Gambit, Pt 1

GAMBIT.

He was an accountant; she was a motor car racer. They met one sunny afternoon in the middle of a crowded street, in a busy city. He was walking one way, late for an appointment; she was going the other, nose buried in her book, totally oblivious to the outside world.

They bumped into each other, not very hard, just enough to make her drop her book. He apologized profusely. She smiled, said it quite was all right. Their eyes met for a second and he stared, all thoughts of his appointment suddenly, inexplicably gone from his mind. A moment passed, then he smiled sheepishly and said, “Erm…I’ll go now. Good day.” Her smile faded ever so slightly, but she replied, “Uh…ok.” They both walked on. He turned suddenly, and called out to her. She paused, an expectant look on her face. He said, “I don’t suppose you’re in much of a hurry to go anywhere? Perhaps we could go somewhere…you know…get a drink?”

She smiled. That would be lovely.

And so it began.

At a popular restaurant, the two of them ate and chatted for hours. He loved her smile, and her quick wit. She loved his sense of humor. After what seemed like forever, one of them mentioned that it was getting late. They (reluctantly) rose, and she said, laughing, “This is ridiculous. I’ve just had one of the greatest times of my life, and I don’t even know your name!”

He laughed with her. My name is John Sanders, he said.

She said, “My name is Eleanor, but you can call me Ellie. The people who matter most to me call me Ellie.”

They made plans to meet the very next day and departed, each smiling, each deliriously happy.

He was an accountant. She was a motor car racer.

*

“So, what work do you do?” asked Ellie.

They lay side by side in bed, gloriously naked, in his small downtown apartment. The two of them had met earlier in the day, and one thing led to another. And now they were here, on his single bed.

“Mmm?” Sanders replied, only half-listening to her. He was staring at the curve of her hips.

“I said,” Ellie repeated, “tell me about your job.”

“Oh, that,” he paused. “Well, I’m a superhero.”

“Oh, gerrout.”

“No, really,” Sanders said, struggling to keep a straight face. “When I was younger I was bitten by a radioactive…er…slug, and ever since I’ve been a caped vigilante, protecting everybody from the Evil Doctor…”

Ellie pouted, “John, I’m serious.”

“Oh, fine. I’m an accountant at a local firm. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.” He told her the name.

“Can’t say I have. Did you always want to be an accountant?”

“Not really, to tell you the truth. As a young boy, my lifelong dream was to be an ass-model.”

Ellie laughed and hit him on the head with her pillow.

“What about you?” Sanders asked her. “What do you do for a living?”

Ellie told him.

Sanders raised an eyebrow. “Really? A race car driver?”

She nodded. “It’s what I always wanted to do, since I was little. I’ve always been fascinated with cars. It’s why I moved here, in fact. Have you heard of the Circuit?”

Sanders had. The Circuit was a local racing arena. Mostly underground stuff, underground racers competing for fame, recognition, respect. And – just maybe – the chance to break out into the big leagues. The races were also heavily bet on, even though that was illegal. Fortunes had been made and lost in the arena known as the Circuit. Sanders knew all about that.

“Well,” Ellie continued. “I moved here to compete more. Heard about a lot of interesting races there.”

“Oh,” said Sanders. “Wow. Racer; that sounds way cooler than ‘accountant’. Or ass-model, for that matter.”

They both laughed.

“So have you ever been to see a race at the Circuit?” asked Ellie.

“No,” Sanders lied flatly.

“Well, you should come see me. I’m having a practice run tomorrow, just a little race to prepare me for the big one.”

“Big one?”

Ellie told him about a race that was to be held in four days’ time. It was kind of a big deal, as far as underground races were concerned. “Come watch me tomorrow,” Ellie concluded, her eyes pleading.

Sanders said he said he wasn’t sure.

She traced her hand down his torso to his member and asked sweetly: “Pretty please?”

 

And so he went. To see her race. It was no big event; the Circuit was virtually empty. He stood in the stands and watched her on the track on a cold, wet afternoon.

She was amazing.

Sanders couldn’t believe his eyes. Ellie tore along the track like a demon birthed in the very center of Hell. Granted, the other racers weren’t exactly world class, but Ellie was stunning nonetheless. Sanders watched her overtake one car after another, performing hairpin turns with an almost arrogant ease. When she crossed the finish line, quite a considerable distance before the rest of the pack, he descended from the empty stands to meet her on the track.

Ellie saw him coming and squealed, throwing her arms around him. “How was I?”

“You. Were. Unbelievable.”

Ellie smiled, kissing him deeply. She told him she had to take her car into the garage, she would be back soon. He said he would be waiting.

As soon as Ellie drove off, and Sanders made sure she was gone, he turned on his heel and walked in the opposite direction. Crossing the track, he made his way up the stands, round a corner, into a narrow corridor. At the end of the corridor was a brown door. The paint was faded, chipped in places; it was a generally unremarkable piece of work. Sanders walked right up to the door and knocked once. There was a pause of a few seconds, and then:

“Who is it?” came a deep gruff voice from inside.

“Renard? It’s John. John Sanders.”

There was another pause, then the sound of the door being unlocked. It swung open to show a short, round man, balding, with a lit pipe in his mouth. “John!” said Renard. “You motherfucker. It’s been years!”

“Actually, Renard, it’s been a year.”

“Quit nitpicking, asshat. Come, come.”

Sanders stepped inside the office, allowing the man he knew as Renard to close the door after him. Once inside, he gave the inside of the office a discreet once-over. It looked exactly as it had the last time he’d seen it, almost a year ago.

“Got nothing to offer you, drink-wise,” said Renard. He held out his pipe. “Smoke?”

Sanders smiled. “No thanks, Renard. I’m clean now.”

“Yeah, ever since you left us to become a hotshot accountant, I figured you would be.”

Sanders told him that being an accountant hardly qualified to be called ‘hotshot’. The truth was, John Sanders had always had a head for figures, and when he ‘left’, as Renard put it, it only made sense to pursue something that played to his strength. It wasn’t exactly Hollywood, but hey.

“So, Johnnie boy. What can I do you for?”

Sanders paused, took his time before answering: “I need a favor.”

Renard’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of favor?”

“I need you to give me some information about the race taking place here in three days’ time.”

Renard leaned back in his chair. “Whoa, there. You know I’m not allowed to just give away that information.”

“I know. But I need this favor, just this once. Please.”

Renard stood still for a moment, then crossed to his cluttered desk and sat down. Opening a big file, he asked, “What do you wanna know?”

“Tell me about a racer named Eleanor Graham.”

Renard looked up. “She’s virtually unknown, a last minute entry into the race. Not bad, though, from what I hear.”

“Tell me about her betting odds.”

Renard did some quick checking. “About twenty-to-one,” he said.

Sanders did some quick calculations. He had about forty-five thousand dollars to his name. At these odds, that would amount to nine hundred thousand. He could easily borrow five thousand more from a couple of friends. Investing fifty thousand dollars at the odds of twenty-to-one would be…a million.

One million dollars.

Sanders took a slow, deep breath. He noticed Renard was watching him closely, so he tried to give nothing away. His face remained deadpan. “Thank you, Renard. You’ve been a pal.”

“Huh,” said Renard, leaning back in his chair and puffing hard on his pipe. “To tell you the truth, not many people are willing to stake their chances on her or much of anyone else, for that matter. Not with the Barbarian racing.”

Sanders blurted, “What? The Barbarian is racing?”

“Yeah,” said Renard. “Kind of a last minute addition, actually. Only heard of it last week myself.”

“Oh. I see,” said Sanders quietly.

Renard was studying his friend intently, but Sanders’ face was guarded, impassive. “Well,” he said after a pause, “Anything else you need, Johnnie boy?”

“What? No, not really,” replied Sanders. “Thanks, Renard. I owe you one.”

“You said that the last time we met.”

“I owe you two, then,” Sanders smiled.

Renard said, “You sure you don’t want that smoke?” He blew a thick cloud of smoke out of his nostrils as he said this.

“I’m sure, Renard. But thanks, anyway.” He turned to go. “I’ll see you around.”

Renard waited till Sanders reached the door, and then he said, “Hey, Johnnie.”

Sanders turned. “Hmm?”

Renard said, “This little broad you’re interested in. I hear she’s good, real good. But she cannot beat the Barbarian.”

There was a moment of silence.

“No,” Sanders said slowly. “She cannot.”

*

“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you.”

Sanders smiled and took Ellie’s arm. “I got lost looking for the men’s room.”

Ellie angled her face to look into Sanders’. “Well, did you find it?”

Sanders replied, “I sure hope so.” Ellie laughed.

“Well, are we done here?” she said.

They went home. They had an early dinner, retreated to the bedroom, and made love. And when they were spent, they lay side by side in bed. And Ellie slept and dreamt many wonderful dreams, but all through the night a single thought played over and over in John Sanders’ head, like an annoying pest that just wouldn’t die.

One million dollars.

 

(Part 2 here )

Gambit, pt 2

The two men met under cover of deep night.

John Sanders stood in the middle of the abandoned lot, trying his best to keep from shivering in the evening chill. Presently, he heard behind him the sound of someone walking, feet crunching the gravel underfoot, getting ever closer. Sanders turned and saw another man, bigger and broader than he, walking nonchalantly in his general direction. Sanders turned away, and waited.

The other man paused. For a moment neither spoke, neither looked at the other.

Then the man spoke: “Hey. Got a light?”

Sanders replied tentatively, “No. All I have is darkness.”

Satisfied, the man smiled and straightened, turning to face Sanders. “Well, well. It’s you, then. Howdy.”

Sanders studied his companion. The man looked far friendlier than Sanders had imagined a man of his reputation to be. The easy smile which played on his features made him seem safe, almost homely.

Sanders said, “Good evening. So, uh, you’re the Mechanic, then?”

The bigger man nodded.

“You sure you weren’t, uh, followed?”

The man known as the Mechanic frowned at the insult. He was, after all, a professional.

Sanders noticed the change in the other man’s face and added quickly, “Sorry, wrong question to ask. Wrong question.”

The Mechanic spoke for the first time since making sure of Sanders’ identity. “So. What do I call you?”

Sanders smiled and said slyly. “You can call me John.”

The Mechanic smiled to himself. There had to be millions of Johns in the world. No way of tracing exactly which one. Smart.

“So, John,” he said, “what do you need?”

Sanders folded his arms, trying to keep marginally warmer as he spoke. “I, uhm, I hear you’re the man to go to when one needs something, uh, fixed.”

The bigger man nodded casually. “Something, or some-one.”

Sanders breathed the night air deeply and began. “You see, I represent a group of men whose interests are being somewhat threatened, and my employers and I do, in fact, need something fixed.”

“What kind of something?” asked the Mechanic. Sanders gave him a brief description. After a moment of silence, the bigger man said, “It’ll cost your employers twenty thousand.”

Sanders nodded. “Don’t worry. Just do your part and you’ll have your money.”

“Fair enough. Now, tell me exactly what you want me to do,” said the Mechanic.

And so Sanders told him.

*

The following day the man known as the Mechanic went into town. He spent hours on the streets, moving from store to store, till he found what he was looking for. When he exited the last hardware store, some four hours after he began, he had everything he needed.

Next, he went home and spent the remaining daylight hours poring over a set of schematics and specifications for a certain make of car. The Mechanic went over the diagrams over and over again. When finally he looked up from them, the Mechanic had committed almost every little detail into memory.

Long shadows were already stretching on the floor, projected by a tired sun. The Mechanic rose and stretched once. Then he gathered his tools and walked out into the descending twilight.

*

The security guard at the Circuit never saw the shadow pass.

It was late at night, and throughout his vigil the guard hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. He was bored, but did not allow himself to nod off to sleep. He could not allow that tonight of all nights; for the following day was a very important one.

The guard was not by any means the only one here tonight; there were others inside, patrolling the Circuit. He was the one guarding the main entrance. It was lonely work, but he didn’t complain. He thought of his wife, of their two kids and the third one on the way. He needed the money.

But damn, he was bored.

There was a sudden flurry of movement from his right. He whipped around suddenly, and two things happened at once. The guard saw that the source of the sudden motion was nothing but a stray cat, and in a far corner of his brain he thought he sensed something emerge from the darkness across the street and pass quickly by. Ignoring the cat, the guard turned to face the shadow.

But when he turned, there was nothing there.

*

The Mechanic vaulted over the outer wall of the Circuit and landed quietly. Crouching in the near darkness, he held his breath and listened.

The cat emerging out of nowhere and distracting the guard had not been planned, but it had definitely given him the distraction he needed to bypass the first sentry. The poor man hadn’t even known he was there all along, concealed in the darkness across the street. Oh, well. Business waited. The Mechanic rose and ran into the huge arena.

It was a tricky business evading all the security guards, but apart from a particularly close call in the lower level before the garage, the Mechanic managed it without too much trouble. Now the garage doors stood open before him, an inky blackness contained within. The Mechanic produced a small flashlight from the small bag that hung by his side, directing the thin beam of light it produced around the room, and smiled.

It was policy of the Circuit that all race cars be submitted by the owners to the arena’s garage on the night before a race to be kept overnight for security reasons. And they certainly had been submitted, for they were all here.

The Mechanic did not have much time; the next patrol would be passing by in little over three minutes. He walked slowly through the cars parked, looking for one in particular.

It was at the very back; a midnight black ride, the details of which the Mechanic had spent a huge part of the day studying. As he looked closely at the vehicle, he saw it was a beautiful car. It was a car built to race. It was a car built to win races.

It was a car that belonged to the Barbarian.

Dropping his bag and shimmying under the vehicle, his mind went back to the instructions he had received from the man who called himself John the previous day:

“It has to start,” the man named John had said. “People are gonna get suspicious if the car doesn’t start at all. Make sure it starts the race, but it must not finish it.”

“Understood,” the Mechanic had replied.

“My employers have a great investment on our man in that race; the Barbarian must not be allowed to cross the finish line.”

“He won’t,” said the Mechanic.

And so he won’t, thought that same Mechanic, laying flat on his back underneath the Barbarian’s car. He drew his tools from his bag and went to work.

A couple of minutes later, the Mechanic walked out of the underground garage, locking the doors behind him. Already it was impossible to tell that anybody had ever been down here this night. Mission accomplished. The Mechanic smiled.

And then he heard it.

He heard a sound that his brain had previously not registered. It was coming from somewhere behind him, and it was unusual to hear that, especially at this time. Very odd.

Moving quietly and sticking to the darkness, the man known as the Mechanic began to move toward the source…

*

Excitement lit up the air live a live wire. The Circuit was buzzing. Last minute bets were being placed, racers were pulling out onto the track, spectators were settling noisily into their seats all around the great arena.

The day of the big race was here.

John Sanders walked calmly to the betting booth and placed a fifty-thousand dollar bet on a relatively unknown female racer to win. The man behind the booth looked at him like he was crazy, but nevertheless processed the bet and handed sanders a receipt.

John Sanders walked away grinning from ear to ear, and nobody knew why.

One million dollars.

*

The two men met in the open, under a glowing blue sky.

Sanders spoke first. “Did you do it?”

The Mechanic nodded. He wore a plain white shirt, with a blue shirt thrown over it. “Yes. The Barbarian is no longer a problem; I ‘fixed’ his car.”

A wave of relief, followed closely by excitement, flooded through Sanders. Everything had gone exactly according to plan. His hand went to his pocket and caressed his betting receipt. From somewhere seemingly far away a public announcer stated that the race was just about to start. He imagined Ellie somewhere down there, probably shaking with excitement, blissfully unaware that he had just changed both their lives forever.

One million dollars.

Sanders turned to the Mechanic. “And I trust you encountered no problems?”

“No, none at all…”

Sanders smiled. A gun went off on the track; a deafening roar went up from the assembled crowd.

The race had begun.

“…but I did see something strange, though.”

Sanders paused, froze. “What?”

The Mechanic said, “As I finished with the Barbarian’s car, I heard something down on the tracks. The circuit was supposed to be empty, so I went to look, and I saw a car on the tracks. Probably just a nervous racer, just trying to drive off pre-race jitters, you know? But whoever it was, they were good. Real good.” He paused. “And what was even more surprising was that when the driver finally got out – after about fifteen minutes – it was a woman. A woman. Can you believe that?”

Sanders felt his face go white. “A…a woman? Small, brown haired?”

“Yeah. How’d you know?” said the Mechanic. “A real treat for the eyes, too.” He sighed. “But, oh, that was some of the best driving I ever saw. She might even be a match for your ‘Barbarian’.”

The Mechanic saw the frozen look on John’s face, saw that the other man had gone suddenly rigid. He laughed and threw his arm around Sanders.

“Cheer up, my friend. You and your employers have nothing to worry about.”

John Sanders breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank G –

“I fixed her car, too.”

Escape, pt 1

escape

The thieves moved quickly.

They ran through the white-lit corridors of the underground installation, moving with a dire urgency in their steps. They all wore black from head to toe – with Kevlar plates in their collars – carrying silenced MP-5SD submachine guns held high, eyes looking down the barrels as they ran.

Mitch Reilly ran in the lead, and his six companions kept close pace behind him. They turned corner after corner with practiced dexterity, never slowing down, never stopping, except to peer round corners for any dangers. It was quite fortunate, thought Reilly, that all they had come across were empty, deserted corridors, but he knew the peace would not last, could not last…it was only a matter of time before…

The silence of the air was ripped cruelly apart by the sudden, ear-piercing wailing of an overhead alarm.

Reilly stopped in mid-stride and looked up toward the apparent source of the sound. One of his companions, a short, sandy-haired man, came to a stop right beside him, turned his head toward the alarm, and said quite merrily, as though commenting on the weather, “Well, it was bound to happen sometime.”

“Took them long enough, as it is,” replied another behind him, a woman. She was tall, even taller than Reilly, with a daunting overall appearance.  Her words were delivered with a feigned bravery, bravery Reilly suspected she did not feel. He could not blame her. “Come on!” Reilly commanded, and took off running again.

Reilly and his team were in a top secret government facility, hidden deep beneath an army base somewhere in the desert. A facility that extended six floors into the ground. A facility whose existence the United States government had vehemently denied on numerous occasions.  It occurred as somewhat of an irony to Reilly that he was running for his life inside an establishment that supposedly did not exist, having come to steal the one thing above all others the government did not want the world to know about.

Reilly took a look behind him, scanning his companions, his eyes coming to rest on the last person in their group, the one person Reilly would not have dreamed of coming here without… the one person whom Reilly trusted above all others…the one person, who, at the moment, was carrying the biggest secret – the biggest lie – in the history of the United States.

That they had come to steal the Government’s biggest secret, from right inside the lion’s den was bad enough, but the whole scenario was made much worse by another fact.

Mitch Reilly and his team were Marines.

Lieutenant Mitch Reilly, USMC, was head of his own Recon Unit, even though some had argued that he was too young to do so. Reilly had long since silenced the critics. His Unit was like a family to him, but they were all not here. Well, except one.

Reilly looked back at his Sergeant, the tall, imposing woman. Her name was Rowena Terrin, call-sign Athena, and she was one of the finest he had ever worked with. Reilly had often said that if there was one person he did not want to mess around with, it was Sergeant Terrin. Athena was every bit as wise and cunning as the goddess her name suggested.

The sandy-haired member of their team was Joshua Sanchez, a corporal in the Unit of the last member of their team. Sanchez had a way with weapons that was legendary, a luck with the ladies that was also legendary for all the wrong reasons, and a heart of pure gold. Sanchez also happened to think that he was very funny – Sanchez was the only person who happened to think he was very funny – and his favorite joke went: “Hey, did you hear what the Mexican said to the Eskimo?” Nobody knew the answer, and indeed, nobody cared to ask. As such, Sanchez simply kept bringing it up every chance he got. But for all his quirks, Sanchez was the ideal partner in a tight spot. And they did not come much tighter than this. Sanchez’s call sign was Pancho.

Three other members of their team were Ryan “KillerBee” Smith – he’d apparently gotten his call-sign from a cartoon character – , Jason “Blackbeard” Gomez and Amber “Aphrodite” Hargon. All three were leaders of their respective Units. All three were the best at what they did. Reilly had worked with all of them before, and he trusted them implicitly.

Which brought Reilly to the last member of the team. Medium in height, with closely cropped black hair and piercing eyes, Captain Adam Brewer was a lot to Mitch Reilly. The two men had grown up together on a farm in Kansas, as inseparable as two boys ever could be. They had attended the same high school, the same college, and had even signed up for the military together. Adam Brewer was the best friend Reilly had ever had. He was also the first person to save Reilly’s life, way back when they were both just privates. But their paths had parted – the military often does that to you. Reilly became leader of his own Unit, and Adam went on to become a legend whose skill and deadliness were the stuff of campfire stories. Captain Brewer was rumored to have done some truly extraordinary things. Once, he was said to have taken on two Russian army units single-handedly, and not a single Russian survived. Tales like this, although sometimes hard to believe, were what gave rise to Adam’s call-sign: Hitman. Reilly hadn’t seen Adam many times since they parted, and they had never worked together on a mission. Until now.

Reilly’s eyes strayed to the carrying case Adam was carrying on his chest. The contents of that case were what all this was about. It was so serious that Reilly, Adam, Athena, Pancho, KillerBee, Blackbeard and Aphrodite  had committed what amounted to high treason to obtain it, for the simple reason that the shocking secret it contained – the biggest secret (the biggest lie) in U.S. history – was something the nations of the world just had to know. The world had to know the truth. And they would, thought Reilly. He had put his life and six others on the line just for this.

Reilly thought back to the beginning, when rumors of a secret underground government facility had began to go round. At first, Reilly had dismissed these sayings as just gossip and conspiracy theory – the inventions of bored, sexually starved army men. The government had as much conspiracy theory as Nicki Minaj had ass.

But then other rumors had appeared, rumors of a secret kept there, in a facility that “did not exist”. A secret that, quite frankly though unconfirmed was shocking, to say the least. If it were true. At first, Reilly had been quite content with dismissing these stories.

But then strange things had started happening. The loudest mouths concerning the rumor had suddenly been transferred to the hottest war fronts…and they had the uncanny knack of being declared dead or missing in action. And new stories had started emerging…stories of hundreds being killed, massacred by the Government in the name of keeping this secret hidden from the World. Nobody as yet knew exactly what the so-called secret was, but Reilly decided he had to put these stories to rest. So he had gone to the most decorated and esteemed man in the military, General Jack E. Fairmont. Reilly could still remember…

He had gone to see Fairmont on a clear, sunny morning. He had been received with open arms by the General – after all, he was one of the best in the Marine Corps. They had exchanged pleasantries for a while, and then Reilly had gotten down to the real reason he came.

The General’s face had suddenly changed. “Why, my dear boy,” he had said, “I do not know where you heard this from, but I can tell you once and for all, that that is not true whatsoever.”

Reilly heard the words, but the mannerism behind them and the sudden change in the General’s demeanor convinced him that all was not as it seemed. So Reilly had thrown in a few more rumored details – including the supposed location of the Facility.

The General’s face had gone a shade of red that would have put Rudolph the Reindeer’s nose to shame. Gone were any pretenses of amicability; hostility was written all over the face of the most decorated man in the U.S. military. In a voice dripping with fury, right before he had all but kicked Reilly from his office, he had said: “I do not know your sources, but I do not want to hear of this issue again. Never.

“That information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it.”

Not authorized, indeed, thought Reilly as he ran.

Knowing for sure now that something was not right, he had gone to the only other person he could think of…

 

Reilly was still thinking about this when they rounded a corner and came face to face with the first of the armed guards.

Mitch Reilly came to a sudden stop in his tracks. At the far end of the corridor stood the guards – about ten of them, Special Forces, well-trained, mean motherfuckers all – rifles in hand, but barrels pointed to the ground. Apparently they had not expected company so soon.

For the briefest of moments nobody moved.

Then a small, black object sailed over Reilly’s head – from behind him – and landed in the middle of the corridor.

Reilly’s eyes moved away from the object on the floor to the guards, seeing everything as if in slow motion – the look of surprise on their faces, the barrels of their rifles as they lifted them –

And then the smoke grenade went off. Thick, choking smoke filled the corridor, filling their nostrils, obscuring visibility – and denying the guards a clear shot.

“MOVE!” yelled Reilly.

All around him bullets began to fly, hitting the walls and the floor as Adam, Athena, Pancho, Aphrodite, KillerBee and Reilly turned and set off running back the way they came. Blackbeard reacted just a second too late. A burst of gunfire erupted from the guards and blew his head clean off. The lifeless body of Jason Gomez crumpled on the spot.

Across the smoke barrier, the Special Forces began to yell into their radios and give pursuit.

And the chase was on.

(Read part 2  here )

Escape, pt 2

Mitch Reilly ran.

Down corridor after corridor, never stopping, rarely pausing. They had a few seconds’ lead on the Special Forces behind them, and they would need every split second.

“Marines! Leapfrog!” shouted Adam from the lead. As he said this, he dropped to his knees at a corner, leaned out, and fired a short burst down the corridor. He turned to the next person behind him, Athena, and nodded. Athena ran out into the corridor peered around the far corner, fired a short burst, and nodded to KillerBee, who ran past her and did the same thing before nodding to Reilly. This technique, known as ‘leapfrogging’ helped to ensure that a corridor was safe before they ran out into it.

Reilly ran forward, completed his leapfrog, and nodded to Aphrodite behind him. It was no wonder that the place had so many corners. The whole facility had been designed like a maze; it was easy for an intruder to get lost down here, run into a dead end, and get himself slaughtered.

American hospitality. Nice.

It was during Pancho’s turn, when he was peering around another corner, checking to see if it was clear, when it happened.

An extended burst of gunfire broke out from the corridor Pancho was checking, and it was Pancho’s unusually quick reflexes – even for a trained marine – that saved his head from being blown to bits. He drew his head back, leaned against the wall, and swore.

“How many?” asked Reilly, talking about the new group of enemies.

“Ten, maybe fifteen. Well armed. And good shots too, by the look of it,” replied Pancho, looking at the line of bullet holes on the wall opposite him. Apparently it would be shoot first, ask questions later. “We can’t take them. Not head on.”

Fuck me,” Aphrodite swore, behind Pancho.

“That can be arranged,” replied Adam, moving past her with quick, measured strides. As Reilly looked at Adam, he saw that all the traces of the boy he had once known were gone. This was not Adam Brewer anymore; this was the Hitman in action. Moving with the cold fluidity of a practiced killer, Hitman came to where Pancho stood. Removing another smoke grenade from his pocket, he lobbed it into the corridor, waited till it went off, and then he – and Pancho – stepped out into the corridor and began firing short bursts at their assailants, who returned fire with gusto. The intensity of the return fire was so intense that Pancho and Hitman could only remain exposed for short seconds at a time or risk being pumped full of holes.

Reilly was so engrossed in the action unfolding in front of him that he almost forgot about the danger behind him. What brought him to his senses was Athena screaming at him, “Poseidon! Behind you!”

In truth, it wasn’t really her scream that alerted Reilly. It was the use of his call-sign – Poseidon – that did it. Athena almost never called Reilly by his call-sign. She always called him ‘Sir’ or ‘Cap’ – even though Reilly was a Lieutenant, not a Captain.

Reilly instinctively dived to one side, even before he turned around, and not a moment too soon, as it turned out. A stream of bullets passed where Reilly had been standing just a split-second before – one of them passed so close to his head, he actually felt the wind! – and slammed into the far wall, narrowly missing Adam.

Reilly rolled off the floor into a crouch, raising his rifle at his assailant, a lone soldier who had apparently been sent to scout ahead. Reilly aimed his rifle at the man’s head, squeezing the trigger in the same fluid motion – just as, beside him, Athena did the same.

The soldier was hit instantly by both bursts of gunfire. He died instantly, as a bullet passed through his brain, but remained standing as more bullets pummeled his body, before finally dropping forward on his mangled, disfigured face. Behind him, another soldier showed his head – only to sharply withdraw it as Reilly let loose with another round of fire that missed by inches.

Athena ran to Reilly and helped him to his feet, keeping her gun trained on the corner the whole time.

Reilly considered their options; he knew it was a hopeless cause. They were trapped.

Apparently the other members of his team knew it too, because when he looked back, the Hitman was staring back at him, a resigned look on his face. “This does not look good at all,” said KillerBee. Pancho, beside Adam, exclaimed, “Does not look good? Fuck my father’s blue Mexican balls, man, this is a fuck-ing disaster!”

Reilly did not respond. He was desperately trying to figure a way out of their present predicament. He assessed their options; run forward or backward, take their chances; or they could stay in one place and wait for more guards to arrive, and then they would be well and truly fucked up the ass.

It did not look good.

And then, just when it did not seem as though their predicament could get any worse…

…it did.

For just as Pancho stepped out to loose another burst of fire down the corridor he and Hitman were covering, the soldiers down the corridor fired their own guns, at exactly the same time.

Pancho never really stood a chance.

A stream of bullets hit Pancho squarely in the chest, causing the Mexican to convulse violently as the bullets tore through his body. And then he fell, suddenly, as though he was a puppet whose strings had suddenly been cut.

“NOOO!” yelled the Hitman.

Reilly was moving forward even before he knew it, dropping his rifle and reaching out to Pancho. Hitman fired down the corridor, providing cover fire, as Reilly dropped to his knees beside Pancho’s immobile body. The Mexican’s chest was a bloody mess, but – amazingly – he was still alive. Putting his hands under Pancho’s armpits, Reilly dragged him back to the relative safety of their corridor, as Aphrodite moved forward to assist Adam. Behind Reilly, Athena and KillerBee were firing at more soldiers, trying desperately to hold them off.

Reilly looked down at Pancho. The soldier was fighting even to draw breath. He was obviously in severe pain. “Hold on, soldier,” said Reilly reassuringly. “It’s going to be all right.”

Pancho smiled, revealing blood-stained teeth. “Don’t lie to me, Poseidon.”

Reilly gently said, “You know, Pancho, I’ve always wondered. What did the Mexican say to the Eskimo?”

Pancho smiled even wider and replied, “I have absolutely no idea. Nobody’s ever asked me that before.”

And in spite of himself, Reilly laughed.

Pancho’s eyes were becoming gradually unfocused, staring at the ceiling. “Look to the Heavens,” whispered the dying man.

“Yeah,” whispered Reilly patronizingly.

“No,” whispered Pancho. “Look up.

Reilly did.

And smiled.

They were saved.

 

When the two groups of Special Forces guards finally stepped out into the corridor that had been known to hold the intruders, they were surprised to find the corridor totally deserted.

Except for one man, slumped against a wall.

The leader of the Special Forces, a tall, mean-looking man, stepped forward, un-holstering his Sig-Sauer pistol. He took three steps toward Pancho.

Pancho, with a huge effort, sat up straighter and smiled at the guards. “Hey, do you guys want to hear about what the Mexican said to the – ”

The lead guard lifted his pistol and shot Pancho between the eyes.

As the dead man became limp, his right hand fell out from behind his back, where it had been partially hidden. Out from his hand rolled three black, cylindrical objects.

Hand grenades, with the pins pulled out.

The leader of the guards never even got a chance to shout a warning before the three grenades on the floor went off in all their explosive ferocity and blew him, Pancho’s body and the rest of the Special Forces men to Kingdom come.

 

Up in the air vents, crawling behind Athena, KillerBee, Aphrodite and the Hitman, Mitch “Poseidon” Reilly heard the grenades go off behind him, felt the heat and the force of the blast flow through the vents, and knew what that meant.

Pancho was gone.

They were five left.

 

In the tight, cramped space they moved, trying to make as little noise as possible. As the five of them crawled on their bellies in the air vents, Reilly’s mind wandered back…

After leaving the office of General Fairmont, Mitch Reilly had gone to the only other person he could think of. The only other person he could trust in the higher echelons of the military.

Retired General Joseph McKillian, living legend of the United States military, respected teacher and mentor, and second father to Mitch Reilly.

Reilly had sent a message to McKillian, saying that they needed to meet and that he had important information. When McKillian had shown up, Reilly had told him all he knew – from the rumors of the facility and the secret within, the removal of those who dared to speak of it, and the suspicious behavior of General Fairmont.

When he finished, Reilly had expected shock from McKillian. Outrage even. But the retired legend had sighed tiredly and said: “I cannot help you, Mitchell.”

What?

“But you don’t understand…” Reilly had protested desperately.  

McKillian had cut him off. “Go home, Mitchell. The grounds you’re walking are dangerous. I do not want anything to happen to you. I can tell you that I do not know of any such institution, but if it is true, then I can only say that the information you are talking about is strictly classified and you are not – ”

“ – authorized to have access to it,” Reilly had finished bitterly. “I know.”

“Mitchell, I’m sorry, but – ”

Not even waiting for the man to finish his sentence, Reilly had walked out of the room, feeling terribly betrayed.

That information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it. Bullshit.

The retired General would not help him. And so Reilly decided on the last option.

If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.

Mitch Reilly’s mind came back to the present.

Fixed in his ear was an earpiece he had taken from the soldier he and Athena had cut down. From it he could hear the various groups of enemy guards shouting and barking orders:

“Gamma group and Psi group down! Killed by grenades in Level Six! Request – ”

“ – No visuals on the intruders! They’ve just vanished – ”

“ – Alpha group! Get down to level five! Repeat – ”

“Wait! I hear something above us!”

Reilly froze. Then the voice came back on in his earpiece with renewed intensity.

“The air vents! They’re in the air vents!”

Shit. They were made.

“Get down from the vents!” he shouted to his teammates ahead of him. The five of them descended from the vents into a room.

Only to be met with gunfire from the guards waiting there.

KillerBee was pumped full of metal even before his feet touched the floor. His lifeless body performed a kind of grotesque macabre dance as the numerous bullets punctured him. He fell on the floor with a resounding crash.

Athena, Aphrodite, Hitman and Reilly landed somewhat better. The Hitman’s gun, indeed, was up and firing even before his feet touched the ground. Reilly, Athena and Aphrodite’s guns joined his a second later, and bullets flew back and forth. The guards in the room were good – certainly better than the average soldier – but against the combined power of Reilly, Athena Aphrodite and the Hitman, they were woefully outclassed. In a few seconds all of them were down, lying in a rapidly expanding pool of their own blood.

“ – They’re in the north wing – ”

Shit. Their pursuers were coming. Reilly turned to his companions, three out of the initial six.

“Alright. Let’s get out of here.”

They made for the door, and in a few seconds they were running again, as they had been doing for most of the night.

As they ran, Reilly kept his ear tuned to the earpiece in his ear. Reports of their would-be captors still flowed in.

“Omega team is down! The subjects – ”

“I’m on them! I can see – ”

“Delta team, hold your position!  I repeat, hold your – ”

And then Reilly heard a new voice, one that chilled his blood and caused him to stop in his tracks.

“Attention all units. The suspects in question have stolen a document of prime importance. You are authorized to use whatever means necessary to retrieve it. No matter what, they cannot be allowed to leave this complex. To make myself clear, when you come upon them, kill them.”

Reilly could not move for shock.

He knew that voice. He could still remember the last thing that voice had said to him.

That information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it.

Oh, yes, Reilly knew that voice. The unmistakable voice that had just told an unknown number of pissed-off trigger-happy soldiers to kill him on sight.

It was the voice of Retired General Joseph McKillian, living legend of the United States military, respected teacher and mentor, and second father to Mitch Reilly.

(part 3 here )

Escape, pt 3

General McKillian.

Reilly had trusted, had confided in, had loved the Retired General. And yet McKillian had just given an order to eliminate him. The feeling of betrayal that washed over Reilly was overpowering.

“Poseidon! Come on!” hissed Adam fiercely from ahead.

Shaking himself from his reverie, Reilly ran forward with renewed determination. He glanced again at the Hitman, at the secret he was carrying.

The World must know the truth.

A short distance ahead, the group of thieves saw a flight of stairs. Climbing it and emerging into level 5, they ran a short distance, turned another corner, then another, and another…

…and came upon another unit of guards.

Reilly scanned their ranks. They were too many.

“Back!” he yelled.

The thieves turned back just as gunfire erupted from the guards. Reilly, Adam and Athena managed to make it back round the corner unscathed.

Aphrodite was not so lucky.

Just as she turned to run, a bullet hit her square in the back. She stumbled, but somehow managed to keep running.

Reilly knew they could not keep on running back the way they came. There was another unit just waiting for them below – he could hear them in his earpiece. Damn. They were still five levels underground, and already the net was closing in on them.

His eyes came to rest on a door set into the corridor. From the looks of it, it was a fortified door. They would be safe behind it for a while. “In here!” Reilly shouted. Thankfully, the door was unlocked.

Hitman came to Reilly and entered the room first. Athena came in close behind.

But Aphrodite did not come.

Reilly whipped his head around. Aphrodite was slumped on the floor quite some distance away, bleeding freely from a bullet wound. She was struggling to crawl, but Reilly knew she would not make it on her own. Looking at her, Reilly had a distinct feeling that something was not quite right. He pushed it from his mind. Aphrodite came first.

Reilly started out to go get her…

“I’ve got this.”

Reilly turned. It was Athena. Passing by him, she briskly strode toward Aphrodite. Kneeling down, she struggled to help her fallen friend up…

And then a black object rolled into the corridor.

In that instant, Reilly knew what was wrong with the scenario.

The soldiers had not given chase.

And looking at the object on the floor, Reilly realized that they had never meant to.

For the object on the ground was a fragmentation charge.

Fragmentation charges are basically countless metal barbs – skewered, pointy metal barbs – stuck into a wad of explosive. When the explosive detonates, the barbs are thrown in every direction, mutilating everything in their path. Death by a frag is not pretty.

Athena and Aphrodite were too far away from Reilly and Adam, too far from safety. And they knew it. Athena’s eyes moved from the grenade on the floor, to Reilly. Mitch Reilly’s Sergeant held his gaze and nodded almost imperceptibly.

And then the fragmentation charge went off, and Reilly was yanked into the safety of the room – pulled by Adam from behind, before Adam closed the door – a split-second before hundreds of metal barbs flew with destructive force in every direction.

As for Athena and Aphrodite, their bodies were torn apart by the flying pieces of metal, mangled beyond recognition.

And then there were two.

 

Inside the room, Reilly and Adam were alone. They had entered as seven. Now, as Reilly looked into the face of his longtime friend and brother, and the Hitman looked right back, Reilly was filled with a sense of despair beyond anything he had ever known.

In Adam’s eyes, however, a fire still burned. He began to talk of breaking through the enemy. After all, said the Hitman, the soldiers didn’t have tactical skill to match their own.

Reilly told him about McKillian. Adam fell suddenly silent.

Over Reilly’s earpiece the reports came in, reports of units taking up position in every corridor, beyond every corner, sealing the access to every level above them. There was nowhere to go.

Their captors’ net had at last come full circle.

Reilly looked at the door behind which they hid, and looked back at Adam.

There was a look in the Hitman’s eyes, a look of grim finality, and staring into the eyes of the first person who had ever saved his life, the friend he had known from childhood, Reilly understood. They both hoisted their guns.

And they made their final move.

 

 

Outside the door, the guards were approaching, albeit very cautiously, sidestepping the two grotesque bodies at their feet. The leader of the unit raised his hand…

…and, suddenly, the door exploded outward.

Over all the guards’ closed circuit earpieces, all over the Facility, their communications went haywire.

“The door just blew open – ”

“ – Smoke grenade! – ”

“ – Shit! I can’t see anything – ”

And then gunfire broke out.

“Delta! What’s going on down there?”

“Sir, the suspects…aaargh!”

There was the sound of a bullet impact, and the speaker fell eternally silent.

“Delta Unit! Report!”

“Do you see them – ”

“I have no…aaaa!”

“Delta! Come in!”

“This is Cobra leader! Heading down to help Delta…”

“Half of Delta is dead! We’re being slaughtered…aargh!”

“Attention all units! Suspects have been spotted – ”

“Delta! DELTA!”

Nobody from Delta responded. They were all dead.

“Cobra Unit! Report!”

“Suspects are on the move. Repeat, suspects are on the move. I’m on the suspects’ trail! They’re…wait! They’re heading back down to level six!”

“Do you have visual? Do you have visual?”

“Negative! I do not….Wait!”

“Cobra! Cobra!”

And then there was gunfire and Cobra leader did not respond again.

“All units down to level six! Now!”

From level One to Level Five, soldiers poured down to level six.

And the gruesome reports still flowed…

“Xi team eliminated! – ”

“Contact lost with all the teams on level Six – ”

“Everybody! Get down there NOW!!!”

Gunfire…

“Sir! Two more units not responding! We’ve lost contact…”

Jesus! Who are these guys….”

“ – We’re being slaughtered down here! – ”

“ – I can’t see a thing – ”

More gunfire. Another speaker fell silent.

“FUCK!! Requesting backup….aaaa!”

More units arrived in Level Six. The guards were virtually flooding the lowest level…

“Keep going! They’ll run out of ammo sooner or later…”

“ – Box them in! Approaching from East Wing! – ”

“ – Suspects heading for a dead end. Close them in boys! – ”

And then, finally…

“They’re trapped! There’s nowhere to go…”

McKillian’s voice:

“Approach with caution…I’m coming down.”

Retired General Joseph McKillian pushed his way through the throng of soldiers and said, “It’s over. Surrender.”

For a second, the person to whom he was speaking – the only person standing down the corridor, facing away, positively soaked in the blood of others – did not move.

And then Captain Adam Brewer, known in military circles as the Hitman, slowly turned around and put his hands in the air.

McKillian said, “It is over. All your comrades are dead. Give it to me.”

The Hitman stared defiantly back for a moment, and then slowly reached into a carrying pouch on his chest and withdrew a slim manila folder. The Retired General nodded to the person closest to him, and the soldier, with his gun still raised, stepped cautiously forward to retrieve it.

McKillian waited till he had the folder in his hands, and then said to the soldiers, “Kill him.”

All the soldiers there opened fire on Adam Brewer, and there was an end to the Hitman.

The General was not even watching the execution of Captain Adam Brewer. He was already walking away, opening the folder.

And then Joseph McKillian stopped short.

Inside the folder was a single sheet of paper.

And the sheet of paper was totally blank.

Except for two words.

FUCK YOU.

 

If anybody had been standing guard at Level 5, the person might have seen a solitary figure emerge from a room with a destroyed door when all the soldiers had run down into Level 6. And if somebody had followed that figure, he would have seen that figure move silently through level 5…

…past the bodies of all the fallen…

…into an elevator and up the elevator shaft…

…up from level 5…

…to level 1, which was completely deserted…

…out a maintenance shaft, and into the black night.

Mitch Reilly ran.

Emerging out of the base – the inconspicuous army base, beneath which were six levels of hell – he ran fast and hard. Myriad thoughts raced through his mind, but he gave them no heed. All Reilly wanted to do was put as much distance between him and the base as was humanly possible.

And so he ran.

Thirty minutes became an hour.

An hour became two. Time lost all relevance for Reilly.

The soldiers back at the base would give chase; that he knew. But they did not know which way he had gone. And years with the Marine Corps had taught Reilly how to disappear when he wanted to.

After hours of running, Reilly’s body gave out on him, and he collapsed in a heap in a small stream, at the edge of a small cluster of trees. Dawn was just beginning to break over the horizon. He could not stay here for long. Reilly crawled into the cover of the trees. And only then did he let his mind wander back to the events of that night. He thought of his fallen teammates, of their needless deaths at the hands of their own countrymen. He thought of General McKillian, and of the biting betrayal.

And he thought of his friend, Adam Brewer, murdered in cold blood.

And Mitch Reilly began to cry.

After a while, the tears and the sobs would come no longer. Reilly sat up. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a slim, crumpled folder, a folder that Adam had handed to him in their last moment together.

This was what it was all about. Hundreds had been killed because of this.

The World had to know the truth.

Reilly stared at the folder for a long time. Funny thing was, after all that had been sacrificed to obtain this, after the unknown numbers that had been murdered because of it, it seemed to Reilly that it suddenly did not matter anymore. Nothing mattered any more. Adam was dead. “Athena” Terrin was dead. Reilly could not return to his Unit, or for that matter, the Marine Corps. General McKillian had betrayed him. The only life Reilly had ever known was gone forever. Nothing mattered anymore. Reilly lifted the flap of the folder and pulled out…

…a single piece of paper, with the words TOP SECRET at the top. And lines of text beneath. Reilly began to read.

Slowly, as his brain began to comprehend the magnitude of what he was reading, mild interest turned to astonishment…

Astonishment turned to disbelief…

By the time he was halfway through Mitch Reilly literally could not believe what his eyes were telling him…

Disbelief became shock…Reilly was horror-struck.

When finally he came to the end of the document, his mouth was hanging open.

He had never imagined…

And there, kneeling in the sand, as the first rays of sunlight flooded the world with illumination, Lieutenant Mitch Reilly of the United States Marine Corps came to know the shocking, horrifying truth about the biggest lie in the history of the United States, in the history of the World.

 

 

 

But I cannot tell you what he read because that information is strictly classified and you are not authorized to have access to it.

THE END

Thief Of Hearts, Part 2

The following is the second part of a two-part piece. It is highly recommended that you read the first piece before reading this one, if you have not already done so. You can find Part 1 here

A lance of fear speared through Amber.

Paul moved from the doorway, taking a step into the room. Her eyes, he saw, were transfixed on the long blade in his hand. Her features were seized by fear. He could read her emotions clearly. She was scared. She was scared of the knife. Paul almost laughed. It should be him she should be afraid of.

Amber spoke, and her voice echoed with her fright: “What are you doing with that?”

He didn’t reply. He enjoyed watching her fear too much. Seeing his victims’ hearts besieged by terror was always his favorite part.

“Paul? Say something. What are you going to do with that knife?”

Paul considered that for a moment, and then replied, “I am going to kill you.”

The color drained from Amber’s face. She rose from the bed and began to back away from him as he walked closer to her. She was moving toward a wall. It was an interesting behavior, thought Paul, that they all somehow backed themselves into a corner. The wall Amber was moving toward was a trap. Oh, well. It only made it easier for him.

Amber whimpered, “What? But why?”

Paul did not respond. He usually did, telling the previous ones just why he killed them. It was only gentlemanly; that was his view. He usually spoke to the previous ones, telling them about the greater beauty for which they gave their lives.

But today he would not. Looking at her terrified figure, Paul felt a stirring in his groin. He would make it quick today. Delaying it would only make it harder for him to keep himself from brutally ravishing her. He would make it quick, and then he would see to his own demanding need.

After he cut out her heart, of course.

That was his reason. It was the beautiful, all-consuming goal he carried. Paul Black firmly believed in the immortality of the beautiful human heart. In taking their hearts, he kept their souls forever. In this way they stayed with him for all eternity. And their beauty never waned with the passing of time. He thought of the forty-something hearts he kept preserved in the hidden room behind the fake door at the head of the bed. He thought of all the women who had given them to him. He smiled. Amber was standing mere feet from his collection.

But Paul Black wasn’t alone in his pursuit of human hearts. There was another – and as much as he hated to admit it – a more experienced collector of hearts. Virtually nothing was known about this competitor, only that the methods the competitor used were superior to his own. The only thing Paul had in the way of his competitor’s identity was an enigmatic nickname: The Queen of Hearts. Whereas Paul only took the hearts of women, his rival seemed to prefer men.

Paul’s attention snapped back to the present. Looking into his eyes, Amber decided that the man she had spent most of her evening with was a lunatic. She slowly inched toward the door that led out of the bedroom. Escape. She would try to escape. Reaching it, she flung it open and ran out of the room. Paul let her go. He loved the chase. It only served to increase the value of the reward.

He slowly walked after her, the hunter stalking the hunted.

Amber ran down the stairs, and her only thought was to leave this place, never mind the fact that she was wearing only a bra and panties and the night outside was cold. Her only thought was escape.

She reached the door. Her hands fumbled at the handle. Fear was dulling her reflexes. Finally her shaking hands caught a grip on the handle and turned it. It was locked.

Fuck.

Amber turned wildly. Phone phone phone phone. She needed to find a phone, at least. And then she would try and stall for time till the police got here.

There was no phone in the hallway. None in the dining room, either. She was getting desperate, now. And then Amber spotted one in the living room. She ran to it, tore it off its cradle and started to dial 911. And then she stopped. The phone in her hand was dead. There was no connection, no link to the outside, no hope.

And then, out of the corner of her eye, Amber saw…

Paul descended the stairs just in time to see Amber drop the phone in her hand. First the door, and then the phone. Sure, like he hadn’t thought of those.

Paul saw Amber’s eyes turn to him, see him coming down. Fear was still written in bold letters all over her face. She ran. Ran, ironically, into another dead end. The kitchen. Paul shook his head. He might have given her more credit than she deserved. Tiring of the chase already, he dashed after her. He would end this soon.

He emerged into the kitchen and saw Amber, running hard for her life, crash into the kitchen counter and fall, taking down all the dishes on the counter. She landed amidst broken porcelain. Bleeding, she struggled to rise, and then fell again.

Paul walked calmly forward, raising his knife, relishing the moment. Amber was six steps away…her heart would be the most prized of his collection…then four…God, she looked so sexy, almost naked and vulnerable, and about to die…then two…

Paul reached down and grabbed Amber’s hair, lifting her roughly to her feet and raising his knife…

And then Amber whirled suddenly and something pointy pricked Paul in his neck.

At first, he could not comprehend what had happened. Then, in the corner of his eye, he looked down, and saw the handle of the table knife sticking out of his neck…

…the knife Amber had stuck into him…

…the knife she had taken from the smashed remains of the dishes, when she had purposely crashed into the kitchen counter…the knife she had been washing when he started kissing her…

Paul looked into Amber’s eyes, not understanding. This was wrong. It wasn’t supposed to end this way…

Amber grabbed the knife, pulled it out and stuck it in again. And again.  And again and again. Blood spurted out of the wound, drenching them both.

Paul’s knees buckled, and he fell, dropping his knife and gurgling blood.

And as Paul Black fell, his last thought was: This cannot be…

 

Amber watched his body collapse to the kitchen floor. She dropped the table knife and retreated into a corner, slumping to a sitting position on the floor.

For a long time, she sat unmoving, not shaking, not crying, nothing. She just sat.

After a while Amber arose. She slowly walked over to the shirtless corpse. Even in death Paul was handsome. It would be such a shame to mar such a beautiful figure, but waste not, want not.

Amber got down on her knees. Taking Paul’s knife from where it fell, she made a neat incision into his chest. It took her a long time, working past bone and muscle and sinew, but al last his chest was wide open, and she could see it, nestled beautifully between two lungs.

Taking delicate care, she stuck the knife in one final time and cut out his heart.

Afterward she walked to the sink and washed the blood off the knife, taking care to wipe her fingerprints off it. She was absolutely soaked in blood. Amber walked upstairs and took a long, hot shower, reveling in the blissful heat of the water. Emerging, she placed her wet bra and panties in her handbag. She would dry them when she got home. She dressed in her evening dress, the one that she discarded on the bed earlier on.

She searched the room. Not finding what she wanted, she went back downstairs. It was in his pocket: the key to the door outside. Amber pocketed it. She then went carefully over the whole house, wiping her fingerprints off any surface she had touched.

Then she walked to the front door, unlocked it and emerged into the evening chill. Amber carefully closed the door behind her and threw away the key. She patted her handbag lovingly. Inside it was the jar that held Paul Black’s heart. It would make a fine addition to her collection.

And then Amber Williams – also known by some for her clandestine hobbies as the Queen of Hearts – turned, and began the long walk toward home.

Author’s note:

Well, there it is. Loved it? Hated it? Let us know what you think. The author is completely at your mercy in the comments section. *cringing*  Be nice!

Thief Of Hearts, Part 1

THIEF OF HEARTS.

He opened the door to his apartment and led her inside, out of the late evening chill and into the inviting warmth. Glad to be out of the cold, Amber took off her jacket and hung it on a rack by the door. She took a few steps into the foyer and looked around at her surroundings.

“Well, what do you think?”

Amber turned.

Paul was standing by the now closed door, looking even more perfect than he had all evening. The suit he wore was perfectly tailored; it fit snugly around his muscular body, emphasizing the size of his chest and arms.  He looked, quite frankly, like a model. But what captivated Amber the most were his eyes; green, soulful, and deep. Paul’s eyes were mysterious. They hinted at more to the man than met the untrained eye. It only added to his allure.

“I think it’s great,” said Amber.

Paul took a few steps toward her, never taking his eyes off hers. “Eh, it’s alright. I manage,” he said in good humor. In reality the place was near magnificent. Amber managed a small laugh.

He was so close…she could smell his cologne, and beyond that another smell, a manlier odor, one Amber took to be Paul’s own smell. Amber found herself breathing in deep. She loved it. She found herself beginning to imagine what his full lips would taste like, how it would feel to have his strong arms wrapping around her…

Paul said, “Dinner?”

For a second, Amber’s brain, lost in fantasy-land, couldn’t comprehend. “What?” she asked stupidly.

“I asked if you would like some dinner,” Paul repeated, slowly pronouncing every word. He gestured with his arm.

Amber looked to the dining area, where a beautiful meal for two had been set out under the hypnotizing glow of two thick scented candles. A bottle of champagne stood on the table.

“Well?”

Amber turned to look into his deep green eyes.

“Dinner would be lovely.”

*************************************************

Dinner consisted of lobster and olive bread with salad, all washed down with champagne. It was really good, Amber had to admit. She turned her gaze to the man sitting across from her.  Amber was glad she had finally started dating again. Paul was perfect in every way. He was staring back at her. Then he smiled a slow, sensuous smile. Amber blushed. She hoped he didn’t see, that the glow of the candles camouflaged her sudden shade of red.

Paul cleared his throat and said, “Perhaps I should clear the dishes.” He rose.

Amber followed suit. “I’ll help you.”

Together they carried the dishes into the kitchen. The kitchen, like everything she had seen in the house so far, seemed very tastefully furnished to Amber. Simple, yet elegant, the kitchen lacked any kind of clutter. It was a typical single guy’s kitchen; it was obvious that Paul didn’t have any woman in his life yet. An image of herself and Paul standing before an altar flashed uninvited into Amber’s mind. She shook her head vigorously. For God’s sake, it was only a second date. But again and again she found herself imagining – hoping – that it would work out between them. Paul was perfect in every way.

Paul had already finished the dishes he was washing. Damn. Amber had wasted time daydreaming. She turned away from him and furiously started washing the knife she had in hand. Paul walked over and stood directly behind her. “Need any help?” he offered.

“No, I’m good,” replied Amber tightly. God he was so close…she could smell him so strongly…

Paul laughed. “What kind of host am I, even? Making you do dishes your first time here and all.”

“No, really, I’m good. I don’t mind.”

He lifted a hand and brushed it through her hair, revealing bare neck. Paul leaned close and whispered, “You sure?”

Amber began to say, “Yes, of course I’m sure…” but then Paul leaned in closer and kissed her on the side of her neck.

Amber lost her train of thought. The knife in her hand fell onto the counter. Paul kissed her neck again, then turned her so she was facing him. He smiled his slow smile again and then kissed her full on the mouth.

Amber sighed into his mouth. It felt so good. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him back with passion. He cupped her face in his hands. And all thoughts of the outside world faded to Amber, and there was nothing but this man, and her desire for him. She stepped closer and began to grind her hips into his groin.

Paul groaned. His stiff member pushed against her leg. He pulled away from kissing her and looked deep into Amber’s eyes, and then down at her breasts. Amber stood on tiptoes and began to rock up and down on the balls of her feet. To an observer it might not make much sense, but Amber was really rubbing her breasts against Paul’s chest. She felt him take a deep breath, and then his control snapped.

Paul scooped her in his arms and carried her out of the kitchen. Up the stairs they went, and finally to the bedroom. It was a spacious place, with paintings on the walls and a big bed almost smack in the middle of it.

Paul dropped her gracefully on the bed.

Amber arched her back off the bed and met Paul’s hungry lips. At the same time, his hands were moving all over her. Amber’s evening dress came off, revealing her in only her underwear. Paul kissed her face and neck, then slowly moved his head over her mound and kissed her through her panties. Amber cried out. Paul straightened up and took off his shirt, revealing a broad chest and thick, corded muscles. Amber sighed with anticipation.

And then Paul did a weird thing. He stopped. Stopped kissing her, stopped touching her, he just stopped.

Amber looked at him with confusion in her eyes. For a moment it seemed as if Paul was battling himself, fighting an inner battle for control, but then it passed, and he seemed normal again.

“Paul? Is something wrong?”

He smiled down at her. “No, love. I just need a moment. Be right back,” he replied. He moved off the bed and into an adjoining room that Amber hadn’t noticed before but now saw to be the bathroom. Paul entered and closed the door.

Amber sighed and then giggled. She knew he was the one. Sighing contentedly, she lay back on the pillow and closed her eyes to await his return.

In the small bathroom adjoining the bedroom, Paul Black was looking at his reflection in the mirror over the sink. His thoughts turned to the beautiful woman in the other room. He thought of the perfect swell of her breasts, of the lovely curve of her ass. Amber was everything he wanted and more. He thought of how he had almost lost control, how he had almost crossed the line and made love to her. He never did that. He had never done that to any of the others. But this one was different, though. Amber was truly special. He sighed.

It was a shame that she had to die…

Amber turned to face Paul as he emerged from the bathroom. He wore a lopsided smile on his face, with an intense, piercing look in his eyes. He paused in the doorway. An uneasiness rose within Amber. There was something different about Paul; something altogether more sinister.

And then Paul moved and Amber could see clearly the knife he held in his hand.

Note: Here ends the first part. You can find the final part, Thief Of Hearts, Part 2, here