The Elect 17, Attempts: part 1 of 4

Ashish stepped up to the counter and stared at the back wall.  The clerk began the transaction with two words.

“A dozen?”  He already had the box open.

“I should say a half-dozen only.  I’m trying to quit.”ac ashish 3

“Oh, no, Mister Mousad.  You’ll make the store go bankrupt,” the clerk joked.

Ashish frowned.  “Yes, well, my dentist is buying a new boat.  I don’t see any reason why I should finance it.”

ab donut boxThe clerk waited patiently.

“Better give me two jellies.  Lisa likes jellies.  And two plain.  They are good for dunking.”  Ashish shook his head.  “Give me a maple.  That looks good, but you know I sugar crash at two thirty every day like clockwork.”

“So you should come back at two o’clock for a half-dozen pick-me-up box,” the clerk suggested.

“I’m trying to quit … three glazed …”

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The elect is being serialized over several months.  You are welcome to click on the archives button on the blog and go back to November 1015 and read the story from the beginning, or you can just read a couple of episodes to get the idea of what is going on.  Every episode or chapter is posted in a single week on Mon., Tues., Wed., and Thursday.  Please read the entire episode before you tell me about not following it… thank you.

Emily, a freshman at New Jersey State University in Trenton and Detective Lisa at two elect still looking for the lab that has sent out dead people like frankenstein monsters to terrorize the university.  They started in a contest to build super soldiers, and though that contest appears bust, the lab is still out there.  The zombies are not yet out of business.

Enjoy the story.  Events are about to turn (whatever that means),,, and Happy Reading.

a a hr calvin 1

The Elect 13, part 4 of 4: Rogue

It was early Saturday morning.  Ms Libby was coming over for lunch, but Darren assured Latasha that they would be home long before lunch.  He kept saying he wanted to make a clean start and kept playing on her being family until Latasha relented and agreed to go along.  She did not feel right about it, but who was she to deny her own brother a fresh, clean beginning.  He assured her that simply by her being there, the others would behave themselves.  He said if she was there, no one would have to get hurt.  And she believed him, even if she did not feel comfortable with the whole idea.ac lat darren 2

They walked.  He was to meet a man named Carlos in a parking garage.  He said he would pay Carlos what he owed and that would be that.

“But why not meet somewhere around lots of people?”  Latasha asked.

“No reason,” Darren shrugged.  “Carlos said he had to go out of town and needed the money for the trip.  I guess the garage is where his car is parked, that’s all.”

Latasha frowned, but said no more.

“One quick stop first,” Darren said as they stepped up to a local mart.

“What do you need here?”

Darren did not answer at first.  He paused outside the door and looked at his sister with embarrassed eyes.  “Stay here, will you?  I need a box of condoms for later.  I’m seeing someone.”

“I can go in.”

“No, really.  It’s embarrassing.”

“I can go in.”

“Latasha, please.  Just wait here.  I’ll be right out, I promise.”

ac latasha 6Latasha kicked at the hole in the parking lot.  “Go quick,” she said, and she set herself to wait by the door.  It was quick.  Not three minutes later, Darren raced out of the door followed by a big white man with a baseball bat.  Latasha tripped the man, yanked the baseball bat out of the man’s hand and kicked him once, but not too hard.  She bloodied the man’s nose, but did not break it.  She tossed the bat and ran to catch up with her brother.

“What the hell did you do?”  She yelled.

Darren said nothing until they ran off the sidewalk and into an alley.  Even there he kept his eyes on the street in case they were being followed.  “I screwed his daughter,” he said quickly.  “It was about two months ago and I think she might be pregnant.”

Latasha hit him in the shoulder.

“Ouch.  Hey, I’m trying to do the right thing now.”  He pulled a single condom out of his jacket pocket to show her.  “I didn’t know he was going to be there.  Really, I’m sorry, but he did not exactly give me time to explain.”

Latasha was steamed.  She might have hurt the man.  “Let’s just get this over with,” she said, and Darren took her by the back ways to the entrance of the parking garage.  They scooted past the gate and walked to the basement level.  Normally, no one parked in the basement level unless all the upper levels were full.  All of the local drug dealers knew this.  Of course, Latasha did not.

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ac carlos 1Three men came down the exit way to the parking garage lower level.  The one out front was not a big man, but his two companions were bigger than most.  There was an old white haired man walking up the ramp, and the small man wore a happy smile as he growled at the old man and raised his arms, like he was going to charge.  The old man cowered, while the two big men imitated their leader.  The old man put his free hand up to protect his head, expecting to be hit, but the three just laughed and continued on past.

“Probably wet himself,” the small man said just before he heard his name.

“Carlos!”  It was Darren

Darren and Latasha walked up when Carlos stopped.  His two big companions hovered over his shoulder.

“Hey, dipshit.  You got my money?”  Carlos was all business.

Darren pulled a wad of mixed bills out of his pocket.  “Yeah, I got your money.  But I was thinking maybe instead you would give me your money.”  The three men laughed as Darren took two giant steps back and Latasha’s jaw dropped.

“Hey, man.  Why did you bring your skinny bitch with you?  I think this is going to get ugly,” Carlos said.

“My sister.”  Darren smiled.  Latasha felt like killing her own brother, but she did not have time.ac carlos 7  The thought crossed her mind that she could say, “I’m not part of this,” and walk away, but it all happened so fast.

Carlos said, “Hurt him,” and the two big men moved to the front.  One reached inside his jacket and Latasha did not have to guess what he was reaching for.  She jumped and caught the hand with the gun not yet fully exposed.  The gun clattered to the concrete floor and she punched the man square on the jaw.  She did not pull that punch and the man went down.

The other man reached for her, but her long leg caught him in the belly. Then she remembered and kicked again.  She caught the man in the knees and he went to his knees.  That put his head at her head height.  She made her little fists, but it was a third strike with her foot in the man’s face than sent him also to the floor.

Latasha turned on Carlos and saw a gun in his hand.  Anyone else might have hesitated, but Latasha’s fury was up.  She was much faster than Carlos could believe, and caught Carlos’ hand and turned the gun away before he could fire.  The bullet ricocheted across the concrete.  She had to break Carlo’s hand to make him drop the gun, and then she ducked as he swung at her and punched him in return right in the solar plexus.  Carlos fell to his knees coughing and hacking for his breath.

ac latasha 3The first man was up by then, scrambling for his gun.  Latasha kicked it away and made those little fists.  The man clearly thought about it, but in the end decided to up and run back the way they had come.  His nose was broken and that was enough.

“You ass!  You set me up!”  Latasha turned on her brother, but he was already heading forward to take whatever these men had in their pockets.  Latasha stopped him with a slap to his chest.  Darren flew back five feet and landed hard of the concrete.

“But we’re family,” Darren groaned.

Latasha had some choice words to say but froze stiff at the sound of her name.

“Latasha!”  It was Heinrich, the old man with the cane, and he was dragging the runaway thug by the hair.  When he got close, he dropped the man’s hair, grabbed the big man by the arm and with one hand tossed him so he knocked Carlos flat and landed on top of the other thug who was holding his knees and struggling to get up.

Latasha saw him and went to tears.  She did wrong and she knew it.  Everything became clear.  Darren knocked off that gas-mart and she helped him do it.  The man with the baseball bat was probably the storeowner trying to get his money back.  And then Carlos.  She was set-up, but she ac heinrich 5was willing to be set-up.  She wanted to believe her brother so badly, she did not look closely at any of it.  Her insides said it was wrong, but she did it anyway.  She expected Heinrich to hurt her.  She deserved to be hurt.

Heinrich slipped his arm gently around the girl and she wailed as the tears poured out of her.  There was a corresponding wailing sound at the parking garage entrance as two police cars came in, sirens blasting.  The police stopped Darren who was struggling toward escape.  He got handcuffs, as did the men on the ground.

Lisa’s car roared into the garage a moment later and she screeched to a halt, not thinking twice about her tires.  She jumped out, but Libby was faster.  That old woman went straight for Latasha and thought nothing of pushing Heinrich out of the way so she could comfort the girl.  Lisa stopped still and stared at the man.  He returned her stare.

“Why are you here?”  She asked.

“Rogue elect,” he answered.  He did not have to point at Latasha.  Lisa stiffened, but the man was not finished speaking.  “Given her age, I am willing to accept that she was duped and behaved stupidly.  But she better wise up quickly.  If she turns criminal, I may have to kill her.”

“You—“

ac lisa a3“You and I have no quarrel.  But you better think fast if you hope to keep her out of jail and especially if you hope to send her to the police academy.”  Heinrich turned and walked off at a brisk pace and Lisa remained stiff, where she was until he was out of sight.  Then she said only one thing.

“Damn!”  He was right, and she knew it.

The Elect 13, Close Encounters: part 1 of 4

The perpetrator recognized the car as a police car and took off running down the alley.  Lisa leapt out to chase him while Ashish turned on his lights and siren to follow around to the street at the other end.  By the time the perpetrator got to the far end of the alley, Lisa had gotten close.  He turned up the street and saw four rough looking young men sitting on a front stoop.

“Help me,” he said, and the young men stood to see what he was running from.  One, about ab man runtwenty-something, saw who it was and put his arms out to hold the others back.

“Can’t help you,” he responded, but one who was younger stepped on to the sidewalk to block Lisa’s way.  He bent down a little to completely block the sidewalk, and he pretended to look for something on the ground.

Lisa never paused.  She jumped, put one foot on the young man’s back which forced him to use his hands to keep his face from being shoved into the concrete.  She came down the other side without breaking her stride.  The perpetrator, who paused to watch the police lady get bruised by four on one, turned to run again, but it was too late.  Lisa had the young man turned and cuffed in a split second.  She put a hand on the young man’s shoulder, squeezed and spoke.

“We need to talk.”

ac lisa a4“Ouch, ouch, ouch,” was all the perpetrator could say as Ashish drove up.  Lisa stuffed the perpetrator in the back seat while she told him his rights.  She waved to the four on the steps and walked around to the passenger seat.

“Feel better?” Ashish asked as she got in.

“Regular, old police work,” Lisa said with a smile.  “I feel great.”

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The Elect, chapter thirteen, like all chapters in this serialized novel, will post over 4 days: M, T, W and Th.  Help yourself, and if you want to take a look at all the events in Emily’s first semester at New Jersey State University in Trenton, You are welcome to click on the blog archives and select November, 2015, which is when this all started.  No single post is very long, so it should not take too long to catch up.  Then again, this has been designed so if you read a whole chapter (4 posts) it should not be hard to get up to speed with what is happening.  Help yourself to some free reading.

Right now, Emily is starting into the second semester of her freshman year.  In the madness of first semester, the biology department got into a contest to create super soldiers, which included Frankenstein-type zombies built out of dead people.  Emily thinks all that is behind her now.  Ha,ha,ha,ha,…

Happy reading

a a happy reading 5

The Elect 10, part 4 of 4: To the Roof

Emily found herself tossed by six women and flew straight up.  She reached the roof, but dropped her knife to grab on to the ledge and haul herself up with her left hand.  How she held on to her sword, she could not say.

When she got to her feet, she found there were lights up there, but away from the edge so as not ac swenson 2to be obvious from below.  There was also a woman.

“Professor Swenson.”

Emily recognized the woman.  The woman leaned over a console and simply raised one hand to wave without breaking her concentration.  “There,” the woman said at last and turned to face Emily.  “And what are you going to do, kill me with your big sword?  It is too late, you know.  I am not in this alone.”

“You and Hilde were in a competition?”

Professor Swenson laughed lightly.  “It was not really much of a competition.  His ideas were too ac emily 5unstable as he found out in his own person.  Now, I have discovered how to bring the dead back to life.  Sort of god-like, don’t you think?”

Emily stepped forward, and for all her bravado, the professor stepped back.  When Emily raised her sword, the professor spoke again.

“I tell you it is pointless to kill me.  You will stop nothing.”

Emily grabbed her sword with both hands, turned and brought her sword down on the console.  She all but split it in two.  It fried itself, and the power also surged up the sword, but Emily’s handle was well insulated.  She was not hurt.

“No!”  Professor Swenson screamed at her.  It took Emily a second to yank her sword free of the electronic trash, but then she turned and found Professor Swenson charging, her hands up, ac swensonfingers spread like claws, her face growling.  The woman was prepared to fight in the good old-fashioned girly way.  Emily simply went to the ground and the woman could not stop.  She tripped over Emily, stumbled to the edge and never did get her balance.  She fell three stories to the ground below where she made a horrific crash and broke her neck.  Ironic, but just, Emily thought, as she considered the poor student dude among the library stacks.

Down below, the elect all finally arrived.  The ROTC troops began to back off as the zombies closed on them.  Two dozen more police showed up from wherever they had run under Lisa’s instructions.  They carried wicked looking knives of their own.  Both sides were ready to meet when Emily smashed the control console.  The zombies went spastic.  They were still just as dangerous, in a way, but they did not know what to do without clear, steady directions.  They began to try to kill whatever they could touch.  As often as not, that was another zombie.  Necks began to snap everywhere, and as the women waded in, followed by the police and most of the ROTC, they had a much easier time of it than they expected, if they were careful.

ab trenton police 9###

Friday morning Emily’s freshman English final was interesting, to say the least.  Somehow, Emily managed to finish the exam before she was mobbed with questions.  Emily took Jessica by ROTC, but Captain Driver was nowhere to be found.  After that, Jessica and Emily started toward the police station and Maria and Amina caught up with them outside the student center as planned.  They were quiet most of the way except for Maria’s comment.

“If I am ever tempted to name a child Abby, please shoot me.”

At the station, things looked just like a normal day apart from the three wreaths hanging behind the front desk.  There were pictures of the slain officers attached to the wreaths, and the atmosphere was somber.

“Morning,” Mitzy spoke up from the desk, but she was not her usual happy self.

“I lost two sophomores,” Emily said.

“Worse.  Miss Farmer died in the library,” Jessica countered.ac jessica 7

“Who is Miss Farmer?”

“Was.  Art History.”

Emily looked at Maria.  “There goes that idea.”

Lisa was in a mood, and not a good one.  Most of the elect had already returned to their homes.  There were a few hanging around.  One said she did not have to go home until Sunday and thought she might cross the river and see the Liberty Bell.  Two agreed to go with her.

Miriam was there, with Anna from New York, and Ellen Martin from Toronto.  Latasha and Libby Carter were also present and Libby said more than once that she was surprised she survived this one.

ac ashish 3“What?”  Emily looked at Lisa and did not have to spell it out.  Lisa waved at Ashish and paced.

“Colonel Pickard has already been bailed out.  The police spent all that time and nearly missed the battle searching out line of sight to the library.  They found Pickard with a whole camera crew on top of your science building where they were filming over the tops of the trees.  He only said, “This isn’t over.  There is another,” but he refused to answer any questions and we were forced to release him early this morning.”

“At least we destroyed the film,” Lisa interrupted before she started to pace again.

“Tough luck,” Maria tried to sound sympathetic, thinking this would certainly upset her, but Emily interrupted.

“That is not the problem that has them concerned,” Emily told Maria.  She turned and stared at Ashish.  “So what is the real problem?”ac ashish 4

“Yes, I was getting to that,” Ashish told Emily and glanced at Lisa who simply smiled ever so briefly.  “We figure the other one is probably Swenson’s partner, likely the electronic genius who created the brain implants.  Also, her lab is still out there somewhere.  If they have her formula, they can probably make more of the life elixir.  Then with the implants, they might try again.”

“I don’t know,” Amina said softly.  Lisa stopped pacing and hushed the others.  “I’m sorry.”  Amina looked up.  “I don’t know where they are.  Something is darkening my eyes.”

“That’s okay,” Lisa reassured her.  She had been told, but was not convinced about this Sybil business.

Emily sat, so the others sat except Lisa.  Emily spoke.  “You know, all I really want to do is pass biology.  Instead, I have been fighting biology all semester.”

“Yes, please.  Just help me pass my finals,” Jessica agreed.

ac lisa 7Lisa came over at last.  “You need a good Christmas break.  Don’t worry.  We will not be able to search very much before you get back.  You won’t miss anything.”

“To be honest, I would not mind if I did miss something.”

Everyone chuckled, but only a little.

“So, what do you want for Christmas?”  Anna asked.  Emily thought of Pierce.

Latasha still had the ax she carried like a baby.  She held it up.  “I already got my Christmas present.”

Emily looked at her hip where she felt slightly naked without her sword.  Santa-Heinrich already gave her a Christmas present, too.  She imagined she might always see the man as a bit of a Santa—the way he first appeared to her, but she said nothing.ac emily 8

When her last class was over on the following Wednesday, Emily said good-bye to Amina, Maria and Jessica.  They all left early Wednesday when she just began to pack.  She was not leaving until the following afternoon.  She told her parents she had a paper to finish, but that was not strictly true.  She had gotten it finished on time after all only she never mentioned it.

The campus was eerily empty Wednesday evening.  There were a couple of exams scheduled for Thursday morning and the dining hall would be open for breakfast, but with most of the students already gone, it was quiet and relaxing.  Emily felt as if she had not relaxed all semester.

I knew first semester, freshman year could be hard, but nothing like this, she said to herself.  Then she felt good because she was getting a B in biology and had aced the final.  In fact, she was getting all Bs and one A in ROTC.  That was not bad at all, considering.  And then there was Pierce.

ac pierce 6Pierce met her at the student center.  She did not know if he had anything special in mind, but she did not care.  She took his hand and said very little as they walked.  He was quiet as well, seemingly content to let her lead him along.  She took him straight to her empty room and they stayed there together all night.

Emily woke up alone.  She did not mind.  She was very happy.  She grabbed a shower and hurried to finish packing.  She found the rose and note.  It was Shakespeare.  “A Rose by any other name…”  No one ever wrote Shakespeare for her before.  She could only smile.

Detective Lisa drove her to the airport.  They hugged good-bye and Emily boarded only to wait on the runway for a half hour.  She spent her time wondering.  If that was first semester, what could second semester possibly be like?

ab red rose

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Next week, Emily finally gets her Christmas/winter vacation, but it appears the undead follow her…Well, you have to see for yourself on Monday.

Happy reading everyone.

The Elect 8, part 3 of 4: Strangers

Emily was called to come to the police station only a few days later. She wondered if they had discovered Swenson’s secret lab location but was told, “No,” and then she was told to bring her friends. While Emily and Maria waited outside the dorm for Jessica and Amina, Maria got to introduce her new roommate who was already moving things in. Apparently, Melissa’s Lisa trashed their old room and left early.

“Melissa got special permission to move in before the semester’s end,” Maria said.ac melissa 1

“Tough luck,” Emily responded, but she smiled and said welcome when Melissa arrived. Melissa had her arms full of flowers, incense burners and such things. “What is with all this stuff?” Emily did not mean to be rude, but she was curious. They were not supposed to burn anything in their rooms.

“It is for my Abby,” Melissa said with a happy little face.

“Your Abby?” Emily felt confused. Was this some new college fad she missed out on?

“Her first roommate,” Maria explained.

“The one that threw her—that threw you out after only a week?”

Maria nodded. “I think she is building a shrine.”

Melissa dropped her little smile. “Abby did not throw me out. She wanted a single room and I volunteered to leave.”

“Didn’t get along?” Emily wondered.

ac Melissa 2“No. She is magnificent and perfect. Abby is a holy goddess. No one expects her to have to live with a plain mortal like me.” Melissa’s facial expression implied that Emily was just being stupid.

“The one that threw you out?” Emily felt really confused.

“Oh!” Melissa shook her head and turned to walk off. “You will learn. Abby is holy and perfect in every way. All praise to magnificent Abby.”

“That was weird.” Emily turned back to Maria as Jessica walked up. Maria simply shrugged and straightened her glasses.

“It seems I have a talent for picking weird roommates.”

“Are we ready?” Jessica asked when she came up with Amina following.

They walked, and neither Amina, Maria nor Emily spoke, but that was fine since Jessica was perfectly willing to do all the talking.

When they arrived, Amina, Jessica and Maria were hustled off to a room where there were several ab phone bankphones being manned by the police. Latasha and two friends Latasha introduced as Keisha and Janet were in there also talking over the phone. They had been given scripts. Ashish grabbed Emily and pulled her aside.

“It is probably coming down soon,” he said. “We got word that bodies have not been getting into the graves, of late. One of the local funeral directors brought in a medical donation form that looked suspicious. The man who delivered it stressed that the director was to instruct his staff to be sure they did not mention the donation of the body at the burial service. They were to go ahead and bury the empty casket as if it was the person, but he would actually be taking the donated body to Philadelphia. Not mentioning it was to avoid friction with some of the relatives who would not be pleased.”

“So they are calling around to see if the same thing is happening elsewhere?”

Ashish nodded. “We are getting confirmations from as far as Philadelphia and Camden both, and in between, and all in the last week.” Ashish opened the door. Lisa was on the phone.

“Well, I’m sorry you can’t make it…I understand…see you another time, goodbye.” She hung up and asked Ashish to bring Latasha in. He did, and then Lisa started to tell them what to expect.

ac heinrich 9At the same time, a man walked into the police station and up to the front desk. He had cut his hair and trimmed his beard to an acceptable level, and he dressed in a suit. No one would know him for the wild haired old geezer that ran the knife and T-shirt kiosk at the mall, though he was still old, and he carried a cane besides.

“Can I help you?” The officer at the desk was polite.

“Yes, Mitzy.” The man read the police officer’s nametag. “I am here to see Detective Lisa Schromer.”

“Let me see.” Mitzy picked up the phone. “Do you have an appointment?”

“No, that’s alright. Just tell her Henry Schultz is here to see her,” the man paused and scratched his beard before his face lit up. “Never mind. I know where she is.” He started to walk into the back room. Mitzy jumped in front of him to block his way but Henry spoke again, softly.

“I am an old man with a cane. What can I do? Please, dear Mitzy. Just tell her I am here and on my way back. Hmm?”

Mitzy looked into the man’s eyes and let him through. She got Detective Schromer on the phone, told her, and then paused to scold herself. Why did she let that man back there? That went against all police protocol.

“Am I interrupting?” Henry stuck his head in the door even as Lisa hung up her phone. She stood and stepped back with enough force to knock over her chair. Latasha felt the sudden urge to fight or run away, and since she did not know which was best, she just froze where she was. Emily took a second to recognize the man, but when she did, she felt more like reacting the way Lisa reacted. She stayed where she was, but became very wary.ab interview room 2

“What is a member of the council doing here?” Lisa asked.

“Ah, good. So that much is taken care of.” The man entered the room and set his cane by the door.

“What’s a council?” Latasha asked through gritted teeth.

“Who are you?” Emily asked over top.

“Heinrich Schultz, born in the year of our Lord, 1640 in the midst of a war. Mind if I sit down?” There were four chairs in the room. Detective Lisa pointed to the empty chair, picked up her own and let Latasha and Emily scoot around a bit so they could all face the man.

A police officer stuck his head in. Lisa yelled, “Get out,” and the head vanished.

“The council is a very small collection of men that meet once every fifty years, gathering from all over the world. On average, we live to be about five hundred if we are not killed. Mostly we are killed. I was almost killed a dozen times or more before the Hundred Years War was over. You see, unlike the elect, we are strictly mortal and human without any extraordinary power unless we are activated.”

ac heinrich a5“You have been activated.” Emily said, but it was a question.

The man nodded. “Often it is because one of the elect has gone rogue. You see, when the goddesses made you lot, the gods thought that was a good thing, but they wanted to be sure there was a safety valve, just in case. Then a few other things were added to our charge that the goddesses did not think of.”

“Man, you are old,” Latasha finally unclenched her teeth.

“Yes, and not saddled with a wife and children. None of us are. We need to remain free agents just in case. I have lived my whole life just in case.”

“But why are you here?” Lisa did not let go of her original question, but again Emily spoke over top.

“Rogue elect?”

Heinrich shrugged. “It happens. The temptations in this world are beyond counting, Father Martin used to say. Only one was born pure and managed an entire lifetime without sin. Of course, it might also be because of a witch or some such thing and not one of you elect at all.”

“What?” Emily and Latasha both asked.

Again, Heinrich nodded. “That was one of the things your ladies forgot. When active, we are far more resistant to all forms of magic than you lot.”ac lisa 1

“But why are you here?” Lisa asked a third time.

Heinrich ran his fingers across the table before he spoke. “The truth is, we are not omniscient. All I can say is no member of the council has ever been activated without good cause. That reason will present itself in due time. Meanwhile, I have caught wind of what you are planning. That alone may be the reason. It has never been done before on the scale you are contemplating, not in the history of the world.” He sighed and looked around the room. “It is this age. Everything has to move. Nothing stands still anymore.”

“What are you talking about?” Latasha was curious now.

Lisa was going to answer, but Heinrich held up his hand and spoke to reassure Lisa that he indeed knew what she had planned. “There are three of you in this one small city, the odds of which are beyond calculating. There were three in London at the height of the British Empire, you know, Queen Victoria, Jack the Ripper and all that. Three was rare, but at the time, London was one of the biggest cities in the world and while they knew each other, they lived so far apart and traveled in such different circles they rarely interacted. The three of you here in this small and rather insignificant city defies reason.”

“I’m not native to Trenton,” Emily said.

“None of us are. Hush,” Lisa quieted her to listen.

ac heinrich 7Heinrich continued. “There were three elect who met in Saint Louis in 1890. There were three who met in Boston at the end of the first World War. There were four who met in Baltimore just before Pearl Harbor. But here you have invited how many?”

“Twenty confirmed,” Lisa said.

The man stood suddenly, but his demeanor remained calm and kindly. “That makes twenty three at a minimum. Such has never happened in all of history. It may be that I am simply a precaution.” He shrugged and turned to leave.

“Thank you for the sword,” Emily said, not wanting to appear ungrateful for such a fine weapon.

“I made it myself by hand as all of the best swords are made. May it give you good service.” The man smiled for her.

“Could you teach me how to use it?”

The man paused before he smiled again. “It would be my pleasure.” He picked up his cane and said one last thing to the three. “See you around.” When he stepped out there were two officers there to escort him all the way out. “Thank you for your kindness to this old man,” they heard him say.

“Teach you the sword?” Latasha spoke almost before it was safe. “I mean he seems nice, but kind of creepy. Didn’t you feel that way?”

Emily explained. “He is going to be watching us. We might as well keep him in a place where we can also watch him.”ac lisa 2

“No, I got that part,” Lisa said. “Good thinking. But whenever a member of the council shows up, most of the time it means something bad for us or one of us. All I can say is I guess the three of us passed his tests or standards or whatever. Otherwise I don’t think he would have been so up front and honest with us.”

“So, twenty three?” Emily was already on a different subject.

“Tomorrow night. Bring your handmade sword.”

The Elect 6, part 4 of 4: Shopping for Answers

“Detective Lisa thinks it was another test,” Emily explained over dinner.

“Detective Lisa?” Pierce asked.

“Maria’s term. There is a Melissa Morrison being assigned to her room for next semester. Melissa is currently rooming with a Lisa who is dropping out of school. Apparently, Melissa’s first roommate was an Abby, but Abby threw her out after a week. Curious that Abby is the one Melissa talks about all the time. Anyway, Maria started saying Detective Lisa just to distinguish her from Melissa’s current roommate. Of course, Maria was hoping for a single, but she says now that Owen is gone it hardly matters.” Emily quieted. She imagined she was babbling.ab hive 4

Pierce understood. “You know, I don’t think Owen went along with Professor Hilde’s use of his work, especially after the murders started.”

“The suck face murders,” Emily said and added, “Jessica’s term.”

“I think Owen did not know how to stop it without being implicated and getting blamed with the rest,” Pierce finished.

Emily nodded. “That is what we all think and Maria has found some comfort in that.”

“I’m glad,” Pierce said and then he paused as if being glad was something special that he needed to think about. Emily waited and nibbled, but in the end, Pierce just brought them back to topic.

“So it was a test. What kind of test?”

Emily swallowed. “They were sent in to navigate a crowded place. They were probably instructed to kill someone, or at least to defend themselves and let nothing get in their way. And they were instructed to fetch something. Jessica pointed out that it had to be something easily broken to see if they could fetch it without breaking it.”

ab hive 7“But you happened to be there.”

“Purely by chance. They would have had no problem otherwise. It was a well planned operation.”

“I’m not so sure it was by chance,” Pierce mused. “They may have waited to go when they knew you were at the mall. That may have been part of the test.”

Emily paused with her fork halfway to her mouth. She looked all around the room. “You mean like I am being watched?” she whispered.

“That seems possible,” Pierce said. Emily thought, great! by which she meant terrible. Now she was going to be paranoid for sure.

Pierce got her attention. “I want to show you something.” He looked around to see if it was safe before he pulled out a long, sharp knife. “I’ve been practicing with it. Zombies, you know.”

“Pierce.” Emily thought it sweet, but she would hate to see him get hurt.ab pierce knife

“I figure if I am going to be with you, I need to learn to defend myself.”

“But Pierce—”

“Not that I could hope to defend you, but I consider Karyn my inspiration. She did not hold back at the firing range or the frat house, or at the end, I believe. I ought to be able to do no less.” He put the knife back in the inner pocket of his jacket.

What could Emily say? The Undead started their set and it was too loud to speak in any case.

They finished dinner at the Hive but before they left the restaurant, Pierce’s phone rang. He did not say much other than “Hello. Yes,” and, “I’ll be right over.”

When they got to the entranceway where they could talk, Emily spoke first. “Not another emergency.” She frowned and folded her arms as Pierce tried to hug her.

Pierce pulled back to study the situation. “Important, but not an emergency,” he said. “Why did you say it like that?”

“Sneaking off again to meet Zimmer and get another box loaded in the trunk in an alley behind some old warehouse?” Pierce put it together in his mind. “I went for a walk after you left. I saw you,” Emily admitted.

ab hive entrance 2“Why didn’t you come up and say something?”

“Men with guns?”

“Oh, right. Regular army.”

Emily threw her hands down to plead with him. “What were you doing there?”

Pierce thought before he spoke. “I’m not supposed to talk about it, but since you saw, I will tell you. You have to promise not to say anything to anyone.”

Emily folded her arms again and nodded slightly, but did not actually promise in case she had to say something.

Pierce accepted that. “Genetically altered grain that will grow in marginal, even arid conditions to be tested. Imagine huge sections of the Sahara growing wheat. Doctor Zimmer is testing the genetic stability. Others, in other labs, are testing the nutrition and fiber content and whether or not it may go wild and predatory. The government wants to be sure it is stable and safe.”

“But the men with guns?”ab hive entrance 1

“Oh, they don’t want the Chinese or anyone else to get their hands on it. The army was asked to escort the various samples around the country and you know army overkill. I can’t imagine Chinese spies in the back streets of Trenton, New Jersey, but you never know.”

This time Emily thought about it. She decided. “Okay.” She threw her hands around Pierce because she wanted some kisses. After all, he said important, but not an emergency.

###

Just before Thanksgiving, Henry Schultz walked into the gas-mart by the university campus to buy some 9 X 12 manila envelopes. He foolishly tried to strike up a friendly conversation with the clerk. “I need to send reports and the safest way is still the old fashioned way. Handwritten letters cannot be hacked, or even read when they are written in linear A.”

The clerk just stared dumbly and said, “Five-nineteen.”

ab robberyWhile Henry reached for his money, a young punk came in with a gun. He pointed it at the clerk and demanded the cash from the register. He shrieked the words nervously, and Henry knew the young man was on crack or something. Henry did nothing until the punk turned the gun on him. “You, too. Give me your money.” Henry felt more than willing to do that.

A knife spun out from the aisle and sank deep into the crack-head’s upper arm. He howled as Emily came running to the front. Henry moved fast, like a blur of motion. He knocked down the man’s hand which sent the gun to the floor. He punched and the man went sprawling back into a coke display. Then he swung as Emily arrived. She could not avoid the punch. He hit her right in the jaw. She flew back ten feet into an end cap, buckled the shelves, knocked three shelves completely off the rack and knocked everything off the shelves to scatter across the floor. Emily went out cold, and did not wake up until officer Rob Parker arrived to help her up.

Emily found a manila envelope in her lap when she woke. Her knife had been put inside and a note appeared scribbled on the outside in a kind-of gothic script. It said, “Emily, you dropped this toy and always clean your weapons.” A symbol of some sort had been drawn beside the writing, a simple cross with an asterisk above it.

“Can you take me to the police station? I need to see Lisa.”a trenton police a1

“Dick?” Rob looked up at his partner. Dick nodded.

“I’ll be here a while. The ambulance will be along, shortly and this guy isn’t going anywhere.”

“This has to be quick,” Rob told her. He wanted to run the lights and weave through traffic.

When they got in the car, Emily turned to the policeman. “Robert, isn’t it?”

The man nodded but said nothing as he took off, grinning.

Lisa took one look at the note and turned pale. Emily, Ashish and Latasha who was visiting all saw something in the woman’s face they had never seen before. If it was not fear, it was a close cousin. Lisa turned to look at Emily.

“Your sword dealer?”

“Henry Schultz,” Emily nodded.

ac lisa a2Lisa stood and signaled for everyone to be quiet. Latasha could not hold her tongue, but she was kind enough to whisper. “He knocked you out with one punch?” Emily could only nod.

“Edna told me about a Heinrich Schultz, but she met him way back in the First World War.” Lisa thought aloud. “You said he was old?”

“He couldn’t be that old,” Emily said. “That would make him over a hundred, even if he was just a baby back then.”

Lisa said nothing for the moment. She turned on Emily and her face and words were very stern. “What were you thinking?” Another scolding. Emily got a lot of that lately. “I half-expected Latasha might try to take out some drug dealer in her neighborhood. I didn’t expect this from you.”

“He was being robbed,” Emily meekly defended herself. “I was in a position to help. Can’t I do that?”

“No.” Lisa surprised her. “To begin with, and I know this will sound strange considering the impact ac lisa 2you have had on campus, but who and what you are is best kept secret if at all possible. My own husband does not know exactly who and what I am, at least not all the details. The only reason I told Ashish some details is because it comes up so often in our work. Otherwise, warrior women have gone down in history as remarkable individuals, unsung heroes or not even noticed at all. The world does not need to know there are a bunch of us at any given time, even if it is a very small bunch. The rule is, without provocation, we do not interfere with the normal course of human events. Our place is more like disaster prevention and that is all. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Emily said and Latasha echoed the words.

“And more important, your place is not to take the law into your own hands. You were not elected to be a vigilante. That can get you into big trouble.” Lisa glanced at the manila envelope.

“But what if the thief shot that nice old man?”

“I’ll get you a pair of handcuffs!” Lisa put her hands on the table and leaned over to stare hard at Emily. “I have had to call in favors and apply a lot of pressure to the thief’s lawyer to keep you from being sued.” Lisa put her hand to her head. “That’s it. I have a headache.” Lisa told them to get out, and without another word about the old man, the envelope or the symbol on the back. Emily took Latasha out with her having judged it to be the only safe thing to do. They would ask questions later.

ac lisa a3As soon as they were out of the door, Lisa turned to Ashish. “We have to go talk to a sword seller.”

“I bet he is already gone,” Ashish said.

“No bet. You are probably right.”

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The Elect 6, Vigilante: part 1 of 4

Ashish turned the car off and Lisa got out slowly, still speaking. “I’m concerned about Latasha. She is not in the best environment. I’m afraid when she gets older and comes into her strength and learns what she is really capable of, she may be tempted in all the wrong directions.”

“We all are,” Ashish said, honestly enough. “But I have seen far worse environments.”

Lisa shook her head. “We need to keep her close for a while.”a trenton police 7

“I think I can understand how you feel, but I was wondering how you women did it in the old days, you know, before cell phones and cars and planes.”

“Young ones sometimes ran into older ones who could teach them. I met Edna Brownbecker when I went to Duke. I was eighteen. She was really old. Maybe the goddesses set it up that way. The stories and information got passed on from old to young, though maybe it is all apocryphal by this late date, like I keep saying. Mostly, though, I think up until the twentieth century, women had a different place in society. They did not play sports or join the army or go to college much. We couldn’t even vote. I think in history, and even today in big sections of the world, the idea of getting into things where warrior women might give themselves away, if you know what I mean, was not really an issue.”

“So are you afraid she might reveal your secret or maybe turn criminal?”

“Both.” Lisa let out her frown. “The world does not need to know about us. That much is rooted in my psyche. I did not need to be taught that. I think it comes with the package, and I think Latasha realized that when she backed out of basketball. But as for the temptations either to go criminal or go vigilante, she needs a solid foundation of family and friend to keep her pointed in the right direction.”

ac ashish 3“So, we can be her friends,” Ashish said with a genuine smile.

“What she really needs is a father figure.”

“Oh,” Ashish lost his smile. “I just remembered. I forgot to stop at the donut shop.” He scurried back to the car.

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