I remember being a little girl…standing there upon a stage. The school stage that we all know about when attending a public school with the thick dingy burgundy curtains…maybe blue. Either way this stage is responsible for many moments of strong failures, fateful wins, and beautiful moments of finally putting yourself out there for people to see you…really see you. Everyone was looking at me in that moment…little, scrawny, nappy headed, unimportant…me. There I was in the talent show, ready to sing my ass off because I swore to my friends, my mother, and my father that I could sound exactly like Whitney Houston. Confidence was sometimes far fetched, but hell if I cared, because I was certainly the one that night. I had on this beautiful navy blue dress that was dripping in sequins. I think there were so many that I could have survived any maze or Hansel and Gretel story because there would be a shining trail leading me back the way that I came. I had made it myself and was so proud that I didn’t care about the faces my family wore when they saw me walk out of that room. The giggle that escaped my bratty little sister’s lips couldn’t deter me from my moment, because it was MINE. The only things I mostly remember…over the laughs, the cheering, the stares….was the announcement of the winner…that was not me.
I was devastated and it was MY first moment of knowing what real failure felt like. Up until this point I was not athletic or really for extroverted enough to get into a lot of clubs. This was my first moment of confidence and putting myself out there to see who I really could be…to go against all odds and just take that leap of faith…come what may. I felt like the universe snatched it from me and gifted it to this ugly ass girl that danced some really provocative dance in barely nothing and won over many others more talented than she.
My eyes watered as the oogling eyes of the judges looked on as she cheered with excitement, breasts bouncing up and down in a black leotard with no tights and took home her trophy and fifty dollar prize. I remember repeating that “it wasn’t fair” at least fifty times on the way home. My mother and father sighed while exchanging awkward looks. ” Well maybe next time honey, it will all work out with more practice.”
They are supposed to say that.
“And I know that you think we’re supposed to say that because we’re you’re parents but we really believe in you and that everything happens for a reason, even situations like this.” They continued smiling and staring ahead as our station wagon made it’s way down the street towards our home with more noise than needed. We were always so happy and I admired my parent’s love and relationship. They were so warm towards each other and in this moment of reminiscing on the past, tears began streaming down my face when I thought of what they could be doing now. I couldn’t even check in on them without compromising myself and my life and that was the hardest part of all of this. What if something happens to them? Or one of them dies? Everything was getting out of hand and I was overthinking everything when I really needed to be putting my plan into motion for the next move off of this ship.
I stood at the railing staring out into the ocean in deep thought when I felt a pair of eyes on me. I knew whom they belonged to and slowly breathed out slow streams of air when he walked up on me looking good as hell in another tailored suit. My mind raced to the moments that passed in my cabin earlier the day before and I clenched my legs together in an attempt to calm the feeling he produced down there whenever he appeared.
“I see you had the same idea as me…came to take in some open ocean air?”
He smirked like he knew he had me. Confident and arrogant at the same time while trying to play this game of making it seem like wanted me to come to him, but of course he knew I wasn’t stupid by a long shot.
“Yeah I guess that you can say that…I would have thought being on this ship was growing a little old on you by now.”
I teased him and looked over the balcony without making eye contact with him while he stood closely to my right.
“I have grown to love cruises, actually. Here we are…in the middle of nowhere. Wide open ocean…no land to be seen for miles and miles. Nowhere to run off to when it gets uncomfortable, it’s made for you to hate or love…it’s perfect and I’m on a mission.”
I swallowed nervously but kept my composure as I listened to the smooth bravado of his voice.
He slowly moved around my frame like a vulture while he continued. Stopping right behind me so that his pelvis was against my back as the bottom of my yellow sundress flew around in the night air. No one was in sight, yet he continued to speak in low tones.
He pressed against me and moved closer to my ear, smelling like the sweetest smell of man that I had ever inhaled. My legs practically trembled and I stared out past the horizon of the ocean, watching the bright orange sun slowly dip down out of sight.
“How long do you figure you have? Weeks?…Maybe months….you think you got a year?”
“For what?” I whispered without moving an inch.
“For this running around. It’s interesting to watch your strategy. At times, it would even take me months to track you…such a rush when I finally did.”
His hand moved up…beneath my sun dress, between my thick thighs in light strokes. My breathing sped up and his other hand swiftly came up and forcefully gripped the back of my neck while he slipped a finger past my panties.
“I am the only thing keeping you alive…and you were going to leave without even telling me goodbye?”
My eyes widened.
“What do you mean I was?-“
“I’m not stupid. We both know that neither of us are. So stop fucking playing with me and let’s just make a deal.”
Every muscle I had tightened in his grip and my legs buckled a little when he pushed his pelvis further into me. I could feel the bulge through his pants…slowly grinding and teasing me while the ocean breeze and mist blew across our faces in the evening light, slightly relieving my flushing demeanor.
“How in the hell do you expect me to trust you?? I am on the run right now, I am the most wanted woman on the run right now! And what do you want? You want me to just be “Bonnie and Clyde” with you traveling the entire planet? For you to get what you want out of me then just give me up for the reward later? You are not about the fuck the common sense out of me and bring down everything that I have worked to hide at this point. I am always living on edge while just being another damn assignment for you!”
My voice began to raise and it made him tighten his grip.
“Calm down and lower your voice.”
An elderly white couple strolled by with bright smiles on their faces because his sadistic ass was smiling right back at them and had let go of the grip he held on the back of my neck, transitioning it into looking as if he was playing in my long hair blowing in the wind and romantically holding me from behind.
“You have a lovely night.” He nodded his head towards them until they walked by and out of sight, continuing his pointless debate with me and trying to make me give in to his plan just like any man would that found a woman like me so interesting just because I’d outsmarted his ass a few times.
He continued in low tones.
“So when you planning on running this time? Where you headed?”
“Wow, you’ve never just straight out asked me. I thought I’d leave you a nice little challenge….”
I turned around and faced him now. He leaned in with the expectation I would kiss him as I moved into his space, then moved close to his ear.
“….just the way that you like.” I whispered then kissed the left side of his cheek and in one swift motion I kneed him in his groin, causing him to double over in pain and wince. I brought my entire elbow down on his head, causing his large frame to crumble to the ground. I grabbed a large bag from behind him and life jacket that sat on the deck.
He attempted to gain his composure and limp towards me, but I sat up on the railing of the ship, smiled, and flipped off backwards, landing into the water with a crash.
I could hear him calling after me and looking as if he wanted to jump in too for a minute but realized he had neither the gear nor the time. I floated in the water until the ship was completely out of sight and it was just me and all of the stars in the sky. I breathed slowly in the dramatically cold temperature of the water but remained calm, pushing through.
The bag I grabbed possessed only my essentials. I eyed my watch as I floated on the large duffel bag and just in time breathed out a sigh of relief as a small fishing boat with one bright light on the side approached and lowered a small ladder for me.
I quickly grabbed it and tossed my bag on deck, shivering and breathing through several sighs of relief.
“Got yourself into a bit of trouble, huh?”
I shook the ocean water from my hair and let out a sigh.
“I guess you can say that. Thanks for deciding to meet me.”
“Hey, I honestly can’t stand the guy and I’ve been out of the game a long time. You have nothing to worry about because the person I can’t stand more than Vincent is that stupid ass president that started all of this bullshit in the first place!”
I let out a light chuckle and shook my head. His southern accent was strong and made me a bit nervous, but he seemed harmless so far. He hovered over me with a cigarette in the side of his mouth, blowing out puffs of smoke and looking me over in amazement that I’d escaped.
Apparently Vincent wasn’t that smooth and dropped some type of book that had names in it before he left me flushed and horny inside of my cabin. My mind went back to me taking it from between the covers and eyeing it’s pages in fascination. The names included were some of the most infamous criminals and gangsters around the world and shocking jobs he’d completed for politicians and celebrities that no one would have ever known. I knew I had to get off of that ship some kind of way and what a better way to contact one of his known enemies just for them to have a rush and something over his head. To know that anything slipped through his fingers unknowingly enraged him and I knew what I’d just done was created the ultimate monster.
Hank Greisman was a retired assassin that never stayed home and never sat still, so when I contacted him and let him know what was going on and what was in it for him, he promised it would only take him until the following evening to find a jet and a boat to reach me and help plan the perfect escape. I realized I had found my first ally from a known enemy.
“Well we can’t sit out here for too long. No use in freezing to death.” He tossed me an extremely thick blanket.
“Thanks…I know it’s a little too late to be asking this…but how do I know that I can really trust you?” I clutched the blanket around my body and eyed him suspiciously.
He chuckled. “Well, I can tell you’re certainly new to this young lady, because this is the worst time to be asking something like that. And the fact that Vincent has not killed you tells me all that I need to know as far as reasoning. You’re a pretty little thing, I can tell you’re smart as a whip. Stop asking questions you already know the answer to and that you don’t want to know the answer to. Now pick up that thermos of coffee there, sit down and enjoy the ride.”
Without another word, he moved towards the front of the boat, grabbed the wheel and revved the engine. I slowly took a seat in the back and snuggled into the blanket. We took off into the night, beneath the stars in the amazing feeling of victory. Inside of my head I could see the little girl that thought losing would be her entire life…the one that stood with a look of disappointment in a homemade blue sequined dress she loved so much. She knew at that moment nobody could take the bursting adrenaline coursing through her body. That feeling of winning a battle in order to take over the entire victory.
She sipped the thermos of coffee in calm and peaceful thoughts as she looked out over the ocean…unsure of what direction she could be heading next….
“Hey, hey little lady, rise and shine.”
I squinted as the sun beamed down into my face, reflecting off of the waves of the ocean water. Hank could have easily killed me in my sleep but here I was.
“Would you like a little chow? It’s not much.”
I looked over and saw that he’d caught some fish or either already had them but they smelled pretty damn good to me.
I was starving and dug in like I hadn’t eaten in weeks. I felt drained by the sun and just wanted to lie back down but there was too much adrenaline rushing through my veins now that I was up and now that I had to keep an eye on Hank.
“I’ve done ya a great favor and need you to listen up carefully, you hear me?”
I quickly stared up at him in mid-chew.
What was this about?
“I have another friend that owes me a favor, he’s about to drop in any minute. His name is Taylor and he’s a great guy, pretty harmless and sure does believe in everything that you’re out here doing too.”
I perked up and cracked a confident smile.
“Seriously? That’s…um…thank you.”
I kept chewing then slowly looked up at him again.
“So…since you haven’t asked me…I take it that you’re also a rebel that didn’t get the chip inserted.”
He kept his back to me.
“I guess that you can say that. It isn’t easy being all alone because you’re not a follower isn’t it?”
I smiled and nodded my head in agreement and reminisced.
“Yeah…I can still remember the day he came on the news and announced it. I was in disbelief then and even more now that they’ve actually gone through with it. They own everyone now and they can’t even see it. American’s have become property right beneath each other’s noses…”
“Well, I guess we both had the balls-” He looked at me and cleared his throat. “And the vagina to not become anybody’s damn property.”
He gave me a fist bump and continued to steer after taking a long swig from a silver flask. I eyed my watch and saw that it was about 8 a.m.
Early starter, I see.
Suddenly I could hear a low humming noise that sounded like something chopping through air.
Hank smiled and looked to the sky.
“Taylor’s here.” He stated with a smile.
My eyes widened when I realized that Taylor was hovering over us in a large helicopter and quickly flipped out a ladder over the boat.
“Well little lady, I guess this is where we part ways. I honestly don’t want you to, but should you ever find yourself in a bind with that asshole then give me a holler.”
He handed me a small sheet of paper with a phone number. I looked it over for five seconds, balled it and swallowed it. I left no traces and I didn’t have a dumb ass book with everyone’s phone number inside of it to contact me for anything.
He smirked and gave me a fist bump.
“Be safe little lady.”
He delicately lifted me into the air to reach the ladder and handed me my duffel bag before zooming off the way that he came. I had so many more questions. Did he have a home or does he just live off the ocean all day just below Africa? This was getting more and more strange ever since the murder of my fiance and the capture of my client.
Once pulled up I looked in the face of a tall and handsome Hispanic man that eyed me over in admiration and looked as if he was honored just to be in my presence.
“Ah….here she is. My goodness, you’re so small. Not tough looking at all.”
“Well I’m a doctor so…nothing’s ever been tough about me.” I timidly sat down.
“Well hold on tight. I’ll get you to a place where nobody should ever be able to find you!”
I smiled and settled into the seats as I pulled the headphones on my head.
“That would be great, Taylor.” I shot him a warm smile. “Thank you so much.”
“Ayyyye, it’s no problem. I’m with you. Nobody was about to put shit in my body!”
He laughed as he zoomed off over the ocean and I looked down and out past the horizon. I felt more calm and at peace that I ever had since this all began and before I knew it I’d drifted into another deep sleep…
When we said that we’d come here, I didn’t think that she was really serious, but here we were standing five blocks down the street just to prove something to ourselves. Well, honestly for me to prove myself more than anything.
“Well, are you just going to stand there or are we really doing this?” Shannon chuckled at the hesitant look on my chubby perspiring face and looked as if she was already prepared to joke about me not being as brave as she was.
I took in a deep breath and didn’t say another word to her, boldly stepping forward into the darkness like I was Rambo and fully prepared for whatever came my way.
“You better be quick.” She urged playfully.
The things that we do to impress girls are the worst, but we were here now and there was no turning back. I stared up in awe at the Vincent family mansion, counting at least four floors. The pillars in the front hovered over our figures like they were the guards of this place. Darkness could be seen in the windows and it already felt like eyes were on us. They say no one even makes it to the third floor and that if you get to the second you’re practically insane by then.
My hands were sweating and I could hear my own breathing as I watched the puffs of smoke from the cold curtail from my dark shivering lips.
“You know Greg, this might not be for you. You already look like you’re having a heart attack.” Shannon giggled and continued to poke fun at me.
“I am fine, woman! This is…I can do this. No one’s scared. How can you be scared of a myth?” I shrugged my shoulders. “There’s not even any proof of the things they say about this place.” I didn’t sound very convincing and my voice had even gone up an octave.
Shannon stood there with her arms folded and a smirk on her face. She already knew what the case really was. How I was trying to convince myself that I was perfectly calm and would show her just what I meant.
She outstretched her slender arm, which was cloaked in a knitted fall sweater sewn with the color of bright fall leaves on a windy day. I stared into her beautiful face…it was the color of brand new shiny pennies my grandmother rolled in papers. I would take them apart when I was little and knew I’d be in trouble but I just had to touch one of those pennies and what I thought was the most beautiful color I’d ever seen…now here it was in front of me at the age of sixteen with curls around its face and a caramel apple sucker in its mouth. Close enough to touch and close enough to-
“GREG??!! Are you ok? I thought you were about to lead the way?”
She interrupted my thoughts with a pretty frown on her face. Her full lips in a pout. Eyeing me impatiently like I needed to come back down to earth while I took in the four interestingly placed beauty marks scattered across her skin.
I totally zoned out again.
That happens quite often around her, but I had to be in the moment. She could have been anywhere else…but here she was in the middle of the night…attempting to explore a historically haunted mansion with me. I huffed out my chest, put my right sneaker forward and ventured up the steps to the porch like I was ready for anything.
She scoffed but followed intently on the back of my heels.
Once we made it to the steps, we’d already jumped out of our skin just from the mere feel of spider webs on our faces and small field rats that were scurrying from beneath the leaves gathered around the large wrap around porch in the front of the house.
I took a deep breath and stepped forward towards the large door that seemed to leer at me for having the audacity to place myself in front of it. I shuddered.
“I think they say you have to knock first.” She whispered from behind my solid frame.
Her voice sent tiny tingles down my spine.
“And who the hell is supposed to answer?” I whispered back through gritted teeth. My chest began to tighten and I found myself still shaking my head and lifting my hand to knock three times in a row just to get this over with.
We both waited as if we knew someone was home and listened to the cold silence. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise and I thought I could feel someone standing near…piercing our presence in the dark. Suddenly, I felt a strong breath down my neck and something squeezed my sides in one quick movement.
“BOO!!” Shannon shouted into my ear and nearly made me crawl back down the steps and into the front yard where we stood just moments ago contemplating this entire stupid thing.
She giggled and pointed at me hunched over on the lawn and attempting to catch my breath from being startled.
“The look…” She could hardly breathe from laughing so hard. “On your face!! OH MY GOD!” She squealed with laughter. Every muscle in her face could be seen from the kick she was getting out of it.
It wasn’t that damn funny.
I won’t lie I was a little pissed she got one over on me that quick.
“Alright, alright, it wasn’t that funny.” I finally stood up and regained my composure, dusting the dead leaves from my solid black N.W.A. hoodie.
I could still peep her little attitude with her arms folded in the dimness of the dark, the moonlight being our only guide. Her teased and curly hair cascaded around her face perfectly.
“Well obviously you were afraid the whole time and wouldn’t admit it anyway, Watson.” She stated with a neck and eye roll now that she’d called my bluff. She only playfully used my last name when she was trying to get a point across or trying to irritate me because she always said it with an English accent like she was Sherlock Holmes.
I shook my head. “Nothing is in there anyway. Your face is the scariest thing out here I guess.” I teased with a smirk.
Knowing damn well her face was PERFECT
Her mouth instantly dropped and she put her hand up, preparing to lay it on me heavy.
“Boy, shut up! I will-”
Just as she was about really get into her whole spill the door behind her froze her words…
The door swung open from the inside…slowly…and loudly creaking open, as if someone finally decided to answer my knocks.
Shannon froze in horror and the copper color in her face that looked like the pretty new pennies I loved so much suddenly turned the pale color of coffee with too much cream.
My mouth hung open in surprise and I saw a dark and extremely large figure silently standing in the doorway. The silence seemed to last for nearly minutes, when in reality it was only less than ten seconds of silence before a gigantic hand grabbed Shannon by her arm and violently tugged. I screamed when I spotted long dirty nails wrapped around her beautiful sweater….clawing at her and forcing her inside of the entrance.
…for five seconds Shannon screamed at the top of her lungs
…another long five seconds of her being dragged inside
Then merely three seconds for her to be forcefully pulled inside…
Five long trails where her nails desperately clung to the old wood of that porch
Chipping the shiny lavender color that adorned each finger…
Leaving their vibrant remains behind
“GREEEEEEEEEEEEEGGGGGG!!! HELP ME!!! HELP ME PLEASE!! GREEEEEEG!!!!
That was what really hit me in the softest part of my gut…
Finally in one tiny second, the door slammed and there was silence.
Just like that she was gone and I still stood there in that yard…stuck in the silence of not even hearing her shrill cries any longer after just seven seconds…only crickets.
She called out to me…and I did nothing about it because I didn’t even know who…or what exactly took her. I was so lost on what to do and whether I should even go inside or run and find help.
Oh shit…oh shit….oh shit…
Go in there after her man!
I’m not trying to die either.
I don’t even have a damn weapon! SMART!
Call the cops!
Before I knew it, my big ass feet made the decision for me and I raced home. I didn’t look back and I didn’t stop until I made it inside and rushed to a telephone.
I frantically told the police what I saw but that I never really got a good look at whomever pulled her inside of the house. So all that I could say that she was…taken. My hands were shaking and my dark skin was clammy as I went over every thought in my head. How we should have never gone in the first place and the worst thought I didn’t want to think….
is she DEAD?
My head was spinning in circles and I didn’t want to call my mother yet in all of the commotion. The only reason I was out in the first place was because I knew her job would have her working throughout the night and I planned to return before she even knew I ventured into something this dumb. And Shannon’s parents were barely ever home, it had been that way since childhood and it was practically like her grandmother raised her. See how that works out? The saying goes for everyone…
DO NOT GO INSIDE THE VINCENT FAMILY MANSION
There were stories…several stories about disappearances that obviously never scared us enough because we still decided to test our bravery. And that’s just the thing, I don’t know what happened.
Monday morning, I climbed out of bed feeling like a brick hit me in the face. I hadn’t slept a wink and out of everything that happened and Shannon still missing, my mother made me get up and prepare to go to school…to face everyone and everything like a man.
I dragged my body down the steps and to the kitchen table. My mother poured her coffee, shoulders tense and a tiredness in her eyes I knew coffee could never take away.
“Don’t look at me like that Greg. Nobody and I mean nobody told you to take ya ass down to that house.” She shook her head and sighed with a blueberry muffin in her hand.
I hung my head so low that I wished I could become a blob and sink into the kitchen floor.
She walked over to me and gently kissed the top of my head.
“That house has always been bad news baby, we can only pray that they find Shannon. The house is very old and she could have fallen through foundation or anything to where they have to search everywhere.”
“I haven’t even seen the police out here…searching for her…or even at the house trying to find her. Do you know…they can’t even get in touch with her parents because they’re in freaking Europe??!! EUROPE!? There’s nothing on the news! I mean what are they really doing??”
I slammed my fist on the table and broke down, finally releasing everything I’d held in the past 48 hours. The remainder of the weekend since Friday night’s tragedy was the longest I ever lived through and my dreams haunted me with the pure terror in her face each time I attempted to close my eyes and rest. I was exhausted and confused.
I felt nothing like a man. I sulked and slowly walked down the street to school, clutching my royal blue backpack. I didn’t go to school, and no matter how many times something in my conscience urged me to go back to that house to get her, just to see whether or not she was still inside, I instantly change my mind and told myself to allow the police to handle it. I wasn’t sure what their plan was at this point and everyone was being so nonchalant about it.
Even my mom…
“she could be stuck inside of the foundation?“
“it’s an old home?“
No!! Nobody understood exactly what I saw. For the rest of my life, the vision of that hand and those dirty fingernails pulling her away from me would never exit the deepest folds of my mind.
“What’ll it be, love?”
I jerked my head towards a middle aged waitress with a name tag that said “Gloria” standing in front of me, I suddenly realized I had zoned out while walking and made the decision to venture into Fred’s Diner, practically everyone in town’s local eatery and “watering hole” where all of the town gossip could be heard. It was a comfortable safe space for me and I had nowhere else to go.
I sat alone in a corner and only the addition of an older man sat on the other side sipping a cup of coffee and writing inside of a notebook in deep concentration.
It was only around 8:30 a.m. and I’d obviously never skipped school to see Fred’s Diner this empty on a Monday morning.
“Uh…I’ll just take a sweet tea actually.”
My sweaty hands wrung together and I kept my eyes on the door.
She gently smiled, placing her pen and notepad into her apron.
“Well I’ll just let that one be on the house sweetie. You look like you’ve had a long day already and it’s barely started. Make yourself comfortable.” She shook her head and made her way to the back.
My leg anxiously shook and I watched local patrons and work trucks pass by the window outside without a care in the world. Happy and at peace, they were going about their lives and daily routine. Honestly, it was beginning to piss me off and I slammed my fists on the table.
You know what? Fuck this!
I immediately jumped up from the table, slinging my backpack over my shoulder.
“That’s it. I’m going in.” I stated to myself and to the house as if it could hear me. “I’m coming for you!”
Gloria quickly stepped from the back with a smile on her face, then eyed me in confusion.
“What about your sweet tea sweetie? Where are you rushing off to?”
She questioned me through lazy chews of gum and watched me walk to the EXIT.
“Thanks, but I changed my mind. I have somewhere I need to be.” I stated it confidently and as soon as I reached for the door my heart stopped in my chest.
Shannon in all of her glory walked right through the door, radiantly smiling, beaming, and alive as if nothing ever happened.
“What-w-…wait…what the hell??” I nearly fell back into the booth like I’d seen a ghost. Scrambling backwards from her presence.
The darkness in my face had drained and I was pale with fear and disbelief to see her standing in front of me with that goofy ass grin.
“Shannon…what? where? Oh my God! I didn’t know…”
I nearly broke into a sob and exhaled the longest breath of relief I ever had. She smiled and stared at me with her head cocked to side.
Her face, skin, everything was here in front of me. She had her hair up, showing her slender neck and glowing with excitement.
“Awww come on Watson, I know it hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen you. Man up! But I’m happy to see you too.”
She teased me and playfully punched me in my arm.
Our gaze locked for several moments.
She reached up and lovingly caressed my face with her right hand. I melted into it’s warmth.
“Oh Greg…I missed you.”
“What the hell…what happened to you?” I had so many questions and she was standing there like she was perfectly fine. Her nails were even intact and had changed to a deep blue. Not really her style but I guess it suited her.
“Shannon?” I stared into her face and made eye contact like I would get it to somehow click in her head if she looked at me long enough.
“Last time that I saw you…was at…you know…the Vincent Mansion. You disappeared and-“
She stopped and stared at me in awe and smiled.
“Oh my God, Greg…you know who I am? You remember now?”
I twisted my face into a sarcastic frown.
“The hell are you talking about Shannon? I’ve known you since we were little. What is going on?”
“Oh wow! Dr. Haynes, come quick!”
The man that had been sitting in the chair writing and drinking his coffee rose from the chair and strolled over to me with interest; removing his glasses and wiping the lenses with a handkerchief from his pocket.
He examined my face and looked into my eyes like I was some type of experiment.
I gently pushed him away.
“Do you mind?” I squared up and backed away.
He stared down at the notebook he’d been writing in.
“Hmmm…something could have triggered his long term memory or engaged some type of cognitive behavior. I mean it’s been years and the brain has many ways of slowly repairing itself. Things we can’t explain.” His voice drifted off and he removed a bright flashlight from the lapel of his jacket, flashing it back and forth in my eyes in front of the diner counter.
“Hello, Gregory. How’s everything going. Do you know who I am? Do you know what day it is?”
My anger was about to boil over. I was confused about the way Shannon was behaving and where she’d come from and now there’s this guy!
“Man it’s Monday! Will you please back out of my space. Shannon who is this?”
I looked back and forth between the both of them. I even looked at Gloria for some answers and she just lowered her head.
They looked at me with saddened expressions like I’d said something that made no sense.
“Someone better start answering me.” I stated through gritted teeth.
“Forget this! I have to go to the cops and tell them you’ve been found Shannon! We’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
I grabbed her arm and led her towards the door and next thing I knew there was a sharp prick in the side of my neck and the entire diner instantly fell away like a mirage.
The tables disappeared and turned white. The diner booths turned into the the hard clinical chairs with uncomfortable cold metal. Everything became white and I discovered I was inside of an entirely white room with limited windows…with bars and now I was wearing white.
Gloria stood near and no longer wore a waitress apron, but a stark white nurse uniform, holding the very needle that was just pushed into my neck.
The other guy in the diner had on a white doctor’s coat and the only one with any color on was Shannon, standing in front of me adorning a blue dress and a saddened expression on her face.
What is going on??
She slowly stepped forward.
“Greg…do you remember anything?”
I shook my head and just wanted to get my thoughts together. Whatever “nurse” Gloria gave me made me feeling light headed and I squeezed my eyes shut trying to seriously remember how the hell I got here.
“I remember…I remember looking for you. They were supposed to look for you but…no one was doing anything about it.”
The doctor stepped forward with interest and spoke up.
“Where were you going to look for her Gregory?”
I don’t really like this guy saying my entire name like that.
“The last place that I saw her. That damn mansion!” I answered irritably.
I turned away from him and fully turned my attention to Shannon.
“The last place that I saw you…was at that house…something…someone had pulled…you-“
“US…into that house.” She cut me off and replaced the word like it was me that actually was pulled into the house.
“Wait-what? No…no…no…it was YOU. You have been missing for two days and I was looking for you.”
Shannon crouched down in front of me. Her face suddenly looked different. Older.
“Greg, you don’t remember anything?”
“I just told you everything that I remember and now ya’ll got me in here like I did something wrong!” I shouted and jumped up from the table.
Shannon rushed in front of me and took my face into her hands. The look in her eyes stopped me dead in my tracks. It was pity and empathy.
“Greg…I’m found. I’m not missing anymore and neither are you.” She stated slowly then continued. “But your mom is gone…that night when you returned home…without me…you stabbed her to death….”
I doubled over in more pain. Tears streamed from my face and I shook my head, whimpering like a baby.”
This is impossible
“You did come back for me…days later…but at first…you just left me.”
Her eyes narrowed and I sensed a little resentment in them, like she was reminiscing about that night. I squeezed my eyes shut when I saw the disappointment flash in her face.
“You didn’t really look for me the way you’re saying until days later. I was never the same after…but obviously…neither were you. We never should have gone in that house.”
She rose to her feet and looked down on me in sadness.
“The house didn’t seem to like what you did very much…I was released, but you…you’ll never be free.”
I stared at her in disbelief.
I never even got a chance to get back to the house, when did I even go back?
“Wait, how could I-“
“Greg, look, it’s not even 1988 anymore, it’s 2020. And you’re not sixteen anymore, you’re 32. I’ve been visiting you this entire time…every week…up here at Pine Meadows Psychiatric Hospital. Today is the first day you’ve been this calm.“
She showed me some thin black box she removed from her pocket with a glowing screen on it that displayed the time and date once she pressed a button on the side.
What the hell is that??
My body shook and my eyes shifted between them all. I backed away into a corner, whatever they gave me in that needle must have done this!
Shannon eased into my face with an expression of stone and we made direct eye contact.
“You better be quick.”
As soon as she said those words, just as quickly as I blinked, I was no longer in the room with them, but right back in that front of that house…in the yard, hoodie and all with Shannon standing in front of me, smirking once again in that same autumn colored sweater…head back in laughter at the fearful expression etched across my face…
My breathing intensified and I slowly backed away, darting from the scene once again only for it to bring me back each time in a never ending cycle of punishment and a merry-go-round of insanity…
I breathed in the cool air as I looked on towards the horizon. Fisherman with tight dark skin and strong muscular arms tossed their nets and pole lines into Yawri Bay and talked back and forth to each other in Krio. Their skin glistened beneath the bright sun and I sat not too far away in dark shades and a black wide brimmed hat, adorning a simple sundress like I was a tourist with no specific purpose or destination. My brown hair lay in soft natural curls that I often twirled through my fingers when thinking. At this moment a lot of things were on my mind. I admired the fisherman and their strong physiques, remembering I had not had sex in more than five years or less. Memories of Will flooded my mind and I could feel every emotion now that I was in a calm location and able to sit down and think about all that had transpired in just the last 48 hours.
I sat up and looked straight ahead when a random Black guy came and sat down on the bench facing the other direction. I could see him through my peripheral and that he was wearing a dark suit, dark shades and had jet black hair cut into a fade. He was out of place in this location and in this weather and I wondered how many buckets of sweat he’d created just walking over here. One thing was for certain, he smelled good as hell!
He cleared his throat and continued to look ahead.
“Should I call you Doctor Hartley or Justice Young? I’m sure it’s changed once again…”
I froze and never said a word, maintaining my composure as I let him continue in his low baritone voice.
“You are quite to hard find when no one is really looking for you…but for a billion dollars…I certainly found you…again.”
“Well that’s because you know me by now…and how much I love water.”
Vince Cray had to be the only guy that could track me down and always came with the bullshit as if I cared that I was wanted and my head was worth a fortune…alive. He didn’t know whether he wanted to turn me in or remain fascinated by my skill and talented ability to stay out of sight and out of range for years at a time, because the crazy part was that for some reason he was the world’s top assassin and he had not killed me yet, nor had he told anyone where I was for the reward.
“It wasn’t that easy this time, you know. You’re getting better at hiding your scent.”
“Is there something in particular that you wanted to talk to me about?” I asked through gritted teeth while still smiling like everything was all good. This is always the worst part about being on the run, never knowing just how long you could be at some type of peace before someone came and crashed the entire foundation down. The one that I ever think is strong enough to completely shut everyone out. There was too much technology, too many cameras, and nerdy ass experts bored enough (some even rich enough) to hunt me down.
Then there was this guy! I can’t even put a label on him and he’s just really an absolute pain in my ass.. I couldn’t just kill him in the open and blow my cover and he never came around to kill me. It’s was as if he honestly just shows up to let me know that he’s watching me and that he had the authority to do whatever he saw fit with the most wanted target on the planet. A big ass cat toying with a mouse someone pumped with steroids. I knew at this point, he adored our little game and it’s what he lived for! So, therefore…how could he ever live without me? So trust I was never afraid, just irritated.
“Aren’t you just going to do it this time?” I glared at him, turning my full attention toward his solid physique. I found myself licking my lips when my gaze moved down the glisten of his strong dark neck. I watched the vessels move in and out, up and down as he breathed slowly and contemplated his response to my statement. His heart rate was heightening sitting near me and I wondered if he knew that he often did the same to me.
“I could have killed you an hour ago.” He stated it with no emotion, continuing to look on toward the water beyond the horizon.
“And yet…HERE I AM!” I practically shouted loud enough for the fisherman to look up and avert their attention our way. This was on purpose and I could see the perplexed look in his face at the risk I’d just taken. Something in me was amused and I could feel the goosebumps on my skin from being so anxious about what he would do about it…
With a shake of his head and a chuckle he tossed an index card and small envelope my way, rose from the bench, and walked away in the opposite direction that he’d come without another word. I waited at least five minutes before picking it up from the bench beside me and unfolding it’s contents. My face twisted into fear and shock as I read the words and eyed the photos that dropped into my lap, but I kept my composure and folded all of the documents before pulling a lighter from my pocket, setting it all on fire, and dropping it into the waste bin nearby, I could barely catch my breath and hyperventilated as I took a brisk walk around the bay before boarding the nearby luxury cruise liner I’d been waiting for the entire time. I stumbled near the docks and clutched my chest in an attempt to steady my breathing and relax before boarding a ship to take a cruise sailing around the coast of Africa for nearly two weeks.
The ship would take many tourist stops in other locations, but the only thing that concerned me was that it would make it’s final stop in Australia. That was my next destination and what was better than being “down under”? I figured that nobody could track me there but I was wrong before I could even know what being even a little right felt like. I boarded the ship with no luggage, no life, a fake I.D. and my dignity. My large shades hid my face, along with the scarf wrapped around my head like I’d stepped out of the 60’s. I awkwardly greeted everyone who came my way with a shy smile and head nod as I finally found my way to a beautiful and spacious suite with a large balcony that overlooked the entire ocean.
I exhaled and thought out my next move to become invisible again, but one thing was certain…Vince was going to always be my problem until I found a way to fix it. I cringed as I thought about the photos of Will that Vince obviously retrieved by making his way into my home after The Survs got to him. It was disturbing how close he’d gotten to Will’s deadened facial expression and limp body. He was tied to the chair the same way I’d left him, except with his head blown wide open.
I suddenly rushed to the bathroom when I felt the chunks of vomit rise in my throat. I’d endured seeing many things at this point, but seeing the man I loved and nearly married mutilated like that was something no one could ever prepare themselves for. I was really planning to spend the rest of my life with him and now he was only a memory and had gotten caught up because of the pain he felt from me suddenly leaving him and attempting to help the wrong people find me.
I wiped my mouth in exhaustion and let my head rest on my arm over the toilet after flushing down my small lunch of mango and melon from earlier. What in the hell was I supposed to do now? It was as if so many pieces of my life were being exposed and eliminated all for this damn chip! I rinsed my mouth and splashed my face with the cool water cupped in my hands from the faucet. I wanted to cry when I looked at myself in the vanity mirror above the sink. I looked drained and like I lived the life of a person on the run from EVERYTHING. There was nothing relaxed about me and every move I made was frantic, frigid, unplanned, and life threatening at this point.
I was becoming sloppy and desperate to just be out of everyone’s way that I didn’t realize I was only putting myself in more harms way.
I needed a long hot bath, food. and sleep just to make it through the next thought in my head. I never even made it to the food I ordered and when I sat on the bed, before I knew it my body slumped over into a deep and unexpected sleep that went on through the whole night and late into the next day.
I outstretched my arms and let out a long yawn before opening my eyes and emerging from beneath the thick white comforter to invite the sun into my cabin and onto my refreshed and freckled caramel face. I felt as if I’d gotten the best sleep ever with my natural messy curls all over my head like a lion. I smiled from ear to ear before turning over and shrieking in fright when I met the face of Vince sitting up in the recliner chair across the room. His hands were clasped and legs were folded like he’d made some observational notes about my sleep process like he was some type of physician.
“How long have you been sitting there??” I asked in astonishment. I brought the white sheets up to my chest and covered my breasts although I was still wearing my bra.
“Long enough to know that your dreams are going to haunt you the rest of your life.” He never cracked a smile or took his gaze from mine and slowly rose from the chair. I scrambled backwards towards the headboard and eyed his every move as he slowly walked over to me.
His tailored gray suit never moved an inch and was ironed so crisply I wanted to inquire about his dry cleaning.
“Get out of my room.” I bravely stated before I knew it. He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and before I knew what was happening I was grabbed up by my throat in one swift motion and thrown against the headboard like a rag doll. I winced in pain and heard a ringing in my ears, then I realized he was standing over me with my neck still in one large hand…slowly pressing down my airway bit by bit and staring into my eyes so deeply while taking large grunting breaths that I thought my soul might have been stolen by his. Desperation entered my eyes and the room began to fade. I began flailing my arms and legs in an attempt to fight for my life and I realized I had only seconds until unconsciousness. I didn’t come this far to lose my life now…on a damn cruise liner.
“You know, I do believe I am the only thing keeping you from living this little relaxing runaway life you decided to live after becoming a terrorist and a traitor to your own country. You’re wanted everywhere and there were SO MANY times I could have taken your life and gotten it over with, but if I didn’t have you to track down, what else would I do with my life?” He casually shrugged like I was the only thing keeping him from being bored with everything about his life.
I was right.
My chest tightened and I could feel my oxygen being cut off as I thrashed and scratched at his arms, drawing small streaks of blood. He never moved a muscle. He suddenly let go of my neck in one motion and pushed me back on the bed. I rolled over and violently coughed, sucking in air and desperately gaining my composure while he watched me in a strange way. I scrambled away from him until I was backed against the headboard holding my neck with both hands and fear in my eyes for the first time in a long time.
I saw concern for a brief moment before his face turned to stone again. Emotionless. Numb.
“Look I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know…”
My eyes widened at his sudden empathy and my face grew heated with anger. I felt as if my cheeks were crimson red and certainly knew my neck was.
“What the fuck?! You wanted me to know what? You’re a fucking psycho?” I practically screamed at the top of my lungs now that I could breathe and speak normally again.
“First of all…lower your voice. Second…you’re the only assignment I’ve never killed.”
I looked up at him in confusion and shook my head.
He stood at the end of the bed now, pacing back and forth.
“You’re crazy and you just almost did kill me and since you didn’t…you need to leave.” I stated sternly in a low tone while pointing at the door.
“You’re a doctor, you know good and well the point you were about to lose consciousness and die. Low and behold…you’re still here.”
He straightened his suit jacket and grunted in sarcasm but he slowly made his way to the door before suddenly stopping.
He turned around in deep thought and walked to the bed like he had something else to say but never let a word escape his lips.
I looked at him as he slowly removed his jacket and eased up on me until he was only inches away from my face. He smells so damn good. He took in my hair and the features on my face like he was observing every detail…taking mental photos of each freckle, mole, and blemish. My breathing grew hollow and more noticeable as my breasts rose up and down in a rhythmic motion that made him roughly grab one with his right hand then touch on my pussy with the other.
I didn’t fight back or tell him to go, my body grew weak and excited at the same time and a deep moan escaped my lips immediately. I came in less than two minutes when he brought his hand to my neck again, this time only gently squeezing the sides…making my blood flow. He began caressing my clitoris in circles to the ultimate climax when he stared into my eyes and demanded me to come on his fingers and “let it all out”. I was getting so turned on I was ready! I gyrated on his hand and grabbed for his hard dick, which look promisingly thick and long through his pants; but as soon as I did, he strangely stopped everything out of nowhere, grabbed his jacket and rose from the bed.
I still sat back gasping and getting the sheets wet, leaking and wondering where the hell he was going. His dark eyes lowered when he looked at me and flicked the largest tongue I’d ever seen across my juices that were dripping from his fingers before walking out.
I nearly came again in that moment as I rushed to the bathroom to take a long shower.
What the hell was that??
I was at a loss for words as I touched on my body and thought of his tongue wrapping around his large fingers. That devious and dark “fuck me look” he gave me made it no better.
This was new. This sexual game we started was unexpected and I was questioning the entire situation now. He could have planned it all along to throw me off and turn me in once he fucked me into exhaustion. I shook my head in the shower, scolding myself for being so dumb and naïve.
“Get it together woman! We have a mission to complete.”
I then began trying to tame the tingles down my spine with my fingers…masturbating until I fell back to sleep with thoughts of what transpired in my mind.
“African-Americans currently populate 60% of Montgomery, Alabama, the heart of the civil rights movement. 28.5% own their own business and more than 85% are living in poverty…something is missing.”
When riding around through the city of Montgomery I would like you to notice something. Whether it’s dining, nightlife, or shopping, take a moment to look around and to reflect on how much Black culture that you see and hear of daily, maybe even weekly. The type you don’t have to search for, hear about from another Black person, or go on a specific Facebook page to find information surrounding it. How many businesses can you think of that are easily accessible and well known if you choose to shop at a Black owned business on a whim for something as simple as groceries? If we, as African-Americans chose to go on strike and shop ONLY BLACK in our city…how effective do you believe it would be? Keeping in mind that it would mean, protesting all that is not Black owned or created, which would mean transportation, food, attire, and even down to the importance of your cell phone. We would be homeless, without a car, and without many basic necessities we depend on, but are distributed only through White businesses.
I believe it to be a redundant contradiction that we choose to live in a city where change and the freedom to be great as an African-American should be the most embraced, but appears to be practically nonexistent. The culture and the determination should be loud and saturate the streets of Montgomery, not only for it’s citizens, but for those who visit a location known for it’s deep history in the Black culture. Instead we battle the uncontrollable plight of gentrification when it comes to housing and the placement of Black businesses in the region.
The impact of revenue generated when we “Buy Black” would not only help build a city that deserves to be truly recognized for Black culture and business, but one that possesses the majority of that culture. The answers have been in front of us for decades and continue to remain apparent when it comes to supporting our own, it just isn’t being done.
The worst observation I’ve come to notice since moving to Montgomery is the abundance of complaints, sabotage, and crime against one another pitted against the lack of knowledge, support and humility we have given each other to succeed as a team. I am ready to stop the constant jealousy and hate we have toward each other that has only ruined blessings and opportunities we need to create. When one of us achieves success in owning a steady flowing business, it’s always disappointing to ask that in individual how they created that path, what steps they took, and what they plan to do with those steps to create a foundation of anything. We rarely give the real answers which could help our people become equally or more successful than we are and instead have been selfishly basking in that information without spreading it to others. This will always be our downfall.
There has been a constant struggle within us when it comes to providing genuine support. As an author, I have received questions surrounding discounts for my books and even receiving a book completely free…only from Black people…MY people. Being completely unaware of how much sweat, tears, and sleepless nights go into chasing your dreams is one thing; but to look one of your own people in the face in an attempt to low ball their ability to carryout that mission is an insult. It is what I would like to focus my attention on eliminating in 2020.
My vision is to highlight and promote each Black owned business, beginning with the city of Montgomery, and then journeying to other Civil Rights locations in Alabama; such as Selma, Tuskegee, and Huntsville. Reputable Black owned businesses have been serving our community for as many as 10-20 years, operating mainly under regular clientele and word of mouth. What if we could boost their reputations by not only spreading the word to those who may not have experienced their services before, but also ensure anyone who visits and tours the city of Montgomery has more access to them and their information?
The truth is that I discovered the longest running businesses are owned by those we would see as our grandparents, middle-aged aunts and uncles, and what I also call “social media apethists”. They have absolutely no interest in social media and barely know where to start when it comes to using it as a tool for promotion of their business to the masses. They sometimes simply don’t feel they need it, and most of the time they don’t; but what about those that do? Magazines such as Gump Town Magazine and In City Mag are great literary sources in Montgomery, AL that provide information on many Black owned business in the area, including those in Prattville, Wetumpa, and Millbrook. There are Facebook pages, websites, and flyers, but it’s 2020 and we deserve an app that truly celebrates us by highlighting the experience that was gained when visiting their establishment. Several years ago there were articles that ranked Montgomery, AL as number two for having the most Black owned businesses in the nation. If we still hold the title, why do things seem a little too silent around here?
The apps surrounding Black owned businesses and accessing their information, including finding their locations have already been released and become successful in helping “Buy Black” but I find it to a certain extent. Once a business is logged into the app, it even incorporates GPS to assist in directing you to a Black owned business, as well as giving a notification when it’s nearby. Black owned businesses are at your fingertips and categorized by their fields and specialties on several free downloadable apps, such Official Black Wall Street, WeBuyBlack.com, and Afroworld.
So, I decided to give them a try and see just how many businesses would pop up in Montgomery, Alabama; since categories such as hair, MUA, lawn and maintenance, and restaurants are included. Each search result produced “NO RESULTS” for Montgomery and in order for Black owned businesses to be included, they would have to visit the website themselves and enter their information to be featured. There is a $50 one time fee to join and enter your business, which seems fair for the upkeep and cost to run the app while helping promote businesses. The website WeBuyBlack is actually for those who would like to earn revenue in selling Black owned products. For $30 it helps you set up a vendor account and earn commission with your own online store selling specific products where 10% is earned by WeBuyBlack and 90% is given to the seller. Not bad.
I’m all for sites promoting Black owned businesses, but this year what I would like to put my primary focus and energy into specifically is the promotion and awareness of Black owned business in the city of Montgomery and how we can become better in creating more revenue in our communities to help eliminate poverty and provide better support for our neighborhoods and our schools. Through my non-profit Harmonious Grace, Inc, I would like to start with creating a website and a book that is similar to a “Green Book”. A Green Book, also known as The Negro Motorist Green Book, like the movie, it was a written record of business that are Black owned or Black “friendly” during the time of Jim Crow laws and segregation. Although we are no longer battling segregation or Jim Crow, we still battle the silence of how amazing doing business with African-Americans can feel! I would like to create a website and eventually an app that provides information and locations about reputable Black owned business in Montgomery, the difference being that I will personally interview each business, enter their information and ensure that most if not all reputable Black owned businesses operating in Montgomery are featured. These businesses should be easily accessible and found on ANY website promoting Black owned business and revenue without having to do all of the work they are unaware they need to do in the first place.
We are a city who’s streets bear the struggle and the fight for us to be treated equal, vote, and even receive the right to sit and eat where we please as human beings. Black History Month is slowly approaching and I’m sure there will be the dozens of programs promoting positive Black history, parades, business expos, and future plans for African-Americans to have a better presence in Montgomery. I’d like to be one of those not only speaking of change, but making that change happen for the better. My journey will begin with touring the city of Montgomery during the next several months to interview Black owned businesses about their history, the reason they started, how long they’ve been in business and what their plans are for the future. This information will then be compiled to a website focusing on Montgomery and generating more revenue where it should be, in the Black Community. Following my project, I am will be working hard to ensure all businesses will be accessible through an app that is free to download and directs all tourist and residents to Black owned businesses throughout the city. There are entirely too many that are not included on websites or highlighted by social media.
If you know of any Black owned businesses that have provided great services or products to your life and deserve to be feature, please send them to my direct email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment directly beneath this post. I plan to interview each business, no matter the location in Montgomery or the service! Thank you for your help and your continued support for all that I strive to do! It’s now time that we strive together.
The President of the United States stood there irritated and lost in thought as, Louis Thorington, the head of “The Survs” stood in the center of The Oval Office and reported back to him the news about Dr. Hartley that he did not expect. He stared out of the window and listened intently without response.
“She’s uh…she’s escaped and disappeared off the grid again sir. Last location was in Rome, Italy until she killed two of our officers and escaped through a hotel window. We are working hard to track her location and send more officers to bring her back…um Mr. President.” Thorington cleared his throat. He stood there in a gray expensive tailored suit, simply dressed with no watch or jewelry and appearing well put together; but his graying dirty blonde hair glistened with sweat and his pale manicured hands were moist as he hid them behind his back and firmly planted his feet. He held a mousy type of appearance that wasn’t as intimidating as it should be for the leader of a group called The Survs that hunt down potential terrorist threats, but his brawn wasn’t why he was chosen. Louis Thorington was one the main creators and programmers of The Surveill-Eye 3000, the reason this was all a success. Thorington had been a brain surgeon and heard the ideas thrown out about a small chip being inserted somewhere into the body in order to control the nation. It began as a mere idea and a dream, then changed into a reality the day Thorington walked into The White House to finally present The Surveill-Eye 3000 after tirelessly crafting it for ten years.
He stood in front of everyone at the White House during a televised press conference about his new invention and the plans to carry it out and complete everyone’s insertion that following year.
“Not only will The Surveill-Eye 3000 keep track of finances, income, and background information, but through the brain sensor, this chip will also possess the ability to detect emotions motivating rage! With this chip we will be able to better eliminate terrorist acts and school shootings by actually seeing the premeditated emotions leading to homicides. Crime rate will be practically non-existent when we involve a special team dedicated to tracking and detaining citizens with these types of issues.”
A Hispanic woman that happened to be a House Representative slowly raised her hand. Thorington pointed to her with a smirk after his statements, knowing that this would raise a lot of skepticism and even rejection, but he was fully prepared to back up and discuss all of his research.
“Isn’t this a little too far? Tapping into the emotions you assume one may have may not necessarily lead to murder or the shooting of an entire building. What if it’s…grief? Or just anger because of the loss of a job? This doesn’t always lead to greater issues and sometimes it has to do with the way someone is mentally able to handle their problem. Seems to me as if you’re saying anyone that gets too emotionally charged would be at risk of a team of strangers coming to their home and detaining them until…what? They calm down? Or a certain amount of assigned prison time? Time out?” She cocked her head as the audience around her chuckled.
Thorington grinned. “Great question, but I do believe you’re looking at it from the wrong point of view. This will allow us to be more safe and not look up at the news to see twenty or more people dead because of a deadly mass shooting. We will tackle the issues once we actually get to them and learn the extent of the emotion one is going through.”
She frowned her face in thought. “So how is that not an inconvenience? Or against someone’s natural rights? You’re not only invading someones brain, emotions, thoughts, and well being, but their entire life as they know it just because they became a little upset. What are we twelve? We’re being indefinitely for detained just for how we feel??”
The rest of the room began to chatter in agreement.
“Well, isn’t it better to be safe that sorry? Where has letting people have free thoughts and free range of living gotten us? Heartbroken…disappointed…devastated. You can barely even look at the news anymore without hearing about a tragedy. Aren’t we all tired of the unexpected? The unpredictable actions of these criminals are ruining lives. The first thing is that the individuals already possessing a criminal record and in the prison systems are the FIRST to get this chip with no argument about it. This will be not only their new form of probation that needs no physical officer keeping tabs, but their forced retention to never step out of line again. It’s all controlled so simply!” He raised his arms as if he’d made a grand statement.
The room’s chatter and discussions grew louder and more animated as more questions began to emerge. The head of the FBI rose to speak next.
“So this is basically eliminating jobs for those of us that had to do this type of work ourselves…isn’t that right Mr. Thorington?” He straightened his jacket in a huff.
“Not necessarily. You’ll still have a job for about three years until the switch is made and everything that you’ve already done the regular way is all controlled through a new high tech system that you will all be trained to operate once you’ve gained your new names as ‘The Survs’.” The room went up in an uproar that made Thorington walk out of the meeting with nothing more to say. Everything could not be answered in one sitting but the fact of the matter was that the president already confirmed and sealed the deal for the manufacturing and distribution of The Surveille-Eye 3000 as they spoke.
“The President shook Thorington’s hand vigorously with a smile. “This is some work you’ve done here Mr. Thorington, it’s absolutely PERFECT for my plan. America will TRULY be great again.”
Thorington beamed with pride next to his wife Nadia and two small children when he signed the 1 Billion dollar deal that changed his entire life and in less than two years the chip was inserted into citizens and running successfully in every obedient and proud American….then Dr. Hartley happened.
Louis Thorington back then was happy and carefree, feeling as if he’d done the greatest deed for his country, now he’d not slept in weeks since the manhunt for her began after she’d somehow figured out how to extract the chip without killing it’s host, freeing all Americans that now realized they no longer wanted to be controlled by the government’s heavy hand. After being known as the most smart and prestigious man in America, he now in the position of being the most hated man. He breathed deeply and faced his fate in The Oval Office as rain fell against the windows in streaks.
Finally turning to face him, the president’s face held an expression of anger as he walked toward his chair and sat down in deep thought before speaking.
“When we started this project for a greater America, I was told there would be no issues. That it is a fail safe plan and there is NO WAY it can be compromised or taken out without the person ending their own life or the lives of others and you’re telling me that this…this mere woman is outsmarting us all and removing it for money…unacceptable.” He stated through gritted teeth while bringing his tiny fist down on the desk with a thud.
Thorington cleared his throat again nervously. “With all due respect, Mr. President, she was known as one of the top surgeons in America…we can’t really underestimate her.”
He looked up in surprise, making Thorington regret his words.
“Is that right? Coming from the head of an intelligent team that I specifically picked to make this project an ultimate success?” He nodded his head in thought. Then a weird smirk came across his face.
“Alright, you’re dismissed.” He quickly stated with a wave of his hand.
Thorington shifted his weight between each leg.
“But um…I am promising you sir that we are going to find her. We will not let you down.”
He continued to write something on a pad without looking up nor responding to his words. Thorington slowly turned on his left toe anxiously and walked out of the door in silence. The president shook his head in disappointment then clicked the “TERMINATE” button on Thorington’s profile displayed on his screen. Within less than thirty seconds, a loud POP could be heard followed by shrill screaming and calls for someone to “Get help.”
With a slash of his pin he crossed out his note saying “Find replacement for position of ‘Head of Survs’ IMMEDIATELY.”
“Someday we’ll be safe.” I mustered a weak smile, knowing I didn’t even believe in my own words. The young woman in front of me named, Madison, presented an even weaker smile followed by a silent frown when my scalpel made the cut into her wrist. I stared into the pools of her frightened hazel eyes. Her chestnut hair flowed around her face in a choppy and messy “bob” cut…but it suited her. The color in her milky skin looked drained beneath the bright medical lights in my basement. I flipped her wrist and tapped the spot I would have to dig in for the extraction. “Take deep breaths…slowly…this will only take a moment…but it will hurt like hell,” I warned. She blinked and sadly peered up into my serious dark brown eyes. Before she could make any statements or question me any longer I dug deep into the thin skin of her small wrists with sterilized, yet magnetized tweezers. I’d done this so many times I was prepared for the reaction of yelling, trying to pull away, pushing me away with their other hand. Not her. She winced and flinched slightly for about thirty seconds as blood escaped the deep incision I made.
I knew how to work quickly and accurately and just as I expected, my tweezers pulled up the tiny chip lodged deep between her muscles and bones. She whimpered when I finally extracted the solid glowing chip and, tossed it on to the tray, then bandaged her more quickly than I cut. She eyed the glowing chip like it was a disease as it pulsated on the silver slab of metal. “It’s just crazy how we really agreed to have those things put into our bodies…they kept convincing us…” Her sad voice faded off as she shook her head in disbelief.
I patted her shoulder after dressing her wound.
“Hey, don’t feel bad. You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last.” I peeled the rubber gloves from my hand and led her out of the back. She turned toward me and stared into my face with gratitude.
“Now, you’re going to have to care for this and give it a new dressing everyday. That was a pretty deep incision and you’re open to all kind of infection if you don’t keep it clean. The signal they inserted at the back of your neck will still be there…but without the chip they’ll be unable to see and control anything else. But in about an hour or so they will realize it has been tampered with and removed…you don’t have long.”
“I can’t thank you enough..” She grabbed both of my hands gently. “The money is already in the specified location that you gave me…I’ll be gone before sunset today.” She patted my hand then slowly sashayed away, but ducked her head low to ensure she wasn’t being watched.
I shook my head and headed back inside to clean and sterilize everything. I was deep into the business now. I’d been hiding out for years and now wore the reputation of a rebel, terrorist, and pretty much public enemy number one. Setting people free from beneath the government’s judgmental eyes and controlled terms of living was what I loved to do and was paid to do. But it held deadly consequences and a life of loneliness.
I still remember it like it was yesterday as I finished performing heart surgery on a very young patient of mine. Once everything was finished and she was stitched and ready for recovery, I pulled the rubber gloves from my hands and washed up. After informing her parents of our success and her promising recovery, I headed to the cafeteria for something to snack on during what I knew would be a long night shift. I had two more surgeries already scheduled and exhaled as I sat down for the first time in hours.
Something inside of me sunk as I unwrapped the turkey sandwich I’d purchased and saw the words “PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT” flash across the screen and our sad excuse of a president flashed a cheesy smile like he knew he was about to literally FUCK US ALL.
“Good evening fellow Americans! His voice boomed with enthusiasm, pale hands folded together on the desk in front of him as he continued.
“As you all know, nothing on this Earth can work nor be organized without order. We are currently living in a land that has lost control of what’s most important in this country…trust. We…need…to trust those surrounding us every single day of our lives in this beautiful land!” He pounded his small fist on the desk like he meant business.
“There have been far too many shootings, kidnappings, sex trafficking and murders by those surrounding us. These are people we communicate with everyday, yet these violent crimes continuously increase. We don’t know what is going on in the minds of others, we can’t read their emotions, their intentions. So how are we stop them? How are we to console their problems mentally by getting them the help they need? What if I told you that is all going to change?”
My eyes widened as he continued with the exact words I had been waiting for. The words that I knew would cause an even worse riot than police brutality, ICE, and feminism ever could. “I now introduce to you the chip that will change ALL of our lives.” He continued with a creepy smirk and lifted a thin computer chip between his fingers for all to see.
“This right here is the Surveil-Eye 3000. It looks small in size, but this chip of the future is PACKED with the ability to change the face of America and it’s safety. We will no longer have to wonder what’s in a young person’s head when depressed enough to shoot an entire school. We will no longer fear the reasons behind kidnapping, child pornography, or even just premeditated murders among ourselves. It reads emotions, violent thoughts, and whether there is ANY reason for concern about someone possibly performing terrorists acts, mass killings, or any tragedy…it sends out signals to law enforcement to act IMMEDIATELY! With just a small incision in the wrist, everything will become easier, safer, and we’ll be more involved with one another. Simply scan your wrist across an automated register to pay for all items and services. It is the new form of revenue and all that you earn is represented in this one tiny chip!”
He paused before he continued as if he wanted to let everything he said sink into our minds.
“Your bank account, credit card information, your yearly income, background information, credit score…EVERYTHING is now literally at your fingertips. You may feel this is an invasion of privacy and human rights but I assure you, there is no recording or audio recording of private or intimate moments. You’ll still live your life privately with only the monitoring of major emotions, depression, or issues that could cause harm to others! You’ll no longer have to fill out job resumes nor explain your background. Everything will be conveniently be stored in one place.”
I shook my head in disbelief. This was it, we were officially doomed and about to live beneath the thumb of controlling tyrants able to make everything we want and need something that can be disrupted if they chose to do so just by contacting the feds or exiling us, or even worse…death. He was grinning as if it were the best plan ever imagined and we should all be excited too.
“I pray this chip saves our country and it’s application will be required to remain in this country so…the decision is yours. But that decision will need to be made within two months before the start of the new year. Do what is right for us all.” With a smirk and a shrug he was gone and it went back to our “Scheduled programming.”
That’s it? The decision is ours?? What decision??
I hadn’t taken one bite of my sandwich and eyed the other nurses and doctors on their breaks. Their mouth hung open in shock for what seemed like five minutes. There was confusion, questioning, and then exactly what I knew would happen later. The conversation changed because there was no other choice in their opinion and discomfort could never be an option.
“Well maybe he’s right. He IS our president. It may put a stop to all of this unnecessary crime lately!“
“It shouldn’t be too bad, plus what will we do if we can’t buy anything or pay our rent? Provide for our families?”
“They said there won’t be any recording or privacy invasion. It’s in our wrists…what’s the worst that could happen?“
I rose up quickly, throwing my entire unbitten turkey sandwich into the trash bin, removing my scrubs, snatching my hospital badge from around my neck and leaving the hospital without notice. I breezed past doctors and nurses I’d worked with for seven years, cheerfully greeting me as I sped by without saying a word. I knew what time it was and everyone else would fall into the plight of delusion and cooperation.
I fell right off of the grid and withdrew every dime that I had in my name the next day, I closed all of my accounts, all investments, retirement, savings, stocks and bonds, anything that would be included in that chip and ended my entire life as everyone knew me. I would no longer be Doctor Cassidy Hartley, one of the most intelligent well renowned heart surgeons in the country. Many would even tell you that I’m dead, murdered somewhere unknown, kidnapped in someone’s basement…the stories and assumptions have been endless.
I snapped out of my thoughts when I heard the buzzer go off from upstairs. My heart thudded in my chest and my adrenaline kicked in like a shot of caffeine. Cautiously making my way to the intercom and cameras, I saw the face of a tall, dark and handsome, stern faced man in a black suit that hadn’t made any appointments nor contacted me.
Before answering I watched him closely, intently folding my arms. He ran his large fingers through his black wavy hair. He then checked his watch twice and jammed the buzzer once more, with authority and irritation this time.
“I know you’re in there…Doctor Hartley.” Him stating my name like that caused my heart to drop and I breathed deeply. I knew I’d have to acknowledge him or he’d certainly be back and I had to get rid of him.
“Um…there’s no one here by that name. Please leave.” I commanded.
“Ok…well Justice Young might live here then.” I gasped and turned back toward the buzzer, releasing the door so that it slowly opened and let him in. I grabbed my pistol, stuffing it in the back of my jeans before making my way up the stairs. When I walked in, I found him eyeing every piece of artwork I’d collected, and running his large fingers along my record collection next to a genuine record player it’d taken me ages to find and sneak in here. I cringed before speaking up.
“Please stop touching MY things.” I commanded. “And tell me why you are here.”
I walked over to my stocked bar in the corner to pour a glass of Brandy for my nerves, never offering him even a drop of water. He watched my every move.
A smug look covered his face as he walked closer on me.
“They told me you were still quite a beauty and I saw the recent photos of you…they finally snapped some of you coming through Mexico years ago, but they certainly do you no justice…’Justice’.”
He made air quotes as he stepped around my couch and eyed the alcohol on my bar.
“Isn’t that your name now? Kind of obvious and ringy don’t you think?” Like a personality or even a stripper.” He eyed my facial expression as he made his way around the room. I automatically grew agitated at his display of being the worst type of asshole in this moment.
“I know you didn’t come all of this way just to get a look at me and sarcastically compliment me, so what is it that you REALLY want, Will?”
“Hmm…still remember my name and everything, but for some reason you couldn’t tell me you were just going to up and leave the country?? Exile yourself for the betterment of your goddamn self!” His voice began to raise and the truth of his emotions began to spill out as he stood in front of me seething in anger and eyeing me like I’d stolen something from him. And I knew I had…his heart.
“What was I supposed to do, Will? As soon as I saw him make the announcement I knew I had to do…something…but I could not stay there! My father told me this was going to happen when I was a little girl! I mean he KEPT SAYING IT!”
I paced and took a sip of brandy as I thought about how everything had manifested and people often called him a lunatic or conspiracy theorist that didn’t have his facts together. “
“He was one of the medical scientists on staff helping create the technology for all of this to even exist! And you expected me not to believe him?? To just go along with everything? After all that I know? HOW COULD YOU EVEN SHOW UP HERE AFTER ALL OF THAT??” I screamed slamming my glass down in frustration.
“It never mattered Cassidy…we were getting married in two weeks…I didn’t care what was going on, what I had to do, or who I had to be just to be with YOU. It wasn’t supposed to be this bad…they told us all that it was this…simple…standard…for the greater America…procedure.” He didn’t even sound confident in his reasoning and I could hear fear in his voice. Just like everyone else I had helped, it was more than he ever bargained for.
I sighed and sat on the couch in exasperation. This was turning out to be quite a day.
I still hadn’t gone near him, finally deciding to ask the question I needed to know right now, besides all of the irrelevant side bar conversations about how I walked out on him.
“How did you find me?” I stammered. I finally calmed down enough to pull out another glass for him and poured him two large shots of Brandy. He had on an expensively tailored suit but he looked like shit. I could tell he hadn’t slept a wink in at least three days and eating had been out of the question.
He sat up straight and downed his Brandy in one gulp without even making a face from the strong taste of it moving down his throat. He eyed the glass in admiration and stared in my eye before answering.
“That’s pretty damn good. I see you still have excellent taste.” He licked his lips in reference to the liquor, but could quickly see in my face I was still patiently waiting for his answer to my inquiry.
“It wasn’t easy.” He shook his head and looked at me in amusement with that adorable grin. Then his face changed to sadness. “It’s like you truly…DIED Cassidy. No one could find any traces of you, the hospital knew nothing, your family…me.”
He began tearing up. “I thought the worst happened to you and that I’d never see you again.” My face remained unmoved by his tears and his emotions. “I still call your phone everyday, just to see if you’ll pick up..just once.”
His face became wet with tears and he hung his head like he was trying to desperately process my betrayal.
“I-I got a job…at the Pentagon about two years ago.” His breathing became heavy and he started to slump a little. I continued to stare into his face intently listening to the details carefully and weighing his words.
“They were there…conducting this worldwide search for you…this manhunt to find you by any means necessary once they…t-hey they heard…they heard.”
“Once they heard what?” I asked sternly. His speech was slurred and he tried to continue. “Once they heard you….weren’t dead…and what you…you were doing out heeeere.”
His beautiful face was sweating bullets now and he was slumped across the arm of the couch pointing at my face like a child.
“W-what’s happening to me? Cass….casss….ah shit.” He rolled off the couch like a hopeless drunk, hitting the floor with a hard thud as his eyes rolled into his head before going completely unconscious.
Will slowly blinked open his light brown eyes in confusion. He groaned and rolled his head to the right, processing everything around the room. His eyes finally became focused and landed on me in shock once he realized he was down in the darkness of my operating basement and tied to a chair because he’d obviously been drugged.
“Cassidy…WHAT THE FUCK??!!” He shouted in anger while he jerked his arms trying to break the military style rope ties that he’d never escape.
I reached in the back of my jeans and pointed my .45 right at his face with no emotion.
“Will…We’re going to try this again…how the hell did you find me and what are you doing here?” I asked slowly through gritted teeth.
“Cassidy, come on. Untie me! What is this? Why would I come here to harm you? I just really needed to know that you were ok! We haven’t heard shit about you in five years and this is the type of low you think I am??”
I swiftly brought my right foot up and kicked him dead in his chest so that he fell backwards in the chair. I stood over him while he winced in pain from hitting the back of his head on the cold tile floor.
“I won’t ask you again.” I stared straight into his eyes without blinking and slowly squatted over him waiting for him to tell the truth. I slowly put my pistol to his temple once again and made him realize the awareness of me not giving a fuck about his feelings right now.
“Cass…you’re in deep shit.” He stated with sad desperate eyes.
I instantly grew agitated.
“NO SHIT SHERLOCK! You think that you being here at all didn’t let me know that small fact? You came to find me because you were WORRIED?” I mocked his first statement.
“In fact, you’re wasting time and I already know what needs to be done.”
I cocked my gun back in one motion.
“Shit CASS!! CASS!! WAIT!!!” HE shouted while succumbing to flinching like a little bitch since he’d been here. All of that arrogance went right out of the window and I could see the purity of panic in his eyes.
“I-I don’t really work for the Pentagon…hell I don’t even work for the government, period, anymore. I lost my job…right after you disappeared and they figured out what you were doing…they thought I was involved in your escape…now I just work at the post office. The Survs ran up on me like three weeks ago when I was finishing my shift….started asking all of these crazy ass questions about you after you’d been gone for five years right on the exact date. Started talking all this shit about how they know you left me out to dry and asked if I knew where you were.”
I never lowered my gun and allowed him continue.
“They told me that they had a possible lead from someone about where you might be and knew that if they sent me, it’d be a better infiltration of your operation and that you’ve destroyed over hundreds of The Surveil-Eye 3000’s, damaging over 7 billion dollars worth of government property and helping other American citizens hideaway and leave the country once they want nothing to do with the chip. You’re all over the news in America, I mean that by the hour, check every flight and checkpoint type of shit. You’re on billboards, magazines, they talk about you on the radio…you’re the only one that performs the extraction…without death being the end result. Many others have attempted what you do, but they oftentimes hit the wrong vessel, or they send too much electric waves to the signal, causing damage to the brain. Cassidy, you’re the only successful extractor in the world right now and they’re still trying to figure out how you do it. You’re a terrorist and now they want you alive OR dead…they promised me a life of no worries and 5 million deposited right into my chip if I could somehow bring you back either way….”
His voice trailed off.
“I-I didn’t want to do it Cass…plus I knew you’d be too smart to see me show up and not think some crazy shit was going down! I begged -“
“SHUT UP!” I shut my eyes tightly. “So you still have the chip in your wrist? RIGHT NOW??!” I shouted in panic.
“Yeah…I mean…but I don’t-“
The buzzer began incessantly going off and I could see two men at the door on my cameras in uniform and obviously armed.
Will panicked when he eyed the screen. “That’s them! The Survs that came up on me!! OH SHIT!”
“OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR DOCTOR HARTLEY AND NO ONE GETS HURT!! WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!!! OPEN UP RIGHT…NOW!!
They continued to pound and buzz as my mind began springing into action.
I pulled out a large set of keys that were always in my pocket no matter what.
I grabbed my medical bag and began dropping in as many bandages, antibiotics, and operating tools as I could before grabbing another bag I’d already fully prepared and placed in the locked and hidden supply closet in the back.
“Cassidy! What the fuck? What are you doing??” Will yelled from the same position in the chair on the floor. “Just let me up, come on!”
I ignored his words and grabbed another bag that had everything else I needed; change of clothes, toiletries, another identity and passport. I slung everything over my shoulder and bolted past him.
“CAAAAAASSSS PLEASE!!” Will pleaded as I pulled out a book from what looked like a shelf against the wall filled with medical remedies and diagnosis. A secret narrow passageway opened in the wall and I stepped inside. Never even looking back at Will. I could still hear him screaming my name in agony after the door closed behind me and I executed my backup plan to get safety once again.
“Verd…what do you see?” Verd’s partner, Redman, cautiously stepped into Doctor Hartley’s home behind him.
“Hmmm…nice digs. Quite the art lover.” Verd sniffed around and eyed everything like a hound dog without saying a word. His sharp gray eyes rested on the two glasses sitting on the coffee table. He sniffed them and smelled the strong scent of brandy.
“They were here.” He icely stated before making his way down the hallway. His leathery face never displayed a smile and his job was the life he laid on the line for it. He pulled his damp coat around him and searched every corner for notes, files, paperwork…any clues as to what other locations she could possibly have as a set up.
She was clean and cautious with no traces of evidence, contacts, family photos, or anything personal.
“CAAAASSSSSS!!! PLEASE!!!” He could hear a male’s muffled shouting and searched for where it could be coming from.
Redman’s ears perked up. “Aye, that sounds like our guy.”
Redman was a rookie that was a little too excited about the mission for Verde’s liking but he admired his enthusiasm and how he only went by the book. His face was pudgy and he wasn’t in the best shape of his life to be a thirty-eight year old male in law enforcement, and his greasy black hair was graying and thinning, but Verde knew he was a quick thinker and an exceptional partner in Verde’s opinion. There were only the times when he made the most obvious statements and discoveries, like the one just spoken.
Verd rolled his eyes and made his way to the bedroom in the back, but turned quickly once he realized the sounds came from inside the bathroom. When he flung open the door everything looked normal, but he could hear the cries from behind the mirror over the sink. With great observation, he found a button near the most unbearable feminine products men usually wanted nothing to do with. An entire entryway opened and led to descending stairs and Verd quickly pulled his gun from it’s holster before creeping down to see what the commotion was.
Redman inched behind him and motioned for him to continue, letting him that he had him guarded from behind him.
Verde shook his head in disappointment and he lowered the gun once his eyes rested on Will being stuck on his back andhelplessly tied to a chair.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk…Mr. Fredrickson. What a mess we have here.”
Will’s eyes widened at the sight of them coming towards him.
“Look man…I told you that she’d be too smart for this shit and she’d know wassup when she saw my face! I tried!! I prom-”
“SSSSSSHHHHHHH.” Verde hushed him by gently placing the barrel of his gun to dark full his lips where his finger would be. Will’s eyes widened.
“Did you even get any information? Next moves? Anything we told you to do?”
“No, I mean, she drugged me as soon as I got here!”
Verd shook his head again and removed his hat from a head of graying sandy blonde hair.
“You fought a good fight for the service of your country Mr. Fredrickson…but I mean really…you’re a black, poor class, working mailman. And now you can add dumb ass to the list for actually taking the liquor she offered you. You drugged yourself.” He laughed in disgust. “Plus…Who the fuck would miss you?”
Will tightly closed his eyes. “Wait! WAIT MAN I-“
Verd quickly pulled the trigger, blasting Will’s head and what was left of it all over the floor.
He stared down at him a few moments and Redman looked on in shock but said nothing.
Comes with the job
Verde’s face become perturbed like he realized what he’d just done but began smiling.
“Sheesh…I’m pretty hungry Let’s grab something to eat.” He commented as he faced Redman and walked back up the stairs right past him. Redman shrugged and followed with a sigh. “I guess…when in Rome!”