Chapter 17 is live!

Bill meets the Shadowman.  Or does he?  Go to to find out.  Here is some to get you started…

Bill sat at the counter in the little diner, the worn stool having become his “spot” over the years.  Anyone at work who had to find him in a hurry always knew where to look come lunchtime.  No one does that anymore, he thought, looking at his cell phone where it lay next to his plate.  Everybody’s too fuckin’ connected all the time.  He frowned, and lifted the last bit of club sandwich to his mouth, popping it in just as the phone buzzed.  Ain’t no such thing as downtime anymore, he thought with a sigh.  He chewed slowly, and picked up the phone.

The caller ID read anonymous, and he was in no mood to talk to either a pollster or a salesman.  He tapped the “ignore” button and laid the phone back down, then waved the waitress over to refill his coffee.  Ten seconds later the phone buzzed again.

“You gonna get that?” Charlene said as she poured his coffee.

Bill gave her a look that said yes, boss, and he picked up the phone without looking down.

“Bill Montgomery,” he said, smiling up at Charlene.  She finished topping off his cup, winked, and walked away satisfied.

“Bill… it’s Mason,” the voice on the other end said.  There was the clear sound of road noise, as well, and Bill raised an eyebrow as he listened.  “We need help,” Mason said.  “Jack needs your help.”

“Are you with him now?”

“Oh, hell no.  He doesn’t know I’m calling you.  I’m supposed to be out getting food.”

He had suspected Mason was on the run with Jack.  Those two had each been a part of the other’s mess since college.  If one was in a fix, it was even money that the other was close by—sometimes just laughing and pointing.  Jack was his brother, and Bill loved him for it, but he knew that friends were the family you chose.  He didn’t feel slighted that it was Mason calling him instead of his own brother.

“Where are you?”

A hesitation, and Bill listened for clues in the background noise.  “You have to promise me you won’t call the cops.”

He sighed.  “Mason, you idiot… I am the cops.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“I can’t—”

“Listen… there’s a shit-ton going on you don’t know about, and it’s all tied up with that damn letter I tried to get you interested in.  Remember that?”  The cold disdain was clear in Mason’s voice, and Bill couldn’t fault him for it.

“I remember there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”

“People are dying, Bill, and I’m afraid if you don’t get here and talk Jack down…”

He waited to hear the rest, but he didn’t need to.  Jack was Jack—slow to anger, but reckless once there.

“Tell me where you are, Mason,” he said.  Then he did the one thing a good cop should never do.  “I promise not to call the cavalry.”  He shook his head, knowing full well this was a mistake.  “Tell me where to meet you, and I’ll come alone.”

There was a long pause, a car horn honking nearby.  “We’re at the Motel 6 on I-85 just inside the loop.”

“Atlanta?”  How stupid are these guys?  Even if I don’t call the cops, someone is sure to recognize Jack from the damn pictures plastered all over the news.

“Yeah.  Room 212.”

“Alright… stay put until I get there.”  He stood,  took his wallet from his back pocket, and pulled a ten from inside and laid it on the counter beside his plate.  “It might be after dark, though.  Can you keep him there that long?”

“He won’t show his face in the daytime, so we should be good until dusk,” Mason said.  He sighed, and Bill heard the tension leak out of the man’s voice.  “I don’t know what you can do to help, but maybe I can get him to turn himself in to your custody until this all clears up.”

“That’s the first smart thing I’ve heard you say since I’ve known you,” Bill said with a slight grin.  “Just stay put until I get there.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Mason said, and the line went dead.

Yeah, Bill thought as he shoved the phone in his pocket, what you should have done was keep him out of trouble from the get-go.  That wasn’t fair to Mason, though.  Once Jack got invested in something, he was like a dog with a bone.

“Later, Charlene,” he said over his shoulder as he walked to the door.  He pulled it open, the little bell on top jingling happily, and stepped out into a beautiful afternoon sun.  It was the kind of day where nothing could—or should—go wrong, and he turned to his right to walk back to the station.

Across the road, Thirteen watched from the shade of a tree.


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