(written 11/24/2010 - total words 58,367)
Angel’s house was dark and quiet. In fact the whole neighborhood seemed to be. The front door had been forced open, as evidenced by the shattered door jamb an the dead bolt protruding from the open door.
Cal crept down the short hallway to the kitchen trying to remember the layout of the house and where any tripping hazards might be. Worry crept into his mind. Was he too late? The SUV was still outside, but the house felt empty and dead. There was a familiar fear in the house, though. His heard was pounding in his chest. His nerves were keyed up enough to pick up the slightest noise or movement. But there was a blanket of cold, desperate fear that he recognized from the golf course. The agent was still here.
There was a muffled crash coming from a room to the left of the kitchen. The area that Angel hand’t shown Cal. Back where her bedroom must be. There was a panting and the noise of padded feet running and dragging something. The sound came into the kitchen from the right and gone to the left. Did he see a shadow move? He didn’t recall Angel having a dog.
The kitchen was quiet again.
This was when Cal realized he had no weapon and no plan.
He looked to his right and saw the knife block on the kitchen counter. He pulled out the biggest, longest knife there was and held it in his hand. His palms were slick with a nervous sweat. It felt like the knife would turn in his hand the second it touched anything. He switched grips a few times, trying to figure out the best way to hold it to defend himself. Unfortunately all he knew what to do with a knife like this was chop vegetables. His only knowledge of the fighting applications of a knife was “pointy end out”. He wasn’t excited about using the knife, but it was better than dying. Better than dying without a fight, at least.
There was a shuffling noise behind him, he turned quickly, getting the point end of his knife between him and the noise. It was hard to see anything in the dark, but it looked like he was alone in the kitchen. He could’ve sworn he’d heard something right there though. He took a step forward. Nothing.
He needed to move, go on the offensive, instead of sitting in the kitchen freaking out over any little noise. There was another bump back by Angel’s bedroom. He made his way over to the doorway the noises were coming from. There was a short hallway that ended in what looked like a bathroom. To the right of the bathroom door was another door, which must have been Angel’s bedroom. The only light in the house was coming from there.
He could hear more noise from the room now. Sounded like somebody was trashing it. He took a cautious step forward, hoping the floor wouldn’t creak.
The shuffling noise was behind him again. As he turned, it passed by him, heading for Angel’s room, raising the hairs on his neck. He looked back towards her room, but could see nothing.
The noises from the room stopped.
Cal’s heart stopped.
The light coming from the room blotted out as a figure emerged to stand in the hallway.
“Cannon?” the voice boomed, more statement than question.
Cal backed out of the hallway and into the kitchen, holding the knife up, feeling weaker than ever. The figure came forward slowly. Shadows played games around his legs. There was a dragging sound following him.
Cal continued to back up until he was stopped by the refrigerator. The figure came into the kitchen and stopped. It was clearly an agent. The last agent.
Cal gritted his teeth as the agent looked at him. But then the agent looked away, as if scanning the room for something.
The dragging noise behind the agent stopped and Cal heard a sniffling noise then a whine.
“I know you’re here Cannon,” the agent said. “Come to save little Ms. Messenberg?”
Cal held his breath, confused.
“Hiding only helps you if I don’t already know you’re here,” the agent continued.
Shadows flowed into the room, and with them small noises, whispers, shuffles.
“I will find you,” he said. “You’re a fool for coming here, boy. How much more obvious of a trap could we lay for you?”
Cal took a shallow breath, trying to be silent, pressed up against the fridge, knife pointing at the agent. The room was growing darker as the shadows continued to spill into it.
“You’re in a fight you can’t win,” the agent continued. “Caught in a battle between foes more ancient and powerful than you can imagine. There’s no hope for you.”
A dragging sound approached Cal, and with it was the sniffling. He heard a whine and a tentacle of shadow reach out past his foot. He shuffled away from it. The tentacle snapped over to his foot and he jerked away from the intense cold.
“Ah,” the agent said. “There you are. When you know it’s there, an area of nothing is just as obvious as an area of something.”
Shadows in the room converged on Cal as the agent walked towards him. Cal shrunk away, crouching down. He was out of options.
The agent reached out for him.
Cal lunged forward, burying the knife into the agent’s chest.
The agent looked down and stopped. Time seemed to stand still.
“That’s not going to work,” the agent said, grabbing the hilt of the knife and Cal’s hand with it.
The agent struck Cal across the face, knocking him to the floor. Holding on to Cal’s hand, the agent pulled Cal back up. A strong, cool hand grabbed Cal’s neck and pressed him against the refrigerator. Cal swallowed painfully around the pressure on his throat. It was getting hard to breath.
“Where is it?” the agent asked.
Cal almost laughed at the concept of being interrogated while being choked, but laughing requires air as well.a
There was a dull thump. Cal felt the agent lean into him a bit more then back off.
“Ms. Messenberg,” the agent said over his shoulder. “You decided to stop hiding.”
His voice altered with another thump.
Cal fell to the ground as the agent dropped him and turned around. Cal took a deep breath and coughed. He could breathe, but it felt like the hand had permanently damaged his throat.
“Get away from him,” he heard Angel scream, and another thump.
Cal looked up and saw Angel swinging something at the agent. It landed with another thump.
The agent struck her in the face. Her weapon fell to the kitchen tile with a loud clang, and she crumpled down to the floor with a whimper, hands on her face. She started making a quiet keening sound.
The agent stood over her. She looked up, starting to sob. Her nose was bloodied.
“Angel, don’t,” Cal shouted as she made eye contact with the agent.
Her eyes grew wide and she started shrieking and kicking away from the agent. He continued to advance on her retreat until she was backed into a corner of cabinets. She pressed hard into the corner, her screams echoing around the kitchen.
Cal closed his eyes against the tormented sounds. He couldn’t let it go on. He reached over and grabbed the weapon that Angel had dropped. It was cold and heavy. It felt like a fire iron.
He wound up, took a step, and swung at the agent’s body. The agent folded over and stumbled backwards across the kitchen. Angels anguished screams changed to sobbing.
The agent pushed himself back up. Cal grit his teeth, wound up, and took a step and another swing. The agent put his arm up to block it, but the arc of the fire iron cut through his arm and knocked his head to the side. He stumbled back again, but again pushed back up to his feet. Cal took another step forward and swung the heavy metal rod with a scream of rage.
The swing came up the side and connected solidly with the agent’s head. A clang rang out, vibrating the fire iron out of Cal’s hands. An object flew out of the agents head and clanged against the metal stove.
The agent stood still for a moment, then exploded into ash.
Cal walked over to the stove, breathing hard and choking on the ash. There it was at the foot of the stove. A large, thick coin. He picked it up, then stared down at the pile of ash.
Angel’s crying shook him out of his enraged trance. He ran across the kitchen, putting the coin in his pocket and dropped to his knees. She was curled up in a fetal position, hands around her head. Her whole body shook with sobs. He wasn’t sure what to do.
“Hey, Angel,” he said softly, putting a hand on her hip. “It’s okay.”
She continued to sob. He started worrying that he’d gotten here too late.
“Angel,” he repeated, leaning down close to her and moving his hand up to her shoulder. “He’s gone, it’s okay.”
She still did not respond. He sat down next to her and brushed her hair out of her face. He leaned down and kissed her on the temple and put his arm around her back.
“Angel,” he whispered into her ear. “You’re safe now. It’s okay.”
Her bloodshot eyes cracked open and she turned to look up at him.
“Cal?” she asked between sobs.
“Yeah,” he whispered with a smile. “It’s okay.”
She reached up and pulled him down to her in a hug, continuing to cry softly into his shoulder.
“Get me out of here,” she said in a whimper.
He nodded and pulled her up to her feet.
He guided her out to the car and they got in the front. She laid down across the bench seat and put her head in his lap. Cal stroked her hair, trying to calm her down.
Cal flipped his phone open and called Oscar.
“Cal?” Oscar answered.
“We’re doing it tonight,” Cal said.
Oscar paused. Cal needed Oscar. He hoped Oscar was up to it.
“Okay,” Oscar said. “What about the chlorine?”
“Home Depot,” Cal said starting the Mustang. “We’ll be at your house in five minutes.”
“I’ll be outside,” Oscar said.
Cal closed the phone, pulled around the black SUV, and headed for Oscar’s.
* * *
Home Depot was as confusing as it always was. After being sent to all corners of the store, they finally found the right section with the pool and spa chemicals. Fortunately all of that traveling took them through the home and garden section which had a whole section of shovels.
This time Cal was going to come prepared. He caught a few stares as he swung the shovels around, feeling their weight, and finally settled on a short, round-pointed shovel with a handle on the end. It was also blue, which he didn’t think really mattered, but he liked it. No more relying on luck to get a piece of metal in his hands.
Oscar and Cal got back to the Mustang and filled up the trunk with pool shock kits. Cal laid his new shovel across the top and shut the trunk.
“You’re driving,” Cal told Oscar.
Oscar held his hand up and caught the keys.
Cal got in the backseat where Angel was lying under his jacket. She sat up and leaned against him, hugging his arm.
“Are you going to be okay?” Cal asked.
“Jesus,” she said, her voice still shaky. “That was so awful.”
Cal reached over and stroked her cheek. Oscar started the Mustang. He looked at Cal in the rearview mirror. Cal saw uncertainty in his eye.
“We can drop you off at my house if you like,” Cal said to Angel.
“No,” she said sitting up and wiping a tear from her eye. “I want to be there to shut these bastards down.”
Cal looked at her until she looked back.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “I have no idea what we might run into out there.”
She grabbed his hand in hers and squeezed.
“I know,” she said looking at his hand. “But I told you that I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”
She gave him a weak smile.
He caught Oscar’s eye in the rearview.
“What about you?” he asked. “You going to be okay with this?”
“I’m scared,” Oscar said. “I can tell you that. And I’m tired of being scared. I want to end this thing.”
“Okay,” Cal said. “Let’s go then.”
Oscar threw the Mustang into gear and they sped off towards the golf course.
The excitement and adrenaline were wearing off. Exhaustion and common sense were starting to set in. A pit was formed in Cal’s stomach as they drove. Could they really pull this off? Would they survive it?
He laid his head back on the seat, anxiety and caution battling in his head. Angel nuzzled up against him.
He fell asleep.