CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY-ONE
After what felt like a lifetime of wandering in the fog, Seth found himself walking across the City Park meadow. The day was hot and the sun was warm on his tanned back. He wore his summer uniform – no shirt, no shoes and cut off pants. Carrying homemade fishing poles and a can of fresh caught worms, his older brother, Saul, walked beside him. His younger brother, Silas, trotted along on the other side.
They were going fishing in the big lake. His older brother’s voice filled the air with the number of fish they were going to catch and how he was going to ‘fry them up in a pan.’ Seth couldn’t help but smile. There was nothing better than being with his brothers in the middle of warm summer day. They reached the big lake and found a wide tree to sit under. They put the worms on their hooks and cast out on the grey green water. Like the men around them, they leaned back to on their hands to watch the water and the bright blue sky.
Seth knew the exact moment in time he’d returned to.
His younger brother’s high pitched laugh made Seth turned to gaze on his face. It would be twenty or more before the horrible purple sarcoma would literally choke the breath from Silas. Silas would be one of the first casualties of the AIDS virus that would go on to decimate entire neighborhoods in Denver. Unable to stop himself, Seth touched Silas’s fresh, clear eight year old face. In Silas bright eyes, he saw only younger brother adoration for Seth.
“Hey look!” Saul said.
Seth’s attention turned to his older brother. Twelve years old, Saul was ready for any adventure. As a young child, Seth had watched Saul’s wild streak lead to broken bones, skinned knees and outrageous adventure. Sitting on the side of the lake, he couldn’t conceive that his brave brother would die on a peak in Laos only eight short years later. Saul hooted at his triumph over the City Park big lake fish. He gave a theatrical bow to Seth and Silas applause.
The boys laughed and enjoyed the day. They couldn’t know that this would be the last time they would fish at the big lake. In an hour or so, they would return home to find their father waiting for them. Seth’s bags, and future, were packed for Eastman College. While his brothers’ wailed and his mother argued, his father dragged Seth to the bus station and put him on it. By the time he’d returned, Saul was a sixteen year old jock with no time for his beatnik brother; and Silas had retreated into his despair over his sexuality. In this moment, the boys had no idea their lives would change so radically, so quickly.
At this moment, everything was perfect. Seth wiped a furtive tear from his eye.
“Don’t be sad, Seth,” Silas said. “We’ve waited for you for a long time.”
“There’s nowhere we have to go this time,” Saul said.
“Let’s fish,” Silas said.
Seth threw his line into the water and leaned back.
This moment was perfect.
Tuesday evening — 9:15 P.M.
“Captain Ferguson please.” Talking on Nelson’s phone, Ava turned to look out into the lab.
“This is Captain Ferguson,” Ferg said. “Who might I be speaking to?’
“Technician Alvin,” Ava said.
“Ava! How are you holding up?” Ferg asked. “You know, I’ve know Magic O’Malley a long time and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to pull through.”
“My lab is hoping to speed up that journey,” Ava said.
“God, you do have a great voice. Seth said it was deep and sexy, but it’s gorgeous,” Ferg said.
“You know I didn’t mean anything inappropriate by that,” Ferg said.
“I know,” Ava said.
“What can I do for you?”
“We’ve been going over the diagrams of the apparatus used in the other First Responder Toxin Incidents,” Ava said. “Have you been able to collect the one Saint Jude used?”
“Not really,” Ferg said. “SWAT destroyed it. Why?”
“The diagrams for the other apparatus show a container with the toxin in it,” Ava said. “Did you find anything like that?”
“Lemme check,” Ferg said.
The line went quiet. Ava turned around to at Nelson. He mouthed ‘Worth a try.’
“Ok,” Ferg said. “They found a tub filled with the wood stakes. Looks like the bastard was ready to kill the entire city of Denver. You want these?”
“I’ll take them,” Ava said. “But we were hoping for some of the toxin without the wood. The wood seems to be pressure treated with creosote. It dominates our samples, even with the spect.”
“Can’t make the anti-toxin?”
“We’d have better chance if we had a clean sample,” Ava said. “We have one coming from Geneva, but they won’t be here until morning. I was hoping…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ferg said. “Hang on.”
The line went dead.
“They don’t have it,” Ava said to Nelson. “I ordered nuclear imaging on what we have. We might be able to see the creosote separate from the toxin. We’ll have that in an hour or so. But…”
“Got it,” Ferg said. “They just found a tub of the stuff or they think it’s the stuff. But get this, they also found the chemicals he used to make that junk with.”
“Why would he leave that?” Ava said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“He set explosives,” Ferg said. “He was planning to blow up the place.”
“O’Malley’s magic, my dear,” Ferg said. “Jude wired the explosives into the damn grid. When the SWAT team blew the apparatus, they blew out the electrical lines. No power, no bomb.”
“Wow,” Ava said.
“I’m going to send this straight to your team. But you’ve got to be meticulous about chain of custody,” Ferg said. “If you don’t, we’ll be screwed at trial.”
“Got it,” Ava said. “Thanks.”
“Hey, your Dad’s been here,” Ferg said. “He says he’s looking for you. We don’t know what he’s doing but he’s sniffing around. The Chief says he’s going to hold a press conference. State Attorney Alvin believes Seth screwed the pooch and let Saint Jude go. He’s going to fry him.”
“I’ll call my father,” Ava said.
“I don’t want to put more pressure on you and your team, Amelie,” Ferg said. “But it’s not just these guys’ lives on the line now. If Saint Jude’s really gone, it’s going to rain shit on all of us.”
“Guess we better get to work,” Ava said.
“Good girl,” Ferg said. “Better send someone to the door ‘cuz your toxin and the chemicals are going to be there in three minutes.”
“Go,” Ava said to Nelson.
Nelson jogged out of the lab and up the stairs to the street entrance.
“Thanks Ferg,” Ava said.
“Any time,” Ferg hung up the phone.
One step closer to saving Seth and the other men. Ava smiled and went to greet the uniform officers.
Tuesday evening — 9:15 P.M.
Jill stopped on the stairwell to assess the situation. The children were scattered around the basement. Cam went to check on Honey and help Tanesha get her into her wheelchair. Sandy was hugging Charlie for saving Nash and Noelle. She hugged Nash and Noelle and turned to hug Sissy. The creature landed in front of Valerie. Valerie had expanded her baton and was ready to fight the beast. The dogs were milling around their families. Valerie struck at the entity and it took flight.
“Where’s Rachel?” Sandy asked Charlie.
Charlie pointed to the hidden space. Buster gave a bark and Sandy ran to get Rachel from her hiding space.
“Sarah! Buster! Scooter!” Jill yelled. “Surround!”
The dogs rushed at the slate grey creature. Landing, the monster pulled her wings back and screeched with rage at the dogs. Undeterred, the dogs surrounded the brute. Working as a pack, with one dog nipped the creature while the others barked and snarled, they moved the fiend away from Valerie.
The creature swiped at Scooter and he fell onto his side. Scooter yelped with pain. Leaning its head forward, the creature’s opened its mouth exposing her razor sharp teeth. Before it could swallow Scooter whole, Sarah bit the winged beast’s leg. The miscreation raised its face to the sky and screamed with rage.
When Katy ran to her dog, Jill raced down the stairs until she was between the creature and her child and dog. She had psychic dreams. Delphie had warned her that she might be able to move objects. She’d just never tried. Desperate to protect her child and dog, Jill had to try psychokinesis.
The creature leaned forward and screamed at Katy and Scooter. Jill had to try.
Jill focused her attention to her hands. As she’d seen Jacob do, she flicked her hand and the creature hurled away from them. Recoiling from the energy, Jill flew in the opposite direction from the creature. She hit the wall hard and fell to the ground.
“MOMMY!” Katy screamed.
“I’m okay,” Jill said.
The evil being smashed against the exposed floor joists and fell down in front of Honey, Tanesha and Cam.
“Jill!” Tanesha screamed.
Jill hopped to her feet and braced herself against the wall. She tossed monster away from her friends. The creature landed in the middle of the room. The serpent’s sinewy thin tail whipped Jill across the face. Staggering, Jill fell to her knees. Heather dragged Scooter and Katy away from the action.
“Join hands!” Jill said. “We have to join hands!”
Teddy helped Noelle to her feet. The children and women took each other’s hands to form a circle. One foot at a time, Scooter made a wobbly attempt to stand. Once on his feet, he shook himself and ran to Sarah and Buster’s side. The children and women surrounded the creature. The dogs formed a tight circle around the winged beast.
“We have to kill this thing. We’re the only ones who can,” Jill yelled.
The creature screamed and rushed the circle. Using their combined strength, the dogs, children and women managed to keep the creature hemmed in. The fiend attempted to take to the air again. Sarah and Buster grabbed a foot and a wing. The dogs yanked the monster to the ground.
“She’s weakening,” Jill yelled over the snapping and snarling dogs.
The creature stumbled and fell.
“She has to find another host to survive!” Jill yelled.
The creature rushed at the children and was held back by the dogs.
“She’s looking for a male who doesn’t have the mitochondrial DNA,” Jill yelled.
“Protect Charlie and Teddy,” Sandy yelled.
“If she finds a host we are all dead,” Jill yelled.
Sniffing, the monster loomed over Noelle and Teddy. Baring her teeth, Sarah rushed the monster. It fell back. The brute rushed Nash and sniffed. Buster threw his bulk at the winged brute. It fell back. The creature raced toward Pete and Molly’s children. To protect them, Valerie broke the circle to jump in front of the children. She battered the monster with her baton. Even distracted by Valerie, the fiend took a whiff of Pete’s children and moved away.
“Auntie Valerie!” Katy screamed and held her hand out.
Valerie ran to Katy. Taking her hand, the circle was complete again. The creature staggered.
“Hold tight,” Jill said. “We can do this.”
The creature jerked to attention. Spinning in place, the slate grey creature barreled toward Sandy. Sandy screamed and let go of Teddy and Charlie’s hands. Jerking, she wrapped her arms around Rachel and turned her back.
“Teddy!” Noelle covered him with her body.
The winged beast’s long sinewy tail whipped around Charlie’s in the shoulders. Charlie fell into the circle. The creature hopped into the air then dove toward Charlie. Paralyzed with terror, Charlie screamed.
“Charlie!” Sissy screamed.
Sandy rushed to his side. Heather and Tanesha ran to Sandy. Jill tried to throw the creature away from Charlie but it was moving too fast. Knowing she and Rachel had the DNA, Sandy threw herself in front of Charlie. The creature was an inch away when it caught wind of Rachel. Rachel let out an angry scream.
The creature screeched with pain.
“Sarah, Buster, Scooter, attack.” The dogs herded the creature away from Charlie. Heather and Tanesha grabbed Charlie and pulled him back to the circle.
Valerie ran to the middle of the room.
“Nash! Noelle! Come over by me,” Valerie said. “Sandy! Heather! Bring Mack! Honey!”
With a flick of her hand, Honey zoomed to Valerie. The others ran to catch up.
“It’s our babies,” Valerie yelled. “With our babies, we will kill it.”
“Our babies?” Sandy said. “No, we can’t….”
“She will kill us all if we don’t,” Jill said.
“But give her our babies?” Sandy asked. “I’d rather die!”
“Not give her our babies,” Valerie said. “That’s crazy. Hold our babies and each other. You saw how that thing reacted to just seeing Rachel.”
“Is that right?” Sandy asked Jill.
“The sight, smell and sounds of babies with mitochondrial DNA will kill her,” Jill said.
Sandy looked at Heather. Facing their worst fears, the mothers moved to Valerie.
“You need Cam and Tanesha too,” Jill said.
Cam held his arm out and Tanesha joined him. They ran toward Valerie.
“The rest of us will form a circle around you!” Jill yelled.
The children took each other’s hands. Jill set Katy down and they joined the children. They formed a circle around the creature. Valerie, Honey, Heather, Tanesha and Cam and the young children stood in the center of the circle.
Tanesha helped Heather get Mack from her backpack baby carrier. Cam took the carrier and tossed it into a corner. Sandy wrapped her arms around Rachel. They linked elbows. The dogs kept the monster in place.
“Think light,” Valerie said. “Mom always said, ‘The deepest darkness can be broken with a single thought of light’.”
A brilliant bright white light emanated from the group. As if draw to it by a magnet, the light struck the slate grey creature.
“Duck!” Charlie yelled.
“Cover your face!” Jill yelled.
The creature’s torso exploded. Grey dust, black blood and tissue spewed around the room. The dogs skittered away. The monster’s tail blew up and its head fell to the ground with a thump. After all the chaos and confusion, a silence drifted over the basement.
“Everyone okay?” Jill asked.
Feet pounded across the upstairs floor and the door jerked open.
“Honey!?” MJ yelled.
“I’m here.” From her position near the middle of the room, Honey waved. “I’m here.”
MJ ran down the stairs to her. Jacob and Aden followed close behind. Delphie stood at the landing. She looked from the bullet holes to the dark grey dust, black blood and tissue until she spotted Saint Jude laying on his side pressed against the side wall. Almost to herself, she said:
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