Aquaphobia

Aquaphobia

(Fear of water)

Robert Allen Rippy was a lifeguard at a public swimming pool in Nebraska. He was 6’2”, blond, and worked out three hours a day after work. Although he was 20 years old, he still liked being a lifeguard. When he was eight years old, he had almost drowned in this same swimming pool when his cousin jumped on him from the edge of the pool and the force of the blow caused him to sink to the bottom of the pool. Fortunately for him, the lifeguard who was on duty had seen the incident and immediately jumped into the pool to save the young boy. The lifeguard grabbed hold of Robert and carried him to the surface. CPR was applied and young Robert’s life was saved. Now, in some cases such as this, some people might be reluctant to get back into the pool, but Robert was not mentally affected. After the lifeguard suggested that Robert stay out of the water and rest, the young boy did as he was told (Robert always obeyed authority figures),but when the time was up, he went back into the pool. His cousin, however, was banished from the area for the rest of the summer.

Most of the people who used the pool were parents who had dropped their kids off, so that the parents could have some time to themselves. There were also some senior citizens who would occasionally come by to use the pool or laze out on the deck chairs. Robert was always solicitous towards the older people and would get after any of the kids who may have gotten too boisterous. Robert would also come to the pool an hour before opening just so he could get some swim time for himself. He felt that it helped get his body limber and that he would not have to worry about cramping before the public arrived.

One sunny morning in May, Tammy Lynn, his 19 year old girlfriend came to visit Robert at the pool. Tammy Lynn had been dating Robert for a year and she didn’t mind that Robert did not have a full time job. She knew how much Robert enjoyed working there, and because their relationship was in its “honeymoon” stage, she didn’t nag him about getting more stable employment. She also didn’t come to the pool very often because of her pale skin, which she considered one of the disadvantages of being a redhead.

“Hey, boy, how’s it going?”

“Tammy Lynn! What’s up?”

“I thought that I would come down and visit. It’s so hot today, and I thought that I would do some swimming.”

“Really? Do you have suntan lotion?”

“Of course I do. Can we talk for a few minutes?”

“Sure, I’ll be right down.”

Robert was happy to see Tammy Lynn but he was a bit curious about what she wanted to talk to him about. He walked over to the lounge chair where Tammy Lynn had settled and sat next to her.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Before I tell you, would you please rub some lotion on my back?”

Robert picked up the plastic bottle of suntan lotion which Tammy Lynn had set beside the chair and squeezed some onto his hands. He slowly started with Tammy Lynn’s shoulders and worked his way down to her waist. By the time that he was finished, Tammy Lynn had still not told him what she had wanted to say.

“So, what’s up?” he said to her as she was turning around on the chair to face him. Tammy Lynn took her time, but she finally told him why she had come down to the pool.

“My parents are nagging me again about going to college in the fall, but I told them that if you weren’t going to go, then I wouldn’t go either.”

“Oh, Tammy Lynn. I thought that you had told them that I was thinking about going but that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in.”

“I did tell them. My daddy said that that was irrelevant. He didn’t care if we went to the same college as long as I went. He insisted that I send off for some brochures from some colleges. He compromised a bit by saying that they didn’t have to be from out of state, but I should at least try.”

Robert thought about it for a moment and then said,

“That’s not really a bad idea, Tammy Lynn. At least if you write to the colleges, your dad will see that you’re willing to give it a try. When you do get them, we could both look them over and decide how we want to go from there.”

“I guess that you’re right. I’ll do it under protest though! Well, now that that’s decided, I suppose that I should do some swimming.” Having said that, Tammy Lynn stood up and walked to the low end of the pool. She wasn’t adventurous enough to just run up and jump in though; besides running in the pool area wasn’t allowed. Robert smiled at her, then returned to his tower.

The first two brochures arrived in July and Robert and Tammy Lynn got together on one of Robert’s days off. It was a hot and humid day so they decided to sit out on the shaded porch and shared a pitcher of iced tea. The first brochure was from the local community college. Tammy Lynn wrote to them since they were only a two year college and she thought that it might pacify her father. Robert knew that the community college had a swimming pool but he wasn’t sure if they had a swimming program. Within a week, they had received brochures and applications from three institutions. Unfortunately, none of them had a swimming program and Tammy Lynn quickly lost interest.

“Bobby, what do we do now? Dad is going to insist that I chose a college and I don’t want to go if you’re not going to be with me”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about that and I think I might have a solution, but I don’t know if your father will go for it.”

“What is it? Tell me.”

“Well, I checked on my computer and I did find a place that offers a great swimming program, but it’s in California. I have some money saved up that my grandfather left me and he stipulated that if I went to college, I could receive the money before I turned 21.”

“California? But that’s so far away! I don’t know if my father would be willing to pay that much and, even though he likes you, I don’t think that he would trust us alone like that.”

“That’s the thing! If we find a program that you would want to get into, then we could get into the dorms. It’s not like we would be living together and we would see each other every day. It wouldn’t hurt to ask him, but before we do, we have to find something that you would want to study.”

Tammy Lynn thought about it for a minute and then asked Bobby,

“Does this school offer a nursing program? Mom is a nurse and if I tell them that that’s what I want to train for, maybe they’ll let me go.”

“As a matter of fact, they do have a nursing program. I could bring the brochure over tonight and we can spring it on them then.”

“Alright, let’s do it! I’ll tell Mom that you’ll be coming over for dinner tonight and we’ll tell them then.”

“It’s a date!”

Robert came over for dinner exactly at 6 o’clock since that was the time that Tammy Lynn told him to be there. Tammy Lynn’s parents liked Robert a lot and felt that he was a good match for their daughter. When everyone had finished dessert, Tammy Lynn’s father asked Robert if he had any plans for college. Tammy Lynn knew that this was her father’s not so subtle way of hinting to his daughter, but she had decided to let Robert bring up the subject of California. She looked over at Robert and gave him a nod of her head to indicate that this was the time.

“As a matter of fact, I have Mr. Quincy. At first, I was thinking of going to school here in order to be close to Tammy Lynn, but, unfortunately, none of the schools here have a swimming program. I did find one college that has a program, but it’s in California.”

“California? That seems a bit far to go for a swimming program. How can your parents afford that?”

“Ah, that would seem like a problem, but my grandfather left me some money in his will and it stated that if I went to college, I could get the money before I turned 21. That should get me through a semester or two and my parents said that they would help out.”

“I heard that it’s expensive in California. How will you live?”

“I can save money by living in the dorms and, since I won’t have a very heavy load at school, I could get a job to help with my expenses.”

Mr. Quincy then turned to his daughter and said,

“What will you do with yourself if Robert goes to California? I hope that you don’t think that this lets you off the hook.”

“As a matter of fact, daddy, I think that it’s a very good idea. In fact, I’ve looked over the brochure and have decided that I want to go to California also.”

“WHAT! Girl, do you realize how much that will cost? Have you even decided on a major, yet?”

“Yes, I have, daddy. I’ve decided that I’m going to be a nurse. This school has a very good nursing program and I could also live in the dorms and get a job.”

“I’m not having any daughter of mine living in a co-ed dorm!”

“Not all of them are co-ed, daddy. This is what I’ve decided and if you won’t let me go, then I’ll refuse to go to any colleges here!”

Before Mr. Quincy could say another word, Mrs. Quincy chimed in,

“A nurse? How lovely! Herbert, I think that we will discuss this later. Now, Tammy Lynn, are you sure that you would be able to deal with all of the injured and sick people that you would have to help?”

“Oh, yes, mother! I’ve visited you a couple of times at the hospital and I didn’t get nauseous once. And there were some very bad cases, so, yes, I know that I could handle it.”

With that said, Mrs. Quincy gave a little smile to her daughter and said,

“Would anyone care for some more iced tea?”

By the weekend, Mr. Quincy gave in and Tammy Lynn applied for an application on her computer. By the beginning of August, both Robert and Tammy Lynn had been accepted to the school. They would have to be in Los Angeles by September 1st.

By the time that they had both finished their second year at the university, they had both saved enough money in order to rent an apartment together. When Tammy Lynn’s father found out that they were living together, he was VERY unhappy, but his wife managed to calm him down by telling him that she felt that Robert was an honorable young man and could be trusted.

Robert was doing very well in his swimming, had gotten a job as a lifeguard at Santa Monica beach and was working on a degree in sports medicine. As much as Robert enjoyed being a lifeguard, he knew that it wasn’t something that he could do for the rest of his life, which is why he went into sports medicine. It also was helpful that Tammy Lynn was earning a degree in nursing so that if either one of them had a problem understanding something they could go to each other and discuss it. Over all, they both felt that they had made the right decision in their choice of school. It’s true that sometimes their schedules conflicted, but it was always a joyous occasion when they discovered that they had two days in a row off together. When these rarities did occur, they would take turns deciding what they would do for entertainment. Robert usually chose a day at Venice Beach, a movie, and dinner. Tammy Lynn would choose either a museum or a visit to Hollywood’s tourist spots. The first time that she got to choose, she opted to go to Anaheim and spend the day at Disneyland, even though it put a strain on their budget, Robert agreed to it because he wanted to make Tammy Lynn happy.

And so the next couple of years went by without any problems. Graduation Day quickly arrived and so did Robert and Tammy Lynn’s parents. The couple had a two bedroom apartment, even though they shared the one bedroom and had made the second bedroom up as a guest bedroom. Robert insisted that Tammy Lynn’s parents take the guest bedroom and Tammy Lynn and his mother could share their room. Robert’s father had died of a heart attack while Robert was in his third year at college, so Robert insisted that it would be no problem for him to sleep on the couch since it would only be for two days. The weather on Graduation Day was warm without being humid. Tammy Lynn was more excited about graduating than Robert was, but then he had prepared a surprise for later in the day. Robert’s mother was proud of him and would occasionally say out loud that she wished that Robert’s father could be there for the special occasion since Robert was the first member of the family to be a college graduate.

Since the graduating class members were called in alphabetical order, it meant that Tammy Lynn would receive her diploma before Robert. Five minutes after having received her diploma and finding a seat, Robert’s name was called. Tammy Lynn smiled as he walked up to the dean and got his diploma, but instead of shaking his hand and walking off of the stage, Robert turned and faced the crowd. He cleared his throat, tapped the microphone, and looking at Tammy Lynn, smiled and began to speak:

“This is a great day for all of us and, in some cases, even more for those who have come to see this. I would first like to thank Dean Standish for allowing me to say a few words, even though I am not a Valedictorian or on the Dean’s List. Gosh, I thought that this would be easy but…Tammy Lynn Quincy, will you consent to be my wife?”

The crowd was at first quiet, but then Tammy Lynn, with a slightly stunned look on her face, rose from her seat and yelled, “Yes! I will!”. Her parents, after getting over their shock, smiled and hugged each other. Robert’s mother was crying tears of happiness. Robert left the stage and quickly walked over to Tammy Lynn and the couple kissed for a seemingly long time, so much, in fact that the Dean walked up to the microphone and said, “May we continue now, Mr. Rippy?” The couple broke off, blushed and Robert waved at the Dean to show that the ceremony could continue. After the ceremony, when the couple and the two families were all together, Robert took a small box out of his robe’s pocket, got on one knee and knelt before Tammy Lynn and placed a diamond ring on her finger. Everyone in their vicinity clapped and wished the couple all happiness. Tammy Lynn’s father insisted that they all go out to dinner to celebrate both of the happy occasions. He also insisted that he would also pay for dinner, “since I’ll be paying for the wedding also.”

After much discussion, it was decided that the wedding would be held in Los Angeles on December 20th. The date was chosen so that Tammy Lynn’s parents could be at the wedding when Mr. Quincy was able to take a week off for vacation. Since Robert’s father had taken out a life insurance policy on himself for $500,000 and left his wife as his beneficiary, money was not a hindrance for his mother to not be able to attend. The couple’s mothers, in fact, flew in together so that they could help Tammy Lynn with all of the arrangements that needed to be taken care of. The most exciting day for the trio of women was when they all went to pick out a wedding dress. While Tammy Lynn was in the back trying on a dress, Mrs. Rippy asked Mrs. Quincy if she knew where the couple would be spending their honeymoon.

“Yes, well, I told Tammy Lynn that they should go to Hawaii, but she said that everyone goes to Hawaii. She and Robert talked about Tahiti, but hadn’t decided on that for sure.”

“Yes, I think Tahiti would be a lovely place to go on a honeymoon.”

“Robert also mentioned Bali, but I, personally, think that that is too far from civilization.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Besides, at a time like that, I think that a couple should have as much private time as possible. Oh, here comes Tammy Lynn.”

After three hours of trying on dresses, the three women finally agreed on a dress that wasn’t too lacy or too extreme. That taken care of, they went and had lunch. When they finally arrived back at the apartment, Robert was waiting at the door for them with a big smile on his face. Tammy Lynn was in such a happy state that she almost didn’t notice her fiance standing there. When she finally saw him, she said,

“Well, don’t you look like the cat that swallowed the canary? What’s happened?”

“I was offered a great job today that I won’t have to start until the new year. It’s in Denver, Colorado.”

“Denver? What is it?”

“I’ll be an assistant doctor for the Denver Broncos. Isn’t that great?”

“Did you accept it already?”

“No, of course I told them that I would discuss it with you first. I’ll be making $50,000 a year and they will pay my traveling expenses when the team has away games.”

Tammy Lynn thought for a minute, then told Robert that he should accept the job, if that was what he wanted. He frowned when he heard the last part of the sentence, but then told her that Denver had great hospitals and that it shouldn’t be hard for her to get a job in one of them. Tammy Lynn decided that he was probably right and went over and gave him a big kiss. Both Mrs. Rippy and Mrs. Quincy discretely left the room.

The wedding day was blessed with beautiful sunshine but it also had a nip in the air. The day before there had been the tail end of a rain storm, but that would not have any effect on the next day’s affairs. The wedding had taken place at an Episcopalian church and Robert thought that he heard a choir of angels singing when he saw Tammy Lynn being led up the aisle by her father. The glow of her smile shone through the diaphanous veil that covered her face. Time seemed to stand still for the couple as the ceremony proceeded. When it came time for the couple to exchange vows it almost became impossible to hear them over the sounds of the two mothers tears of joy. After the ceremony ended and the couple had been pelted with rice, everyone headed to the hall where the reception was to be held. As a joke, Robert and Tammy Lynn decided that they would bring a little something different to the party; instead of the traditional bride and groom on top of the cake, they had the groom in a pair of swimming trunks and a top hat and the bride was in a nurse’s outfit wearing a veil. At first, the mothers were appalled, but when Tammy Lynn’s father let out a loud laugh, the women joined in the frivolity. Three hours later, the pair had changed their clothes and were followed out to the limousine that would take them to the airport.

As soon as the plane was on its way to its destination, a hostess brought the newly-weds a bottle of champagne. Realizing that there was a newly-wed couple on board, the rest of the passengers applauded them. The pilot even sent his congratulations over the PA system. After an hour, when everything had settled down, Tammy Lynn and Robert fell asleep in their seats while holding each others hands. Two hours later, they were awakened when the hostess told them that the plane was getting prepared to make its landing in Honolulu. This was to be the first leg of their journey. They would spend their first night together in a hotel, and on the 22nd would continue their excursion.

When they arrived at the hotel, laden with leis, they checked in and were escorted to their room. The next morning, since their flight would not be leaving until five o’clock that evening, the couple went poolside and relaxed. Robert, of course, hit the water as soon as they had staked out their chairs. Tammy Lynn eventually joined him and they splashed around like a couple of children. They were even, once, warned by the lifeguard about their antics and they both laughed. Tammy Lynn insisted that they get out of the pool when she saw a waiter put a couple of drinks on their table. Both of them were really not heavy drinkers, but they felt that they couldn’t refuse when they saw the elaborate umbrella and fruit topping the glasses. After finishing their drinks, slowly, they went to their room and changed for lunch.

“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we could have had our lunch brought out to the pool?” Robert said.

“I don’t think that they would do that. Besides, you would have just wolfed the food down and jumped back into the pool,” Tammy Lynn teased.

“Come on, you know me better than that. Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. I would have waited an hour before jumping back into the pool.”

“I know, dear. What should we have for lunch?”

They arrived at the airport two hours early as suggested by the airlines. Robert had acquired a nice new layer of his tan, while Tammy Lynn had a slight touch of sunburn on her nose and arms. It wasn’t bad enough to make the rest of their trip unbearable, but she swore that she would be more careful at their next destination. Eight hours later, their plane made its landing. In order to get to the next leg of their journey would require a car rental. The selection of cars was not that great, but they did manage to find something that would get them to where they needed to be. They managed to get to the resort early in the morning. They went to their fourth floor room, put their luggage down and took a short nap. By noon, they were rested enough to go on a walk through the surrounding town. They found a small cafe, ordered lunch, they went looking for some souvenirs. By the time that they returned to the hotel, the tropical sun had worked its way through their skin. They went to their room and changed into their swimwear and went down to check out the hotel’s swimming pool. Robert dipped his hand into the water and, deciding that it was just the right temperature, stood up and dived in. He called out to Tammy Lynn to come and join him. She thought it over and, laying her sun hat on a chaise lounge, slowly took the few steps into the shallow end of the pool. She eventually submerged the rest of her body into the water and swam over to Robert. Robert splashed her and she splashed him in return; soon they were behaving like a couple of children. After fifteen minutes, Tammy Lynn got out of the water and walked over to the chaise lounge. She searched through the big straw bag that she had brought with her but couldn’t find the lotion that she thought that she had packed. She was about to head back to their room when Robert walked up to her.

“What’s the matter? Where are you going?”

“I forgot the suntan lotion.”

“Sit down, I’ll go and get it since I have the room key.” He had tied it on a string and wore it on his wrist. “I’ll be back in a couple minutes.”

Robert had just entered their room, when he noticed that the birds which had been thrilling near their hotel, were silent. The air even felt different. He stepped out onto his balcony and looked towards the ocean. It took him a split second to recognize what he was seeing; a giant wave which seemed to get bigger the closer that it got to the shore. He come out of his state of shock, ran back into the room and headed for the stairs. He had barely gotten halfway to the next floor down, when he felt to his knees when the tsunami smashed into the building. He quickly stood up and, keeping his balance by holding on to the walls, he rushed up to the top of the building. He ran over to the edge of the roof and saw umbrellas, chairs, carts, small thatch houses and some people being carried away. He started to scream because he was looking down on the side of the building where the swimming pool was located, and saw only swirls of dirty water pushing further inland. The only sign of what might have happened to his new bride was the sight of a straw sun hat being sucked into a small whirlpool. When he felt a tremor shake the building again, he walked back to the head of the stairs and started his descent. He was on the first step going down when a rush of debris filled water came crashing up towards him. He unconsciously turned around and ran up the stairs to the roof, hoping to outrun the water, even though, in his mind, he felt that he should wait for the water to catch up with him so that he could join Tammy Lynn in death. The rushing air created by the force of the tsunami almost knocked him over when he pushed through the rooftop door.

Three hours later, when the water started to recede enough for him to climb the stairs down to the ground floor, he walked down in a state of shock. Amazingly enough, when he got to the lobby area, which was covered in debris, he was met by a man with a Red Cross band on his arm. The man led him out of the lobby into the mud-filled street where a make shift ambulance was sitting. As Robert was being handed up into the vehicle, he looked around to see if his wife, either dead or alive, was anywhere in sight. He didn’t see her and so he silently sat down on the wooden bench which was in the back of the truck.

Robert was met at the airport by his mother and his in-laws. Robert’s mother silently walked up to him and hugged him to herself, trying to control her tears. Tammy Lynn’s mother looked like she was ready to faint, but her husband held her up and stroked her hair. There was no need to wait at the luggage carousel since all of Robert and Tammy Lynn’s possessions had been swept away by the tsunami. Robert carried a medium-sized bag which contained the clothes that he had been wearing during the catastrophe and had been donated to him from one of the relief organizations.

September, and the new school year had started, when Robert arrived in Denver. His mother had stayed with him in Los Angeles after he had returned, afraid that he may do harm to himself because of his loss. He assured her that he wouldn’t do anything so desperate, so she went back to Nebraska. Tammy Lynn’s parents had stayed for a week, hoping against hope, that there would be some news about their daughter. They had to return home without any news or her body.

Robert had moved into a one bedroom apartment near campus. He was shown around the campus by the dean himself, who, knowing about Robert’s story, felt that it was his duty to help the young man acclimatize to his surroundings. Even when the dean showed Robert the natatorium, he gave a slight smile but there was no light shining in his eyes whenever he saw a pool.

He had been in Denver a week when he decided that he would go back and check out the pool area. He thought that he would swim a couple laps before going to bed. He walked over to a bench, took off his sneakers and his sweatsuit. When he was ready, he walked up to the edge of the pool, took a deep breathe and froze. Before his eyes, the calm, blue water in the pool changed into a swirling mass of gray water filled with debris. Robert stood there, reliving the trauma that he had experienced in that small Pacific Island resort. Without realizing it, Robert’s teeth began to chatter and his legs went weak. In a slice of time that he thought had disappeared, he saw himself back on the roof of that hotel, looking down and seeing a straw hat sink into a whirl down to a watery hell. His head started to spin and fearing that he too would become just another piece of flotsam, he tried to slowly walk backwards from the edge of the pool. When his vision cleared and all that he saw in front of him was the calm water of the swimming pool, he walked back to the bench, put on his clothes and shoes and walked out of the building. Robert went on to be a very good doctor for the Denver Broncos but never went near a swimming pool again. And if he ever sees a person wearing a straw hat, he turns around and walks the other way.

Anthropophobia

Anthropophobia

(A fear of the company of people)

Jeremiah Ellsmore Ford, or Jef as he was called by friends and family, was a very shy man. He was 5’9”, had mousey brown hair, gray eyes, and, instead of thick glasses, wore contact lenses most of the time. At the age of twenty-one, he had decided that he would work only in a position where he did not have to deal with people face to face. He had made this decision after having undergone a very embarrassing situation in his senior year in college. One of his dorm mates had discovered that Jeremiah was still a virgin and the insensitive boor had posted this fact on his Facebook page. The day after the notice had been posted, Jeremiah found himself being gawked at everywhere he went. He found out about the posting when he was in Biology class and a fellow student had slipped a copy of it on his seat. Jeremiah took one look at the posting, turned a bright red, and gathered up his books and backpack and fled from the auditorium. Unfortunately, Jeremiah liked to sit in the front row, and so when he ran from the auditorium, his embarrassed expression was there for all to see. As he clumsily ran through the auditorium doors, and nearly knocking over the TA, he heard the roar of laughter from the other students. Later in the day, Jeremiah had gone to his professors and asked them to allow him to complete his courses through his computer. Most of the professors were understanding of Jeremiah’s situation, but one was not. This was Mr. Blackmore, Jeremiah’s psychology professor. He told Jeremiah that he shouldn’t be ashamed of his “condition” and that it would be better for him to face his tormentors instead of allowing them to see that they had won. Jeremiah reluctantly agreed and once he confronted his dorm mate about the posting, the posting disappeared. Jeremiah graduated and then applied for a job at a Tech firm. Since his grades were so impressive, he was allowed to work from his one bedroom apartment. He only had to make occasional appearances at the company, but when he did, he was not required to be there for very long and any face to face meetings were kept to a minimum. With this solution in place, Jeremiah may have known quite a few people but he did not have to physically interact with them.

One day, Jeremiah received an e-mail. This, of course, was not unusual since Jeremiah spent most of his day on his computer, but this message was listed under Spam. Jeremiah, like most people who received spam, usually just deleted it without bothering to read it, but for some reason unknown to Jeremiah, he actually opened it. Maybe because the head line seemed to speak to something within his soul, Jeremiah opened the message. The head line had read: Meet the girl of your dreams! Now, Jeremiah usually saw a head line for these mating services as a waste of time, but on this day, Jeremiah’s usually reserved sense of curiosity got the better of him. He clicked on the message and was amazed when a rainbow swirl of colors lit up his screen and was almost immediately replaced by graphics showing a wide range of pictures of smiling women. Suddenly, words popped up in large print: ARE YOU LONELY? CAN’T SEEM TO FIND YOUR SOULMATE? WELCOME TO CUPID’S HAVEN, WHERE WE GUARANTEE YOU THE MATE OF YOUR DREAMS! TO CONTINUE, CLICK ANY KEY. Jeremiah clicked a key and after the lettering faded away, a questionnaire came up on screen. The introduction on the questionnaire said: This service offers you a chance to meet the person of your dreams. Answer all of the questions as truthfully as possible. None of your personal information will be shared with any other businesses or corporations. Once you have sent in your questionnaire, your information will be entered into our database. Photographs of three possible candidates will be sent to you, and you may choose one. If the first choice does not work out, you will be able to make a second choice from the remaining choices. The cost for this service will be $100 (one hundred dollars US). In the unlikely event that you are not satisfied with any of your selections, your money will be refunded to you. If you agree to these conditions, then click AGREE. Jeremiah thought about this for a moment and then thought “What the heck!” and clicked AGREE. He was then prompted to the first question. By the time that he finished answering the questionnaire, and at the end entered his Visa information, Jeremiah felt like he had just run a mental marathon. He clicked Enter and waited to see if he would receive any results. Just as he was getting ready to sign out, a ring emitted from his computer and pictures and brief biographies of three women appeared on his screen. Surprised that he had received three candidates so quickly, Jeremiah slowly studied each picture and then read their brief biographies.

The first candidate was a fairly nice looking brunette named Alicia Goldman. She was 27 years old, had a PHD in Molecular Physics, graduated from MIT, and worked at the University of Rhode Island. Jeremiah thought that she looked a bit stern from her picture and so he checked the stats for the second candidate. Her name was Althea Williams, had blond hair, was 26 years old, and had her PHD in Chemistry. Jeremiah was impressed with her looks and her brains, but, before making his final selection, he checked out the final candidate. Her name was Miranda Chu. She had long dark hair, was also 26 years old, and had her PHD in Veterinary Medicine. Jeremiah did find her attractive but, since he had an allergy to cats, he decided that she would not make a very good prospect. He imagined that no matter how well-dressed Dr. Chu would be on their date, he was also afraid that she would have a pet which would aggravate his allergies. With all things taken into consideration, Jeremiah decided to choose Althea Williams as his first choice. He clicked on her picture and a small screen popped up which had Althea’s phone number, e-mail address, and best hours to phone. Jeremiah wrote down the information, logged off of his computer, and sat back in his chair. He wanted to plan out how he would approach Ms. Williams: would it be more personal to phone her verses e-mailing her? What would he say to her and where would they go on their date? Since Jeremiah was a shy person and also a very meticulous person, he wanted to make sure that when he finally did contact Althea Williams, he wanted to make sure that nothing would go wrong. After thinking about it overnight, Jeremiah finally composed an e-mail to Althea which he felt comfortable with. After waiting a few minutes in anticipation for a quick response, but not receiving one, he went back to his work site. Three hours later, he was finished working on his project for the day and checked his e-mail one last time. He was reasonably happy to see that Althea had responded to his message. She agreed to meet him for dinner the next night at the restaurant that he had suggested. Just for his own satisfaction, and to make sure that he was not dreaming, Jeremiah copied the e-mail, taped it to his screen, and logged off. Once he was logged off, he got out his cellphone and called the restaurant to make the reservation.

The next morning, which was a Friday, Jeremiah checked his messages to see if he was needed at work, and seeing that there were no important messages, he grabbed his car keys and went out to get some flowers for his date. While he was out, he also decided that he would look into getting a suit for that night. Most of the clothes in Jeremiah’s closet were either too leisurely or too out of date. Jeremiah, being such a low-key sort of guy, actually gave a full smile when he saw himself in the full length mirror at the store where he found a suit that made him look presentable. He also decided that he should get a haircut since it had been a month and he felt that he was looking a bit shaggy. After getting everything done that he needed to get done for his date, he went home and took a shower. When he had gotten home, and before taking his shower, he laid the suit out on the bed, admired it for a minute, and checked his computer, fearing that Althea might have changed her mind. There was a message for him from Althea, but all that it said was: “Shall we take my car or yours?” Jeremiah replied that he would pick her up in his car and that he had already checked MapQuest for directions to her apartment.

At 6:45 that evening, Jeremiah parked his car outside of Althea’s apartment complex. He checked himself in the mirror, grabbed the bouquet of flowers that he had bought earlier, and walked up to the entrance gate. He found Althea’s apartment number and pushed the buzzer. Despite the distortion of the speaker, when Althea answered the buzzer and rang him in, Jeremiah filtered out the noise and fell in love with what he perceived would be her real voice. Althea opened the door and told Jeremiah that she would be ready to leave in one minute, and exactly sixty seconds later, she told him that she was all set. Jeremiah appreciated a woman, or any person for that matter, who was exact.

“May I ask which restaurant are we going to be dining?” Althea asked Jeremiah as she locked her apartment door.

“Ah, yes, er, I thought that we would go to one of my favorite spots. It’s called Sadko’s; it’s a Russian restaurant and it has a roaming balalaika group. I hope that you like Russian food and music.”

“Oh, that does sound interesting. I can’t eat borshch because I’m allergic to beets, but I’m sure that they will have something else for the first course.”

“Yes, they do. They make a very good shchi, which is a cabbage vegetable soup. Would you be able to eat that…that is, if you want it.”

“No, that sounds fine to me.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jeremiah was parking his car in the parking lot. He quickly got out of the car and ran around it so that he could open the car door for Althea. She thanked him and, in what was a major deal as far as Jeremiah was concerned, she put her arm through his arm as they walked up to the valet station, gave the valet the key, and walked into the restaurant. The maitre d’ recognized Jeremiah, picked up two menus and escorted the couple to their table. The maitre d’ told Jeremiah that their waiter would be with them shortly and wished them a good evening.

“Good evening, gospozha, my name is Alexandr and I will be your waiter tonight. Would you care for anything to drink?”

“Da, pozhalista, butilka mineralnye vody.”

“Khorosho.”

“You speak Russian? I’m very impressed.”

“Yes, well, some of my company’s clients are Russian and I decided to learn the language. I ordered a bottle of mineral water if that is alright with you. I don’t drink alcohol.”

“No, mineral water is fine with me. I only drink wine and that is only for special occasions.”

“Have you decided what you would like? If I may, we could order a plate of mixed pirozhkis for our appetizer.”

“That sounds very good. I have tried potato pirozhki at a colleague’s birthday party and they were very good.”

The waiter arrived with the bottle of mineral water, poured it into their glasses and set the bottle on the table. He then took their order and left. Jeremiah slowly lost his shyness and by the time that their entrees had arrived, he and Althea were speaking to each other like old friends, not that that was the purpose of the date, but it helped. Soon, the small balalaika orchestra came to their table and started to play “Dark Eyes”. Althea said that she recognized the music and asked Jeremiah what the words meant. He told her that it was about a man who falls in love with a girl with dark eyes, which is considered a sign of great beauty in Russia. Althea smiled and Jeremiah felt, for the first time, that he might be falling in love. By the time that the meal was over and they were getting ready to leave, Jeremiah felt sure that he would be seeing Althea more often.

Jeremiah gave the valet a nice tip when he brought the car up for them. When they were inside the car, Althea looked over at Jeremiah and thanked him for an enjoyable evening. He said that it was his pleasure, but didn’t say anything else because he felt that it might be presumptuous on his part. They finally arrived back at Althea’s complex, but, just as she was getting her keys out of her purse, they heard a threatening voice.

“Give me your money, both of you, or the bitch gets it!” Jeremiah saw a man about 6’1”, dressed in black, wearing a ski mask, holding a gun to Althea’s head. Jeremiah did nothing since he had never been in this sort of situation before. When the shock finally wore off, he tried to bargain with the man. In the meantime, Althea, who was a foot shorter than the man, struggled to get out of his grip. This only made the robber more angry, and Jeremiah quickly took out his wallet to give the man what he wanted. He grabbed the money from Jeremiah, loosened his hold on Althea only so that he could grab her purse. However, Althea, who know some defensive moves, tried to back jab the robber in the face with her elbow. Unfortunately, her jab was ineffective and angered the robber. He raised the gun and shot Althea. He then turned around and ran down the street. Jeremiah bent down to Althea’s body, and realizing that she was most likely dead, fell on his butt to the sidewalk. A neighbor who lived in the complex ran through the gate and saw the tableaux. She got her cellphone out of her robe pocket and dialed 911. The police and an ambulance were at the scene within twenty minutes. While waiting for the police to arrive, the woman went back to her apartment and brought out a blanket for Jeremiah. She was a nurse and her instincts kicked in; she knew Jeremiah must be in shock and that a blanket would be a comfort.

When the police arrived, it took a while for Jeremiah to come back to reality in order to answer the officer’s questions. Since Jeremiah’s car was parked in a secure area, one of the officers gave him a ride home. Jeremiah got out of the officer’s car, walked up to his front door and let himself in. When he got inside, he slowly stumbled over to his couch and laid down. The next thing that he knew was that it was morning. He got up from the couch, and like one of the undead, walked into the bathroom, got undressed, and stood in the shower for a moment before slumping down in the shower and crying.

It was one year after Althea had been murdered, and in all of that time, Jeremiah shut himself off more and more. Her killer had not been captured in that time and so Jeremiah felt less safe on the rare occasions when he did go out. He had also taken his name off of the list as a client for Cupid’s Haven. He began to lose weight because he would immerse himself in his work and forget to go out for groceries. In fact, it got to the point where when he did notice that he needed groceries, he would order them from a local store and have them delivered. One time his boss came by to see why he had missed an appointment to come into the office and was appalled to see the way that Jeremiah was living. He found empty food cartons and soda cans lying everywhere and Jeremiah looked like he had not shaved in a month. Jeremiah gave him some lame excuses for missing the appointment, and since his boss knew about the murder, he told Jeremiah that he would set things up so that if Jeremiah was required, he could just do a teleconference instead of trying to make an effort to come in. His boss also managed to get a promise from Jeremiah that he would clean up his apartment. He said that he didn’t want to see Jeremiah become a hoarder or read in the newspapers about Jeremiah being found dead under a pile of trash. Jeremiah promised that he would clean himself and his apartment and with that reassurance, Jeremiah’s boss went back to his office.

That night, with a heavy rain storm howling outside, Jeremiah had a dream. In his dream, Jeremiah found himself all alone on a small island, with only his desk, chair, and lap top computer. He wandered around the island for a while, gathering some fruit and berries that he found in the jungle which rose up about a half mile from the shore. With his arms loaded up with some bananas, a fallen coconut, and some berries which he “sensed” were not lethal, he walked back down to the beach, ate a banana and turned on his computer. He logged in and began to work on a contract, when he noticed a blinking red light on the bottom right hand line. He had never seen such a thing before and, at first, was not sure what it signified and what he should do about it. He decided to pull his cursor down to it and hit enter. When he did this, his screen disappeared and he found himself on a video conference with his boss.

“Jeremiah,” his boss said, “we have a surprise for you.”

“Wha, what is it?” Jeremiah said in a quiet and surprised tone.

“You’ll have to come in and see.”

“But I’m on an island. How can I get there? I’m not even sure where I am.”

“Just touch the screen.”

This made no sense to Jeremiah and he was reluctant to do it. As he was getting ready to turn off his computer, in the background he saw Althea. He was shocked to see her, but it was too good to be true and so he touched the screen. The next thing that he knew was that he was standing in his boss’s office. He looked through the door and saw Althea starting to turn towards him. She had been looking out of a window, which Jeremiah saw was dark and had occasional flashes of lightening. He started to run towards her, but when she turned to face him, he saw her clothes had gun shots in them. He suddenly stopped and, from the left, a shadowy figure stepped out, raised a hand holding a gun and fired at Althea. At that moment, hundreds of people suddenly appeared and went to surround Jeremiah and they were all yelling “Surprise!”. Jeremiah began to panic as the people crowded in closer to him. He also noticed that each person was holding a gun in their hands. Total fear gripped Jeremiah and he suddenly found the strength to push through the crowd and make his way back to his boss’s office. The computer was still on and he could see the waves breaking on the shore of the island. The moment that he got up to the computer, he touched the screen and found himself back on the beach. Unfortunately, the people in the crowd, led by his boss, also touched the screen and appeared on the island. After his boss appeared, the mysterious gunman appeared. Jeremiah found himself surrounded by hundreds of people and they were all pointing their guns at him. Jeremiah flailed his arms around and managed to clear a path towards the ocean. He had splashed out to where the water was coming up to his thighs when he found his feet stuck in the sand. He was slowly sinking and the crowd was following him into the water. He tugged at his feet as hard as he could, but he lost his balance and fell into the water face first. Jeremiah struggled and tried to put his hands on the sand in an attempt to keep himself from drowning. During his struggle, he felt the whiz of bullets speeding by him.

Suddenly, Jeremiah sat up in his bed with sweat pouring from his body. A bolt of lightening lit up the room and the boom of the thunder shook the glass in his windows. Jeremiah got out of his bed and walked into his bathroom, turned on the light, and stared at his face in the mirror. He got undressed and took a shower in an effort to calm his nerves. After drying off, he did not put his pyjamas back on, but put on a sweatsuit and went to his living room. He debated with himself, but he finally decided to turn on his computer. It was four o’clock in the morning and Jeremiah, as he always did when he first logged on, checked his e-mail. There was nothing of major interest so he logged in to his work station. An hour later, he was starting to feel tired and, not wanting to go back to sleep, he went to the kitchen and made himself a pot of coffee and made two pieces of toast. He finished eating the toast, poured himself a cup of coffee and went back to his computer. For the next few weeks, Jeremiah did not have any more nightmares, but it took him a while before he could fall asleep.

A month later, Jeremiah had just logged on to his computer when he almost fell out of his chair. On the bottom right hand line, a red light was blinking! He slowly moved the cursor over to the light and waited for a message line to come on to let him know what its function was. When the message came on, it said “office line”. Before clicking onto the light, Jeremiah took a slow breath in and let it out. He clicked it on and a video screen came on and Jeremiah saw his boss’s face. When his boss saw Jeremiah’s face on screen, he yelled “Surprise!”. Jeremiah’s face turned white, he fell out of his chair, and started screaming. His boss was shocked by Jeremiah’s reaction and tried to calm him down, but then suddenly, people that he worked with, in spirit, came through his door yelling “Surprise!” and “Happy Birthday!”. This was too much for Jeremiah.

Jeremiah is semi-happy now. The interns and doctors treat him very well, but they never leave him alone in crowds or let him use a computer.

Chapter 47 Excerpt

Chapter Forty-seven

After Levitsky had finished with his conference, he had the Babble brothers brought to his office. Levitsky felt that he had made it clear to the Secretary and ministers what their assignments were to be and what the consequences would be for disobeying him would be. He had just poured himself another cup of coffee when his secretary brought the brothers in. All three of them, in their own ways, tried to exude an aura of confidence, but Levitsky could smell their fear. “So, gentlemen, I hope that you all have good news to report to me.” The brothers looked at each other, then Warren spoke up: “I’m afraid that we haven’t heard anything yet. They have been told that they are to report directly to us upon a successful completion of their mission.” “I suggest that you call them and tell them that they are to have their missions completed within the next forty-eight hours or they will be terminated.” The way that Levitsky said this made it clear to the brothers that if their assistants failed in their missions, the brothers’ memberships in the Temple’s organization would also be terminated. All three of them assured Levitsky that the assignments would be carried out on time. Levitsky told them that he was to be notified as soon as they heard from the assistants. He then told them to return to their hotel and wait for the calls. After the brothers had left, Levitsky phoned Van Hesse. “Have you heard from Harper, Porter, or Djovic yet?” “Not yet, but I have told them what to expect if they fail.” “I’m afraid that we may have to go to a Plan B. The financial part of the Plan has been put into play and I will not accept any excuses for failure on your end. I think that I will have to bring in Rabisu.” “Rabisu? Not to say that your decision is wrong, but do you really think that it will come to that? Let me talk to them first before you have to resort to calling in Rabisu.” “You have 24 hours before I call in Rabisu. I would hate to have to give him your name as well as the others. Once the Plan is started there will be no turning back. The other brothers and sisters will be notified about their duties; you are to take care of the problem there and I am going to have the Babbles sent back to LA. When they get there, they are to be put under house arrest until their assistants report success, otherwise they will become useless to us and they are to be sent to the cells at Summer’s Place. Is that understood?” “Yes, of course. I will see to it.” “Make sure that you do.” When Van Hesse hung up the phone, he sat back in his chair, ran his hands over his face, then looked up the phone number for Sandra Harper. Invoking Rabisu was only resorted to as a final option.

Anthophobia (Fear of Flowers)

Anthophobia

(Fear of flowers)

The legions traveling with the Emperor Hadrian and his lover, Antinous, were beginning to despise this trip that the Emperor insisted making. The sun of Greece was, like the embodiment of the god Apollo, shooting his arrows of heat and causing the vision of the Romans to blur. One soldier in particular, Flavius Claudius Tibero, however did not mind the heat at all. He was a large man who never complained but always sought to encourage his fellow soldiers by telling them jokes or leading them in a song. It was due to these qualities that the Emperor kept Tibero around him while on his various journeys throughout the Empire. The Emperor raised his head from the scroll that he was reading at that moment and, noticing that some of his men were slowing down, called for a rest stop near an olive grove. The men cheered the decision and rested where ever they could find a bit of shade.

It was at this moment that Tibero removed his helmet and wandered into the grove to look for a place to relieve himself. He had just found a place 100 feet away in order to relieve himself. He was halfway through this process, when a breeze came up and suddenly Tibero found himself in a terrible bout of sneezing. His eyes began to turn red and his nose began to run, all the while trying to control the stream from his manhood. Finally, sensing that he was losing the battle, he started to run back towards the road, but just as he came in sight of his fellow soldiers, and the Emperor, he fell over a root from one of the olive trees and fell face first with his bare buttocks exposed to all. Several soldiers had heard the commotion coming from the grove, but when Tibero fell to the ground in such an embarrassing condition, all the birds in the surrounding trees flew away, frightened by the loud roar of laughter coming from all who saw Tibero.

Tibero, however, did not get angry at the laughter of his fellow soldiers, but rose from the ground, and with a sheepish grin, said

“Who among you has not at one time or another been rudely interrupted when Nature has called? Sadly for me, Zephyrus decided to play me for a fool this time.” Having said this, Tibero looked up and shook his fist at the invisible deity and called out, “I’ll return such insult in kind, you mark my words!”

The soldiers only laughed louder. When the laughter started to die down, the Emperor called out to Tibero,

“And how shall you seek your revenge on a god, my dear Tibero? Shall you hold your breathe and seek to outdo him in your loosening of hot air?”

“No, your Majesty, but I shall wait until we get to Delphi, find his temple and go fart in his stony face!”

“I, for one, would never dare to insult a god, my friend. Maybe you should seek his help instead of his anger.”

“But, your Majesty…”

“No buts, my dear Tibero. While we are in Delphi, all of you shall honor all of the gods. Understood?”

All of the soldiers, including Tibero, nodded their assent, but under his breathe, Tibero muttered, “We shall see who makes who a fool, godling.”

After having their midday meal, the Imperial party resumed their journey to the holy site of Delphi where the Emperor wished to consult with the Pythia. The Emperor and his group were returning to Rome after traveling through the rest of the Empire on what would be considered as a goodwill tour. Before returning to Rome, however, the Emperor, who was an enthusiastic traveler and lover of all things Greek, wished to visit all of the sacred sites of the Empire with the final, and in his eyes, the most Holy of Holy Sites, Delphi. The countryside in this part of the Hellenes was very beautiful and the Emperor’s lover insisted on this route from Athens, where they had landed in Greece, as the most scenic and safest road. Three hours after Tibero’s “unfortunate accident”, the Imperial entourage arrived at the Holy Site. The streets were crowded with vendors and other tourists, some of regal lineage and some who were representatives for such personages who were of such a distrusting nature that they refused to leave their countries in other people’s hands. There were even peasants among the crowds, leading sheep or goats to various temples as offerings to the gods that they had come to seek answers from, or to be more precise, from the god’s priest. The crowd, of course, made way for the Imperial parade, mouths gossiping or gaping as the Emperor rode past them. On occasion, a cheer would go up from some of them and the Emperor would give them a smile and wave. Most of the people in the crowd wished the Emperor well, especially after having gone through the reigns of some not so likeable Emperors. The last Emperor who had made a visit to the Hellenes, without having martial ambitions, had been Nero and he had been barely tolerated.

When the Imperial entourage arrived at an estate on the west side of the complex, the soldiers took their positions while the Emperor’s servants brought in all of the baggage. Tibero and nine other soldiers were on the first shift at the entrance to the estate, which belonged to a Greek olive oil merchant who had done very well since he had a monopoly of his product throughout all of western and southern Greece. The merchant, his family and servants were not at the estate since the merchant had decided that he would conduct some business in Sparta while the Emperor was in Delphi. The merchant had no problem lending his estate to the Imperial party since he had been well paid for the privilege. In the meantime, the Emperor and Antinous staked out their personal quarters. Once settled in, the Emperor sat in the merchant’s office and spent his time going over petitions and other business which related to the running of the Empire.

Tibero was standing at the front gates of the estate, growing bored, when an old woman walked up to him. Tibero instantly became alert and commanded the old woman to stay where she was and inquired what she wanted.

“I am the High Priestess Xenia and I have been summoned by the Emperor to make an appointment for his meeting with the Pythia.”

Hearing this, Tibero called for another guard to stand in for him while he escorted the High Priestess into the Emperor’s presence. The fact that the woman had come alone surprised Tibero and he asked the woman about this. She told him that everyone who came to Delphi recognized her and that it would be sacrilege if any person laid a hand on her.

“If everyone who comes here recognizes you, why did we not?”

The old woman looked at Tibero, gave him a slight smile and said,

“You Romans may be rulers of the world, but you never see the people you rule as people. You see them as commodities.”

Tibero thought about this as they walked towards the steps leading into the mansion, but, having thought it through, simply shrugged his shoulders. He did, though, think of another question that he wanted to ask the old woman while she was there.

“If I may ask one other question, Holy Mother? Is there a temple dedicated to the Anemoi in Delphi?”

“Yes, there is, but why would a soldier be interested in a Temple dedicated to the wind gods?”

Tibero, who had been thinking about how he would repay Zephyrus for playing such an embarrassing trick on him, especially in front of the Emperor, told the Priestess that he was inquiring on behalf of his family who were farmers. Tibero felt no guilt in lying to such a holy personage, but his desire for revenge was stronger than his sense of piety. The priestess accepted Tibero’s explanation and told him where he would be able to find the temple. She also told him that it would also be a good idea to make offerings to the goddess Chloris, who was the goddess of flowers and the wife of Zephyrus. Tibero stiffened slightly when he heard this since he had always had an aversion to flowers since he would go into violent sneezing fits whenever he was around them. Finally, they arrived at the door of the mansion and Tibero told the guard who the woman was and why she was there. The guard saluted the old woman and escorted her inside. Tibero then returned to his post, waiting for the end of his shift so that he could put his plan in action. An hour later, the old priestess made her way out of the house and, as she came up to Tibero, she turned to him, smiled and told him to remember to make the proper offerings to the god and goddess. Tibero thanked the priestess for her advice and directions and when she was out of his sight, said in a low voice, “Oh, don’t worry old crone, I’ll be sure to give them all that they deserve.”

Tibero was finally finished with his shift and he went into a building set aside for the soldiers as a barracks and dining hall. Some of his friends saw him and invited him to go out with them; they had directions to a wine shop which was attached to the temple of Bacchus. Tibero asked them where it was and when he heard that it was close to the sanctuary of the wind gods, he agreed to go with them. After finishing his meal, and having not received any commands from the Emperor, Tibero and his friends headed for the wine shop. When they arrived, they were met by a priest, who was also the proprietor of the shop, who greeted them waving an ivory wand over each man’s head as he entered and a girl who placed a crown of ivy leaves on their heads.

“Welcome, glorious soldiers of the divine Hadrian! Come and drink! Enjoy the beauty of the maenads who are here to entertain you! May the god bless you with his insight! Welcome, welcome!!”

Laughing at the sight of the so-called ‘maenads’, each of the soldiers took the hand of a girl who walked up to them with jugs of wine and sat at a table. Tibero enjoyed himself, but did not let himself get too drunk, so that he could find a way of slipping out of the shop discretely and making his way to the sanctuary of Zephyrus. After drinking two small jugs of wine, Tibero got up from his couch and started to make his way to the door of the wine shop. One of his friends called out to ask him where he was going, so he turned around, smiled and roared, “Out to piss so that I may pray more to the god!” His friends, on hearing this, returned his quip with shouts of laughter and “Aye, to the god!”

When Tibero got out to the street, he leaned against the wall of the wine shop for a moment in order to get his bearings straight. Once the fresh air revived him, Tibero walked down the street towards the sanctuary that the priestess had told him about. It didn’t take him long to find the temple that he was looking for. There was only two torches lighting the fairly small temple, but Tibero managed to find the statue of the god that he was seeking. To the side of the statue of Zephyrus, there was a niche which held the statue of the god’s wive, Chloris. At first, Tibero was a bit reluctant to get too near the statue when he noticed that there were some flowers lying on the goddess’ altar, but he took one of the torches and noticed that the flowers had dried up, so he put the torch back into its holder and advanced a few steps towards the god’s statue.

“So, you find my malady a source of amusement, do you? Well, let me be the first to return the favor.” Having said this, Tibero turned his back to the statue, lifted his robe and let loose with a loud and long fart. Completing his mission, he lowered his robe and, looking over his shoulder, laughed at the statue of the god and took a step towards the temple door. He was almost out of the building when he heard the sound of a wind blowing and, suddenly, a loud voice echoed from the statue.

“Beware, o little man, for your sacrilege! Know that when you return to the land of your birth, I shall revenge myself upon you by using your biggest fear for my weapon!”

Tibero was shaken to the core when he heard this and ran out of the temple as fast as he could. He ran all the way back to the wine shop and grabbed a goblet from one of the women dressed as a maenad. He found an empty couch and, with trembling hands, gulped down the wine. One of his fellow soldier’s noticed Tibero when he ran back into the shop and staggered over to his couch,

“What, o Tibero, has happened? Surely you can not be frightened of the night? Or did some Greek boy try to bugger you while you pissed?” The soldier and his friends laughed out loud when he said this, but Tibero was not listening to them. He took up a nearby jar of wine and drank it, but his hands were shaking so much, that he spilled most of it. Tibero decided that it was a waste of his time trying to get so drunk that he would be able to forget the god’s curse on him, that he got off of the couch, said farewell to his friends and went back to the barracks. Tibero had some difficulty getting to sleep, but eventually, the wine worked its magic, and Tibero fell asleep. The wine had also the additional benefit of making sure that Tibero suffered no ill dreams. The next morning, Tibero was rudely awakened by the captain of the guards, who pushed Tibero off of his cot and unto the floor, telling Tibero that he had ten minutes to report to his post. Tibero looked up at the captain with blurry eyes and throbbing head and slowly rose from the floor and went outside to dip his head in a barrel full of cold water. The horrifying scene from last night was forgotten for the moment and Tibero quickly dressed and ran to relief the guard at the gate. Later in the morning, he was chosen to be one of the soldiers who would accompany the Emperor and Antinous to their meeting with the Pythia.

Two days after Hadrian’s meeting with the Pythia, it was decided that the journey would continue and head back to Rome. At the docks of Delphi, men were loading up triremes with stores and souvenirs for the short trip across the Ionian Sea towards Rome. The Emperor had also decided that since their voyage would bring them close to the isle of Ithaka, that they would make a short pilgrimage to see the sights of the land of the hero Odysseus, who the Emperor and Antinous admired for his wisdom. Tibero was of two minds about returning to Italy since he remembered, after the wine’s fumes cleared from his mind, the words that the statue of Zephyrus had spoken to him. The side trip to Ithaka was, in a way, a relief to Tibero since it meant that his life would be prolonged a while longer. As the ship left the port, Tibero stood at the rail and looked out at the blue waters and then checked the sails to see what direction the wind was blowing. Since the wind was blowing towards the West, Tibero started to sweat since Zephyrus was the god of the west wind. Tibero’s fear was abated when the isle of Ithaka was sighted and the party made land without incident.

Three days later, the imperial flotilla set sail from Ithaka and headed for the port of Brindisium. The sea was relatively calm, the sky was a bright blue with an occasional cloud, and the wind was perfect for this time of year. Tibero tried to keep his mind occupied by shining his armor and sharpening his sword. The Emperor and Antinous stood at the prow of the ship soaking in the fresh sea breeze and chatted. As Tibero stood up to buckle his sword back on, a seagull flew over head and screeched. The seagull had been carrying something in his bill but when he called out, it fell down and landed at Tibero’s feet. Tibero might not have noticed the object since it made no sound when it hit the deck of the ship, but Tibero had looked up, for some unknown reason to himself, and saw the object gently floating down and was a little surprised when the object landed at his feet. It was a single poppy. Tibero stooped down and picked it up gingerly and shivered. A soldier who had been standing nearby at the ship’s rail saw Tibero pick up the flower and noticed that his comrade had turned deathly white.

“What is it Tibero that causes you such fear? Surely, one flower will do you no harm?”

Tibero looked at the soldier, recognized him as one of the men who he had been at the wine shop with, and said,

“Don’t mock me! While in Delphi, I…” but he was reluctant to tell his friend what he had done at the god’s temple and what the god had said to him.

“What? What happened in Delphi?”

“Never mind. All that I will tell you is that a god told me that I would be slain by my biggest fear, and flowers have always been a torment to me. This poppy is no mere flower and this was no mere chance that it landed at my feet. Poppies, as you may know, are the flower of the god Morpheus, the god of sleep and dreams. I see this as an omen.”

“Oh, do you now? And how could you have offended Morpheus?”

“It was not Morpheus who I offended,” Tibero said quietly. “Morpheus is usually, like Mercury, a messenger of the gods and I see this as a fatal reminder.” Having said this, Tibero walked over to the railing, and waiting for a favorable breeze, dropped the flower in the sea. He watched the poppy drop on the top of a wavelet which carried it away, back towards Greece. Ten minutes later, the sound of the military trumpet called out “Assembly” and the soldiers proceeded towards the prow of the ship where the Emperor and his entourage were standing.

“My friends and fellow soldiers, I have called you all to thank you for your loyalty and patience while we have been on this pilgrimage throughout the Empire. I know that it has been over a year since many of you have seen your families. I know that it has been a while since many of you have yearned for the pleasures of Rome (loud cheers). Our journey is nearing its end and I, your Emperor, wish to let you know that this time together has been a great joy to me. The captain has told me that we shall be arriving in Brindisium within the hour. When we arrive, we shall make a slight detour to my villa outside of the city and you all are to be my guests at a feast which I have made arrangements. The day after, we shall head for Rome and when we arrive, it is hoped that the Senate will arrange a triumph for you all. I have sent orders that this is to be done and that there shall be games arranged for a full month. Each man of you shall also receive ten gold denarii as a bonus for your loyal service.” When the soldiers heard this, all throats let out a loud roar of joy and the men turned to each other and clapped each other on their backs. This caused Tibero to forget about the poppy and he joined his friends in a toast to the Emperor. The soldiers dispersed and gathered all of their armaments and other possessions. The captain of the guards walked up to each decurion and let them know what order of debarkation their groups would be in. Tibero’s group would be the last group to debark from the ship once the Emperor’s ship docked.

When the Emperor’s ship docked at the pier of Brindisium, there were people rushing up and tossing rose petals at a path that they thought that the Emperor would walk. The people were held back by soldiers from the local garrison while a welcoming committee waited at the foot of the gangplank. The leader of the welcoming committee had brought his young daughter with him; she had been brought so that she could present the Emperor and Antinous with crowning wreaths of olive leaves. The first rank of the soldiers who had traveled with the Emperor walked down the gangplank and the committee members stepped back a few paces so that the soldiers could keep in formation. The Emperor and Antinous came down the gangplank side by side after the second platoon had disembarked. The Emperor and Antinous stopped a few paces in front of the welcoming committee and, with some nudging from her father, the girl stepped up to the Emperor, who, with a smile on his face, lowered himself so that the girl could place the wreath on his head. Antinous did the same thing and the girl curtsied and ran back to her father. After this, the man gave his welcoming speech which Hadrian listened to very patiently. Some of the soldiers, however, were not as patient and they started to cough softly, lift a leg as if trying to get the blood to flow back into it, or to swat at an imaginary fly.

As a soldier himself, the Emperor was aware of his men’s unease but politeness dictated that he give this official his attention. Fortunately, the man’s speech did not last too long and the Emperor thanked the man, told him that they would be going to the Imperial villa outside of town, and be on the road to Rome on the following day. The party then proceeded to march through the crowd which had gathered, which delighted Tibero and his group who had had to wait on or at the foot of the gangplank while the Emperor was greeted by the local dignitaries.

With eyes straight ahead after his group of soldiers were in their formation, Tibero did not notice the rose petals which had been strewn by the town’s inhabitants. When he did see them, he clenched his teeth and managed to stay in formation. He was glad when the Imperial party had left the boundaries of Brindisium and were on the Via Appia heading for Hadrian’s villa. He breathed easier when he decided that maybe Zephyrus was preoccupied and had forgot about him since he was still alive. Even when marching through the rose petals, he had not been affected which was a relief. When the party arrived at the villa, Tibero stored his belongings and was ready to go see if he could get something to eat from the kitchen, but he was stopped from his goal by the captain of the guard.

“Tibero! You are to report to the Emperor immediately!”

Tibero was shocked by this command and so he asked the captain why the Emperor asked for him.

“I do not know and I would never dare to ask! Now, quickly, man!”

Tibero started to jog towards the villa with more than the heat of the day causing him to sweat heavily. He stopped at the doorway of the courtyard and told the guard that he had been summoned by the Emperor. The man said “follow me” and led Tibero through the courtyard and into a wing of the house where the Emperor met with officials. When Tibero entered the room, he saw the Emperor and Antinous laying on a couch sipping some wine which had been made on the grounds of the villa.

“So, Tibero, I have been informed that you may have insulted one of the gods. Is this true?”

“Yes…but, your Majesty, he started it!” Tibero felt foolish using such a childish excuse but it was the only thing that he could think of at that moment.

“And, if I may ask, which god did you dare to insult? Jupiter? Mars? Who was it man!”

“Zephyrus, your Majesty.”

“Zephyrus? What has the wind god done to you that you dare to commit sacrilege?”

Tibero then proceeded to remind the Emperor of the incident at the olive grove while they were on their way to Delphi. The Emperor looked over at Antinous and, at the same time, they both laughed out loud. “And by what means did you commit this sacrilege,” the Emperor said while trying to look at Tibero with a stern face.

“Well, your Majesty, when the High Priestess came to see you at Delphi, I asked her if there was a temple dedicated to the Anemoi and she told me. That night I went with some of the men to a wine shop which happened to be near this temple. After being at the shop for an hour, I got up to pretend that I needed a pissorium and, instead I went to the temple. While there I gave the god some of my own wind. However, when I was leaving the temple, the god spoke to me.”

When Hadrian heard this, he sat up from his couch and asked Tibero what the god had said to him. Tibero told him and the Emperor sat for a moment thinking over what Tibero had said. While waiting for the Emperor to decide his fate, Tibero shuffled his feet and stared down at the ground. Finally, the Emperor spoke.

“Since our party was able to cross the sea to Brindisium safely, I shall not inflict any lashes on you for your misdeed. However, you are to take a horse from my stable and ride down to the town where there is, I know, a small temple dedicated to the Anemoi and pray for the god’s forgiveness. As an additional punishment, you are also to take a bundle of flowers and put them on the altar of the god’s wife, Chloris.”

“But, my lord,…”

“I will not hear any buts from you Tibero. I shall have my dear friend Antinous here accompany you and make sure that you perform everything that I have commanded. You leave in fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, Majesty.” Tibero then left the room and headed to the stables reserved for the members of the Emperor’s cavalry to choose a horse. Tibero had had some experience riding horses, but it had been a while. He chose a brown filly with a white star between her eyes. Antinous met him at the front gate of the villa with a smile on his face.

“Come, Tibero, try not to be so gloomy. We should only be gone for an hour and it is, after all, your own fault for provoking a god, no matter how minor.”

“I know, my lord, but this would not even have happened if the gods had not afflicted me.”

“Now, are you railing against the other gods too, Tibero?”

Realizing what he had said, Tibero told Antinous that he had learned his lesson and that he would never complain about his lot in life again. Satisfied with Tibero’s answer, Antinous tried to cheer the soldier up.

“Perhaps after you have made your amends, we shall be able to find you a woman to bring you some relief from your dark mood. I’m sure that the Emperor would not object if you brought her back to the villa.”

“Thank you, my lord. That would be nice.”

The trip back to Brindisium flew by quickly as Tibero found that the Emperor’s “boy”, as he was referred to by the soldiers, was a very good companion. Tibero, for a quick second, thought that if he had had the same leanings as Hadrian, that he would have hoped to find a comrade just as amiable as Antinous. The smell of the sea eventually reached the men’s noses and Tibero fell slightly behind Antinous since he knew where the temple to Zephyrus and Chloris was located. They went through the small town square and then turned their horses up a side street for about a half mile. Antinous halted his horse when they reached the site and he looked at Tibero, waved him to get off of his horse, and pointed to a small stall situated at the right hand side of the entrance. At the stall, a young priestess sat on a stool and sold flowers to incoming worshippers.

Antinous said to Tibero: “Remember, don’t be stingy with your offering; the Emperor wishes to know that all of the gods favor him.” Tibero blanched when he saw the priestess, who had heard what Antinous said, get up off of her stool and present him with a large bouquet of roses with some irises interlaced in between each rose. Tibero took a cautious step towards the priestess, then stopped to test the wind, to see if it was blowing from the direction of the flowers. Since he did not start having a sneezing fit, Tibero held the flowers at arms length and asked the priestess how much they cost.

“Three dinarii, kind sir.”

Tibero reluctantly handed the priestess the coins and walked into the temple. Once inside, he stopped for a moment so that his eyes could get adjusted to the weak light coming through the slits carved in each direction which represented each of the four Anemoi. He turned to the left, which represented Zephyrus, the West Wind, and saw the statue of the god and that of his wife. He quickly stepped over to the altar in front of Chloris, placed the flowers in front of her statue, and made a quick bow of obeyance to her. Then, the moment that Tibero had not really been looking forward to; asking Zephyrus’ forgiveness. Tibero was not the sort of man who forgave an insult, no matter who it came from. He looked up at the statue’s eyes and was about to reluctantly ask for the god’s forgiveness, when throughout the temple, a small earthquake shook the building and which was followed by a strong wind. Tibero fell to his knees in fear and was about to pray for the god’s forgiveness when he heard that terrible voice echo around the stones again.

“So you think to avoid your fate when I still see pride in your heart. Go, little man, and accept your destiny.” Hearing this, Tibero leapt up from the cold stone floor and ran out of the temple. Once outside, he jumped on the horse that was waiting for him, which was a bit difficult since the earthquake had caused the horse to become skittish. Tibero whipped the hindquarters of the horse without waiting for his companion to join him. The horse flew down the cobbled street and was in the square in little time. At that exact moment, a strong gust of wind came out of the west and the horse rose up on his hind quarters and Tibero fell off of his back and hit the street. The horse skittered and also fell to the street and landed on Tibero’s body. Tibero had been knocked on the head when he fell and was starting to stand up when the horse knocked him back down and, due to the horse’s weight, killed Tibero. When Antinous arrived on the scene, he found the horse wandering around the square and Tibero’s body lying in a field of rose petals, which the people who had greeted the Emperor and his party, had tossed in his path. Antinous sighed, got down off of his horse, captured the other horse and placed Tibero’s body on the horse’s back.

An hour later, Antinous returned with Tibero’s body at the villa. When the Emperor was informed about what had happened, he ran out to make sure that Antinous was not injured. Satisfied that Antinous was not harmed, the Emperor asked him for more details as they walked back into the building. After hearing Antinous’ story, the Emperor sighed, looked at his lover and said,

“I guess that your little joke in Delphi back-fired.”

A year later, while the Emperor and Antinous were traveling through Egypt, Antinous fell into the Nile River and drowned.

Androphobia (Fear of Men)

Androphobia

(Fear of men)

There isn’t much to do at night in the city when the rain is so heavy that you can barely see your hand in front of your face. The only people out on nights like this are either trying to get home late from work or working the streets, hidden in doorways. This was that kind of night. In the doorway of an old abandoned dry cleaners was a young man who, if he kept track of such things, was just past his 17th birthday. He stood in the doorway smoking a cigarette and debating whether it was worth his time to see if he could lure someone into “taking him home”. This could be the potential client’s home, if he was single, or at a nearby run down motel, if he wasn’t. Either way, the boy figured that anything would be better than standing out in the rain, relying on a cigarette to keep him warm. The boy had just finished his cigarette and had decided to call this night a waste and go back to his motel room, when a man, looking to be around 35 years old and not too much of a troll, pulled up to the sidewalk in his decent-looking car, and asked the boy if he needed a lift. “Yeah, whatever you want to call it. First, I haveta ask, are you a cop?”

“No, I’m not a cop.” Having gone through the preliminaries of his profession, the boy pulled the door open and got in.

“So, where are you going?”

“Where ever you want to go. It’s your choice, but I do ask to be paid first.”

“Understood. We’ll go to your place, shall we?”

The rain had cleared the air, but had caused a bit of havoc among the trash left along the side of the street. Some of the drains were still overflowing, but the city’s sewage patrols were hard at work trying to clear the streets quickly. At the Starlite Motel, there were two police cars parked near the motel office. At a room, about four doors down and on the first floor, a policewoman was decorating a door with “Caution…Crime Scene” tape. Her partner and she had just finished taking pictures of the body of the young man who was found on the bed with his throat slit and his genitals cut off and jammed into the bloody slit throat. Alexandra Stillwater, the 12 year veteran of the department, along with her partner, Eric Piper, a ten year veteran, had just finished scouring the bedroom and bathroom for clues. The other police officers were busy speaking with the motel’s manager, trying to get information about the victim. The manager was of very little help, telling the officers that he only knew the boy by the name that had been given to him when he rented the room and pretended not to know what occupation the boy maintained in order to pay for his room. The manager’s policy was to not stick his nose where it didn’t belong, unless the rent was not paid on time.

“So, Ally, what do you think our chances are of finding out who killed this kid?”

“It all depends on any information that the manager might have or if we manage to get lucky and find a witness who will be willing to talk to us. As you know, trying to get any of these sorts of people to talk is almost impossible and most of the time, they’ll lie to you.”

“Yeah, I know. Well, let’s go see what the manager has to say.”

The partners ducked under the yellow tape and walked the few hundred feet to the manager’s office. Before they got the door open, however, two other officers walked out.

“So, what did the manager tell you guys?”

“Not much. Unfortunately, they don’t have a thorough security system set up. There’s only one camera hooked up and that just focuses on the front desk. We checked the footage that they did have, but, apparently, the kid was paying a weekly rate and had his key with him.”

“Shit,” Piper said and then looked at Stillwater and said,

“So, should we just write up a report and put it on the Captain’s desk and say that there were no witnesses?” Just as Piper finished speaking, Stillwater noticed a head peek out of a window from a room which was across from the victim’s room.

“Not just yet; I think I might have found a possible witness. C’mon.”

The two officers casually walked over to the room that Ally had seen the person looking out of the window. She knocked loudly enough on the door so that the person could hear her, but not loudly enough to sound threatening. Piper was just about ready to go to the back of the building in case the person tried to slip away, but it wasn’t necessary when the door opened and the officers saw a light-skinned Hispanic kid who looked like he should be in school instead of a second-rate motel.

“Good morning, I’m Officer Stillwater and this is my partner, Officer Piper. Could we ask you a few questions about the young man who lived in room 8?”

The boy’s dark eyes looked a bit red, as if he had been crying, but he opened the door wider so that the two police officers could enter. The boy went and sat in a chair which was by a desk and waited for the first question.

“What is your name please?”

“I’m Julio. What happened to Tony?”

“He’s been murdered and we are trying to see if anyone can help us find out who may have killed him. Did you know Tony very well?”

“I’ve known him for about a year. I met him at the bus station; he had just gotten here from Arlington, Virginia after his parents kicked him out for being gay. He didn’t have much money on him, so I told him how he could supplement his income. He was nervous, at first, but he eventually got the hang of it.”

“Was Tony his real name and, if it was, what was his last name?”

“Yeah, I assumed that Tony was his real first name cause that’s what he called himself when I met him. He didn’t say what his last name was, though.”

“Did you guys ever…you know, sleep together?”

“Not like you mean, officer. He had been here about a month when he picked up some guy who ended up beating and robbing him. He came to my room for some medical attention and stayed the night with me, but we didn’t fuck around. I, for one, would not take advantage of someone in that condition.”

“Alright, then did you happen to see anything last night? Who might have brought him here; what kind of vehicle did they come in? Anything?”

“Well, I happened to look out my window when I saw the car lights come by, cause I was waiting for a regular to stop by, and I thought that it might be him, but the car parked in front of Tony’s room. The rain was pretty heavy at that time, so it was kinda hard to make out anything clearly. I know that it was an older car and a dark color. Tony and the driver got out, but the only thing that I could see of the trick was that he was wearing a long coat and a hat.”

“Do you remember what time that was?”

“Yeah, like I said, I was expecting someone and I had checked my watch when the car pulled in. It was around a quarter to ten.”

“Did you hear any screams from his room?”

“No, I wouldn’t have heard anything with the sound of the rain and thunder.”

“Do you know what time the person left?”

“All that I can tell you is that when my “friend” left it was after one o’clock and I noticed that the car was gone.”

“Well, if you happen to remember anything else, here’s my card. Give me a call.” Ally said and she then motioned for her partner that it was time to leave. After they left Julio’s room, Ally walked back over to Tony’s area and looked down at the ground. She was looking to see if there were any tire tracks left from the murderer’s car, but it was hard to tell since the area was just loose gravel.

“OK,” said Eric, “it looks like we’ll have to rely on more witnesses to come forward, but you and I both know that the murder of one male prostitute isn’t going to be a major priority. Now, if seven or eight get killed, then we can start looking for a serial killer, but until then…” He let the sentence trail off and walked back to the patrol car. “Or if one of the victims happens to be from a well-to-do family.” Ally finished for him.

The loud music of the club was almost as bad as the sound of a jet taking off over one’s head. That and the flashing lights and the dancing bodies. It was almost like being in a disco from Hell, but then, for some people that was fine. Gerald Taylor was not much of a dancer; he was more of a drinker. Unfortunately for him, this club was close to his hotel and he didn’t like to take taxis, so he put up with what he could get. He had only been in the city for two hours. He was here on a business trip for his company in Dallas and, after grabbing a quick bite from the hotel’s restaurant, he decided that since he didn’t have to be up for the next day’s meeting until nine AM, that he would go have a few drinks before heading to bed. He had been in the club for an hour and had been debating whether to stay an hour longer or not, when a beautiful woman with long blond hair walked up to the bar beside him and ordered a drink. Through the comfortable haze in his head, and after getting a whiff of the light-scented perfume coming from the woman, Gerald Taylor felt confident enough to offer to pay for the woman’s drink. She gave him a warm smile, a slight nod of her head to the bartender, and thanked him for his kindness.

“Hello, my named is Linda. And you are?”

“Gerald, Gerald Taylor.”

“Well, Gerald Gerald Taylor, I’d like to thank you for your kindness.”

“No, it’s just one Gerald…my name, that is, and it’s no problem. A gentleman should always treat a beautiful woman.”

“Well, aren’t you a sweetheart. I can tell from your accent that you’re not from here, Gerald. Is that right?”

“You are quite correct, ma’am. I’m here on business from Dallas.”

“Oh, and what sort of business are you in Mr. Taylor?”

“I’m a vice president of sales for Lone Star Bank.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting.” And so Gerald’s decision had been made for him. He spent the next half hour getting to know Linda, and he was slightly surprised when she asked him where he was staying. Now if he had not been drinking so much, Gerald Taylor may have thought that he had been speaking to a very sly whore but, by the time that she had asked the question, Gerald was not worrying about such things. He had been married to his high school sweetheart for ten years before she left him for his best friend and any attention from a beautiful woman was a boost to his ego. Gerald left a tip for the bartender and escorted Linda through the dancing bodies out of the club. Gerald had told Linda that the hotel was close and that since it was such a lovely night out that a walk in the fresh air would help clear their heads. Linda told him that she did not mind the walk and she agreed with him that the night was beautiful. By the time that they got to the hotel, Gerald’s head was clear enough to know what he was getting himself into, but he didn’t care. Linda sat in an upholstered chair in the lobby while Gerald went up to the front desk to check for any messages and to pick up his room key. The clerk at the front desk told him that there were no messages for him and gave Gerald his key. He had noticed the woman who had come in the hotel with him, but since she did not look like a whore, he didn’t think any more about it or say anything to Gerald about his “guest”.

The police car had been parked in front of the hotel for fifteen minutes, but it did draw attention from pedestrians and hotel guests alike. Eric Piper was speaking to the hotel manager while his partner, Officer Stillwater was up on the fifth floor questioning the maid who had discovered the mutilated body in room 519. The body, of course, was that of Gerald Taylor late of Dallas, Texas.

“Ms. Juneau, what time did you discover the body?”

“It was an hour ago. Since there was no ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the doorknob, I knocked, waited a minute, and then got out my keys, but it turns out that I did not need it since the door was unlocked. I called out to see if the person might have been in the bathroom, but I didn’t hear anyone. I then went to the bed but saw the body laying there and I screamed. I then ran out to the hallway, got out my cellphone and called the front desk to report what I saw.”

“Did you touch anything in the room?”

“I had only put fresh towels in the bathroom when I came out and saw the body. I wouldn’t dare touch anything in that room; I’ve watched “CSI”, I know better.”

Alexandra Stillwater smiled at the CSI comment and then told the woman that she had done the right thing. After getting Ms. Juneau’s personal information and giving her one of her cards, Alexandra dismissed the woman and entered the room to see if the coroner was finished with his examination.

“Well,” she said, “have you found anything that could help in my investigation?”

The coroner, a short, white-haired man who was a few years away from retiring and named Dr. Joseph Fielding said,

“Other than the fact that the killer used a very sharp weapon and did a very thorough job, no, I haven’t found much of anything, Officer Stillwater, but you can be sure that I shall inform you as soon as I discover anything; you’ll be the first person I call.”

“Well, you don’t have to be such a prick about it, Joe. What’s bothering you this morning?”

“Oh, nothing Ally, I’m just feeling my age, I guess. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”

Alexandra had always felt like a daughter to the grouchy old doctor and she didn’t hold it against him when he snapped at her. In fact, he was the only person who could get away with that. If anyone else had spoken to her like that, they had better be able to run very quickly or face Alexandra’s wrath.

“That’s alright, Joe. If you want to talk about it, you know that I’m there for you.”

“Yes, I know, Ally, and no, it’s nothing worth talking about.”

At that moment, the paramedics arrived with a stretcher and placed the body on it and left with Doctor Fielding in tow. Alexandra then put on a pair of latex gloves and searched the room for any evidence. The only things that she found was the late Mr. Taylor’s laptop, wallet and suitcase. There were a few items of clothing in the dresser and closet, so she took them out, examined them, and then put them in the suitcase. She then walked out of the room with the remains and closed the door. She was waiting at the elevator, when the door opened and she saw her partner standing there.

“I was just coming up to let you know what I found out. The manager gave me a list of the employees who were working last night and he said that he would call them and have them report to the station to be interviewed. We did go over some of the video that they have in the lobby, and the only thing that I would say was relevant was that Mr. Taylor picked up his key at 10:38 last night.”

“Fine. I suppose that we’ll have to wait for the employees to contact us.”

“Yes, well, Mr. Thibodaux, the manager, said that the desk clerk from last night will be in today at 4:00 if we want to interview him.”

“Hmmm, no, I think that we can wait, unless you want to come here after work to interview him.”

“No, you’re right. It can wait. Maybe he’ll come down to the station before he starts his shift.”

“We’ll see.”

Around 1:30, an officer walked over to Alexandra’s desk to let her know that there was someone from the Excelsia Hotel to see her. She told the officer to bring him over and, while she was waiting, got on the phone to let Piper know about the visitor. Piper said that he would be right over. When the officer escorted the young man over, Alexandra noticed that he was dressed ready for work. He was around 5’10, 180 lbs, had brown hair and green eyes. She estimated that he must be around 23 or 24 years old. As Alexandra rose from her seat, the young man stepped forward with a smile on his face and his hand out anticipating Alexandra’s actions.

“Good afternoon, Officer Stillwater, I am David Morrison. Mr. Thibodaux called and told me than you wished to speak to me about poor Mr. Taylor?”

“Yes, thank you Mr. Morrison for coming in so soon. Please, have a seat. My partner, Officer Piper, will be joining us soon.”

A minute later, Eric Piper walked over to Alexandra’s desk, looked around and pulled over a vacant chair from another officer’s desk. Before taking his seat, he introduced himself to the young desk clerk and waited for Alexandra to take the lead in the questioning.

“Now, Mr. Morrison, I understand that you work the shift from 1600 hrs until midnight, is that correct?”

“Yes, it is ma’am.”

“Were you working at the time that Mr. Taylor checked into the hotel?”

“Yes, I was. He had just gotten in from the airport at 5:00 PM, checked in, got his key, and told me that he did not want to be disturbed since he planned to take a nap in order to fight his jet lag.”

“How many pieces of luggage did he arrive with?”

“He had a medium-sized dark blue suitcase and a laptop.”

“How many days had he been at the hotel before his untimely death?”

“He had only been with us for two days.”

“Did you see him when he left the hotel that night? And was he with anyone?”

“No, I’m afraid that I did not see him when he left last night. I was on a break around 7:30, so he may have left during that time, or it’s even possible that he left the hotel before I began my shift.”

“But you did see him when he returned, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am. I told him that there were no messages for him and I gave him his key.”

“When he returned to the hotel, what sort of mood was he in and was he by himself when he returned?”

“Well,…I could tell that he had been out drinking, but he wasn’t what I would call “fall-down drunk” and there was a woman with him, or I should say, I noticed a woman come in with him but she did not come up to the desk with him. She stood over by the reading area looking out the window.”

“Could you describe her for us? What sort of clothes she was wearing? Age?”

“Well, the reading area, as you may have noticed from your visit earlier today, is about 100 feet away from the front desk. I noticed that she was blonde, about shoulder-length. She was very nicely dressed in a royal blue sparkly mid-length dress, and as she and Mr. Taylor were heading towards the elevator, I noticed that the top of her head came up to Mr. Taylor’s shoulders, so I guess she was about 5’6”, 5’7” tall. I’m afraid that that is all that I can tell you about her, Office Stillwater.”

“Did you notice the time when she left?”

“I never saw her when she left, so she probably left after I was off my shift.”

“Well, thank you very much for coming in and helping us with our investigation, and if you remember anything else, be sure to give us a call.”

“I will, thank you ma’am, sir.”

“Well, what do you think, Eric?”

“I don’t think that this mystery woman was…how should I put it?…an escort or a prostitute, but she could be our predator.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have much to go on. The killer of that boy at the Starlite could have been a woman dressed in men’s clothing, but our witness couldn’t tell us much because of the weather. If the killer is a woman, what is her motive?”

“I think that I’ll go check out the bars near the hotel and see if any doormen or bartenders can give me any more information.”

“Yeah, you do that and I’ll stay here in case any more of the hotel employees come in.”

Eric walked into the Z-Klub after determining that it was open. During the daylight hours, it served only as a bar but the place got packed after 8:00 when the deejay came on. Eric took a moment for his eyes to get used to the dim lighting before stepping up to the bar. Since he was not in uniform, he showed the bartender his badge when the man walked up to him and asked for his order.

“For now, I’ll just take a mineral water. I’m working on a murder case and I’d like to know if either of these people look familiar.” Having said that, he sat a pair of photographs on the bar. One was of Gerald Taylor, which was from his driver’s licence, and the other was of the woman that he had brought to the hotel with him. The picture of the woman was not very clear since it had been taken from a distance and was from the security camera. The bartender set down the bottle of water and told Eric that it was on the house. The man picked up Gerald’s picture first but did not look at it for long. He then looked at the other picture, but because of it’s lack of clarity, put it back down and told Eric that neither one of the people in the pictures looked familiar. Eric picked up the photos, put them in his jacket pocket and asked the bartender for the names of the deejay and the night bartender. When he received the information, he gave the man his card and told him to let the two men know that they could either come down to the station before work or on their day off. The bartender said that he would relay the information, but he had to correct Piper about one thing: the deejay, Tee Tonez, was a woman, her real name was Tina Tunetti. Eric thanked him for the correction and walked out of the club. One down, four more to go.

In the meantime, Alexandra sat at her desk and was going over some paperwork when her phone rang. When she answered it and heard who was on line, she sat up in her chair.

“Hey, Joe, how’s it going?”

“Well, Allie, I am about to send you my report on Mr. Taylor, but I thought that I would let you know that I did find one unusual thing about the body…or I should say, found on the body.”

“What did you find Joe?”

“I almost missed it at first, but then the light hit it just right. I found a strand of hair which did not belong to the victim. After running some tests, I determined that the hair was not natural; it came from a wig.”

“A wig!?! But how could a strand of hair from a wig come off? The only thing that comes to mind is if the victim managed to get his hand on the murderer’s head and pulled hard enough to tear off a strand of hair. For that to happen, they must have been…”

“Getting it on? Yes, that was what I was thinking. I’m just letting you know that the murderer wasn’t a true blond.”

“Well, I appreciate that Joe. I’ll let Eric know when he gets back.”

By the time that Eric had finished questioning the managers and employees of the remaining clubs on his list, it was past his regular lunchtime, so he stopped at a sandwich shop to get something to eat. After paying for his food and finding a table to sit at, his cell phone rang. Alexandra was calling to get an update on his part of the investigation and to let him know that she had just received the coroner’s report concerning Gerald Taylor’s murder.

“So, anything interesting?”

“Yes, he found a strand of blond hair on the victim.”

“Well, we already knew that. Just have forensics look into it and see if we can get any DNA from it.”

“That won’t be possible. The killer was wearing a wig.”

“Oh, that’s just great. Maybe we can determine who made the wig and check their records for the buyer.”

“Good idea. I’ll look into that.”

“Hold on, Allie, I’ve got another call coming in….Officer Eric Piper, how may I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Tina Tunetti. My boss told me that you wanted to talk to me about a murder.”

“Oh, yes, Ms. Tunetti, I do. Are you at the club now?”

“No, I just woke up and saw a message on my phone. I’m at home right now.”

“Where do you live? I can come over after I have my lunch.”

“That’s alright, if you’re in the area of the club, I can come see you. I have to stop by there to pick up my check. I’ll be there in about thirty minutes, if that’s alright with you.”

“Great, I’ll see you then.”

Piper hung up the call and told Alexandra that he would be speaking to the deejay at Z-Klub in half-an-hour and that when he was done with that, he would report back to her about how it had gone. Alexandra told him that she would wait for him at the station, even if it ran into overtime. Having finished with his call, Piper dug into his sandwich with a sigh.

By three o’clock, Piper walked through the door of Z-Klub and spotted a woman sitting at the end of the bar. She stood up when she saw him and Piper figured that she was around 5’6”, late twenties, and had brown hair with a red stripe along her bangs.

“Ms. Tunetti, I assume?”

“Yes, I am Officer Piper, and you can call me Tina. Shall we sit at the bar or would you prefer a table? Can I have them get you something from the bar?”

“No, thank you Tina, I’m good. A table will be fine.”

Piper took out the photographs that he had been showing around and handed them to Tina. She looked at them, then said,

“I did notice him, mainly because he was seated near the booth. He looked like a guy who came in to drink and not to dance. The woman came up beside him to order a drink, but, apparently, he said something to her and he paid for her drink. They sat there for about an hour or two. I did get a closer view of her when I went on break. We both ended up in the ladies room at the same time. We didn’t say anything to each other, but from what I could see of her, I’d have to say that she was about 35 years old, and an inch or two taller than me. She was wearing a pair of ruby earrings, nothing too flashy, but I did tell her that they looked real nice. I tend to like red, as you may have noticed.”

“Yes, I have. What did she say when you complimented her on her earrings?”

“She said that they were a Christmas gift from her ex-husband.”

“Did she say anything else to you?”

“No, she just dried her hands and left.”

“Did you see them when they left the club?”

“No, but after I got back from my break, they were gone.”

“Thank you for your time, Tina. If you think of anything else, be sure to give me a call.”

After completing his interview for the day, Eric Piper returned to the station to see if Alexandra had any more information. Alexandra was not at her desk, so he thought that she might be somewhere else in the station. Just as he was about to call her, he noticed a note on her desk. It had an address and a time on it, so he called Alexandra to find out what it was about. After Alexandra’s phone rang for a couple minutes without her answering it, Piper got worried. The time on the note said 7:00 PM at 6335 Western Avenue. Piper thought about the address, trying to recall what the area was like. Since it was already 6:00 PM, Piper decided that he would go meet Alexandra at the address as her backup. While he was on his way to the address, Piper recalled that that area was not in the best of neighborhoods. In fact, it was a rather run-down area which the city had not really bothered to make any effort to clean up. As he was driving up the 60th block of Western Avenue, the weather started to change. At first, it was a light drizzle, but one look at the approaching clouds told Piper that it would be a miserable night to be out looking for murderers. At the intersection of 62nd and Prospect, while Piper was waiting for the light to turn green, he tried to call Alexandra again. Still, no reply. From the intersection, Piper could see that the address that he was looking for was in the area of an abandoned warehouse. He drove up to the old building and parked behind Alexandra’s car which he saw when he pulled up to the warehouse. He checked his gun and pepper spray to make sure that he was prepared for any situation which might occur. He got out of his car, locked the door, and walked up to the warehouse door. It was slightly open, so he slowly pulled on the door, hoping that the door was not rusted enough to make any noise. Once he was inside, he looked around for any evidence of which way Alexandra may have gone. Since he was unaware of why Alexandra would come to this place alone and not let him know about it, he cautiously took his gun out of his holster, and walked slowly forward, keeping alert for any voices or sounds. Suddenly, he heard a sound coming from the right of him. He quickened his pace, and just as he got to an open area, he saw the bloody corpse. As he approached it, he kept looking around in case the killer was still in the area. Holding his gun out to his side, he started to kneel down by the corpse to see if he could identify the body. From the clothing, it looked like the man had been a security guard who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Piper was just rising from the floor, when:

SLAM!!!

The lights, as they say, went out in Piper’s head.

When Piper came to, he saw, through his blurry eyes, a figure standing by his head. It was a woman with blond hair, a black trench coat, which had splatters of blood on it, and who stood in the shadows. Piper started to shake his head in order to clear his vision, but the pain was excruciating. The woman raised her hand, which Piper noticed had a cleaver. He also noticed that his arms and legs were tied up and that he had been disarmed.

“Who are you? Why are you doing this?” The woman, at first, did not say anything, but soon, Piper heard the sound of low laughter.

“Men! You always think that you’re so smart! Well, let me tell you, you are not! You seek to control women and use them for your filthy, filthy purposes! Well, now I will be the avenger of all women who can’t fight for themselves!” Having said that, the woman stepped out of the shadows and Piper’s eyes widened in shock. He wasn’t in shock for long, and said,

“Alexandra? What are you doing?”

The woman stopped and looked down at Piper with anger in her eyes.

“I am NOT Alexandra. I AM LINDA! Alexandra is a slave to men! She didn’t say anything when those men did what they did to her! She does not deserve to exist! I, Linda, will now control her! And you, little man, will be erased from her memories!” Saying that, “Linda” raised the cleaver and was about to start her business, when Piper heard what sounded like two shots of heavily exhaled breathes. Linda’s head jerked up and then she fell limply across Piper’s body. Piper heard footsteps and then, rising like a ghost from the ground, the face of Doctor Joseph Fielding appeared. His face had a sad expression on it and, in his right hand, he held what looked like, to Piper, a tranquilizer gun.

“Doc, what’s going on here? And why are you here anyway?”

Before answering Piper’s questions, the doctor laid the gun down and pulled the woman’s body off of him. When Piper sat up, he saw two tranquilizer darts, one sticking out of the woman’s neck and the other in her back.

“I was afraid that this would happen when I saw the first body, but I didn’t want to believe it.”

“Believe what? What are you talking about?”

“It’s a long story, Officer Piper, and I think that we should tie her up before the sedatives wear off.”

As Piper and the doctor carried Alexandra’s limp body out of the warehouse and put her in the backseat of Piper’s car, the doctor started to explain. Doctor Fielding had known Alexandra Stillwater for over twenty years. He was a friend of her parents. When Alexandra was eleven years old, she had been abducted by three men who had broken out of prison. She had been walking home from school along a lonely dirt road. Doctor Fielding told Piper that he and Alexandra’s family lived in a different state at that time. Anyway, he said, these men grabbed her and took her into a nearby barn and took turns raping and beating her. This had gone on for two hours, and while the men were deciding whether to kill her or not, the man who owned the barn had seen what was going on and called the police. The men were about ready to kill Alexandra, except they didn’t have a weapon to do it; the police rushed into the barn before they could find anything. Alexandra was in a total state of shock and was taken to the local hospital. Doctor Fielding was on duty when Alexandra was brought in and it was his job to notify the girl’s parents. Alexandra was in the hospital for two weeks and the doctor made it his duty to look in on her as much as possible when her parents couldn’t be at the hospital.

“By the time that she was discharged, her father and I were the only men who she could stand to have around her. Unfortunately, not all medicine can cure all hurts. A year later, Alexandra and her parents were visiting some relatives. She was playing with a cousin who was two years older than her and when no one was around, he tried to get her to have sex with him. I think that that was the first time that “Linda” appeared. The next thing that anyone knew was that cousin came screaming back to the house, saying that Alexandra had threatened to cut off his dick. Well, that was the end of that visit. Alexandra’s parents brought her back to me and told me what had happened. Now, at that time, I had seen that movie Sybil, so I had an idea. I knew a psychiatrist, who was a woman and a friend, and I suggested to Alexandra’s parents that they let this woman hypnotize Alexandra so that we could decide how to deal with this situation. They agreed and I took her to meet my friend. Long story, short…Alexandra had, at that time, fragmented into six different personalities and Linda was the worst of the lot. Instead of having Alexandra placed in an institution, it was decided that Alex would continue treatment with my friend. After two years of sessions, everything seemed to be fine. Alexandra graduated from high school and went to college, then she went to the Academy without any relapses. Then, a month ago, she was coming out of the grocery store late at night and two guys jumped her. They forced her into her car and when one of the men was being lookout, the other was about to rape her when it happened…Linda was back and she was pissed! Because there wasn’t much space in the back seat of the car for Linda to really let loose, she, apparently, was ferocious enough for the guy to yell and get out of the car. They must have run like the Devil was after them. Anyway, I stopped by Alex’s home the next day, not knowing what had happened. However, when Alex was out of the room for a few minutes, I noticed two boxes sitting in a corner. I looked into them and saw that one had a trench coat in it and the other had a blond wig. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but when Alex came back into the living room, she was behaving a bit disjointed. She insisted that it was just from not getting enough sleep, but I began to get worried the more that she came to work tired, so I decided to keep an eye on her. Unfortunately, when that boy was killed, she had fooled me by disguising herself as a man, but when I found the strand of false hair from the second body, I decided that she had to be stopped, so I had my assistant, who she has never met, call and say that he had information about the serial killer. I had him give her the time and address and I drove to the warehouse as fast as was safely possible.”

“YOU called her? Why didn’t you call me to let me know what was going on?”

“Because of our history. I wanted to handle this since she trusts me. Unfortunately, traffic held me up so that by the time I got there it was almost too late. She must have heard you and thought that you were the informant.”

Piper glanced in the mirror to see if Alexandra had come to yet, and seeing that she hadn’t, *asked the doctor,

“What do you suggest we do about her? After all, she will have to stand trial for murder, and I don’t think that prison would help her to get better, do you?”

“No. We had better take her back to the station and have her put away until then.”

“What do you think will happen to her?”

“I will testify about her condition and considering that she has been stable for the last fifteen years, I think that she will be able to be admitted to the mental institution. Maybe, they’ll even let me consult with the doctors there.”

The rain that had been threatening to be a torrential downpour failed to materialize. Piper and Fielding spent the rest of the ride in silence, thinking their own private thoughts of what might have been if Alexandra had lived a better life.

Excerpt from “The Corporate Whore of Babylon”

“My name, for our purposes, is Alexander Dali. This is not my real name, it’s a safety precaution. When Mr. Babble was killed, Eric discovered his body. He called me because we were friends and he knew that something unusual was happening. I majored in Forensics at University, I won’t say which one, and Eric knew that I was interested in solving murders.” “If you have all of this education in Forensics, why don’t you work for the Police Department?” “Well, before I graduated, my father died and left me a large inheritance. I decided not to finish my education, thus this became a hobby of mine. I figured that if I worked on my own time, I would be able to educate myself. I knew that Eric worked for the Babble family, and from some of the things that he told me, I became suspicious about what he said.” “And what was that?” “He told me that the old man was acting paranoid a couple of weeks before his death. He started to mutter to himself when he thought that no one was around. One evening, as Eric was going to the den to see if Babble needed him for anything else, he found Mr. Babble asleep in his chair with his head in a book. It was a book about Babylonian history. He heard Mr. Babble mutter ‘Temple of Inanna’ in his sleep. He thought that that was unusual, since he knew that Mr. Babble was not a religious man and that he had no interest in ancient history. Instead of waking him up, he went to his room and called me. He asked me if I had ever heard of the ‘Temple of Inanna’. I told him that I hadn’t but that I would look into it. On the day that Mr. Babble died, I finally found some information on it. Believe me, it wasn’t easy.” “So what did you find out?” “Well, I flew out to Washington D.C. and went to the Library of Congress. In a biography about Jay Gould, I found a clue. If you don’t know who Jay Gould was, he was the man who built the Union Pacific railroad. I then happened to find a journal belonging to an associate of Gould’s. He mentioned that he had been approached by Gould concerning forming a secret society called ‘The Temple of Inanna’ which would be situated in Pocatello, Idaho. He said that the purpose of the society would be to bring about the takeover of the government by bankers and, what at the time were called the ‘monopolies.’ We call them corporations now. Through some of my contacts, I found out that the Temple was built and is still in existence. His journal ends on June 12, 1901. He was found murdered the next day. His last entry mentions that he had talked to a friend named Elijah Babble.” “Now you’re starting to sound like some whacky conspiracy theorist.” “Tell me, Detective Gladd, have you ever heard of the Bilderberg Group?” “No. Who are they?” “It is a group of politicians, bankers, businessmen, and military people who meet as a ‘think tank’ to discuss ways of creating social cohesion with Europe and North America through a neo-liberal form of globalization. The ‘Temple of Inanna’ makes them look like Boy scouts. All members are sworn to total secrecy under pain of death. The Temple also has a secret army of spies who report to headquarters if any member talks about the society to nonmembers. I believe that Mr. Babble’s home may have been bugged and he was killed. Eric was killed because he had called me.” “Well, why are you still alive?” “I have my ways, Detective Gladd, believe me. I am always alert and constantly moving.” “So, I know that you were the one who called the newspapers, but how did you know that Eric had been killed? And do you know who did it?” “I had called Eric earlier in the evening to tell him what I found out and to let him know that I would be coming over to take him somewhere safe. By the time that I got there, all the lights in the house were out, so I went to the pool area to look through the glass doors. That was when I found his body and called the newspapers.” “And you didn’t see anyone or any strange vehicles.” “No. That was when I decided that we should both meet.”

“So what do you have in mind?” “For now, I think that we should keep working together as we have. If one or both of us are being spied on, it seems that it would be the best way. If I discover anything else out, then I will contact you.”

Ailurophobia (Fear of Cats)

Ailurophobia

(Fear of cats)

The night air is still a bit warm, but I have promised my friend Alexios to meet him at Cassandra’s wine shop which is on a side street in the city of Bubastis. My name is Demetrios and I have lived in Egypt for five years. I would prefer to be back in Athens, but due to a slight misunderstanding with a local archeon, I decided that my life would last longer if I did some “traveling”. I can not take a chance that the man has forgotten about me and what he witnessed between me and his wife. I decided on Egypt because my friend, Alexios, told me that since the Ptolomies took over, there are many opportunities for Greeks to get rich. I agreed to come with him after quickly considering the alternative. If the archeon found me, it would have been a matter of exile, if I was lucky, or death, if I was not. The only thing that bothers me about this country is the ridiculous manner in which they treat animals, cats to be specific. As a child, I obtained an overpowering fear of cats. I would fall into an endless fit of sneezing any time a cat came near me, and, once, so my mother told me, when I was three years old, a cat scratched me on the arm when I tried to pick him up. I don’t know if it was due to the scratches or from something else, but ever since then, I stay as far away from the furry demons as I can.

“Demetrios! Over here!” I hear as I step into the slightly fish-smelling and decrepit wine shop. The second floor of the wine shop is divided between Cassandra and the few decent looking whores that she offers as a bonus to her wealthier clients. I get along fairly well with Cassandra considering that, when I first met her, I thought that she was one of the whores. She quickly disabused me of that notion, but since she discovered that we were from the same area in Sparta, she has forgiven me for my indiscretion. Anyway…I slip into the corner table that Alexios has claimed and wait to hear what his latest “get rich quick” scheme is to be.

“Demetrios, listen. I have managed to, how shall I say it, make friends with one of the minor priests of Bast and he has told me some very interesting things.”

“And what might these “interesting things” be concerning?”

“You know that when a pharoah, or for that matter, any rich person dies, they are mummified and wrapped in linen. Now, as the bodies are wrapped, the priest inserts amulets among the wrappings.”

“Yes, Alexios, I know all of this. I’m sure everyone in Egypt knows this. What does this have to do with us making money?”

“If you would let me finish. Now this priest, Ptah-en-per, has told me that some of the wealthier clients also have their favorite pets mummified and buried with them in the same manner.”

“Are you insane! You want to resort to tomb-robbing?” Alexios quickly shushed me and put his hand on my shoulder and gently pushed me back onto my chair.

“NO! This is a less risky plan and it will not involve us losing our heads, literally. Just listen.” And he proceeded to tell me of this “no risk” plan of his. I listened very carefully to his every word and weighed all possible consequences. Finally, when I was certain that his plan had a better than 75% change of success, I agreed to it. There were still a couple of things that Alexios had to get organized, but we both agreed to meet at his house in seven days in order to carry out the plan.

The next night that Alexios and I met, we were joined by one of Cassandra’s whores, a Thracian girl named Melita. What this plan revolved around was the idea that Alexios and I would meet with Ptah-en-per at the temple and share a couple jugs of date wine. Melita would be standing by, but out of sight, until her role in this scheme was to be enacted. It seems that Ptah-en-per resented his lowly station but did not have enough ambition to do anything about it, but Alexios knew that it would be too risky to enlist the priest’s aid. Alexios had talked the priest into showing him around the temple and, after learning where the mummified remains of the wealthy patrons were kept, he came up with this plan.

When Alexios had decided that the priest was well enough into his cups, he signaled Melita to begin her scene. The Thracian was a very beautiful dark-eyed girl who I would guess was in her early twenties, but due to the wonderful qualities of the Egyptian cosmetics, could almost seem to be sixteen years old. It was difficult to guess Ptah-en-per’s age because it is the custom among the Egyptian priesthood to shave their heads, but then, the priest’s age was fairly irrelevant as far as the plan was concerned. Melita came out of the shadows from the street and, with the light from the moon shining through her shimmering silk dress, she quickly entered the temple and fell to Ptah-en-per’s feet asking for his assistance. She told him that her mistress had visited the temple earlier in the day and had made an offering to the god for the wellness of her favorite pet, a leopard which her husband had sent her as a present from the far East. It seems that the animal was taking a turn for the worst and her mistress had sent her to fetch the High Priest. Ptah-en-per, through the fumes of the date wine, was confused by what the woman was asking for; was Ptah-en-per expected to wake the High Priest for the girl or did the girl think that he, Ptah-en-per, was the High Priest? He took hold of the girl’s hands and raised her to her feet and said,

“But it is so late to rouse my Lord, the High Priest. Can this not wait until the morning?”

Melita, who through her work at Cassandra’s had learned some of the art of acting, said,

“Oh, please, kind sir. If I do not return with the High Priest, my mistress will have me flogged!”

Now, Ptah-en-per knew that he was in no condition to leave his post in order to have the High Priest summoned because the fumes from the wine would be obvious to the High Priest who would, in turn, have Ptah-en-per flogged. Alexios took this moment to say to Ptah-en-per.

“My friend, why don’t you go with this slave-girl and play the role of the High Priest? Surely, you have seen him perform such rites before? And you do not seem that much affected by the wine, but, in order to ease your mind, I have an onion here. Take a bite of it and it should take away the smell of the wine.”

“No, no! That will not help for if the woman was here earlier, she would have spoken with the High Priest and she would know that I am not him for he is an old man. I could also be punished if it is discovered that I had left the temple grounds.”

It was at this point that Alexios and I sat there looking like we were trying to think of a solution for our friend’s dilemma, which we had already decided on. I jumped up and said “Eureka!” “I will put on a priest’s robe and take your place while you go and perform your religious duty. Quickly, go to your room and bring me a robe with a hood so that no one who may come by will not see that my head has not been shaven and you go with the girl.”

The priest was at first uncertain, but because of Melita’s hand-wringing and the fear on her face, he decided to do it. He was back in less time than it takes a bird to fly to its nest. After making sure that the robe fit me perfectly, he and Melita ran from the temple. What the priest did not know was that one street over from the temple was one of Cassandra’s henchmen with a club in hand waiting for Melita to signal that the priest was coming. When he reached the spot where the henchman was waiting, the henchman hit him over the head, but not hard enough to kill him and carried him over his shoulder to a nearby empty stable.

While all of this was going on, Alexios and I walked towards the room where the mummified pets were kept. Since the patrons are kept for seventy days in a nitrate solution, their relatives bring the pets to the temple for mummification, which takes less time for animals, and the priests store them in a room behind the sanctuary. Fortunately for us, the old priest who was to stand guard at the sanctuary was in a deep sleep. Alexios and I were about to enter the storage room when I noticed that the door had a lock on it. Alexios tiptoed over to where the priest was sleeping and lifted the keys off of the table where the priest had laid them. While Alexios tried to figure out which key would open the door, I kept an eye on the priest. Soon we were in and taking a torch in each of our hands, we checked the condition of the wrappings on the dead animals. We had each brought a bag with pebbles in them which we planned to substitute for the precious stones that we would take. I was going through the shelves which contained the ibises while Alexios checked the shelves with the cats. Even dead, I told Alexios that there was nothing that would get me to touch the cursed things and he had agreed that he would check the cats. After about thirty minutes, our bags were full and we were getting ready to leave when there came to our ears what sounded like a demon from hell. Alexios and I stopped and looked at each other with fear in our eyes. We slowly turned our heads in the direction which the screech seemed to have come, when we saw the demon’s glowing eyes! We, still conscious of where we were and not wanting to awaken the priest who would then raise the alarm, ran as quietly as we could without yelling. I had stopped to close the door when I was hit in the face by a shrieking bag of white cloth. I felt the demon’s claws draw my blood and, at that point, it was all over for me and I fainted.

When I came to, I found myself clamped to a prison cell with chains. I squinted my eyes in the darkness, but quickly winced when I felt sharp pains on my face. My tongue felt that it had been glued to the roof of my mouth, so I could not call out for water. It was at that moment that the flickering from several torches caused me to turn my head and then I heard a voice speaking in broken Greek.

“So, you try to steal from goddess Bast? Bast will protect her children from tief such as you. You and you friend pay for you crime against Bast. Pharaoh no help for you.”

I looked and saw an Egyptian in his starched kilt, with a staff, sandals, and a gold-lined cloth on his head. I had only heard descriptions of him, but I recognized Ay, the High Priest of Bast who was accompanied by a jailor and five soldiers. The Priest then left, the jailor unlocked my cell, and the soldiers led me away. When my escort and I came out of the building that I had been imprisoned, the sun was rising out of the East. My hands were still chained and I was hoisted into the back of a cart when four other prisoners, Alexios among them. My feet were then chained and a long iron rod was slipped through holes in the back of the manacles. I glared at Alexios and he looked down at the floor of the cart. The cart took off at a slow pace so that the guards could keep up with it and it took fifteen minutes before we arrived at the Court of Justice. It was at this point that I knew that my life would soon be over and I decided to accept it. I was the first prisoner taken into the Court where I was forced down on my knees with my head bowed. I heard a slow tapping of a metal staff on the floor and a voice calling for silence in the court. In Greece I might have been given an advocate, but this was Egypt, even if it was ruled by a Greek dynasty. Ptolemy made some concessions to local custom and thieves were not allowed to have someone be their advocate. I waited for the judge to decide my fate. “Demetrios Panagyros, you have been charged with defilement of the holy temple of the goddess Bast, corruption of a priest, and theft. All of these charges of which you have been found guilty of warrant the death penalty, but someone has requested that you be returned to Athens to stand trial for a previous crime, namely, the seduction of a very important person’s wife. The Archeon Xenon has paid an amount to the High Priest of Bast as compensation for your crimes and you are therefore, put into his charge and banished forever from the land of Egypt under penalty of death. Next case!”

When I heard those words, I could not believe my ears! I would live! But then reality intruded. I looked up and saw the smirking face of Xenon. He ordered two guards to lift me off of the floor and I was then dragged down to the Nile where a dhow awaited us.

“When I am done with you, swine, you will wish that I had let them kill you.” All things considered, I thought to myself, he may be right! I was laying on the bottom of the boat, still in chains, and with the heel of Xenon’s boot on my head. I was in this unfortunate position for quite some time, but soon I heard the roar of many people and smelled the salt of the sea. We had reached the port of Alexandria. Xenon leaned down and grabbed me by my manacles and lifted me to my feet. He pushed me towards one of his men who lifted me out of the boat and marched me to the ship that waited for us. Just before I staggered up the gangplank, I noticed something that I had never seen before; the name of the ship was painted on the bow behind the eye that is painted on every Greek ship:

THE LION OF VENGENCE

Aichmophobia (Fear of sharp/pointed objects)

Aichmophobia
(Fear of sharp/pointed objects)

Well, first off, let me introduce myself. My name is David Sheckleman, and I am 6′ 4”. I weigh 215 lbs, have brown hair and green eyes. I am a 38 year old divorced insurance salesman from Kansas City, Missouri with no children. My ex-wife was my high school sweetheart whom I married when I was nineteen years old. We got a divorce two years later because I was going to college and had two jobs. She resented the fact that I was not spending enough time with her and so she left me for a man who had a fairly high position in a bank. Because of this, I refuse to do my banking with that firm. In high school, I played on the football team and was good enough to be considered for a scholarship at Duke University, but in my senior year, I sustained a knee injury that plagues me whenever the weather turns bad. I went to junior college and, after my divorce, put myself through college at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. I got my degree in Business and, with diploma in hand, managed to get a job with a prestigious company.
I’m sorry, what did you say? Oh yes, I make a comfortable living and am seeing a very nice woman, who…
What? Well, I’m not really sure WHY I’m here. I remember that I was talking to my therapist…
I was getting to that, be patient. Anyway, as I was about to say, I was talking to my therapist about a personal problem that I’ve have all of my life. I have a morbid fear of sharp objects.
Yes, sharp objects! It’s a real condition! It doesn’t just relate to things like needles and knives, but just about any sharp object, even a finger pointed at me. You ask, how did I manage to get through school without using a pen or a pencil? Believe me, it was very difficult. I had no problem when it came to doing homework, because I had a typewriter, but when it came to written tests, I had a doctor’s prescription for medication that helped me get through the ordeal. Thank goodness for computers, because without them I don’t know how I would get through my job, you know, filling out forms and so on.
You ask, what caused this condition? That’s a very complicated question because there are several schools of thought on that. The first one states that every person is born with a fear reflex which we inherited from our distant ancestors. It is a survival instinct; you’ve surely heard of the “fight or flight” instinct? Yes, well, that is one explanation. Another is more of an Eastern school of thought that says that any thing which we fear is due to karma. In my case, for instance, my fear of sharp objects may be left over residue from a past life where I was stabbed in a bloody war. I tend to dismiss this sort of thinking. The final thought is that it is from a reenactment from a childhood trauma which I have trouble suppressing.
Yes, well there are two types of therapy that I have gone through to overcome this fear. The first was hypnotherapy. I went to a hypnotherapist for about a year before I decided that he wasn’t really helping me. The second type of therapy involves conditioning. This treatment requires that I sit in a room with a “fear trigger” sitting across the room from me. The conditioning part comes in when the therapist sets something that has positive associations to me next to the fear trigger. Each week the objects are put a little bit closer to me and, because of the proximity of the positive to the negative, my subconscious will gradually associate the fear object with something good.
What? Yes, I guess that you could say that it is like the Pavlov’s dog syndrome, but I don’t get the treat until I overcome my fear completely.
Yes, it is very interesting. I do think that it is having a good effect on me in conquering my fear.
Well, I have been seeing Doctor Wellerman for six months now and I am about a foot away from touching a syringe. Of course, it’s empty. Why would you ask such a question? It’s not a matter of fearing the contents of the syringe, but the syringe itself.
I’m here because Doctor Wellerman asked me to come here.

The window in the cell closed at the precise moment that David Sheckleman convinced himself that Doctor Wellerman had asked him to come visit. Unfortunately for Mr. Sheckleman, there was no therapist named Doctor Wellerman. Mr. Sheckleman had been placed in the asylum after an armed robber had pointed a gun at him and he totally snapped. The robbery had occurred after the robber left Wellerman’s Bank, which poor David Sheckleman was just passing by. It also didn’t help that Wellerman was the name of his ex-wife’s new husband.

Chapter 33: The Corporate Whore of Babylon (excerpt)

Chapter Thirty-three

Arriving in Pocatello, Henson drove up to an all night gas station to fill up. Gladd and Dali got out of the van and stretched their legs. On the drive, Gladd told Evering that when he got back home, that he should gather some clothes and his family and go to somewhere safe. Evering said that he had a wife and a ten year old son and that he would probably take them to his brother-in-law’s place in North Dakota. Gladd asked him if his brother-in-law was reliable. “Yes, sir. I’d trust him with my life.” “You sure will.” Gladd replied. After paying for the gas, the men got back into the van and headed out of town. The sun was starting to creep into the sky. Alex passed out some sandwiches and sodas that he had bought at the gas station. Normally, Gladd would be leery of eating food from such a source, but it had been twelve hours since the last time he had eaten. It would be another three hours before they pulled into Boise. Once there, the men would go their separate ways: Gladd and Dali to LA, Evering to his house, and Henson planned to go home to catch some sleep. Gladd offered to drive so that Henson could get some rest and his offer was accepted. Gladd did some of his best thinking when he was behind a wheel. When they arrived in Boise, they drove to the hotel where Gladd had stayed and picked up his luggage from the manager’s office. Henson then drove to the airport and dropped off Gladd and Dali. Henson would then drive Evering to his home and then head home to get ready for work. The two men went up to the counter, bought their tickets (fortunately, Dizzy had found their wallets and keys and put them in the envelop) and waited forty-five minutes before catching their flight. Both men agreed that they would wait until they got home before they went over all of the information that Dizzy had given them. Gladd told Dali when they got to LA that they would have to stop at a friend’s house to pick up his pet parrot and he would see if Alex could stay there for a few days. After taking into consideration what had happened the last time Alex had gone to his home inSanta Monica, Gladd felt that it would be safer for Alex to stay somewhere else. Alex agreed with him. Having taken care of these arrangements, the two men caught some sleep. It was a nice sunny day when they arrived at LAX. They went to the parking garage to pick up James’ car. James checked the engine first to make sure that it hadn’t been tampered with. Satisfied that everything was alright, they got in the car and headed for Chang’s house. When they got there, Ned was just leaving the house to go to work. “Well, it’s about time you got back. I was starting to worry about you.” “Yes, well it’s a long story, Ned. I’ll have to tell you about it later. Ned, this is my friend Alex Dali. I have another favor to ask of you.” “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Dali. Why don’t you both come in and have a cup of coffee. I’m in no real hurry to get to work. It’s not like I have any important people to meet.” “Thanks Ned, that would be fine.” The men went into the house and Ned asked his wife to fix some coffee for their guests. The men sat down at the kitchen table and, at that moment, David Chang walked into the room. “Uncle James, you’re back. Do you want me to bring Sasha here? I have a confession to make. I let Sasha watch TV with me and he seems to have discovered a couple new expressions that he likes.” “Oh, yeah. Like what.” The boy’s cheeks turned red and he looked down. “Well, he now says ‘Bite me!’ and ‘Suck it!’” “That’s just what I need, a parrot with a fouler beak then when I left him. You’ve got to quit corrupting him, David.” Gladd said semi-seriously. David knew that he was joking, so he shyly smiled. He then turned around and went to his room to get Sasha. Ned said: “I’m sorry about that James.” “Don’t worry about it. I was starting to think that that bird wasn’t trainable any more.”

Agyrophobia (Fear of Crossing the Road)

Agyrophobia (Fear of crossing the road)

“Be sure to be back before sunset, girl, or Satan will get you and make you one of his harlots.”

“Do not worry, mother, I will not forget”.

Doreen always went through this routine with her mother every time that she either had to run an errand or went out to pick flowers. This time she had to go over to the next village and pick up some cloth that her mother’s friend had promised her. Doreen had left the village an hour after the sun had risen and she did not believe that there would be any situations which would cause her any major delays. Doreen was fourteen and she had what her mother called “a happy heart”. Every one in the village would greet her with a smile on their faces whenever they saw her. Doreen had taken a basket with her in order to carry both her lunch and the cloth that she had been told was not very heavy for a girl her age. She enjoyed doing things for her mother, since her father and two brothers spent most of the day in the fields. Even though an extra hand in the fields would have been helpful, Doreen’s parents wanted their only daughter to grow up and, with God’s help, attract the attentions of some lord so that she would be protected throughout her life and, knowing their daughter’s proclivity for generosity, would be a help to her family.

An hour after she had left the village, Doreen went into a field which was covered in bright yellow flowers, and, not having had any breakfast before she left, sat down among the flowers and ate an apple. Overhead, the sun was shining and the morning air was warm enough for comfort. A few dragonflies fluttered around Doreen’s head as she sat in the field, and she laughed as she tried to catch one in her hands. She was startled when a bird swooped down out of the sky and caught one of the dragonflies in its beak just as she was about to capture it. With a sigh, Doreen rose up from her seat in the field and continued her journey. Within an hour and a half, Doreen knew that she was almost at her destination when she came upon the crossroads. During the day, the crossroads were considered safe but in the dark of night, it was considered an evil time to be caught in the crossroads. Everyone knew that the Devil would summon his minions and demons at the crossroads in order to bring death and misfortune to those who dared to travel them at night. Doreen, of course, knew all of this since her mother always warned her about the crossroads any time that she left the village. In her heart, Doreen knew that her mother cared about her, but really, some of the things that she said! The Devil? Why would the Devil waste time waiting at crossroads for unsuspecting travelers? Surely, the Devil had bigger fish to fry, like the sheriff’s men when tax time came around. Oh well, Doreen thought, I shall be home long before sundown. Doreen was in such a happy mood that she did not hear the sound of hooves heading in her direction. She had just stepped into the middle of the crossroads, when she was knocked off of her feet and her lithe body was sent sailing into the air. The moment that her body hit the ground all of the air in her lungs went out of her, but she did not experience this for very long because at almost the same moment, her head hit a stone and she passed out. The accident did not kill her, but by the time that she regained consciousness, it was two hours past sunset. At first, Doreen was not sure if she was dead or alive, but when the pain hit her, she knew that she was still alive. Shakily getting up from the ground, she felt the back of her head and felt the wetness of blood but she also felt that some of it had dried out. She, then, tried to stand up. Her legs were a bit wobbly, but she managed to stand and then looked around for her basket with the cloth that her mother’s friend had sent. The moon had not yet risen and it would not have been of any use since this was the time of the New Moon. It did not take Doreen very long to find the basket along with the cloth and a couple of bread rolls that the friend has given her. Doreen, having secured everything, then stepped out of the field that she had been tossed into and proceeded to go across the crossroads. She heard sounds in the darkness, but she recognized some as them as owls and other night creatures. Due to her injuries, Doreen’s return journey home took longer than it normally would, but she did manage to make it. Her mother became somewhat hysterical when she saw her injured daughter enter their hut, but she eventually had the presence of mind to soak a rag into some water and wash the blood away from her daughter’s head. Before Doreen passed out from fatigue, she managed to tell her mother what had happened to her as much as she could remember. Doreen’s mother sat by her bed all of that night to make sure that her daughter did not come down with a fever.

The next morning, Doreen woke up and saw her mother preparing her father’s and brothers’ lunch for them before they left for the fields. As she tried to sit up from her cot, she gave a moan. Her mother heard her, covered the basket with the men’s food in it, and brought a ladle of water over to Doreen. As she was drinking the water, her father and brothers came into the room. Her father grabbed the basket and, without saying a word of kindness or concern to her, pushed her brothers out of the hut. It was over a week before Doreen felt well enough to get up from her cot and go outside. When she did go outside, she did some minor chores, such as cracking beans and bringing water from the well. Everyone in the village, however, noticed that she was no longer the cheerful girl that they had known before. She would sit outside and barely acknowledge anyone who greeted her. She would not ever sing little songs that she had made up which had delighted those that heard her. Her mother tried to bring out her former self, but it was of little use. Her father, and occasionally her brothers, would glance quickly at her and then make the sign of the cross.

One day, as the chill of autumn was in the air, a traveling priest came to the village. His name was Father Bernard and he was making his monthly rounds to the surrounding villages since there was no major church in the area. He was a fairly healthy looking man, neither lean nor obese, in his early fifties and his tonsured hair was barely showing any gray. He had visited with some of the villagers, having gone first to the Chief Steward’s home, and hearing about Doreen’s predicament, decided to pay her and her family a visit. Since the time of year required every able bodied person to help with the harvesting, Doreen was the only one home when Father Bernard arrived. The priest found her sitting outside, looking sadly at the ground and making swirls in the dirt with her foot.

“Greetings, my daughter! I hear that you have had a harrowing experience. Wouldst thou care to speak of it with me?”

Doreen stopped her foot and slowly raised her head in acknowledgment of the priest. She said,”Yes, it was a horrible experience, but I am better now, thank you Father.”

“Aye, so you say, but I sense that there is more that you wouldst not speak.”

“Father, there ARE some things that worry me. Why do my father and brothers barely speak to me and seem afraid?”

“I believe that it is because, through God’s mercy, somehow you escaped the clutches of the Devil when you found yourself out at night at the crossroads. They may fear you because they still are superstitious about such things.”

“I thought that the story about Satan and the crossroads were a bit foolish myself, but their fear causes me great sorrow.”

“I should speak to them of this, if you wish it, my daughter. But, I am also concerned that the light of Joy does not shine out of you as others have told me about. Surely there must be more to your tale?”

“What dost thou mean, Father?”

“People have told me that when they would see you, your smile wouldst bring one to their faces and your songs wouldst seem as birdsong to their ears? What couldst cause you to no longer share these gifts which the Lord has given you?”

Doreen sat in silence for a minute or two and then said, “Father, if the Devil did not catch me at the crossroads, how can I believe that he exists?”

The priest’s face grew red at this statement and he was almost ready to jump up and hit the child for her blasphemy, but he managed to tame his anger. Anger never really converted anyone and Father Bernard felt that, as God’s local representative on Earth, it was his duty to see to every villager’s spiritual needs. The fact that a child of such tender years would question God’s purpose in allowing the Devil to exist must be answered in such a satisfactory manner as to strengthen her belief in God.

“Tell me child, dost still believe in God?”

“Oh yes, Father, I do.”

“Good. Then if God exists as a source of joy in our lives, why would He not test our faith in Him? In order for Him to do so, He must allow the Devil some little power to test us. Remember that Satan was once one of God’s angels who, through pride, fell from grace. He was there even when our Lord, Jesus Christ, lived and if even our Lord can be tempted by Satan, then who are we to question the Lord God and his deeds?”

“I suppose that you are right Father. Thank you for your kind words.”

“Think nothing of it, my daughter. And I shall now go out into the fields and speak with your father, shall I?”

Doreen smiled and nodded her head. “May I go with you, Father?”

“Of course you may.” After Father Bernard had spoken to Doreen’s father, with some of the other villagers near by listening, life in the family went back to normal. The only thing that changed was that Doreen was never allowed near the crossroads by herself. A year later, with her parent’s blessing, Doreen was allowed to join a nunnery, where she spent the rest of her life.

 

Eight hundred years later, a girl was born in a town which sat on the ruins of the village in which Doreen and her family had lived. Her name, by coincidence, was also Doreen…Doreen Nunley. When she was just six years old, her mother sent her down to the local store to buy some cakes for their tea. This Doreen, at that age, was also a very happy child until that fateful day. Doreen had just crossed to the middle of the road when she was hit by a speeding car. She did not die that day, but she became a child with a more nervous disposition. Her mother worried about her and decided that she would never send the child out on errands ever again.

As Doreen grew up, she eventually got over her traumatic childhood experience. Or so she thought. It was her last year of high school and she was very worried about her exams. She, generally, was a very good student, but the thought of graduating and going off to college frightened her a bit. She had never gone out of the town that she was born in and the thought of new places and experiences had an effect on her. Her mother told her that she would have to leave the nest eventually and that it would be good for her to get out and see more of the world. The night before her first exam, as she was sleeping, she had a nightmare. It was of a young girl crossing a dirt road and being hit by a speeding rider on his horse. When Doreen saw the girl’s body go flying into the air, she started out of her sleep. It was unnerving, but she managed to go back to sleep ten minutes later. Her dream returned, but in this case, it was later and at night, and the girl’s hair was red with blood. She saw the girl look startled about something, but Doreen did not hear what had startled the girl. Somehow, Doreen did manage to hear what she thought was the girl’s thoughts. “The Devil will not get me, the Devil will not get me.” With these words still rumbled through Doreen’s head, the alarm clock went off and woke her immediately.

Doreen, after getting washed and dressed for school, went down to the kitchen and had breakfast with her mother. The words from her dream distracted her enough that her mother noticed and asked her if anything was the matter.

“No, it’s just some silly stuff from a dream that I had last night.”

“Oh, well, in that case, here’s your lunch and be off with you. Good luck on your exams today.”

Doreen grabbed her lunch bag and went out the kitchen door. Bernadette, her next door neighbor and best friend, greeted her at the gate. They walked and talked about other people in school and who was dating who. They only talked about the forthcoming exams as little as possible. Bernadette was good at keeping Doreen’s mind off of troubling subjects. In fact, they had become so engrossed in their conversation that they passed the street which led to their school. They laughed about it and decided to go up to the next street and take it to the school from another angle. They got to the crosswalk and waited for the light to change to their favor. Doreen happened to look up and saw that the street that they were waiting to cross was locally known as “The Devil’s Road” due to a local legend she had heard all of her childhood. The green man flashed and Bernadette tugged on Doreen’s sleeve in order to get her attention. Doreen, when she realized where she was, and remembering the words from her nightmare, froze in place.

“NO! No, Bernie, let’s go back! I can’t cross here!”

Bernie looked at her friend with curiosity and said,

“What are you on about? Why can’t you cross here?”

“It’s The Devil’s Road! I had a dream last night and I’m afraid that if I cross this street, that something bad will happen to me.”

“Oh, come on, Dorry, it was just a dream. Let’s go!”

But Doreen refused to budge no matter what Bernie said to her. Bernadette was just about to give up and lead her friend away from the street, when Doreen saw a priest walking towards the crosswalk. She stood there watching the priest walk across the road and waited to see if he made it all the way through. It was, in fact, at that moment, that a truck came barreling down the road. Doreen could hear some of the music from the truck’s radio, and looking quickly between the distance of the truck and the priest, Doreen acted. She ran quickly into the crosswalk, tugged at the priest’s hand, and led him to safety. Bernie stood there with her mouth wide open in disbelief, but quickly came to and ran over to her friend and the priest. A few feet before she got to where they were standing, Bernie heard the priest thank Doreen and she heard one other thing. The final verse from a song which was coming from the truck. It was the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil.”