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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Park

Storm Continues

Tracy knelt next to Carol, who had collapsed from exhaustion, sobbing and trying to catch her breath. Ted and Janet, arrived seconds later as Tracy wrapped Carol’s lacerated hand in a piece of Carol’s already torn blouse. Janet exchanged stunned looks with her partner, as Ted hastily holstered his 9mm Glock. Ted approached Logan calmly, getting his attention, his hands out in calming fashion.

“Put the pipe down kid,” Ted urged.

“Who the hell are you?” Logan questioned, turning toward Ted, the pipe still gripped tightly in white knuckled fists.

“They’re my folks,” Storm said suddenly, putting a comforting hand on Logan’s wrist calmly.

“This is my Dad, Ted and that’s my Mom Janet with Carol.”

“Sorry,” Logan said apologetically, dropping the lead pipe and running a hand through his short black hair. “That was impressive, Storm. I’m Logan Stanfield, Sir. Those are my friends Tracy Washington and Carol Wangdon.”

Ted grasped Logan’s outstretched hand, his jacket billowing out momentarily, revealing the holstered automatic at his waist. Logan saw the flash of gun and holster, grinning at Ted knowingly.

“Brother rat,” Logan said.

“Are you two okay?” Ted asked, shrugging noncommittally. “Logan’s right, what the hell did you just do, Storm?”

“Yeah, Wendy,” Janet added, cradling Carol’s head as Tracy kept pressure on Carol’s hand, ignoring Ted’s disgusted negative head shake at Janet’s use of the derogatory nickname. “What were you shouting before that thing took off?”

“I…I summon the Valkyries, Sword-wielding partners,” Storm answered hesitantly.

“You summon what?!” Janet repeated.

“Later Jan.” Ted bent down next to her, peering into Carol’s eyes in the darkness. “Carol, you with us? C’mon, give me some sign here.”

“I…I was… this thing… it…”

“We all saw it,” Ted interrupted gently. “I meant are you okay other than your hand? We need to get you to an emergency room and get that looked at. Can you walk, or should we call an ambulance.”

“Wha…what about the police?” Carol asked, looking around at the familiar faces near her as she sat up. “That mon…monster was what took those other kids. Oh my God… it…it almost had me. How…”

“Easy,” Janet soothed, helping Carol up to her feet. “Any ideas on how to handle this, Ted?”

“You mean monsters in black clouds, a girl with claw lacerated hand, and an incantation in some foreign language that ended the attack?” Ted held up his hands in a helpless gesture.

“Latin… it was Latin,” Storm inserted, drawing a snort from Janet.

Ted peeled back the compress Tracy had pressed to Carol’s wounded hand, causing Carol to flinch in Janet’s supporting grasp and look away. Blood welled up from three thin razor like slashes extending from Carol’s wrist to the knuckles of her right hand. Ted looked at the wound closely, gauging how deep the wounds were.

“It looks like you’ll need some stitches but it’s not as bad as it looks.” Ted covered the wound again, letting Carol hold the makeshift bandage over it. “Give me something, Jan.”

“Long night with cops, hospitals, and pissed off parents,” Janet replied. “I don’t see any way around it.”

“No one will believe this,” Tracy added, resignation in her voice. “My Dad is going to kill me. I might as well of died in the fight. If he don’t kill me, we’ll all end up in the looney bin anyway.”

“May I make a suggestion, Sir?” Logan asked Ted.

“Anything kid, anything.”

“You and your wife go home. I’ll take Tracy and Storm back to the Burger King. Tracy can give our other two friends a lift home while I take Carol to the emergency room. She can say she was fooling around in the park, and fell against something. I’ll call her folks from there.”

“I love the plan,” Tracy said immediately before Ted could speak.

“What about that thing?” Carol asked plaintively. “We can’t just…”

“What are you going to tell the police, genius?” Tracy kidded her. “You stalked the park looking for killers and found a black, cloud monster?”

“Logan’s plan sounds good,” Janet said thoughtfully. “Let me drive Carol’s car to the Burger King, and then she can call her folks from there. She can tell them she fell in the parking lot or something. That way they won’t come unglued about her park outing and they can take over from there.”

“I have a good first aid kit and she can clean up a little,” Logan added in agreement. “It’s up to you, Carol. If you think you can sell the cops on cloud monsters…”

“Okay, but what do we do about that thing?” Carol cut him off, repeating her reservation.

“Nothing,” Storm put in succinctly, looking at Ted tentatively. “We can call the police tomorrow and I’ll tell them I saw a weird cloud thing in the park. It won’t do any good, but all we have is your hand as evidence. The police would just brush it off as mass hysteria anyhow. What would they do anyway, traipse around here in the dark searching for what? They’ll look at us like we have a third eye.”

Carol nodded, turning her right side toward Janet. “The car keys are in my right jacket pocket.”

“Maybe Logan could just bandage up my hand if it doesn’t look too bad and I could drive home,” Carol suggested tentatively as Janet reached into her pocket and extracted the keys. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I guess if we’re going to cover this up we might as well go the whole route, because I don’t want to spend the night in an emergency room.”

“I’ll drive her home,” Janet stated, putting an arm around Carol’s shoulders. “Ted can follow me over and we’ll explain we were at the Burger King when Carol came in. That is, if it looks as if she can’t make it home on her own.”

“What about Nancy and Chris?” Tracy asked. “They know where she was.”

“I’ll talk to them,” Carol said. “C’mon, let’s get this over with.”

A half hour later, Logan bathed Tracy’s hand in peroxide, and covered the wounds with anti-biotic cream. He then placed strips of gauze over each of the claw wounds. Logan added tight strips of adhesive tape along the wounds and at ninety degrees to the gauze strips, closing the furrows. He finished with an elastic wrap over his handiwork. Ted watched Logan with obvious admiration while Janet, Tracy, and Storm filled in Nancy and Chris as to what happened. Ted and Janet had decided to take a chance on the whole truth as to what had transpired in the park, rather than leave the two out of it all together.

“Nice work, kid,” Ted complimented him. “I can guess where you learned it.”

“Thanks,” Logan said, smiling at Carol. “How’s that feel?”

“Wonderful,” Carol replied, flexing her hand. “I…I don’t know how to thank you, Logan. I’ve been so mean to you, and…”

“Old news,” Logan interrupted her gently. “Do you think you can drive?”

“Sure, but I don’t know about sleeping.”

“If it’s any comfort, I don’t think I’ll be sleeping real well after seeing that thing,” Logan admitted. “Keep a light on, and say a prayer. It works for me.”

“Really… you… I mean…”

“Yeah, I get scared,” Logan finished for her. “Everybody does, right Mr. Crandall?”

“And then some, kid, and then some. Stand up, Carol, and let me get a look at you.”

Carol stood up from the chair she had been facing Logan in. Ted noted she had cleaned up well, and her hooded sweatshirt covered the torn blouse. Tracy had brushed Carol’s hair and tied it back into a ponytail while Logan had cleaned her wound. Other than the bandage, Carol looked unscathed, at least externally. Ted nodded approvingly.

“You’ll pass muster at home. Are you still okay with doing it this way?” Ted asked.

“I don’t see any other way we can do it,” Carol answered with a shrug. “How would the cops get that thing anyway? This… this is just too weird.”

“Janet and I will back up Storm’s story about this cloud thing,” Ted assured her. “As to what the cops can or can’t do I can’t answer right now. I’m as clueless as you are. Ready?”

Carol nodded and they walked out of the back room together. Carol immediately apologized to Nancy and Chris. They had agreed if Carol could drive, she would take her friends home with Janet tailing them to make sure everything was all right. Nancy and Chris were too confused about the night’s happenings to question the strange explanation they had received.

“I think it would be an excellent idea for all of you to come over to our house for the study group on Saturday,” Janet urged. “It will give us a chance to talk this out after a little time has passed. You have our phone number now. Please call us if you have any regrets about what we’re doing or not doing.”

“We’ll be there,” Carol said, with Nancy and Chris echoing her statement. “Thanks for coming after me. It would… I mean…”

“We know Carol,” Storm assured her. “We’ll see you all in class tomorrow.”

Janet followed them out, and drove the Honda behind Carol’s car to see them all home safely.

“Want me to follow you home, Tracy?” Logan asked. “I can come back and close up afterwards.”

“I’ll be fine,” Tracy said, giving both Logan and Storm a quick hug, before shaking hands with Ted. “You’ll have to show me how to do what you did out there, Storm.”

“When I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know,” Storm replied. “See you tomorrow.”

“Bye Tracy, good to meet you,” Ted gave her a little wave as Logan walked Tracy out to the parking lot, and into her car.

Logan returned seconds later, taking a seat opposite where Ted and Storm had sat down after Tracy left. He folded his hands in front of him on the table with a questioning look at Ted.

“Can you tell me what’s really going on, Sir?”

Ted took out his FBI identification and showed it to Logan. “My partner and I have been assigned to work this serial kidnapping case undercover with Storm’s help. Tonight was as big a shock to us as it was to you. We actually thought we’d acquired a lead, but now I’m thinking we’re back at square one.”

“It seems you know a lot more now,” Logan replied. “The only question is what the heck you can do with it. This clears up why Storm’s been giving us the third degree in school about the Perkins Park stuff. I didn’t know the FBI recruited teenagers for dangerous undercover work.”

“I…I sort of messed up with the law back home and…” Storm began reluctantly.

“No need to explain.” Logan grinned, holding up a hand in a stopping gesture. “Been there, done that. I won’t blow your cover and I’ll help in any way I can. This thing has to be stopped. I guess now would be a bad time to compare you and your partner to the X-files, huh?”

“Very bad,” Ted laughed. “And definitely a bad idea around Janet. When you were swinging that pipe, Logan, did you feel it make contact?”

“Yes, but those snapping things in the mist were freaky,” Logan answered, spreading his hands palm down on the table. “They looked like unattached maws of teeth, jutting out at me like in the Aliens series. Any idea where to go from here?”

“Storm uncovered something similar with the prior victims,” Ted explained. “Tracy told her the two she shared a class with before their disappearances were into the Goth look. Janet and I found pictures in the school archives indicating the other three girls were into Goth too. Only problem is Carol didn’t appear to be into Goth. I expect we’ll have to look further into that prospect. My partner already calls me Spooky Mulder, so she’s really going to flip out when I mention conjuring demon familiars to do a human’s bidding. Right now, I don’t know what else to think.”

“She saw what happened,” Storm offered. “The Valkyrie spell wouldn’t have worked if this thing was some magician hiding in a cloud of colored water vapor.”

“That was awesome, Storm,” Logan said in a hushed voice. “Dave and his twin toads are lucky I interceded before you really had a go at them this morning.”

“Actually, I don’t do so well with human attackers,” Storm admitted. “Most of the stuff I’ve been studying involves protective measures against unnatural phenomena.”

“Well then,” Logan said, taking her hand, “let me handle your light work, Wendy.”

The three shared a laugh over Logan’s pronouncement. Storm felt Logan’s touch race through her as if she had placed her hand in a flame. Janet barged through the door in her usual blunt manner, getting a perplexed look on her face upon seeing the three laughing together. She walked up to the table and sat down.

“Okay, what’d I miss?”

“I told Logan everything and he’s agreed to help in any way he can,” Ted answered. “How do you think this went down with Alverson and Vasquez?”

“Since we’re as new to black cloud monsters as they are, it probably went down okay. “What the hell are we going to do with this shit, Archibald?”

“We have a couple ideas,” Ted replied after giving Storm the evil eye for laughing at Janet’s use of his middle name. He explained what they had discussed in Janet’s absence.

“Well, I can at least work with that,” Janet remarked. “I officially hate this. Another thing, what the hell was the Valkyrie thing, girl? Was that the real deal?”

“I felt it, Janet,” Storm replied excitedly. “I knew it would work. It was power.”

“Don’t even think about doing the clothes thing on me, Missy. I’ll fry your bacon if it takes me a lifetime.”

Ted and Storm laughed uproariously, while Logan smiled at the two in bewilderment.

“Clothes thing?” Logan asked questioningly.

“Never mind, it’s an inside joke,” Janet replied with a smile. “You were aces out there, Jarhead. You gave Wendy enough time to summon the Valkyrie hit parade.”

“Jar… oh yeah, you guys know it all, huh?” Logan surmised.

“We’ve had audio and visual surveillance from the beginning.”

“So… you’ve been… listening to everything?”

“Part of the whole undercover thing, kid,” Ted gestured it was no big deal. “We’re not supposed to allow Storm to ever come as close to danger as she was tonight. Our bad.”

“Hey… let’s not get too far past the whole no Goth deal with Carol,” Storm broke in. “Why did this thing break pattern. If that’s our only solid connection, we’re screwed.”

“She was dressed all in black,” Logan said. “Maybe it only screws with mean girls. It didn’t attack until Carol was by herself.”

“That’s pretty thin, Logan.” Janet sighed. “A monster cloud taking only mean girls? Of course it’s as good as the Goth angle. I can’t believe this shit. We’ll be stuck in the basement of the Hoover building until we draw retirement, if they don’t commit us outright.”

“There’s a real person behind this,” Storm stated firmly. “We have to find out the key to what attracts it, or makes these kids its targets.”

“It messed up tonight,” Ted added. “No one’s seen the thing before except its victims. Tonight it had an audience. Either dark cloud has switched gears, or thanks to shutting down the park, its target rich environment is gone.”

“It could be something which draws power from something in the park,” Storm suggested.

“Maybe it can’t attack anywhere else. Otherwise, why bother haunting a spot people are avoiding like the plague.”

“I’m getting a headache,” Janet retorted. “Let’s call it a night. Maybe we could check out the park early tomorrow morning before you go into school.”

“How early?” Storm asked plaintively.

“Suck it up, Wendy. We need to see if you can sense some kind of clue before someone drops a house on you.”

“Very funny,” Storm chuckled as her companions enjoyed a laugh at her expense and Janet’s Over The Rainbow movie reference.

“I better get the place locked up,” Logan said, standing and walking over to the door with the others following.

Logan set the alarm and locked the door once they were outside.

“Nice meeting you, kid,” Ted shook hands with Logan and walked toward the Honda.

“You two have three minutes to say goodbye,” Janet said, glancing at her watch. She turned away and followed Ted. “Even the Jarhead couldn’t get a quickie in that amount of time.”

“You…you are so gross,” Storm gasped. Logan turned away, stifling laughter.

Logan took her hand, walking toward his Pontiac.

“Pretty bad get together, huh?” Storm asked, glancing up at Logan as they reached his car and he unlocked the driver’s side door.

“I’ve had worse,” Logan replied, “just not quite as weird. Can I join you in the park tomorrow morning?”

“Sure,” Storm brightened perceptibly, pulling out her newly acquired cell phone and readying it. “Give me your phone number and I’ll call you just before we leave.”

Logan told her the number. He checked it when Storm held her cell phone up for his inspection. He nodded his okay. Logan cupped her chin with his right hand, leaning down and brushing his lips lingeringly over Storm’s. The kiss jolted Storm like nothing else she had ever felt. For an instant, she forgot where she was, or when. There was no mistaking the attraction Logan evoked in her. Logan pulled away slowly before Storm’s cell phone dropped to the ground from her nerveless fingers.

“Thanks for the save tonight,” Logan whispered, kissing her again lightly. “See you in the morning.”

“O…okay,” Storm replied dizzily, turning and walking to the Honda with Logan watching her until she had entered the backseat before getting into his own car.

“Whew, Wendy, that was hot,” Janet needled her immediately as the Pontiac drove out of the lot and Ted followed. “I’m telling your Mommy.”

“Shut up, Scully,” Storm retorted. “Unless of course you want to ride to the house without your clothes.”

“Bull…” Janet glanced back at Storm who was raising her hands up. “Don’t you dare!”
* * * *

“Storm?” Logan’s voice answered on the first ring.

“Hi, did I wake you up?” Storm tingled just at the sound of Logan’s voice.

“I’ve been up for an hour,” Logan chuckled. “Since the service, I don’t sleep in much past five in the morning.”

“Janet and I are heading to the park,” Storm replied, trying not to think of waking Logan up in person. “Do you still want to go? We’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”

“Of course. I’ll meet you there. It’s barely light enough to see though. At least it’s not raining. Should I bring anything, like a machine gun?”

Storm laughed. “No, I’ll have Janet with me. She’s cranky enough this morning to eat the black cloud.”

“I heard that, Wendy,” Janet called out from the kitchen, where she was having a cup of coffee with Ted.

“Okay then, see you in a few,” Logan agreed, and ended the call.

Storm went into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen table with the cup of tea she had cooling on the counter.

“Well,” Janet prompted her.

“He’ll meet us there in twenty minutes,” Storm replied, sipping her tea.

“Are you two sure about this field trip?” Ted asked. “What is it you’re thinking to find?”

“First off, Carol dropped her pepper spray and stun gun where she was attacked,” Janet pointed out. “The thing materialized somewhere near where she lost her stuff. Secondly, Wendy might find some sign of what’s making Perkins Park the main monster zone. You go ahead and drive the piece of blouse to Cleveland, Tracy held over the wound. Maybe we can get a real lead from the DNA they find on it. We’ll cover the Twilight Zone part.”

“Okay, I’m just saying don’t get too confident over there,” Ted urged. “I know this thing’s never taken anyone during the day but it was never seen before either.”

“We’ll be fine, Archibald,” Janet replied, getting up from the table and signaling for Storm to follow. “Let’s go Wendy before Ted grounds us both and you miss out on playing around with your little friend before school.”

“Some little friend,” Ted retorted. “He must be around six foot four. I’m six two and I was looking up at him.”

“You better can the Wendy stuff, Scully. You’re supposed to be my Mommy, remember?” Storm reminded her as they walked toward the door.

“Now there’s the roll of a lifetime,” Janet commented sarcastically.

Logan parked his Pontiac in the same place he had the night before. He slipped out of the driver’s seat, tucking the lead pipe under his coat. It was a typical Fall morning in Ohio: overcast, windy, and gray, as if someone had stolen the color palette from nature’s page on the state. Janet eased her Honda in behind him and shut off the engine as Logan turned to face them expectantly.

“Oooohhhh, Wendy, he even looks hot first thing in the morning, scars and all,” Janet grinned over at the return scowl Storm glared in her direction immediately.

“Shut up, Scully.” Storm turned her attention back to Logan, as her pulse quickened with the excitement of being near him again.

Logan met the two in front of the Honda.

“I thought we’d go directly to where we found Carol and backtrack to her lost stuff from there,” Janet said after a quick hello, in which Storm leaned against Logan and took his hand. “That is, if you two can quit canoodling long enough to walk with me.”

Logan laughed lightly, but Storm favored Janet with yet another Vulcan Death Stare. With quick glances back toward the car, Janet found the spot where the ground had obviously been disturbed from the group’s confrontation with the eerie cloud. From there, they were able to trace Carol’s haphazard flight from the predator to where she and her two friends had been hiding. After a brief search, Logan found the pepper spray can and Janet located the stun gun.

“Carol told us she zapped the thing,” Janet said, placing the stun gun in an evidence bag. “Maybe we can get something from the electrodes. Let’s split up and start looking for anything out of place from here. Stay within visual range and call out if you find anything, no matter how small. We all know how goofy this probably is, since we have no idea what the hell we’re looking for. Don’t discount what you might think of as silly. If it catches your eye, or looks out of place, give me a shout.”

When she received less than enthusiastic looks from her young companions, Janet shrugged resignedly. “Fine, you two go that way in ever increasing semi-circles and I’ll go this way. We don’t have a lot of time, so let’s be thorough with the territory we do cover. We’ll have to make this a daily gig until we’ve found what we came for, or we’ve covered the whole park.”


Virginia Lady said...

I like it. There's a typo with the quotes here:
“Since we’re as new to black cloud monsters as they are, it probably went down okay. “What the hell are we going to do with this shit, Archibald?”

After the battle I would have expected Janet and Ted to have a little more of the parental act out there. Janet using the Wendy nickname really didn't mesh with who they're supposed to be. Maybe add a little more concern or admonishments, not sure how to mesh the two identities while still clueing Logan in.

Also, Logan surmises that Ted & Janet were 'listening' in on Storm, but it isn't really obvious that he got that from the fact that they showed up in the nick of time. Maybe another line about that somehow.

BernardL said...

Thanks for the typo, VL. Janet and Ted are definitely not parental units. If I allowed them to be that caring, the rest of the book could not logically happen. I know it's thin but I hope you'll see what I mean in the later chapters.

I shall add the line. Thank you. :)

raine said...

YA is definitely not my thing, but this IS good enough to hold my interest, Bernard.
And to be honest (pardon an opinion), Logan's probably the most interesting character so far.

BernardL said...

Thanks, Raine, it does mean a lot to me STORM is holding your interest. Logan is a hinge pin to Storm succeeding.

Beth Partin said...

Logan is cool, but I like Storm the best. I do get tired of the "Wendy" and "Scully" nicknames, though.

BernardL said...

Ah oh, Beth, you'll probably be checking out of the Storm reading room. :) Thank you.