(Author's comment: Okay everyone, this is one of the shorter beginning chapters but its where action really starts to pick up. To all those who have gotten this far, thank you for reading along. It only gets better from here :)  )

Chapter Three

     When Laura got back to the room with her father’s Lana Sativa plant, she figured that the attempts to exterminate Benny were already being carried out. She didn’t expect someone to be trying to kill everyone in Hayvan.

     At first, everything seemed normal. She walked through the halls in silence, failing to note that she didn’t pass a single servant or guest. She was too busy thinking about Benny. She knew he would be safe as long as he kept moving. If he was what her father said he was, one the echani, then he would find plenty of ways to deal with the “ancient beasts” father had mentioned.

     She was so entranced in her thoughts that she almost ran head first into Mr. Vonwell. Her first thought was to scream and run, knowing he was capable of cold murder, but then she remembered that he didn’t know she had heard the conversation between her father and him. But he did, she thought. He looked right at me when I was in the shadows. Then she remembered how he had said LeVilles, plural, as if he knew two people were watching him. Two LeVilles. She settled for trying to look merely startled.

     “Mr. Vonwell,” she said, gasping melodramatically. “You scared me.”

     “Why aren’t you in bed, Miss LeVille?” he said, a slight note of suspicion in his voice.

     For a panic stricken moment, Laura was sure she’d choke, not be able to come up with an excuse. But then, as if from the bottom of a lake, she heard herself saying, “Everyone gets urges, Mr. Vonwell. If you’ve got a problem with my using the restroom in the middle of the night, buy me some diapers.” Then she walked off, without looking back. Damn that felt good, she thought.

“You might do well to watch that attitude, miss LeVille,” he said maliciously. “You’ll make some very unwanted enemies if you go around talking to people like that your whole life.”

     She turned around to face him, ready to say, “Well I’m in puberty as of three hours ago,” but he was gone. She hated it when he’d do that. She had long suspected that he was actually still there, watching, making her mind believe that she was alone. Because that’s what Vonwell was trained to do. Control minds. She never quite trusted him, even though she grew up being told that he was the most trustworthy person she’d ever meet.

     Laura turned back around and proceeded down the hall. After a few moments, she realized that she had progressed all the way to the mansion’s public-style bathrooms. She once again thought of how Vonwell could still be watching. Just in case, she pushed past the little woman with the skirt painted on the door.

     Just as the door swung shut, the connection between the two was cut, and Vonwell appeared once again, watching the door of the bathroom for the briefest of moments before continuing on his way.

**

     “Stop hitting my head!” Benny shouted groggily, flailing his arms at nothing. He began shouting it over and over, mantra like. “Stop hitting my head, stop hitting my head, just stop…fucking… HITTING ME!!”

     The intensity of his voice woke him up and he bolted upright. The crow that had been perched on his head, pecking futilely, squawked and fluttered to a location just out of arm’s reach from Benny. It apparently didn’t want to give up the prospect of a potential meal, because every time Benny would try to scare it away, it’d move back and then just sit there, staring, waiting for Benny to either lash out at it again or die. When he did neither, the bird resigned to a low branch where it resumed it’s vigilant watch over Benny.

     The first thing Benny noticed was that he was in another forest, though this one was less dense, and also that there wasn’t a willow tree anywhere in sight. He thought this was strange, but the pounding in his head made him quickly realize that it wasn’t that important of a thing to dwell on. After thoroughly checking himself to make sure he had all of his parts, he stood up to try to get an idea of where the nearest town might be so that he could figure out exactly what was going on.

     The cold floor he could vaguely remember hitting before he fainted was no more than a square of cement at the base of a cliff that seemed to loom for miles above him. Benny laid his hands on it, like feeling a woman’s pregnant stomach to feel the baby kick, and found that it was covered in a thin layer of some gelatinous goo. Just as a test, Benny grabbed a rock and tried to haul himself up on it. His fingers slipped the moment his feet left the ground, and he smacked his chin on it with considerable force. He was a little dazed when his feet hit the ground, and his legs buckled beneath him, leaving him sitting on the ground with his legs in a V, like a child playing with toys in a sandbox.

     Despite the pain in his jaw, Benny began laughing. Laughing so much that he almost felt maniacal. Hysterical maybe. He laid back on the cold cement and began laughing up at the deep blue sky above him. It only crossed his mind briefly that he had left the LeVille Mansion sometime during the night. He would have had to have been passed out for at least six or seven hours. The thought made him suddenly feel very vulnerable. After all, where was he going to take shelter at night, when God only knows what was roaming the woods, scavenging or hunting? What was he going to do if a poisonous snake or spider was crawling over him and was startled by his heart beat, resulting in a nasty bite that may or may not kill him?

     Nothing.

     Nowhere.

     He could do nothing, he could go nowhere. Laura had said there was only one way (a point made all too clear by his little bump on the head chin from trying to scale the cliff,) and he decided that he’d just have to keep moving. Bury himself with leaves at night or something. The hunters wouldn’t bother, and hopefully the scavengers just wouldn’t notice him. He’d burn that bridge when he got there.

     He looked out away from the cliff and was dazzled by an endless wooded valley. Everything was completely untouched by pollution and humans, and he was nearly blinded by the shear freshness of it all. He took in a deep breath of the sweet air and began moving away from the cliff.

     Little did he know that in the Upper Realms, his body was in motion as well.

**

     Why am I in this body?

     “Because I need you.”

     Oh yeah, right. So she can come and damn near destroy me again?

     “We weren’t well enough prepared last time and you know it.”

     Why am I in a boy? You know I prefer to be female. The breasts aid in my strategy sometimes.

     “Because I didn’t memorize the incantation for females. Also, this one’s special.”

     How so?

     “First, he’s alive.”

     Is that possible, if I’m in his body right now?

     “Not with a regular mortal, no. But this boy is one of the three.”

     The… the echani? …

     “Precisely.”

     …In that case… I think I can tolerate having a dick for a while.

     “Good. But for now, I need you to exorcize yourself and follow me to Hayvan. I just wanted you to get a taste of your new gun before I let you go start shooting it all over the place.”

     Dick joke?

     “Body joke.

     Well, Sanrunai… I’m liking it.

     “I’m using my real name now. Call me Natas.”

**

     What Mary Jorgens first saw when she went past her son’s room was Benny talking rather animatedly to himself.

     “Benny?” she said. Her heart was pounding. Could he really be awake, back to his old self again? “Oh, Benny!” she ran over and hugged him to her. She pulled back and tried to make eye contact with him, but he continued to just stare at the wall.

     “Benny?” she asked again. He looked into her eyes.

     “Well, Sanrunai… I’m liking it.”

     He began staring off again. The next time she would hear her son speak, the circumstances would be quite different, and her feelings about him would change rather quickly.

**

     “God damn it, Newstead,” came the barking voice of Jerry Patterson, the man who pretty much elected himself the new sheriff. “Why the hell don’t you do anything? I’m callin’ the shots now, and I think you need to get yourself out on patrol, Newstead.”

     “Patterson, I don’t even know how to drive,” Barry Newstead replied.

     “Well now’s a good time to learn, wouldn’t ya say?”

     “Damn it, Patterson, I might kill someone!”

     “I don’t give a shit! What I care about is that those damned frightened hicks out there want to know that they’re bein’ protected.” He picked up a set of keys off the desk and tossed them to Barry. “Car number 68,” he said. “That’s mine, so don’t scratch it.”

     “Whatever,” Barry said as he caught the keys. He turned to leave.

     “If you disobey me, Newstead, I swear to God, you’re fired,” Jerry said.

     Barry made no reply and walked out the door.

**

     Twenty minutes later, the owner of the Great Shavo Restaurant was screaming at the top of his lungs about how his wife was dead. The rear end of patrol car #68 of the Minde District Police Department was protruding from the front of the restaurant, smoke pouring out all windows.

     Pat Shavo knelt in front of his un-insured restaurant weeping. Just inside, the burning corpse of his wife could still be seen leaning against the hood of the car, bits of charred flesh dripping off every few seconds. Barry Newstead had just barely managed to escape the car before it exploded. He was in tears as well and kept attempting to talk to Shavo, but after you kill a man’s wife, accident or not, they usually don’t want a whole hell of a lot to do with you.

     Luckily, none of the customers in the restaurant were killed. They were all out of the building and huddled together, watching and talking as the restaurant slowly went up in flames. One of them, a beer bellied man with a Budweiser hat on, came over to the cop and asked if he was alright. When Barry didn’t answer, the man asked him if he wanted a beer. Barry wasn’t a big drinker, but given the state of things, he decided a drink wouldn’t hurt. He gladly accepted it, cracked it open, and proceeded to chug it until it was gone.

     Just as he was opening the second one (the man had been courteous enough to furnish him with another,) Jerry Patterson came around the corner in car #67, lights flashing. He parked by the gathering crowd, got out, and elbowed his way through to where Barry leaned against a wall, beer in hand.

     “Drinkin’ on the job, are we, Newstead?” Patterson asked, making sure his voice was loud enough for the crowd to hear. “And what’s this? You drove while under the influence? Look at what happens, Barry-boy.”

     “You fucking bastard,” Barry spat, just loud enough for Jerry to hear.

     “You don’t even have a license, Newstead,” Jerry continued. “Why the hell were you drivin’ my car, boy? You’re gonna spend a long time in jail for all the rules you’ve broken tonight, Newstead. As long as I’m the sheriff, there’s gonna be nothin’ but perfection in the Minde District Police force.”

     “You’re all going to die!” Barry suddenly shouted. “Whatever that thing is that’s messing with our town is going to come for you, and this little weasel here just made your protection a little bit weaker.”

     There was a nervous shift in the crowd as they all realized the truth of what Barry said. The town was already in bad shape, and now, with one cop missing, one dead, and the other supposedly heading for jail, that left only three out of the original six fully trained cops (except Barry, who was qualified in every way but the driving.)

     “If you wanna know what’s going to get all your children harmed,” Barry said to the crowd, “its that fat-ass right there leading your law enforcement, that’s what. He gave me the keys and told me—“

     Jerry Patterson drew his gun and pointed it at Barry’s forehead. “Get up off the fucking ground and get into my car, you scum,” he said coldly.

     “He framed me! I told him this was going to hap—“

     The crowd screamed as the gun shot cut through the night air. None of them ran, however. They all stood looking at the man who called himself their protector, their law-enforcer… the man who had just executed a fellow officer before their very eyes. On his face was a look that was a mix between surprise and sheer terror, a look that said, “I forgot it was really loaded.”

     “What the fuck, Patterson?” yelled a man in front. “There’s been enough death around here and now you’re just adding to it. Why don’t you just get the hell out of our town?”

     “You don’t know what you’re talking about, Jack,” Patterson said. “You shut up now before I arrest you. Now, that was an accident, y’all hear? You go tryin’ to tell anyone anything different, I’ll have you all arrested. One by one.”

     “You’re gonna arrest me?” the man called Jack asked.

     “Yes.”

     “I’d like to see you try, fat ass.”

     There was a small murmur of approval from the crowd. Another man said, “How d’ya plan on arrestin’ us all, Patterson, with only one pair of cuffs and about thirty of us?”

     “I’ll beat you all the way to the jail if I have to,” Jerry said. “And I’m gonna start with you.” He pointed at the man who had spoken first, Jack, the large man with the Budweiser hat. This was the man who’d given a beer to Barry, who’s brains now lay all over the sidewalk. Jerry began moving toward him, and right away the other man moved closer and said, “I wouldn’t, pal. He’s got a temper, especially with little twirps who unjustly cause trouble.”

     “Lick me, hillbilly,” Patterson said before spitting on the man’s shoes. “Come on, Budweiser.” He moved toward Jack again.

     “I’m tellin’ ya,” the second man said,”he’s a little edgy and I think just about everyone here kind of feels the same way.” A large cheer went up at that. “See? I don’t think you want to do that, like I said.”

     “Whatever, Tubby.” Jerry went to put the cuffs on Budweiser, but the other man punched him in the face. Instinctively, Patterson pulled out his gun and pointed it at the man. “You just stay back, or you’ll get what’s coming to you.”

     “Murderer,” said a woman in the crowd. Then a man said it. “Murderer.” Person after person began saying it.

     “Murderer,” a little boy.

     “Fuck you, midget,” Patterson replied.

     “Murderer,” a teenage girl.

     “Murderer,” the new senior citizen in town who went everywhere with his talking bird on his shoulder.

     “Murderer,” said the man’s bird.

     “Shut up, all of you!” Patterson was swinging his gun in all directions, yelling so much and so loud that he spit. “God damn it, I make the rules now, you hear me?! You all just shut …THE FUCK… UP!!”

     “Murderer….”

     “I’m NOT A MURDERER!”

     One of the two original speakers moved toward Patterson. He tensed and his finger pulled the trigger, shooting Budweiser in the stomach. No screams from anyone this time. Its like they had all gone numb.

     “Murderer, murderer, murderer, MURDERER…”

     The crowd moved in. One man knocked the gun out of Patterson’s hand, and the small boy from before bit into his leg. Soon, two more began hitting him.

     The whole crowd began attacking him, and three minutes later, Jerry Patterson was dead and Minde was left with just three rookie cops.

 


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