Storm slipped into the passenger seat of
“You are so annoying,”
“And played on the computer,” Storm needled and then laughed. “If you’re unhappy about my progress, we can just forget about comparing notes.”
“I’m not that unhappy,”
Storm laughed appreciatively.
“I’ve decided to take you up on your offer to buy friendship with my brain. My folks said it would be okay if we have the study group at my house.”
“Okay, I don’t hate you,”
“Sure, that’ll work. Do you do any part time work anywhere?”
“Just babysitting for the neighbors,”
“We can definitely have a knowledge exchange,” Storm replied. “I’m weak on business principles like balance sheets. I’ll trade you a little physics for a little accounting.”
“My parents are really upset about moving into an area with a serial kidnapper and probable killer,” Storm said fishing for clues. “So, you said earlier you didn’t know any of the girls who were taken?”
“I recognized three of the names,”
“Wow, did the cops talk to you?” Storm asked with some excitement as
“No… why would they?”
“Maybe to ask if you had noticed stuff they had in common,” Storm said, carefully shrugging as if she were just curious. “Did they know each other?”
“Yeah, now that I think about it. They always came to class together and sat together at the back of the room next to each other. Hell, you’re right, I should have been asked. I didn’t even think about them hangin’ together until now. Maybe I should call the cops and let them know.”
“I think you should,” Storm encouraged her, knowing Janet and Ted would allow the police to find out from
“Not really - they blew in and out of class without much socializing. This stuff really sets your panties on fire, huh?”
“Yeah, I admit it,” Storm replied truthfully as she joined
“What can I get you two?”
“Hey…” Storm twisted away from
“C’mon, I only have a half hour before clean up.”
“We’re all out of those,”
“Get Harding High Barbie the same thing,”
“Coming right up,”
“That wasn’t very nice, Beyonce.”
“Talk to the police about what?”
“Very funny, meatball,”
Storm explained what
“You need to tell the cops,
“I’ll talk to my Dad as soon as I get home,”
“Sounds good. Who else will be coming?”
“Kevin MacGrath and Nancy Alverson from our Chem class said they were interested, so I’ll confirm them tomorrow,”
“You think no one’s noticed the looks you’ve been giving MacGraff when you think he ain’t watchin’?”
“I… okay, so what?”
“Do you know Kevin?” Storm asked.
“Only a nodding acquaintance but he seems like a stand-up guy,”
“I’m better than I was. The Marines helped me with my loner issues. I only pulled off the age thing by aping other guys.
“I think he’s glad he had you around in the…”
“Let’s not bore Storm with anymore of this,”
“I told her about you, Jarhead. You saved my brother’s life. It’s about time someone outside my family knew about it. If you don’t like it, tough. I’ll have Jim fly back here and beat you like a red haired stepchild.”
The three laughed together over
“Jim saved my butt just by teaching me being a Marine isn’t about surviving boot-camp, it’s about honoring all who went before us through our actions. Anyway, I like Kevin. I knew he was interested in you, so I told him he ought to speak up because you were in love with him.”
“You did not!”
“Okay…okay, I didn’t mention anything about you loving him,”
“I think I liked you better when you weren’t so outgoing.”
“We’ve only been eating for fifteen minutes,”
“Fine, we’ll hang for a little while longer,”
“I guess we can find enough to do for now,”
“Good, now what’s the real deal with your interest in the
“Do I question your wanting to remain a Marine?” Storm pointed out. “It’s a calling.”
“You’ll be getting more than verbal smack-downs if you mention my table manners again,”
* * * *
“This is nuts, Carol,” Nancy Alverson repeated for the fifth time in a hushed voice.
“Will you shut-up?!” Carol gripped
“I’m staying,” Carol stated angrily, when
“Come on, Carol,”
“I’ve got my stun gun and pepper spray,” Carol said, waving the other two off. “I’m not afraid of this asshole.”
“You should be,” Christine said. “Let’s leave her to it,
“Stanfield’s worse than this psycho terrorizing the park,” Carol retorted. “He’s probably murdered more people than this park jerk ever dreamed of.”
“You got shit for brains, Wangy,”
Carol watched her two friends walk hurriedly away, seething at the fact they had left her. She felt some relief her car was parked only a block away from the park to keep off the police radar. They were checking every license plate on all vehicles anywhere near the park. Fifteen minutes later, she was beginning to regret her decision.
The wind had picked up, swirling the crackling leaves around every few moments. Black and charcoal gray clouds rolled in, obscuring what little light there had been. In near darkness, every perceived movement sent chills shooting up Carol’s spine. She took some comfort in the lighting around the park pathway, but her night vision suffered when Carol looked away from the lighted area. Glancing continuously at her luminous watch dial, she rechecked her cell-phone for the hundredth time, making sure it was turned off. Fifteen more minutes, she thought, taking her stun gun out and turning it on.
Clutching the slim can of pepper spray in one hand and her stun gun in the other, Carol felt more reassured. The only reason she had engineered this ill conceived adventure was to impress Nancy and Chris. She swore under her breath remembering
Carol looked down toward the main park pathway, noticing a weird grainy aspect to her vision. The smell assaulted her olfactory senses, as the sulfurous odor of rotten eggs permeated the air around her. Carol gagged, stumbling as she turned too quickly. She fell backwards, landing on the hand holding her pepper spray. The can went sliding out from under her hand, and into the bushes. Carol triggered her stun-gun off and a thick blue arc crackled impressively as she extended it into the roiling film of darkness behind her. The entity gave ground momentarily, its pernicious trappings flowing in retreat with whatever hid inside. Carol, heart nearly pounding out of her chest, lurched upwards, continuing a steady bright blue sizzling snap from the electrodes of her stun-gun. Something gnarled and black snaked out from the darkness, raking across Carol’s wrist and sending the stun-gun flying out of her hand. Carol screamed in pain. She grabbed her injured wrist which bled profusely and ran for the road.
Storm turned in her seat, and waved at
“Sit down, girls,”
“We…we were messin’ around in the park with Carol,” Christine admitted.
“Carol’s a couple pancakes shy of a short stack,”
“You two live across town, huh?”
“Hey, you’re the one they’re making X-Men jokes about, huh?” Chris chuckled with a little wave of her hand. “Sophomore genius I’ve heard.”
“What in the world were you three doing in the park and where’s Carol?” Storm asked by way of reply.
“We used to have this stupid game we called Gremlins in junior high school,”
“We’d scare the crap out of any kids straggling home,” Chris added. “Carol thought it’d be cool to hang out at Perkins, acting like Gremlins. I…I know how stupid this sounds, but…”
“Okay, but where’s Carol?” Storm repeated the question, a lump forming in her gut.
“She drove. We didn’t want to play anymore adolescent games, so she told us to take a hike,”
“Me too,” Chris added. “Carol stayed and…”
The young man at the counter smiled and nodded his assent, turning to walk into the back. Moments later,
“Can you give Chris and I a ride home?”
“They were with Carol playing some kind of game in
“Something’s come up, Tim. We’re closing early tonight. Go ahead and take off.”
“I’m going with you,” Storm said suddenly as
“Remember your Dad,”
“He threatened me about my car being around Perkins.”
* * * *
Ted threw down his head set and raced up the stairs of the home they were coordinating their undercover operation from. Janet jumped from the couch where she had been watching TV on her break.
“Grab your stuff, Jan, Storm’s going with
“So, what does Wendy have to do with it?” Janet asked as she slipped into the passenger side of their Honda Accord.
“It sounded like she was trying to tip us off to this being serious,” Ted answered, starting the car and backing it out of the driveway. “Anyway, when
“Thanks Wendy…” Janet leaned back with a sigh. “How do we handle this without blowing our covers?”
“We were worried. We went out hunting for her. Don’t pull your gun in front of the kids. Remember you’re her mommy and not her FBI handler.”
“If I was her mommy, I’d jump out of the car and kick the crap out of her.”
“You’re not giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling about any future plans you might have about motherhood, Jan,” Ted laughed. “This is probably nothing anyway.”
* * * *
“Oh my God!”
Storm ignored him and went out the passenger side at the same pace.
“What the…” Janet managed to exclaim before simply shutting up and following Ted, who had not paused for even a second before running after the convergence before them.
A gnarled, slimy, blackish limb snaked out of the darkness, reaching for Carol, who let out an ear piercing scream of pure terror.
“EVOCATIO VALCYRIARUM, CONTUBERNALIA GLADIARIA,” Storm shouted out in commanding voice, repeating it over and over, as a torrent of wind driven debris hurtled into the darkness, driving it back.
With a final shriek of rage, the thing dissipated into the air as