Novelist and more.
The Trio continues their journey across the Southeast en-route to North Carolina. Even warriors need a break once in a while to recharge and learn who their targets are.
And who is telling them who their targets are.
They quizzed Robert for almost an hour on their powers and other aspects of the Unseen after returning to the road and checking their maps to find the best way to Charlotte.
Robert realized he didn’t have to empower their vision anymore since they were finally able to do it themselves. Raquel differentiated quicker what she saw than Sam but eventually using trial and error, they became equally adept.
Testing their powers, knowing no one but other Champions, not counting the unseen, could see what was happening in the car, they began training.
Raquel formed a suit of protection, usually medieval armor or modern military apparel but occasionally she went futuristic. She would create solid looking weapons to fire or attack with, from ray guns to rifles to blades, whatever her mind could conceive. She told them the training she experienced in her dream. It appeared to be a weeks’ worth of actual combat from the beings there, what worked and didn’t work, and multiple tactics. The Word even created energy creatures of the Evil variety for her to fight, showing their possible weaknesses.
Sam, on the other hand, would use his power in their rawest form.
Sam could form a bubble of spiritual protection even though he tried to change its forms but they refused to do so. Once more Robert told them it was likely due to the nature of his powers as well as his beliefs. He noticed Sam’s two guardians were more comfortable with Sam as they socialized with Raquel’s beehive. This brought up the subject of Robert’s lack of guardians. Robert explained that with the Key Signorum he rarely needed aid. He had guardians but they only appeared in the direst situation.
An exotic guardian in the form of Ganesh of the Hindu religion rode atop a car passing on their right, its ears flapping like great leaves in the wind. It turned its head looking at them nodding in acknowledgement. Raquel threw up a peace symbol, which made the guardian tilt back its head laughing in agreement throwing back its own peace sign at her.
Three black cloaked reapers flew around a car in the oncoming lanes across the median, when Sam asked Robert to explain, he shrugged, replying he had no idea. Sam guessed death was coming for them; Robert snorted explaining that the “Reaper” of death was an artistic symbol for paintings while the real figure of death, usually a higher Divine being came to take the soul to the next part of life. To Robert though, because he believed in reincarnation, it was a guide to the next life with a stopover in the great library of existence to look in the book of life before the soul’s next journey if it needed to return to corporeal form.
Raquel, fascinated with nature spirits passing by wooded parts of the interstate, saw what she thought were bad entities picking at the corpse of a raccoon because of their repulsive looks but Robert quickly explained they were actually helping change the energy of the carcass into usable energy for other creatures since the spirit of the raccoon had departed.
Several Demons wandered across the road as they drove similar to the slime-trail creature they met in the outskirts of New Orleans. Passing through Divine produced the opposite effect. Instead of feeling nauseous, they felt calm and relaxed. Raquel tried to start a game consisting of them driving through the Divine while missing the Malign to get that feeling. Robert politely declined asking her how she would like being hit by a car while she was going about her daily business. She agreed it was disrespectful then dropped the subject.
After a period of silence, Robert punched her in the arm as a car with more than three malign beings riding their mounts passed by. That started a game, similar to punch buggy, with double hits if you were the first to see double the amount of malign in the vehicles going by.
Later with all three having sore arms they decided to stop.
Then, just like a family outing, they started playing “Eye spy”. They described both good and bad things they saw and then someone had to give it a name, Robert would count to thirty seconds before the person lost points. Eventually Sam won; frustrating Raquel as Robert calmly reminded them why he picked their ages that he did for the State trooper. They grew hungry; decided on what they wanted for their breakfast as he scanned the horizon for a restaurant.
Pulling into a restaurant’s half-empty parking lot, they stretched their legs as he put an obscure enchanted haze over their vehicle so it wouldn’t be detectable.
They sat in an area where most of the customers were. Fourteen men, women, and children. Most had no riders, a few of the employees did, their waitress was a plump lady with a plump quartet of guardians.
As they sat waiting, sipping drinks, prevented from talking about the unseen they informed Robert of more events he missed during his incarceration. Movies, television shows, Presidents, political events, news worthy subjects, breakthroughs in electronics, who was doing what in the world. Robert randomly smiled or squirmed at the news, sometimes he expressed regret at the changes, joy at others.
Their food arrived and during the meal Sam asked what a certain color of the aura spectrum meant. Robert asked why he asked, because the color he described was of person who wished harm to others.
Sam pointed to the front register.
At the register, the manager and their server spoke to a man in a hooded sweatshirt speaking quietly to them while one of his hands remained in his pocket.
Robert told them to remain there as he went to the register.
The Caucasian man noticed the manager looking over his shoulder at Robert’s approach. The man forced a smile over his shoulder at Robert stepping to the side so the hand in the pocket would cover all three of them.
Robert smiled nodding at all three finally addressing his waitress.
“I hate to be a bother, but we just…” he looked at the stranger, “…I’m sorry for interrupting, please go ahead.”
Wanly, sweat dripping down his cheek, the man answered, “No, please go ahead.”
“Oh, thanks. We just noticed we ordered an extra set of bacon and didn’t get it. Would you mind?”
The waitress and the manager looked at each other and then the stranger who dropped his gaze. The manager finally asked her to go get the rest of the order.
She edged by the him and the sweatshirt wearing man started to follow but the champion stepped forward, with all the power of the Key Signorum surging through his body placing his right hand on the stranger’s pocketed hand.
Time literally slowed to a crawl except for the two of them, he immobilized the man’s hand merely by touch. The man’s eyes widened in panic realizing he couldn’t move.
Robert’s voice projected calm, “I know what you’re doing. You shouldn’t be doing it. I don’t care why you’re doing it, you shouldn’t be. Someone, including you, could get hurt, that would be a shame for so many people. What is it you want?”
The sweatshirt man licked his dry lips realizing things were moving extremely slowly around him, and this odd man’s eyes held his full attention. His voice pushed on the man like a heavy weight.
Robert nodded, “Speak, only I can hear you at the moment.”
“I need money. I lost everything in my divorce. I haven’t eaten in a week. I’m hungry. All I own are these clothes and this gun. I’m starving. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I bought the gun to kill myself. I thought about killing my wife, but I can’t, she divorced me for the all the right reasons. I was a bad husband, a bad father; I never spent time with my kids. I spent my money like water. I never cheated, I thought about it, but I couldn’t with her. I love her, that’s why I’m not bothering her. I’m hungry. I’m robbing these people so I can eat. I just didn’t-“he was going to continue because the Key’s power forced him to tell him the truth, but Robert held up his free hand.
“Enough. What you’re doing is wrong, robbing is wrong, thinking about killing yourself is wrong. You know why you’re in the position you’re in. So you know right from wrong correct?”
The urge to tell the truth continued to pass over the thief, “Yes, I’ve always known. I just didn’t pay attention. I felt like if I got caught here, I could kill myself.”
“Stop. You’re at a crossroads in your life. Here, at this moment, you’re choosing a path of darkness, when you could eventually return to the light.”
Robert reached into his pocket offering three hundred dollars in twenties.
“This is a moment that will live with you forever. You can take this money. You can start new. You can leave here and no one will remember you were here, or what you were trying to do.”
As time moved slowly, Robert sensed malign entities beginning to show interest in what occurred also with their confusion why time moved so slowly. In the distance, he heard the howls of a murder Demon approaching.
“How can they forget, they’ve seen-“
“I’ll make them forget. Don’t worry. You have to make your choice, here and now. When I release my grip on you, you can take the money and go or try for more since you already know I have three hundred dollars. You can keep your face looking toward the sun so you won’t see the shadows, or walk through the shadows forever in fear. I give you your choice to make.”
Robert released him.
Time continued moving at a crawl as the two of them only moved normally. The man’s arm was no longer frozen so he could shoot Robert right then. Robert was aware of it so he braced himself to bring up a shield with the speed of thought as he held out the money.
The man looked at him, then the money, drawing his hand out of his pocket.
It was empty as he took the offered bills.
“This…this will help me out. I’ve got some family up North that could help me.”
Robert grinned, “I suggest you call them. I also suggest you get rid of the gun, a pawn shop so you could get some cash for it maybe?”
“They won’t remember me?” he asked stepping by Robert leaving the building.
Robert shook his head, “No, they won’t in any shape manner or form. Remember look to the sun, and go in peace,” Robert finished, about to return to the table as time sped up.
The man called Robert back.
“Mister? Are you an Angel?” he asked, tears in his eyes.
Robert smiled at him, “No. But some of my best friends are.”
The man left as time sped up, he looked back to ask Robert one more question and Robert was no longer there. The man shuffled away with the phone number of his family running through his memory, and a pawnshop he saw as he walked around town.
Rushing back to the table as time accelerated, the Key Signorum wiped everyone’s memory of the man having ever been there, including recording devices or sensors. Only Robert’s friends had seen Robert talk to him watching the man cross the parking lot.
“What just happened?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, you were here then it was like we were looking through muddy water at you talking to him, then you were suddenly here again?”
He explained, Sam mentioned the thief had no rider. Robert informed him it was a case of free will and desperation. Not everyone had a rider who did wrong, nor did everyone who did good have a guardian. The server returned with a plate of bacon. Robert told her they hadn’t ordered it, but they would pay for it anyway since he was still hungry grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Walking to the SUV, they turned their powers to the sky watching the battles of good versus evil in the clouds. The clouds were quieter away from major cities, Robert explained. He joked they should see the supernatural storms over the Vatican and the Holy land and some of the larger spiritual cities in the world. Among the spiritual cities he mentioned, were such places no longer inhabited, lost to decay or jungles, with a few in the depths of the oceans.
They asked questions if Robert knew the accuracy of modern and ancient myths. Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Loch Ness monster. Since he already told them ghosts, vampires and other creatures of myth did exist, were any of the others true? Laughing, he told them he wasn’t part of the National Geographic society he didn’t know everything. Only his family’s experiences were all he knew.
Robert did explain he once met a sociable vampire still dwelling in New Orleans and a female Ghost who was very gracious in Atlanta. One of their fellow Champions from Tibet once told him of encountering an aggressive Yeti, his power saving him from the creature from an avalanche started by his roar.
Sam’s phone interrupted, which prompted a sidelong glance from Robert to Raquel who nodded, leaning closer to the driver’s seat.
“This is Sam. Yeah, Gary what’s up? I’m on the highway. I had to get something to eat. What’s got your panties in a knot? I’m getting there as fast as I can. Did they find the wife? Well, anything new then? Anything the police could tell you at all…or forensics?”
Robert looked at her, she shrugged noncommittally, she couldn’t tell.
He pantomimed to Sam to keep Collar on the phone.
“Hold on a minute Gary, I need both hands to make this turn.”
Holding his finger in front of his lips, Robert rummaged around finding a napkin and pen. He wrote on the napkin handing it to Sam to read. Sam looked puzzled, putting the phone back to his ear.
“Okay, I’m back. Hey, Gary, I was wondering what your full name was. Is Gary your first or middle name and where is your family from? Collar is an odd name. I’ve been thinking about making up a fake name for you in my book.”
The answer made Sam think quickly, “Well, I’ve never met you I just wondered what your full name is. What’s the big deal, I’m an investigator y’know?”
Gary Collar answered.
Raquel tapped Robert’s shoulder shaking her head negatively. ‘Gary Collar’ was lying.
Robert wrote more on his napkin.
“Gary? What’s your real name?” Sam asked, “No bullshit this time, who are you, how do you know what’s going on?”
Sam pulled the phone away from his ear as Gary shouted loudly. Robert asked for the phone. ‘Gary’ was still speaking.
“- know shit if I didn’t inform you of what was going on! You’re a second rate investigator! Chasing crappy stories for freelance work! Who the hell do you think you are asking me anything?” he spoke with a Midwestern accent.
“Well, that’s not a nice thing to say to someone, Sam’s a good guy, you’re awfully rude to him to be a mystery man,” Robert interrupted.
The phone went silent.
Checking to see if the connection had been lost or if the person on the other end had cut the connection, he held the phone back to his ear.
“Hello? Is anybody out there?”
A pause, “Who is this?”
“Well, who is this?”
“Who the hell is this?”
“Wow the mouth on you, I think you’ve got some anger issues, maybe you should meditate or something,” he smiled at the others.
“And maybe ya ought to burn in hell, Robert Wilcox,” Gary answered.
Robert’s smile fell. He knew the voice.
“Who is this?” He whispered.
“You mean you can’t tell who this is? I thought you were the mighty holy man who had ALL the answers. You two gone and screwed that sweet thing yet?”
“Longstreet?” his throat constricted as he said the name.
“Bingo! You not as dumb as I thought. Took you long enough you son a bitch! How you like knowing it been me all this time helping your little fat friend chase after the thing I done been sending round your way? By the way, I don’t know how you did it, but that piece o’ shit robber was supposed to kill you back at that restaurant. You know how long it takes to make somebody stop killing themselves? I had it all quick and easy like, kill you, that fat ass, and then bring that sweet piece o’ ass to me before I kill her. Oh, and you didn’t save him by the way. I made sure he done shot himself; the police find him when he start to stink, oh, thanks for the money by the way,” his mocking laughter left Robert speechless.
“Nothing to say over there? Bet you wondering how I be knowing where that Demon ya’ll been chasing gonna be at next ain’t you? How you think I done got the power I done got? You know old Mattie May. You know that old bitch wouldn’t go down easy in a fight. So I made me some deals. You done put away many a Demon and Devil in your day, many of them wanted some payback, that’s what gave me the strength to finish off the old girl and make me the Master of Naw Orlean’! Thanks for the help!” he cackled at his private joke.
Grinding his teeth, Robert asked, “So why are you still sending out these things to kill people? Don’t you think people might think I may not be responsible for the crimes?”
He chuckled, “’course I do, you dumb shit! I don’t care. I wanted you out of that nut house! I done found me that stupid Sam Brady, got him to track you down, and then got him to get down there to convince you to get the hell outta there! Thank him for me too!”
Robert lowered his head in disgust, “So all this was just to get me back into circulation?”
“Yes, yes, you stupid fucker! What do you think was my end of the bargain? I beat Mattie May? They get you! But first they make you suffer!”
“Suffer? How can killing strangers make me suffer? I’ll regret the loss of their lives-“
He cut him off, “Who said they was ALL strangers?”
Perplexed, he asked; “What do you mean?”
Scornful laughter was his answer as the connection ended. Robert hit redial, but it wouldn’t connect.
“Damn, damn, damn!” Robert struck the dashboard giving the phone back telling them what happened.
“What do you think he meant by that? Someone from your past?”
“Knowing him it could be anyone from my past. Or my father’s or someone I worked with, or…or who knows?” he shrugged.
“Do you know anyone in North Carolina?” Sam asked.
“I’ve been out of circulation so long I don’t know. That doesn’t mean anything. It could be someone moved there. Or a Champion or warrior working there. I’ve known so many people over the years, who can tell? He’s not going to tell me anyway, he wants to play his little game. What the idiot doesn’t know is he’s made a pact with some ruthless Devils. If he thinks all they want is just me, he’s mistaken. I learned a long time ago once you let the genie out of the bottle it takes a lot to put him back. Longstreet is more than likely going to get himself killed in the process. We can’t worry about that now, I’ll ask the Word next time we talk. We’ve just got to get to North Carolina as quick as we can.”
To be continued…