Thursday, 9 November 2017

Project Coffee Break 002

Chapter 1 Into Reality

    That moment in the windmill got stuck in Jennies heart. Her usual dream had turned into a deep kind of yearning. Her soul café stopped changing form and location and was now filling the spaces of the old watermill. The light of the setting sun which had woken her up had also pulled her dreams out into reality. Now when she left work after another day of joyless toil she was embraced by this crimson glow showing her this other world. A place that was only slightly out of reach.
    The next step was being declared completely and utterly crazy by pretty much everyone she knew.
    Starting with her parents who somehow managed to act as polar opposites while coming to the same conclusion. Her mother was deeply distraught berating her for even contemplating of throwing her security and thus her life away for such a foolish dream. "I mean just look around you", she would say. "There are cafés everywhere." the last bit stressed in a way that was usually reserved for cockroaches. "Surely every café that is need has already been opened." her mother had always been the one with a vision in her family. "And remember the nice little place by the embankment that I liked so much?" the one her mother loved to walk past on her fitness walks but never entered, because she could have her tea just as well at home and eating cake would surely defeat the point of doing sports. "It is gone. Just like that." With that the matter was concluded for her mother.
    Her father was even worse. He just laughed. She tried to explain to him why it was a good idea, how it would help her get ahead not only professionally but also like a human being and he found the entire plan hilarious. No matter what she told him he was mostly choking on his M&Ms he was eating at the time. She tried several angles which to her father all sounded like the funniest thing in the world. "And you will get that money from where?" he'd ask and while she was still explaining he was already trying to suppress his laughter not wanting to waste his mirth until she had reached the punchline. She came out of that conversation feeling like a tiny little idiot.
    The conclusion to this fiasco was a last ditch effort from here side, sitting both her parents together in the living room sitting before them and asking them for a loan. A substantial one, but one she knew they could afford. She also explained to her her meticulous plan of how to pay them back and how the entire thing would be delayed if it all ended badly. Her mother sat there with a face so full of pity it deformed her expression, while her father sat there with being unbelieving eyes marvelling that this joke had turned out to keep delivering.    
    So they sat there side by side delivering their final verdict. "No." cold and worried from her mother. And a chuckled "No bloody way." from her father. There they were her parents playing the part of an exalted royalty amused by the incomprehensible wishes of the mortal peasants. Like Oberon and Titania, but arseholes.
    It    went better with her brother Chris, which at least took her seriously. He could not really help her, he mostly travelling around the world for his work as a lighting artist for live concerts and stuff like that, so there was little help in getting the renovations done and as he usually spent most of his salary back into his work there wasn't that much money to be hand from him either, beyond a very welcome but mostly symbolic sum. He did however promise her that if she got the thing of the ground he would take a month of his schedule and give her café the best lighting that human ingenuity could provide.
    As small step at least. Jenny was also surprised how much comfort she got from having at least one person believing in her dream. Even more impressive was that in that short Skype conversation, that regularly descended into confused robots trying to establish communications, she had gotten closer to her brother than she had been for many years. Turns out that when he decided to become a light designer he had encountered pretty much the same reaction from their delightful parents. Only with reversed roles. It was their mother who had found the idea hysterical, while it was their father who had asked him how the hell he was supposed to make a living by setting up a few lamps. Resistance had been futile. The only alternative he was given was to be more like his elder sister who had done the sensible thing of not dropping out of university to run with the wrong crowd and getting a job afterwards instead of deciding to follow what ever drug fuelled idea he had after a particularly debauched night. That episode had inspired Chris to go on a rebellious rampage and developing a deep distaste for his sister that he never admitted even to himself, but seeped out of his very pores whenever they met. Chris went on to become a light wizard as well as the best paid member of his family drifting ever farther away. But that night, for him an early Indonesian morning, Jenny had found the brother she had almost forgotten she had. She was delighted to find an ally in the most unexpected of places especially after the reaction of her parents.
    Edmund however was the rock on which she built her confidence. Her best friends reaction was relieve spiced with enthusiasm. "Finally! I was hatching plans of how to save you for years now, but I couldn't think of anything sane and feasible." it was clear that his problem had been the feasible part, sanity was strictly optional.

    "Save me from what?" Jenny asked not quite sure what exactly buying a watermill to open a café would save her from.
    "From fading away." he said stating the obvious. "So this watermill will need some work right?"

    "Yes, it is closer to a ruin than to a proper building." Jenny hesitated. "Fading away?"
    "This might be a good thing. If you're lucky the mill belongs to the city which would love to sell it for a few quid along with the responsibilities of maintaining it." he continued getting more exited by the minute. "And yes, fading away. You, the you that lives in the core of your heart was slowly wilting away."
    "I wasn't wilting!" Jenny said, she had joined a gym a year ago and worked hard on keeping fit and there was certainly no wilting. "Why would the city sell the mill if it wants it maintained?"
    "Come on, you know what I am talking about. You were getting more and more tired. Your hobbies were either going to that infernal gym of yours or couching your way through your Netflix list. When was the last time you painted? Also remember when we used to go to the theatre? The most Jenny things about you were disappearing. But look at you now! Your eyes are on fire again. I look at them and I can see the stars again." grinned broadly. "Oh, because the city loves its scenic and historical sites but really hates to spend money on that, so they'd rather sell it off to some idiot, like you for example, who is under an obligation to maintain it, doing all the work, while they can boast their historic sites and shit like that."
    "So how little would a few quid be?" she asked.
    "Do you want to get way ahead of yourself?"
    "Yes." Jenny nodded earnestly.
    "One." Edmund said with equal gravity.
    "Yes. But only if you are really lucky, the city very desperate and you very stupid." he said.
    After thinking it through for a couple of seconds Jenny said "I can be stupid..."
    "And when it comes to not spending money, the city is always desperate." Edmund beamed.
    "Also my flame was always burning, I was just conserving its power waiting for the right moment."
    "I'm just glad to see you coming back to live J." his smile

    The following week she investigated the watermill. Turned out it was a historic side. The city was not actively looking for anyone to take over the mill, however there had been some half hearted attempts to save the mill trailing back to at least the beginning of the 20th century. None of these attempts ha amounted to anything as there were always more worthy projects with a higher priority, like for example not spending any money on some old mill no one would ever use. This however meant that it was a historical monument, at least it was declared one, that was the cheap one. While not quite what she had envisioned it led Jenny to formulate a plan.
    She told her brother to return home to do his lighting magic and sent an overexcited Edmund on a grand quest, one was for ways to turn the mill into some kind of tiny hydroelectric power plant, the other was immersing himself into the hipster overground to learn their café magic. Jenny knew that this would yield the best results as Edmund's enthusiasm was engaged in a heated war with his attention deficit for the most powerful of his defining characteristics.

    Next she went to a few banks. Did her well studied song and dance. Injected with only the tiniest bit of her true love of the project it was mostly power point and the corporate logic she had learned at her work. This led to the reaction that Jenny had expected, the bank puppets who only faintly remembered what it was like to be human had nodded politely, asked questions the Exceedingly Clever Questions that had been handed to them by their ancestor puppet people, followed by days of careful ritual motions representing what they understood as deliberation. The result was always the same they told Jenny in the politest terms to please go away and ruin another bank. Puppet smile. Deceased handshake.
    What they did not know, was that Jenny had planted seeds in their minds, that now had time to grow. Soon she would return and water them. While the idea gestated she went back to the city and told it that she wanted the mill. Another song and dance to another breed of institutional undead. Here she painted another picture. One of a site that would be revived to its full splendour, another jewel in the crown of the city.
    "But it is a small mill. Faraway in the remotest corners of the city." the clerk people said.
    "Ah, but just think what the tourists will think, when they walk to the outer rim, where the city touches nature and they see that even out there, so close to the wilderness the treasures of the city are kept in perfect condition. How far its reach! How great its commitment."
    The clerk people had not expected this. One of them, with a willy strong animal soul smelled an opportunity and perked up. When Jenny noticed this she added "Also think what it will do to the property value. Nice part of the city, close to nature, a main road not far away and now add to that a historical monument in pristine condition." The feral clerk could see how that would improve his standing in his murder. He liked that mental picture. "Now add to that the possibility of some quality gastronomy..." The clerk thing did and he liked what his senses told him. Licking his lips he offered her the building and the plot of land for 100 currency, a symbolic price but one with weight, each year, a ritual repeated that would increase its power continually.
    "For how long?" Jenny asked now avoiding most movements or expressions, this was a crucial moment.
    "For as long as you and your heirs live but not longer than.... ten thousand years." the clerk bared its teeth in a face splitting smile. 'One thousand more than Guinness, I will be legend.'
    Jenny agreed and thanked the clerk thing profusely, telling it with questions to give her the most pompous certificate its bureaucratic heart machine could come up with.
    Armed with the certificate and one last weapon she returned to the banks. Now she wielded the will of the city, who saw Great Worth in her endeavour in one hand and a piece of paper that told the bank people that she called a well developed five figure amount of money her own. The little idea she had planted before had become a tiny seedling, it was growing on desert ground but now it was nourished and grew. The bank people withdrew into their caverns of glass and steel and they discussed the matter anew. After that Jenny just had to direct them at each other. Two of them remained resolute. They would not stoop for mortals and much less for other, lesser banks, but the others hissed at each other, showing off their bespoke suits and designer accessories until only one remained and proudly presented Jenny with the least worst deal for herself.
    With that she returned from the dark depths of the city with a sack full of money and a predatory gleam in her eyes.
    She felt like her ancestors must have felt when they had hunted down the beasts that preyed on mankind with their tools and their cunning.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Project Coffee Break 001

Project Coffee Break 001

Prologue: Into the Dream

    Make your dreams come true. It sounds easy. Yet most people don't even try. Jenny had been one of those people for a long time. It was easier to just retreat from the world into the dream, than trying to force it into reality. It was also a lot of hard work. Dreams usually where comfortable places, safe and warm. Not something one wants to sully with the sweat of work and panic.
    So for many years she just cultivated her dream in her mind letting the warm feeling it left follow her where ever she went. It worked well for her. If life got hard or tedious, she could change focus from the world to her fantasy. Here she was a the proprietor of a small café. A cosy place that was always filled by the smell of freshly roasted coffee filled with the light of a summer sun that never set. It was like a little holiday of the mind. It had the great advantage that she could change the interior and the location whenever and however she wanted. She also didn't have to worry about small details like paying bills, where to get all the things she needed to run a café in the first place or learn how to roast coffee.
    However as time went by there was something missing in her life. She had a good enough job, her colleagues were nice some of whom she counted as her personal friends. Life was... OK. There was a tiny little hole in her soul though, one that slowly increased in size as time washed through it. At first she had not realised it was there, when she knew that something was amiss she was still not sure what it was, apart from the fact that her life was for all intents an purposes pretty 'meh'.
    Things only came together when she went out of the city one long weekend. She was thinking of a small cottage not to far away to spend it with herself. Spend some time getting to know her heart again, leaving the daily routine behind to see what was left of her if she let the daily routines slide.
    Turns out there was a lot of her still left. Mostly she was just tired, not in  a sleepy way but her mind and her feelings were tired. Being outside in the warm tempestuous wind where an impatient autumn was wrestling a summer that just didn't want to die just yet made her thoughts clear. She didn't hate her life she was just bored to tears by it. She had muddled her way through school, forced herself to push towards excellence at the university only to enter a world that didn't really give a fuck about her. She was to work somewhere, her qualifications be damned and her needs as a human being barely tolerated as nuisance as long as was functioning.
    "Meh" she said to the wind. The wind roared with sympathy ruining her hair in the process.
    Looking up the skies she could see that autumn had brought some big burly cloud friends to its disagreement with summer. They were already flexing their edges and starting to turn into dark grey towers to scare summer away. It was time to seek shelter. So she hurried along her path which wound through fields and little patches of forest, resulting in the picturesque landscape she had sought for her weekend retreat. According to her phone and the strength of its signal civilisation was near hiding behind a some trees. Which turned out for the best, it had already started to rain when she reached the little outgrowth of the city. The kind of rain that with thick ponderous drops of water gave fair warning to everyone that the real show was about to start. The air was starting to heat up, the light turning into a dramatic green.
    Jenny realised at this moment that she would have to seek proper shelter or risk being washed away by the quarrel of the seasons.
    This is how she founds the watermill. Deliberating whether or not to knock on a random door to ask for asylum and hope for a warm cup of tea, she reached a little stone bridge that looked like it had crossed the the little river it was built over for thousands of years. Composed of rough hewn rock and clothed in patches of moss and lichen that would always be in style it stood there calmly waiting for the storm to do its worst. It had stood there for millennia and it was planning of continuing doing so for the millennia to come. As Jenny was crossing it her eyes were automatically drawn to an ancient watermill that stood not far upstream from the little bridge. Apart from the defiant little bridge there wasn't any other building that had stood here for so long as the mill had. Jenny felt a slight tug of admiration as she saw it, there was something about the building that she found touching, that had been a place where people had lived and worked for so long that the language and the country around it had changed in character and appearance so much, that it left the mill stranded in an utterly alien place. And yet it was suited perfectly for that spot. Then Jenny felt a much harder tug, this time it was strong gust of wind telling her that the show was about to start.
    Not quite sure why she was doing it in the first place Jenny hurried to the watermill and tested its door. The building was unlocked. It was at closer inspection very close to being a ruin but still maintaining enough of its dignity to keep up appearances. Inside the building was mostly empty apart from some random junk and what people who had sought shelter here before her had left lying around. It wasn't tidy but then Jenny knew some streets back in the city where this level of tidiness would be considered close to spotless. She looked around the ground floor found the stairs and went up a floor. The picture was mostly the same only that it was almost clean up there. She found a small room with a mostly intact window overlooking the river that had changed into his best white foam attire to take part in the dispute that was reaching its full force outside. Jenny was pleasantly surprised that the window was actually keeping wind and rain outside. Letting her eyes wander she was delighted to find an old leather chair. Its best years had past long before she was born. Jenny didn't mind she sat down surprised to find, that it was still supremely comfortable and that below an aroma of stone dust she could still smell the leather. This feeling of comfort reminded her of the times when she had visited her grandfathers home and sat in his leather chair, a monster of a thing that to her child sensibilities had enough space that she could build herself a room on it. She loved to sit in that chair like a tiny queen, while here grandpa sat on the couch facing the chair reading fairy tales to her.
    She could feel the warmth of the sun in her face, the voice of her grandfather had faded away. She smelt freshly ground coffee, he had gotten up when she fell asleep to make himself a cup and he would make her a giant cup of hot chocolate. She smiled slowly opening her eyes, the sun was getting close to the horizon changing into her crimson night clothes but still bright enough to blind her, she looked around the room, filled with wooden shelves an a tidy work desk that she remembered always wanting since she had been in university. Which reminded her that her grandfather was long dead, and that there was no couch in the room. And like that very slowly the dilapidated room where she had fallen asleep slowly resurfaced from what had been left of her dream. Only the the bright light of the setting sun remained.
    That and at the very edge of perception the smell of coffee.
    Jenny had found a place where dreams and reality intersected.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Skyshell Stories: Ailu Leyka

This is a departure of sorts. Skyshell Stories, is intended as a collection of short stories about the characters and/or the world of Skyshell. This way I get back to writing and into the worlds I left behind without having to finish an entire novel. I also get to know my characters better and my fans have something to read again.

Everybody wins.

Skyshell stories 1

Ailu Leyka

The past’s long annoying shadow.

Having an old soul is considered the greatest of blessings. Of course every soul was old. As far as anyone could tell souls were as old as the world itself. Well except those of the first-born, who when taking their first breath had not caught a soul and so instead were forced to create one of their own. Those poor creatures hat the worst fate of all. In away though, Ailu thought that they had still a better lot in life then her. They at least had an excuse for being no one.
Just like had those people who inherited drifting souls, that had been outside of a body for so long that they had forgotten everything about who they may have been. They like the first born had to build their personality up from scratch. Yet this personality was built on a strong foundation of a old, strong soul that had like the body-shell hosting it gone through uncounted millennia of evolution.  Ailu hadn’t been that lucky either.

No. Ailu’s soul had been wandering the world for a long time. Doing… whatever it is that souls do when they leave the body after death. Hers was obviously fond of wandering. Travelling hither and yon with not a care in the world. At leas that was what Ailu thought. She had always loved exploring and tended to lose herself in these moments. Of course that could simply have been Ailu, but how would she ever know?
Her damned soul had started drifting stopping being someone and started just being. It would have been fine if it had continued doing so but noooo. No. Suddenly it remembered that it needed to do something important, to catch a body, preferably one that was close to who, whomever this particular soul had been close to when it was still inside its shell. So it had run. Do souls run? Flown? Hurried and implanted itself on Ailu cursing her before she was even properly human.

Ailu stabbed her stew angrily. She had of course no idea what happened to souls after the body-shell breaks. Research had gone a long way in the past centuries. The soul had become measurable, it could be caught, its passing slowed, it could be infused into artificial shells and kept active for a very long time. Or as the worst crime and the most drastic form of punishment it could be burned. But what the souls felt and thought when they were without a physical anchor no one had so far found out. So Ailu had just her pet theories.

Tonight she was alone. Which suited her well. She ate a few spoons of her stew. It was adequate in taste but it was warm. That was good. The night was cold and the wind was as often this time of the year a grim arsehole. She liked that. It fit her mood. Cold, dark and stormy.
This was her ‘first’ life and she was getting close to 40 where she was considered a full adult in Yhganndem, meaning that she needed to chose a vocation. A vocation that was true to her soul. And that was her problem, the life long source of annoyance. She had an existential itch she could not scratch. Her soul remembered almost nothing. When she was a baby she had the more sedate demeanour of an old soul, but every once in a while she had shown a spark of a mind far more advanced that it should be, like in the properly reincarnated. But they remained just that sparks. Before Ailu could even start worrying about it her family had started with it. Was she the reincarnation of a family member recently departed? If yes, what was wrong with her? If not who was she then? Was she of Yhganndem or was she an outside soul that needed to be taught in the proper ways?

And so as Ailu grew up she found herself constantly trapped in between the worlds of the reincarnated and the old souls. The reincarnated left her in the dust when they became able to speak. Their thoughts were still those of a child but that of a child that remembered the lives before.
However she was far more apt than the old souls. They had to relearn being a human from the start. No matter how firm and noble their foundations, it was no match for the sharp instincts of Ailu, with a soul that had left the memories of its old life behind but still retained a strong grip on old lessons learnt. She surpassed everyone in her class in pretty much every subject, learning more quickly than anyone else. Making absolutely no friends at all in the process.

As the sun set, Ailu used her shell-art to make her eyes more sensitive to the light there was. Her shell-art was very strong for a young first life probably one of the gifts of her soul. She looked at the heart land, wild and untamed. Beautiful in ways that had become extinct everywhere on surface of the planet, where humanity had changed, cultivated or tampered with nature. The only thing that kept it that way was the determination of the people of her country to preserve it at all costs. They had built the Seam all round their territory to keep humans including themselves out.
The isolation was what gave the heart of Yhganndem its unique charm, the basis for what it was. Ailu liked seeing that isolation could lead into something positive. At nights like these it gave her the power to keep going. Self-pity was always close at hand calling her to give in, to accept that her life was unfair and that everyone was treating her like a freak. But Ailu didn’t want to go that way. She knew that it would only lead to bitterness which in turn would make her life even harder. Her hand tightened into a fist. There it was again. The doubt. That idea of not giving in to bitterness, was that her own thought? Or was it a thought of the other, the old one still lurking in her soul. She turned around and stalked past her fire towards the other side of the wall. At this point the seam was very narrow so it was only a few hundred meters to the other side, facing the parasite forests of Khirlon.

Whenever she had a good idea or outdid herself. Was it her or the other? When she did something wrong or made a stupid mistake. Again who was respnsible for it? Since she was little everyone around her was obsessed to find out who she really was. So every tiny thing she did that was considered beyond ‘normal’ and normal being a fantastically subjective thing as Ailu came to learn very early in her life, it was seen as a piece in the puzzle that would help find out who she was. For her family it had become a hobby, looking for clues trading discoveries and discussing pet theories. At the school it had been a constant source of worry of her teachers, who were either thinking that she was obviously more than just an old soul in a new body or that she was a talented kid that had no business attending the classes intended for reincarnates. There where very few people who actually were looking for Ailu. The actual person.
It had made Ailu cranky at first, leading quickly to even wilder theories. Maybe she had been some kind of bad character before? Or maybe her peculiar soul had broken her in strange ways? So in time she became reserved and cold. That way she was simply considered strange. Someone who normal, there it was again that damned word, could simply not understand and vice versa. She did not make many friends, so she had to learn to enjoy her own company. She got lost in books half of the time and the other time she worked out her ever smoldering frustration by working on her shell-art and her body, before the frustration would grow into anger. So after being considered cold, people were now starting to consider her scary. That helped her enormously in her social life… Well at least the bullying became less. Not because she became violent but more because of what her would be bullies thought she might to to them.

At least the few friends she made were real friends. People who tried to see her for who she really was. It was not easy to become her friend as she had built so many walls around her that reaching her proper self was rather hard. So she was almost shocked when she met her first real proper friend.
Boosted by grim determination, soul skills and whatever talent she may have because of her body-shell, Ailu was excelling in her shell-art classes, so much so that her school decided to put her in a reincarnated class. This of course caused a new wave of wild speculation in her family who was now focusing on deceased shell-artists of some renown who had not reincarnated. This annoyed Ailu.
She at that time was 16 and put into class with 6 year old reincarnates who, remembering their past lives had long surpassed all old souls in development. This annoyed Ailu even more.
In that class was Livon a 9 year old girl whose soul had forgotten so much about its previous life that she had needed longer than the other reincarnates to realearn her skills. Ailu had speculated that that girl and her had enough in common that at least neither of them had to eat alone during breakfast and the midday break. Turns out that the Livon old hated Ailu with tempestuous passion, as she had coped with her situation by telling herself that she was a misunderstood martyr. Now Ailu had come along and ruined her social niche. Livon forgave her quickly after discovering that Ailu was far more of a freak than she ever was which made her more of a target than her. For Livon it was liberating to finally have someone to trample herself. This annoyed Ailu the most. The result of that was that she lost herself in her training. She even abandoned her books in that time. To much aggression. She needed the constant release or she would have murdered half of her class in hot blood.

One day Livon had finally gone all out and insulted Ailu in front of everyone else during the lunch. She had called her an outsider freak whose soul had been wandering for so long, as no proper body-shell would ever accept such a crazy animal until it met her defective body. Her former enemies snickered in the background. To add emphasis to her words Livon let her drink slip from her hand so that it would ‘accidentally’ ruin Ailu’s school uniform. Ailu, keeping eye contact with Livon, caught the glass before it could spill. Livon held her stare, even as the glass began to crack under Ailu’s grip. “Thank you.” She said, “Looks like you are good for something after all. But next time try not to break the glass. Even if you are an animal you can at least try to pretend to be a human.” Livon took her glass black, mending it as she took it with her magic. Ailu tried to burn the soul out of Livon with her eyes. While her enemy survived, she at least flinched. As she sat down she gave in to some murderous fantasies. When she saw that someone else was approaching her she was very close to finally snap and punch someone. A lot.

When she looked up she saw Len Oingan, 6 year old body third reincarnation. One of the girls that did not belong to any of the more prominent cliques that had evolved in her classes preferring to base their identity by being hanging out together. Ailu though of her and her friends as arrogant tossers who where obviously had better things to do than to lower themselves to talk to the lesser humans around them. Her impression was based on the fact that they kept to themselves and were mostly third incarnations.
She revised this view the instant Len sat down in front of her that day saying: “Never mind Livon, she’s a cunt.” a broad smile dawning on her face. 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Project Helix 008

Chapter 5 continued and finished.As Amy left the room she was instantly joined by the man who had so graciously handed out the invitation to join della Croce. While she felt a slight compulsion to handout something into the man’s face she knew that that would get her nowhere, she also had a lot of thinking to do.

“Is there a bus station near this place?” she asked.

“You are to be brought back to the police station.” he said.

“How nice, but I think I’ll manage that on my own.” she said.

“Mr. della Croce’s order where very specific.” he answered. It was obvious from the way he spoke that a discussion about this would lead nowhere but to trouble.

“He doesn’t like people who talk back, does he?” she said.

“Mr. della Croce knows what he wants and he knows how to get it.”

“He seems to be very straight forward.” Amy said to bait some more out of the man.
“He is direct and effective.” the man answered.

“Mr. della Croce told me you were his right hand man.” Amy said watching the man very closely from the corner of her eye. While he did not reply anything to that there was a slight shift in his demeanour, going from slightly to bored to slightly proud. Amy was not that surprised, the man she had met was so used of talking down to people that he was bound to be surrounded by people who were happy to be his personal lapdog and as such they thrived on praise by their ‘owner’.

“He never told me your name, though.” she said turning back to him looking him in the eye. As Amy had expected the man in front of her tried to hold her gaze but had looked away for a fraction of a second. “I am now freelancing for your boss, so we might as well use our names.” she paused waiting for him to react when she noticed that he was about to answer she stretched out her hand interrupting him with an: “I’m Amy.” a careful interjection to establish the hierarchy between them. The poor devil in front of him was built like a reinforced brick factory but mentally he had been kept well broken and was a good doggy for his master.

“Robert.” He said shaking her hand. There was a lot of force but very little conviction in the handshake.

“Nice to meet you. Rob.” no protest from his part. Good. “By the way if you ever knock me out again I will return the favour with interest.” she said with a smile. Robert glared at her, he was not about to speak up to her nor was he backing down. That’s not what he had been trained to do.
“But now that we are colleagues,” Amy added with her best winning smile, “we should get along swimmingly, right Rob?”.

Robert did not know how to react to that so he just grunted and nodded to her walking a bit faster to lead the way and leave any awkward conversations behind.
Amy was by now quite pleased with herself. The people around her were dangerous. Very dangerous. But they were so in the artless way of people who had learnt all their tricks by trial and error never having understood why they worked in the first place. 

“Where’s the car. “ Amy asked.

“Just follow me. Miss Anderson.”

‘Good boy!’ Amy thought. “No need to be so formal. Call me Amy, Ron.”

Robert just nodded leading Amy through the corridors and spacious rooms of a house of someone who knew that rich people were supposed to live in large mansions and who once having arrived in one didn’t really know what to do with it. The walked through a pool room that was all leather, minibar and constant twilight, only to pass into a living room (?) that was filled with glass and stainless steel. Very aesthetic. Very cold to look at and as comfortable as an airport.

“Nice house.” Amy said non committal looking at a row of paintings all of which were worth more than she earned in a year, that were now decorating the wall of a long corridor with all the style of a trophy collection.

“Yeah.” Said Robert shrugging. His first human expression since Amy had met him. Her attention instantly shifted towards him.

“You don’t like it?” she asked.

“It is a great house.” Robert said. “’S got a indoor pool, great view and all…”

“But…” Amy helped him along.

“But I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right.”

“It doesn’t feel like a proper home, doesen’t it?”

Robert shook his head. “Old house was much better. Still felt like someone lived there. Now it is like walking through a ghost town all packed into one building.”

“Very well put.” Said Amy surprised at the poetic talent of the guy she had mostly thought of as a well trained dog. ‘Don’t underestimate anyone Anderson. That leads to an early grave.” She told her self.

“Old house?” she asked.

“Yeah. Where Mr. Della Croce lived before he moved upwards. Had enough room for everyone, but was still cosy. Know what I mean?”

Amy nodded. “Yes.”

“But there is one bit that I like better about this house.” Robert said stopping in front of a metal door that looked out of place in the well designed wall of yet another stylish living room but glinted defiantly, daring anyone to belittle it because of its industrial roots.

Robert opened the heavy metal door and told Amy with the hint of a smile that ignited his eyes “The garage. The garage can’t ever be large enough.”

Amy entered what to her looked like a small hangar filled with the wildest dreams of any petrol head around the world.

“Since we are now colleagues, you get to chose how you get home.” Robert said his smile growing.

Amy stepped forward eyes wide making a mental note to upgrade Robert from ‘useful monkey’ to ‘very dangerous’.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Project Helix 007

Chapter 5 continued

“You are awfully well informed.” said Amy pushing her psychological ramparts into place. The situation hardly made any sense. Considering her company meant that she was in danger.

“Information is important. Power with out knowledge is worthless.” the subtly patronising tone in his voice was grating on Amy. For one because she hated being talked down to but also because she had seen far to many people mistake this kind of tone with a form of paternal care.
She concentrated on breathing and keeping her temper in check

“And you want me to provide you with information.” she stated.

“As far as you have any information I can use.” and again asking her to do something for him while at the same time belittling her.

“Stop wasting my time.” Amy said. Della Rocca had to stifle a laugh. This was a response he had not been expecting and one that did not fit with his world view. “If you want information I can help you. It is my job to find things out. But for that I need to know what kind of information you need. After that it is just a matter of compensation.”

“Look at you all business all of a sudden.”, he said with a fatherly laugh. The type belonging to a father who saw his family as his property. “OK. I’ll play along. I need you to keep an eye on Mr. Franklin and keep me informed about what he’s up to these days.” he said smiling. “If the services provided by you are satisfactory you’ll get your money. What’s your hourly rate?”

Everything inside Amy tensed up, she remained calm outwardly though. “My daily rate is 2500 pounds.”

Della Croce laughed out loud. “That’s great!” he was shaken by another fit of laughter. “You can count your self lucky if you get that in a week.” he said.

Amy got up and went to the door. “The look for someone else.”

“Wait. Wait.” della Croce said. “Let’s talk about this.”

“You want information from me. You pay my fee or look for someone else.” she said turning back to him, hand in her hips. “It’s that easy.”

“OK. Give me something juicy. So that I can see you’re worth it.” he said.

“You pay me in advance. In cash. Once I have something for you I’ll tell you. That’s the way it works. Besides, Mr. Franklin is my client so the information that I can give you about him is limited.”

Della Rocca was growing irritated with Amy, he was still slightly confused as Amy was not behaving in the way he was used to be treated by other people, however now he was starting to test his patience. “So what exactly can I expect to get from you?” he said now with a hard edge in his voice.

“If it is connected to you I’ll tell you. So for example when he fucks your wife, “ ‘when’ not ‘if’, “I would tell you and depending on how careful they are you’d get a few pictures on top of that.” she said. Seeing his reaction to that relaxed her immensely. “He isn’t. That you’ll get for free.”, Amy said, taking note that the piece of trash in front her had someone crazy or greedy enough to be married to him.

“I won’t pay 2500 punds a day for shit like that.” della Croce said.

“Power without information is worthless.” Amy said a smile pushing its way through her business face. “So here’s what we’ll do. If I find out that Mr. Franklin is doing something untowards that is connected with you I’ll let you know for a price. That’s how you usually do your thing right? There’s something you need and you pay someone to give it to you. Easy, uncomplicated, no strings attached.”, by now Amy’s was now sparkling with gleeful malice.

“Right.” said della Rocca who, as the subtext of the conversation had now taken a course that flew far over his head, felt that he was in control of the situation again. “We can do that. But how do you know what he does is part of my business?” he asked.

Through long hard training Amy was able to stop her eyes from rolling. “You will give me information about your ‘business’ as far as you think it might be concerned so that I will keep an eye out.” Della Rocca was getting ready for his next outburst. “You will of course only give me the essentials of the things you think might be worthwhile to keep an eye on.” she said.  Here’s my card. She flicked a business card with flick of her wrist which she had spent day perfecting in her office when there had been no work to be had to his desk.

“Getting kidnapped once… happens to the best of us, but do that again and I’ll take it personally.”

“Don’t worry about that. Now that we have a business relation things will go smoothly from here on out.”

Amy turned around, even her training could not stop her rolling her eyes at that one.

“You’ll hear from me.” she said as she walked out.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Project Helix 006

Chapter 5

The darkness slowly receded, leaving Amy stranded in in a strange place. She was disoriented, had no idea where she was not what she was doing there, however she had enough presence of mind to remain still while keeping her eyes closed, her breath steady. It had taken her a while but by now when she woke up in this state of confusion, she know something was wrong. It always paid to stay still for a while and gather her wits first only acting when she had at least a basic sense of what situation she was in.

She was… surprisingly comfortable. She lay on what she suspected to be a sofa. Comfortable but a bit to hard for a bed, she also was sure that she could feel the segments of cushions. Her head was resting on a thick pillow that was a bit to high to be perfectly pleasant, the fabric was also of the kind she’d associate more with a living room than a bed room. The light was soft. The room it self was silent. When she was about to open one of her eyes to see where exactly she was, she heard the turning of a page. Someone was with her, reading a book or a magazine.

She hesitated for a moment.

Risking opening an eye or two did not seem like the greatest of risks. So she slowly opened one eye. The one closest to the alleged couch she was lying on. That one had the best cover. She was right, it showed her mostly a dark blue fabric expanding before her and indirect yellow halogen light. That wasn’t helping much. So she slowly opened her other eye.
Not a living room. A library. Again. For a moment she thought that she had been brought back to the house of Hellen Ashford Stone. But this room was larger. The Ashford stone library had been classier, dominated by dark wood and leather, this one was cosier and more normal. Almost no leather bound books. Mostly paperbacks in pragmatic shelves of lighter wood. The furniture was also not all leather. The couch she was lying on had cloth upholstery. There were two other chairs, neither matching the other. One was something that seemed to have been liberated from someones grandmother, while the other one was a modernist monument to ergonomics. In side the latter sat a large man reading a book. He was facing Amy but was throughly absorbed in his book.

For Amy the next part was critical. As far as she could tell she was feeling fine. Well apart from some residue drowsiness and the ghost of a headache haunting her. Her next move required a certain degree of elegance to be effective. First impressions were important after all.
She breathed in deeply, being careful to do it as quiet as possible and then as she exhaled moved her self into an upright sitting position with one fluid motion. The man in front of her had noticed the motion in front of him, but by the time he looked up Amy was already reclining in the sofa casting looking him in the eye as if she had been sitting there like that for the past few minutes waiting for a response.

“Next time you want to talk to me, you can just make an appointment.” Amy said before the man could say something himself. “You can find me in the phone book. I even call back.”

“I did send for you Mrs. Anderson.” the man in front of her said. His surprise well hidden behind a face used not to tell the world more than the words that left its mouth intended. “If I can believe Frank’s account and I do trust Frank completely, then it was you who decided to turn this into a bit of a mess.” He smiled an apologetic smile that extended from his mouth to the corner of his eyes, but never quite reached the calculating centres of them.
“You could have just followed him.”

“I don’t react kindly to threats.” Amy said her face frosting over with a cold smile that was more a baring of teeth than anything else. “When someone creeps up from behind me and threatens me I do not react kindly. You also have the advantage to know who I am while I have not the slightest idea who you might be.” she added.

“My name,” the man said hesitating only for the blink of an eye, “is Dante della Croce. You may have heard of me.”

“No.” Amy lied. OF course she had heard from della Croce, patriarch of one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the City. She knew that this man had done a lot to keep his name out of the general public and she was not about to tell him that she was among those who knew who she was. As spoke she looked closely at him looking for any kind of reaction. There was hardly anything.

“I am an entrepreneur here in the City.” he said as if that would clear up all open questions. Again Amy could not notice any tell tell signs in neither in his face nor his body language that told her more than he was saying. This man had spent years of keeping his inner thoughts to himself.

Amy took this sad excuse of a revelation to take a look around the library. Some novels, lots of biographies and books about management and success in general as well as a shelve dedicated to what appeared to be classic literature. That last shelve looked the most tidy containing about 90% of the leather bound books in the room. A shelve that was there because it was expected to be present.

“And it looks that you are doing very well for yourself.” Amy said, glancing over to della Croce.

“I am doing fine.” he said, his face maintaining its polite rigidity, “I put in the work and at the end of the day I harvest the fruit of my labour.” he shrugged.

“What kind of fruit do you think you are cultivating in having Frank, your assistant, taking me here by force?” she asked.

He looked at her keeping up his almost sincere smile. “As I told you, you were invited here, it was you who forced his hand.”

Amy noted that he had not denied that this Frank character was his assistant. “The city is not safe for a young woman.” Amy said. “It tends to make me a bit twitchy.”

“You should focus your worries on situations that warrant them.” he said in an indulgent tone. Amy had to massage the corners of her mouth with what she hopped would appear like a thoughtful gesture, to hide the shadow of a smile. Delle Croce was treating her like a naive girl. This made her work more easy.

“Like for example?” she asked opening her eyes a bit to appear as if she was actually looking for his advice.

His smile reached the centre of his eyes, his posture shifting slightly into a more relaxed pose.

“The usual things. Don’t go into the more disreputable parts of the City without the company of a man. Do not take shortcuts through dark side streets. Keep your eyes open. Don’t provoke strangers. The usual things.”

The guy was even worse than Am had thought. “Still I was abducted by your right hand man in bright daylight.” The perfect mask in front of her strained a tiny bit. There was a hint of rolling eyes. “And in front of a police station no less.” she added. “If you can do that, I can’t see how a girl can stay safe in the City at all.” Damn. For a moment Amy thought she had stepped over the line and della Croce would hear the sarcasm in her voice.

“I told you,” he said with great patience only reserved to the very young and the very mentally challenged, “that you were not abducted. You were invited. You refused rather rudely. And Frank had to carry you here. You are here only for a quick chat.” there was an undertone in his voice that told Amy that this conversation was already taking longer than the man had any patience for. “There are also only very few people who have the means to make such a convincing invitation in a public space.” he added with a hint of pride in his voice.

Amy relaxed, della Croce was now comfortably underestimating her, being now mostly by being mildly annoyed by her. He had also not corrected her when she had called Frank his right hand man. Not reacting to her calling him his assistant may have been just a coincidence, but by now Amy was confident that Frank was at the very least more than just a lowly grunt.
This may be intended as a little chat but what ever della Croce wanted to know was important for him.

“Well now that I am here,” Amy said, “we may as well talk.”

“Splendid.” della Croce said. “What exactly were you doing at the police station?”

“I was following an earlier invitation, almost as charming as yours.” Amy said. “The police think that Christopher Franklin killed his ex. When they came to his apartment, I was there to talk with him about a case when the police arrived. I was there wanting to talk with him about a case when the cops arrived. I have no idea way but they decided to take me right along with him. It took me a while but in the end they finally let me go. Quite frankly I have no idea what’s going on.” Amy was rather pleased with herself for rearranging the truth into a rather decent misdirection.

“So Mr. Franklin killed his ex?” della Croce asked.

“He says he didn’t do it.” Amy said leaning back.

“And you? What were you doing there with Mr. Franklin?”

“Ask the cops.” she said.

For a moment anger flared up in the cold eyes of the della Croce but it vanished as quickly as it had appeared. “I am asking you Mrs. Anderson.”

“I was talking to him about a case.” she repeated.

“What case?”

“I can’t tell you. Client confidentiality. I am sure you understand.”

Della Croce remained silent for a moment. His eyes remaining on Amy trying to squeeze an answer from her through sheer force of will. He almost succeeded.
“I don’t need any details.” he said finally. “What is between you and your clients is of course a matter of discretion.” again this undertone of benevolent indulgence. Amy wanted to punch him. “I just want you to tell me in general what your job is. Are you his bodyguard?” he asked still with the tone of an adult talking to a child.

“No.” Amy said. ‘Of course, you aren’t’ replied his eyes.

“What then?” he asked.

“I was hired as a detective. That’s my job.” she did not say anything else waiting for a reaction. Only when she saw the faintest cracks spreading over his mask she continued. “He is afraid that someone was trying to kill him. But right now he seems to have much bigger problems.”

The mask was back in place. Perfectly still. “And?”

“Nothing and.” Amy said. “I just accepted this job this morning. So far there is nothing I could happily withhold from you because of my work ethics as there isn’t anything I know yet that I could tell you.”, ‘Apart from the fact that you are obviously involved in this somehow…’ Amy added to herself. “Why do you want to know?” she asked.

“Because when the fiancé of Hellen Ashford Stone gets dragged into a police station for questioning people in my position are curious as to why.” he said.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Project Helix 005

Chapter 4 continued

The police station was located in an ancient building. It was dwarfed by the skyscrapers surrounding it but kept their looming presence at bay with its deep rooted gravitas. It had been built in a time were architecture was intended to impress generations instead of a current design rend feeding the pride of a contemporary architect. Its massive stone walls stained by centuries of rain had if anything only gained in majesty by the passage of time. While the towers surrounding the station had been built to look large and imposing making the people who entered them look insignificant in comparison, the police building had beed designed to instil awe in those who beheld it. 
It was a temple built to pay respect to law enforcement. Columns as thick and large as century old oaks holding up a massive stone ceiling that could only be hold aloft by a supreme effort. Every aspect of the construction was there to demonstrate great force used with utmost care. This appearance of power was broken by the tall arched windows which allowed for the people outside to clearly view the inside of the building and for the interior that would have otherwise been dark and foreboding to be flooded with bright daylight. This wasn’t an empty display of power, it was a declaration of intent. 

While Hartley had relaxed and was leading the way without ever looking back, his partner McLean was still not convinced by neither Franklin nor Amy and was trailing a few steps back watching them carefully for any suspicious behaviour. She reminded amy of a feline that was smelling a rat. 
Amy had passed this police station hundreds of times living in the City and had often paused to admire the architecture, but she had never been inside of the station before. Even when she was still training to be police herself she had been sent to a station in the impoverished north of the city. A late twentieth century shit hole of a neighbourhood that had been built around the idea that there was nothing more heartwarming that the look of houses that had all been built out of the same standardised slabs of concrete which could be given individual character by how they were put together. There had even been plans to allow the inhabitants to wait the concrete in colours that pleased them and would allow for even more fanciful variation. In the end though city planning had decided that the choice of colour of ones house was a power to great to be granted to the great unwashed masses of the cities slowly declining middle class and left it all grey. In the end the entire quarter ended up looking like the sketchbook of an autistic cubist painter. 
 It had been planned prison for the poor. Move there and you were free to leave of course. But you were also free of money, free of job offers, free of a decent credit rating. The police station there was more like a fort. An ugly grey, cubist fort reinforced to withstand a siege by the unwashed masses. However the unwashed masses there were far to broken to revolt, being pushed forward by the dream of prosperity to go on with their lives one more day, because their break would surely come. 
Being stationed there as rookie police served to immerse the new generation into world of addicts and petty criminals. Most people who went there were stripped of their faith in humanity in months. Amy had not been one of them. She saw the shit hole but kept wondering whose fault it was that it was there in the first place. It was there where she decided that she would not become part of the executive branch of a state that let things devolve into what she was seeing there. She was not going to be willingly turned into cannon fodder for a state that was working so very hard to abase its citizens turning them into cattle kept under conditions that would have been illegal when applied to livestock. 

However the place she was now in was completely different. Everything insight was bright and clean. The large rooms with their high ceilings and massive walls radiated authority. Measuring those working there and seeking help while making those being taken there as suspects feel insignificant. It had its intended effect on Franklin whose usually square shoulders had slumped significantly. His usually magnificent expression had become demure. Amy was by now hard pressed to find the handsome man that had entered her office that morning in the nervous wreck in front of her. 
Her own feelings were more complicated. In part she was impressed by the police station, feeling reassured that places like these existed. On the other hand it was feeding the ambers of her resentment, slowly reviving the flames of an anger she had thought she had left behind a long time ago. In away this station was a sham. It was one of the central stations that housed the police force for the wealthier neighbourhoods of the northwestern part of the city. The people who mattered, if they ever came into contact with the police would come here and be presented by something much closer to what everyone expected from the police. Nearly non of them would ever witness the soul crushing pit she had spent her rookie time at. Thus inconvenient questions from these kind of people were artfully prevented, while no negate a shit about the complaints of the criminally poor. 

Hartley and McLean lead them into an interrogation room that was four walls a metal table bolted into the floor and several chairs. 

“Tea? Coffee?”, Hartley asked. McLean just frowned at the offer. 

“Tea.” Amy said. Franklin just shook his head falling into a chair.

Hartley left the room. He paused at the door. He cleared his throat to catch the attention of his partner. His expression told her to stop being a dick and come with him. She grunted and followed him out of the room. 

After the door had closed Amy turned back to Franklin. 
“You didn’t do anything Christopher.” she said.  “So relax. Be wary of Hartley. He is going to be the one who is going to tempt you into cooperating with him, who will promise you to make everything easy. The sentiment might be true, but he’s also looking to ‘beat’ you. For him you are probably a game of psychological chess. He’ll try to make you ‘come clean’. This will tempt you in telling him shit that will compromise you. So keep your mouth shut. Don’t get drawn into a conversation. It might be pleasant but you will walk into traps without realising it.”

“But I didn’t do anything.” Franklin said looking up for the first time. He looked at Amy. “I didn’t do”, he repeated, “anything. I wouldn’t. Linda was crazy and I was glad when it appeared that she was finally not a part of my life anymore. But I… I actually had hoped that she would find some peace and move on with her life… and now…”, he hung his head again.

“I know that Christopher and I believe you. But those two detectives out there are not looking for a way to prove your innocence but for a way to find someone who is guilty.”

“I’m not guilty!” Franklin shouted, slamming his fist on the metal table in front of him. Amy was startled by that sudden outburst. It looked liked there was some residue of steel to be found in Franklin’s soft soul after all. 

“The all you have to do is try to relax. Once the two detectives return I’ll stay with you here for a while, enjoy my horrible tea and make sure that they treat you well. Once I’m sure that I can leave you with them alone for a few minutes I’ll excuse myself to go and call Mrs. Ashford Stone.  You’ll see, you’ll be out of here before it is even dark outside.”

“What about the other one?” Franklin asked.

“The other one?” Amy wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about. “Oh you mean the bad cop?”

He nodded.

“Much easier to deal with. She will be an arse and try to intimidate you. Talking about bending the rules, preferably around your neck. Just keep silent. Don’t get cheeky with her type, they usually tend to hold grudges, her you can tell basic shit, she’s probably to angry to be clever. Still try not to talk to much. And please do me a favour. Stop looking like such a victim. It makes me want to punch you, so it won’t help with her either.”

The last part didn’t really help. Franklin shrank even more, tempting Amy to slap some sense into him. She turned around to regain her composure when the door to the room opened up again. McLean held the door open for Hartley who entered the room holding four paper cups in his hands. 

“I thought I’d bring you a tea, too, just in case.” he said to Franklin as he put the cups down on the table pushing one towards Franklin.

They had just finished going through the opening formalities, about to open the very promising looking file lying conspicuously on the side of the table when the door to the interrogation room suddenly opened. A young woman in a business dress so smart it made everything else around it look out of place entered the room with a fierce expression on her face.

“Detective McLean and Hartley?” she asked. 

“Who the fuck are you?” was McLeans answer who got up immediately getting ready to throw the new arrival right back out again.

“Who let you in?” asked Hartley who remained seated but whose expression instantly hardened, his hand inching instinctively towards his weapon. 

“I am Amanda Welles, I am Mr. Franklin’s lawyer. I want to inform you that I have already filed a complaint against both of you”, she said with a cold voice, “for harassing my client, not allowing him his right of attorney and trying to force him into a false confession before he can be properly counselled.”

“You are his lawyer?” McLean said looking at her then looking over to Amy, venom in her eyes. 

“Yes.”  Welles answered.

“Then who the fuck, are you?” McLean asked Amy.

“I am his private investigator.” she answered with a thin smile, ignoring her own advice not to get fresh with the bad cop in the room.

“You are his what? You are this close to get arrested too.” she spat.

“Really? What for?”, Amy asked.

“You put Mr. Franklin under arrest.” Welles asked one eyebrow arched. 

“No. Not under arrest.” Hartley said his eye now also cold resting on Welles. “He is here to clarify a few points for us…”

“Pretending to be his lawyer is going to get you into big trouble miss.” McLean said to Amy.

“I never said I was Mr. Franklins lawyer. I said he was my client which is the truth. I have no responsibility for your actions.” she answered still sporting her thin smile. 

“Get out!” McLean said.

Amy shrugged and left passing Welles whose reptilian eyes followed her out of the room. 

She was glad having gotten out of there earlier than expected. This day so far had only given her one question after the other and it was about time to get some answers. Not having to baby sit Franklin had given her precious time. It also helped enormously that she had not to pose as his defending counsel. She might be able to weasel her way around for a while based on her semester of law and her police training, but that would only get her so far. It also carried the risk of causing Franklin additional trouble. 

She left the police station wondering how Ashford Stone had known to send one of her attack dogs to save the day. Was it the gas repairman? Or was Franklin himself tagged like the good little pet he was. 

She was favouring the repairman theory when she felt a hard object being pressed against her back.

“Mrs. Anderson.” a male voice behind her said in the tones of someone commenting on the weather. “I am pointing a military grade auto injector at your back. I am going to ask you to be so kind as to come with me, there is someone who would like to have a word with you. It would be best if you just came along. If you do not cooperate I will have to sedate you. That will be unpleasant for you as well as for me, for I will have to carry your unconscious body away to get you the medical help you poor woman obviously require. Either way you will come with me. Please be so kind and chose the easy way.”

Amy chose the hard way. At this distance the weapon or auto injector or what ever was very close to her, but she was only one quick side step away from sweeping away the hand holding it and giving the guy behind her a proper thrashing. 

She spun around. She felt a sharp pain in her back. The man in front of her, a mountain in form of a human in a casual suit looked surprised as Amy’s arm hit his hand with unexpected force sending the object in his hand scattering over the side walk onto the street under the wheels of a car. His expression then went from disappointment to that slight annoyance. 

‘It was a release trigger…’ Amy thought as a cold wave of numbness took over her body. 

She fell. Caught by darkness.