Sunday, June 17, 2018

THE SPEED OF DARK

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.




By R. Peterson

          Alvin Sullenger scrutinized the group of theoretical and experimental physicists as they toured the Gravitron research complex floating half a mile above the Nevada desert. Selected from more than five-hundred applicants from around the world, three of the twelve remaining scientists would be awarded internships and given the opportunity to work inside the research facility for two years. They were walking past a massive observation chamber where four globes, of unknown composition, rotated like tiny moons. “Gentlemen can anyone tell me,” Alvin stopped next to the plated glass. “Which is faster … light or dark?”
Doctor Howard M. Bisen from the Molecular Design Institute was the first to answer. “Darkness is simply the absence of light, and therefore has no velocity.”
Lewis Somató III, Doctor of Applied Physics from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, shook his head and put both hands in his trouser pockets. “The speed of light is an indissoluble constant set at one-hundred eighty-six thousand miles per second. It is impossible for any type of matter or energy to exceed that threshold rapidity.”
Martin Liston, Associate Professor of Applied Physics from the University of Cambridge, pressed both his calloused hands against the glass and stared at the rotating spheres. With his unruly corn-husk hair sticking straight up from his head and his reported penchant for gardening Alvin thought he looked like a Smurf. “I’ve often considered,” Liston said, “that darkness must always come before light or light would not exist. To get there before anything implies a superiority of quickness.” His eyes grew brighter, as if inside his head a light had been switched on, and he turned. “We all know that matter has weight and occupies what we’ve always referred to as space and that Dark Matter is, for lack of a better word, the levitating cogency that creates more of that space. With the Dark Matter threads that form the fabric of space time being woven outward into four dimensional webs at an ever increasing velocity it makes one wonder what the Hell kind of arachnid is doing the weaving? I would have to say …” His voice became a reverential whisper filled with sanctified awe, “that is one very fast spider!”
Alvin smiled at Martin as the group erupted into a volcano of fact-based argumentation. It was going to be hard to pick the three … one of them most assuredly would be an undercover agent from the Central Intelligence Agency spying for the United States Government. But which one?

-------2-------

 Alvin stood next to a glass wall that faced west and gazed across the Mojave Desert. Dozens of transparent US Blackhawk helicopters appeared to shimmer as they passed through the exact area where he was standing. To the soldiers in the helicopters the entire complex looked like some kind of hologram. Alvin often wondered if dying-of-thirst travelers crossing a desert experienced mirages or actual dark matter realities. Gravitron City had become his sanctuary.
A protracted legal battle of unprecedented proportions had been going on ever since he constructed his floating city using DM technology high above the Nevada desert. The United States Government, especially the military wanted to control the knowledge he was developing. Alvin was determined that his discoveries should not fall into the wrong hands. Since the dark matter he was using created space, instead of occupying it, an ongoing legal argument defended by hundreds of lawyers insisted that Gravitron City was its own sovereign domain. The military presence at his research facility was nothing more than a siege of epic proportions. That he was able to smuggle scientists as well as supplies in and out at his leisure was a testament to the supreme power of his technological advances.
It was now time to see how the three additions to his scientific staff were doing. Of course one of them was a spy, but which one? Alvin was sure the CIA agent was one of the three chosen, but he had to be sure …. the safety of the entire world would depend on it. What they were doing here and what they were after was a whole different story …. Alvin had no idea. Each of the scientists had been given a different project to work on. The first four elements of dark matter were named after the sixties singing group the Marvelettes, thus the entire DM periodic table was sometimes referred to as the Black Sisters.

-------3-------

The first Black Sister was George-Anna, an abundant and free-bonding material that shadowed Hydrogen. Howard M. Bisen was on the space fabric level experimenting with different types of dark matter weaves. He wore shielded clothing and stood with several technicians next to a Gluon loom combining particle streams of dark and light matter while they were temporarily converted into energy. “This is amazing,” he stammered as Alvin walked in. “By combining GA with lead we are able to create particle shields that can be applied as a weightless vapor. This discovery alone will revolutionize the world’s x-ray technologies.
“Or perhaps a missile-proof mist that can be sprayed over a military aircraft?” Alvin suggested. Alvin looked for a subtle difference in the man’s eyes or posture but there was no change. “How about a policeman who feels fifty pounds lighter when he accesses a bullet-proof vest from an aerosol can?”
Doctor Bisen ignored Alvin and diverted all of his attention to the Gluon loom where the technicians were replacing the lead weaves with titanium. “The possibilities are endless!” he raved.

-------4-------

Lewis Somató III was on the energy level working with Gladys. The second dark matter element was what the scientists at Gravitron called inter-dimensional. Gladys which shadowed the element Helium had the ability to pulse between this reality and the next, sort of a quantum physics traveler visiting several alternate universes for less than a billionth of a second each. Lewis took a bite out of a ham sandwich and placed what was left on a special plate. The sandwich was covered and placed inside what the technicians jokingly called a Gladiator arena a special type of convection oven bombarded with Gladys particles.  A timer was set for one minute. When a tiny ding sounded the plate was removed and two sandwiches appeared. One of the sandwiches was whole while its identical counterpart had a large gaping bite. “Gladys pushes the object inside the arena back a preset period of time,” Lewis explained more to himself than to the others, “to a point of differentiation.” He lifted the plate with the two sandwiches and studied them. “While I took a bite of this sandwich my counterpart in the parallel universe obviously did not and we are left with two distinct and tangible realities.” Lewis closed his eyes and appeared ready to faint. Two of the workers grasped his arms. “We are on the verge of being able to thwart fate …. and decide what happens to every tiny thing in our world,” he gasped.
“Deciding which soldiers die and which don’t?” Alvin suggested but Lewis was already being loaded onto a stretcher and rushed toward the medical level.

-------5-------

Martin Liston was working with Wanda the fourth dark matter element. “You seemed to have skipped a sibling,” Martin said as Alvin entered the room. The Marvelettes’ song My Baby Must Be a Magician was playing softly over loudspeakers. “I was expecting to dance with Katherine.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to take a rain check.” Alvin smiled. “Although we know Katherine exists and can see her imprint in the cosmic sands of time she is now and for the foreseeable future a lost sister to the others.”
“If she turns up while I’m gone please let me know,” Martin sang the off key words to an old Beatles’ song. Two Gravitron workers were fitting him with a special dark energy helmet. “To tell you the truth Wanda frightens me a little,” Martin said. “Imagination might be best left inside one’s mind,” he said. “The ability to think of something and have it become reality is too God like a power as far as I’m concerned.”
Alvin smiled. “Somehow I can’t imagine you wishing for a million dollars and then holding it in your hand or a diamond as big as a baseball and trying to fit it in your pocket.”
            “You might be surprised,” Martin grinned. “Most of the doctors I know at Cambridge wear the same suits for at least four years. The taxman in Britain has webbed fingers and nothing slips between them.”
            “This experiment is simple really,” Alvin told him. “You think of an object in your right hand and Wanda makes it a reality.”
            “Sounds like magic,” Martin said.
            “Many particle scientists think the entire universe might be nothing more than a giant hologram,” Alvin told him, ‘with our experiments so far … I tend to agree with them.”
 The technicians finished adjusting the helmet and Alvin had them dim the lights. “I’ve often found that the period right before sleep is the most conductive to imagination,” Alvin said, “relax and imagine an object in your hand.”
“Any object?” Martin asked.
“Within reason,” Alvin laughed. “We don’t want a hippo running around in here!”
Martin appeared to struggle for several minutes. Alvin was glad to see him relax. Suddenly Marin stood up removing the helmet from his head. The Glock 17 pistol in his hand wasn’t there before. He smiled again but this time he looked reptilian. “I’m sorry old boy, but you make this too easy.”
Alvin was astonished. “You’re the spy? I don’t believe it!”
            “Why not?” Martin said. “American money can be spent just as easily in London as it can in Chicago.”
            “What is it you’re after?” Alvin motioned for the technicians to move back.
            “Everything, I’m afraid,” Marin said pointing the gun at his benefactor. “The United States Government has decided that no one man should have so much power and so you are being eliminated. Once you’re gone, Gravitron and its labs will fall under the control of corporations loyal to governmental needs and obligations. We went to great lengths to smuggle a weapon inside that I could use …. That wasn’t supposed to happen until a week from now. You made it too easy!”
            “I don’t suppose you imagined a loaded gun did you,’ Alvin said taking a step forward.
            “I’m sorry but I wouldn’t let any thought enter my mind that was not fully functional,” Martin told him.
Martin pulled the trigger and the automatic pistol fired six shots in less than two seconds. Alvin spun around. His over-large head make him look like a marionette with broken strings. Blood poured from holes in his chest, neck and stomach. Alvin collapsed into a heap on the floor and Martin pumped two more bullets into his swollen  head for good measure. Martin saved the last seven rounds for the fleeing workers. None escaped.
            “I was thinking about a diamond … I really was,” Martin mused as he walked toward the exit. “But what would that have done to my integrity?”

To be continued …

Sunday, June 10, 2018

WITCH BABY part 2

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.




By R. Peterson


The inside of the car glowed with the same khaki green color as the infant’s eyes. The speedometer’s needle nudged past the hundred miles an hour mark, and still the battered gray Nova on my tail repeatedly nibbled the Goat’s rear bumper. Porky Junior leaned out the window waving a gun.
The steering wheel jerked under my hands. We were losing control in the gravel. I fought the wheel … but then a tire blew or was shot out. There was a bump as we crossed a buried pipe for an irrigation canal. We hit it hard almost sideways. My G.T.O. became airborne - rolling over in midair … I grabbed for the baby and she was gone.
            Time appeared to freeze and then move forward in slow motion. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was thrust upward toward the headliner as the car rotated around me. The steel toe from my left boot made contact with the steering wheel and a large chunk of hardened plastic broke free from the circular metal. My right boot shattered the windshield. A blanket floated from the empty basket belted to the passenger side and spread outward like the wings of a bird ready to take flight. The jagged piece of plastic from the steering wheel cut through it like a knife. Porky Junior’s Nova came into view from the side windows skidding to a stop below and behind me. The surprised look on Lemont Morris’ face quickly turned to a smile as my muscle-car Pontiac bounced once on the right front and right rear tires and then rolled through a fence dragging broken posts and barbed wire as it plowed through a field of plump golden pumpkins. Time reverted to its normal speed and then quickened as Porky Junior, Ned and Glen Hicks and Eddy Poole all vaulted from the Nova and ran toward my wreckage.
            “Should we call an ambulance?” Ned Hicks’ eyes looked like black baby moon hubcaps mounted on white rims as he strained to open the sprung-door on my goat.
            “What and have him blab to the cops about how we ran him off the road?” Porky Junior swung out the revolving cylinder from a six-shooter checking to make sure it was still loaded. He removed three spent cartridges and then spun it. “Only dead men keep secrets!”
Glen Hicks and Eddy Poole dragged me out, tearing my Iron Butterfly t-shirt on the broken glass that littered the inside of the car.

The full moon turned Lemont Morris into a dark leering silhouette as he aimed the gun at my head. There was a green glow surrounding the weapon that seemed strangely familiar. Porky Junior was close enough for me to smell the Mad Dog (Mogen David) wine on his breath. I closed my eyes a second before he pulled the trigger … there was a sadistic click. I opened my eyes, hopefully not for the last time. A pair of yellow flickering headlights appeared about a half-mile down the road. ‘That’s Amos Grover’s milk truck,” Eddy Poole bawled. ‘Let’s get out of here!”
            “One more time #%%$^&#,” Porky Junior said as he placed the gun barrel this time right against my left eye. “You’ll be able to see this one coming!”
The blast that I expected never came … only another ghostly click. “You’re one lucky mother #%$^%$ … but you won’t be next time,” Lemont promised as he kicked me hard in the head and then ran with the others toward his car.
They disappeared in a cloud of dust thirty seconds before Amos first slowed then pulled off the road, eight-gallon milk cans rattling off the wooden rails they were tied to on both sides of his flat-bed truck. I didn’t feel very lucky. I looked around for the baby but she seemed to have vanished. Amos Grover was running toward me hitching up the belt on his baggy trousers. “I saw that other fella go by without stopping,” he stammered. “What the Hell is this world coming to?”


-------2-------

            The police paid me a visit shortly after Parley Descombey III bandaged my head and put seven stiches in my arm. I knew they wouldn’t believe me about the baby and Porky Junior was my problem, so I kept mum. “It’s too late for a breathalyzer but I’m sure we can figure out what happened,” Deputy Keith Porter said as he dropped an empty bottle of Mogen David wine onto my hospital bed. I ended up pleading guilty to inattentive driving and property damage to the farmer’s fence. I received a three-hundred dollar fine/restitution, a suspended license and two weeks of community service.
            The community service turned out to be picking up litter on five miles of highway leading east from Cloverdale toward Missoula. This first week there were six of us walking along with large orange bags hooked to our belts and spearing fast-food bags, napkins and Twinkie wrappers using long wooden handles with a ten-penny nail band-clamped to the end. By the last part of the second week I found myself alone, the others having served their time and rejoining society … I had about a half-mile left before I could stop for the day.
            Dozens of cars passed me every minute I don’t know what made me look twice at the gray blur approaching at high speed. By the time I realized it was a Chevy Nova all I could do was turn and try to run toward the fence on the far side of the borrow pit. I had taken about three steps when I saw the thirty-five pound cinder-block come flying out the car’s side window. It was like a white bowling ball spinning through the air at sixty miles an hour and I was a wobbling pin about to go down and make someone a bloody spare. Whoever lobbed the lethal building block had deadly aim. The cinderblock was coming right toward me …. There was no way it could miss.
Suddenly the projectile exploded inches from my face in a blinding flash of shattered concrete, powdered lime and bits of Khaki green sand. I heard Danger Zone blasting from a car stereo as the Chevy roared past. I heard what sounded like a giggle and turned. A girl of about eight stood on the banks of an irrigation canal just the other side of the fence. Pulsing tendrils of green smoke appeared to swirl and flow back into her outstretched fingers. She wore a dress made of some kind of glimmering fabric that absorbed the colors and textures surrounding her, causing her to appear almost invisible along the weedy edge of a large pasture. She smiled and then disappeared with a flash of light and a loud cracking sound like huge dry bones being snapped into kindling. A tall cottonwood tree across the road shook perceptibly before turning the sky ebony with thundering wings and the cursing of crows. Storm clouds circled the sun forming a dark halo. The previously tranquil herd of steers stopped grazing the pasture and broke into a stampede disappearing into a cloud of dust and feverish mooing. I climbed the fence and walked both sides of the ditch for more than an hour … she was gone.


-------3-------


                There was too much damage to the GTO to be repaired with my depleted funds. So after my license was restored, Ben Leston loaned me the use of his late mother’s vomit-colored 1963 Rambler station-wagon. The embarrassment of being seen in an old lady’s ride with a smashed-in hood was partially cancelled out by the fact that Porky Junior would never expect me to be driving such a rattletrap. Dating now seemed to be out of the question. I resolved to turn my 2.3 GPA into something that might actually land me a job higher on the ladder of success than an assistant manager at McDonalds. My fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa had other plans and since I was paid up till the end of the year, and needed the test files they kept locked in the back room, I didn’t feel I could turn them down.
            This time the sister-sorority girl without a date for the spring mixer was Brenda Boom-Boom Clawson a three-hundred pound Dental Technology major with a lawyer father, two battery charges behind her and one dropped charge of attempted rape. What kind of woman gets charged with attempted rape? What kind of milk toast Mike files the charges? There might have been more … but it was such a long way around. I picked her up in the Rambler and hoped she wouldn’t break a spring, and if she did … that Ben wouldn’t notice.
            She opened a brown paper bag and pulled out a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label, two thirty-six ounce thermo-lined Big Gulp drinking cups, a bag of ice, and a gallon of orange juice even before her door closed. She locked her door and then reached across the seat to lock mine. Her left breast felt like a parachute stuffed with down-feather pillows. “We have to be careful!” She smiled showing off two long rows of perfect teeth. “It’s a dangerous world out there!”
I don’t know what she was making, but I prayed to God and the Devil both that it wouldn’t be me.

-------4--------

            She was on her third drink and I was still thinking about secretly pouring out my first when she suggested that we skip the dance and instead go swimming at Makeout Lake. “I didn’t bring a suit,” I stammered. “Neither did I!” She smiled coyly and gave me a wink that made me feel like I was being skinned alive with a rusted salad fork.
            We weren’t the only ones at the lake and I hoped without hope that I might still find a way to ditch her. She climbed out of the Rambler singing Do it to me one more time and looking like the monster from the movie The Blob.
            Everyone was taking off their clothes and I ran when I realized I couldn’t tell if she was wearing underwear or not. I slipped off my jacket and tennis shoes and hit the water in my jeans and a loose t-shirt that said Save the Whales …. Breed with Them! I’d bought the shirt shortly after I found out my brothers at Phi Sigma Kappa had ordered me to go on this death sentence date. Brenda had laughed when she’d seen the shirt and suggested she buy one the same color so that we would look more like a couple.
            I swam hard toward a raft floating in the middle of the lake. Power-stroking through the rippling waves like a sunken-boat tourist crossing Loch Ness.

-------5-------

            I stood on the raft with three others and swore I could hear the tuba music from Jaws playing as Brenda plunged in the water and swam toward us. The others dove in the water when she got close, but I froze, sure that one of her beefy hands would grab my leg and pull me under when she realized I was trying to escape. The raft was made by nailing two by fours across two rows of lashed-together twenty-four inch diameter stumps with a three inch gap between each board.
Brenda came at the raft from the side and when she did the boards spread apart making the three inch gap five inches where I was standing. My shoeless foot slipped into the widened crack and when she climbed aboard the crack returned to normal and my foot was caught.
I screamed in pain as her roaming hands tried to give me comfort and I finally convinced her that if we were really going to have any kind of a fun night she had to figure out a way to free my foot. She backhanded my head three times and exclaimed that I better not try to lie or break a promise to her. She plunged into the water and swam toward the cars and I seriously considered chewing off my trapped foot and swimming toward the opposite shore. I might have if something far more serious hadn’t come up. Brenda was just waddling onto shore when a gray Chevy Nova skidded to a stop next to my parked Rambler. What I first thought was engine backfire turned out to be gunshots as Porky junior emptied his pistol in the air.
            I’ve never seen so many cars leave the lake so quickly in my life. Most of the people leaving were half naked …. All of them were wet. I saw Brenda climb up on Fred Grover’s dad’s milk truck. Two of the milk cans had been replaced with beer kegs and she laughed as someone jammed surgical tubing spraying beer into her mouth just before the truck roared away. I was left alone at the lake with Lemont Morris, Ned and Glen Hicks, and Eddy Poole.  I was praying that Porky Junior and the others didn’t know how to swim … but I found out they didn’t have to. The raft was attached to the parking area by an underwater chain and within minutes they were pulling me toward shore like a two-hundred pound sucker … the catch of the day.

-------6-------

I tried again to free my foot again but it was lodged tight. When the raft reached land I would be at their mercy. My only hope was that someone else would come driving into the lake area, preferably a cop, but I was willing to take anyone. I looked in all directions there were no headlights coming this way. It appeared to be getting blacker as if even the stars had turned their backs on me showing their dark matter side. It was then that I noticed the glow from the water, as if hundreds of green lights were being lit on the lake bottom. I was close enough to land to hear Porky Junior exclaiming in a loud voice what was going to happen to me. “I’ve got twenty pounds of dog #$%$ in my trunk,” he said. “It took me two weeks to gather it up with a shovel. You’re going to eat all of it. Then we’re going to bounce you upside down until you puke … then you’re going to eat everything again!”
“I’ll pass,” I told him. “It’s not the food …. It’s the company!”
My smart mouth seemed to enrage him. Porky Junior let Ned Hicks and Eddy Poole yank on the chain while he retrieved a bulging burlap bag from his trunk as if to show me he was serious about the dog turds. “If you eat it all I’ll let you brush your teeth before the second course,” he promised.
            The lake was definitely becoming a more brilliant green. The ripples from the moving raft seemed to have an almost ethereal quality. Although the sky appeared to be darker than ever, I could see twinkling stars reflected in the water. I first noticed small twigs and pieces of floating debris being swept toward the center of the lake. Ned and Eddy for the first time appeared to be losing ground. I saw the tight chain yank them forward. Ned actually fell and was submerged to his waist before he found his footing and was able to stand. The raft I was on and everything else was moving toward the center of the lake. I don’t know if the wind created the pull or if the pull created the wind. Branches broke off from dead trees and flew mostly to the center of the lake where a churning vortex had opened like a huge drain in the lake bottom. Porky Junior, Ned, Glen and Eddy all ran toward the Nova. It was too late. Even though the parking brake must have been engaged, the battered Chevy slid toward the green water leaving two sunken trenches in the rocky ground to mark its progress. Trees began to bend split and slide. Several rotted tree stumps suddenly lost all their packed dirt and rolled like barrels into the water. She was there in the trees no longer eight years old but over fourteen. I felt her there with my mind and then with my eyes. The raft I was on had reached the center of the lake and began to spin. The entire wooden structure lifted into the air, the center more than the outside. The crack between the boards opened and I pulled my foot free. I was being pelted by leaves, twigs, tiny rocks and bits of gravel. I turned and watched the Nova slide into the water spraying jets of water from the duel exhaust just before I dove off the raft.
            I now knew how a spider feels when someone flushes it down a toilet. Even though I was a strong swimmer I was pulled round and round the center of the lake like everything else. I don’t know if it was a hand that pulled me to shore but I felt her touch. I lay on the bank and watched as a water spout opened above the center of the lake sucking everything on and in the water including the Nova, with engine revved to the max and horn blaring, upward into a swirling green cloud.
            The sound grew in volume until it reached the level of a thundering freight train crossing a rusty metal bridge and then it was gone leaving only silence and a single green leaf floating in the exact center of the lake where no ripples danced and only stars crowded the edges.

-------7-------

I woke up in Cloverdale General Hospital but it wasn’t so bad this time. The cops left me mostly alone. It appeared I wasn’t the only one who had seen the tornado over Makeout Lake. They never found the infamous Nova or the monster that used it to prowl the streets of my small Montana town. I became something of a celebrity. Lots of strange things happen to people in Cloverdale. Those who survive are accorded a mark like an invisible badge of acceptance. I got a good part-time job with the Highway Department repairing bad roads and managed to finish my second year of college with a 3.4 GPA. My knowledge climbed a tall ladder. Water is the source of life and it makes things grow … you have to give it time. I was also able to restore the GTO to her former glory. I spent an extra four hundred dollars on a plush metallic green paint-job that made my ride look like a giant emerald on wheels. I could also feel her in my dreams … and I knew the night was coming.

            It was almost a year after the cyclone incident at the lake. It was a full moon with dark clouds forming for a surprise attack and I found myself driving to the dead-end of Vineyard Road. After State Hospital North and Black Rose Cemetery everything seemed to get much darker, like climbing down into an old well with a rope at night. I almost turned back … but I didn’t.
Rotted beams on a sagging front porch trembled from the sound of distant thunder. The uncut lawn looked like weedy swamp muck. An oily salamander slithered away as I skulked down a broken stone path. I felt like I was coming home. Fear is the greatest hallucinogen and it’s there for a purpose. My hand brushed a spider-web as I reached for the brass knocker in the form of a snarling Gargoyle. The figure was crouched to leap at any door-to-door salesman foolish enough to risk his life for a sale or perhaps just for a young guy looking for love. The metal made almost no sound on the heavy oak planks and I was turning to leave when the door groaned open. I heard soft singing and could see glowing green light coming from inside … and I smiled.

THE END?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

WITCH BABY

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



Witch Baby
Or … I dated a witch part 2

By R. Peterson


It had been almost seven months since my first and only date with Tabula Jones. The police had stopped looking for her and the word going around campus was that she never existed. I had more than forty fraternity brothers who had seen me bring the ravaging beauty to the Phi Sigma Kappa/ Delta Phi mixer but none of them knew her so they couldn’t verify who she was.
            The Delta Phi sorority had her name on a pledge list but no one seemed to remember her. Her university records were non-existent. If she was a student at Cloverdale Community College she attended no classes.
A wrecker pulled my 1967 GTO out of the bottom of Magician’s Canyon and after two months work and several visits to the salvage yards I had her running again. The cops didn’t have enough to go on to charge me with more than reckless driving. There was no report of a girl missing and a body was never found. I paid a fine, did community service … and life went on.
I hadn’t forgotten Tabula completely … how could I? As soon as my goat was running again I found myself standing on the banks of the Cottonmouth River for hours looking at the swirling water where she had disappeared. When I wasn’t doing that, I was driving to the end of Vineyard Road four miles north of Cloverdale where the road dead-ends just past State Hospital North and Black Rose Cemetery. I was drawn to the derelict house where I’d found the pregnant cat and had named it in her honor.
Each time I drove anywhere I constantly scanned the road up ahead and my rear view mirror for a certain primer-grey Chevy Nova.  Lemont Morris was still prowling the city streets and back-roads every night and he was looking for me. I outran him twice and hid from him once between a barn and a pig-pen with my lights off and a broken bale of hay scattered over my windshield and hood to cover the glare from the chrome. I was reciting the 23rd. palm in whispers as Porky Jr. idled through a corn patch booming Danger Zone on his car stereo and blowing blue smoke out his exhaust. We both knew it was only a matter of time before I was caught. I found myself beginning to care less and less. More and more, the derelict house called to me.
The cedar and moss covered stone house was always just as I remembered. There were never any lights on. What had once been a lawn still looked like weedy swamp muck. On several visits, I spotted an oily looking salamander stared from atop a broken picket fence as I wandered down the stone path.  Rotted beams barely held up a sagging front porch that trembled from the weight of my boots on the nights that I ventured that far.
            About a month after the accident, Tabula (the cat) left my apartment and never returned. She was big in the belly and ready to have her kittens. The local animal shelters stopped taking my calls. I hoped the cat was somewhere safe and had given birth successfully. I missed her more than I knew and the next months seemed like years.
Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore. On my next trip to the end of Vineyard Road, I brushed away the spider-web covering the cast-iron Gargoyle knocker. This house was miles away from my apartment; but maybe Tabula had somehow made her way back here to have her kittens? The gruesome black figure was still crouched against the striking plate - ready to leap at any door-to-door salesman foolish enough to risk his life for a sale. I let the cast iron bang on the metal several times before I tried the knob. It wasn’t locked. I pushed the creaky door open and went inside.
It looked like no human had been inside since my last visit. The empty bird cage in the living room hung from a rusty chain. Black feathers, now greyed with age, dangled from the twisted wire door and littered the floor. The single bedroom was empty. A layer of dust covered a quilted bedspread like a second blanket. I turned and was about to leave when I heard a sound … a soft mewing? I thought it might be another cat, perhaps even Tabula if she was in some kind of trouble. No one was more surprised than I was to open the door and find a baby. Dark haired and staring up at me from a wicker basket with the same shade of khaki green eyes I’d fallen in love with. I searched the house from top to bottom even looking in a damp cellar crowded by an old coal furnace that looked like it hadn’t been used for years there was no mother lingering nearby … no one at all.
This was impossible my date disappears and first I find a cat and then a baby! There was nothing else I could do. I picked up the basket by two handles and carried it out to my car. The baby was not newborn but looked to be at least four to six months old, so probably barely old enough to crawl, dressed in a tiny pink dress with Winnie the Pooh embroidered on the front. She was old enough to squirm in her seat, turn her head, and watch me as I walked around the car after buckling the basket onto the passenger-side seat.
The Cloverdale police station was the only place I could think of to take her to. The cops were going to go nuts after my missing date fiasco and now coming to them with a baby at 2AM. I’d be lucky if they didn’t lock me up until they could sort out what was going on.

-------2-------

          The baby didn’t start to fuss until we were just outside of Cloverdale. There was no bottle in the basket and I realized she must be hungry. I parked right in front of the glass doors going into Stop and Go. I bought two half-pint cartons of milk and took a handful of straws from the fountain drink counter …. It was all I could think of. I stuck one of the straws in the milk and then put my finger over the end to suction it out. The baby made a face the first time I stuck the straw in her mouth and released the pressure but after three tries she sucked it down greedily. She began to play with the knobs on the radio … stations faded in and out as the pointer moved across the frequency dial.
           
          The streets in town were deserted … or so I thought. I was making a left turn into the parking lot behind the courthouse when a primer grey Chevy Nova came to a screeching stop blocking my way. Porky Junior was driving and there were three others with him. I recognized Eddy Poole and the two Hicks boys Ned and Glen. Ned Hicks leaned out the back window and threw a mostly empty bottle of Mogen David wine that bounced once off my hood and then made a spider-web break on the driver’s side of my windshield. Glen and Eddie were carrying baseball bats as they climbed out of the car. Porky Junior smiled broadly as he pointed a large handgun in my direction. “You’re going to the wrong place,” he laughed, “how about we follow you to Cloverdale General Hospital or better yet On a Cloud Garden Mortuary?”
His companions thought he was hilarious and laughed like they were getting paid.
            Glen and Eddie were almost to my doors when I jammed the GTO in reverse and stomped on the gas pedal. The goat burned rubber as it careened back onto East Garlow Avenue spraying loose gravel and broken asphalt from under the front of the car like vomit. It took precious seconds to engage the clutch and find first gear. Just as I started to lurch forward Eddie Poole broke out my driver’s side window with his bat. Plastic coated safety glass imploded wrapping around my neck and shredding my ear. I don’t know how the baby squirmed out of the seat belt but she was standing up in her basket. I tried to shield her face and hold her steady as I ran through the gears, tried to steer and tore out of town.
A distant pair of headlights in my rear view mirror grew larger and larger. I looked at my speedometer. I was going 110 as I slid wildly onto Canyon Road. The Nova had obviously been souped-up since our last encounter …. My pursuers were gaining fast.

-------3-------

            There was so much dust for a moment I thought I’d lost them. But then the Nova’s headlights suddenly appeared directly behind me like a monster in a horror movie. There was nothing else I could do. I buried the speedometer and hoped the dust would slow them down. The Comanche Creek Bridge loomed in front of me and I hit it just as Porky Junior leveled the pistol out the driver’s side window. I caught air and the bullet meant for my back window slammed into the trunk instead.
            I was still trying to steer and hold the baby in place at the same time. By now, she’d turned with both hands on the seat back watching as the car behind came within inches of my bumper. I cranked the steering wheel back and forth trying to make the tires throw up as much gravel as possible. The baby thought this was great fun and I actually heard her giggle.
            Porky Junior fired three shots in rapid succession. If I hadn’t seen the gun in his hand as he leaned out the window I might have thought they came from a string of firecrackers. He was aiming at my tires.
            The baby was standing up on the seat looking out the back window and doing a kind of dance. She grasped a milk straw in her tiny starfish hand and was waving it like a conductor’s baton.
The inside of the car was suddenly filled with the same khaki green glow as her eyes.
The steering wheel felt like it was being jerked out of my hands. We were sliding sideways in the gravel. I fought the wheel … but then a tire blew out. There was a bump in the road as we crossed a buried covert for an irrigation canal. We hit it hard almost sideways. The car was airborne - rolling over in midair … I grabbed for the baby and she was gone.


To be continued ….

Sunday, May 27, 2018

BLIND TERROR part 2

Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



BLIND TERROR
Part 2
By R. Peterson

I woke up slumped in one corner of the kitchen, still unable to see, but I heard the cooking wine bottles in the Barrel Stave rack rattle when I banged against them with my cramped legs. I had no idea how long I’d been unconscious; it could have been seconds, hours or even days. The last thing I remembered was hearing a woman’s scream. The scream was a one of fury and outrage, and could only have come from my girlfriend Scarlett Lee O’Bannon. I listened closely but the only sound was the sound of the refrigerator motor cycling off and on and the whispered swish of the Felix the Cat clock’s tail mounted on the wall as it counted the agonizingly slow passage of time since I, one of Hollywood’s most successful movie producers, had become the victim of a home invasion. I tried to stand but both my hands were bound behind my back. I managed to sit up but my head was a rolling ship in a violent storm. For an instant I thought I might pass out … wondering in my blindness if I already had.
Sounds of a fight came from the upstairs bedroom: a woman’s angry shout followed by several bangs, a crash and the sound of breaking glass. Scarlett was a fighter, she always had been. I met her on the set of Armageddon where she’d been cast as an extra to play one of the apocalypse survivors. The cameras fell in love with her strawberry blonde hair and kaki green eyes and I ended up having the writers change the script to give her a couple of minor lines so that she at least had a speaking parts to add to her resume.
As a first time actress Scarlett took everything in stride but her agent, a cigar smoking locomotive with too much steam, was suddenly all over tinsel town like a bad smell. Scarlett was like a tigress that had taken human form and I wanted to protect her. Nineteen out of twenty films produced in the entertainment industry lose money; Hollywood was a mine field of secret deals best negotiated by the crazy super rich or those with absolutely nothing to lose. It was I who suggested that she ditch her agent and move into my Laurel Canyon mansion.  It was also me who suggested she refrain from showing up at endless casting calls and take acting lessons … she seemed thrilled. I really thought she was. Now in addition to being blind I was filled with self-doubt about my new relationship. If Tony Small hid five million dollars in cash in my house yesterday Scarlett had to know about it. What was going on in my world? Was my business partner making a move on my girlfriend? What were they planning?

-------2-------

A piece of broken glass cut into my knee as I attempted to crawl across the kitchen floor. If I could pick up a large piece with my fingers I might be able to cut the leather laces that bound my hands behind my back. I found what I was looking for. The blood acted like a lubricant and the sliver of glass kept slipping between my fingers. The Felix the Cat wall clock emitted a low yowl like an alley Tom getting ready to fight. It was four A.M. Normally I’d be in the shower in another fifteen minutes and drinking coffee on set at five. Whoever thinks filmmaking is glamorous has never worked sixteen hour days for three months without a break. I wondered if any of the crew would notice me missing; when you were a boss an occasional absence was expected. The piece of glass broke and I crawled around looking for another. I heard someone bounding down the stairs and banged my head when I discovered I’d crawled under the kitchen table. A blast of light when off in my brain like an old fashioned flashbulb. Relief hit me like a cold glass of wine. I could see images …. My sight was returning. I caught a glimpse of the strawberry hair but knew it was Scarlett mostly by her Passion De L'Amour perfume.
“What’s going on?” I asked her.
“There’s no time! We’ve got to get out of here!” She was behind me tugging at the shoelaces that bound my hands. “Are you really blind?”
“I was … my sight is starting to return a little.”
She kissed me. “We better get you to a doctor.”
“What about our houseguests?”
“I kicked Gomez right where his passion was rising,” Scarlett said. She noticed the funny look I gave her. “It was stamped on the back of his belt! Men don’t realize that when they want something from a woman … she has all the power. His sidekick, Mr. Jitters passed out when I broke that Ming vase over his head.”
‘Not the porcelain dragon vase,” I moaned. “The one that I paid sixty thousand bucks for?”
“Sorry,” Scarlett said as she finally cut through the laces. “I didn’t have time to look for something … that would fit your budget!”
“These thugs are here looking for five million in cash that Tony and I received from an investor. Tony didn’t bring it here did he?”
She hesitated for only a second. “Tony suspected he was being followed. He didn’t want you to know about the trouble because he’d already screwed up. He made me promise not to say anything. He was supposed to make everything right.” She pointed to the far side of the living room. “How can you say no when someone wants to stuff five million dollars up your chimney?”
It was a good hiding place. The daytime temperature had averaged at least ninety five every day for the last month in LA … there was not much chance of anyone building a fire.
            “Have we got time to pull it out?” I could see but it was like looking underwater.
            “No, we’ve got to get you to a doctor!”
I heard a vicious laugh and we both turned. The Hispanic voice stood almost doubled over at the bottom of the stairs holding a pistol in his hand … obviously in pain. He was fatter than I imagined, although the colorful sombrero I’d envisioned him wearing was missing. “This puta bitch you have for a girlfriend is going to pay mucho for what she did to me! But first the money!” He pointed the gun at the fireplace. “Bring it to me! Rápidamente!”
Gomez obviously thought I was still blind. He ignored me and aimed the gun at Scarlett as she pulled the huge garbage bags from the chimney. I could see the fireplace poker I’d picked up before lying on the expensive hallway tile. I edged toward it. The third bag was stuffed in tight and a cloud of soot filled the room when the bag came free. I picked up the iron rod and swung wildly at the last place I’d seen my enemy standing. I heard a sickening thud … and then a second later a scream.

-------3-------


When the air cleared, Gomez’s sidekick, the meth freak, stood behind Scarlett with the blade of a knife digging into her throat. Blood ran from the top of his head in several places making him look like he was wearing a red hat … thanks to my broken Ming Dragon Vase. “I could do this so easy,” he stammered. His eyes looked around the room wildly. “Maybe I should!”
“You’ve got what you came for,” I told him pointing to the soot covered trash bags. “Take the money and go!”
“Drop that poker first!” From outside came the sound of several car doors opening and closing. I tried to act as if I heard nothing. He was losing it. “What was that?”
            “What was what?”
As if in reply, he poked the knife point into Scarlett’s throat. A small drop of blood appeared and ran down her neck. “You expecting company?”
“You need another fix,” I told him. “You’re hearing the ghosts of want and no have! Come in the kitchen I’ve got a few lines of California snow to solve your problems.”
I could hear footsteps on the walk … but acted like I didn’t.
“I’m still going to kill her,” he said smiling and licking his lips. He looked toward the door and then shook his head as if trying to dislodge a piece of gravel. “You don’t hear that?”
“Hear what?”
“She said she liked me … she was lying!”
“I’m an actress,” Scarlett told him with a forced whisper. “Lying is my business.”
“You’re both liars!” His eyes were suddenly large and wild. “I’m going to cut her in tiny pieces … and you too!”
The door flew open the same time I saw the blade in his hand move. There was a gunshot and once again my head was spinning. Someone caught me before I hit the floor. Could anything in my life get any worse?

-------4-------

            I woke up in room 419 of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Scarlett was leaning over my hospital bed carefully washing the lump on my head with a damp cloth. A diamond necklace covered the scratch on her neck. She pushed the pretty registered nurse standing next to the bed away and told her she had everything under control. “The doctor said you had a mild concussion from the fall down the stairs and the swelling caused your optic nerve to be temporarily pinched. You should be fine in a day or two.”
            The door to my room opened and Tony Small walked in … I knew he wasn’t a ghost … his face was too red. “I’m sorry I got us into this mess,” he said. “Hopefully I’ve got everything back in synch.”
I wanted to vault out of bed and hit him but Scarlett held me down. “I thought that meth freak put a bullet between your eyes!”
            “Tony wasn’t even home when those two broke into his house,” Scarlett said. “Twitchy was just trying to scare us. When Tony came home and found his house trashed he went to see Mr. Luciano.”
            “I accused him of setting us up,” Tony said. “Zerenzo said he didn’t work that way. Turns out your Hispanic home invader was his former driver, Gomez, doing a little dirty work on the side. His accomplice was probably just some junky he picked up off the street. We decided to come to your place and see if you were okay …. It was a good thing we did … his new driver is a hell of a shot.”
            “So the police have those two thugs in custody?”
            “No,” Tony shrugged. “Luciano takes care of his own problems … those two are somewhere out in the desert near Bakersfield I think.”
            “And we still have three garbage bags filled with hundred dollar bills?”
            “No,” Tony actually looked happy. “I traded him the money for a cashier’s check. He understood. It’s now in our Beverly Hills Bank … nice and legal.”
            “We figured you’d had enough hassles for one week!” Scarlett kissed me.
            “Get dressed. I’ve got a car waiting downstairs,” Tony said.
I still felt a little dizzy. “What time is it?”
Tony glanced at the six-thousand dollar Rolex hanging off his wrist. “It’s almost eight O’clock,” he said. “We’ve already missed wardrobe and the run through. Goldfield will be shooting the first explosion scene in twenty three minutes.”
            “Even after everything that happened I don’t get a break?”
            “We’ve got another five days of shooting,” Tony said. “After the film goes into post production we’ll each get one afternoon a week.”
Both the people in my life ignored my grumbling as I slipped into my pants. It was a bright day … a pair of seventeen hundred dollar CARTIER sunglasses would disguise the swelling around my eyes.
There was fresh coffee in the back of the limo and I began to feel better as we rolled down Laurel Canyon Road. Tony and Scarlett were already arguing over tomorrow’s shoot. Explosions, gunfights, blood, sex and money …
There’s no business like show business!

THE END?