The 1st two chapters of “The Gateway” Part One of the Gateway Series- a supernatural, scifi, and urban fantasy read!
“Hello! SOMEONE HELP ME! I need help!” Grace sways back and forth, on the floor, of her kitchen. She’s pale and trembling with a broken phone tightly pressing against her ear, with a white knuckled grip. There’s a sense of hopelessness and terror. “I need help!” Her voice trails off.
Ten minutes earlier.
Grace leans over and picks up a toy train from the carpet of her New York apartment. A severe storm is blowing into the city. The wind fiercely whistles as the raindrops violently beat against the windows like loud pops of pebbles, as surely as if a teenage boy was getting his girlfriend’s attention. That’s when one of the woman’s children calls for her from the back bedroom.
The mother of four sighs while tying her robe around her waist. She tiredly drags her body towards the back room, where her children lively giggle getting ready for bedtime. Grace was hoping they wouldn’t need her, and she can retire for the evening, but with small children, it’s inevitable. But, she was still hopeful.
It’s a chilly and damp night. Grace checks the thermostat then steps into the room for Manny who is still calling her. The four-year-old jumps into her tired arms. She sighs, his hugs warm her.
“Momma! I can’t put my shirt on. It’s stuck.” His voice slightly muffles from being tangled in his shirt. Grace lovingly grabs Manny by the shoulders and sits him on the bed.
“You’re old enough to put this on yourself, aren’t you? Come on buddy?”
Manny shakes his head. She sighs, grabs the wrinkled up pajama shirt, which is over half his head and one arm, and fixes it for the black, curly haired cutie. He smiles clinching onto his mom while she embraces him and lays him into his nice, warm Superman covers.
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Yes mom.” They all answer.
Emilio, her eight-year-old son jumps up and down landing on his butt on the top bunk bed. While José, her six-year-old, snuggles underneath the covers in his own bed near the door. Smiling proudly, she endearingly watches her children settle in for the night. Grace tucks each one in and gives a special kiss on their innocent foreheads. You definitely have a full load here, Grace. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just then, the sound upon the windows grows – deafeningly loud.
“What is that, mommy?”
Manny glances toward the window at the startling noises. “Honey, it’s only raindrops. There’s a storm coming.” Grace brushes her long, black, curly hair off her shoulders and flicks off the bedroom light. She turns on the hallway light knowing her children need it for comfort, especially during a storm. Manny looks at her with a disconcerting glare, their bedroom lights up from the lightning outside.
“It’s alright. Just ignore the storm, honey. If you watch the lightning, it’s very peaceful. God watches over us. Remember, I told you the last time that God makes the storms?”
“Yeah, loser!” Emilio heckles his nervy brother. Manny twists his lips shooting Emilio a weird look.
“That’s your brother!” Grace is already irritated from the lack of sleep the night before. She eyes Manny whose countenance drops at the hurtful words of his big brother. Then she eyes Emilio.
“I’ve told you once, I’ve told you twice. He will always be your brother. Don’t make fun of him. Now, please apologize.” She crosses her arms.
Emilio covers his head with a pillow and muffles, “I’m sorry, Manny.”
“It’s okay, Emilio. I love you,” Little Manny brightly smiles.
Emilio wrinkles his nose at the very thought of his brother always saying he loves him and the others.
“That was sweet of you, Emilio. Alright, boys. Go to sleep. I love you. I’ll make some waffles in the morning. Night.”
The noise of the storm rises over the chime of the mobile, dimly playing above her eight-month-old son Chico, asleep in a crib in her bedroom. Chills creep up her arms. She thinks nothing of it and quickly checks the thermostat again. Maybe it’s broken. It’s awfully cold in here. Grace crosses her arms. I was hoping this wouldn’t happen in a new place.
About two months ago, Grace Rodriguez moved into a two-bedroom apartment in a large New York complex. It is located on a pleasant street surrounded by tall trees. This is a night like any other, for Grace as a single mother, putting her children to sleep and cleaning up their toys. Yet something about this night is fairly off track in the atmosphere. Sure it’s raining, but since when does the rain beat so hard against the windows that it sounds like the glass may shatter at any given moment?
Grace rubs the silver cross necklace around her neck, with her middle finger and thumb, and then continues picking up the rest of the toys scattered across the living room. She quietly places them in a toy box in the corner. The children’s matching short, black locks of curly hair sprawl across their pillows. They lie silent, their eyes slowly closing from the busy day they’ve had. Only small slits can be seen. Grace yawns and stretches a moment. She heads back down the hall, and peeks in on her kids. She cracks a smile at her children with love and affection. With a sigh, she scans the usual mess of scattered toys. It is just a typical boy’s room which she will have to clean sooner or later.
Grace heads to her room yawning, in the dimly lit hallway, when the children’s eyes open wide, glancing toward the darkened living room at the sound of a loud *clang*.
The long hallway holds the feeling of imminent danger brewing. Grace pauses, and hesitantly calls out while slowly spinning around.
“He-hello?” Her voice crackles as a cold breeze climbs up her legs then moves through the air chilling her to the bone.
“Momma, what was that noise?” One of her children groggily speaks up.
“Oh nothing, honey,” Her shaky voice is noticeable. “You remember last month when that alley cat jumped onto our stairs outside? And he knocked down mommy’s plants in the window sill?” Grace clears her throat and nervously grins.
The boys laugh, now appearing to be awake due to the noises they hear and the fear consuming them.
“Yeah that was funny, mommy. He jumped all the way up here. And we’re a hundred floors up!” Manny giggles.
“No we aren’t butthole. We’re on the fourth floor,” Emilio pokes again.
“Don’t call him that!” Grace faces their room and points her finger now clearly upset. “You are brothers. You should stop all the fighting and name-calling or you’re going to get spanked! Now I mean it, say you’re so-”
More sounds clank around in the kitchen stopping her from finishing the threats to the arguing children. Grace’s big, brown eyes bulge as she fearfully tip toes backwards against the bedroom door. It suddenly dawns on her the baby is asleep in the crib, in her room. I can’t leave him alone. What if it’s a burglar? She ponders.
“Boys, I need to get Chico. He’s in my room. None of you move a muscle, alright? I mean it not one of you,” She whispers to her wide-eyed kids.
Biting the corner of her lip, her face turns flushed. Her body uncontrollably trembles while trying to remain calm, cool and collected. Jose and Emilio sit up. Manny clutches his blanket close to his chest for comfort and a shield, from the fear he feels. Jose tosses his covers off, hops out of his bed, and jumps into the bottom bunk snuggling under the covers next to his brother Manny. Emilio remains on the top bunk, with a sick surge in his stomach. Being the oldest, he knows something is gravely wrong.
“Okay boys, now sit still and don’t move. I’m going to get Chico,” She whispers. Emilio nods.
Grace slowly tiptoes down the hall towards her bedroom. Her stomach akin to riding the elevator up a tall building, making her nerves shoot up in terror from the continuing clanks and bangs in the kitchen. Abruptly, the sounds veer into the living room. Her heart sinks in her chest, but she can’t see a thing in the living room from where she stands. Grace reaches for the doorknob, her fingers shake. Her pulse races, she may faint. Her forehead is glossy with sweat. She clinches her eyes together a moment and breathes in deeply. Quickly, she flings open the bedroom door smacking it against the wall and clamors inside.
The noise escalates and all of a sudden stops, as quickly as it began. Putting a pacifier in the baby’s mouth, Grace scoops him out of the crib and cuddles him close in her trembling arms. A dark shadow quickly passes through the hallway, like a ghostly, eerie presence. Then it disappears unnoticed to her. The necklace hanging around her neck glows with a light, auburn aura. Grabbing the telephone on the nightstand, she hustles back into the boys’ room. Relief hits. The glow of the necklace fades away as she closes the door and locks it while trying to quiet the baby who’s awake, from all the movement. Grace gasps in a deep breath, thankful she’s back with all her children, but ponders what to do about the intruder. I think there may be a baseball bat in the boys’ closet. If he comes back here, I’ll let him have it!
“Okay boys, alright…isn’t this fun? Everything’s okay,” Grace gathers another deep breath, and bounces the baby slightly soothing him to sleep.
Grace tries making everything seem like a fun game, as she often does, so her children will not be afraid. Suddenly, her heart sinks in her chest at the empty top bunk. Emilio is nowhere in sight. Remnants of a giant, animal, paw print on the sheets is Grace’s only indication something is gravely wrong.
“My God, what’s that smell?” Hesitantly, she touches the print and rubs it within her fingertips. “This is sick! What is this?” Grace yanks the covers off Manny’s bed.
“Ah! Don’t hurt me!” Jose screams. Manny tucks his little body in a ball squeezing his eyes shut.
“Hurt you? Where’s Emilio?” Grace waits for an answer. “Look at me!” She grabs his chin forcing him to look at her. “Answer me…where….is Emilio?”
Jose grabs the blankets and throws them back over him and his brother unable to stop his body from quivering. He’s on the verge of soiling his pajama pants.
Grace places the phone down and lays the fussy baby on the bed. Maybe he’s hiding. She wonders.
She opens the boys’ closet speedily flinging shoes and toys around the floor, shoving aside clothes and hangers searching for Emilio. Kneeling on the floor, she keenly glares under the bed, but he is nowhere in the room. Her heart pounds faster and loudly resonates in her ears. She feels faint again and an urge to sit down, but she can’t! Where is Emilio?
“Emilio? Oh my God! Emilio! Boys where did your brother go? Boys come out from under there! Where did he go?” The worried mother frantically questions again. Horrified, the children will not move a muscle or come out of hiding. Their quivering bodies are evident to the human eye.
“Alright, listen. Hold Chico with you, and hide him under the covers.” She carefully covers the baby with the blanket, alongside her remaining kids. “I’ll be right back. Don’t you move!” Grace panics, twiddling her fingers as she thinks what to do. Chico whimpers then closes his eyes falling back to sleep suckling on his pacifier. Grace grips the phone and dials 9-1-1 as she bites the corner of her lip.
Dreading, she slightly cracks open the squeaky door then jumps. Easy there, Grace. Don’t make your kids more scared than they already are.
Hesitantly, she closes her children’s bedroom door and heads back into the hallway to find her missing son.
“Hello, what is your emergency?” The emergency responder answers.
Slowly, Grace moves down her dark hallway, keeping a watchful eye on the living room while deliriously creeping back into her bedroom. How is it he’s gone after those noises? How?
After a short search, she creeps back into the hallway. Grace wipes her glossy face and attempts to calm down, but her heavy breathing seems to be getting the best of her. Thoughts of panic prick her mind. Where did Emilio go in just a short amount of time? I was gone for only a moment.
Carefully, she tiptoes one foot in front of the other, her bare feet quietly press into the beige carpet. She opens the bathroom door. Sneaking up to the bathtub, she’s light headed, dizzy cradling horrible thoughts of what may have happened to her son. Grace quickly flings the shower curtain aside then wipes a tear from her small, pug nose. Taking a sigh, Emilio is not there and the search ensues. Examining the closet in the hall, she flinches, swinging her fists around grabbing into thin air at a small cobweb. She rummages through the children’s coats and shoes remembering, Emilio likes to hide in the closet while playing hide and seek with his brothers.
Just then, Grace hears muffles. Holding up her hand, she recalls the 9-1-1 call.
“HELLO WHAT IS YOUR EMERGENCY?” The emergency responder repeats.
A very frightened Grace presses the phone to her ear as she glides her fingertips along the wall. She gasps and heaves in a deep breath, panic rising.
“Uh, yes, um…I heard a noise in my house and-and it could be a burglar and my boys are here, but,” She continues whispering softly, maneuvering down the hallway into the living room; her legs nearly buckle giving way to her trembling.
“But, what? Ma’am, are you there?”
Grace sets her eyes on the living room. A dim night light barely illuminates the room in disarray. Her furniture is upside down blocking her pathway to the kitchen. There’s a clear sign of a struggle. The beautiful flower pictures, which hang over the couch, are lopsided. It is dark, but still her son is nowhere in the room.
“Emilio!” Grace whispers.
Surprised by the state of her home, she carefully straddles over the couch, pushing the coffee table out of the way. A few strands of curls brush against her flush cheeks. Her mind continues racing.
“Your boys are what? Ma’am? Okay ma’am we have your location and we’re sending police assistance. Do you see a person in your house? Is someone in the house with you? Is there an intruder in the home?” Dispatch continues probing the frightened woman to keep her talking prying for more information.
Suddenly, the feeling Emilio has been kidnapped hits Grace like a punch in the gut. “Okay, please hurry! My house is a mess like someone was looking for something! My furniture is all over the place and I still can’t find my son!”
“Okay ma’am so…your son is missing? We are sending someone right now for you. Don’t move, okay? Ma’am?”
Grace pulls the phone away from her ear when something creaks in the house, again. It’s coming from the kitchen, like footsteps moving around. Did he get out of bed to check on the noise?
Cautiously and bravely, she pokes her head around the corner expecting to see a prowler. The kitchen appears as she left things. The faint street lights partially stream into her kitchen. Alarmingly, she eyes the room searching for Emilio. The table, near the window, and stools seem in place. It appears to be the only tidy room in the apartment. Carefully, she steps into the kitchen. She hugs the side of the wall with her rickety body, then out of the blue trips on something in the middle of the floor. The phone flies out of her hand, and breaks into pieces as the battery pops out and slides across the floor.
“Un!” She falls forward, landing hard onto her stomach nearly smacking her face on the tiled floor.
Propping up on her side, she moans in some pain, but soon realizes the very thing hindering her steps, is her child Emilio. He lays face-up on the floor in his pajamas unconscious. Patting the sides of his face, she desperately tries reviving him, but something is not right. There is an unsafe ambiance cautioning her that something is still amiss in the home. Grace clenches the child’s pajamas and yanks him onto her lap.
“Oh God! Emilio…oh Emilio! Wake up! Come on! What happened, baby? What happened?”
A cold chill still resonates throughout the apartment. Is someone here? Who did this to him? I’ll kill him! She tells herself.
Something warm and wet underneath Emilio startles her. As she lifts her hands, she spots large animal footprints. The prints strangely encircle where her son had been lying. The very sight of it sends chills up her spine. The hair on her arms stands erect. Something is present and near, she detects it. It’s nearby and it’s utterly palpable. This is the same thing I saw on their bed. What is this?
Goo sticks to her hands. She frowns and curiously puts it to her nose wondering what it could be. This light pinkish hue sticks all around her fingers embedding underneath her long fingernails. She continues patting Emilio’s cheeks to wake him regardless.
Suddenly before her, a colossal creature appears standing on all fours like a lion guarding his newly caught prey. Its appearance is like a beast, a tall tower. Some of its body almost human-like is scalded head to foot. Wearing tattered pants and a long, red cape draping its burly back sweeping the ground, its powerfully built body is black as ash. Smoke simmers off its skin. It all seems like a bad dream to Grace. She closes her eyes tightly. Her heart hammers. Sweat drips off the sides of her face. She panics, but holds her son tightly. The stench of the intruder is putrid like sulfur. It is one of the dead which walks, only a much stronger aroma consumes the place. Her eyes rest upon the creature’s bear like feet and razor sharp claws.
Terror hits. Grace alarmingly screams at the top of her lungs. The intruder picks up the unconscious child in his simmering arms. Grace clutches the leg of Emilio’s pajamas, yet the creature gives an earth-shattering growl and wrenches the child from her grasp. Its cape drapes over Emilio like a blanket. Its muscles pulsate and its back arches until it stands to its feet like a man. He growls again at Grace. The creature towers larger than any human being. Weakness and fear consumes Grace, she’s unable to make it to her quivering legs almost paralyzed at his presence.
Just then, a blue light flickers as thousands of small molecules gathers behind the creature. It entombs the kitchen like a whirling swimming pool, hovering in mid-air. A gateway. Grace’s eyes veer and fixate, mesmerized by the bright blue light illuminating and levitating. The glow and iridescent color is magnificent. The hole swirls and brightly glistens.
The creature jumps into the giant gateway, which vanishes like a flint, along with Emilio who’s still unconscious and unable to fight off his kidnapper.
“Oh God. Oh God!” Grace blinks her eyes. *Sniff, sniff.*
Grace scrapes up one of the broken phone pieces, near her leg. The hysterical woman screams in a blank daze. She’s completely delirious the phone is destroyed and stained with the same, unknown substance. Grace presses it against her ear.
“Hello…please! Help there is someone here! There is someone here, and he took Emilio! Help! Help! Someone help me! I need help! I need help!”
Grace remains on the floor rocking back and forth white faced, scratching her fingernails on the tiled floor. The baby screams from the bedroom. There’s the faint sound of a police siren in the distance. Grace cries in agony into the telephone while gasping for breath. But no one is on the other end. Not even a busy tone echoing in the kitchen bouncing off the walls to shout at the distraught woman, No one can hear your cries!
At the heart of downtown New York, there are buildings that appear as if they touch the sky. Lined on every street and corner, lawyers, stock traders, associates and the like, have their offices. In one of those tall buildings with windows overlooking Manhattan square, is the office of the popular newspaper ‘The Daylight News’.
The leading newspaper columnist in New York is a man named Aiden Jenson. Aiden is an abrupt man, clean-shaven, almost six feet tall, talkative and has little patience for the harangue of people, especially fellow journalists or reporters. He’s a lanky man with deep blue eyes and bleach blonde hair which makes him appear like the “All American” boy. A sweet, yet calculating man, Aiden’s experience over the years, has perfected his ability interviewing victims. Not being much of a cook, except throwing bread into the toaster, he usually eats cereal for dinner while watching a baseball or football game at night. He remains a bachelor, living alone in New York, and is disinterested in any advances of a female-most of the time-as he is married to his job, and set in his ways like a turtle in his shell. Curious and investigative, he is one of the leading journalists cracking stories on violent crimes. The stories, which made a name for him, involve men in prison cells and few on death row, with claims of their innocence. Aiden’s learned over the years, to follow his instincts and the hunches in his gut. It’s helped him uncover that some of these inmates were in fact doing time for crimes they indeed did not commit. Aiden has cracked open many cases causing reinvestigations in record number, for convicted prisoners. Families of the victims however, do not always share his success.
Lately, however, he is becoming bored with his usual stories about convicts. Aiden is noticing a woman he knows well, Saline Davis, who is part of ‘The New York Chronicle’, is following in his tracks, hot on his tail more than she’s ever been. Saline Davis is also a popular journalist, but in addition has landed a small slot with Channel 9 Late Breaking News. Though they work with different newspapers, they’re always competing with one another. It’s been that way since college. In fact, their newspapers are often toe to toe when it comes to front page stories and sales, only ‘The Daylight News’ remains ahead by a hair due to Aiden Jenson. Aiden has a well-earned reputation in New York as one who listens to the people and most readers love him in return. Little does Grace know, her life and Aiden Jenson’s life are about to collide in one of the biggest paranormal adventures New York has ever read.
The boss hollers at Aiden, from his office, for one of his private talks, which usually means he wants to know what the next story is or how the new story is going. Basically, just being a bothersome, nagging boss, picking at him for details of the story before the deadline. Typical, only Aiden has adjusted to his boss’s tactics and brash personality, developing a way with him, which others wish they possess. People often fear entering the boss’s office for one reason. Hearing the words, “You’re fired!” is a tough break for those working in the newspaper business. In New York, a fired journalist spreads like wild fire. You either write a great story or get canned for not producing a well-grounded one. What his boss dislikes most is recanting a story; which of course is immediate grounds for dismissal with this line of work in such a competitive field of “he” said “she” said. Aiden however can care less. He knows and is proud he’s on top. If he is ever fired, he could have a job by the end of that working day. And his boss knows it only too well.
Aiden saunters through the hubbub of cubicles and journalists on their phones and the clacking of fingers sweeping across the computer keys. Aiden pauses outside the glass door, of his boss’s office. The maple desk positioned near the entrance is where the boss’s secretary sits each day, a headset attached to her ears. She’s a normal gal, not much to look at. She’s mousy of sorts, with straight brown hair, no make-up on her pale face, and wears thick, bronze framed glasses. Usually, her passé pantsuits or long plaid dresses are an eye sore making a terrific bull’s eye for others in the office to snicker behind her back. Even though she’s not blind to the gossip, she’s shy and smitten by Aiden’s good looks and boyish charm. Her name is Elise Reming.
“Oh hi, Aiden. How are you today?” Elise smiles revealing her shiny, metal braces splayed across her big teeth in a flirtatious, yet shy manner. She is hoping he will take a glance, in her direction. Nervously, she tugs on her horrendous, royal blue, plaid dress.
“I’m good, Ms. Reming, thanks.” Aiden scratches his strong nose avoiding eye contact with her. His mind is solely on this meeting with his boss and nothing more. He opens the door and treks into the office where his boss is impatiently waiting at his desk.
His boss’s name is Kip Carlisle, and he’s typically surrounded by a cloud of smoke, from a cigar clenched in his two front teeth. It’s a soothing calm when in deep thought. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to hear him speak past the stogie.
Aiden slightly coughs, from the smoke in Carlisle’s office, which makes him feel a bit queasy and turn green. He’s never liked the smell of cigars.
Now Aiden’s boss is also a tall man, clean-shaven, with deep frown lines casting a shadow, between his eyes, accompanied by obvious crow’s feet. He is an exceedingly headstrong, determined man, in his late forties, with a boxy jaw. His wardrobe consists of expensive grey suits, without the jacket, and a tie he leaves dangling loosely around his neck. People in his office think this is a bit peculiar, but they never ridicule the boss. His athletic build, red hair, and big, auburn eyes are intimidating. Fast-talking, Kip Carlisle’s known for making swift yet accurate decisions in his deep, raspy voice. He hates when anyone yells or raises their voice around him, unless he is the one doing the yelling. Abruptly, he slams down the phone when he sees Aiden pop in. Finally, he’s here. Carlisle thinks, having waited only a few minutes.
Carlisle eyes his best journalist. “Okay Aiden, listen you are the best journalist I’ve ever had, maybe ever known in my lifetime. You can be cool, cunning and calculating. But, strange happenings in New York City? Paranormal? You understand, when you told me this last week, I said we’d discuss it. But the Ghostbusters thing has already been done! By the way this isn’t bothering you, is it?” He points at his cigar, sitting in a glass ashtray, then quickly remarks, “Good,” And swiftly cradles it between his front, squared teeth with a sly grin.
Aiden eases back in the tan chair, in front of his boss’s desk, getting comfortable for what is going to be the beginning of a long debate or lecture. But, he’s fully prepped for a terrific argument. Aiden has been at this paper long enough to know how to handle the long talks. He has his ways, well manipulations. He scratches his cleanly shaven, baby face, and fixes the wrinkles in the seams of his pants.
“Listen, I know it’s not what I usually write about, but it’s something I really want to do. Once you read about it, you’ll be a believer. I promise you!” Aiden rubs his sweaty palms on his suit pants, crinkling them up again. He has an impending urge to fix the wrinkles, a somewhat OCD habit of his.
Carlisle rolls the thick, cigar around his mouth, and stews adjacent from Aiden, in his high back, black chair, which swooshes as he clunks down. He plops his feet on the corner of his desk and impatiently drums his fingers on a thick stack of papers. Taking a huge puff of his cigar, he blows circles of smoke into the air then glares at the finest Cuban cigar he can afford cradled between his fingers.
“Alright…I’m listening,” Carlisle waits surrounded by fresh smoke. There’s a cool, odd silence in the office then finally, Aiden contemplates his ice breaker.
“Sir, with all due respect, these criminal articles are washed up! They’re yesterday’s news. And the people out there are searching for more than just another presumed killer exonerated! And to be quite honest, I can’t handle anymore hate mail from the victims’ families, threatening me!” Aiden shakes his head. “Even in light of new evidence, they think I’m aiding and helping a killer go free. They place a great deal of blame on this paper too! Yesterday, an elderly woman on the street confronted me. She was still convinced one of the convicts set free, who was clearly innocent by the way of DNA evidence, is guilty. Something about her son being a good boy, and before I could rebut, she slapped me!”
“She slapped you?” Carlisle snickers, with wide eyes, unsympathetic to what his journalists may go through with the public. As long as the stories in his paper remain number one, it’s all that matters and the heck with anything else!
“Yes, sir. Right across the face! I can still feel the sting,” He rubs his cheek. “I want a new route. A change of pace!”
Aiden continues shouting, determined to go a different direction. He flings his hands and arms back and forth. Looking out of the glass windows, some of his colleagues are peeking over their cubicles wondering what the racket is all about: perhaps wondering if Aiden was just fired. That certainly would be big news! Ms. Reming eyeballs him over the newspaper she’s reading, also curious as to what all the hubbub is about.
Carlisle abruptly stands with a stern glare, and strolls over to the chestnut bookshelf behind him. Grabbing a silver picture frame off one of the shelves, he wipes the glass, with the sleeve of his white shirt, and then places it back. He quietly sighs under his breath at the pompous, hoity-toity reporter. Aiden lowers his voice, realizing he’s doing something his boss cannot stand. This of course, is not the first time Aiden’s been jazzed up with his emotions. Definitely not the first time he’s been slapped or cursed at either. I hate his yelling. But, changing my best journalist from a lead crime writer to a paranormal researcher? Na. He thinks.
Carlisle squeezes his cigar between two fingers, attempting to keep his calm demeanor.
“I’m receiving letters about the strange and paranormal. Things people have always questioned beyond death and murder, ‘Is there life on another planet, and are there really ghosts, spirits that are not at rest?’ They…our public, our readers, are asking why I don’t write about this, sir.”
Before he can finish his plea, Carlisle prematurely shakes his head disagreeing with this new, passionate direction Aiden desires to take. “I don’t think so, Jenson. You dig your heels into rapists and killers in jail. ‘Why fix what’s not broken’, my father used to say?” He points his cigar at the journalist.
“And regardless the public may hate what we print, the bottom line is, they’re reading it.” Carlisle smugly utters and grins placing the stogie back in his teeth. “And the phone lines light up. Complaints sure, but again, they’re reading. You probably despise that small group of haters out there in that popularity of yours.”
Aiden uses that impish grin, while mulling over another way to convince his stubborn boss.
“Well…I suppose Saline Davis will succeed in grabbing these stories…I truly tried.” Aiden’s sad, passive tone carries an underlying mischievous plan as he shrugs his shoulders. His dazzling blue eyes somewhat dwindles.
Carlisle promptly takes the cigar out of his mouth in shock, and sits up on the edge of his chair. “Davis?” Carlisle twists his lips. “The one at the Chronicle? That woman is a bull. She’s been competing against you for years. What does Davis have to do with all of this?” He squints his right eye at Aiden. “Late Breaking Channel 9 News too, right? She’ll never become a permanent news anchor the way she works. Lies, lies, lies. Didn’t you go to school with that woman?”
Aiden nods. “I did. Well, sir, it’s true she has been following in my footsteps for years as you know. Always trying to write a better article about a similar case, or tailing me on every story, with that fat tub of lard of a cameraman…and she knows,” He purposefully eggs on. “She will take whatever she knows on the air, to get the job she wants. No matter the underhanded things she does to make it happen for her. Being a journalist for the paper, is just a means to her plan. She can care less about readers, sir. She only cares about one thing, being a permanent anchor. But, this right here, I’m certain she knows.”
“Knows what? For crying out loud, Jenson, spit it out!” Carlisle pleads, and knocks a fist on the desk, his maroon tie hanging loosely from his collar.
“She knows what the public is looking for, and I’m sure she’s receiving letters too. Do you really believe a shrewd woman like that is going to pass up an opportunity to bury me, in the dust? Or bury this…our newspaper in the dust perhaps?” Aiden raises his voice again. He knows it’s getting under his boss’s skin. Just a little more push and I have him. Aiden thinks.
He speaks with unbridled passion, knowing it will make it appear that he’s in it for the newspaper, when in fact he’s only in it for himself.
Carlisle calmly leans back into his leather chair twirling the cigar around in his fingers. Tilting back, he glances around the office chewing over what the arrogant journalist has laid on his plate. Well, Saline Davis, if she gets her hands on something like this, we just might become number two in our little newspaper battles. I don’t think I can let that happen. Carlisle calmly figures. Or, Aiden may just want to leave the paper. I can’t fire him. He’s too much of an asset regardless of the new talent walking, through these doors.
“Alright, Jenson…tell me more.”
Aiden shoots a sly grin. “Sir, I still listen to my police scanner, and there was one lead six days ago, Thursday. Last week. A woman said something came into her home and took her eldest son. Kidnapped!”
Carlisle kicks his feet up on the edge of his desk clearly interested. “Oh the kidnapping I heard on the news!” Excitedly, and without notice, he bangs a fist on the desk again. The ashtray jumps then lands akin to the sound of glass breaking. “Well that’s big news, and that’s great! That a boy, Jenson! Did you follow up on that lead?”
“Yes, sir, but it’s quite an unusual kidnapping. I took a little stroll to the apartment where the call came from. I uh,” Aiden gives a proud chuckle. “Convinced a police officer outside to speak with me. They weren’t allowing anyone in that building. Now, he said the doors were bolted and the chain was locked from the inside. They had to break it down. The woman claims some creature took her eldest child. Now that’s news! Imagine the headlines,” He holds both palms up imagining a billboard in the sky, bringing his boss on the wild ride of his imagination. “And we would be the only paper in this city…a city full of millions of readers, who possesses the story. Not even Saline can get her filthy, little, conniving hands on this one!” His enthusiasm causes Carlisle to sneer thinking of all the sales. “Sir, give me a shot writing this. Give me four weeks.” He holds up four fingers. “If you don’t have a kick butt story, and I mean kick butt, then I’ll hang my head, raise the white flag, and peacefully return to writing about convicts. You have my word on that. My word is my bond. You know that.”
Carlisle huffs. “So, you’ll be prepared to go back to one thing you now detest, huh? The one thing that’s made a name for you in this foul talking city?” He tests him with one eye squinting.
Aiden nods. “I will, sir.”
Carlisle insensitively blows circles of smoke into the air while oddly grinning. The smoke permeates strangely releasing that calming effect for the overworked boss.
“Those police officers always talk. They say they can’t disclose anything but most of them sing like a canary,” Carlisle arrogantly raises his brow and boastfully whistles in a sarcastic bird-tone. “Are they still keeping people from the building?”
Aiden shakes his head no. “They sent all units home today, sir. It’s an open sepulcher over there.”
“Heard that on your scanner too, didn’t you?”
Aiden fires that all-American grin again. Carlisle snickers.
“Alright, Jenson. You’ve got your shot.” Aiden sits up straight. “But just four weeks! It would be sincerely foolish not to allow my best journalist to follow his hunches, which has made himself,” he clears his throat, “and this newspaper number one. So, Jenson, you’ve got it! Now, I want something good. If this is a paranormal instance you want to capture, I don’t want just strange where this woman who lost her kid needs to be institutionalized. They rarely spoke of the details on the news, now that I recall. And I want that Davis person, well, you just grab the bull by the horns. Understand? And I swear, Jenson, if you screw this up, it’s back to convicts, crank calls, curses and slaps! Now get out of here, Jenson, and get to work!” He rants.
Aiden gets up, shakes his boss’s hand and strolls towards the office door. Smiling, he’s pleased his manipulation and bull crap has convinced his boss to change his obstinate mind.
“Uh, just one more thing, Jenson?” Aiden turns around and faces Carlisle. “Did you follow up on the woman? Was she institutionalized for all of this, and does she have other children?”
“Sir, from what the officer said, she has four children and now three. He explained the detective on the case didn’t think her rambling warranted a call to the psychiatric facility. They’re exhausting all leads including an absent father. There was uh, some strange things found in her apartment that made the story, to me, seem all the more horrifying and believable.”
The phone rings, Carlisle curses lewdly snatching up the phone. “This is Carlisle! What do you want that couldn’t wait till I was out of a meeting?” He waves with his hand, motioning for Aiden to leave his office.
“I was just going to call you. What’s going on?” Carlisle gruffly speaks with the stogie hanging out the side of his mouth, holding it in between his back teeth. Covering the telephone, he yells one last repeated order.
“Jenson, remember just four weeks!” He places the phone back up to his ear and raves on. “Well, you better print it by tomorrow or you’re fired!”
Imitating a gun with his fingers, Aiden points at Carlisle to let him know he understands the directions and all that’s on the line for him and the newspaper. Carlisle may keep his word, and force Aiden to continue writing about convicts if this doesn’t pan out, but Aiden knows better. He is certain he’d be fired first.
Elise peeks around the newspaper beaming at Aiden again, longing for him to take just one look in her direction. Just one simple glance to let her know he knows she’s alive. Perhaps a smile? It would surely make her day.
“Bye, Ms. Reming.” Aiden strolls off with long strides swiftly thinking only of the case at hand, and ways to get the story.
She raises her brows watching him pay careful attention to his job and surely not for the unattractive Elise. Does he even know how rude he’s being? I’m sure he’s just got a lot on his mind, Elise. Just hang in there. She reasons to herself.
Elise sighs sinking into her chair and frowns as he leaves. She rolls her eyes and plants her nose back into the newspaper. Others in the office, carrying stacks of papers and files, gape at Elise. They jeer and ridicule another hideous dress she has worn to work. They appear stylish and up to date in fashion. Of course, they think they’re much better than Elise who by her wardrobe, and drab exterior, is an easy target for humiliation even though she’s a terrific secretary.
Elise stands to her feet. Yawning and stretching her arms overhead, she arches her back then places her headset on the desk. She heads into the employee lounge for a cup of coffee to awaken her senses.
One of the mockers puckishly strolls behind Elise carrying something small, within her grip. She’s beautiful styling a light grey, pin striped skirt-suit. Her delicate blonde hair is pinned up away from her face, bringing focus to her lovely blue eyes. Every hair is perfectly positioned with Bobby pins. She has a well-known reputation as the office flirt, dating a list of men and discarding one when another comes along. She is also known as an average writer, sneaking by solely by her looks, and salacious charms-definitely not by her talent.
Elise pours a cup of hot coffee when she hears heels clacking on the tiled floor, as the office woman approaches. Others quietly sit around some of the oval tables reading, texting and on their cell phones with business calls while on break. They pay little attention to the “plain Jane” woman.
The office woman scans the break room making sure no one is watching. Slyly, she removes the small sugar packets and quickly begins pouring herself a cup of coffee. She politely clears her throat.
“Hi, Elise. Nice to see you today.”
Elise is somewhat surprised by the welcome of this woman who has never spoken to her before today. She shyly lifts her eyes at the woman who is grinning in a warm yet calculating manner. Elise isn’t accustomed to make heads or tails of the woman. Is this perhaps her friendly demeanor? Normally, she teases her. Perhaps those days are over. Is this the beginning of a conversation that will help Elise be accepted and finally have a friend? She’s hopeful.
“Hi, Heather. N-Nice to see you today too.”
Why is she talking to me? She’s never spoken to me before. Elise ponders. “Uh oh,” Elise searches all around the counter. “I guess we’re out of sugar. Oh well, black it is today.”
“Well here, Elise. I have a packet of sugar left. Why don’t you have it? I opened it because I thought I needed it. But, I think my coffee is sweet enough. Go ahead! You take it.” Heather craftily opens her hand, revealing the opened sugar packet.
“Thank you, Heather,” Elise takes the packet without a thought or concern.
“Have a nice day, Elise.”
“Uh, you too, Heather,” Elise instantly warms at the pleasantries.
Heather smirks at the side of her face as she leaves the lounge, happily sipping her hot coffee. She purposefully swings her hips from side to side, catching the eye of on looking men.
Elise pours the packet into her coffee slowly, stirring the spoon against the rim. She heads to her desk, places her headset back on, and plops down. Blowing the steam rising at the top of her coffee, she slurps a sip, but something is terribly wrong. She holds the coffee in her mouth utterly appalled. It is bitter and flat making her sick. She looks to the garbage can, but it’s full. She can’t hold it in anymore. She sprays the coffee all over her desk. Tears gather when she realizes, she soiled the top of important papers she has just finished preparing for Carlisle. Now, she will have to copy the documents all over again. Inspecting the leftover granules, on the rim of her cup, she can clearly see it’s not sugar. It’s salt.
Confusion hits as to why the coffee is so awful. Sounds of laughter ring from down the hall. Elise scoots forward, in her chair, and notices Heather with another office woman chortling like chipmunks, at her expense, from the horrible prank they’ve played.
Elise scurries off into the ladies room in her beige pumps, crying and hiding in one of the stalls. She doesn’t understand why the women enjoy being so cruel to her. She stands on top of the toilet seat so she won’t be seen. Weeping into the palm of her hands she wonders, Why are they at me like this? What have I ever done to them?
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