Fiction Relay – Part 51

Keeping one hand on Spence’s back, Blue reached her hand out and felt along the wall, trying not to stumble in the pitch black tunnel. Her fingers touched a cluster of long, dry reedy things that felt like withered roots. And if there were roots, she reasoned, even dry ones, they couldn’t be that far from the surface. But not close enough to punch a hole through and hope for some light.

Fiction Relay — Part 47 (by me)
Fiction Relay — Part 48 (by TRG)
Fiction Relay — Part 49 (by Joanne)
Fiction Relay — Part 50 (by KC)

Links to the entire story: Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, the Reader’s Digest condensed version on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

 

Reaching her hand higher, she snapped part of a root off. Flicking her wrist she muttered, “Lumos!” Nothing happened. Fuck Harry Potter. She dropped the root, reached her hand back along the wall, and slid her other hand from Spence’s back to his shoulder, trailing down his arm to interlace their fingers.

“How do you know where we’re going?” she asked Spence.

“Uh, this was the only way out.”

“How do you know it leads out?”

“I don’t. But the hole in the wall appeared right after that old witch-lady threw that light-bomb at it. Right before she disappeared.”

“Oh, good. We’re following a hag-trail.” Blue grimaced and shook her head. “Crazy old voodoo-mama. Throwing light-bombs. Saying you dug out that space we landed in back there, You scoop this here hole outta you mama, boy!’ As if the mountain was your mother. A mountain-mama! What, did she think you were John Denver?”Blue gave a superior huff. “And calling us twins. Eeww! I would soooo not have hot monkey sex with my brother. Bat. shit. crazy. bitch.” She shuddered.

“Hot monkey sex? Mmmm….” She could hear the teasing grin in Spence’s voice, and he gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.

“I’m serious, Spence. Doesn’t it gross you out?”

“Relax, babe. We’re sure as hell not twins, because I’m two years older than you. And there’s no way we’re related because we have two completely different dads, and we do not have the same mom. Megan was eighteen when you were born, and even if she’d had another kid at sixteen, and forgot it like she forgot about you… Sorry,” he added as he felt Blue’s wince in his mind, “but even if she’d forgotten having another kid, either Sam or Ephraim would’ve remembered that. They were all together back then. We’re not related.”

Blue sighed, feeling relieved at his logic. Despite how weird her life had been, and how even more weird it had gotten lately, Spence’s words rang true. She could feel it. They weren’t related. At least not by blood. The ground beneath them rose on an incline. Spencer pulled her to the right as the tunnel began to curve. There were no more roots on the walls. They seemed to be headed deeper into the mountain.

“Plus, you remember your own mom,” she said. Spence didn’t respond. “Right?” she prodded.

“I’m not sure,” he finally answered. His voice sounded distant, sad. “I have memories of her — of my mother… of a mother — but now that I’m trying to remember her the memories don’t seem real. It’s like I’m remembering a story someone told me. I don’t know. I think something happened to me in that secret altar-room of Sanderson’s. Like I was finally seeing the truth about something, but I’m not sure what I’m seeing yet. I haven’t put the puzzle pieces together.”

A dim light shone far ahead. It seemed to be coming from around a corner. As they neared, though, they both suddenly stopped in their tracks. A half-human scream/howl echoed off the tunnel walls. The sound was followed by a crash.

Shit! Spencer whispered in Blue’s mind.

Don’t go into the light, Carol Anne, Blue murmured back mentally, her body trembling. She tugged Spence’s hand to go backward.

Yeah, Spence agreed, refusing to budge. Only problem is — can’t you feel it? That’s the way we have to go.

—–

Megan backed away, wondering if she could make it around the large room and to the door for her escape. She hated leaving Sam and Ephraim, especially in this place that was such a cruel replica of the lab they’d all been tortured in, but Sam was right: she had to get to Samantha. There were too many people too interested in their daughter, and if, as Jose had theorized, Samantha might have the power to beat Sanderson, then she was in danger. Megan and Sam’s daughter was walking around with a target on her back and had only limited time before she would be hunted. Megan couldn’t — wouldn’t — allow that to happen. She stepped over Ephraim’s unconscious form and held her breath. Maybe the thick clouds of smoke would shroud her.

Raj continued his transformation. Megan kept tabs on Melissa, noting that the woman seemed so distracted by Raj that she didn’t notice Megan making her way around the room’s perimeter.

Raj fell to the floor with a thud. He writhed, and a half-human scream discharged from his throat, echoing off the cavern walls in a barking howl. His legs thrashed out so violently that he kicked the stainless steel table free of the bolts that fastened it to the center of the floor. The heavy table skittered as though it were made of tin foil. Megan jumped backward, just before a corner of it lanced a section of wall that was right where Megan’s torso had been. The loud crash muffled her gasp, but she realized the commotion had probably already drawn attention to her position. And the fact that she was trying to escape. She looked up in alarm. Her fears were verified. Melissa was staring straight at her. 

“Oh, no you don’t, Meagan!” Melissa sneered. She side-stepped until she blocked the room’s only exit. Sam growled and lunged at Melissa. Just then Raj finished his transformation. He snarled and got his monster claws under him. Panting, he rose to his full height above the smoke, his jaws pulling into a hideous smile at Sam.

And that’s when Megan saw it. Through the haze, beneath Raj’s feet, in a spot the stainless steel table had once covered, there was a small, square outline in the floor. A trapdoor.

And suddenly Megan knew that beneath it she would find the box that Sanderson so desperately wanted.

—–

Okay, Bossman. It’s The Reclining Gentleman’s turn! 🙂

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Fiction Relay — Part 47

Fiction Relay — Part 43 (by me)

Fiction Relay — Part 44 (by TRG)

Fiction Relay — Part 45 (by Joanne)

Fiction Relay — Part 46 (by KC)

To catch up on the entire story, you can link to the very first post, and all subsequent posts, from the Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, you can cheat and read the cliff-notes on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

—–

Raj felt his body follow Melissa’s directives out of the hotel room and down to the car. Earlier, when she’d been asleep, he’d tried to summon food and drink to himself to try to regain strength to his body. But the water had just leaked through rotted holes in his necrotic system, and the piece of bread, once he’d forced it down his unresponsive esophagus, had festered in whatever pools of gastric juices that still lingered in his stomach, causing him violent cramps. And he was powerless to double over in pain, or vomit, or otherwise react. Bitch! This was her fault. He was a prisoner.

Almost. His mind was still free.

Now, she drove them west, He he fumed at his helplessness to avoid her command. He was trapped in his own head, the silence overwhelming. On the plus-side, she wasn’t prattling on about her imaginary prowess and her simpleminded revenge plan. Meagan-this, Meagan-that! He was beyond sick of hearing it. But she could have at least turned on the radio or something. He’d had nothing but strange silence from her for hours now, ever since she’d returned from trying to capture Meagan’s daughter.

Which, he suddenly realized, was right around the time she’d unwrapped that coyote statue from its old-looking bindings.  In fact….

From his  position in the backseat of the car he studied her. Melissa drove, staring at the road, her eyes unblinking. The coyote statue was perched on the dashboard, staring straight ahead, also. Raj didn’t remember Melissa having brought the statue down, though he could have missed it. But right now it was almost as if the coyote was the one directing Melissa.

Something brown and furry zinged across Raj’s singular stretch of focus on the road in front of them. Then something gray and furry. The car slowed, and Raj realized they were following a pack — no, a swarm — of live, snarling coyotes, who were running down the highway.

The mountain. He could see it now, coming into his line of vision. That’s where they were all heading. And even in his weakened state he could feel the energy emanating from it. He wondered…? With Melissa’s focus elsewhere, Raj let himself sink into the depths of his mind. He began to draw energy from the mountain, regaining strength. And power.

—–

“Spence?”

Spencer’s head throbbed like a bitch, which was probably the reason that the cramped room he was in was also blurry. He sat up, pressed a palm to the front of his skull, and looked around for the familiar female voice that had just called him, but he seemed to be alone. He didn’t think he’d been out too long. There was one window, but it was only slightly darker than it had been when the General had caught him taking photos in the secret room, right around sunset. The room that only the General — who obviously was neither the General nor his father — was supposed to know about. At that point the General, or “Sanderson,” or whoever/whatever this entity was, had been livid. Spence had felt the waves of fury radiating off the thing’s body, even as the face of his father grinned back at him. That’s when the sickening pain had hit Spence’s stomach and he’d doubled over before blacking out. Now he wondered why he wasn’t dead. Why hadn’t Sanderson killed him? And where the heck was she?

Unless…!

In a panic, he reached out for Blue. He was relieved to feel her, to find her alive. She was pissed at someone, but not him. Who? And she was confused. She was worried about her bike and about her mother. And, Spence noted with a small sense of amusement, she was reluctantly admitting to herself that she was worried about her father. Maybe she’d called Spence’s name in his head, but it had sounded as though she’d spoken the words aloud, not thought them.

And then his gut dropped in horror as he heard his own voice saying back to her, “Babe, stop worrying about your bike. We’ll come back for it as soon as we can.”

In that moment Spence knew why he hadn’t been killed. That thing — Sanderson — had needed him alive to be able to rummage through his mind and learn enough to get to Blue, and was now using some sort of mental-disguise with her. Spence thought of what he’d learned in that room. His camera was probably toast by now, but he hoped the Sanderson-thing wasn’t techno-savvy enough, and hadn’t read Spence’s mind enough, to know that all of Spence’s photos automatically uploaded to a cloud-server. But why? Why Blue? He flashed on a memory of Sanderson’s secret room and the stone table in the middle that was covered with rusty stains and prayed that wasn’t what Sanderson was thinking.

All of these thoughts flashed through Spence’s head in a fraction of a second, just before he heard his doppelganger say, “Now get your sexy ass over here, you’re too far away from me.” Spence felt the sensation of the other guy running his hand up Blue’s thigh. His horror was instantly charged with a jolt of possessive anger.

“Now there’s my girl,” he heard the person using his voice say.

Wrong, jerkoff, that’s my girl!

He could feel Blue growing weaker and more distant, the longer she was in this thing’s presence. He had to risk exposing to Sanderson the fact that he was conscious. He needed warn her.

It’s a trap Sammy, please be careful, nothing is what it seems, please Sammy, please be careful. 

He thought the words into her head, using her given name to shock her into realizing how serious this was. And he hoped that, for once, she’d listen to him. Blue didn’t respond. He couldn’t feel her anymore. Dread built in him. Please, babe, have some sort of trick up your sleeve to get away!

Interminable minutes ticked by. Spence realized his head felt better, and the room was no longer blurry. Then he notice his skin was tingling, like electric ant-feet crawling all over him.

“What the–?” He stood up and half-danced a couple steps to get away from whatever was causing the sensation, but was unsuccessful. Suddenly found himself outside, next to the blue mountain, and in Blue’s arms.

“Babe!” He crushed his lips to hers, and she responded, seeming as relieved as he felt. “How did you–?” He said against her lips, but she pulled back.

“No time now,” she said. “We’ve got incoming.” She jerked her head behind her, and Spence looked up to see a dark blob swiftly approaching. The blob seemed to be snarling and angry. A deep growl to his left made them both turn their heads. Four huge coyotes were on the ground next to two SUVs. They thrashed out of clothes like the General’s bodyguards usually wore. Spence pulled Blue behind him just as the first of the huge coyotes sprang.

—–

Okay, TRG is up next! 🙂

Fiction Relay — Part 43

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this! To catch up on the last few episodes:

Fiction Relay — Part 39 (by me)

Fiction Relay — Part 40 (by TRG)

Fiction Relay — Part 41 (by Joanne)

Fiction Relay — Part 42 (by KC)

To catch up on the entire story, you can link to the very first post, and all subsequent posts, from the Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, you can cheat and read the cliff-notes on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

—–

Blue tailed the two black SUVs for over an hour and a half.  Her mom was in one with her dumbass dad. Their annoying cop-friend Ephraim, whom she’d met back in Kentucky, was in the other. Ephraim was with some guy whose name she couldn’t make out. He didn’t seem to have any abilities, though, as far as she could sense, and she couldn’t figure why the guy was with them.

Spence had somehow transferred to her the ability to shield herself from the four huge Native American dudes who were driving the cars, but she still kept a good half-mile back on her bike as they traveled flat, barren terrain deep into the desert. It was obvious where they were headed, though. The blue mountain, Mount Taylor, stuck out like the desert’s own giant, asphyxiated boob. Its energy, which she’d always previously been aware of, had more than doubled in the past day. Since her parents and their “friends” arrived in town.

Earlier, when she’d been bored on the long stretch of I-40, she’d made her bike steer itself — a neat telepathy trick she grudgingly admitted she must have gotten from her father — while she Googled to find what was so special about it. According to Wikipedia:

To the Navajo people, Mount Taylor is Tsoodził, the turquoise mountain, one of the four sacred mountains marking the cardinal directions and the boundaries of the Dinetah, the traditional Navajo homeland. Mount Taylor marks the southern boundary, and is associated with the direction south and the color blue; it is gendered female. In Navajo mythology, First Man created the sacred mountains from soil from the Fourth World, together with sacred matter, as replicas of mountains from that world. He fastened Mount Taylor to the earth with a stone knife. The supernatural beings Black God, Turquoise Boy, and Turquoise Girl are said to reside on the mountain.[6] Mount Taylor is also sacred to the Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni people.

Blah, blah, blah. Turquoise Boy, Turquoise Girl. Shark Boy, Lava Girl. And of course the ancient tribes called it a “female” mountain. Proved she wasn’t the only one who thought it looked like a boob. Blue rolled her eyes and felt Spence chuckle in her mind. He’d checked in with her more than a few times this afternoon, meaning he was more worried than he’d let on before she left. He was almost done with whatever it was he was doing and would meet her out here as soon as he could. Blue knew it would be faster if she just teleported back to get him, but she wasn’t ready to share knowledge of that gift of hers with anyone just yet. Not even Spence. She put her cell phone away and resumed manual control of her bike, blazing into a red-orange sunset.

*****

Sam rolled his shoulders and tried again to see inside the heads of the two brick walls in the front seat of the SUV, to no avail. It was the same with all of these guys, almost as though their lineage was impervious to him. Not good. Also not-good were Ephraim’s visions — blood, Meagan, Raj, the coyote-man, and more blood — which weighed on Sam. He had a bad feeling about how this would go down, but he was determined to get both Meagan and Samantha out of this damn place safely. His family.

They turned north off of the highway, following the access road on the mountain’s west slope. Sam reached his thoughts out, stretching, searching. There had to be a way to avoid the scenario that involved Meagan-and-blood. He picked up on something unexpected. Relief flooded through him to discover their blue-haired teenage tail. Meaning Samantha wasn’t strapped to some lab table, like he’d seen in Sanderson’s twisted mind. But Sam’s relief was quickly followed by a sick feeling in his stomach for the danger his daughter could be headed into. He sent Meagan the image, and her gaze reflected how he felt.

“She’s okay!” Meagan said in her head. “But…!”

“Yeah,” he thought back. “We need to get her out of here.”

She squeezed his hand across the back seat. In her mind she wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her front against his. He hugged her back, kissing the top of her head.

“Is this how it always is?” he asked. “This parent-thing? The worry…?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “But you get used to it.” Her face softened into a gentle smile and she suddenly seemed to glow from within. Sam caught his breath at her beauty and reaffirmed a private vow to protect her.

Just then the car jerked to a stop. They were near the mouth of a small cave which, according to an information-sign, lead to an old, abandoned section of a uranium mine.  The information-sign was posted on top of a steel barricade with another sign that read: Keep Out! Danger! Unfortunately, Sam thought, the barricade wouldn’t be an obstacle to a teleporter.

“Ready?” one of the brick walls asked Meagan. She nodded. Sam stepped up next to her and took her hand in his.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m going in there with you.”

“But — ?”

“Me too,” Ephraim said, taking her other hand.

Meagan frowned. “I don’t know if I can get myself in, for sure, let alone you guys!”

Sam looked into her brown eyes. “You can do this, Megs.”

“Okay, then.” Jose smiled, joining the end of the line. He clasped Ephraim’s palm.

Without warning, a surge of energy vibrated up from the ground beneath the mountain and pulsed outward, knocking them and their guards to the ground. The mountain began to hum, a deep, low, ominous throb.

“What was that?” Meagan asked, getting to her feet.

“I don’t know,” Jose answered, “but I think we just activated something in the mountain.”

*****

In the middle of his shift at Bad Ass Coffee, in downtown Albuquerque, Dak dropped the order he was about to deliver, turned on his heel, and walked out the door. “Hey!” Tyrone, his boss, called after him. “Where you goin’? Get back here!” Dak paused, growled over his shoulder, and then continued forward, his eyes transfixed on the west. He began to jog, then broke into a run. Suddenly Dak wasn’t there anymore. Tyrone blinked as a large, snarling, gray coyote shot out of a pile of Dak’s clothes. The coyote ran off down the road and was soon a speck in the distance. But there were other specks, too. Tyrone squinted, rubbed his eyes, and squinted again. He grabbed up his binoculars. Dozens — no, hundreds — of coyotes charging west, a vicious gray-brown-black cloud hurtling across the desert. Toward the mountain. Tyrone rubbed at the chill that rippled across his arms. Then he stepped back inside and locked the door.

—–

Okay, not sure, but I think the bossman, TRG, is up next…?

Fiction Relay — Part 39

To catch up on the last few episodes:

Fiction Relay — Part 34 (by me)

Fiction Relay — Part 35 (by KC)

Fiction Relay — Part 36 (by TRG)

Fiction Relay — Part 37 (by Joanne)

Fiction Relay — Part 38 (by KC)

To catch up on the entire story, you can link to the very first post, and all subsequent posts, from the Fiction Relay Homepage. (Or, you can cheat and read the cliff-notes on the Fiction Relay Summary page.)

—–

Sanderson — or whatever his name really was — directed his gray gaze at Meagan. His smirk deepened. She cringed beneath the weight of his stare. His words, the things he’d insinuated, were a jumbled, confusing mess in her brain. Melissa wasn’t her sister, except maybe in the sense that they’d been raised together in the orphanage. Melissa had been the daughter of Sanders, the orphanage’s director — the man who’d run insidious tests on all of them until that night of the fire — and there was no way Meagan was related to him.

Then again, she couldn’t remember anything about her own parents…. Wait, no, maybe she could… it was right there, on the edge of her mind, just out of reach….

And if Sanders was the orphanage’s director, and Sanderson was his son…. Only the man in front of them said Sanderson was his son, which would make him Sanders…. How would that be possible? He didn’t look anything like the Dr. Sanders she remembered — and she’d never forget the man who’d tortured her for years! Only… what if, somehow, he was? And he’d had her own daughter under his thumb for the past eight years!

A cry escaped her lips. “I don’t care about your stupid Club or its secrets! I want my daughter!” She pounded her fist on the table. “Where is she?”

“She is here, in this building,” Sanderson said. An amused quirk tugged at his lips. “Interesting that you cannot sense her. And I must point out again that it is similarly interesting that you did not track her here. Rather, you were tracking something else. Perhaps it was fate: maybe you were tracking the mission to fulfill my request.”

“I’m not going on a mission for you! I — !”

She was cut off by a scream of pain that filled the room. Meagan, Jose, Ephraim, and Sam jumped and looked around. Everyone — even the three brick-wall guards — seemed unnerved. Everyone except Sanderson.

Sam suddenly saw an image inside Sanderson’s head: a blue-haired teenager strapped to a table, just like the one he’d been strapped to so many times. She was being probed, like he’d been. Like they’d all been.

“Samantha!” Sam gasped. “No!” His blood boiled. With a snarl he elbowed his captor, broke free, and lunged at Sanderson. Grabbing the man by the throat he pinned him up against the wall.  Sanderson began to gag. He clawed at Sam’s hand. Sam forced his way into Sanderson’s thoughts, searching for the man’s darkest fears to unleash on him. But, like before, he was met with only a bottomless abyss. He pulled back, only to see Sanderson glaring at him with malicious gray eyes that turned black. And a face that was turning red. “Let her go, you sick fuck!” Sam growled.

Suddenly Sam’s own airway was cut off as his brick wall yanked him backward in a choke-hold. As soon as Sam was clear of Sanderson, another brick wall came up and smashed a fist into Sam’s jaw.

“Sam!” Meagan screamed as he went down. She jumped to her feet and ran toward him. Ephraim ducked low, sending his own brick wall into a flip, and turned toward the fight. Sanderson held up a hand. The brick walls instantly re-grabbed Sam, Ephraim, and Meagan, holding them in place, even though it was clear they wanted to beat the shit out of them. For a second, Sam thought he saw Sanderson’s eyes go black as he glared at him again, but then the man turned his attention back to Meagan.

“I need you to retrieve something for me,” he said, sounding as calm and unruffled as though he hadn’t just been proved human. Or at least part-human. “A small box. It is there.” He stood aside, allowing the distant, blue mountain to come into full view, and nodded toward it.

The room swam before Ephraim. Scenes flashed before him:

Time before time. Blood. An angry young man, straining to get near the mountain. He had a mane of dark hair, and his skin glowed golden, like a god. But his eyes burned black like hell-coals. An aura of red surrounded him. The young man tried again and again, over many ages, but the force that had been set to shield the mountain was stronger. In a final rage, the young man tried one more time. The strain turned his hair white. He fell to the ground, weakened, and was only saved from nothingness when he absorbed his form into a passing coyote. For several years, he rested inside the coyote, regaining his strength by eating humans, sometimes savaging entire villages. He was feared, like a god, and this assuaged some of his anger. But then, when he tried to arise and break free, he discovered he was tethered to the earth, and his form to the coyote’s. From then on his blood-lust truly knew no bounds. Through years, a coyote-man in various stages — sometimes more coyote, sometimes more man — approached the mountain. Always he was turned away, as if by an invisible force. His rage, however, only grew.

Ephraim shuddered, still feeling the coyote-man’s rage as the flash dissolved. He heard Sam speak, next to him.

“Your damn box is on the mountain? Get it yourself.”

“Not ‘on,'” Sanderson corrected. “In. It is inside the mountain. And you,” he turned back to Meagan, “are uniquely qualified to retrieve it for me. Do you have any idea how rare a gift it is for one to be able to teleport?” His eyes danced with greed. “It is a talent I’d wished your darling daughter had possessed. Alas. Well, you are back with me now, and you do seem to have demonstrated this ability a few times recently, haven’t you? Bring me my box, and you can have your daughter back.”

“This isn’t really a request, is it. I don’t really have a choice.” Meagan said.

“Choice, no choice. Semantics.” Sanderson waved the notion away with his fingers.

“Fine,” she agreed with a scowl. “Your box, my daughter.” Sanderson smiled; her brick wall released her.

“She’s not going alone,” Sam growled.

“Agreed,” Ephraim nodded.

Sanderson shrugged indifference, and their brick walls released them, though they hovered at the ready for a false move by Sam or Ephraim.

“You will need a guide?” Jose asked, rising from his seat and walking toward them. He paused, the question in his eyes.

“Yes,” Meagan said. “Thank you.”

*****

“Yeah, that’s what he said, but….”

“But what, Spencer?” Blue asked.

“Well, it’s like it wasn’t really coming from him. Like, I don’t know, something’s just off.” He plopped on the sofa in his room, stretched out, and glanced over at Blue, who lay sprawled on her stomach across his bed. “What-evs.”

“So, basically, you stopped me from going back to get my bike because of ‘what-evs?'”

“Uh… yup.”

“You suck.”

“Love you, too, babe.”

“What about my mom? How did she look? Was she okay?”

“As far as I could tell. Your dad might’ve been roughed up a bit, though.”

“Couldn’t give a shit,” she muttered. “He deserves it.” Suddenly, she propped up — arms straight, palms on the bed — alert. “She’s leaving the building!” Blue scrambled to her feet.

“Who?” Spencer asked, swinging his feet to the floor.

“My mom! Come on, let’s follow!”

—–

Next at-bat with the Relay: TRG! 🙂

Fiction Relay – Part 34

To catch up on the last few episodes:

Fiction Relay — Part 28 (by me)

Fiction Relay — Part 29 (by TRG)

Fiction Relay — Part 30 (by Hasty)

Fiction Relay — Part 31 (by Cara)

Fiction Relay — Part 32 (by Delilah)

Fiction Relay — Part 33 (by Ted)

To catch up on the entire story:

Fiction Relay Homepage

Fiction Relay Summary

—–

Having never before spent time in the American southwest, Sam knew it should have been the up-close, foreign sights that he noticed first. Like the terra cotta blooms on the prickly pears, or the flaming, vermilion buds spiking out of the yucca plants. But those curiosities had barely registered before his attention was drawn and held by the mountain. It was a blue mountain, the tallest peak in the range far to his west. Aside from its unique color, he could feel a force emanating from it, like a magnetic pulse. He couldn’t tear his eyes away. They were at the Bernalillo County sheriff’s office, where Ephraim had gotten in touch with a law-enforcement buddy on the off-chance they could find Meagan through traditional means, and Sam could barely resist the urge to walk out the door, get back in the car, and drive straight west.

Ephraim cleared his throat. “Uh, so I’ll just leave you and the scenery alone, then, while I go look for her….”

“What?” Sam blinked and ripped his gaze away, forcing himself to focus on Ephraim. “When did you finish with your friend? Sorry, I got distracted for a second.”

“A second? I’ve been trying to tell you for the past five minutes that Dave hadn’t heard anything, but he’ll put out a BOLO.”

“BOLO. That’s ‘Be On the Look-Out,’ right?” His gaze started to drift back to the mountain.

“Sam!”

“Sorry. Don’t you feel it?”

“The passage of time? Yes, I do. Come on, let’s get moving!” Ephraim yanked open the door and walked out of the station.

“No, the mountain,” Sam clarified, jogging after Ephraim. “Don’t you feel that pull?”

“Pull?” Ephraim paused on his way toward their rental car. “No. Is she there? You don’t sense Meagan there, do you?” He nodded toward the mountain.

“No, the pull isn’t her. It’s not even human, though related to us somehow. It’s some other force, very powerful, and I think very ancient. I think it wants us to go there.”

It wants? Well, it is also very sunny. I know what I saw, and it was dark.”

Sam knew Ephraim was referring to his cryptic vision of blood and fire, and a death match between Meagan and Raj. Which was impossible, because Raj was already dead, and his body was back in Kentucky.

They’d discussed the vision on the flight to Albuquerque. The blood and fire were pretty self-explanatory, unless they were symbolic of something else, which Ephraim had said sometimes happened with visions. Only he didn’t think this had “felt” like one of those kinds of visions. But if the scene he’d perceived had been literal, then how did they explain Raj’s presence? The only person they knew who could do the resurrection-trick was Melissa, but her talent didn’t extend to anyone beyond herself. At least, not as far as they knew. Besides, she was tied to a chair in an old distillery back in Kentucky, too. By now Samantha’s friends at the Club would have picked her up.

Sam had requested this one favor from the daughter he’d just discovered he had, and to his surprise she’d immediately made the call. Samantha, or Blue, as she preferred to go by, seemed to despise him with the apathy of everything north of the Arctic Circle. Except for those fire-bomb moments where she cut loose to take digs at him. She didn’t quite believe that Sam had never known about her and still held onto the notion that he’d abandoned her and her mother. Not that he could blame her. Even though he really hadn’t known about Blue’s existence, he still felt guilty, as though there was some way he should have known. And he should never have agreed with Meagan’s idea for them all to separate back then, in the first place. Even if it might have been safer. Sam understood how much Blue missed her mother, because he missed her, too. Every. Single. Day. Leaving her was the worst decision he’d ever made, and when he saw her in that coffee shop six months ago, he knew he couldn’t let her walk out of his life again. Even though she didn’t remember him.

And now, even though they still hadn’t figured out the meaning of Ephraim’s vision, the one thing that was clear was that Meagan was in mortal danger.

They reached the car. “So it’s dark in the vision?” Sam asked, pulling open the passenger door. “Maybe it was nighttime?”

Ephraim slid behind the wheel and paused, considering. “No… I don’t get that sense. Maybe it’s night, maybe it’s day, but I think what I saw was somewhere inside. Like maybe a room…?” He knit his brows in thought, as though questioning himself, and reached for his sunglasses.

“So what do we do now, just drive around and hope I can get a lock on her, like before?”

“I’ve got nothing better, and it got us this far,” Ephraim shrugged.

Suddenly, two brick walls of men, as tall as Sam, each with tanned skin and shoulder-length brown hair, stood next to the car’s doors. The one on Ephraim’s side knocked on the window. Sam closed his eyes and was alarmed to find that he couldn’t see into the strangers’ minds, not even a little bit. He clenched his fists. Ephraim opened the window an inch.

“Sanderson wants to see you,” the man said.

“Who’s Sanderson?”

“He’s the boss.”

“The boss of… oh!” Ephraim glanced at Sam, and his look conveyed that he realized what Sam had just figured out, too. The boss of the Club? Maybe Sanderson could help them. “We’ll follow you.”

They followed the men’s gray sedan for five minutes, through the streets of downtown, until it pulled into the Albuquerque Country Club. Ephraim gave a wry chuckle. Apparently the irony of the Club being located at an actual club wasn’t lost on him, either.

They walked through gleaming interiors, over sandstone tile and polished wood floors, and up a key-locked elevator until they came to a private dining room. An enormous window faced west, giving a perfect view of the blue mountain. But the mountain was not first thing that caught Sam’s eye. It was the woman seated at one end of the long table.

“Sam!” Meagan gasped.

“Meagan!” He started to rush across the room, but was immediately restrained by one of the brick walls who’d brought them. The other man had a grip on Ephraim. Sam suddenly spied the good looking, dark-haired man seated next to Meagan. “You must be Sanderson. What’s going on?”

“No, Sam,” Meagan said, “this is Jose. He’s helping me. I have to find… someone… er….” She glanced at Ephraim.

“He knows about your daughter — his daughter,” Ephraim said. “I told him what you’d told me.”

“Meagan, she’s fine. Samantha was in Kentucky, looking for you!”

“What?!?”

Sam filled Meagan in on the details. “And then she took off again, after you, right before we did. We’re assuming she was following you. But you were easier for me to track.” He grinned, and she gasped as he sent her the mental sensation of his tongue circling her breast. She shot him a WTF?-look, but her cheeks went pink and a smile tugged at her lips. Then her smile fell.

“I didn’t want you to follow me. I tried to block you out. I couldn’t risk you getting hurt,” she said softly. Her eyes filled with love for him, and he caught his breath. She was crazy if she didn’t know he’d follow her to the ends of the universe and back. He was crazy for ever having let her go. He wasn’t leaving her, ever again.

Meagan cocked her head to the side and frowned. “But if Samantha was there, where we were, why did I know that I had to come here? What was I tracking?”

“I can help you answer your question.”

A man with a wild, white mane of hair suddenly stood before them. Sam hadn’t seen him enter the room. His tanned, weathered skin made him look old, but his cagey green eyes made him seem fierce and spry. He was ancient, and yet ageless.

Like the mountain.

The words popped into Sam’s head like an echo, as though they hadn’t come from him. But the next thought did: Possibly also dangerous. Next to Meagan, Jose tensed, staring at the man, confirming Sam’s thought.

“What is it, Jose?” Meagan asked in a half-whisper, not taking her eyes off the man, either.

“He is a Navajo witch,” Jose answered. “A skinwalker. He can take the form of any animal he chooses. And he steals the life-essences of those whose forms he takes. He cannot be trusted!” Jose rose from his chair. A third brick wall folded his arms across his massive chest and stood in front of the closed door.

“And yet,” the white-maned man grinned, “you have no choice but to trust me, since I am the one you seek.” He turned toward Meagan. Sam strained to break free.

“Who are you?” she asked. She sounded more curious than scared, which only heightened Sam’s sense of alarm.

“Like you, I have many names.” He winked at her. “But you may call me Sanderson.”

—–

Okay, KC, your turn! 🙂