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Rise of the DarkWalker Chapter 5

I stumbled through the underbrush, wondering where the hell Weijia was taking me. She’d set a pretty harsh pace, too. Moving across open ground, I’d have kept up with ease, but moving though the groundcover left me tripping and stumbling like a toddler learning to walk.

“Where are we going?” My breath leaped from my lungs in short, rapid bursts.

“My clan. The Shaman will be able to help you with the lichen on your stomach.”

I stopped. “You’re taking me to an enclave of trolls? Don’t they hate humans?”

She turned with a sigh. “No, Carter. I’m taking you to my tribe. We’re all half-bloods.”

I used the time she paused to catch up. “What’s the hurry?”

“Do you wish to be chained again?”

“Do bears speak Krogan?”

“What?”

“The answer is no.”

“Then why not say so?”

I hung my head and resumed walking. “That’s what you get for trying to be poetic. Dumbass,” I muttered at myself.

“Did you say something?”

The tone of her question told me she hadn’t heard my mumbling. “No. How much further?”

“We’ll arrive near sunset. Can you keep up?”

“Sure. As soon as we get to a path, or something.”

“Paths would make it easier to track us.”

That didn’t make sense. “Wouldn’t one make it harder to follow us? Heavily travelled versus forcing a trail through the woods and all that.”

She glanced to the sky and then back the way we came. Turning to me, she shook her head. “The path will make it easier to track us, but we’ll move faster on it.”

A flock of birds exploded into the air, chirping and screeching. I looked to my right where they’d taken off from in time to see a couple trees collapse with crashing thuds. Without waiting for input from my companion, I turned and bolted in the opposite direction from the destruction.

I raced past trees and bushes. Hurtled a stream and ducked under a low hanging branch. The path was crossed without a thought. A sapling provided enough support to allow me to whip myself behind a boulder without slowing. A root, or rock, or something ended my running.

I belly flopped down an embankment. Dirt, leaves, twigs and other debris went down my shirt. I slid into a wide, yet shallow, brook. I was soaked, scraped up, and a lot cooler.

The water turned out to be rather refreshing. I lifted my face from it and cleared the liquid from my ears in time to catch the last of Weijia’s words.

“ —ter! Why did you run off?”

I blew water from my lips, trying not to think of what was upstream and pissing in as I lounged in the brook. “I ran from whatever was knocking down the trees.”

“Why? You’re the Walker of Worlds.”

“One, I don’t know how to use my powers, nor what they might be.” I stood and sluiced some water from my body. “Two, if it’s big enough to knock down growing trees, it’s big enough to run from.”

“But, you killed Belial.”

That should have been my first clue that Weijia wasn’t necessarily on my side, but the trembling aftereffects of my sprint and the breeze chilling me in my wet clothes caused that to pass by unremarked. I sloshed through the water and held out my hand. She helped me climb the slippery bank, and I pulled off my shirt. Holding it out between my hands, I spun it in a rope and then folded it over, twisted it more. Water squirted from the wrung out deer hide, but it remained damp.

I sighed and tossed it over my right shoulder. I noted her watching me closely, but thought nothing of it. “Please tell me I at least ran in the right direction and we’re now even closer to your clan.” She shook her head and pointed back the way we came. “Damn it.”

 

***

 

As it neared sunset, the surrounding woods grew thicker. The trees grew closer together and seemed to have distorted faces. ‘Pareidolia and an overactive imagination equals rough night sleeping tonight.’ The denseness caused a premature twilight to fall. As we hiked, I gradually became aware the noise of the forest became quieter.

The drumming of a woodpecker seemed to become the wail of a scared child. I stopped and listened intently, but only heard the hammer of the bird’s beak as it searched for insects. I scratched my head and then resumed walking.

A fog rose from the ground and rolled steadily through the woodlands. Indistinct whispers came to me on the breeze.

“Weijia, do you hear that?”

“What?”

“Sounds like a group of people whispering nearby.”

We halted and she listened. After several minutes, she shook her head. “I don’t hear anything.”

I raised my eyebrow, but continued on. The ground became softer with each stride. It was like I trudged through mud. When I took my next step, my foot sank into something warm, wet and fetid. The rank odors of sour milk and rancid meat hit my nose. I recoiled from the sensation of squirming maggots around my ankles and fell to the forest floor.

My heart lurched when I discovered the earth was dry and nothing was on my foot.

“What the fuck is going on?”

“Are you okay, Carter?” Weijia came over and knelt beside me.

“Has anything seemed odd to you?”

She shook her head. “The fog may seem a little spooky if you’re not used to it, but all is normal.” She pushed to her feet and offered me her hand. “Come on. We’re not too much further away.”

I accepted the hand up and the apple she tossed to me. I bit into it with a crunch. I wondered where she’d found the red fruit. ‘Oh well. Doesn’t matter.’ The flesh was both sweet and tangy. It reminded me of a Winesap. I absently glanced down to take another huge bite and discovered bloody teeth with chunks of hairy skin. I launched the disgusting thing away with a cry and puked.

I coughed and spat, trying to clear my mouth of the horrid taste of vomit. I shrugged her hand off my back when she touched me.

Standing upright again, I pinned her with a glare. My body was hot. “What the fuck is wrong with you, woman?”

She backed up. “Carter?”

I closed the distance between us. “Why would you give me something like that?” Each of her steps backwards were answered by one forward from me until her back was against the trunk of a black walnut.

“Something like what?” Her voice was high. “Carter, what’s wrong?”

I pointed at the remnants of the apple I’d been eating. “That!”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you don’t like apples.”

“Does that look like a fucking apple to you?”

“Y-yes?”

“Are you kidding me?”

I was so close to her face and yelling so hard, flecks of spittle landed on her cheeks. She cried out and cringed away. “Whu-what did I do? Why’re you so mad at me all of a sudden?”

“Look. At. That.” I all but bit the words out as I jerked my finger at the discarded fruit.

Shivering, she turned her head to see what I pointed at. “I don’t know what you want me to see. It’s just a half-eaten apple.”

I whirled to pick it up and stopped in my tracks. The only thing on the path was an oddly lumpy red spheroid with rough white pieces exposed where I’d bitten pieces away. There was no sign of the teeth or the skin. “What the fuck is going on?”

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Jennifer Steel Chapter 18

His fist came to a halt inches from her face. His index finger flicked out and tapped her nose. “You know better than to sneak up on me, Kirei-chan.”

She wrinkled her nose in that cute way she had. “Sorry. I was entranced with your awkward dancing. Do you have seizures often?”

“It’s called a kata, as I’ve told you before.” He scowled.

Jennifer smiled. “You keep straining like that and you’re gonna crap yourself.”

He couldn’t help it, he started laughing. It was so much fun being around Jennifer. After a few seconds, he grew more serious. He looked her up and down, taking in the turquoise karategi and the tape in her hands. “Couldn’t figure out what to do with the tape, eh?” She shook her head. Rob plucked the roll from her fingers. “This is to help protect your joints, Kirei-chan. Hold out your hand.” She raised her right arm and he began to wrap the adhesive tape around her wrist and hand. When finished, it looked like she had a fingerless tape glove on her hand. As she flexed her hand, getting used to the new feeling, he told her to raise her other hand. Moments later, he had her left hand done as well and had moved down to her feet.

Jennifer sat on the floor to make it easier for him to wrap her feet and ankles. She stared at him when instead of rising to his feet after the taping was done, he began to caress her leg. He grinned at her and slid his hand further along her calf up to her thigh. When he lightly squeezed the back of her thigh with his thumb and index finger, she squirmed away, giggling.

Rob rose easily to his feet and held his hand out to her. She took it and allowed him to pull her to her feet. When she stood this close to him, her heart started to beat a little faster. He smelled so good; leather from the sheathe, Brut aftershave and a clean, masculine scent that seemed to be all his own. ‘If only I knew what he was thinking,’ she thought. ‘Then I might-’ She pushed the thought away. It wasn’t the time or place for thoughts like that. Rob positioned her so that she was a few feet away from him. She enjoyed his strong hands on various parts of her body: her legs as he adjusted her stance, her arms so they were ready to defend her and her waist as he tried to get her to relax. ‘I’ll never tell him that I find it hard to relax when his hands are on me like this.’

Rob shook his head. “It’s gonna hurt if you don’t loosen up.”

“I’m loose, let’s go.”

He nodded. “I’ll start slowly. Don’t worry about countering, or blocking. Just duck each swat. When we have increased to a sufficient speed, we’ll move forward, okay?”

“Ready.”

He delivered a long slow swing at her head. It came in so slowly, that she put up her arm as he’d taught her two weeks ago and lightly punched his chest. He raised his eyebrows and she scowled at him, daring him to say anything. Instead, he fired his left hand at her faster than she could see. His open hand tenderly touched her right cheek. She blinked as he grinned. ‘Point taken, Rob.’ Instead of continuing with the lesson, he instead stroked her cheek, lightly trailing his fingertips along her jaw and caressed her lips. ‘His fingers are so gentle. I like the roughness of his callouses. It’s manly.’ She looked into his eyes, trying to mask her thoughts. His pupils were dilated, making his eyes look black. Her breathing came a little quicker. He stepped forward and she took and answering step backward. He stepped forward and she retreated a step once more. They did this twice more, Rob’s grin growing each time.

“Kirei-chan,” he crooned. “Why are you retreating?”

“I’m not. I’m advancing to the rear.”

He paused, the words slowly trickling through his Jennifer filled brain. When they finally sank in, he guffawed. Once again, she had caught him off guard with her wit. She gazed at him, amusement and…something else dancing in them. He approached her again, but this time the wall of the training room was behind her, leaving no place for her to retreat. He stood so that his chest was brushing against hers. She tilted her head up to gaze into his eyes.

“Worth, what are you-”

He tilted his head down and slanted his mouth across hers, catching her with her lips parted. His mouth moved against hers, kissing her with an intensity she had never felt before. When his tongue slid into her mouth and lightly touched her own, she automatically wrapped her arms around his neck as she began to caress his tongue with her own. ‘He’s been eating blueberries,’ she thought briefly. His lips were firm, yet soft. Demanding, yet giving. His scent filled her nostrils as she held him tightly to her. Her pulse thrummed in her veins as she melted against him.

Rob pulled back a bit and began to rain feather light kisses along her jaw as she tried to catch her breath. He kissed his way around to her ear, nibbled it for a second, or two, then moved down the side of her neck. She held him tightly to her, nuzzling the side of his neck. Her breathing was short and shaky as adrenaline raced through her. She ran her hands through his hair, enjoying the silken softness of it. He nibbled the side of her neck before lightly biting it. Jennifer gasped as heat flooded her belly and spread outward. Shortly, Rob’s mouth returned to her lips. She pushed him back a bit and playfully kicked his shin. “What the hell, Worth? What are you doing?”

He chuckled. “You have to use every weapon at your disposal.”

She scowled, eyes narrowed. “Oh really?” She then kicked his shin a bit harder this time. It wasn’t enough to hurt him, she didn’t want that. He hopped up and down on his left leg, clutching his right shin and rubbing it.

“Ow, ow, ow! What the hell, Kirei?”

As he hopped, she stepped forward, gripped his right arm, pivoted into his body and flipped him over her shoulder with a judo throw he’d taught her last week. He slammed to the mat, hard, with the air knocked from his lungs. She stood over him, her hands on her hips. “How’s that for using every weapon at my disposal?”

He started laughing. Before he could formulate a response, Danijela’s voice sounded in the room.

“Mr. Worthington, we have a situation near Fort Avenue. Take your new recruit and investigate.”

“Roger that, Danni. What are the particulars?”

“According to the reports, it seems a wild dog attacked a jogger near the Koba Café. Local Leo’s are on scene. Be careful, you two.”

“Change up, Kirei. I’ll meet you back here in five minutes. There will be a tactical vest in your locker.”

“Roger that, Worth.”

Rise of the DarkWalker, Chapter 1

We smelled the town of Dunskillen long before we saw it. The area was thick with the acrid odor of smoke and the sick, sweet scent of rotten meat. As we got closer, the breeze changed intensifying the cloying stench. Thinning trees gave us sight of the skyline filled with smoke. I nudged Dearbhaile to behind me. I drew my sword and Robilar did the same.

“Wen, scout ahead,” Corath said. I cocked my head at him. “None of you are as stealthy as Elven.”

I conceded his point with a shrug. The Gorauch disappeared into the distance.

“What should we do, Carter?” Lady Orwen said.

“Ready yourself for battle. We could be attacked at any moment.”

Keeper Dearbhaile moved slowly to the center of the circle again, with her lips compressed in a thin, white line, clearly upset, but she held her peace. The sun rose higher in the cloudless sky, pounding down on us. Sweat rolled down my face, and soaked the top of my buckskin pants. The moisture served to aggravate the moss in my belly. The maddening itch mounted in my mind. I squirmed and gripped my sword hilt tighter. My abdomen burned with the urgent need for me to scratch. I groaned, and clenched my jaw. I jumped when a cool hand landed on my back.

“Are ye alright, Carter?”

“Not really.” My voice sounded raspy even to me. “This damned Tianarri moss is driving me bugshit.”

Dearbhaile leaned back, blinking. “Bugshit?”

“What does bugshit mean?” Robilar said.

“Crazy. The desire to scratch is maddening.”

“So scratch.” Robilar chuckled. “What’s hard about that?”

“He cannae. He be infected with Tianarri moss.”

“Wen returns.” Lady Orwen called.

“I’ll fill you in later, Robilar.”

The Gorauch approached at a shambling run. The way his limbs flopped about, as if not under his control, caused a knot to form in my belly, pushing out the urge to scratch. My heart kicked into overdrive as I locked onto his approach. I threw a glance over my shoulder to my Rishka. Seeing she was safe, though intent on the approach of the white-haired Elven, I turned back. I raised my sword while I did so.

“Carter?” Lady Orwen said. My name was the signal Wen waited for. He launched himself into a sprint at me, eyes ablaze. “He’s possessed!”

“Wen!” His brother shouted. Time slowed around me. I moved to intercept him. “No, Carter. He’s my brother!”

Corath’s voice sounded slow, deep, and drawn out. The controlled Elven’s steps decelerated as if he were running through molasses, then halted. I broke into a run, and raced passed Wen. As I did, I caught whiff of decayed vanilla: a L’Arc demon had him. I hoped what I learned about possession during game sessions was accurate and the demon’s body would be nearby. ‘Kill the body, kill the possessor.’

I found the L’Arc standing at the edge of a wall, staring at Wen’s back. This one was different from the others. Its shoulders were broader and it wore blackened gold plate mail. The others were stunning, beautiful, statuesque and nude women with flawless milky skin, raven hair, large bat wings that unfurled from their shoulders and slender black tails. This one had scars over its face, eagle wings and stubble over its jaw. This one must have been one of the males. ‘Wow. Either Belial, or his dad, are sexist bastards. They have the females running around naked, yet they cover the males in heavy armor.’ Not that I wanted to see this demon without clothes. Time resumed its movement. The demon registered my presence, eyes wide. As its mouth dropped open, I ran it through with my sword.

“Carter!” I spun around at Dearbhaile’s scream. The others were under attack. I raced back to my friends. Halfway there, a rush of wings caused me to halt. The sky was blotted out by the shadows of about twenty L’Arc demons. I didn’t wait for them to land before scything into them. ‘Stupid demons.’

I heard my love scream again. I looked over. A large, muscular humanoid with greenish-black skin stretched tight over his frame had her neck in an immense clawed hand. He flipped his middle claw in the air, then vanished with a boom. I howled my rage to the heavens. A crimson fog descended over my eyes. I slashed, and chopped, sliced and hacked at any demon that was near me. I stopped when I realized Corath’s brother stood before me.

“Greetings, Carter Blake.” Wen’s mouth moved, but the hoarse, graveled and sweet voice belonged to Belial. Now I knew who had my love. “I have your woman. If you want to see her again, come to the former tower of Wizard Cora.”

I pointed my blade between Wen’s eyes. “I’m coming for you, Belial.”

He laughed. I bellowed and cleaved his neck with the sharp dryad weapon. Wen’s head fell from his body, still laughing. I kicked it away, and shut my eyes. I visualized the opulent room where I’d last seen Wizard Cora. I saw again the torches as they burned in brackets on stone walls, rich tapestries hung here and there. I remembered seeing the thickest rug I had ever encountered. I was able to picture the entrapment sigil drawn on the floor underneath. The sounds of the battle faded until all was silence. I felt a pressure on my body not unlike that time I’d went scuba diving in the summer when I was nine. I remembered marveling at the knowledge of all those tons of water surrounding my body, waiting to crush me, yet knowing my soft form was capable of withstanding it. I pushed that memory away and refocused on the summoning chamber. How did the outline of that tower look? I intended for nothing to slow my run on the demon’s new headquarters.

The pressure vanished. I opened my eyes, and saw the chamber I’d been visualizing. How the hell did I do that? I shrugged away the question. I’d worry about the riddle later. I readied my sword and went to the door. I placed my ear to it. I heard nothing, so I opened the door. The hallway was also lit by torches. I surprised one of the short humanoid wingless bat-like creatures I’d encountered during my escape from Belial’s fortress. The thing’s angry red muscles rippled as it moved, causing a clear, glistening and viscous fluid to roil down its body. Nictitating membranes flicked across its oil drop eyes when the demon discovered me standing in the room. I reacted first, slashing my blade across its throat. Blue ichor splashed my front as the creature collapsed. I continued on.

Down a second hall, I spotted another of the demons standing guard outside a big wooden door. I slipped along, until I was about a meter away. I hope Ugly doesn’t turn my way. The fiend did, and chittered something at the top of its voice, raising a spear. The door was yanked open. A L’Arc spilled out, shield leading the way. At the same time, a blackish green demon with oversized claws appeared beside me. This was either the one that took my Rishka, or was similar. Either way, he had my full attention. I lunged at him.

A clawed hand intercepted my sword and redirected the weapon to the side. I was hit from behind and shoved towards an incoming swipe from the other hand. My chest was slashed open and I found myself behind the L’Arc. I thrust my blade into her back, right between her wings. The sword went in as if she were warm butter. The bat-like demon thrust its spear through the L’Arc’s body and into my left bicep. I screamed, and was behind the thing without my sword. I felt as if my hands were guided by another as I gripped its head and put it in the path of the black demon’s stab. I shoved the smaller demon forward, further impaling it on the other’s claws which sliced my face. I growled, and tried to ignore the burning of four cuts traveling from my forehead to my cheeks. I didn’t understand how the demon missed my eyes, but I was glad he did. Damned thing tried to blind me!

He went for my eyes again. I grabbed his wrist. Blasted demon was a hell of a lot stronger than me. All I managed to do was slow the approach of those lethal claws. Once more, I had the feeling that another guided my hand as I punched the demon in the base of his neck. The force on my right hand let up. I rammed the clawed hand into the demon’s own eyes and brain. The demon fell to the floor. I bent at the waist, panting. The adrenaline seeped out, allowing me to feel my wounds more. I leaned against the wall. I gritted my teeth, then bit my tongue to keep the blackness at bay. Dearbhaile needs us, you pussy. Get going!

My left arm burned like fire. I pushed the pain back enough so I could enter the open door. Belial stood within as if he’d been waiting for me. Belial leered at me.

“Where is Dearbhaile?” I yelled.

“She’s… being taken care of.” He laughed. “You’re all alone Carter Blake. No Moment of Prescience, no Dearbhaile to rescue you. This time, I’m going to kill you.”

“Before, I might have needed them. I’m not the same person who surrendered to you to be your slave. I’ve grown.” I raised my sword, tilted my head to the left and right, making my vertebrae crackle. “Let’s dance, monkey.”

He snarled, showing off his black teeth, and charged. Our blades clashed, sending shockwaves through my arms. I tightened my grip, and pushed the steel against his snow white one. I knew he was stronger than me, and wanted him to push back harder.

The half-demon shoved hard. I ducked and at the same time, released my weapon which flew through the air behind me. As I hoped, his arms went over my head, leaving him flat footed. His sword arm was across his chest, and I was in perfect position. I punched him in the groin as hard as I could with both fists. All the air left his lungs in a rush. His grip slackened on the white sword which dropped. Mind blank, I snatched the longsword from the air, spun 180 degrees, and after spinning the weapon to a better grip, slammed the length into him.

The pure white blade sank into the half-demon’s chest like a hot knife into warm tallow. His jaw dropped as if he couldn’t believe what had just happened to him. I released the hilt of the sword which was heating fast. I stepped back and Belial crumpled to the ground. Seconds later, the wound caused by the white blade split open further, spilling out a flood of squirming maggots. I jumped back, trying not to puke in revulsion. The maggots soon evaporated, leaving a pulsating, silver blood-covered sapphire sphere. The sphere, as it pulsed like a beating heart, grew larger before my eyes, draining -something- from Belial’s corpse. The corpse looked more and more desiccated with every passing moment. Soon, a hollow husk was all that remained of Belial. The sapphire sphere pulsed faster and faster. Cracks formed in it, violet light streaming upwards. The sphere shattered into little pieces, leaving a huddled form lying on the ground. As the violet light faded, the form began to move.

The form soon showed itself to be a man curled in a fetal position. He rose to his feet and stood before me. He was about eighteen centimeters shorter than me and about the same in kilograms lighter. He had short brown hair, friendly brown eyes and a faint smile. To my discomfort, he was also nude. Before I could say anything, he looked down at himself, shook his head and caused clothes to appear on his body. He wore a faded blue chambray shirt tucked into sun lightened blue jeans stuck into travel battered leather boots with a pair of crossed gun belts slung low on his hips. Large revolvers with sandal wood grips were in the holsters. A faded bandanna was tied around his neck. He glanced back at me with his hands out to the sides as if asking for my approval of his dress. I noticed I got his eye color wrong. It wasn’t brown after all, but a faded blue color. He looked like the way I always pictured Roland Deschain of Gilead, from Stephan King’s The Dark Tower books.

I folded my arms across my chest and frowned. He looked back down at himself and shrugged. His clothing shimmered, and then changed again. When he looked up at me again, he had dark gray eyes, cinnamon colored hair in a ponytail and a Van Dyke beard. He wore a black three-piece suit with a lavender shirt. He was broader across the shoulders than I and a little narrower at the hips. His grin seemed to ask my opinion of his appearance this time. I shook my head, causing him to shrug again. This shrug seemed to say, “To hell with it.”

His cinnamon hair darkened to the color of fresh coffee, his shirt flashed to white and his eyes showed crimson for a moment before settling on hazel. He grinned at me again, wiggled his fingers at me in a wave and vanished in a flash of black tinged violet light.

I walked over to where the mysterious stranger had been birthed from a sapphire shell and picked up the sword I had used to kill the half-demon Belial, son of Lucien the Demon King and Zatanna the Lich Queen of Amcorath. The sword was no longer pure white. The blade had a faint outline of violet which only showed up when I moved the sword a particular way. The weapon also no longer sent waves of cold through my body, but felt warm to my touch. I turned to join the larger battle outside and discovered Lady Orwen standing in the doorway with a worried look on her face.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure, Carter, but I think he was Samhaine.”

“So?”

“He ruled the Pits before Lucien. It’s not good that you just freed him.”

I growled. “I was not about to allow Belial to get away with his crimes, Princess.” She blinked as she leaned away from me. I don’t think she was aware of it. I sighed and headed towards the door. I didn’t care for the look of wariness on her face, but bit my tongue. My head throbbed. “We need to find Keeper Dearbhaile.”

“Corath has already searched the tower. He found no sign of her. Carter, I think Drago has her.”

My jaw tightened. I stared at the floor for a few seconds as my heartbeat accelerated again. I gripped the hilt of the white blade so hard my knuckles creaked. I peered at Lady Orwen from under my eyebrows. “Looks like I’m going after her.”

“Where will you search?”

“Let’s ask a demon.”

“I don’t think any will be talkative, Carter. If we can even capture one.”

“I’ll make one talk.”

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 14

“So, tell me about this crush you have on Rob, Danni.”

Danijela smiled. Her eyes sparkled before she closed them. “My crush on Mr. Worthington was merely my cover. It wasn’t real.” Rob muttered something. “Would you repeat that a little more clearly, Mr. Worthington?”

“No.”

She chuckled. “Smart man.”

Jennifer scratched her head. “Wait a minute. You said Rob has a butt a woman could sink her teeth into. I remember the look in your eyes then. That wasn’t a cover.”

Danijela chuckled. “Indeed. I always was a sucker for a nice ass.” She then slapped Rob’s rump, hard. His eyebrows shot up. Jennifer grinned and also slapped his butt.

“Hey now.” He glanced at the two women on either side of him. “If y’all keep that up, we won’t get anything done today.”

The women looked at one another, eyebrows raised, faces reddening, and burst out laughing. They bent at their waists, clutching their ribs. Rob watched for a moment, differing expressions at war on his face. Finally, he grinned, threw both fists into the air, and shouted, “Yes! I made you both laugh.” He turned and walked to the center of the Operations Center.

Stevenson met him part way across. He lowered his voice. “You have to see this, Rob.”

Rob’s right eyebrow quirked upward. This had to be big. Sam never used his first name. He followed the analyst without saying anything further. The young man sat in his swivel chair and called up an image on the monitor. It was the interior of the cave where Jennifer had spent the night. A dark shape was huddled near the ash pile left from her fire. Suddenly, the shape rose to its feet, revealing itself to be a gaunt man in a tan leather duster. Long, stringy hair covered his face. As they watched, he began to blink in and out of sight. Every time he returned to sight, he was closer to the camera. Within seconds, he was right in front of the camera. In a voice sounding like it came from a mouth filled with rotten garbage, came, “Ah! Ah! Ah!” In the next instant, it appeared that he had eaten the camera. The feed dissolved in a spray of static. The monitor suddenly leaped forward as if something within was trying to jump out. Stevenson leaped back and to his feet as the monitor landed on the floor. The men stared down at the screen.

“Um, w-what j-just hap-happened?” Stevenson stammered. His eyes bulged, and his fingers dug into his cheeks, pulling furrows into them. He flinched when Rob grabbed his shoulders. ‘Christ! His skin is like ice!’ Rob thought.

“Hey, Sam. Look at me,” he said softly. The younger man looked at him. “Tell me about the Fibonacci sequence.” He knew that was Stevenson’s favorite integer sequence and it would get his mind off of what just happened.

“The Fibonacci sequence is named after Leonardo of Pisa, who was known as Fibonacci. Fibonacci’s 1202 book Liber Abaci introduced the sequence to Western European mathematics, although the sequence had been described earlier in Indian mathematics,” Stevenson began.

“Very good, Sam. Keep going.” Rob turned to discover Danijela and Jennifer standing behind him. He wasn’t surprised. He took them by their arms and lead them a little way away. He quietly filled them on what had just happened. “I don’t get it. Do you think that was what had been following you, Kirei?”

She shrugged. “I have no idea. I never saw anyone, or anything, remember?”

The director interrupted. “Mr. Worthington, I will have an agent investigate this. In the meanwhile, you should begin Ms. Steel’s training.”

Rob sighed. He hated leaving things to other people. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Don’t call me ‘ma’am’. I’m only ten years older than you.”

“Would “Yes, sir” suffice?”

Danijela threw a stapler at him. “Cheeky bastard.”

Rob laughed as he ducked. “Let’s go, Kirei.”

Rise of the DarkWalker: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book II

Prologue

 

Firelight played over the aged face, turning a silver Van Dyke a reddish-orange. The drip of water from stalactites, the crackle of burning wood, and the sting of smoke were all ignored as he concentrated on reaching out to the untrained mind. It was harder than anticipated. The young one fought for his life against seeming insurmountable odds.

“Focus, Carter. Stretch your mind out. Take advantage of the temporal slow. You can do this.”

The words, crackling with power, seemed to hang in the air. His words had no effect. He’d have to step in. A wrinkled, yet still strong, hand circled on the ground, and then rose up. It briefly faded from sight, before being drawn back. A poisonous green jewel flashed in the firelight as the hand reappeared. Wrapped around a braided leather swathed hilt, and dull black pommel. The elderly man rose to his feet, dragging the hilt as he stood. A saw-toothed, lusterless black longsword came from the ether.

“Are you certain this is wise, Nicholas?” The voice sounded from the shadows, deep, and gravelly.

“I am, Rhynskald. I must aid my grandson.”

“Be careful, Walker.”

My Newest Work In Progress

“Hey, why are you starting another story when you haven’t finished any of the others?”

Well, imaginary speaker for my fans – both of them – technically, with this, I am finishing one of the others. Or, continuing it, anyway. This is the continuation of The Chronicles of Carter Blake. I have a prologue and three chapters complete. Maybe posting them here will be the kick in the pants I need to finish.

“It didn’t work for the other stories, jackass!”

Stifle yourself, brain. You keep me up too much.

Jennifer Steel: Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 12

A blond-haired, blue-eyed woman dressed in a beige pantsuit stood before them expectantly. Her chestnut hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail. She was shorter than Jennifer but seemed more imposing than the much larger Rob. A tentative smile slowly grew on Jennifer’s face as she stared at the tiny woman. Adrenaline dumped into her body, causing her heart to thump rapidly. Her skin tingled as the blood shot through her veins. Her eyes sparkled and flashed with happiness. She stepped forwards and pulled the little woman into a hug. “Oh, thank, god you’re okay, Danni.”

Danni patted her friend’s back. “Of course I am, my dear. Thank you for your concern. Though unwarranted, it is greatly appreciated.”

“I found your laptop, but it’s back in my car. I didn’t look inside.”

“Keep the computer. The Karo syrup will clean off rather easily. None was able to get to the insides because of the covering created by Mr. Stevenson. It should work perfectly. The password, incidentally, is the first 14 numbers of the Fibonacci sequence.”

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 11

Rob paced the operations center. “Have you found her yet?”

Stevenson shook his head, “Negatory, sir. Give me a little more time. She’ll pop up on camera shortly.”

Rob sighed and resumed his pacing. The director walked into the center and watched for a few seconds. Her eyes crinkled at the corners as her mouth curved slightly upward. When he turned to her, the director immediately straightened her face, but he still saw the twinkle of merriment in her eyes. “Still wearing the carpet bare, Mr. Worthington?”

He sighed and ran his fingers through his rumpled hair. He scanned the room, eyes not staying on any object for longer than an instant. “Jennifer isn’t showing up on any of the cameras, Director.”

She nodded. “Ah. So, you are worried about Ms. Steel. Do you believe her to be incapable of surviving?”

Rob’s forehead wrinkled and his brow drew downward. “What? Of course I don’t believe that! She is my friend, though. Not only that, but the supernaturals weren’t supposed to be able to contact her yet.”

“Yes. You have made a good point, Mr. Worthington. In that case, why don’t you use your considerable tracking skills to locate Ms. Steel and bring her back?”

Rob’s eyes widened. “Are you certain? What about the test?”

“Under the circumstances, I think it would be permissible to name the test as null and go with your original recommendation that Ms. Steel join.”

Rob smiled and turned to hurry out of the Ops Center. The director allowed him to get almost out of the room, before stooping him. “Mr. Worthington?”

He poked in her back in, eyebrows raised. “Yes, Director?”

“Bring our friend back safely.”

“Indeed.”

 

Rob strode the warm brown hall to the armory. He wanted to be properly outfitted in case Lilith was in a bad mood. Carter tended to have that effect on her. Rob shook his head. He did not envy the Walker of Worlds. The man had the power to slay deities and freely travel between universes, but he also had the responsibility of watching over trillions of lives across the same. That’s way over my pay grade. But there had been a time when it hadn’t been. Flashes of a different world and a woman with silver eyes played in his mind’s eye before he pushed them away. ‘Anila,’ he thought before pushing that away as well.

Arriving at the armory door, he placed his hand on the cold palm reader and leaned forward. A small green light waved over his retina as a blue one did the same to his palm. A computerized voice stated that he was cleared to enter.

“Of course I am. I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he said.

As always, the computer did not respond. He grinned, thinking about what anyone would say upon hearing him talking to the computer. The heavy steel door slide up into a recess, allowing him entry. The backlit walls were lined with rows and rows of weapons. The rows closest to the doors were modern firearms from the Colt .25 pistol all the way up to the M72 light Anti-tank Weapon and FIM-92 Stinger missile system. Rob ignored them and headed further in. The next section held various martial arts and medieval weapons. He strode past bows, cross bows, javelins, swords and shields. Pole arms, blowguns and throwing weapons held no interest either.  Presently, he came to the very back of the armory. He stopped before a seemingly simple wooden door. This door however, was like the weapons within: magic.

Rob knocked three times on the door, paused, knocked twice more and waited. Soon a bright azure light played over his body. When it faded, the door swung open. A chill mist wafted from within. He shook his head. No matter how many dehumidifiers were placed inside, a mist always formed. He figured it must have been due to the magic being kept within.

The two-handed sword Glamdring hung on wall. Next to it were Icingdeath and the double-edged Blade of Evil’s Bane. On the opposite side of the room were the katana Tenseiga, the purple flesh covered broadsword Soul Edge and the mace Sharur. Gungnir, Mjolnir, Tonbogiri and the Runestaff hung from the ceiling. Rob strode past display cases holding the Sword of Truth, Mace of Cuthbert, Hammer of Kharas, the Dagger of Time, Soul Reaver and the Sword of Omens. He stopped before a dark wooden case in the shape of a pentagon. It had mystic symbols carved over the entirety of its surface. Despite this, it felt smooth and slightly slippery under his hand. He raised the lid and was hit with a wave of cold air. Rob ignored the arctic blast and fully raised the lid. He waved the vapor away impatiently and looked with reverence at what was within.

It was a blue crystalline bastard sword. The blade was a double fuller, lenticular design. The cross-guard was curved slightly towards the blade, the grip was of onyx and wrapped with golden wire in a chain link pattern, the pommel was a clear gem. Legend held that if this sword was used for evil, the gem would capture the wielder’s soul on his death. The sword rested on a bed of crushed red velvet next to its scabbard. The scabbard had been made by hand by Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. He had made it from the wood of an Elder tree and wrapped in the skin of a Nukekubi, a vicious human-like monster whose head detached from its body. Legends didn’t say who created the actual sword.

It was the third most powerful weapon in the armory, yet it was his favorite. The crystal sword fit him like it had been made for his hand. He reverentially lifted the blade and held it up to the light. The harsh white light of the fluorescent tubes was softened and diffused by the azure blade. He smiled as he stared at it. It had been two years since he last held this weapon. As he exited the armory, he passed a large sword embedded in a block of granite. Looks like the director finished with Excalibur.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 8

Jennifer slowly came to, dimly aware that her legs were cold. Damn it. I kicked the blankets off again. She hated when she did so. Why do I end up kicking off my blankets every time I hang out with Rob, and why is it so irritating? She reached to punch her pillow, which was feeling oddly hard, and came fully awake when her hand hit the cold stone.

“Ow. Fucker.”

She sat up in a hurry. A quick look down her body had conflicting emotions running through her. One the one hand, she was dressed; in a shift, it appeared, but still dressed. The worst part was the knowledge that someone had undressed her to put this on her. She felt…violated. Goddamnit, I’m gonna fuck up whoever took liberties with me while I was out. Her eyes went wide, and she reached between her legs. No soreness, but… What the fuck?! She leaped to her feet. Where’s my fucking panties?!

Jennifer whirled around and saw that one candle had burned down and been replaced with a fresh one. The shift was a finely woven fabric of some type and belted with a golden rope around her hips. On her feet were a pair of soft leather boots that came up to mid-calf. Her sword was laying on the bed in a dark leather sheath. She picked it up and examined it. The baldric was belted for someone much larger than she was. After several minutes of fiddling with the straps, she figured out how to loosen and tighten them. She slipped the baldric over her right shoulder so she could draw the sword with her right hand, and tightened the straps. When it was comfortable, she headed out the wooden door near the recliner.

Outside, she found herself in a soaring pine forest. She stalked along a path, cussing under her breath, vowing to tear the clothes thief a new one. Crickets made their reedy music, and a tawny wood owl screeched in victory as it caught a field mouse. She marveled at its beauty for a moment, and then lifted her face, letting the light and shadow dance across her skin. Bees hummed in and out of a cluster of wild rose bushes. A quick bend at the waist to inhale their perfume before hurrying on, and delighting at the sound of her boots crunching pine needles underfoot. Not too far away, she could hear a creek chuckling as it tumbled over different levels of rocks. It wasn’t long before it became visible through the trees. Jennifer decided to walk towards the creek. As she walked, she startled a pair of rabbits. She didn’t get to see much as they streaked out of sight, just a flash of long ears and twin streaks of brown fur. She felt a smile spread across her face as she continued. She’d never seen wild rabbits before. Not paying attention to the path, she brushed up against the rough bark of an immense pine, and getting sticky pine tar on her bare arm. Brushing the white tar only succeeded in spreading it further along her arm. She scowled at the mess, hating the tacky feel of it. A noise above her caused her to look up and forget all about the pine tar on her arm. A pair of grey squirrels chased each other through the tree branches, leaping boldly from limb to limb, sending a shower of needles and twigs down on her. She found herself giggling like a little girl at their antics. Why am I giggling? I’m supposed to be pissed.

Something about the forest path – what, she didn’t know – pulled the anger out of her, leaving her more at peace. What the hell is going on with me? For some reason, even that worry faded away. A soft, warm wind began to blow across her face and playfully toss her hair across her eyes. While she walked across the rich, loamy, black earth, long blades of grass caressed her bare legs. Birds resumed twittering in the treetops. The insects never bothered to stop their humming.

The ground became softer and wetter as she approached the banks of what turned out to be a wide river. Soon, Jennifer came to the edge of the running water. It was a beautiful blue, perfectly reflecting the clear sky above. As her gaze roamed the stretch of waterway, she could see that the river grew swifter about fifty feet further down. She made her way to it, the sound of a waterfall building in volume as she got closer. She soon found herself on a rocky outcropping far above a plunge pool, with a white, frothy cascade of water diving all the way down to it. A cool mist landed on her skin, beading up and then running down her limbs as far below, a deer drank from the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. A flat boulder rose up from the center of the plunge pool, its sun-baked surface drawing her on like a cat to a sunny window seat. She absently wiped spray from her cheeks as she contemplated her sudden desire to dive in to the pool below.

Jennifer leaned towards the waterfall, her lips parted, breathing faster and shallower. Her cheeks were flushed, and she wore a big grin of anticipation. She practically vibrated with excitement. Her lips shone as she unconsciously  continually licked them. I’m gonna do it! She took three giant steps backward, stopped, and then raced forward and dove off the outcropping of rock.

“Yaaaaa-hoooooo!” she yelled as she fell.

She arched her back, swept her arms forward and executed a perfect swan dive into the plunge pool at the base of the waterfall. Ignoring the sound of thousands of gallons of water thundering into the pool, Jennifer pushed to the surface, taking a huge breath as she broke it. She threw a triumphant fist into the air, laughing giddily at the same time.

“Yes! That was amazing! I wish Rob had seen that!”

Now why the hell did I say that? She mused, dropping her arm.

She swam to the boulder in the middle of the pool and pulled herself up onto it. She slid her fingers through her wet hair, slicking it back. She then lay back on the sun warmed boulder and looked up at the clear blue sky. She enjoyed the gentle heat of the sun as it warmed her and pulled the moisture from her skin and drenched clothing. The scent of the water saturated air, combined with the smell of rich earth and green, growing things further served to relax her.

Suddenly, the wind began to pick up, kicking a fine spray of grit over Jennifer’s body. At the same time, the light hairs on her arms and the nape of her neck stood straight up. She felt dizzy as if she had twirled in place. Chills danced up her spine and down her arms as she unknowingly bit at her lower lip and cleared her throat. Her mouth went dry as she sat up and looked around her. She could see nothing, but her legs were growing tense as if she wanted to start running. She stood, tears falling unnoticed down her cheeks. She abruptly turned and dove into the water, swimming for the shore. Oddly, the water felt colder and thicker as if it wanted to keep her from reaching the safety of the shore. She finally scrambled from the water and backed away from the water which suddenly seemed dark and sinister. Jennifer wrapped her arms tightly about her body as she shook uncontrollably and gasped for air.

A cold, white mist grew above the surface of the plunge pool. The animal and insect sounds faded away. The smell of earth grew stronger as the mist grew thicker. Jennifer back around a tree and continued to watch. A bank of fluffy, greenish-black clouds formed near the center of the boulder she had sunned herself on just moments ago. The clouds began to spiral up and into a vaguely humanoid form. A bolt of lightning struck the center of the clouds, leaving a bluish after image on her vision and the smell of ozone in her nostrils. Jennifer was surprised when she wasn’t deafened by thunder. Air, superheated by the lightning bolt seconds ago, exploded outward, nearly deafening her. She cringed, having never been so close to a lightning strike before.

Blinking away tears of pain, and the after images of the bolt, Jennifer looked back at the boulder in the center of the waterfall’s plunge pool. Standing confidently on the rock was a statuesque, curvy woman. She had long, thick rich red-orange hair, long sable lashes, and ice blue eyes. Her face was perfectly symmetrical and flawless. She had firm, up thrust breasts, a line outlining her abdominal muscles, and a defined “V” shape where her abs descended to her pubis, which had no hair. There was a very evident inward curve to the outline of her body at her waist and a sharp flare outward at her hips. She had muscular, yet feminine legs and delicate feet. Poking up above her shoulders were a folded pair of bat-like wings, the fingers of which were black.

“Come here, child,” the creature said in a soprano voice.

Jennifer unconsciously checked that her sword was loose in its sheathe by lifting it a bit with her thumb and letting it drop back. I have three options: I can run, I can go talk to her, or I can attack. After a few seconds of deliberation, she gave a heavy sigh and approached the creature with dragging feet. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she approached the bank of the pool of water. The winged creature snapped her wings out, showing an impressive span. She flapped them slowly at first, then more rapidly. She gently rose into the air, the downdraft causing wavelets to ripple away from the boulder. Shortly, the creature was settling gracefully to the ground before Jennifer.

“What are you?” she said in a strained voice.

“I am Lilith, the Mother.”

“Mother of what?”

Lilith gave a small smile. “All.”

Jennifer’s right eyebrow arched upward. “Are you trying to get me to believe that you are the Eve from the Christian bible?”

Lilith shook her head. “No, Jennifer, my dear. I’m informing you that I am the one all Abrahamic religions call Eve. You may believe what you wish.”

“Rob says religions are make believe.”

“Rob? Is he your mate?”

“Oh god, no. We’re just friends.”

Lilith chuckled. “Have it your way.” She suddenly got serious. “I have a favor to ask of you.”

“What kind of favor?” Jennifer asked suspiciously.

“A helpful one. Now listen: Not too far from here is a gem. It is in the shape of a clenched fist. It looks like it is made from a blue-white diamond, but it is really a different kind of mineral; one not found on your world. I need you to get it and hand it to me.”

“That’s it?”

Lilith nodded her head. “That’s it.”

“What’s in it for me?”

“I can give you your heart’s desire. The one you won’t even admit to yourself.”

Long association with Rob made her say, “The question is: Will you do so?”

“Yes, I wi—”

“Don’t trust her Jennifer!” a man’s voice thundered.

Jennifer and Lilith turned to the new comer. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with long and thick black hair. He had dark eyes, high cheek bones and a wide jaw which was covered with dark stubble as if he hadn’t shaved that morning. Thick arms were folded across a massive chest, clad in a silvery, purple-green colored, form-fitting armor. Across his forehead was a band of the same color of his armor. He looked regal, deadly, and intimidating. When Lilith saw him, her face contorted into a snarl of black rage. Her breathing picked up as she shook. “Carter!” she spat.

“L’Arc,” he responded, his eyes flinty.

“What are you doing here?”

“My job.”

Jennifer blinked and the mysterious man appeared, sword raised to chop, behind the winged female who vanished from sight. She reappeared several feet away, facing him once more.

Jennifer began to slowly back away. She had no idea who this Carter individual was, but she had no desire to get between him and the winged woman. Lilith growled and hissed, but made no move to follow. Jennifer backed into a tree, causing the sheathe of the white sword to knock against the trunk. Without taking his eyes off Lilith, he spoke to Jennifer. “Don’t lose my sword and only use it if you have no other recourse.”

Jennifer turned and fled, running nearly blind through the woods.  She ignored the brush scratching her bare legs, the tug of mud on her boots and spider webs breaking over her face. She leaped over a foul-smelling stagnant pond, startling squirrels  – which leaped up tree trunks – and a red fox that scurried into a hollow under a mighty pine tree’s roots. Fallen evergreen needles crunched underfoot, releasing their clean scent into the air. The light was fading, creating new shadows and dark patches around her. The wind sighed between distorted trunks, carrying the sickly odor of wood rot. She ran faster, ignoring the briars that caught at her shift, and the damp leaves griming her skin.

Her headlong rush was brought to an undignified end moments later when her foot slipped in some dark mud. She belly-flopped on the ground and slid partly into a stream, getting scrapped by the rocks and wet from the cold water. The sudden impact drove the wind from her lungs with a pained grunt. She immediately rolled off her wounded middle to her side. She curled around the stinging pain, trying to get it under control. Her breath shuddered painfully in her sore lungs. After several painful moments, she rolled to her belly again and pushed herself up on her hands and knees. Her limbs trembling with the effort, she pushed herself upright. She pulled up the soaked shift and hissed at the sight of the scrapes on her legs and the developing bruise on her abdomen.

Jennifer Steel, Agent of the F.S.I.A. Chapter 6

 

Jennifer strode down a darkened hall, noting the slow, but steady increase of illumination. As it got brighter, she noticed shelves lining the walls filled with DVDs. She picked up a handful and began reading the titles out loud.

“‘Debbie Does Dallas’? ‘Busty Asian Beauties’? ‘Her First Lesbian Sex’? What the fuck? Did I somehow end up in Rob’s room?”

Not that she had ever been in there. It just seemed like what his room would be like. ‘Ewww,’ she thought. ‘I did not need that mental image in my mind.’ She tossed the movies back on the shelf. She continued walking down the corridor, determinedly not looking at the walls. She once more began seeing the trail of blood. To her dismay, the path of blood began to widen and freshen. She was so focused on following the blood, she failed to notice the hallway had widened into a large room with three antechambers branching from the main one.

Soon the crimson stain was as wide as a human torso and wet. A sickly, coppery scent was in the air. The cloying perfume was so thick, Jennifer was able to taste it. She gagged and nearly puked. Resolutely, she forced her gorge back down and moved forward. She looked up from the blood and had to bite back a scream. Her best friend Danni was hanging from a tree with a spike driven into her skull. Blood had turned her blond hair a dull pink. Her blue eyes stared into eternity. She was also missing her lower half of her body as if someone had literally torn her in two.

A growling began behind her and stopped as suddenly as it began. Jennifer whirled, tightening her fingers on her H&K Tactical .45’s solid grip. An enormous monstrosity was crouched and ready to spring. It had the curved, forward pointing horns like a ram, a muzzle like that of a Hollywood dragon, back plates like Godzilla and long, sharp claws. It was poised like a cat ready to pounce: its muscles coiled and bunched. As soon as she had completed her turn, the monster leaped. Without flinching, or even blinking, she squeezed the trigger of the gun as Rob had taught her. Eleven shots thudded home in its torso, but the beast seemed not to have noticed. Its momentum allowed it to crash into her, sending her sprawling. The bullets had done one thing, it knocked the monster far enough off its trajectory that Jennifer was able to regain her feet and look around for another weapon. Not too far away, she saw a rack of middle ages weapons. She ran over as fast as she could. There were a variety of weapons: a heavy-looking battle-axe which she wasn’t certain she could lift, much less wield; a big club with a bigger spike ball attached to the top; a long stick connecting a chain to a spiked ball; and a long, pure white sword. Thinking quickly, Jennifer grabbed the pure white sword and whirled around to fight the monster.

To her surprise, the big thing was directly in front of her. Before she could bring the sword up to defend herself, there was a dark blur before her eyes, a flash of silver and a spray of red. She flinched, expecting to feel the large claws of the monster rip into her, but nothing happened. It just stood there. She hesitantly poked it with the tip of the sword, and as if in slow motion, its head dropped to the ground. She swore with disgust and revulsion when blood geysered over her. She soon forgot her disgust as her attention became drawn to the sword.

The pure white blade slowly warmed in her hand. To her surprise, the blood from the monster was swiftly being drawn into the pommel of the white blade as if the sword was sucking it through a straw. As more of the blood was absorbed, warmth slowly spread through her body, starting from where she held the sword. As the warmth spread through her body, Jennifer found that she was feeling more energized and awake. Within minutes, all the blood was gone. She looked around for her rescuer, but no one was around. She found herself wondering about the odd blur. She went back to her friend’s body, trying to steel herself for the grizzly task of taking her body down and taking her home. However, when she returned to the tree, the only thing there was a bloodstain and a piece of paper. She tore the paper from the tree and read it.

 

It’s not her.

Keep looking

きれい

 

Jennifer scowled down at the message and the puzzling scribble, but decided to shove it in her back pocket and resume looking for her friend. Her instincts told her to trust the mysterious author.