After spending part of the day covered in blood and wearing sub-standard suits, Jericho feels more at home in his usual finery. The most expensive, designer suit and a top-of-the-line, European sport car. Yet he dislikes where he finds himself.
The dark, deserted street outside Pry Investigations is devoid of anything worthwhile. But this is where she has built her new life, and he must learn about it, so he can learn more about her. Even if that means doing something a low as breaking into her offices and home, like a sneak-thief.
Thus far, reputation, and a custom security system, has been enough to keep would-be thieves and scavengers at bay. But he is anything but typical, or a thief for that matter. If he can sully someone else’s hands rather than his own, then all the better.
He quietly pulls up and stops underneath the sole, functioning, street light. Ahead of him is a run-down, patch-work sedan, complete with plastic sheets for a rear window and a rag for a gas cap. The rolling rust bucket is owned by the hands that will do his dirty work.
Jericho steps out of his car and is greeted by two disreputable individuals, which are a dime a dozen in Las Vegas. “Mr. Richards, Mr. Karlson I presume.” he says, trying to sound respectful when he’s anything but towards these two men.
Richards is dressed in over-alls that may have once been blue. Now, they are a faded blue-ish black. His short, greying hair stands up straight even as he hunches over slightly. Whatever he did before, he worked hard. Since he is here, he either played too hard, or has no other choice. Desperation flows off him in waves. Karlson looks like a reject from a biker movie. He’s solid enough, but his torn, faded denim jeans, the leather vest replete with badges, and his polished bald head are utter cliches.
“You must be Mars, right?” Richards asks, looking around nervously, filled with the kind of paranoia only cheap cocaine can provide.
“That is correct.” Jericho confirms in a condescending tone.
“Well, we’re here. Give us our cash.” Karlson orders, stepping forward, trying to intimidate.
Jericho would love to beat this cretin to a bloody pulp, but he has a need of him. He steps back, to allow Karlson to have his little victory. “Of course!” he reaches into his inside suit jacket pocket and pulls out two bundles of cash. He hands one to Karlson and tosses the other to Richards. “Now that is half. You will get the rest afterwards.”
Karlson and Richards barely hear him as they marvel at their good fortune.
“Gentlemen? Shall we proceed?” Jericho speaks up.
Richards and Karlson reluctantly pocket their loot and turn their attention back to the job at hand. “So what, you want us to hit Pry Investigations?” Richards asks, turning to look at the offices nervously. “That’s a tall order.”
“They’re supposed ta have serious security.” Karlson seconds, joining Richards.
The lone street light suddenly goes out. Further down, other street lights on other blocks also go out. The almost full moon casts an eerie, blue glow on the city around them.
“I have dealt with the more serious security protocols.” Jericho states, looking up at the darkened street light. “But if you still think it is too much for you, just return my money.”
Karlson chuckles. “That wouldn’t happen.”
A metallic click stops Karlson’s bravado.
“There are hundreds more where you two came from, Mr. Karlson.” Jericho’s voice is chilling and cruel.
Karlson and Richards turn back to Jericho, but are blinded by a flashlight. He turns on a second flashlight with a metallic click. He tosses each of them a flashlight.
“Shall we?” Jericho says, turning on his own flashlight, waving it towards the front of Pry Investigations. Karlson and Richards head over, followed by Jericho. “No need to be subtle. Smash-and-grab is the name of the game. Anything of monetary value is yours. My business is personal.” Jericho light tone vanishes. He whips around and points his flashlight towards the broken window on the top floor of the building behind him.
He remains motionless, waiting, listening. He thought he heard something. But nothing is there.
Karlson smashes in the main entrance’s glass door, ending any chance for Jericho to hear any more. He turns and follows the others inside.
Iron Bow stands to the side of the broken window. Even with the flashlight catching his arm and leg, Jericho couldn’t see him. He turns and disappears back into the building. Moments later he emerges on the roof of the building. He steps up to the edge, using his nightvision and digital zoom features of his glasses to look at the roof of the Pry Investigation building. He spots what he’s looking for, a brick structure, about six-feet tall, maybe once used for storage or it may have held the building’s generator. All it has to do now is hold his weight.
He holds up his three-foot contracted bow horizontally, with each of the rounded ends pointed at something strong, the brick structure on the other building, and a steel pole behind him.
“Zip–” Iron Bow starts to say, but the cerebral link enacts his commands.
The small needle-like darts that formed the bowstrings before shoot out of each end of the bow, trailing thin, white smoke. One needle is embedded in the steel pole behind him, the end flashes blue, creating a super thin wire like the bowstring. The other shoots over the street towards the other building as fast as a bullet with a long white tail. Once it impacts with the brick structure, a blue spark causes a thin wire to form within the white smoke.
He pulls on his bow, the anchors are solid. When he told his suppliers of this nifty trick, they were shocked and quite agitated. They bamboozled him with scientific jargon about solidifying gaseous particles via quantum-specific electrical charges, and how using them as a projectile, shooting them into different substances, may have unknown results. But when he was tossed off a building in downtown Sydney, he took a chance and it saved his ass.
Iron Bow pulls on his bow and steps off the building. White smoke comes out of the end of the bow behind him, creating more wire as he zooms over the street towards the Pry Investigation building. Once he’s on the roof, the wire vaporizes back into white smoke and dissipates into the night.
He heads over to roof’s access door. He tries the knob, it’s locked. He thinks of what he needs and draws an arrow with head that looks clear and contains a bright blue liquid. He jams it in between the door and frame beside the door knob. The clear arrowhead shatters and the liquid is injected into the seam. The faint crackling of an intensely cold liquid freezing metal is heard.
He stands and waits. The used arrowhead pops off and he slides the shaft back into his quiver. He then pushes on the door. It gives a little, then opens. He heads inside, disappearing into the darkness.
In the offices, Richards and Karlson walk through, making a verbal inventory.
“Them computers will fetch us some decent cash!” Richards squeals with excitement.
“I’m thinkin’ more about the weapons.” Karlson says calmly. “An that muscle car she drives. I’ve seen it, and heard it. Sounds sweet.”
Richards’ eyes light and a huge grin fills his face. “Oh hell yeah!”
Both scurry through the offices, towards the back.
Jericho slowly walks past the first set of desks, shining his flashlight on the simple office-style set-up. The look of disgust and contempt is obvious. The place is so very dull and average. He walks past the counter, into the rear offices. He looks in one and sees lots of cobbled-together electronics. Not Pry’s office.
He walks into the office across the way. It has a laptop on the desk, and pictures that were probably here when they moved in. He pulls the office chair back and sits in it. He places his hands on the desk. He closes his eyes and tries to imagine Pry’s life. Her sitting in this chair, at this desk, preparing to bring in some wanted person. She shares her life with that irregular, someone else, he suspects, that is ignoring his full potential.
He opens his eyes and looks around at the very ordinary world she has built.
“No.” Jericho murmurs aloud to himself. “Not ordinary.” He reaches down and opens one of the drawers of the desk. Besides some basic supplies, they are empty. “Your life is empty.” He stands and goes to filing cabinet. He pulls open the draws, besides the job files, there is nothing. “It is a shell. A lie.” He smiles. “None of this is you. It is all an act, isn’t it.” He walks over to the door, stops and turns back, as if he were talking to her. “You had such potential, and you’ve thrown it all away for this?” he shakes his head, like a disappointed superior. “Perhaps you weren’t meant to lead. When our business is complete, I’ll ensure this sham of a life is ended.”
In the back, Richards and Karlson make their way through the darkness, searching for things of value via their flashlights.
“There’s a Hog over there!” Richards says loudly.
Karlson aims his flashlight in the same direction. In the pool of light is Dane’s Harley Davidson. “That’s mine.”
“I found it!” Richards bleats like a whiney child.
“You ain’t Hog material. I am!” Karlson gloats. He turns his flashlight towards Fen’s dog house. “You can have that to live in!”
Richards turns his flashlight past the dog house to a large vault. “Uh uh! I’m taking that!”
Karlson’s moves his flashlight past a barely visible human shape and stops on the vault. “Jackpot! That’s…” he trails off, a puzzled look on his face. He sweeps his flashlight back to the dog house. Nothing.
“What?” Richards asks.
“I thought I saw…” Karlson doesn’t finish as he sweeps his flashlight back. When he stops, a distorted grey, humanoid shape stands in front of the vault. “Holy–” he utters quietly.
“Fuck!” Richards yells and draws a pistol from his over-alls.
Iron Bow draws and shoots.
An arrow lodges itself in the barrel of Richards’ gun. A small drilling sound his heard as sparks trickle out of the end. He tosses the gun, just as it backfires. Sticking out of the back of the gun, near the hammer, is a drill bit.
“What the–” Richard utters.
Karlson charges Iron Bow.
“Close combat.” Iron Bow whispers.
The cobalt blue from before returns. The bowstring snaps as the bow returns to its three-foot configuration. The arrow-shaped gauntlets on his forearms extend forwards and backwards. The forward part extend over the back of his hands, becoming like flexible, iron knuckles. The back part covers his elbow.
Karlson crashes into Iron Bow, slamming him into the vault.
Iron Bow punches Karlson with his iron-covered fist.
Karlson reels backwards, dazed.
Iron Bow drives the end of his bow into his stomach. He doubles over and falls to the ground.
Richards tosses his flashlight at Iron Bow, who deflects it with his bow.
It’s only a distraction, as Richards’ draws his back-up gun and fires at Iron Bow.
Fortunately, the large, cobalt blue arrowhead shape on Iron Bow’s chest makes an attractive, well-armored target. “Compound! Knock-out!” he snarls. He may be armored, but bullets still hurt.
The bowstring snaps into existence in a trail of white smoke. His bow extends only an extra six inches as he draws an arrow with a large nock and head.
Richards steps forward to fire again, taking better aim.
Iron Bow release his arrow. Just before it hits Richard’s head, a proximity sensor activates a split-second rocket booster from the nock. The arrowhead explodes open. A four-inch cylinder, filled with quick-solidifying foam, expands within two-eighth of a second. It is like being sucker-punched in the face by heavyweight prize fighter.
Richards is knocked off his feet and falls onto his back unconscious.
Iron Bow looks towards the hallways that leads to the front office. He knows Jericho will be coming out soon. He needs to stop him in the hallway.
He rushes past Karlson, who tries to grab him. He swings his bow around, hitting Karlson in the head, putting him down for the count. His nightvision gives him a quick, clear path to the end of the hallway.
“Recurve.” he orders and his bow obeys. He approaches the end of the hallway, not sure what arrow he’ll need.
In the hallway stands Jericho, who stops when Iron Bow appears.
They stand motionless, silent.
Jericho with his hands touching the walls of the hallway.
Iron Bow, his bow at the ready, his hand reaching into his quiver.
“You must be the savior.” Jericho smiles like a shark.
“And you must be Jericho, the psychotic, freak-o son of Caperelli. How’s yer wanna-be God-complex? Do the shiny suits help?” Iron Bow quips.
Jericho’s smile falters imperceptibly. “Being a part of the wealthy elite allows for greater comfort than misguided morals. Does your self-deluded righteousness clothe you? Feed you?”
“It makes sleep easier.”
“Does it? I would have thought your memories might keep you up at night.” he chuckles like a demon. “I heard you actually died, and you were brought back so they could continue? Is that true? How many more days afterwards did it last? Three? Five? A full week?”
Iron Bow grits his teeth under his mask. “Not long enough.” he eventually spits out.
Jericho throws his head back and laughs as he slowly takes a step back. Once he calms, he shakes his head, stupefied. “Good God, you still carry that with you? You killed one man!”
“I killed a lot of men.”
“And you think everything you endured makes up for those deaths?”
“No. It never will.”
“You think this penance, your misguided morals, your so-called ‘heroic duty’ will absolve you of your sins?” Jericho tilts his head, waiting for a response. When he gets none, he straightens up, looking at Iron Bow as a predator looks down at his helpless prey. “Of course not. That was why we got on so well when we first met. We were two of a kind. The only difference now is, I am above you.” He looks past Iron Bow, appearing superior, godly. “I am above guilt. Above sin. All of the terrible acts I commit are easily washed away like so much blood and bile.” he returns his gaze to Iron Bow with condescension. “I do not wallow in it like you. I do not allow it to consume my existence, making me weak and scarred, inside and out.”
Iron Bow’s head lowers, slightly.
Jericho’s smile broadens as he takes another step back. His finger tips are a few inches from the steel frame of the windows that look into Pry and Dane’s back offices.
“Everything you have endured, all of the horrors you’ve suffered, stem from your failure to silence one witness. And even when you tried to fool yourself into believing you were a hero, a chance meeting eventually lead to your downfall. High-tech toys and a mask will not hide the truth, Pen! Everything you are is a lie! You could never be a hero! You and I are the same! If you–”
“Thank you.” Iron Bow says, interrupting Jericho.
“Oh, sorry, mate. Just calling 9-1-1.”
“Forgot I had mobile built into this thing! Great reception! Besides, you were droning on a bit, an’ I got bored. What did you say after ‘heroic duty’?”
“I–” Jericho starts to say, puzzled.
Iron Bow draws his arrow and lets it fly. The nock and arrowhead are large. Just before it hits Jericho, the head explodes open and straps itself to his chest. Once secure, the nock ignites like a rocket.
Jericho is carried backwards, out of the offices. He slams into the side of Richards and Karlson’s sedan, caving in the driver’s door and denting the frame.
Iron Bow races out just as Jericho yanks the rocket arrow from his chest.
The moonlight shines off Jericho’s metallic skin.
“Crap.” Iron Bow mutters as he runs to his right.
Jericho frees himself from the sedan. He reaches behind him, grabs the caved in driver’s door, and tosses it at Iron Bow.
Iron Bow drops to his knees and slides, rock-star-style, under the driver’s door. At the same time, he draws an arrow and fires it at the gas tank’s rag gas cap. The mini-compressed air cannister arrowhead, and its sparker, ignite the gas fumes.
The sedan explodes, brightening the street for a second like day. The sedan’s rear end rises up ten feet before crashing back to the ground. Debris scatters everywhere, ruining the front of Jericho’s sports car.
Jericho is knocked forward, onto his knees. The back of his jacket bursts into flames. He roars in anger as he gets to his feet and tears the remains of his suit jacket from his torso. He charges towards Iron Bow.
Iron Bow gets to his feet, and smiles beneath his mask as he draws his arrow. He pulls and releases it, directly at Jericho’s chest.
The circular arrowhead sticks to Jericho’s chest. A blue spark from the arrow stops him in his tracks. His arms and legs suddenly slam tight together and he falls onto his back. All around him, pieces of metal debris from the exploded sedan skitter across the asphalt and stick to Jericho’s metal skin.
Iron Bow strolls up to a prone Jericho. Somewhere, police sirens wail.
“Seems the police round here like Pry and Dane. They do good work for them, bringing in bad people like you, and me.” He crouches down beside Jericho. The mask covering his nose and mouth retracts back into his glasses. “I got no delusions of being a good guy, mate. I tried that an’ it didn’t work. The past always catches ya, one way or another. I see life as fulla moments when we decide what’s next. When I was a kid, I took the one path. It lead me to death an destruction. It also lead me to her. In that moment, seeing her, I wanted to change. But, the past caught up with me. As it should have. One day, it’ll catch up with you too.” He stands up. “Not tonight. But soon.”
Iron Bow’s stealth mode switches on and he seemingly disappears right before Jericho’s eyes. Moments later, the magnetic charge stops. The pieces of metal attached to him fall away.
Jericho scrambles to his feet. A few blocks away, two police cars speed towards him. Somewhere else, he can hear a police helicopter. He could probably fight them. He glances to the building across from Pry Investigations. A flash of cobalt blue changes his mind, for now.
“This isn’t over!” Jericho yells as goes to his car. He climbs in, fires up the engine, and speeds off before the police arrive.
Just out of sight, Iron Bow watches Jericho take off. “I know, mate. It’s just starting.”
Restless clouds spread across the horizon as the sun sets over a calm Iowa field, coloring the sky with reds and purples. Massive thunder-heads push upwards, showing-off Mother Nature’s potential power and fury.
But Pry doesn’t notice. The smartphone she was holding slips from her grasp and falls to the floor of the deserted barn they are calling home for tonight.
Fen scampers up the wooden stairs and rushes to her side, whimpering.
A familiar rumble and the flash of headlights temporarily brighten the hay around her, giving the impression of a hap-hazard, yellow walls, ready to collapse at any moment.
Fen gives a few sad, quiet barks.
Dane is up the stairs in a flash, dropping the dinner he bought on a bale he set-aside before he left. “What happened? What’s wrong?”
“They’re dead.” Pry whispers, her voice cracking.
Dane rushes to her side. He crouches in front of her, putting a hand on one knee, the other cradling her face. “Tell me.”
Pry points to the smartphone.
He takes his hand from her face and picks up the smartphone. Dane set-up a spyware program that carbon-copied any federal emails regarding Maria and Michael Torres between Agent Benson and the man who originally contacted Maria, Agent Willis. An email supposedly sent from Benson had the simple subject line ‘This is Agent Benson’. The only thing in the email was numerous picture attachments.
Dane opens them. His breath catches in his chest. His face recoils from the images he sees. He closes the files and tosses the smartphone aside. “Jesus.” he whispers. “Who, what could…” He doesn’t notice his head shaking, as if trying to deny what he’s seen. But those images will never fade from his memory.
Pry grabs Dane, as if she were drowning. He holds her. Neither saying a word.
Fen lays beside them, his sad eyes looking at them both.
Pry could answer Dane’s question of who could do that to a human body. She has seen such horrors once before, a lifetime ago. She knew the man capable of such an act. She thought he was gone, lost to the past. But as hard as she has tried, the ghosts from her past are closing in.
I have the rest of Pry’s story plotted out, but not written out. With other projects on-deck, like…
“Irregulars: Origin of the Species” short story series
“The Black Wave Event” novel to proof-read
Comic book scripts to prep for possible submission
“Tales from the Infinatum” anthology series, to name a few…
Pry will be getting a break. Eventually the rest of her story will be told.
Until then, thanks for reading! 🙂
Pry: The Ghosts of Promises Past: Inevitability 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.