“- sandwiches!” I finish exclaiming as I flash back into Eva’s kitchen.
My cool points were pretty far gone after I lost my temper and realized my girlfriend was stranded in the kitchen with a couple of strangers and an absent-memory Eva. I was partially hoping my absence was, for the most part, unnoticed.
I may have gotten away with any slip like that if I had a normal girlfriend. Mo took one look at me and immediately sensed my apology. She smirks in the way she does when she wants to call me an idiot while saying she loves me at the same time.
“Sorry, about that,” I announce.
“My little hot head,” Mo chirps. “Now, before you decide to poof into thin air again, why don’t we hear what’s left to be said. Then, you can go play Houdini.” She somehow makes her eyes larger and more adorable when talking down to me. My mind won’t allow me to get upset with her even when I know she’s trying to get under my skin.
Instead, I concentrate on the largest one-handed spank I can fathom and push the thought over to her. With that, her eyebrows arch and a small foxlike grin draws across her soft lips.
“I think we might just need to go there, see if we can help,” I clarify through my own smile. “Unless there is something else you needed to add,” I open the question up to Rook and Junk.
“Well,” Rook began, “I was going to say how I think there is still someone on the inside working with the Pirates at the Orphanage. And that is how they found us or David more precisely.”
A small trickling wave of panic flutters across my skin as if all the windows suddenly opened during winter. My skepticism has me second guessing whether I should have trusted this brother/sister combo.
Mo picked up on my apprehension. I never fully shield myself from her. Keeping my mind open to her is more of a reflex, like breathing without thinking. She knows I regret my impetuous flash back to Lincoln Square as well as doubts about our guests.
Mo and I had spent our free time pushing the limits of our abilities outside of the city limits. There was a clearing in the country we go to for our “danger training” as she calls it. We also go to crowded malls or events to work on Mo’s ability to sly.
Long montage short, we have had some epic failures and even greater successes. Over the past month, she perfected the ability to dive into people’s thoughts the way a dolphin navigates the ocean surface. At times, she is able to split her concentration and accept thought simultaneously from two different people. Most importantly, they have no idea she is there. My little memory cat burglar.
Rook explains how after David fell into his spell, over half of the troubled kids he was working with left. While she spoke, I sense Mo dipping into the minds of both siblings. Rook finishes detailing her list of suspects as Mo kicks the thought over to me that they were both okay to be trusted. At least that was a load off.
“Who can we absolutely trust from Lincoln?” I ask.
“Aria has been by David’s side since we left. Benny has worked closely with him and is loyal. Jenni and David have been close; I think they are dating outside of the Orphanage.”
The idea of David with someone is disturbing on forty different levels. Mostly, I’m thinking he’s dating a teenager like me. Also, what in the hell happens if he had a child? My great grandson might be the same age as my son? Yeah, that’s where my brain engine took me. The caboose has much worse thoughts, and I’ll leave it at that.
“Jenni?” I wonder aloud.
Junk decides to snap out of his ADHD for a few moments, “She’s one of the adults that came in with her daughter, Aria. She can do cool things with her claps.”
Avoid thinking there is an innuendo there and stop smirking, Carter. “And where is she now?” I manage to force out before Mo elbows me in the side, only stoking the giggle embers into a larger chuckle flame.
“She was infuriated,” Rook takes the attention off my disposition to think juvenilely. “She took off and told Aria to keep an eye on David. I think she was trying to hunt those three down that put him under that spell.”
“What can she do?” Mo interjects.
Rook takes a reluctant breath before explaining, “When Jenni makes a loud clap she can disappear. When Jenni claps loudly enough, she hurts people,” after a dramatic pause, “badly.”
Trying to imagine what causes an ability to act like it does is like putting blue paint on a pallet, then adding a blob of white and black and guessing how many combinations of color they could make. On occasion, the limitations can be narrowed down to being a Leaper or an Eventual.
“Any ideas how?”
“I’m not the expert like David. He has a knack for knowing how one of us works. He managed to get this idiot under control pretty quickly,” she thumbs over to her brother who was drumming a beat out on his lap with his fingers.
“You mentioned she could hurt people badly. Did you see her do something to someone?” Mo empathetically pries.
Looking at the two side by side, it was difficult not appreciating their differences while simultaneously enjoying the contrasts to their individual beauty. Mo, shorter than Rook by almost a foot, had curves any man only hopes to traverse the entirety of someday. Her almond shaped eyes accentuate the sultry fire ablaze behind them. People think she has a nano-modifier that alters eye, hair, skin and nail color. Her eyes were an almost pale brown and shone like honey in the sunlight.
“Nothing I want to talk about, let alone remember,” Rook reluctantly admits.
Rook was very tall and had legs that made it almost impossible to concentrate as they accentuated her every move like she was dancing instead of walking. Her long curls bounce even when she stands still around her flawless skin. No blemish of any kind stood out as if she were made from porcelain instead of flesh. To punctuate her beauty, her mouth makes little motions accompanied with her smile. Someone would hopefully love her enough somewhere in life to understand the infinite combinations they create.
Mo shuffles closer to her and puts her hand out, palm up. “You won’t need words.”
Trusting in Mo’s expression, Rook extends her hand and places her own palm atop Mo’s soft pink one below. “Just remember for me. I can do the rest,” Mo confides.
While Rook closes her eyes, Mo extends her hand to me in order to allow me to experience it as well. As the three of us touch, I feel the pull. My mind feels like a huge piece of metal and Rook’s memories are like tiny magnets trying to stick to me. Mo filters only the ones she wants me to see.
We all relive what Rook had seen. It was a month after they arrived at the Orphanage. Overwhelmed, confused and consistently paranoid were the general emotions of any new Orphan, but those began winding down for most. They slept easier and David was helping them keep their abilities under control. Slowly they were starting to feel safe.
It was shortly after that when a couple of Orphans started feeling a little too much at home. In fact, when David wasn’t around, they appointed themselves in charge and thought everyone was an object of theirs to do with as they pleased like remote controls waiting for their buttons to be pushed.
The two older men had been developing and crafting their abilities for years. One could use his telekinesis to hold people down or away from him and the other could wipe away memories. In this sick world, there are some people who should never exist. Like demons or dragons from stories, their kind should have died out ages ago.
They made their way around to a few of the women in the Orphanage, younger girls and those not equipped to defend themselves. David was oblivious as his hands were full running out of a couple different locations since one could no longer suffice. He didn’t visit much because it appeared everything there was okay.
Jenni and her daughter Aria had been around since Rook and her brother. They never spoke much as most newcomers were introverted as well. One of the men appeared to be fond of Aria, who was around Junk’s age. Rook didn’t see much except for one of the men picking Aria up off the floor as she held still in midair. It looked like he was carrying a mannequin around a department store. When Jenni saw, she sprinted through the doors after them.
Rook was just across the hall and could see small glimpses of what was transpiring on the other side. The swinging doors pushed in and out on a double hinge and when Jenni bolted through, they teetered back and forth. On one pass she saw Jenni reaching past one of the men for her daughter. On the way back she was being pushed. On the next swing, less of the room was visible but one of the men was reaching back to hit Jenni. Another pass and the crack of his palm swept her face. Jenni flew back, landing on the unforgiving concrete floor.
The next pass showed less, but enough to see the way feet were tangled as one of the men was on top of Aria and wrestling with her clothing. On the next pass Rook absently glanced around to see if someone nearby might be able to help. And as she heard Jenni bring her hands together, the door opened to show a body implode. Not explode into bits, but fold up like he was being crumpled from a sheet of paper into a wad of trash. Imagery of blood hung in a fine mist and reminds me of Principal Uzman from months ago.
The last pass of the door showed almost nothing, but a man screamed and a thunderous clap followed. After that, his scream gurgled briefly and was no more. Then tears of joy as well as sadness erupted within the closed room. Rook sent her brother to go and find David and bring him back. As she made her way to the door, she knew she shouldn’t open it, yet something made her think it wasn’t going to be as bad as she envisioned.
Sadly, it was worse. A red hue clung to the ceiling, walls and floor. Vapors of blood draped the air in the non-ventilated room as Jenni and Aria clung to each other without another care in the world. Needless to say, David helped to bring them out of the room. He also cleaned it and made sure to find a new location as that building would never house an Orphan again.
As we let go of the memory, the images remain as well as the emotions. Rook has a small stream of sadness trailing down her cheeks. It was not easy to watch, but there’s now an idea of what Jenni is capable of doing. Her absence is neither positive or negative yet, but the fact her daughter is still there leads me in the plus category.
The long silence seems to raise Eva’s curiosity from cleaning up the kitchen. I notice her look over and as much as I could see her want to ask a question, she instead announces that she was going to check on Scarlett and leave us to our plotting. Eva knows we’ll be fine and has grown to trust our judgment.
“We should get to David soon,” I emphasize. “I left there about as soon as I arrived and if there is a spy, it won’t be long before word gets out.”
Nods from the group have me preparing to attempt this mass flash. I’ve transported some hefty things in the course of my teleportation training, but three other individuals will be a first.
I reach out and clasp Mo’s gentle hand within mine and smile an I love you at her. Extending my other hand, I signal the others to join in.
“Wait, will this hurt?” Rook timidly asks before relinquishing her hand.
“Like a mother,” I jest. The terror in her eyes makes me recant, “I’m just kidding. You won’t feel any pain, unless I sneeze or something, then I have no clue what that’ll do.”
She purses her lips in angst and just closes her eyes and extends her arm like a kid succumbing to the inevitability of a shot at the doctor’s office. Mo takes Junk by the hand and as we all chain together, I siphon from Mo and build up strength and concentration.
As an added bit of fun at Rook’s expense, before we flash, I wince and twist my face into a scrunch while taking a couple of deep, yet short breaths in the motion of a sneeze. “Ah, ah…” I feel her hand squirm as I clutch onto it tighter.
On the final achoo I flash us to the Orphanage in Lincoln Square. Anyone within earshot must have thought the floor dropped out beneath Rook’s feet as she screams upon our arrival. And she didn’t stop until I shook her hand letting her know we arrived.
“Sorry,” I admit, “just a little time traveler humor.” I think if she didn’t like me as she does, her slap might have landed full force on the side of my face instead of the meat of my arm. I laugh it off and as much as she tries to stay upset, the smile in her voice comes through as she calls me a jerk.
“Classic,” Mo chimes in.
A small huddle of Orphans starts to collect around us. There are a few familiar faces within the crowd, but most of them are fresh to me. Close to a dozen people stay at the Orphanage. Most that show up have been kicked from their homes. Others were looking for answers since the Academy was gone and the next closest one was about 800 miles northeast in Bottle Bay.
The wondering eyes looking at us are desperate for answers and I’m curious as to why. My own questions will have to supersede theirs for the time being.
“Where is David?” I ask the group.
A couple of hands point the way to a room across from us. As we make our way there, a set of doors similar to the ones from Rook’s memory swing open and a young girl in a long, thick braid of hair comes through and her face lightens up the room.
“Rook!” Aria screams mid-run then gives her a hug. “It’s been weeks, I was getting nervous.” A couple of weeks?
“Well, it’s a little more difficult to get to the west coast from midland than I had hoped. Our money almost ran out in Jefferson Pointe because someone decided to buy groceries consisting of cookies, cereal and junk food instead of our Intra-line tickets.”
A chuckle emerges from Rook’s brother, “Junk – food.” He smiles then goes on embracing his new nickname.
“Aria,” Rook turns to announce us, “this is Carter and –”
“Mo!” the young lady bursts out. “Oh, I know all about you both. David tells me such interesting stories about the two of you.”
As Mo and I display curious looks I have to ask, “Is David awake?”
“Aria has the ability to communicate telepathically, but only when someone is asleep or unconscious.” Rook explains. “She’s the reason we knew to look for you both and where to start.”
“I thought you had a hunch?” Junk stares down his sister with some kind of contempt.
“And I thought you knew the difference when I used these,” she states while doing air quotes. Yeah, they aren’t growing on me. Why do air quotes bug me so much?
“Come on,” Aria sings while motioning us to follow her. “David will want to know you’re here.”
We begin to follow behind Aria’s airy walk toward the door where David is resting. My gut feels like I have a knot tightening somewhere down below my stomach and a small nauseous feeling sweeps under my skin. I look over my shoulder thinking someone has called my name.
In the crowd, I see him. The discoloration from healthy skin to scars crisscrossed along his face in an X and his wide maniacal grin shines brightly against the shadowy contrast.
“You bastard!” I flash directly in front of him and clasp a hand firmly around his windpipe. He outweighs me by at least twenty-five pounds of muscle and despite my desire to simply dismantle him, I wasn’t about to scar any impressionable young minds looking on.
“Carter!” I hear Mo protesting.
“What did you do to David!!” the pressure I cause in my voice squeezes the blood through my veins and I don’t even know if those words are audible as I growl more than I ask.
“Carter,” Lord Ray says in a pleasant tone while never losing his smile or taking notice that my fingers are sinking deeper into his throat. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you weren’t pleased to see me.”
“Carter! Stop!!” Mo yells from behind. I’m not sure if she thinks I’m going to kill him or that he even has a chance of getting the better of me. The panic in her voice will have to be ignored for the moment.
My teeth grind together as I have too much fury I’m retraining to even open my mouth as I warn him, “the only reason I’m not atomizing you right now is for the sake of the children around me, so before I lose more patience, tell me what you did to David!”
Lord’s expression never changes from pure delight no matter how I squeeze. “Carter, I just wanted to show up to let you know this is just the beginning. Have fun trying to choke a solution out of me. I’m guessing David dies before you get it out of me.”
I hear Mo directly behind me as I release a war cry attempting one more surge of strength to throttle a response from him.
Mo is in my peripheral and I feel her grab into the crook of my arm and yank me apart from Ray. My frustration knows no bounds at this point as I see him standing there with a smile coaxing me to try again.
“Carter!!” she screams. I finally break my infuriating stare from Ray and see the worry from the glossy eyes looking up at me. Instead of saying any more, she embraces me as my vision goes from blinding fury to confusion.
I hear a coughing and gasping for air somewhere in the crowd as Mo squeezes me once more and then backs away. “What just happened to you?”
To me? “What? You can’t blame me for reacting after seeing him right there, can you?!”
I motion back to the smiling Cheshire cat I was pulled from, only he has vanished. Instead, there is a small huddle around a younger teenager crumpled on the floor fighting to escape pain and find air for his deprived lungs.
“Carter, you just took off and started choking that kid,” Mo explains. “I was so frightened. I couldn’t tell what was going on. I couldn’t hear your thoughts. It was like someone cut you off from me.”
As terrified sets of eyes look back at me from the crowd, my heart fills to the brim with apologies and regret. It gets so full, I fight back letting them pour out from the only place they try to exit, in my tears.
“But he was here. Lord Ray was just here.” What just happened? What did I almost do?
Thanks to anyone who has taken the time to read any of these sample chapters! I hope I have tantalized you enough to want to read on. Please feel free to encourage me with comments and likes… or tell me how to become better!
On to the next sample…