The Speakeasy: Part One.
by Jennifer Knighton.
updated: 1.3.17: 13 September 2005.

forum: night.blind: The Speakeasy

a collaborative fiction.

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night.blind: 01.3.1: 22 November 2004: Jennifer Knighton.
           “Shit. Fucking shit.”  Carl looked down at the little box at his waist that had just started beeping loudly. The little box was in stark contrast to the rest of the setting, and to Carl himself.

           The room was smoky, dim, and reeked of alcohol.  The bar was at the back near the door while at the front stood a baby grand piano and a gorgeous brunette singing a soulful tune.  The other people in the room, including Carl, were all dressed to avoid standing out. Brown and grey suits with fedoras scattered the room.  It was a perfect replica of an old prohibition period speakeasy. 

           This was Carl’s escape.  It was his one place in the world where he could take a break from his nagging whore of a wife and more importantly he could pretend that he didn’t have to go to work – something he detested more than he could possibly say. Of course that was because he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what it was he did for a living. Including his wife.

           The beeping continued.  Why couldn’t they just leave him alone?  One evening off, would that be too much to ask?

           With a sigh Carl pressed a button on the side of the little box and it stopped beeping.  He opened his eyes and the speakeasy disappeared, leaving behind a dingy old hotel room that looked as though housekeeping hadn’t visited in a long time. 

           Working in Vegas he had the chance to stay in any hotel he wanted and enjoy all the perks therein.  He could stay in the penthouse suites of the most expensive joint on the Strip. 

           His bosses never understood why he chose to stay in the cheapest little hole-in-the-wall place he could find on Paradise.  But there were three very good reasons for it.  The first was that Paradise was close enough to the big scene that he didn’t have far to travel to be in the center of the insanity.  The second was that he was far less conspicuous staying low-key than he would be as a high roller.  And the third, well, it simply amused him to stay on a street called Paradise in the Hell-hole that is Vegas.

           He wondered what they wanted.  He’d finished all the paperwork on the last case. It must be something new.  Maybe one of the ‘cases’ as the bosses liked to call his quarry showed its head and he was needed to hunt them down.

         So much for an evening of jazz, liquor, and the brunette, he thought as he grabbed his belt from the bed beside him and strapped the guns to his waist. Instead of a plain brown suit and a fedora, Carl Santiago was dressed in what looked like black leather but was actually the latest in bullet-proof armor. At least it wasn’t as bulky as the old school flack jackets, but he really did prefer the suit. He slipped his boots on, careful to make sure he still had easy access to the blades hidden inside. 

           Lighting a cigarette and letting it dangle from his lips, he scanned the room to make sure he wasn’t leaving anything behind.  There was a bit of a smile on his face as the thought of what his wife would think of the real him.  As far as she was concerned he was a dealer at the Tokyo Casino Hotel and Resort.  The guy she slept with on a regular basis was a bouncer at a strip club off of Industrial. Apparently a bouncer was far more entertaining than a dealer – at least in the gambling sense.  Carl was pretty sure his wife was a big fan of the other kind of dealers that proliferated in this town.

           The door hadn’t even finished slamming shut by the time Carl was on his bike and pushing it to the limit.  One thing he never questioned with his employer was the need to be prompt when he was paged to a meeting.

night.blind: 01.3.2: 08 December 2004: Jennifer Knighton.

          His employers were sitting around a table when Carl arrived.  None of them looked very happy.  Despite the solemn expressions, however, they began the meeting by praising his work on the last case.  That was never a good sign. Praise always came before something painful. 

           Carl took the remaining seat at the conference table and waited for them to begin.  There was no point in trying to talk; they didn’t expect it and he had nothing to say anyway.

           The man who almost always led the meetings stood and paced for a minute as silence fell over the rest.  Carl didn’t know his name. Carl knew none of their names. Except Lily. He knew Lily because she had a great little giggle when they fucked. If his wife could play around he didn’t feel any qualms about doing so himself.  But even Lily couldn’t come close to the brunette. 

           “We have a new case we’d like to put you on.  It takes priority over all of the other cases in process.  We’ll find someone else to work on those assignments. We want all of your attention on this new one.  You will go to New York first thing in the morning to set up.”  Carl wasn’t sure what the man was talking about as his mind had wandered in a much more pleasant direction but the mention of moving caught his attention.

           “Why New York?”  Carl’s mind reeled.  He was leaving Vegas. Finally.  But what would he have to do about Mary? Divorce? Or bring the bitch with him.

           “You will be given details when you arrive. Spend tonight clearing up any loose ends you have here.”  The man took his seat as one of the other unnamed men slid a pair of tickets down the table to Carl.

           “There is a ticket for your wife as well. If you choose to bring her with you.” Carl nodded and took the tickets.  He stood and left the room.  He’d look at the tickets later. He knew the flight would be early, that’s how these guys worked.  He also knew he’d be met by someone at the airport who would be pretending to be his new employer at a job he could’ve have turned down. 

           Facing Mary with this information was not something Carl was looking forward to.  He really did miss the girl he married. She was sweet and kind and nothing like the horror she turned into about a month after they said their vows.  And that was the only thought in his mind as he braved the evening traffic on the 15 to get back to North Las Vegas. 

          He’d stopped at the hotel to change into work clothes for the casino, and to switch from his bike to the little beat up car.  One thing was sure; his employers would pick up his bike and get it to New York as quickly as possible. They knew he loved the thing and would not be pleased to leave it behind.  His real work clothes would also be delivered.  They were nothing if not efficient.

* * *

          “Where the fuck have you been?  You were supposed to pick me up and give me a lift to the doctor’s tonight and now we’re late.”  Carl hadn’t even finished closing the door to their apartment when his wife began berating him.

          “I had a double-shift.  Someone called in. I’m just getting off. Why didn’t you get Sam to take you?”  He knew the second he’d said it that it was the wrong thing to say but at that moment in time he didn’t care.  Mary didn’t like that he knew about Sam but she hated it even more when he rubbed it in her face – like his knowing of her infidelity was somehow a vice of his.

          As expected Mary headed off into one rant after another telling Carl how if he were a better husband she wouldn’t have to find comfort in another man’s arms.  Carl in turn blocked out her voice and went about putting away his work clothes and changing into something comfortable.  By the time she finished ranting and finally realized that a double-shift meant more money coming in, Carl was dangling the car keys in front of her face and interrupting with, “We’re late. Let’s move.”

          Mary shut up quickly which made Carl hide the smile he inwardly felt. Bitch. You may think you own me but have you ever considered the fact that nothing you do would happen if I didn’t let it? It’s a happy thought that had brought Carl through many argument filled days.  To be honest he wasn’t even sure why he was still married to her except that it made a decent cover.  And the arguments had grown into almost a routine.  As had the doctor’s appointments. Something is wrong with her but no one has figured out what it is.

          As they climbed into the car Carl decided to break the news to her. “I’m moving to New York tomorrow.  One of the high rollers offered me a job I can’t refuse today. The flight’s in the morning.”

          Silence followed.  If he’d known getting her to be quiet was this easy he might’ve tried it years ago.  “He gave me two tickets. You’re welcome to come with me.”

          More silence. Mary did not speak another word through the drive, the appointment, or the drive home.  When they did get home she sat in the kitchen with a glass of coke and stared at the refrigerator while Carl packed what he needed to bring with him.

* * *

          Carl arrived at the bar later than usual. Something was wrong.  It was still smoky and everyone blended together, but the music was missing.  He made his way over an old man in the corner.  He was a reporter that the boss let stick around despite his distaste for the news – or at least for being in the news.  “Where’s the brunette?” 

          The old man looked at Carl with a sigh and shook his head. “Gone.  Boss had her removed. Guess she wasn’t important any more. I just wonder who will be next.”

          Carl couldn’t fathom what he’d just heard.  The woman on stage, the one who had won his heart with song and style, was gone?  And this wasn’t the kind of place where gone meant working in a different town – it meant gone.  His eyes went to the stage, searching for something to prove the old man wrong but he found no sign of her.

          There was a girl, barely old enough to be called a woman, hovering on the sidelines of the stage.  She looked like she was terrified of being seen, let alone walking out there to perform.  Poor thing, he thought.

          “You’ve spotted our new hope, I see.  She’s pretty good. Completely unsure of herself though.  I think she deserves better than this old place.”  The reporter picked up his glass of scotch and held it up to the girl before downing the contents. “I think of rosemary when I look at her.”


          “Don’t worry; I don’t expect you to get the reference. Few people do these days.” Carl watched as the old man pulled out a pocket watch and checked the time. “You’d better go, though.”

          And as if on cue there was a beeping sound that dragged Carl back out of his mind.  He opened his eyes and looked around the plane.  The stewardess had just come over the loudspeaker to inform everyone that they’d be landing at JFK momentarily and to buckle their seatbelts to prepare for arrival.

night.blind: 01.3.3: 13 January 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          The park was nearly empty this early in the morning.  It was insane. They insist on flying him out from Vegas the day after they told him he was moving. Then they meet him at JFK, bring him to his new apartment and don’t contact him for two days.  Why the rush to get him out there if they weren’t even going to do anything with him yet?  Carl was only mildly annoyed. In reality, he liked the change of scenery. 

          When they finally did meet with him they told him a bench in Central Park to sit on all day Friday. That’s it.  No brief on the case. No information as to why this job was so much more important than every other project he was working on. Just a grin and a location to sit.  It’s like they take pride in not telling him shit.  More than likely they just want him to figure it out on his own and that’s fine.  He’ll do it. But fucksake, if you’re going to move a man across the country, forcing a divorce with his wife, at least give him a better reason than a bench in a park. 

          Like the move, the divorce really didn’t upset him. It was inconvenient but he and his loving wife had been far from loving for a while.  She’s supposedly taking care of it and will have the papers sent to him to sign in the next month or so.  He had a sinking feeling the whole process was going to take a lot longer than necessary. She was bound to try and claim a ton of alimony.

          So far this morning a bum had yelled at him, claiming the bench he was on belonged to him so Carl needed to relocate and a lady had dropped a quarter into his coffee cup. Did he look that bad off? And a quarter? What the hell is someone going to do with a quarter?  She ruined a perfectly good cup of coffee too.  Carl had considered going to get a new cup but he realized the bum would claim the bench the second he got up from it.  He was people watching. He knew enough about his employers to know that someone in this park was the reason he was there.

          The New York representatives of his employers were an interesting lot.  They weren’t the same sticks in the mud as the Vegas bunch.  This is not to say he was on a first name basis with any of them, mind you.  But these guys brought in donuts and coffee and chatted like real people.  There wasn’t a lady among them, however, which made Carl a bit sad.  He’d have to look elsewhere for his entertainment. 

          Carl took a long deep drag off of his cigarette and put out the stub on the bench next to him, tossing the remains into the trash can conveniently located at arm’s reach.  He lit another one as he exhaled the smoke in a slow stream and looked around.  The park would’ve been beautiful at some point in its history; but at present it looked run down and used.  It looked like a whore.  He smirked at the thought and figured the park saw enough action, both willing and otherwise, to earn that description as well.

          Looking around he was pretty sure he could pick out two prostitutes, a drug dealer and some idiot trying to sell watches out of his coat who was stupidly trying to sell one to an undercover cop.  Ah, the dregs of society out on a Friday morning.  And Carl is there to watch it.  There has got to be more to this assignment than watching whores and thieves.

          Now it wasn’t that Carl didn’t like people or that he had a particularly negative outlook on life.  It was more that he trusted people to be people.  Generally that meant dwelling on their own self importance or degradation and forcing their pain and twisted notions on others.  People are sick fucks in their minds.  Just not all of them choose to show it.  Many people repress it, but its still there and they know it.  Of course they also have their little good intentions and genuine love.  Animal and angel tied into one little form called the human being.

          And on the thought of devils and angels his mind wandered back to Vegas.  His wife had actually seen him to the airport.  The effort on her part impressed Carl.  Of course he knew it was only because she wanted the car.  She didn’t even come in – only dropped him at the curb and said, “Congrats on the new job.”

          Carl was fairly sure he’d never heard congrats sound more like goodbye.  The thing that confused him the most, however, was that he actually felt almost guilty for leaving her.

          Now, sitting on the bench in Central Park, he was happy to say he no longer felt guilty – just bored out of his fucking mind.

          The beeping of his phone brought Carl back from his thoughts.  The New York office didn’t like beepers because they had to wait for him to call back.  They bought him a cell phone. 

          “Yeah?” Carl answered.  It had to be his employer. No one else had the number.

          “Have you found the gem yet?”

          “Nothing but junkies and whores.  There was a mime but a monkey chased it away. Why the fuck am I here?”

          “Maybe she’s running late. Stay put.”  The other man hung up and Carl smirked.  At least he knew he was looking for a woman now.

          As if by divine twisted amusement, a mime appeared and set up a little ways down from Carl’s bench.  He was not amused.

          The girl, however, that he was supposed to find that day did not show up.

night.blind: 01.3.4: 13 January 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          The doodles on the page in front of her were beginning to take up more space than the notes.  Boring was taking on entirely new levels.  The really sad part was that this was the class for the ‘smart kids’ so they could work with other people at their own level rather than waiting on the teacher to bring the rest of the class up to speed.  Michelle was bored anyway.  There was nothing new.  The teacher was going over the reading from the night before rather than letting them move forward and the other kids were encouraging her to do so.  So, Michelle was doodling and trying to look like she was paying attention while she stared out the window just to the side of the teacher.

           The teacher, Mrs. Ferguson, wasn’t a bad woman. She meant well and she loved teaching.  She just didn’t know what she was doing. At least as far as this twelve year old was concerned.  Everything she was learning seemed rather… pointless.  I mean, she enjoyed reading Jekyll and Hyde, but what was it really going to do for her as a person? To help her with life?  Nothing. So why are they spending an entire day talking about the reading rather than moving forward onto something else.

           The other students were asking questions and suggesting answers.  She seemed to be the only distracted one. She had started the class watching the other kids but it got boring very quickly.  Who cared if Sandy had just started her period and was now a real woman?  And just because Alex had a crush on Joanie didn’t mean that Sam couldn’t as well.  And not one of them really cared about the class because they were too concerned with what was happening internally but they all wanted to look like the most intelligent one there in hopes of impressing someone else. It was pitiful.

           So now she stared out the window.  She heard the conversation in the background but didn’t really care.  If she was called on she answered quite well but the teacher rarely called on her. 

           Her mind began to wander. She saw a lake, a nice cool lake surrounded by trees except for the occasional little dock where the families that lived there could tie up their boats on.  She saw feet that were distinctly not her own dangling in the water.  She was used to being other people in her daydreams. It made them more interesting.  A cool breeze brushed past and her hair went wild around her.  It was calm, relaxing. She was happy.

           A loud bang followed immediately by a sharp burning pain that pushed her forward off the dock and into the water.  Her eyes remained open as she floated face first.  The shock was clearly stopping any motion.  This was not how daydreams were supposed to go.  She tried to encourage her host body to roll over, not to drown, and to figure out what that pain was.  It wouldn’t move.  Something grabbed the back of her shirt and pulled her out of the water.  As the air returned to her lungs she screamed.

           The scream brought the eyes of students and teacher directly to Michelle as her own eyes saw her true surroundings again.  Tears rolled down her cheeks and she shook so hard her desk was rattling.  Mrs. Ferguson asked her what happened but she couldn’t speak.  She was rushed to the nurse’s office by a very freaked out teacher.

           The nurse wasn’t much help.  Michelle just sat there and stared. Her eyes opened and closed only to make sure they were sufficiently wet.  She didn’t speak. She didn’t hear. She didn’t do much except sit there and exist. 

night.blind: 01.3.5: 07 February 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          Her parents didn’t know what to do with her. She wouldn’t speak. She didn’t appear to hear.  She wasn’t a normal catatonic in that she could feed herself if food was placed in front of her.  But that was it. That was the only reaction they could get from her.  Her mother was in tears. Her father was pacing around screaming at the top of his lungs that it was all an act and that she better snap out of it before he put her over his knee and taught her what happens to children who pull these kind of tricks on their parents.  Nothing.

          Eventually Michelle’s parents gave in to the fact that something serious must be wrong and drove her to the hospital.  It was, as always, a madhouse.  Living in this part of the city there is always a crowd in the emergency room. People with gunshot wounds are wheeled past as her parents quickly move out of the way.  Her mother, the weaker of her parents, is carrying the twelve year old.  Her father is on the phone, yelling at someone.

          “My daughter. Freaked out in the middle of class yesterday. We’re at the emergency room.  The wife keeps telling me it’s not an act but I don’t believe it.  So I won’t be coming over for the game tonight.”  He hooks his phone up to be on the headset and motions for his wife to hand him Michelle. “So how was the lake? You and Julie have a good time?  She didn’t go with you?  She’s not at home either? Missing? Shit man. You think she walked out on you?”

          At this point, Michelle’s mind is fully capable of hearing everything around her.  She hears the conversation, knows who her father is speaking to, and still she doesn’t move or speak. She just stares at whatever surface presents itself in front of her. 

          Her mind has not shut down. On the contrary, it’s working overtime.  She is trying to fathom things a girl should not have to fathom.  She’s trying to put everything into a logical order and it doesn’t want to go.  She has brought every little part of her brain together for this project, every bit that isn’t needed on essential bodily functions that is, so that nothing else can really distract her from it.  She witnessed Julie being killed by Sam through Julie’s eyes.  Now, it is possible that this is the over-active imagination of a child. She admits this to herself. But it was so real and she felt the pain in her chest. And now her father is saying that Sam was up at the lake and that Julie is missing.  More and more she becomes convinced of what she saw.

          Michelle was not trying to find a solution to her present state. She was trying to find a way to put into words what she’d seen in a way that would make the adults believe her. Knowing her parents they were not likely to buy anything she offered them.  She couldn’t imagine the doctors would be much help either.  So for the moment she opted for not speaking. Well, that and she wasn’t entirely sure she could speak if she tried. So many horrible things. So much pain.


          Must not think about the pain or the betrayal. She needed to focus on bringing justice to the man who killed Julie.  There was a brief pause as Michelle remembered she didn’t actually like Julie.  But it passed as she reminded herself that like or not she could not allow the murder to go unknown. Unaccounted for.

          Sam and her dad went way back.  They grew up together.  Two rich boys without a care in the world.  Her dad, however, lost everything when his father gambled it away and declared bankruptcy.  He never forgave her grandfather.  Now he has to work hard for his money and live on the cheap side of town while his childhood friend lives the high life.  Sam was automatically given a job as a partner in some company or another when he was old enough to claim it.  Neither of the men speak much about it but Michelle’s pretty sure Sam inherited the position from his father.  Her dad trusts Sam more than anyone in the world.

          Michelle’s stomach turned over a few times causing a slight groan to escape her lips despite her best efforts at keeping it internal.  This only caused her mother to gasp and try desperately to get a nurse’s attention.  She succeeded only in being given some forms to fill out and being asked to take a seat – of which there were none to take.

          Her parents set her up in a chair, which gave Michelle the opportunity to watch everything around them without moving.  There were sick kids, injured teens, drunks, women who looked like they’d seen too much in their short lives.  There were nurses and orderlies. No one looked promising to believe her. 

night.blind: 01.3.6: 07 February 2005: Jennifer Knighton.

          It was smoky even though the joint was empty.  Carl supposed this was because his mental image of a speakeasy was dim and smoky.  The lack of people was unnerving.  First the brunette was gone and now everyone?  What the fuck is going on with his imagination.

           “They’re not gone. They’re just not here tonight.”  The newspaperman appeared behind him.

           Carl turned to look at him but didn’t say anything.  The old man looked tired, weak, and had a blackened eye.

           “I’ll be gone soon as well. Permanently, like the brunette. I’m going to really anger the boss soon and he doesn’t look kindly on that type of thing.”  The little man claimed a seat and nodded for Carl to join him, which he did.  There was a gleam of pride in his eyes despite the gloomy words he spoke.

           “What’s all this got to do with me?”

           “Don’t be an idiot, Carl.”  The frustration in the man’s eyes was ready to explode but Carl couldn’t’ get past the part where the man knew his name.  Admittedly, this was happening in his mind so clearly the name was there, but he didn’t use that name in this particular fantasy.

           “Look, I know your whole life story, kid.  I know about the wife in Vegas who’s pregnant with your kid but hasn’t bothered to tell you yet because she doesn’t think you’d believe her.  I know about the girl you’re watching.  I know more about your employers than you do and I don’t think that it’s wise to follow orders without asking a few questions.”  The man watched for Carl’s reaction, which was something resembling a fish out of water.

           “Of those long hours wherein the stars, above, Wake and keep watch, the third was almost nought, When Love was shown me with such terrors fraught, As may not carelessly be spoken of.”  The old man stands again, leaving Carl seated at the table, alone, with those words to ponder.  There’s a long silence as the man makes his way towards the exit of the club.  When he reaches the door he calls back to Carl, “You should stop coming here. It’ll show up on the reports, no doubt, and now I suspect they’ll actually read the things properly.  And the Boss won’t like me telling you who he is.”

           Rather than watching the old man leave the club Carl felt himself physically pushed out of the speakeasy in his head into some pastoral dream or another.  He found himself standing in the middle of a field and could still hear the man’s voice saying, “Ask some questions, you idiot.  Make them tell you who you’re hunting.”

           Carl tried to back into the speakeasy, to twist his dreams into going there and he could not for the life of him picture that scene.  It was like it was closed off to him. Blocked to him.  And this field was muddy.

           He woke up.  There was nothing else to do.  Carl stared up at the ceiling.  There were a lot of little bumps of texture on it.  He counted them. Twice. 


           Controlling his own dreams was never really something he did.  They always took interesting twists when he let them go.  The speakeasy had been his safehouse.  Now not only was he blocked from that little thread of safety, but he also got the distinct impression it had never really been his to begin with.  Someone else had been in his head – regularly – and that was not acceptable.

           That quote.  That quote was really familiar.  It was something from a book he read a while back. Something...ah fuck.   It always came back to him didn’t it?  First that waitress in nowhere USA who kept calling out his name while Carl fucked her.  Then his employers talking about the man when they didn’t think Carl would hear and now this.  When his employers spoke of him, one of them had described him as an over-confident prick but a second countered with, “He’s well protected. He has a rather nasty insurance policy and if you get past those defenses the man himself is a ruthless bastard.”  Carl had never seen his employers quake in fear of anyone and automatically put the man in the ‘boogyman’ category.  He didn’t really believe the guy existed.  But he just kept coming up.  Same name does not always mean same man. Yet this time, he had a feeling it did.  Where was that waitress? Which part of the country?  It was somewhere in the middle.


night.blind: 01.3.7: 07 February 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          She showed up later in the day.  The second she began to set up Carl knew she was the one he had been sent to observe.  He hadn’t even seen her work yet.  There was just something about her.  She was completely different from everyone else in the park.  She stood out like a sore thumb.  And the girl had some major trust issues.  She was hiding something.  Carl just wasn’t sure if she knew what she was hiding.

           He continued to read his newspaper.  He’d read every article in it three times already by the time she’d appeared.  He could practically quote the stories verbatim.  There was a war in the Middle East, a bombing in Ireland, a dog saved a child who’d fallen into a fucking well.  Same old shit.  Part of him asked if it would ever end but the rest of him knew better.  Human nature wouldn’t allow peace.

           The girl was young.  Not a child but not fully a woman in many ways.  She resisted it.  She hid behind her walls, and they were well crafted.  There was a certain insight in her pieces.  Carl could see it in the faces of every person who paused to look at her work.  When she looked at someone she saw into them rather than just the outside persona. 

           Carl tried not to smile when she noticed him.  She didn’t know he was watching her.  But he did confuse her.  On some level she knew he’d read that paper a few times already and it wasn’t his real purpose in being there.  But she didn’t figure out that she was why he was there.  He resisted the desire to see what she sketched while watching him.  The idea of someone like her drawing his identity intrigued him.  What would she see and what would disappear?  Who would he become?

           She wrapped up the day and went home, not having sold too many pieces.  Carl wondered how she made her living because this was clearly not bringing in enough to pay the bills.

           He followed her.  Although she was untrusting, paranoid and insightful, she wasn’t very observant of her surroundings.  Of course her hands were full and her mind was elsewhere.  It was sad.  She was too easy of a mark.  He wasn’t supposed to kill her. He knew that.  His employers wouldn’t have called him to kill someone as inconsequential as her.  He was only used for the complicated cases - the ones that involved someone with his particular talents and moral flexibility.  So who was she connected to? 

           Carl was going to have to get a closer look at her work, or maybe see what she does when she’s not creating and selling her art, to figure out who she was leading him to.  He had a suspicion.  But he didn’t know for sure.

           Carl’s employers liked him because he didn’t ask questions.  He was hired for a job and he did it. Period.  What they didn’t seem to grasp was that he did not forget things either.  He noticed when several cases had similar themes – similar characteristics.  He knew that his employers looked for specific traits in people.  He also knew that they were not the only ones looking for those traits. 

           Following the girl home was easy.  He watched the outside of the building for a while, to see if she’d come back out.  An ambulance and a couple cop cars appeared and a body was rolled out.  The girl came out briefly to watch the body go.  She spoke briefly with the paramedics.  So, she had some medical knowledge.  There was also a man there who kept casting dirty looks at her.  Carl decided the guy was an ass but probably not a real threat to her.  Regardless the sooner she moved away from him the better.  He was up to something. 

           Carl wandered away after the chaos cleared and she went back inside.  She wasn’t going to go anywhere else that night, he was fairly certain of that.  He flipped his phone open and called his employers as he lit up a cigarette.

           “Marked. Who am I really looking for?”  There was a silence on the other line and Carl knew they were debating on letting him in completely.  When he heard the answer he stopped in his tracks.  He clicked the phone closed and took a drag. “Shit.”

night.blind: 01.3.8: 08 March 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
           Carl sat outside the hospital and tried to clear his head.  He’d been tailing the girl again and she’d led him here – to her place of employment.  Before he went inside he wanted to make a firm decision on what he was going to do.

           She was an innocent. His employers wanted this guy so badly that he doubted they would care if she was hurt in the process.  As for their prey, Carl was pretty sure the man wouldn’t care a wit for her life either.  She was stuck in the middle of a very nasty situation and was completely unaware of it.  He was fairly sure he was the only one in the equation who gave her welfare any consideration.

           If he tried to pull her out he would lose his job and put himself onto his employer’s ‘case’ list for another agent like himself.  He wouldn’t make it far on the run.  They would use this science they were so fascinated with to find him regardless of where he went.  The old man in his mind, the one who blocked him from the speakeasy, was proof of the ability of such spies.

           The old man.  He might be an ally in this.  But he’d mentioned doing something soon that might make him disappear.  He couldn’t really be relied on for assistance.  Besides, Carl didn’t know who he really was.

           Flipping his phone open, Carl dialed.  When the voice on the other end answered he was silent for a moment before he spoke, “Don’t talk, just listen. There’s an account in your name with enough money to take care of you and our child indefinitely and even put the kid through university. Yes, I know you’re pregnant. Go to the Wells Fargo offices at Paradise and Howard Hughes. Ask for Lenny Horwitz.  He’ll be expecting you and knows what you look like.  He’ll help you access it.  Get out of Vegas.  Find somewhere quiet.  I wasn’t a blackjack dealer. Now I have to disappear for a while.”

           Carl shut the phone and slipped it into his pocket.  The divorce papers had arrived that morning.  He’d called Lenny immediately afterwards.  Despite everything he still loved that woman on some level.

           He dropped the butt of his cigarette onto the ground, crushed it under his boot, and marched into the hospital.

night.blind: 01.3.9: 08 March 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
           The body was found on the banks of the East river.  It looked as though she’d been shot in the back while jogging, robbed, and thrown into the river.  It was a nice cover-up except that the water in her lungs wasn’t river water and there were signs that the body had been moved quite a bit before being deposited in the river.

           Michelle had developed migraines and convulsions from the strain of trying to find this information.  She learned that the body had been found when Sam-the-liar told her father the ‘horrible’ news while in her room at the hospital.  She pushed her mind to find the coroner working on the corpse to find the rest of the details.

           The hospital admitted there was nothing they could do for her.  The sugar pill they’d tried to give her after her conversation with the nurse failed to get a response and they were beginning to believe something was really wrong.  The nurse had believed her, but no one else would and the nurse clearly had no clue what to do with the information.  Sam had generously arranged for a place for her at one of the best mental institutions in the state, as a favor for his dear friend.

           This was getting ridiculous.  Her parents were useless, Sam terrified her, and she was slowly losing herself to this fabricated illness.  She had to get out.

           She began sleepwalking.  It worried the doctors a bit.  They focused on the day she’d be transferred away and barely guarded her wanderings.  The night before the transfer, Michelle sleepwalked out of the hospital and headed south.  She wasn’t sure where she was going or how she would get there.  She only knew it was south of New York City.

night.blind: 01.3.10: 08 March 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
           The conference room table in front of him was empty. Empty. Clean. Spotless.  The three walls that did not have windows were decorated with one painting each.  The paintings were of rural settings and were precisely hung at exactly the same height as each other.  Whoever put this room together paid a lot of attention to detail.  She was paid to be perfect. The clock on the wall read 3:30.  It was wrong.

           There were exactly nine chairs at the table.  Four on either side and one at the head of the table, which is where Sam presently sat.  He stared directly ahead of him at the painting on the opposite wall.  It was of a farm house.  A little boy and his dog played on the front porch.  It was boring.  But it was right in front of him so he stared at it. 

           The clock struck 3:35 and the other eight members of the board filed into the room, taking the seats waiting for them.  The desk was no longer empty.  Now it was covered in papers and files as the others opened their briefcases and handed around printouts to each other.  They weren’t quiet about it either.  Sam continued to stare at the painting while he waited for the initial insanity to calm down. It took five minutes.

           Sam was not an impatient man by nature.  He just liked things to be done in a timely manner, without mistakes, and to his specifications.  He enjoyed efficiency.  It was something, unfortunately, that most people lacked.  Most people including his fellow board members.  But, like himself, these men had inherited their positions from family members and were dedicated to their cause.  Perhaps not as dedicated as Sam would like, mind you, but dedicated.  They were also trained for it, which is not something easily done.  And so he was forced to work with them for lack of any true alternatives.  For the time being. 

           The general milling about finally died down and silence descended on the room.  Sam let it hang there for a while before beginning to speak.  “Johnson, you called out agent to inform him of this meeting, did you not?”

           The man Sam addressed nodded in reply, looking nervously over his shoulder.

           “Then where is he?  It is not like him to be late.  That is part of the reason I had him transferred to this office.”  Sam addressed Johnson with an expression that everyone could read.  If the agent did not show up, Johnson would be held personally accountable.

           Luckily for Johnson, the door opened at that moment and the man walked in.  He was an intimidating figure of a man.  Not overly large in muscle mass but what was there was toned.  He wore leather and armor and held a motorcycle helmet at his side.  But these were not the factors that made him intimidating.  The look in his eyes did the trick far better than any physical prowess could.

           “Sorry I’m late, boys.”  The man smiled across the long table at Sam.  At least he knew exactly who the real boss in the room was. 

          In return, Sam scowled along the table at the man.  These agents were necessary, but he found them uncouth.  “Report.”

          “Well, there’s been a bit of a hitch in the program.”  The man was casual to the point of annoyance.

          “And that is?”  Sam’s patience was at an all-time low.  It was bad enough he’d had to spend so much time at the damned hospital visiting his friend in order to console him about his catatonic daughter.  But to find out said daughter was spreading stories that he’d killed Julie.  Well, just because it was true didn’t mean he’d needed it spread around.  It also put the kid in a whole new light. He’d gone to great pains to make sure she’d be transferred to a facility where she could be watched and tested for any other viewer tendencies.  If she turned out to be useful things would go well for her.  If it merely turned out that she would get him in trouble about the Julie situation the child would meet with a nasty end.  And all of this had taken precious moments away from his schedule. Moments he did not have to spare.  Now this agent wanted to beat around the bush rather than getting to the point.  He was about at the end of his rope.

          “She’s missing.  I followed her to the hospital and she went in.  She works there so I saw no problem.  But she must’ve seen me tailing her because she disappeared.”  The man had practiced this line and yet it still came out sounding fake. Sam could tell.  Considering how many lies this agent had surrounded his life with, one would think he could come up with something better than that.  Or at least offer a better delivery of the lines.

          “Indeed.”  Sam eyed the man.  The rest of the board room was dead silent.  Apparently they didn’t feel like incurring Sam’s wrath.  They were smart.  This man, was not.  Sam rested his hands on the table.  A million curses ran through his mind in German but not one of them translated with enough ferocity in English and he was not allowed to speak in his native tongue. 

          That was when all hell broke loose.  The building has security.  Every person entering is searched for weapons.  Paranoia runs rampant.  And yet, agents like this one are expected to be armed at all times.  For some reason they allow them to keep their weapons on them even in the main offices.  After today, that would change.

          The man dropped his helmet and let fly a round of bullets at the right side of the table and a second round at the left.  Every member of the board was killed before they knew how to react.  Every member, that is, except Sam.  He wasn’t really sure whether to thank the man or call security.  On one hand he had just solved the problem of his incompetent peers.  On the other, he may be killed in a moment himself and that would not be a good thing.

          “Let’s change the rules a bit.”  The man with the gun pointing at Sam’s chest began.  “I’ve killed a lot of people for this company. I’ve killed and not asked questions.  That time has ended.”

          “What do you want?”  It seemed like a logical question in this completely illogical situation.  Sam was convinced his entire world had turned upside down from the moment Julia found some notes from work that he’d been going over.  This was just the next incident in a number of uncomfortable events. “I am just a pawn, like you.” 

          “Oh I realize that.  Why do you think I left you alive?  I expect you to go back to whomever you report to.  I expect to have someone hunting me down after I leave this office.  I just figured I’d start the game by taking a few of you out with me.  I don’t want anything.  At least not anything I actually expect you to give me.”  The man picked up his helmet.  The gun still trained on Sam.

          “You won’t be able to hide.”  Sam felt like a stereotypical movie villain saying that but it was the only thing that came to mind.

          “I know.”  The man turned and left.

          Sam waited long enough for the man to have left the building before calling security to clean up the mess in the board room.  It was much more fun to let the prey leave than to have them killed on the spot.  Besides, the man still might lead him to the real target.

night.blind: 01.3.11: 01 April 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          Clothes had been easy.  Food a little harder. But transportation was the biggest challenge.  Hitch-hiking just begged for trouble.  She couldn’t take the bus or train because people would be looking for her.  Besides, she didn’t have the money for a ticket. Michelle was still too young to have learned to drive.

           Her feet ached from walking already and she hadn’t even reached the edge of the city yet.  There was no way she was going to walk the whole way.

           An old homeless lady had shared her blanket and shelter with her the night she left the hospital.  She had reeked of death and decay but she was nice.  She carried a beat-up copy of Watership Down, her only real possession.  When Michelle woke the next morning the old woman was dead.  She wrapped the body of the old woman in the blanket and wished her peace for her kindness.  Michelle inherited the book.  Whenever she stopped to rest she would read a few pages.

           The old woman had cherished that volume.  Some pages were dog-eared while others had little notes scribbled in the margins in a delicate script.  The more Michelle read, both the book and the owner’s notes, the more she realized how true the observations about life, and death, found within those pages were.

          "To rabbits, everything unknown is dangerous.  The first reaction is to startle, the second to bolt.  Again and again they startled, until they were close to exhaustion.  But what did those sounds mean and where, in this wilderness could they bolt to?"  Michelle read the passage out loud and smiled. Yep, bolting was the step she was on. And where was a damned good question.  She looked at the old woman’s scrawl next to the passage. “We bolt and run and hide and shiver but in the end no one is really after us but our own fears.  We do this to ourselves.  Because there aren’t voices in our heads that aren’t our own. There aren’t visions of other people’s lives. We made it all up. But it was so real.”

           It was one of the longer thoughts the woman had put down.  Michelle read it over again.  There was something else there.  The woman hadn’t believed what she wrote.  It was as though she thought someone else was reading it and wanted them to believe she didn’t know they were there.  Michelle knew it sounded paranoid but at that moment in time paranoid was what she was as well. She would’ve written the same thing the woman had.  She continued to ponder these thoughts as she walked on, hour after hour until the sun was beginning to set.

           She looked up as she turned a corner and saw perhaps the only way she could presently travel.  It was dangerous. It wasn’t a good idea.  But it was the only one that had presented itself.  But how do you know which of the dozen or so trucks parked in the parking lot of the Howard Johnson’s is heading south.  She needed to go south. No clue why, but she did.

           The restaurant itself was fairly quiet.  She slipped in and claimed a stool at the counter rather than a table.  The little bit of change she had on her was enough for some toast and she was scruffy enough to be assumed homeless.  The seat she claimed was close enough to some of the truckers.  It wasn’t too hard to listen in on the conversation. The hard part was figuring out which rig belonged to the one who was heading for New Orleans. Well, that and finding a way into it that he wouldn’t notice her or that it had been tampered with.  But it is amazing what you can do when your mind is set on it.

           She was on her way. Where to, she wasn’t sure. New Orleans had some charm to the name of it.  But quite simply she was bolting to anywhere she could find.  If something was drawing her any particular direction it wasn’t something she was aware of.

night.blind: 01.3.12: 17 May 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          Have you ever tried to ride a motorcycle with a passenger that’s never been on one before?  It’s a pain in the neck - literally.  They’re not used to the helmet and the fact that their head is far bigger than they’re accustomed.  So, as a result, when they lean to one side trying to watch the road over your shoulder you have to compensate for the weight by leaning the other way.  Rarely do they grasp the method of not banging their helmet on yours.  By the time you stop and get off the bike you’ve both got massive cricks in your necks and the passenger is apologizing left and right for hitting your helmet throughout the ride. 

          Carl found it very amusing that his passenger was midway through apologizing when it dawned on her to start asking questions again.  Carl raised a hand to stop her. It didn’t work. He fell back onto one of the beds in the hotel they’d just put up in for the night after hours on the road. Perhaps if he interrupted with a question of his own, “Who was that guy shooting at you?  You seemed to know him.”

          "Someone I knew once.  How do you know him?"  The woman perches on the edge of her bed.  By the way she looks at Carl he can tell she’s very happy he got a room with two beds and he better stay on his. 

          “I don’t. I know some other people who are after you. I just figured he worked for them.  Since I kinda killed most of their New York contingent yesterday while you were packing.”  He says it so nonchalantly.  Carl’s watching her every reaction. 

          The woman shifts her weight a bit.  She’s not looking directly at him any more. In fact she’s trying to look at him without meeting his eyes.  Carl smiles. She responds, “What other people are after me?”

          “My former employers.  You have something they want.”  Carl kicks off his shoes.

          She snorts derisively.  "Yeah, right.  Me.  I'm an aspiring potter.  What could I possibly have that they'd be after?  My kiln?  Well, they've got it, since we had to leave it behind." 

          “They won’t get what they want if I have anything to say about it.”  Carl ignores her sarcasm.  “Did you manage to save the picture you drew of me that day in the park?”

          "I don't know for certain what was in the bag.  Some clay, a sketchbook, overnight kit, other necessities.  I don't know if any of the sketches I finished were in that sketchbook or not."  She casts a sidelong glance at him before deciding to stare at her feet.  Carl realizes that she only just remembered where she’d seen him before.  He stands and walks over to the table where all the bags were thrown hastily upon entering, hers included.

          “While you look through your things I’ll explain a little. Well, as much as I can.”  He tosses her bag over to her.  She catches it and looks at him a moment before opening it and spilling the contents out onto her bed to sift through them.  Carl notes that something begins to fall out of the bag but she very quickly stuffs it back in before he can see what it was. For the moment, at least, she stays quiet, waiting for him to continue.

          “Your brain functions differently from most.  You see things that others don’t. You see a person through their eyes instead of through yours. Or rather, you see both images.”  Carl knows he’s making more sense than she wants to hear because she stops shuffling through the papers.  He doesn’t let that stop him. “I don’t know the details, really.  I was just an enforcer and spy of sorts.  I was never really informed as to the details.  I just know that my cases like yours generally ended up with me taking the subject in to my bosses and never seeing them again.” 

          “So why did you save me instead?”  She pretends to be unaffected by the conversation as she starts to go through her sketchbook.  Carl doesn’t buy it for a second. If she was nervous before she’s scared now.

          “I don’t know, really.  Maybe I just got sick of it all. Maybe I noticed there were two factions interested in you but that rather than bringing you in you’d probably get killed in the crossfire.  They wanted to use you to get to someone else. Someone who would also be interested in your talents.  Someone I intend to go after as soon as we’ve rested up and are ready to move again.”  Carl gets up and heads to the sink to splash some water on his face.  It’s one of those sinks some hotels have that are outside of the toilet/shower area so people can brush their teeth while someone else takes a shower.  It makes it so he can watch her in the mirror without her noticing.

          The woman stops as she comes to a plastic encased sketch that was stuffed unceremoniously into the book.  The way she looks at it, then briefly up at him, before looking back at it answers which one it is.  She’s found the piece she had drawn of him in the park.  Carl turns from the sink, drying his face off.  “Can I see it?” 

          She doesn’t answer.  Everything has been pretty overwhelming for her, he’s certain.  She just holds up the image for him to take.  Carl hadn’t really had a chance to take a good look at it before.  He only knew she’d drawn him and that she’d gotten a few things accurate about him.  What he didn’t realize was the detail.  The men in the suits above him weren’t detailed enough to make out his bosses.  The woman, however, was.  She was a mixture of two women, but Carl could see the brunette from the speakeasy in her very clearly.  He’d loved her and despite the odd mixture with some other woman, he would recognize her anywhere.  He hadn’t expected that. He just stared until the woman who’d drawn it broke the silence.  “What does Jason have to do with this?”


          “The man who was shooting at us.”

          Carl looked at her for a moment before handing the picture back to her. “I don’t know, Trish.  I’d assumed he was with them, but if he’s someone from your past perhaps he’s acting alone.  And perhaps you have a lot more colorful past than I’d give you credit for.”  Carl pulled back the blankets on his bed. 

          “You still haven’t told me your name?”

          “Carl.”  He went into the restroom and stripped down to his boxers.  He wasn’t sure why he was giving her the courtesy of stripping down in the other room when she’d see the end result anyway, but he somehow felt it was more polite.  He climbed in between the cold sheets. “Get some rest. We ride again at dawn. The further away we are from New York City by the end of tomorrow the better.  They’ll probably find us anyway, but let’s not make it easy on them, ok?”

          She sat there for a moment looking at her sketch book in silence before she began fiddling around with her things again.  Carl cursed his stars for the first time in his life that he was a light sleeper.  But on second thought it was probably a good thing in case the goon squad showed up tonight.  He closed his eyes to the sounds of her shuffling papers and clearly planning to stay up late thinking too much.

          For the first time since the newspaperman had talked straight with him, Carl found himself in the speakeasy.  It was deserted like last time, except there seemed to be lingering whispers of conversations he couldn’t quite make out.  It was like a ghost town, complete with the ridiculous breeze and occasional tumbleweed. This, in the setting of a dark, smoky speakeasy, is fairly humorous if you think about it.  Carl, however, wasn’t thinking about that.  He was wondering where everyone was, namely where the newspaperman was since he was the one who seemed to control Carl’s access to this place.  But there was nothing left of the people he used to see here. Nothing but their voices, and a piece of paper that blew in with the tumbleweed and smacked Carl in the face.  Pulling the newspaper off of his face Carl looked at it with a smirk, that is until he looked the words.

          The headline was an eye catcher, “Boss’s Moll Dies in Shootout.”  The article that followed made very little sense.  It spoke of the Boss and his girl fighting with the locals, not even other gangsters.  It was a story of standing up and defending yourself.  And yet there was a hint of revenge in how it was written, the type of revenge wrought by a petulant child. 

          “Go west.”  The voice was one of the many floating around him but it was the only one to make sense and just as quickly as it had said those words it was gone, the paper was gone, the entire scene was gone and Carl found himself standing in darkness.  He would’ve considered this worthy of being confusing, but as nothing of late made much sense, he just stood there and enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the pitch black.

night.blind: 01.3.13: 17 May 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
The recent transplant from Vegas went rogue, killed the rest of the board, and kidnapped his latest assignment – the potter.  Request permission to terminate them.

Permission denied. Trace them. See if they lead you to the Majestics.

I do not think they will.  She has not been contacted by them and he’s just a thug.  Repeat request to terminate.

Denied. You say he killed the other members of the board?  Why did he leave you alive?

To make sure I reported in to my superiors.

You will proceed as directed.

It’s pointless. They won’t lead us anywhere. It’s a waste of time and manpower.

Sam, you want revenge for your wounded pride.  Be happy you’re still alive and have them traced.  There is no room for debate.

Transmission ended.

          Sam leaned back in his chair and stared at the computer screen.  This was one of the problems with working for people who’ve known you your whole life.  If you try to convince them they’re wrong they merely think you’re acting like the petulant child you used to be.  Somewhere back in their minds you never really grew up.
night.blind: 01.3.14: 17 July 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          Tick tock tick tock tick tack toe tock round and round roll numbers and sounds filling rooms and knocking down walls of resistance till nothing’s left between one mind and another – becoming one and seeing all twist and turn twist and turn crackle and burn till everything dies.  Harrison Dawple never came out of his chamber except to eat and often someone had to remind him to do so.

          Something happens to the mind when it has been jumping from person to person for so many years.  When the minds you are regularly assigned to are those of serial killers and the clinically insane – you can imagine the effect.  Majestic 5 was selected for this line of work because of his unique past.  It has been said that to catch a thief you must think like one.  The same goes for murderers.  Harrison Dawple was the only Majestic with armed guards watching his every move.  They often were the ones to remind him to come out of a lock to eat or defecate.  They weren’t, however, the ones who cleaned up the mess if they didn’t get him out in time.

          If any of the guards suspected that Harrison intentionally remained locked, forcing them to deal with his natural functions, they’d be right.  In his life before the Majestics, he’d been a sick fuck and frankly, he still was.  The authorities had caught him because, and only because, he’d taken too much pleasure in tormenting his victims before he attacked.  He’d been given a second chance with the Majestics and he took it rather than going to prison.  At least this way he could still enjoy the voyeuristic pleasure of watching others kill and molest.  He didn’t realize how boring that would be.  In recent years the only true entertainment he found was in tormenting his guards and the cleaning staff in the only way he could.

          Dawple knew about the old woman’s death.  He wondered how far he would be able to go before he too would be eliminated.  With his special circumstances and purpose, however, he suspect he’d live quite a bit longer than that old bag.  They gave him this job because he was insane – at least in their minds he was, though he did not entirely agree.  Frankly, he was certain that sanity was in the mind of the beholder and he beheld far more than the average person.

          In this particular instance, Harrison found himself locked onto a man in an office building.  This was a new subject, he’d never locked to this man before.  The man was a suit, boring, and not the stereotypical murdering type.  That being said, there was something about him that felt suspiciously familiar.  A tilt of the head. A glint in the eye.  Or maybe the fact that he was sitting in front of a monitor typing an email to someone about how his wife was killed and a little girl who seems to have seen it all has escaped from a hospital and has disappeared.  He was assigning someone to track the girl.

          Then the conversation shifted to another problem the man needed solved.  Apparently he had a hired assassin working for him that went rogue with some prospect or another.  He needed them killed as well, but they were to be watched. This lock was twisted.  Dawple could tell his lock wanted to kill this assassin with his own hands but was forced to follow protocol.  His frustration caused Dawple pleasure.

          The last order of business that made Majestic 5’s day.  There was a sudden desire to come out of the lock and have a little conversation with the director.  Perhaps he could have the joy of telling the director himself and watch the man try to keep his reaction out of his face. 

night.blind: 01.3.15: 24 July 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          Go west.  What the hell sort of message was that.  The entire COUNTRY lay west of them at that moment, unless you counted the few states lingering off towards the east from New York and he wasn’t in the mood to count them.  Go west.  Could the old man have been a bit more specific perhaps?  Carl was up before dawn.  He showered, dressed, and even had a bite to eat before waking up Trish and telling her to do the same.  She quietly acquiesced but he was certain the past few days were still running madly through her mind in some attempt to make sense of it all.

          West. Right. Now how to convince Trish to come with him or let her go her own way?  He’d saved her life whether or not she realized it.  Carl watched her go reluctantly into the bathroom and waited for the shower water to be turned on.  He flicked on the TV and turned the channel to a news station.  Murders and shootouts were all these things ever reported anymore.  But then, with the people he expected to be following them, it seemed appropriate to watch.

          “Syracuse was witness to a firefight leaving multiple dead.  Details and names have yet to be released by authorities.  But one officer, who chose to remain nameless, has told this reporter that it was not gangs.”  The reporter was standing in front of a grey concrete wall.  There were sirens behind her but nothing could be seen.  “Back to you, Jim.”

          The news that followed contained weather forecasts and sports and by the time Trish came out of the bathroom, Carl was completely ready to step foot out of the door.  He opened his mouth to ask if she would be joining him but she nodded before he could speak.  She packed her bag back together as quickly and quietly as she could manage.  Carl tried not to look impatient as he watched her.

          Time to go.  Carl would be more than happy to be on the road again.  This was far from over, but sitting in one place just made him feel like… well, a sitting duck.  Trish was the first to the door and she opened it, immediately letting out a screech and stepping backwards.  Carl looked up in shock as the man he’d been shooting at the night before walked in, pointing a gun directly at Trish.  The man proceeded to close the door behind him by kicking it, so that he wouldn’t have to take his eyes off of the girl.  Carl tried to reach into his bag, as it was in his hand already, but the gun was very quickly turned on him instead. “Not so fast, Carl.  Put the bag down or Cher, here, is going to have a much shorter life.”

          Carl put the bag down. No worries, there, he was still armed to the teeth and now he was a bit freer for movement. “How’d you find us so quickly, Jason?”

          The man hadn’t expected Carl to know his name as well.  It made him pause for a second.  It was always nice to know you could take your opponent off guard.  He glanced briefly at Trish – she was shivering but he couldn’t tell if it was fear or anger.  Her hand was very slowly sifting through her bag.  The gun was trained on Trish, but Jason’s attention was clearly on Carl instead.  He truly hoped Trish had noticed the same thing.  Jason finally brought himself to answer Carl’s question, “You know the resources our employers possess.”

          “Ah. So, you do work for them.  I had wondered if that was it.  But then there was always the chance you were just some creep after the young lady.”  Carl smiled. Jason sneered. 

          “I’m not a creep. Cher and I go way back, don’t we, princess?”  Jason glanced at Trish again for a moment but still didn’t seem to notice her searching through the bag. 

         “You’re telling me, this little girl and I are important enough that they actually used the secret group to find us?”  Carl was not happy with that sentence. It did not come out nearly as eloquently as he’d planned.  Secret group? What the hell was that? He couldn’t think of a better name to use for the people the company prized so much.  He only knew a little of what they could do, but he was certain he could’ve come up with something better than ‘secret group’ to describe them.  Oh well, too late now.

         “It speeded things up a bit over other methods.  Something I’m quite grateful for.  I really wanted to be the one to bring you in.  Thought maybe I’d get to spend some quality time with Cher as well.”  Jason’s expression was the most disgusting thing Carl had ever seen.  The man was a pig.  Now, Carl fully admitted to having done some cruel things in his life, but this man reveled in the thoughts of things he could do to this poor girl and Carl began to realize, perhaps, the extent of Trish’s traumatic past involving this lowlife.

         “In all my years working for the company, I was under the distinct impression that they preferred to tail people like us, rather than killing us.  I was also under the impression they preferred assassins who knew how to do a job without talking the victims’ ears off first.”  Carl sized up Jason, and made a visual show of it so that Jason would know exactly what he was doing.  He’d never been the distraction before in a team job.  He got the feeling that Trish had never had to be the active one, either. 

         “This time it’s personal and they’re letting me have my way in it.”  Jason sneered again and Carl could tell he was lying.  The company had told him to tail them.  He had broken the rules.  Carl wondered how many others were following them, or if his former bosses had only sent this moron.

         Jason screamed and the gun slid wildly out of his hand and across the floor.  Trish had succeeded in drawing one of her blades from her bag and it was now sticking through Jason’s hand, the hand that used to be holding a gun. Carl didn’t even blink as he dove straight into the other man, tackling him to the ground and punching him hard in the face. Carl hit him again.  The second punch knocked Jason unconscious.  He turned towards Trish, as he climbed off of the man.  “Nice throw.”

         Only then did Carl notice that Trish had fallen over and was lying on the floor shaking uncontrollably and crying, hands wrapped around her head.  He hadn’t heard the gun go off before it fell but the first thing to come into his mind was that she’d been shot.  With a glance to the unconscious Jason, Carl moved quickly to Trish’s side.  “Are you ok? Are you hurt?”

         She just nodded, but even that appeared to cause her pain.  Carl wasn’t sure what was wrong, but if she thought she was alright then he was going to take care of Jason before he worried about her.  He ripped the sheets off of both beds and twisted them into cords which he used to bind the man’s hands and feet.  Then he pulled Jason into the bathroom and hefted him into the tub.  He used the towels to attach the bindings of his prisoner’s wrists to the shower head. 

         Back to Trish.  They needed to get out of there fast.  Before bozo woke up and started screaming.  He paused and went back into the bathroom, stuffing a washcloth into Jason’s mouth. 

         Carl was not the best with women.  Perhaps she was just terrified about what she’d done?  Perhaps she hurt herself when she made the throw?  The latter seemed unlikely.  The girl knew how to use those knives.  He brought out a glass of water and knelt beside her again.

         “Thanks.”  She was still shaking when she accepted the water.  Her expression was wrought with pain, and yet she didn’t have any visible injuries.  She drank the water very slowly as though even it was hard to do.

         “As soon as you’re able, we need to leave.”  Carl got up and walked to the window at the front, staring out of it.

night.blind: 01.3.16: 13 September 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
          Have you ever mentally told someone not to see you and they didn’t?  If this was luck, Michelle wasn’t arguing.  The last sign she’d been able to see said New Orleans 15 miles.  She was almost there.  What exactly she was going to do once she arrived she didn’t know yet. One step at a time. One hop.

          New York was a world away. Her parents – distant memories.  Herself – also a distant memory.  She was in a fog.  Identities mingled in her head – a small girl bored in classes that taught her nothing, a woman in love shot by the man she loved, a rabbit fleeing for its life, and somewhere in there a small voice telling her she’s not alone, not insane, not lost.  That voice was what pushed her on.

          The semi swerved and Michelle bit her tongue to keep from screaming in shock.  She tasted blood.  The truck swerved again and she could hear the driver curse.  Horns blared from cars around them.  Michelle had not been sleeping but now she was very awake – so awake, in fact, that the fog around her had completely dissipated.  They’d found her.  They were doing something to the truck.  They might kill the driver.  He was innocent.  They wanted her.  The truck went off the freeway, full speed, into a marsh.

          Michelle climbed carefully toward the front of the cab once the truck had settled.  The driver had hit the windshield headfirst.  She couldn’t tell if he was dead or just unconscious.  They’d landed on the side.  She’d have to climb out of the passenger door, which was now facing upwards.  She grabbed her small collection of things and reached for the handle when a flashlight shone through the windshield directly into her eyes.

          “Hello, Michelle.”  The voice was pleased with itself.

night.blind: 01.3.17: 13 September 2005: Jennifer Knighton.
           “What do you mean the director isn’t available? This is an emergency!”  Dawple knew it wasn’t an emergency per se but it was important and his guards were being incredibly unhelpful.

           “What is the point in my being in this program if I’m not allowed to do my job?  Get me in contact with Mr. Nagel immediately or I’ll get in contact with him myself!”  Dawple gestured toward his chamber as though to say he’d telepathically tell Dante his news.  He couldn’t, of course, he could only view, but there had always been rumors that some of the more advanced viewers could do far more than just view.  Dawple was counting on the guards thinking he was one of those talented few.  Then they called his bluff.

           Climbing back into his pod, Dawple considered his options.  He could try and get a lock on Dante and look through the Director’s eyes to see where he was but he wouldn’t be able to contact the man even so.  He could try and see through Nagel’s assistant’s eyes – she and Dante were rarely apart.  Reconsidering that concept he decided he’d much prefer to see her through Dante’s eyes, especially if he happened to catch them in the act of fucking each other’s minds out.  Dawple didn’t know for sure if they were having an affair but he was fairly certain.  Hell, if she were his assistant he’d be fucking her.  And besides, his specialty was animal impulses in his human subjects.  And then it dawned on him – his guards were allowing him to free-lock.  He could see anyone he wanted… anyone.  He could watch countless die or be mutilated.  The screaming twisted masses awaited his perusal and he was free to view them as he pleased.  He’d never been allowed to free-lock before.  Dawple closed his eyes, smiled, and locked into his machine.  He knew exactly where he was going.

           The lock was easy – forcing himself to remain locked hurt so much that physical tears poured from his eyes.  Luckily, in the control chamber no one would notice.

           Dawple saw a kitchen.  A very upset teenage girl stood in front of his host.  Cassandra was seventeen.  He may not keep track of days very well anymore but years he knew.  The last time he’d seen that face she had been two years old.  It had been a while.  The mind he was piggybacking was determined to never let him see the girl again.  Funny how the world works.

           “Just because you were an idiot at my age doesn’t mean I’m going to be!”  The girl screamed.

           “I said no.”  It was an age-old argument.  Almost everyone has been on one side or the other of it – sometime both sides in one lifetime.  Dawple had been on the younger side of it once.  His parents hadn’t survived the discussion.  The topic was the young lady he now watched. 

           “I’m not you.”  Cassie was near tears.  “Maybe I take after my father instead!”

           Dawple couldn’t believe what he heard.  What had her mother told her about him?  She had to have lied.  She hated him.  The woman’s hands grasped a chair as she looked down at them and away from her daughter.  “Your father is dead.”

           “I know that, mom.  But you always tell me what a kind and gentle man he was – how he could do no wrong.  Though he couldn’t have been a perfect angel or you wouldn’t have had me.”  Cassie took the woman’s hands in hers. “I love you, but you can’t keep me locked up forever.  You have to let me experience life for myself.”


           “Mom, I’m going out with Jim tonight.  I promise not to drink, do drugs, get pregnant, or die.”  Cassandra had grown into exactly the type of girl Dawple used to prey upon – the type who think they’re able to control their fate but soon found out that someone else truly held the strings in their strange marionette dance.  She was a victim waiting to happen and both her parents could see it.  Her mother saw it with a strange sense of déjà vu, and her father with a sense of unnatural hunger.

           When Dawple made the lock it was to see his daughter once more. Now he felt a destiny calling to him. He knew he must leave the Grange and seek out his daughter.  She must meet her father and know the real him rather than the dream her mother had created.  Cassandra must be found.  To do that, he realized, he must try and make the free-lock his guards thought he was making.  He had to see through the director’s eyes and find a way out.

           Where are you, Dante?  And then he found him, alone on the freeway except for a screaming baby.  Perfect. If everyone left to save Mr. Nagel he had a much better chance of becoming free.

           Dawple came out of his chamber and moved directly to his guards.  “Mr. Nagel is in trouble.  He’s on the freeway in a bloodied SUV with a screaming infant in the back.  Isn’t someone tracking him?  The man needs help!”

           The desired result occurred.  One guard ran to inform someone more important than him.  Another ran to one of the other viewer’s pods.  This left one guard on Dawple’s door. 

           Dawple was weak from years of viewing and not caring about his body.  He would have to use his cunning and he had no clue what the next step would be.  But this was the most alive he’d felt in a very long time.


copyright 2005 Jennifer Knighton.
Jennifer Knighton is the living stereotype of the actress/writer trying to make it in Los Angeles.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, works retail to pay the bills and lives in an apartment that leaks every time it rains. Ok, maybe not exactly the stereotype – she’s not a waitress.  She spends her days off auditioning and her nights writing.