Fiction Friday Week 24

Good Saturday evening!

Yep, I know.  

Nevertheless, I have good news to report!  I hit 46k this morning.  That means I only have four thousand left to go and three days in which to do it.  Easy peasy.

I got an early birthday present (very early!) and got take advantage of a huge sale at my favourite clothing store.  Got me some pretties.  Love it. 

And now, I share with you chapters nineteen through twenty-three.  In these chapters we have a little bit of excitement and we get to discover just how sick Dennis really is. 

Enjoy!

Muah!

Chapter Nineteen

 

2100, Dennis, timer dead

Before dawn the next morning, Dennis is out skulking about.  He’s driving his car to the ends of roads and dashing up and down the coastline looking for Delilah’s cameras.  He’s intimately familiar with her work and thinks he knows where she might go.  He started in the most likely places and has smashed up three of them by now.  He’s currently along the northwestern side of the island, trying to be careful to stay away from houses.  He hasn’t found any, though he crept quite close to an old stone house, and is on his way back to his car when he catches sight of a narrow path to sea level.  He sweeps his flashlight back and forth and catches a faint metallic glimmer in the sea of sleeping seals.

He starts to scramble down the path, pausing to go slower only when rocks crumble away beneath his feet.  He gets to the bottom and picks his way amongst the beasts to the camera.  He pulls the long iron bar he carried in a loop on his belt and starts smashing the camera to pieces. 

He didn’t count on the seals’ reaction to the violence. 

They woke up with a roar.  Most of them looked at him with annoyance and disdain and waddled down the beach and into the water but some of them headed for him.  He backs away from the camera heading for the trail up and trips over a seal, landing heavily on the mother.  She takes a bite at him and the sharp canines break through the synthetic leather to graze his shoulder as the rest of the pointy teeth leave him bruised almost to the bone and forcing him to drop the iron bar.  She lets go, bellows at him then escorts her baby to the water’s edge. 

The other seals aren’t going to let him off so lightly and they’re headed for him, moving quickly.  Dennis considers turning his back to run faster but can’t quite bring himself too.  The seals are ganging up on him.  He falls on his ass as he finally hits the trail.  He wrenches himself to his feet and scrambles up the path, praying the seals can’t follow him.

Dennis finally reaches the top and pauses there to try and catch his breath.  He stares down at the seals that are now settling down, some going back to sleep, some heading into the sea, and makes a rude gesture at them.  “Fuckers!”  He yells at them then trudges back to his car.  His shoulder ached and he could feel a warm trickle.  He drives back to town one handed.

A little while later, Dennis is having his wounds tended to.  “Ouch, woman!”  Dennis glowers at Catie as she applies a few small stitches to the bite marks.  “Don’t you have any glue?”

“No.  Supplies are limited here,” she says pertly.  “On the rare occasion stitches are needed, we use thread.”

“Perhaps,” Colin adds, “you shouldn’t have riled the seals.  What were you doing there anyway?”

Dennis smoothes his face out and adopts a contrite tone.  “You’re right, I shouldn’t have.  They just looked so peaceful.  I was trying to capture it on film when I slipped on some manure and fell.  One of them objected to me landing on them.”  He tries to sound like he is pleading for understanding and like he regrets doing what he did. 

The reality is that he doesn’t give a damn.  He’s too busy thinking.  The town he’s lodged in can barely be called a town.  It’s a spit of a grocery store that closes its doors before tea and opens at dawn again the next morning; a doctor’s office with hours posted on it that says “Tuesday, 7 am to 7 pm, and Friday, 7 am to 7 pm”; a dingy looking pub and a tiny post office.   Farms stretch out north, west and south.  A dock with a fishing boat tethered to it is at the base of a cliff, just north of the small beach that slopes out from behind the grocery store.

The town beach provided a photo shoot yesterday, though not much of one.  He’s not as much of a fan of Mother Nature’s creatures as Delilah.  He is, however, satisfied he got enough pictures to maybe cover the cost of the trip.  Still… it wasn’t one of the places she’d go.  He thinks he got all her cameras on this island, though that one by the seals almost got by him.  It caught him by surprise.  On reflection, he figures it shouldn’t have. He wonders if there are more he may have missed.

Meanwhile, he hasn’t figured out where she’s staying.  If he can find that, he can destroy her equipment, then maybe she’d be forced to ask him for help and then he can get close to her. 

“You’re done,” Catie says as she applies the last of the tape.  “Try not to get it wet for a few days.  And stay away from the seals!”

“Thanks,” Dennis says absently before heading back to his room.  He decides to get a better look at that stone cottage he saw in the morning, it looks like the kind of place Delilah would choose to stay.  He throws some things in a backpack – a hammer, spray pain, the replacement for his trusty iron bar – and heads out again.  He’s hoping that Delilah is out for the day.

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 13 days left on timer

Delilah catches her breath, the familiar thrill of being toe to toe with Mother Nature’s creatures coursing through her.  They are on Calf of Eday and she is surrounded by birds.  Her hair is braided tightly and covered with a hat.  She’d had birds try to take strands of it before.  She is lying on the ground with two cameras in front of her, both on short tripods.  She has her notepad with her. 

The sound of the shutter is silent on the digital camera but the 35mm is giving the occasional mechanical click.  It’s not ruffling feathers though so she’s happy with it.  She is startled when Savannah’s quiet voice intrudes on her musings.

“How did you discover this place?”  Savannah puts a hand on Delilah’s arm.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s okay.  I’m usually here alone, Tom doesn’t like days like this.  I’m not used to have others around but you, Reaper and Ghost are so silent I forgot you were here.”

Savannah flashes a grin.  “We have had practice being still and quiet.” 

“To answer your question, I was sent here to photograph the burial grounds and the old salt works.”

Reaper leapt to his feet, startling a hundred birds into flight, each of them shrieking their annoyance at him.  “There’s a burial ground here?” he shouted through the din.

Delilah grabs her camera and starts photographing the swirling storm of cormorants, auks and kittiwakes.  She turns her camera on him so she can take pictures of the birds skimming the air over his head.  “It was excavated a hundred and seventy years ago, Reaper, there’s nothing left.  Sadly, it’s been so overrun with people that it’s no longer sacred.  Now it’s just a tourist site.  They say that no one has been quite sure whether it was a tomb or a home or both.  That’s why I was asked to take a look – I’ve been able to tell the difference before.”

He stands there a moment, breathing through his nose as he tries to get a handle on himself.  Delilah watches as he visibly relaxes – his shoulders come down, his fists unclench and his jaw unlocks – and takes pictures of the progression.  So great was his agitation and then relief that he doesn’t notice.  He sits down again and nods.  “Okay.   Okay.  That’s fine.  Are there any others?”

“No, this is the only one.”  Delilah smiles when he nods again and stretches out.

“Why you?  You’re a simple photographer aren’t you?”

Delilah gives Savannah a side-long glance at her question and resumes photographing the birds in flight.  “You researched me fully, I’m sure.  You should know that I have a Masters in both journalism and archeology.  I have an artist’s eye and the knowledge to back my finds up.”

Savannah grins.  “You’re right, I did know.  I forgot, that’s all.  This place is amazing.  It’s easy to forget why we’re here.”

With a grin, Delilah pats Savannah’s hand.  “I only want to do a couple more hours in this spot, then I want to move to the other side of the island.  I’ll show you the cairn – the tomb slash house – and the salt works.”

True to her word, Delilah stays in that spot exactly two hours.  She took hundreds of photos of fuzzy chicks in nests sleeping, being fed or just started to walk; more still of the adults in flight, diving into the sea, fighting with rivals, or loving on their mates.  Then she packed up and led them across the island to the slope facing the larger Eday Island.

There, a hill slopes gently toward the water.  A long, rectangular house was built into the hillside.  It had a small oval house built over the cairn.  The cairn itself was chambered and had had, as Delilah put it, “only two bodies, one human and one otter, in there when it was originally found.”

“The walls are a meter thick in some places.  The wind and sand have damaged a lot of it but it’s still worth a look.  The place was in use for at least a century.  It measures sixty-feet by twenty-seven feet with a six foot drop in the centre.  There are hallways that lead to other rooms, including the large chamber with stalls, maybe for animals?  We’ll never know now.”

She gestures to a low wall between the sea and the entrance.  “The wall here was probably a good eight feet tall, though all that’s really left is just over a foot now.  You can find a space in the main room that must have held a fireplace, there’s a hole in the roof for smoke.”  She pauses then says thoughtfully, “There are stories about ships running aground near here.  That’s what I’d like to really take pictures of.  I haven’t been able to get permission to search for ships though.  I need to find a backer first, I think.”

Savannah, Ghost and Reaper all stand there staring at her.  Delilah wipes her nose as her colour turns bright pink.  “What’s the matter?”

All three of them laugh.  Reaper wraps an arm around her shoulders and smiles.  “You are so lovely when you’re talking about your work.   You love it, yes?”

“Absolutely!  It is my passion, my life.”

“What about when you meet your soulmate?”  Ghosts asks.  “Do you think they will be understanding of all your travel?”

“They will have to be,” Delilah looks fierce.  “I’m not giving this up.  I get to see the world.  I bring beauty to people.  I offer different perspectives, I make people think.  I’m not quitting.”

Savannah smiles.  “Anyone who loves you will love that part of you too.  They won’t be able to help but do so.  I think it’s admirable.”

“Thank you.”  Delilah smiles at her and a small part of her mind wonders what it’d be like if her soulmate was Savannah.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

 

2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 13 days left on timer

Savannah smiles back, wondering the same thing.  She breaks the eye contact abruptly and looks at her watch.  “Are Josh and the others back yet?”  She had sent Josh and Peanut on a tour of the island to see what, if anything, they could see.  She’d forced Tom to go with Taco to find food and informed them both that if they didn’t come back with 35mm film, they would be on kitchen duty until the trip was over.  Cooking and cleaning.  

She sincerely hopes they’ll bring back the film.  The only thing Taco really knows how to cook is tacos.

“I don’t know, I haven’t heard.”  Ghost is the one who answers.

Just then, Savannah’s phone buzzes.  “Hey, Taco.  …What?  No.  …Ew.  No. ….Yes.  Okay.”  She taps the earpiece and shudders.  “He wanted to bring back haggis.  Claims you like it, Delilah.”

“I do.” Delilah laughs at the look on Savannah’s face.  “It’s an acquired taste.”

“You know what I don’t understand about acquired tastes?” Reaper asks.

“What’s that? Delilah asks as they make their way back to the boat.

“Why anyone would put disgusting food into their mouths over and over again just to be able to say they like it.”

Savannah finds that she adores Delilah’s giggles. 

“Because,” Delilah says, “some foods are worth it.  Like Brie cheese.”

“Oh,” Reaper waves a hand in dismissal.  “I liked the Brie at first bite.”

They get into the boat and sail for Eday.  Once there, Delilah says she wants to check on her cameras.

Savannah checks the time and vetoes the request.  “No, I’m sorry, it’s going to be dark soon and I want you indoors before then.”

Delilah considers arguing but she did hire Savannah to protect her and she knew going in that it would be Savannah in charge.  She lets it go and merely follows silently as they go back to the cottage.

Ghost steps through the door with Delilah behind him.  Immediately, he turns and shoves her out, back into Reaper’s arms.  “Someone’s been here,” he growls.

Reaper puts Delilah behind him as her temper turns her face red.  “Loup.”

“Take her to the safe house.  Now.”  Savannah pulls her weapon as Reaper grabs Delilah’s arm and tries to drag her back to the car.

Delilah kicks him in the shin, surprising him, and bolts for the cottage.

Reaper hops around on one foot, cussing.

Savannah is not surprised when Delilah bursts through the door.  She really kind of expected it.  She caught Delilah around the waist and held her to her.  “Don’t look.   The place has been trashed.  It’s a good thing you had your 35mm camera with you.  Ghost is checking the premises.”  She looks up as a very chagrined Reaper pokes his head around the door.  She raises a brow. 

“Sorry, Loup.  She surprised me.”

“It’s alright.  She’s a surprising woman.”  Savannah looked into Delilah’s eyes.  “I’m trying to protect you, okay?  You have to go with Reaper.  Now.”

The chagrined Reaper accepted custody of equally chagrined Delilah and took her away.  Savannah took a long breath and let it out slowly as she closed the door and surveyed the wreckage.  She touched her comm.  “Taco, what’s your ETA?”

“Thirty minutes, Loup.”

“You have twenty.”  She talks over his protests.  “Peanut, where are you and Josh?”

“Airport.  We’ll head back now.  We’re on foot. If Taco passes us he can pick us up. Otherwise, we’ll be there ASAP.” 

“Good.  All of you get back here now.”  Savannah touches the comm once more and cuts off any questions.

Ghost surveys the damage and swears.  “Whoever this was, it wasn’t Tom.”

“And he’s evil,” Reaper adds as he came out of Delilah’s room, a pillow in his hand.  The foam in the pillow is slashed to pieces.  A chunk falls off as he comes to a stop near the others.  “He’s torn up her room so thoroughly I don’t think there’s a single thing that’s salvageable.  Except her computer.  Oddly, he left that alone. The screen was open and the keys were dirty though.”

Reaper gives Savannah a look.  “There are…ah… sticky spots in her room.  On her shoes, the other pillow, the equipment.  I would suggest that it’s semen.”

Savannah rubs her face. It doesn’t matter how much she sees of the world, some people never fail to surprise her.  “So not only is he pissed off, for whatever reason, but he’s aroused by her.  Fantastic, we have a sexual predator and a stalker.”

“He’s never done anything like this before.  I wonder what set him off.”

“I don’t know,” Ghost’s voice rumbles as he thinks aloud.  “We may not know if he has because she hasn’t recognized the results of such an emission and therefore didn’t, couldn’t tell us about it.  I think maybe it’s because he’s final physically close to her.  Everything else has come in the mail or been a brief encounter in public.  He’s here on the island.  He know she is too, she’s the reason he’s here.”

“Well, isn’t that just shiny.”  Savannah growls in frustration.  “We need to figure out who this guy is.  Is any of our stuff touched?”

“I haven’t been in the other rooms yet,” Reaper says.  “All the doors were closed save hers.  It was standing wide open like an invitation.”

Savannah nods.  “Let’s go check them out and see what we can find.  Reaper, check Tom’s room, Ghost and I will do the others.”

The small group splits up and Savannah goes into the room she shares with Peanut.  It’s completely tossed.  It doesn’t look like anything is damaged.  It does, however, look like a small child had a tantrum.  She starts picking things up and looking them over.  The lock on her weapons case is still whole, as are the ones on both her tech case and Peanut’s, which is much larger.  Savannah has spare comms, her computer, a satellite phone and a smaller computer.  Peanut has her personal computer plus about three others with different software programs on them.

Ghost appears in the door.  “Nothing is amiss in our room.  Nothing is touched.”

“Our room has been tossed, as you can see.  Nothing seems to be damaged.  Our lockers are still intact, no tampering with the locks.  He must have been looking for Delilah’s things in here.  The other two rooms are decidedly masculine.”  Savannah nudges Ghost out of the doorway so she can enter the hall.  Reaper comes out of Tom’s room, looking disturbed. 

Savannah frowns.  “What’s wrong?”

“The room has been trashed.  Serious fury going on in there.  There were pictures of Delilah everywhere and they’re all torn to pieces.  Tom’s things are sliced to ribbons and his bed has obvious stab wounds all over it.”

Ghost lets out a long, low whistle.  “Wow.  This dude hates Tom.  I don’t like the guy but even I can see he has merit.”  He pauses.  “Sometimes.  He likes sports.  That’s okay.”

The three of them survey the damage in Tom’s room.  All of Delilah’s cases have been destroyed, all the equipment inside smashed to pieces.  Savannah has a sudden thought and darts out the door.  The two men find her standing over the wreckage of one of Delilah’s time lapse cameras.  She points at the other one.  “They’re both damaged.”

A car comes to a stop near them and Taco and Tom get out of it.  Tom spots the damage and snarls as he runs towards Savannah and the others.  “What the hell did you do?”

Savannah raises a brow as Ghost grabs Tom.  “Excuse me?  Remember why we’re here?”  Tom does the heavy breathing through his nose that Savannah has come to recognize as Tom getting a grip.  She waits until his nostrils stop flaring then speaks again.  “Someone has been here, been inside.  Do you remember all the places she put the time lapse cameras?

Tom nods.  “Yeah, I think so.”

“Good.  You will go with Taco to find them.”

“Loup, ton of perishables in the car.”  Taco jerks his thumb towards the car.

Savannah rubs her face.  “Fine, get them put away first.”

Just then, Peanut and Josh come jogging up and stop, hands on their knees to try and catch their breath.  “What…happened?” Peanut asks. 

“The stalker,” supplies Reaper.  “He did a number on the cottage.”

Peanut swears.  “What do you need, Loup?”

“Find him.  Go through her art work, the awards ceremonies, the gallery opens.  Find the people who are most often at these events.  See if she’s photographed anyone.”  Savannah knows Delilah doesn’t do portraits but she wanted all bases covered.  “Find her lectures, see if anyone stands out, someone who asks the most questions, keeps her attention on him.”

Peanut’s mouth had slowly opened throughout Savannah’s list of demands until it was almost hitting her chin.  “Loup! That will take hours, even with both of us working on it?”

“Better get to it then.”

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Two

 

2100, Dennis, timer dead

Dennis is the only pub on the island.  It’s near the airport, darkly panelled, with vid screens showing sports and news and one that seems dedicated to the weather.  He has his eyes on the one showing some football game but he’s not really paying attention. He’s thinking about the way he’d spent his afternoon.

The glory of the destruction, the thrill of the violence, still sings in his blood.  He’s so happy, he’s polite to the server when she comes over.

“Is there anything I can get you, son?”  The woman is older, she’s obviously been on the island a long while; her skin is weathered – wrinkled and leathered by sun and wind, her curly hair is permanently frizzy, hands are calloused.  She gives him a warm smile.

Still elated, he smiles back.  “I would like potato skins au gratin, the steak and kidney pie and a plate of chips.”  He pauses for a minute.  “And a pint of stout.”

“Would you like that all at once, hon?”

He considers.   “No, skins and stout first.”

“Alright then.  You enjoy that meal.  Chef is the best in the Orkneys.”

“Sure.”  Dennis has already dismissed her in his mind.  He smiles to himself as he replays the afternoon.

He’d skulked up to the cottage and was emboldened when no cars were in the drive.  He peered in the windows and spotted Delilah’s picture on a bedside table.  A growl erupted and he smashed his way through the window and hauled himself into the room.  He dropped the bag and grabbed the picture he saw.  He punched the front of the frame and broke the glass. 

After ripping the picture from the frame he crushed it in his fist.  “What is it?” he screams.  “What makes you better?”  He shredded the photo and stomped it under foot, grinding it under his heal.  Then he turned to the rest of the room.  There were other pictures of Delilah in the room, enough that part of him started to think that maybe he had competition. 

He finds the equipment cases and grabs his hammer.  The first swing of the hammer and subsequent explosion of sound – from the plastic cracking – inspired him to greater heights.  He demolished the cases and the equipment left in them. 

Dennis looks around the room, panting and pleased with himself.  As his eyes fall on the bed, images of Delilah and whomever this punk keeping pictures of her flashed through his head.  In his mind, Delilah was riding high above this guy, touching herself while she laughed at Dennis.  Then she had her mouth on the guy.  He had his mouth on her while she talked about all the ways she would defeat Dennis at the next competition.

Fury turned his face into a caricature of himself and he grabbed the knife.  He launched himself at the bed and the imaginary figures there.  He stabbed, stabbed, stabbed, imagining blood everywhere.  He grew more aroused with each strike.  He smashed all the picture frames and stabbed through Delilah’s face.  He gave himself a jolt when he stabbed the knife through an electronic frame. 

Finally, reason slipped in through the haze.  There had to be a room Delilah stayed in, even if it was only for appearances.  Where was her stuff?

He headed into the hallway and opened the first door he saw.  A room with male stuff.  It was severely masculine without a hint of Delilah anywhere.  He closed the door again.

Dennis found the washroom behind the next one.

Then he found a room full of women’s clothing.  At first, he thought it might be Delilah’s and started tossing it but then he realized some of the clothing was much too small for her. 

Finally, Dennis reached the door at the end of the hallway.  He opened it up to a room that was bigger than his at the hovel of a B&B that stupid computer found him.  He launched himself into the room and stabbed the pillow.  Immediately full of remorse, he picked up the same pillow and pressed it to his face.  He inhaled deeply and groaned with pleasure.  He put the pillow back down and opened his pants.

It didn’t take long for the pleasure to overtake him.  He giggled.  “Uh oh, look what I did to your pillow, D.D.!  You won’t like that much.”

His mood shifts again, quicksilver and unpredictable.  “Well, I don’t give a fuck you bitch!  You’ve taken all my awards from me!”  He kicked the pillow then hunted it and fell to his knees to stab, stab, stab it.  He left it pinned to the floor with the knife and set about to systematically destroy every single thing she had with her.

Now, he sips the stout the waitress had dropped off while he was reminiscing, and smiles.  He is a happy person.  For now. 

He is partway through his pie and chips when the door opens again and a large group blows into the pub.  The group is subdued and yet somehow manage to be loud.  He finally figures out that it’s because at least three of them are talking at once to the redhead in the middle of them all.  He growls quietly, his good mood ruined, and hunches over his food, one eye on the group. He hopes they don’t come too close to him.  They settle several tables away, after pulling a couple of them together, and he relaxes fractionally.

Then he hears someone say the name Delilah.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-three

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 13 days left on timer

Delilah allows herself, and the equipment they’d had with them, to be bundled into the car by Reaper but sits there and fumes he zips away from the cottage.

Reaper gives her a sidelong glance as he speeds along the slightly cracked and weather-beaten road.  “What’s up, Delilah?”  He waits for a long moment before deciding that she’s not going to respond.  It hurts his ear when she explodes two seconds later.

“What’s up?!  What’s up?!  I just had my equipment destroyed!  I imagine the bastard destroyed everything I own!”  She twists in her seat and lays an accusing glare on him.  “You guys said I would be safe.  She promised.

“I know, Chérie.  I do not know how he found us.  We kept everything a secret.”  He pats her thigh.  “We did our best.”

“It’s a small island,” she says, only very slightly mollified.  “I suppose he was bound to find us sooner or later.  I meant how did he find out I was coming here?”  She clutches her 35mm to her chest.  “Oh Gods.  What if I’d been there when he showed up?”

“Then we would have caught him.  You would never have been left alone there.  And you won’t be alone until we catch the asshole.”   Reaper is pissed.  He’s trying to figure out what they did wrong but he just can’t see it.  They did everything by the book.  That thought triggers another one and he slaps the steering wheel with excitement, scaring Delilah into a little scream.

“Reaper!  You scared me to death.”

“My apologies, Delilah.  I was thinking and my conclusion gave me a little bit of excitement.  Oh look, there’s a pub.  Small but it will do.  We will go there later to talk, the whole group.”  Reaper points out the pub as they drive by it in the tiny town of Eday.  He stops at a house just on the outskirts of the village.  “Wait in the car.”

Delilah watches as he gets out and locks the door.  She lapses into her own thoughts as he does a perimeter check.  What is it about her that is making this guy want to hurt her.  She tries to remember conversations with recent clients, friends, people she’s talked to at the parties Betty forces her to go to.  She can’t think of a single thing she’s done wrong. She’s not perfect but she treats people with courtesy and honesty.

It’s an ex-boyfriend, maybe?  Her honesty there tends to lean towards brutal.  If they’re dicks, she tells them so.  If they’re too fey, she tells them so.  If they don’t know where a clitoris is, she tells them exactly how to find it. 

She nods.  That must be it.  She’ll make a list and –

She screams again as Reaper knocks on the window beside her.  She glares daggers at him as he unlocks the door and reaches to help her out.  She ignores his hand and, once she’s standing, plants her own hands on her hips and scowls at him.  “Are you trying to kill me?  That’s two heart attacks since we left the cottage!”

Reaper has the grace to look chagrined.  “You looked deep in thought. I figured knocking on the window would be better than opening the door.”

“You got that right,” she says as she softens both her look and her stance.  “I’d probably have punched you in the face.”

He gives her an engaging grin.  “And I’d have deserved it.”  He holds out his arm for her hand in order to escort him to the house, is pleased when she slips her hand into the crook of his elbow.  “The house is safe.  We did think to back up some of your equipment but we couldn’t find everything on the list your assistant gave us.”

Delilah’s face lights up.  “You did?  Oh that’s wonderful!  Now I’ll only be behind a couple of days.”  She rushes in the door to look at the stack of hard cases. 

Reaper watches her document everything that’s there.  She’s writing everything down in the little notebook she carries everywhere with her.  At one point, he strolls over and looks at the notepad.  He can’t make heads or tails of it all.  Seems to be in some form of shorthand.  “How on earth do you read this?”

“Hmm?”  Delilah gives him a distracted look as her brain tries to shift gears and answer him.  “Oh, it’s easy. It’s my shorthand.  Can you ask Savannah what was damaged?”

“No, sorry.  Last time I tried talking to her I got cut off.  They’re busy looking for evidence and cleaning things up.  Many things will have to be replaced based on the few words she did say.”

Delilah nods.  “From Ghost’s reaction, I’m not surprised.  And the things here are good.  The ones you couldn’t find are custom made.”  She groans and rubs her face.  “Replacing all that is going to cost me.”

“Our insurance will pay for a great deal of it.”  Reaper moves through the house to see if there’s anything to eat.  Its floorplan is smaller than the cottage and its two storeys, with the bedrooms and a shared bath upstairs.  He can hear her from the kitchen. 

“Why did you purchase all this ahead of time?”

“Loup likes to be prepared.  She researches thoroughly and she figured you’re the type not to stop work no matter what.”  His voice implies that Savannah figured out, before their first meeting, just how stubborn she can be.

Delilah blushes.  “Well, she was right and I’m thankful for it.”  She hears a car pull up outside and she darts to Reaper’s side, furious that she’s so scared. 

He takes her hand and leads her to a corner away from the door and windows.  “Stay put.  It’s probably just Loup and the crew but I’ll check.”  He does just that and sees that he’s right.  “See, what’d I tell you.  You’re safer than ever now.  I see Loup, Peanut, Ghost, Josh and Tom.”

Delilah nods and comes forward to stand at his side.  “Good.  Okay.”  Only he hears her mutter under her breath, “I’m not sure Tom makes me feel safer.”  She pounces Savannah as soon as she comes through the door.  “Well?  Was anything salvageable?”

June 50 – Chapters 13-18

Good Thursday morning!

I realized I haven’t shared with you in a while and there are only 6 days left in the month.  It’s time to do a little daily sharing I think!  Let’s start with Chapter 13.  

We left off with Delilah being bundled into a car while Savannah tries to figure out who the plane saboteur and stalker is.  We pick up with Dennis.

Enjoy your day!

Muah!  

P.S.  Feel free to comment below with thoughts about the story so far.  It is, as I’ve said, a first for me to write in first person. I’d like to know what you think.

Chapter Thirteen

 

2100, Dennis, timer dead

The plane finally lands and people file through to the terminal.  There is a pair of people with clipboards just outside the gate.  They’re asking people things as they come into the terminal proper.  Dennis watches as one of them walks away with a tall man. Dennis dodges around the other one and grabs his luggage. 

He finds his rental car and sits in it for a moment after turning it on.  “Siri.”

“Yes, Mr. Harris?”  The computer comes to life. 

“How do I get here from Guith?”

“Where in Guith would you like to go?”

Dennis glowers at the car’s dash.  “How the hell would I know?  I’ve never been there before.”

“Are you staying overnight?”

“Yes.” His voice is grumpy.

“There really isn’t a lot in Guith, it’s a really more a blip than a town.  Are you sure you want to go there?”

Dennis stares at the small computer screen.  “What the fuck.  Just find me a hotel.”

There’s a pause and then the voice says, “Exit the lot, turn north on B9083.”  The car starts with a hum and the doors lock.

A few minutes later, he ends up in Eday.  “What the hell, Siri!  This isn’t Guith.”

“Guith is only two minutes to the west.  There is a hotel here.”  The computer guides him to a small bed-and-breakfast and stops the car before he car.  “I have called the proprietor here and there is a room available.”  The computer shuts down and the door locks release.

Dennis takes a moment to swear at the computer then he gets out of the car and trudges towards the door. 

It swings open before he can lift a hand to knock and an older man peers out at him.  “Dennis Harris, are ye not?”

“I am.  Siri said you have a room.”

“We do, though we’ll be taking payment up front.  It being short notice and all.”

Dennis scowls but hands over his card once the man has led him in.  The machine is old, slow and has Dennis’s back up by the time the old man handed his card back.  “Yer full up for two days.  If ya leave before, there are no refunds.  I’m Colin, wife is Catie, she’ll be seein’ to your room.  I’ll be cooking and doing the heavy work.  The washroom is shared, down to the end of the hall.  There is one other guest here, you’ll be leaving her alone.  She’s a writer and wouldn’t take kindly to being pestered by a man looking to dip his wick.”

“Now see here, I have no intention –”

“Intention or no, rules be the same.”  Colin leads the way back out to Dennis’s car, ignoring the spluttered arguments.  “Let’s get your things and get you settled.”

Dennis doesn’t know quite what to say so he just shuts up and hauls his suitcase and equipment cases out of the car.

“Oh! You’re a photog then, are ya?”  Catie comes out of another room to meet their guest.

“Yes, I’m a photographer.” Dennis nods as he looks her over.  As with Colin, she looks like she’s led a hard working life but one of joy. 

“I’d imagine you’re wanting packed lunches then.  We can do that for you.  Breakfast is at 6:30 and tea is at the same, twelve hours later.  Supper is at nine.”  Catie opens the door to Dennis’s room and stands aside as the pair of men enter it and set his things on the bed.  She hands over the old-fashioned key and Dennis looks at it with some puzzlement.  It’s not like the locks he’s used to – electronic locks with cards.

Catie grins and takes the key back.  “Come, I’ll show you.”  She shows him the cylinder with the hole in it.  She inserts the key and turns it.  Another cylinder popped out the side.  “It goes into a hole in the door frame and locks the door.”  She shows him the inside of the door and twists the switch on the matching cylinder.  The one in the edge of the door pops back inside.  “Got it?”

Dennis nods.  He thinks the whole thing is stupid but if the door locks, it locks.  He accepts the key and not-so-politely gets them out the door. 

With a growl, he digs through his suitcase to find his laptop.  He drops into a chair and starts it up.  When Delilah’s face comes on the screen an evil smile curves his lips and his hand goes to the buckle on his pants. 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Delilah is seriously happy to see the outside of that car, luxurious though it was.  Tom’s sulking made things unbearably tense and suffocating.  She stands there and stretches her back out.  She bends back with her hands on her lower back then straight up, reaching for the sky before bending forward to touch her toes.  She lets the breaths required cleanse her of the tension and is able to look around with a smile. 

The driveway sweeps into a curve only a few meters away from a cliff’s edge.  Delilah decides she’s going to explore the cliff at her first opportunity. Her photographer’s eye is already calculating the possible images, including the probability of a time lapse sunset video.  She decides she’ll set that up as soon as possible, so she can see what happens as the sun goes down. 

The cliffs sort of meander north up the coast from them before curving back in on itself to come to a point before heading north once more.  She takes a short walk to look east behind the west facing cottage and she swears that with a good telephoto lens she’ll be able to see the other side of the island.  Suddenly, she can’t wait to set up her cameras.

The cottage is a long, low crofters house done in stone with a tin-look roof.  It has large windows where the main rooms are then a series of smaller windows that march up the length of it.  It even has a chimney and Delilah has a moment to imagine smoke curling from it.  The house is clearly more than 200 years old.  Delilah is delighted with it.  “This is fantastic!”

Peanut, a petite woman with an elfin face and blonde hair that’s cut in a bob that falls just below her ear, pauses beside Delilah and grins.  “This is great!  How old is it?”

“The owners said it was built in…um… 1857.  They said it is thoroughly modernized inside, and has been throughout the last couple centuries, but the family has carefully maintained the outside to be as original as possible.  I think some of the stones are manufactured now but there is still a great deal of original material here.”   Her eyes travel over the building to see if she can see the difference and her mind starts planning a photo shoot and brochure for Scotland Tourism. 

Ghost comes up to them, hands and shoulders loaded with equipment.  “I’m not sure I’ll fit through the door.”

Delilah laughs, a soft musical sound, as Tom joins them.  “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”  She pulls out the key card that had been messengered to her.  She swipes it through and watches as a light turns green.  She looks startled as a bit of the wall pushes out then up and reveals a keypad with a small screen attached. 

Welcome to Windswept Cottage.  Please enter your name then press OKAY.

Delilah types in her name and presses the small green button.

Hello Delilah. As agreed, your stay is 10 days long. Your passcode for entering the cottage is 195673.  Please remember it.  The keycard will only work once more.  For your safety, do not give out the code to non-residents.  Enjoy your stay.

There is a faint buzz and old looking wooden door swings open.  Peanut is the first through the door while Ghost makes Delilah and Tom wait.

“Oh for the love of Jupiter,” Tom says with exasperation.  “No one knows we’re here!”

Ghost stares down at the man.  Tom is six feet, two inches tall, but Ghost has several inches on him and is the only one who has managed to make Tom ever feel small.  “We still need to cut your hair.”

Tom shuts up but fury burns in his eyes.  He moves away a little bit. 

“Have patience, Tom, please,” Delilah says.  “You know that the stalker is escalating.  I don’t want to see you hurt.”

Tom bristles briefly at the thought of the five-foot-six woman protecting him but he looks into her eyes and softens at the care he sees there.  Immediately, a dim corner of his mind equates it with love, rather than the friendship it is.  It makes him smile at her and pat her shoulder.  “As you wish, Lily.”

Only Ghost notices that Delilah stiffens when Tom calls her by her intimate nickname but he doesn’t say anything.  He merely shifts slightly so that he’s between them.  He’s starting to get a snaky feeling about Tom.

Peanut comes to the door.  “It’s all clear, come on in.  Delilah, come with me.” 

Delilah smiles up at Ghost as he gestures her in then shifts her attention to the smaller woman.  “Sure thing.”  She hoists her suitcase over the threshold and follows her in

Peanut leads her through the house, down the dim hallway that is lit only by a window placed in the middle of it, to the door stuck in the end wall.  Delilah looks back down the hallway and counts the doors, tries to line that up with the windows she saw from the outside then cocks her head curiously.  “What room is this?”

“This is a master suite.  It takes up the last two windows in the front of the house and juts out behind.”  She opens the door and precedes Delilah into the room. 

Light spills in from the windows lighting up a small table covered in a white lace cloth and two wing chairs side by side.  On the table is a vase of flowers and a small lamp Delilah is sure must be a replica of a Tiffany’s reading lamp.  The chairs are covered in a print with large flowers on it.  That print is echoed in the soft deep rug under the furniture.  The room’s walls are a subtle green taken from the rug.  A large armoire, smaller dressing table with a delicate chair take up most of one wall with a vid screen dominating the space between them.  The screen is lazily scrolling between Monet prints, leaving each one up for thirty seconds before moving on. 

On the wall opposite is a large, wide bed.  A heavy, white duvet and a mountain of pillows covers it.  On the bed is a tablet.  Delilah picks that up but follows Peanut as the woman opens another the door on the fourth wall.  Peanut gestures for Delilah to proceed her. 

A gasp of pleasure and awe explodes from Delilah and Peanut grins.  “Right?  I am envious of you.  This is amazing.”  Peanut wandered around the spacious room, trailing her fingers over the antique marble countertop before going to sit on the wide ledge around the tub. 

“I can’t believe there’s a tub!  I haven’t seen one since I visited my grandparents as a child.  Isn’t there some law against it?”

Peanut shakes her head.  “There aren’t enough renters for the cottage to fall under that law.  Even the owners don’t visit enough.  Feel free to enjoy.”

“First chance I get,” Delilah says with feeling.

They leave the room and Peanut gives everyone a tour of the cottage before Delilah can unpack and then sit down with the tablet.  She chooses the wing chair in her room, needing the silence and solitude for a little bit.  On the tablet is a letter from the owners.  It details the little island, where everything is, reminds Delilah of the conversation with the owners about the weather, and offers a couple of locations for watching the wildlife. 

Delilah takes notes about everything on her PDA then stands up and shifts the chair around so she can watch the sea.  She curls into the chair, leans her head against the wing of the chair and lets her mind wander.

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Savannah, standing with Taco, watches the first of the two men as Reaper questions him.  She listens to the conversation from behind an old two-way mirror.  When she’d first seen the rooms security had given her to do the interrogations, Savannah had been surprised at the archaic set up.  Then she’d been pleased.  She would much rather watch a person and listen to them this way than through a computer. 

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, man!” The guy, whose name is Robby, waves his hands around in agitation.  He is a big man, tattoos are scattered over his forearms, he’s bald with a large beard. He’s barrel chested and somewhat intimidating in size.  He’s also a veterinarian, asked for by the Queen.  Really, Savannah can’t imagine it being him but she lets the interview proceed.  

Reaper watches him calmly.  “Where have you been recently?  Been to Canmerico, have you?”

“Bloody hell!  Why would I go there?”  Robby looks genuinely confused.

“Have friends there?”

“Of course I do. Doesn’t everyone?”

“Friends who would beat up a woman for you?”

Robby’s jaw drops.  “Who the hell would want to beat up a woman?  Women, they’re glorious creatures given to us men by the Gods.  They smell sweet, taste sweeter and are a delight to touch.  Oh, the sounds they make…”

Savannah shakes her head and speaks into the mic connected to a speaker in Reaper’s ear.  “He’s not the one.  Release him.”

Reaper stands up and holds out his hand.  “Sorry to keep you, Robby.  It’s clear you’re not the man we’re looking for.”

Robby stands and shakes Reaper’s hand, slaps him on the shoulder.  “No harm down.”  He frowns.  “Yer looking for a man who’d beat up a woman?”

“Yes.  He’s been stalking her for some time.”

“She do anything?”

“Nah, man.  She’s a photographer, takes beautiful pictures of the world.  She can take a tragic event and make you feel like you are there, make you feel the pain and want to go and help the people.  She can take the past and immerse you in it with a single click of the shutter.  And she can make a picture of a leaf make you want to weep for the beauty of it.”  Reaper smiles. He is fond of Delilah’s work.  His deep dark secret is an appreciation of the arts and when he’d found out they were taking this case as a favour for a friend of Savannah’s, he’d looked up Delilah’s work.  And ended up immersed in it.

“Wow.  What’s her name?  Now I want to look her up.”

“D.D.  Just the initials.”

“Oh!  I’ve seen some of her work.  She is amazing.”  Robby steps out the door, followed by Reaper.  “I hope you find the bastard.”

“Me too,” Savannah mutters from behind the glass.  She’s shocked at Reaper’s description of Delilah’s work.  She knew he liked art, hard not to know after spending so much time with someone, but she had no idea it ran that deep.  She turns to him as he comes into the room, raises one brow.

Reaper blushes.  “Oh come on.  Let it go.”

“Oh, I don’t know.  The idea of you weeping at a picture of a leaf is pretty compelling.  It just needs to be shared.”  Savannah grins as Reaper groans and Taco laughs.  “Who is the other guy, Taco?”

“Alex Rodreguiz.  He’s here on a work visa, studying erosion.  He did have a computer with a folder of a number of Delilah’s photographs on the desktop.”

Savannah frowns.  “I’ll take this one.  Where’s his computer?”

Taco opens a laptop and his fingers fly over it for a moment.  “Here,” he snaps it shut and gives it to Savannah.  “It’s open to the folder of her work.  Just open it up, I’ve turned off the sleep when the lid closes thing.”

Savannah takes it and nods. The room they’re in is in between two interrogation rooms.  She exits the room and goes into the other.  She sets the laptop down on the table and pulls out the chair.  “Please, have a seat, Mr. Rodrequiz.”

“What is this about?”  He frowns at the blonde woman but does as she asks, takes a seat.  Then he notices the laptop. “Hey!  That’s mine!  What are you doing with it?”

“That’s what I want to ask you about, Alex.  May I call you Alex?”  At his shrug, she continues, laying a hand on the laptop as he reaches for it.  She’s satisfied when he lowers his hands to the table, looking confused.  “What are you doing here in the Orkneys?”

Alex frowns.  “A piece of the cliffs has just fallen into the sea near Shapsinay.  I’m here to find out why.”

Savannah nods.  “Are you familiar with the work of Delilah DuMarchand?”

The frown deepens.  “No, who is she?”

With a flick of her wrist, Savannah opens the laptop.  She opens a photo then turns it so the screen faces him and taps on the screen to flip between pictures.  “This is Delilah DuMarchand.  Otherwise known as D.D.”

Alex looks excited.  “Oh yeah, I love their work.  Her work.  No one knows anything about her though.”  A strange look crosses his face.  “Wait, does she do archeological work too?”  At Savannah’s nod he continues.  “I use her work sometimes in mine.  I thought the last name rang a bell.”

“So you do know her.”  Savannah pins her blue eyes on the man with a frown.

“No, I know her work.  I had no idea those were the same person.”  He looks more critically at the work.  “Should’ve made the connection though.  The style is almost the same.”  His voice drifts off as he considers. 

Savannah snaps the laptop shut, startling Alex.  “Ms. DuMarchand has been assaulted, had property damaged and is being watched.  Do you know anything about that?”  She watches his face closely, noting the changes in his body language and the way his eyes widen with shock. 

“Who the hell would do that?  Why?”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out, Alex.”  Savannah leans back in her chair, linking her hands together.

“Wait, you think it’s me?”

“You do have a considerable amount of her work here.”

Anger crackles in his eyes but he doesn’t move, doesn’t even curl his fingers into fists.  “I can assure you, Officer, that I have nothing to do with it.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for this woman’s work.  I didn’t even know D.D. was a woman.  I use her work as a guideline.  Her images of mudslides and the aftermath of earthquakes help me trace it backward so I can try to find the cause.  I’m trying to stop the planet from dumping all its land into the sea and it is an exhausting full-time job.”

Savannah notes how uncomfortably the anger sits on him.  She watches as he twitches, trying to relieve the tension in his shoulders.  Taco whispers in her ear and she leans forward.  “Is it true that you have contacted her office.”

“Absolutely.  I have tried often to see if she will work with me.  I could use her skills.  In fact, I could use them on this job.  I would assume she’s in the Orkneys too, if you’re here.  Do you think she’d… Never mind,” he said.  “It looks like you’re dealing with trouble, she doesn’t need me pestering her for help.”

Savannah stands, her mind made up.  She pushes the laptop across the table and holds out her hand.  “Sorry to have troubled you, Mr. Rodreguiz.  Try to find some time to enjoy your stay on the islands.  I’ve been here before, they’re quite lovely.”

Alex rises and shakes Savannah’s hand.  “I hope you catch whoever is doing this to her.  Judging by her work, she is a unique person and a lovely one.  Only a person with a pure soul could capture beauty in agony.”

“Thank you, we are doing our best.”  Savannah opens the door for him and watches him leave as Reaper and Taco enter the hallway.

“Strike two,” Reaper says.  “Now what?”

Savannah sighs.  “Now we head to Guith.”

Taco nods.  “We have a chopper on standby.  The pilot is just awaiting word.”

“Give it, let’s go.”

It doesn’t take long for them to get to Eday airport and only about five minutes after that to drive to the cottage. 

Reaper gives a low whistle of appreciation.  “Wow. This is something else.”

Savannah shrugs.  “It’s an old stone building.”

Reaper grins as Taco heads inside.  “I bet Delilah loves it.”  He bumps his shoulder against hers and follows Taco inside.

She takes another look at the cottage and tries to envision it the way she thinks Delilah might.  It gives her a small amount of appreciation for the building and surroundings.  She does love the sea.  She takes a moment to watch it then heads inside.  The entire house smells like some sort of stew and her mouth waters.  Business first, she thinks as she looks for her crew.

“Where is she?” Savannah asks Ghost.  All but Delila

“Peanut left her in her rooms, at the end of the hall.”  He points over his shoulder with his thumb.

Savannah nods and heads down the hallway.  She taps lightly on the door.  When there’s no answer she calls Delilah’s name.  After a moment, when it’s still silent, she eases the door open, prepared for anything.

Or so she thought.  She wasn’t prepared to see Delilah sound asleep in the chair by the window.  Delilah looks young and vulnerable and more at peace than Savannah’s seen her yet.  The worry lines Savannah thought might be permanent are smoothed out.  Something in Savannah flares up and fills her with a need for this troubled woman.  It’s gone again almost as quickly as it appeared and Savannah ignores it.

“Delilah.”  Savannah touches Delilah’s shoulder.

Delilah wakes with a jerk and a gasp, arm swinging to hit the person who touched her.

Savannah stops the swing gently and crouches down.  “It’s just me, Savannah, it’s okay.  She watches as the sleep leaves Delilah’s eyes and the woman relaxes. 

Delilah gives her a sleepy smile as her head falls back against the chair.  “Oh Savannah, thank the Gods.  I was having the oddest dream…”   She breaks off and sits up abruptly as her surroundings click in.  “Never mind.  Is that food I smell? What’s going on?  Did you find him?”

“Come on, there’s food in the kitchen.  I’ll tell everyone at once.”

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

2100, Dennis, timer dead

Dennis stares at a map of the island.  It’s actually paper, though it’s been laminated.  He tries to figure out where that woman will set up her cameras.  He stares at it and marks a few coves and likely spots for cameras on the island.  Then he turns his attention to the other small islands that make up Eday Islands.  He feels certain she’ll find a way onto the Calf of Eday, a small island on the north end of the larger Eday.  It’s what he would do, there are thirty-two species of breeding bird there, several of whom are endangered. 

He turns his attention to Fara.  There are birds, sheep and grey seals there.  He’s not sure she’d be interested in that but there are beaches there.  He knows she’s doing the shoot for the tourism board so she might.  Dennis rubs the top of his head as confusion sets in for a moment.  He wonders what he’s doing there as his eyes go blank.  Then he sees his camera case and he remembers.  He picks up the map and tries to tear it in two.

Thankfully, the lamination protects the old map and the inability to truly damage it breaks the moment of furious insanity. Dennis calms himself and smoothes the map out again on the bed.  He decides to give that woman a day to set her equipment up.  He’s going to give her time to think she’s escaped. 

Then he’ll strike.

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Delilah sits at the table and eats the stew, giggling at the stories Ghost is telling about Savanah. 

“…and then she tumbled backwards.  None of us was close enough to catch her.  She fell off the wall and landed in the enormous pile of manure on the other side.”  Ghost grins as a peal of laughter rings out, lighting Delilah up from the inside.  “I swear she stank for a month.

“Oui!  There was no amount of scrubbing that could get the stench off our fearless leader.”  Reaper leans closer to Delilah and stage whispers, “There was so much of it that I swear it filled her from the inside and turned her eyes and hair brown.”

Savannah mutters under her breath, “Yeah and they called me Captain Underpants for that entire month too.”

Delilah almost chokes on the drink she’d made the mistake of sipping as she listened.  Peanut pounds her on the back as she struggles to catch her breath. “What?” her voice is rough.  “Why?”

“Because, Chérie, we had to force her to strip down to her drawers before we could get close enough to help her get cleaned off.”  Reaper grins.  “She wears some nice undergarments under that stiff, starched uniform.”

Savannah turns red as everyone turns an appraising eye on her.  “Oh knock it off!  I’m sure they don’t want to hear any more stories.”

Delilah reaches over and gives Savannah’s hand a commiserating pat. “I’m sure Betty and Tom could tell stories about me too.  I tend to be an absentminded professor type.”

All eyes turn to Tom.  He just scowls back. 

Delilah looks embarrassed but simply picks up her dishes and drops them into the sonic dishwasher.  The others follow suits as she heads back to her room to get her large tablet.  She brings it out to the main room and settles on to the couch.  She keys up the map program and looks at the map of Eday. 

Savannah passes through the room and pauses when Delilah calls her name.  “Yes?”

“I’d like to get a start shortly.  These are the places I’m considering.  I’ll need to take the vehicle that’s parked in the garage a little up the road there.”  Delilah breaks off as Savannah holds up a hand.

“There’s a vehicle in another building?”  Savannah calls to Josh to bring her a tablet. 

He brings a small one as Delilah nods, rises.  She heads out the front door and turns north with Savannah following.  She moves around the end of the building and points out a dirt track that could hardly be called a road.  There’s a rickety looking building a few minutes walk away.  “There is a Jeep in there.  It’s all wheel drive and will take me – us,” she corrected, “wherever I need to go.”  She goes back inside and waits while Savannah sends Josh to check out the building and the car.   “I’ll be hiring a boat from these people here,” she touches the map. 

“They’re about a four minute drive south, because you have to follow the roads.  Or two minutes on foot along the coastline.  They will take me to Fara.”  She takes a breath.  “I will set up a camera just on the edge there,” she gestures out the window.  “I think the sunset will be spectacular.   I will also point one north,” she decides right then and there, “and see if I can catch the northern lights.” 

She shifts the map over and points at a small village the northeastern edge of the island.  “The Calf of Eday is across from here.  Alicia – the cottage owner – assures me that I’ll be able to get a boat there too.  I want to go over to the island to photograph the ruins and see if I can capture the birds.  I’ll be setting up cameras there but I want to actively photograph.”

Savannah blinks a little but she’s done the same thing to her own troops, thrown a ton of information at them all at once.  “Can you mark everything on the map and send me a copy?”

“Sure.”  She opens the information sharing app and waits as Savannah taps her phone on the tablet.  Savannah’s tech appears immediately in the form of a folder Delilah can transfer the map into.  “I plan on beginning to work immediately.”

“Alright.” Savannah watches Delilah’s fingers dance over the touchscreen and feels a quiver in her lower belly.  “What’s involved in what you do?”

“For the long term cameras, the ones that will be shooting continuously over several hours, we will anchor them into the group and set protective cases around them.”  She doesn’t mention that a couple of them will rotate, each frame will have the global position, time and date marked on it.    “For actively shooting the wildlife, I need to become part of the scenery, get them used to me being there.  That’s long hours of sitting around and slow movements,” Delilah warns.

Savannah smiles, thinking of the black ops work she does.  “That’s not a problem.  We are quite adept at becoming part of the scenery.”

Delilah nods as she sends the map and listens to the corresponding beep from Savannah’s tech.  She waits a moment while Savannah reviews the map then turns away when the other woman nods.  “Tom!” 

Tom appears in a second or so, as if he’d been just around the corner.  “Yes, Delilah?”

Savannah shakes her head.  “You know, Tom, if you’re going to eavesdrop, at least make it look like you were somewhere else when the person you’re spying on calls your name.”

Tom flushes a bright red.  “I was coming here anyway.”

“Uh huh.”  Savannah leaves the room after glancing at Delilah to see how she’s taking Tom’s encroachment on her privacy.  Seeing that the woman is exasperated but tolerant, she leaves to go talk to her team.

“I need two of the time lapse cameras, their housings and a couple anchors to set up outside here.  We’ll be taking a walk today along the coast, north I think, and we’ll need the 300 mm Nikon.”  She pauses to take a breath and consult her notes.

Tom interrupts.  “The D5300?”

“Yes.  Make sure you have at least three extra cards.  A spare battery and the rain gear.  I also want the polarized filters.  And the hoods.”  The filter helps reduce the most impactful of the sun’s rays by diffusing or removing it altogether.  It will help remove reflections on water, increase the saturation of colours and reduce glare and contrast.  The lens hood prevents those hexagonal spots from appearing in a photo when the sun is overhead.  Shading the camera lens reduces flare and, again, increases the colour saturation.  She stares at Tom.  “Why aren’t you taking notes?”

“I’ll remember.”

“Last time you said that I ran out of power and there was no extra battery.”  She goes back to her notes.  “Tripod.  And I want a roll of the 35mm.”

Tom looks at her in surprise.  “Are you sure?”  It was ridiculously expensive to develop that type of film.  Delilah has her own dark room but the chemicals are rare.  She doesn’t do the type of work often and Tom wonders what has inspired her this time.

“Of course I’m sure.”  She turns away to get ready, muttering to herself.  “Notebook, I need to bring my notebook.”  Her greatest indulgence is the use of paper notebooks and ink pens.  She’s careful to use every line, both sides of every sheet.  She loves the – to her – romance of putting ink to paper.  She tried pencil but, while pencil does better if the paper gets wet, it doesn’t last as long as ink and it fades and blurs if the pages rub together a lot.

She passes Peanut in the hall, still muttering over her notes about subjects and locations, and Peanut follows her to the door of her room.  Delilah jumps with a small scream when Peanut pokes her in the back.  She whips around, tablet pressed to her chest.  “Oh my Gods!  You scared eight years off my life!”

Peanut pauses in what she was about to say and tilts her head.  “Eight?  Why not ten or five?”

Delilah shrugs with a little laugh.  “I don’t know.  Eight just seems right.”

“Oooohkay…”  Peanut grins at her.  “You’re a weird one.  I like it.  I have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

“Is it okay if we go inside?”  Peanut gestures to Delilah’s room.

“Sure.”  She turns and leads the way in, watches Peanut close the door.

Peanut takes a breath.  “Is Tom always so angry?”

“It’s gotten worse over the last couple of years, why?”

“Do you know what’s on his timer?”

Delilah shakes her head.  “Do you like him?”

Peanut turns her wrist over.  Reaper isn’t the only one whose timer is a short time away.  “I only have a week or so left.  I feel a weird pull toward him.  I was wondering if that was why.”

Delilah smiles.  “I’m sorry, I wish I knew.  Frankly,” she sighs, “I wish his timer would come up.  Maybe he’d stop…” she breaks off, chewing her lip in thought.

“Stop what?”

“He’s obsessing.  I wondered if it could be him but some of the things that happened aren’t possible for him to do.  And I don’t think he could hire anyone.  I pay him as well as I can but he spends a lot of it almost as soon as he gets it.”

Peanut nods.  “Do you mind if I call in Loup?”

“No, that’s fine.”

Peanut lifts her radio to her mouth.  “Hey Loup!  As the only other woman here, do you think you could come help me convince the photog she’s got more talent than that guy…whatshisname Dennis Harris?”

Savannah’s voice crackles.  “On my way.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Savannah immediately knows something’s up and she goes on alert.  She passes a quiet hand signal to Reaper who, in turn, goes to find the others.  She heads down the hall and knocks on the door.  She slips in after Peanut opens it.   She looks around the room and sees nothing amiss.  “What’s up?”

“Delilah here says that Tom has been obsessing.   She doesn’t think he could have done anything like what’s been happening but she’s not sure.”

“We looked into him pretty closely, Delilah.”  Savannah moves closer to the other woman and puts her hand on her shoulder.  “He’s not responsible for any of the events in the last few months.”

“You’re sure?”  Delilah looks up into Savannah’s green eyes, seeking reassurance.  She’s trusted Tom with her life on more than one occasion; she would had to think it was him behind everything.

Savannah nods.  “We would have arrested him already if it were.”

“Thanks.  It would have crushed me if it was him.”

“You’re stronger than that.” Savannah’s hand leaves Delilah’s shoulder but she lets her fingers stroke down the other woman’s arm.  Neither of them are truly aware of the movement.

“Thanks, again.”  Delilah smiles at Savannah for a moment then turns to find the backpack she takes with her on these hikes.  She lays it, the 35mm camera she entrusts to no one, the notebook, spare socks and a few other things in a row on the bed.

Savannah and Peanut watch in silence then continue to watch as Delilah systematically packs the bag…then takes everything out and repacks everything but the camera. 

Delilah looks up.  “…What?”

Both women grin.  “Nothing,” Savannah says.

“Nothing at all,” Peanut agrees.

Delilah looks back at her bag and turns pink.  “I’m a little particular, that’s all.”

Savannah’s grin widens.  “That’s what we like about you.  We pack the same way.”

Delilah laughs.  “Oh good.”   She sits down in a chair and toes off the shoes she’s wearing.  “I just need to put my boots on,” she gestures to the heavy hiking boots sitting by the chair, “and grab a jacket.  Could someone check on Tom?”

“I’ll do it!” Peanut rushes out of the room.

Savannah raises a brow.  “What’s that about?”

“She has a little crush.”

“I don’t get that.  Not at all.”

Delilah shrugs as she ties up the first boot.  “Me neither but to each her own.”

“Exactly.”  Savannah turns to leave the room.  “Let me know when you’re ready.  Reaper, Ghost and I will be accompanying you.”

“Sure.” 

Savannah leaves Delilah wondering how they were going to be inconspicuous and heads to the main room.   “You guys about ready?”

Ghost and Reaper look up from the cameras they were looking at.  “Yes Ma’am.  You need to change.”  Ghost was dressed in blue, hip hugging jeans and a bright red cable knit sweater.  It was chilly out, considering it was June.  At only six degrees Celcius, warm clothing was necessary. 

Reaper, dressed in black jeans and purple hoodie with a print of a skull holding a black rose between its teeth, nods.  “You do.”

“I know.  I’ll be right back.”  Savannah darts into the room she shares with Peanut and pulls out her own jeans.  She tugs on a thick sweater and grabs a windbreaker almost the same colour as her eyes.  She ties it around her waist by the sleeves, grabs a pair of sunglasses and her camera.   She loves photography and takes her own pictures when she is on holiday – which is a rare thing.  She doesn’t really care for the technical aspects of it.  She just likes to take the pictures.

She arrives in the main room just after Delilah to find her arguing with Tom. 

“What do you mean you didn’t pack any 35mm film?”  Delilah’s voice is thick with anger.

“I didn’t think you’d need it on this trip and there were a thousand other things to pack to come to this Godsforsaken island!”  Tom’s voice rises with each word.

“If you dislike your job, Tom, you can leave.  I’m sure someone will escort you to the airport.  Give me a moment to buy your ticket.”  Delilah’s voice has gone as quiet, and weary, as Tom’s was loud.

Immediately, Tom’s entire demeanor changes.  “No!  No, I’m sorry.  I love working with you, wherever we are.  I’m sorry I didn’t pack the film. I’ll remember next time.”

Delilah just stares at him for a long moment then turns and leaves the room.

Savannah immediately gets in Tom’s face and speaks very softly.  “If you hurt her, we will find a way to repay you every ounce of pain she suffers.  Delilah may be a client but we’ve all come to adore her and we will protect her from everyone.  Including you.  Understand?”

Tom’s cheeks turn a dull red but he gives a jerky nod and only breaths again when Savannah steps away seconds before Delilah returns.

“Thankfully, I always have a spare roll in my things,” Delilah says.  “Okay, let’s go out.  Tom, we’re going to put those two cameras on the edge of the cliff. I want one face west and the other facing north and slightly up.”

Savannah turns to Peanut and Josh.  “Keep an eye out.  Check the satellites and keep watch.  If you see anything, let me know.”

“Aye, Aye, Cap.”  Josh gives her a snappy salute.

They group heads outside and Savannah listens as Delilah gives them a lesson about time lapse cameras.  Honestly, it doesn’t take long before she’s bored with the mechanics of the camera but she does like the anchoring process.  She watches as Delilah kneels near the edge of the cliff, opens a narrow, hard-sided case containing a ratchet with a long handle, and equally long socket, a large allan wrench, a thick bolt and a cylinder that looks like a hollow two foot drill bit.  Intrigued, she moves closer.  “What’s that?”

“This the anchor for the camera post.”  Delilah smiles as she takes out the ratchet, wrench and bolt.  She reaches in and lifts the anchor out with a small grunt then turns ninety degrees and lays the drill down.  “Would you mind helping me steady it for a moment?”   Delilah is perfectly capable of performing the awkward maneuver by herself but since Savannah is there, she might as well use the help.

“Sure.”  Savannah drops to one knee and holds the anchor upright in the spot Delilah indicates. 

Delilah fits the ratchet and socket together then fits the socket around the knob inside the anchor’s body.  “Hold tight enough to keep it upright but don’t stop the turn.”  When Savannah nods, Delilah gets a two handed grip on the ratchet and pushes hard into the turn thinking she was trying to drill through rock.  She stumbles forward a bit when the blades on the anchor, basically a large masonry bit, bite into the ground easily.  The anchor slips a bit, creating a slightly angled bit of hole.

“What the..?   Oh right, totally forgot it’s sandstone here.  Didn’t think it’d be quite this soft though.”  Delilah adjusts the drill to a new spot, nods at Savannah to hold it again and once more starts to turn the whole business into the ground. 

Soft sandstone or not, it still takes some power to get the fourteen inches of cutting section of the anchor into the ground.  Delilah was panting just a little by the time she was done and Savannah had a new respect for the woman.  She thought about Delilah’s curves and never would have guessed that this strength lay beneath them. 

“Now what?” she asked.

“One sec.  Tom!” Delilah called over to her assistant, who was putting the camera further away than she’d like.  “I didn’t want it there!”  The look Tom gave her had her scowling in return. The drill was almost all the way in the ground. 

“It’s a better angle from here for what you want.”  Tom’s voice was sulky even as he tried to sound professional.

Delilah growled in exasperation.  “Fine!  But those images had better come out perfectly or I’ll have you out here filming it yourself!”  She stared out to sea for a moment, just breathing.  A moment later, Delilah turned to Savannah.  “Now, we put the camera and the housing here.”  She stretched to one side, giving Savannah a lovely image of lengthened torso and the curve of her hip.  Delilah pulled the cases containing the camera and the protective housing toward her. 

Savannah pulls her mind back from entertaining thoughts about that curve of hip unclothed and lengthened by the languorous stretch of a satisfied woman and watched as Delilah programs the camera to take pictures every minute, wires it to an external power source then to a tiny external hard drive and locks the entire assembly into the case with the lens pressed up against the glass. 

“That’s impressive.  How did you learn to do that?”  Savannah studies the solar panel on the top.

“How did you learn to handle all those weapons? Comes with the job.” Delilah shrugs as she pulls out a small compass and adjusts first the camera then the housing.  She closes all the cases and stacks them on top of each other.  “I just need to take these back to the cottage.  We can go on the hike from there.”  She rises then reaches for the cases. 

Savannah is there before her, picking up the stack.  She gestures with her chin.  “Lead the way.”

“We’ll put them in Tom’s room then go.”  Delilah heads for the house and tries to sort out the pleased feeling in her head about Savannah doing these things to look after her.  She tells herself it’s just part of the job.  Another voice says it’s not, Savannah’s job is just to watch over her, not help. 

Delilah and Savannah reach Tom’s room and hear the voices of Tom and Ghost as Delilah reaches for the doorknob.  They come into the hallway and Tom yells, “No! What are you doing?”

“Putting the cases away, Tom; there is no need for shouting.” Delilah’s voice is a reprimand.

“It’s my room.  I’ll do it.  Wait there.”

Savannah frowns over Tom’s head, her eyes on Ghost.  When he shrugs at her she makes a mental note to have someone check out Tom’s room while he’s out of the house.  She watches as Tom opens the door then takes the cases from Delilah and Ghost, stashing them inside while somehow managing to keep the door mostly closed.

Delilah just shakes her head.  “Alright, let’s go.”  

Savannah stays at Delilah’s side, keeping her on the ocean side, while she keeps her eye on the land side of things.  There are fields of hardy, fast growing wheat that come a few meters away from the cliffs.  She is relieved that she can see over it, figures maybe she can see across the island almost. 

The group played part of tourist very well.  It is Delilah that spots the skinny trail down to a rocky beach filled with grey seals.  Despite Savannah’s objections, Delilah scrambles down the trail, pausing to snap pictures as she goes.  Savannah watches from halfway down the trail as Delilah reaches the bottom and pauses to take pictures. 

 

Fiction Friday Week 23

TGIF, right?  

Writing has been going swimmingly this week and I have to tell you that, at the start of Chapter 23, I’m very excited with where we are right now.  My characters are showing growth – well, except Dennis, the antagonist.  He’s backsliding into degenerate filth.  The climax is approaching.

And because I’ve words on the brain, I’ll be leaving you now but I’m giving you FIVE chapters today.  It’s just so lovely to have my readers loathe my bad guy.  They don’t like Tom much either, you’ll see why.  

I need to get this story out to you this week so you’ll be getting more chapters right quick.  

Enjoy this next installment and have a great day!

Muah!

Chapter Seven

 

2101 Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 16 days left on timer

“Where are we going, Alice?” Delilah asks her very devoted and dedicated office manager.  She knows there’s a trip in three days but for the life of her she can’t quite remember which one it is.

“You’re going to Guith.  It’s a town in the Orkneys of Scotland, specifically, Eday Island.  You’re taking pictures of the birds and the weather for Scotland Tourism.”   Alice looks over the rim of her glasses at Delilah.  “You made the deal yourself on this one.”

“Oh, right!  I love Scotland.”  Delilah smiles then turns to head into her office.

“Oh, Lily.”  Alice clears her throat, the subject is delicate.

Delilah turns back.  “Yes?”

“Will John be travelling with you?”  John is the latest boyfriend in what seems to be a flurry recently.  Delilah hasn’t slept with anyone since Sam; Alice would have noticed the signs – when Delilah is having sex, good sex, she always has this sleepy quality about her, something more relaxed, more prone to humour.  Now… not so much.

“No.” The answer is short and abrupt as Delilah turns back to her office, steps through the door and starts to close it. 

Alice sighs softly then, once more, “Oh, Lily.”

“What!”  The word is a snarl.  Immediately, Delilah feels bad, rubs her face.  “I’m sorry, Alice. It’s just… it’s been so hard lately.  The less time there is on my timer, the more hollow and anxious I feel.  It’s like I’m waiting to be filled up by something I don’t even want!”  She leans her head against the door frame.  “There’s still almost two years to go.  How can I feel this itchy already?”

“Oh, honey.”  Alice gets up and hugs the younger woman.  “I remember the feeling but I wasn’t like you.  I couldn’t wait, I wanted it so bad I could taste it.  So I didn’t feel hollow.  I felt like I was being cleansed, scrubbed clean of the past and prepared for the future.  The love of my life was only a short time away and it energized me, helped me be the best person I could be.”

Forehead still pressed against the painted frame, Delilah turns her head to peer at Alice as she considers her words.  “Scrubbed clean, huh?  Interesting.”  There’s a long pause as Delilah stares at the floor again.  Then she whispers, “It’s inevitable, isn’t it?  I’m going to love him.  But… what if I don’t like him?”

Alice dismisses this with a wave of her hand.  “Poor girl.  Your parents actively hated each other and they screwed you up because of it.  I’ve looked into them and–” she breaks off as Delilah gasps.

“You what?”

“You don’t think I’d take this job and be so good at it without knowing exactly what I was getting into, do you?”  Alice gives Delilah a chastising look.  “You were a young, very gifted artist with a chip on your shoulder the size of Old France.  That’s a lot of baggage to take on.  I wanted to know exactly what I was getting into.  I am pleased to say that you’ve grown into a wonderful woman anyone would be pleased to love.  You have your fears but I think you can get past them.” 

Delilah wraps her arms around the older woman and rests her cheek on the side of her head.  “Thank you, Alice.  I couldn’t have done it without you, wouldn’t be who I am without your help and guidance.”

Alice blushes and wriggles out of the hug with a pat on Delilah’s back then her arm.  “Now, as I was saying before you tripped over your bags,” she grins when Delilah giggles, “the representative from Athena Security Solutions will be here in an hour.”

“The who from where?”  Delilah frowns, trying to remember what Alice is talking about.

Alice puts her hands on her hips and frowns.  “You forgot already?”

“I’m sorry.  I’ve been editing for the last twelve hours and my mind is still on the California excavation.  It was quite thrilling to do all that diving and the equipment Dr. Hoffsteader has is amazing!”

“Okay.  Well, I hired a security firm to watch over you.  That last assault was too much.”

“Pfft.  It wasn’t an assault.  The guy knocked into me.”

“And knocked you down.  Later you found your favourite lens in pieces in your purse.  The lens that had been here in the office only a few hours before.”

“Okay, okay.  What does this guy want?”

She wants to go over your itinerary and what you’ll be doing.  Who you’ll have with you.  Etc., etc.” Alice consults her notes, though she rarely forgets any detail.  “Savannah Lopez.  Sam recommended the firm several months ago.”

Delilah nods, her mind already going back to her work.  “Alright.  Let me know when she gets here.”

“Will do.”  Alice goes back to her desk as Delilah enters her office.

With a frown, Delilah approaches the desk.  There’s a wide, flat box on it.  It’s white with her name and the office address in bright red.  The lettering looks vaguely familiar.  Since she ordered a proof of the new coffee table ebook – sold as a 25×33 centimeter tablet that comes with an option to  cycle through the pages – she assumes it must be from the publisher.  She cuts the tape carefully and pulls the lid off.  Inside is a tablet that’s scratched on the edges.  There appears to be a very fine crack in one corner of the screen.

Delilah scowls, unable to believe the shoddiness of the work, but turns it on.  It takes a long minute, longer than she thinks it should, but then the screen lights up.  She sucks in a breath, chokes on a wash of fear.

I know who you are D.D.

I will get to you.

I will end you.

The words seem to drip then dissolve down the screen to end in a puddle.  She stands there, staring and frozen with fear, as the puddle disappears and a slideshow begins.  All the pictures are of her – at work, heading home from the office, in the office, in her home, sitting on her large balcony, kissing John.  There are pictures of her in the bath and ones of her getting dressed, obviously taken through a window. 

Fear spikes more than she thought possible when pictures of Alice and Tom, on their individual commutes and in their homes, pop up.  Tears roll down her face.

Suddenly, the tablet is torn from her white knuckled grip and she screams.  Dots swim in her vision and she begins to hyperventilate.  She’s never been so afraid.  Someone is holding her, leading her to the couch in her office, sitting her down and talking to her in soothing tones.  She doesn’t know who it is but she feels safe and starts to relax a little.  Her breathing slows and she begins to think clearly again.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

2101 Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 16 days left on timer

When Savannah entered the office and saw Delilah, helpless with fear and with that grip on the tablet, everything in her screamed to protect this woman.  She had torn the tablet from her, inadvertently scaring her more, and handed it to Reaper before wrapping her arms around her and leading her to the sofa.

Now, she strokes Delilah’s hair.  “It’s okay, you’re safe.  We’re here now.  No one is going to hurt you.  Reaper has the tablet.  It won’t hurt you.  No one has been hurt.  It’s okay.”  She keeps up the patter, and the petting, until the woman calms down and takes a deep breath.  Even then, Savannah can’t help but stroke Delilah’s back and her arm once more before giving her a little space.

Delilah looks up and Savannah gets a little jolt in her lower belly as those clear green eyes, still sparkly with the remnants of tears, meet her gaze.  “I’m sorry,” Delilah says.  “I’m not usually so… girlie.”

“It’s alright.”  Savannah smiles to show that it is.  “You’ve had a stressful few months.  I asked your assistant Alice several questions when she called us.  I understand that you’re being stalked.”

“It’s more than that.  There have been notes, I’ve been assaulted,” pushed and shoved around by unseen people, “had equipment broken and other pieces stolen.” Delilah shoves her hands through hair that Savannah finds oddly fascinating.  It’s a rich brown with blonde highlights glinting here and there, wavy and thick.  She wants to touch it again.  Savannah gives her head a shake and tunes back into what the other woman is saying.

“I had no idea Alice called you until this morning.”  Delilah frowns.  “No, wait, I suppose I did but I’d forgotten.” She sticks her hand out.  “I’m Delilah DuMarchand.  My closest friends call me Lily.”

Savannah takes the proffered hand and shakes it, tries to ignore the contrast of soft skin and fine callouses on the hand.  “Savannah Lopez, otherwise known as Loup.  That there,” she points, “is George LePriex, aka Reaper.  He’s my right hand man.  Out there talking to Alice is my left hand man, Sydney Walsh, aka Ghost.”  She lets go of Delilah’s hand somewhat reluctantly.

“Nice to meet you, Reaper.” Delilah’s smile is a little shaky.

“It is nice to meet you too, pretty lady.”  Reaper gives her a sweeping bow and rewards her with a wide, rather engaging grin when she giggles a litte.

“Where are we headed?  I’d like to know so I can send a couple men ahead of time to set up security.  Do you know what sites you’ll be shooting at?”  Savannah asks.

“Alice can give you the lodging information. It’s a self-catering cottage.  There are a few around it but we’ve got privacy.  As for where I’ll be shooting…  No, I don’t know for sure.  I need to get a feel for the land.  I love the Orkneys but I haven’t been to this particular spot before.”

Savannah nods as she makes notes on her small electronic notebook.  “Do you have a soulmate yet?  Is there any chance you could run into them on this trip?”  She deliberately avoids a gender; when Ghost ran into his soulmate it turned out to be a South African man named Wilheim.  They’re a wonderful couple, completely devoted to one another. 

Delilah turns over her wrist and pulls off the cuff bracelet she wears to hide the timer from view.  “One year, twenty months and sixteen days left.  No chance.  I don’t really want to –” she snaps her mouth shut, clears her throat and tries again.  “No, I won’t meet whoever that is while in Scotland.” 

“Alright.”  It occurs to Savannah that it’s interesting that their timers are exactly the same then she figures that there must be lots of people who have the same time left.  Three billion people in the world, some have to have the same times. 

She studies Delilah, looking her up and down.  And realizes there’s a frission of attraction there.  She likes women more than men so she’s not surprised she’s attracted to the brunette with streaks the colour of honey, striking emerald eyes and cute, lush mouth.  She sighs.  “Well, I thought maybe we should change your appearance some, give you a break while your stalker tries to figure it out but I think we’ll scope out your apartment, increase your security there and get you to Scotland early.  We’ll stay at our safe house in Edinburgh until it’s time to head to Eday Island.”

“Um… okay.” Delilah stands as Savannah rises.  “What about Alice and Tom?”

“Does Alice usually travel with you?”  Savannah nods when Delilah shakes her head.  “Then perhaps it’s time for Alice to take a vacation.  She and her husband have any favourite places?”

“I think they like the Bahamas, what’s left of them.” 

“Alright.  I think your stalker will be more interested in following you than her but we’ll get her set up at a resort and I’ll keep a man close to her.”  Savannah sends an email to a Janice, a member of her team, to set up the vacation and gives her instructions about the protection of Alice and her husband David.  “Done.  Now let’s go to your house and get you moved.”

Delilah looks a little dizzy again so Savannah lays a hand on her shoulder.  “Are you alright, Ms. DuMarchand?”

“Please, call me Delilah.” She straightens and the light of battle enters her eyes.  “Let’s do this.  I adore Edinburgh, it will be lovely to be there.”

It takes almost eighteen hours until Delilah and Savannah are standing on the small balcony of a flat on St. Gile’s Street, just off the Royal Mile. 

“This is a stunning place, Savannah.”  Delilah cannot bring herself to call Savannah Loup.  She waves a hand at what she can see of the mile and then in the other direction, towards the museum on Market Street.  “The flat is amazing but the location… The location is shocking.  This is a safe house?”

“It is, all that.  Most people wouldn’t think that anyone staying here is hiding out.  All you have to do is look like you belong.  People will ignore you inasmuch as the Scots ignore anyone.”  She leads Delilah back inside, her touch lingers on the smaller woman’s lower back.

Delilah notices the touch and slants a look at Savannah.  A blonde with a sensible haircut, cornflower blue eyes and a killer body; even Delilah finds her attractive.  She tears her gaze from Savannah and looks around, noting the leather couch and chaise and the heavy glass-and-stone coffee table.  There’s even a small fireplace in the corner and a library set up in the next room. 

There are also three bedrooms.  Savannah installs Delilah in one and Tom in the second.  She doesn’t quite trust Tom so she tells Delilah she’ll be in the third bedroom.

“Don’t you have other clients you have to look after?”  Delilah looks at Savannah curiously, though she is quite relieved to find out Savannah is staying on the case. 

“I do but I have teams for that and communication is easy.  I’m a big fan of your work so I’m taking a personal interest.”  Savannah smiles.  It’s true, she is a fan of Delilah’s work but there’s something about her that she likes.  And Sam, Delilah’s ex, has personally asked her to look after the woman he still has a great affection for.  “Reaper and Ghost, along with Taco and Peanut are on the case.”

Delilah’s brows swing up towards her hairline.  “Taco and Peanut?”

Savannah grins.  “Taco eats that particular food like it will never be made again anywhere in the world.  And he eats them a dozen at a time.  Peanut… well, you’ll see.  Peanut is cute as a button.”

“I see.”  Delilah chuckles.  She stiffens as Tom comes up behind her and touches her shoulder.  It isn’t a big difference in her posture but Savannah notices.  Her easy smile stays in place but she watches closely.

“What’s so funny?” Tom asks as he comes to a standstill close to Delilah.

Delilah shifts, moving her body away from his under the guise of picking her water up off the coffee table.  “Savannah was telling me stories about the people she works with.”

Savannah nods, even as she notes the flare of Tom’s nostrils.  “It’s true.  They’re a good crew.”   There’s a knock at the door and Delilah automatically heads toward it.  Savannah blocks her.  “You will allow me, or whomever is on duty, to answer the door, Delilah.”

With a sigh, Delilah stops and nods.  “Right, yes, you’re right.”  She turns away and sits on the couch, out of sight of the door.  “I’ll be glad when this nightmare is over.”

Savannah smiles sympathetically and watches as Tom sits beside Delilah and takes her hand in his, patting it.  She watches as Delilah tries to lean away and pulls her hand out of his.  She turns to the door and checks the monitor beside it.  The monitor is connected to a discrete camera built into the ornate woodwork of the Victorian door.  The iron-and-glass window that would be traditionally set into the door had long been replaced with wood carved and built up with the same sumptuous design.  Janus owned the building and had done the same with every door, though only a few apartments were safe houses. 

“I will be right back, stay away from the windows.”  Savannah slips through the door.  “Ghost.”  She smiles up at her friend briefly then speaks softly, quickly.  “Tom seems to be a problem.  Delilah is loyal to him, we have already had talks about her staff, but she doesn’t like him in her personal space.  It is possible that he’s her stalker.”

Ghost shakes his head.  “No way.  We’d have seen him pull that last stunt.”

Savannah shoves her fingers through her hair, sending the fine blonde strands flying everywhere.  It’s a look Ghost thinks is cute; being gay doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate the fine points of a female.  “Something is up.  Do you think you can watch him?”

Ghost grins and poses prettily.  “Oh honey, I’ll be on him like white on rice.  He’s a prick but he’s also kee-yout.”  All this was said in a feminine whisper. 

“Just see that you stick to him.”  Savannah grins, though her voice is firm.

“Aye aye, Cap’n.” 

They enter the room to find that Tom has his hand on Delilah’s knee and is speaking avidly while Delilah looks uncomfortable and frustrated.  Ghost immediately drops the bags in his hand in a nearby chair and speaks, “Sugar, why don’t you come with me?  Tell me about your work.”

Delilah starts to rise and Ghost shakes his head.  “Not you, Cutie pie, him.”  As Tom walks away, ears red with embarrassment or anger, she wasn’t sure which, Delilah cannot hide the relief on her face.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 15 days left on timer

Tom sits on the couch, right next to Delilah as Savannah goes out the door.  He takes her hand in his and pats.  “It’ll be alright. These people are the best of the best.”

“I know, Tom.”  She slips her hand from his then inwardly curses it for a mistake as he puts his hand on her thigh.

“Don’t you worry, we’ll get through this, as we have everything else.”

“I know, Tom.”  Delilah lets a little exasperation leak into her voice.

He pats her leg.  “That’s right, I can imagine how frustrated you are.  And scared too. That delivery yesterday was something else, wasn’t it?”

Delilah takes his hand and moves it from her leg.  “Yes it was.  I don’t want to think about it.”

Tom puts his hand back and grips firmly.  “You need to think about it.  Think about the security.  You need to be careful with your life, here are too many people who care about you.  Me included.”

“Tom…”

“No really.  I know we’re colleagues but –”

She cuts him off.  “Yes, we are colleagues and I made it clear that was all that would ever be.  I have no interest in becoming involved with the people I work with, whether they are clients or assistants.”

Tom’s cheeks turn red.  “We have a special relationship, Lily.  We spend a lot of time together, you can’t say that you don’t care about me.  I care about you a great deal.  I want to deepen our relationship. I think we could be good together, better than you and John were, certainly.  He didn’t make you happy at all.  We could ignore the soul timer and keep working together, being together.”

Savannah comes back in with Ghost as Delilah wraps her hand around Tom’s wrist, intent on moving his hand again.  To her enormous relief, Ghost speaks, “Sugar, why don’t you come with me?  Tell me about your work.”

Delilah starts to rise then sits back down as Ghost smiles at her. “Not you, Cutie pie, him.”  She struggles hard to squash the nearly hysterical giggle she can feel in her chest as Tom turns red from the neck up, including the tips of his ears.  She can’t, however, squash the look of relief on her face as he moves away from her.  She watches as Ghost slings an arm around Tom’s shoulder and flirts shamelessly with him as he moves the smaller man into another room.

Savannah sits down on the other end of the couch, a move Delilah appreciates; she could really use some personal space right now.  “I’m sorry about that,” Delilah begins.

“About what?” Savannah asks quietly.  “Tom invading your personal space and touching when you’ve asked him not to?”

Delilah sighs and stares at the bowl of flowers on the coffee table.  They’re pretty, all reds, oranges and yellows.  She knows the names of almost all of them.  “Yeah, that,” she agrees, equally quiet.

“Is he a problem?  Is he the problem?”

“No, I don’t think so.”  Delilah thinks for a moment.  “No.  He can’t be.  Some of the things that have been done he doesn’t even know how to do.  He’s never been good with software, better with hardware.  He knows my equipment inside and out.  He knows how I like it set up.  How to set the timers.  How to clean it and pack it away.”  Delilah frowns.  “He knows it better than I do at this point.”

“And when did he develop the obsession with you?”

“Oh he’s not…”  Delilah catches Savannah’s look.  “Yeah, okay, he has feelings for me.  They started a year ago or so, I think.”  She frowns again, thinking.  “I’m not really sure.  He’s always been attentive, it’s part of the job description.  I tend to get absorbed in the images, in the potential images.”

Savannah tilts her head curiously.  “You see potential images?”

Delilah smiles.  “Absolutely! They come to me like framed snapshots my mind.  Like you, right now.”  She picks up her phone and thumbs open the camera.  “I’ll show you.  No, no, don’t move, stay just like that, with your head tilted and the curious expression.  With the evening light behind you through the window, just… there…”  She captures the image then moves closer to Savannah to show it to her.

“See, with the sun lighting your hair and changing the colours like that, the half shadows on your face, you look younger, more carefree, less like your career has made you a soldier.  You look…softer.” Delilah nods to herself and opens an editing software in her phone, adjusts the contrast and colour just a little.  “Perfect.”

Savannah’s jaw drops.  She’s never seen herself that way.  Truly, she’s never bothered to look at herself that way. She reaches to take the phone, hesitates then smiles as Delilah presses it into her hand.  The screen is only a few inches across, diagonally, but she can see herself clearly.  She studies it as Delilah watches her.

Delilah gets up and grabs her laptop.  Her phone and computer are synced so anything she takes on her phone ends up in a folder on her laptop.  She opens it and skims through files until she finds Savannah’s photo.  She makes it full size then swivels the machine towards Savannah.  “Here.”

Savannah looks up and makes a strangled sound of shock.  “I look like that?  I look… beautiful.”

“That’s because you are.  That’s what people see when they look at you.”

“But you fiddled with the image.”

“I only made it more of what it was.  There’s no point in changing something so spectacular.”  Delilah isn’t trying to be flattering, she’s talking about the image as if she would a sunset, a flower, a deer caught with her fawn.  Nevertheless, Savannah can’t help but be warmed by the praise.  

Reaper comes in and sees the two of them together.  He think they make a good looking pair and pastes a raucous grin on his face.  “Well, now, how are the two most gorgeous ladies in my life?  Any chance of me finding my way between the two of you?”  He wriggles his brows, making his meaning clear.

Delilah giggles.  “Not a chance but would you mind telling your boss she’s beautiful?  She doesn’t believe me, even with the evidence in her face.”  She turns the laptop around and shows him the picture.

“Mon Dieu!”  He looks from the picture to Savannah and back again. “She captured your beauty well, Loup.  She is correct, you are every bit as beautiful as she says.  It is a pity you are gay and devoted to your timer.”

Savannah blushes as Delilah looks at her curiously.  “You are?”

“Gay or devoted to my timer?”

“Both.”  Delilah smiles.

“I am.  I have had relationships but they’ve always been easy, knowing that there’s an end to them.  They’ve been matters of convenience or displays of affection for women I’ve truly cared about.  But nothing that would be considered serious.  I am waiting for my soulmate for that commitment.  And I am praying it’s a woman.  I don’t see how the Gods would do otherwise for making me appreciate women as I do and then giving me a male soulmate would be a cruel joke.” 

Delilah nods as she considers.  “I am not so devoted to my timer.”  She twists the cuff on her wrist, hammered copper and ancient this time. 

“Why not? If I may ask.”  Reaper is the curious one.  His timer is only a few days off.  He can feel it strongly and so assumes he’s in the right place or close to it at least. 

“My parents were soulmates,” both are dead now, murder-suicide, “and they loathed each other.  They fought constantly.  But they couldn’t help touching each other, they couldn’t bear to leave one another.  It was such a dichotomy and it left me in the dust.  I couldn’t do that.  I couldn’t have children in a relationship that wasn’t loving and peaceful.”

Savannah frowns.  “You’re asking your soulmate to wither away because you’re not willing to take the chance.”  Savannah begins to revise her opinion of the woman.

“I know that.” Delilah sighs softly.  “Lately though, I’ve been feeling hollow in my chest.  An itching.”  Both the others nod, they’ve had it too.  “And I’ve been dreaming.  I’ve photographed so many happy people, so many mated couples that it’s left a mark on me. And I’ve had a couple of good relationships. I am willing to give it a chance but I’m…” her voice drifts off and she stares at the timer.

Savannah lays her hand over the timer.  “You’re what?”

“Terribly afraid,” Delilah whispers.

“I can imagine,” Savannah says softly.  “But you’re a good person, you’ll make it work.”

Delilah smiles.  “Thanks.”

“Now, Boss, the plane leaves in eight hours.”  Reaper taps his watch.

“Right.”  Savannah rises.  “It’s time for bed.  Reaper, you’re out here on the sofa.  Ghost is taking the floor in Delilah’s room. Taco and Peanut are downstairs in the other apartment, they’ve got first watch.” 

Ghost, whose hearing is phenomenal, leaves Tom in his room and firmly closes the door with a “Good night, Sugar.”   He comes into the living room and nods at Savannah before grabbing one of the bags he dropped earlier and holding his hand out to Delilah. “Now you, you gorgeous thing, let me see what you’ve done to our crazy one.”  He picks the laptop up with one massive hand and whistles in appreciation.  “You’ve got some talent there, lady.  And a beautiful subject to work with.  Come on now,” he says as he hands the machine back, “let’s go have us a sleepover.”

Delilah checks her watch, finds that it’s eight.  “Oh my goodness, I didn’t realize it was so late!”

“We plan to arrive in Guith at seven in the morning so we can scope the place out and make sure it’s safe.  I already have people there but I want their reports in person.  Have a good night, Delilah.  Try not to worry about tomorrow.”  Savannah smiles.

Delilah allows Ghost to lead her into her room.  There’s already a sleeping bag on the floor by the door.  She frowns.  “Are you going to be comfortable?”

“Honey,” Ghost smiles, “I’ve slept in better places, it’s true, but I’ve also slept in worse. We need to do your hair first.”  He picks up a bag and gestures her into the bathroom.

A couple of hours later, Delilah stares at her reflection in shock.  Ghost has given her coppery locks with subtle gold highlights.  He’s trimmed her hair so that it falls in layers to her shoulders and swings nicely when she shakes her head.  “How?  Wow!  Oh my Gods!  This is…” she can’t get over it, runs her fingers through it again and tugs on the spiky bangs that fall just short of being in her eyes.  She turns to look at him, her green eyes wide.  “How did you know how to do this?  It’s wonderful!”

 Ghost beams as he repacks his bag.  “I blame Wilheim.  It’s what he does.  I have spent many a day with him at his shop.”

“Must be hard being away from him so much.”  She rises and hugs him.  “Thank you.”

Ghost’s eyes darken with a spurt of affection.  “It can be but technology is wonderful.”  He pats her back then heads out the door.  “Go on, get ready for bed.”

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

2100, Dennis, 33 years old, timer stopped

Dennis is dressed as airport security at the Edinburgh Airport.  He knows Delilah is flying out of this airport.  With the security badge he stole, and the use of the unconscious man’s fingerprints, he has managed to find out that she chartered a private plane and will be travelling with six other people.  He also knows which plane and where it is. 

Which is why, now, he is skulking around the terminal for the private charters.  It’s much smaller than the main terminal and he’s trying not to get caught as an imposter as he looks for the way to the tarmac.

He finally finds the door that will lead him to the planes without having to go through waiting passengers.  “Finally!  Took you long enough, dummy,” he mutters to himself.   He slips through and pats his coat.  He has, of all things, a bird’s nest, tucked into his coat.  It’s a fake, he can’t conceive of touching the real thing.  “Nasty and dirty, diseased things, birds are.” 

It takes him a little bit of wandering and some darting around to find the plane.  He tries to look casual, like he belongs there, but his eyes are darting everywhere, making his manner kind of furtive.  Still, he gets to the plane, no one is there yet.  He consults a piece of paper in his pocket.  It has a drawing of the plane and marks exactly what he needs to do. 

Dennis looks around one last time then stuffs the bird nest inside the cowling of the plane.  He shoves it in deep and takes a look.  Satisfied that it won’t be seen on the pre-flight check, he saunters back towards the terminal.  He uses the badge to get back into the building then ditches it and the jacket behind a food dispensing machine and pulls a cap onto his head, pulling it down so it shades his eyes.

He gets a drink and a chocolate bar from the machine.  Too late, he notices that it’s the cloned chocolate.  He cusses then shrugs.  “Whatever,” he mumbles as he finds a seat where he can see the plane.  He reads the news on his phone, or tries to, his eyes keep wandering.

An hour later, he watches a fuel truck load the plane and a mechanic start to go over it with the pilot and co-pilot.  The mechanic gives the pilot a slap on the back and leaves and Dennis grins to himself just before he notices that Delilah, and what appears to be an entourage, has arrived.  He watches her go through security with fury, hunger and lust in his eyes.  It’s all tangled up in a heap in his head now.  He watches Tom touch her back and starts to growl. 

He chokes on the growl, has a small coughing fit, but doesn’t miss the way the enormous black man with Delilah moves between her and Tom.  Dennis suddenly wishes he could hear what they’re saying.

He gets up to sidle closer but the smallest member of their group, a woman barely taller than a ten year old, makes eye contact with him as her gaze slides over the crowd.  He gives her a genial smile and turns to the men’s room instead.  Her gaze moves off him and he stops beside a machine that checks boarding passes and tickets.  Ducking behind it, he watches the group.  He watches as an employee calls over a porter to deal with the luggage and equipment cases they have with them. Once the cases are loaded on a flat trolley, and after Delilah fusses with them, the porter leads them out to the plane where a smiling pilot greets them.

Dennis moves to the terminal window to watch what happens.  He watches them board the plane.  Watches the pilot pull the stairs up and watches as the pilot appears in the cockpit window.  A few minutes later, the pilot looks furious and worried, and Dennis grins.   His job done, he races to catch his own flight to the Orkneys.  He must get there before Delilah. 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

2100, Delilah, 31 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

 

The next morning Savannah and Reaper are impressed with Ghost’s handiwork but Tom is pissed.  “How could you do that?  What the hell were you thinking?” he all but shouts the questions at Delilah.

Savannah steps between them.  “I was thinking that we’ll have a better job protecting your employer if she’s not as recognizable as she was.”  She smiles as Tom visibly shrinks back a moment before composing himself.  “Get your bags. It’s time to go.”

An hour later, Delilah is looking around the plane, impressed.  She had hired some small prop planes before but this was the first time she had ever been inside such a luxurious private charter.  The seats line the walls, several large, leather club chairs and a long couch.  There are a few tables here and there and Delilah watches as the others drop their gear on tables and stow other things in the bins overhead.  The chairs swivel so that you can sit in a group or in pairs.  There is a single steward on board and she smiles as he comes toward her and Savannah, who is sitting beside her.  They are facing a table with Ghost across from them and Reaper in the other seat.

There’s a small swish in the steward’s gait and a faint lisp in his voice.  “Would you like anything?  There’s coffee and tea.  We have orange juice, freshly squeezed, and champagne.  Darling, I could make you a mimosa if you wish.  The flight is just long enough for you to be able to drink it without having to chug it.”  He has a little expression of distaste, like a society queen having to speak to a janitor, at the thought of chugging any drink.

Delilah’s smile changes to a grin.  “Why not?  I’m aboard this wonderful plane heading to do the job I love the most.”

Savannah declines.  “I’m working, handsome, no can do.”   She pats his cheek when his face falls.  “But I could use a latte, if it’s possible.  Maybe with some chocolate sprinkles?”

The steward grins with delight.  “Fabulous!” He turns to Tom, who is sitting across the aisle, and frowns a little.  “You, honey, I’m giving you coffee.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” Tom states, a little put out by the fact that he’s not getting the same treatment as Delilah.

“You do now.”  The steward dismisses Tom with a wave of his hand and moves on to Reaper.   “Let me guess…  Coffee with a hazelnut creamer but you don’t like anyone to know.  I have to tell you a secret, honey, they already do!  And you, my, my, my, aren’t you a big handsome mountain of a man!” He says to Ghost.

“I am indeed,” the big man rumbles.  “Want to climb me?” He winks at the other man.

There’s a shocked gasp, fake, of course, followed by a titter of pleasure.  “Oh, darling, what I wouldn’t give!  But you have the look of a taken man.  You have met your soulmate haven’t you?”

“Mmmhhmmm…” Ghost sighs happily.

“I still have four months, three weeks and three days to go!  I do hope Hera sees fit to give me a man like you.”  He winks at Ghost, gets orders from Peanut and Taco, and goes to fix their drinks.

The steward passes the Captain, who has come out to speak to Savannah.  “Can I see you for a moment?” he asks.

Savannah unbuckles and meets him by the door.  She listens as he whispers to her then scowls.  “What do you mean the plane won’t start?”  Her voice is louder than anticipated.

Delilah sighs as the Captain spreads his hands in supplication and shrugs.  There’s a moment of conversation and Savannah turns to the cabin.  Delilah catches herself admiring Savannah’s lithe form.  She’s wrapped up in jeans, a t-shirt, a heavy flannel shirt and a ball cap with her hair pulled through in the back.  The shapeless shirt somehow defines and hides Savannah’s curves at the same time.  Delilah shakes her head, wondering what she’s thinking about. 

“Alright,” Savannah says.  “There is something wrong with the plane.  Reaper and Taco, escort Delilah and Tom to the hanger behind us and sit on them.  Ghost, Peanut and I will figure out what the hell is wrong here, working with Captain Jones here.”

“The hanger?” Delilah asks as she stands.  “Why not the terminal?”

Savannah smiles.  “Because that’s what he might want.  I refuse to give him more than I have to.”  She opens the door then blocks Delilah as she tries to exit. “Reaper first.”

“Oh yes, right.  Sorry.”  She steps back then follows Reaper out with Taco at her back and Tom behind him.  Savannah, Ghost, Peanut and the Captain follow, leaving the co-pilot and a disappointed steward on board.

Delilah follows Reaper to the terminal and drops into the chair he finds for her.   She immediately pops up and starts pacing. 

“Mon ange, I cannot protect you if you move about so much.  Please sit down.”  Reaper frowns as he keeps pace with her.

She spins, flinging her arms around.  “How much more can he ruin?  How did he get here before us?  How did he know which plane?  What else has he got planned?”

Reaper frowns then looks at Taco.  “Good question, that.  How did he know which plane?”

“On it.”  He sits down and props the small computer he hauls around with him everywhere on his knees.  As he flips it open he looks at Reaper hopefully.  “You know I work better with a taco in hand.”

Despite herself, Delilah laughs.  “I don’t think there are any around here.”

“Damn.” Taco sighs in a dramatic fashion.  “I’ll get to work without one then.”

“Do that,” Reaper says dryly.

Delilah comes to stand behind him for a moment.  She sees streams of data and code, then the airport logo flash on screen for a second, followed by more code.  She stops watching only because it’s making her dizzy.

“Aha!” Taco says a moment later.  “Reap’, c’mere.”  Reaper moves over and looks at the screen.  Taco taps it.  “Someone accessed the flight logs and dug deep to find out the passenger manifest.  You know we have to file the damn thing but we buried it.  Employee number 15919.  That’s… ah…” he makes a few keystrokes “…David Finney.”

Reaper nods and speaks into his radio to relay the information to Savannah.  What she says surprises him for a second.

“Mr. Finney was just found staggering around the terminal.  He said he was searching for ‘the fucker that conked’ him. We’ve found the problem here too and we’re ready to go.”

It doesn’t take long before they’re back on board and Delilah has that mimosa in her hand.  The engines rumble and purr as the plane taxis toward take off.  She offers a sip of the drink to Savannah.  “Come on, just one tiny taste.  It’s really good.”

Savannah chuckles and takes the glass. A mimosa, she knows, is a combination of Champagne and orange juice in equal parts.  She studies the glass and thinks that of all the things that have changed in the world in the last hundred years, it’s hardly shocking that alcohol isn’t one of them.  She takes a sip and lets the fizzy juice tickle her tongue and savours the combination of sweet juice and dry wine.  She swallows and sighs in appreciation as she hands the glass back.  “Thank you.  It’s been ages.”

Delilah smiles.  “It’s always a pleasure to bring pleasure.”

Pleasure that has nothing to do with sparkling wine trip through Savannah’s mind with Delilah in a starring role.  The thoughts surprise her and she unbuckles as the plane levels out, needing to move away from Delilah for a moment.  “I’ll be right back.  I need to talk to Reaper.”

“Of course.”  Delilah looks out the window and thinks about the look on Savannah’s face.  She enjoyed the look of pleasure; it made her think about sex.  That surprises her.  She’s never thought about a woman that way.  Then she groans to herself as Tom drops into the seat beside her.

He touches her hair, ignoring her as she moves her head back.  “I don’t like the colour.”

“You made that clear a few hours ago,” she says dryly.

“It changes your face.”  He shakes his head in disgust.

“That, I believe, is the point.”  She looks at him.  “Maybe we should change your look too.  You could use a haircut.”

Tom scowls and runs his fingers through his hair.  He’s been growing it out, hoping for a more rakish and charming look.  “I don’t need changed.”

“That’s not entirely true.  You represent me and you’re starting to look ragged around the edges.  Professionalism is one of my trademarks, Tom, something you know very well.”  She softens the reprimand with a look of concern.  “Besides, the stalker knows you and what you look like.  If he sees you, he’ll know where I am.  We don’t want him to find me, do we?  And we don’t want him hurting you either, right?  That’s why Alice got sent off on holiday.”

With a sigh, Tom nods.  “Fine, I’ll get it cut when I land.”

Ghost, who had been listening from across the table says, “Never fear, I shall do it.”

Tom glowers at the large man.  “I don’t want you touching me.”

“Why?” Delilah’s voice is silky smooth.  “Are you afraid being gay is catching?  Who knows,” she says as she grips the wrist with his timer on it, “maybe turning gay would restart your timer.”

Everyone in earshot stares at her, shocked.  Tom’s face slowly goes from shock to embarrassment to rage.  He pushes to his feet, shaking her hand off.  “Fine.  I’ll let him cut my hair.”  He sits down as far away from her as he can get.

Ghost and Reaper stare at Delilah with a newfound respect.  Ghost reaches across the table and pats her hand.  “Thank you, sugar pie.”

Delilah gives him a sunny smile.

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

2100, Savannah, 36 years old, 1 year, 20 months, 14 days left on timer

Savanah takes the seat beside Delilah, making sure that Tom doesn’t bother her again.  She sends a quick text to Taco and watches as he reads in then grins.  She smiles a bit when he salutes her with two fingers.  Then she drums her own fingers on her thigh as she thinks about the information she’s gotten about Guith.  It’ll be difficult to watch Delilah and stay subtle.  She’d talked to Delilah on the drive to the airport and found out that she would more than likely be setting up cameras for time lapse photography.  Those cameras, left in the wild, would need to be watched too. 

Delilah lays her hand on Savannah’s to stop the movement, shocking the other woman.  “What happened to the plane?”

“Oh it was an easy fix.  The asshole put a bird’s nest inside the cowling and it prevented the engine from turning over.  Equally easily overlooked on a pre-flight check. It couldn’t be seen from the outside and, really, military types are the only ones who ever think to look under there.”

At Delilah’s blank look, Savannah chuckles.  “It’s the part of the plane that covers the engine, like a hood of an antique car.”

“Oh! Okay.  He should have known that you would find the problem easily.”

Savannah stares at her for a minute then twists in her seat.  “Ghost!  Are there any other flights into the Orkneys today?”

The steward raises his hand.  “Oh, I can answer that one Ma’am, Sir, Ma’am.”

“You can?”   Savannah looks at him.  “What’s your name?”

“Angel,” he says pertly, half offended she hadn’t read his name tag.  “What’s yours?”

“Savannah,” she grins at him. “Are there any other flights?”

“There are four flights in and out of the Orkneys every week day. One would have left about ninety minutes ago.” 

Savannah uses a really choice cuss word that makes Angel gasp and gives Delilah a new perspective on the woman.  “Godsdammit!” she swears again.  “Ghost, find out who is on that plane.  Photo IDs, get them.”

Ghost whips out his own computer and, together with Taco, has the ID of everyone aboard listed from the cockpit to the tail and on a small tablet he hands his boss within three minutes.  “Here, that’s all of them.”

Savannah dismisses the staff, the few children on board, the elderly woman and then, after a brief argument with herself, dismisses most of the women. 

Delilah, who had been watching Savannah’s fingers with fascination, asks, “Why did you dismiss the women?”

“Based on your description, only this one here,” she points to a Swedish woman who is close to six feet tall, “is capable of the assaults you’ve endured.”

Delilah holds her hand out for the tablet and Savanah hands it over.  She studies the woman.  Then she grits her teeth and remembers the last time she was attacked. 

She’s running from the office to the cab when she drops her keys.  She pauses to pick them up and as she rises someone slams into her shoulder.  It’s like being hit by a brick wall, all hard muscle and…

She breaks off the memory and shakes her head.  “No, she didn’t do it.  It was like being hit by a wall.  Like if Reaper took a run at me.”

“Cherié, I wouldn’t have to take a run at you, although I’d like to, you’d come to me.”  He leers then winks as she grins.

Delilah looks through the rest of them, looking at their statistics, the shape of their bodies.  The ID photo is a head shot and then zooms out to give a 3D image of body type.  She shakes her head, dismissing one after another until only two men are left.  “Those are the closest.  None of the others look like they could do the things that were done.”  Her voice is tight, movements tightly controlled.

Savannah takes the tablet back and gives Delilah’s hands a squeeze.  “Reaper, call Angel and Devil–” she breaks off at the steward’s delighted gasp, and chuckles.  “We have our own Angel, and a Devil too.  Matched set.”

“I want me a little devil,” Angels says with a wistful sigh.

Everyone laughs then Reaper asks, “What do you want me to tell them?”

“Send them the IDs and tell them to set up a customer survey station or something.  Get those two men into rooms, no matter what it takes.  Try not to make a scene. And get a car to meet the plane.  Josh can drive that one.  We’ll drive instead of flying the last leg.”

“Aye aye, Cap.”  Reaper makes the call and the rest of the flight is about strategy. 

Once they’ve landed and the pilot has given the all clear to de-plane, Savannah hustles everyone onto the tarmac.  There’s a luxury car waiting with a man in a suit waiting by the door, looking like a chauffeur.

“There’s Josh.”  Savannah chuckles at Angel’s pleased grin and lets the steward slip past her so he can go flirt with Josh.  “He will drive Delilah and Tom to the cottage.  Reaper, you and Peanut go with them.  Ghost, Taco and I will stay behind to question the two men.  Hopefully, this will all be over by the time you get there.”

Josh is loading baggage into the trunk while Tom crossly informs him that he’s dealing with some expensive equipment and to be careful and Angel talks in the poor man’s other ear.  Josh gives Savannah a long suffering look that Delilah intercepts. 

“I’ll deal with it.”  Delilah smiles and pats Savannah’s arm.

“Thanks.”  Savannah watches Delilah’s backside as she heads over and diverts Tom from his rant.

“So, you like her, huh,” Ghost says.

Savannah sighs and puts her attraction to Delilah in a box.  “Yeah.  There’s something in me that wants to protect her.”

“That’s your job.”

“No, it’s more than that.  I want to wrap one arm around her waist and be her shield between her and the rest of the world. I want… more than I should with only a year or so left on my timer.”  Savannah dismisses the line of conversation.  “One of us will keep you unformed, Ghost.”

She marches over to where Tom is hissing his dissatisfaction and Delilah and gets in between them, angled slightly towards Delilah.  Tom’s mouth shuts with an audible click and his face turns red.  Savannah wonders just what and who he thinks he is but ignores his reaction.  She does, however, put him on the list of people to watch.  “You’ll be going with Josh, Ghost and Peanut.  They’re going to drive you to Guith.  It’s about two and a half hours.” She gives Delilah’s hand a sympathy squeeze when she sees the dismay flare in the other woman’s eyes before it’s covered with cool indifference.  “We will either meet you there or be there soon after.”

Delilah nods.  “I hope it’s done today.  I’m tired of living in fear.”

“I completely understand.  I will do my best.”

“I know.”

Savannah watches as Josh bundles everyone into the car, basking in the look of absolute faith Delilah had given her.

June 50 Chapters 4-6

Hi! 

I said I would maybe post a mid-week blog to get you the next three chapters and here it is!

Of course, it’s last Friday and I’m scheduling this blog so I don’t forget. 😉

In these three chapters, we meet Delilah, Savannah and Dennis as adults. I like the two women.  I am not Dennis’s biggest fan.  Though, as it turns out, he’s definitely more weasel than devious. Bird’s nest, indeed.  

Oh wait, that doesn’t come up yet. 😉 You’ll see.

Eventually.

Enjoy!

Muah!

Chapter Four

 

2100, Delilah, 30 years old, 2 years, 3 months, 24 days left on timer

“Delilah!”

The woman in question sighs as her assistant’s voice comes over the headset.  It’s the fourth time he’s contacted her in the last hour.  “I’m fine, Tom.”  Sometimes her assistant got on her nerves.  He is a little clingy.  However, he knows the equipment, he makes sure she has everything she needs and understands that she gets lost in her work.  This week they are in what used to be Reykjavik, Iceland.

The entire country had been flash frozen and buried under several meters of snow in a freak storm in 2037.  She was here with an archeological team, photographing their finds and helping date them.  True to the vow she’d made as a teenager she was a photographer, one of the best in the world.  She’d discovered a love of history and made archeology her minor in college.  Today, she’s in a tent guiding a well-insulated camera on a track over a residential street. 

“Shauneen says you’ve been out there too long.”  There is some rustling.  “The sun will go down in twenty-three minutes.  The temperature is already dropping; it’s gone from minus twenty-eight to minus thirty-five in the last five minutes and the wind is picking up.”  His voice turns cajoling.  “I have hot chocolate here, made with real Aztec chocolate and the infrared sauna is ready to go.”

There’s a muffled conversation then another voice comes on, this one is melodious and one of Delilah’s favourites.  “I have some caribou stew here for you too with a loaf of soft bread.”

Delilah laughs.  “You sure do know how to sweet talk a girl, Shauneen.”

“It’s in celebration, darling.  You’re up for the Lucie again.”

“Really?  That’s fantastic!  For which photos?”  Delilah is thrilled.  The Lucie is the biggest photography award out there.  It would give her bank account some nice padding.  She makes a note to herself to talk to her manager again about investments if she wins. 

“Really really.”  Shauneen’s voice is full of humour.  She is Delilah’s best friend and, while she has a happy life with her own soulmate, she doesn’t judge Delilah for trying to avoid the meeting. She’s all about live and let live.  “For the work you did in Bhutan.  They loved the pictures of the elders.  Come on in, we’ll talk about it.   Oh, and there’s something else here for you too but you gotta come in to find out what it is.” 

The mic clicks off.  Delilah chuckles as she starts bringing the camera back in order to pack it away for the night.  All the electronics would go into specially insulated cases.  She tries to both hurry and be careful as curiousity gets to her.  Finally, it’s her turn to bundle up.  She wraps herself in layers of clothing, puts on the mask and goggles that will allow her to see and breathe in the cold, steps out the driving wind.  She clips her safety line to the rope leading from the small tent to the main buildings and trudges towards food and warmth.

Tom greets Delilah as she comes through the airlock minus two layers of clothing.  He hands her the promised hot chocolate and starts talking.  “The pictures you took today already look good.  They are showing Shauneen some things she wasn’t expected and confirming some other theories.  She says two more days of filming in that spot and then she’s going to want to move you south-southwest about a kilometer.  She suspects there’s a temple there, based on the things you’ve shown her today.”

Delilah sighs with pleasure as the sip of hot chocolate she took while he talked spreads warmth through her belly.  “That’s good.  When does she plan on starting to dig?”  She takes another sip of the spicy, sweet chocolate drink. It’s made almost the same way as Xocolatl, the ancient Aztec’s spicy and bitter chocolate drink.  The only real differences that she prefers it sweet and, while she’s in this icy clime, warm.

“She’ll start here as soon as you move to the new location.  She plans on clearing the snow down to roof level with excavators and dump it into the big pool to slowly melt it.  She’ll have a couple students watching to make sure nothing gets missed or damaged.”

As they round the corner into the common room Delilah spies a tall man dressed in the Janus uniform talking to Shauneen.  She stops cold and blinks.  Her brain kicks in and she shrieks with pleasure.  She hands her cup to Tom as she takes off running across the room.  “Sam!”

Tom looks furious for a second then his face smooths out into a pleased smile.

The man in question turns around and catches Delilah just as she launches herself at him.  He gives a mock-grunt then laughs.  “Hello, darling!  I had some leave so I thought I’d come out to visit.”  He kisses her soundly.

Delilah hugs him tightly and has a second to think that she wishes his kisses did more for her.  She wasn’t unattracted to him but she wasn’t as into him as she would like to be.  “I’ve missed you!  Where have you been?”  She leans back and starts patting him down.  “Are you alright?  What parts of the world have you seen?”

Sam laughs.  “I just got in.  Why don’t we take some of this gorgeous smelling stew and some wine back to your quarters?”

Shauneen smiles.  “Here I was all set for a romantic dinner for the three of us.”  She winks at Delilah.  “Take the stew and one of the bread loaves and go.  Tom and I will watch a vid.  Maybe one of Brad Pitt’s movies.”  Because of Janus’s founders were movie stars, their movies were still often thrown into the mainstream media.

Tom grinds his teeth and forces another smile.  “Absolutely.  But I’d prefer Damon.”  He moves forward and presses the hot chocolate into Delilah’s hands.  “Drink this up, we can’t be wasteful up here. You two kids go have fun.”  He hopes no one notices the strain in his voice.  He’d been looking forward to getting Delilah all to himself this evening. Having Sam arrive had been a shock.

Sam takes the cup from Delilah and sniffs it.  He had seen the strain in Tom and how angry the man had been when he opened the airlock for him.  “Aztec chocolate, eh?  My favourite.”  He deliberately takes a sip from the cup and sighs happily as the thick drink slides down his throat.  “That’s all I need, darling, take it back.” 

Delilah takes the cup back as Shauneen hands Sam the tray of food.  It’s covered and insulated for they only bother with minimum heat in the corridors between the main living/working pod and the ones that make up the private quarters.  Plus, she figures they probably won’t get to dinner until much later. “I cranked up the heat in your room about an hour ago, Lilypad,” Shauneen says.

“Thanks, Neener.  Tom, we’ll discuss tomorrow’s schedule at 06:00.  Have a good night.” 

As they move from the room Sam leans down and says quietly, a smirk playing around his lips.  “Lilypad?”

Delilah bumps him with her shoulder.  “Shut up.  They’re old nicknames from school.” 

It’s a short walk to her room and she opens the door to let Sam through then closes and locks it behind them.  She waits only until he puts the tray down before throwing herself at him.

He’s ready for her this time and kisses her hungrily, his hands roaming all over her as she starts to unzip his jacket.  She slides her arms around his waist and presses herself against him.  Then she groans with annoyance and steps away from him. 

“What?” he says hoarsely. 

“Too many clothes,” she mutters as she starts tearing at his outer clothes. 

“Agreed.”  Sam puts impatient hands to the task of removing his own clothes and a moment later they’re diving into the thick, insulated bedding on her bed.

Delilah shudders with pleasure at the skin contact.  It’s something she needs, something she craves, this skin on skin touching.  And when he puts his mouth to her neck to nibble there she happily tips her head back and lightly scrapes her nails over his back and shoulders.  When she moves his mouth lower she arches into him.

Later, when Sam is pleased with himself for having brought her to three orgasms and greatly satisfied for his own, Delilah is wondering what it’s like to have stars explode in your mind, to have that tingling, electric all the way to her toes. She wonders what it’s like to have those orgasms she reads about in the book-files that make up her guilty pleasure. 

Sam nuzzles her neck then kisses her.  “Hungry?”

“Famished.  I’ll get the food.”  Delilah smiles at him.  She really is very fond of him, could be happy with him.  She glances at the timer as slithers from the heated bed into the chillier air.  His timer is set for five years or so away.  Maybe she could manage to spend that time with him.  The soul-sickness doesn’t start right away.  It takes a little time.  She could stick it out for a couple more years, they’ve been together three already.

Immediately, Delilah’s conscience slaps her upside the head.  Selfish of you, it whispers. 

I know, she thinks back at it. She sighs sadly as she watches Sam’s flesh disappear under thick long johns.  She knows what she has to do.

The next morning, Sam’s face is stoic as he says good bye to Shauneen and whispers in her ear.  She glances at Delilah and nods before giving him a last hug. 

Tears shimmer in Delilah’s eyes as she looks up at him.  “Bye Sam.  I’m…” her voice cracks so she clears her throat and starts again.  “I’m sorry, Sam.  I do love you and I want to stay with you but it’s not right.”

He lays his hand her cheek and she leans against it.  “I know, darling.  It’s okay.  I am going to miss you, though.  You’re a good person, never forget that.”  He lays a final kiss on her lips then heads for the airlock.  He pauses beside Tom, he didn’t miss the look of satisfaction in Tom’s eyes.  He puts his hand out and whispers, “Make this look nice and friendly, Tom.”

Tom reluctantly puts his hand in Sam’s then tries not to wince as Sam takes a nice tight grip. 

“If you hurt her, in any way,” Sam says, “I will hunt you down.  Understand?”  When Tom nods, Sam speaks louder.  “Nice to know you, Tom. Be good!”  He chuckles as he releases Tom’s hand.

Tom hesitates then smiles.  “Nice to know you too, Sam.”  He injects humour into his voice.  “Don’t crash in the storm, we wouldn’t want to have to excavate you.”

“What was that about?”  Delilah asks as she rubs her chest.

“Oh, he just wanted to make sure I was going to continue taking care of you.  I assured him I was.”  Tom smiles at her then turns her attention to the work of the day.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

2100 Savannah, 30 years old, 2 years, 3 months, 24 days left on timer

“Loup! We’re set to go here.”  Sydney’s voice crackles in her ear.  Savanah smiles, pleased to have her team together.  She is   “Roger that, Ghost.  Reaper and I are in position.”  Her voice is barely more than a whisper but the mic on her throat catches everything.  George is just behind her.  “Team, check-in.”  She listens to the rest of her team respond, letting her know they are in place.  “Go, go, go!”

They were in Canmerico, that continent that used to be three countries called Canada, America and Mexico before Janus helped Canada invade and conquer the other two countries.  The American and Mexican governments were dismantled and a dictatorship, (a really nice one, Savannah thought), put in place. 

Janus had learned that there was an uprising starting in Oklahoma.  There was a man preaching about a return to the ‘good ol’ U S of A’, as it says on the background of his vid spots. It caught Janus’s attention because the movement was now almost two hundred people strong and they were living in this little village.

This was unacceptable.  Cults were against the world law. 

Savannah was now running a black ops team in a secret sect of Janus that deals with just this kind of problem.  Savannah isn’t one to sit in the command center and watch her team take the chances and face the danger.  She earned her nickname Loup by running into a burning building to rescue George.  He’d been shot and was bleeding out.  He’d shouted for the team to run and then lit the fuse to burn the place down.  His goal was to finish the mission, no matter what the cost.

Savannah’s goal was, and is always, to bring her team home whole.  So she’d run into the building, packed his wound with the organic foam bandage they carried on their belts, then threw him over her shoulder and ran for their lives, including through a wall of fire, straight into the arms of their team. 

After that, George had become Reaper.  They all figured only Death could cheat Death.  He’d become even more devoted to her than ever.  His timer had gone off shortly after that and his soulmate, when she learned what happened, had become just as devoted to their Lieutenant Loup as George.

“We’re in, Ghost.” Savannah spoke quietly as she dismantled the alarm, three steps below state of the art, and stepped into the cult leader’s house.  The rest of her team followed, slipping in doors and windows along the ground floor and through the door on the second floor balcony.  The team swept the house, subduing and removing the people they found until Savannah came to be standing over the sleeping Noah Smythe.  She put the barrel of her gun in front of his eyes.  “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey.”

The man jolts awake, smacking his head on the gun before he’s fully aware it’s there.  His hand automatically goes below the pillow.

“If you touch that weapon, I will shoot you.”  Savannah moves her weapon to point at his elbow.

He slowly pulls his hand back and raises both of them to show they’re empty.

“We’re going to sit up now, Noah.  Nice and slow.  Place your hands on the mattress and push yourself up to lean against the headboard,” Savannah orders, keeping her gun apace with his movements.  Once the man is in position she speaks again.  “Reaper, get that woman out of here,” she says of Noah’s now hysterical bed partner.  The woman had finally woken all the way up and realized the shadows in her room were people with guns. 

Reaper gladly manhandles the nearly naked woman out of the room and into someone else’s headache. He’s back a moment later. 

“Now, Noah.  You know who we are and why we’re here.”  She doesn’t make it a question, she’s sure he’s been waiting for her to show up. 

Noah appears to consider his options for his behaviour.  In the end, he decides to go with mature and dignified.  He folds his hands together in his lap, keeping them in plain view, and nods.  “Janus.  And I know your face, Savannah Lopez.  You’ve been decorated several times, including the Platinum Cross for that mission in the Alps.”  He looks to Reaper. “And you, George LePriex, you’ve been right with her. I bet that Sydney Walsh is in your ears.”

Savannah doesn’t show her alarm.  The Alps mission was top secret, buried under layers upon layers of shadow.  Her division is top secret, even their awards are top secret.  They don’t exist. Instead, she gives Noah a sunny smile. “Always nice to meet an admirer.”  She straightens and holsters her weapon, knowing that if Noah even breathed wrong, Reaper would take him out.  “What are you doing here?  You knew you were doomed to failure from the get go.”

Noah chuckles.  “George Washington, the first president of the once glorious United States, once said, ‘Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.’”

“If you had as much discipline as you’d like us to think, we wouldn’t have found guards sleeping at their posts,” Reaper says with a great deal of scorn.

“You didn’t!”  Noah hisses. 

“But we did,” Savannah confirms.  “Your ‘troops’,” the quotes were obvious in her voice, “were asleep on the job. A couple of them were drunk.”  Noah throws the covers back, growling, and Savannah chuckles.  “There’s the real Noah Smythe.  Come now, did you think we’d fallen for the smooth, charismatic leader schtick?”

Noah relaxes and smiles charmingly.  “Every man has a moment of frustration.  Even you, Savannah, I’m sure.”

In spite of herself, the inference that she is something less than a woman stings.  However, letting her emotions get in the way is not her style.  She, unlike his men, has discipline.  She can’t help a single cutting comment though.  “I do but I don’t growl like a dog.”  She leans back and crosses her arms and gives him a considering look.  “Did you really think that you could get anywhere with this?”

“I did get to two hundred strong in a matter of weeks.”  Noah looks smug.

“Twenty-four weeks isn’t ‘weeks,’” this time she does the air quotes, “it’s six months.” 

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”  Noah says, still smug.

“You don’t expect me to believe you said that.”  Savannah rolls her eyes.

“Tolstoy,” chimes in Reaper.  “It definitely wasn’t this tool.”

Savannah grins as fury fills Noah’s face for a second.  “What’s the matter, Noah?”

“I am a brilliant man!  You will not treat me with such disrespect.”

“Brilliant?  You’re overselling yourself there, buddy.”  Savannah gestures at their surroundings.  “You’re living in a hundred year old house that I’m sure has mold.” She sniffs.  “Yep, mold.  And a slight hint of urine and sex.”

Reaper makes a noise of disgust.  “Please tell me that you’re not so backward that you combined urine with your sex.”

Noah’s face darkens with fury again, this time it’s a bigger struggle to suppress it.  “What I do in the privacy of my home is my business.”

Savannah holds up her hands.  “Okay, okay.  You’re absolutely right.  Who are we to judge?  I like women and Reaper here, he likes giraffes.” 

It takes Noah a moment to realize she’s joking about Reaper.  He shakes his head and takes the moment to regain his composure.  He takes a deep breath then smiles.  “No one has ever mentioned your sense of humour, Captain.”

Suddenly, the woman Reaper had taken out of the room comes running back in, screaming and waving a machete.  She’s headed for Savannah.  There is the sound of suppressed air.  At the same time, a hole appears in her forehead and her brains splatter against the wall behind her.  She dies with the look of a maniac on her face and Noah screams in anguish.  He scrambles across the bed and scoops up her body. 

Savannah sighs.  “It’s time. Sedate and transport.”   She turns away as Reaper approaches the wailing man and speaks into her mic.  “Time to load ‘em up and take ‘em to the Center.  Let’s go.”  The Center is a facility for the retraining of misguided souls like Noah’s followers.  She doubts that Noah would ever see the light of day; she could almost hear his mind snap when Reaper blew his lover’s brains all over the wall.

Three days later Savannah, George and Sydney are sitting in her office in Edinburgh, Scotland.  The office is part of a private security company she runs as a front for her black ops team.  “We are assigned to the king of Iraqistan.  We will be protecting him and his daughter as they travel their country to check on their people.”

Sydney grinned.  “Heat, at last!”

George groaned.  “It’s Hell.  It really is.”

“Actually, according to the Christians, and the Muslims, the Middle East is the cradle of life.  It’s where the Garden of Eden lay, where Adam and Eve got kicked out.  It’s where, and archeologists have proven this, the first society where trade, learning and getting along was.  We were all birthed from there, according to their histories and theology.”  Savannah lectured.  “There is no reason not to go.”

And few days later, Savannah is escorting the king and princess around a bazaar, annoyed because security is difficult in a place like this.  It is crowded and a rabbit’s warren of streets, alleys, shops and stalls.   There are so many smells, sights and sounds that Savannah is getting a headache.  A small child jostles against her and runs off.  Savannah takes a step and realizes she’s not balanced right.

She slaps a hand to her hip and finds her weapon is missing.  It can’t be used by anyone but her, it’s keyed to her finger prints, but the loss is annoying and it immediately puts her on alert.  “Your Highness, Princess, we must leave.  Now.”  She starts trying to herd them into an alley and away from the general crush of people.  A car will come to wherever they are.

“But Papa! I want to say,” the nineteen year old whines.

“Surely we can stay a few more minutes, Ms. Lopez.”  The man’s deep voice rolls over Savannah and she almost gives in.  She’s noticed that he uses his voice like that a lot and has learned to ignore it.

“No.  We must leave, NOW.  Move!”  She grabs the girl by the arm and shoves her a little, making the spoiled brat shriek in outrage.  People turn towards them and Savannah groans, swearing under her breath.  Whispers of outrage start.  “Just move it, Your Majesty.  We can’t dawdle, someone is coming.” 

Reaper comes over to Savannah and helps her move the two royals into an alley.  “There’s a car coming, two minutes.”

Savannah checks her timepiece then looks around.  She’s got that itch on the back of her neck that’s warned her of danger and saved her team many times in the past.  “We may not have that long.”  She looks around then drags everyone towards a pair of dumpsters that are standing side by side.  “Help me move one of these a little, Reaper.”

As they’re making a hole to stuff their protectees into there is a lot of shouting in Persian, an old language that is nearly dead.  The king shouts back as he pushes his daughter behind him. He misinterprets the look on her face as fear.  Savannah and Reaper run towards them, they’re only a few meters away but it’s too late.  Shots are fired and the king falls, taking his daughter down with him.  Savannah and Reaper fire at the assassins but only manage to hit one.  The other two flee.

The princess is sitting beside her father, watching him die.  The look on her face is something Savannah can only call satisfaction.  She smiles when he whispers something at her then speaks clearly, “Oh yes.  I arranged this.  I am Queen now.  Something you never intended to let happen.”

Savannah and Reaper stand dumbfounded for a moment before Savannah’s training kicks in.  She straightens, makes a statement.  “Princess Lana Rahal, you are under arrest for patricide, colluding with assassins and whatever else I can come up with.” 

Reaper groans to himself.  This is going to cause months of paperwork and appearances before the World Justice Panel – a band of seven of the top judges in the world who decide and mete out punishment for crimes of this magnitude – and he really doesn’t want to do it.  He turns away slightly, confident is Loup has it under control and speaks quietly into his radio. 

Only Savannah sees what the princess does next – she pulls out Savannah’s own weapon and shoots her point blank. The impact of the 9mm slug on the body armour over Savannah’s heart is enough to stop its beating.

Elsewhere, someone’s timer stops, stutters, then resumes counting down.  The person rubs their chest, trying to ease the ache leftover from a moment of searing pain.

 

 

Chapter Six

2100, Dennis,32 years old, timer still stopped

Dennis growls and almost throws his camera at his agent.  “What do you mean I’m up against D.D. for the Lucie again?”

“D.D. is one of the foremost photographers in the world, it shouldn’t be a shock.”  After years of dealing with Dennis, and Rush before him, the aging agent wasn’t afraid of the temper tantrums.  Anything thrown at him had a way of missing anyway, so he wasn’t too concerned.

“That…person…” Dennis spit the word “…has won the last five years in a row!”  He prowls around the job site.  He is photographing what was left of Bhumipol Dam in what is now Thailand Province for the Japanese government.  Japan had taken over China and everything south to Malaysia, east to Indonesia and west to the Xinjiang province.  They were still north of the Himalayans and no further west than Thailand as far as south of the mountains goes because, for some reason the Japanese government could never figure out, Janus was backing those countries and had mountain warfare down pat.  Japan had lost thousands of soldiers in those mounts. 

“I am well aware of that fact,” Robert says.  He finds a chair and lowers himself into it, telling himself he’ll retire soon.  He knows, however, that he will never willingly give this particular client to anyone else.  It would be bad Karma.  Besides, the teachings of Aphrodite do not allow him to deliberately inflict torment on anyone. 

And looking after Dennis can certainly be a torment.

“Why do they keep winning!?  Just who is D.D. anyway?”  Dennis’s eyes narrow speculatively.

Robert shrugs.  “No one knows.  D.D.’s agent keeps a tight rein on her client’s identity.  Apparently, D.D. wants it that way.”

“I will find out.”  Dennis points his light meter at Robert.  “Mark my words, I will find out who they are and then I will destroy them.”

Robert sighs, afraid that Dennis will do just that.  “You can’t do that.  Live and let live.  Put a little more passion into your work.  It’s very nearly textbook perfect, you’re just lacking in passion.”  It’s a lecture he’s given many times. 

“You just said it’s perfect, why do I need to change anything?”  Dennis’s tone is conversational.  “D.D. doesn’t have anything on me.  I’ve seen their work.  Their work with light and shadow falls flat and what are they thinking playing with the hue saturation like that all the time?  Most of their subjects are lacking in emotion.”

Robert sighs to himself and drums his fingers on the head of his cane.  None of what Dennis is saying is true.  D.D.’s work with light and colour was exceptional.  The emotion Dennis finds lacking is joy.  D.D. has a habit of catching unfettered joy and showing the love their subjects have for one another.  He has a suspicion he knows who D.D. is; he’s seen some photographs of archeological digs that have that same quality about them that captures the heart and imagination.  He’ll never tell Dennis his idea though.

Dennis makes a minute adjustment to the camera position then uses his remote to take photos without looking at the small screen to see what’s going on.  “I will find out, I swear it!”

“If you say so, Dennis.”  Robert heaves himself to his feet again thinking that what Dennis has just done is the reason he doesn’t win many awards, and even then, they’re ones D.D. doesn’t compete for.  “I need to be going.  Raquel is waiting for me.” Instantly, Robert curses himself.  Bringing up his soulmate was a bad idea.

“Sure.” Dennis sneers.  “Leave me alone as usual.”

“You’re not alone, you have Steven here.”  Robert waves his free had at the assistant.

“Not for long, Steven’s vacation is about to start.”

Steven nods briefly.  He hasn’t told Dennis but his timer is about to go off.  He has thirty-eight hours to go and he feels pulled to the west.  He’ll be going to Paris.  He had let his instinct guide his choice in destination and prayed to Aphrodite that he’d chosen correctly.  Right now, he tries to stay out of the conversation.

“Well,” says Robert dismissively, “someone is always here.  Enjoy the rest of your time here.  Thailand is a beautiful country.”

Dennis shrugs and turns away from Robert to see what pictures had come out.  It isn’t that he doesn’t see the beauty, he does, it’s his job.  It’s more that he doesn’t appreciate it.  It’s hard to appreciate anything like that when your heart is stone. 

Several days later, Dennis is in his office shuffling of photographs of the last few years of Lucie Award banquets and the gallery openings of other photographers.  He’s not supposed to have taken them but Rush taught him that sometimes, you have to do what you need to do to get ahead.  Rush had had his limits there too but Dennis had no such qualms.  His camera for award shows is in the glasses he wears as an affectation.  It constantly takes photographs and transmits them directly to a phone in his pocket.

So now, he has thousands of photos to look through.  He also has the software to make it go faster and the patience to see it through.  The software is one that catalogues faces and then searches the web to put names to the faces.  He dumps all the photos in the software then watches as a column of faces starts to appear on the right while the pictures get displayed then removed in the space of a second or two, depending on the number of faces in picture, in the box on the left side of the screen.  Each face in the right hand column gets a number attached and a code for the places it’s been seen.

He watches as a few of the same faces start showing up multiple times.  He notices that one woman shows up at all the big award shows and almost all the gallery openings.  He stops the photo flipping and clicks on the picture of brunette with blonde highlights.  He studies the list of award shows and galleries.  He discovers that she is at all of D.D.’s openings and is always sitting at D.D.’s table for the shows. 

“Hmmm…”  He clicks on the command for a web search.

Several minutes later, he finds out her name is Delilah DuMarchand, she’s a brilliant photographer who documents archeological finds with photographs but has never entered a contest.  The angles and the way she uses light reminds him of D.D.’s photographs. Dennis drums his fingers on his desk.  “She has got to be D.D..”  He growls and makes a rude gesture at his laptop as it freezes when he tries to get more information.  He ponders upgrading it but he just upgraded his editing computer and doesn’t have the money for anything else.

It finally chugs along and he suddenly smiles. 

Fiction Friday Week 22

Hi there!

It has been one up and down week!  My back has gone out again, went to a car show with The Boyfriend, Boykid and Boykid’s girlfriend, argued with the ex, wrote 3,000 words on Tuesday, made a new friend, had great successes in therapy, worried about Wolfman,  and had some laughs with both The Boyfriend and Girlkid.  

What more can you ask for, right?

A brain that works consistently would be nice. *laughs*   Pain will do that though.  Totally had the dumb on Monday, and again on Wednesday.  Needless to say, I’m a bit behind, but that’s okay.  I’ll catch up again.  

Last week I said that I would let you meet the three main characters.  Delilah and Savannah share the protagonist role while Dennis is the antagonist.  The first chapters that introduce them are in the past; they’re all in their teens.  The next time we meet them they’re older, established in their careers and heading towards full lives.  

Except maybe Dennis.  He’s bitter and kind of a dick.  

Let’s see their beginnings, eh?  Perhaps I’ll post a bonus in the middle of the week to show you them when we see them again.  I’d like to share this story with you all but I don’t want to make the blogs too long.  

It’s a first draft though, AND a 50k-in-30-days challenge, so, if you read it, you’d be accepting that there are bound to be errors.  *grins*  

Let’s get on with it, shall we? I have writing to do and a beach to trudge in wellies and raincoat.  

Have a great Friday evening!

Muah!

Chapter One

 

2075  Delilah, 15 years old, 17 years 8 months, 22 days on timer

Delilah DuMarchand, fifteen year old amateur photographer, grits her teeth as her friend Sarah sighs dreamily as she pets her timer and says, “It’s going to be perfect!  We’ll say our vows in Athena’s temple, dance in the woods and live happily ever after.  He’ll be tall, movie star handsome, strong and I will be the center of his world.”

“Of course you will!” Tiffany titters.  “How could he not love you? You’re so beautiful.”

Delilah tries not to snort as she lifts her camera and snaps a profile picture of the silent brunette to Tiffany’s right.  She looks at the screen and smiles in satisfaction; the camera has captured Tee’s elfin nose and ethereal quality perfectly.  She moves the camera to look at Sarah through the lens.  The blonde has a movie star quality about her for sure – icy and untouchable, artificially beautiful, (everyone knows her hair is really mouse brown and that her parents paid to have a “deviated septum” fixed but no one mentions it). 

She yelps in the next second as a pillow hits her in the side of the head.  “What?” she demands crossly.

“I asked you what your wedding will be like.” Tiffany scowls at her.  She’s been paying attention to where Delilah points the camera and hasn’t once seen it come her way even though she’s been doing everything she can to make sure she’s photo ready.

“I’m not going to get married,” Delilah announces as she sets the camera down and readjusts the wide leather cuff style bracelet on her right wrist.  The fact that it covers the timer is not lost on her friends.

“I don’t understand you,” Tee says quietly.  “Why don’t you want to get married?  It’s what is expected but more than that, we are guaranteed to have the love of our lives.”

Delilah rolls off the bed and walks to her dresser.  She opens a drawer, pops the secret bottom off and pulls out a forbidden cigar.  Lighting it, she studies her friends.  “What if I don’t like him?  My parents hate each other but they can’t be away from one another either.  They’re trapped because even though they hate, they love just as strongly and they need to be within reach of the other person all the time.  They fight all the Godsdamn time.  It’s like living with Hephaestus and Athena!”

All three of the other girls frown.  Sarah accepts the cigar when Delilah offers it to her.  “I don’t understand it,” she says.  “How can they hate each other so much?”

“Well, for one thing, Mom is from the German part of Europe and Dad is from Canmerica and because he is the High Priest in Temple and is said to actually channel Apollo, she can’t go back to her family.  We’ve flown over there a couple times but we can’t stay.”  Delilah shrugs as the cigar makes it back to her.  “How can you know for sure you’ll be happy?  How do you know you’ll like him or that he’ll be from around here?  What if you can’t even get to him or him to you?  Remember what happened to Miss Vandyke?”  The poor woman had hung herself from the tree outside the high school when she learned that her soulmate would never be able to leave Iraqistan.

 She points the glowing end at Tiffany.  “You said you’ll never leave Lake Huron.”

All three of the other girls look troubled.  They hadn’t known that her parents fought so much.  Tee looks sadly at Delilah.  “You’re not staying, are you?”

“No way!  I’m not going to sit around here waiting for him to be drawn to me.  Besides, I want to photograph everything.  I’m going to travel the world to do it.  And I’m going to date whatever man I want.” All of them look at the wall where Delilah’s prize winning photos are displayed.  She has won several thousand dollars in cash prizes already.  She’s won contests for teens and adults put on by Canadian Geographic, a magazine that retained its name, even when American, Canada and Mexico because the same country; two from National Geographic and one from a contest in Europe.  That picture was part of a series she’d taken when her family was last there. The photo was part of an advertising campaign to draw visitors to Europe’s various provinces.

Sarah might look untouchable and be generally self-centered but there is one truth about her: she loved her friends.  She doesn’t understand Delilah most of the time, although she thinks she does a little better now for her own parents fought sometimes and said cruel things to one another, but she cares about her.  She rises and draws a stiff Delilah into a hug.  “Don’t worry, life will work out the way it should.”

 

 

Chapter Two

 

2075 Savannah Lopez 20 years old, 17 years, 8 months, 22 days on timer

Savannah grunts as she lands on the mats yet again.  “Dammit, that one hurt, George.”  She drops her head back and stares at the large tree of life painted on the ceiling.  She marvels, yet again at the detail in the four seasons depicted around the tree. It is the symbol of Janus and she has been staring at it for two years.

George shrugs then holds his hand out.  “You think the enemy will be easy on you?”

“Well…” she grabbed his hand stuck her foot in his gut and threw him over her head to drop him on his back behind her. “…do you think I’ll be easy on them?”

George’s breath leaves him with a whoosh.  “Nope.”  He groans.  “Why do I never see that coming?”  George LePriex enlisted at the same time as Savannah, in a different city, and was funneled to the same training center.  He is originally from Louisiana and felt a kinship with the girl from East Texas.

“I don’t know, George,” says a deeper voice from the edge of the mat. “You really should; she’s been doing it to you for over a year.”

“Shut up, Syd.”  George’s voice is good-natured.  He likes his friend and roommate.  Sydney is the only one in their squad Savannah hasn’t been able to through around like that, but then he’s is a mountain of a man, several inches over six feet, muscular and with skin black as night.  He’s a walking shadow.  He was Australian and from one of the few remaining Aboriginal tribes.  He had publicly disappointed his father with his decision to join Janus.  Privately, Yarran had been proud of his son for choosing to protect the world.  Sydney, too, had been funneled into this training center in Toronto.  He had felt an immediate kinship with Savannah too, and stuck with her. 

Now, he holds his hands out to his friends and hauls them to their feet.  “Sarge said it’s chow time.  Let’s go.”

Thirty minutes later they all sit down at long tables filled with other members of their team.  All of them would be graduating and sent to their assignments within the next eight weeks.  Savannah stares at her metal tray of slop.  It sort of looks like roast beef and potatoes with gravy and some limp things that used to be green but she can’t be sure. Didn’t matter, she is starving.  “Where are you hoping to be sent, guys?” 

“Wherever you go,” George says. 

“Ditto,” echoes Syd.

“That’s shiny,” she borrows a term from an old show she dug up from some entertainment archives and loved.  “I don’t care where I get sent, just as long as I get to travel.”

George and Syd nod.  “We got your back.” 

Savannah smiles and digs in as she takes a surreptitious look at her timer, wondering where her soulmate is now and what they’re doing.  She sincerely hopes it’s a woman.  To be tied to a man and never be able to be sexually attracted to them seems like a nightmare.

  Sydney chuckles, reading her mind.  After two years of training, bunking and eating with Savannah he knows what’s on her mind.  “Don’t worry, it’ll be a woman.  How could it not be?  Your soul would not be a part of someone you could not find attractive.”

“You never can tell.  Maybe

They are is almost finished eating when the Sarge comes to the table.

“Yo! Lopez!  Look lively and step fast.  You’re to report to the Colonel, immediately.”

She leaps to her feet.  “Sarge, yes sir!” 

He barks at her when she reaches down to grab her tray.  “What part of ‘immediately’ did you not understand, Lopez?  Walsh can take your tray.  Move!”

“Thanks, Syd,” she whispers as she turns and runs from the mess hall.

A few minutes later, she presents herself to the Lance Corporal manning reception.  “Savannah Lopez. Sarge said the Colonel wishes to see me.”

“Take a seat, Lopez, he’s on the phone.”  The man nods at a chair near the door before going back to whatever he was doing on his vid screen.

Savannah sits and eyes him out of the corner of her eye.  He looks like he’s playing a game, he is tapping the touchscreen at a rapid rate, all with one finger.  She giggles as she hears him cheer almost silently. 

The Lance Corporal blushes.  “Ahh, you caught me.  I like to play when I have some down time.  Helps me organize my thoughts, which helps me organize the Colonel.”

“So he doesn’t care?”  Savannah looked curious.

“Nope.  Says that my organization skills have improved since I started playing Star Drop.  Ordered me to keep it up.”  He smiles wryly.  “Ordering me to play it almost killed the enjoyment of the game.”

Savannah snorted.  “Can totally see that.”

The door to the Colonel’s office opens and both of them jump to attention.  The Colonel is a man not much bigger than George’s five foot, nine inches, though he has a barrel around his middle and his hair is thinning. His hair is the same brown and his eyes the same chocolate colour, his nose almost the same shape.  Savannah tries not to stare, tries not to figure out if the Colonel is George’s father.  If so, the secret has been very well kept.

“At ease,” the Colonel says.  “Come in, Private Lopez.”

“Yes Sir,” she says as the Lance Corporal sits back down.  She follows him into the office, stepping aside as he closes the door.

It’s an hour later when she sits on her bunk, looking shell-shocked.

Sydney looks at her in concern.  “Are you alright, Savannah?”

“The Colonel wants me to sign up for officer school.” She looks at George.  “He knows my test scores, my physical results, how I am with weapons, everything.  He even knows that I want to travel.”  She rubs her timer with her thumb, an old habit meant to comfort.  “He says you can’t come with me, you two aren’t officer material.  He mentioned specifically that it’s not something you want, George.”

George squirms then clears his throat.  “Yeah, Uncle Pierre would know.”

Sydney jumps to his feet.  “He’s your uncle?  And you’re just telling us now?  Did you tell him to suggest Savannah go to the school?  It’s in Scotland!  It’ll be years before we see her again, if at all!”  Syd’s hands curl into ham sized fists.  “What have you done!” he roars.

Savannah stands and puts her hands on Sydney’s chest.  “It’s okay, Sydney.  He told me they have me marked for something special.  He said I will be able to pick my own team when I graduate. It’s a combination of officer school and something else.  We will be together again.”

George nods.  “Oui.  Tomorrow you and I will get orders for some special training.  Weapons for me, tech for you and some combination for both of us.  Uncle Pierre says we are marked for ‘something special’ too.  He will not say what it is but he says we’re, the three of us, perfect for us.”

“I leave tomorrow,” Savannah says quietly.

Sydney looks close to tears.  He swallows noisily then scoops Savannah into a big bear hug.  “Then tonight, we toast your success!  Let’s go get smashed.”

 

 

Chapter Three

 

2075 Dennis Harris, 17 years old, timer stopped at 18 years, 3 months, 4 days

Dennis glowers at the judge and fingers the cross at his throat. “Just because I worship Jesus Christ doesn’t mean I’m a delinquent!”

“You’re right, boy, it doesn’t.  I wouldn’t advertise your beliefs too strongly where you’re going though.  The jail is part of the Temple of Hera.”  The judge looks sternly at Dennis.

“Jail!” he shouts as his lawyer, the last one his parents told him they will ever pay for and the second he’s had, tries to get him to calm down and shut his mouth.  The first one quit after Dennis got caught stealing his sixth car when he was fifteen.  Dennis had managed to stay clean for eight months before the urge to steal had caught up with him again.  Now, the law was staring him in the face and threatening to lock him up.  “I’m a minor, you can’t send me to jail.”

“The province of Oregon and this great country of Canmerica says I can.  You have a rap sheet as long as my leg and juvie doesn’t want you.”  The judge looks up from the vid screen built into the top of his desk.  He looks the boy over and thinks that the smallish redhead with the cute bow of a mouth will get eaten alive in adult jail.  He’d become someone’s little girl very quickly.  He taps the vid screen, looking for something.  “Remind me what the charges are.”

The prosecution, there to make recommendations for sentencing (none of which the judge liked), says quickly, “Grand theft auto, destruction of property and vandalism – for painting on this very courthouse.”

The judge nods then smiles as he finds what he’s looking for.  He looks up at Dennis.  “Mr. Harris.  It happens that I don’t want to send you to prison.  It seems to me that someone who looks like you would be claimed immediately, beaten and raped until you understood your place.”  He looks satisfied as Dennis pales.  “Therefore, I’m going to offer you a choice.  You can go to jail or you can have five years probation.  The terms of your probation would be simple – you will work for someone who deliberately strives to bring more beauty into the world.  You will do your best to learn the job and be the best at it.  You will maintain a residence and behave like an adult.  That means reporting to work on time, keeping up with your hygiene and health, paying your bills.”

The prosecutor snapped his mouth shut then opened it again.  “I object!  I can’t believe you would offer him such a cushy deal, your honour! He’s obviously a menace and will only get worse.”

The judge turns to the lawyer.  “Mr. Jackson.  You are new to my court room, aren’t you.”  It wasn’t a question.

Jackson turns red under his collar.  “Yes Sir, this is my first case.”

“You did very well during the trial.  Don’t cock it up now.  Keep your mouth shut.”   At Dennis’s snicker, the judge looks back him. “What’s it going to be?”

Dennis looks suspicious.  “What would I have to do?”

“Exactly what I just said:  Be a grown up.  Repent.  I believe ‘repent’ is in your religion.”

Dennis’s lawyer whispers in his ear and Dennis heaves a sigh. “Obviously, I don’t want to go to jail.  I guess work would be better.”

“Good choice.  Now, you can pick up trash and learn about recycling, become a horticulturalist, or learn about photography.  What’s it going to be?”  As Dennis opens his mouth the judge holds up a hand.  “Think carefully.  Sit down, take a few minutes.”

Dennis shrugs and sits down.  He gives each job a moment.  Recycling and trash sounded smelly and like a lot of work.  Ditto with working with plants.  He figured there had to be fertilizer involved somewhere and a lot of digging and flowers.  Ew.  What kind of work could be involved in photography? None as far as he could see; you pick up a camera and push a button.  “Photography,” he says.

“Wonderful choice!” the judge exclaims.  “Just a moment.”  He taps on the screen again. There’s the sound of a phone ringing.

Hello?  The voice is deep and masculine.

“Hey, Rush, it’s Arnold.”

Arnie.  How are you?  Why are you so hollow sounding?

“I’m in my courtroom.  Do you remember the ‘Save the Youth’ program you signed up for?”

Signed up for! Rush snorts loudly.  We developed that together.  Have you found someone?

Judge Arnold laughs.  “Right, it is our program.  And yes, I have.  I have Dennis Harris here.  He’s seventeen and I’d like to keep him out of jail.”

Did he choose the program?

“He did.  He also chose photography.”

What’s he there for?

“Grand theft auto, vandalism, shit like that.”  The judge winks at Dennis.  Dennis just stares at him, shocked.

Perfect.  I’ll be here waiting.  The call is disconnected before Arnold can say anything.

“There you go, young man.  You now have a career.  I will take you over personally.  Rush is a fantastic photographer and one of my oldest friends.  He will be an excellent teacher and mentor.  He will help prepare you to be the best person you can be by the time your timer runs down and you meet your soulmate.”

Dennis keeps his face carefully blank as he rubs his timer.  It stopped around the time his crime spree started again.  There is a deep ache inside him that started suddenly one day.  It felt like someone had torn half his heart out.  He is bitter and angry.  He swallows it all down and merely says, “Yes Sir.” 

“Then it’s a done deal!”  Arnold slams his gavel down then says, “Bailiff, take the young man to my reception and stay with him until I’m done here.  I have one more case to see.”  He nods to the lawyers.  “Councillors.”

Dennis follows the bailiff and wonders what he’s gotten himself into.  He shudders as he considers the alternative.

Fiction Friday Week 21

Oh my gosh!  I can’t believe I forgot this blog yesterday!

Well, I can, really.  It’s been a toxic week and busy.  Yesterday I was exhausted and …well, exhausted.

This week I was so excited to give you Fiction Friday too.  Wolfman challenged me to 50k words in July for CampNaNo and then he challenged me to do 50k this month too!

Naturally, I accepted.  *laughs*

I don’t really have a name for the story yet.  It’s temporarily called “The Timer.”  I am going to share the …prologue?  prelude? foreword?… with you though.  

Next week will be a much longer post.  I will let you meet the three main characters – both protagonists and the antagonist.  For now though, a taste of the world I have created.  

Muah!

The Timer

 

1945

“What is this stuff?” British Secret Intelligence officer, Randall Abbott looked down at the files spread before him.

“I’m not sure.”  His partner, Henry Linnington III, struggled to make sense of the file in his hand.  They were in one of Hitler’s research facilities in Mauthausen.  This particular lab was buried three stories underground and they had only found it by accident.  None of the prisoners had yet been released and none would be until they could determine the type of study done here.

Randall picked up one of the folders and read a study titled The Other Body, Study of the energy field around the human body.  It was in English, presumably so that the prisoners and anyone from the Camp stumbling in here might not be able to read it.  He flipped open a page at random.

…success!  We have successfully measured the energy field around the human. Subject C has an amazingly strong reading, whereas Subject H only had what we are beginning to realize is a normal reading.  Subject C has indicated that she can see the energy.  We shall question her further.

“Listen to this!” Henry said. He read from a file he was looking at.  “Subject C successfully brought together two people with the same wavelength in their energy body.  She told us that her family has been matchmaking for generations.  She said that she can foresee when two people with the same wavelength – she called them soulmates – will meet.  When asked what happens when they do she indicated that she did not have firsthand experience.  We will have to manufacture a meeting.  When asked if that would be successful, Subject C said it would be, it is a future already written.”

Randall’s mind was already thinking of the possibilities.  He asked Henry for the date on that entry and searched for a later one. He picked up and read, “We created glasses that will allow us to see this energy.  We watched as Subject C introduced Subject H to prisoner 569123 from Auschwitz. Blinding light flashed on such a magnitude that I saw spots for several hours.  (It is interesting to note that those not wearing the glasses saw nothing.)  When questioned later, Subject H and prisoner 569123 both said that they experienced peace and bliss when their hands touched.  Indeed, both prisoners seemed to be more relaxed, less frightened and have a smile we have not yet been able to remove from their faces.  We shall see how long the peace lasts.  Subject C indicates that it will last for as long as both of them live…”

Randall tapped the file on the desk.  “We need to study this further, Henry.  There could be some good applications for this.”

Henry scoffed.  “What good could come of introducing these ‘soulmates’ to each other?”

“I think, perhaps, global peace, my friend.  If everyone knows that they will some day meet their soulmate, would they not be more relaxed about life?  And once they’ve met the other half of themselves, would they not be happier?  Happy people do not fight.  This could save millions of lives.”

“You are a romantic, Randall.  There are, perhaps, uses for this information but I don’t know about the sappy drivel you’re on about.” 

Randall shook his head, thinking that Henry could benefit from this very thing.  He turned an ordered the entire lab to be boxed up then he went to see the prisoners. Other people like Subject C were hunted down and persuaded to work with the SIS as they continued what Hitler had started.

1950

The world watched or listened on the radio as an announcement was made that the Queen was implementing a new policy:  All citizens of the British Empire – and this included the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and China – born in this year and all following were to have a countdown timer grafted to their inner right wrist.   This timer was to indicate how long it would be before you met your soulmate.  It was optional for those citizens above the age of sixteen.  Many teenage girls and young women opted to have the procedure done.

Many nations scoffed at this but by 1960 the countries within the Empire was turning into the most productive and peaceful areas of the world.  Soon more countries were making the procedure mandatory. 

2015

The countdown timers have become a standard part of society.  They are a bio-tech that is powered by the energy body of its wearer. Somehow, the tech has evolved itself to be constantly pinging off its mate.  Timers stop for two reasons only: the blending of souls or the death of one.  There have been cases of timers going off and the pair being nowhere near each other; those cases have always ended in suicide.  The pull to be with one’s soulmate is irresistible but not everyone can travel the world to find that other person.

The timers are set by clairvoyants the world over. Each country has two clairvoyants for every one tenth of their population.  Once the SIS scientists had discovered what made the clairvoyants able to see the energy waves and the future they started hunting down and training others with the same brain formation.  They ruthlessly bred them to one another to produce stronger clairvoyants.

Hollywood stars George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub band together to create a humanitarian organization to prevent mass atrocities in the world called Not On Our Watch. They start with peaceful ways and gradually move into policing the world as a paramilitary organization.

2035

Clooney’s collaborative organization is now known as Janus (pronounced Yay-noos according to all the press).  The company is named for the Roman God Janus.  He is the God of beginnings and transitions and is often depicted as having two faces, one looking to the past and the other to the future.  They develop a symbol – the Tree of Life in a circle and quartered into the seasons.  They train their own soldiers and have placed operatives in key governments.  Their own children have been inducted into the company, learning every aspect of it as they learn the arts of both war and peace, and the management of the company.  They have taken over NATO, the United Nations, and have people rising through the ranks of the world’s largest armies.

2050

It’s been a century since the first timer was grafted on to the wrist of that little English boy, Archie Webb.  The world has changed since then.

Janus is the only military organization in the world.  Their mission statement is “Peace through the uplifting of the voices of world culture” and their public goal is to see the world at peace, with equality, education and food for all.  They now have people in higher levels of the world’s governments and have been slowly changing policies and government structure so that all governments are almost completely made over into the image Janus has for the world.  The same vision that allows Janus’s governing board (the aged but still healthy Clooney, Cheadle, Damon, Pitt, Pressman and Weintraub) to quietly rule.  Their children are spread all over the world. 

The world’s spiritual views have changed as well.  The Vatican has been dismantled, Christianity all but eliminated.  Christianity is now practiced fearfully, behind closed doors.  Polytheism is the law – Greek, Roman and Asian pantheons are allowed, encouraged.  In what is now Iraqistan, (Janus ended the wars and amalgamated Kuwait, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan into one country, turned it into a monarchy), an edited version of the Islamic beliefs is still practiced. 

Janus has taken over the world, though no one seems to see it just yet.  Everyone is relying on the soulmate countdown tickers to find their happiness.  Just over half the world’s population has been long decimated by a series of natural disasters – flash freeze events just below and above the arctic circle, mudslides, earthquakes like the one that plunged California into the sea, droughts in Africa that killed almost everyone, and floods.   With the reduction in population food is more available, the Earth is healing and reclaiming a lot of land. 

Everyone is happy.