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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Serial Fiction: Monument Minders, Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen
A Different Set of Ears

Lightning flashed outside, and Gurney and Troxley appeared. Gurney raised his weapon to Thurston and Maximilian. "What's going on here?"

"He's interrogating me beyond my rights!" Maximilian gasped.

"Is that true?" asked Troxley.

"Time is of the essence, gentlemen." Thurston was back to his polite self, although still holding on to Maximilian. "The Splitter and Savedra are missing. I fear that this creature's release was merely the test case for whether it would work."

"However that is, Professor, you cannot go breaking protocol." Gurney took a small metal box out of his pocket. "Hand over Maximilian, and you can go back to your University. We'll take it from here."

Thurston held Max while Troxley opened the box. It emitted purple light that dissolved the black silhouette into smoke and pulled it into the device.

"I'm not going anywhere until we find Savedra!" Thurston gestured for Troxley and Gurney to move closer, and the three leaned in, heads bent. Debtra touched Thom on the wrist, bare skin to bare skin.

"This is what I got burned at the stake for," she whispered so closely to his ear that he could feel her breath.

Thom felt like his ears popped, but he could hear the Professor's conversation with the two trans-dimensional detectives.

"What is your deal with that woman, Homily?" asked Gurney. "She only seems to bring trouble! We did you a huge favor setting her up with her pub in this dimension."

The Professor shook his head. "It's too long a story to explain. Let me just say that her welfare is of utmost importance to me. Were you aware that Forsyth was attacked this morning, and whoever did so took the Splitter out of its supposedly fail-proof safe?"

"We'd gotten word of that, yes," said Troxley. "We're holding Forsyth for questioning now."


"I know he's a friend of yours, but he's also a suspect, the only soul who could open the safe."

"I'll deal with that later," Homily told them. "You two know that if there's any chance of finding Savedra, especially if she has the Splitter, I'm the one to do it."

"Because she's your…"

Thurston held up a hand to silence Gurney. "We have a special relationship, yes. However, there are some things that the others don't need to know. My student has special talents."

All three turned to look at Thom and Debtra, who broke contact with him and blushed.

"Fine, then," Gurney said out loud. "You have twenty-four hours to find the woman and the device, since you seem convinced they're together. We're going to lean on Max and Forsyth for information."

"Be gentle with Forsyth. He's had a rough day."

Debtra squirmed out of Thom's half-embrace. He'd forgotten he held her, he'd been so caught up in their eavesdropping and her touch on his wrist. He could still feel where she'd touched him, and his skin felt pulled toward her. He tried to accidentally brush against her while they walked outside.

"So, what now?" Debtra asked.

Thurston looked at her. "I chastise my student for her curiosity."

Debtra looked at the ground. "I'm here to learn, Professor."

"But not to drop in on private conversations. Your talents are useful, my dear, but don't forget that I know what they are. If you use them on me again, you will be sent back with no discussion. Understood?"

Debtra nodded and wiped her eyes, but Thom noticed her narrowed, angry gaze.

"Now… Let's go question Savedra's butler and see if we can see where she'd gone."

"Who is that?" asked Debtra.

Now the Professor blushed. "Someone very special to me. Come on, Thom, you can drive us to her place. She lives in a mansion in Mountain Brook."


Thurston spun on his heel and came face-to-face with Thom. "What?"

"No. You owe us more information before we go chasing after some other person or thing or being. We could've gotten killed in there!"

The Professor raised an eyebrow. "I had the situation under control, and you were in no danger. I had to be in physical contact with the creature to untangle it. Besides, you already stole enough information from me by listening in on a private telepathic conversation."

Thom decided to revisit the telepathy thing later. He stuck his hands in his pockets. "Hey, if I'm supposed to help you out, and if you're going to be putting us in danger, we need all the facts." Now he narrowed his eyes. "Situations can get out of control quickly, Professor."

Thurston coughed into his hand. "I see. Perhaps you should ask the questions, then, Detective."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Serial Fiction: Monument Minders, Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve
Untangling a Soul

Thom could tell there was something wrong at Lancaster Jewels. Even though it looked fine from the outside, the telltale alarm light was off. There was also something off about the shadows inside.

"How are we going to get in?" asked Debtra. "Did Max/Lancaster just walk through the walls?"

"Souls can do that," Thurston reminded her. "You spent enough time as a ghost. Do you sense him?"

"Right, and yes, there's a creepy quality to the shadows in there."

"Look away, the two of you."

Thom obeyed, and he heard the click of the lock. "How'd you do that?"

"You can look again." Thurston walked through the open door, and Thom and Debtra followed him. Inside, the empty jewelry cases seemed to have been otherwise undisturbed. Thurston put a finger to his lips and motioned for Thom to lead them to the back.

"Safe," Thurston mouthed.

Thom nodded. He could feel the sweat gathering under his arms. It was one thing to dream about strange beings from unknown dimensions, but it was quite another to confront one. He had good night vision, but his hyper-alert mind tried to anticipate the attack. Had that shadow moved? Or was it too dark for the light that created it? Did merged souls act from one will, or two in conflict? Who was in more danger – him, Debtra, or the Professor? Or was it just whoever reached the criminal first? Would it try to merge another soul?

The office was empty, but the safe door was cracked open. Thurston motioned for Thom to get out of the way, and the older man stepped ahead, leaned over, and peered in.

"Is anyone --?" Thom started to ask, but Debtra's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Maximilian," Thurston murmured. "The game's up. You have the jewels. Why don't you let Mr. Lancaster get on to his final resting place?"

A black tentacle that glowed with a sickly greenish light wrapped around Thurston's neck and brought him to his knees. His eyes bulged, and his face turned red.

"Thurston!" Debtra screamed. Thom held her back and drew his gun.

"Whatever you are, let him go and come out! We're armed!"

"Police? Help!" That was a middle-aged man's voice in a whine. "I'm trapped in here with it."

Thurston flailed his left hand in a "stay away" motion. He clutched at the tentacle with his right one.

"Let him go, Maximilian!" The safe door flew open, and Thom pushed Debtra to the floor. He fired at the mass of darkness that poured out of it.

"Your weapons ain't gonna work on me, guv'nor," another voice said. "I've eaten the sapphires in here, like blueberries they are!"

"Help me!" The middle-aged man's voice sobbed again. "I've given you what you want, let me go!"

"Oh, no, you don't. There are more stores, more cities. We're going on a little tour, you and me."

The darkness resolved into a man's shape, fuzzy and glowing around the edges, its left hand still around Thurston's throat. It looked at the red-faced Professor, who had both hands on its wrist.

"This one's taking a while to die. Not that I've killed anyone before, but they didn't believe me. Put me in that statue. You know how hot it gets in there? It's like Hell. And the birds! I'm gonna kill every pigeon I find from now on."

Debtra stepped forward. "Maybe we can make a deal. You have the alarm codes from his memory. What if we let you go, and you leave Lancaster here?"

"And send the Minders after me to set a trap? No thanks, chickie. Me an Lancaster, here, we're going on a trip."

"Then let the Professor go! He hasn't done anything to you."

"I don't need witnesses." The merged soul turned its face to Thurston, who pulled at its arm. Thom heard a ripping sound, and he saw it split in two man-shapes, one round and golden and one still black and glowing.

The golden one whispered, "Thank you!" and disappeared.

Thurston held the other one, which asked, "What did you do?"

"Untangled you."

"How did you do that?" asked Debtra.

"Trade secret, my dear. I'll just tell you I had to be touching it to do that. Now, I have some questions for you, Maximilian."

"Well, let me take a seat over there, Perfessor, and we'll have a cozy little chat."

"I'm not going to release you that easily." Thurston pulled a phone-looking thing out of his pocket and tossed it to Thom. "Press the sequence 4284. That will summon Gurney and Troxley to take care of this creature."

Thom did so. The device beeped, and the screen went black.

"You ain't going to send me back to the statue, are you, Professor?"

Thurston raised his eyebrows.

"Oh, that's right, I know who you are. I studied before I got locked up. You're the one who objected to monumenting, and now that I been there, I see why. So tell me, Prof, do your young lady over there and that copper know who and what you are?"

"Silence!" The sound of Thurston's voice filled the room with an otherwordly echo, and he tightened his grip on the other soul's arm, twisting it. Thom fought the impulse to raise his weapon. Debtra wouldn't look kindly on his shooting her mentor in a moment of panic. She did, however, scoot closer to Thom, who put his arm around her. Just to reassure her. Yeah, that was his only motive. He still kept her out of the way between his hand and gun.

"You will answer my questions, you pathetic creature!" Thurston continued with that scary voice and then added in a softer tone, "You know what I can do to you."

Maximilian whined without saying anything intelligible.

"Now, first one, who framed you and got you locked up in that statue?"

"Now I ain't at liberty to share that, guv'nor."

"Answer me!"

Maximilian screamed. Thom cringed and pulled Debtra closer.

"Whatever you do to me, Perfessor, it's not going to be nearly as bad as what He would if I told you!"

Author's note:

It's been crazy busy at the office, so I'm glad I finished this one over the summer. I just wanted to say thanks to the five of you who are still reading. :)

Okay, enough mushiness, have some nachos:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Great Chocolate Conspiracy Part 10

Welcome to The Great Chocolate Conspiracy!

Chocolate Digestive biscuits have disappeared from the shelves right across the eastern seaboard of the USA, and now the shortage has spread to London. Detective Chief Inspector Sam Adamson and his international team of investigators from the Metropolitan Police's Confectionery Crimes Unit (CCU) have been tasked to solve the mystery.

This is the tenth installment of a multi-part flash fiction story that originated during a chat between the authors on Twitter. You can read how it all began here. (Links to all the installments will be added to the author list as they are posted)

The next installment will appear on Friday, November 12th at Angie Capozello (aka @techtigger)'s Techtigger's Soapbox, and you can keep up on developments in the meantime by following the #GtChocCo hashtag on Twitter.

"Sacramento?" The name of the city burst from Juniper's lips the moment she and Marier left the debriefing room. "Why are we going to California?"

Marier slowly unwrapped the chocolate bar. She seemed lost for a moment in the crinkle of the plastic wrapping, and she took a long whiff and a small bite before answering.

"Think, Juniper. Why would Adamson be splitting us up, especially now when we're so close?"

The Italian agent took a bite, and she raised her eyebrows. "He doesn't intend for us to go anywhere! But who's he trying to throw off? And why?"

Before Marier could answer, she felt a tap on her shoulder.

"Excuse me, agents?" Marier turned to see a tall woman in her thirties with chin-length curly hair the color of an old penny. She wore a lab coat and glasses.


"I'm Doctor Dominic, the liaison between the Intelligence Communication and Super Powers Departments..." She smiled and shook her head. "Sorry, I can't say that with a straight face. You know – mind control, subliminal messaging, telepathy, those sorts of things. Chief Henderson wanted me to talk with Agent Bronyaur about his dream, and he mentioned that you two were in close proximity when he'd had it. Would you mind coming with me?" She tilted her head to the side and raised an eyebrow. "That wasn't a question."

"I would rather not." Marier looked at the sealed door to the debriefing room.

"I'm afraid you don't have a choice."

The next thing Marier knew, she followed Doctor Dominic down the hall and into an elevator. "Wait a minute. Did you just subliminalize me?"

"Me?" The doctor's facial expression was the picture of innocence. "I'm afraid that's against my ethical code."

Marier and Juniper exchanged glances. However, when they reached the exam room on the minus twenty-fourth floor, they realized they weren't the ones who needed help.

"Is all this necessary?" Agent Bronyaur asked. He looked at the Velcro cuffs a large male nurse had just fastened around his wrists and ankles. He had electrodes fixed to his head and face. Agent La Paglia hovered, but each time she tried to reach him, the nurse blocked her way.

"Don't worry, Agent Bronyaur," the doctor said. "It's because you're the extra intuitive and sensitive one in the group who had the dream."

He leaned back with a grin. "Really?"

Doctor Dominic winked at Marier and Juniper before she measured a clear liquid into a syringe. "I'm going to have to put you under to achieve a steady alpha state so you can revisit your dream and communicate with us simultaneously. When you come out of it, you may become disoriented, and I can't risk you harming yourself or us. Ladies, if you will please stand back."

"You're not going to hurt him, are you?" asked Marier.

"Of course not! I'm just going to give him a little sodium thiopental, or truth serum, to make sure he doesn't hold back on us. Don't worry," she assured Bronyaur, "it won't hurt. In fact, people say it's quite pleasant. Now take a deep breath, and Nurse Brutus will start the i.v."

Marier watched the doctor and nurse, and although she couldn't verify the liquids, she could hear Bronyaur's breaths become deep and even.

"There, now," the doctor said. "Agent Bronyaur, can you hear me?"


"Say yes, please."

"Yes, please."

She smiled. "Okay, then. I want you to go back to this morning, when you got on the airplane, just before your dream. What were you thinking about?"

"Mmmmm, thong panties… Hot pink…"

Doctor Dominic raised her eyebrows. "Thong panties?"

Marier blushed and saw that Juniper had turned a similar shade of red. "He, ah, had to do some packing for us. We left in a hurry, you see."

"I'm sure. Now, Agent, I want you to go back to that dream state, the one you were in on the plane. What do you see?"

"SUV's. Big, black ones. And a short, fat Sheriff with a handlebar moustache."

Dominic scribbled the notes on a pad and watched the agent's brain waves on a computer screen. "What happens next?"

"There's an office, but it looks more like a basement. A lab. An explosion… Blood… Chocolate…"

"Okay, let's go back to the SUV's that picked you up. I want you to tell me the distances and turns."

"We go twenty feet, right out of the airport…"

Marier watched, open-mouth, as the doctor took Bronyaur back through the dream and extracted every last detail. By the end of it, they were all sweating.

Or maybe the air had cut off.

"Doctor, there's something wrong!" Marier stepped forward.

"No, he'll be fine. It looks like the villains have provided a map, whether intentionally or inadvertently." She rubbed her eyes. "I wish I could tell you more, but I didn't get coffee this morning, and I've got a splitting headache. I'll run the information through the analyzer, which will plug it into algorithms in the UK's and United States' databases."

"I meant with the climate control." Marier gestured to the vent, which was no longer blowing cold air.

"You're right – we should be getting more air." Dominic moved quickly, measuring out more clear liquid from a different vial. "I'm going to bring Agent Bronyaur out of his trance with a mild stimulant."

"Mmmm, thongs…"

She pushed the liquid into the i.v. Bronyaur gasped and struggled against the restraints.

"Wait, I see her! Motley was directing everyone in the dream! It wasn't a store – it was a lab!" He opened his eyes, and the nurse released the restraints.

"And she's up there with Adamson!" Marier, Juniper, and LaPaglia ran out of the room, followed by a rubber-legged Bronyaur.

Marier fidgeted in front of the elevator. Every time she closed her eyes to blink, she saw the crumpled body of DCI Adamson just after the explosion that injured his leg. I'm not failing you again!

The building shook, and everything went dark.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Metapost: Tuesday Serial...or not

Just a quick note that there will be no Tuesday Serial installation this week. It's my turn for the Great Chocolate Conspiracy blog tour, so I'm working on that. So, please tune in Friday and return next Tuesday for the next part of the Monument Minders!