“The Cannibal Killer” Part – V: Nathan’s Private E-Journal June 18th, 2016

****NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  A quick reminder that this story is darker and more graphic than most previous entries as it deals with violence against women, as well as  a very deranged mind.  There will be fewer images in this entry than usual as I do not wish to cause ‘triggers’ in readers.  If you feel just reading about violence will trouble you,  I recommend possibly taking a pass on this one.  The story will hopefully be concluded in two more installments – Thank you.****

I’ve seen inside peoples minds before, especially when I take a blood “donation” straight from them. And if I’m putting some of myself into them, I see it ALL. Which is why I usually prefer my intake to be from bags, or in a rare case a transfusion. Still, it’s not always a bad thing to get a donation directly from someone close. I get to know them more intimately in ways others don’t. And considering my long existence I can keep their memories alive and share those treasures with the donor’s descendants for many years to come, so they are never forgotten.

However, there have been occasions where I’ve been inside the minds of certain people and am forced to carry their memories with me, because I cannot forget… anything! Oh, I may have a hard time recalling the information at will, but it’s all there, hidden behind doors and piles of other recollections. And try as I might, I can only bury those darker items so deep.

I only pray I can bury the things I saw tonight so deep that they will never plague my slumbering moments…

As I said, I normally I only see inside another person’s mind when I take from them, but tonight I learned it could happen when someone took from ME!

Thanks to the mist I’d released earlier I knew the assault was taking place near the pond in the center of the park which meant I had to move fast. Normally I don’t show off my inhuman speed, but I figured I’d be able to alter the Sheriff’s memory afterwards. As the scenery blurred past me, I sent the mist I’d released into the park earlier into the killer’s nostrils hoping to gain some control over him after he breathed me in, which he did. But it didn’t work. The guy was so on an adrenaline rush from the excitement of having captured another victim, that nothing I did was even slowing him down.

But I could see through his eyes and saw he was straddling the girl, one hand clamped firmly over her mouth while the other held a wicked looking military blade. A second later, I burst onto the scene.

Sure enough he was on top of her and was in the process of slicing open her blouse to expose her chest.

Without slowing I allowed my arm to stretch a couple of feet longer than normal in order to grab his hand with the knife and pull it away from the girl. Unfortunately, this gave him time to look up and see me coming just before the rest of me slammed into his solid six foot frame. The creep actually started to smile until our bodies collided. He certainly had not expected someone so much smaller than himself to have enough force to knock him off the girl, much less send him sprawling several feet. By the same token, I never expected him to grab my “overly-extended” arm with the hand he had clamped over the girl’s mouth to pull me with him.

blade

The two of us rolled across the ground each struggling for the advantage. Normally, my inhuman strength should have given me the advantage, but the guy knew what he was doing. I quickly realized Michael was right about the killer having had military training. I got a close-up look at the blade as we struggled and recognized it as an LMF II ASEK, with a foliage colored handle to match his camouflage make-up and attire. But it was his fighting style that really told the story and was giving me a tough time of it. At first I couldn’t get any decent leverage to pin him, but then I realized I was fighting like a normal person and not using my full talents.

At last I let him pin me, as I did so the smell of tree sap and fresh leaves reached my nostrils. So that’s how he’d gotten past the patrols. He’d hidden himself up in one of the trees during the daytime, probably when the park was busy, and had stayed there. No doubt he’d put on his camouflage make-up and changed his shirt, while waiting for night to come. Then he’d just waited for the right moment and…

“Am I man enough for you now… Joanie,” he panted excitedly.

‘Joanie?’ I thought briefly before he head-butted me, which hurt! Yes, I can feel pain just like anyone else, but I can take more abuse than most. But it still hurt and I saw stars briefly. In that moment I realized MY suspicion, that our friend was someone who had either killed or wanted to kill a certain type of woman over and over again, had been right. Not that I felt like patting myself on the back at that point. Especially when he started wriggling on top of me and I could FEEL how excited he was (shudder). Now I could really appreciate the things Penny had told me in private on more than one occasion. How many women had known terror as they suffered at his hands?

His head rocked back, to deliver another blow to my skull but I was quicker. My left leg shrank while a fist shot up from between my cleavage connecting with his chin on its way down. I felt the impact throughout my chest as Mr. Psycho’s eyes rolled up into his head. For a moment I thought for sure he’d knocked himself out, but his grip on my regular hands barely loosened. Once more I unleashed a third fist, this time into his rather abdomen and I felt the air rush out of his mouth and into my face. Someone seriously needed a breath mint. This time, I was the one to deliver the head-but which seemingly ended our fight. Mr. Norman-Bates-wannabe, fell off of me and lay still.

Immediately, I got up and turned to his original target who was crouched nearby, holding up a large rock. Apparently, she had been hoping for an opening to clock the bastard while he was dealing with me. I gave her a reassuring smile as I studied her. Sure enough, she was blonde, about my current size and shape, and dressed like someone who full of self-confidence. Though at the moment she was looking more vulnerable and shaken, as she stared at me with eyes full of amazement.

“Easy, you and I are okay…” I started to tell her, then I saw her eyes widen in pure horror.

“BEHIND YOU!” she screamed, just as I felt the blade of the knife rip through my back and out my middle.

I remember cursing myself for making such a rookie mistake. The guy was ex-military, of course he’d play ‘possum’ to get me to turn my back on him. Still, I’m not normal, and it would take more than a knife in the back to finish me off. Unfortunately, before I could swallow the pain to retaliate, that’s when he sank his teeth and took a bite OUT of my shoulder and I got a look inside a world of madness!

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“The Cannibal Killer” – Part IV: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes, June 18th, 2016

    For a moment I didn’t know what to do. I was certain Nadine could take care of herself, but then I realized her ‘attacker’ was wearing the same uniform I went to work in.

     Rushing forward I explained in a hushed voice, “Hold up, she’s with me!”

   “Rhodes?” the officer turned and I saw it was my boss, Sheriff Jim Parkes, looking none-to-pleased. “What the hell…”

     “Not so loud, we don’t want to give away our position,” I hissed and gestured that the three of us move out of the park.

     Nodding, he let Nadine go, but gestured that she was to lead the way.

    Once we were a safe distance Parkes growled, “Okay, this should be far enough. Now what the hell are you playin’ at? And you’d better not tell me you were going to try another decoy routine.”

    “Would you believe…” Nadine began, but I cut her off.

   “Actually we were, Chief. This Detective Nadine Collins from Maine. She and her people dealt with a similar set of murders but never caught the killer. She thinks our boy may be the same guy…”

    “And you came to try and help us catch him,” my boss finished with a nod. “You know there are procedures to be followed like introducing yourself at the station.”

    “You were already gone and Deputy Rhodes thought we might find you here,” Nadine supplied smoothly, while I gave him a rather believable account of what had supposedly happened up in Maine. As I spoke I noticed a faint greenish haze slowly building around us at ground level. I had an idea what that Nadine planned on letting my boss breathe her in so she could influence him, but I gave her the faintest head shake. You don’t work with a man for years without getting to know his mannerisms and way of thinking. And I could already tell he was buying my story because he trusted me. Hell the man had recruited me himself as soon as I had come back from the army He didn’t even bother to ask to see her credentials, instead he gave us the full rundown on the situation.

     He’d managed to pull in some extra help from the state. Several troopers were hidden throughout the park, while others were quietly patrolling the streets in unmarked vehicles. If our perp struck, we were going to run him to ground tonight.

    As we spoke I noticed the mist Nadine had created earlier was drifting off towards the park entrance and spread out until no trace of it could be seen. ‘Trying to do some recon, good plan,’ I thought to myself as Parkes continued to fill us in on the situation.

     Once he’d finished, Nadine and I shared what we had figured out about our Killer’s targets. Like me at first he seemed unimpressed until we got to the part about the women having an air of confidence which impressed him as much as it had me.

     “That would explain why he’s so violent with them,” he breathed after a moment. “Probably trying to kill the same woman over and over in his mind, but what about the cannibalism?”

    “We’re dealing with a sick mind, Chief,” I shook my head, “There could a be dozen demented reasons why he’s eating them… sort a souvenir? A way of keeping them close to him? I don’t know…”?

     At this point we both turned to my companion saying, “You got any…” and then stopped. She had started moving back towards the park, following the same path her mist had taken moments before.        “Detective Collins? What is it?” Parkes shouted as the two of us started towards her.

   But just as we were about to reach her, she shouted over her shoulder, “He’s here! And so is someone else… a girl!” A second later, she was gone. Normally, Nate… I mean Nadine wouldn’t have let anyone see her inhuman speed in action, but a life was in danger and this was no time for being subtle.

    Not that I had any reason to worry, Parkes was busy barking orders into his radio alerting the rest of the team of the situation. He’d barely gotten the order out when a scream erupted from the darkness. The killer had struck.

    Without pausing we both raced into the park trying to figure out what direction the scream had come from when it erupted again, this time calling for help repeatedly. Following the sound we veered off the path and into the trees and bushes off to our left. The cries were getting louder when suddenly a young woman burst out of the darkness and into our arms, tears streaming down her dirt covered cheeks.

     “He’s near the lake and he’s got her…” she blubbed, still shaking. “He jumped me and had me on the ground when she came out of nowhere and threw him off me… She’d just helped me up when he jumped her from behind and stabbed her in the back… she just stared at me and told me to run…”

     As she spoke two of my fellow deputies appeared on the scene.

    Grabbing his shoulder radio Parkes barked, “Suspect sited near lake attacking a female detective, all boots on the ground converge on that area and engage. Patrol cars are to surround the park and form a perimeter, pursue anyone seen fleeing from the area.” Then turning to the new arrivals he ordered, “Take her to safety and call for a medical assistance and more back up. Rhodes you’re with me!”

     Weapons drawn we raced towards the lake. I could hear the sounds of a struggle up ahead, which suddenly stopped, sending a chill down my spine. Had Nadine already finished the guy?

     Still rushing forward we burst out of the trees and the sight that greeted us was more than a little unnerving. Both Nadine and the Cannibal Killer were on the ground, several feet from each other. The latter was rolling around clutching his head and like he was having convulsions. Whereas Nadine, was simply lying on the ground unmoving, eyes wide as if she were staring into the pits of Hell itself…

“The Cannibal Killer” – Part III: Private E-Papers of Michael Rhodes June 18th, 2016

     For the record, I’ve always admired Uncle Nate but after tonight my respect for him has gone through the roof. When I got his e-mail last night telling me he was on the way to help deal with the monster who’s been terrorizing our town, I was relieved. But when he showed up… no, wait. I need to take a few steps back. I’ve got to tell this story right.

      Besides telling me he was on the way, the e-mail listed a time and place for us to meet tonight. It’s an out of the way pub here in town called “Draughts“, which is where we normally get together. It’s a nice little place run by a father and son who, like me, are part of Nate’s extended family. Big Frank and Frank Jr. are good people and they know just about everyone here in town. They also know what you like to drink, so when I walked in a glass of my favorite brew appeared on the bar before I finished settling my ass down on the stool.

Bar scene

      I started to pull out my wallet and Big Frank shook his head, “Nate’s already got you covered tonight,” he told me with a knowing smile and wandered off to take care of some other patrons.

      Glancing around the room I saw a number of familiar faces and a couple of others I didn’t, like the pretty blonde down at the end of the bar. I knew she wasn’t from around here, a face like that everyone would know and remember, but by the same token I could also tell she wasn’t a ‘working’ girl either. For one thing she seemed absorbed in reading her Kindle, for another no one was hitting on her. A few of the guys I went to high school were looking her way and shaking their heads. Clearly they’d been shot down and were still trying to figure her out, but I had other things on my mind. Like where was Nate?

      After about thirty minutes there was still no sign of Nate anywhere. So I pulled out my phone and dialed the number I had for him, but after four rings it went to voicemail. Looking over at Big Frank who was talking to the blonde at the end of the bar, I caught his eye and gestured to him. After sharing a laugh with the girl, he came over and asked, “Need a refill?”

     Shaking my head I replied, “Nah, I’m good right now. You told me earlier Nate’s covering my drinks, so that means you’ve seen him. Do you know where he is? He was supposed to meet me here I’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s no sign of him.”

      “That’s what you think,” he replied mysteriously.

     For a moment I started to get annoyed and then I remembered, Nate can take many forms and might be keeping a low profile for reasons of his own. Immediately, I scanned the room again for anything unusual.

     One or two people had left, and a young couple had appeared and were enjoying a quiet drink in one corner, but otherwise everything seemed the same. Then I started to take in the smaller details like was there any kind of hazy film in the air, or a “Red Mouse” (he loves to use those to spy on people or place), but there was nothing. Not even a black dog hanging around underneath the pool table, which he used one time which helped me and the team bust some drug dealers. But there was no joy in Mudville, once more it seemed I’d struck out.

     Shaking my head, I turned back to talk to Frank only to find the pretty blonde from the end of the bar was now on the other side of the bar slipping the flash drive I’d brought for Nate into not a Kindle but a tablet.

     I stared at her for a second and was about to protest when my eyes caught my reflection in the mirror of the bar behind her. I could see myself perfectly, but even though she was right in front of me there was no sign of blondie. Blinking I shook my head and muttered aloud, “Na…”

     “-Dine,” he cut in without taking his/her eyes off the screen. In the mirror’s reflection I could see he was flipping through the pages I’d scanned of the case at an incredible pace. It was like watching the character Quicksilver, from Marvel comics, going through a volume of “War and Peace”.

       After my initial surprise passed I leaned in closer and hissed, “I know you’re busy reading those files I scanned for you, but we might want to relocate to another area where there’s not a mirror where everyone CANNOT see your reflection in!”

      That got Nate. He/she… aw hell I’m going to call Nate her for the rest of this entry. It just makes things easier.

    Nadine’s eyes finally locked with mine and she muttered, “I thought we had that mirror replaced…” and quickly got out from behind the bar. We paused to retrieve her jacket and bag from the end of the bar. As we passed my old buddies shooting pool, I saw the looks of disbelief they were shooting me. I hung back briefly and leaned in to tell them, “Turns out she digs guys who wear uniforms.”

get-romantic-make-out

     As they shook their heads I followed Nadine to a secluded booth in the corner. But as I did, I found myself checking ‘her’ out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Now I’d known for years that my ‘uncle’ could change form, but what I was seeing before me was beyond words. The way her hair fell, how she walked, every little gesture… I could swear I was in the company of a real woman.

    After we got settled in, she finished looking over the files and her face took on a troubled expression much like the ones I’d seen at work. “Now you know why I called you in,” I told her breaking the silence..

     She nodded. “Yeah, this one’s a real bastard.” Looking up at me she continued, “I think you’re right about the military training. I don’t know if he actually served or if the guy has been part of a para-military group, but he definitely knows what he’s doing.”

     “We’ve been thinking the same thing, much as everyone hates to admit it,” I told her. “The idea that someone we might know has been doing all this is just…”

     “Sickening,” she finished, “I know. I’ve been down this road before. When I was a kid, before I ‘changed’ we had a psycho running loose back in Pointer. Turned out to be someone we all knew and thought the world of… but that’s another story. From what I’ve seen in your files, this guy likes to abduct his victims and keep them alive for a few days before he’s done with them. Tell me, is there anyone missing right now that you know of?”

     “Not at the moment, which is why Terri tried acting as a decoy,” I explained. “We were hoping to lure him out. Our boss had people positioned all over the park, yet he still got to her and KNEW who she was!”

    “Which is why he tried killing her right there on the spot instead of kidnapping her,” Nadine nodded. “And yet he still got past everyone… which makes me think he’s a local. He must’ve known ways in and out of there to get away.”

     “We’re not that big a force,” I pointed out, “And things got chaotic when we saw how bad Terri had been hurt…” then stopped as she shook her head.

     “Plus, someone was burning rubber leaving the area, which threw you all off.”

     I nodded, “Turned out to be someone who’d heard her screams and instead of coming to help her, they took off while phoning it in. They had no idea we were already on the scene.”

     My face must’ve betrayed something because Nadine reached over and gave my hand a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll get this guy and put a stop to him once and for all, I promise.”

     I smiled back at her. “I know you will.”

     “WE will!” she corrected me and stood up. “Shall we get started? He’s out there and I came all this way looking my best just for him.”

     Standing up I followed her out of the bar and didn’t say anything until we were outside and out of earshot. “Do you really think your ‘disguise’ is going to lure him out?”

     “He has one type of girl he’s been going after. Blonde, young, good-looking, and with a lot of self-confidence.”

woman

     I paused in mid-step. “Okay… we knew about the first three but what about that last part?”

   Turning she replied, “A cheerleader, a local actress, two ‘working’ girls, all of them exude confidence and self-assurance. And so did your partner Terri.”

     It suddenly dawned on me, “So you’re thinking our boy has a thing against women who remind him of someone in particular. Who may be alive or already dead for all we know. And if she’s dead, he might have even done it himself, but once wasn’t enough.”

     “Exactly,” Nadine agreed and gestured, “Now let’s start with the park. He’s struck there a few times including the other night. If nothing happens I’ll spread myself out by mist or bat to see where else someone might be lurking. You keep your distance while I take the lead.”

     “And how am I going to know if you find the bastard?”

    She smiled and held up a closed hand. After a few seconds she opened it and there was a red mouse looking up at me expectantly. “Take him, he’s our link.”

     As I held out my hand, she transferred the critter into it and that’s when I noticed she was missing a finger. Then I remembered, she couldn’t make more of herself than there actually was. Her mass never changed when shape-shifting, so all she had a limited amount to work with.

     She must’ve noticed the look on my face for a moment later a new finger grew.

     As I put her little companion in my chest pocket, I gave her a questioning look.

    “I took a little off the waist and thighs,” she told me.

   Smiling I nodded and I let her lead the way. Of course I remembered to keep a good distance between us like she’d said. After all, we wanted our prey to come after her. And if he did, boy would he be in for a rude awakening. Nadine could handle herself and twenty of him even on a bad day. Still, we had to be careful. Even the best laid plans could go wrong.

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     She reached the park without incident which made me suspect if anything was going to happen, it would be in there. As it turned out I was right.

     For she got no more than forty feet in before a figure leapt out of the shadows…

TO BE CONTINUED…

A Note From the Authors…

We’re in the middle of moving from one apartment to another, so there will be a slight delay before the next installment of the current storyline.  We apologize and hope to get things back on track really soon.  In the meantime here’s some of what we’ve been facing…

Crazy weather…

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Home repairs…

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Tried moving things all at once…

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Okay, okay… none of that happened.

It’s been more like this…

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Still, it takes some time to move everything from one place to another because we’ve mainly got the weekends available.  But we’ll be done soon and things will settle down again and the posts will be more regular once more.

Thanks for all your patience and support.  Updates will be coming soon we promise… along with the release date for the long-promised anthology.  So stay tuned.

E-mail from Deputy Michael Rhodes Dated June 17th, 2016 – “The Cannibal Killer” Part-1

****WARNING THIS STORY MAY BE TOO INTENSE FOR SOME READERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF RAPE, VIOLENCE, OR LOST SOMEONE TO A VIOLENT ACT.  PLEASE DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU THINK THIS STORY MAY CAUSE YOU UNDO MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL ANGUISH.****

Dear Uncle Nate,

I know it’s just been a month or two since you were last out this way, but bad things have been happening.  REALLY bad things.  Right now we’ve got townspeople, the Mayor, hell even the Governor clamoring for an arrest and so far we’ve been coming up empty.

We almost got him last night but his ‘victim’ had to come first.  It was my partner, Terri McCloud.  You’ll remember her of course.  She had dinner with us that one night.  But even if she wasn’t my partner, I’d have still put her first.  She’s one of us and you watch out for your own, especially when they wear the same uniform as you.  You told me that a long time ago. I was too young to fully understand what you’d meant back then, but when I enlisted in the army, your words came flooding back and I finally got it.

Of course, I’m not in the army now, but I still wear a uniform and so do my fellow deputies, like Terri.  And right now we’re up against something, or someone, who seems almost inhuman.  How else can you describe a rapist who also eats parts of his victims?  You don’t expect someone like that to show up in small town like this.  Not to say we don’t have our share of death, violence, drugs, etc.  We may not be the big city, but we have a lot of the same problems.  But a maniac like this?  No!  Nobody is ready for a serial killer to show up.  And this one is smart, which makes him even more dangerous.

According to a profiling expert who came in to advise us, killers like this one don’t announce their arrival, not right away.  Oh no. They’re subtle at first.  An attempted mugging or a sexual assault, then they possibly lay low for a while to see what happens.  Did they leave any evidence behind?  How good a job of keeping their face hidden from the victim?  Then he’d wait and see what far we’d take to find him… sort of scoping out how overstretched we were, that kind of thing.

Based on that idea, I’m starting to suspect he’s had military training and have mentioned this several times to our boss.  He wasn’t so sure about that theory at first, but after the fourth attack he started coming round to my way of thinking and so have the others.  Problem is, we still don’t have much to go on.

To make matters worse, he knew who his target was last night.  He KNEW Terri was a deputy gone undercover.  How do I know?  She told us while they were rushing her to the Emergency Room!  She’d suffered massive blood loss from multiple stab wounds.  She never got a look at his face, but heard him muttering about “her being out of uniform after dark…” during the attack, but that’s all we got.  She’s been unconscious since they brought her out and we’ve got men on the door to her room.  They’re checking EVERYONE who comes in to make sure they’re hospital staff.  Hell, they even stopped and searched a priest who claimed to be from her brother… which he was.

Right now she’s the only victim to survive that we’re certain of who’s survived, and I’m worried we might not be enough to keep her, or anyone else, safe.  That’s why I’m e-mailing you Uncle Nate.  You’re the only one I know who can probably help take this guy down.  Everybody here has been doing their best to try and catch this him, but he keeps getting past us and as I said he never leaves any evidence behind.

I know I’m breaking all the rules asking you to come in and help, and I haven’t told my superiors or even my partner about you.  But I don’t want to see anyone else wind up like Terri or the others.  Please let me know what you decide as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

Michael

Hello from the Silent Partner

Anyone who has been paying attention to the pages for the books may have noticed something odd. My name has been retroactively added as co-author to the earlier books. There’s no attempt at deception going on. It’s just that we were always a little unsure as to what kind of credit I should get for my part in the creative work.

On the first two books, I contributed book planning, world-building, character development, etc., and although Allan wanted to give me coauthor credit, I didn’t feel what I had done merited that much. How does one even classify contributions like refining genre, suggesting that science fiction elements actually make paranormal stories seem more plausible and thus, scarier.

There was some baggage behind my reluctance to take credit, too. I had been the first of us to try to be a professional writer, back before there was much Internet. I wrote short stories, and magazine rates for short stories varied mostly from 1/8th to 1 cent per word. Eventually, I did the math and got angry at the world of publication and wrote from then on purely for the entertainment of myself and a few friends.

I didn’t really recognize how much self-publication had grown up and become a viable option, nor how much Allan had grown as a writer, until he came out with the first finished novel. While making a commercial success was still a long shot, the fact was, he’d managed a book worth reading and he had control of the publication and marketing of it.

I still considered my contributions to be more “co-creator” than “co-author”, but there’s no option for that on book cover designs.

On the third book, I was suggesting some edits on a part he wasn’t satisfied with, and which dealt with a character who I had created. After a few tries at telling him what to do, I asked if he’d mind me taking over the chair and writing the edit myself. He loved the result, and I ended up going through and revising multiple scenes to get them just right. This time, I couldn’t refuse co-author credit, because I had indeed done a significant amount of the writing myself.

Then we started to reconsider the earlier books. I would have preferred being listed as “co-creator” rather than “co-author”, but there were a number of scenes where I’d helped with dialogue, relationships, etc. I had spent a few years listening to Allan describe the development of ideas in a different way than I recalled them happening. And I came to realize that accepting a little too much credit was better than being forgotten.

So here I am, invisible to the audience no more, and in our upcoming anthology, I’ve contributed a few solo pieces. There will be more of those in the future, as well as my continuing to be involved in working together with Allan.

 

Nathaniel’s Private E-Journal, January 1st, 2005 “Reflections and Looking Forward”


I’m standing on a deck overlooking the great wide Pacific Ocean.  Another year has passed but I am not alone.  I am surrounded by members of my extended family located in Aptos, California.  Although that’s not where I am at this moment.  We’re standing near the famed Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk having just watched a fabulous fireworks display out on the water.

The Cloudfoots have been part of my life since 1999 when I first met Jason, the patriarch of these wonderful people.  As their name implies, they are of Native American descent, specifically they are Seneca one of the five original tribes that formed the Iroquois Confederacy.

Together, Jason and I, along with Otto located his missing niece Julie who had run away from home just two days before Christmas.  The moment Jason and I locked eyes, I knew there was something different about him and I was right.  He was a shaman, one who knew about the Para-Earths, as Otto has named those alternate realities of this world.  Jason also knew right away I’d been to one and had come back changed, but he also knew I was still a good man and our friendship formed.

He’s here with me tonight enjoying the love and joy of his children and grandchildren.  Jason lost his wife two years ago, for which I was very sorry.  She had been a wonderful woman, warm and caring.  I’d spent that New Year’s Eve with him, to make sure he did not face it alone.  Not that I had much reason to worry.  Julie and her parents were there as well.  It was the first time I’d seen her in 1999 and my how she’d grown.  From the pudgy little girl I’d help locate, she was now slightly taller than me and still growing.  She also had filled out in more ways than one, especially in the muscle department.  I feel sorry for any boy who pissed her off.  Not that she seems very interested in them.  A part of me suspects her yearnings lie elsewhere.  I just hope I never have to compete with her for a date.

Not that such a thing is likely.  I’ve kept to myself more since Veronica and I parted company three years ago.  I’ve found myself thinking about her a lot tonight.  Probably it’s because of all the police officers watching over tonight’s festivities.  There was one female officer in particular standing near her patrol car that caught my eye.  She looked nothing like Veronica, but the way the officer stood there reminded me so much of my red-headed love.

 

God she was amazing.  It’s not often you find someone so passionate and dedicated, not only to you but to her work.  But I digress…

A new year stands before us all.  I have no idea what surprises this one will have in store for me or those I call ‘family’.  But I know I will not face this new year alone which is a great comfort.  I have people like Jason, Otto, Brian, their families and so many others who’s lives touch mine.  I think that’s been the greatest gift of all.  Even though I have outlived so many people who I’ve loved, I am never truly alone.  And because I remember, none of them are ever forgotten.

My existence is a strange one, but at least I find it serves so many others.

Jason is proposing another toast to all so I better wrap this up.  A promising new year awaits and I for one am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer.