*3*

Las Vegas Police Headquarters has lost some of its authority since the mob regained their control of the city in the wake of the Black Wave Event. The building is in disrepair, five-year-old police cars look ten, and the officers are exhausted from over-work.
It is the last place Jericho wants to be, especially in the suit he currently wears. It is cheap, boring and black. He can almost feel his skin crawl beneath it. But he’s never been this close to his goal. If he must lower himself to the levels of others, then he will do so. After all, he has read many tales where Olympian gods transformed themselves into lower being and animals to walk among civilians and be with earthly lovers.
He walks up the main steps and through the dusty glass doors. Inside, the morning light filters between the blinds, cutting streaks of sunlight cut through the gloom, revealing the minute particles floating in the air. He approaches a main desk and takes out federal credentials.
“Agent Benson, F.B.I.” he says with authority, doing his best to hide any hints of his Italian accent. “I’m here to follow-up on an incident a few weeks back involving a bounty hunter named Andreas Pry.”
The older man in basic police blue just holds a finger up to Jericho.
“Is there someone I can speak to who isn’t, busy?” Jericho asks, his voice full of contempt. He regards the foul-smelling, overweight man, wondering if he was ever useful, and if he misses that usefulness.
“Agent Benson?”
Jericho looks to his right and sees a younger officer, carrying a helicopter helmet under his right arm. “Yes?”
The young officer goes to offer his hand to shake, but baubles the helmet, almost dropping it. He catches it, puts it under his left arm, and offers his right hand again. “Officer Fields, Aerial Unit. Weren’t you part of them feds that worked with Pry Investigations, and had that huge gun battle?”
Jericho seriousness and contempt vanish as his face explodes into a proud, friendly smile, “I was!” He shakes Fields’ hand.
Fields shakes Jericho’s hand vigorously. “It’s an honor sir! I wasn’t working the copper that night, but my partner was. He showed me the footage. Pretty incredible stuff!”
Jericho heightens his all-American earnestness. “You have the footage?”
“Oh ya!” Fields replies, his excitement rising. “Watched it a few times. I was gonna put it on YouTube…” he trails off, realizing he’s talking to a federal agent, “… but that wouldn’t be right, right?”
“Probably not.” Jericho replies, his face plastered with insincere feelings. A small smirk turning his lips, a wrinkle of his brow, a forgiving, understanding openness in his eyes. Everything about him oozes a calming, knowing charm. “Perhaps, you might be able to help me with a follow-up investigation.”
Fields’ eyes light up. “Yeah! What can I do?”
“Well first, I need to see that footage.”
“Follow me.” Fields replies like a eager-to-please child.
The moment Fields turns away, Jericho’s face returns to its stern, aloofness. It is a skill he has always had, ever since he was a kid. He could switch it on and off at a moments notice. It may have come from necessity, having to hide his true, contemptible feelings and thoughts from those around him. But it also came in handy when he wanted something, especially from women. But the sex of the person didn’t matter, if he wanted them to like him or love him, they would.
Jericho follows Fields past cubicles and down hallways. The lack of update and repair is evident here as well. He begins to understand why this city has fallen back into the hands of those who, like its founders, see the police, federal agents, all types of authority as laughable and inadequate to serve the needs of those in power. In the back of his mind, he wonders how easy it would be to take control of–
A tall, older, solid police officer bumps into Jericho, distracting his thoughts.
“Sorry mate.” the officer nods, tipping his cap.
Jericho’s instincts snap awake. He turns to say something when Officer Fields speaks up.
“Agent Benson, in here.”
Jericho watches the tall officer walk down the hall and disappear around the corner. “Who was that, Fields?”
“Oh I don’t know.” Fields replies, stepping towards Jericho. “The city needs cops so bad, we’re shippin’ em in from outta state.”
Jericho turns and follows Fields into the computer archives room.
It may have been a large room once. It might have been the computer nerve center of the city’s police force. When the Black Wave ruined the majority of electronics around the world, it seems this building was one of the hardest hit. What should have been filled with humming computers and mainframes, is now jammed with filing cabinets. At the center, a computer and its peripherals that was state-of-the-art three years ago.
“I know right, pretty lame compared to your facilities. But it still does the job.” Fields comments as he walks over the desk and sits down.
Jericho follows. “It is good that you have done so much with archaic equipment.” he compliments, while his face smirks at the place’s ridiculousness.
“I know right!” Fields says, logging into the computer. “Its been a tough slog these past few years. We’ve been doing what we can. But, between you and me, if not for the help of a few locals, we’d be in a hella of a lot worse shape.”
“Locals?”
“Yeah! Like Pry, and Dane. That guy with the Lincoln. Even Mr. Psonis!”
Jericho’s attention snaps back to Fields. “Psonis? Marco Psonis?”
“I know right!” Fields says excitedly. “Heard a lot of tough talk bout him, and his crew. But he doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially the other bosses around town. Huh, that’s weird.”
“What is weird? Psonis fighting the other bosses?” Jericho asks, confused.
“No, the video files you want. They’re already open. They must have just been accessed.”
Jericho snarls silently, realizing the man they passed must have been the one who accessed them. “Did someone breach your security? If so–”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” Fields interrupts, turning around in the chair at the computer desk. “The files are fine. Anyone in the precinct can access those files.” The lightness in face drains. “Unless they are part of a federal investigation!” He bolts to his feet. “Is this part of a federal investigation? Should we alert your headquarters?”
Jericho steps forward and places his hands on Fields’ shoulders. “Relax Officer Fields. This is not a federal investigation.” he pauses, smiling with a twinkle in his eye. “Consider this a personal favor between professionals.”
Fields calms down and winks. “Gotcha.” He smiles and steps aside. “The file is up.”
Jericho steps forward and nods his thanks to Fields. He sits down in the chair, then turns back. “I would some–”
“Privacy!” Fields finishes, nodding. He turns and walks out, closing the door behind him.
Jericho’s charm switches off like a light. He turns and plays the footage. It is grainy, shot through a nightvision lens from a few blocks away. But as helicopter approaches the sight, he focuses his attention on Pry. He watches the street battle play out, followed by the drive to the airport, where the helicopter was unable to fly in.
He watches the footage again. Then again. And again. Soon, he envisions being at street level with her. He sees her moves. They are bold, with purpose and skill well beyond her years. But the toughness of her acts, the commitment, the conviction, that isn’t taught. People are either born with it, or they aren’t. She was born to it. It is in her genes.
Jericho smiles. “Hello my dear. It has been far too long.”
A knock comes to the door. “Agent Benson?”
Jericho snarls, wishing he could tear off Fields’ head. “Almost done here.”
The door opens slightly. “Actually, I just heard something about Ms. Pry.”
Jericho suddenly yanks the door open. “What? Is she here?”
Fields stumbles backwards, into the wall across the hall. “Umm, no.” he babbles, his police training screaming in his head. The distance from the computer to the door is a good ten or fifteen feet. Jericho crossed that distance in a flash, without a sound. Too fast. Too quiet. But the look in his eyes.
“Fields!” Jericho bellows.
“A bail jumper! She brought him in. He talkin’ like they are best buds.”
“Where is he?”
“In holding, awaiting transfer. Another agent is en route.”
“Take me to holding.”Jericho orders.
Fields nods and quickly, quietly leads Jericho down more hallways. Soon, the drywall hallways give way to ones of concrete. Fields points towards a desk with a plexiglass window. “They’ll take care of ya. I gotta get back.”
Jericho flashes his charm once more, smiling and shaking Fields’ hand. “Thank you for all your help and information.”
Fields nods. He pulls his hand free and walks out briskly. His heart races, the image of Jericho’s eyes, their intensity, their madness, will haunt him for many nights to come.
Jericho walks over to the plexiglass-encased desk and pours on the charm again.
Hours later, a buzzer sounds. A steel door opens and another federal agent enters.
Jericho watches the new agent approach him. She’s young, surprisingly attractive, despite the standard-issue suit. Her long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. She walks with authority that she has obviously fought years to get and keep.
“Agent Taran Benson?” she offer her hand.
Jericho stands and shakes her hand. “You must be Agent Lisa MacMillian. May I call you Agent Mac?”
“No. You helping with the transfer?” she replies, without missing a beat.
“Yes. Shall we gather our charge?”
“We shall.”
They head over the officer behind the plexiglass. Paperwork is exchanged and signed and filed. Moments later, two officers bring out a roundish man in a kilt.
“Alvin MacIlhone?”
“Holy hotness!” Alvin replies, looking MacMillian over.
Jericho yanks Alvin forward. “Show some respect!”
“You’re pretty too!” Alvin comments.
The two officers fail to hide their snickering as they leave the room.
“Let’s go, smart-ass.” MacMillain grumbles as she heads for the steel door.
“Incidentally, I have a degree in Smart-ass-ary!”
Jericho wishes this charade would end soon. The only luck he finds is when he gets to drive MacMillian’s sedan. She sits beside him, while Alvin continues to talk.
“You know, you two are the handsomest federal agents I’ve ever seen! You sure this isn’t Kutcher’s lame-ass attempt to P’unk me? Cause that is so done. But ya know what is funny? This Canadian show called Just for Laughs Gags! Priceless stuff! And universal! It’s like miming, without the annoyingness. And since it’s french Canadian, the chicks are pretty hot. Not hot like you two, but french hot! That reminds me, when I get slammed in the pokey, I’ll have to set myself up with some Emmanuelle movies, Sylvia Kristel-style! She was the best Emmanuelle. Not much up front, but there’s just something about those 70’s soft-core porn. I wanna say ‘class’, but that’s not right. Maybe it was their authenticity? Whatever it was, they worked and she worked. I mean reeeally worked. Krista Allen was ok. She had more upfront, and was more tarty, but Kristel was all ‘Ooo-la-la! This is what a penis feels like? I like it!’ Innocent! That’s it! She was like an innocent. Allen expected sex. Kristel discovered it. Every time! It’s like discovering a ball of spice at the bottom of a bag of Doritos. You don’t expect it, it puzzles you, you try it, and your mind is blown! Then every time you buy a bag of Doritios, you want to find another ball of spice. When you don’t, you still enjoy the bag of chips, but it’s never the same–
Jericho straight-arms MacMillian with his right hand, breaking her jaw, knocking her out cold.
Alvin looks from MacMillian to Jericho. “What the fuck was–”
Jericho swerves the sedan to the left. Alvin’s question is cut off as he tumbles around in the back seat.
The sedan tears across the empty highway and down a dirt road that leads into a forest. The sign beside the dirt road reads ‘Virgin River Recreation Area’. They continue down the dirt road for a few miles.
Alvin rights himself and turns to look out the back window. The highway is long behind them, hidden by dust and foliage. He sits forward, a look of concern on his face. “This isn’t the way to Utah.”
Jericho slams on the breaks, jams the car into park, and shut off the engine.
“I’ll be good.” Alvin squeaks.
Jericho digs out MacMillian’s spare handcuffs and binds her. Then he looks over the front seat, back at Alvin.
“I’ll be good!” Alvin promises.
“You do not understand. I want you to talk!” Jericho purrs in a calm, creepy way. “But not the inane prattle you have been spouting since we left Las Vegas. I want to hear about your new best friend, Andreas Pry.”
Jericho gets out of the sedan, opens the rear driver’s side door and hauls Alvin out.
“I don’t really know her. She’s a bounty hunter after all.” Alvin states evenly. “She brought me in. Not something a friend would do, right?”
Jericho leans in close. “You would be surprised what friends do. Right, friend?”
Panic makes Alvin scream, yelling, “Help! Help me!”
Jericho slams Alvin’s head into the side of the car, silencing his voice. “Not yet. You will have plenty of time to scream soon.”
Jericho lets Alvin drop and begins to remove his clothes. Despite their substandard quality, he folds them carefully and sets them on the hood of the sedan. Once naked, he lifts Alvin’s dazed body up, blood pouring from a head wound, and hauls him deeper into the forest.
Minutes later, in the sedan, MacMillian lifts her head. Everything is fuzzy and throbbing. She goes to speak, but feels the stab of pain of a broken jaw. She tries to move, to reach the radio, but she’s handcuffed to the fastened lap-belt of the seatbelt.
She stops moving and tries to think of her next step. The regular noises of the forest, birds singing, insects buzzing around, are calming, as if to help her think.
The tranquility of her forest surroundings is disrupted by screaming and yells for help. She knows the voice belongs to Alvin. When he falls silent, she tries again to free the car radio from its cradle. She kicks at it again and again, to no avail.
She stops again, trying to think. It’s then that she notices usual calls of the forest seem eerily quiet, as if they know a predator is near, that evil is in their midst.
She hears murmurs of someone talking loudly, followed by more screams. Then an inhuman-sounding, squealing, yelping, chattering as if he were laughing, then a wet, gurgling, high-pitched shriek.
The voice doesn’t sound human, but MacMillian knows it is. She stares at the peaceful-looking forest, listening, helpless, to the sounds of someone, a living, breathing person, suffering unfathomable torment. Her training at Langley battles with the fear welling up within her. The shrieks somehow get louder, echoing through the trees. The voice is an unrecognizable whining and mewling, like some poor, wild creature enduring what no creature should endure.
Soon, her training fades, replaced by base, human terror. She doesn’t realize she’s whining like a scared dog.
Then, silence.
The silence spurs MacMillian into action again. She pulls hard on the seatbelt, smashing her knee and foot into the radio. She finally frees the mic, but can’t pull it close enough to use it. She uses her feet to kick off her shoes, hoping her sock feet can manipulate the mic’s button, so she can call for help. She adjusts her position and tries again.
She glances up and sees Jericho standing at the front of the sedan. A quick, panicked scream escapes her lips.
Jericho is naked, his torso splattered with red blood and dark red gore. His forearms especially, they seem to be completely covered.
“Now, it is your turn.” Jericho smiles, rubbing his hands together.
MacMillian always thought the women who scream in those horror movies her boyfriend liked were so fake and weak. As she watches, helplessly, as Jericho tears the passenger’s side door off the sedan, she opens her mouth wide and lets loose a scream that would curdle any movie-goer.
Jericho just smiles.

***

A spacious office looks out over the Miami skyline, and its sculptures of glass and steel. Beyond them, the blue of the Atlantic Ocean stretches off towards the horizon, seeming to merge with the clear, blue sky.
The only furniture in the office is a desk and chair, made of glass and black steel tubing. On the desk, a tablet computer and a cell phone, which starts to vibrate. A figure, silhouetted by the daylight rushes to the desk and answers the phone.
“Edson.”
“Good afternoon.” Jericho’s voice says through the phone. “By now you will have learned that I have kept my end the bargain.”
Edson pauses, “Yeah, an insider told us what happened. But Agent Benson is still missing. You know anything about that?”
Jericho ignores the question. “Since I have held up my end of the bargain, I trust Hyden will honor his?”
“Yeah. Everything’s set.” Edson replies into the phone, a small smirk on his lips.
Jericho pauses, before answering, “Good.”
“So where’s Benson?” Edson asks. “Killing witnesses is one thing. Killing a federal agent is something else. Hyden doesn’t want this coming back–” his words are cut off when his phone receives an email.
“I sent you an answer to your question, via your email. I suggest you open it.” Jericho says, in an insistent tone.
Edson pulls the cell phone from his ear, the dim glow splashes across his face, revealing puzzlement. He activates the speaker phone, and opens the email. Attached are some photos. When he opens them, a slow-building look of disgust fills his face. “Jesus Christ.” he whispers.
“Then you have received the photos. Good. Believe it or not, that is Agent Benson. I discovered he had information I required. He was a proud, dedicated man. He did not want to talk.” he pauses for a moment, before adding, as if he were right beside Edson, “But I made him.”
Edson closes the photos, a look of frustration on his face.
“It is not a wise thing to cross me, Mr. Edson,” Jericho adds, in a more human-sounding voice. “Considering what I know, and what I can do. Do we have an understanding?”
“Yeah.” Edson replies, reluctantly.
“Then I trust my agreement with Hyden will be honored?”
“Of course. Arrangements are already made, they just have to be sent. In a few days, your associates will be in Miami.”
“Thank you Mr. Edson. I will be in touch.”
“Where–” Edson begins to ask, but the line goes dead.

***

Jericho closes the cell phone and puts it on the fender of the sedan. He reaches into the open hood and sticks his left hand into the open top of the car’s battery. The skin of his left hand and forearm begin to bubble. He pulls out his sizzling left hand and grabs his right hand. Soon it too is sizzling. He picks up the cell phone, which quickly begins to spark and melt, pouring through his fingers. He goes into the sedan and touches anything he may have touched. The steering wheel, the seat, the naked, violated corpse of Agent MacMillian, the rear driver’s side door, everything. He uses the corrosive properties of the battery acid, absorbed by his skin, to erase any evidence of his presence.
Once done with the car, he begins wiping the dried blood from his skin, by melting away the top layer of his skin. He grimaces at the burning sensation, and the smell of his flesh being seared off. But he also seems to enjoy to pain.
Once clean, the bubbling on his hands stops, leaving burn-marks over most of his body. He inspects himself and finds a patch of skin that is untouched. He places his hand on the unmarked skin and uses his powers to absorb the skin’s property and soon, any part of his body that was scarred by the battery acid is regrown and looks new.
He stretches his arms, legs and body, flexing his muscles, enjoying his rejuvenation. In this moment, he feels reborn, immortal.
He puts the suit pants and white shirt on and walks back to the highway. Once there, it doesn’t take long for some young, Las Vegas-bound women to pick up a dark, handsome, charming, stranded man.
He watches them fawn over him. He knows each of them would be willing to give themselves to him, even ignoring life-long friendships just to have him between their thighs. They disgust him. Their desperation for adventure and romance to enliven their pathetic and dreary live is so archaic and unrealistic.
It reminds him of her, the woman who calls herself Andreas Pry.
She had enormous potential. She could have been like him, a god among mortals, whether she was blessed by the Black Wave of not. She had power, true power, within her. He saw her fury, her power, first-hand, and was inspired! He would have followed her to the ends of the Earth. But she turned away, caught up in useless sentiment. He tried to guide her back, but she spurned him. Him!
Now, they want her back, through some misguided sense of tradition. For now, he’ll abide. But if what he learned from Benson and that fat geek is true, she’ll need to be convinced. If she’s not convinced, she’ll be forced.
If she dies, so be it.

 

 

Pry: The Ghosts of Promises Past: Jericho Mars Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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