04: Playing Russian Roulette
Alex and the girls enjoyed San Diego. Alex’s BCM had leveled off during dinner the previous night and by morning he was feeling refreshed. They took a nice drive down without hitting much traffic and they visited La Jolla Cove, which Debra recommended. They then continued down the coast and visited Coronado beach near the Naval base. They enjoyed strolling along both beaches, and of course Alex met a few people along the way, but they managed to avoid any embarrassing encounters—a few awkward ones, but not too bad overall.
Finally Alex took them out to dinner at a pleasant restaurant near their hotel. With a convention in the city a lot of hotels were full, so they rented a room at a budget hotel a little further from the downtown area than they preferred. The dinner was at a nice ‘authentic’ Mexican restaurant one of the girls they’d met recommended and they’d had a great time flirting with the waitress. For Alex, doing so was especially nice since there was no fear of his having to actually sleep with her. Knowing the flirtation was harmless was a release for him.
Walking back to the hotel, they hit a rough patch near a public park. The girls noticed a few ‘ladies of the night’ out and about and started to cross the street in order to avoid them when Cate nudged him.
“Alex, check out the skinny black girl. She’s been shooting us glances but seems afraid to look directly at us. I suspect she’s being watched.”
“I doubt they’re afraid of the cops, and they typically approach men on the street, so I suspect you’re right. Her pimp must be watching to make sure she’s not slacking off.”
“You probably want to watch how you activate her,” Cate suggested as Kitty and Chalice noticed them hanging back and walked back to see what they were talking about.
“What’s up?” Kitty asked, worried about attracting attention by staring and talking about the girls like a bunch of yokels.
“He’s noticed someone,” Cate told them, guiding them both along behind Alex. “Don’t let anyone know we’re interested in them,” she whispered, glancing away from the girl in question.
Alex’s two girlfriends, having been through his activations before, quickly fell in behind him, pretending nothing unusual was happening, even as they watched what he was doing in their peripheral vision.
Walking forward, pointing out a statue in the park, Alex approached the girl along an indirect path which led ahead of her. By the time they drew near, Alex had already activated her. She reacted, her head jerking back and seemingly stumbling, but she, Alex and the girls covered their actions pretty well. As soon as she responded, Alex spoke to her telepathically, removing her need to approach or confront him. He quickly told her about her abilities without overwhelming her. The main idea was to prevent them from talking publicly, or taking too long to explain things.
As he passed in front of her, being unfamiliar with communicating telepathically, she turned and quickly whispered as he passed.
“Look, I’m sorry for what I’ve done,”she began, clearly thinking he was an angel come to pass judgment on her. “I didn’t mean it. I was kind of forced into this and—”
Since she effectively blocked their path, Alex leaned in, whispering to her privately, even as Kitty, Chalise and Cate clustered around them. “What’s your name? Your real name, that is?” Alex stressed, while Kitty and Chalise looked on intently.
“Angelica Rivers, Sir,” she answered. She was a young, light-skinned black girl with thick lips, kinky hair and a very nice figure. Alex hated staring at her, looking her up and down and whispering like he was ashamed to be seen with her, but it was expected, and they’d have had trouble speaking with her if they didn’t look the part. Approaching a girl with four other women with him wouldn’t have been a good way to escape notice. To make it look even more convincing, Kitty and Chalise grabbed Alex’s arms, leaning into him while whispering as if making suggestions to him.
She stared at him with a bleak, worried, beseeching look which tore at Alex’s heart. He had to be sure she wanted out and wasn’t simply feeling guilty because some angel was passing judgment on her.
“I’m not here to judge you, but are you happy with this life or do you want to get out of it?” he asked, just as he had in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. “Before you answer, consider it carefully, because you won’t be able to return. I’ll get you out, but you won’t be able to call anyone here. You won’t be able to contact anyone. In fact you won’t even be able to register to vote because it’s too easy to track people via public voting records.”
“Alex!” Gini cautioned him gently as she tried to figure out how she could get them out of there, on foot, if this didn’t go the way he planned, but Alex waved her off. He wanted to help this girl get her life straightened out. Gini had already told him how trustworthy she was, as Gail had been training her in predicting people’s reactions based on their auras. She was pretty straightforward if a bit easily manipulated. Alex thought he could not only help her, but had a feeling she’d prove herself in the long run. He wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to handle it, but he had a few ideas.
She stood straighter, considering it for a few seconds, and then finally answered seriously. “If you can really get me out of here, then I’ll gladly go. It’s been too long, and I’ve got nothing to show for my time here. I’m ready to start over.”
“Can you get away somewhere to discuss it?” Alex asked. “Do I need to slip you some cash, or what?”
“I can go with you now, but they’ll watch where we go and I’m supposed to let them know where we’re going.”
“Do you have to tell them, or just indicate where?”
“Just a general indication,” she answered.
“Fine, we’re taking you to a hotel ahead of us, let them figure out which one,” Alex replied as she started to walk away. “Hurry up, I’m not waiting.”
She signaled whoever she needed to and then hurried after him. Kitty, intrigued by the whole process, relinquished her position on his arm and fell in behind them, walking with Cate while Gini trailed closely behind Alex.
‘Do you have any idea what you’re doing?’ Gini asked. ‘You could be opening yourself up for a world of hurt here.’
‘Not really, no,’ he responded, ‘but I’ve got a general idea of how I’d like to approach it.’
‘Well I hope you have more than just an idea, ‘cause we’re walking. We can’t very well avoid being tracked back to our hotel, and I’m guessing they know someone who’ll give them our room number.’
Alex considered that, weighing whether he should have Gini ‘meet’ the person inside the hotel, then decided against it.
‘No, let them. I’ll get her out by distraction,’ he said, providing no clue about his ultimate plans.
They strolled back, not rushing in the slightest, and Alex and Cate gave Angelica a full run down on her new abilities. While he was at it, he also contacted one of the girls they’d met earlier, asking her if she could stop by the hotel and wait outside on the street. He then warned her to bring either a boyfriend or a gun. He didn’t mind playing games, but he didn’t want anyone getting hurt in the process.
Heading directly to their room, he quickly laid out the basics. Chalise quickly stripped, giving Angelica her outfit since they were close to the same size, while Kitty took her old outfit and held on to it. Gini grudgingly headed out, walking quickly as if she was going out to pick something up. She was anything but pleased to be leaving her charge, but Alex had insisted, telling her everything ‘should be OK’. Those were hardly encouraging words, but she knew better than to second guess his intuition at this point. A few minutes later, Kitty and Angelica left the room, with Angelica’s hair changed to make her look a little more like Chalise’s. Kitty stopped by the trash receptacle to dump her old clothes before they descended the stairs.
“Man, I’ve got to say, for as dangerous as this is, it’s damn exciting,” Kitty whispered to Angelica as they ran down the stairs.
“Well, I’m used to danger and you can have it. I just hope Alex can get me out of here.”
“Don’t worry, if anyone can, Alex will,” Kitty assured her, though she had her own doubts about how he’d manage it.
Shortly afterwards, Alex and Cate took the elevator down, walking directly through the lobby, talking loudly. They were midway across when they heard the sound of a motorcycle engine being revved behind the hotel, but ignored it, knowing Angelica had already slipped out the back, jumping on Gini’s bike as they both made a quick exit while any potential lookouts were busy observing Alex. He’d prearranged with Kitty to head to the street ahead of them, hoping to distract any watcher as Angelica made the dash to the rear door.
‘OK, we slipped away,’ Gini told him. ‘I sure as hell hope you know what you’re doing.’
‘I know what I want to do. Whether or not I can pull it off is another question. But I’m not sure whether it’s possible or not. That’s why I’m forcing Kitty and Chalise to keep their distance. Unfortunately I couldn’t deny Cate, so I’m mostly concerned about her, rather than myself.’
‘It sounds like you’re internalizing this whole approaching death concept too much. Are you sure you’re not trying to seek an early out, hoping to avoid the ending you see rapidly approaching?’
‘Seriously? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit involved in something, and I don’t exactly have the time to debate my motives. But what I’m doing is based on something I’ve been wrestling with for a while. I feel confident it will work.’
‘Well, as always, you’re the boss. We’re on our way to Los Angeles where we’ll put your new friend on the first plane to New Orleans. But if you go and get yourself killed, I’m likely to find my new boss, Gail, very unhappy with me,’ she told him before finally saying goodbye.
Walking out the front door, Alex glanced around, and as he’d expected, there were a collection of several smug street-smart types watching him. Without checking to see if Kitty was behind him or not, he set out in their direction.
“All right, where is she, punk?” one Hispanic man with short hair and a mustache—obviously the group’s leader and likely Angelica’s pimp—demanded.
“What? Whoever do you mean?” Alex asked, playing dumb, even though he knew it wouldn’t help.
“I mean Honey, you idiot. The girl you just took up to your room. You owe her and me some substantial coin, and I want to see her before I let you leave.”
“Honey?” Alex asked, shrugging in confusion. “I have no idea who you’re talking about. I recently met a delightful person by a different name, but she’s not available at the moment. Seems she was having a problem with people taking advantage of her. As part of a new and growing religion, our organization took it upon ourselves to give her the means to escape her dead-end situation.”
“Did you now, you little shit?” he sneered as he glared at Alex, casting a quick glance at Cate as a visual warning to him. “Look, if you and your little friend here want to continue breathing, I suggest you tell me where she is. You’ll end up telling me either way, but at least this way you stand a chance of keeping your pretty faces unmarked.”
‘Betty, are you monitoring this for me?’ Alex asked his hidden observer telepathically, the faster communication allowing him to converse fairly extensively in the blink of an eye. He needed her since Gini gone.
‘I’m here, Alex, and I’m watching everything, although I’m not real familiar with what I’m seeing yet. As you suggested, I’m talking to Allison and Gail about what’s occurring. By the way, Gail’s not real happy with you at the moment.’
‘Tell her I share the sentiment, but also remind her not to butt in. This is important in more ways than one. Just let me know when he starts to lose his temper. I need to know before he reacts,’ Alex reminded her.
‘Will do. Right now he’s pretty calm. He thinks he’s in control and is sure you won’t dare defy him,’ she observed.
‘Fine, that’s what I’m counting on,’ he told her before he responded to the man glaring at him.
“I hate to have to say this, but you’re not going to be hurting anyone,” Alex responded calmly, seeming unperturbed by the group of five men surrounding him and Cate. “While ours is a new religion, we have a certain level of ‘Divine protection’ the other established churches are currently lacking, thus I feel secure from anything you may attempt in an effort to intimidate me.”
“Listen, you little fuck,” the man hissed, the streetlight glistening off the nose piercing between his eyes, “I don’t care what kind of freak you are, you’re going to pay me and turn over my girl, got it? Why is it always the religious freaks who hunger for kinky sex but then refuse to let go when they get caught?” he asked his companions, who nodded in agreement, also casting Alex threatening looks.
“She’s not yours to control,” Alex insisted. “She’s made her decision and she’s already long gone. The person you know as ‘Honey’ no longer exists.”
“I should slit you open like the little pig you are,” the man snarled. “Or maybe you’d react a little more quickly if I decided to slice up your girlfriend instead?”
Alex could already see Cate stiffening. Although he warned her before they came out, he knew full well his actions threatened her, but he wanted her for cover. Still, this was an incredibly risky game he was playing, and the penalty for losing was severe. Still, he pressed on.
“This is between us,” he insisted, speaking softly causing the dangerous men to lean in closer. “You aren’t interested in anyone else, you want to hurt me. But you know you can’t do anything because I’m not afraid of you, so now you’re reaching out in desperation to prove to your frightened underlings you’re still as big and brave as you always boast you are.”
Alex could see the effect his words had on the man as the veins in his temple grew more prominent and his neck muscles tensed. But at least his attention was on him, rather than on Cate. He also noticed Cate taking a hesitant step back, though he didn’t trust her not to jump in, possibly getting hurt in the process, so he had to control the situation very carefully.
His opponent snarled, his eyes twitching with his barely controlled anger. “I don’t know what planet you’re from, kid, but on this one, idiots like you die every day. Your damn God isn’t going to care whether you die bleeding on the street or not. Now I suggest you stop stalling and call my girl out here now.”
“You know, not only aren’t you very bright, completely missing the fact she’s no longer around, but you also haven’t even noticed we’re standing in direct view of the hotel, numerous witnesses and their cell phone cameras. Now I’m not about to step into a dark alley with you, but how about we move this down a little more so it’s a bit more hidden from sight?”
‘Alex, he’s getting pretty upset. His frustration and anger are mounting,” Betty warned him.
‘Yeah, I can see it in his face. He wants to hurt me bad, even if I give him what he wanted. Warn me when he reaches his breaking point, I want him angry and upset, that’ll cloud his judgment. I’m not only protecting one girl, I’m making a very public statement not to touch anyone associated with my movement. He may have no clue who I am, but he’ll spread the word about what happens when they cross us.’
Both Betty and the Seers listening to his broadcast telepathic exchange had no clue what he was intimating, or what he planned, but they listened and watched the man’s reactions, which Alex also sent to them all.
“You want me to cut him down, boss?” another man, wearing a red and black jacket with gang tags on the fabric asked.
“Ah, yes, Weasel,” Alex replied, turning to the new man as if he were an old friend. “I’m told you like to cut people who present no chance of hurting you. That’s how you got your name, isn’t it? Because you always weasel out of trouble while pretending to be tougher than you are? And Double D,” he continued, turning back to the gang’s leader, addressing him with a confident, familiar smile, “a name that’s supposed to sound like the product you sell while also referring to your name, Dominick Douglas, a name you don’t like anyone knowing. You’ll really need some more reliable people if you’re going to walk into situations like this that you can’t possibly win.”
“I’ll do it, I’ll cut him,” Weasel threatened, flicking his switchblade open, but it was clear he was waiting for permission. DD, however, was busy glancing back at the growing crowd of people watching them, clustered near the entrance to the hotel.
“Moving away from witnesses is a good idea,” he suggested, trying to make it sound like his idea. “And don’t think you can impress me by knowing who I am. I’m sure Honey Blossom told you before you came out.”
“Yeah, and did she tell me this is Tony,” Alex asked, pointing to a younger man with thick black hair but a thin mustache and beard that refused to grow no matter how long he worked on it, “or that this is ‘Dangerous’, a much more impressive name than his given name of Billy.”
Alex’s casual references to each of their personality flaws provoked each of the men, not just Double D. The men started to flinch and jump as their adrenaline started pumping in anticipation of a fight, but their anger was now focused directly on Alex and it seemed they’d completely forgotten about his sister.
“Look, if you want to die where you stand, just keep like acting like you are,” Double D warned, flashing him a look which normally terrorized everyone, but which didn’t seem to have any effect on this little nobody. “I’m sure we can fulfill your little death wish.”
“Please, you have no idea what you’re dealing with,” Alex said with a quick snort of derision. “You haven’t even asked what religion I represent or what risks you face. But I promise you this; you’ll never again threaten either me or anyone that’s represented by my organization. We’re protected by the Goddess, and she doesn’t fuck around with little shits like you.”
“Are you completely nuts?” DD asked, completely confused by someone who not only wouldn’t back down, but who spouted such freaked out nonsense when confronting a real-life threat. “What the fuck kind of freak God do you believe in?” Spittle flew from his mouth in his agitation.
“That’s the first sensible thing you’ve asked. I represent the angel Alexandria, and while other people’s God stands off in the distance, issuing long forgotten demands over which kinds of snack food people can eat, Alexandria doesn’t back down.”
“Look you little fuck, do you really believe this shit, or do you have some sorta death wish?” DD asked, clearly perplexed by someone he couldn’t understand.
“A death wish?” Alex asked, waving an arm to include the men facing him. “From who? You? You couldn’t hurt me if I put your gun in my mouth myself. Your threats mean nothing to me. What’s more, you and your pals are completely…”
‘Alex, I think Double D’s ready to blow!’ Betty warned, seeing DD’s aura flash bright anger.
“insignificant. What’s more,…”
DD stepped back, grabbed the .38 he kept hidden behind his back and whipped it out. However, as he brought it to bear, lifting it to fire at Alex from pointblank range, he suddenly crumpled like a rag doll, like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Without a word, and without any warning, he collapsed into a heap, his gun clattering noisily on the street while he made no noise at all.
“What the fuck did you do?” one of the other men demanded, pulling his own gun, stepping back slightly to get a better angle to fire from. But he was more curious about what had just occurred, and Alex knew he wasn’t ready to use it until he had some idea of what had happened. What’s more, the others all took a similar step back, both to give them room to draw their own weapons but also to keep away from whatever happened to DD.
“Touch his head, Billy,” Alex suggested calmly.
“What the fuck?” Billy flicked his gun at Alex as if he’d forgotten it was trained on him. “Nobody calls me that! My name is Dangerous,” Billy blustered, trying to prove just how dangerous he was.
“Yeah,” Alex responded with a dismissive wave of his hand, ignoring the waving gun while staring into Billy’s eyes, “touch his head. You’ll learn a lot.”
Keeping his gun on Alex, Billy knelt and touched DD’s head. However, he glanced up at Alex in confusion. “I don’t feel a thing.”
“Damn, I was hoping for a dramatic moment,” Alex replied, sounding frustrated at a powerful scene lost instead of concerned with either the dead man or those still threatening him. “You’ll have to excuse me, but this is the first time I’ve tried this. I’m not exactly sure how Alexandria handles it.”
“What the fuck did you do to him?” Billy demanded, growing more visibly upset, pointing his pistol at Alex’s face.
“This would have been more dramatic if you could have felt it, but Alexandria froze his brain from the inside out,” Alex calmly announced as he casually brushed some lint off of his sleeve. “Apparently she didn’t think she needed to freeze the entire thing, but as you can see, it’s quite effective. Still, I can see the logic in her choice. With no outward sign of the cause of death, there’s no indication anything happened to him. But even if someone could justify an invasive autopsy, it wouldn’t show anything other than massive brain death. But to answer your question,” Alex concluded with a shrug, “I didn’t do anything. The angel Alexandria protected us.”
“What the fuck did you do?” Dangerous demanded, storming up to Alex, frothing at the mouth as he shouted at him. Dangerous was so upset he was acting wildly, waving his gun around, pointing it in all directions, threatening Alex one second and motioning with it the next.
“Just what any of Alexandria’s followers can do if we’re threatened,” Alex answered in a calm voice, which contrasted with the scene around him, making him seem even more dangerous than the men waving weapons around him. “Not only can we do this close up, without moving a muscle, but we can do it wherever you go, wherever you hide and without regard to any defenses you may try to hide behind.”
‘Alex!’ Betty warned. But before Alex could respond, Dangerous was already shouting.
“Oh yeah, well defend yourself against thi…” he demanded, swinging his gun back to Alex to shoot him at point-blank range. Cate had finally had enough, rushing to protect her brother, but Alex raised his arm, blocking her path. It was already over. Dangerous never even finished his sentence when he collapsed like a rag doll with no spine, crumpling into a heap.
The other men looked at the two figures on the ground, then at Alex.
“I suggest each of you find another line of work,” Alex suggested, glancing briefly at each one, flashing their faces to his followers.
Weasel took a couple hesitant steps backwards, then turned and bolted. The others watched, and then first one then another did likewise. One man stood his ground, debating trying something himself.
“You’ll never even get your weapon cleared from its hiding place,” Alex calmly assured him. This was too much for the man. He proved Alex wrong by flinging the knife from him into the street before turning and running away.
“What the fuck was all that about?” Cate asked, cautiously stepping up and surveying the two dead bodies, clearly overwhelmed and unable to fathom what happened.
“We’ll talk about it later. Right now we have to make an appearance,” Alex responded, turning and leading the way back to the hotel.
As he approached, everyone who’d been watching immediately parted, including Kitty and Chalise, who’d been quietly filming the proceedings with their cell phones. Both looked a bit pale, both in reaction to what their boyfriend had done and to the threat he’d exposed himself to. Somehow, this whole thing became a little less fantasy and a whole lot more real.
“Pardon me, could I borrow a phone?” Alex asked the hotel receptionist, leaning over the counter. “There was a little incident outside.”
The receptionist was fully aware of what happened. Even before the hotel’s guests had started running into the hotel clamoring about what had happened, the crowd outside had alerted the staff something was up. A clerk had run in to watch the online security camera and kept running in periodically to report what was occurring. But he, the receptionist, nor anyone else from the hotel had tried to intervene.
Without saying a word, the young brunette receptionist handed him the house phone, her hands shaking slightly as she did so.
Alex dialed 911, calmly reporting they’d been a disturbance at the hotel, listing his name and telling them he’d be waiting for their response.
Of course, it took the police some time to arrive. Almost twenty minutes. But Alex had expected that. Police generally don’t respond quickly in any city, and especially in a known trouble area like the hotel was located in, but that played into his hand, insuring that by the time they arrived and checked the ‘victims’—never once considering checking their heads—their temperatures would have returned to normal.
“What the fuck did you do?” Cate hissed as they waited in the lobby for the police to arrive.
“Shh, I don’t want to tarnish my report to the police by repeating it before they arrive,” Alex replied with a smile. “They don’t appreciate it when all the witnesses repeat the exact same story.”
“Well what the hell am I supposed to tell them?” Cate demanded, her tone increasing even as her hands kept fidgeting.
“Exactly what you saw, they both collapsed for no apparent reason,” Alex told her in a calming voice. “Just leave off the insignificant little details about what I said, after all, you were too scared to remember many details,” he suggested before dropping the whole matter. But Cate couldn’t let it go. This was just too unusual. This was a significant increase in his abilities, and he seemed to be treating it as something he did every day. Not only had he revealed a deadly new ability, but this was the first time he’d chosen to take someone’s life. He’d defended himself before, and stopped someone’s suffering by hastening their death, but this time he took proactive action, killing someone before they could hurt him. For Cate, that was a significant change in behavior, and had a whole host of possible repercussions.
Kitty and Chalise were concerned as well, but he wouldn’t tell them anything more. “Later,” he said. “I’ll describe everything, but the less said now the better. Just keep those videos handy. Don’t offer them too soon, but if anyone asks, offer them up.” They both nodded dumbly, too shocked to be able to respond more intelligently.
“I take it you’re the person who called this in,” the policeman asked Alex, walking up with his notepad already open, chewing gum and staring at him hard with an unsympathetic look, “the person who had the altercation with the victims?”
The officer’s nametag said his name was Michael Francis, and he was older, portly and clearly too jaded to care much how this turned out. He was only supposed to get the facts and turn them over to the detectives whenever they arrived.
“I’m not sure I’d describe them as ‘victims’ as they were ready to shoot both me and my sister,” Alex responded, “but yeah, that’s me. My name is Alex, Alex Jennings. My sister’s name is Cate.”
“We’ll get to her,” the officer said, not responding to anything else Alex offered. “What was the altercation about?”
“They seemed to think I ‘stole’ their prostitute,” Alex told him, trying to keep his responses short.
“And did you?” he asked, not bothering to ask why they’d think that.
“We never got that far in the discussion. He claimed he was looking for someone named Honey Blossom. I’d met someone named Angelica earlier, but we never established whether it was the same person or not.”
“And where is this person now?”
“Ah, she’s safe, out of the reach of any repercussions these people might have planned for her.”
The cop raised his eyebrow, considering Alex before responding. “So you did do something to his girl?” Alex was about to argue when he continued, changing his tact slightly. “We’ll need to talk to her as a material witness.”
“Sorry, no can do,” Alex told him, shaking his head to emphasize his conviction in the matter. “She came to me, asking for my help. I couldn’t turn her away,” he continued. “If I tell you where she is, which I’m not even sure of at the moment, I’d be invalidating that trust.”
“We can protect her,” Officer Francis positively snarled.
“Like you did me? When the people outside were known habitual criminals who frequent the park right around the corner and whom the hotel staff seem to know and communicate with. You couldn’t help her earlier, so why should I assume you can do so now?”
“Look, it’s not a matter of what you think, kid. It’s the matter of the law, and right now she’s a material witness. Now where is she?” he demanded, shoving his pencil eraser into Alex’s chest.
“I’m sorry, but I really don’t know. I gave her money for a cab and she went out the back while I went out the front to distract the men looking for her. I don’t have any idea where she may have gone.”
“Somehow I don’t buy that for a minute. You realize I can charge you with obstruction,” he warned.
“And I wouldn’t change my stance. I did my duty by helping my fellow-man, or woman in this case. I’m not about to violate my religious convictions by turning her over to you when I have no faith you can protect her.”
“You’ll have to come downtown and give us a description of her then,” he responded instead.
“Absolutely not,” Alex answered, not bothering to temper his words. “I’ve already told you too much, but it’s all I know about her. I wasn’t with her long enough to observe any more, and if I could tell you anything else, I’d risk exposing her to the very dangers I promised to help her escape.”
The guy sighed theatrically and then turned to face Alex. “Look, these girls never escape, unless they age out or die. They claim they want to change, but they just want a handout. She’s likely taken your money and either gone back to the gang behind this, or else found a new pimp to sell her on the street, so you aren’t protecting anyone.”
“I’m sorry, but this is a matter between me and my God,” Alex replied, realizing how strange that sounded coming from him. “How she chooses to react to my outreach doesn’t really matter. The fact is I gave her a hand up, which is what I would have wanted. Anything else is between her and God.”
The man sighed again before continuing. “All right, what happened after that? How did the two men die?”
“I have no clue,” Alex answered, looking the detective straight in the eye. “When I told them I wouldn’t turn the girl over, they threatened my sister. In order to distract them I made some pointed comments to get them to focus on me. It seems to have worked. They both pulled guns on me and threatened me. I could see the veins in their heads positively hammering. When I continued to push, the one guy lost it and was in the process of shooting me when he had what appeared like a heart attack. I’m guessing being a criminal is a more stressful lifestyle than the TV would indicate.”
The cop once again glared at him, not appreciating his flippant tone.
“He just dropped dead on the spot?”
“I never even lifted a finger,” Alex said, knowing the multiple videos of the encounter would bear his statement out. Which was precisely why he’d arranged everyone to record the affair, and why he’d stationed himself in front of the hotel’s camera and then making sure the men got too upset to leave it after clearly suggesting they should. “After all, there were five guys, each carrying weapons as far as I could tell, and as you can see, I’m not very big. There was hardly anything I could do to them. I figured if I as much as raised a hand they’d kill me.”
“Yet not just one, but two separate gang members lie outside dead as a doornail. Can you explain how that occurred?”
“All I can do is speculate, but perhaps your medical examiner could tell you. That’s why I didn’t touch either of them afterwards. They looked dead, and I didn’t want to try to help and end up being accused of doing something to them. I figured the safest thing would be to keep my distance and not touch either one.”
“That’s hardly the ‘Christian’ thing to do,” Officer Francis sneered, misinterpreting Alex’s talk about ‘God’.
“Still, given your attitude, it was the most sensible action. You’re ready to accuse me before you’ve even gotten my full statement.”
“OK, what about the other guy?” the cop continued. “As hard as it to believe one guy dying of a heart attack just as they’re preparing to shoot you, I find it a bit hard to believe two different men would suffer the same unlikely event.”
“You can believe whatever you want, all I know is what happened,” Alex responded, growing impatient with the man’s attitude. “When the first guy collapsed, the other guy started screaming at me, demanding I tell him what I did. Since I hadn’t done anything, I told him I wasn’t responsible. That pissed him off even more. After going back and forth for several seconds, he lost it but collapsed before he could harm us.”
“When you say they collapsed, can you be more specific?”
“They just fell over dead. They didn’t make any sounds, odd facial expressions or even clutch their chests. One moment they were yelling at me and the next they were face down on the pavement.”
“And you didn’t do anything to either one?”
“What could I possibly have done? You see me, and I’m sure you know both of them. Ask your witnesses, I never made a move against them.”
“All right, we’re getting nowhere here,” Michael Francis said, rubbing his balding head in frustration. “Did you have any ties to either of these men before? Did you conduct any business with them? Have any contacts in common? Have any beef with any of them?”
“None. I’m from out-of-town on vacation. I was walking back to the hotel when this girl accosted me. She asked me to take her to my room, suggesting nothing and asking for my help in escaping the situation she found herself in.”
“Did you think part of your duty included defending her honor?”
“No, sir. As long as they weren’t threating either her or me, I had no problem with any of them.”
“Ah, but there’s the rub. They were threatening you. And not only you, but the girl and your sister as well. Seems to me that would make one want to try to defend everyone? Possibly by taking a proactive step? If you had time to talk to this girl before meeting the men outside, it seems like you had plenty of time to plan how you’d defend yourself.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Alex responded, shrugging. “If I had an option to defend myself, maybe I might have, but I didn’t have any, and I didn’t even try.”
“You know, something about this just doesn’t sound legit. There’s no way those two young healthy men would just drop dead like you’re describing without someone helping them. Now you can either tell me what you’re hiding, or I’ll take you in and we can discuss it at length back at the station.”
“If you do, you’ll have to charge me with something. I’ve done nothing wrong. The fact I was accosted in the first place is because you knew these men were dangerous but did nothing about them, and you’re reacting to my honest responses as if I’m the criminal here.”
“We don’t need to charge you with squat,” the officer insisted, growing as agitated with Alex as the gang members had been earlier. “You’re a witness,” he informed Alex, resting his hands on his hips in an aggressive stance with his hands only a short distance from his gun. “We can hold you for forty-eight hours without charging you with anything.”
“In that case, I won’t say a thing and I’ll call my attorney now. What’s more, I imagine the press would love to hear how you’re grilling a victim about a death he had no responsibility for.”
“No responsib… you were right there!” Officer Francis blustered. “You were the only one to see what actually happened, and you’re clearly hiding what occurred.”
“So you say, yet you have no evidence to support the idea. I know I didn’t make any threats or menacing motions towards them. I’d have been a fool to try. But my friends and I have to get back to LA. We’re supposed to be meeting people before they fly out later in the week.”
“Friends? You didn’t say anything about any friends. Who are these friends of yours?”
“The two girls who recorded the videos of us,” Alex told him, knowing they’d eventually figure out his connection to his two girlfriends, but not admitting his relationship to Betty. “I brought them down to see the sights, and instead we got mixed up in this… situation. I’m sure you’ve already spoken to them. Their names are Kitty Washerstein and Chalise Jones. One’s a skinny little white girl, the other one is black.”
“And where were they during all of this? Could either of them have done something to these men?”
“Not likely, they’re both even smaller than I am and still in high school. I’m taking the summer off before college traveling the country, and they agreed to come visit me.”
The cop examined him for a moment as if considering that statement, and then smiled, tilting his head to the side. “Was there anyone else involved?”
“Like who?” Alex asked, already knowing fully well who he meant.
“A certain bull-dyke weightlifter,” he responded, reacting like he’d just caught a spitting cobra by the throat.
“With an attitude like yours, I’m certainly not likely to respond to any more questions. If you want to know about her, ask my attorney. I’ll also ask her to represent her as a potential victim of sexual bias.”
“Hold on, you don’t need a damn attorney yet. I’m only asking questions. Who was the woman?”
“Her name is Genevieve Connolly, and she’s a distinguished army vet with several tours of duty to her name.”
“Ah, so finally we have someone capable of doing something to the two men,” the officer responded with a wicked smile.
“I doubt it; she left shortly before the other woman and should be far away by now. She wanted to get back early, and wanted nothing to do with any ‘domestic problems’, knowing how you’d likely respond. She’s been treated for PTSD and didn’t want to risk reacting to a trigger which might set her off. She left before the confrontation ever took place.”
“We’ll still need to speak with her to establish a timeline,” he insisted. “Unless someone saw her leaving and can prove exactly when she left, she’s still a potential suspect.”
“Sorry, but that’s not possible at the moment. She should already be in LA and she doesn’t carry a phone because of how she reacts to sudden noises,” Alex told him, more to give him a hard time than to be informative. “I’ll tell her to contact you when she calls if you want, but beyond that there isn’t much I can do.”
Although the poor officer had no way of knowing it, Gini had already planned for this possibility. Right after having left the hotel, she dropped Angelica off at a restaurant and then proceeded to run an automated stop light equipped with a video capture camera. She’d have to pay a fine, of course, but it would clearly prove she wasn’t involved. She’d then doubled back to pick up Angelica to continue their trip.
“You know, I really don’t like your attitude, kid!” the officer snarled at him. In reaction to that, Alex simply stood up and yelled out to Cate and the other girls.
“Hey, everyone, shut up. This cop is looking to frame me for what I clearly didn’t do. Don’t say another word.”
Each of the girls immediately turned and nodded to him, then crossed their arms and refused to say any more. Frankly, Alex didn’t care what they suspected or didn’t. They’d entered the evidence they’d needed to. Gini had her traffic ticket. Kitty, Chalise and Betty each had their video recordings. There was the hotel’s video of the confrontation, and no one had any recordings of what had been said. There was no way anyone could prove Alex or anyone else had done anything wrong, and if they continued to press he’d invoke the threatened lawyer and call someone in the local press. In fact, he already had Molly Bishop, the legal professor back in Carbondale, and Lisa Woodall, the reporter from St. Louis, looking up personal connections in the city who could assist them should they need it, while Megan Adams, a legal clerk for the Phoenix prosecutors’ office, had no problems getting her boss to personally call the DA about the case. Alex didn’t think it would come to that, though. If they pressed, a few phone calls should be enough to release them until they had more evidence to support their positions, which they’d never find.
“OK, Alex, spill it,” Cate insisted once they’d finally gotten away and found a new hotel room. They’d wanted to leave San Diego, but Alex knew it was already too late and they were all too hopped up on adrenaline to travel safely. Instead they’d headed out of the downtown area and found a better hotel in a nearby community. The cop held them until the detectives arrived, but once the detective learned the entire investigation had effectively been halted before they’d even arrived, he’d come down hard on the lowly cop. But a timely call from Alex’s lawyer, advising him to say nothing, and a call from the City’s Police chief asking why the press was involved in an investigation he didn’t even know anything about managed to dissuade the detective from making a big deal about it. Instead he’d simply told Alex to stay in contact in case they needed them. “What the hell was that all about, and what the fuck did you do to those guys?”
Alex merely leaned back, smiling at each of them as they waited for a response.
“You remember the experiments you had me do on the mice? The initial ones?” he asked.
“Yeah, we were trying to determine how you created the links to the girls and Rakeem, so I had you try to create them in the mice.”
“And do you remember how it turned out?” he pressed.
“Yeah, it didn’t work well at all. You basically killed them all. Was that…?” She halted when she stopped to consider the link.
“No, not at all, the links and holes in the brain I create are much too small to accomplish much, but it caused me to think about the process. Effectively I couldn’t control the aspects or the dimensions of the process. But I started to consider what I could vary. While a normal sized link in a normal sized brain wouldn’t impact anything if it was carefully located, and could incapacitate someone if placed haphazardly, I wondered what would happen if I varied it even more.
“The problem with the mice was I created a normal sized link in their brains, while the gap required to create it took up a sizable portion of their much smaller brains. There wasn’t any way around that, so we halted the experiments.”
Cate nodded, acknowledging what he described while Kitty and Chalise listened to every word, desperate to understand exactly what he’d done.
“Well, if I couldn’t adjust the size of the portal, or consciously control the placement, then maybe I could control the linkage itself. As you know, we keep theorizing there’s some connection between living things, and the link I created was to a stronger source of BCM than we have here on earth. Well, I wondered what would happen if I could shift that focal point.
“I didn’t really think I could control it well enough to pick a specific location, but I figured if I concentrated hard enough, I may be able to shift the location. Thus, even if I created it in another dimension somewhere, if I shifted it far enough, I could pick a completely unrelated target. What’s more, if I picked an inhospitable one, it could potentially have devastating consequences.”
“You don’t mean…?” Cate asked, already jumping ahead of him.
“Exactly. Instead of simply shifting it laterally, and possibly hitting another living creature, I shifted it WAY over, projecting it far away and into the depths of space. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I felt it was an easy enough thing to try that I stood a good chance of succeeding. However, there was no way I could test the idea. Until now, of course.
“That’s why I gave them so many warnings, telling them what I could do, giving them as many chances to back out as I could, even though I knew they’d never listen to me. As it was, I waited until the last possible moment until I acted, praying I could do what I wanted.”
“Wait a minute, you’re saying you created a link in their brains to a location hundreds of miles away from where you create the ones in your Seers’ brains?”
“Well, technically, I’m not sure. We discussed what happens in those cases, but we don’t know if I actually create a new link to this other dimension, or whether I create a linkage to my own brain, but I figured if I could shift it far enough away, I’d have to hit the extremes of interstellar space. The actual distance didn’t really matter since this linkage isn’t limited by distance or obstacles, so there was nothing restricting me other than my own abilities. And since I’d managed to create the initial link myself without really thinking about it, I figured I could adjust it by really concentrating on it.”
“So you created a link to outer space. Wouldn’t that just create a link to nothing?” Chalise asked.
“No, don’t you understand?” Kitty asked, trying to explain the concept she’d already grasped. “By creating it in outer space, where the temperature is only controlled by background radiation and the temperature is only three degrees Kelvin, simply creating a tiny hole anywhere in their brains Alex effectively froze the entire thing. A tiny space at 3 degrees Kelvin would drain the heat from the rest of the brain, killing the majority of the functioning tissue.”
“Well, that’s not entirely clear,” Cate warned, cocking her eyebrow at Alex concerning his theories about what would happen.
“Wow, I’m sorry, but this is even more unbelievable than everything else you’ve done,” Chalise responded.
“Not to mention, you purposely risked both our lives on a hunch, hoping you’d be able to pull off something you’d never even attempted before,” Cate stressed, growing visibly upset.
“There was no physical way to test it before, and it seemed like a perfect solution,” Alex tried to explain.
“But the fact is, you had NO way of knowing if it would work. What’s more, in my insistence to protect you, I could have thrown off your delicate adjustments, causing it to fail miserably,” Cate argued.
“Ah, but that’s just it. The creation of the linkages seems to be done automatically, so it would be hard to throw off, and even if you caused me to miss my target, it’d still be thousands of miles off into space. There was no way to screw it up.”
“Other than if it hadn’t worked,” Cate stressed. “In which case we’d both be dead right now.”
“Yeah, in which case you’d be correct. But still, it did work! Aren’t you glad to know more about how this all works?” Alex pleaded with his sister, trying to get her to calm down. However, there was no reasoning with her at the moment. She stormed off to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Alex didn’t really know if she was more upset because she had been a part of it, or because Alex had decided to play Russian roulette with his own life. But either way, Cate clearly wasn’t happy, and Alex didn’t think he could really blame her.
A map of Alex’s travels in Los Angeles (ch. 2 – 5).