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Chapter One


There it was, waiting for him, watching and taunting his every move. He closed his pale blue eyes and tried to ignore it. I don’t need it. It’s not worth it anymore. He opened his eyes, the room was spinning.

“God, help me.” His hand trembled, his knuckles paled.
“Just one last time.” He mumbled desperately.

His mouth tightened, his strong tapered fingers slid over the rough maple wood of the end table and grasped the needle. He closed his eyes, the moldy stench of the room reminding him of his surroundings.

The room was nothing more than an old basement of a storage building, but it served its purpose. There were no windows, leaving the only source of light a forty watt bulb that hung from the ceiling fixture. The floor was nothing more than a slab of cement and except for the chipped gray paint that showed its old age well, the walls shared that same slab of cement. A single wrought iron bed, a red vinyl chair, a maple wood end table, television screen, commode, and steel sink made the room somewhat livable. If he needed food or a shower he went to the city service building and paid his dues. It was how he preferred it.

He opened his eyes and took a deep breath.
“One last time.” his hand eased towards his arm. “Just one last time.”
With one quick motion, he slid the needle and injected its contents into his upper arm. Letting out the breath, he withdrew the needle and closed his eyes once more, letting the needle slip from his fingertips to the floor. It was over with. Tomorrow would be another day. Tomorrow he would try again. Tomorrow he would win.

The abrupt sound of knocking disrupted his thoughts and he smiled. Peter had promised a Banino’s triple cheese pizza and a Six-pack to wash it down. It was a shame his old friend had lost the Packers bet, but then that pizza sounded damn good right about now. A thin smile crossed his lips as his thoughts wandered back to eleven years ago when movies and television shows were still allowed on home television. Now only sports and news was allowed thanks to Worldvisions Entertainment Network.
In 2021 W.E.N had declared that the entertainment world was not being paid enough and television networks were forced to file bankruptcy in order to meet W.E.N’s demands. Now if you wanted to see a movie you went downtown to the theater if you could afford the $200 admission charge.
Another abrupt knock jolted him back to reality and he flashed a knowing smile at the door. His friend was always late and tonight it seemed was no exception.
“It’s about time you got here.“ He crossed the room and flung open the door leading to the stairs into the storage room above.
“Mr. David Michael, I have been looking for you.” The plump little dumpling-faced man on the other side of the door said.

***

She took two steps forward and stopped. She was standing in the entrance hallway. Nothing had changed. The walls were still aligned with black walnut paneling and bare from any signs of family life, the carpet the same deep cranberry red as she remembered, on the left the kitchen entrance and further down on the right the dining room, which adjoined into the living room.

“Lunch will be ready in five minutes.” She heard her mother call from the kitchen and then nodded knowing full well her mother was speaking to her father.

The smell of freshly baked cheddar bread drifted from the kitchen. She edged closer to the kitchen doorway until she had a clear view of the kitchen, still keeping herself hidden enough so that her mother would not see her. She was standing at the island. The sound of the chop, chop, chop, against the cutting board, directed her to small round hands aged with time, a small pudgy frame and long brown locks streaked with silver.

Terri Johnson had never condoned her husband’s dismissal of their daughter and never forgave him for it. She knew her mother had tried to see her on several occasions but was denied visitations for one reason or another. She smiled at her mother, nodded a silent goodbye and then let out a slow heavy sigh. It was now or never.

“Hello?” She walked past the kitchen doorway, across the dining room, past the beautiful old oak grandfather clock her mother had given to her father on his 36th birthday and toward the living room never once giving a second thought to her mother‘s call.

She stared back at her reflection in the grandfather clock’s glass door trying to forget the memories. Something that was far easier said than done, but now was not the time to be dredging up the past, and she knew it, and with that, she turned her attention back to her task.

It would be hours before the institute realized she was gone. It had been all too easy. She thought, as she caressed the steel metal of the gun her father had kept in the Study’s display case in the palm of her hand.

She had simply walked out of Howswel Institute while everyone was busy with one of Cooper Blackwell’s daily violent outbursts. They never watched her. They never had a reason to. She wasn’t sick and everyone who was familiar with The Johnson family knew it. Dale Johnson had simply bribed Howswel in allowing his daughter to be institutionalized for his own personal reasons.

All of those years wasted. In a place, she never belonged. Seven long years of heartache and pain, of wanting and waiting for a family that would never come, a father who had disowned her the day she was born. All of those nights weeping, until she could no longer feel the pain deep down inside. And then the weeping stopped. And the hurt that once reflected back into the depth of her eyes, gone. Now there was nothing left to weep for. Tonight there was a difference in her eyes, something that hadn’t been seen in years. Bright green, like the color of jade, full of laughter and contentment. Eyes that now peered out of the darkness at the ruggedly handsome man, her father, partially hidden behind the newspaper, resting comfortably in his favorite leather recliner in front of the living room fireplace.

She looked down at the gun in her hand, then lifted it at her father’s head. Her finger edged toward the gun’s hammer, but then something deep inside willed her to stop. Her face twisted in pain, her eyes narrowed in disgust and the tears began, streaming down her ivory oblong-shaped face. Damn not now. Not now.

She couldn‘t remember the last time her father had ever really acknowledged her. At least not in the way a father would.

“A father can‘t bond with a daughter.” He had said. “They aren‘t strong enough, tough enough.”

From the time she had learned how to walk and talk, she’d tried desperately to be strong enough, tough enough. Now there was only one way to end the pain, and she would be damned if she let her emotions get the best of her. She swiped at her tear stricken face angrily.

“Only one way.” She whispered.

A father can’t bond with a daughter. Cold steel caressed the palm of her hand. It was time. A father can’t bond with a daughter. More hot tears slid down her face. Swiping them away she took a deep breath and raised the gun at her father’s head once more. Then with long slender fingers, cocked the gun and steadied a shaky finger on the trigger. She blinked, focused her gaze and reality struck her hard as if someone had smacked a hand up the backside of her head. A father can’t bond with a daughter. Damn him. Damn him forever.
She sighed, stepped back and slowly lowered the gun. The sudden sound of footsteps coming from behind alerted her to the presence of someone else in the room. She jerked to attention, causing the gun to slip from her hands and go off. She hadn’t even realized the gun had fired until a spark from the bullet ricocheted off the brick mantle of the fireplace pulling a scream of terror from her mother.

“Why daddy? Why?” She found herself yelling. But Instead of answering, he simply stared at her his face showing no remorse, no guilt, no care. The man hadn’t even flinched at the stray bullet that had been inches from his head or the gun that she had retrieved and now aimed at him once more.

Her eyes narrowed as she realized he would never change. He would always be a heartless bastard. A man she had always known as daddy. Well no more.

“No more.” The words rolled off her tongue with a hiss as she raised the gun, cocked it and fired.

Suddenly, she felt strong clammy hands grab her from behind, struggle the gun away and a harsh voice say, “Sara Johnson, I have been looking for you.”

***

He trusted no one. He raked his fingers through the long damp locks of his Raven black hair as he rounded the steel building’s corner. There was a tired and perilous look to him as drops of moisture from the heavy downpour clung to the stubble on his face. There was a determination in his movement as he pressed forward. The sound of drunken laughter in the distance caught his attention, and he paused to survey the area.

The glowing neon lights on either side of the sidewalk allowed him enough light to see a few feet in front of him. To the left of him stood The Haven Room the largest hotel in California. The hotel was designed by a Romania architect who had insisted it be done completely in white marble, both inside and out. Guards were posted at every entrance to keep lower class citizens away and any onlookers who knew about the hotel‘s countless high-priced possessions.

To the right of the hotel, Chops, a place known for its international cuisine and extensive wine list. Although the building looked more casual than elegant with its tan brick exterior, steel doors and less than massive size, it was anything but that. Guests of The Haven Room made it a point to visit Chops at least once during their stay.

On the other side of the street, a tall slender redhead and her scrawny melon-breasted companion swayed from side to side and smiled as they hurried across the road and approached him in the harsh rain.

“You got a light honey?” The red head asked him.

He eyed the two women up and down. The red head wore a little black strapless dress and gold glittery boots. Her friend wore a red lacy mini dress that left nothing to the imagination.

“No.” He watched them shrug off his reply and move on into the night. He knew where they had come from and it sickened him more than he wanted to admit. They were legal prostitutes. The Stargetta’s girls. He could tell by the smell of sweat and sex stirring in the night air, that The Stargetta was less than a block away.

He’d learned the place was a hangout for the Military Force when they were off duty and wanted a legal prostitute or drink. Military Force. Right. Ever since California had replaced civilian police with military, the force had become nothing but disastrous, doing as they pleased, whenever they felt the need; and their strike against him personally was proof of that.

It had taken him nearly two years to find the men who were a constant reminder of the life he once had, until tonight. Tonight he would get his revenge. Tonight, he would put her to rest. Tonight, they were going to pay.

He fingered the cross on the chain around his neck, stopped, took a drag of his cigarette, flicked the ashes, then stubbed it out against the building’s steel wall. Someone was following him and they had been since third and Western Ave. Whoever it was obviously wanted to be known.

He closed his eyes, muttering a curse at his own stupidity. Packing a starter 23 laser pistol into the inside front pocket of his jacket was a habit lately, one since that night. The walk had been a habit since that night as well. He didn’t like walking the streets alone at night and he damn sure didn’t like carrying a gun. A gun that usually lay resting beneath his fingers. A gun he never left home without, until now. Downtown had a zero-tolerance weapon policy, one even the military force was not acceptable to. They also had a zero vehicular policy because of the Haven Room and it’s fear of looters and if a person violated either policy the result was death and with sensors hidden throughout the buildings, it was a risk he could not afford to take.

It was a problem, but not one he couldn’t handle. He smiled at that thought and nodded letting his thoughts wander for a moment, his face dark with pain, eyes blazing murderously. She was a baby, only a baby.

She was the only thing that mattered anymore and would ever matter and he be damned if he let anyone take that away from him.It was time to end this charade and find out what the hell they wanted and there was only one way to do that. Slowing his steps, he stopped and without hesitation turned back the way he had come.
The man was alone, that was the first thing he noticed. The second, the man was unarmed.

He stared as the regal-faced man standing before him said, “Jake Briston I have been looking for you.”

“Right.” Jake calmly replied with a small self-mocking smile.


"Chapter Two"

Jake slowly awoke to the rumbling sound of a motor and what felt like one hell of a hangover. He shifted, sat up and winced as pain ripped its way through his entire body.

He was in a vehicle, some sort of cargo transportation truck, that much he could guess, and he wasn‘t alone. Alone. That’s what he’d thought the regal-faced man had been. Alone and unarmed. Right. He should’ve known better. Should’ve seen it coming. Four soldiers had been waiting in the shadows and when he’d turned to walk away from the man, they had attacked out of the darkness like thieves in the night shooting him with a tranquilizer taser. That was the last thing he remembered.

Reckless. Stupid. Dumb, he thought, as he studied his surroundings. There were two guys and a girl slumped across from him. He wasn’t sure of their story, but he’d be willing to bet that same man had something to do with it. He watched the girl’s full round lips quiver, her soft angled brows crease with worry, and wondered what sort of nightmare had worked its way into her sleep.

He studied the guy to the left of her who looked to be about nineteen. His hair, Sandy blonde, reminded Jake of Anna’s, the way the sun kissed her golden streaked curls. A heavy ache settled in his chest as he thought of her. He muttered a curse at his sudden weakness. He needed a cigarette.

He slipped a callused hand inside the pocket of his jacket and breathed a sigh of relief. He chuckled softly at the familiar rectangular package and cold oblong plastic of the lighter. They hadn’t bothered to check his pockets.

He took a cigarette out and lit it. The truck was enclosed completely by solid steel metal except for a tiny window not even big enough for a small child to crawl through. There was also a square indenture around the window indicating an automated remote door that only opened from the outside, but if luck was on his side there just might be a possibility that the remote had failed when the door closed.

Sitting next to the window was a dark-haired kid who couldn’t have been any more than eighteen. He wore athletic sneakers, prussian blue cargo shorts, and a matching cargo shirt. Jake knew just by the way he dressed he was a Class A or as he preferred to call them, a richy. No one below that classification could afford cargos unless you stole them and that was impossible. The military force always knew who was class A and a person caught stealing from a class A, let alone show off his talent, faced death.

“I already checked. It‘s secured tight.“ The richy said as if he knew exactly what Jake had been thinking.

Jake eyed him suspiciously. What the hell did he know. He took a drag of the cigarette, stared at the richy and frowned. He had a sudden feeling he knew the richy from somewhere, but before he could put a name with the face the vehicle came to a sudden stop.

A jerking motion caused David to jolt in an upright position, his muscles screaming from pain. The last thing he remembered was opening the door to a superior looking man and several soldiers surrounding him at that man’s command. Now as the pain in his muscles subsided to a slow dull ache, David focused on the circumstances before him.

A man with long black hair sat across from him, a cigarette dangled loosely from the corner of his lips, the dark gray smoke drifting. He wore a distressed black leather jacket and faded blue jeans that showed the wear and tear of a hard worker. A class C, he imagined. David watched as the man took a drag of the cigarette and scowled at him. A dark-skinned boy sitting next to him was looking out a tiny glass window.

“We’re outside of Fort Doley.” There was a concern in boy’s voice as he pressed his face against the glass.

A concern David never seemed to notice. Instead, he’d noticed the girl stirring beside him. She had dark brown hair followed by the greenest eyes he had ever seen, and when he turned and smiled into those deep sea green eyes, the girl let out a strangled cry.

“Sorry. I Didn‘t mean to startle you.” He said.

“What?“ The girl blinked back in surprise.

“I said I didn‘t mean to startle you.”

Jake‘s head had shot up at the strangled cry, his first thought, the girl was in some sort of danger. When it had been obvious she wasn’t, he’d mumbled a curse at his foolishness and crushed out his cigarette against the vehicle’s interior.

The kid hadn’t even known her for five minutes and he was already drooling over her like a Saint Bernard. It didn’t even bother him that the kid was a lovesick fool. What did bother him was the richy’s mention of Fort Doley and the fact that the kid hadn’t even blinked an eye over it. He would have expected the girl to tune out serious trouble if she had been awake, women always did, but a guy was another story. Guys responded to trouble. Always.

“Something’s happening.“ He watched as the richy backed away from the window and the automated door slowly began to open. Lovesick fool or not, he would rather face what was out there than watch the two lovebirds before him. It was time to get the hell out of there.

***

The man with the long locks was dangerous, Sara had decided. Definitely dangerous. After the vehicle’s door had opened, he’d stood up and walked out without a word and without looking back. Now as they stood outside of the vehicle she knew she’d been right. His face was a dark mask filled with bitter hatred. A hatred she knew all too well. A hatred that burned a scar deep inside her own soul. But there was something else, something she was not. She thought as she frowned at the man. A walking time bomb.

Even when she had raised the gun at her father, she’d had enough control, enough sense, to know right from wrong. No matter how much she’d wanted to pull that trigger, in the end, she had not given in. She had surrendered. And when the little man and several military soldiers burst into the room and apprehended her, she had surrendered.

Military soldiers were brutal, everyone knew that. If citizens resisted, there was hell to pay. But now she wondered about the little man. She hadn’t resisted, so she assumed she would be taken back to Howswel Institute at the least, or Military Force Maximum Security Cells at worse. She could have easily escaped Howswel again without question and had even gone as far as mentally preparing herself for the cells, but this was definitely not Howswel or maximum security. This place was far from it.

She’d recognized the place as soon as they’d stepped out of the vehicle. They were outside of Fort Doley. Closed by the state, the army base had once been home to thousands of soldiers until California had decided soldiers were no longer a necessity since the arrival of The Military Force.

“Hey.” It was the tall dark-skinned kid who spoke. “Ho`olohe, Listen.”

“What?“ Sara turned to the kid, confused. Ho`olohe? What did that mean? What was he saying?

“Listen.” He spoke in English this time.

Listen? What was he talking about? Straining, she listened closely. Silence. There was only silence. But then something very faint, very distinct broke through that silence. Tick Tick Tick.
It sounded like a-.

“Run!”


Copyright © 2007-2017, Joy Smith