Authors: alexia purdy
“Nautilus?” Benton looked up to his comrade, his eyes widening with a blossoming idea.
“What’s up bud?” Nautilus stuffed a piece of steaming hot fish into his mouth without regard to the heat level. Hot food, or hot anything for that matter, didn’t bother any of them.
“We need help on this. Are there any oracles around here that could enlighten us about other humans with possible magic?”
Nautilus chewed thoughtfully, silently digesting the idea before he started nodding.
“I think so, but it’ll take some time to find her. I’ve not seen her in decades.”
Benton smiled. “Perfect. We need her help.”
Hank sat in his back yard, staring up at the stars as he contemplated everything that he’d seen and learned that day:
-He had confirmed that the stone had some sort of…magical power?
-It was apparently triggered by being in the vicinity of the ‘other’ type of humans
he had seen today did not look like a human at all…rather some sort of beast…so there were apparently more than one type of…
-The man responsible for the killings, Benton, said he was doing a service, indicating that he would be gone in a couple of weeks…
that he was working with others.
-Benton claimed that he was cleaning up a mess created by his enemies
-Benton also claimed this these enemies were also Hank’s…meaning he supposed that they were enemies of
Hank closed his eyes as a pain started throbbing in his head.
Nothing was making any sense!
This Benton fellow was killing people! He had a gang of others…
of them apparently killing people!
Even though the
they were killing appeared to not be
human, Hank had taken an oath…to protect and to serve. To enforce the rules of law that had governed any
society for hundreds of years!
At that moment he felt Luci nuzzle his hand with a soft whine. Looking down at the dog laying beside the lawn chair, he reached out and scratched behind Luci’s ear.
“You can always tell when I’m upset, can’t you girl?” he mumbled softly with a small smile.
Luci answered his question by sitting up before laying her head on his lap.
He was at least glad that his homemade contraption had worked earlier. No matter
he was facing, he felt better knowing that Luci could be there with him.
Leaning his head back and taking in the sky once again, Hank thought back to that moment when Benton had disappeared around the corner.
Where had he gone?
Hank hadn’t given it much of a thought at the time, having had to busy himself securing the crime scene and calling in a forensics team and the Medical Examiner. Once again Dr. Jacoby had shown up personally, and once again he’d shown much excitement over the possibilities of finding a new species of humans.
Hank had relayed his observations about the current pile of ash being something completely different…more of a beast. Thinking this would probably deter Dr. Jacoby’s enthusiasm.
It had only increased it instead!
“You don’t say!”
the doctor had whispered excitedly at the news, grinning broadly as he squeezed Hank’s shoulder. “Hank, I believe there may be scientific paper in our future…maybe even a book!”
Hank groaned inwardly.
“Let’s get to the bottom of these murders before we worry about that,” he had replied quietly.
“Of course, Hank, I was just saying…”
Smiling like a Cheshire cat, Dr. Jacoby then got busy on the current pile at his feet.
Watching the stars above him, Hank lamented the fact that he would have to wait until Monday to find out anything more about the victims. In fact, he was lamenting the fact that he may not be able to do
The excitement of the long day was receding now, leaving in its place an intense and enticing tiredness as his eyes slowly closed.
Hank’s eyes jerked fully open again. Looking around the quiet yard, he wasn’t sure if he had actually heard the whispered voice, or if it was just something in his head. Finally settling back into the chair, he glanced down at Luci, who was now looking at him questioningly.
Rubbing her head, he quickly settled back into the lawn chair as sleep once again started overtaking him.
The stars quickly melted away as his mind took over the duties of his visual experiences. Soon he was entering a beautiful forest, the cool and slightly damp air feeling pleasant on his face as he took in the massive trees surrounding him. Following a well-worn path that wound its way through the trees, Hank enjoyed the quietness that enveloped him as he walked.
As the path passed between a set of giant twin trees, he suddenly felt something behind him. Turning quickly, he glanced back and forth between the trunks of both of the towering trees. Feeling foolish when he found nothing, he promptly turned to resume his walk only to gasp at the sight before him.
A beautiful woman stood glowing in his path, her large blue eyes smiling at him. Long and flowing blonde hair framed her face, and her perky lips seemed to glow in the dim light of the forest. He couldn’t move as he stared at the beautiful apparition before him, mesmerized by her sudden appearance and her splendor.
he heard the lyrical voice once again in his mind,
Talk to him.
Jerking to his feet, Hank was instantly alert as he scanned the perimeter of his small yard. He was surprised to find that the sky was lightening in the east; he’d spent the whole night in the yard. Spotting Lucifer sleeping quietly ten feet from his chair, he scanned the yard one more time before allowing himself to relax.
What the hell?
He mumbled quietly to himself before once again relaxing into his chair.
It had seemed like only a minute, and yet the whole night had passed!
Remembering the beautiful woman, he closed his eyes again as he tried to reclaim the vision in the dream. His heart skipped a beat when he was able to reconstruct the image, as he once again took in her beauty. His reverie was quickly interrupted however when her words were repeated in his head.
Find him…Talk to him.
“Find who?” Hank mumbled to himself as his eyes once again popped open. He noticed that Luci was now sitting beside him, her intelligent eyes looking back at him quizzically.
Reaching out his hand, he stroked the dog’s back.
“You must think I’m acting a little crazy, don’t you girl?” he grinned sheepishly.
Leaning once more into his lawn chair, Hank let out a defeated breath. “I think you may be right.”
An hour later, Hank and Luci entered the house after an early morning run. He’d been especially quiet during the run, mulling over the dream and its possible implications dozens of times.
By the time he returned to the house, he knew what he had to do.
At least he thought he did!
Pulling a backpack out of the closet, he then headed toward the kitchen. Always having supplies available for those times when he and Luci would strike out to see some nature, He loaded up the pack with bottled water and freeze-dried fruit and energy bars. Reaching into the fridge, he pulled out a pack of hotdogs for Luci and added them to the pack.
Having thought everything over during their run, Hank had finally determined that the beautiful woman
to be talking about Benton.
Find him…talk to him…
Not sure which way to turn from there however, Hank had reasoned that if he started at the scene of yesterday’s murder he
be able to backtrack the man from there. Further speculation led him to another couple of assumptions:
-Benton was heading west when he’d left them in the circle of fire.
-Since the dream had included a forest, Hank would head toward Marquam.
Marquam Nature Park was far from what Hank would consider an old growth forest, but it was the closest thing to it in the area.
Still not sure if this was just some kind of wild goose chase, Marquam was nevertheless full of hiking trails and animal life. He and Luci ventured there several times a year anyway, so even if it didn’t pan out for finding this Benton fellow, they could at least have a nice day in the woods.
Luci had already picked up on the coming adventure, now standing beside Hand with her leash in her mouth. Hank had to smile, sometimes amazed at the dog’s perception of her surroundings.
Or maybe she too just had a beautiful woman whispering into her ear.
Hank and Luci stood quietly in the shadows of the closed storefront, watching the hooded man across the street move away from them.
Having arrived earlier to the South Side, Hank had donned the stone before heading west. Traveling slowly, they kept their eyes peeled for the mysterious Benton. Their exertions had been rewarded a half hour later when Benton had turned the corner right in front of them.
Ignoring for the time being that there was probably another pile of ash somewhere close by, Hank had moved closer to the building beside him in an effort to let Benton get a little ways ahead of them before following him.
When the man was a block away from them, Hank led Luci across the street before they set out tailing him. It had continued like that for about twenty minutes, until Benton had stopped off at a fast food restaurant. That was when they had taken cover in the storefront.
As they watched Benton leave the restaurant, Hank pulled out a length of rawhide from his pocket. Quickly fashioning a strap for the old staff, he then slung it over his shoulder, the gnarled and rounded end sticking up four inches on his left.
Wanting to be as agile as possible, he could now use his free hand quickly should the need arise. Removing the staff quickly from his shoulder if it were needed was something that he practiced extensively over the years, and he knew that he could draw on either the gun or the staff within a second should he need either of them.
“Let’s go girl,” Hank whispered before they stepped out onto the street once again. He was thankful that at least
part of his plan had seemed to pan out, although he still had no idea about what lay ahead of them.
Stopping and moving close to the building when Benton made a sudden left, Hank and Luci waited a full minute before continuing. Making a left on Market Street, they found that they would have to fall back even farther as the street gradually turned into a residential area with far less foot traffic. Keeping the man just barely in sight, Hank was at least confident that Luci would be able to pick up his trail should they lose their visual.
After they traveled only a half mile however, the road ended in front of them…and Benton was nowhere to be seen.
Kneeling beside Luci, Hank looked her in the eyes.
“Track him girl!”
Luci immediately put her nose to the ground and started dragging Hank between two buildings. Leaving the leash on so that she didn’t get too far ahead of him, he kept alert as he constantly scanned his surroundings in case Benton was lying in wait.
Before long, Luci had taken them past the buildings…and into the berm of the interstate. Hank glanced up at the roadway above him, wondering if Benton had risked crossing the busy highway before Luci drug him forward again. Within a minute they stood in front of a huge culvert that bisected the Interstate right-of-way.
“He went through there girl?” Hank asked dumbly. He knew that one of the boundaries of Marquam was just on the other side of the Interstate, although there were no entrances in that area.
Pulling out his handgun, he looked down at the red dog.
“Ok girl, lead on.”
As they exited the culvert and the brightness of the day hit them once again, they stopped to let their eyes adjust. Looking off toward the park in the distance, Hank finally spotted Benton as he easily hurdled the boundary fence to the park. Watching him intently, Hank gasped when Benton suddenly seemed to disappear, the trees around him shimmering for a second as it happened.
Hank whispered unbelievingly.
Apparently Luci had seen it too as she quietly whimpered beside him.
Reaching down to comfort her, he was at a loss. Overcoming his indecision, he whispered, “Come on,” as they started forward again.
Moving slowly as they crossed the open field, it took them a full four minutes to cover the hundred yards of open grass. Making sure that they weren’t being observed, Hank then lifted Luci off the ground and deposited her over the fence before he too climbed over behind her.
Now standing at the edge of the wooded area, he took a moment to study it.
Unfortunately…it looked like any other wooded area.
Finding a little used trail on his right, he kneeled down beside the red dog.
“Ok girl,” he whispered as he gently took her head in his hands. “This may get a little weird…You still with me?”
In answer, Luci licked Hank’s face, causing him to giggle despite himself.
“I take it that’s a yes,” he sighed as he once again stood and faced the trees. Gripping the leash tightly so that Luci shared the stone’s energy, he started slowly up the trail. After only thirty feet the trail ran between two small trees, each of about eight inches in diameter. If his calculations were right, this should be approximately where Benton had disappeared.