were always looked upon as a better opportunity. So much better the chance of not being shot at.
“Good chuck o’ change,” Walker replied with a low whistle. “Sayin’ 250 upfront once we meet ‘im, an’ 250 ‘pon completion.”
“I take it that’s in the thousands,” Monty said with wide eyed enthusiasm. Walker just smiled and nodded. “Well, then. What’re we waitin’ for? Who is this guy we gotta meet with?”
“Some fella name o’ Darkenson,” Walker said as he looked to the slip of paper covering the crossword puzzle. “Guess this thing is pretty important to ‘im, ’cause he says he needs it d’livered ta some warehouse in Saint Mika.”
“Bloody…” Monty said in a low voice. “Saint Mika. Mafia don’t even head out there unless they plan on cuttin’ from the Don an’ go rogue.”
“Add to that,” Marianne spoke up. “There are reports of agents from both the Illuminati and the Sisterhood that populate the island. Even if it is in the shadows.” She took a deep breath as she thought back to her time patrolling under the Web.
“No one ever said this were gonna be easy,” Walker replied. He folded up his newspaper, slip of paper inside, and rose to his feet. “We best get ourselves ready ta meet this man. Get the full details from him.” Marianne and Monty nodded in unison as they rose as well, gathering their gear and leaving money for the drinks they had.
The trio was known in the island very well. They had become saviours to many of the common people, and a bane to those looking to make a name for themselves. Many of the businesses such as the tavern they vacated had made it known their presence was welcome. Even going so far as adding a set of hitching posts in front of the tavern for their three horses.
John Walker waited on his horse as his comrades mounted their’s. He nodded to each as they looked to him, and they steered the horses toward Port William to meet with this strange man.
Marianne closed the locker carefully after putting away the recovered equipment. It had been an incredibly long day. And it brought back every memory from a year ago to her mind. She reached into her coat pocket, fingers searching for only a moment as they quickly found purchase on a small locket. She took it out and opened it gently. It held three photographs, her own, Maxine’s and Eleanor’s. All when they were children. As she brushed some dust away from the glass, a tear ran along her cheek. She tried holding it in, but felt she couldn’t. And it grew even worse when she felt Walker’s calm and easy hand on her shoulder. Marianne turned to look into his eyes, and she fell into the pools of comfort without thinking.
He had said she was part of his family now. Herself and Monty. And deep inside, she knew that there was no word of a lie that came from his lips. He had honour behind his words. And she trusted him completely. Walker didn’t have to say anything. His eyes spoke volumes. The place they had carved out for themselves was safety enough for them. They had faced the Heritage Front, the Sisterhood, and Don Maximus’ thugs together. They could face anything.
She closed the locket and placed it on the necklace she wore. A fitting place to always remember who her family was. In time, she believed she may have to add two pictures to it.
Sister Eventide trudged behind her two agents. How would she explain their failure to the Mistress? How could they return, explaining how Sister White had thwarted their efforts? Eventide steeled herself. At least the punishment would be most for herself, not the two agents that she lead. They were promising, and she actually felt they should not receive such harsh punishment.
As they walked silently, Eventide would look back toward the Safehouse every so often. She found Walker and his crew most interesting indeed. She thought of this as her two agents walked carefully ahead of her, turning corners before she did. And with Eventide’s mind preoccupied, it was no wonder that she was oblivious to the next few moments. The last corner before they would have reached the transport they had left docked was quiet and unassuming. Eventide had stopped for a moment, but now continued on. But she had to stop again. Her agents had been rendered unconscious. As she turned the corner, both Sisters that accompanied her were laying on the floor in a crumpled heap. She quickly searched the area, her mind suddenly realizing just a little too late who might have done this.
And then her cheek began to sting.
She reeled back as she felt another blow. Mannequin was keeping her off balance, but not doing enough damage to seriously hurt her. He landed another blow and grabbed her roughly by the collar. “Sister Eventide,” he said in a voice that sounded more like a whispered scream. “Sister White might be finished with you,” he said as he slammed Eventide against the wall. She winced noticeably at the pain. “But I’m not.”
Tip of the Bermuda Triangle, present day
Walker and Monty held their hands up as the three black clad women trained their weapons directly at them. One of them, who’s face was not covered, smiled a wicked smile as she studied the pair. The operation was anything but simple, and Walker knew that their best case scenario would more than likely be capture. But what this woman had been doing on these islands, had forced Walker to act, and quickly. Of the devils that lived on this island, at least Don Maximus had some kind honour.
“The infamous Operative Violet Rose,” the Sister snickered as she studied each man carefully. “And his ever infamous sidekick, Omega Six. You two have a heavy price on your heads. The Illuminati is paying a great deal for your return to them.” She chuckled lightly as her words seemed to be spoken with acid. “No information was given if that order meant dead or alive. I prefer the former.”
Walker merely smiled lightly as the Sisters readied their weapons. “Well then,” his voice was cool and calm as he drawled his words. “If this here’s an execution, then maybe ya gonna gimme the honour o’ havin’ a last cigarette.” The Sister smirked again and nodded and Walker slowly reached into his jacket to produce a metal cigarette holder. “Much appreciated.” He lit the cigarette and pocketed the holder again.
The Sister looked to Monty with sly eyes. “And you?”
“Shiela, I don’t want a cigarette,” he replied with a smirk. “That shit’ll kill ya, mate.” The irony of the situation coupled with the comment made Walker laugh slightly. The Sister, however, only glared in response.
“I hadn’t expected such flip remarks from either of you,” she snarled. “I anticipated some measure of heroics from you, an attempt to escape by now.”
“Then you really don’t know neither one o’ us,” Walker said as he took a pull on the cigarette. “An’ as fer heroics, well darlin’, ya underestimated my crew. B’cause I’d have ta say that we’ve got the drop on you.” Walker just let the words sink in as the Sister continued to glare at him. Her eyes could have been daggers with the look she gave him. How could these two men be as calm as they were knowing that their death was imminent.
“You really don’t fully grasp the situation, do you, gentlemen,” she said in a low hiss. “I had thought that I would save the execution for your delivery to the Illuminati, but your nonchalant attitude has worn thin with me. Yes gentlemen, now is the time you shall…” She stopped suddenly as there was a definite click that came behind her. The hammer of a pistol being cocked.
“Blah, blah, blah,” Marianne Wollcott said in an even tone as she held the Colt .45 to the back of the Sister’s head. “You always were a windbag, do you know that, Sister Eventide? And you never could fully grasp the situation of an assignment. It is more than obvious you didn’t study this assignment well enough. If so, then maybe you’d have realized I was here.”
Sister Eventide’s eyes grew wide, and in an involuntary action, she began to raise her hands as if to surrender. The pair of agents with her made the fatal mistake of looking back, giving Walker and Monty time to draw weapons and train them on the pair. How the tables turn. A calming signal from Walker urged the Sisters to drop their weapons. “Ya really don’t understand the gravity o’ the situation, do ya?” Walker drawled, any smile that he had before was gone now.
“Sir,” Marianne called out as she pushed the barrel of the Colt into the back of Eventide’s head. “Might I make a suggestion.”
“I’m all ears, Annie.”
“Don’t kill them,” Marianne said flatly. “Strip them of weapons and gear, leave them in their clothes and let them crawl back to the Sisterhood. Their failure will be their shame, and worse than any death.”
Walker considered this for a moment, then slowly nodded. He motioned with his gun for the three to do as Marianne suggested, and watched as pistols, blades, and tech was dropped into a small pile on the floor. As Eventide dropped the last of her gear, Marianne took the pistol and slapped her, butt first, on the cheek. “This is for last year, you bitch. This is for what you did to my sister. My REAL sister.”
“You were part of OUR family,” Eventide spat back.
“No. I wasn’t.”
As Monty gathered the equipment, Walker held a pair of Desert Eagles trained on the remaining two Sisters. His words, however, were directed to Eventide. “She has a new family, now. An’ if yer smart, yer gonna steer clear o’ us an’ this island. B’cause ya come gunnin’ fer any o’ us ‘gain, I won’t be as charitable as I am right now. Nobody, but nobody, guns fer my family.” He gave a nod to Eventide, an indication to get moving. As the three shamed Sisters walked slowly away, Walker lowered his weapons. He looked to Marianne and let go of a breath he seemed to be holding for a while. Marianne’s features softened as she looked Walker and Monty. In her eyes was all the thank you that needed to be said.
She didn’t stare out the window of the small, twin engine Cesna. She didn’t care about the water below them. Nor the clouds. Not even the sight of a beautiful pod of whales stirred her interest. Marianne Wollcott only cared about the last phrase that anyone had said to her in earnest. I hope your choices are better than mine. For as smug as he was, Derrik Stewart held some wisdom. Perhaps his tortured soul would be saved. But Marianne knew her own could not. Not ever.
The islands were a remote location in the Bermuda Triangle. It was difficult to get to, and most of the worst vermin on Earth hid in this small island chain. Ruled by the iron fist of Don Thadius Maximus, this Mafia controlled chain of islands was a lawless land indeed. She knew that she would have to hide in this place, because every single person on these islands would be gunning for her. Perhaps she would find allies in her fight for survival.
She sat back in her seat and closed her eyes, letting herself lightly sleep. It had been five days since she had last gotten any real sleep. Since the assault on the Stewart Towers, she’d been on the run, sleeping where and when she could. “Sleep. Perchance to dream,” she muttered to herself.
“What was that, ma’am,” the pilot asked as he looked back to her.
“Nothing,” she replied as she forced a small smile. Probably the first smile since she’d joined the Sisterhood. “Just quoting Shakespear.”
“Hamlet, isn’t it,” the pilot commented. Again, Marianne smiled.
“You are quite well read.”
“I’m a pilot, ma’am,” he said with a chuckle. “When I’m not making trips, all I have to do is read. I get by with that just fine.”
Marianne looked out the window of the small plane and smiled. Perhaps this would be a good start to a new life. She had always been associated with cutthroats and thieves, never once had she been involved in a conversation, even as short as this, that held any kind of meaning. “That’s life. All of us just getting by.”
Derrik Stewart stood at the edge of the grave as the gathering began to leave. He didn’t move an inch. Maxine had been with his family since he was 13. She’d been like an aunt to him, much more than just a secretarial assistant. All the memories began to come back to him as he stood in the lonely graveyard in Sussex. He didn’t even look to the woman who also stood solemnly. When she spoke, it was one of the few times he nearly jumped. His guard was down. He wasn’t wearing his other mask.
“I apologize if I startled you, Sir,” she said in a pleasant voice. “But Maxine was rather dear to me.” Derrik studied her for a moment, and then he realized all too well. This red haired, bespeckled woman could very well have been a younger version of Maxine. “She was my older sister. We wrote back and forth a great deal. She told me about all of the things she encountered while working for your parents, and with you.”
“Everything?” he asked quietly. Normally, he would have considered the next statement to be something of blackmail. But he already knew two of the Wollcott sisters. Both were honourable, even if one was an assassin. He smiled slightly at this thought. “Yes, well… Maxine was a very special woman.”
“Indeed,” she replied with a light chuckle and then coughed and excused herself. “My apologies, Mr. Stewart. My name is Eleanor Wollcott. It was because of Maxine, that I took a great interest in diplomatic relations.”
“Really?” Derrik said with a charming smile. “What kind of work do you do, if I might ask?”
“I am in charge of diplomatic visits to the different consulates around the world,” she replied in a matter of fact tone of voice. “Rather dull work. I have often wished to find something much more challenging.” She looked to Derrik with a knowing smile. And the CEO of Stewart Industries smirked and shook his head. He knew that look all too well. Which ever mask he was wearing.
“I believe I can offer you a job, Miss Wollcott,” he said with a soft, yet firm voice. “But there are some rigors. And some dangers to the job.”
“I’ll make certain that the dangers are minimal.” The voice seemed to come from the newly errected tombstone. And Derrik narrowed his eyes, recognizing it instantly. “My younger sister will not fail. Nor will I fail her, like I did my older sister.” The cloaking field Marianne Wollcott wore was cut and her form shimmered into place. Derrik noted the tear marks on her shoulders, the patches marking her as an assassin with the Sisterhood now gone. Obviously she’d escaped with some gear.
“Marianne,” Eleanor seemed to gasp as her older sister materialized. She began to step forward, halted by a calm hand from Derrik.
“How can we trust you?” Derrik stated more than asked.
“The Sisterhood struck out at you,” she said almost glaring at Derrik. “And my sister paid the ultimate price. I won’t let that happen again.”
“We all take risks,” Derrik said as it seemed a shadow passed over him. “Maxine knew the risks of the job she held. You don’t expect any of us to stay hidden away in the dark, never to come out of our rooms in fear of death, do you? If we did that, then we aren’t living.” He could tell the words were starting to sink in, her face seemed drawn and tired. “Eleanor will work for me, in the same capacity that Maxine did. She’ll be a part of my family. And she’ll still be a part of yours.” He offered his arm to Eleanor, who took it without question. The shadow that covered Derrik seemed to draw away from him. “I hope that you will learn from the choices you make, Miss Wollcott. I hope that the choices you face, will be similar to mine.”
“You hope I make the same choices?” she shot back in a scoffing manner.
“No,” Derrik replied as he lead Eleanor to his waiting car. “I hope your choices are better than mine.”
Marianne quietly followed the black clad man as he traced his steps through the hallways of the office tower. Her only real concern was her sister’s safety, and every now and then she would remind Mannequin about that. It was finally sinking in. He would stop, inspecting the area carefully as they would prepare to move. Wordlessly, he would motion for her to follow, his own movements quiet and careful. Marianne Wollcott knew this man could be a valuable ally, or an incredibly dangerous enemy. She began to consider his words from before about leaving the Sisterhood.
Mannequin stopped suddenly, his entire body tensed. His suit was connected to the central secuirty grid, which allowed him to directly see any warnings immediately. Something came up on the comms. He turned his attention to Sister White, who followed him closely. Even through the tinted eye holes, Marianne could tell what was wrong. Her heart began to beat faster as she believed the worst. “Where is she?” was the only thing she asked.
“We have to be cautious.”
“Fuck cautious,” she spat back in a venomous rage. “This is my sister I’m talking about. You know something. I don’t care about any of the rumours I’ve heard about you, if you don’t tell me, I will thrash you around this room until you tell me.”
He watched her for a moment, contemplating his next action. She was a highly trained assassin, but he had his own fighting skills that have been honed over the years. “You will follow me. I know where she is. Lower level. Bay 3. Stay close to me.” Marianne narrowed her eyes and finally nodded affirmation. Together they worked their way through the hallways of the office tower, avoiding meeting any of the other assassins that had come. Mannequin knew that if they were to meet any of the other Sisters they would have to be dealt with, and Sister White might deal with them with extreme prejudice. He’d hoped to avoid this. Slowly, they wound their way to the lower level.
Marianne gasped as she took in the scene. Maxine’s body lay motionless on the floor. The woman known as Sister White cried in anguish. Her sister, her true sister, lay dead on the floor. Marianne rushed to her body, hoping that some life might be found, hoping that she could save her. Mannequin merely watched. His demeanor could have been taken as heartless, cold and emotionless. But behind the mask that hid his features, he was seething with rage. The only indication that such an emotion was present came from his fists as he clenched them hard.
“Well, well,” a cool voice said from the shadows. “After the incident in Ohio, I had always wondered if in fact you were going to show your true colours, Sister White.”
“You murderer,” Marianne hissed as she rose to her feet. The serrated edge blade was drawn quickly, a sign of what Marianne Wollcott planned on doing.
“Ha!” the woman replied as she stepped into the dim light. Her blade had already been drawn. “Murderer. Yes, I’ve seen the things you have done in your own past, Marianne,” she stated, using Marianne’s real name. A sign that she was suddenly no longer thought of as a Sister. “When you join the Sisterhood, you cut all ties you had to the outside world. That includes family. But you always had a weakness for family. You always had a weakness for morals. You were much like Operative Violet Rose, and Omega Six.” She brandished the blade in front of her, glaring at Marianne.
“Anything I have ever done in my own past,” Marianne said, her voice a low hiss. “I will re-enact upon you now.” She jumped forward, anger and rage her guiding force as all her energy was focused on her former Sister. The other assassin was ready, and lept toward Marianne. No need for the shadows, no need for deception. This would be glorious. To bad they both seemed to forget Mannequin was still there.
Marianne was reminded as a black clad open palm pushed her back. He raised his arm, the nanites hardening to that of steel as it blocked the blade from the other Sister. Mannequin quickly glanced to Marianne as he forcibly pushed back the attacker. “Stand down.” He turned back to the Sister and began his own assault, as well guided punches pushed her further back toward the wall. Just when she thought she might lose consciousness, Mannequin grasped the neckline of her tunic roughly. “Crawl back to the Sisterhood and tell them you failed. Because I will not allow you to shed any more blood this night.” He reached out to a door that they stood beside and opened it. It lead to the stairwell. And while Mannequin thought for a moment of tossing her down the remaining flight of stairs with great force, he merely shoved her limp form through the door. She stumbled as her dazed eyes tried to guide flailing hands toward the railing, and failed. She fell down the few steps, landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the landing.
Mannequin closed the door and locked it securely before he turned his attention back to Marianne. “Leave. Now!” he demanded. “There is nothing more you can do today. For now, this fight is over.”
Marianne Wollcott rose to her feet, her breath haggard as she glared at Mannequin. “And now what? I still want my revenge.”
“You will have it in time. But not now.”
The words were simple. And Marianne knew now was not the time to argue. Mannequin had his wits about him, and he would be a difficult opponent should she attempt to ignore his warnings. She would have her revenge, but not today.
It’s amazing how a small animal can pretty much slow down the progress of any work area. Such was the case this morning when I came into work. I wasn’t expecting a Border Collie puppy to be hanging around as we got the paper ready and out the door to the post office. But there he was, the puppy yet to be named. For sake of argument, I’ll call him Lil Guy.
He was amazingly shy at first, with so many people around, but as time wore on, he became much more comfortable in his new, yet temporary surroundings, and soon took to adventure around the back area. Lil Guy was one of three puppies born in Hawarden, and Susan had been helping to find them a home for some time. Well, Lil Guy was here on this morning to be introduced to his new home. But as Susan said, you can get attached to the puppy so easily. If I hadn’t been living in an apartment…
Needless to say, a Border Collie needs to be in a home where he or she will have lots of room to run. They are very social animals, and love being around people. I had a border collie/husky/wolf cross, and that dog was very social. But she also needed a lot of space to run. And a Border Collie has that natural herding instinct that’s bred into them. Lil Guy has a sister two years older that has taken quite easily, with a little bit of time and training, to helping herd cattle. I don’t think anything will be different with Lil Guy.
Until next time…
…keep ‘em flyin’.