Author Profile – from the World of Romance . . . Felix Alexander

 

Romance Novelist Felix Alexander
Romance Novelist Felix Alexander

 

The Romantic is a love story about friendship, passion, and the echo of unrequited love. When the Angel of Death comes for Hadriel Alighieri, the journey begins. He has harbored a secret in his heart for decades, only to be haunted in the winter of his life by the memory of Sophia Paula. From his deathbed, he travels to the day he fell in love. He retraces the steps of his life in search of his unrequited love. But what begins as a journey to fulfill a promise turns into a discovery of the only emotion that defines our lives.

 

The romantic

 

Felix Alexander is a Mexican-born, American-raised novelist, and poet of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. Acclaimed by readers for his poetic prose, his indie releases include: Dear Love: Diary of a Man’s Desire, a collection of love letters, and poems; and The Romantic, a novel. The release, and increasing popularity of his debut novel has earned Felix a growing audience. With the assistance of the Independent Author Network, and GoodReads, his online presence has gradually expanded across social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Authors Database, Google + and Tsu. Being third-generation military, after a grandfather and uncle who served in the Korean War and Vietnam War, respectively, Alexander is proud of his service in the U.S. Army, and grateful for his experience. After his honorable discharge, he embarked on the long and lonely journey of a writer. Having earned a reputation during his tenure in the military, he vowed to himself, and his fellow soldiers that he would return to the civilian world to answer his true calling. In the last few years, he has also penned a historical fantasy, a mystery thriller, and a MG fantasy to nurture his children’s love of reading. He is currently seeking representation for all three novels. When not spending time with his children, a son and daughter, or fielding 9-1-1 calls as a police dispatcher, he journeys through the portals in his extensive, personal library. When he returns, he immerses himself in his writing, and pursues the scent of his muse. Felix is currently writing a cozy mystery and also a literary romance. He looks forward to beginning the sequels for his three completed manuscripts, soon!

 

Website: http://www.felixalexanderwriter.com

WordPress: https://felixalexanderwriter.wordpress.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/WriterFelixAlexander

 

 

 

The Reckoning: Chapter Seven . . . Leaving on a Jet Plane

Reckoning

                        

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

March 21, 2015

 

The jet streaked through the sky, over—well, heaven only knew. Probably Kansas. Which I definitely didn’t think I was in anymore. The yellow-brick road through Oz, so often traveled by me in my career, once again stretched out before me—this time through the wild blue yonder, instead of on land. Other than that, it was pretty much the same old insane journey.

I was plenty tired, but sleep evaded me nonetheless. I never had gotten back to bed the night before. Maggie decided that the kitchen was a safer place for our talk, and on reflection, I had to agree. Besides, the kitchen had ice cream. We talked for hours. She mostly listened—posing only a very few well thought out questions. The really incredible thing was that she didn’t ask me if I were insane. Matter of fact, she didn’t even look at me that way. A truly amazing woman. I silently thanked my lucky stars for the day I had met her.

Finally morning light found its way through the windows, and we knew it was time to part. She asked that I call a taxi for her as she was aware I would barely have enough time to drive her home and then return to pack.

I did.

“Maggie,” I started—but she shushed me.

“Johnny,” she replied, “I’m going to need a little time to think about all this. And I’m going to need to get sleep some too. It’s all a lot to take in. I’m not a fool, and I know that your assignment in Detroit is no small deal either—and I know it’s a dangerous thing too. I’ve spent a lot of sleepless nights in my first marriage, wondering if Bobby Moran were going to be coming home in one piece from his latest deployment, where ever it was. I’m not altogether sure I’m ready to start worrying all over again about another man that I’m in love with. I’m not quite as young as I used to be, Johnny—and I don’t know that I can handle that much heartbreak twice.”

“I understand,” I said. I meant it too.

“Call me when you get into Detroit, will you Johnny? We’ll talk some more then.”

“Alright.”

She went upstairs then, to get ready. By the time she came down, the taxi was just pulling into the drive. I walked her out. Her eyes were dry, but sad. I was sorry I was the one that had made them that way.

“I love you Maggie.”

“I love you too Johnny,” she said, giving me a quick kiss on the cheek. Take care of yourself. Okay? I want you coming back to me. All safe and sound—if you would. If you and I are going to have any kind of a future together, that’s the first step. The first item of business. You get back here safe and whole. Then we’ll go from there.”

“I will Maggie. I promise I will.”

“Don’t be too quick to make a promise that you just might not be able to keep,” she said, getting into the cab and closing the door behind her.

The taxi pulled out of the drive and onto the street. And then she was gone too. I was left standing in the middle of the drive, feeling more lost and alone than I had in a long, long time.

I went inside to pack. I had about two hours before my own cab was due to appear—just time enough for me to throw a few things into a bag, grab a bite or two, and then take a look at the material on Howard’s thumb drive. Both he and Matt had told me to watch it before I left. It was my ISIS tutorial. My crash course in madness and insanity 101. It was my wake-up call.

I wasn’t ready for what I saw. I don’t know how anyone ever could be. Had I guessed what would be on that drive, I would have skipped the breakfast. It kept wanting to leave my body again as the horrid images flashed across my computer screen. I was no rookie—either to law enforcement—or life. I had seen plenty of blood and gore. And as Matt had pointed out, I had also waded through my fair share of it. But nothing like this—nothing. I knew by the time the video was finished, I would never get those pictures out of my head. Not if I lived to be a thousand years old.

Not if I lived to be a million.

It started out simply enough. A helpless man, soaked in gasoline, burning to death in a cage. A drum-beat strain of Arabic music accompanied it. It was the latest feature from ISIS—The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They were quickly becoming the world’s largest purveyor of high quality snuff-films.

The poor bastard was a Jordanian pilot, unlucky enough to have ejected in enemy territory and captured alive. A trail of gasoline led to his cage, thus keeping his cowardly captors from the possibility of being burned themselves as they executed him. As they light it and the flames rush toward the poor helpless man, you can see him take a step or two back, as though there were a way to escape his own personal holocaust. In a moment he is engulfed in flames, and shrieking in his death throes, wildly and hopelessly thrashing and trying to brush the flames away.

The only good news was that it was over quickly—the pilot killed more rapidly by the super-heated and poisonous vapors pouring into his lungs than the flames themselves. In a matter of perhaps ten or fifteen seconds, he falls to his knees and expires. The monsters continue to let his corpse burn for perhaps ten minutes—it literally falling apart, like an overdone roasted chicken. Then a backhoe operator drops several scoops of large rocks and dirt onto the top of the cage, crushing the cage and burying the dead man, and putting out the remaining flames all at the same time.

The spectacle is over. The blood-lust of the crowd is not. The jungle-beat of the Arabic music and the infernal chanting continue for some time, before the final fade to black.

These were certainly not human beings I was watching. They simply couldn’t be. I would have liked to have called them animals, but there was no animal on the face of the earth that I would care to insult that badly. I settled for Orcs and Death-Eaters in my mind instead, deciding that Tolkien and Rowling had it very, very correct indeed. I also didn’t know what kind of a god they could possibly be claiming to follow—except for Satan himself.

Many of these same videos had been available on the Internet for some time for public viewing—but largely sanitized. Not mine—mine was the full unedited version.

The pilot was only the warm-up act, sick pun unintended, by the way. Next up was scene after scene of total, abject, and complete villainy, misery, and despair. A visual catalog of man’s inhumanity to man—in widescreen, high-definition, and full Technicolor horror. Helpless men, their hands tied behind their backs, while ISIS creatures cruelly sawed off their heads with belt knives. It wasn’t over for these poor bastards, nearly as quickly as it was for the pilot. The blood gushed from their horrible wounds, and their legs kicked in a hopeless struggle for life for several minutes as the butchery went on.

In most of the cases, it required a twisting of the nearly decapitated head to separate it from the body. Then, proudly, like a hunter displaying his trophy, the head was placed on the chest of the body, as the blood continued to run in rivers through the desert sand.

I had no idea there was so much blood inside a human body.

Another section of the video showed execution after execution by pistol and rifle shot. Usually administered to the back of the head. But sometimes to the face as well. Hands of the victims firmly tied in all cases. These monsters didn’t much like the idea of someone who might fight back. Sometimes they were single executions. Others, long lines of kneeling bound men, machine gunned all at once—the bullets kicking up sand, at the same time they spread blood and brain matter.

Women weren’t faring too well either, in this part of the world. Rapes, beatings, and mutilations of all sorts and description. Many were murdered as well. Horrid, base, and despicable acts worthy of the worst of Hitler’s Third-Reich monsters from the middle of the twentieth century. It brought a scene to my mind from a movie based on a Stephen King novel called The Dead Zone.

The movie came out in 1983, and starred Christopher Walken as an ordinary guy who has survived a coma and awoken with special psychic abilities. In one of the movie’s most telling scene, he asks a Jewish doctor, played by the late great British actor Herbert Lom, if he had a time machine, and could go back to the nursery room of Adolf Hitler—would he kill the child.

The good doctor considers for a long moment, and then answers—saying that it has been his lifelong desire to help people, to do good in the world. To heal the sick and the lame, save lives, and try to relieve pain where ever possible. It is his mission in life, he explains, to build up and not destroy. To look for and find the good and divine in the human race, and not the base, vile and horrible. In short—to bring light to the world, and not darkness.

For all those reasons, he explains, “I could do only one thing if I were faced with the situation you describe. I would strangle the son-of-a-bitch to death in his cradle.”

Now I knew how he felt.

The worst of the video was saved for the last. The children. Hundreds of them, all Christian children, and nearly all with brown and black skin. It made no difference. This was not a racial or ethnic thing. This was the universal struggle between good and evil—and in this case, good was losing very badly. In one gut wrenching scene, a screaming father nearly out of his mind, holds his dead son—the boy no older than a year or two. Only a small hole in the forehead of the child, but the entire back of his head blown away. A small cantaloupe could easily have been inserted where the child’s brain had been.

Last was the little girl. I would remember it forever—the image burned into my brain and memory until the end of time. She couldn’t have been much more than six, or maybe seven years old, at most. Dressed in a pretty blue dress. White leggings. Black little-girl shoes—with buckle straps. She is lying on her back, dead on the concrete. There is little damage to the body itself. Except for the head. Which is missing entirely. All that is left is a bloody stump—and a life that was—and a life that never would be.

That was it—I couldn’t take any more. I couldn’t watch another second. The sound of a horn blowing in my driveway jerked me out of my stupor and back into the moment. It was my cab—it had arrived, right on time.

Jerking the drive out of the computer and throwing my overnight bag strap over my left shoulder and picking up my suitcase with my right, I made my way to the front door. Opening it up, I held up a single forefinger, signaling that I needed another minute. The cabbie nodded his head affirmatively.

Turning back and walking into my study, I quickly removed the picture covering my safe, and dialed in the combination. In a second, I tossed in the computer thumb-drive. Just as quickly I extracted Howard’s forty caliber Glock—and the special ammo. I carefully placed it all into my bag. Then, reaching once more into the safe, I picked up Matthew Mason McCabe’s golden magic pocket-watch, and deposited it into my left inside sport-coat breast pocket.

Like the famous monkey’s paw—I could have sworn it squirmed in my hand.

I slammed the safe door shut, spun the dial, and replaced the picture. Then I walked out to my cab, dressed at last, to kill—and, as Matt McCabe, Howard Carter and the President of the United States knew I would, at last be—the perfect killing machine.

Johnny O

Thanks so much for reading. Up next time, an Indie Author Profile from the world of Romance . . . Felix Alexander.

Until then – Goodnight.

Dumb Joke of the Day . . .

light

The Reckoning: Chapter Six . . . The Story

Reckoning

                           CHAPTER SIX

 

“Feel like a story?” the head said. I might have thrown down on him, except for the fact that I had clearly seen the cowlick as I entered the study.

“Sure, why not? Sleep is over-rated anyhow,” I replied as I let the hammer down gently and tossed the little revolver onto my desk. I flopped into an armchair just to the right and stretched out my legs in front of me. “What’s the topic, Matt?”

“The topic is me—but the title is “The Legend of the Watchmaker,” and it’s a sad story, Johnny. Guaranteed to bring a tug to the heartstrings, and a tear to the eye.”

Just a few months before Matt and I had sat in this very same room as he related the facts surrounding the stabbing death of his adult son years before. It seemed as though my study was becoming a focal point for such sorrowful tales.

“Ten to one the tale begins in Ireland,” I said. “The land of shadows.”

“It does indeed,” Matt replied. “Apparently my father Roan was a firebrand in his youth, fighting in one of the many Irish rebellions against the English, when he wasn’t even quite eighteen years old. Killed a man too. He was sentenced to death by an English tribunal, and came within inch of being on the wrong side of a firing squad.”

“What saved him?”

“His father—Aedan McCabe. A watchmaker as well, and the first watch-master. At least as far as we know, that is. He busted out his son, but paid with his life. He was shot to death by the prison guards—but, as it turned out, that wasn’t exactly the end of the story.”

“Small surprise there,” I opined. “After all, it involved McCabes, right?”

He ignored me and went on. “Roan got on a sailing ship by the skin of his teeth and made way for New York. Once there he found employment as a watchmaker’s apprentice. He was good at it too, and had his own shop within a few years. He learned how to use the magic watch, Johnny. He learned to travel with it—returning to repay the favor his father had done for him. He jerked his Da out of that cell and mortal danger. The prison warden, unable to admit he had lost both men, kept Aedan officially dead, and buried a box of rocks in his place. In retaliation, English goons paid a visit to the McCabe home and killed Aedan’s wife and daughter. Aedan stopped his son from going back again for them—much like my son stopped me. He was too afraid of the ‘butterfly effect,’ and also the ‘living dead,’ thing—being a good catholic and all. He considered himself to almost be one of those ‘dead’ after the events in that bloody cell. He wanted no part of it for the two women he loved most in life. It broke him though. He would never be the same person again.”

“I will say this for the man though. The goons that killed those two good women paid dearly for their sins, dying horrible deaths, one by one—including the warden. Aedan might have been Catholic and a follower of The Prince of Peace—but by God, he was an Irishman too and didn’t forgive that easily.

Aedan tried to warn his son about messing with the natural order of things too much, but Roan’s curiosity was insatiable, and as he was never very religious, he had few constraints. He learned to travel without the watch.”

“How so?”

“Because he found out that the watch is only a conduit. The time-machine is the brain. And, as it turns out, we all pretty much have that ability. McCabes apparently a lot more so. The watch only focuses it. That was the secret the McCabes learned. That was the secret of the watch’s green stones—the malachite stones. Without the five missing stones, the watch still worked, but not quite as efficiently as it did with them. It didn’t focus quite as sharply. As it turned out, Roan found the five stones at the Carson Mine after the shooting, and had them all the time—keeping me from having a fully functioning time-machine, and waiting for the right time to use them.”

“Which is now?” I asked.

“Yes,” Matt replied. “Roan is dying—of cancer. Aedan for that matter too. Both are pushing ninety in their own years. They are teaching me to use my own mind to travel without the need of the watch. I’m getting good at it too. I’m almost ready.”

“Good enough to get in here tonight,” I said.

“Sorry about that,” Matt replied. “I needed a place to think. I always did like this room. Comfortable chair. Nice view of the lake. Didn’t figure to wake you up.”

“You were in Howard’s office yesterday too, weren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Mastered invisibility as well now, Matt?”

“Not quite. I’ve learned to ‘hover’ a nano-second before or after an event I’m interested in observing. You and Carter couldn’t quite see me, but I could hear you.”

“Carter sensed it though, didn’t he?”

“Yeah—he was always pretty sensitive around me. For many years, we were virtual brothers.”

“How does Joshua figure in all this?”

“He set things up between me, Roan and Aedan. They came to him, and then he came to me, as a sort of intermediary.”

“You trust him?”

“Yeah. I guess I have to.”

“Why?”

“Because he says he understands what happened with his father. He says he forgave me years ago. He says he holds no grudges. He wants us to have a relationship and be a family again.”

Good luck with that, I thought to myself, remembering Joshua’s smile as Matt lay bleeding on the floor.

“So why are you here tonight Matt? Besides thinking that is. You never tell me everything. Why should tonight be any different?”

“To say goodbye Johnny—and to compliment you. You still pack a decent punch for an old guy. Not many men have put me on the floor to stay.”

“Thanks. It was one of my better ones. We could go outside and finish it now—if you want to.”

“No thanks,” Matt replied. “Not that I couldn’t handle you, but I don’t think I’d like that very much.”

I smiled and nodded my head just an inch. “Not that I couldn’t handle you Matt . . . but, I don’t think I’d like that very much either. Why don’t you come to Detroit with me? We could say our goodbyes right after we round-up all the bad guys. It’s what we do, you know.”

“Like I said, Johnny—no time. Roan’s about finished. He could die almost any minute, and he still has a lot more knowledge to give me. Carter’s right, by the way, Johnny. I know what you’re going to try to do, and it won’t work. Don’t try to take these guys in. Just kill them. They are way too dangerous to screw around with. Stop trying to be a white knight all the time. Use the watch and kill them—just like Aedan. I was here for a few minutes before you woke-up. I opened your safe and replaced the five stones. The watch will work better than ever now, Johnny. And we already know it’ll work for you. It likes you Johnny—and the blood, guts and gore you always seem to wade through.”

“Not a dog’s chance in hell, Matt. Unless you want it back right now, it stays locked up in my safe where it can’t hurt anyone—especially me. If I’ve learned anything at all from you and Roan, it’s not to fool with Mother Nature. Any more than I already have, that is.”

“That watch has saved a few lives in its time. Does the names Missy Spencer and Greg Hanson ring any bells?”

“I know. But it’s way too dangerous—especially in my hands. It’s the ring of power thing.”

“Suit yourself. Just promise me one thing, Johnny. Promise me you’ll watch that thumb-drive Howard gave you yesterday before you leave. Promise me you won’t go out that door without viewing it.”

“Okay—I promise. I intended to watch it anyway before I took off. A cab will be here for me around eleven in the morning. Carter’s sending me Russell Air. Should be in Detroit in time for dinner at The Ritz. All expensed. Old Johnny’s moving up in life. Private jet. FBI credentials and everything.”

“Take that forty-cal pistol he gave you too—with the special ammo.”

“Oh, you mean the extra-special, handy-dandy, cyanide-tipped bullets? Don’t you think that’s just a teeny little bit over the top Matt?”

“No.”

“Explain.”

“Because you can kill them even if you only graze them.”

“Does anyone but me, care, even in the slightest—that these are citizens of the United States?”

“Not really,” Matt replied. “These are mad-dog killers, and they need to be put down—just like you would do with any rabid canine—or a skunk.”

“Speaking of gunfights, Mattie old boy—you’ve got one coming up yourself. Just how do you intend to take out the third man?”

He smiled. “VERY carefully. I don’t have the faintest idea of where he even shot me from the first time. I’m going to have to pick that location up . . . real fast.”

I was ready to plunge into the crux of the matter. “And assuming you manage to get the guy, you have another little problem to work out, right?”

“Right. I can turn around, go back to the Congress Hotel in Tucson, meet up with Cindy, marry her and get on with my life as though nothing had ever happened.”

“Except that something did happen, mega-jerk. Linh and little Albert happened.”

“Linh hadn’t been born yet in 1952.”

I started to gather my feet under me. I eyed the slightly bruised area of his left cheek. It was precisely that same spot that I intended to aim for again. Matt sensed it, throwing up his hands, palm forward, in mock alarm. “Whoa, slugger. I’ve was just having you on a little. I know how serious this whole thing is.”

“Pick another subject to joke about,” I growled as I settled down into the chair again.

“You know Johnny—I’ve always thought I should be just a little jealous of you and Linh.”

“Damned right you should be, sonny-boy. I’m kind of surprised you don’t just keep up two separate lives, and two separate marriages,” I said. “Shouldn’t be too hard for an accomplished time-traveler like yourself. Zip in, zip out. Easy as pie. You told me yourself you always were a cad.”

He looked slightly hurt by the remark.

“I’ll stipulate to being a bastard, Johnny. No argument from me on that one.” He dropped his voice an octave, and spoke with a slow and very precise cadence. “But I’m not that big a bastard.”

His comment hung in the air for several seconds. Finally he spoke again.

“So what would you do, Johnny? Rhetorically speaking, that is?”

“Honor my marriage vows. That’s what I’d do.”

“The first set, or the second one.”

“The current one.”

“In 1952, Cindy was the current one.”

“Get the hell out of my house. Take your damned pocket-watch with you. And oh, just by the way—shove it up your ass too for good measure.”

“I’m sensing hostility here, Johnny.”

I started to get out of the chair again.

“Okay, okay. I was just leaving.” He stood up, facing me. For just a couple of seconds, those piercing black eyes locked with mine. The eyes of a bird of prey. Slowly, he stretched out his hand, holding it there for several seconds as I looked at it. Then, just as slowly, I reached out and took it. Our hands locked.

“You’ve got a good woman upstairs Johnny. Don’t mess it up.”

“I won’t.”

“Goodbye Johnny,” he said.

“Goodbye . . . watchmaker,” I replied. “Take care of yourself, kid.”

“You take care of yourself too . . . old timer.”

And then he was gone. I was amazed at the suddenness of it. One moment he was there—the next he wasn’t. Unlike in days of old, he didn’t even have to shove his hand into his pocket. I stood there for several seconds, staring at the empty space. Feeling, for want of a better word—empty. I shook my head a little as I turned, picked up Betsy, left the study and ascended the stairs. Maggie was waiting for me at the top, looking mighty fetching in one of my over-sized tee-shirts. It was a good sight, definitely taking my mind off Matt.

“I awoke and heard voices,” she said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I had a late-night visitor.”

“Who?” she asked.

“Just an old friend,” I said. “Dropped by, for old-time’s sake.” Maggie looked at me quizzically. “Come over to my room,” I said. “We’ll sit on the side of the bed. We’ll hold hands.”

“. . . And I’ll tell you a story.”

1

Dumb Joke of the Day:

What did the old chimney say to the kid chimney?

You’re too young to smoke.

Thanks for reading folks. See you again in a few days for another installment of THE RECKONING.

The Reckoning: Chapter Five . . . The Sleepover

Reckoning

 CHAPTER FIVE

 

Downtown Bellevue

March 19, 2015

 

The day had gotten better as it wore on. The company had improved as well. Finally leaving Howard’s about two, I swung around to the north to pick up Maggie for a late lunch. We were not in one of the many well-known and much vaulted better Bellevue dining establishments, but no matter—it was a good break from Denny’s. It was a nice little family run Mexican restaurant, and it served just the type of food both Maggie and I enjoyed. Lots of lovingly prepared high-quality entrees, plus plenty of deep-fried jalapenos on the side, and good strong margaritas served-up with a well salted rim. Maggie was enjoying one now. Me, a much safer diet coke.

Maggie and I had been seeing each other for only a couple of months, our relationship starting just after the New Year. Colonel Bob’s short visit to the hospital over the holidays had turned into full-time residency at Sunset Hills Memorial Park—he being the victim of a sudden and massive heart attack while simply in for observation of a chest-cold. So Maggie’s career as a care-giver for her father-in-law was over. I was surprised and amazed when I finally called her a week or so after the funeral and asked her out for coffee, just how fast she had said yes.

So far our relationship had been smooth sailing, and we both seemed up for more, although we had not yet made the transition to sleep-overs. Not only beautiful, she was a plenty smart lady, her going out with me notwithstanding. We had a lot in common as it turned out, and enjoyed each other’s company immensely. Slowly we were getting used to each other, as we explored each other’s past, learning what we liked, and what we didn’t like about each other. I was happy that the later list seemed to be very short indeed.

Maggie knew and liked my friends and associates. Linh had become a personal favorite. She seemed to love Matt, and had latched onto to him like a long-lost son. It made me smile a little—her not knowing that he was actually old enough to be her father. Carter seemed to put her off just a bit, but then he often had that effect on people. I didn’t believe that she was particularly enthralled with my line of work, and the associated danger, but she accepted it well enough. Her first husband, a military-man, was not exactly a stranger to gun-play and drama, any more than I was. She did not yet know about the pocket-watch, either when it was in the possession of Matt McCabe, or residing with me, as it presently did.

Now did not seem like a good time to go into it.

“I’ve got a case, Maggie. An assignment from the Bellevue PD. Looks like it’s going to take me out of town for a while.”

“Any idea how long?” she inquired.

“Hard to say. A few days, maybe a couple of weeks.”

 “What kind of a case?”

“Locating a few men.”

“Doesn’t sound like that will that too hard for a skilled detective like you.”

I laughed. “Don’t over-estimate the skill set. These are guys that really don’t want to be found.”

It was her turn to laugh. “With Howard Carter looking for them, I can’t imagine they would. What’s he want them for?”

“A Bellevue intersection camera caught them J-walking. Carter believes in letting no crime go unpunished.”

“Funny. So it’s the firing-squad for them?”

It was meant as a joke, but she could hardly have been more spot-on if she’d had the entire story.”

“Yeah—kind of.”

“Danger level?”

I shrugged. “About medium,” I said, fudging just a little.

“Carter doesn’t have any detectives on his own force?”

“He does. But not any that can operate in Detroit. For that you need a private-eye.”

“The Motor City, huh? Babylon on the Detroit River. Home of Jimmy Hoffa. The Teamsters. The UAW. The Big Three. Not to mention Mo-town. Almost shouts organized-crime.”

“You’re not too far off. I can’t go into any more detail.”

“I understand. Is Matt going with you?”

I knew by the comment that she was probably more concerned for his safety than mine—him being just a baby and all. “Not this time Maggie. Matt is going to be on ‘sabbatical’ for a while. I’m being provided with a new partner for this case. One I’ve never met before, but he’s supposed to be a long-time friend of a long-time friend of Carter’s, and very dependable. The name is Jedidiah Wahl, and I’m going to be meeting him at a Church in Royal Oak in two days. That’s a little town just outside Detroit from what I understand. Never been there myself. Carter’s flying me out private.”

“Meeting him in a Church? Private jet? Now that’s really cloak and dagger. What’s his claim to fame anyway?”

“According to Howard, he’s an expert on the dark and sordid underbelly of the Detroit crime scene. He’s supposed to help keep me from sticking my nose in the wrong places. At least without back-up, that is.”

“So how are you supposed to get these guys out of Detroit, and back to Bellevue, if you are out of your jurisdiction and don’t have any authority there?”

I was taken aback. In just two or three moves, Maggie had me checkmated, striking at the center of the problem directly—whether intentionally or by accident, unknown. It was time to change the subject—quickly.

I swallowed my last bite of burrito. “What do you say we get the heck out of here?” I said. “We could stop off at Isaac’s for some ice cream, before I take you home.” Isaac’s was a new parlor in town. We had gone there for cones before and liked it. Mexican restaurants generally don’t have a lot on the sweets menu. This one was no exception.

“How about you don’t take me home. But I really would like dessert.”

“Where then?”

“Your place.”

I paid the check in a hurry.

 

Mercer Island   

Three o’clock AM            

March 20, 2015

 

 

I came awake suddenly, instantly aware and alert—with the sure and certain knowledge that we were no longer alone in the house. It was not something that I had heard. It was something that I felt—that old sixth sense that had saved my life so many times in the past. The nerves in my body tingled slightly as I slipped soundlessly out of bed and gathered up my .38 revolver and shoulder rig and slipped it over my arm. Betsy felt good in my hand. The two fully charged speed-loaders dangling from the strap were also reassuring. I was dressed in boxers and a tee. I didn’t stop to add more.

Once out into the hallway, I quickly covered the few steps to the guest-room where Maggie was sleeping. I could see the door ajar and I pushed it open an additional two or three inches—just enough to clearly see her form lying in the bed. Whoever was downstairs, it wasn’t her. Maggie was in a good place, I considered as I made my way toward the stairway. If a firefight erupted either on the staircase or the ground floor, she would be very unlikely to catch a stray bullet where she was.

The memory of the evening came back to me. Maggie and I rushing to my house after our lunch date. We were in a hurry, and very intent on thoroughly getting to know each other on a very personal basis. Barely inside the front door, we had more or less fallen into one another, our passions rising as we kissed and embraced in the darkness of the living room.

It was short-lived. Maggie was the first to pull away. I was right behind. We stopped—both of us, and almost at exactly the same time, knowing in our hearts that neither of us really wanted what we were about to do. Oh, it wasn’t from lack of attraction, passion or desire. It had a lot more to do with what was right—as in, right for us. Neither one of us were virgins, that was for sure. We had both been around the block a few times—married once before each, and each to a person we truly loved, respected, and cherished. Beginning the somewhat inevitably painful process of replacing those two good people with someone else was not something to be taken lightly. It was pretty serious business. And we both just kind of seemed to know, at almost precisely the same moment that we wanted to do it correctly. That it was to be, when it finally occurred, something really special, as they say. Maggie was not a particularly religious person, and I was certainly far from a choir-boy, but we both believed in God, and kind of felt we were on solid ground here with the big-guy.

We spent the rest of the evening cuddled on the sofa, watching old black and white movies on Netflix, of all things, and eating an evening snack of micro-waved popcorn. Oddly enough, it could hardly have been more romantic—or enjoyable.

I offered to drive her home after, but she declined, saying she would sleep on the sofa. I did her one better and made up the spare bed in the guest-room. After seeing her into it and saying goodnight, I treated myself to a nice long, and very cold shower before hitting the sack at about midnight. It seemed I had hardly been asleep before I back awake again.

I eased myself to the edge of the bannister and looked down into the foyer area. The skies had finally cleared late in the afternoon and stayed that way. Now there was a nice bright moon showing, and it was casting quite a bit of light in through the windows. I could tell at a glance that there was no one in the open area. I could also see that my office/study door, which I had carefully closed before ascending the stairway for bed, now hung halfway open. It was here that my adversary was going to be found. Again, it was a good spot. I was going to have the advantage. I could approach unseen as I worked my way down the stairs. I knew my rather substantial house well. The wood of the stairway would not creak. If someone came out of the room, I would again have the advantage, commanding the higher ground.

Taking a deep breath to control my nerves, I started down. No way to know how many there might be, or the degree of armament they might have. My best chance was going to be the element of surprise. I was pretty sure that whoever was in that room, probably considered me to be still sound asleep on the second floor.

There are seventeen steps between floors in my house. Hugging the wall, I quickly counted off fifteen of them, never taking my eyes from the ever increasingly closer open door. Finally reaching it, I carefully and slowly thumbed back the hammer of my little revolver. It clicked just once, but very softly. I didn’t believe that slight sound was going to be any kind of a give-away, as I slowly inched forward and craned my neck and head around the edge of the door.

The window just opposite my desk was open. It hadn’t been before. The drapes moved slightly in the faint breeze. I could feel the coolness on my mostly bare skin. Moonlight streamed through the window as well. Moving my head an additional few inches brought the person into view. He was sitting in my desk chair, looking out through the window, facing away from me, head silhouetted in the moon glow. A quick glance confirmed that he was alone.

Whoever it was, and whatever he was doing here, he was mine. My surprise was going to be total and complete. Taking one more calming breath, I completely swung open the office door with my left hand and stepped into the room.

The head swiveled toward me.

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Thanks for reading. Next up . . . The Reckoning: Chapter Six . . . The Story.

Until then, Good day!

Dumb Joke of The Day:  What’s the Invisible Man’s favorite song?

Answer:  It’s Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got Nobody.

The Watchmaker: Chapter Four . . . The Assignment

Reckoning

 

                         CHAPTER FOUR

 

Bellevue, Washington

March 19, 2015

 

The decent weather had said bye-bye. Now it was a very typical Northwest winter day, with leaden gray cloudy skies and light rain mixed with snow. Spring was still forty-eight hours away, according to the calendar, but I doubted the weatherman knew it.

Perfect, a complete and total match for my mood.

I had received the summons from his royal highness, “pain-in-the-ass” Howard Carter a scant hour and a half ago. He hadn’t especially made it sound as though it were an invitation. I would have told him exactly where to put it—that was, if he hadn’t hung up on me immediately after informing me that my presence would be required in his downtown office at precisely eleven o’clock. It was a good strategy on his part. He was aware that if he remained on the line for another few seconds, I would have told him to stuff it. As it was, he knew my natural curiosity would take over, and I would simply have to keep the appointment. I tried calling him back several times, to no avail, so now I found myself cooling my heels in front of his massive oak desk.

They don’t make them like that anymore, and I had to wonder to how much effort the old boy had gone to find one that big. It didn’t really match the rest of the setting. Carter’s office was kind of on the small side and very plain. A glass fishbowl. And not on the top floor of the building either, the way his predecessor’s had been. Carter had moved his to the ground floor, not too far from the main entrance. Besides the desk, the only other appointment that said “Chief” was the brass name plaque on the door. He said he believed it made him look a lot more open and accessible, and further, he stated, it didn’t hurt a bit to have the taxpayers actually see the head honcho at work. Under normal circumstances, I would have agreed with his entire line of reasoning. Today, my mood being a scant tick or two above Attila the Hun, it gave me only more reason to be really teed off at him. I could see the general public eyeing me as they passed in and out of the main entrance. To them, I was sure, I must have looked like one of the Chief’s lackeys. The fact that Carter didn’t have any lackeys didn’t alter my feelings one little bit either. Carter, I had to admit, was from the old school, fetching his own coffee and paperclips. Fact was, many a time I had seen him bringing coffee to his underlings.

He was a damned good man. Even the blackness surrounding me this morning couldn’t really alter that fact. I knew it too. Otherwise, I would never had sat waiting a full forty minutes past my appointment time. I crossed my legs and put my feet up on his desk to lessen the lackey look. Tipped my homburg at a classy angle to boot.

And I stewed.

When Carter finally appeared a couple of minutes later, I was a real mood to remove his head, and didn’t mind for a second assuming the much coveted role of Madame Guillotine.

“Where you been Carter?” I blurted out. “Having a quickie with a staffer in the locker-room broom closet? I guess at your age though, forty minutes is a quickie.”

“Funny,” he replied, dismissing me with a single word. “Sorry for the delay. Get your damned feet off my desk, by the way, before I break your ankles.”

I did.

“For your information, I’ve been speaking with the President, and I was about two seconds from having someone bring you up to join in,” he said. “Then I remembered your mouth, and thought better of it—so you’re going to have to take what I’m going to tell you on a second-hand basis.”

“President of what?” I asked. “The local Girl-Scout troop? Don’t tell me. They want you to peddle cookies for them door-to-door this year.”

“The President of The United States, you nitwit. Now shut-up and listen.”

It wasn’t every day that a small town Chief of Police spends forty minutes on the horn with the big-guy. So I did. Shut up, that is. And listen.

“You ever heard of ISIS?” Carter asked.

“Sure—who hasn’t?” I paused. “This is serious, isn’t it Carter?”

“Yeah Johnny. As damned awful serious as it gets. Why the hell else would I bring your sorry butt in here this morning. Just to further ruin my already totally shitty damned day?”

I knew that if this involved ISIS, or the radical Muslim Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and Carter was having long tete-a-tete with the POTUS, something big was up. I got serious in a hurry. ISIS was pretty much running roughshod over the entire middle-east, and turning an area the size of the British Isles into a vast killing field. Their threats against the United States and generally the entire free world were frequent and dire, and getting more so all the time. Seems they were intent on wiping out the human race. Carter was something of an arm-chair expert on the political and military aspect of the ever increasing radical Islamic threat, and I knew that what he was going to tell me was going to be grounded in hard fact, and not fantasy. I intended to listen very carefully.

“Bomb threat?” I asked.

“Nothing so simple,” Carter replied.

“What’s worse than a bomb?” I asked again.

“A credible threat to kill, at the very least, one hundred Christian children. And behead them. They don’t care what nationality, race or skin color the children are either. It is simply a threat to kill that many kids—Christian kids—for no other reason than their religion. They say they will make Sandy Hook Elementary look like a summer picnic by comparison. Worse yet, these are home-grown terrorists, American in every way. No middle-eastern names, looks or mannerisms. They hate America and say we have it coming to us. I guess just for being who we are. They say this our wake-up call. They say this will be our reckoning. These are men radicalized sitting in their basements watching ISIS propaganda on the internet. They are going to be tough to stop, because they are going to be so damned difficult to detect—and more difficult yet to find.”

“So why are you talking to the President?”

“All the Chiefs of Police in the entire United States with large Christian children’s Schools are a part of this operation. That’s about two dozen cities by the way. I’ve just come from a conference of Chiefs concerning the matter in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t you know it, but guess what city has the largest Christian children’s school in the States?”

“Would you happen to be the Chief of Police of that city?”

“Bingo. The Bellevue Christian Children’s Academy has more kids registered than any other facility—making us, in the eyes of the FBI—the prime target. Nearly four hundred students.”

“You still didn’t answer my question about the President,” I noted.

Carter walked around his desk to the front side and sat down on the edge. Even though he was already close, he seemed to want to lessen the distance between us. We were locked up tight in his office, yet he seemed a little concerned about being overheard. He lowered his voice an octave, as he glanced around the room.

“No one is going to attack that school in my jurisdiction successfully. I almost wish they would try. Already there is enough firepower concentrated in that area to take out half the Chinese Army if it came to that. The thing is Johnny—I’m not all that convinced that Bellevue is the target. I think we may simply be a red-herring. The real threat may be somewhere else. And I don’t care where it is—I want it stopped. Dead stopped. I let my feelings be known at that conference. Apparently my very privately and carefully chosen spoken words were not lost on a certain listener who shall and must remain nameless. In a matter of mere hours, a call between myself and the President was arranged.”

“We don’t want an attack to happen anywhere—period,” Carter continued. “We want to locate these men, probably four in total, and take them out before they ever get started. Three white Americans, and one middle-eastern handler. He’s the only one we’ve got a clue on. We do not want to arrest them, and we do not want to try them. We want them dead—simple as that. The President of the United States, as the Commander in Chief, is the one and only person in the entire country that can legally authorize that. He has that authority, just the same as if he were ordering a drone strike in Iraq.”

“Except that these are American citizens,” I countered.

“Yes, except for that,” Carter agreed. “Under the circumstances, that little nicety is a fine point of law I’m willing to overlook. In case no one has noticed it, we are in a state of war.”

“The President has the entire US Army at his disposal. Including all the Special Forces. Seals, Green Berets, you name it. Why would he be asking you for help?”

“Because I volunteered it.”

“And you know something he doesn’t?”

“I have something he doesn’t.”

“I’m all ears.”

“I have you.”

“Did your leaking brain aneurysm finally let go?” I asked.

“Maybe.”

“If not—you’re insane. Simple as that, Carter.”

“The President of the United States is asking for your help, Johnny. Hell, America is asking for your help. Are you really willing to say no to that? You’re a better man than that.”

“Why the hell me, Carter? I’m nearly forty-five years old. I have absolutely no military training or experience whatsoever. I’ve got a bad back and a balky spine, and legs that work right only whenever the hell they feel like it. I’ve got a partner that just bailed on me. And you want me to go up against some of the most deadly and sophisticated terrorists in the world?”

“I’ll give you a new partner. A good one too. Someone you can trust.”

“You’re still not answering my question. Why me? There must be—hell, I don’t know—a couple of thousand better qualified people out there.”

“You are the most qualified. I talked to the President about it. He agrees. You and your partner will have a complete green light to deal with the problem in any way you see fit—just as long as all the bad-guys end up dead. You will be one-hundred percent legal, regardless of what happens. You literally have a license to kill, from the Commander in Chief of the US military. Collateral damage doesn’t count. You are as legally bullet-proof as Agent 007.”

I continued to stare at him as though he were a madman. Or perhaps as though he had just stepped off a space-ship and calmly asked me to take him to my leader.

“Listen to me Johnny. I don’t take what I’m asking you to do lightly. I realize that being an assassin and a hitman is not exactly work that is right up your alley. But I also know you are one of the smartest detectives on the planet, and that’s one of the things that it’s going to take to find these guys. You also have more heart, and more courage, and more guts than any other man I’ve ever known in my life. And I’m not simply blowing smoke up your ass either. It’s true—and you damned well know it.”

“What else?” I asked. “You’ve stroked me enough Carter, I almost have a hard-on. Now how about simply telling me the truth.”

I waited patiently. I was prepared to wait all day if I had to. For the truth.

“You also have a magic pocket-watch,” he replied.

I raised my eyebrows and pursed my lips, stunned into silence.

Howard simply shrugged his shoulders, and in his best Jesse Stone imitation, calmly said, “I’m the Chief of Police. I know everything.”

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Thanks for reading. Next up .  .  . Chapter Five.

Until then–Good Night.

Dumb joke of the day:

Why did the Pirate go to the Carribbean for vacation?

.  .  . he wanted some arr and arr.