[In this thrill packed episode, Allen, Rose, and Angie meet the Big Boss at Brashley, go shopping for some pillow cases, have a nice dinner, and then meet an old friend for some fun and games! Get ready for suburban horror ALLEN TOMBES style! —RFY]
ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER (Chapter 24)
“I can’t believe they took our cell phones away,” Angie said. She watched Allen stuff half a chocolate bar into his mouth and giggled.
“And it’s not just the phones,” Rose said to Allen. “We can’t contact anyone at all. Nada! No email, no Facebook, nothing.”
“My mom has got to be freaking out,” Angie said, then realized what she’d done and mouthed, “sorry” to Rose.
Meanwhile, Allen ate three donuts in about six bites, washing them down with the entire carton of chocolate milk. For a few seconds he felt like his stomach was about to declare war on the rest of his body, but it passed with a burp.
“I wonder how long we’re going to be stuck here,” Angie said, looking around at the blank, grey walls.
“I don’t know,” Rose said.
“Where else would we go?” Allen asked. Despite his stomach already being stretched to the point of explosion, he peered into the paper bag at the last donut, considering, but decided against it.
Though the door to Allen’s room was still open, there was a light knock that startled all three of the kids. They turned as one and saw Shea standing at the opening, smiling.
“Time to meet the big boss—-my mom,” she said and waved for them to follow.
ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER (Chapter 25)
Shayla McCleggan was the 58 year old C.E.O. of Brashley, Inc., a research and development firm, which had successfully manufactured electronic equipment and weapons since World War I, selling a large percentage of those products to the U.S. military and foreign allies. The company was also the most recent front, however commercially successful it seemed to be, for the Old Guard, an international grouping of warriors, witches, seers, and alchemists who had secretly been protecting humanity for centuries from a number of predatory species that most people couldn’t see or hear, and usually wouldn’t even believe existed.
Mrs. McCleggan, widow of the ten years deceased Douglas McCleggan, and mother to Shea, had taken control of the company and become the defacto Commander-in-Chief of the Old Guard when her husband was assassinated by Milfred Hobbes, a power-hungry second-in-command. The entire affair was completely unexpected, throwing the company into disarray, and Shayla, fearing the disintegration of the organization to which she had devoted decades of her life, gave up her position as Head of Arms, and took on the role of general leader of the company to almost universal approval. Almost…
Shea was twelve when all of this had happened.
Since assuming control, Shayla had streamlined operations, rooting out all those who supported Hobbes over her husband, and lead the company to the most stable and financially successful level it had ever achieved. Shayla was a tactical genius, an analytical mind almost unmatched in the history of the Old Guard, but she could also be coldly, and some might say ‘cruelly,’ efficient and blunt. Shea explained all of this to Allen, Rose, and Angie as the group rode the elevator to the 38th floor. The elevator required a special key-code to be entered before it would accept that floor as a destination.
The office door buzzed, clicked, and opened by itself as they approached. The room was large, the wall opposite the door comprised of a floor to ceiling window. Chris and Cheever were already in the room when Allen and the girls walked in. Chris was pacing near the window. Cheever sat in one of the two large, leather chairs in front of Shayla’s huge desk, which was covered in piles of papers, electronic equipment, and half empty coffee cups. Sitting in a large chair behind the desk was a woman who looked surprisingly like Shea, but with thin rimmed glasses, grey streaks in her hair, thicker shoulders, and a sterner expression, particularly around the eyes. She was typing furiously at a computer and only looked up from her work when she had finished.
“Eddings is still refusing our request to mobilize. The idiot thinks we’re overreacting to the assault on your parents’ home. Probably thinks we’re just trying to steal his prototypes, or some nonsense,” she said. Allen assumed she was talking to Chris, though her gaze had fallen almost instantly back to the computer screen as she began to speak, so he couldn’t be certain.
“I can go talk to him, if you like,” Cheever said, “but I don’t know if it will help.” He drummed his fingers on the arms of the chair, making a series of rhythmical thud-thud-thuds.
Shayla considered for a few minutes in silence, then said, “No. Let’s wait until we have something concrete to show him.” She suddenly seemed to notice that Allen and the others had entered the room.
“Shea, bring some extra chairs. Dr. Cheever, I have your report. I’ll contact you if I have any questions.”
Cheever hopped out of his chair and bowed with an exaggerated flourish, winking at Allen as he rose. Shayla shook her head, but Allen thought he saw a hint of a smile on her lips. Cheever patted Allen on the shoulder as he strutted out of the room. Shea went into a storage closet through a door at one end of the office and returned with two chairs. Chris had stopped pacing, but was now staring out the window.
“Please,” Shayla said, waving at the chairs in front of her desk. Angie and Rose sat in the leather chairs, and Allen took a chair from Shea and sat on it between his sister and her friend. Shea unfolded the other chair, but remained standing.
“According to the morning news, a gas furnace malfunctioned and exploded in your home at about 4:00 A.M. Both of your parents, as well as you three, were pronounced dead at the scene,” she said, reading a off her computer screen. She looked at the three kids sitting in the chairs in front of her and took off her glasses. “I am truly sorry about your parents, and I realize how difficult this must be, for all of you, but in order for us to keep you alive, and to protect the lives of any friends or family members that your presence might endanger, we must let the world believe that you died in that fire.”
“But my parents…” Angie started to protest, but Shayla held up a hand to silence her.
“I’m sorry, Miss…” she looked at a paper on her desk, “Miss Fuller. This is particularly unfair to you, having only been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but you must understand that you have now been marked by the Shadows. If you are allowed to leave here you will be pursued and destroyed, along with any friends or family members who happen to be with you when the Shadows come for you.” She looked Angie straight in the face. “Not if they come, Miss Fuller, but when. Here, we can protect you, and by staying with us, you will also be protecting your loved ones.” She stared directly at Angie until Angie nodded. Shayla put her glasses back on. She looked at Allen, then Rose, nodded, then went back to studying the papers on her desk.
“One troubling development,” Shayla said after a few seconds, “our agents in charge of covering the destruction of your home reported that the body of the witch was not found on the premises.”
“What does that mean?” Rose asked, shifting in her seat. Allen’s face and hands suddenly felt too cold.
“We don’t know,” Shayla answered. “The two most likely possibilities are that she wasn’t dead, woke up after your group left, and fled the scene, or that the Shadow’s took her body for some reason.”
“You mean she might still be alive?” Allen asked in a shaking voice.
“No way!” Angie said, emphatically. “I checked her myself. She was crushed against a wall. Dead!”
“Witches, as I’m sure you are aware, having study the craft yourself, can have magical means of healing,” Shayla said. “However, we can’t ignore the possibility that the Shadows took her remains. If so, there are a number of possible reasons, none of them very pleasant.” Shayla went back to reading her papers. Everyone waited silently. Allen was genuinely frightened by the idea of meeting Krystal again, and he fidgeted in his seat. Nobody else moved.
Shayla breathed out a heavy sigh, flipped the papers she was reading face down, and looked again at the group in front of her.
“Take today to rest and familiarize yourselves with the operations here,” Shayla said.
“I’ll give them the grand tour,” Shea offered.
“Fine. I’ll have I.T. set up pass-codes for each of you so you’ll be able to use the computer systems. Please remember that you cannot contact anyone by email or through any social networks. It is imperative that you remain undetected. Your friends and families lives depend on this.”
“Can I take them to buy some clothes and a few things to make their rooms more comfortable?” Shea asked.
Shayla considered for a moment, rubbing the bridge of her nose where her glasses sat, then said, “Yes, they can spend five thousand each, but keep the trip to friendly stores only, and make certain that you are in before dark. We can’t assume that the Shadows are ignorant of their whereabouts, so make sure to use every precaution.”
“Of course,” Shea said, nodding solemnly. She flashed a smile at the kids.
“Five thousand dollars?” Rose said.
“You’re going to be here for a while, might as well make yourselves at home,” Shea said, smiling again.
“Tomorrow, you’ll all begin classes. I’ll have Cheever work out schedules. Christopher, I assume you’ll be working with your brother on weapons?” Shayla said. Chris grunted from the window, but didn’t turn around. Shayla sighed again.
“I must apologize,” Shayla said, “and take full responsibility for last night’s tragedy.” She looked from Allen to Rose, who were both confused. “Your brother warned me several days ago that the Shadows had taken an interest in your family, and I failed to recognize the extent of their determination. Normally, a single Simmeron guard can handle a dozen Shadows, but they sent several hundred drones to attack your home. Not only that, but they hired a human agent as an assassin, a possibility that I failed to even consider. Had we moved when Chris first suggested, we may have been able to save your parents. For that mistake, I am truly sorry.”
The room was silent for a moment, leaving Allen feeling both sad and uncomfortable. He didn’t believe that Shayla was to blame for his parents’ deaths, even if Chris did.
“But you saved us, at least,” Allen said.
Shayla smiled, “No, Allen. We didn’t act in time. It was YOU that saved everyone there last night, not us.”
ALLEN TOMBES – FIRE FROM WATER (Chapter 26)
Shea took the kids to a huge department store within walking distance of the Brashley building. Rose and Angie each picked out several outfits, and Allen bought some t-shirts, a hooded sweater, and a few pairs of sweat pants. The girls wanted to buy a hamster to keep in their room, but Shea felt certain that it wouldn’t be allowed, so they settled for a huge stereo system, some posters, a few potted plants, a bookshelf, a vanity table with a lighted mirror, and two pairs of shoes each. Allen found a hand-held video game system, several DVD movies, which Shea assured him would play on the computer in his room, a new journal with a lock, and a stack of magazines. After paying for everything with a company card, the items were taken away by a store employee. Shea told them that the items would be delivered to their rooms.
Allen asked if they could go to a bookstore, but Shea said that there were no ‘friendly’ bookstores in the area.
“What does that even mean?” Allen asked.
“‘Friendly’ stores are owned by people, or creatures in some cases, that we trust. The buildings are secured by spells and other protective measures, so that we can be safe while we’re in them.” Since Allen seemed to be disappointed that he couldn’t buy any new books, Shea suggested that he get an electronic reader, which would work with the Old Guard’s electronic library.
“You’re kidding,” Allen said. “The Old Guard has a digitized library?”
“Sure? Who do you think came up with the idea of an electronic library? The company is a research and development firm, after all!” she said, laughing. “And we’ve got to have quick access to a ton of ancient texts if we’re going to keep our clients alive.” Although Shea laughed as she said this, Allen was less comfortable with the concept.
After finding a top of the line electronic reader for Allen, Shea suggested that they each pick new bedspreads, pillows, and rugs for their rooms to add some much-needed color. With that task accomplished, they asked if they could get something to eat.
Shea checked her watch and, seeing that they still had several hours before sundown, pulled out her cellphone and informed Thompson that they had finished shopping and were going to grab a bite before coming back home. She lead Allen, Rose, and Angie to a cafe about half a block from the department store. The cafe, Waldo’s, was dimly lit, with dark wood furnishings and deep shadows to hide in. After a nod and knowing handshake with the young, clean-cut man sitting behind the wooden podium near the entrance, the group was led to a corner booth at the back of the restaurant. Shea pulled her cell phone out again and told Thompson that they’d reached their destination, then stuffed the phone back into her pocket.
Suddenly, Rose gasped, then quickly covered her mouth.
“What is it?” Shea asked, half standing.
“That waitress,” Rose tilted her head toward a blonde woman in a crisp, dark grey suit. The waitress turned toward their table, smiled, and waved at Shea.
“Oh!” said Shea, relieved and chuckling as she returned to her seat. “That’s Pearl,” she said, smiling at Rose and patting her arm.
Allen was confused. “What did she do?” Allen asked.
“Don’t you see her? Her face, it’s like a cat!” Rose said, leaning over the table toward Allen and whispering.
“I’m impressed, Rose,” Shea said. “It can take months for some students to learn to see through a glamour spell as strong as Pearl’s. She’s not just a Shadow drone!”
Allen looked at the waitress again, really focusing. He started to feel like the room was tilting, but he kept his eyes on her. After a few seconds, her features began to soften, and her eyes grew larger and greener. Her face was suddenly covered with tawny colored fur, her hands, too. Needle-like teeth appeared beneath her puffed upper lip that looked capable of tearing through the flesh of the customers she was helping as easily as if they were cotton candy.
“I see her now,” Allen said, also whispering.
“I don’t see anything weird about her,” Angie said, sounding desperate.
“It’s okay,” Shea said to Angie. “In a lot of cases that’s going to make you the lucky one. I couldn’t sleep for weeks when I saw a Necrosect in Italy.” Everyone looked at her with blank faces. “A Necrosect is a carnage eater. Completely harmless to living creatures, but they look like giant, rotting spiders.” Shea shuddered in her seat.
“I know what you mean,” Rose said, looking out the window. “How am I supposed to eat dinner after seeing that!” She pointed at a woman who appeared to be walking a whippet outside the restaurant. Allen focused on the woman, but nothing happened. Then he noticed that the dog wasn’t quite solid. He focused on it, and it shifted into a five-foot-long centipede, writhing and shaking its way down the street.
“Oh, gross…” Allen said.
“Yeah, with something like that, Angie, you’re the lucky one,” Shea said.
A waiter appeared, who Allen was almost certain was human, and took their orders. They each ate large meals and, despite being too full, Shea suggested they have one of Waldo’s famous desserts to cap off the day. The kids were glad she did. The devil’s food cake topped with mint ice-cream and fudge sauce was to die for!
Shea had them wait at the table while she paid, then phoned Thompson to tell him they were heading back. She led them to the door, after leaving a large tip. When they left the building, Allen saw that the sun hadn’t yet set, but that the shadows were growing long and menacing.
Shea walked in front, and Allen saw Rose looking carefully at every face she passed on the two and a half block walk back to the Brashley building. Angie, moaning that she was so full that she felt sick, brought up the rear. Few people seemed to notice them as they moved briskly down the sidewalk, and Allen wondered if Shea wasn’t somehow using a glamour spell to hide their presence.
When the steps of the Brashley building came into view, Allen finally drew an easy breath. He felt exhausted, and realized how nervous he had been. He saw fingernail marks etched into his palms. His fists had been clenched for the entire walk from Waldo’s.
Shea was just hopping up the first few steps when Allen heard a squeal from behind him. He turned around to see Angie kneeling on the ground. She was laughing, so Allen guessed that she wasn’t hurt too badly. Then he noticed the warm burn from his necklace on his chest. He bent his neck and saw that the gargoyle’s eyes glowing.
“What happened?” Shea said, rushing to help her up.
“I tripped, I guess,” Angie said, taking Shea’s hand. Shea pulled her to her feet. Angie’s face was red, and Allen saw a little trickle of blood on her neck that looked like it had dripped down from behind her ear.
“Oh my God!” Rose yelled. “It’s her!” she was pointing past Shea and Angie.
Standing less than a dozen paces from them, smiling with her mouth slightly open, was Krystal. Her face was white, lined with purple veins, and her black tongue slid across her lower lip. Her black dress blew around her as if there was a strong wind, and her eyes were completely black.
“Run! Get to the door!” Shea screamed. She pulled her phone out and hit a few buttons. Krystal floated up off the sidewalk and flew at them.
“Code three!” Shea yelled into her phone. She pulled a hidden pistol out of her jacket as the kids tore their gazes away from the witch and raced up the stairs toward the large wooden doors. One of the doors opened, and two guards in black uniforms came out, machine guns drawn.
Krystal laughed wildly, and her jagged, obsidian knife appeared suddenly in her hand. She flashed forward, knocking Shea’s pistol away with her left hand, then driving her blade into Shea’s shoulder with her right. Shea screamed as Krystal tore the jagged blade out, and Shea fell to the steps. She didn’t get back up.
Rose and Allen raced passed the guards and reached the doors. The guards aimed their guns and fired at Krystal, their bullets tearing through the billowing black fabric, but apparently passing harmlessly through the witch’s flesh.
Krystal laughed again, a high, horrible sound, and flew at one of the guards. Her black blade slashed through the air, tearing across the guard’s throat. His eyes went wide, and his hands reached for the wound as he fell, rolling down the stairs toward the sidewalk.
Allen, watching all of this over his shoulder, stopped. He stepped away from the doors letting Angie go through.
“Come on, Allen!” Rose yelled from inside the building. Several more guards emerged from an elevator and began running down the hall toward them.
Allen saw the witch flying at the second guard, who continued to shoot, uselessly, through her. Allen took a step toward the witch, his eyes growing dark, beginning to burn with a deep blue flame. He raised an arm in the direction of the witch and said, almost in a whisper, “No.” The air around Allen vibrated and he felt a rush of wind moving through him, then a wave a dark blue flame burst from his hand and arched towards Krystal. The witch’s high-pitched laugh became a shriek of pain, her body convulsing in the air. She shot backward, away from the guard. She looked at Allen, her black eyes full of fury, then vanished in a swirl of fabric and black smoke.
The newly arrived guards piled out of the doors onto the steps, looking confused. They surveyed the scene, guns and swords drawn. A dark haired, female guard tapped Allen, lightly, on the shoulder.
“Please, go inside now. We can handle it from here,” she said. The dark blue fire receded from Allen’s eyes, but he didn’t move.
Two guards moved down the steps to check on Shea, who was lying face-down, a stream of blood winding from beneath her toward the sidewalk below. The guard who had been sliced by Krystal was lying on his back. Blood poured from the huge red gash in his throat. Allen was certain that he was dead.
“Please, go inside now,” the female guard said again. Allen nodded and walked back to the doors.
Rose was standing in the open doorway, looking wide eyed at Allen, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Is Shea dead?” she asked, her voice shaky.
“I don’t think so,” Allen said. He felt very cold. Everything that had just happened seemed far away, like he’d watched it happening, but hadn’t been there himself.
“That was Krystal, wasn’t it?” Rose asked. “But she’s been changed, somehow?” Allen nodded. “Did you… Did you kill her?” she asked.
“No. She ran away. We hurt her, but we didn’t kill her,” Allen said, his voice barely loud enough for Rose to hear.
“What do you mean? Allen, what’s going on?” she asked, grabbing his arm.
Allen seemed to shake himself from a dream. He looked at Rose, tears just starting to form in his eyes. “I don’t know, Rose. I don’t know.”
[There you have it! Allen seems to be gaining power but losing control. Shea is hurt, possibly dying, and the witch has become something much, much worse! Keep your eyes peeled for the next exciting chapter!!!! (Coming whenever I get around to editing it, because the story is already finished, I’m just enjoying the serialized format!!! What do you people think?) —RFY]
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)
P.S. – Here are links to the previous chapters!
Part One – Chapter 1
Part Two – Chapter 2
Part Three – Chapters 3 and 4
Part Four – Chapters 5, 6, and 7
Part Five – Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11
Part Six – Chapters 12 and 13
Part Seven – Chapters 14, 15, and 16
Part Eight – Chapters 17, 18, 19, and 20
Part Nine – Chapters 21, 22, and 23