Hello everyone, hope you are all well!  My hopes of releasing my short story LAKE WEED last week did not work out as hoped.  As I began writing the seemingly random short story, planning to keep it under 5,ooo words, I became enthralled in the characters and it slowly turned into something I wanted to tie in to my supernatural “long stories”.  So, LAKE WEED will actually be set in the same world as my other supernatural series.  Look for it in the future.  But do not fear, friends, I still have a short story of the week for you, free and available for your reading pleasure!

The FREE SHORT STORY OF THE WEEK for this week is entitled SANDWICHED and is a short story set in the world of my superhero series HOMELESS.  It takes place during the same time as the first, and only currently available, novel in the series.  I hope you enjoy!  Talk to you again soon and as always, Happy Reading!




Short Story


Christopher Lee Cousino


BSIC Publishing

Copyright © 2015 by Christopher Lee Cousino

Copyright © 2015 by BSIC Publishing Company

This is a work of fiction.  All characters, organizations, locations, and events portrayed in this story are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to any real person, living or deceased, is completely coincidental.




Chapter 1

Vic Hayes shook his head and chuckled.  He could not stop whistling that danged song.  All day long, he’d had it stuck in his head.  Customers had asked him over and over what he was whistling.  Katie would laugh when he told her.  She’d practiced her solo for her 1st grade talent show for him before bed time last night.  His little Katie-cake had such a beautiful voice.  Vic was very proud of his daughter.  Of all three of his kids.  He’d done something right in raising them.  Well, actually, he thought as he chuckled to himself again, the only thing he did right was marry Gloria.  She was the reason the kids were so amazing.  The apples didn’t fall far from the tree.  Vic was just happy to get to be in the same orchard.  Sighing with a smile, he locked the door to his sub shop and started whistling Katie’s song.

Before he could turn around, he felt something jab into his back.  Vic’s whistling stopped.  A low voice spoke quietly behind his left ear.

“Unlock the door and get inside, now,” the voice said.

Chapter 2

Vic couldn’t believe this was happening.  He’d owned, worked, and closed up Vic’s Subs near downtown Detroit for 15 years and had never been robbed.  Not once.  But he supposed it was only a matter of time.  Vic had seen the city he loved deteriorate and waste away to the shell it was now.  Violence, corruption, and gangs had taken the city from its people.  Gloria had begged Vic to move the shop to a safer area, to the suburbs or closer to the stadiums and businesses worth protecting in the city official’s eyes.  But Vic would have none of it.

He’d opened up shop all those years ago and had served the area ever since.  Vic had regulars, people who not only loved his food but who loved him.  He did outreach programs in the surrounding communities.  Vic’s Subs was his home away from home and his customers were his family.  Vic could never leave.  The city needed men to stand up for what was right.  To be brave.  So, he’d stayed.  Even after The New Age Brotherhood came into power.  Gloria was worried even more when they took over the streets and the city.  Vic told her everything was fine, that they were just like any other gang.  But that wasn’t true.  The New Age Brotherhood were much different.

They were ruthless, cold-blooded, and sadistic.  Hungry for power and control, and willing to do anything to get it.  Even further, Vic thought the members enjoyed what they did.  Not for the gains and riches…but just for the sport.   And the fact that they got so much power and control so quickly only proved to Vic that they had city officials in their pockets.  Mayor’s office, police department, judiciary system…all of it.  The New Age Brotherhood ran the city.  But they didn’t run Vic’s Subs.  This was his shop, damn it.  And Vic wasn’t going to let it go without a fight.

Whether it was just a junkie or a full-fledged member of the New Age Brotherhood gang, Vic was going to stand up for what was right.  He couldn’t expect that vigilante he’d seen on the news, that Homeless, to show up and save him.  It seemed the man was doing a lot of damage to The New Age Brotherhood, but he was only one man.  Others would need to step up too.  Vic had to protect what was his, all on his own.

“Come on, old man!  Hurry the hell up,” The voice said, rising both in volume and agitation.

Vic didn’t give the owner of the voice time to grow more agitated.  Without hesitation or warning, he spun roughly to his left, using his forearm to brush aside the wannabe thief’s gun and hand.  Then he swung his right fist into their jaw, connecting.  The thief cried out in shock and fell to the ground.

Vic would have celebrated his victory, but whatever joy he felt after clocking the thief disappeared when he saw two more men facing him with guns drawn.  They were wearing masks, as was the man he’d knocked down.  Vic was outnumbered and outgunned.  He’d made a mistake.  Now he would have to play along, do as they said like a good victim.  And hope his attempt at heroics wouldn’t end up getting him killed.

Chapter 3

Putting both hands up, Vic sighed.

“Okay, boys.  You got me.  Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Vic said with a shrug.

The punk Vic had punched cursed and got to his feet.

“Damn it, you son of a bitch!  Tough guy, huh,” the man asked mockingly.  Then he pistol whipped Vic right across the face.

Vic’s jaw exploded with pain as the force caused him to stumble back into his shop door.  Rubbing his face, Vic tried to stand back up straight.  But his attacker wasn’t done, the butt of the pistol smacking into Vic’s face once again.  This time he cried out and fell to the ground.  Spitting blood, Vic put his hands up and lay still.

“Okay, okay.  What do you want?  I got a family.  Please.  I’ll give you whatever you want,” Vic said.

The man who’d hit him crouched down and pointed the gun at Vic’s face.

“What we want is all your money.  I wasn’t sure if we were going to kill you or not.  But your chances would’ve been a lot better if you’d played nice.  Now I’m going to kill you and then maybe I will go pay your family a visit,” he said.

Vic’s eyes grew wide.

“No, don’t you dare.  You son of a bitch!  Stay away from them!  You New Age Brotherhood scum!”  Vic screamed at the man.

The man shook his head and pushed the muzzle of the gun into Vic’s face.

“We ain’t New Age Brotherhood!  And keep your voice down.  Those bastards are everywhere and they wouldn’t take kindly to us robbing in their turf.  We are just trying to make a living, old man.  Those Brotherhood nutjobs are too crazy for us.  We don’t want anything to do with them,” he said.

“You don’t seem very different.  Stealing from hardworking folk.  Beating and threatening others.  Hiding behind guns and outnumbering your victims so it’s an unfair fight.  Seems exactly the same,” Vic said.

The man grabbed onto Vic’s arm and pulled.

“Whatever, get up.  Get up and unlock the door.  Then you are going to give us your money so we can get the hell out of here before any New Age Brotherhood assholes show up,” the man said, sounding more anxious.

Vic winced and began to try to get to his feet.  He needed to play along and keep the man, obviously the leader of the trio, talking.  If they really weren’t gang members and just street punks, maybe he had a chance of surviving this.  Finally on his feet, wobbly but okay, he turned and dug into his pocket to fish out his keys.  Digging deeper, Vic frowned.

“What’s the hold up, old man?  Come on,” the man asked agitatedly.

“I don’t know.  I don’t have my keys,” Vic said.

“What the hell do you mean?  You had them when I stuck the gun in your back.  You must have dropped them,” the man said.

“Yeah, they must be on the ground somewhere,” Vic said nervously.  He needed to find those keys, or he was a dead man for sure.

Before he could even begin to search the ground, he heard a voice.  A new voice.  It was deep and gravelly.

“Looking for these, boys?”

Chapter 4

Vic stared in shock at what he was seeing.  It was him.  Homeless.  The son of a bitch was real.  And he was here.  Did he know these men weren’t New Age Brotherhood members?  Vic didn’t care.  He was happy to have the help.

The vigilante was even bigger in person.  And even more intimidating.  The mask, the black tattered clothing, and the wicked looking machete he held in the hand not holding the keys.  Vic couldn’t stop staring.  Homeless was only a couple steps behind the other two men.  They were still facing Vic, and still pointing their guns in his direction, unsure what to do.  And probably scared shitless, Vic thought with a smirk.  Suddenly, Homeless tossed the keys to Vic.  Startled, Vic nearly dropped them as they hit him in the chest.  Cradling them, he looked up from the keys back to Homeless.

“I think those belong to you, sir,” Homeless said.

Before Vic could respond, Homeless sprang into action.

With a quick step, the vigilante sliced his machete through the air and through the neck of one of the men.  His head hit the ground, followed by his decapitated body.  Before the second man could react, Homeless spun around and brought the machete upwards, tearing into the man at his belly button and upwards through his torso.  The man screamed and fell to his knees, looking down as his stomach split open.  He fell to his side trying to hold in his guts.  His screams and movements stopped shortly after.

The last remaining man raised his gun and pointed it at Homeless.  As the gun shook wildly in his grip, the man addressed the vigilante.

“Hold it right there, you freak!”

Homeless’ head snapped towards the man.  Then the vigilante cocked his head eerily to the side.  It was enough to make Vic shudder.  He wasn’t the only one.

The remaining man turned to tuck his tail and run, but Vic wouldn’t allow it.  He quickly stuck out a foot and tripped the fleeing man.  Tumbling awkwardly to the ground, the man’s gun bounced away from him as he landed in a heap.  He tried to scramble to his feet but Vic kicked the man in the face.

“Stay down, you bastard.  You aren’t going anywhere but a jail cell,” Vic said, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone.

Before he could dial 911, Homeless approached the failed thief, who was now whimpering and pleading.

“That won’t be necessary, sir,” Homeless said, pointing to Vic’s phone.

Before Vic could make sense of the vigilante’s comment, Homeless carried out his own brand of punishment.  One swipe of his machete, and Vic’s attacker was dead.

“Did you have to kill him?  I mean, the other two, I get.  They had guns, you were outnumbered…but.  The last one was unarmed.  Why,” Vic asked.

“The city is plagued with a virus that has no cure.  The only way to stop the virus is to kill it.  This man would have done to someone else what he did to you.  There was no rehabilitating him.  He would’ve infected the city more.  Now the city is one destroyed strain closer to being saved,” Homeless said.  Vic nodded slowly.  He wasn’t sure he agreed, but he wasn’t going to argue.  Vic was going home to his family thanks to Homeless.  Which puzzled Vic.

“Did you know they weren’t even New Age Brotherhood members,” Vic asked.

“Yes.  I was passing by and saw them.  They were far too sloppy and hesitant to be Brotherhood,” he said.

“Then why did you stop?  Why did you help me?  I thought The New Age Brotherhood was your focus,” Vic said.

“Saving this city is my focus, Mr. Hayes.  I want to make The New Age Brotherhood pay for what they have done to me and this city.  But I want Detroit to be saved as well.  And the good men and women in it.  Good men like you,” Homeless said.

“Wait…you called me Mr. Hayes.  How do you know my name,” Vic asked.

“Well, I’ve met you before.  Not as Homeless, but as…my other self.  I know of your outreach programs, have seen the good they’ve done,” Homeless said.

“Did I meet you through one of my outreach programs,” Vic asked.

“No, sir.  I actually have eaten at your shop.  You have some damn good subs,” Homeless said.

“Well, I’ll be…I sure do,” Vic said with a chuckle.

“I should be going.  I would head home if I were you, Mr. Hayes.  The area is dead, no witnesses nearby to alert the authorities anytime soon.  But someone will eventually.  The DPD is corrupt and shouldn’t be trusted.  Best if you aren’t here when all this is sorted out.  Keep up the good work.  The city needs men like you,” Homeless said.  Then he turned to leave.  Vic stopped him.

“Wait.  There has to be something I can do to repay you,” Vic said.  Homeless turned back around.

“Well, I am hungry.  I was always fond of your Reuben sub,” Homeless said.  Vic smiled and nodded.

“You know, I could go for a sub right now myself.  Come on inside, then.  I’ll make us up a couple of Reubens, Mr. Homeless,” Vic said and motioned for the vigilante to follow.

Both men entered the sub shop and soon both sat, eating and talking about their beloved city and what they hoped it would be again someday, ignoring the corpses littering the sidewalk outside.


Look for more from HOMELESS later in 2015!  And if you haven’t read HOMELESS yet, please do:)  Take care everyone!

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Free Short Story of the Week has RETURNED!

Hello, friends.  I hope all is well.  Just wanted to write a short post to let you know that my FREE SHORT STORY OF THE WEEK has returned!  Starting this week, I am restarting this fun weekly release.  The free shorts will be found weekly right here on my website and will remain free on my website forever and always:)  These shorts will be less than 5,000 words but packed full of ridiculously awesome sweetness personified.  Not sure what that means, but it is after 1 AM as I post this post, so cut me some slack.

For those of you wondering if these will be stories continuing my supernatural/urban fantasy series’ (EX: WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD, PARTNERS, M.U.R.S.E, AND DEATH WITHOUT PAROLE) the answer is yes and no.  Most of the entries in the FREE SHORT STORY OF THE WEEK postings will be short stories not based in that realm.  They will mostly be random and could be in any genre.  Some may be loosely connected to my superhero characters or supernatural characters, while other times more directly.  Overall, however, they will not be consistently in those continuities.  But, however, all is not lost my friends.

For you see, once a month I will release a long short story, or “long story” as I like to call them, which will count as the FREE SHORT STORY OF THE WEEK for that week.  That long story will be set in that realm, universe, or what have you.  It will continue the stories of Andrew the human and Garrett the werewolf, Detective Herbert Vale and Hannibal, Colby Jack also known as the M.U.R.S.E, and of course the vampire Patrick Noel.  Those long stories will be free for exactly 1 month on my website from the date of their posting.  Then, after that month (when a new long story comes out) it will be available through retailers for 99 cents.  Look for more on my supernatural long story series’ and the future I have planned for that in another post detailing it later this week.  I am super pumped!  But back to the task at hand…FREE SHORT STORY OF THE WEEK!

It shall soon be ready and available for your reading pleasure.  For now, that is all from this “long” “short” post.  See what I did there…and it all ties back;)  Thanks again everyone, hope you enjoy my FREE SHORT STORY OF THE WEEK this week, entitled LAKE WEEDS.  Look for it by the end of the week:)  Take care and as always, happy reading!

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No Worries, I’m Alive and Well!

Hello, my friends, I hope all of you are doing fantastic.  It has been a long time, far too long in fact.  I just wanted to put up a post to let anyone who still checks in for any new work or ramblings from me (thank you to those of you who do, it means so much) that I am indeed okay, alive, and doing well.  I have not given up on writing, life has just unfortunately put more writing obstacles in my path than I have been able to overcome the past nearly two years.  That is crazy to say out loud:/

All the writing obstacles have been blessings, no complaints here.  But I didn’t want any of my faithful readers, or my new ones, to be left in the dark wondering if I would ever continue telling the stories of our favorite characters.  The answer is yes, I will continue.  I love writing, and it is still my goal to someday quit my day job and become a full time writer.  It will happen, I love writing too much for it not to.  But my life has been pretty busy lately:)

Me and my wife welcomed our third child into the world last year, little Ramona Grace.  She has been such a huge blessing to us and I love her beyond words.  But my adorable little baby, as adored as she is, doesn’t allow much time for writing;)  Throw in that my wife works nights to my days, that I work full time, that I have two other young kiddos who need much of my attention…and well, you get the point.  Oh, and we got a new house too;)  So I have been quite busy, my friends.  Busy, but extremely blessed and happy.

I am trying my hardest to find time for writing.  I have been doing a lot of editing on my old stories, improving my writing skills and understanding of writing 101 that I never really learned when I was getting my nursing degree…go figure, huh;)  Life has to eventually slow down, but until then I will keep trying my hardest to create more for you all.  Don’t give up on me and all my characters, because I promise I never will:)  Until we speak again, happy reading and take care!

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FREE Short Story of the Week: Free Short Story of the Week #12

Hey everybody, hope you had a great weekend!  I hoped to have M.U.R.S.E #3 done this week, but I had family visiting from out of town so I couldn’t finish it in time.  Look for it in the next couple weeks!  This week I have another short story for you, entitled CUPID.  It is the first in a series of shorts that will be released in a scattered pattern throughout the next few months.  Each story will introduce a character that will be in my upcoming holiday novel due out in November this year.  It is a book I am very excited about and I think you will all be too.  The story contains all your favorite holiday characters from childhood…with a twist.  Let’s just say they aren’t quite the same as you remember:)  Anyways, look for more of them to come and enjoy the first in the series, CUPID.  Figured he was a great place to start, seeing as Valentine’s Day was last month.  Look for the second and third in the series over the next couple weeks, entitled SAINT PATTY and PETER COTTON.  I’ll let you guess what those two are about;)  Look for M.U.R.S.E. #3 soon as well.  Hope everyone has a wonderful week!  Happy Reading:)


cupid cover

Cover Design by ten21 Design Company

An affiliate of BSIC Publishing Company

Cover Copyright © 2013by ten21 Design Company

Cover Copyright © 2013 by BSIC Publishing




Codename: Holidays

Short Story


Christopher Lee Cousino

Copyright © 2013 by Christopher Lee Cousino

Copyright © 2013 by BSIC Publishing Company



They are thought to be make-believe, something of legend.  Stories and characters made up to tell children before bedtime.  But they are very real, and very important to the well-being and safety of the United States of America and the world at large.  The Kringles and their elves, Saint Patrick, Cupid, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and Uncle Sam.  The team is top secret.  This is their story.

File #1542A3


“Dear Lady, be cautious of Cupid.”


James Neil Hollingworth (1933-1996)

Writer under the pseudonym Ambrose Redmoon




Chapter 1

A dark figure crouched in the shadows of their hiding spot.  Or “perch” as his type preferred to call it.  His type being an assassin, that is.  The lethal killer opened a dark briefcase, taking a moment to take in the beauty of its contents.  His new employers may be total pricks, but they made beautiful weapons.  A small smile tugged at the corners of the assassin’s mouth, causing his rosy, full cheeks to rise.  Grabbing the separate pieces from the case, he began to assemble his newest toy of death.

Twisting and locking pieces together, the tight black fabric of his ops uniform did little to hide the muscles that were bulging and rippling beneath.  At 6 foot 2 and a sculpted 210 pounds, the assassin could have had a career as an underwear model if he’d wished.  But modeling undergarments didn’t offer the type of incentive he desired.  Not financially, and not recreationally.  Not that any of that mattered anymore.

He wasn’t collecting the big paydays these days.  In fact, he wasn’t collecting any paydays.  But at least he still got to do what he loved.  What he was good at.  Popping in the last piece, he set the gorgeous weapon down gently and flattened himself out on the ground.  Then, picking it back up, he looked into the scope.

As he moved the scope closer to his eye, he caught sight of his reflection for a quick moment.  Brushing blond curly bangs out of his eyes, he shook his head.  No matter how hard he worked on his body, it was never enough.  It didn’t matter how tough he made his body look, or how tough he actually was himself.  His damn face would always make him appear soft.  But that was okay.  It gave him an edge.  No one worried about the guy with the cherub face.  That made it easier to stab them in the back.  Or shoot them in the back, he thought with a smile.

He was fair skinned, unable to tan despite all the time he spent outside.  His skin would burn badly if he attempted any legitimate form of tanning, whether fake-baking in a bed or oiling it up under the sun.  He’d tried both options and ended up looking like Elmo and Ms. Piggy’s secret love child.  Not pretty.

His lips were full, and his cheeks were even fuller.  He wouldn’t call his face fat, but it was definitely round.  Baby blue eyes stared out from it all.  He’d been told that they sparkled, which he hated to hear.  Cold as ice was what he was going for.  A mop of curly blonde hair sat on top of his head.  He kept it short, but it didn’t control the curls.  If it were up to him, he would’ve shaved his head and been done with it.  But he made a promise to his mom, God rest her soul.

On her death bed, she made him promise he would never get rid of his beautiful curls.  So, whether he really wanted to or not, he would protect the damn curls until the day he died.  He owed his sweet mother that much.  If she only knew all the evil he’d done through the years.  All the people he’d killed.  Would she still have looked at him the same?  Still have loved him?  He knew one thing for sure.  Her list of requests she made on her death bed would’ve been a whole hell of a lot longer.  Shaking off the memory of his mother, the assassin focused back on the task at hand.

The weather was perfect.  Sunshine, clear skies, no wind.  Very assassin-friendly.  Then again, of course it would be.   His new employers would’ve made sure all the T’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted.  After all, that’s what the government does.

He couldn’t believe he’d gotten to this point.  Before he was captured, he’d been a successful assassin for hire.  People paid top billing for his services.  Mostly because he had a great track record, a great rep.  And because he never missed.  He had become very wealthy in a short time.  Making much more money than he had as a sniper during his short stint in the military.  He’d enjoyed his time serving his country, but it had turned sour quickly.  It ended when he realized he wasn’t in charge of who he pointed his weapon at.  But he wasn’t some mindless psychopath willing to murder anyone for the right price.  He had rules.

No children first and foremost.  His second rule was more for himself.  He didn’t take a job unless the target deserved it.  That seemed silly, he knew.  A killer with a conscience, that’s what his perspective client would say if he turned them down.  Whether it made sense or not, he didn’t care.  He may be a murderer, but his momma raised him right.

And if his perspective client was trying to hire him to kill a person who didn’t deserve it, well, his third rule came into effect.  His perspective client would become his next target, usually that very day to ensure they wouldn’t complete their task.  And that job would be free.  In fact, he never said a word to the person he saved.  He let them continue their business as usual, never realizing their life had been in jeopardy.  Ignorance is bliss after all.  So was his former life.

He’d had a good run.  Done some good, in his opinion.  Bad people were dead, and he’d saved the lives of countless people who didn’t deserve the fate someone was planning for them.  A lot of it had to do with his skills, his patience, and his attitude.  But he wasn’t a fool.  He’d been lucky too.  But as is always the case with anyone, his luck ran out.

He was tricked into taking a job he shouldn’t have.  A job he wouldn’t have taken if he’d known the truth.  He prided himself on being smart, cautious.  But then again, he’d never been too smart when it came to women.  Or love.  And it was just that combination that got him into trouble.

Chapter 2

She was beautiful.  Gorgeous in every single way imaginable.  He’d met her away from his other life.  Away from business.  And away from his dark side.  He’d been getting a beer at one of his favorite bars.  A hole in the wall called The Tank.  It was a clean place, quiet, never too busy.  Mostly he went there because he’d done a job for the owner and in return he got free alcohol and food for life.  Not a bad trade off, all things considered.  That is, of course, if you were the type that thought a fair trade involved unlimited alcohol and food in exchange for murdering someone.  Of course, the “victim” had deserved it, so there was that.

He’d been sitting alone at the bar, washing down the last of his burger with the last of his bottle of beer.  That was when she’d sat down.  His head was thrown back and his eyes were shut as he relished the last drops of his Redd’s Apple Ale.  She’d been quiet as a mouse, so he hadn’t heard her sit down.  And with his eyes shut, he hadn’t seen her.  The only reason he’d noticed that she’d sat down next to him was her perfume.  He’d smelled her and it had taken his breath away.  In a good way.  And it happened again when he opened his eyes and saw her.  And once again when he heard her voice when she spoke.

“Hey there, Cupid, how’s your night going?”  He’d beaten men to within an inch of their lives for calling him Cupid.

He hated the nickname almost as much as he hated looking like the fat little cherub bastard.  But that was the hand he was dealt.  He swore that was why the government had given him the codename Cupid, because he hated it and they wanted to annoy him.  Well, he still supposed it was clever on their part.  Due to his looks and his profession, it made sense.  Regardless, this was the one time he didn’t mind hearing someone call him Cupid.  And it was because of the mouth that said it.  Placing his empty bottle on the counter, he smiled.

“Cupid, huh?  Cute.  I guess that would make you…Psyche?”  Looking like Cupid most of his life, the assassin had learned quite a bit about the cherub marksman.  In Roman mythology, Cupid had a girlfriend, per say, and her name was Psyche.  He didn’t expect this beautiful woman to know the story, so he was quite surprised at her answer.

“Sure, handsome, I’ll be your girlfriend.”  He should have known right then and there that something wasn’t right.  But she was so irresistible and intriguing he wasn’t thinking with his brain.  If he were to be completely honest, he wasn’t even thinking with his heart at that point.  Regardless, he fell for her whole game hook, line, and sinker.

“You know the story of Cupid and Psyche, huh?  I didn’t take you for a Roman mythology buff.”  She smiled seductively and gave him a look that made his throat go dry.  As she leaned in close to him, his head felt lighter as the smell of her perfume became stronger and filled his nostrils.

“Well, why don’t you take me somewhere and you’ll find out I’m full of surprises.”  Whether it was the alcohol, the pretty girl, how long it had been since his last female connection, or all of the above, the assassin took the girl up on her offer.  Cupid took Psyche to a motel and worked on his aim.

Chapter 3

Lying on his back, breathing heavily and drenched in sweat, the assassin smiled.  He’d been with women before, but it had never been close to this.  The passion, the animalistic hunger, the incredible climax…multiple times.  It had been by far his best intimate exploration.

In that moment, in the back of his mind, he knew it had been way too easy.  He meets the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen in a crap-hole bar that up to that point he’d never seen even close to a remotely attractive woman in, then after his short and unimpressive attempt at flirting, she asks him to take her home.  Then they have once in a lifetime sex.  It was all too perfect.  But he ignored that part of his mind and enjoyed the moment.

The woman sat up and reached for her purse that was resting on the night stand.  Unable to ignore ingrained thinking, the assassin tensed up, readying himself for the possibility she was going for a weapon.  In that moment, he planned out four different ways to incapacitate her, including killing her if need be.  He planned out three different escape routes as well.  And he even planned on where he would lay low to figure out his next move.  All in a few seconds.  Cautious was just scratching the surface when describing the assassin.

He relaxed when he saw her pull out a pack of Virginia slims and a lighter.  Yanking a cigarette free, she lit it and took a drag.  Glancing at the assassin, she offered him one.  He shook his head no in reply.  Smoking wasn’t one of his vices.  In his profession, he needed to be ready to book it after taking out a target.  Lungs full of tar didn’t help afore mentioned booking.

He’d never found smoking to be an attractive quality in women.  But watching the gorgeous creature next to him wrapping her lips around the long white cigarette changed his mind.  His eyes drifted down to her exposed breasts, and he felt a jolt of excitement shoot down to his groin.  Maybe he was ready for another round.  Turning towards her, he was preparing to reach for one of her perfectly rounded breasts when she spoke.

“I wasn’t completely honest with you in the bar.  I know who you are.”  And just like that, the jolt of excitement was gone.  Not sure what to say, he said nothing.  She continued.  “I know you are an assassin, and I know you are very good at what you do.  And I need your help.”  Sighing, the assassin flopped onto his back once again.  Shutting his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose, he responded.

“So I guess it wasn’t my charming personality and good looks that got you here.”  The woman chuckled.

“Actually, it was.  I planned on approaching you with my problem in the bar, but I didn’t count on you being so cute.  Things for me lately have been…tense.  I needed a release.  And you were a very fun one.”  Feeling slightly better about the situation, the assassin sat up and met the gaze of the beauty next to him.

“Okay, I’ll bite.  What do you need help with?” Looking back, he knew he should have pushed for more information from her before getting down to business.  Like how she knew he was an assassin.  Or how she knew where to find him.  But he was once again thinking with the wrong part of his anatomy.

“My ex-husband is trying to have me killed.  I think he has hired assassins of his own.”  The assassin arched an eyebrow.

“So…who exactly do you want me to kill?  Your husband, or his assassins?”  The woman looked away.

“All of them.”  The assassin furrowed his brows.  In that moment, he was skeptical.  He generally didn’t take a job that dealt with matters of the heart.  It tended to get messy and there was usually a ton more going on behind the scenes than clients let on.  But then again, the woman was in trouble.  She didn’t deserve the death being planned for her.  Looking back, he should have thought more about that fact.  Because if you asked him now, the witch sure as hell deserved it.  But once again, she affected him in a way that de-rationalized his thoughts.

“Okay, Miss…I don’t believe I caught your name?”  He realized how silly it was that neither one of them knew each other’s names…or anything at all about one another.  She took a drag from her cigarette and blew it out through her full, irresistible lips before answering.

“I never gave it.  My name is Bridget.  What’s yours?  I mean, your real name.  The people who pointed me in your direction just referred to you as the best, but what did your mother name you?”  The mention of his mother caught the assassin off guard, and he almost slipped and told the woman his real name.  But he wasn’t that dumb.  Although, he was stupid enough to believe the woman and take the job.

He knew her name wasn’t Bridget, but he didn’t care.  Most clients kept their personal information from him.  It was smart.  Hell, he did the same to them.  Clearing his throat, he smiled.

“Why don’t you just call me Cupid, eh?”  She arched an eyebrow and took another pull of her cigarette before answering.

“Fair enough, Cupid.  So, are you going to help me…”  With her free hand, the woman reached over and touched the assassin’s chest.  Then her hand slid down his abdomen and under the sheet.  As her fingers found and wrapped around his manhood, she licked her lips.  He felt himself harden as she continued.  “Or do I need to do more work to sway you?”  The assassin barely suppressed a shudder of desire as he answered.

“Well, I guess I haven’t quite made up my mind.”  The woman laughed, a beautiful sound.  Then she put out her cigarette and lifted the sheet, ready to show him what other beautiful things she could do with her mouth.

Chapter 4

So the assassin took the job, ready to protect his lady love at all costs.  He thought it was funny how sex could make you feel so close to someone you knew nothing about.  But that was his downfall.  Over the next few days, he learned her routine, saw potential windows of opportunity for rival assassins.  Everywhere she went, he went.  He found a perch to watch her from, always keeping his trained eye on not only her beautiful form, but on any other armed assassins that could be planning a hit on her.  After a few days, he felt it was time to lure in his targets with some bait.  His client herself.

The woman, whom he now referred to as Bridget although they both knew that wasn’t her name, had told him the reason she believed her ex, Benjamin Taylor, was trying to have her snuffed.  It was easy to guess, the most obvious reason there is when a marriage goes sour.  Money.

They had a big life insurance policy on one another, half a mill big.  Their divorce was in the beginning stages and if she were to die he would still get his big payday.  Of course, if the assassin himself completed his job and killed Bridget’s husband…well, she would get hers.  He assumed that’s where most of his payment would be coming from.  Either way, the urgency of the situation made his targets desperate.  And that gave him the perfect opportunity to use that desperation against them.  The assassin had told Bridget his plan.   And as expected, she didn’t like it.

She didn’t like the idea of being exposed and vulnerable, but it was the only way the assassin was going to be able to take out the hired assassins.  When they showed their positions, which they would, he would take them out.  He had no doubts that he could get them before they got Bridget.  But she sure as hell had her doubts.

Bridget preferred that the assassin kill her ex, then find out who he’d hired and kill them as well.  Just to ensure they didn’t try and finish the job on their own.  Not a bad plan, it had in fact been his first thought.  But when he’d tried to look into her ex, he hadn’t been able to find any info on him.  Bridget hadn’t given him much more than a name, which should have raised red flags.  As should have the fact that he couldn’t find anything on the guy.

And it definitely should have raised flags when Bridget all of the sudden volunteered the perfect spot to do the hit on her ex-husband.  Who she then volunteered all sorts of info, including pics, place of business, and where he would be alone and vulnerable.

When the assassin did his own research after that, Bridget’s ex all of the sudden wasn’t so hard to find out about.  In fact, it was too easy.  It was all too much of a coincidence that the moment Bridget volunteers info, Benjamin Taylor seems to stop being so hard to find.  The assassin should have known right there and then.  But there was one reason that kept him from thinking straight, from realizing the obvious truth.  Infatuation.

Love could be dangerous.  That fact was very true.  Love can make you sacrifice anything and everything for someone else.  But if love is real, you don’t often have to sacrifice who you are.  Infatuation, on the other hand, is obsession’s ugly stepsister.  A man who is infatuated with a woman will sell his soul just to stay close to her.  And that was what the assassin was, infatuated.

So, he allowed continued sex and cuddling to brainwash his better judgment.  When he found Benjamin Taylor and followed him for a couple days, he allowed the consistencies between that man’s schedule and what Bridget had told him to put his mind at ease.  It was a stupid move.  He should have known it wasn’t real.  None of it.  Should have realized it was all a fabrication.  A trap.  But he’d ignored his instincts…except the most basic instincts, of course.  And he let Sharon Stone rip his heart right out.

Chapter 5

The assassin had gone to the very spot Bridget told him to.  The exact perch she suggested.  He knew that would allow him the best shot.  Knew that “Benjamin Taylor” took this route every day after working out at the gym.  He’d seen it with his own eyes, so it had to be true.  And his sweet Bridget, who was way too good to be true, wouldn’t have any reason to lie to him.  Right?  Wrong.

Imagine his surprise when “Benjamin Taylor” took a quick right down an alley before he got within range of the assassin’s weapon.  When the streets filled with FBI and vehicles.  When a gun cocked behind him.  When that same gun stabbed into the back of his head.  And when he heard the voice of what he thought was his angel speak three heart wrenching words.

“You’re under arrest.”  He’d thought about fighting her.  About swatting the gun away and snapping her neck before the horde of S.W.A.T teams and FBI officers backing her up took him out.  But he decided to stop doing stupid things.  He wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of killing him.  So he gave himself up without a fight.  Without a word.  Just an icy cold glare for the conniving bitch he was dumb enough to think he’d been falling in love with.

Bridget had turned out to not be Bridget at all.  She was an undercover FBI agent, and her codename was really Psyche.  They’d given her the codename special just for the job.  That was how she’d known Psyche was Cupid’s girlfriend.  It had been fed to her by her bosses when they chose her for her first assignment.

The one that involved her pretending to be a damsel in distress.  The one that involved her getting the assassin emotionally attached enough to believe the bullshit FBI fabricated story and walk right into their trap.  And the assassin had made it easy for her.  Thanks to his stupidity, she looked like the next big thing.  She was going places.  He was going to prison.  Or so he thought.  It turned out the government had big plans for the assassin they called Cupid.

He’d been thrown into the back of a high security armored truck, secured with chains, and had a black hood placed over his head.  They’d driven for hours and hours, or so it seemed.  The assassin had needed to pee, but he never said a word.  He’d actually enjoyed the thought of pissing himself and causing the smug FBI pricks to have to clean him up or smell his urine the whole drive.  But he held his bladder.

Eventually, the truck stopped.  He was roughly pulled out into air much warmer than where he’d been arrested.  Then he was led into a building and after a bunch of turns, he was thrown down hard into a chair.  When the hood finally came off, he was sitting in a windowless cell.  No clue where he was, he had even less of a clue what the hell was going on.  He didn’t understand any of it.  Didn’t understand why he was receiving such treatment.

There was no way the FBI knew how many people he’d killed.  And even if they did, all his victims had been scum bags.  He hadn’t killed a bunch of innocents.  There was no reason to throw him in some shit prison no one knew about so he could rot.  But he didn’t ask any questions.  He got his answer soon enough.

After sitting in his cell for what seemed like days, the door opened.  He remembered the bright, piercing light that had flooded into his pitch black cell.  The sudden flash of it had caused him to shield his eyes and gasp.  The assassin remembered this because he was ashamed he’d reacted in a way that showed weakness.  When his eyes adjusted, they rested on a man in a black suit and tie.  The assassin couldn’t remember the man’s name.  Only what he thought of him when he saw him.

Straight edge black suit, black tie.  Crew cut hair.  Wearing sunglasses inside a building.  Obvious government type.  Probably some prick head of some prick division full of pricks.  The assassin wasn’t in the mood to hear whatever it was the government lackey had to say.  He was prepared to fight, do as much damage to the Men In Black wannabe’s face before he uttered a single damn word.  But imagine the assassin’s surprise when the cookie cutter government clone stepped aside and in waddled someone else.  Someone much different than the first man through.  The assassin still remembered his name.  Howie Plumb.

A terrible name for a government official.  The assassin remembered hoping the guy wasn’t a professor.  Although he had been pretty darn good at Clue in his day.  If his name wasn’t bad enough, his clothes were even worse.  He had on a Hawaiian shirt, buttoned all the way up to his throat.  Over that, he sported a leather, sleeveless vest.  It was unzipped to allow his large belly to protrude through.  Grey, stained sweatpants and plain white tennis shoes finished the wardrobe.  He had long, greasy hair pulled back into a pony tail and a long, unkept beard with no direction or style to it.  Large, thick glasses topped things off.  The assassin couldn’t believe the guy could be government, not in any shape or form.  But there was more to Howie Plumb than appeared.

Before the assassin could respond in any way to his new guest, the strange man motioned for his stoic sidekick to leave the room.  The suit frowned, not moving.  Sighing, Plumb frustratingly stuck his thumb back over his shoulder in the direction of the door as he spoke.

“Get lost, junior.”  He didn’t think the suit was going to like that.  But the assassin himself liked what Plumb had said.  And the attitude with which he’d said it.  A small smile crept up the corners of the assassin’s mouth.  This would be interesting.  “Junior” huffed.

“Mr. Plumb, I don’t think that is a good idea, sir.”  Plumb turned towards him.

“Son, you aren’t paid to think.  Good thing too, or you’d be poor as shit.  Now go.”  Still staying put, the government stooge showed signs of discomfort on his face.

“But my orders…”  Plumb interrupted.

“Are to protect me and listen to mine, Johnson.  Right now, I am ordering you to get the hell out of my sight.  Or I can call your supervisor and let them know about the stop you made while on the way here.  You know, the one that you thought I was asleep during.”  Even in the dark of the cell, the assassin could see Johnson turn a shade paler.  He stuttered out an attempt at a response.

“I-I-I was just getting some air.  You were snoring so loud I couldn’t stand it anymore.”  Plumb smirked.

“A little air, huh?  Inside of a massage parlor?”  Johnson shrugged.

“So what?  I got a massage.”  Plumb’s smile widened.

“Anyone who does a simple Google search of that very massage parlor you went to will find that every massage comes with a happy ending.  Or no massage at all.  At least not of your back.”  Johnson gulped.  Plumb continued.  “What do you think the top brass would say if they knew you detoured off route of a top secret, very important national security matter to get a handjob?  Now me, I could care less.  I’m actually mad you didn’t wake me up to take part in the festivities.  But I don’t think your bosses would feel the same, eh?”  Johnson pointed towards the doorway.

“I’ll be in the hallway, Mr. Plumb sir.”  And he left.  Plumb chuckled and turned back towards the assassin.

“Well, let’s get started, shall we?”

Chapter 6

Although the assassin was very intrigued by Howie Plumb, he wasn’t interested in anything he had to say.  Cocking his head, he thought about how quickly he could take the short, fat man out.  Johnson seemed like a pussy, so he wasn’t worried about that government stiff.  But who knew how many guards there were in this hell hole.  Or if they would show any restraint on an escaping prisoner.  Odds weren’t in the assassin’s favor, so it seemed he didn’t have much choice but to sit and listen to Plumb.  The strange man folded his arms and huffed.

“Let me guess.  You are thinking how easy it would be to take me out, right?  It would be a stupid thing to try.  And not for the reason you are thinking.  Not because of Johnson out in the hall, not because of the multiple armed guards past him, and not because of the fact you have no fucking clue where you are.  No, it would be stupid because you wouldn’t get past me.”  Now it was the assassin’s turn to huff.  Plumb smiled.

“So, you aren’t completely mute.  But can you speak actual words?”  The assassin couldn’t hide a smile of his own as he responded.

“You’ve got balls, old man.  I’ll give you that.  But don’t push me.  I’ve killed bigger, stronger, and younger men than you.”  Plumb spread his arms apart.

“Come on, then, try me.  Or are you scared you will get played again like you did by that pretty FBI agent?  Huh…Cupid?”  Pent up rage bubbled up and out of the assassin’s mouth as he roared and charged Plumb.

He didn’t want to make things worse for himself, but someone needed to shut the nutjob’s fat mouth.  It wouldn’t turn out to be the assassin, however.  When he got close, Plumb snapped his fingers and the assassin felt his legs go weak.  The rage faded from his mind and he fell to the ground.  His eyes got heavy and he found himself feeling very relaxed, very tired.  Before he could fall asleep, he heard the snap of fingers once again.  Feeling like himself again, he sat up quickly and scrambled back away from Plumb.

“What the hell was that!?  What did you do!?”  Plumb laughed.

“I warned you.”  Breathing heavily, the assassin ran a hand through his hair.

“Seriously…what the hell?”

“Well, son, let’s just say you and me aren’t that different.  I have special abilities, just like you.  You are smart, strong, and one hell of a shot.  My abilities are a little less…easy to explain.”  The assassin blew out a breath.  He couldn’t argue with the man.  He’d seen firsthand what he could do.  But what had Plumb done, really?  That was the question he still wanted answered.

“Okay…so you still didn’t tell me what you did and how?”  Plumb shrugged.

“Since I was young, I’ve had these…powers, if you will.  I have an edge when it comes to anything associated with sleep.  Which is good, because I don’t have an edge anywhere else.  I’m fat as fuck, slow as shit, and about as weak as a newborn.  But all that doesn’t matter when all I need to do is snap my fingers.  I won’t bore you with the logistics.  Besides, I don’t understand it all.  Through the years I’ve grown stronger, fine-tuned my powers.  I can hear everything going on around me while I sleep.  I’m just aware even if I’m cashed out.  Also, I can control other people’s sleep…and their dreams.”  The assassin couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  But then again, he’d just been put to sleep himself.

“This…uh, is a lot to take in, Plumb.”  Plumb strode forward and offered his hand to the assassin.  He accepted it and got to his feet.  Shaking hands, Plumb smiled.

“Call me Sandman, everyone else does.”  The assassin arched an eyebrow.

“Sandman, huh?  That’s clever.”  Releasing hands, Plumb A.K.A. Sandman answered.

“Yeah, I suppose.  That’s kind of the point though.  Not many people know my powers, you are one of a select few.  Johnson out there thinks I’m just the head of a government program, here to meet with you about joining up.  But I’m like you.  I had powers, used them in my own way for my own reasons and got lots of bad attention.  The feds scooped me up and made me the same kind of offer I’m about to make you.”  The assassin didn’t like where this was going.  Folding his arms, he fought the urge to roll his eyes.

“Go ahead, let’s hear it.  But I don’t think you’ll like my answer, Sandman.”  Plumb sighed.

“Alright, here it is.  The government has put me in charge of a team.  All of its members have some kind of special ability that will help the cause.”

“What cause is that?”

“I can’t get into it much right now.  It’s a threat to national security.  Let’s just leave it at that for now.  More about the team, though.  The kicker is that all of the team members also have something in common.”  The assassin was intrigued.  He had nothing in common with Plumb, besides the fact that they both got caught by the government.  Plumb continued.

“Some dumb ass suit thought it would be a fun idea to find gifted criminals who seemed to have a good side that all shared a similarity.  And to appeal to their “good side” and force them into forming a team to combat the aforementioned national security threat.”  The assassin interrupted.

“What the hell is the similarity, Plumb?  You and me don’t have a damn thing in common.”  Plumb smirked.

“Is that so…Cupid?”  The assassin clenched his fists and growled.  Plumb put his hands up in a defensive gesture.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it as an insult.  That is our common thread.”  The assassin was getting annoyed.

“What, stupid nicknames?”

“Yes, well that and more.  Everyone on the team has an ability, power, or appearance that causes them to relate to a character from holidays.”  Plumb touched his chest before continuing.  “Sandman.”  Then he pointed at the assassin.  “Cupid.”  The assassin shook his head.

“The damn sandman doesn’t have anything to do with holidays.”  Plumb shrugged.

“I guess they ran out of holiday options when they chose me, I don’t know.  Well me and the Tooth Fairy.  Maybe it was a fable thing, or a kid’s story thing.  I don’t fucking know.  Anyways, that is the similarity.”  The assassin did a double take.

“Did you say tooth fairy?”  Plumb nodded.

“Yes.  Jill James, former dentist turned vigilante.  Tiny little thing with short hair and huge eyes.  Looks like Tinkerbell.  Had a dental office in a bad part of town, trying to help out poor kids and families.  Her place got caught in gang crossfire and some kids got killed.  So she went a little nutso, took some self-defense and gun shooting classes.  Went after the gang members that were involved in the shooting.  Killed them all, believe it or not.  Took their teeth too.  Ripped them right out of their mouth.  Kind of became her thing.  Gang members started calling her the Tooth Fairy.  She cleaned up the neighborhood before the government got a hold of her.”  The assassin rubbed his chin in thought.

“Sounds like my kind of girl.  So who else is there?”

“Well, there is a tough little Irishman who can fight with the best of them.  Former priest turned vigilante.  Same kind of bad neighborhood, tragic loss kind of story like Jill.  He has an affection for wearing green and has red hair and a red beard.  Not to mention, he is a little person.”  The assassin rolled his eyes and didn’t care if Plumb saw it.

“Let me guess.  A leprechaun, for St. Patrick’s Day?”  Plumb nodded.

“Yup.  His name is actually Patrick too.  Goes by Saint Patty.”  Plumb paused to let that sink in.  The assassin couldn’t believe how ridiculous this was.  A psychotic dentist pixie?  St. Patty the Leprechaun?  What the hell was going on?  Plumb continued.  “Then there is a demo expert.  Ex-patriot, a little unstable.  Older guy, white hair and goatee, likes to make things blow up.  Name’s Sam.”  The assassin sighed.

“Let me guess, Uncle Sam.”  Plumb nodded with a smile.

“You’re getting good at this.”  The assassin pinched his nose and shut his eyes.

“Just don’t tell me you’ve got Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny on your team.”  Expecting a laugh, the assassin opened his eyes and looked at Plumb when he didn’t hear one.  Plumb shrugged.

“Actually…”  The assassin’s eyes got big.

“You’ve got to be shitting me.  Santa Clause?  The Easter Bunny?”

“He isn’t really a rabbit.  Although he does like to dress like one sometimes.  He does have quite an overbite…and some big ears.  Anyways, his name is Peter.  Peter Cotton.  Him and the Kringles are master thieves.  They can break into any house or building.  And they love kids.  Before they got caught they would break into houses of kids that were being abused and do something terrible to the adults doing the abusing.  Then leave the kids presents and candy.”  The assassin just stared at Plumb.  This couldn’t be real.
“The Kringles?  So they aren’t the real ones, obviously.”  Plumb once again didn’t chuckle.

“Well…they kind of are.  Cotton and the Kringles may be master thieves and may be human, but like me they have a little bit more to their powers.  A little magic.  Helps with the master thievery.  Kris and Jessica do the Christmas thing every year, and Cotton does the Easter thing.  It’s part of the deal the made with the government years ago.”  The assassin swore his chin had to be touching the ground by this point as he gawked at Plumb.

“But Santa Clause has been around for hundreds of years.”

“The government makes it seem that way, but no not hundreds.  They are older, but not immortal or anything.  At least I don’t think.”  The assassin began pacing back and forth, trying to make sense of things.  Then he stopped and pointed at Plumb.

“Don’t tell me they have a fucking magic sleigh or elves.”  Plumb chuckled.  The assassin was glad to finally hear something in this freak show was really just make-believe.

“No, they use some top secret government aircraft.  They call it The Sleigh, but it isn’t an actual sleigh with reindeer or anything.  They do have a couple elves with them on the team though.  A brother and sister.  Elijah and Eleanor Fitz.  They are both black belts and experts in hand to hand weaponry.”  The assassin rubbed his eyes.

“Fucking elf ninjas.  Of course.”  Plumb cleared his throat.

“Alright, so you get the jist.  We need your help, Cupid.  What do you say?”  The assassin glared at Plumb.

“Don’t call me that.  And you want to know what I say?  I say fuck off.  Leave me alone.  No.”  Plumb scoffed.

“So you’d rather rot here?”  The assassin folded his arms.

“What about the team?  Are they in prison, under lock and key?  Watched by the government controlling them and their actions?  What about you, Sandman?”  Plumb looked at the ground.

“Yeah, we don’t have our freedom.  But we are in a private prison, at least.  It’s more like a resort, but it is guarded.  We are guarded.  But we eat well, and can have just about anything for entertainment.  It’s better than the alternative.  Trust me.”

“No way, Plumb.  If I’m going to spend the rest of my life in a cell, I’d rather not be a pawn for the government.  Rotting in a cell is rotting in a cell.  Doesn’t matter how fancy you try to make it sound.”  Plumb took a step towards the assassin.

“Look, I get it.  I felt the same way you do.  But the government will bury you.  You are in a tiny, shit hole of a prison deep in Mexico.  Once I leave, your life is over.  You will be beaten, fed gruel if you are fed at all, and no one will ever come with an offer like mine.  Not to mention, a pretty boy like you will be pretty popular with the inmates.”  The assassin knew Plumb was right.  Sighing, he shook his head.

“Damn it, Plumb.  So, let’s say I took this offer.  What kind of work would I be doing?”  Plumb smiled.

“The work you love.  Killing people who deserve it.”  He did love that.

“Will I be going out on missions on my own?”

“Yeah, sometimes alone, sometimes with team members.  But they always make us wear these.”  Plumb reached down and pulled up his pant leg, revealing some kind of ankle collar.  He continued.  “GPS tracking device.  If we don’t follow the rules, they can shock us, inject us with sedative to knock us out, etc.  And you can’t get it off without blowing off your leg, so don’t even think about it.”  The assassin didn’t like being someone’s bitch.  But maybe he could find a way to escape eventually.  And in the meantime, it was better than the alternative.  Letting out another big sigh, the assassin stuck out his hand.

“I’m probably going to regret this, Plumb.  But you’ve got yourself a deal.”  Plumb laughed and grasped the assassin’s hand, shaking it vigorously.

“Welcome to Codename: Holidays, Cupid.”

Chapter 7

So that was that.  Now the assassin known as Cupid was part of some top secret team of former good-intentioned criminals working for the government.  He still hadn’t been told what the big, shadowy national threat was yet.  Plumb told him he’d find out soon.  His teammates hadn’t turned out to be not so bad.

He hadn’t had much time to spend around them before his first mission.  But he hit it off right away with St. Patty.  He was a cool little guy.  And tough as nails, just as Plumb had said.  Uncle Sam was a whacko, but pretty funny.  The Tooth Fairy was a little creepy, always looking at his teeth and talking about how nice they were.  A little un-nerving.  Or it could be the fact that Cupid knew the tiny woman had taken out a bunch of sadistic gang bangers all on her own.  But she was nice to look at, so she was okay.

The Kringles were nice, and they fit the part of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause.  Old, snow-white hair, and thick as the thieves they were.  And Kris could really pack away the cookies.  The elf twins were pretty badass.  Hard to understand, but they had some mad skills.  Peter Cotton, A.K.A. the Easter Bunny was a little eccentric, but a nice guy.  A bit spastic.  And his obsession with eggs was borderline psychotic.  Regardless, they weren’t bad company.  Much better than the maniacs he would have been stuck with at the Mexican prison.  Shaking off thoughts of his teammates, Cupid focused back on the task at hand.  He had someone to kill.

Plumb had given him the file yesterday.  Victor Rows.  52 year old caucasian male.  Had his hands in all sorts of dirty cookie jars.  Prostitution rings, money laundering, stock market scams, blackmail, kidnappings, and even murder.  Craziest part of all, he was a U.S. senator.  Cupid was happy to put the filthy pig down, but he had to wonder why the government was going to such extremes to take out one of their own.  Had to be more going on than just the stuff in the file, or they could have sent any assassin after him.  But Cupid was a shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy, and that was just what he was going to do.

Hefting his weapon, he positioned himself on one knee, ignoring the ankle bracelet as it dug into his skin.  He was really starting to hate the damn thing.  Looking through the scope, he searched for his target.

Victor Rows exited a building, having just finished a morning of meetings.  Surrounded by three bodyguards, he motioned for them to stop outside the entrance.  Lighting a cigarette as he waited for his chauffer to pull up with his car, the dead man walking struck up conversation with his protectors.  The assassin smiled.  Oh, Victor, don’t you know smoking will kill you? Literally this time he thought.  Cupid knew he had about three minutes.  He only needed one.

Running his hand along the magnificent weapon, he settled his finger on the trigger.  It was a rigged up cross bow.  He’d never seen anything like it in his life.  A sniper crossbow able to shoot long distances.  Best part was what the tiny projectile arrow would do once it connected.  If what Plumb had told him about it was true, Cupid was in for quite a show.  Lining up the crosshairs, the assassin centered his aim right between the beady eyes of Victor Rows.  Letting out a slow, controlled breath, Cupid pulled the trigger.

The arrow released, causing the bow to buck back.  Cupid dropped flat to ground and looked through the scope.  Within seconds, Rows’ head snapped back and he stumbled but stayed on his feet.  Cupid had to give the douche bag credit, he was a tough S.O.B.  Rows immediately touched where the tiny arrow had dug into his skull.  Blood was running down his face from the entry wound.  The shot wouldn’t kill him, but what was about to happen next would.

Cupid reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box with a red button on it.  It was a trigger for the arrow he’d just shot.  Showtime.  Cupid smiled as he pressed the button completely down as far as he could.  Just as the bodyguard reached for his boss, Victor Rows’ head exploded in a shower of red mist and gore.  Chaos followed as people scrambled to figure out what the hell had just happened.  Passerbys ducked for cover, bodyguards looked around frantically for the culprit, and Victor Rows just bled from the stump formerly known as his head.  Cupid felt his adrenaline rise.  He had to admit that had been pretty sweet.

Popping up to a crouch, Cupid quickly disassembled his weapon, then placed it back into the briefcase.  Looking around to make sure he wasn’t leaving anything behind, Cupid nodded to himself in reassurance.  Then he turned to run, but froze.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood up so quickly and sharply that he swore they were being ripped out.  Cupid knew the feeling he was experiencing.  Someone was watching him.

Chapter 8

Spinning around, he surveyed the area with his trained eye.  He searched every nook and cranny surrounding his perch, but no one was there.  Still feeling as though someone was watching him, he physically scoured the area.  Nothing.  Grunting, he crouched down and tried to calm himself.  There was no one watching him.  He was just imagining it.  Cupid was one hundred percent positive there wasn’t a soul on the rooftop.  No one was watching him, he repeated to himself.  But that feeling…he’d never been wrong about it.  How could it be true?  Unless…they weren’t watching him with the naked eye.

Grabbing his briefcase, Cupid grabbed the scope and placed it to his eye.  Then he looked all around for his suspected peeping tom.  Buildings across from him and every which way turned up nothing.  He was just imagining things…had to be.  Back when he served, he learned firsthand how the stresses of the job could mess with your mind.  But he hadn’t been stressed.  Hell, he’d actually had fun.  Was he going crazy?

Shaking off the feeling, he decided to take one last peek at his handiwork before he booked it.  Glancing back at the spot at which he’d literally blown Rows’ head off, Cupid settled in on a bodyguard standing stone still.  Too still.  And his blood ran cold.

Not only was the bodyguard standing still as a statue, he was facing Cupid’s direction.  The feeling of being watched grew stronger, nausea worming its way into his stomach.  No freaking way the guy was looking at him, Cupid thought.  He was miles away.  No one could see that far, especially with all the buildings and structures obstructing the naked view.  But damn it, Cupid still couldn’t shake the feeling.  If only the guy didn’t have sunglasses on.  Focusing on the bodyguard’s face through the scope, Cupid gasped.

The bastard didn’t have sunglasses on…it was his eyes.  Dark black eyes.  Completely black.  As Cupid scrambled to make sense of what he was seeing, the black eyed bodyguard lifted his hand up by his face.  Then, lifting his index finger, he wagged it back and forth and shook his head.  It was as if he was saying Cupid shouldn’t have done what he’d done to Rows.  Caught completely off guard and mentally struggling to grasp what his eyes were seeing, Cupid dropped the scope and flattened himself to the ground, tightly closing his eyes.

This couldn’t be happening, he thought.  He was imagining things again, having hallucinations or something.  That was the only answer.  Sweat beaded on his forehead and his breathing became labored as he fought off a panic attack.  Maybe the government bastards injected him with something through his ankle collar.  Plumb said it was possible that it could be done.  But he hadn’t felt any sharp pricks or stabs.  Taking a deep breath, he calmed himself down.  He wasn’t going to do this.  Not now.

He was the best at what he did, damn it.  He’d killed many bad men, including Victor Rows just now.  Cupid was a bad ass.  No one got in his head.  No one scared him.  He was fearless.  Forcing himself back up into a crouch, he grabbed the scope off the ground and looked through it again.  Searching for the freakshow bodyguard, he was unable to fight the cringe that hit his body when his eyes caught sight of the black eyed man.  But now he looked normal, giving orders to another man and looking around like everyone else for who’d killed his boss.  No black eyes, no statuesque stance, and no feeling of being watched.  It had all been in his head.  The whirlwind events of the past couple weeks were catching up to him.  Cupid let out a big sigh.  He needed some sleep…and a drink.  Looking at his watch, he cursed.

Placing the scope back into his briefcase and snapping it shut, Cupid got to his feet and took off running.  He couldn’t believe how careless he’d been with his time.  There was somewhere he needed to be, and he only had a few minutes to get to the relay point.  If he was late, his government handlers would start to get worried.  And when they got worried, they could decide to start having fun with the high tech ankle collar stuck on his leg.  Cupid had had enough bullshit for one day.  Hurdling a steam pipe, he kept sprinting and cleared a six foot gap between buildings.  Almost there.

There was another reason he’d chosen the perch he had for taking out Rows.  It was not only a perfect spot for the job he had to do, but it gave him another opportunity.  A personal opportunity.  Smack dab in the between his relay point and the perch he used for the Rows hit, there was another perch.  One that gave him the perfect view of the High Rise apartment complex.  And a perfect view of Apartment 20B.  The home of Veronica Matthews.  Cupid knew her as Psyche.  The government agent who trashed his heart, but more importantly, his life.

He’d done lots of research on her the past couple weeks.  His internet access was monitored at the prison, but he still had unlimited access.  And he’d learned lots of tricks to hide his digital tracks through the years.  All his research on Psyche looked to the blind eye like he was just keeping up on his sports teams and watching Netflix.  He even threw in a porn site for good measure.  That way they’d really think he had nothing to hide.

Cupid learned the name, address, and history of the girl that got away.  Got away with screwing him over that was.  Now he just had to bide his time, and he would get his revenge.

Clearing another gap, he landed in a roll and came up in a crouch between two large roof vents.  A large mechanical box gave him cover in his front, his head barely poking over the top.  Opening his case, he took out the scope again.  Glancing at his watch, he cursed again under his breath for being so careless.  Two minutes, but it was better than nothing.  Putting the scope to his eye, he focused on the window to Apartment 20B.  Where are you, Pysche, he thought.  Suddenly, a form walked into view.

The dark hair.  Tan, smooth skin.  Large breasts, hourglass figure.  Gorgeous hair.  It was her.  He hated that the sight of her caused butterflies to start fluttering in his stomach.  After all she’d done, he still had feelings for her.  Not her, not Veronica Matthews.  No, that wasn’t the truth.  Cupid had feelings for Bridget.  The fake persona created for Veronica by the FBI.  The woman he fell in love with didn’t exist.  But the imposter posing as her did.  And he had plans for her.

As he watched her walk up to the window, something deep inside him stirred as she began to unbutton her blouse.  Was she really going to undress, right out in the open?  No way, he thought.  Then again, she was twenty stories up in the air, in the middle of the day.  No one would be able to see her, except him that was.  Glancing at his watch, he cursed for the final time.  He had to move.  Looked like he was going to miss the show.

He entertained the thought of staying anyways, figuring it might be worth a shock or two from the ankle collar just to see Psyche naked again.  But he decided in the end, it wasn’t.  Been there done that…literally, he told himself with a smile.

Looking back through the scope at the beautiful woman in the window, Cupid feigned holding an imaginary sniper rifle in his hands.  Pretending to line up the cross hairs right between Veronica Matthew’s eyes, he pulled the make believe trigger.  BAM, he said to himself.  Soon, my sweet Pysche, very soon.  Packing everything back up, Cupid the assassin took off for the relay point, hauling ass to make sure he was punctual.

As he ran, hurdled, and leapt, he couldn’t shake the image of the black eyed bodyguard from his mind.  Despite his glee over his short visit with Psyche, the image was still gnawing at his brain.  It had felt so real.  But it had to have been a hallucination or day dream.  Had to be.  Right?  Of course it was, he told himself in a not so sure tone.

Cupid could see the relay point up ahead.  An old life flight landing pad on the top of the hospital.  He saw the two agents, his handlers, waiting by the government helicopter that was disguised as a life flight copter.  The agents even had on EMT uniforms to sell it.  For a second, Cupid worried he was running towards a real life flight crew.  But his worries were put to rest when he got close enough to recognize their faces.

Meyer and Lang stood with their arms folded.  Lang held a remote of some type in his hand.  Meyer looked at his watch.  Still a good twenty yards away, Cupid glanced at his own.  It was meet time.  He’d made it.  Technically.  He wasn’t right up to the helicopter but he was close enough.  His handlers could see him and knew he was coming.  They could have done something to him through the ankle collar, but maybe these government stooges wouldn’t turn out to be pricks after all.

No sooner had Cupid thought that than a jolt of electricity shot up from his ankle and through his body.  Jerking and spasming, he fell to the rooftop cement with a hard thud.  Just as he began to recover enough to reach up and wipe the drool that was running from his mouth, he was hit again with another jolt.  His handlers were laughing hysterically.  Lang called out to Cupid as he writhed in pain.

“You’re late, goldilocks.”

Cupid gingerly lifted his arm and flipped them the bird.  He got another jolt for his troubles.  Moaning and groaning, he shut his eyes.  Pricks.


That’s it, hope you liked it!  Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day:)  Talk to you all very soon!!!

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FREE Short Story of the Week #11

Finally, it is here;)  I bring to you this week’s FREE short story of the week, entitled TAG TEAM.  It is the third installment in the PARTNERS series.  Detective Herbert Vale’s life is about to get very complicated.  Find out how in the story below, and as always HAPPY READING!!!


Cover Design by ten21 Design Company

An affiliate of BSIC Publishing Company

Cover Copyright © 2013 by ten21 Design Company

Cover Copyright © 2013 by BSIC Publishing

Tag Team



Short Story


Christopher Lee Cousino


Copyright © 2013 by Christopher Lee Cousino

Copyright © 2013 by BSIC Publishing Company

This is a work of fiction.  All characters, organizations, locations, and events portrayed in this story are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to any real person, living or deceased, is completely coincidental.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.  Then he becomes your partner.”

Nelson Mandela (1918-PRESENT) South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999


Tag Team

Chapter 1

Detective Herbert Vale glared at the dark house up the street from where he was parked in his old Buick.  It was late, after midnight.  The house he was intently focused on sat smack dab in the middle of a dead-end circle drive.  Despite being a good distance away, its position gave Herbert a good view.  The old detective could see it perfectly.  Make that, the old suspended detective.  Didn’t matter, he didn’t need to be official to dish out the kind of justice he had planned for tonight.

It was a nice house.  A two story brownstone with a three stall garage.  The third stall for the owner’s boat.  Yard and landscaping both professionally manicured.  The place screamed rich and famous.  The man that lived there wasn’t famous, but he was definitely rich.  Or at least his parents were.  Without seeing, Herbert knew there was a fancy walk out patio in the back.  One that led to a huge underground pool.  He knew that because he’d been here before.  Years ago.  Now he was back and ready to get to work.

After his run-in with Briggs at the station, Herbert had been confused at his fellow detective’s crypted message.  But once he figured it out, Herbert had been like a kid in a candy store.  The address belonged to a man that he’d always suspected had kidnapped and killed his little girl.  Herbert wasn’t sure what evidence Briggs had found to link the owner of the address to Mckey’s cabin, but it didn’t matter.  He’d waited years to get justice for Gloria.  Herbert Vale had waited long enough.

Everything was ready.  His Skylark was packed with all the necessary equipment needed.  Herbert had left his wife sleeping peacefully in their bed at home.  It hadn’t taken long for Abbey to check out, the stress and worry of the night finally gone since she knew her husband was safe.  Once her breathing proved to Herbert that she was in a deep sleep, he’d quietly gotten up and dressed.  After his car of choice was packed up and ready to go, he’d left Abbey a note saying that he couldn’t sleep and went for a drive in the old Buick to clear his head.  What he was really doing was clearing the world of one more murderer.  The most important one to him.  One that had almost gotten away with killing his precious child.

His prey wasn’t home.  The vermin was probably out at the liquor store.  From what Herbert had heard, drinking seemed to be all the murdering scumbag did these days.  He was most likely already drunk.  Or at least that’s what Herbert was hoping.  It would make things easier.  Either way, he had time.  Waiting patiently in the dark, Herbert’s thoughts drifted back many years.  To the day Gloria Vale died.

Chapter 2

Herbert Vale narrowed his eyes at the person sitting opposite him.  Across the counter was his adversary.  The game was in full motion, and things were getting intense.  It was an extreme case of cat and mouse, and the detective was determined to come out on top.  No matter the odds.  Running multiple scenarios through his head, Herbert made his move.

“Go fish.”  A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as Herbert waited for his daughter Gloria’s response.  Looking from her hand of cards to his, she shot him a glare.

“Daddy, you better not be fibbing.  You aren’t allowed to cheat.  Are you sure you don’t have a purple mermaid?  Because if you do, I win.”  Herbert tried to stifle a laugh as he looked at his hand and the joyful purple mermaid it contained.

“No, dear.  Have I ever cheated at Go Fish?”  Gloria rolled her little eyes.

“Uh, yeah.  And at chutes and ladders.  And hide and seek.  And…”  Herbert cut her off, his laugh finally escaping.

“Alright, alright, easy now.  You win.  Good detective work, my dear.”  He tossed the card containing the purple mermaid across to his now beaming daughter.  She snatched it up, paired it with the one she’d had and laid it down.  Then she folded her hands in front of her and stuck her tongue out.

“I win.  Now you have to dance like a ballerina.”  Herbert folded his arms and huffed.

“What?  You are really going to hold me to that?”  Gloria nodded.  Herbert tried a different approach.  “Now, darling, your father is a decorated detective for the Detroit Police Department.  You wouldn’t make a prestigious figure such as myself dance like a girl?  Would you?”  Unmoved, his daughter nodded again.  Throwing up his hands, he sighed.

“Alright, fine.”  Preparing to dance and twirl just as Gloria did at her ballet shows, Herbert shook his head.  “At least you aren’t making me wear a tutu.”  Gloria’s eyes and mouth flew open as an excited yelp escaped her mouth.  Then she took off quickly for her room.  Herbert called after her.

“No!  Gloria, I was kidding.  Your tutu will never fit me.”  Before he could follow, the sweet sound of his wife Abbey’s laughter filled his ears.  Turning towards the stove, he grinned at the love of his life.

“What are you laughing at, beautiful?”  Abbey carried a stack of pancakes to their kitchen table and set it down next to a heaping plate of crispy bacon.

“You, dear.  You’ve always known how to make me laugh.  Not to mention the thought of you in a tutu is just hysterical.  I just love watching you and our little girl together.  You are such a wonderful father.  Gloria is lucky to have you…and so am I.”  She reached her arms out for an embrace and Herbert happily obliged, hugging his wife tightly.

“No, darling, I’m the lucky one.”  He gave her a kiss then let her go and rubbed his hands together, looking at the spread on the table.  “Looks great, babe.  Thanks for making breakfast.”  Abbey went to the fridge and grabbed a carton of orange juice.

“You’re welcome.  Now eat.  You need to get moving or you’ll be late.  Quincy may be your friend but he will be forced to get after you if you are late again.”  Herbert dug in to his breakfast and waved off Abbey’s remark.

“Yeah, yeah.”  Footsteps behind him caught his attention and Herbert turned.  Gloria was standing proudly in the doorway to the kitchen, holding up a tutu that wouldn’t even fit around Herbert’s thigh.  Before he could answer, Abbey burst out laughing.


Herbert sat at his desk, looking over some case files.  His partner, Jack Young, was organizing knick knacks and office supplies on his own desk for the second time already this morning.  The guy was a good cop, but was a little OCD.  Herbert chuckled.  Jack looked up from his painstakingly slow task of moving his stapler to be even with a clipboard.

“What are you laughing at, Herbert?”  Herbert shook his head.

“Nothing, Jack.  Just thought of something funny.”  That something funny was that Herbert couldn’t wait until Jack left to use the bathroom or get coffee.  The second he did, Herbert was going to move things around on his desk just enough to screw with Jack’s head.  Jack, oblivious, nodded and got back to his rearranging.  As Herbert reveled silently in his soon-to-be prank, Captain Quincy Jones flung open his office door and called out to the two.

“Vale, Young, got something for you.”  Both detectives shot to their feet and approached their captain.  He offered a file.

“Robbery homicide over on 7 Mile, get over there and check it out.”  Both men nodded and headed back to their desks.  As they gathered their things to go, Herbert’s desk phone rang.  It was Abbey.

“Hey babe, I can’t talk long, me and Jack have a case we are about to head out to.  What’s up?”

“Oh, okay honey, nothing major.  Just wanted you to know I’m going to take Gloria to the park.  Didn’t want you to call home and wonder where we were.”  Herbert smiled at his sweet wife’s thoughtfulness.

“Thanks, hon.  I appreciate that.  Are you just going to the park up the road from home then?  The one by that little lake.”

“Yeah, Gloria likes the slides at that one.”

“Okay, have fun.  Just be careful and watch our girl like a hawk.  You know how certain people I’ve told you about like to visit parks and look for unsupervised kids.”  Abbey sighed.

“Yes, I know, Herbert.  I won’t let any suspicious characters steal our child.  Now get to work, I love you.”

“Love you too.”  Herbert hung up and looked at Jack.

“Sorry about that, Jack.  You ready?”  Jack nodded and turned to leave.  As Jack headed for the door, Herbert smiled and made sure to bump a few items around on his partner’s desk as he followed.


The robbery homicide was ugly.  The elderly woman manning the counter never had a chance, Herbert thought.   Blowing out a sigh, he set the sheet back down to recover the corpse of Margaret Davis.  Jack was questioning the stock boy that had been working in the store when the robbery happened.  His name was Will Benson.  He looked to be sixteen, and very scared.  Herbert strolled up just as the kid began answering Jack’s latest question.

“Like I told you, I was back here by the door that leads to the freezer.  When I saw the guy pull a gun, I panicked.  I’m not a cop or some hero, I’m just a kid.  I mean, come on.  I’m only sixteen.  Mrs. Davis was always so nice to me.  I liked her a lot.  I wish…I wish I could’ve done something.  But I didn’t.  I hid in the cooler until he…”  The kid’s eyes teared up and his lip began to quiver.  Jack seemed unfazed.

“Right.  Answer a question for me though.  How’d Mrs. Davis’ body end up way back here, kid?  If the guy pulled a gun on her up front, why did she get her brains blown all over the cooler doors back here?”  Herbert sighed.

Jack wasn’t the best with kids, or adults.  Honestly, Herbert didn’t think Jack knew how to deal with people in general.  Herbert prided himself on reading people.  He didn’t see a murderer in the Will Benson.  So, since the kid obviously wasn’t the shooter, the younger detective stepped in before Jack emotionally scarred him even worse.

“It’s alright, kid.  We got it.  You were in the cooler hiding out, so you don’t know.  What can you tell us about the shooter?”  Herbert ignored the glare from Jack at his interruption.  The heat from the stare was pretty hot, but Jack would never say anything about it.  He was too professional, too calm.  The kid sniffled and wiped his nose with his forearm before answering.

“He had a hooded sweatshirt on, so I couldn’t see his face.  Since his back was to me, you know?”  Jack piped in.

“How’d you know it was a he, then?”  Herbert rolled his eyes.  For someone so OCD, Herbert couldn’t believe Jack needed to ask such obvious questions.  He answered for the kid.

“Probably the voice, right kid?”  Will nodded.  Herbert thought of a possible way to find out at least the skin color of the shooter.

“Was he wearing gloves?  Could you see his hands?”  Will’s face scrunched up in thought.  Then he shook his head.

“I’m not sure.  He either had dark gloves on or he was dark skinned.  His hands were dark.”  Darn, Herbert thought.  He put a hand on Will’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

“Thanks, Will.  Appreciate the help.  Sorry about your boss.  We’ll find the guy who did it.”  Will nodded, sniffled, and then walked out of the store to head home and grieve.  Herbert and Jack walked slowly back to the covered corpse of their victim.  Jack’s voice broke the silence.

“So, you think the kid is our shooter?  I think there is something he’s not telling us.”  Herbert shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, struggling to keep down a groan of frustration.  His partner was a stubborn ol’ bird.  But Jack was a good man, and he was Herbert’s partner.  Herbert had his partner’s back, always.

“No, Jack.  I don’t think the kid did it.  But who knows?  We’ll keep it in the realm of possibility for now.  Let’s go review the security camera from the store.”  Herbert nodded to forensics that the two detectives were done with the body and headed back to the front of the store.


Herbert and Jack got back to the precinct a couple hours later, the security camera turning up nothing.  The reason it turned up nothing was because there was no tape in the VCR recording anything from the camera.  Had the victim not put a tape in that morning, Herbert wondered.  Or had someone removed it after she was killed?  Or before?  There were 30 other tapes in a drawer by the VCR, all marked 1 through 30.  The date that morning, the 31st.

Was the 31st tape missing?  Or was there only 30?  Some business owners got lazy when it came to security camera surveillance, thinking nothing would ever happen.  But Herbert figured if you were going to have 30 tapes, you’d get one more.  Those thoughts were nagging at him as his desk phone rang.  Picking it up, his heart sped up when he heard crying on the other end.  It was Abbey.

“Honey, what’s wrong?  Talk to me?”  She spoke through anguished sobbing.

“Oh, Herbert…I’m so…sorry.  Gloria…our sweet Gloria…she’s…she’s…”  Herbert was panicked beyond belief.

“Abbey, darling…what happened to Gloria?”

“She’s gone!”  Herbert’s eyes widened.  He felt weak as he reached back and barely found his seat in time to sit.

“What do you mean, she’s gone?”

“Someone took her…at the park.  She’s been kidnapped.  I’m so sorry.”  Herbert shut his eyes and laid his head down onto his desk, his body going numb.  As he listened to Abbey apologize and cry, his mind drifted to thoughts.  Bad thoughts.  Very bad thoughts about what was happening to his precious little girl at this moment.  Possibly at the hand of a pedophile.  This couldn’t be happening, he thought painfully.

He wanted to speak, to ask Abbey more questions, but he couldn’t find his voice.  A police officer, apparently already at the house with Abbey, took the phone from Herbert’s inconsolable wife and said they’d stay with her as long as Herbert needed.  When Herbert didn’t answer, the officer offered his condolences hung up.

Herbert stayed how he was, silent and dazed, while the disconnected phone continued beeping in his ear.  He stayed that way for a while, until he felt a hand on his back and a familiar voice.  His friend and boss, Captain Quincy Jones.

“Herbert, I’m so sorry.  You should go home, be with Abbey.  We’ll find her.  We’ll find Gloria.”  Herbert stood up quickly, swatting the captain’s hand away as the phone fell from his grasp and smacked against the desk.

“No.  I’m a detective, damn it.  I’m on the case.  You can’t keep me off it.”  Quincy put his hands up, motioning for Herbert to calm down.

“Now, Herbert, I know this is tough.  I’m sorry.  But you know damn well that I can’t let you work the case of your own daughter’s abduction.  You are far too close to this one.  Besides, you are homicide.  That is not what this is, and we are going to make damn sure it stays that way.”  Quincy stepped closer and put both his hands on Herbert’s shoulders, opening his mouth to say more.  Before he could, Herbert knocked the captain’s grip on him away and stormed out of the precinct.

Sitting in his car outside, he struggled with what to do.  His heart wanted to go find Gloria.  To save her and severely punish whoever had taken her.  But his head knew that Quincy was right.  He was too close.  There was nothing he could do.  No trail to follow.  He was a homicide detective.  There was nothing for him to investigate.  No murder, no body.  Not yet.  That thought loosened his hold on his emotions and he lost it.  Herbert curled up in the driver’s seat of his car and sobbed.

Chapter 3

Herbert sat in his recliner, staring at the phone, willing it to ring with news of Gloria.  He glanced to his left at the police officer standing guard in case he was needed.  Herbert couldn’t believe Quincy had saddled him with a babysitter.  Like he, who himself was one of the best damn detectives in the freaking city, needed a street cop watching over him and his wife.  Shaking his head in disgust, Herbert looked to his right and down the hall into his bedroom.  Curled up in the fetal position under the covers was his Abbey.  The frustration disappeared from his face as his features softened at the image of his wife.

She wasn’t making any loud sobbing noises, and looked peaceful enough.  Herbert hoped she’d fallen asleep.  But he doubted that very much.  He knew how horrible he felt, and he hadn’t even been there when it had happened.  Abbey had the scars of being the one in charge of Gloria when she was abducted.  Poor Abs, Herbert sighed.  He hoped she’d come out of it.  Herbert knew what would help her do so.  Finding Gloria, alive and safe.  Looking back at the phone once again, he focused his will on making it ring.  Suddenly, it did just that.

Before the cop standing guard could react, Herbert hopped up and snatched the phone from the receiver.

“Hello, this is Detective Vale.”  It was Quincy’s voice on the other end.

“Hey, Herbert, how are you and Abbey?”  Herbert huffed.

“We’d be a lot better if we had our Gloria.  I’m going crazy just sitting here, Quincy.  Please tell me you have something for me.  Anything.”  Quincy sighed.

“Not much.  Just the names of everyone who was at the park when Gloria went missing and their statements.”  Herbert ran a hand through his hair.  Everyone who stuck around after Gloria disappeared, that is.

“Okay, that’s a start.  Read the names to me.”

“Okay, Herbert.”  So Quincy rattled off the names.  Herbert didn’t recognize any of them.  That is, until the final name was rattled off.  His stomach flipped.

“Wait, Quincy.  What was the last one?”  Quincy cleared his throat.

“Um, hang on.  Oh, a young kid.  A teen…name was Will.  Will Benson.  Said he’s been coming there since he was a kid and likes to do his thinking there.  Said he didn’t see anything.  Weird kid, but nothing suspicious about him.  Why do you ask?  Know him?”  Herbert’s mind raced.

Will Benson, the teen from the store homicide he and Jack had worked that morning.  The kid must have gone to the park after he left the crime scene.  Jack had asked if the kid was the killer.  Herbert had dismissed it, but now he had his doubts.  The missing security tape, the non-descriptive description Will gave of the shooter.  Damn, Jack may have been right.  Herbert cursed to himself for being so dismissive.

And now the same kid ends up being at the same park as Herbert’s wife and daughter, at the same time Gloria goes missing.  Could he have known Gloria was Herbert’s kid?  Did Will kill Mrs. Davis?  If so, was he feeling the heat from Herbert?  Could he be going after Herbert to save his skin, to use Gloria as blackmail to drop the case?  If so, how was Herbert going to ever forgive himself for letting the bastard walk away from the store that morning?

Maybe Herbert was jumping to conclusions.  It seemed far-fetched. Maybe it was all just a coincidence.  But then again.  Something Herbert had learned during his time as a detective was that there were no coincidences when it comes to crime and criminals.  You have one guy at two crime scenes within a couple hours of one another.  Odds are he is involved in both, somehow, someway.  Herbert’s grip tightened on the phone.

“He was at the store homicide Jack and I worked this morning.  He was the stock boy, supposedly saw the whole thing.  But Jack had his doubts…and now, so do I.  We need to talk to him.”

“About the Davis homicide?”  Herbert gritted his teeth as he answered.

“No, Quincy.  Both Mrs. Davis…and Gloria.”

Chapter 4

Herbert, Quincy, and Jack sat in the living room of the home of Don and Dana Benson.  Parents of Will Benson, the possible murderer of Margaret Davis.  And the possible abductor of Gloria Vale.  Herbert tapped his feet impatiently.

Will wasn’t home currently.  Very convenient.  Quincy took a sip from a styrofoam cup of coffee that Dana Benson had given all three detectives and asked Don Benson another question.

“So, when do you expect your son, Mr. Benson?”  The elder Benson shrugged.

“Not sure.  He was very upset about Mrs. Davis, so he said he needed some time alone.  Terrible tragedy, that poor woman’s murder.  She was always so nice to Will.  What a day, huh?  That murder, and now that poor girl that was abducted from the park.  What was her name…Glenda…no, Gladys…hmm.”  Herbert crunched his styrofoam cup, hot coffee splashing all over his hand and onto the floor.

Quincy and Jack looked uncomfortably at Herbert, and then slowly set their own cups down, sensing the time to go was approaching.  Before they could speak, Herbert did so.

“Gloria.  The girl’s name is Gloria.  Sorry, we just really want to find her.”  Don and Dana just stared.  Then Dana rushed off to grab something to clean up the coffee mess while Don nodded, then swallowed very hard.  Herbert continued.

“Anyways, where does Will go when he needs time alone?  We really need to speak to him.”  Don looked at Herbert skeptically.

“He’s not in any trouble, is he?”  Herbert shook his head and forced a smile.

“No, sir.  We just need to ask your son some follow-up questions about his boss’s murder.”  Don nodded slowly before answering.

“Okay, right.  Well, he likes to take my boat out on the lake.  He says it clears his head.  That’s where he is now.”  Herbert stood, soon followed by Jack and Quincy.

“I need a description of your boat, Mr. Benson.  And the access point you use to get onto the lake.  And I need it now.”


Herbert’s car skidded to a stop as he slammed on the brakes in the dirt and gravel parking lot of the lake access point.  Will Benson was tying his boat to the dock anchors, just having finished his excursion.  Terrible thoughts of his sweet daughter’s body sinking to the bottom of the lake flooded his mind.  Maybe he was letting his imagination run away with him, but working in homicide in a big city can do that to you.  That imagination coupled with the sight of Will made his blood boil.  Before he could calm himself down, Herbert exited his car and sprinted towards the young teen.

Ignoring Jack and Quincy’s cries for him to slow down and stop, Herbert made a b-line for his only suspect.  He let his anger and pain cloud his judgment and all he saw by the time he reached Will Benson was the color red.  As the young man turned and saw the much larger Herbert, his face grew fearful.  But once he saw who it was, he lightened up, obviously remembering Herbert’s kindness at the murder scene that morning.  It wouldn’t last.  When the seething detective got within striking distance of Will, he struck.

Herbert’s fist connected with Will’s jaw in a vicious right hook.  Will let out a pathetic whimper and fell to the ground.  Herbert wound up his leg for a hard kick to the teen’s ribs but he suddenly felt himself being tackled to the ground.  Who the hell was on him?  He had to make his daughter’s kidnapper talk.  Had to make the little weasel pay.  Throwing an elbow, he caught his attacker in the nose, hearing a satisfying crunch.  A gruff voice rang out in pain.  It was a voice he recognized.  Quincy?

The red haze flooding Herbert’s brain dissipated and the confused Detective looked around, breathing heavily.  Will was still on the ground, looking terrified and rubbing his quickly bruising jaw.  Jack was standing by the kid, looking at Herbert in shock.  Next to Herbert, holding his nose with both hands as blood seeped through his fingers was Quincy Jones, the Homicide Department Captain.  But more importantly, Herbert’s friend.  He’d broken his friend and superior’s nose.  Great, he thought.  Way to go, Herbert.

“Damn it.  I’m sorry Quincy.  I lost it there for a minute.”  Quincy shook his head as he uncovered his nose and grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket.  His nose was busted up pretty bad.  Herbert only caught a glimpse of it before the captain shoved the white cloth against it.

“Apology accepted.  Asshole.”  Herbert chuckled.

“Does this mean I’m not fired?”  Quincy glared at him.

“No, you aren’t fired.  But I’m going to kick your ass later.”  Herbert almost laughed, but the sound of Will’s voice turned his mood sour once again.

“What’s going on?  Why did you punch me, officer?”  Herbert got to his feet and started towards Will, but Quincy was up too and stopped him with his hand.  Herbert looked down at his friend’s hand and then took a deep breath.  Staying where he was, he answered the kid.

What’s going on is you were lying to me and my partner Jack this morning.  What’s going on is someone tampered with or stole the security tape from the store.  What’s going on is you were scared shitless this morning and gave us nothing to go on.  I should have picked it up then like my partner.  Should have dragged your ass in for questioning when I had the chance.  But I didn’t.  Then you went to the park.  The same park a little girl was abducted from.  My little girl!”  Herbert’s voice dripped with hellfire and brimstone when he mentioned Gloria.  Will turned pale.

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I didn’t do nothing to that missing girl.  I didn’t even see anything.  I swear.  I already told the cops that.”  Herbert was practically foaming at the mouth.

“Liar!”  Quincy got in Herbert’s direct line of sight, blocking his view of Will.

“Damn it, Herbert.  Get control of yourself or you are out of here.  Understand?”  Herbert sighed heavily, but nodded.  Quincy moved back to Herbert’s side.  Before he could ask Will another question, his partner Jack beat him to the punch.

“Okay kid, we can talk more about whether or not we believe your story about the park in a minute.  You didn’t say anything about the murder of your boss this morning.  You were lying then, I could tell.  Start talking.  The truth this time.”  Will shook his head, his mouth trying to find words as his gaze drifted to nothing.  Finally he started shaking and teared up.

“Fine.  I was lying, okay.  But I didn’t kill Mrs. Davis.  I swear.  She was always nice to me, and I really liked her.  It was someone else.  Really.”  Quincy piped in.

“Who, kid?”

“I can’t tell you.  I just can’t.”  Herbert growled and thought about charging the little brat again, but he was surprised to see the usually mild mannered Jack pick the kid up off the ground by his collar as the old cop got right in the punk’s face.

“Damn it, kid, we don’t have time for this.  We need to find my partner’s little girl, but here we are pussy footin’ around with you and your bullshit.  Now spill it!”  Terrified, Will nodded faster than Herbert had ever seen someone do so.  Go Jack, he thought.

“Okay, okay.  But you gotta protect me and my mom and dad.  Promise me that first.”  Quincy sighed.

“Sure kid, but we can’t protect you from something we know nothing about.  Talk.  Now.”  Jack let go of Will and the kid smoothed his shirt out and started telling his story.

“My mom and dad are loaded, you know.  I love them and all but they make my life hard.  Being the richest kid at school isn’t as cool as it sounds. My parents want me to earn my own way.  They will pay for my college someday but I have to buy my own stuff, like if I want a video game or a new bike, or whatever…you get the picture.

Everybody treats me like an outcast, like they think I think I’m too good for them.  I’m not popular at all, I don’t have any friends.  I’m not good at sports or anything like that.  I’m shy and just, I don’t know…I just don’t fit in.  Well, I figured maybe if I had a cool car, I could get people to notice me more.  Maybe get a girlfriend at least.  But my mom and dad said I would have to save money up to get a car.  They offered to match whatever I could save up.  That’s why I got the job at the store with Mrs. Davis.

But I make minimum wage there.  It would take forever to save up enough money to have half of what I needed for the car I wanted.  So, I started getting pissed at my parents, and at my stupid job.  I asked Mrs. Davis for a raise and she said no.  I was mad, but I understood I guess.  Anyways, I was looking for a way to get some money fast.

There were these guys that came into the store all the time.  They dressed really cool and had a lot of fancy jewelry and watches and stuff.  What I liked most about them was that they seemed so confident.  So sure of themselves, unlike me.  They had a kick ass car too.  I was jealous of them, wanted to be like them.  Well, one day I was sweeping the parking lot and they were hanging out there and motioned me over.  I couldn’t believe they were talking to me.

They asked if I liked their car and if I wanted one like it someday.  I said heck yeah and they said they would pay me some money to do odd jobs for them.  They said I’d make way more than being a stock boy.  I said sure and they gave me a brown paper bag with the top rolled down.  Then they gave me an address and said to deliver the bag to the address.  If I did good, they promised more jobs like that.  It seemed so easy, just deliver a lunch bag to some place and get paid.  So I did it.

Next thing I know they come the next day and seem pissed.  I didn’t know what was going on.  They said I stole some of the stuff from the bag.  I told them I didn’t, that I delivered the bag just the way they gave it to me.  But they didn’t believe me.  They said they knew I stole drugs form the bag.  When I heard that, I freaked.  I didn’t know there were drugs in there.  I guess I was being dumb to not expect something like that.  When I denied it more, they got really mad and started threatening me.  Then it made sense.

They said they knew who I was and who my parents were.  And they said I needed to pay them back for the drugs and then some.  They called it interest.  I think they set me up.  They knew I didn’t steal from them, but they used it as blackmail.  They figured I’d rather get money from my parents than tell them I delivered drugs for some gang.  They knew who’s kid I was the whole time, and they used me.

They wanted ten grand or they said they would kill me and my parents.  Little did they know my parents would never give me anything close to that amount of money.  I had like five hundred bucks saved up at that point.  I tried to tell them but they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Finally, they said that I could have a couple days to figure something out.  They wanted me to steal some cash or valuables from my parents, or take bank account info from them.  In the meantime, they wanted me to prove to them that they could trust me.  They wanted to rob the store.  Mrs. Davis’s store.

They told me they were going to come back the next morning after the store opened.  They had been coming in the store all those days, scoping out the place.  That was how they knew Mrs. Davis didn’t make daily deposits to a bank.  She just put the money from each day into a safe.  They told me to sneak into her office and take out the security tape for the next day after Mrs. Davis started it.  They promised no one would get hurt.  I swear.  I didn’t know what else to do.”  Jack shook his head.

“You idiot.  You should have called the cops.”  Will ran a hand through his sweaty hair.

“No, they said if I did that I was dead.”  Jack just kept shaking his head.

“Whatever, kid.  What happened?”

“I snuck into Mrs. Davis’s office and took the security tape out.  I tried to do it without her noticing but she caught me.  She was so confused, wondering why I did it.  Then the gang showed up with ski masks on and guns in their hands.  They locked the door behind them and started yelling at her to open the safe.  She caught on quick and was furious at me.

The gang leader told me to get to the back of the store, so I did.  Mrs. Davis wouldn’t talk to them.  Wouldn’t open the safe.  Then the leader hit her in the head with his gun, knocking her down.  They all started kicking her…and she was crying.  Finally, she just told them the combination.

Once they had all the money out of it, all the gang ran off, except the leader.  Mrs. Davis was back on her feet now, leaning against the cooler doors.  She was bruised up and bleeding.  She was just staring at me with a hurt look on her face.  I was so ashamed.  Then all of the sudden the leader pointed the gun at Mrs. Davis, right at her face.  Then he looks at me and says this is for you kid.  This is your get out of jail free card.  Then he shot her.

One second she was alive, the next she was dead with a hole in her face.  He ran off after that and I called 911.  I don’t think he did it to help me, he just didn’t want me to go to jail because he still wants to blackmail me into getting him my parents’ money.”  Will Benson sniffled and stared at the ground, his story done.  Herbert had more questions for him though.

“Okay, kid, so you didn’t kill your boss.  But you are an accessory to murder.  And what about the park?  What about my daughter?  Did that gang tell you to kidnap her too?  Did they know she was a detective’s daughter?  Do they want a ransom?”  Will made a pleading motion with his hands as he replied, his voice cracking with anxiety.

“I swear, I only went to the park to think.  I really have been going there my whole life.  I wasn’t lying about that.  I…I saw, um…nothing.  Like I said, I didn’t see anything, I swear.  I was spacing out and all of the sudden a woman was screaming her daughter was gone.  That’s it.  Please believe me!”  Herbert was about to tell the little weasel that he didn’t believe him when Quincy stepped in.

“We can talk about all that at the station, kid.  We are going to have to bring you in and sort all this out.  Can you come willingly, or do we need to cuff you.”  Will kept looking at the ground.

“No cuffs, please.”  Quincy nodded at Jack, and the older detective grabbed Will by the arm and led him to Quincy’s car.  Herbert didn’t trust the kid, he thought he knew something about Gloria.  He told Quincy so as they followed after Jack and Will.

“I think he is keeping things from us, Quincy.  He knows something about Gloria, I know it.”  Quincy sighed.

“I don’t know Herbert, he may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We’ll keep on him, but we may want to start looking elsewhere for Gloria’s abductor.”  Herbert just shook his head.

Will Benson had to be involved in Gloria’s kidnapping.  Herbert felt it in his gut.  The tired detective got into his car and started it up, realizing that the feeling in his gut might not be intuition, but dread.  If Will Benson didn’t know where Gloria was…who did?

Chapter 5

Will Benson made a deal, getting five years in a light prison where he was protected and segregated from the gang’s reach.  Along with the prison time, he got probation for years afterwards.  All for his part in the murder of Margaret Davis.  In exchange, he gave up the gang that committed the crime.  They all got much longer sentences, the trigger man getting life.  If that scumbag wasn’t still rotting in prison, Herbert would very much like to introduce the gangbanger to Hannibal for what he did to poor Mrs. Davis.  Hannibal wouldn’t be disappointed, though.  He was still going to eat tonight.

Benson always maintained that he knew nothing about Gloria’s disappearance.  Herbert always thought he was lying.  There was something Will wasn’t saying, something he was hiding.  Herbert could feel it in his gut.  And his gut never lied.  He’d looked into the kid’s life and past and found some possible red flags.

Will Benson had volunteered with some local children programs.   After school stuff, weekend organizations.  He also had talked to family and friends about working with kids as a teacher or social worker someday.  Of course, that was before he became an accessory to murder and went to prison.  To most people, a young man who enjoyed being around kids would be a good thing.  But to a cop, it was a possible red flag.  But no matter how deep Herbert dug, he never found any obvious clue or reasons to suggest Will Benson was anything other than what he said he was.  Innocent of Gloria’s abduction.

No other suspects ever turned up.  Despite the help of Quincy and Jack.  Jack Young had long ago retired from the force, but Herbert kept in touch with him.  Two or three times a year, they would grab dinner somewhere and catch up.  They often talked about Gloria’s kidnapping, what they may have missed.  What angles they could have looked at differently.  Jack always thought Will was keeping something from them too.  But it didn’t matter.

Everyone that was accounted for at the park that day checked out, so whoever took Gloria had slipped in and out unnoticed.  As time passed, Herbert gave up hope that they’d ever find his daughter.  Every night, he drove around, looking for something…anything that would help him find Gloria.  But he never found anything.  Soon it had been twenty years, the case had gone cold, and Gloria was still missing.

Herbert knew she was dead.  His little girl was buried somewhere in an unmarked grave or at the bottom of a lake.  Abbey, however, had always held out hope that Gloria was still alive and would someday come home to them.  She figured until she saw a body, their little girl was still in the land of the living.  Herbert didn’t have the heart to tell her what was most likely the truth.  So, he went along with her version.

Not knowing was the worst part, Herbert had always thought.  He’d rather been able to see his little girl one more time, know what had happened to her, no matter how bad, bury her properly and have the chance to grieve and say goodbye.  Wondering what happened to her, where she ended up, how much pain she endured…it was all too much.  Herbert and Abbey had seen counselors and psychiatrists for years to help deal with the emotional damage.  It hadn’t helped, but they’d learned to live with the not knowing.  Maybe tonight Herbert would finally get some answers.  From Will Benson himself.

Will Benson’s parents’ address had been on the paper Briggs had given to Herbert.  Will was almost forty now, so at first glance it might not have made sense for his parents’ home to be the residence of Gloria’s killer.  But Herbert had been keeping up on the life of Will Benson.  So to the old detective, it made perfect sense.

After his prison stint, Will had trouble finding any kind of work.  He couldn’t take any classes at any school without everyone ridiculing him or showing their disgust.  The kid slipped into a deep depression, fell into heavy drug use and alcoholism and basically gave up on life.  But his parents couldn’t give up on him.  He lived with his mom and dad for years, until they retired to a nice little condo village and left their house to their son.  The house Herbert was staring at.  The house that had been on the paper Briggs gave him.  The house that Gloria’s killer resided in technically belonged to none other than Will Benson.

Herbert figured his target was out making another liquor run at the local drug store.  He did so every night around this time.  Herbert knew this because he kept tabs on Will.  The detective had done so after the kid got out of prison, and he’d never stopped.  Once Will Benson came home, it was all about to pay off.  All Herbert had to do was wait.

As if on cue, a dark sedan passed Herbert and coasted to a stop in the Benson driveway.  The car shut off, the driver’s side door opened, and out stepped the man Herbert had spent most of his life loathing.  Brown bagged liquor in hand, the disheveled ghost of a man shut his car door, locked it, and headed inside his home.  Herbert waited a few minutes, took a deep breath, and got out of his car.  Time to get to work.

Chapter 6

Walter Ryan sat at his desk, his head resting in his hands.  It had been a long night.  He should have gone home hours ago, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do so.  All he could keep thinking about was his partner and what the poor old guy must be going through.  Poor Herbert.

When Walter first learned he’d been partnered up with Herbert Vale, he’d had mixed emotions.  From what everyone around the precinct said, Detective Vale was a joke.  A washed up shell of his former self whom rookie detectives got stuck with.  But Walter also did his research on Herbert, and was impressed at what he saw.  Awards, accolades, impressive arrest lists.  It was all there.  Herbert Vale was one of the most decorated and brave detectives Detroit had ever seen.  So, Walter had wondered, what the hell happened to him?

Working in the field with Herbert had been an eye opening experience.  He’d learned so much from the man.  Walter could see that all-star cop still inside the old guy and to watch him in action was a thing of beauty.  But other times, Herbert was a completely different person.

Distracted, dismissive, and lost.  He was like a strange, warped version of Jekyll and Hyde.  Except when he changed he didn’t turn homicidal, just clueless.  He was both Sherlock Holmes and Elmer Fudd.  It baffled and frustrated Walter to no end.  The younger detective just couldn’t figure it out.  But he didn’t need to.

He had grown to admire, respect, and care for his partner.  And he had his back, no matter what.  Besides, the man had lost his daughter years ago.  She’d been abducted at a park and had never turned up.  The fact that Herbert showed up to work every day, did his job, and was a good man, even after all that, was a testament to how strong of a person he was, not how weak.  Walter couldn’t imagine what he would do if something like that happened to his child.  On cue, his phone rang.

Looking at the picture of his wife and son that served as his home phone’s contact photo, he sighed and hit ignore.  He knew Chareece was worried about him, but he just didn’t want to talk right now.  Walter had called his wife after everything went down with Briggs and Herbert.  He’d told her then he wouldn’t be home until late, so not to wait up.  But she’d kept calling and texting him.  The messages just said to come home and that she missed him.  Or that she was worried about him.  As long as her and Ben were fine, he just couldn’t bring himself to call her back.  Not yet.  He had to figure out what to do about Herbert.  Or rather, for Herbert.

His partner was going to be suspended for a while, but Walter knew he could keep up on the cabin case.  Try to find Mckey, get some damn answers from him.  Or try and find his cabin mate.  The one with the article of Gloria’s disappearance on his wall.  Walter had felt sick when he’d seen it.  He’d wished Herbert could have avoided seeing it, but there was no way around it.  The sight of that damn article had snapped the last thread Herbert had to been hanging onto his sanity with.  His partner had lost it.  And he’d almost killed Briggs in the process.

Leaning back in his chair, Walter looked over at Detective Briggs himself, who was just sitting down at his desk.  Walter wondered why he was still there so late.  Must be working on a case.  The bastard sure looked happy with himself.  A little too happy with himself, Walter thought as he got to his feet.

Approaching Briggs, Walter tried to keep the disgust out of his voice.

“Briggs, how are you feeling?”  Briggs kept smiling.

“I’m feeling fantastic.  How ‘bout you,  Ryan?”

“Fine, just worried about Herbert.  Thanks again for not pressing charges.  I’m sure you understand what seeing Gloria’s kidnapping article there must have done to him.”  Briggs smile got bigger.

“Oh yeah, I definitely understand.”  Walter had had enough.  Briggs was up to something and he was going to find out.  Besides, he was sick of the weasel’s annoying smile.

“Briggs, what the hell is going on with you?  Why are you smiling like that?  And why are you still here so late?”  Briggs just chuckled.

“Same as you, just concerned for our mutual friend.”  Walter shook his head.  He was calling bullshit on that.

“Bullshit, Briggs.  Tell me what the hell is going on.”  Briggs shrugged, his cheesy smile never wavering.

“Oh, I’m just waiting around to see if Herbert does anything…hmm, interesting tonight.”  Walter felt his blood boil.  Leaning forward over Briggs desk, he glared at the joyful detective.

“What did you do, Briggs?”

“Let’s just say me and ol’ Herbie had a nice chat.  I made his night.”  Walter was getting annoyed.  And worried.

“Enough crap, Briggs.  Tell me what you did, straight up.”  Briggs stood up, his smile disappearing.

“I got revenge on that loser partner of yours.  He put his damn hands on me, embarrassed me in front of other cops.  I couldn’t let him get away with that.  Him getting in trouble for what he did to me wasn’t good enough.  We all know that him and the captain are best buddies, probably give each other reach-arounds every morning.  No way Jones was gonna do shit to Vale.  And his past reputation would buy him favor with any judge, especially when they looked at the fact that I was always razzing him and what he saw at the cabin right before he attacked me.  The bastard would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist.  Oh no, no way.  Not after what he did to me.”  Walter was around Briggs’ desk before the other man could blink.  Shoving the elder detective back against the wall forcefully, Walter held him there by his shirt collar.

“What the fuck did you do to Herbert, Briggs!?  What did you say to him!?  Tell me!  Now!”  When he said now, Walter emphasized it by slamming Briggs back into the wall harder.  Briggs just glared.

“I told him I found out who Nate Mckey’s cabin mate was.  Told him who had Gloria’s kidnapping article mounted on their secret cabin wall.  Told him who his daughter’s killer was.”  Walter couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“What!?  You don’t know who that was.  No one does.”  Briggs smiled again.

“No shit.  It isn’t real.  I just gave him the address of someone that he would easily believe did it.  Someone he always thought had.  You should have seen his face.  Priceless.  Almost worth it all.  But not as good as seeing him throw his career and life in the crapper when he goes after the wrong guy and does something stupid.”  Walter’s mind raced.

“You don’t know that.  Herbert went home with his wife.  He’s probably sleeping in bed next to her as we speak.”  Briggs rolled his eyes.

“Come on, Ryan.  You know as well as I do that Vale is unhinged.  We both know he is going after the person I served up to him.”  Walter was in shock.

“But…you might have just condemned not only Herbert, but an innocent man as well.”  Briggs made a disgusted face.

“Trust me, the guy is anything but innocent.  He’s an alcoholic, druggie loser who got a nice old lady killed years ago.  No one’s gonna miss him.”  Walter was at a loss for words.  Then he thought of something.

“Why are you telling me this?  When I report what you’ve done, you are going to be in huge trouble.  Your career, your life…everything is going to be finished.”  Briggs started laughing.

“Oh no, Ryan.  I’m not that stupid.  Nothing can be traced back to me.  It’s Vale’s word against mine.  And after what he did to me earlier tonight, and what he is going to do as we speak or later tonight, no one will believe him.”

“Oh yeah, Briggs.  What about me?  You think no one will believe me?”

“You ain’t gonna say nothing either, Ryan.  You wanna know why?  Because the only scrap of evidence Vale would have would be the paper I gave him with the address written on it.”  Walter’s brain searched for a hole in Briggs’ cover-up.

“Yeah, well a handwriting expert can prove it was your writing.”  Briggs shook his head.

“Nah, they can’t.  Because it isn’t my writing, Walter.  It’s yours.”  Walter was confused for only a minute.  Then it donned on him.  As he cursed to himself, Briggs continued.  “Ah, yes, there it is.  Remembering now, huh?  Earlier, I asked you so kindly to look up an address for me.  I said I was so shaken up and upset that I needed a break.  But I needed an address looked up.  You jumped at the chance, probably sucking up to me and hoping I’d drop Vale’s charges.  So go ahead and try to tattle.  But what do you think people will say when it turns out the address Vale followed to his victim was written down by his own partner.  Sorry, kid, there ain’t no way the finger can be pointed at me.”  Walter shut his eyes in disgust.

Briggs had thought of everything.  The conniving piece of shit had them by the balls.   Briggs was right, he had been trying to be overly nice and helpful to the jerk in hopes that he’d drop the assault charges.  Thinking back, Walter tried to remember the name attached to the address he looked up.  What was the name…oh yeah, he thought, Will Benson.

Letting go of Briggs, he rushed to his computer, looked up the address again and grabbed his coat.  As he headed for the door, he heard Briggs calling after him.

“You’ll never make it in time, Ryan.  Your buddy is finished.  It’s been hours.  He’s already killed Benson by now and there is nothing you can do about it.  I’m going to be right here waiting for the call to come in.  Then I will make sure I’m there when that old son of a bitch gets arrested.  And I will enjoy every damn second of it.”

Walter ignored Briggs, pulling out his cell phone and dialing Herbert.  He had to stop him.  As the phone rang, Walter pushed through the doors of the precinct and dashed to his car.  Please Herbert, he thought, please don’t do anything stupid.

Chapter 7

Herbert stopped by the back door, trying to figure out if what he was about to do was stupid.  Was it really going to be this easy?  Could the person he’d been hunting for almost half his life be the very same person he always assumed it was?  Was there something he was missing?  Shaking his head, he told himself no.

He couldn’t doubt himself, couldn’t pause or take time to think about things too much and get cold feet.  Gloria deserved, no needed, justice.  And he was the one that was going to give it to her.  Along with Hannibal, of course.  Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Hannibal grabbed the lock pick set from his duffel bag and prepared to pick the lock.  Just as he began, his phone rang.

When Gloria was young, she loved to sing Jesse’s Girl by Rick Springfield.  Herbert and her would listen to the song, dancing and singing for what seemed like hours.  So when Herbert first got a cell phone, he set that song as his ringtone.  And he’d kept it the same through the years.  Just another way to never forget his little girl.  Now he wished he’d had a much more subtle ringtone.  Or that he’d at least silenced his phone.  Or left the damn thing in the Buick.

The stupid song blared out into the quiet night like a rock and roll band.  The cold stillness of dark and complete silence of a subdivision full of sleeping residents made the song sound all that much louder.  Benson was going to hear it for sure.  Any moment now the bumbling drunk would come pouring out the door and Herbert’s edge of stealth and surprise would be lost.

Fumbling the phone out of his pocket, Herbert saw it was his partner, Walter Ryan.  What the hell did the kid want?  He’d been there for Herbert tonight, and the old detective appreciated that.  But he didn’t have time for a heart to heart right now.  Walter cared about his old partner, was worried about him.  He thought Herbert was a good, honest man.  Sweet kid, Herbert sighed, but he was a terrible judge of character.  Hitting ignore, Herbert turned off the phone.  Then he quickly got back to picking the lock.  Hoping Benson hadn’t heard anything.  Didn’t take long to find out.

In deep focus, Herbert let out a startled gasp when the doorknob suddenly turned and the door swung inward.  As light flooded his vision, making it hard to see anything, Herbert heard his lock pick set clatter onto the ground.  Then a voice.

“What the-” As his vision cleared, Herbert got to his feet.  Benson was squinting, and swaying.  It appeared he was already drunk.  He found his voice, and it came out slurred.

“Who the hell are you?  And what…what are you doing here?”  Herbert just stood there, fighting down rage at the sight of his daughter’s killer.  Taking a good look at Will Benson, Herbert wasn’t impressed.  The man looked like shit.

The hair on his head and his face was unkempt, unruly, and unclean.  His beard was long and uneven, stretching down his neck and to the sides of his neck.  Benson’s clothes were rumpled and stained.  He stunk of stale beer, stale sweat, and stale urine.  And terrible body odor.  Herbert felt his nose twitch as his stomach soured at the smell.  Benson leaned forward and looked closer.  Suddenly, the look on his face seemed to convey he recognized Herbert.  Pointing a finger, his eyes got big.

“You.”  Herbert smiled.

“Hello, Will.  Mind if I come in?”  As Benson started to shake his head frantically, he tried to shut the door.  Herbert stopped it and forced it back towards the alcoholically weakened man.  The drunkard stumbled backwards, lost his balance, and fell on his butt.  Herbert stepped into the house and shut the door behind him.  Benson started shuffling backwards, doing a half-assed crab walk to try and scurry away.  Herbert couldn’t have that.  The old detective strode up to his prey and kicked him in the face.  Benson moaned and collapsed to his side, holding his face.

“Why did you do that?  What do you want?”  Herbert set down his duffel bag and started rifling through his gear as he answered.

“You know why I did that.  And you know exactly why I am here.  And what I want is something that is long overdue.”  Benson was whining now.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I haven’t seen you in years.  I served my time for what I did to poor Mrs. Davis.  If this is about her, just kill me and get it over with.  I deserve it.  What I caused to happen to that poor, kind old woman-”  Herbert grew frustrated at the pathetic scumbag’s lack of understanding.  Dropping the pack, he rushed over to Benson and backhanded him, evoking another moan.

“You think this is about that woman you got killed!  It isn’t!  You know what this is about!  Stop acting like you don’t!”  Benson started crying.

“I don’t know what you want, I swear.  Please, just kill me.  I don’t deserve to live.  Not after what I did to Mrs. Davis.”  Herbert’s blood boiled.  Growling, Herbert kicked Will in the ribs.  Again, and again.  And again.

“Stop saying that woman’s name!  This isn’t about her!  You know what you did, damn it!  I’m here to pay you back for what you took from me!  I’m here for my Gloria!”  Finally stopping, Herbert stood breathing heavily.  Benson was curled up in the fetal position, holding his injured ribs.  Blood was running from his mouth.

“What…who?  Gloria?”  Herbert growled again, prepared to resume his rib stomping.  Benson put his hands up.

“No, please!  No more.  Gloria…wait.  Your daughter?  Why…oh.  I told you years ago I had nothing to do with it.  I was just at the park.  Just like all those other people.  Please, believe me.  I didn’t do anything to your daughter.”  Herbert spoke through gritted teeth.

“You’re lying, I can tell.  I suppose you are going to tell me you don’t know anyone by the name of Nate Mckey either, huh?  Or that the two of you don’t share a cabin?”  Benson gawked at Herbert with confusion.

“I swear, I have no idea what you are talking about!  I’ve never heard of anyone by that name and I’ve never owned a cabin.  I swear!”  Herbert had heard enough.  Turning back to his pack, he removed a syringe and brought it back to where the huddled, shaking form of Will Benson laid.  Before the other man could object, Herbert jabbed the syringe into his neck.  Benson began to groan and moan, but Herbert shushed him.

“Quiet now.  This is going to help you go to sleep.  Relax now, can’t have you causing a scene when I take you out of here.”  Benson’s eyes widened with questions but he was unable to answer as his eyes clouded over and he drifted into unconsciousness.  Grabbing his rope, Herbert got to work on tying up Hannibal’s soon to be meal.  Tying the knots tightly, Herbert grabbed a roll of duct tape and placed it over Benson’s mouth.  He also wrapped it around his body.  Just to be sure.  Herbert grabbed the taller man by the legs and dragged him to the door, but stopped before he got outside.  He had to think.

Herbert hadn’t planned on having to carry a limp body to his car.  He’d had a well thought out plan that if it had worked would’ve saved him the trouble.  But things hadn’t gone smoothly, starting with the phone call from Walter.  There was no way Herbert was going to be able to carry Benson’s dead weight to his car from here.  Not quickly and not without breaking his back.  He could drag him, but he was likely to be noticed by someone.  That left one choice.

Herbert would just have to back into Benson’s driveway and hope no one woke up and looked out the window.  And if they did, he’d have to hope they didn’t get a good look at him, his car, or his license plate.  No time to worry, Herbert thought as he exited and shut the back door behind him. Walking briskly to his car, he hopped in, started it up, and coasted towards the Benson home.  Turning right, Herbert got parallel with the house, and then backed into the driveway as far as he was able to.  Leaving the car running, Herbert popped the trunk and got out.

Opening the back door of the house once again, he was happy to see a still-resting Will Benson in a heap on the floor.  Grabbing both feet, Herbert dragged his victim out into the backyard and around the side of the house as quickly as possible.  He made sure to hug the side of the house and the darkness it supplied.  Once he reached the car, he opened the trunk just enough to allow Benson’s body to fit through the opening.  Reaching down, he grunted as he lifted the limp body in a cradle-carry and dumped it into the trunk.

The old Buick rocked and squeaked from the force of the body landing in the back.  That, coupled with the loud thud the body had made caused Herbert to worry that someone may have heard him.  Scanning the area, his eyes stopped on a car.  It looked familiar.  And had it been there before?  The car was not running, headlights were off.  Squinting into the darkness, Herbert tried to see if someone was in the car, but it didn’t look like it.  He was just worrying over nothing, his nerves getting to him.

Forgetting the car, he surveyed the rest of the quiet neighborhood.  Looking around, he felt himself calm down as it appeared everything was still silent and unmoving.  Shutting the trunk as quietly as possible, he went back into the Benson home.

Grabbing his duffel bag, Herbert surveyed the kitchen to ensure nothing he’d brought into the house would be left behind.  He didn’t want to leave any evidence behind that could be linked to him.  All he saw when he looked around was Will Benson’s blood on the tile.  Satisfied, he left and shut the door behind him, locking it from the inside before doing so.  Then he got in his car and drove away, heading for Delray and a meeting with his secret partner.

As he passed the car he’d spotted earlier, he threw a glance at it.  Dark and quiet, no one was inside.  Nothing to worry about.  He was just letting his imagination get the best of him again.  As he turned out of the subdivision and onto a main road, he began to relax.  The hard part was over.  There was no turning back now.  He hadn’t gotten caught and now he was in the clear.  Glancing in his rearview mirror, he noticed tail lights quite a ways back.  For a second, he wondered if he was being followed.

It was very late, not many people were on the road.  He figured that was probably why he was so worried about one car.  It seemed so secluded, like it was the only other car besides him on the road.  Like it had to be following him.  Herbert was just being paranoid, or at least that was what he told himself.  His worries were erased when the car turned and disappeared from sight.  Blowing out a sigh of relief, Herbert shook his head.  No turning back, he thought.  No turning back.


Walter Ryan couldn’t believe what he’d seen.  He’d left the precinct and rushed right over to the address Briggs had conned him into writing down.  The same address the conniving detective had given Herbert Vale to set him up.  When Walter turned onto Benson’s road, he’d known immediately something was wrong.

He saw an idling car backed up into the driveway, so far back it seemed unnecessary…unnatural.  Walter hadn’t recognized the car.  He’d slowed to a stop and parked on the side of the road, killing his lights and the engine.  Hoping Herbert hadn’t gotten there yet, Walter settled in, expecting to wait out Benson himself or one of his friends returning to their still running car.  Imagine his surprise when he saw his partner, Herbert, back around the corner and down the side of the house.

He was hunched over, apparently dragging something.  Or someone, Walter thought with dread and worry.  His concerns were proven right when he saw Herbert lift the still form of a person and toss them into his trunk.  The whole car shook and made a very loud noise.  Herbert noticed and looked around, making sure no one had heard.  Walter sunk in his seat, not wanting to be spotted.  He swore Herbert looked right at him, but then the older detective shut the trunk and went back around behind the house.

Walter had thought about going over right then and there and stopping Herbert.  But then he decided better of it.  His partner had already done something to Benson, either knocked him out or killed him.  Approaching Herbert here would only cause a scene.  Which was the last thing Walter wanted.  He had to admit he was still holding out hope he could save his partner.  He decided to wait this out and follow Herbert to his next destination.

In a couple minutes, Herbert came back out from around the house, got in his car and drove away.  Walter sunk down in his seat all the way to ensure Herbert wouldn’t see him.  He was surprised Herbert didn’t recognize his car.  Then again, he’d driven Chareece’s car to work that day, due to the fact that she thought it was making a strange noise.  Herbert had only seen Walter’s wife’s car a handful of times.  But still.

The sound of the old clunker rattling by without stopping had calmed Walter’s nerves.  He forced himself to wait, just to be safe.   Walter waited an excruciatingly long minute, then followed.  Not wanting to throw up any red flags, the young detective was sure to stay far behind.

After a while of long distance following, Walter decided to use a trick he learned in the academy.  With no one else on the road this late at night, Walter knew that his experienced partner would become suspicious of him if he kept following without turning.  His idea was going to be risky, but Walter felt it was necessary.

Turning right, he quickly made a left at the next street so that he was now driving parallel to Herbert.  After a few blocks, he turned right again and got back up to the street he’d originally been on.  Taking a right, Walter’s stomach dropped for a second when he thought he didn’t see the tail lights of Herbert’s Buick.  Had he lost him?  Had his trick move turned out to be a huge mistake?

Speeding up to gain ground, he looked frantically back and forth, hoping against hope that he hadn’t screwed up.  He blew out a sigh of relief when he gained enough ground to see the back of the Skylark in the distance ahead.  No more tricks, he told himself.  Walter couldn’t risk losing Herbert again.  He would just follow him slow and steady from a safe distance.  But where was he following him to?  And what the hell was Walter going to do when they got there?

Chapter 8

Herbert slowed to a stop near the old abandoned subway entrance he’d come to know as a second home.  Third home, if he counted the police station.  Not that that was a home to him anymore, the old detective thought with a sad sigh.  How had he screwed things up so badly?  Well, at least he was going to get something right tonight.  Finally, after all these years, he was going to give his baby justice.

Turning off the loud engine of the old car, Herbert listened through the sudden silence to see if he could hear any noise coming from the trunk.  He’d hoped his old friend would’ve begun stirring by now.  Unfortunately, he was disappointed to hear nothing at all.  Cursing, he opened the door and got out.  He sure hoped he hadn’t killed the bastard.

The sedative was old and he was never sure how his victims would react to it.  If it had finished Benson off, Herbert would be very disappointed.  That would have been too good of a death for the murdering scum.  Stomping around to the back of the Skylark, Herbert dug out his keys and unlocked the trunk.  Flinging it open, he found the still form of Will Benson.

Quickly placing his fingers to the man’s neck, he checked his carotid artery for a pulse.  Heaving a sigh of relief, Herbert was overjoyed to find Benson was still alive.  A weak pulse, but a pulse none the less.  Reaching into the trunk, Herbert slapped Will Benson across the face.  Hard.  He noticed the man’s eyelids flutter, but they stayed shut.  So he did it again, even harder.  Benson’s eyes opened slowly.  Confusion filled his eyes until they landed on Herbert’s face, then they filled with something else.  Fear.

Benson tried to scream, but the tape over his mouth muffled it out.  Thrashing wildly, he looked down at himself, noticing he was tied up and in the trunk of a car.  After that realization, he thrashed even harder.  Herbert shook his head.

“Calm down, boy.  It isn’t going to do you any good.  Let’s go.”  Benson continued screaming muffled screams and thrashing around as Herbert reached into the trunk and grabbed hold of him by the ropes that were still securing his arms and legs.  Despite his best efforts, the captive failed to stop his abductor from heaving him out of the car.  Herbert tossed the struggling form of Benson onto the grass, where he landed with a hard thud.  Squatting down next to Benson, Herbert pulled out a gun.  At the sight of the weapon, Benson’s muffled screams turned to muffled crying.

“Listen.  I’m going to untie your legs so you can walk.  If you try to run or kick me…I will shoot you.  Understand?”  Benson nodded slowly, eyes squeezed shut tightly.  Herbert untied his legs and lifted him to his feet.

“Now walk.”  Benson was sobbing now, shaking from fear and the force of his cries.  He tried to take a step but fell forward onto his face.  Herbert cursed.

“Come on, Benson, get up.  Be a man for once.  Own up to what you did…for the first time in your pathetic life.”  Herbert gave Benson a hard nudge forward.  He stumbled, but kept his footing, then limped slowly towards the abandoned subway entrance.  Benson tried to mumble a response, but the duct tape was still making it difficult.  Herbert rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, I know.  You didn’t do it.  It wasn’t you.  You don’t know anything about what happened to my little girl.  Just stop.  Stop the lying and be a damn man.”  Herbert glanced ahead at the dark entrance to the subway.

He wondered if Hannibal was already there, waiting.  This was an unscheduled drop in.  But then again, they all were.  Herbert never told his secret partner a specific day or time.  The only deal they had in place was that Herbert had to bring someone every week, or else the evil monster would find a human meal on his own to satisfy his hunger.  Maybe it would be someone who would deserve it, but if Hannibal wasn’t picky, Herbert couldn’t risk it.  He didn’t want innocent people to die.

So, the old detective brought the demonic bastard a live meal whenever he could.  Always someone who deserved it.  It was never the same day or time each week, but Hannibal always seemed to be there, ready and waiting.  As they got closer, Herbert thought he saw movement in the shadows of the entrance.  A loud, snorty huff like a horse would make came from the darkness.  Ah, Herbert thought, his partner was there.  Benson heard the noise too, freezing in place.  Herbert nudged him forward.

“Come on, keep moving.”  Benson wouldn’t budge.  He started shaking his head, trying to say something.  Herbert sighed.

“I said move.”  Nudging him harder, Benson stumbled forward but once again kept his footing.  A growl came from the subway, deep and dripping with hunger.  Both Herbert and Benson looked at the dark opening and saw a flash of Hannibal’s horrific face.  Fangs and all.  As Herbert shuddered inwardly, Benson turned around suddenly.

At first, Herbert was worried his captive was going to try and attack him, but the look in the man’s eyes said otherwise.  Still shaking his head, a wide-eyed Benson was screaming, trying to tell Herbert something but it was not understandable through the tape.  Herbert pointed towards the shadowy spot Hannibal was waiting.

“You did this to yourself, Will.  Now go.”  Benson just kept shaking his head no, trying to say something through the duct tape.  Herbert took a step back and pointed his gun at Benson’s face.

“I said go, Will.  Stop stalling, damn it.  I will shoot you and drag you over there if I have to.”  Tears began to fall openly now from Benson’s eyes as he jumped up and down, still trying to talk.  The father inside Herbert wanted to shoot his daughter’s killer.  In the leg, or in the gut…somewhere painful, but not immediately lethal.  Then drag the son of a bitch over to Hannibal so he could dig in while Benson was still alive.  But the other part of Herbert, the detective part…wasn’t ready.

There was something in Benson’s eyes.  Herbert knew the man was terrified, but there was something else.  Something that wasn’t there before he saw the quick flash of Hannibal’s face.  It wasn’t fear…Herbert swore the look in Benson’s eyes was recognition.  Almost like…hell, Herbert thought.  Almost like Benson had seen that horrible, monstrous face before.  Herbert didn’t want Benson to scream and cause problems for him, but he had to know what that look on the man’s face meant.  Herbert kept the gun trained on Benson’s face.

“Okay, listen.  I’m going to take the tape off so you can tell me whatever it is you are trying to tell me.  Do not scream, do not bullshit me.  Say what you need to say.  Any theatrics, I shoot you in the gut.”  To emphasize his point, Herbert lowered the gun so it pointed at Benson’s abdomen.  Then, Herbert reached up with his free hand and ripped off the tape.  Benson cried out softly in pain, then immediately started talking.

“Listen, we have to get out of here!  Now!  That…that thing…I’ve seen it before.  A long time ago.  Please, we have to leave!”  Herbert narrowed his eyes.

“What do you mean, you’ve seen it before?”  Benson looked nervously behind him, then back at Herbert.

“I mean I’ve seen it before, just like I said!  Christ!  You want to know what happened to your daughter, detective?  Ask that thing in there!”  Herbert’s stomach dropped out.  His heart started racing.  Jamming the gun into Benson’s stomach, he growled a response.

“What the hell do you mean by that!?”  Benson’s eyes were wild with panic.

“Don’t shoot!  Please!  Just get me out of here, I’ll tell you everything once we are gone from here!”  Herbert shoved the gun deeper into Benson’s belly.

“No, you will tell me now!”

“Fine, fine!  I never told anyone what I saw that day.  At the park.  I was worried people would think I was crazy.  Hell, I thought I was crazy.  That I was imagining things.  Plus, I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself after what happened with Mrs. Davis.  Anyways, when I saw that fucking face just now, I know I wasn’t imagining things.  That damn face has haunted my dreams for years!”  Herbert felt sick to his stomach.

“What did you see, damn it!?”

“I was sitting on one of the benches, the one that I sat on every time I went there.  It had a nice view of the little man-made lake the park overlooked.  I would sketch or read comics or just look at the water.  Anyways, this day I was just looking at the water, thinking about poor Mrs. Davis.  That was when I noticed the little girl…your little girl.  She was wandering away from the playscape area towards a small building.  A shack, more like.  A small, cement shack like building.  I figured it was some kind of drainage or septic tank thing since it was closer to the water.

So, the door to the thing was open a little bit, and the girl was just walking right towards it, like she was being called over…like she was in a trance or something.  I was confused at first, and then I got worried.  Something didn’t feel right.  I got up and started that way, thinking I could snap her out of it.  That’s when it happened.

I didn’t get more than a few steps before she got to the door.  I was about to call out to her when the door opened quickly, and something grabbed her and pulled her into the darkness of the building, the door shut tightly behind it afterwards.  I didn’t get a great look, it happened so fast.  But I saw its face.  A face straight from the depths of hell.

I thought I was delusional, daydreaming.  I looked around and no one was freaking out or acting like they’d seen it.  I told myself to calm down, that it was the stress of the morning.  I sat back down and tried to convince myself I imagined the whole thing.  That’s when a woman, your wife I guess, started screaming for her daughter.”  Herbert couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Could it be true?  If Benson was telling the truth, then that meant…Herbert couldn’t bear to think of it.  Could the building Benson mistook for a pump house have been an entrance to the old abandoned subway.  No one knew how far the tunnels stretched across the city or where they came up.  Hell, a few months ago Herbert didn’t even think they existed.  Now, he knew they did.  And maybe Will Benson wasn’t what Herbert thought he was.

All that time when he interviewed and talked to Benson, he always thought he was lying, that something wasn’t right with him.  If this was the truth, then it wasn’t that Benson had been lying…he’d just been keeping the truth from everyone.  Hiding what he’d seen.  That was what Herbert had picked up on.  But could he trust Benson’s word now.

The man was a drunk.  A confessed murder accomplice.  He had to have known once they got to Delray that  Herbert was going to kill him, and maybe when he saw Hannibal’s face he made up the whole story.  Hoping it would get him off the hook.  No, Herbert thought.  That wasn’t what was going on here.

Benson had never been a good liar.  And Herbert had developed a knack for spotting a liar when he talked to one.  Will Benson was telling the truth.  But that meant something horrible.  If Benson wasn’t lying about what he saw, then his poor little girl was taken by a monster like Hannibal.  Hell, it could have been Hannibal himself.  That thought filled Herbert with rage.  Lowering his gun, he strode past Benson, mumbling to the man as he passed.

“Go back to the car, Will.  I’m sorry about all this.”  Benson whined.

“No, you have to come too…we have to get out of here.  It will kill you!”  Herbert whirled around, raising his gun and pointing it at Benson once again.

“I said go to the fucking car, Will!  I am going to get some damn answers!  Now go to the car, or I will shoot you for real!”  Benson backed up slowly.  Just as Herbert was about to lower his gun, a voice called out from his left.

“Herbert!  Put the gun down!”  Herbert’s head dropped.  Shutting his eyes, he sighed.  Shit, he thought.

Chapter 9

Detective Walter Ryan trained his handgun on his partner for the second time in the past few hours.  He’d followed Herbert all the way out into the boonies of Delray, his gut filling with dread the further away from society they got.  By the time Herbert finally pulled his car to a stop, Walter was convinced the old guy was going to kill Will Benson and dump his body.  Or just the latter if he’d already killed the man at his home.

The young detective had turned off his lights and parked far away enough to keep from being noticed, but close enough to see what was going on.  He’d been relieved to see a living, breathing Will Benson exit Herbert’s trunk.  Walter had hoped that meant there was still a chance to stop Herbert from making a huge mistake.

He’d watched anxiously as Herbert forced Benson to his feet, pushing and prodding him forward towards a strange looking structure looming in the distance.  It looked like the opening to a secret cave or something.  Whatever it was, it gave Walter the heebie jeebies.  When he saw Herbert point a gun at Benson, Walter had grabbed his own guns, cocked them both, and silently gotten out of his car.  He held one gun in his hand, and strapped the other to his calf strap under his pant leg, just in case.

Once out of the car, Walter noticed Herbert had pulled the tape off Benson’s mouth, allowing him to speak freely.  Walter had been too far away to really hear what they were saying, but he was glad for the momentary distraction.  He’d begun to quietly make his way towards the pair as they argued, not wanting to startle Herbert and cause him to shoot out of shock.

When he got close enough and saw Herbert angrily point his gun at Benson once again, Walter decided it was time to make his move.  Now he had the advantage.  Herbert would have to turn completely to shoot at Walter.  If he did, the younger detective would have all the time in the world to shoot Herbert.  Walter didn’t want it to come to that, though.  He hoped he’d still be able to talk some sense into his partner.

“Herbert, drop the gun.  Please.”  Herbert was hanging his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.  But his gun was still pointed at Benson.  Benson called out to Walter.

“Please, sir, we have to get out of here.  We are all in danger.  Please, let’s all just go.”  Walter kept his eyes on Herbert.  He moved slowly towards his partner, circling around to approach him from the back.  Herbert finally spoke.

“Walter, he’s right.  You and Will should go.”

“No way, Herbert.  I’m not leaving you here to do anything else stupid tonight.  Come on, give me the gun.”  Herbert shook his head.

“No, Walter, I need it.  Just go.  Please.  Listen to me, kid.”  Walter kept closing in slowly, now only ten feet away.

“I’m not leaving you alone with a gun.  So you can, what?  Kill yourself?  What about Abbey, huh?  Damn it!  What the hell were you thinking, Herbert?”

“I’m not going to kill myself.  And I’m here because I got a tip.”  Eight feet, Walter thought.

“I know about Briggs, Herbert.  Your tip was bullshit.  He was setting you up, you and me both.  He conned me into to writing down Benson’s address so the handwriting wouldn’t be traced to him.  Then he gave it to you and sold you on thinking that Benson was the co-owner of Mckey’s cabin.  It was all a lie.  He knew you’d buy it.  Knew you were desperate to get justice for Gloria.  Knew you’d always suspected Benson.  He wanted you to do something like this, ruin your career…your life.  It was his payback for what you did to him earlier.  None of this is real, Herbert.   Except the trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.”  Herbert let out a big sigh, the realization of Walter’s words obviously setting in.  Letting out a curse, Herbert shook his head.  Four feet now, Walter thought.  Benson spoke up anxiously.

“Seriously, it’s okay.  I won’t press charges, we can forget this ever happened.   Just get me the fuck out of here!”  Walter was close to Herbert now, within grabbing distance.

“Come on, Herbert, put the gun down and give it to me.  It’s over.”  Herbert was still shaking his head slowly.  As Walter reached for his partner’s gun hand, a loud roar erupted from behind him.  The startled detective turned back towards the strange cave opening and it turned out to be a poor choice.

Herbert took advantage of the distraction and tackled Walter to the ground, knocking his gun out of his hand.  As the two struggled, Walter noticed Benson hobbling away quickly towards the cars.

“Herbert, what are you doing?”  Herbert rolled off Walter and scrambled to his feet, snatching up Walter’s discarded gun.

“Trying to save your life, now get out of here.”  Walter was about to say no again when a loud voice boomed from the dark opening.

“Herbert Vale, I have grown tired of waiting.  I see you brought me double the usual meal.  I am much obliged.  Partner.”  Walter turned a shade lighter as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.  His mouth became very dry and his throat constricted.  He tried to find words, but he was crippled with fear.  For the moment, the world around him faded away.  His concern over Herbert slipped to the back of his mind.  He forgot all about the gun strapped to his leg that he’d been reaching for.  All he could focus on now was that horrible, blood-chilling voice. What the hell was going on?  Had that demonic voice just called Herbert…partner?


Shit, Herbert thought.  Shit, shit, shit.  Hannibal thought Walter and Benson were both on the menu tonight.  Truth was, neither man deserved to be.  Walter Ryan was one of the best damn cops Herbert had ever met, not to mention one of the best men.  He had a wife and kid, was a good husband and father to them.  Now he was here, his life in jeopardy all because he gave a shit about Herbert.

And poor Will Benson was a tortured drunk who screwed up as a kid and had been paying for that mistake ever since.  He wasn’t a child killer.  And he didn’t deserve what Herbert had done to him.  Not tonight, or for the past twenty some years.  Briggs had played Herbert like a fool.  Benson wasn’t the bad guy.  In fact, the only evil human being there was Herbert himself.  There wasn’t time to dwell on his mistakes, though.  He had to get them out this.  Finding his voice, he ignored Walter’s shocked stare.

“Hannibal, there has been a mistake.  Neither of these men are criminals.  You will not be dining tonight.  I’m sorry.”  Herbert made sure both guns in each hand were cocked, and then looked at Walter.

“Get the hell out of here, Walter.  Get yourself and Benson to safety.  I’m sorry about all this.”  Then he started walking towards the subway entrance, hoping Walter would follow his instructions.  Raising the guns, Herbert addressed Hannibal once again.

“But you and I have a lot to talk about, partner.”  Herbert was sick of it all.  Sick of all the lying, the sneaking around, the murdering.  Sick of watching the demonic piece of shit inside that opening eat human beings every week.  Human beings that Herbert had served up to him on a silver platter.  He’d thought he was giving the victims of his victims justice.  But he wasn’t.  He was just being controlled like a puppet by something much worse.  Hannibal was no better than the scum he ate…and neither was Herbert.

He was sick of being controlled.  Controlled by his obsessive, psychotic need for revenge on someone for what happened to Gloria.  By Briggs.  By Hannibal.  Herbert was done taking orders.  Done being played with.  He knew he’d screwed up big time, yes that was true.  And he also knew he should just run, that he shouldn’t confront Hannibal.  But damn it, he was going to find out if the monstrous son of a bitch took his Gloria.

And if his secret “partner” was responsible, then Herbert was going to do everything he could to make sure the bastard got what was coming to him.  Ten feet from the opening, he opened his mouth to ask Hannibal for the truth about what happened to Gloria.  But the words never came out.  Hannibal’s satanic voice drowned out Herbert’s.

“You do not say when I eat, or who I eat, Herbert Vale.  I grow tired of your demeanor and attitude.  I am hungry.  I am eating now.”  Before Herbert could react, a flash of fur and fangs sprung from the subway opening.  A huge hand swatted him away like a bug, sending him flying backwards.  Herbert soared through the air, smashing into his Skylark, which was parked a good twenty yards from where he had been standing a second before.

As he struck the hard metal shell, the back of his head bounced roughly off some part of the Buick.  Crumpling to the ground in a heap, his vision blurred and the last thing he heard before the world went black was a gun firing and a monster growling…followed by lots and lots of screaming.


That’s it, hope you enjoyed it!  Have a great night and we will see you next week with a new short story:)  Take care and have a great week!

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New story on the way, but in the meantime…

Hey everyone, hope you are doing well!  I recently got back from a two week stay with my wife at an all-inclusive resort in beautiful Cancun, Mexico.  It was the honeymoon we never had and it was amazing.  Sunny and upper 80s every single day.  When I got back to Michigan it was 20 degrees and a snowstorm was brewing.  Lovely switch, I know.

Anyways, I got some writing done on the trip and am going to have the third installment of the Partners series, entitled TAG TEAM,  done by the end of the week.  Look for that and get pumped;)  In the meantime, I just finished a book under one of my pen names.  If any of you are interested in inspirational fiction, check out my book A FATHER’S LOVE.  Find links at my pen name website here:

No vampires, werewolves, or monsters but it is something I am very proud of and I hope some of you will check it out.  If not, look for TAG TEAM soon.  Also, I am continuing to work on part two of ZOMBIE HERO: THE BEGINNING and the sequel to HOMELESS, entitled REVENGEMENT.  So look for those in the coming months.  Have a great night!

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Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year everyone:)  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and can look back fondly on 2012.  And here is wishing all of you a fantastic 2013!  Thank you for all your support and feedback, it has meant more to me than words can express…which is saying a lot since I am a writer after all;)  Take care!

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