Chapter 12 is up and ready to read at Channillo.

Here’s a taste…


In all his travels, this was Thirteen’s first trip to Atlanta.  The Others still had not told him what his mission was, but it was of no consequence.  When they were ready, they would give him the information he needed.  And when they did, he would act.  His ability to perform his duties was never in question.

The Others kept his mind walled off and his consciousness shut down more and more these days.  He shrugged mentally at this impediment.  It allowed his psyche time to rest between each horrific act he was forced to commit.  Those acts were now his entire existence; a strand of cultured black pearls, unbroken and maleficent.  If there were an escape from his hell, he had not found it.

“The Others are giving you a great gift,” Dieter had said more than fifty years ago.  “Your performance in Dallas has set you apart, Thirteen.”  The man who once treated him like a brother stood before him with respect—and fear—in his eyes.  “What they offer will keep you from harm.  I don’t understand your hesitation.”

Thirteen was already an effective tool, and did not need further improving, but Dieter was who he was.  “I am as you made me, and I am content with that,” he said to the older man.  “You should be as well.”

“They will not allow you to refuse, you know,” Dieter had said, his gaze drifting to the stone floor.  He had always averted his eyes when delivering news with which he did not agree.  “You will thank them in time,” he said, but Thirteen had known neither of them believed it.

No gift comes without cost.

Thirteen’s first stop upon arrival was the apartment belonging to Jack Montgomery, but it had already been violated by the FBI.  Still, he took time to look through the whole of the place, wandering into each of the three rooms, careful to leave the mess undisturbed.  He had paused at the picture of the man’s family—so happy in their ignorance—and he touched each face with a gloved hand.  The photograph was wrong, not showing reality as it was, but a fantasy of what had once been.  He removed the glove and lingered over the image of the little girl.

There is no repairing such damage, he mused, and turned toward the door.  He now knew the two tasks the Others had set for him in this city, and his first was nearby.  He walked down the steps, turning left at the bottom toward his car.  There was a motorcycle parked in the slot closest to the stairs, and he stopped in front of it, tilting his head at the little bell hanging from the underside of the frame.  It was an odd place for such a thing, and he understood at once it was some kind of totem.  The knowledge of the thing penetrated his reverie, but he brushed it aside with a mental wave of his hand.

Some things should remain a mystery, and he smiled, the corners of his mouth a soft curl.  The pressure in his mind pushed him ever onward.

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