OK, I know, I still haven’t got November’s entry up but I did finish writing it, I promise. I just have a few more pages to type up.
Since I was running out of time for my December entry, I decided to forego trying to finish the Bluebonnet County story I planned (but don’t worry I’ll finish and post it anyway) and instead opted for a short urban fantasy story (which I’m sure you’ll agree still needs some work) but here it is:
Finding My Way
(A Vincent Thomas O’Brien story)
I was in the hardware store buying a few light bulbs to replace those that had burned out in the house (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) when my cell phone went off with the theme tune to Smallville. I use a different TV theme tune for each of my closest friends and the rest get the boring standard ring tone. This one was not exactly a close friend but she was on my speed dial and I tended to want to be saved from dealing with her, hence the theme. I paid for the light bulbs as I answered the call and was rewarded by a string of expletives that would have made a rapper pause. I waited for her to finish before I said anything but I needn’t have bothered.
‘O’Brien, get your ass to Richardson ASAP. We have work to do.’
I rarely get to speak when she has something to tell me and the only reason she tolerates my presence is the fact that she was told to work with me by her boss, the guy that sits in the Oval Office. She reports directly to him, and I do whatever she tells me to do. A tidy little arrangement that I detested, but it paid my bills and actually helped me do my job for my superiors. Sometimes it wasn’t easy though.
Richardson, Texas is not exactly a large city, but it’s not small either, and I had no idea where to find her. Thankfully, my smart phone has got a special little app that tells me exactly where she is (and no, she doesn’t know about it) so I would know where to be when she invited me to a crime scene in her usual brusque manner. I live in Arlington so I took state highways 360, 183 and 161 to Interstate 635 and then the North Central Expressway. It was usually a 45 minute journey that took me 31 minutes. That’s pretty good, right? Wrong, it was still too slow for her liking.
True to form, the first words out of her mouth were, ‘what didn’t you understand about ASAP?’
See what I mean about her charming character? ‘I got here in thirty minutes, Ryan. What have we got?’
‘That’s Special Agent Bulmer to you, Mister O’Brien,’ she shot back. ‘We have a missing girl.’
I looked at the scene before I asked why I was involved. The kitchen and dining room had been scorched in such a way that only certain sections were burned, typical Fireweaver work. I could barely sense the Transference that came with the use of Weaver abilities which meant it either happened a few days ago or not much energy was used.
‘This guy is strong,’ I told her. ‘He didn’t need to use much surrounding energy to cause the fires, but there are two distinct patterns.’
‘What makes you say that?’ she asked, eyeing me suspiciously.
I pointed out various points in the kitchen and dining room. ‘The larger scorch marks and burned areas are from balls of flame, uncontrolled. The rest are from streams of flame, highly controlled and well placed.’
‘What does that mean to me?’ she asked.
I looked around to make sure no one could hear us. ‘About four percent of the human population, around three hundred million people, can manipulate the elements of earth, fire, water and wind. They’re called Weavers. Each elemental Council maintains a record of Weavers with abilities ranging from extremely powerful to almost non-existent. The Guardians track down rogue Weavers so that the relevant council can deal with them.
‘So you’re a Guardian?’
‘What happened to your last partner?’ she asked as though I was responsible for someone’s death.
‘The last time I had a partner was three years ago. She was a fellow Guardian and she died.’
‘So am I partnered with you?’
I sighed before responding which only made her more annoyed with the situation. ‘We’ve been through this.’
‘Tell me again.’
‘The Council of Four wants Weavers and Ordinaries to co-exist peacefully. They believe that the most effective way to do that is to partner up the best cops in both camps to work together and catch rogue Weavers.’
‘Ordinaries are human beings without elemental abilities, like me?’
‘Exactly,’ I replied.
‘So why did I get partnered with you?’
‘I have the highest solve rate of any Guardian in the last hundred years,’ I replied through clenched teeth. ‘I’m told that you have the highest solve rate in Secret Service history.’
She blushed and I chalked one up to me. ‘I guess, I never thought about it.’
‘So a Fireweaver was responsible then?’ she asked as she looked at what I had pointed out.
‘Yes and no.’
She scowled again, ‘explain it to me.’
I glanced into the living room and saw that it was completely untouched by the fires that had wrecked the kitchen and dining room, and presumably the garage. The scorch marks were like a running commentary on the attack, which I explained to her. ‘The door to the garage has three holes in it. The fire burned clear through the wood, into various parts of the kitchen, like a laser beam.’
‘OK, I see that; then what?’
‘The girl had obviously been in the garage when she’d been surprised by the kidnapped. She ran into the kitchen and bolted the door, which was why he blasted through it. She then ran into the dining room, instinctively throwing back less-controlled balls of fire at her attacker, which you can see where the curtains were, the refrigerator and the laundry room.’
‘So she was doing a pretty good job of protecting herself.’
‘Not really,’ I told her. ‘All she was doing was holding him off. The kitchen was the buffer zone but he managed to overpower her somehow.’
‘How?’ she asked, bewildered.
‘Did the firemen put the fire out or was it already out when they got here?’
‘It was already out,’ Bulmer said tightly. ‘A neighbor called them but by the time they arrived it was all over. Why do you ask? Does it have anything to do with how he subdued her?’
‘There’s water on the carpet by some of the areas where the girl shot back at her kidnapper. He doused them.’
‘It’s rare for Weavers to manipulate only fire and water. Usually it’s earth and fire, or wind and water. This Weaver can manipulate at least two elements, but I’m betting three or all four, and that makes him orders of magnitude more dangerous.’
‘If he put the fires out, then he can probably manipulate water too, so he doused her, making sure that she couldn’t use her Fireweaving ability.’
‘Could you have?’
‘Yes, but it’s exceptionally difficult to do and requires a great deal of energy. It’s something she would have no idea how to do. Do you know why she was taken? Have they received a ransom demand?’
Bulmer scowled at me. ‘In answer to your questions, no, I don’t and yes. I have no idea why she was taken. Her parents aren’t rich and they’re certainly not powerful, but the ransom demand is for one million dollars in diamonds.’
‘Why would the kidnapper believe that they had that kind of money or diamonds?’
‘I don’t know,’ she admitted and I realized that her overly brusque manner today was because she was feeling helpless. She was secret service agent used to knowing who the enemies were and catching them. Weavers were generally a law unto themselves and she was only just getting involved in this situation, thanks to the Council of Four and the President.
‘Have you considered the fact that she might have been taken because she’s a Weaver?’ I asked.
‘Do they do that?’
‘Weavers commit crimes for the same reasons that the rest of humanity does,’ I answered and looked at the mother and father seated in the living room. ‘Where do they work?’
‘They both work in Little India. The mother works in a grocery store and the father works for a printer as a bookkeeper.’
‘Would his company have that kind of money?’
She shook her head emphatically, ‘no, they’re strictly small scale. Restaurant menus, flyers, stuff like that.’
The mother was distraught and crying, but the father looked like he was holding himself together. ‘Can I talk to the father?’
She narrowed her eyes at me. ‘No funny business.’
‘I just want to ask him some questions, confirm my theory.’
‘Fine, but I’ll be watching you.’
‘What’s his name?’
‘Thanks,’ I said and walked into the living room. ‘Mister Burdak, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?’
‘Who are you?’ he asked, suspicion coloring his tone.
‘I’m a special consultant to the Secret Service,’ I replied, shooting a glance back at Bulmer. ‘Can you tell me if you’ve had any unusual fires before?’
‘What kind of a question is that?’ Burdak asked though it was clear to me that he knew what I was talking about.
‘Have you? It’s important if you want us to get your daughter back.’
Bulmer was about to step in when Burdak sighed. ‘Yes, a few months ago Anita was watching the television when there was an electrical fire.’
‘Why did you think it was strange?’
‘We had the wiring throughout the house redone. It shouldn’t have happened.’
‘What was she watching?’
‘Harry Potter, I think she got scared at one point, just before it happened.’
‘Thank you, Mister Burdak, you’ve been a great help.’
‘Will it help you find Anita?’
‘Yes it will.’
Bulmer stood with her arms crossed by the kitchen doorway. ‘Well?’
‘Anita Burdak is a powerful young Fireweaver. She manifested her abilities when she got scared watching a movie.’
‘So you think she was taken because she’s a Fireweaver?’
‘Yes, but there are two questions that need to be answered first. The first is what the kidnapper wants her for, and the second is whether the ransom demand is genuine. What do we do about the ransom demand?’
‘Only that the kidnapper left a note asked for one million dollars in diamonds. He would call in six hours with an address,’ she told me. ‘What would a Weaver want with the diamonds?’
I considered the question. Our abilities don’t need a focus like magic does but we need money just like everyone else. ‘He could be working for someone else who needs the diamonds. Maybe he thinks that he can turn the diamonds into money himself. Or there’s a third option.’
‘The demand for diamonds is a decoy that will have the police chasing their tails while he makes a getaway with the girl.’
Bulmer frowned. ‘What do you think?’
‘I think it’s a decoy. He found out the girl has strong Fireweaver abilities and wants them for some reason. If we find out what that reason is, we’ll know how to catch him.’
‘OK, I’ll tell the police to treat the ransom as a hoax unless they get proof of life. If you’re wrong, the girl could die.’
‘I’m aware of that, thank you, Special Agent Bulmer.’
‘Is there any other way to find him?’ she asked.
‘Have the local police look the any unusual elemental activity.’
‘Tell them to look for minor earthquakes, arson, water leaks or unusual weather.’
‘We’ll go in, rescue the girl and stop the Weaver.’
‘That simple, is it?’
‘We’ll see,’ she said and spoke to the father again.
I busied myself looking at the scorch patterns to try and get an idea of just how powerful the young girl was and was poking around what was left of a chair and Bulmer returned with a stuffed donkey.
‘Anita’s favorite stuffed animal. She’ll know we’re there to help if we have this.’
‘Right then,’ she said and issued orders to the local cops, including watching out for unusual weather activity.’
‘Agent Bulmer!’ a Richardson Police Department officer called out. ‘One of our people just responded to a call by the railway tracks near the Canyon Creek Country Club. Thought you might be interested. At first it was believed to be smoke but it’s actually fog, coming off the creek.’
She looked at me and I nodded. ‘What’s the address?’
‘An old warehouse for the Richardson Sausage Company, Synergy Park Boulevard, you can’t miss it.’
‘Thanks,’ she replied and then headed for the car at sprint. ‘Let’s go.’
‘Do you have a plan?’ I asked her.
‘We go in, you distract the Weaver and I get the girl. If you make it out alive you can join me outside.’
I sighed, ‘Gee, thanks.’
The Richardson cop was right, we couldn’t miss it, even through the fog. The warehouse was huge, covering an entire city block, but it was all boarded up. We got out of the car and I used a little Windweaver power to blow away the fog in our path to the front door. As soon as I opened the door I sensed the Transference and pushed Bulmer to the ground as a stream of flame passed by us. She scuttled inside, pulled her gun from its holster and tried to find him.
‘Upper catwalk,’ she whispered and I looked up to see him holding the girl as a shield.
I noticed something odd and tried to focus on the girl. She was dripping wet and a constant flow of water was being funneled from the rogue Weaver onto the girl, preventing her from using her abilities. With his other hand, the Weaver was firing streams of flame at us every time we showed ourselves and he moved further along the catwalk, toward something on the other side.
Bulmer couldn’t get a shot and I knew that the girl didn’t have long. I balled up a little firepower of my own and shot it several feet ahead of him. A section of the catwalk exploded and he jumped back, then started to move the other way. As he moved, Bulmer obviously found a shot and fired, but he used some wind to send the bullet elsewhere.
I realized that I was going to have to stop him myself, so I gathered a little water in my hands from the fog floating around and then gathered more until I had a good sized ball of water, like a water balloon without the balloon. I lobbed it toward him and it was sufficiently dense that his gust of wind didn’t deflect it before it impacted him like a giant paintball. He instinctively let go of the girl and tried to grab the railing as he fell backward over it but he missed and landed in a pile of empty pallets. I rushed over to him to check and see if he was still alive, but the fall had broken his neck.
I turned around and saw that Bulmer had the girl in her arms clutching the stuffed donkey. She nodded at me and then took the girl back to her car. I stayed behind to wait for an Aetherweaver to come and clear up the mess and give him my verbal report.
The only question the Aetherweaver asked was if I knew what he planned to do with her powers. It was something I couldn’t answer.