Elect II—19 Leftovers, part 1 of 3

It was hard getting back into the normal routine of school and the real world after Avalon, especially when there was something to do that didn’t have anything to do with homework.  Sara and her friend Nancy in the administration building, kept a close watch on President Batiste’s office when the mail came.  Bernie the campus cop kept one eye on his superior, Captain Gouldos.  Mindy tried her best to keep watch on Professor Papadopoulos.  Melissa and Maria had their targets, too, but these three topped the list.  The only one they could not track was Ferdinand Franco, the drug kingpin, but they imagined they would know if the man came to campus.

ac-emily-1Emily could hardly concentrate.  She could hardly eat or sleep.  It was like a twisted Christmas vigil.  The letter got delivered Thursday and Emily ran to the administration building in record time.  She managed to say “Hi” to Nancy, the President’s secretary before she sat, picked up a magazine and pretended to be nonchalant about life.  Sarah came in after a moment and was not surprised to see Emily already there.

Only another moment later, President Batiste came wandering out of his office, a calm look on his face.  Emily hid behind her magazine and Sara leaned in to her shoulder so as not to look obvious.

“Nancy, get me Franco on the phone.”  Batiste looked at his hands like he needed to remember what he had.  “Here.  Send these to Captain Gouldos.  This is his department.”  He set down Emily’s package and went back into his office, unperturbed.

Emily spouted as soon as the door closed.  “That’s it?”  She was flabbergasted.  “He didn’t even blink.”

“Wallets?”  Secretary Nancy looked up at the women.  “Driver’s licenses?  These are the identification of the missing men.”

“Maybe Gouldos is the one we should be watching,” Emily finished her thought.

“Maybe Batiste figured out the men were dead and saw this coming,” Sara countered.

“Wait a minute,” Emily interrupted and Nancy paused with her hand over a wallet like she was about to pick it up.  “Franco.  Ferdinand Franco?”

ac-sarah-4“Yes,” Nancy nodded.  “He is a big donor to the school.”

“And he calls here regularly?”

“Yes,” Nancy said, but then she backed up.  “But I probably shouldn’t be telling you that.”

“You should.  Ferdinand Franco is the biggest drug kingpin in South Jersey.”  Emily pulled out her phone and dialed Lisa.  Sara was miffed.

“Nancy, this is exactly the sort of information I needed.”

###

Down in the archives, Mindy was getting frustrated.  Papadopoulos was not being at all cooperative.  He was not showing any signs of involvement with apples or tattoos or anything.  Presently, she was rummaging around his personal desk in his private space.  She knew she was risking her scholarships, but she couldn’t help it.

The desk drawers had nothing of interest, but the center drawer was locked and she wondered if she could open it without breaking it.  The files in the cabinet at any other time would have captivated her, but they weren’t what she was looking for.  She rummaged through the papers held in short stacks beneath the knick-knacks on his desk.  The one beneath the desk lamp looked like bills.  The one beneath the Leaning Tower of Pisa souvenir looked like shipping orders.  Mindy picked up the Medusa, a cheap metal statue with chipped paint.  She pursed her lips and thought of Gorgon Hall, the main classroom building.  What a stupid statue, she thought as she felt arms around her middle.  It startled her and she dropped the statue.

ac-mindy-5“You are going to get in trouble,” Bill said.

Mindy squirmed around to face him and looked coy.  “I hope so.”

Bill immediately started to back up.  It was one thing to catch a woman unprepared and quite another to find out it was what she wanted.  “Yes, well.”  He let go.

Mindy decided to be good.  She reached down to the floor to pick up the gaudy statue and saw it was hollow and had popped open.  Inside was a scroll.  It was the scroll she was looking for.  She took it.  After all, Papadopoulos shouldn’t have had it either.

Elect II—12+ Christmas Break, addendum…

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.

ab-pub-2They 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.

ac-latasha-a5While 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.”

ac-new-1“My boyfriend is a football player,” Mini said.

“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.

ac-sarah-2Sara’s face reddened.  “I try not to get that close to lying.”

“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.

ac-heinrich-1“Linear A, the old language of the Minoans and probably one even Mindy does not know.  I am sorry I have nothing more to tell you.”

“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.”

ab-pub-1“I bet Jessica could find the creatures,” Latasha suggested.  She was in awe of the girl after the spider incident.

“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..

a-a-new-year-h-r

The Elect 5, part 4 of 4: Doctor Hyde

The science building was not far, and when they arrived, they found the incident out front had all been cleaned up, though no one would be using that lab room for some time.

Emily judged the time by the sun and decided it was about two-thirty, no later than three. At that time, of course, the building stayed open even if some professors were gone for the day. They had no trouble reaching the second floor.a science hall 1

“Jack L. Hide.” Latasha misread the sign outside the door. “Sounds like the book we are reading in English, Jekyll and Hyde.”

Lisa and Emily looked at each other. That sounded exactly right. They kicked the door in.

A simply enormous man stood on the other side of the desk by the window. He had to be six-feet, six and was more than well built. His back was turned toward them as he looked out the window, but he spoke when they burst in, so they paused to listen.

“Proportion is everything. It can even relieve the pain, but adrenaline and testosterone burn, as I am sure you know. The growth hormone is in many ways the key to youth and vitality.” The man turned and Emily caught her breath.

“Professor Hilde.” She saw the crutches tossed aside just before they heard a moan in the corner. Owen was there, crumpled like a discarded rag doll. Clearly, most of his bones were broken and he would not live long. Pierce went straight to him and knelt beside him to see what he could do so the women could focus on Hilde.

ac hilde 4“I tried to clean up some loose ends, but you survived.” He looked at Emily and turned to Lisa. “Your medical examiner was not home.” He turned to Latasha. “And I assume my little test soldiers are gone, and I can see why. There are three of you.”

Lisa responded. “To be fair, we had guns.” Her hand reached slowly to her back as she spoke.

“Yes, the money the government offered for the competition would have been nice.”

“What?” Latasha interrupted. “So you could build an army and take over the world?”

Hilde laughed, and it was a genuine laugh. “I assure you, my motives in all this were purely selfish. Now, if you will excuse me.” He crashed through the window and dropped two stories to the ground. The glass that shattered and the screen on the window proved no barrier. Lisa just got her hand to her gun when she cursed.

“Damn!” She leaped over the desk and followed the man out the window. Latasha and Emily looked at each other, but only briefly before Emily and then Latasha tried the same stunt.

Two stories were not that hard, Emily decided. She knew how to use her knees and roll when she hit the ground. Latasha had no such training and got up to look at her palms, which she skinned on the brick walkway, like a younger girl might skin her palms falling off a bicycle.ac latasha 1a

“Ouch,” Latasha mouthed, but quickly picked up the Billy club and chased after Emily.

Emily pointed to the other side of a row of bushes as she ran. Latasha got the message and went the other way. When they came around the corner, Emily ran right past the tussle and yelled “Back up!” because Latasha looked ready to get in the middle of what was already over.

Lisa had jumped over the hedge and caught Hilde by the ankle, effectively tripping him. He shook her off fairly easily, but Lisa held on long enough to give Emily and Latasha a chance to get between him and escape. When he stood, he was surrounded.

He eyed his opponents first and said nothing. Emily was in military training. Lisa was police trained. He went for Latasha who was both the youngest and least trained. Latasha managed to hit him in the face with her Billy club. Lisa and Emily rushed up and both hit him hard in the lower back. He growled and threw his hands back, which made Lisa leap back and knocked Emily to the ground. He was incredibly fast, and strong.

ac Hilde 3Latasha hit him again in the face and he grabbed the Billy club and wrenched it out of her hand. Latasha shrieked and backed up. That gave Lisa a chance to land another blow to the same spot on Hilde’s back. Emily saw a better opening. She kicked Hilde’s knee so his two knees crashed together.

Hilde howled and staggered for a second. They were drawing a crowd. Hilde needed to get out soon, or not at all. He turned on Emily and swung his fists at her face, three times. Emily bobbed and ducked, but each blow grazed her face and jaw and she felt like she was being hammered. He hit hard enough that any such blow landed squarely on a normal face would have been a killing blow. Then Hilde kicked at her knees. Though his foot only scraped her legs, the force was enough to both hurt her and knock her to the ground.

Lisa got two more blows in the same spot on the man’s lower back. They began to take a toll. Latasha had watched and kicked the man’s knees again, just before he dove at Emily. It disrupted Hilde’s timing so Emily could roll out from under before he landed, and he did not reach for her. He needed the hand to put briefly to the spot where Lisa had been pounding. He growled at her, but the women were thinking how they might finish this.ac pierce 5

Pierce arrived, rushed past Lisa and leapt at the man with enough force and weight to push him to his back. Pierce briefly struggled to put something in Hilde’s mouth before Hilde shoved Pierce away. Pierce flew ten feet and landed hard on the ground, but he got shoved, not hit, so he did not get seriously injured.

Emily rushed to him, but Pierce smiled and held up a small vial. “From Owen,” he said, and Emily turned her head as Hilde began to scream. He put his hands to his head, and Lisa held back Latasha as they all watched.

“Too much.” That was the only word Hilde said before his body burst into a ball of flame. When it was over, there would be even less of him than there was of Karyn.

Emily stood. Pierce got up more slowly, though he looked fine. Lisa brought Latasha over and spoke.

ac hilde end“He said they were having a competition. Someone is still working,” Lisa pointed out.

“On this?” Latasha pointed at the burning corpse.

“Zombies,” Emily reminded her, and glanced at Pierce. She wonder again what he was doing that night in the alley.

“Oh, I should have remembered the zombies. That’s like back home in New Orleans.”

“Happy Halloween,” Lisa said.

************************

Continue reading

The Elect 1, part 3 of 4: Obstacles and Opportunities

Monday morning, the ROTC schedule took Emily to the obstacle course. Captain Driver said he wanted to get times recorded that he could compare with the end of the year when the students will hopefully be in better shape and improved on the course. Karyn got very nervous, but Carl took her out there illegally on Sunday afternoon and let her practice. Something seemed to be budding between those two, Emily thought and smiled.

In contrast to Karyn and the boys, Emily relaxed. The course consisted of running through old tires, climbing up and down nets and walls, swinging on ropes over the cliché mud pit. It tested things like coordination, agility and dexterity, not just speed and strength. In all, it did not appear too daunting.

“Course record?” Lieutenant Terrence snuck up to her and whispered.ab obstacle course 1

Emily turned and looked up at the man. “Not this time. I have to hold back so I can show improvement at the end of the year.” She walked away quickly to get in line for her turn.

They went three at a time. Karyn finished last in her group but that landed her among the middle time slots. Emily felt surprisingly pushed, but held back at the end to come in second. Unfortunately, it also put her time second in the class. When Captain Driver came up to stare at her, Emily spoke first.

“Quality competition can sometimes help a person do their best.” Clearly, the captain put her in between two ringers—the two who tested at the top while she stayed busy the other day holding the flag. The captain’s facial expression changed from harsh to thoughtful as she spoke. He nodded and turned away without a word.

Lieutenant Terrence slid up and whispered again. “Second in the class? I thought you were going to hold back.”

“I did,” Emily said and let him think about it while she grabbed Karyn to go to the showers.

Karyn and Emily arrived back at the dorm to find Maria and Jessica waiting, Jessica staring at her watch. “I have to meet Thomas for lunch,” she said, though they still had a good hour before lunch.

Maria ignored her. She seemed excited and held up her papers. “I talked to Julie Tam at the medical examiner’s office. I said I was helping you and she faxed over this information. I said I had in mind to pass it by the professors here and see what they thought. She called that an excellent idea.”

a science 2“Which professors?” Karyn asked. Emily got busy thinking about it. She kept trying to listen to her intuition like Lisa said and something said one of these professors might be involved. In fact, she felt rather sure of it, but that did not feel like the time to make wild accusations.

“Why, biology, of course. I made an appointment with Doctor Zimmer, my advisor. Emily, you can talk to Swenson and we can both corner Hilde in class. Come on.” She started to walk. Jessica followed, but Karyn looked at Emily.

“I don’t—” Emily started to speak but Maria interrupted by shouting back.

“Come on. Zimmer’s appointment is in five minutes and late means no appointment with the turd. Besides, Pierce will be there.”

Emily bit her lip while she and Karyn followed.

Once up on the second floor, Emily began to have second thoughts but she could hardly pursue them before they ran into Morgan Granger. The woman came out of Professor Hilde’s office and blocked their way for a moment.

“Maria,” Ms Granger acknowledged her good student before she turned to Emily. “Help class is over.”

“ROTC,” Emily said, quietly.

“Yes. Well, we all have to make choices. It is a shame we can’t do everything we want in college.” Ms Granger shoved passed to get to the stairs. Maria spoke when the stairwell door closed.

“I bet she deliberately scheduled the help time when she knew you were busy.”a science hall 3

“Stop, you’ll make me paranoid,” Emily said as she stuck her head in Professor Swenson’s open door and said, “Hi.”

Professor Swenson had her eyes absorbed in a paper on her desk. A man in a uniform sat in the corner. Emily guessed army, but she did not catch the rank in the darkened room. Professor Swenson’s hand came up and waved, though her eyes never left the paper. When the group moved on to knock on Doctor Zimmer’s door, they heard Professor Swenson’s door shut tight.

“What?” The word from the other side of the door sounded sharp. Maria opened the door a crack and spoke.

“Doctor Zimmer? Maria Rios. We have an appointment.”

As Maria opened the door wide, they saw Doctor Zimmer at his desk look at his watch, the clock on the wall, and finally his calendar. “This has to be quick, I have another appointment shortly.”

“I was wondering if you would give these papers a look and offer your opinion.”

“Papers? Why do you think I have a teaching assistant?” He threw his hands at the corner where Pierce had been reading. Pierce put down his book when they came in and stared at Emily. Emily tried to ignore the stare, and tried extra hard not to stare back.

“These are from the medical examiner. There have been three people murdered on campus in a most unusual way.”

ab zimmers office 2Doctor Zimmer grabbed the papers and quickly perused them. “Interesting,” he said. He looked up sharply. “Am I a suspect?”

“No, sir,” Emily spoke because Pierce’s stare made her think all sorts of wrong thoughts. “You are an expert and we value your expert opinion.”

“Because I gave up my medical practice years ago.” Doctor Zimmer finished his thought. “Everyone I treated died.” That was his attempt at humor. He cleared his throat and looked again at the papers before he handed them back to Maria. “Tell your Examiner to check the endocrine system. Blood isn’t good for much except for transfusions and maybe vampires.” He smiled. It looked unnatural, a Morgan Granger frightening kind of smile. “Waste liquid is good for less unless someone is trying to build a better fertilizer. Tell him to check the glands, particularly the hypothalamus, thyroid and adrenal glands. A person might be interested in those hormones and secretions. Someone might be working on a cure for cancer for all we know.” He shrugged.

“Heavy price to pay,” Emily responded.

“Perhaps,” Doctor Zimmer sounded noncommittal. “In any case, not my field. I am strictly genetics and bioengineering these days. Professor Swenson teaches anatomy and could better tell you about the endocrine system, and Professor Hilde is the biochemist. They are the ones you should be talking to. Now please leave. My appointment should be here any minute.”

The girls turned. Jessica had her mouth open at the rudeness of the man. They went to the hall and shut the door behind them even as the army officer exited Professor Swenson’s room. The Colonel, and he gave the girls a friendly salute. Karyn looked inclined to snap to attention, but she was not in uniform. Besides, the Colonel’s eyes stayed on Jessica who had squeezed into her shortest and best hooker outfit, and was busting out all over.ac pierce 2

They whispered and walked slowly toward the exit. Emily dragged her feet to watch and to no surprise, the Colonel knocked on Doctor Zimmer’s door. “Come in.” She heard Pierce’s voice and stopped when Pierce came out to the hall and ran after her.

“Emily.” She was the one he came after and her heart jumped once or twice. “I was wondering if maybe we could go for coffee or something, sometime.”

She wanted to shout, “Yes!” But for some reason, her mouth betrayed her. “I don’t really drink coffee.” Pierce pulled back and she felt it. “But I love tea and anytime would be fine.” She felt him come back a little. “I would enjoy that.” He returned all the way and his smile showed it.

“Saturday night at the Hive.” Jessica stood over Emily’s shoulder. “We are all going and Emily needs a date.”

“Jessica!” Karyn and Maria pulled her back to the stairs.

“Would you let me be your date on Saturday?” The hope was there again.

“Yes.” The yes came, but it came out as a whisper, not the shout Emily felt.

Jessica broke free and butted in again. She handed Pierce a small piece of paper. “Her phone number.”

ac emily 2“I have to go,” Emily said and wanted to turn but again her feet would not work.

“Me, too.” Pierce started down the hall, but he walked backwards to Zimmer’s door. “I’ll call you.” He grinned and waved the paper before he went into the office. Emily felt sure she was grinning too and was not surprised when Karyn and Maria each took an arm and turned her around toward the stairs.

“You were staring,” Maria said.

“Staring?” Jessica disagreed. “She was drooling.”