Authors: Tom Keller
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Superhero
This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's
imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved.
design by SciCop.
Cover design image credits:
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© Can Stock Photo Inc. / roxanabalint
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Wetzkaz
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / gatterwe
Kindle Edition © 2015
Las Vegas, NV USA
I'd like to take a moment and say thanks to all those fans
that commented or emailed. A shout out to Dee, Brian, Susan, Larry, Deirdre,
John, and all the rest of you. You know who you are.
This book wouldn’t have been written if not for their
support as well as their helpful and insightful comments. Not to mention
frequently asking for updates of my progress. Thanks are also due my
beta-readers for putting up with my frequent emails and plot changes.
A special thanks to my wife, Karen, for her help in editing
and my Facebook friend Dee McDaniel for her keen eyes and edits. Sometimes I
can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to a missing word or a
paragraph that just doesn't seem to make sense to anyone but me.
"I'm on Rancho now," I said to the sergeant on
the phone. "Be there in a sec." I disconnected, and then turned right
and drove down Bellflower until I saw the unmarked police car parked in the
desert. Pulling over next to it, I got out and walked up to the car. A tall,
blonde cop, wearing jeans and a tactical vest, stepped out and met me half way.
I'd driven up from LA before the crack of dawn, after a
phone call from the duty officer about a possible local terrorist link on a
case the Victorville cops were working. All I knew was that they had arrested
one of their problem ex-felons, and after a search of his phone, had found a
connection to a target on our watch list. It wasn't much to go on, just a few
tweets, but someone thought it was important enough to get me out of bed to
drive up into the desert to check it out. Fortunately, at least in this case,
I'd been having trouble sleeping, so having to get out of bed was almost like
doing me a favor.
"Agent Hoskins," he said in a slightly formal
tone. "I'm Sergeant McManus."
"Good to meet you, Sarge," I replied as I shook
his hand. "Thanks for the heads up."
"No problem," he said. "But I'm surprised
that someone got you out of bed for this. We've been dealing with this guy for
years and, as far as I know, he's just one of the local assholes. Hell, he just
got out of prison a few months ago."
"Mine is not to reason why," I said, throwing my
hands up to indicate I was just doing my job. Dealing with some local police
agencies could be… well, let's just say it could get interesting. No one liked
their cases stepped on, especially by the Feds. My dad, a retired cop himself,
had taught me that a long time ago, and I'd learned to be diplomatic. "I
promise I'm not here to get in your way."
"I got no problem with you coming down, Agent,"
McManus replied. "It just surprised me, that's all. You being from the
city. We've got a local rep here that we usually deal with, but for some reason
he's out of the loop on this thing. The chief said to cooperate, so that's what
"Welcome to my world, Sarge," I said, chuckling.
"I just go where they tell me. Please, call me Jay. I hate that formal
shit out in the field."
That got a laugh.
"So what have you got, Sarge?" I asked.
"Alright Jay, and you can call me Mac." he
replied. "Here's the skinny. WMA name of Rickie Alcot got out of prison a
few months ago and moved back into his momma's old house. Best we can tell he's
been living there alone. He's got no other family left. Momma passed away last
year, but the taxes are paid through a trust, so it's his until the money runs
out. His Parole Officer says he's been quiet. Makes all his appointments and is
supposedly looking for a job. Not that that means anything though."
"House is a couple miles up the road. SWAT's been watching
the place from the development down the street since your guy's name popped up.
No movement so far. It's most likely empty, but we're hanging back because it's
in the middle of nowhere and there's no way for us not to be seen if we get any
closer. I was just waiting for you before I called the guys out to hit the
place. They should be on their way now."
"We busted Ricky yesterday morning burglarizing an
electronics store. After we searched his van, we recovered a shitload of electronics.
Mostly computer parts, but some other electronics as well. We've had a series
going, and based on what we found in the car, we figure he's good for all of
them. I had one of my guys draw up a warrant for his phone and house yesterday
evening. Your guy's name showed up on the phone when the guys examined it after
the bust. We called your office after finding the hit, and held off on
searching the house at their request. That's about it."
My guy was an anti-government extremist by the name of
Benjamin Holt. He'd been on the run since being connected to a failed bombing attempt
of an LA courtroom late last year. His father had been on trial there for shooting
it out with the cops after a routine traffic stop just the week before. According
to my office, there were no known connections to this guy, or even the
Victorville area. I wasn't sure why the local satellite office couldn’t handle
it, but it was close enough to LA that it really wasn't an issue.
"This guy got any history of violence or weapons
violations?" I asked, after giving him what little I knew about my subject.
"Naw. Ricky's a little strange, I'll admit. Of course
that's probably his momma's fault," he replied. "But he's never been
violent. He's property crimes all the way. Hell, I used to chase him myself when
he was a kid stealing beer. Don’t get me wrong, he's a damn fine burglar, but
he's never given us any problem when we busted him. I don’t think he's ever even
stolen a gun, let alone used one. He sometimes carries a knife to pry stuff,
but he's never threatened us with it."
"What do you mean by strange?" I probed.
"Oh, he's just a little different. His momma used to
own a little curio shop in Apple Valley that he used to hang out at.
Metaphysical stuff. Used to find all sorts of weird crap on him when he was
younger. Some say she was a witch, but I wouldn’t know about that."
"A witch?" You mean like a Wiccan?" I
asked, meaning the religion.
"I couldn't say. All I've ever heard is rumors,"
the sergeant replied. "But they say she practiced spells at night out in
the desert. She used to sell potions and little bags of mojo at the shop. Had a
whole wall of jars with weird stuff in them. All legal of course, as far as I
knew. But I didn't really know her that well. Only saw her when she picked
Ricky up from juvenile, or later, the jail. Liked to keep to herself mostly,
except when she was at the shop. That's why she lived out here."
At that moment I heard the radio crackle. The sergeant answered
on his pack set, the portable radio.
"They're on their way. ETA 5 minutes. Your car will
be alright here if you want to ride with me" he said.
"Sure," I replied. "Let me just grab a few
things." I walked back to my car and grabbed my radio and jacket before
locking up. He pulled up beside me and I got in on the passenger side. We
waited a few minutes before seeing three more unmarked cars pull up and slow
down before speeding up again. As the last one passed, McManus pulled into the travel
lane and followed.
"We'll just stay back a bit until after they make
entry," he said as we started down the road. "If that's okay with
"It's your case, Mac," I replied. "I'm just
an observer. Like I said before; I'm not here to get in your way."
McManus nodded. I sat back and admired the scenery as we
passed several small housing developments and a lot of desert. A couple of
minutes and a few turns later, he pulled over to the side of the road.
"That's it there," he said, pointing to a
ramshackle two story about a half a mile ahead. It sat across and down the road
from a newer subdivision that still had houses under construction. "This
used to be way past the end of town but, as you can see, the developers are
starting to catch up."
I watched as the three cars continued up the road. A
fourth pulled out from the new construction and joined them. A moment later,
they accelerated and turned down the gravel driveway on the target property. Within
seconds they had stopped at the corner of the house, exiting their vehicles and
running towards it. Several cops in black took up positions at both the front
and back, and then entered the residence. After they made entry, I could hear
the varied radio traffic indicating that they were searching the house. A
minute or two later, I heard one of them call the sergeant to give him the all
McManus put the car in gear and we drove to the scene. As
he turned on to the gravel driveway, one of the officers came out of the house
and jogged towards his car. My eyes flashed to a vent below the eves when a
feeling of dread came over me. Time seemed to stop. I started seeing things.
Images of a woman holding a gun flashed into my head. Although I knew I was
still in the moving car, it was as if I was watching the scene unfold from
I'm not even sure if seeing is the right word. It was more
like reliving a memory, but I was sure it wasn't mine. The woman held a rifle,
an AR-15, or so it appeared, and had it pointed down as if she was going to
shoot into the floor. In slow motion, I watched as she pulled the trigger. I
saw the flashes as she fired. I saw her mouth move, and from her expression,
she was screaming in rage, but I heard no sound. As soon as she fired, she was
up and moving to a vent on the wall. As she pushed the barrel through it, the vent
opened. Now I was seeing the memory through her eyes. Stunned, I saw myself in
the car as the sergeant drove up the driveway. The barrel swung to the officer
who was standing at his driver's door. Then the barrel flashed again. Suddenly
it was over, and I was back in the car. Somehow, I knew what I had seen hadn’t
"The attic," I yelled as we pulled next to the
passenger side of the officer's car. As I bailed out of the car, I heard Mac
yelling so I screamed back. "The attic! In the attic!" Mac hit the
brakes and I scrambled over the trunk, rushing to the other car. I could hear
rounds being fired from the direction of the house. With a leap that I would
not have believed possible, I jumped over the other car and landed on the
officer, just as bullets hailed from the upstairs attic of the house, peppering
the car's door where he had been standing only a moment before.
"WTF…" the officer groaned as he went down to
the ground with me on top of him.
"Shots from the attic," I yelled as I rolled off.
"We need cover!"
Realizing what had happened, he rolled as well. Then we
both scrambled around the car to the passenger side, stopping near the wheel
well. Both of us drew our weapons, trying to figure out what was going on.
Mac had stopped a few yards in front of the car and bailed
out himself. I looked over and saw him with gun drawn, kneeling beside his open
driver's side door. I could hear voices on the radio, and more shots, before
someone, a few long seconds later, called out that the suspect was down. Mac
ran from his position towards us.
"Jesus, Jesse," he croaked. "Are you
"I'm fine," the other officer replied. "I
think." Then he ran his hands over his chest and groin, looking down at
his body as he did so. "I don’t think I'm hit," he said when he was
"How the hell did you know?" Mac asked, looking
They were both staring, and I hesitated before replying. There
was no way I was gonna tell these guys that I had seen it in a vision.
"Saw a flash and then the barrel at the vent," I
said after a moment, peeking over the hood of the car to point at the attic
vent that I'd somehow seen from inside the house. Then I heard the crackle of
the radio as someone called out clear again.
"They better be right this time." Mac stood, reaching
out his hand to pull the other officer to his feet, before turning to me to do
the same. "I owe you," he said.
I was still in a daze as I heard a call from the front of
the house, and another officer waved at Mac to come over. Jesse had gone to look
at his car door, so I followed Mac as he walked towards the house. Just as we
stepped on to the porch, I heard the crunching gravel as Jesse ran up behind
"Holy shit, bro!" he said as he ran up and
hugged me, before taking his hand and rubbing it in my hair. "Son of a
bitch! I think you just saved my life!" His grin was ear to ear.
I just smiled and rapped his back. This wasn't the first
shooting I'd been in, and somehow I knew it wasn't his either. There was
nothing I could think of to say in response. I'd been in high stress situations
like this before. Between that and the vision, I knew we were both coming down
from an adrenaline high.
"You might want to see this, too," Mac said, after
a short discussion with the officer.
Thanks were forgotten for the moment, as two other
officers came out of the house and joined Jesse. This was just another day at
the office for these guys, and there was still an active crime scene with work
to do. I was sure the paperwork that was going to be generated would probably
keep them busy way into the night and for several days to come.
Mac turned back and I followed him, as the other officer led
us into the house. While we walked, he got on the radio, and I called my office
to advise them of the shooting. I told them I hadn't used my weapon, and that
I'd fill them in when things were done. Eventually we made it to the second
floor. The body of the shooter, head covered in a towel, lay where she fell
through a hidden trap door after being shot during the exchange of gunfire.
"Sorry Mac," I heard the other officer say as we
reached the body. "Whoever built this hidey-hole knew what he was doing. We
missed it on the first go around."
"No shit," he replied.
"Anyway," the other officer began again.
"The gun is secure. Civilian AR with mods. She had it on full auto. We're
not sure what set her off. We're guessing she heard Steve when he hit the top
of the stairwell. He took her down as soon he realized where she was firing
from. Shot her through the ceiling after she popped the caps into the hallway."
"Not before she almost took out Jesse," Mac
muttered as he stepped over to the body. "Any idea who she is?"
"Nope," the officer replied. "Search team
is just getting started. We didn’t find a purse or any ID on her, or in what's
left of the attic."
"Ok," he replied. "Criminalistics and I.A.
(Internal Affairs) are on the way. I gotta call the watch commander and let him
know what's up. Where's Steve?"