It's his destiny to restore Atlantis. Does he dare face off with the evil Bellator?
The rest of chapter 18
With Hal’s warning echoing in my mind, I made my way to Penny’s room.
“It just occurred to me, I never took you, for that walk I promised.”
Penny’s eyebrows rose. “If I recall correctly, you were too busy on a mission that I somehow got left behind on.”
I could feel my face heat and knew I was red. “Can I make amends, or is it too late?”
Penny smiled and tucked her hand in mine. We hadn’t gone far before Juliet appeared. While her eyes were narrowed in jealousy, her voice was soft and friendly. “Where are you two off to?”
“Just taking a walk,” Penny answered sweetly.
Moving on to the courtyard I gazed behind us occasionally, to ensure Juliet wasn’t following. Penny headed to one of the many chairs scattered along the curving wall of water.
“Not here.” I said nervously. “We’re headed to the outer ring.”
“What’s at the outer ring?” She asked.
“No she devil.” I said gazing behind us again.
Penny laughed shaking her head at my lack of social experience. “She won’t follow. She wants you to herself, not as a third wheel. So what’s at the outer ring?”
“Something amazing,” I said beginning to relax. “I compared them to the moon before, but that doesn’t do them justice.”
Penny let her gaze travel down the passageway, skimming the unoccupied rooms. “Do you think we’ll ever fill this ring, much less the outer one?”
I followed her gaze. “I don’t know.” I said sighing. “For Hal’s sake I hope so.”
I escorted Penny into a room, watching her eyes light up. Straight ahead was a giant glass tank. “This is Hal’s aquatic rescue room, though it’s more like a theater than a room.” I said pointing to the balconies overhead. “He likes to sit up there and communicate with the sea.”
Penny verily scanned the balcony before her gaze shifted to the water, stumbling forward she pressed against the glass. “What is that?” She gushed. “There are so many, hundreds, maybe thousands, what are they?”
Leaning next to her, I watched her childlike wonder. “They’re luminous algae.”
“They look like tiny stars.” She beamed. “How many, do you think?”
“I’m sure they number in the tens of thousands.” I assured her. “Normally you wouldn’t find them this far inland. Atlantis draws them, like the other fish and sea animals.”
Turing she threw her arms around my neck whispering. “Thank you. Thank you for showing me. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.”
“You know, you say that a lot.” I said momentarily overwhelmed by her closeness.
“I noticed.” She acknowledged completely unaware of her power over me. “There are just so many wonders and each seems more fantastical than the last.”
I motioned her up the stairs. “There’s a better view from the balcony.” Turning her back to the rescue tank below, she settled on the floor staring at pinpricks of light, glowing in the dark waters, like stars.
I snuggled in behind her with a contented sigh. Leaning back, she rested her head on my shoulder. A happy smile split my face, sharing this wonder with her.
Pulling my head down, she captures my lips. Twisting in my arms, and pressing closer, she heats us both with her kiss.
Becoming lost in the smell and feel of her, I glory in my racing pulse and tingling skin, pulling away. I ask. “Tell me something, no one knows about you.”
Penny laughed, but not before I saw a flash of disappointment. “Right now,” She said snapping her fingers. “Talk about putting a girl on the spot. I don’t know. You, tell me something?”
I wanted to believe the disappointment was because the kiss ended, but I couldn’t help wondering if that was true or just what I wanted to be true.
“Okay. I used to watch kids outside my window and imagine what it would be like to have friends…I wasn’t even close.”
Penny blinked, eyes instantly shining. “You didn’t have friends?”
“See.” I said. “My past isn’t interesting. I want to hear about yours.”
“But, why didn’t you have friends?”
“It wasn’t in the rules.” I said lamely.
“Rules, what rules?” Penny questioned.
“Mother’s rules; rule number one. Don’t be seen.”
“But why,” She asked.
“The usual,” I said flippantly. “A psycho killer, hell bent on killing me.”
“Oh lord.” She blanched. “Tell me you didn’t stay in the house where…she died.”
“No, of course not, she bought a new house, before…”
“So you hid in this new house for how long?” She questioned.
“Until eighteen,” I said sighing with remembered loneliness. “Mother’s instructions directed me to see a lawyer on my eighteenth birthday.”
“Lila said your mother was killed when you were thirteen, so you hid…all alone, for five years?”
“Yeah,” I said staring at the luminous algae, too embarrassed to meet her gaze.
“Why did you need to see a lawyer?”
“My inheritance, apparently mother made a killing on the stock market, that’s where I got the idea.”
“The house I hid in was in the lawyer’s name, so no one would know I was there. I think he had a thing for mother. Weird.” I said laughing, so she couldn’t see the guilt I was drowning in. Mother not only gave up her life but her chance at love, for me, the kid who never believed her.
“Oh Steve,” Penny cried throwing her arms around my neck snuggling into my embrace. “Lila told me you were in hiding. I didn’t realize what that meant.”
Her soft body pressed against mine even in sympathy had my pulse quickening. “It’s okay.” I quipped.
“But, but,” She stuttered. “You had no birthday parties.”
I leaned away smiling, “Birthday parties? What’s that? I joked.
“Look.” I said. “The algae are drifting closer. It’s almost like their aware of us. Perhaps they find us amazing needing a closer look.”
A determined look etched her face, as she leaned in for a feathery light kiss.
Groaning I tried to maintain control, giving her desire first consideration.
She melted with a sigh, pressing even closer like she couldn’t get enough. I recognized the feeling because I fought it daily. Desperately wanting to make her mine, but not sure if she was ready yet.
Pain, Knowledge and Understanding
Knowledge is pain its companion understanding.
I found Hal in the rescue tank, working with an injured dolphin. “What happened to him?” I asked.
He held his hand over the water, walking across the surface. “She,” He said, “Was injured by a fishing boat. At least that’s what it looks like.” He said tossing a ball behind him.
“Hal,” I said hesitating. “I have a mission for Penny.” I mumbled reading his reaction.
“Why?” He asked. “I mean why Penny. I thought you were trying to keep her off missions?”
“I am.” I said. Probing his expression, knowing he didn’t approve of my protecting her. “A hospital run is safe. No rogues there.”
Hal nods, already deep in thought, “Did it occur to you, sending a reader of emotion on a hospital mission, may not be the best idea? Hospitals are full of emotion.”
I shrug, “It’s safe. Maybe if it’s hard she won’t ask to go anymore.”
Hal grins. “Right, we both know that’s not gonna happen.”
“A victim of Bellator’s didn’t die. She’s at the hospital. We need to offer her sanctuary, before he realizes she’s still alive. Full team on this one,” I say grimacing.
“Even Juliet and Warren,” Hal asked.
“Yes. Just keep her away from me.”
Hal laughs, “Feeling puppy’d?”
Frowning I say, “Puppy’d? Don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase, but yes.”
Penny and I stood on a little patio outside the emergency room, the rest of the team inside locating Bellator’s victim.
The patio was really an enchanting place with plants and flowers tucked among tables and chairs. Like a mini Eden designed to settle nerves and emotions. Penny looked anything but settled. And I felt responsible. My desire to give her what she wanted and keep her safe was causing her more stress than I’d imagined.
She panted, anxiety getting the best of her. Not her own, but the overwhelming fear and anxiety she read from the individuals inside the hospital. “Take deep breaths.” I instructed. “Remember this isn’t your anxiety.”
Hal stepped through the door. He seemed to hate hospitals as much as Penny, turning she asked.
“Part of the anxiety I’m feeling is from you. Isn’t it Hal?”
Frowning she asked. “You know why I hate hospitals, but why do you?”
Hal’s death grip on the table didn’t ease. “They remind me of my brother.” He moaned gaze boring into Penny. “I can master my emotions and remain calm everywhere but here apparently.”
Penny moved to a chair, at the table Hal gripped. “You have a brother.” She exclaimed.
Easing his hold on the table a little, he nodding, “He died” –swallowing a lump in his throat – “at seventeen.” Turning his back to us Hal continued, “I’ll tell you what happened because it’ll help, but after, the subject is closed. Never bring him up.” He demanded glancing over his shoulder at us.
We both nodded in agreement.
He turned leaning on the table like holding himself erect required too much effort. “His name was Mark. We were twins,” He said in a very tight and controlled voice. “We did everything together. His residual power was air. He never mastered water.” He said, his voice wavering.
“We were both, headstrong and wild, full of ourselves. We thought we were invincible with incredible power.”
Hal dropped into a chair across from Penny; I stood behind her trying to ease some of the stress from her shoulders.
“Becky was beautiful, the sweetest girl around. She had this incredible laugh. No one could keep a straight face when she laughed. She was everything a wild headstrong boy could want. And I wanted her bad…. but she wanted Mark.”
“Oh Hal,” Penny moaned with sympathy.
“We argued.” He said shrugging. “You know, brothers argue over girls without tragedy, all the time, but not us.”
“You see we didn’t know our powers were attached to our emotions. Hell we didn’t know a lot of things. We were exactly what Warren accuses us of being now, clueless kids.”
I reached across the table to pat his shoulder, taking a chair beside Penny.
“We were at our favorite spot, the riverbank. We spent most of our time there. I accused him of stealing her from me…even though I’d never really had her attention. He accused me of trying to steal her from him…which really I was.”
“We didn’t see the danger. As our argument escalated our emotions did too, and with them came a wall of water. We finely saw the water, and fell silent. But it was too late.”
“I don’t know what we expected. It happened so fast, the looming water crashed, hitting with the force of a speeding truck.” Hal’s voice broke; hanging his head as grunts of sorrow escaped.
His sorrow overwhelming Penny, I watched them both sinking in despair, unable to help either.
After a minute he cleared his throat and continued. “I knew Mark hadn’t mastered water so I waved.” He said raising his arm in imitation of his movements all those years ago. “I was trying to send the water back, I didn’t think.” He said jabbing a finger into his forehead. Mark was pulled away, caught with the water.” His voice broke again, coming out like a plea. “I was trying to save him.”
Penny and I both moved closer.
Finding his voice again he stared at the table like it was a lifeline, his fingers gripping the edge like a vice. “I formed a bubble searching all night long.”
“The next day, police found his body fifty miles downriver. It was ruled accidental, but I knew. I killed my brother.”
I rose moving around Penny to grab his hand. “It wasn’t your fault.”
He stared me in the eye. “Steve, it most definitely was my fault. I was jealous and angry Becky wanted him. I didn’t intend for Mark to get hurt. But intentions and actions rarely end on the same street.”
“No Hal,” Penny said throwing her arms around him. “It was an accident, you’re not to blame.”
He pulled back. “My anger caused his death, only I control that. I was wrong, and it’s my acceptance of that wrong, that allows me to control my emotions, preventing anything like this, from happening again.”
Penny pulled me into her embrace with Hal. “What happened to Becky?”
“I couldn’t look at her without seeing Mark. So I left, started gathering information, trying to understand my powers, too late to save Mark, but maybe not too late to save others.”
Lila stepped through the door her gaze going to us, and she knew. I could see she understood Hal’s need to share his tragic past.
I wanted that kind of bond with Penny
Legends, Surprises and Loss
It’s how we overcome that pain that creates legends.
Glancing behind Lila I asked. “Where did Warren and Juliet go?”
She grimaced. “They’re headed back to Atlantis by way of water. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll get lost.”
“Why would they leave early?” Penny questioned.
Lila groaned turning her nose up to imitate Juliet. “This isn’t a mission. This human has no information of value.”
“She said that?” Penny groaned.
“Let me guess. They feel humans are beneath them.”
“Bingo.” Lila answered.
“X-rays show some broken ribs. We taped them up and stopped the internal bleeding, so she’s going to be okay physically.” The doctor said. “Her mental and emotional state is a different matter all together. She’s back in her room, if you want to speak to her.”
The woman huddled in the bed looked hallowed out, lost and empty.
“He waited for me.” She said staring out the window. “I know that now. He kept letting me get away only to grab me again.” She trembled, shaking the bed. “I finely realized he was playing with me, enjoying my fear. His eyes were dead, no emotion at all.” She whimpered in a lifeless voice.
“Try not to think about it.” Penny said turning to gaze at me.
I stood near the foot of the bed, trying not to spook her. Understanding in her fragile condition, all males were scary. “We have reason to believe you’re not safe.” I said nodding to Lila. “We want to take you with us, where Bellator can’t find you.”
Lila moved to the head of the bed, speaking softly. “Nancy I know you’ve been through a lot. I wish you didn’t have to go through this shock as well. But there’s no other way to keep you safe.” Nancy’s apprehensive gaze shifted to me at the same time Lila blinked. For a second I saw myself in her frightened eyes. The little boy I keep hidden just beneath the surface.
At morning training Penny said. “Nancy’s statement about Bellator nagged me all night.”
“Yeah,” Hal responded.
“She said his eyes were dead, emotionless. He had to have fed. I mean it’s the emotional high from feeding that drives him to rape, right?”
Hal nodded moving like lightening to trip Steve.
“Then why didn’t she see emotion in his eyes? I would think his eyes would be swimming in emotions?”
Hal let go of Steve. “Rogues are different. They weren’t created like us. Emotions don’t exist in they’re realm. They’re soldiers, created with only one purpose.”
“Some say emotions come from the soul.” I interrupted. “The eyes are supposed to be the windows to the soul.”
“Are you saying rogues don’t have a soul?” Penny asked.
“It’s not that simple.” Hal said. “Have you ever seen a Guardian? I mean a Guardian who hasn’t fallen. No, you haven’t. No one has. Not because they don’t exist but, because they don’t live in our realm.
The rogues take a human form; because they’re true forms can’t exist in our realm. But never forget, they’re not human. You can’t expect human reactions from something not human.”
“But how can they do that?” Penny asked. “If they take over a human wouldn’t the human emotions still be there?”
Hal shook his head. “No. They kill the human. Wearing their bodies like a coat, nothing of the person they were, remains. That’s why legend calls them vampires, or the undead.”
Tim barrels into the mat room, amazement and incredulity masking his face. “You have to come.” He blurts, running from the room.
Hal glances at me. “Dude, what’s wrong now?” He grumbles, “If Warren’s messed with even one of my displays I swear I won’t be responsible for my actions.”
For a moment I wondered what happened to mellow out guy.
Penny fell in step behind us. “He’d better not be upsetting Nancy. It took half the night to calm her down after blinking.”
We made our way across the east courtyard pass the first ring. “I knew it.” Penny groaned. “Tim’s headed for Nancy’s room. I’m telling you right now Steve. Warren can be a jerk to us, all he wants. But when he starts picking on innocent humans already assaulted by Bellator, he’s getting on the fighting side of me.”
I nodded in agreement, my mind already racing with responsibility for Nancy. “I agree.” I ground out. “I will not stand by while he spews his vile hatred at an innocent victim.”
None of us was prepared for the sight of Warren sitting on the edge of Nancy’s bed caressing her hair and singing a sweet love song.
Tim nudged Lila, laughing lightly at our reaction. “I done the same thing.” He said. “They’s just something unnatural about Warren being nice.”
Juliet sidled between Penny and me. “It’s disgusting isn’t it?” She grimaced.
“What…How…What’s going on?” Penny sputtered, “If he’s using her for some disgusting plan?”
Juliet wrinkled her pert little nose. “It’s a lot worse than that, I’m afraid. She looks like my mother.”
“She’s your mother?” Lila blurted in disbelief.
“Ugh no,” Juliet exclaimed. “She bares a remarkable resemblance to her though. Got dad drooling like a fool, doesn’t she?”
I probed Juliet’s profile. “Where is your mother, I assumed…she’d passed.”
Juliet nodded turning to glance at me, “Yeah. It’s been almost a year now sense Bellator killed her.”
“Let me guess. It’s been about a year that Warren’s been obsessed with taking Bellator out as well.”
Juliet smiled, “Well yeah Steve. I do believe you’re right.”
Penny looked shocked. “He must have loved her deeply.”
Juliet stared at her father. “Obviously not as much as I thought, doting over a human like that, it’s disgusting.”
Missions, Control and Leadership
The mission to control doesn’t always lead to leadership.
The vision of a man arguing with a woman seared my mind’s eye. His escalating emotions were igniting a major storm with his jump into power. The couple was unaware of the wind howling around them. “We’ve got another jumper.” I muttered, “An elemento.”
Quickly turning from me Penny says. “I’ll let everyone know.”
“No need.” I say stopping her. I channeled the vision on every glass in the sanctuary. “Everyone knows to meet in the library.”
A strange look fluttered across her face, turning away she mumbled. “I’ll meet you there. I need to grab something.”
My heart did a somersault, an uneasy feeling settling deep inside. She’s hiding something from me.
I sat at my desk imagining all sorts of secrets Penny could be hiding. Tim barreled through the door, Hal on his trail, pulling me from my worry.
“She’s looking into the other team like you asked.” Hal said, his gaze darting around the room.
The unease in my heart notched higher.
Penny stepped through the door avoiding my gaze as well. “I can’t go either.” She said shrugging. “I need to stay in case Lila needs me.”
After the huge argument we’d had about her going on missions. I was prepared for anything but her bowing out. My apprehension escalated. Something was going on, and my team didn’t want me to know.
Juliet smiled. Obviously thrilled Penny wasn’t going. She was the only person not avoiding my gaze, only adding to my unease.
Tim blinked us to the park.
“Is that a person,” Juliet questioned.
“Where,” I asked glancing around.
“On the merry-go-round,” She said pointing.
Before I could reply, a voice whirled past. “Help me!”
Blanching Juliet whispered. “Dad,” moving closer, she reached for the spinning bar.
“I wouldn’t do that if I was you.” Lila said letting her invisibility fade.
Juliet jerked back, startled by Lila’s sudden appearance. “You scared the crap out of me.” She wailed continuing to reach for the passing bar.
Lila shrugged, “Your call, but if you grab that bar, it will break your hand.”
Juliet stared at Lila for a moment then back at the merry-go-round. “You bitch…you did this!”
Tim moved to stand at Lila’s side. Anger making his already thin face even more pinched.
Lila nodded. “You didn’t think some kid made it spin this fast? Did ya?”
Taking in Tim’s angry stance over Juliet and Lila’s vigil over the merry-go-round, I stepped forward. “Lila, what’s going on?” Obviously my entire team planned this, and left me in the dark.
Lila smirked. “I’m about to find out.” She said turning on Juliet.
“I’m going to ask questions. You lie, and sweet daddy gets to go faster. Get the idea?”
“You and daddy have been poaching jumpers?”
My gaze shot to Juliet’s face. A slow anger making me red faced.
Tim’s stance over her turned even more menacing.
Refusing to be bullied, Juliet locked eyes with Lila, her gaze dropping as Lila’s hand, reached out to shove the bar. The merry-go-around spun faster.
Warren moaned. “Please…make it stop.”
“Okay.” Juliet blurted. “I had visions; Dad wanted them on our side. We planned on bringing them to Atlantis Steve, you have to believe me.” She implored gazing into my eyes.
Lila smirked. “You also tried stealing Steve from Penny? How’d that fit into your plan?”
Juliet shook her head pressing her lips together. “Let my father off that thing.”
Warren spun so fast he was just a blur.
Smirking at Juliet, Lila said. “He finds it a little hard to think, much less use his powers, spinning like that.”
Hal tried to cover his laugh with a cough, but fooled no one.
Lila gave the bar another push. “Answer my question.” She growled.
Anger added a sharp edge to my voice as I interrupted in warning. “Lila.”
Juliet glanced over her shoulder. “Steve, please make her stop. Can’t you see she’s making him sick?”
Turning my gaze on Juliet I exploded. Gone were all my insecurities and fears, replaced by anger. “Where did your father take the jumpers?” I ground out, already guessing the answer.
Juliet stared up at the sky, tears glistening in her eyes. “He made a small bubble near Miami. Please make her stop.”
Lila growled, “As soon as you answer my question.”
“Okay. I want Steve,” Juliet blurted. “But it has nothing to do with jumpers.”
Warren groaned, “Ahhh Juliet. Why?”
She raised her chin. “Oh please dad. Do you want to keep spinning?”
Warren moaned, “Bested by a clueless jumper and his sidekicks.”
“We both know he’s not a clueless jumper.” Juliet grumbled. “It’s kind of hard to scream lack of abilities when his visions are dead on.”
“How many times do I have to tell you girl? Only a fool believes in visions.” Warren groaned in disgust.
“Mission complete,” Lila said stopping the merry-go-round. Warren staggered off holding his head, and in spite of his hurtful words Juliet rushed to help him, easing his bulk to a picnic table.
Gazing at me over Warren’s head, eyes still shining with tears she said wryly, “Who could have guessed, a new jumper would have such impressive skills, certainly not you dad.”
Warren moaned still not recovered from his spin.
Glancing down at his hunched form she asked. “Dad you remember when I jumped? You took me to your friend David for training.” She continued not waiting for his response. “Five years later David pronounced me gifted.” She stared off into space, “Dad, what do you think David, would say about Steve?”
Rolling her eyes, Juliet said. “Oh come on Dad. Just two years into his jump, and he’s having clear, subject specific visions? David would be impressed, amazed even.”
“I’ve heard enough.” I said. “What’s done is done.” I motioned for Lila to blink us back to Atlantis.
She turned a stunned stare on me. “Surly you’re not gonna let this go?”
Hal patted Lila’s hand and whispered, “Mellow babe.”
I met her piercing stare without flinching, anger to anger. “What do you want me to do?” I yelled verily leashing my anger.
“Anything,” She raged. “You can’t just pretend this didn’t happen.”
Understanding her anger, I sighed even as I clamped down on my anger. “Lila, The whole thing is despicable but I won’t waste time focusing on the wrong target, you wanted me to lead and as your leader I say let it go, the rogues are the enemy, these two just got in the way.”
Returning to Atlantis I found a very worried Penny waiting with a very upset young man on her heels.
“Where’s my girlfriend?” The young man demanded. “She’s probably already called the police.”
“My jumper I presume,” I ground out irritated all over again. “Unless you want to take him to your secret hide out Warren,” I sneered letting my anger get the better of me.
“The young man puffed out his chest. “No one’s taking me anywhere except back to my girlfriend.”
Realizing how quickly new links of anger can be added to the chain of rage, I turned to the courtyard, needing escape before I said or did something that couldn’t be taken back, anger made me jerk with each step; stopping at the door, I growled. “Lila, fix this,” indicating the young jumper intent on returning to his girlfriend.
Penny followed a few paces behind. “Steve,” She said softly.
“Please go back inside.” I mumbled, “I’m not very good company right now.”
“You’re allowed to get mad.”
“Mad,” I thundered clinching my hands into fist. “I wanted Lila to toss Juliet onto that damn merry-go-round and spin it harder.” I confessed. “Like that would solve anything.
Penny bit her lip, to hide a smile. “You didn’t. Did you?”
I shook my head, “No, of course not, pissed Lila off. But no I didn’t.”
“Steve, you acted with restraint. Taking my hand and unknotting my fist she said, “I know, it’s gotta be hard having jumpers poached.”
Interrupting her I said. “You think I’m upset about that?” I shook my head in disgust. “No. I’m upset about Sumer and Beth.”
“Imagine how frightened Sumer was, I mean she lost her sister for crying out loud, to Bellator, and all because Warren wanted to wrest control from me.”
You did the right thing.” She declared.
Sighing I said, “You think so. Lila’s mad, the jumper’s mad, and of course Warren and Juliet, hell Hal and Tim are probably mad as well.”
“Sometimes being the leader means you have to make decisions that make people mad.” She said shrugging.
“Yeah, I know.” I said scuffing the ground with my toe, “just wish I could be sure I made the right choice letting them stay with us. Lila thinks I’m all soft and whisy-washy, but I’m not.
I wanted to chuck the mission, say to hell with the future, just as much as she did. I wanted revenge, damn the cost.
“But you didn’t.” She said stroking my back.
“But I wanted too…I actually wanted Warren, and Juliet to suffer.” I groaned, disgusted with myself, “like that would bring Beth back?”
“Being the leader doesn’t mean you don’t have feelings contrary to our goals, it just means you have the strength not to act on them.”
“Yeah…that strength, as you call it, probably has the team wondering if I’m the right one to lead?”
“I’m sure they’re mad. Penny said meeting my gaze. “But nobody doubts your leadership.”
I shrugged not convinced.
“You know what makes you a leader?” She declared with conviction. “It’s because you care. Not just when it’s easy. You care when people give you no reason to care.”
“I’m pretty sure; Lila thinks I’m the worse leader ever, right now.”
“She’s angry. She acts rashly when she’s angry and then regrets it. You don’t. Lila will calm down, she’ll be glad you didn’t react with anger, though she probably won’t admit it.”
“What about you? My actions to protect you, were because I care? Do you think I was right, now that you’re no longer angry?”
Penny laughed. “Oh, good try. But you’re not getting off that easy.”
Heartache, memories, and attack
Heartache can make cherished memories feel like an attack on the heart.
I awoke to what sounded like an animal being tortured. Stumbling from my bed and down the hall I saw Lila, Hal, and Penny huddled at the landing. Judging from they’re appearance; they’d stumbled from bed as well. “What’s going on?” I asked.
Lila turned, eyes shining with unshed tears on me. Her shoulders lifted, drawling air, as if to speak and then fell again. I’d never seen Lila so listless. My level of concern instantly shot up.
Penny threw her arms around my neck, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“What’s going on?” I demanded.
At least Hal had control of his emotions. “It appears Warren’s had a little too much to drink.”
I gazed down at Penny’s tear stained face. “What’d he do?”
“Nothing,” Hal said, “At least nothing yet.”
“Why are you crying?” I asked Penny?
Taking my hand she pulled me to the railing.
The same horrible sound that summoned me from bed, rent through the air again. Warren was sprawled on the floor a bottle of scotch clutched with a death grip. Sumer kneeling next to him looked so tiny and delicate.
“Why in the world are you up here and not putting an end to this?” I demanded.
“Tim’s helping. He just went to put some coffee on.”
“He left Sumer alone with him?” I asked incredulous
“Yeah,” Hal nodded. “He isn’t dangerous, just drunk.”
“What seems to be troubling him?”
“Nancy.” Hal said. “Well not really Nancy, more like Samantha.”
“Who the devil is Samantha?” I grumbled wiping sleep from my eyes.
“Samantha would be his dead wife. The one Nancy resembles so much.” Hal informed me.
“Oh.” I said. “Guess the resemblance really is strong.”
“Yeah,” Hal agreed. “And I’d say the man is not as ignorant to the dangers of attacking Bellator as we all thought. I’d be willing to bet, he’s been trying to get himself killed.”
Penny and Lila both released a shaky breath, with understanding comes compassion. My mother used to say, guess she was right again.
My gaze riveted back to the man languishing on the floor in a drunken mess. “What about Juliet?” I questioned.
“Yeah,” Hal shrugs, “Explains a lot about her behavior as well.”
“Not that.” I said with impatiens, “I’m asking where she is?”
“She took one look and ran out crying.” Hal said.
Lila and Penny both moaned at the same time. Feeling split in three ways, I turned toward the door Juliet escaped through, folding Lila and Penny into my arms, while my gaze went to Warren. “Did anyone go after her?”
“I tried.” Hal answered. “She pushed me away, yelling to leave her alone.”
Tim returned with coffee. Deciding sobering Warren was the most pressing issue, I excused myself to go down and help.
Warren slurred, “Steve. Did I ever tell you about Samantha?”
“No Warren you didn’t. Why don’t you sit up and share a cup of coffee with Tim and me.” I said, “And you can tell us all about her.” Warren nodded in agreement unaware I slid the bottle of scotch from his hand.
“She was the sweetest, most beautiful girl ever.” Warren gushed in drunken enthusiasm. “She never saw the dark side to anything. You know what I mean?”
I nodded, aware Warren was beyond hearing anything I said, he simply needed to say what he kept locked inside, what he pretended didn’t exist.
“She was my anchor, you know. I could weather any storm with her by my side.” He clutched my robe with surprising strength, pulling me to a kneeling position. “I’ve been slowly sinking ever sense Bellator took her away.”
I nodded again.
His face turned hard, hands curling to grip my robe more tightly, pulling me slightly closer before shoving with all his body weight. I reeled backwards, landing on my butt.
“You stinking visionary.” He snarled trying to pull himself up. “It was one of you that got her killed. Your bunch is always acting like your all-knowing, because you see glimpses of the future. Well you don’t see everything, do you?” He railed in drunken anguish.
I scooted back, momentarily stunned by his shifting moods.
He glared at me with battle ready fierceness. After several failed attempts to rise, he began to howl with the same mournful voice that woke me.
A few minutes later he turned accusing eyes on me. “You didn’t see Bellator waiting for her did you? You didn’t see her beautiful body broken and drained?” He wailed in despair. “You never see the important things.” He fell prone on the floor, a broken and beaten version of the Warren I knew.
Tim stepped over his crumbled body, helping me to my feet. “Maybe its best, you leave him to me. I used to help my uncle Bill whenever he had too much drink. I can handle this.”
I nodded too shaken to reply.
Warren sat up, “Wait. Don’t go Steve. I never told you the rest.”
I hesitated for a moment not sure if staying would help or hurt.
“You’re not like the other visionary’s I know. You don’t go around acting like you know everything, how come?”
I shrugged, “Because I don’t.” I grunted still in shock.
Sumer stepped past Warren to hand me a cup of coffee.
He grabbed her ankle. “You sure are a cute one.” He slurred, “All tiny and golden.”
Tim moved too fast for me to see. Warren flew backwards, as if pulled by an invisible hand. A second later Sumer and Tim materialized on the other side of the room. He hovered over her like a mother hen, and I couldn’t help wondering if Hal was right.
“Sumer, please keep out of reach.” Tim requested. “I don’t want to hurt him, but I will if he grabs you again.” Her face flamed with the colors of sunset.
Yep. He’s soft on her. I thought.
Turning to me Tim said. “Steve, he don’t know what he’s saying. Go on back to bed. I’ve got this.”
I nodded, heading up the stairs. Hal waited for me. “What a mess.” He said.
“Did Lila and Penny go back to bed?”
“Yeah, I’m headed that way myself just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I’m fine. A little dismayed, but fine.”
It felt like I’d verily closed my eyes before I was driven from my bed, stumbling into the hall yet again, to find Lila, Hal, and Penny at the glass wall.
Hal turned at the sound of my approach “rogues!” He exclaimed running for the stairs.
“Rogues,” I repeated, glancing through the glass, “but how?”
“Don’t have time to wonder about the how; if I don’t do something to stop the storm their creating we’re doomed.”
I stared at the water rotating around the castle in shock, before following Hal down the stairs, not sure what to do. “What do you need me to do?”
“Get Warren, I’ll need his help.”
I rushed through the courtyard beside Hal wondering, if Warren would be able to help considering the amount of alcohol he had consumed last night.
Warren was already in the middle of the courtyard with his hands outstretched. Without giving us a glance he said, “You stop the whirlpool, and I’ll work on the storm.”
“What about me,” I questioned. “What should I do?”
“Penny, we need Penny. She can tell us the rogue’s thoughts, so we can be one step ahead of them.”
“Right,” I said rushing off to find Penny.
I raced through the castle to the sound of breaking glass and things being tossed about, but not the fearful sound of rushing water, Warren and Hal must be keeping the water in check.
At the top of the stairs I was shocked to see Lila and Penny in the same place we’d left them. Running down the hall I noticed Penny was on the floor, with Lila bent over her.