Lisa and Ashish took Latasha out to lunch—a Christmas treat, and she also invited Sara and her boyfriend Paul. Paul had a court date and could not make it, but Latasha made up for it when she asked if Wendy and Mini could come along. At the last minute, Lisa bit her tongue and also invited Heinrich Schultz. As an elect, she was never comfortable around the member of the council, but she knew the subject of the night creatures would come up and she thought he might have some insights.
They went to a pub known for its burgers and desserts. They just got seated when the local congressman, Preston Cain showed up on the television screens scattered liberally around the room. Everyone paused to see what the man had to say. It was all about love and peace and healing the rancorous discord in the social and political fabric of America. The man practically dripped apple pie, and in a way where most conservatives would applaud but no liberally minded person would object. Ashish, Wendy and Mini were completely taken in. Sarah kept her mouth closed. Latasha squirmed a bit and Lisa agreed with her. Heinrich noticed and spoke to the three of them.
“There is a great deal of anger and condescension in this man.” He pointed at the screen. “But he hides it almost perfectly and his way with the English language is just about perfect too, though I will bet it is not his native tongue. I ought to know a scoundrel when I see one. I have seen and heard the best of them. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Lenin, Robespierre. I wonder what his real agenda is.” Lisa and Latasha nodded, but the television moved on and Ashish turned back to the table.
“I think you are being a bit cynical,” he said. “The man makes sense. We need someone who can heal the divisions in this country, not another divisive one.”
“Preston Cain has a messiah complex,” Lisa said, and Sara started to nod, but neither could speak further because the waitress arrived.
While they ate, the others got to know Wendy and Dominica. The girls seemed like nice, normal girls, but Latash said she spoiled them by telling them about her being an elect and some of what she had experienced.
“Real Zombies?” Mini asked several times with her eyes as wide as they could go.
Lisa asked about Keisha, but they all said Keisha was struggling. “She is still living in the 1960s,” Wendy said.
“She thinks every time she doesn’t get her way someone is oppressing her.” Mini rolled her eyes.
“This is a new day, like Mister Cain says.” Wendy spoke again. “I can do anything. I’m going to be a lawyer.”
“I think Keisha needs to listen to Mister Cain,” Mini agreed.
Lisa was going to say something, but Ashish stepped in first. “What kind of law are you thinking about?”
“Well,” Wendy hedged and looked briefly at Latasha. “I was thinking business and real estate, but Latasha has me thinking about criminal.”
“Stick with business,” Sara said. “Criminal is too frustrating when the worst of them keep walking out with time served. My boyfriend is a District Attorney.”
“You wish,” Latasha and Wendy echoed each other.
“Detective Schromer. Detective Mousad.” A woman’s voice interrupted. It was Courtney Chase, Eyewitness News. “What brings you here in the middle of the day?” She didn’t have cameraman Joe with her, but she looked around carefully and no doubt made a mental note of all the faces.
“Christmas?” Lisa suggested the obvious before Sara interrupted.
“Sara Michaels, University Chaplain.” She put out her hand to shake. “Professor Schultz, my dear old history professor. We are here trying to encourage these fine young women to do well in their studies. We have a future lawyer, an accountant and a future police officer with us today.” Sara waved slightly at the detectives as if to suggest that was the reason for their presence. “Would you be interest in doing a story about all the good work the church is doing, especially over Christmastime. Sort of a human interest story.” Sara smiled a big smile.
Everyone saw Courtney’s nose turn up ever so slightly. She did not report good news and especially good news connected to Christian churches. “Actually, my docket is full. I just stopped by to say happy holidays.” She smiled, backed away and waved before she turned and left like her shoes were on fire.
“Excellent,’ Lisa said.
“We could use you in the PR department downtown,” Ashish added.
“Not an untrue word in the whole thing.” Heinrich patted her hand.
“Wait a minute,” Wendy spoke up. “You mean part of this lunch is to encourage us in school?”
“That is part of it,” Sara turned her smile on the girls.
“Of course,” Latasha said. “Why do you think I invited you?”
“Well,” Heinrich also smiled for the girls as he took everyone’s attention. He was not one for small talk. “It seems to me we have some business to discuss. Call it the other part.” Everyone quieted to listen to what Heinrich had to say. He pulled out a piece of paper. “I wrote to some friends to see if any of them ever encountered such a creature. I got the one reply I expected, from a man in Nepal. He said about twelve years ago one wandered down from the mountains. It was only a stray, probably brought here by accident. It ate or killed half a village before he cornered it and destroyed it. He still bears the scars.” Heinrich looked up and scanned everyone’s faces. “He is missing his left arm from the elbow down. He says he is surprised I have not been activated, well, etc.” He folded the paper and put it back in his vest pocket.
“What language was that written in?” Sara was reading over his shoulder.
“No, you told me a lot,’ Lisa said. She sounded pensive. “You told me they can be killed.”
“How did he kill it?” Ashish asked.
“He beheaded it,” Heinrich answered. “And before you ask, I know it is the same creature. I saw your photographs, and he drew a picture of his. He called it a cross between a bear and a tiger, but much faster and much stronger. He said, when it walked, it walked very stiffly, like it was used to walking over thorn bushes.”
Lisa nodded. “The trouble is we have no idea where they may be hiding. And I don’t suppose your friend said anything about something or someone else controlling the creature.” Heinrich shook his head.
“How is your family?” Sara asked Lisa, not entirely off topic. She had not seen Lisa in a week so she did not know how the woman was holding up.
“Fine. As far as I know the children are safe at school during the day, and thus far their school busses have not been tracked to the hotel. Josh can work from his computer, so that is not a problem for now, but someday he will have to go into the office, not to mention we can’t afford to keep them in the hotel indefinitely.”
“There is always bait,” Lisa mumbled. The young ones stared, but the older ones all shook their heads.
“No. Can’t do that. Too dangerous.”
They talked for a long time that afternoon, but no one came up with a better idea.
Next Monday, the last days of Christmas vacation begin to wind down in the Elect II-13, Christmas Too. Emily needs to get back to school, dangerous as that sounds. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and..