The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 18
Desperate Measures

Chapter 18 

Desperate Measures

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Ruth

 

Clear moonlight to fly by under a partially cloudy sky.  The full moon was coming fast, she had till then to build and execute… execute her plans.  She only needed to allow Alexander to build the portal and energize the thing, then die.  Once energized, why should she waste her power, she could activate it and be the one to open the gateway for the Darkness. 

 

She would be a dark hero and rewarded well for her lecherous deeds done in the service of her true master now.  The Darkness.  Alexander had put her in hell.  She felt it her moral obligation to return the favor and take his life from him just as he had done to her.  She wanted to serve her revenge fresh hot and juicy.  If she were going to be stuck in hell, might as well rule the place.

 

Her life was planned.  She worked hard through college earning two bachelors degrees and was closing in on two masters.  Hard work deserved a reward of recreational activities.  She finally partook in this afore mentioned fun times during her last few months of college in extreme.  She deserved it. 

 

She was on her way to a job, a very good job.  The company that would employ her as a bioengineer slash biochemist was paying for her to continue her education to the doctoral level.  She would work and school, her party time would end. 

 

Once she finished college for good, it was time to find a good looking man stable in his career with a big dick, that knew how to operate a woman, get married, get laid… a lot, squeeze out a few kids, send them through college to continue the cycle, then retire someplace private and warm and die while having sex with her husband.  That had been her plan.  Now she had… this.

 

Something wasn’t right in the air.  She steadied her wings and glided high above the mansions below.  Concentrating on her sense of smell and closing her eyes she carefully smelled the air, tasting every scent.  Her eyes popped open.  She looked towards her destination, Hondigahl’s property was in sight, she stayed high up and circled.  Something wasn’t right.

 

Pulling out her smart phone, she called in to her coven.

 

“I’m over Hondigahl’s coven now, something’s not right here, tell Alexander, I think Hondigahl’s is being attacked.”  She told the slave on the other end of the call.  She ended the call cold and put her phone away.  Once more around in a bit lower, she needed to see what she was up against.  That smell, it was stronger now.  Chemical, explosives.

 

The mansion that used to be Hondigahl’s was gone, a huge gaping hole opened in the ground to the coven hold below, werewolves were pouring inside.  For the residents of this coven, the end was here, there was no hope for saving it.  If Hondigahl fell, so would most of his people.  But for her, there might be something to salvage from this mess.  She would skirt in from the most open side, try and slip in unnoticed. 

 

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“You’ve got to be kidding me.”  Ruth said looking down from a ledge inside the hole that used to be part of Hondigahl’s grand coven.  A thought came to her, ‘Duncan destroyed his last coven’ from the memories in her from Alexander’s blood. 

 

Fitting he would destroy his second, and seeing what she saw now, he was well deserving of defeat.  Looking down at the floor from above, the statues and ornate carvings formed a specific pattern in which to follow the instructions carved somewhat obscurely into them.  If Duncan were here one thing was for sure.  He knew how to open Hondigahl’s sarcophagus. 

 

“Damn fool might’ve as well put in a keypad and made the code one two three four five.  I’m surrounded by morons.”  She muttered as she watched from her hiding spot. 

 

That man, that magnificent bulging man!  What a specimen!  His arms, his legs with rippling ridges of steel lined muscle!  His armor glistening with the blood of his fallen victims as he mowed through Hondigahl’s vampires like a Kitchen Aid dicer through cloves of garlic… maybe she should use a different analogy, considering. 

 

This man!  This glorious man!  She became randy watching this savage warrior, transfixed in his movements and guttural bellows.  Her mind raced through the sewage of memories from her master.  He must certainly know whom this marvelous beastly warrior is.

 

Hovlek the Hammer Fist.  The name was fitting.  Ruth watched as Hovlek’s fist smashed into the face of another unfortunate slave of the soon to be the late Hondigahl.  Duncan, or Bait as he was now going by, she had heard mention of, was here.  With Bait’s mind and this wonderment she was witnessing…  Hondigahl was dust in the wind.

 

Snow!  She saw her, where she was… yes!  The Bait.  Now, to get down there near him.  If she could take Galt, Bait, dick cheese out, that would be big points in the Ruth box.  Alexander’s trust in her would increase.  He would give her what in his mind he considered a reward.  Perhaps this time it might earn her something more then being bent over something.  An actual reward perhaps?

 

This could work out well, there just may be something to salvage here.  With the mighty Duncan Galt out of the way, her job would be easier in several ways.  It would clearly demoralize the werewolves, their poor martyr human, slain by her hand.  The ever lonely Snow, crying over his body as he gasped his last breath, and just as he takes it, she bends over him in an unrelenting sob. 

 

Then, Ruth steps in from the darkness and swoop!  Off with her head.  Yes, there was potential here.  With these two out of the way, the werewolves wouldn’t have their star players. Alexander would then become even more over confidant and with his growing trust in her service, wouldn’t be watching her as close.  He would put more responsibilities on her, more opportunity for less Alexander.

 

She was at the bottom of the pit the werewolves had created out of Hondigahl’s lovely home.  The coven had been collapsed clear down to where the stairs to his sarcophagus were.  The horde from below would keep these critters busy for a while, and she didn’t want her time wasted on some underlings. 

 

There was much bigger prey to be had.  She slinked left around a fallen… something of the structure.  As she came around a werewolf nearly hit her with her little sword.  Water followed, pulling back she rolled out of the way, two silver daggers in her hand when she came out of the roll.  They flew through the air and into the girl.  Without missing a beat Ruth came forward drawing her silver slayer, the head came off with ease.  Another trophy to toss to Alexander, she stuffed it in a bag. 

 

Being more careful this time, she stepped into the shadows for her next move.  She ran out of gas shy of her destination.  Another distraction.  Her memories remember the crest of the last to fall before her, clan Star Light. 

 

This current victim was from clan Westbridge.  That meant something, to Alexander.  She took several blows, a blade cut her side.  This one was considerably better than the girl from the tiny clan, this was a Westbridge puppy. 

 

To a quick turn of fate, she was able to ram her silver slayer in through the man’s belly and up in.  She stepped behind, snapped his neck, stepped around completing her circle of him, removing her slayer and looking into the man’s eyes just before the fatal last swipe of her blade.  This one was for her.

 

Bait was on the move, he left his snow-queen and headed down the stairs that led to where Hondigahl would be hiding.  Sniveling rat.  He had seen what she had, he was going alone to face Hondigahl.  He had revenge of his own on his mind, but Hondigahl was no vampire… what was he planning against an arch-daemon? 

 

She made a mad dash towards where Bait had ran.  She needed to make it in the room with him.  She needed to be there when he died.  She needed his head.  She needed to be able to open the door from the inside.

 

Once Bait was known to be inside, Hondigahl would seal the inner doors, and once closed they could not be opened from the outside.  He would not have thought to have sealed them yet, he is confidant in his design.  It kept him alive the last time Bait attacked him.  He never came close to him. 

 

Unless he could be persuaded to help her, he would have to go, which might be the easiest route in the end.  He did give a home to Alexander when he fled Europe.  Now he was Alexander’s lackey.

 

A blade ripped through her chest.  The burning, pain!  A werewolf blade of living metal.  It was the first time one had been put through her.  The person still held the sword.  Him!  Lifting her legs as much as she could she put her feet on the hilt of the long blade and thrust with all she had left from the sword piercing her heart.  She slid from the end of the blade, grabbing her wound.  She was slightly stunned. He raised his weapon, this time it was a half circle on a pole, he would finish her here.

 

She tried to slip into the dark side of the shadows… in!  She was regenerating slowly and it was a great strain on her to run, she forced herself.  Coming out of the shadows, she was across the room when Hovlek’s blade hit the ground where she had been.  Then he looked from the spot, his eyes were on the path she had taken in the shadows.  He looked right at her and charged.  He saw where she went.

 

Their blades clashed, the pole arm he swung hit like a hammer.  His first impact with her spun her around. 

 

He roared. 

 

He was magnificent. 

 

She would love to have an army of men like him.  She used the spin he had put on her, coming around and shoving her sword into his belly.  Her head caved in as a mighty fist smashed into her face sending her flying back almost losing the grip on her sword.  She stood in time for the mass of man to come slamming into her crushing her against the wall.

 

“That’s better.”  She gasped as he stepped back from her.

 

His pole arm spun around his head then on a direct path for her neck.  The blade sliced halfway through her head as she dodged it, mostly.  She had regenerated from some of her injuries now.  However, wounds from a werewolf blade were slow to respond.

 

She leapt up striking this mountain of meat in the chest with both feet knocking him back while holding her head together with one hand.  She slashed at Hovlek with her sword.  He batted her attack away and his arm bashed into her face again.  Burning.  Holy water.  His armor dispensed it through the talons.  Clever. 

 

“This isn’t how you’re supposed to screw me!”  She bellowed at him.

 

Bait was surely in the room by now, the inner doors sealed.  She hoped he had something up his sleeve to take Hondigahl out.  If she couldn’t get the credit for Bait’s kill, then she wanted him alive until she could.  He wasn’t bad looking. His partner though, she looked fun.  But this man, a warrior like this…  there was no one to pick from Alexander’s mix or anyone else’s that had anything like this fragment of paradise..

 

The eyes of her adversary took a note of question behind the black helm he wore.  She used his momentary distraction from her words to thrust her sword.

 

Explosion.  More of the structure started to fall.  A piece landed between Hovlek and her, knocking them apart.  An arrow came through her chest.  “Frell!”  She cried out as the wood burned in her.  She grasped the end and pulled it from herself.  “Frell!”  She screamed again tossing the arrow of living metal before it attacked her.  Her gloves had saved her, but only for a second.  “Shit!”

 

She realized her own distraction a second to late, another hammer fist found it’s mark.  More debris fell, bringing a cloud of dust with it.  She used this moment to escape the onslaught of that mighty man.  This battle was lost.  The only ‘safe’ spot was behind Hondigahl’s doors.  Even if he lived, anyone outside of that room would not. 

 

Hovlek cried out, catching her attention.  She looked back.  A large section of a pillar or something that may have been round prior had landed on him.  He was struggling to move it.

 

Ruth leapt up and landed on the debris and dropped to where Hovlek’s head was.  His left arm was still free and his weapon still in it.  He was clear up from the mid-chest on the left.  She had him just where she wanted him.  His eyes burned at her, he was going to use the pole-arm, she stepped on his hand.  That wouldn’t last long.

 

You’re magnificent.”  She said in a cold raspy voice.  She leaned over quick and kissed him on the cheek, then sprung to the end of the chunk of stone on him and squatted, grasping the bottom edge.  Heaving up, she lifted it slightly and rolled if from him, then slipped into the shadows to make her escape.

 

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Hovlek giggled with a boyish smile.  “Ha, this that you say about Hovlek, it is… WAIT!”  He roared at the end as Ruth vanished, all but his foot cleared of the stone.

 

A roar accompanied Hovlek’s mighty shove, finishing the roll of his captor from him.  Twitch came running up offering him a hand up.

 

“Hovlek, you okay?”  He asked as a vampire engaged him while he pulled Hovlek up.

 

His sword sang as he fought, clashing with the werewolf slayer wielded against him.  Hovlek took a moment to get to his feet then turned his back to Twitch and stood against him as another vampire engaged him.  The two men were fighting back to back.

 

“Hovlek okay!”  He yelled back to Twitch.  He flicked the pole of his weapon and severed the head from his opponent.

 

A moment later Twitch followed his lead.

 

“That vampire woman, did Twitch see her?”  Hovlek asked, turning his head to Twitch.

 

“Aye, I saw the bitch.  New player in Alexander’s brothel I thinks.  Nasty customer that one.”  Twitch answered.

 

Hovlek nodded.  “Aye, she even gave Hovlek a run for Hovlek’s money.”  He guffawed and shook his head.

 

“What?”  Twitch asked, curiosity filling his voice as the men engaged several more unfortunate vampires making poor judgment calls.

 

“That vampire woman, Hovlek think she kissed Hovlek.”  He said with a puzzled face.

 

Twitch grinned.  “Well look old man, if’n ya be wanting to slip off and catch a stray piece, bugger off, I’ll cover for you.”  He said back raising his sword as more vampire charged him and Hovlek.

 

The weapon Hovlek wielded became a flurry in the air as the vampires closed in, taking a more rambunctious one out in the display.

 

“Bright boy.”  Hovlek snarled to Twitch sarcastically.

 

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Ruth flew into the night leaving the disaster at Hondigahl’s behind.  She must report back to her master.  She had until she arrived to figure a way to work this to her advantage.  Alexander would demand details, and he would not ask for the information he wanted. 

 

She must be sure of exactly what information she lets him pull from her mind.  One slip up, one missed thought and her days were over.  Her master wouldn’t take kindly to the treason and mutiny she was planning.  So much as a whiff of what she was plotting reached his mind… he would enjoy her thoughts while he ate her brains.

 

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BGB

 

Golly, Lord Frost, he had stepped through on the shadows clean through to the other side of that door.  Pity they couldn’t blast it.  She truly loved a good blast she did.  Her mate, now he could go through stuff.  But this baby here? Naw, that was a different kettle of fish here.  This was an enchanted door.  Dark magic was in its build.  And what it protected, the master of the coven himself, a dark minion.  They liked their sarcophaguses safe they did.  They was better and more worth it than the ones that served them, at least in their self indulgent minds. 

 

Yes, they liked their safe hiding places, this was Hondigahl’s.  Could be sure there would be some powerful dark magic on this bloodcrest.  But, in their design, this was their final stronghold.  There was no exit, no hidden one least.  Always only one way in or out, these bleeders did it in the end like that.

 

Everyone was antsy-ing about, looking all worried and bothered.  The lady commander, she was the worst of all, it was her father and her love in there with that daemon.  She’d be worried to if her love was in there with him.  Wouldn’t she?  Aw crumbs, course she would.  Hovlek, he paced opposite his commander Lady, he kept her pace and they crossed paths at the same point every time. 

 

Why was that interesting?  Why shouldn’t it be?  Aye, and that Squat, nice boy, always asking if the workers needed anything.  ‘He got that from his father.’ She thought.  He seemed like the type that would care about his people. 

 

But, nervous this lot around her was.  It was almost five minutes now, they were tossing ideas around, shooting them down as fast as you please.

 

This dark haired plain woman came up, she too seemed frantic under her blah face that she kept her calm look on, but her eyes gave away her emotion.  Mud, she was a coil of muscle, Baby could tell.  She watched them, her Twitch was watching too.  She wondered what plans of mischief were in his roundabout.  Always into some sort of trouble this mate of hers. 

 

“We have to get this door open!”  Squat said again.  He had said that several times. 

 

Mr. Hovlek though, naw, he wouldn’t let him try his shadow walking though that door, good thing too.  Lord Frost may not have made it, deep and dark the magic on that door, take a damn strong person to step through that. 

 

These people were becoming frantic.  The lady commander, she drew her sword and put it back several times while she paced and argued about.  Wait it out, that’s what Baby would do, that’s what she would do, yes.  It only stood to reason, wait it out if you can’t get in.  Some more yelling.  Why yell?  

 

“What about Seven?  Does he have a … laser or cutting gizmo that can bore through this thing?”  Lord Squat said He was desperate.

 

Seven with a laser.  Okay, that lad just might… but, get it to the door and cut through?  Heavens, they’d miss two meals before they got in. Would be over and done long before.  If Lord Frost and that interesting human Bait won, well then, they’d open the door now wouldn’t they, wait it out.  That’s what Baby would do.

 

The lady commander rolled her eyes at her brother when he made his suggestion.  Roll them good girly, aye, that boy was reaching. You know it don’t you Princess?

 

The little nipper that came with the flying girl had a bit of a thought.

 

“Something out there, in the big room, something told Dunc… Bait how to open this door, he saw something with instructions, a combination something that let him open the door.  Hondigahl did not let him in, he opened it.  We need to see what he saw and figure it out the same way.”  Blade Dance said sounding assertive and very confidant in his conclusion.

 

Oh, the others, they liked the idea.  They started talking about it.  Statues, obelisks, anything with a marking.  They wanted to check it all.  They should ask her what to do, no one ever consults her.  She knew what to do, have a seat, wait it out, that’s what Baby would do.  And that’s what she would do too.  Aw, too much hassle this running about worrying.  Makes one tired it does.  Then the lady commander, Princess, she put a pin in their bubbles.  She popped them fast.

 

“Good luck with that, if you think you are going to be able to follow my partner’s logic, ‘good luck’ that’s all I can say.  What told him how to open the door may or may not be in the room, or even in this coven at all.  He could have read something, then something in here put it together for him.  I’m sorry, there are just too many, too many variables.”  Princess Snow said to them.  Their faces, oh their poor faces, again with the sad worried looks.

 

BGB smiled at everyone.  She was happy, maybe some would catch on with the others.  Probably not.  Always such a serious thing this fighting.  What the hell, if you’re going to die, might as well have fun doing it.  Not going to make you any less dead if you die angry.  Don’t die angry, that sounds like a good motto.  That should be her motto from now on, Don’t die angry.

 

It was ten minutes now.  She didn’t have a timepiece, no, Sea Mist, cute girl, bit mouthy.  Sea Mist, she announced the time for them.  This didn’t seem to help.  Clearly the battle was done by now. 

 

The doors didn’t open. 

 

The battle must have gone poorly. Did they really want to get in there now, or have the monster inside come to them?  Now was a good time to have her blast the main supports and cave this bugger in, let him be buried.  Take the bastard a good two or three weeks to smoke out of that mess of ground.

 

The doors started to open. 

 

Lord Frost, glimmering from fighting, well he was wet at least, he walked from the doorway carrying the corpse of the lady commander’s human.  Blood covered the poor bloke.  His head limp at the neck, mouth open some, his eyes too.  Worm food, that’s what he was now. 

 

Aye, that poor lady commander.  Baby would miss her, aye.  She would too.  She was a bit of a troublesome thing, though she really hated what was to happen to her now, what being all abhorrently mated to the bloke and all.  Now that he was gone, she would follow for sure, no getting around that one when you be mated as she was.  Shame really. 

 

“Duncan!”  The lady commander cried out as she ran to her corpse. 

 

Her father, he told her what happened he did.  Didn’t much help the situation it didn’t.  But he had to tell her, didn’t he?  “Crazy bastard, stuck Hondigahl with a silver dagger, then ran one of those water jugs for that water gun in him.  I’m sorry Madelyn, I…”  Lord Frost was saying.  Poor man, he truly was pained over this.  Aye, meant the loss of his daughter.

 

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Sea Mist

 

“BULLSHIT!”  Sea Mist screamed.  Her eyes fixed on the limp lifeless figure of her commander, her brother. 

 

Drawing in a breath through her nose she carefully smelled.  Her ears moved forward, listening through the sound around her.

 

She remembered the day Kevashka was shot, Duncan was in the back, he wouldn’t give up.  He fought for her life with everything in him.  He spared no risk, even the disapproval of Snow.  What had been viewed by those with, those that saw what he did with Kevashka, as a morbid desecration of her body, was in actuality the savage unwillingness to accept defeat of a man willing to sacrifice himself for one of theirs.  The protected protecting the protectors.  What she did now, she did for her sister, for her brother.

 

Reaching into a pouch she pulled her remote and entered commands.  Her father was still holding Bait.  She could smell life in him, faintly his heart still beat.  She would not let it end this way, if she could.  River Stone, she could get Bait to him.  She had to try.

 

A lunge forward, she had Bait, Snow objected, she was gone down the hall at her top speed.  This time, she would be the one who raged and would not accept defeat.

 

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Lord Frost

 

Sea Mist grabbed the lifeless body of Colonel Bait from him in a flash.  She had turned and started to move from them when Madelyn tried to stop her, he reached forward and grabbed her shoulder.

 

“Madelyn!”  He said as he tried to restrain his daughter.  “Madelyn!  Look at me.”  He called again.

 

He could see in her face that she was desperately grieving for words of hope from him.  “Madelyn, your sister, if there is anyone who can get him to help, it’s her.  That flying thing of hers is on its way to her now.  Your friend, Seven, he helped her design that thing years ago.  It comes to her, she will meet up with it and she probably is taking him to River Stone, and if anyone can save him… it’s River Stone.  None finer, for werewolf or human.”

 

His first born looked deep into his eyes.  There wasn’t much comfort in the words he said to her, but she understood the truth in what he had told her.  As her eyes drifted from his her lips started little movements, faint sounds accompanied these movements, she turned and slowly started walking back up the hallway.  She was pleading to the Light.

 

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Bait

 

“Alright, places everyone!”  A man was yelling.

 

People scampered around him.  One young gentleman came up and grabbed him by the arm and led him onto what looked like a stage.  The young gentleman positioned him and gave him instructions on when to deliver his line and when to turn. 

 

Looking around he saw cameras on hydraulic lifts that were moving into position, a boom microphone hung over his head, another further to his right.  It appeared to be some sort of sci-fi medieval genera of movie.  A few of the women wore large hats that looked like they had sails for miniature tall ships on them in the shape of a half heart.

 

“And we’re rolling, quiet on the set, cue sound, cue lights…”  A man yelled.

 

People shuffled into place and held position.  The cue to begin came and the scene began again.  He noticed a large tube, but that was not the best description.  It was more in the shape a Pullman car from a train would be, rectangular and rounded like that only it was made of glass, and it had a rounded front.   It was ornate, it looked to have wood for separators between the panes of glass that matched the top and bottom of this chamber. 

 

That’s what it was, he had seen it before, someplace.  He should recognize this, he could feel it.  This chamber slid, no it glided onto the stage.  Inside was filled with smoke, no, it was gas.  A creature came forward, as he stepped to the front of the chamber.  The creature looked like a giant brain shaped like a mutant sperm suspended in this gas.  It came close to the glass in front of his face.

 

“I see plans within plans.”  The creature said then receded back into the cloud of gas.

 

There was a bright light.

 

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He was standing in an open field, grass slapping at his legs as the wind blew, changed directions and blew more, dancing around him and catching him from all directions.  Looking around he noticed the sky getting dark.  Thunderclouds were starting to roll in making the sky a patchwork of blue, gray and black.  The wind was beginning to pick up some.  He looked around then turned around and looked the other direction.  It all looked the same, he was alone in the field.  Bait turned back the way he was originally facing.

 

A man was walking towards him.  Bait smiled as he recognized the walk, the hat and the smirk under that prominent mustache.  “Sam, am I glad to see you!”  He said as the man stopped and looked at him,  his face confused.

 

“Sam?  Who the hell is Sam?”  Sam asked.  He looked up at the sky then back to Bait.  “You ain’t gone and got yourself sun-stroked now has ya son?”  He asked then poked his head forward squinting at him as he put a hand on his hip and cocked a knee.  “It’s Jedediah, your boss boy.” 

 

Bait blinked.  It was Sam, he was just playing the part of Jedediah now.  “Sorry Jed.”  He said for lack of anything better.

 

Jedediah (Sam) looked around the field and put his other hand on his hip and popped his knee in and out as he gazed across the field.  “You best be mending that fence quick and gettin’ to the house, thunderstorm is rolling in.  You get caught out in this your ass will be in a heapin’ mess.”  He said then returned his eyes to Bait.

 

He looked around, there was no fence in the field.  It was wide open, nothing.  A few patches of trees dotting a field of grass.  Bait looked back to Jedediah.

 

“Jed, there’s no fence here.”  He said raising his arms at his side with the palms up and turning to include the entire field.

 

Jedediah snorted and rocked his body looking disgusted with Bait.  His head shook once. “Boy, ain’t I learned you better than that.  You gotta step back and look with your other eyes to see the fence.”  Jedediah pulled off his gloves and clapped them together knocking the dirt from them.

 

Bait didn’t know what to do.  Pulling back on his shoulders he took a deep breath.  His eyes flicked to Jedediah.  His boss pointed behind Bait, he turned around, closed his eyes and took a deep breath again. 

 

He tried to relax his mind, then took a step backwards and inhaled deeply again, letting his breath out slowly.  He opened his eyes while concentrating on ‘seeing with your other eyes’ as he was told.  There some twenty feet in front of him was a glowing fence line.  It appeared to be stuck between two worlds.  Across from him the two strands of barbed wire were broke.  He snapped around to look for Jedediah.

 

“I can see it!”  Bait said to his boss.

 

The Sam Elliott smirk appeared on Jedediah’s face.  “See, it’s all about how you look at things son.”  Jedediah said then started to turn to go.

 

He turned back, just like Bait expected him to.  “Now what did I tell you about your hammer?  Pick that up.”  Jedediah said in a scolding tone.

 

Bait looked to where Jedediah was pointing.  Sticking up out of the sand and grass he could see the handle of his hammer at an angle.  He extended his arm towards it reaching with his fingers for the end of the hammer, he bent in a little more and grabbed it. 

 

He pulled, the hammer was stuck in the ground that seemed to have gotten hard around the head of it.  He pulled again, harder this time.  The ground gave and he pulled his fencing hammer from it and placed it where it belonged, then he looked to Jedediah again.

 

He was alone in the field.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

“Hey, Duncan… Galt… Duncan… Galt… Old guy… Human, wake up, stop making me wait… Galt… Duncan… Colonel Bait licker… are you with me man… Duncan…”  Kicks’ voice repeated.  A thump came with each vocalization.

 

Bait was aware of something hitting something he was on.  Opening his eyes he tried to grab his head with both hands when the pain hit his brain via his eyes, which also burned.  His hands wouldn’t come from the bed.  His vision cleared and he looked to the end of the bed he was in.  Kicks was sitting on something and kicking the foot of his bed. 

 

He turned his head slowly, he was in a hospital room, sort of.  It appeared to have been put together in haste.  Bait was in the room’s patient bed.  He tried to lift his arms again, they were strapped down, as were his legs.  In addition to this there were three wide leather straps across the length of his body securing him to the bed.  What was this?

 

“Okay, yes, you are strapped to a bed, River Stone did a naughty thing, but that’s not what I came here to talk to you about, okay?”  Kicks said to him after he kicked the end of the bed very hard getting Bait’s attention. “Cousin, you with me now?”  Kicks asked sounding midway between urgent and annoyed.

 

His eyes flicked around the room and the restraints quick for one more run then he fixed his eyes on Kicks. “What do you want?  If it’s a raise you’ll have to talk to my boss.”  Bait answered with his own mixture of pissed and pissed.

 

Kicks tittered looking away briefly.  “No cousin, I’m good, just got a raise.  But there is something I need to tell you, I have to go soon.”

 

Kicks was… different.  His face, his body movements, his general attitude.  He was a lot calmer than Bait remembered him.  Kicks was running with Julia, who was back out doing what she does best, data collection.  She and her team enabled their victories, without their recon, they never would have found what they did.  Her little crew of misfits brought in the goods that helped put Squat’s Shadow Steppers in places they needed to be.  Kicks was a major part of her operation.  Why was he here?

 

“I was wrong about you cousin, I should have never gotten mad at you.”  Kicks said, his head drooped.  “Now that I know everything, I can see the picture clear.  Let me tell you this cousin, I like what the picture has shown me.  We’re good you and I?”  He asked looking at Bait, his eyes honest and open.

 

Bait considered Kicks and what he said, divined the deeper meaning that came with.  Why this?  Why now?  Bait had been… … …run through, the memory came to him.  Lord Frost was with him.  The markers, they made opening the door simple.  Vampires really aren’t that smart. 

 

Hondigahl quite literally had the instructions on how to open the door written in the room.  He saw the pattern as he came down.  Vampires all had their patterns that they couldn’t break, something that tied everything they did together.  Symbols and patterns.  Were they even aware that they did this?  Maybe at times?  Sometimes was sticking to the pattern or including a symbol done unconsciously by them?

 

“Enough of that, I’m talking here, you with me?”  Kicks snapped leaning forward and glaring intently at Bait.

 

“I don’t remember you with an Italian accent, when did that come about?”  Bait asked wanting to cure his curiosity.

 

“Ah, that, well that is where my human side is from, originally.  Guess it just started to come out now.  Anyways, that’s not what’s important.  I need to know if things are good between you and I?”  Kicks asked him again.

 

Again Bait questioned himself on why Kicks felt this urgency to clean the slate between them.  He had also said there was something he needed to tell him.  If that’s what was really the important part, why not start there first? Why not radio it in?  Where was Snow?  If it was important, she should hear it too.  She was his cousin, was that why he was calling Bait ‘cousin’? 

 

Was this part of cleaning the slate between them, his way of accepting what he was told about Bait and his cousin?  Bait had clearly nearly died.  There was no arguing that, is that what preempted Kicks feeling the need for this conversation?

 

“Yes, we’re good Kicks, everything between us is good.”  He answered with an affirming smile. He considered following by asking him what he wanted to tell him, but he opted to let nature take its course. 

 

Kicks nodded with his hands on his knees touching at the fingertips.  He said ‘good’ a couple times then sat for a moment, his eyes distant as he stared at the floor. “I need to tell you something.  This is very important and you need to remember it, okay?”  Kicks asked very seriously.  His eyes were wide, whatever he was going to tell him, he fully believed it was vital information to Bait.

 

“Okay.”  Bait answered slowly.

 

“Get out of the water!”  Kicks said in an emphasized voice.

 

Bait blinked fast a couple times, a line formed above his right eye, he had no idea what was meant by this or why he needed to remember it. “Excuse me?”  He asked, his voice and face communicating his confusion.

 

“Get out of the water.”  Kicks repeated slower.  “Remember that, get out of the water.  You need to remember that, okay?”  Kicks raised his head and looked towards the door.  Bait looked with him.  There was nothing.  No one entered, there was no sound coming from the other side of the door.  He looked back at Kicks.

 

“Look, cousin, I cant stay, I have to go now.  Remember what I told you okay?  Get out of the water.”  He looked to the door again then back to Bait.  “And thanks, for everything, what you’ve done for her.  You’re good for her.”

 

The door opened, Bait looked over as Snow entered.

 

“Snow, I was just talking with Kicks…”  Bait trailed off, Snow was walking oddly towards him.

 

Something was wrong, her eyes were black.  She took a step closer.  No, they weren’t black…they were missing. Her eyes were gone, they were nothing but black pits.

 

“Why did you take my eyes Duncan?”  She said in a haunting voice, cold and hollow.

 

Bait blinked.  What the hell was going on here?  He looked towards Kicks, he wasn’t there.

 

“Why did you take my eyes Duncan?”  The disturbing voice of his mate called again.

 

She stepped closer.  Now she reached and felt in front of her touching his arm.  Her hands were cold, her skin whiter in a more gray way than normal.

 

Her hands ran up him to his face.

 

“Why did you take my eyes Duncan?  Let me have yours.”  She said then started pushing her fingers into his eyes and trying to remove them.

 

There was a bright light.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

He was standing in a cavern.  It was dark, sand lay on the stone floor, coarse sand, it had an orange red hue to it.  He heard a drip of water and looked up.  Across from him was a very large underground cache of water.  Decaliters came to mind.  He’d been in this cave before.  Was it in Iran?  Kuwait?  No, it was a vision, he’d never been here before but the place was familiar.  He knew it.  Somehow.

 

“Not one drop of rain…”  A soft feminine voice said.  He looked to his left where the voice came from.

 

A woman, a beautiful porcelain faced woman.  Her hair was in a simple cut, like a farmers daughter might have on a remote farm.  It came down her neck in the back and framed her pristine features.  Her eyes rest on him with a soothing, caring caress.  They were blue within blue.

 

“Chani.”  Bait said in recognition of who this person was.

 

He looked around.  What was the meaning here?  Was this another pointless vision to him like the one of Snow had been, Snow with no eyes. 

 

There had to be some thread, fences, water, Fremen, oh my!  Sam Elliott, Kicks.  His subconscious was trying to show him something, but what it was using wasn’t making sense.  He hoped his subconscious didn’t start using material from the Stephen King books he’d read.  Oh shit, he cursed it by thinking it.  Don’t let your mind wander, his father had told him that many times over the years, always when he caught him daydreaming.

 

“There is power in water, power of life, power of death.”  Chani said to him as she dipped her hand into the water which now seemed to be in a reservoir with an edge that came midway up on her.  Chani waved her hand back and forth in the water watching the movement it created in the mirror like surface.  “Water can destroy or it can create.”  She said in her musical voice.  He knew that voice.  Chani’s voice was Snow’s voice.

 

“Yes, yes, water is power, live, destroy, create, I am the walrus, boom dilly bum dumb.  What’s the point?”  Bait stated more than asked.

 

“Which will you choose di-sum-bin?  Will you choose to create, or destroy?”  Chani asked him.

 

She called him a name, it sounded like di-sum-bin, it sounded vaguely familiar.  It wasn’t the lead character’s name either, that was moo blah blah, something.  Why this movie?  Shit he’d seen it three times in college, his girlfriend at the time loved the movie. 

 

She was a strange one.  He’d seen it all three times because of her.  She liked to have sex doggy style so they both could watch it.  He had trouble watching that movie while trying to perform.  Very… distracting.  Why not watch the X-Files, at least that would be interesting.  Focus!  Threads, find the threads.

 

‘Which will I choose?’  He asked himself.  Taking a moment he considered his answer, it surely would weigh heavily on where the… dream, vision, whatever the frell it was would take him.  It was clear his mind wanted to play this scene out and would not let him control it.

 

“Both.  I will destroy and create.  I will destroy the servants of the darkness.  By doing so I will prevent destruction from entering this world, this will save lives.  The lives saved will go on to produce more life.  This is what will be created, a world where the creation can live.”  Bait answered with a reverent meter and voice.

 

There was a bright light.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

The bar was crowded, for a Wednesday night.  He stuck his hand up and caught the waitress’s attention.  The house band was playing loud, people filled the dance floor so she had a fairly clear path to him as the frizzed out curly haired blonde waitress bounced up to him wiggling and chomping on her gum.

 

“Whatch-ya need mister?”  She said gingerly cocking her hips side to side with her round waitress tray balanced on an upturned hand.  She set a small cocktail napkin down in front of him.

 

“Beer, import preferably, what do you have?”  Bait asked.  She seemed familiar.

 

“All of our beer is either an import or a microbrewery, we ain’t got no American bunny piss beer here at Vinnie’s House of Beers.”  The bubbly pop-tart waitress chirped. 

 

Bait thought for a second.  Hell, it was his dream, why not.

 

“O’Malley’s full Irish red please.”  He said smiling, it was a very off the path beer, and not available outside of Ireland.

 

“Okay, sure. You be wanting that in a small or a large?”  The waitress from the strip club asked wagging her hips back and forth.

 

“Large.”  He answered.

 

She was annoying then, not quite as… waitress-ie.  Okay, check one waitress.  A thread.  Now to look around the bar, see if he recognizes it, or anyone.  Did Stephen King write any books he had read that involved a bar, with a dance floor and a loud, not so good, band?

 

“Sure thing sweetie, back in a jiff.”  The waitress said then wiggled off towards the bar.

 

Nope, bartender didn’t ring any bells.  Bar looked like any one of a hundred he’d been in, nothing stood out.  Same neon beer signs, though the names of the beers were rather interesting.  The closest one said in a half oval over the top ‘Big Cock Beer’ a picture of a rooster in neon was the main picture then in an opposing arch at the bottom the words ‘Something to crow about’. 

 

Another had a woman that appeared to be from a colonial time, neon drew attention to parts of the image of the woman, particularly the breast and face area and the two beer mugs she held in either hand.  Happy Hooker Cream Ale’ this one advertized.  Bait turned his attention to the rest of his surroundings.  Everything seemed normal and ordinary. 

 

The waitress returned at a wiggle speed.

 

“Here ya go hun.”  She said setting a rather large long neck bottle of the red beer he ordered on the napkin.

 

The thing had to be at least a quart, if not a half more.

 

“Twenty five cents please.”  The blonde wiggler said in a chipper voice.

 

He must have died, this had to be heaven.  Wait, the band sucked, the beer could taste like shit, this could have gone the other way.  He dug in his pocket and pulled out a coin, it was a silver coin.  It didn’t look like American currency, but he recognized the markings on it.  It wasn’t one the werewolves used to pay the ferryman.  He had seen that coin before.  He handed it to the young woman, she took it and stowed it on her tray.

 

“Thanks, wanna see my tits?”  She asked politely.

 

That was unexpected.  Bait’s face crunched in a fit of confusion.

 

“Excuse me… what?”  He asked, clarification was definitely required here.

 

“Do you want to see my tits?”  She repeated a bit slower taking time to annunciate for him.  “Every large beer comes with a free shot, you want it or not?”  She said chomping her gum and putting a hand on a hip as she bumped it out.

 

What on earth?’ He thought to himself.

 

“Fine, I’ll play along.  Yes please waitress, can I have my free shot please.”  Duncan said sitting up in his chair, he was becoming annoyed with this dream.

 

“K, you get seventeen seconds.  Enjoy.”  She said then pulled open her Velcro equipped top and pulled the lower corners near where it opened back to give a full unobstructed view from her waste to her shoulders. 

 

Bait looked.  What he was seeing was anatomically correct.  He was most certain of that.  Nothing out of the ordinary about that.  The part that did stand out, aside from her ample bosom that seemed to get larger when she whipped them out, was her piercings.  A better word to use might be threading. 

 

A black cord, about like forty pound test braided fishing line, ran in a taunt line from one nipple to the other then down to her navel and returning to the nipple that it started from forming a perfect triangle.  The waitress chomped her gum and looked around the bar disinterested in what she was doing, not paying any attention to the man she was flashing. 

 

“Ok, that’s your seventeen.”  She said finally looking at him as she closed her blouse.

 

“Thanks.”  Bait said with a polite smile.

 

“Yeah, whatever.  Glad you like it.”  She said giving his hand a look, the one he had used to pay her with.

 

A tip, that is what she was pausing for, mildly hinting at.  That was how you paid for your ‘free shot’ at this bar.  He reached into his pocket again.  The waitress smiled, like she wanted him to hurry up.  The only thing in the pocket before had been the coin, now he felt a piece of paper.  He pulled it from his pocket and un-wadded it.  It was a seven dollar bill.  His image was on the bill with the name Bait under it.  Looking from the bill to the waitress he handed it to her.

 

“Thanks.”  She said taking it from him quickly.

 

The bill looked like an American print.  There was no such thing as a seven dollar bill, and you had to be dead to be on American currency.  The waitress had boobs that made a triangle.  The beer was good.  The waitress was also the same one from the strip club. 

 

Duncan drank from his beer again.  “Great, I’m the boob stuck in the triangle.”  He said cynically looking around.

 

There was a bright light.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Dark.  Wind was blowing strong.  Light started to show itself in a dim red burst off in the distance.  A figure approached from the direction of the sunrise.  It was a woman, she was tall, dark hair.  She walked to amplify her movements, she was smiling.  She smelled of old milk and vomit. 

 

She was attractive, well built, but the smell grew stronger and the woman started to laugh, her laughter was dark, cold.  She brought her arm across her face covering herself with the cloak she wore as the sun broke over the horizon, and she was gone.

 

There was a clang of a bell off in the distance, he couldn’t tell the direction.  Darkness was fading, he could see better now.  He was in a field, again.  Surrounding him were flowering plants neatly planted, hops.  He was in a hops field.  Now he could see another figure heading towards him.

 

From the walk and the outline he was guessing either Jedediah or Sam.  Closer the man came, his steps steady and even, not rushing.  The face was that of Sam Elliott, but was he Sam this time, or Jedediah?  He’d know by the way he spoke to him.

 

“Mornin’ Duncan.  Figured I’d find you out here.”  Jedediah or Sam said.  He didn’t give Bait anything to work with.

 

“So, am I talking to Jedediah or am I talking to Sam Elliott?”  Bait asked.

 

The man chuckled.  He gave Bait a side-look Sam Elliott style.  “You tell me, it’s your damn dream.”

 

It was just that, his dream.  He preferred his imagery of Sam Elliott over Jedediah the rancher.  Now, if his mind would only cooperate.

 

Sam sat down on a stump and motioned for Bait to sit on the one next to him.  Stumps in the middle of a field of hops?  Sure, why not.  It went with the story line, sitting on a stump in the middle of a field talking with Sam Elliott. 

 

“Still got your hammer?”  Sam asked looking over at him.

 

Bait looked to his left hip, his hammer hung at his side.  “Yup Sam, still got it.”  He inhaled deep.  “Tell me Sam, why all this concern about my hammer?”

 

Sam’s head bobbed.  “Hammer is a useful tool.  It can build and fix things, it can also be used to tear things down.  Take good care of your tools…”

 

“And they’ll take care of you.”  Bait finished.

 

Sam smiled and bobbed his head again.  “That’s right.”  He said with his crooked smirk.

 

“You know Sam, I can’t make heads or tales out of any of this.  What am I supposed to see?  What am I supposed to figure out?”

 

Sam looked forward and straightened himself.  “You tell me, bonehead.  You’re the one with all the facts and details. You have all the information you need.  The rest is there for you to use when you need it.  That’s what you need to figure out.  That’s what we’re here to do, show you what’s in that head of yours.”  He looked to Bait again.

 

They sat there, side by side quietly, Sam seemed to be in no hurry.  He sat waiting for Bait to ask his next question.

 

“Ok, how am I supposed to figure all this out?”  Bait said trying an approach from a different angle.

 

Sam chuckled again and gave Bait his iconic smile.  “You remember ‘The Ranger, The Cook and the Hole in the Sky’ Duncan?”  He asked.

 

Bait guffawed with a lingering smile.  “Now you’re going back some years.”  He said remembering.

 

Sam snorted.  “You’re tellin’ me.” 

 

“Yeah Sam, I remember the movie.  Kid goes up in the mountains to work on a crew for a forest ranger.  One of my favorite movies.  Haven’t watched it in years.”  Bait mused.

 

“Right, well, you remember the kid had a bur under his saddle for the camp cook.  Taunted the man constantly, always a thing between those two.  I was always having to keep an eye and an ear out around them.  Kid despised the man.”

 

Bait nodded remembering the movie in his mind.

 

Sam continued.  “Now, this kid finally learns of the cook’s talents;  he’s a gambler, a card shark.  Master at his craft.  Now, these forestry boys end up in town gambling at the end of every year, and the cook is their ace this year.  During the game, the men the foresters have a rivalry with commence to cheat.  The cook here, he catches it.”

 

“Now, he has a choice to make.  He can either let them call him out as a cheat right there, a cheat they did to set him up, or he can use his talents to sluff the cheat off.  As you know, the extra card he was dealt ends up in the hat of one of their rivals.  The cook gets called out by the cheats, now he has another choice.  He can play dumb or reveal himself for who he really is.  Now in the end, the forestry men, well they get beat up a bit, get their money back plus a little more, but the cook now, he gets the living tar beat out of him.”

 

Sam stopped. 

 

Bait looked at him.  He said nothing.  Sam went on.

 

“Now, this outcome would have been the same if he had taken the blame for having an extra card and being called out as a cheat, instead of continuing, but is the situation the same?”  Sam asked him.

 

Bait though for a moment.  “No, even though the outcome would be the same, because he didn’t cheat that time, he defended his friends, what he did was for them. He knew he was putting his ass on the line, but he knew how often they’d been robbed by these men.  He couldn’t play dumb.”  He answered.

 

Sam smiled again.  “Exactly, even a dirty cheat isn’t always guilty, and sometimes they make the right decision at the perfect time.  Doesn’t mean they change their repercussions any, but it does put a mark in the right box.  You might say it’s a step in the right direction.  But there is more.”

 

Sam adjusted his hat.  “Now you see that boy, he was seventeen when he came to me, neither of us knowing we would never see each other again, he never returned.  But he learned something with me that day, his perspective was changed.  When he found the cook badly beaten, he looked at him from a different perspective than he had that entire summer.” 

 

“He saw a different person than he had originally perceived.  That single day changed that boy’s life forever.  Now, we don’t know what happened after that, did he ever meet up with that pretty girl?  Did the boy remember this lesson in life?  Don’t know.  But what I do know bonehead, is this.  Once he stepped back from himself and looked at things from a different viewpoint than his own, his eyes were opened.”  Sam leaned back and sat straight looking at Bait.

 

A bell started dinging and Sam stood up.  They were sitting on a bench at a train station in an old west setting.  The bell clanged again as an old smoker locomotive chugged down the track that ran in front of them.  Smoke billowed from the stack of the steam engine, loud hissing came from the beast as it discharged the steam that made it move.

 

“That’s my ride.  You best get back and mend that fence, thems the devil’s cows, you let one of them get out, you ain’t never getting it back in.”  Sam said looking down at Bait.

 

He stood from the bench with Sam.  “The devil’s herd, I think I know this movie.  I’ll know them because their brands are still on fire, right?”  Bait said with his own half cocked smile.

 

The bell clanged again and the whistle blew.  The train slowed as it eased towards it’s stopping point.

 

“Something like that.”  Sam said returning the smirk.

 

Sam turned to the side and picked up a black traveling bag next to the bench, the train was coming to a full stop now.  The bell clanged several times.  A man walked up to Bait from behind and to the side.  The man was smiling and wore glasses.  He looked friendly in his casual dress that fit the time they were set in.  He stuck his hand out.

 

“You’re Duncan ‘the Bait’ Galt, aren’t you.”  The man said.

 

Bait reached his hand out and shook the man’s hand, the face was very familiar.

 

“Yes, I am.  Do I know you?”  He asked the odd man grinning at him.

 

“No, no sir, you don’t know me, but I’m a big fan of yours.  If it’s not to much trouble, could I get your autograph please?”  The odd man asked.

 

Bait looked at Sam who only smiled at him.  “Sure, no trouble at all.”  He told the man when he looked back to him.

 

“Great, here’s a pen, and I have a copy of your book right here, I happened to be reading it over there when I saw you.”  He told Bait, indicating where he had been sitting with a hand.

 

The book he handed Bait had his picture on it as the main image on the cover.  The title ‘Vampires, you can’t live with them, and you can kill them’ was at top and ‘By Duncan ‘the Bait’ Galt’ at the bottom.  He opened the cover, took the pen and was ready to sign.

 

“Who do I make this out to?”

 

“Oh, could you write ‘To Stephen King from Duncan ‘the Bait’ Galt, keep up the good fight’, that would be fine, if you could, please.”  The man he now recognized said.

 

Scoffing to himself Bait signed the book as Stephen asked then returned it and the pen to him.  He thanked Bait and was gone.  Sam was looking off.

 

“Sorry about that, never happened before.”  He said to Sam getting his attention.

 

His eyes returned to Bait, a friendly smile on his face that one would give an old friend before they headed off, not knowing if you would ever see them again.

 

“They know your name.”  Sam said.

 

Bait looked blankly back.

 

“The vampires, they know your name.  All of them, they know your name.”  He said then turned to face the train.

 

“Thump, thump, thump.”  He could feel something hitting whatever he was on.

 

“Colonel Bait, Lord Galt… squishy human.  Wake up.”  Kicks’ voice called out.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

He felt the bed being kicked again.  He tried to sit up but something held him back.  He opened his eyes, the pain hit him hard, his eyes burned.  “Yeah, yeah, enough.  Kicks.”  He said as his head throbbed.

 

His arms and legs were restrained, just as he remembered, along with the straps across him.  He could smell the room now.  Was this dream or reality?

 

“Hey, fish-bait, remember what I told you?”  Kicks said lowering his head to look at him.

 

Bait’s mind squeaked for a few moments before catching up.

 

“Yeah, ah, don’t go in… get out of the water.”  He stammered.

 

Kicks nodded quick.  “That’s right, get out of the water.”

 

Bait looked around the room, it looked the same as from his dream, but now he could smell odors in the air.  Or was his mind just finally catching up to him, filling in what he had noticed was missing?

 

“Cousin, I have to go now.  I am glad we’re good.  Remember what I told you, okay?”  Kicks asked.

 

The door to the room opened, Snow walked in.  Her face was whiter than he had ever seen it, her head hung a little, her eyes were dark.  She looked as though she had been crying.  His skin started to crawl, he kept looking to her eyes and looking away.  Expecting them to become black empty sockets at any moment.  She touched his arm, her hands were dead cold.

 

“Duncan!”  She started to cry and bent over the bed pressing herself into him.

 

Bait tried to calm her.  “It’s alright, I’m alive, I’m fine lover. I was just laying here talking with Kicks. Not even in that much pain.”

 

Snow snapped up from him.  Her face was stunned.  He pointed to where Kicks sat, only he wasn’t there.  He couldn’t have gone out the door without him seeing, there was no window or other way out.

 

“Duncan, Kicks… Kicks just died.”

 

He felt a sudden rush go through him, it was cold and made the hairs on his arms stand up and little bumps form.

 

“Where, when, what happened?”  Bait asked in an anxious voice.

 

His partner started crying again.  “About ten minutes ago, just down the hall from you.  He was caught snooping, they put him in an iron maiden, the spikes were silver.  He was locked in it.”

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Sea Mist

 

She had a firm grasp on Duncan, Bait, whatever, and was well clear of the hole that used to be a vampire coven.  Her helicopter was approaching from the south.  No human eye could pick up the spider silk thin line that hung from the craft with a ball attached at the bottom for weight as it sliced through the air. 

 

Running as hard as she could towards the chopper she adjusted Bait for the jump she was about to make to get to the snare line hanging from the chopper.  She hoped he would stay put, she needed both hands for this, and her legs. 

 

Leaping into the air she caught the ball with one hand, hoisted herself up and got a better grip, then hoist again so she could sit on the ball with most of Bait in her lap.  Hanging on with one hand she reached her other over and tapped at the remote for the helicopter now on her wrist.  The line started retracting and the chopper ceased its decent and started climbing, a bit to hard at first, she had to back it off.

 

Once to the top she put Bait in as gently as she could, which equated to chucking him up and in, then pulling herself in after.  The ball snapped into place as she ran the last few feet in manually, then the door closed.  She strapped Bait in beside her then took to the controls.

 

There was a short burst of smoke from the twin jets on the craft as she put it ‘balls to the wall’ and leaned it forward hard gaining as much speed as she could.  The G-force pulled on her.  What she couldn’t see was the effect on Bait.  He was pushed back into the seat, thus direct pressure sealed the wound at his back.  The blood that was still coming from his chest was pulled back in from the force she was putting on him.  It may very well have been what saved his life.

 

Sea Mist looked at three of the indicators of the craft, they indicated various force factors on the helicopter, they were all bouncing in the beginning of the red.  She was pushing her baby hard.  Glancing to the temperature she cursed softly then reached up and flipped a switch labeled ‘AUX COOL’ then pushed the chopper harder.  The needles no longer bounced where the red began, they were pinned to where the red ended and could not move further.

 

“Marshal Sea Mist to Clan Squat control, I am landing at the front door of the house, I have Colonel Bait with me, we need a med team at the entrance now!”  She called out over the radio.

 

“Negative on the landing, proceed to landing pad one.”  A voice came back.

 

“Apparently you misunderstood what I said control, I am landing at the front door, touch down in five.”  She barked back. 

 

“Abort, I say…”  The voice started.  She turned her radio off as she brought the Sikorsky down hard.  She landed with such force the rotors of the chopper struck the ground pitching rocks and sand that bounced off the helicopter and the house.

 

She reached up towards a big red button, rotor E-stop and slammed it in.  The rotors came to an immediate halt causing the chopper to turn slightly.  Sea Mist had Bait on her back and charged the front door which fell in under the force of her foot. 

 

Elevator, too slow.  Charging the wall ahead she created a new passage and jumped to the bottom of the stairs then crossed to the door that would open into the main part of the den.  The door resisted a little, but her foot won.  She jumped from the top of the den to the bottom, absorbing all force from Bait.  She was off at a dead run to the medical unit.  Doctor River Stone met them just outside the door.  He grabbed Bait before she could speak and disappeared into the medical unit.  She tried to follow but was stopped by a very large mean looking nurse. 

 

“We’ll let you know the second we know anything.”  The nurse told her.

 

She went to the small waiting area and sat.  The nurse walked away.  Her brother insisted he teach her a bit about shadow stepping.  It wasn’t really her bag, but she did it and practiced like she promised.  Well, this just came in handy.

 

She watched as River Stone worked.  It looked bad.

 

“Clear!”  He yelled out and the nurse with him jumped back.  Bait’s body lurched.

 

“Anything?”  He said calmly to the nurse as she put that cold thing they listen to you with to him.

 

She listened.  She shook her head.

 

“Four hundred, charging… and clear!”  River Stone said.  The nurse moved, Bait lurched, listen.

 

“It’s faint, I think we’ve got him… very thready and weak.  We have a pulse.”  The nurse said.

 

“I need a pint of A positive whole blood and two plasma.  Hand me that packing there, I need to close some of these bleeders off.”  River Stone said. 

 

The nurse responded as he asked handing him the packing then going to a phone and calling for the blood and plasma.

 

They worked fast on her sister’s life linked mate.  That was the major downside to their world.  If her sister died, Bait would live on, but if he died…  She would not loose them both.  This time her sister and her best friend.  History, it always tried to repeat itself. 

 

Not this time.

 

The orderly that came in held a white tub, she watched as River Stone and the nurse she had heard him call Prizz took bags, white and red ones.  The blood and plasma.  They plugged him into the bags, or the bags into him and started putting the juices in the bags in him.  River Stone asked for gloves and a mask.  Prizz handed a syringe to the doctor and he used it on Bait.  Then he started removing the packing he had placed over the gaping hole in poor Bait. 

 

Sea Mist watched as the pile of bloody gauze on the floor near River Stone grew in height and width.  They had plugged more bags into him and called for more. 

 

“We’re loosing him Doctor.”  Prizz called out looking at the beepy machine connected to him that said his heart had been beating.  ‘Beep damn it!’  She thought to herself.

 

They grabbed the kick-start machine again.  River Stone must have jacked up the wattage he was going to put through Bait because the nurse gave him a shocked look.  Bait’s body flew up from the table he was on.  Prizz listened to his chest again.    Nothing.

 

“Charged and clear!”  River Stone yelled as Prizz opened her mouth to object.

 

‘Go Doc River Stone.  You’re alright.’  Sea Mist thought.  She was impressed by his dedication, his pushing the rules. 

 

Prizz listened again.

 

“I got a rhythm.  Adrenalin Doctor?”  She said straightening and awaiting instructions.

 

River Stone brought his own cold listener out.  His face bent in concentration.  He moved the thingy around and listened again.  He blinked a lot, he moved his face as he listened.  She had a good feeling, he wasn’t snapping orders.

 

“No, get the machine back on him, lets see just what we have.”  He said himself now straightening from the living Bait.

 

Sea Mist exhaled, she had been holding her breath the entire time. 

 

She wasn’t sure how long she was there when Snow, Squat and their father blew through the door.  “Masks and gowns, on them now!”  River Stone barked at the nurse that was standing by the door ready when needed.

 

She almost stepped from the shadows, she could definitely feel the drain on her.

 

She listened as River Stone gave her sister and father the run down on Bait’s status.  It didn’t sound good.  A lot of internal bleeding, he needed surgery right away, but even then the chances were not good.  He had lost a lot of blood, they were doing what they could to get more into him. 

 

But there was more.

 

River Stone went to a counter in the room, taking a pad from one of the drawers he began writing.  Once he finished the page he removed it from the pad and handed it to Prizz.

 

“Nurse Prizz, bring these items to operating theater C please.”  He ordered Prizz after he handed her the paper, he watched her as she read and waited.

 

Her face showed concern and surprise.  “Doctor, I… I have to report this…”  He cut her off.

 

“I expect you to do your job nurse, I am well aware of what you must do, do it but after you fill this requisition.  Understood?”  River Stone’s voice was calm and ridged.  Sure and steady, that was River Stone.

 

Bait was moved out of the room and even deeper into the depths of the den.  They went deep into the earth, below the main original den.  Not far in some direction was the opening that was forming the new addition.  Which was undergoing another design change, primarily more space, to include a primary hospital.

 

But there was more.

 

Once Bait was set in place in the theater, River Stone called it that, he went off in a corner with Snow and Lord Frost to consult.  She was getting weak, she almost stumbled out of the shadows when she had to move again to hear what was being said clearly, the beeping and noise of several devices obscured her hearing. 

 

“I don’t understand, minutes?  But… he… doctor?”  Snow stammered.  Bad news it sounded like had been delivered.  Minutes?

 

A woman she knew walked into the theater, nurse Bunny.  She brought a cart of strange items in with her.  Her face was disapproving and cold.  Her movements were ridged.

 

Her sister’s voice pulled her attention back.  “You’ve stopped the bleeding, you said he had taken as much blood as you could give him.  Why is he dying?”  Snow clung to her father who placed his arm around her holding her to provide comfort, a father’s comfort.

 

River Stone sighed, even the air smelt sad.  The pain inside the physician was clear.  Like the others that knew him personally, River Stone had come to respect and even admire their personal human.  She could feel the presence of a thousand and more minds in the room.  All focused on one mostly dead human.

 

“Hexlea-en.  From the minion himself.  No cure for this poison.  None.”  River Stone said, his voice hollow.

 

Hexlea-en.  Foul stuff, secreted from the minion, only a direct minion of the darkness could produce this foul thing.  Poison.  A certain death for the unfortunate victim.  This would kill a werewolf, no regeneration through it.  It lasted only a minute or so after it was created.  Very hard for a minion to make, only the strongest even try.  Hondigahl would have had to place it directly on the blade before he ran Bait through.  He wasn’t counting on Father.

 

She felt faint.  She had never been in shadows this long before.  She would pass out soon, no stopping that without stepping out of the shadows.

 

But River Stone wasn’t quitting.

 

“Doctor River Stone, I must protest.”  Nurse Bunny said when she walked to where they were and abruptly cut directly in front of him.

 

River Stone seemed to be expecting this.

 

“Nurse Bunny, you’re protest is noted as you fully understand what is happening here.”  River Stone answered.

 

“It is forbidden Physician.”  Came a blunt reply.

 

River Stone nodded his head just a little, he was already prepared for the contingency.  Sea Mist had every confidence, whatever River Stone was going to do was just that, what he was going to do.

 

“I am a Physician of the Third Order, I hold seat at the Bishop’s Council of Physicians.  Nurse Bunny, your decision, am I qualified to decide on this procedure?”  Doctor River Stone’s body was ridged when he asked the nurse his question.

 

It was clear that he could not proceed without her approval.  Rules, there was some rule that he was using, a Physician of the Third Order?  There was only one, technically there could be two, according to law.  Was River Stone the one… or was he now the second.  Changes were happening around them, they had been for a while, only now they were becoming much more bold and noticeable.

 

Her eyes widened slightly, this was new to her.  Nurse Bunny straightened herself, pulled her shoulders back.  She blinked once, then again.  This meant something, the procedure was going to… proceed. 

 

Sleepy, hard to stand.

 

Nurse Bunny moved from her rude but warranted position in front of Doctor River Stone and moved off to a corner.  River Stone turned from the others and walked to a second chair that was positioned about two feet away from the one Bait was in.

 

Sea Mist looked over to Nurse Bunny, she had undid her uniform and was stepping out of it, removing her bra and panties also.  She pulled what looked like a uniform jumper from a small carry bag she had with her, it was crimson. 

 

After she had the jumper fully on, her hands went to the collar of her jumper, she fiddled with it then pulled out a hood which she pulled over her head, covering her face from sight.  She fiddled with the collar more and unfurled a cloak that matched the jumper in color.  An embroidered golden crest filled the back, she would have expected the clan of York, it was instead the personal crest of Hyden.

 

The Supreme Bishop of Clans. 

 

Physicians were bishops.  This had to be a good thing, had to be.  River Stone wouldn’t do… whatever, without… the right, authority, he was calculating.  Most importantly, a damn good reason.  Bait, her sister, they were damn good reasons.

 

“I must ask… order that you all leave, immediately.”  River Stone said.  Snow turned, protest in her face and eyes working its way to her mouth.  “Yes, Colonel Snow, in this case I can order you to leave, are you going to be a good girl, or are you going to make me recite why?”

 

Ah, that famous River Stone bedside manner.  Still alive and well.

 

Snow looked a touch hurt, but her face said there would be no need for further explanation.  She understood one thing very well, arguing wasn’t helping her lover.  “No… no Doctor, I’ll go.”  She began to turn under her father’s arm then stopped.

 

Snow’s head slowly turned to River Stone.  “I trust you.”  She said then allowed her father to guide her away.

 

“That means you too.”  River Stone said hard and loud while he climbed into the open chair in the room.

 

“I… I’m leaving Doctor.”  Snow said looking back, confused at his statement.

 

“Not you, the other one, her.”  He said, pointing to thin air from Snow’s perspective.

 

‘Good!’  Sea Mist thought to herself when River Stone pointed directly at her.  She stumbled from the shadows, face planting into the floor.  Pushing up with her arm she raised her bloody face from the floor, her nose was broke and blood poured from her face.  She brought a hand to her nose and moved it.  “Ow!”  She said loudly.  Regeneration took over, her nose was fine again.

 

Snow was looking at her, her face said ‘serves you right’, then she smiled at her.  Sea Mist struggled to stand, her sister came to her and extended her hand to her, she took it and stood. 

 

“Thanks.”  She said weakly.

 

Putting her arm around Sea Mist, Snow helped her walk to their father.  Together the daughters of Frost left the theater, one under each arm of their protector. 

 

Prizz was just outside the door.  “Physician River Stone’s prescription.”  She said, three lollypops in her hand she was extending to them with a kind, comforting smile.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Alexander

 

Alexander finished his incantation.  He was spent, his limbs numb.  He’d left the portal room and was now staggering along a hallway in the coven, shuffling his feet in the dirt on the floor.  He sensed someone, pulling himself up straight he walked on, not relaxing again until the slave passed.  His slave acknowledged him but he ignored them.  He didn’t care.

 

The final incantation for the night, finished.  It was good to be back in the tub.  He stretched his arms out across the back of the tub and relaxed.  He had sent everyone away except for Mitchell and had sent for Fyodor.  The werewolves were up to something, his viceroy and lieutenants seemed to be failing in their jobs. 

 

He had far more important things to deal with than werewolves.  The portal took all his time and energy.  He could feel it feeding from him now.  He would relax and recover then move on to where he would spend his time until daylight hours.  Then the dark portal would rest and he would be able to travel back and actually fully recover. 

 

Ruth had proven his best second yet.  She had his people and the others well in line.  She enjoyed her new life and killing werewolves.  She was very good at what she had recently learned, and was improving.  Though her general attitude did not please him, he tolerated it for now.  She kept taunting him, trying to get him to take her head, and he would.  As soon as the portal was open.  He would have no need of her then. 

 

The door opened and Fyodor entered.  His friend.  He seemed more interested in chasing Ruth’s tail than anything.  Always females with him, but Fyodor had always been his most loyal servant. 

 

“Lex, what’s the word?”  Fyodor asked as he walked up to the tub.  He stood patiently. 

 

“The word is your people are screwing up!  I have lost viceroy, the entire upper command is unable to be reached, and no one seems to know shit!  Do I need to come out there and take care of this myself?  Is Ruth at Hondigahl’s yet, is he taking care of this annoyance?”  Alexander’s words were harshly spoken. 

 

“We lost contact with Ruth shortly after she called in saying she was nearing his coven.  We have tried contacting Slevlyn and Hondigahl, no answer.  Lex, it’s a mess out there.  The people we can get a hold of are all saying there are werewolves everywhere.  Coming from the shadows, dropping in from the sky.  A Kyle from one of the other covens said all of their recruiting sites are wiped out.” 

 

“Viceroy Leveron has made it here, he is badly wounded and taking time to recover.  He said his people down in slag town are gone, they sent in replacements and they lost contact shortly after they left.  The sewers are not safe anymore, the werewolves have taken to them as well.  Master, we need your help.”  Fyodor reported ending in a plea.

 

Alexander’s face was full of emotion, all of it bad.  His eyes burned at the messenger.  He was surrounded by idiots.  The only thing they had to do is keep the werewolves busy and away from his domicile.  He and his people were supposed to be removed from the mix, so he could work on the portal.  There were two other minions such as he responsible for waging war on the puppies here.  Slackers, they proved they were nothing without him.  He smashed his fist into the tub surround, knocking a hole in it.

 

“Frell!  Am I supposed to build the portal for our Lord and fight your battles for you?”  He stewed for a moment looking around the room.  “Get Jibble on the phone, he needs to contribute his fair share to this.  Tell him to start sending his people to me, NOW!”

 

“Already on it Lex, He’s out right now, got werewolf problems there too, left word for him to call the moment he’s back.”  Fyodor told his master.

 

Incompetent insolent worthless slaves!  He was the greatest among them, he deserved better slaves.  His… Fyodor had become enamored with his general, and she was all concerned about running off to get her holes stuffed.  He’d have stuffed her holes for her while Fyodor watched, then tossed Ruth to him when he was finished with her.  Let him have his slop. 

 

Fyodor was always fawning over some piece of ass.  Alexander had had to kill a few of them over the ages to get Fyodor’s head back where it belonged, but he still needed Ruth’s talents.  This time he would off her right in front of his… Fyodor.  She should be his alone.

 

The doors opened, Ruth blasted through them falling to the floor.  Looking up Alexander thought she looked like she had been in a tremendous battle.  About frelling time she took some lashes for him.  He wondered about her tactics.  She and… Fyodor were his best slaves, true, but they were both falling short of expectancies right now.

 

Coughing came from the direction Ruth lay, she struggled a bit while Mitchell was frozen in place watching her practically pissing himself.  He was surrounded by cowards.  She finally made it to her feet and started staggering towards him.

 

“How much longer am I going to have to wait?”  He said coldly looking to her, then he stood from his bath and stepped out of the tub.

 

Grabbing a towel himself, Alexander began drying off as he waited the eternity it took the leader of his Dragons to reach him.  Then he made her wait while he dressed himself.  Ruth collapsed to the floor gasping.  She shuddered then hacked up blood and slowly rose to her knees and resting on her palms.  Alexander stood before her and looked down, her head raised and her eyes went to his as she reached a weak hand to him.

 

“Master, please, a hand so I can stand.”  Ruth struggled to say in a pained and labored voice.

 

Looking at her hand he snorted, the expression on his face questioned her truly expecting his help.  His eyes were cast down on her, him help a slave? 

 

“You, there, stop pissing yourself and help… her up.”  Alexander said looking to Mitchell then turning his back to Ruth and walking away from her towards his thrown  on the left side of the room, a brazier on each side.

 

Fyodor stepped forward and grabbed Ruth’s hand.  “I got it Lex.”  He said as he positioned himself better to pull her up to a standing position.

 

Alexander turned fast, rage burning in his eyes.  He roared at his unworthy slave.  “Call me that again slave and I will throw you into the noonday sun!”  He took several steps towards Fyodor as he released his hand from Ruth’s.

 

His face was that of deep shock as he looked to his master.  Alexander had often threatened him in the past, though he never had acted on any of them, he had never even laid a hand on Fyodor.  This time, the threat was real.  His master’s eyes held loathing for him, he didn’t understand why.

 

Reading the expression and the thoughts that went with them Alexander smiled to himself.  Fyodor’s acceptance of the seriousness of his threat pleased him. 

 

“What?  You think you’re any different than any slave I have?  You serve me remember!  Alexander screamed at the end.  “You’re both slaves, you exist to serve me.  Without me, you have no purpose.”  His focus went to Ruth who seemed to have recovered more.  His slave had better have a good explanation for this, or else.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Ruth

 

It was no surprise, her dark master’s indignant response to her request that he humble himself and aid a slave.  She was counting on his reaction.  Predicted it.  Fyodor reacted just as she hoped, knew he would.  His reactions were predictable for different reasons than Alexander.

 

The main difference, ego. 

 

Fyodor’s perspective of himself was down to earth as some would call it.  He was most definitely a cold hearted killer and a superb fighter, but he was not above helping a fellow vampire stand with his own hand.

 

When their dark master raged out against Fyodor for helping her with his very real threat, Ruth hid her face and eyes, closed her mind.  She was smiling to herself, and she didn’t want to risk the chance of her pleasure being revealed.  It had been all too easy.

 

Alexander had walked right into the trap she had set, Fyodor along with him.  She knew it angered her master when she took his oldest patsy from him and rode him like a pony.  Now she had Alexander willing to kill his only slave resembling a friend, and Fyodor was fully realizing where he stood with his former friend.

 

“You’re both slaves, you exist to serve me.  Without me, you have no purpose.”  Alexander said, his eyes moved to her with their looming threats.  “You!  What are you doing here?  I ordered you to Hondigahl’s, and you stand before me.  Explain yourself before I punish you for disobeying me.”

 

She had been amplifying the effects of her wounds, she was no where’s near as bad as she appeared, she had slowed some of the visible wounds to add to the effect.  She let part of her mind free, her master would need some of the truth from her mind of what did happen.

 

“I was at Hondigahl’s my benevolent master of Darkness. Werewolf forces surged against us there, even dropping in from the sky.  Hovlek, I have seen him master.  Lord Frost as well, both were fighting at Hondigahl’s.  My master, they collapsed the house into the coven below. They blasted it somehow, the entire house fell into the open below and the werewolves stormed in.”

 

She paused and put a hand to a wound for dramatic effect.  “They have new weapons, guns with four barrels, I was unable to get one but I did get part of what they put inside our bodies when we are hit.  And there is more, they have water weapons.  The flow of blessed water from this is considerable.  They have bullets that explode protective suits.”  Ruth paused, appearing to catch her breath, Alexander’s face was a rage red.

 

“Most of the viceroy are gone, the red-light districts are empty, humans have fled them. The werewolves changed in front of humans, they didn’t seem to care, thousands of them.  They waited for the reinforcements, trapped them in the tunnels and sewers, and  flooded them with holy water.  The sewers aren’t safe for us now, no telling where the pockets of holy water are.”

 

Ruth gave a well placed wince.  “With the loss of the viceroy and coven leaders there, we lost the majority of the street forces we had when they fell.  Our people linking us with them have also been hit. The werewolves aren’t using their best people in the red light and areas we recruit and feed in, they are where our lieutenants, generals, viceroy and Dragons are.  We’ve lost most if not all of our network, we have very few people left to cover and rebuild.  We need better people and fast.”  Ruth finished her report.

 

A roar came from her master, spit flew from his mouth, the red of his face flowed from it to his visible skin.  Alexander dropped his human cover, the red beast he was raged forward. He grew in size, reaching to the ceiling a good thirty feet above. 

 

His feet had black razor claws on overly muscular legs.  Black horns extended from his forehead that curved out from his head near the base then swept inward with the two coming to point straight out above his head.  Where the horns came from resembled the skin a cobra would flair out when it rose up on either side. 

 

His eyes of death sunk into his misshapen head.  The chin jutted way out, his large nose spread out over his face.  His mouth was spiked with yellow teeth and a black tongue, thin lips pulled tight across his furious face.

 

Mitchell happened to be within Alexander’s reach, their dark master grabbed him with one large hand, fingers surrounding his head and chest, with the other hand Mitchell’s lower parts that were hanging down were grabbed, he was torn in two and his two halves flung in opposite directions from each other with the innards dancing through the air as they left the flying halves.  A hand grasped Fyodor.  Alexander’s other hand reached for her, stopping above her head. 

 

He stared at the man he held in his hand, his breathing slowed.  Then he tossed Fyodor back several yards, he piled into a table, broken somewhat.

 

“Master.”  Ruth said, getting his attention.

 

Seeing him now brought Ruth to full awareness of what she was dealing with, the true danger in what she was doing.  She was playing a very dangerous game with a minion that had been at the game of deceit and lies longer than anyone, except for the Darkness itself.  She had to keep her wits about her, she couldn’t afford a single mistake.  This was the true monster she served before her now, his true form. 

 

“What are your orders my dark Lord?”  She asked putting the spotlight where he liked it, on him. 

 

Mitchell was collecting his other half, trying too anyways.  Fyodor stayed where he was, only sitting at the table now.

 

Sitting in his thrown, their master calmed slightly.

 

“Fyodor, get to our stockpile of military weapons, ranged, rockets.  Have them made ready to use and brought to a coven that hasn’t been destroyed yet.  Find out where they are attacking from, hit those dens.  We may not be able to set foot on their ground, but human rockets won’t give a shit.  And if you can’t find out where these maggots are hiding, take out dens we already know about.  I don’t give a shit. Hit them hard, take back control of this war!  I want those frelling werewolves back under control, hear!”

 

Alexander looked from Fyodor to her again.

 

“You, get your frelling worthless ass to Jibble’s, bring his slaves back with you.  Get out of here, both of you!”  Alexander waved an arm at them.

 

Fyodor stood and started for the door.  Ruth bowed to her master then followed, catching up to him outside the door after it closed behind them.

 

“You’re friend is rather upset.  I’m sorry if I brought that on you.”  She said to him in a gentle voice.

 

Fyodor guffawed hard, his head moved back and forth with a cold expression.

 

“My friend… it’s been a long time since Alexander was someone I could call a friend.  If I could walk away from him right now, I would.”  Fyodor said as they walked fast down the hall.

 

Ruth turned her face away from him.  She needed to smile again.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Kicks

 

“Human.”  Kicks said a bit louder this time.

 

He kicked the end of the bed again.

 

“Human, squishy mush bucket.  Come on cousin.  Need you with me.  Places to go, things to see, people to meet.  You need to get your ass in gear.  Snow’s gone, you’re sedated again, and we aren’t finished with you yet cousin.”

 

A groan came from the lump under the covers, then from the head sticking out of them.

 

“Delightful.  Do you need to wipe before we go or are you good?”  Kicks said kicking the end of the bed again.

 

“Frell!  You are a pest you know that?  I’m supposed to be resting.  I frelling damn near died.  And very little of what you and everyone else has shown me… doesn’t help. It doesn’t make sense.”  Bait yelled at him, then wished he had used a lower voice.  His head spun from the pain.

 

“First thing, cousin, you did die.  Not once, not twice, but thrice did you die.  The burns on your chest will bear testimony to the truth of this.  Second, not everything is as it seems, things in clouds appear different then when viewed on a clear day.  Some of what you see, though not now needed, in other times, will be of assistance.”

 

“For you is not to decide when or what is shown to you, yours it is to see and remember so that when you need, the answers and the questions, both will be there.  Not everything you see is intended to answer a question, but instead, to make you ask one.”  Kicks said standing, hands clasped at the foot of his bed.  He wore a simple off white tunic, tied with a black heavy cord.

 

Bait stared at him for a long moment, his face looked as though he had just tasted something he wanted to spit out.

 

“Okay, when did you start talking like some old man from the mountain who’s supposed to have the answers to life?”  He said to Kicks.

 

“Lord Bait.  You know my time here is not long, I wanted you to meet my mate before we go.”  Kicks said, not minding what Bait had said or the manner he said it.

 

A lovely young woman stood next to him, now that he could see her.

 

“Music, this is Duncan Galt, he has taken Bait, as he calls his werewolf name.”  He spoke to the young woman then as he finished he held a hand towards Bait and turned his head to him.

 

“Lord Bait, this is my mate, Music.  She’s been waiting for me.”

 

They greeted each other and spoke politely for a brief moment, then Kicks told her he would be back as soon as he was done.  Music smiled to him and a light kiss was exchanged then he turned to face Bait again, and Music was gone.

 

“You ready cousin?  Not quite sure how this works myself, never been dead before.”  Kicks said, his voice like his face, pleasant and kind.

 

Bait looked at his arms, strapped to the bed.  “Well, aside from leather and no lace, I guess I’m as ready as I can get, given my circumstances.”  He answered looking to his escort down amnesia lane.

 

Kicks scoffed at this and made a hand gesture in Bait’s direction.  ‘I see your point’ was written on his face.

 

“So what movie is it going to be this time?  Can we do Die Hard?  Not the one with old ‘you kids get off my lawn’ Bruce Willis, lets do a young ‘I can remember my lines’ Bruce Willis.”  Bait said then looked around the room in an animated manner.

 

“I know, how about… ‘How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb’?  That would be fun.  I’ll play Slim Pickens.  Yee-frellin’-Haw!”

 

Kicks cocked his head to one side with a smirk.  “Not this time cousin, this time, it’s a Duncan Galt original production.  Staring a cast from your past.”

 

“Oh shit, a documentary.  Can I at least have some Jujubes?”  Bait kicked back in a snippy manner.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

He recognized the location, they were just outside Harper’s Paint and Hardware on the corner of Lilly Blossom Lane and McMillan Avenue.  Time:  09:17 hundred hours.  Light breeze from the east.  Officers Bedford and Galt were responding to a possible identification on a robbery and shooting suspect that had been robbing local stores, mostly liquor, but had started hitting convenience and grocery stores after an encounter with a liquor store owner and one of Remington’s fine shotguns. 

 

The man was described as a white male with dark curly hair in an afro style with a mustache, green eyes, and had been wearing a Green Bay  Packer’s hooded training sweatshirt.  The suspect was to be considered armed and dangerous, officers had been advised to use extreme caution when engaging this suspect.  If possible on a positive identification, backup was to be called for, SWAT would handle this guy.

 

He had started with simple robbery.  Gun in the pocket of a hooded sweatshirt.  A shop owner caught a glimpse inside the pouch at the front of the sweatshirt, saw it was only his hand.  On his next robbery, after the TV news got hold of the story, he had a gun.  He wasn’t shy about brandishing it, and the time after that, he took to using it. 

 

He shot the clerk in the leg after only getting thirty eight dollars and change from the till.  At his next stop three nights later he killed the clerk, shot and robbed four customers, three later died.  He didn’t even try to hide his face.  He was desperate.

 

From security camera footage the detective working the case thought the man was a drug user, trying to score cash for his next fix.  How long between robberies depended on how much money he stole.  If it was a small hit, he would need to act sooner, large hits would buy more dope.  The footage they had of him though, was not of the best quality and in black and white with four views on the tape.

 

A mail carrier had reported seeing a man matching the suspect’s description in the vicinity of Harper’s Hardware.  Bedford questioned the mailman, he was the rookie now.  Galt was a three year veteran of the force.  He looked to make detective next year unless the CIA offered him the position he applied for out of college. 

 

He had moved up the list, and the possibility of an interview finally lingered in the distant future.  Only a phone call so far telling him he would be receiving a letter from the human resources department in Washington DC.  After nine years of college this was the best paying job he was offered even closely related to his field.  It paid the bills.

 

The mailman said he saw the man enter the hardware store moments before they had arrived.  He also said the man seemed a bit nervous, twitching a lot, and he was sweaty.  The temperature was only in the mid-sixties.  He gave an accurate description of their suspect when questioned.  Galt cross questioned looking for discrepancies between his accounts between the two officers.  It looked like they had their man.

 

They called it in, requesting backup as ordered.  He’d never hit a hardware store before, he might be trying new waters.  The streets and sidewalks were busy, this was the last place they wanted a standoff.  Was there ever anyplace you actually wanted one though?

 

Base asked if they had a positive ID on the suspect.  Bedford reported back that they had yet to physically see the suspect but they had a good lead from a reliable source.  Base conferred with their superiors, the decision was made that they should enter the hardware store under the pretense of buying something.  They were not to engage the suspect in any manner, they were to make an ID only and avoid him, make their purchase and return to their squad car.  Two officers in an unmarked squad were nearby in case the suspect made a run for it when they entered.

 

They could see the man they were looking for through the glass front and door of the store, his back was towards them as he stood with his purchases waiting his turn at the counter.  His partner reached for the door.  A bell tinkled as it opened.  The man turned and looked at them, he held his observation of them a moment then looked back towards the counter. 

 

Duncan had his hand on the door handle , his partner had just stepped into the store, he was a pace behind.  The path into the store had a single set of double sided shelves on either side of the door four or five feet back from it that ran parallel to the front of the store, then you approached the wider area for the sales counter. 

 

They could see the man from mid-back up, the hood of the sweatshirt was blocking part of the logo on the back.  It wasn’t a Packer’s logo.  Something fell.  Their suspect had dropped the items he was carrying.

 

 “Freeze!”  Bedford yelled at the man as he pulled his revolver from his unsnapped holster.

 

Customers had hit the floor, screamed and cried out, but now there were no other customers, only Bedford, himself, and the innocent man.

 

The man looked down past his empty hands, everything he had been holding now lay on the ground, some to either side of him, some in front.  He looked down, his face went from the shock of surprise to the doomed shock of something very bad about to happen.  His head raised, his eyes wide in terror.  Duncan finished stepping to the side, now seeing what the man had seen.

 

To either side a broken container of liquid lay with it’s contents blubbing from a broken cap on one and a shattered bottle on the other, the liquids were moving towards each other, there was a paper wrapped item in-between the two liquids, and something made of metal, like a scrubber. 

 

Other items were on the ground that he could only see a tip of.  The man’s mouth began to open, a loud word building to be released in warning.  He could see that now.  He turned fast though now everything was moving tick by tick.

 

“RUN!”  Was the word he finally said, himself turning from the impending chemical and electrochemical reaction that was about to happen. 

 

Paint stores were basically a bomb in a box.  A chemist would know this very well.  This man knew what was about to happen from what he saw.  He knew his chemistry.

 

A shot sounded off, then three more.  The man was running away, his partner was right beside the right shelf.  He saw three rounds hit the man in the back in a tight pattern kicking him forward.  He landed on the ground, Duncan looked back into the main part of the hardware store.

 

“RUN!”  He screamed as he tried to turn for the door.  Duncan knew his chemistry as well.

 

If a man is aiming a gun at another man in a closed room with a clear shot and he runs, look for what’s really the reason for his flight because the gun is less of a threat.  Threat, the man dropped his items before Bedford drew his sidearm.

 

In the resulting explosion Duncan was thrown from the building via the glass door.  His partner was blown back into a steel I-beam that supported the roof.  The man, and the actual other customers that had been there that were missing from this ‘production’ were also killed with his partner. 

 

“CUT!”  Bait yelled.

 

Everything came to a halt.  Frozen in place.  He looked around. 

 

“What’s the matter here, what’s the matter?  Why we stopping, there something wrong here?  Talk to me, talk to me.”  A man’s voice said.

 

Bait turned and looked back.  A youngish Mel Brooks was walking up to him wearing a black suit and tie with a white shirt underneath. 

 

“Duncan, something wrong here?  What gives?  Talk to me.”  Mel said again.

 

“Yes Mel, there’s a lot wrong here, for instance, the suspect, he dropped his bomb making materials before Bedford drew on him, but he wasn’t…”  Bait trailed off.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about kid, I’m just running with the script you gave me.”  Mel responded.

 

“My script.”  He muttered.

 

“Yeah, your script.”  Mel looked around quickly, cigar in hand.  “We done here now?  Can we get rolling?”

 

“This is my script.”  Bait said.

 

“That’s right Duncan, this is your script, we’re filming it right now.  And as we’re standing here we’re burning money.  Money money money, it’s what makes the world go round.  Can we?”  Mel said, raising his palms at Duncan with an expecting ‘hurry it up’ look.

 

“Right, my script so that means I’m in charge, right?”  Bait asked.

 

Mel scoffed and moved anxiously around.  “Yeah, yeah, Duncan, your script, you’re in charge.  Now that we have that clear, can we?”  He asked again with the same hand gesture.


“No Mel, we can’t.  I’m in charge, so just… chill will ya.  Oh, and my name’s Bait, got it?”  Bait said pointing at Mel.

 

“Yeah, yeah, got it, you’re in charge.  Bait, fine, you want me to call you Bait, I can do that.  Tell you what, you take your time, I’ll be over here when you’re ready, okay?”  Mel said to him then walked from the ‘set’ shaking his head, waving his hands and muttering in Yiddish. 

 

Bait looked back towards the images of the hardware store while Mel talked, not even listening to the man anymore and took a step back towards it.

 

“Yeah, yeah Mel, whatever.”  He said.  “Back it up!”  He yelled, voices from unseen people repeated his order.  “From the top.”  Bait added.

 

The scene reset back to where he and his partner were entering the store.  Only this time he was not in his old police uniform walking with Bedford.  He was watching as a young himself walked to the store, he moved around and could look at every piece of detail now. 

 

He followed himself, looking at what himself saw all those years ago buried deep in the silent confines of his mind.  There was always something about this case that bothered him.  The robberies stopped, but he felt they shouldn’t have.

 

“Stop!”  Everything held still.

 

Duncan was just stepping into the door, his head was slightly turned to the left looking across the display glass of the front of the store.  Bait positioned himself behind himself, looking exactly where “himself” was.  Then he stepped forward through himself.

 

“What do I see.”  He stated.

 

Wind chimes.  The display windows were old, like the building.  They had an overhang at the top of them made from wood painted a dark forest green.  There were hooks littering the bottom side of the overhang, chimes and other wind ornaments hung from them.

 

“Must be a pain in the ass to take those down at night.”  He said to his vision. 

 

The name of the hardware store was painted on the window, from the inside.  Inside he could see the first row of shelves with their contents positioned to give a better view to the window, a man was going around the end of the shelf on the far end from the entrance.  He was trying to keep something hidden in front of him.  Shoplifting?  Head.  A stocking cap was on his head.  Multicolored, knit.

 

“Forward, slow.”  He ordered.

 

His partner looked to the right, but not at the suspect, then his head moved left, towards the counter.  He unsnapped his revolver.  His foot was coming down.  His head slowly went forward again.  He’s looking at the cashier.  His other foot starts coming down.  He turns his head slightly, his hand goes for his gun and he starts bending at the knee.  His gun comes out, he positions himself, the gun is about to go off.

 

His position is wrong, he’s not aiming at the suspect.  Bedford’s gun fires, Bait watches the bullet as it slowly travels.

 

“Stop!”  Bait yelled.

 

He stepped forward cautiously, looking at where the bullet went.  He held up his hand and rubbed his forefinger and thumb together telling the operator of his dream to inch it forward.  Frame by frame Bait watched as the bullet, the single bullet Holden Bedford fired.  On the counter, what Bedford would have seen was a large mirror, an advertised sale for a wood framed half pane wall mirror, there was a sign on it.  Bait looked into the mirror, there was no reflection.

 

“The vision can only show you what you saw through your eyes.  You’re getting warmer cousin.  You are on the right track, that much I can tell you.”  Kicks said walking into the scene. 

 

“And I never saw the mirror before it shattered, but what did I see?”  Bait said with a heavy question in his voice.

 

He snapped around and went to Duncan.

 

“Where are you looking you demure  handsome young man.”  He said to himself, again taking note of where his eyes were looking and how he was positioned, then taking the same position and looking.

 

“Show me this exact part with all the customers present.”  Bait ordered.

 

The other customers filled the room.  Bait walked around looking.  The woman with the set of kitchen glasses, she was next in line.  She was turned to the side a bit and looking the glasses over.  There was the clerk and the man he was helping.  He was a larger fellow wearing a black and red checked shirt and a baseball cap.  Our suspect and… where was the man with the stocking cap? 

 

He walked around the store looking everywhere.  The vision could only show him what he had seen, he saw the man, saw him again after they entered the store, but where.  He was no where inside.  He opened the door to the back office, a black void greeted him almost sucking him out.  He slammed the door.  He never would have known what was actually on the other side of that door.

 

He walked up to Duncan again.  “What did you see young man, how did you see it.”  Bait said looking at his own eyes from so many years ago.

 

Turning again he stood in front of himself, taking in everything, searching for what he missed.

 

“Back it up to when Bedford draws his weapon.”  Bait called out.  The scene was where he wanted it.  “Can we get rid of some of the shadows in the back?”

 

The shadows shifted and lessened some.  His eyes focused on every detail, trying to draw the events from his mind as he remembered them as accurately and finite as he could.  He took in the lay of the store, something he had not considered before. 

 

The store was like a large backwards L.  Bedford fired at a mirror, what would he have seen.  The woman holding the glasses?  He only fired once.  A revolver was slower than an semi-automatic.  The other shots, they came from an auto.

 

“Mark this spot and run it forward at full speed, give me full audio.”  Bait ordered and stepped back while Bedford and himself walked in.  “Stop!”  Bedford said something just before he fired his weapon.  Bait could see his jaw move.  He could make out his voice but something blocked him from understanding, Duncan was looking to the left still.  All these years Bait had thought Bedford yelled ‘Freeze’, but he hadn’t.

 

The crash, Bedford yelled as it happened.  “Can you separate the audio, remove the sound of the painting supplies being dropped, give me officer Bedford’s audio only.”  He hoped this worked.  He was always running on long shots. 

 

“GUN!”

 

Gun.  That’s what Bedford yelled.  It was lost in the noise of breaking glass and the metal can booming as it hit the ground and spilled out.  His mind had filled in the misty detail incorrectly, deep inside himself Bait had always suspected that.  Now he knew what Bedford had really yelled.

 

Back, and to the left… back and to the left… back and to the left.  Ran through Bait’s mind.  The movie… a second shooter.

 

“Reset, from the where they enter the door, and roll ‘em!”  Bait yelled, the scene reacted.

 

Bait let it play at normal speed, this time staying back and letting his senses work with his memories from a lifetime beyond what he had known as a patrol cop.

 

 “BANG-BANG-BANG”  In rapid succession. 

 

An automatic, Colt.  Model nineteen eleven, forty-five caliber APC to be exact.  Duncan didn’t know sounds like Bait did.  Sounds of guns, their noises both quiet and loud.  A hammer coming back.  That’s why he looked that direction.  The rounds were a custom load, hot, hand loaded most likely.  There was a slight difference to the sound than a standard nineteen-eleven.  Possibly modified.  Bedford carried a standard thirty-eight revolver.  Two completely different sounds.

 

The man.  He was here, in the room.

 

Who's gonna steal the peanut butter, I'll get a can of sardines… Runnin' up and down the aisles of the Mini-Mart… Stickin' food in our jeans… We never took more than we could eat… There was plenty left on the rack…  Bait heard Jimmy Buffett sing in the background of his mind as he stared off looking the scene over again.

 

He had a stocking cap on.  He was crouching down, concealing something.  He had seen him through the window just before they entered.  Duncan had looked left, Bedford’s attention was to the right.  The man should have been at the end of the first row of shelves on the far end on the left.  Duncan had had a clear view of that side of the room.  That meant, the man was below the level of the top of the shelf.

 

“Back!  Slow.”  Bait said, doing his signal again with his thumb and finger.

 

He stepped back, moving with the scene.  Bait stood right in Duncan.  Moved precisely with him.  Bait took himself back, remembering when he was officer Galt, that day.  Another step, turn the head slightly.

 

“This isn't working.”  Bait said stopping, his hands going to his hips.  “Cut.  Reset to just before officer Bedford starts down the sidewalk up to the store.”  He sighed looking around the room.

 

Duncan and Bedford were back where he asked.  Bait stayed in the store and took a closer look at what Duncan had seen before they opened the door, this time from the inside out.

 

Looking back towards the street direction, there was the man, he was just down the first isle, but he had no face.  He knew the color and pattern of the shirt he wore so his mind filled in that part of the front, but he never saw his face.  The letters of the window blocked his view of it when he looked out the window… at the two uniformed police officers coming down the sidewalk of the hardware store.

 

He didn’t care they were there.  Neither had their suspect.

 

There was nothing else to see inside.  Duncan had been to far away to see further into the store.  He moved to where Duncan and Bedford were currently.  The uniform did look good on him.  Standing behind Duncan and Bedford, Bait looked to the store front. He examined everything young Duncan would have seen that day as he walked up the side walk.

 

“Ahead, slow.”  Bait put his fingers up again.

 

He looked to the left and right, lady coming down the sidewalk walking a brown long dog, wasn’t a dachshund nor did it matter.  Normal people doing normal things.  There was something out here.  They were almost to the door now.  The man did turn and look right at them, then turned away and rounded the end of the shelf, crouching down below the top of the shelf.

 

He let the ‘movie’ run until the first shot from the auto rang out.

 

Duncan looked left and down.

 

“Back slow!”  Bait yelled.

 

The scene crawled back, Bait was an inch from Duncan's nose with his, staring at his own eyes.  “Stop!”  Down, to the floor Duncan’s eyes were now, Bait turned in place and looked to where his young eyes were.  The base of the shelf.  There was nothing to see there now.

 

“Roll it back super slow.” Bait said as he stared at the floor next to the end of the shelf.

 

The scene stepped back a fraction of a second at a time. Bait looked between the ground and Duncan’s eyes,  they were still on the floor, tick, still, tick, still, tick, his eyes started to turn, tick, a little more, tick, now his head, tick, more, tick, more, tick, more, tick, now his head was forward, a few more ticks… “STOP!”  He shouted.

 

Plain as the nose on your face, a heel.  A man’s heel, brown loafer.  Duncan had heard the hammer cock, causing him to turn his head just enough to catch the last glimpse of the shooters heel as he tucked it in, taking position on the other side of the shelf out of Duncan’s sight.

 

It was a two man operation, had it all down on a note.  Ricky would watch the big round mirror, and I'd fill up my coat.  Then we'd head for the check-out aisle, with a lemon and a bottle of beer…  Jimmy sang, it was louder in his mind now… the shape of the store, the position of the counter, Bait looked up and around near the edges of the ceiling where the walls met it.

He could see the other side of the shelf, he could see the entire store.

 

“Forward half speed, make that a quarter.”  Bait ordered his dream crew.

 

“Freeze it right there Mr. DeMille!”  Bait yelled just as Bedford’s bullet touched the mirror he shot at.  “Mel!”

 

“Yes Mr. Bait, I’m Mel Brooks,” he said walking quickly up to him from just off the set, “what-a-ya need.  Whatever it is Mr. Bait, I will get it for you, don’t ever let it be said that Mel Brooks couldn’t get it done!”  He over amplified the word done and shot a pointed finger high in the air for even more emphasis. 

 

“Great, Mel, I need Harrison Ford on the set.  Can you do that?”  Bait asked putting a hand on either of Mel’s shoulders.

 

“Can I get Harrison Ford the man asks, can I get you Harrison Ford?  You kidding?  I’m the man who put Hitler on ice!  I’ll get you Harrison Ford and an Ewok!”  Mel said with his finger high in the air again as he started off towards what seemed to be the dressing room area. 

 

“Mel…”  Bait called to him before he got away.

 

“Yes?”  He answered, stopping and turning back.

 

“Hold the Ewok.”  Bait told him.

 

“Hold the Ewok, got it.  Lettuce and tomato?”  Mel asked with a quizzical face, his hands pressed together now, just below his chin.

 

“No, just Harrison Ford.”  Bait said becoming slightly annoyed at his own mind.

 

Mel turned and started away again.  After two steps he stopped and turned back to Bait.

 

“Ovaltine?”  Mel asked, his lips slightly pursed, eyebrows raised.

 

“Wrong movie Mel, I need Harrison Ford, like yesterday.”  Bait said not trying to hide his anger.  Mel trotted off to a door.

 

Mel opened a door with a gold star on it like from some seventies variety show.

 

“Ok Harrison, time to put the coke spoon away and put the hooker down… oh sorry Charlie, wrong room.”  He closed the door and moved down to the next one and pounded on it as he opened it.  “Harrison, Bait needs you on the set!”

 

Mel was on his way back with Harrison who was already dressed for the roll Bait had in mind, complete with perpetual lost and confused look.  On the way two blonde twin women crossed Mel’s path.

 

“Hello Mr. Brooks.”  The two women said in unison.  They were also dressed the same.

 

“Oh, ah, hello Charlene.”  He said to one of the women.

 

“I’m Marlene!”  The woman whined.

 

Mel faced the other twin.  “Hello Marlene.”  He said to her.

 

“I’m Charlene!”  This one also whined.

 

Making a flustered sound and body motion he said “Chew your gum” then continued on with Harrison Ford following in an apparent stupor.

 

“Alright Bait,”  Mel said with his hands in loose fists with his arms bent, his hands in front as he made an affirming gesture with his hands and arms, “as promised, Harrison Ford, enjoy.”  He said then turned and walked off stage.

 

Bait smiled looking at Harrison.  “Harrison, I need you in the roll of Rick Deckard, remember that part?”  He asked.

 

Harrison’s head nodded slightly as he looked at Bait with a confused look, mouth slightly agape. 

“Yeah, I’m Deckard, blade runner two six three, five four.  Did Captain Brant send you?”  Harrison as Decker said.

 

Bait’s eyes moved around as he thought fast.

 

“No, no Decker, Brant didn’t send us, he sent you.  Told him we needed somebody who could find a missing person, he said you were the best, if anyone could do what I needed, it was you.”  He corrected Decker.

 

Decker smirked a little.  “Brant said that about me, you must be desperate.”

 

Captain Brant, he was the type of man that used to call black men niggers, a real hard case.  I didn’t envy his job any, I didn’t even want the one that was being forced on me.  But if you weren’t cop, you were little people.  Brant, whatever his reason for sending me here, I knew trouble was in whatever I discovered.  Played as a narrative coming from around them.

 

“What do you need me to do?”  Decker asked in his stupor.

 

Bait motioned with a finger and led Decker into the store to where Duncan and Bedford were then pointed to the corner where part of the wall met the ceiling.

 

“See that security mirror there near the corner where the kerosene lanterns are on that shelf?”  Bait asked him as he looked Decker’s direction.

 

“Yeah, I see it.”  Decker said slowly.

 

“Here’s what I need you to do, on the other side of this shelf is a man, I need you to use that mirror to let me see who he is and the gun he is using.”  Bait instructed Decker.

 

“Pull it from the mirror, yeah, I know what you want.  Wait here.”  Decker said then walked forward past Duncan and Bedford, standing across from the mirror on the other side of the shelf.  He looked at the mirror.

 

“Mel!”  Bait yelled, Decker looked back at him.  “Hold on a second Rick.”

 

“Yes Mr. Bait, what can I do for your sir?”  Mel said as he scampered up.

 

“I want Decker here to be able to work the room like from Minority Report, got it, how the lead there ran the computers to view things, Decker needs to be able to do that now.  Can you do it?”  Bait asked with a longing look.

 

“Not a problem Mr. Bait, consider it done.”  Mel answered.

 

Bait motioned to Decker.

 

“Decker, give us less Hon Solo ‘dumb look’ if you can please, and action!”  Bait called out.

 

Decker gave Bait a nod then looked back to the security mirror mounted on the far end of the sales counter high on the wall.

 

“Enhance two twenty-four to one seventy-six.”  Decker began.  The scene moved to his command.

 

“Enhance, stop.”  Decker focused.

“Move in … stop… pull out, track right.”

“Stop.” 

“Center in, pull back.”  Decker concentrated on the images.

 

“Stop.”  His eyes danced around as he worked the image in his mind.

 

“Track, forty-five right.”

“Stop.  There, is that what you’re looking for?”  Decker asked turning his head towards Bait, mouth slightly open lips loose on his face.

 

Bait walked forward to where Decker was, his eyes glued to what he saw.  The man was crouched down right at the end of the counter farthest from the suspect, both hands were on the gun he held, aimed right at their suspect.  It had worked, Decker had focused in on the image in the security mirror that Duncan had seen.  Moved the image and Bait was now looking at the face of the real shooter. 

 

“Decker, can you get me a print of this then get a close-up of the gun?”

 

He looked around with his eyes as he thought with still too much Hon Solo dumb look.

 

“Sure.”  Decker turned back to the mirror scene he had blown up.  “Give me a hard copy right there.”  He ordered then returned to working the image for Bait.

 

“Center and stop.”  He analyzed the position of the picture.

 

“Enhance thirty-four to thirty-six.”

 

“Pan right and pull back.”

“Stop.”  Decker was pointing at part of the picture again.

 

“Enhance thirty-four to forty-six.”  He bobbed his head.

 

“Pull back… wait a minute, go right… stop.”

“Enhance fifty-seven to nineteen.”  Decker inhaled quick and let his breath go.

 

“Track forty-five left.”

“Stop.”

“Enhance fifteen to twenty-three.”  A smile came to Decker’s lips and he gave Bait a satisfied look

 

“Give me a hard copy right there.”  Decker ordered again.

 

A black man with a round white ball helmet came walking onto the set carrying stiff pages.  Stopping where Bait was he made some beeping sounds then extended the hand with the stiff pages in them to him.

 

“You’re hard copies sir.”  He said sounding like he was coming through a bad PA system.

 

“Thanks.”  Bait said to the man taking the pictures from him, then he turned and walked off the set.

 

Bait watched him for a second then turned the photo prints over and looked at them.

 

The scene reset.  Duncan and Bedford were several steps down the sidewalk that led to the store.  They were frozen in mid-step. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

He heard a familiar chuckle from behind him as he looked at the scene wondering why it had reset, and to this point.  Had he missed something?

 

Sam stepped to his side as Bait turned his head to his left.

 

“Sam.”  Bait said.

 

Sam had his smirk on as he looked at Bait, then looked at the store front and back again.

 

“So, you think you’ve got it all figured out do ya bonehead?”  Sam asked.

 

Bait shook his head looking to the store then sighing he looked at Sam.

 

“Sam, I don’t know what I know.  All I have is a bunch of puzzle pieces with no idea what they mean.  It’s all a big mess.  It doesn’t make sense, why did this man shoot our suspect.  It was an assassination.  He didn’t care two armed policemen had just walked into the store.  My partner saw his reflection in the mirror.  He thought the gun was aimed at him.”  Bait scoffed and shook his head, lost for any possible meaning.

 

“Well, you know that face in the picture.  That should answer why he wasn’t worried about police.  Let’s look at what else you know, shall we?”  Sam said as he put a hand on Bait’s shoulder.

 

Bait looked to Sam’s chest.  “I recognize that badge, you wore that when you played Bill Tilghman.”

 

Sam looked down at the badge.  “Yeah, thought you might recognize that.”  He chuckled then looked back to Bait.

 

Footsteps, someone was coming down the sidewalk.  Duncan turned in the direction of the sound of boots hitting the concrete… a feminine walk.

 

A wide large toothy smile greeted him.  Bait fidgeted briefly with an ‘aw shucks’ expression as he ogled the raven hair woman.

 

“I guess I represent Snow for you.”  Fairuza said as Bait stared.

 

He nodded.  “The Waterboy.  Nice.”  He said with a sheepish smile.

 

Fairuza flared her hands out from bent elbows near her head with a ‘whatever’ look.  Then she put her hands on her hips, pressed her lips together and asked him a question.

 

“You know in horror flicks, the dumb blonde with bit tits and fake hard nipples?  You know what they always forget to do?”  She said sounding annoyed by the thought.

 

Bait blinked fast a few times.  His head moved back ever so slightly.  He was lost for any rational as to how big blondes and horror flicks fit into this scenario.

 

He flubbed a bit for a response, his face taking on the Hon Solo dumb look.  “I… ah…”  He flapped his hands at his sides once, his head moving side to side lightly.  “They, um.  The rules of horror movies, shit I can’t remember.  There’s usually the broken ankle scene, have to have the screamer.  Chase scene, and the ‘search the house’ part where everyone splits up, then they never bother to…” 

 

Bait turned around.

 

The street.  The store was on a corner, they had came off of a two way street and turned onto a one-way, facing against traffic and parked just past the fire hydrant.  Across the street from them, an older seventies pickup truck sat.  The tailpipe jiggled, it was running.  It was faced the same way as their cruiser was, it was also parked against the flow of traffic on the one-way street.

 

He felt a female hand on his shoulder.  Fairuza walked behind him down the side walk.

 

“Thanks Fairuza.”  He said turning his head her direction.

 

She stopped.  “Anytime Bait.”  She gave him her award winning smile.  She started back down the sidewalk again.  “And no, I don’t have to wear fake hard nipples, I’m not a dumb blonde.”  She said as she walked away.

 

Bait’s eyes moved down to the wiggle.  He scoffed amused.  She had Snow’s bottom.

 

“What else?”  Sam said to him, then looked towards Fairuza, he made a tsk sound and rocked his head to the side.

 

“Hey, the face may be Fairuza Balk’s face, but that’s my partner’s ass.”  Bait said with a raised eyebrow at Sam.

 

He guffawed as he looked back to Bait.  “Can’t hurt to look, isn’t that what you always say?”

 

Shaking his head Bait turned back to face the store, what else.

 

“You saw the man in the window walking in.  You know Bedford saw him in the mirror and reacted.  What about the man you came in for?  What’s the connection between him and the shooter?”  Sam asked.

 

Bait moved into the room and started looking at the suspect they were trying to ID.  He was diving forward for cover.  He had run a couple steps, the bullets were just hitting him.  The hood of the sweatshirt he wore was flying up as he dove, Bait could see the logo on the back now fully, logo, it was a flag, one he recognized.  He turned to the shooter.  He looked right at him as he crouched behind the shelving now, now that his image was extracted from the depths of Duncan’s mind. 

 

He thought, he could do this. 

 

“Track ninety, give me a top view.”  With all the mirrors, he had a fairly good amount of images to work with.  “Stop.”

 

“Move left, stay parallel with the first row of shelve.”  He watched as the image moved.

 

He waited until the view was directly over the shooter.  “Stop!  Enhance, um, twenty-two to, ah, one seventeen.”  He said just throwing out whatever number he thought of that he felt sounded good.

 

“Move in… stop.  Move… south, stop.  Zoom in.  Stop.  Pan right, slow.  Hold it, right there, zoom in just a touch.  Stop.”  There was the connection.  The same flag was on the shooters sleeve.  And Bait knew the shooter.

 

Bait backed from the vision and went to Sam.  His face was grave from the questions of what he was seeing.  Bait was unsure of what any of this meant.  “There’s more isn’t there.”  He said to Sam.

 

Sam nodded slowly with his tight smile.

 

“Outside, right?”  Bait asked.

 

Sam continued to nod.  Bait walked fast from the store, the truck.  He stopped on the curb.  The squad car was down from him a bit further than the truck. 

 

“Center and zoom in.”  The door of the truck centered in the view then enlarged in his face.  An emblem.  He had seen it before.  Recently.  And from someplace old.

 

The truck.

 

Bait looked back at Sam who had followed him out. 

 

“I would have seen the license plate of that truck.”  He looked away from Sam.  “Show me the license plate of that truck.”  He said loudly.

 

Nothing happened.

 

“Show me the license plate on the back of that truck!”  He ordered.

 

Nothing.

 

Bait scoffed and walked to where the squad car was and stood where Duncan would have been when he got out of the car.

 

“Pan left.”  He said.  The vision started to turn.  “Stop.  Down slow.  Stop.  Center and zoom in.”  He commanded, the license plate of the truck filled his vision.

 

The scene reset.  Then it started to play, only this time, nothing was right. 

 

Duncan followed along as Bedford slapped a clip into his two-forty-three.  Duncan pulled back on the lever on the AK-47 he carried.  Gunfire started as soon as they entered the building.  Rough looking soldiers were inside, they were firing on them, Bedford was shot in the head, Duncan had dove behind the shelf, bullets riddled the top.  Something landed next to him, a grenade.  The room faded to black just as it went off.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Darkness surrounded him.  Bait was alone.  Then, he could see a woman walking towards him.  This was most assuredly not Fairuza or Snow.  This woman was tall, muscular and sleek.  Assuredness and attitude in her slink.  He did not want to know this woman, the breeze told him that.  She was powerful, devious, persuasive, dark… sour.  And very seductively desirable. 

 

A dark fog danced in the gentle breeze around him, the woman grew closer, something looked at him.  He snapped his head in the direction he thought he saw the eyes.

 

“AHH!”  He cried out as pain ripped through his left arm.  He looked quick towards his arm, passing his eyes towards the approaching woman as he did.  Three deep gashes ran across the front of his arm… the eyes from the dark fog had their sick yellow stare on him.  A mouth of teeth and saliva dripping below.  Fresh blood slid down three of the long fangs, one on each side of the mouth, one in the center.  It had bit him.

 

Though he had never seen this servant of the darkness before, he knew his name.

 

Prith.

 

“KICKS!  Wake me up, Kicks!  I need you Kicks!! Wake me up!  Please Kicks save me!”  Bait yelled in his vision as loud as he could.

 

Prith’s darkness intensified, the black thick fog closed in on Bait, filling his nose and mouth, covering his eyes, with the last of his breath he cried out again.

 

“Kicks!”

 

There was a bright light.

 

 

 

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