Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 19. Rosa

The drive with Keith was mostly quiet, but Rosa couldn’t help but notice the sideways glances he gave her. They weren’t too frequent, but they were obvious the times he did them. At first, she wondered if she just looked that bad. Her body was covered with soot and dirt after all. She quickly realized though it wasn’t that. He was checking her out.

He didn’t say anything though. And she tried to pretend like she didn’t notice. It seemed the easiest for both of them.

The drive was short. Rosa was grateful. She could have ran it much faster. But that wasn’t what she wanted.

She hurt all over. Even her skin ached. But more than anything she didn’t want to be alone. Having Officer Kenwood—Keith—with her made her feel not quite as broken. She still didn’t know how to explain this to the others, but she knew she would have time to figure it out.

Keith pulled the car up in front of her apartment. “Well, this is the place. I’m sorry about your friend.”

“Thank you. Could you please do me one last favor?”

“Of course.”

“Please just walk me to my room.”

Keith unbuckled his seatbelt. “Not a problem, ma’am.”

Rosa felt like she was falling apart, but she walked up to the apartment under her own power. Mama and Papa raised her to to be self-sufficient. Despite her aches and pains, she knew she would be fine. Her bruises and abrasions would heal before the day was out.

Keith walked her to the elevator which by some miracle was now working. He pressed the button and waited next to her, acting the gentleman the entire time.

When the elevator arrived, he even pressed the button for her floor. She gave him a weak smile as the elevator rose.

Keith held the door open for her when the elevator arrived. She walked out and pointed down the hall towards her apartment door. She started down it with him a step or two behind.

It took only a few seconds to reach her door. The lock was finally fixed. She slid her key in and found it worked just fine.

“Well, you’re home. I truly am sorry for your loss, Rosa.”

“Thanks, Keith.” She glanced back into her open apartment. “I don’t—would you like to come in?”

“Yes, I would.”

Rosa wasted no time once they were inside. As soon as the door clicked shut, she grabbed Keith by his tie and pulled him in close. Before she even really understood what they were doing, they were kissing. His hands roamed across her body. She felt herself react immediately.

She was no virgin, but she never felt anything like this. She didn’t just want him. She needed him. Only he could fill the emptiness inside her.

He pulled his lips away from hers. “We shouldn’t. I’m on duty and you’re a mess and—”

Her hand snaked into his pants. His words cut off as she pushed his pants down to his knees. She stroked him as she spoke. “Do you really mean that? Do you really want to leave?”

“No,” he said. He kissed her again. She didn’t even bother moving. She just pulled him to the floor of her living room. She yanked her jeans down in seconds. In another, he was inside her, thrusting wildly.

She groaned and ran her hands up his taut back. She couldn’t see them under his shirt, but she could feel his muscles. Keith certainly worked out.

He grunted, clearly past the point of control. “I—are you on birth control?”

In answer, she just clamped her legs around him as he thrust. She felt him explode inside her. His climax set off her own and she was lost suddenly in the bliss.

As she came down from her afterglow, she wasn’t sure why she did it. She certainly wasn’t on any birth control. Her upbringing taught her it was wrong. Of course, her upbringing also taught her premarital sex was wrong and she was certainly breaking that rule as well.

It didn’t matter, she supposed. Her metabolism made pregnancy highly unlikely. A child wouldn’t survive the routine rigors of her body. The doctors in Guadalajara told her that when she was barely out of her teens.

“Are you okay?”

Keith’s words brought her out of her own revelry. She focused back on him and gave him a smile. “I feel better. That’s for sure.”

“I shouldn’t have done that. It was inappropriate. I took advantage—”

Rosa laughed. His protests were amusing when she stil could feel him shrinking inside her.


“You didn’t do anything I didn’t want you to do. How long is the rest of your shift?”

“Technically it’s over, but they might still need me back at the site.”

“Can you get out of it?”


“Then do it.”

He cut an amusing figure as he placed a phone call without any pants on. It didn’t take him long to finish. He flipped the phone shut and turned to Rosa.

Rosa stood in the door to her bathroom. She gave him a smirk. “Are you done for the day?”

“Not even close. But my work day is over.”

Rosa laughed. “You said I was a bit dirty. Do you care to help me clean up?”

He looked her up and down. “I’m not sure how clean we’re get.”

“We’ve got all night. I’m sure we will find a way.”

“I’d definitely like to try.”

Keith walked over to her and took her in his arms. He kissed her for just a second. But she didn’t let him take control. Instead she pulled him into the shower. She planned on enjoying this night.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

River City History: Merry Mann

In 1915, the nearly decade long war between Silent Silas and “Happy” Harry Murphy finally came to an end upon one of Murphy’s own riverboats. The explosion would rock the city for years to come and end the lives of both Silas and Murphy.

Silas and Murphy were dead, but as the twenties dawned in River City, crime rose to even higher levels. Prohibition ruled over the nation and with it came a wave of crime like never before. Meredith Mann remembered Silent Silas’s crusade. Still barely in her thirties, she set out to keep the new wave of criminals from ever growing as powerful as “Happy” Harry.

She took her longstanding column nickname of Merry Mann to heart as she slowly formed a network of operatives around her. Their job was simple, to report crimes and to act together anonymously to stop it. Each of her chosen protectors wore a hood and mask (and in at least one group, matching robes). Known simply as the Hoods, they quickly became the thorn in the side of any criminal that moved into the city. Only Merry knew all her operatives with each group maintained as a separate unit to preserve anonymity between units.

Her guerrilla tactics would be adopted by many in the decades to come, but unlike so many others, Merry used them as a force for good. While Chicago, St. Louis and dozens of other cities saw a sharp increase in violent crime during the time period, the Hoods worked at all times to keep violence out of River City’s streets.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 18. Peach

Peach still wasn’t sure she trusted Smith. But as they walked through the barren wilderness, the burly man didn’t try anything stupid. She wasn’t one to judge someone by appearances, but she also dealt with too many creeps in her life. She could handle herself in a fight, but that didn’t mean she willingly walked into dangerous situations.

“I’m trying to figure you out,” Smith said. “You may be the most enigmatic woman I’ve ever met.”

“And you seem to be pulling out your five dollar words.”

“I can travel anywhere in the world whenever I want. You learn plenty when you spend one day in London and the next in Alexandria.”

“I suppose so,” Peach said. “I’ve traveled plenty and never spent much of that time learning new words.”

“To each their own and all that,” Smith said. “Where have you been?”

“Like a great man once said, I’ve been everywhere, man.”

“You a Johnny Cash fan?”

“He was an interesting but terribly conflicted man.”

“You saw that movie.”

“Movie?” She paused, trying to figure out what he was talking about. He looked strangely at her. She realized she committed a faux pas and quickly blurted, “yes, that movie.”

“You are a strange one. You don’t even know what movie I’m talking about do you.”

“Of course I do.”

“What was it called?”

“Johnny Cash.”

Smith shook his head. “And people call me elusive.”

Peach said nothing. This man was far too inquisitive for his own good. Ian was wonderful. He was far too wrapped in his own problems to even think about anything past what she offered him. This man wanted to know everything though.

“I don’t like talking about my past,” Peach said.

“Who does But you don’t hide your age well. I mean, you look great. I wouldn’t guess you were more than thirty at best. But clearly you’re far older. Good genes?”

“Something like that.”

He shook his head. “Do you ever give a straight answer?”

“Not when I can help it. Like I said. I don’t like to talk about my past. It’s not something I really want to think about.”

“I know the feeling. There’s definitely things I don’t like thinking about much. We all have demons in our past.”

You don’t know how dangerously close you are.

“My life is my own. I like to keep it that way.”

Smith looked around the barren wasteland. “I guess I figured we didn’t have anything else to talk about. There’s you and me and nothing. What do you plan to do, kick rocks?”

“I plan to find a way out of here. I plan to get free of this plane. I don’t know how, but we’re find an exit. I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life wasting away here.”

“Look, lady. I don’t want to be here anymore than you do. I’ve barely known either you or your buddies for more than a couple hours and already I’m lost in some fucking wasteland. You may be hot but that doesn’t mean I’m going to fucking bend over and take it from you because I tried to make conversation. As far as I’m concerned this whole fucking mess is your fault anyway.”

Peach stopped in her tracks and stared at Smith. “My fault? Have you lost your ever loving mind?”

“Who gave me the location? Who put the image in my damn head? You were the one that claimed to know where we’re going, but instead we end up here. This is your damn fault.”

“You have a lot of nerve, Smith. It was you that did the teleporting. My directions were good. It was you that screwed things up and dropped us in another plane of existence.”

“You’re the only one that even knew about other planes of existence. I still ain’t even sure what that means. But you seem to know all about it but are too busy playing mystery bitch to tell anyone anything.”

Peach ran towards him and drove both hands into his chest. Smith staggered back, but the blow didn’t do anything else. “Don’t piss me off, damn it! I can and will kill you!”

“You’re going to kill me? I have muscles bigger than you, you dumbass little ho. You couldn’t even hurt me if you tried.”

Peach felt the rage build inside her. She could feel it rising up, trying to get out, trying to destroy. The magic use made it worse. It made everything so easy to let slip away. She clutched at her chest. She felt the heart tattoo pulse beneath her hand. It wanted release and she wasn’t sure she could stop it.

“Please. Please run away. You have to get away from here.”


“Please, you need to run. Now.”

She met his eyes. Smith’s face turned pale. He ran.

Peach clutched her chest. No, no, no. This is my body. This is my mind. You cannot have it.

She felt it crawling in the back of her skull. It had been too long since it was last released. It was so strong, maybe too strong.

Freedom. Destruction.

Peach knew the thoughts were not her own.

She rose up and her roar echoed through the emptiness all around her. It seemed to shake everything around her. Peach tried to walk, but her feet didn’t listen to her. It’s already too late. It has control.

She realized the rumble continued around her. Something else was here. Something other than her—and it. This plane wasn’t as empty as it seemed.

Her body shuffled forward. Her arms hung low. Her head whipped back and forth as she slouched down, her senses acute. The thing that controlled her body didn’t care for appearances. It cared only for death. Destruction. Power. It was a beast of pure animal cravings.

Even it knew it was in a battle beyond its control. Something was coming for her, for them. The released beast hunched down and watched the ground shift before it. It was ready. Whatever came for them moved beneath the earth.

Peach felt her lips curl into a smile.

It came out of the dirt with a shot. The creature was a strange light gray color, not unlike the barren earth in which it lived. It was hairless with dry scaled skin. It was almost bipedal, but its lower limbs were short and multi-hinged. They moved with a blur, clearly meant to propel the creature through the ground at high speeds. The front limbs were far longer, each tipped with a three fingered hand. Each finger held a massive claw at least four inches in length. As it shot from the ground, those claws flashed towards Peach.

She turned and fell back. The animal flew past her. It struck the ground and instantly burrowed back under the earth.

The monster was a killer, but so was she—or rather, so was the beast that controlled her body.

Peach’s body lunged forward as the creature came out of the ground again to strike. This time she didn’t try to dodge. Instead she chased it down and struck out with her own hands. Her hands raked across the creature’s scaly skin. Peach felt the power surge out of her.

She knew the feeling well. She knew that the power had only one purpose. It was meant to kill. It had no other purpose.

A piercing scream came out of her victim. Its skin burned and flaked away. Within seconds, the cry strangled off. She released her grip and let the monster fall to the ground.

Peach felt the glee of the beast within. It reveled in the death of the creature. She didn’t know how to feel. The creature was a danger. It would have killed her if she didn’t fight back. But it wasn’t enough to embrace her beast.

Nothing would make her do that. She lived with the beast too long. Kept it in check too long. And it was time for her to do it again.

You’ve had your fun, she thought. Now give me my body back.

She could feel the beast rage against her. But its power was waning. The beast’s appetite was sated, whether it wanted more or not. It was now or never. Either she would take control or the beast would rule over her forever.

I won’t—can’t—let that happen, Peach thought. It is my life, not yours.

She closed her eyes and concentrated. She pushed against the monster in her head. She felt it fight back, but it was too full, too lazy. It couldn’t resist her not now. Slowly the beast’s power waned. Slowly she felt it retreat back into the depths of her subconscious.

Peach dropped to one knee. She was exhausted, but as she flexed her fingers, she knew her body was her own.

She pushed herself to her feet. Her body ached, but it was her own again. She raised her hands up to the eternal sunless sky, stretched as if waking from a long sleep. Her power was waning, expelled by the beast within her. She had used more of it than she had in nearly a decade. Peach knew well the dangers of letting it wane. Too long and the beast would again grow in power.

Comfortable her body was hers again, she turned her attention back to the creature that attacked her. Only the burnt skeleton remained, but something seemed eerily familiar about it.

No, no, that can’t be, she thought. She knew the creature only it was far too small. As if it’s a child.

The world started to shake again around her.

Peach knew that the slanath was coming for her. She knew it wanted her dead. And she knew she couldn’t fight it, not in her current condition.

The ground started to break as the massive animal rumbled towards her.  It was easy to see a slanath’s approach once it neared the surface. It left a divot nearly three meters across as it moved through dirt or sand.

The unearthly creature was a deadly predator, but one able to survive for years with only minor sustenance. But a slanath would wait in its nest for years, sit until it heard even the faintest rumble from the surface. Then it would strike, a ravenous beat designed only to kill a surface creature.

She never saw or heard of a young slanath before. She didn’t even know how the creatures reproduced. But it seemed that the child stayed near its parent. Or at least it did until she killed it.

While the slanath was infamous to anyone as well traveled as her, she couldn’t begin to guess its motivations or its patterns. No one ever got near enough to the monsters to really study them. Peach couldn’t guess if the creature was smart enough to understand revenge. But it had to know its youngling was dead. It had to know that the surface prey was responsible for the death. And even if it knew nothing else, it wouldn’t save her from the creature’s hungry maw.

The slanath flew out of the dirt, face first. It was far larger than its child. A full grown slanath could be over twenty feet long, but this one was about a dozen. Still, the monster was formidable. Massive clawed limbs, as long as Peach was tall, twisted out from their tunneling positions and out towards her. Peach watched her death approach.

She didn’t have time to prepare a spell even if she had the energy to summon it. She was dead.

Then she wasn’t.

The path was suddenly different. The broken ground was gone. The dead slanath and its deadly parent were not in sight. She looked around, completely confused. Did the beast do this?

She realized a pair of hands were on her hips. They let go as she spun around. She raised a hand, ready to fight off whatever she faced now. If the slanaths were here, more dangers could lie in wait—

Smith looked at her, a crooked smile on his face. “You aren’t going to kill me are you? Because that would put quite the damper on the whole rescue thing.”

“I—thank you. I’m not going to kill you. I wasn’t myself then. Quite literally.”

“What do you mean?”

Peach scanned the land around them. The slanath would still know their presence. They could detect surface creatures for miles. It wouldn’t be long until they found them. But that wasn’t foremost on her mind.

“We can talk about that later. How did you get me out of there? I thought you couldn’t teleport?”

“I didn’t think I could either. But I realized I just couldn’t teleport back home. I hadn’t tried to teleport from one place here to another. I got no problems there.”

“You can teleport here.”

“That’s what I said, yeah.”

“Listen carefully, how far can you teleport?”

“Anywhere that I can see pretty much. Anywhere we’ve been. Beyond that, it’s a risk. It would be all guess work. I could teleport us into a rock or the ground or anything.”

Peach reached out with what little power she had. She tried to sense the life around her. It wasn’t a hard spell, barely a strain. But she was already weak. She reached out and grabbed Smith’s arm to brace herself.

“Are you okay?”

She heard Smith’s words, but her focus was outwards. She could feel the slanath. It was coming their way and it was hungry.

“We need to go.”

“As far away from here as you can take us. At least two or three miles. It doesn’t matter where. Just away. The slanath is coming back and it won’t leave us alone if we can’t get out of its range.”


“The monster. Just listen to me and do it, okay?”

He reached out and grabbed her. “Hold on then.”

Peach and Smith blinked away from where they were. A second later, they were somewhere else. They were still on the road, but much farther down the open, empty plane.

“There you go,” Smith said.

“Again. Get more distance.”



He teleported them away again. After the fourth jump, she told him he could stop. They were at least five miles from the slanath. Hopefully that was out of its range.

She pulled away from him. “We should be safe now. But we need to keep moving.”

“No,” Smith said. “I may just be the big dumb criminal to you, but I’ve had enough. I want answers and I want them now.”

“You’re right. I have answers and I owe them to you and everyone else. I’m not usually a person that likes to give very many of them. I like to keep to the shadows. I like to avoid confrontation. Kind of like you, I suspect.”

Smith said nothing.

“I was wrong. I thought we were on another plane of existence, a death realm. I’ve been to a couple in my times and they were always experiences I like to avoid remembering. But the slanath tells me that I was wrong. Those beasts aren’t extradimensional. They certainly wouldn’t be in a human death realm. No, the slanath isn’t an extradimensional threat. We’re on the other side of the galaxy, not in another realm.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Smith said. “I could teleport us if we were in space. I’ve been from here to Betelgeuse and haven’t seen anything like this. And no matter where I went, I could always teleport back.”

“You’ve traveled off world?”

“Regularly. Like you said, I don’t talk about it much.”

“Fair enough,” she said. “Have you ever heard of Penance?”

“The prison system?”

“An entire solar system designed to hold in any criminal, but designed to hold just one being. And all of it is surrounded by a field that blocks any incoming ships, space-faring entities or—”



“But how? How could we even get to Penance? No one can get in or out.”

“There’s only one way. Somehow, somewhere on this world, Penance has been linked to Earth. And there’s only one reason for that, one person that could be responsible for that.”

“The Great Destroyer,” Smith said.

Peach said nothing, but her silence said enough to both of them. They were in more danger than they ever imagined. And worse, Alli and Ian had no idea what they could be walking into.

Peach pulled out her two-way. “Alli, come on. Alli, please come on.”

Only silence answered.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 17. Marilyn

They all sat in silence as the meal continued. Marilyn figured it was for the best. Melinoe seemed to just want to pick at her and her relationship with Cyrus. It seemed odd to her that gods seemed so concerned with relationships. From every story she remembered, they didn’t seem so involved in healthy relationships themselves. Even Melinoe was a bastard, born to Pluto’s brother.

She couldn’t quite understand why they thought Cyrus and her were anything serious. She certainly didn’t look at it that way. She doubted he did either.

Maybe it was their low opinion of her and all “humans”. She also found that amusing. She still wasn’t even sure if she was human. She could look like one, but she could just as easily be a monkey or a bear.

She took the last bite of her dessert, a simple chocolate mousse topped with freshly whipped cream. It was quite delicious and unlike anything she expected to eat in the house of Hades. Of course, up until a few hours ago she never even considered the house of Hades as anything that existed.

She looked to Cyrus. He stared at the dessert in front of him. She could see the gleam of sweat on his forehead. For the first time, she realized how terrified he was. She told him how the trial would go—how he hoped to talk his way free—but this was the first time she really could tell how worried he was that he would fail.

That terrified her in return.

“You should finish your mousse,” Persephone said to her son. “Your trial will start whether you eat it or not. Why not go to your fate with a full belly?”

Cyrus pushed it away. “I don’t think I’m hungry anymore, mother. I thank you for your hospitality but I would rather get on with it.”

“So be it. Let the trial begin.” Persephone’s words seemed to echo through the room. Marilyn could feel their weight. Melinoe simply smiled at them.

Cyrus reached out and took her hand under the table. She gave it a light squeeze, all the comfort she knowed how to bring him right now. She wasn’t the kind of person that formed deep emotional bonds. She didn’t know how to soothe his pain—not with her clothes on at least.

The room seemed to shift around her. She rubbed her eyes with her free hand. But it didn’t change what she saw. The room truly was shifting and changing around them.

The table slowly split and receded towards the wall. The back of the room seemed to rise up as Persephone and Melinoe’s seats slowly shifted back and upwards.

Within a minute, the change was complete. Persephone sat high above the room. She loomed in a high bench, clearly one of the judges before them. Melinoe sat in another seat to her side. It was lower, something of a witness stand next to the judge.

They both sat yards away from her. Cyrus still gripped her hand, but they were now looked down upon by the gods that held them captive.

Marilyn could feel the tension in the air. She knew it was only beginning.

“Are you ready to stand your trial, Cyrus?”

“Ready as I will ever be,” Cyrus said to his mother.

“And does the human—does Marilyn understand what is at stake for her?”

Cyrus turned to her. She nodded. He turned back to his mother and said, “Yes, though I argue she is not involved in this.”

“She has no choice in the matter. We will determine where she stands and she will face judgment with you.”

Marilyn rested her hand on Cyrus’s arm. “It’s okay. I understand what this means.”

“You could die here.”

“I know you’ve done nothing wrong. I know you didn’t make this. And I know we don’t have a choice.”

Persephone leaned forward. “A wise woman, for a human.” She turned as her husband walked onto the raised platform.

“Your father is here. Let the trial begin.”

Monday, April 13, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 16. Alli

“You bastard! You’ve killed us all! You set us down in the middle of a desert!”

Alli’s rage threatened to boil over. She knew it. She felt it. She just wasn’t sure she cared anymore. Marilyn was gone, stolen away by some psycho with powers. And now what was supposed to be a simple trip to get her had left her lost wherever this place was.

It wasn’t hot, nor was it really all that dry. But only a little bit of grass grew from the hard earth at their feet. It stretched for miles across the long planes. Only the path they stood on—a series of broken bricks here and there—marked any sign of a path.

She would find her way out of here soon enough, but first she needed to take care of Smith.

Ian threw himself between her and the teleporter. “Let’s not be crazy, Alli. He says he didn’t do this. We have no reason to believe he’s lying.”

“You saw what he put us through! Of course, he’s doing it on purpose.”

“Why?” Smith’s words cut past them. “If I wanted to strand you I could have done it with ease. But I’m stuck here with you. I can’t get out of here any better than you can. It doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense.”

Alli’s anger didn’t fade. “What do you mean? What game are you playing?”

“I have a sense of location beyond a normal human. I can visualize and situate coordinates thousands of miles away from me. Without it, I couldn’t teleport half way across the world. The thing is, I always have a sense of my current location. I can always tell where I am.”

“So where are we?”

“That’s the problem. I don’t know. I haven’t been lost since I was eight. Now I have no clue where I am. Do you understand how strange that is. I could tell you where we were anywhere on earth.”

“What if we’re not on earth?” Peach’s words reminded everyone she was still there. “What if we’re somewhere else?”

“What, space? Are we going to run into Klingons?” Alli could tell Ian meant the words as a joke, but no one took it as such. She hadn’t considered it at all, but it made a sort of sense.

“Nah, that can’t be it,” Smith said. “Even in space, I would know where I was.”

“Are you speaking from experience?” Alli asked.

“I’d rather not answer that.”

“Wait, have you?”

Smith said nothing.

“It doesn’t matter,” Peach said. “I didn’t mean outer space. Outer space has a feel to it. This doesn’t feel that way. No, I meant a different plane.”

“You mean, another dimension?” Alli knew other realms existed. The ghosts she knew had to go somewhere to escape this world. But she had never contemplated finding her way into such a place.

“I mean that we might just run into people you’ve met before, Alli. This feels like a death-realm. I cannot begin to guess which one, but I’m more and more sure that is where we are.”

“Then what do we do?”

Peach shook her head. If she didn’t have an answer, Alli knew they were in trouble. She may know ghosts, but nothing about being a Spirit-Cop gave her any knowledge of this situation. The afterworlds were cut off to her. She knew how the spirits worked when they were trapped in the real world. But in this land, she couldn’t even begin to guess what to do.

“We need to get out of here,” Ian said. “We need to find a way, whatever it takes.”

“I’m not sure if there even is a way out,” Peach said. “Half these realms are abandoned, cut off from everything. Nothing controls them or oversees them anymore.”

“Someone has to watch this one,” Smith said. “Someone had to purposefully shunt us off to another world. My teleportation doesn’t fail. Someone had to move us here.”

“Now you’re Mister Perfect,” Alli said. She tried to hold in her rage, but it was no use. She couldn’t, not anymore.

“I’m so fucking tired of your bullshit. You’re a fucking thief that’s so far down his own rabbit hole you can’t come out anymore. You got us in to this goddamn mess and you’ve killed us all. And all you want to do is blame some fucking magic fairy nothing!”

“Listen to me, you little bitch, I—”

Alli heard enough. She dived forward. Her first swung out. It didn’t matter if Smith had a hundred pounds on her. It didn’t matter how strong or tough he was. He deserved every bit of the knuckles slamming into his jaw.

He took the blow a lot harder than she expected. He stumbled back at the impact. His hand went up to rub his jaw, clearly hurt.

Her hand throbbed with pain. Her knuckles were on fire, already swelling. But still it felt good. It felt right. He deserved what she got and she really just wanted to do it again.

Smith’s hands came up. “You get that one, lady. And just that one. Next time you take a swing at me, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or not. I will beat you into the ground.”

“Bring it.”

Ian stepped between the two. “Enough is enough. This is getting us nowhere. We need to figure a way out of here, not just fight among ourselves. What hope do we have if we can’t get along?”

“What do you want us to do?” Alli swung her hands around her. “Where would you have us go? We’re nowhere with no place to go.”

“Are we?” Ian pointed down at the path. “It seems to me we have exactly two options. We just need to decide which path we should take.”

“We can’t decide on just one,” Peach said. “We can’t risk going the wrong way.”

“Then what do we do?” Ian said.

“Isn’t it obvious? We need to split up.”

Alli looked at the two men and women with her. They all looked back at her and each other. Peach’s solution was the obvious choice, but none of them liked it. They couldn’t have any idea of what they might encounter here. They could starve to death while they wandered the empty world. They might not ever see the others again. But they had little choice.

Alli opened up one of the pouches on her jumpsuit. She threw one of the two-ways to Peach. “They may not have cell towers here, but shortwave communication should work just fine. Want to test it?”

Peach raised the radio to her mouth. “Testing, testing.” Alli’s radio squawked and repeated the message.

“One problem solved,” Alli said. “Now we just need to split up.”

She looked at Smith and Ian. “And it’s obvious which way this should go.”

Smith chuckled. “I’m sure as heck not going with you.”

“It’s all right,” Ian said. “I’ll go with him.”

Peach raised the radio. “I don’t think that’s the plan. Alli has things right. You go with her. She will need the help in case you walk into any trouble. The Sticky Gun is only so useful.”

Smith nodded. “That means you and me, eh.”

Peach rolled her eyes. “I got over meaty guys with tattoos two decades ago.”

“Two decades?”

Alli jumped in to stop what she would know would be an awkward silence. “I’m sure it’s not the ideal arrangement for most of us, but we’re not here for a pleasure trip. We need to get out of here and find Marilyn. It’s our only hope of rescuing her and surviving this. If you find anything, any idea of a way out of here, use the two-way and call. Hopefully we can get out of here quickly. I don’t want to think what Marilyn is going through right now.”

Peach walked up to her and gave her a hug. She always seemed to know how to comfort her at the right time. For that Alli was grateful. “It’s going to be okay. We’ll get her.”

Alli could only nod.

She pulled away. “Come on. We need to get moving.”

As they started down their path, Ian kept looking back at Smith and Peach. After the sixth or seventh time, Alli finally turned to him. “What? What the heck are you looking at?”

“I’m worried about her. We don’t know Smith that well and you just sent Peach off with him. What if he tries something?”

Alli rolled her eyes. “Stop thinking with your dick, champ. Peach is a big girl and believe me when I say she can handle Smith. I know your testosterone high has you wanting to defend your princess or whatever, but she’ll be fine.”

Ian looked back again and shook his head. “I still don’t like it.”

“Well, you don’t have to like it. You do have to live with it. Just like I have to deal with your ass. I’m still not sure I can even trust you. You kill a man, then you wander off and fuck my secretary.”

“Secretary? I thought—”

“Yeah, she’s more than a secretary. We haven’t worked out a good name for her position though. But don’t try to change the subject away from you killing a man then immediately fucking Peach. If I didn’t trust you before, I certainly don’t trust you now. What the hell is wrong with you, man?”

Ian shook his head. “I don’t know.”

“That’s not really a great answer, champ.”

“It’s all I got. When I attacked Doppelganger, it felt like I had the entire world in my palm. I never felt power like that. And what scared me most is that I wanted more. It was like the ultimate high and I wanted to keep going and going.”

“But you stopped yourself. You didn’t attack us or anything.”

“I’m not sure why,” Ian said. “But I also knew it was wrong. I knew it was something I didn’t want to do. I think—I think it was like a drunk falling off the wagon. I think it was something I hadn’t tried to do in a long time.”

“Is that supposed to excuse it? You killed a man.”

“I killed a man that would have killed all of us. I don’t like how I did it any better than you did. But I would do it again to keep everyone safe.”

Alli shook her head. She still couldn’t wrap her head around the last few days. Ninety-six hours ago she was a struggling entrepreneur. Now she found herself surrounded by super-powered oddballs and her girlfriend was kidnapped to Rhode Island.

She missed her ghosts. Ghosts were simple. Ghosts she could understand. This was insanity.

“I’m sorry I’ve messed up your life,” Ian said. “I can see it in your eyes. You don’t want any of this.”

“That doesn’t take a lot to figure out there, champ.”

Ian nodded. “I don’t think any of us have a choice anymore. I think—do you believe in destiny, Alli?”

“Not at all. I’ve lived with ghosts all my life. And the one thing I’ve learned is that destiny doesn’t play a part in much of anything.”

“Maybe. I just have a feeling that what happened to me wasn’t an accident. I think that there’s a reason we’re all together.”

“Then what is it?”

“I wish I knew,” Ian said. They continued to walk on in silence.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

ICONS Character Profile: Cyrus Kanakarides

Name: Cyrus Kanakarides

Origin: Birthright (godling)

First Appearance: Book One, Chapter 3



Prowess 6

Coordination 6

Strength 5

Intellect 6

Awareness 4

Willpower 4


Stamina 9

Determination 5



Art (penciling)




Flight 7

Sound Control 7

(Blast, Creating, Shaping)



Connections: Crisis Hotline

Epithet (god of ?)



Enemy (mysterious organization)

Enemy (Melinoe)

Social: Secretive



Cyrus Kanakarides is the son of gods. While his parents supposedly live in Rhode Island and are quite wealthy, no federal or international records exist for them. This is because they are in truth, Persephone and Pluto, the married gods of death. He chafed under their parentage. The first chance he could, he escaped and ran away. He bounced from city to city, always on the move until he became embroiled in the mysterious happenings that forced him to work with Ian and the others.

Because of his history, he is incredibly paranoid of sharing his history in anyway and seems intent on hiding from public notice.

Cyrus is generally a helpful person to friends and allies, but does not come by them easily. He loves art, but hasn’t found a way to make money at it due to his need to avoid publicity. He works as a crisis hotline operator.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Interlude

With a deep inhalation of breath, he sat up. His armor was gone. His legs and arms ached. His head was still light, but only a mild case of vertigo washed over him.

He looked around the room, took in his surroundings. He sat upon a cold steel table, only a blanket covering up his naked flesh. The room was well lit, quiet and sterile. Another table sat not far from him. On it rested another figure covered head to toe in a sheet. He was clearly quite dead.

His eyes darted across the room. Lights. Scalpels. Saws. A long row of quiet metal drawers just feet away.

I’m in the morgue, he thought. But how? Why?

He turned as the sound of footfalls on the cold hard floor. The door to the large room opened. A figure entered, cloaked in a lab coat. He was small and poorly groomed. His hair was wild over his coke-bottle glasses.

“It’s about damn time you woke up,” the man said. “I’ve been waiting for over a day now.”

“Woke up? What happened? Why am I here?”

“You do not remember,” the nebbish man said. He pushed his glasses up higher. “I would think you would remember your own death.”


It rushed back to him in a jolt, like lightning to his brain.

“The Leader—”

“You should be very grateful he still has use for you, Doppelganger. Or I would have already dissected you to see how you work.”

The little man chuckled as he walked away, leaving Doppelganger naked and alone.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 15. Cyrus

His mother sat at the head of the table. His father was not in sight. Cyrus couldn’t remember the last time he saw Pluto eat though, so the lack of him at the dinner table was little surprise.

Melinoe sat to his mother’s right. The anger was apparent in her eyes. The final two chairs sat at the far end of the sixteen foot table, one at the end and the other two its right. Cyrus walked to the chair to the side, pulled it out and offered it to Marilyn.

She gave him a look that seemed to say “Are you sure?” Cyrus nodded and she sat down in the chair with a weak smile.

Cyrus leaned down and whispered into her ear. “Just stay calm. Everything will work out one way or another. We will survive this.”

Persephone’s eyebrow raised as if she heard Cyrus’s words. Cyrus didn’t make any indication that he even noticed. He couldn’t give her anything, not even a clue.

Cyrus sat down in a seat and finally met his mother’s gaze.

“What will you have of me, mother?”

“Calm down, son. Calm down. This is dinner. We have plenty time for your trial when all this is over.”

Marilyn stared angrily at Persephone. Cyrus put his hand on hers, gave it a squeeze. Remember the plan, he thought. He just hoped she was thinking the same thing.

Stark entered the room. He stood with the same strict straight posture he always seemed to hold. He didn’t make eye contact with anyone, instead simply staring ahead. “Dinner is served,” he announced.

A dozen servants came out of the kitchen, platters in hand. They moved with a practiced grace as they brought the meal to the tables. None of it was a surprise to Cyrus. Most of the staff had been here for decades when he was born.

They placed a pair of platters in front of each person at the table. The servants opened the trays all at once, revealing perfectly sliced beef wellingtons with a simple salad on the side.

Marilyn looked to Cyrus, unsure of the food in front of her.

“It’s fine,” he told her. “It’s just normal food. This place exists between the two planes, but even my parents need to eat. Stark and the chef take great pride in dinner. Great food has never been a problem in this household.”

“Don’t be afraid, little human.” Melinoe’s words came out with a hiss. “The gods are civilized. We will not harm you until the appropriate time. Then I will enjoy your pain. I have exquisite tortures in mind for you.”

“Enough,” Persephone said. “We are not here for threats, Melinoe. The trial will determine Cyrus and his concubine’s fate. Now it is simply a time to enjoy each other’s company, perhaps for the last time.”

“I have a name!”

Persephone acted as though she hadn’t even heard Marilyn’s words. She simply started to eat her food as she looked at her son.

“Enough, mother. You’ve walked among humans for three hundred years. The least you could do is treat them with some level of dignity.”

“Dignity? They don’t even live long enough to make their names worth remembering. Cyrus, you are barely a babe. Someday you must learn to control yourself. Have your fun with the little people but don’t treat them like equals. They are playthings for us, nothing else.”

“I’m no one’s plaything!”

Cyrus put his hand on Marilyn’s hand. She sat back, breathed deeply. She clearly didn’t like having her sense of self challenged. He supposed it made sense based on her history.

Even so, he couldn’t have her overreact. His mother played at hospitality, but that didn’t mean she would hold herself to her own standards. When angered, Persephone’s fury was dangerous. She didn’t possess the control of her emotions that his father did.

“Her name is Marilyn, mother. You can judge me. You can ignore her. But I will not have you refer to her as anything but that. I agreed to come here without a fight, but that can change.”

Persephone smiled as she put down her fork. “You have grown quite a backbone, Cyrus. I have to admit I’m impressed. Fine you can have your way. I will call your human Marilyn if you insist.”

“It won’t do her any good,” Melinoe said. “Her fate will be worse than yours, brother.”

“We will make our own fate,” Cyrus said.

“You are a fool if you think you can make your own fate. You are a god. You are in service to the Fates themselves. You cannot escape them. You can only obey them.” Melinoe turned to Persephone. “Why do we continue this farce? Let’s just get on with this. I want to flay the human’s skin from her bones.”

“Enough,” Persephone said. “We are having dinner, Melinoe. You will show civility to your brother and his hu—Marilyn. Or you will answer to my wrath as well.”

Melinoe fell silent. But she didn’t take her eyes off Cyrus and Marilyn. Cyrus could feel her anger. He knew she would hold the slight against him, and more importantly, Marilyn. But her anger also confused him.

They never had the best relationship, but that didn’t ever come with the kind of vehement distaste she seemed to show now. The behavior was odd. She was always overly violent, but not like this. Something was wrong with Melinoe. Something else was going on with her.

Persephone looked around the table with a smile on her face. “Isn’t this wonderful? It’s nice to have dinner as a family again.”

Cyrus said nothing. He picked at the salad in front of him as he watched his mother across the table. Melinoe loudly chewed the wellington. She wanted to be annoying and would settle for the most childish tactics she could find.

“I know this is a bit stressful,” Persephone said. “I wished you would have returned of your own accord. But even so, it is good for the family to be together.”

“What about father?”

“Your father has his own needs. You know that, Cyrus. He will join us for the trial. Rest assured he loves you very much.”

Something didn’t sound right to Cyrus. His father had been weak for decades, but it wasn’t like him to not at least show himself at meal time. He may find sustenance in other places, but he was a man that enjoyed his wife’s company. Nor did he regular trust her on her own.

Pluto had something wrong with him. He knew his father was in worse shape than he realized before. The transfer back here must have taken more out of him than he thought.

Persephone dropped her silverware, folded her hand and looked across the table. “Now tell me, Cyrus, how did you meet this Marilyn?”

“Wait,” Marilyn said. “If you’re a god, how do you not know?”

Melinoe scoffed. “We are not omnipotent. Nor are we omniscient. We aren’t some kind of fantasy being like so many fools believe in. We are just higher beings than you lowly humans. We consume the power of your worship and use it to channel abilities greater than someone as low as you can ever imagine. We—”

“Hospitality,” Persephone said “Remember your hospitality. If we are a higher civilization, we must respect the agreements we have made. Isn’t that right, Cyrus?”

“Respect is something earned, mother. I never stopped respecting the agreements I made with anyone. I just decided it was time to choose my own path.”

“Your own path,” Melinoe said. “You ran away! You hid from your own duties.”

“I went to find my own life.”

“Enough!” Persephone rose, slamming a hand on the table. “I have heard enough bickering. This is supposed to be a loving relaxed meal, but none of you listen.”

“I am sorry,” Marilyn said. “But clearly the issues underlying the trial you have planned for Cyrus doesn’t sit well either with Cyrus or Melinoe. I would say your children were all too human, but of course for the fact that they’re not.”

Persephone laughed out loud.

Marilyn looked to Cyrus. “Did I say something wrong?”

“I’m not sure,” he said.

“It seems it takes a mortal to understand the minds of gods,” Persephone said. “Your friend Marilyn is far wiser than any woman I have ever met. You will be wise to keep her, Cyrus, if you survive this day.”

“I suppose I should,” Cyrus said.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

River City History: Silent Silas

Image copyright Howard Chaykin.
During this time period, another name famous to River City history also appeared. Silas Fitzpatrick was an enterprising journalist that returned to his childhood home in 1905 after studying journalism in New England. Alongside his wife and two sons, he took over a small newspaper, the River City Star. Infuriated by the fall the city took in the years since he left, he made it his goal to expose “Happy” Harry’s criminal enterprise to the light of day. Over a period of two years, he wrote multiple large scale pieces that exposed the corruption of “Happy” Harry’s regime.

Murphy did not take kindly to a small time journalist interfering with his business. He sent a squad of his best Rippers to end Fitzpatrick’s crusade. They attacked the Fitzpatricks in their home. Murphy awoke just as his wife’s throat was cut by the silent killers. His own throat slashed, he fought off the intruders before plummeting into the nearby river. The killers reported the entire family dead, but Silas survived after being fished out of the water by a local veterinarian, Kazuki Koga. Dr. Koga kept Silas alive, but along with his family, Silas also lost his voice.

Silas used his disappearance to reframe his battle with “Happy” Harry. He would use his past training as an Army scout and martial arts training from Koga to become a different kind of thorn in “Happy” Harry’s side, attacking and destroying many of Harry’s criminal plots. He initially operated under Benjamin Franklin’s pseudonym, Silence Dogood, but upon the discovery of his identity by young society reporter Meredith Mann, he became known as Silent Silas.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Walking Shadows Book 2 Chapter 14. Ian

Barrett Nesmith lived in a tiny apartment atop a scummy automotive shop. According the the faded letters above the front door it was simply called “Auto Shop”. A faded apostrophe above “Shop” was the only indication that it once had a longer name.

It didn’t look like it should even be open, but several cars were parked inside the closed doors. The windows were grimy, but Ian could see movement inside.

It’s a chop shop, he thought. He lives over a damn chop shop.

Peach and Alli were behind him, though Ian doubted the two women would do much to convince Barrett of anything. He seemed too hard nosed for that. It didn’t matter much. They needed to convince him to help. He was the only hope of getting to Marilyn and Cyrus.

Ian pushed through the front door. The desk inside was empty. He doubted they got many customers here, nor did they want them.

About a minute passed from the first jingle of the door opening to when someone walked in from the garage. He was a large man, at least six and a half feet and almost half as wide. He wiped grease and oil from his hands. He eyed Ian, Peach and Alli as he stepped behind the desk.

“What you want?”

“We’re looking for someone.”

“You cops?”

Ian glanced back at Peach and Alli. He turned back to the fat man. A badge stitched into the man’s stained shirt said his name was Marquis.

“Do we look like cops?”

Marquis shrugged. “I don’t know. I just supposed to ask when anyone has questions. Cops have to say they’re cops or they can’t arrest you.”

Ian was pretty sure that wasn’t true, but he wasn’t going to argue with the man.

“I’m looking for a man named Barrett Nesmith. I understand he lives here.”

Marquis said nothing. Instead he pulled out a pack of gum and slowly pulled out a stick. He inserted it into his mouth. “What you want, man?”

“I’ve been told that Barrett can help us.”

“Who told you that?”

Ian glanced back to Peach again, unsure of how to answer that one. Turning back to Marquis, he said, “Our source prefers not to be named. That’s how he does business and I’m not one to argue. He just said Barrett was the guy that can help with our business.”

Marquis chewed loudly on his gum. “Wait here.”

Marquis walked out of the room, back in to the garage. Ian turned to the others after he left. “Well, that went well, I think.”

“You’re doing fine,” Peach said. “Just stay calm and we will be all right.”

Ian took deep calming breaths. Peach and Alli said nothing as he did it. They seemed to know he needed to take the lead on this, but that didn’t make it any more comfortable for him. He wanted to hide again, to disappear from the world.

It seems to be my natural reaction to everything, he thought. But I’m not going to run anymore. I can’t. If I am this Leech monster, it’s time I find a way to redeem myself. If that means getting myself killed here, so be it.

Marquis re-entered the office from the garage. He still smacked at his gum loudly. “There’s a Subway a block down the street. Barrett will meet you there.”

“Down the street.”

“Did I stutter, kid?”

“No. Thanks.”

He turned and followed the girls out the door.

As they walked out on to the street, he glanced down towards the Subway. It was in much better shape than the shop but appeared deserted in the cold of early morning.

He looked to Peach and Alli. “What do you think?”

“It’s a trap,” Peach said.

“It sure seems like one,” Alli added. “We need to be careful.”

“Do we walk away? Try the garage again?”

Peach shook her head. “Let’s play this out. One way or another, Barrett will help us.”

They walked into the Subway in unison. Ian took the lead again, even though he really wished one of the girls would instead. He felt an odd sense of foreboding about the store and talk of traps had him on edge.

The counter was manned by one scrawny kid. He was of mixed heritage: his skin was a dark tan and his hair was a wild orange afro shoved under a visor.

“Can I help you?”

“We were supposed to meet someone here,” Ian said. He looked around the store, but the shop seemed empty.

The kid pointed towards the back of the store. “Barrett’s around back.”

“Why would he be in back?”

“You’d have to ask him, man. I just work here.”

Ian turned to the girls. It definitely felt like they were getting the run around now.

“Come on,” Alli said. “Let’s go outside.”

Ian was getting tired of the games. Something was wrong about this affair and he didn’t much like any of it. His fear was gone. Now he was just angry.

They exited out the front of the store and walked around the sandwich shop. The side of the building was a tiny alley between it and the Seven-Eleven next door. It wasn’t well lit, blocked from the still rising sun by the convenience store. Ian knew that if they were going to get jumped, this was the place. He braced himself for a fight.

He didn’t even see the man run towards him until it was too late. The blow caught him hard in the gut, lifted him up and off his feet. And then they weren’t in the alley anymore.

Wind blasted Ian in the face. The sun blazed hard down on him. Ian gasped for breath, but the air here was thin. He realized they were high over a city and it wasn’t River City.

He looked down across a massive sprawl of high rises everywhere. The skyrise was completely unrecognizable to Ian, but he knew it was nowhere in the United States.

“Where? What?”

“Shut the fuck up, man. I’ll ask the damn questions here. You dig?”

They were balanced high over the city on the edge of a skyscraper. Ian saw no way out but the way he came.

“I dig.”

Barrett Nesmith looked much like a picture. He was a large man with hard eyes and an array of gang tattoos. He held Ian tightly.

“You try anything, I teleport us both out there and then let you drop. It wouldn’t be the first time. Now tell me how you know about me.”

“It’s a long story.”

“It’s a long drop, kid.”

Ian quickly explained who he was, how he got the file and what he knew about the organization that created it. Barrett listened, but said nothing as Ian covered the fight to free Rosa and the subsequent uncovering of Barrett’s file on the hard disc.

Ian fell silent and met the other man’s eyes. “I know it sounds crazy, but—”

“I believe you.”


“They came after me two days ago. At first, I thought they were sent by the cops, but it turned out nobody knew nothing about me at police central. So that meant someone else knew who I was and where I was at. I needed to make sure you weren’t them. I’m still not sure you ain’t, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt for now. So what can you do?”

“I make illusions. I can disappear or change the world around you.” Ian looked down over the city. “I would rather not do it here.”

Barrett laughed. “Dubai isn’t so bad. Lots of money to be had here if you know where to look.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“So why’d you come here, kid. Still worried these creeps will be after me?”

“Maybe,” Ian said. “But it turns out we need someone with your unique abilities. Two of our friends are in danger. They were kidnapped from the city by someone and transported halfway across the country. It seems you have the right skill set to help us.”

“You want me to transport you? Usually I charge a lot of money for my services.”

“I was hoping we could appeal to your good nature.”

Barrett laughed. “Kid, I have no good nature.”

“You got these powers. Don’t you ever think about using them for good?”

“I can break into any place in the entire world. Do you understand how much some folks will pay for that? I can go anywhere I want and no one can catch up to me. Why not live the good life then, am I right?”

Ian couldn’t really argue with Barrett’s logic but that didn’t mean he liked it much.

“Barrett, please, we need to—”

Barrett laughed. “Come on, Ian. I’ll help you if only to see if your story is true. But if I’m going to work with you, you need to work with me. And first thing’s first is it’s Smith, not Barrett. I ain’t no video game joke character. Got it?”

“Got it.”

Ian looked down at the great expanse of city below them. Dubai was impressive, but he would vastly prefer seeing it from a view other than this high up.

“Any chance we could get out of here now?”

Smith smiled. The teleporter grabbed Ian by the shoulders. Ian took a single breath before he suddenly disappeared from the tower. He got only a second of discomfort and a wave of nausea before he reappeared back in River City.

Peach and Alli ran towards them. Alli’s Sticky Gun was drawn and aimed right for Smith. “Drop him now or I will take you out!”

Ian pulled away from Smith and put himself between Alli and the teleporter. He threw his hands up, tried to wave Alli down.

“It’s okay! It’s okay! He’s going to help us!”

“He is?” Alli lowered the gun. “What did you say?”

“I just told him what happened.”

“That was all?”

“Yeah, that was all.”

Alli looked at Smith. She was still clearly suspicious. “Why would you help us?”

Smith shrugged. “It sounds interesting. And we share a similar history.”

“The organization came after Smith too,” Ian said. “He was able to teleport away though.”


“That’s the name,” the teleporter said. “Keep’s me from being confused with any video game or Monkee.”

Alli shook her head. “You’re a thief. I don’t trust you. None of us should trust him. But he’s our only hope to find Marilyn.”

“And Cyrus,” Ian said.

Peach looked at the others. “I’m not getting out of this, am I?”

“We need you, Peach. I’m sorry.”

Peach nodded at Alli’s words, but Ian could tell she was still uneasy about all of this.

Smith looked around the street. He seemed wary to be outside. If he was still worried about the organization—or still suspected they were part of it—his wariness made sense.

“Let’s not waste any time,” Ian said. “We should go now.”

“Now?” Peach looked at all the others in turn. “Shouldn’t we give it a few minutes? Plan?”

Alli shook her head. “We need to find Marilyn. And we should avoid being out here too long. If this was those people again, we need to be wary of them coming at us. We need to take it to them first.”

Smith laughed.

“What is it?”

“You folks waste no time at all. I like that. It’s pretty awesome. Not something I’m used to in my line of work.”

“As a thief,” Alli said.

“You make it sound so crass, so commercial. My job is a work of art. Don’t ever think otherwise.”

“Let’s just get on with it,” Alli said.

“Your funeral.” Smith waved them all closer. “You all need to be in contact with me if you want to travel along. Get a tight grip on me, not just my clothes.”

With his sleeveless shirt, it wasn’t hard for both girls and Ian to get their hands on him. Ian took Smith’s left arm, Alli his right, Peach leaned in close and smiled at Smith as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

Smith smiled back. “Everybody ready?”

“As ready as ever,” Peach said.

The street disappeared around them in a flash. Again, Ian felt his stomach start to churn. Teleportation wasn’t a pleasant experience, at least if you weren’t used to it.

A moment later they were in the middle of a barren plain. This looked nothing like Rhode Island. It didn’t look like much of anything actually. It was barren rock with only a few sprigs of grass anywhere in sight. The field went on for miles all around them, easily visible across the flatland. Ian saw nothing at all.

“I don’t understand,” Peach said as she released Smith. “This doesn’t look like Providence.”

“No, no, it doesn’t.” As the words left her lips, Alli drew her Sticky Gun again.

She pointed the gun at Smith. “Where did you take us? What’s your play?”

“I don’t get it,” Smith said. “I have a Providence teleportation point. I memorized it years ago. This—this isn’t it, that’s for sure.”

“It’s a trap,” Alli said. “You’re working for the people that took her!”

“I don’t need this,” Smith said. “You’re one crazy bitch and I’ve got enough of those in my life. I’m out.”

“Smith wait!”

Ian ran towards the teleporter, desperate to stop him from leaving.

He crashed into Smith. Both men tumbled to the ground in a heap.

“I thought you were teleporting away,” Ian said as he pulled away.

“So did I,” Smith said.

“What does that mean?”

“It means I can’t teleport.”

Ian looked to the women. He could see they felt the same way he did. They were trapped and they had no idea where. Whatever this place was, they would have to find their own way out.