The Miranda House

This is my first attempt at a ghost story.  It may go into my short story collection, but I’m not sure just yet.  It probably needs more editing, but at least it’s an attempt.

“You are going to fucking love this place, Walls.” Kelly had just about screeched over the speaker phone as he barreled south. He had been on the road for the better part of three days, taking I-95 from New York to Florida , before switching to Interstate 10 to Louisiana. He’s spent the better part of three days on the road, stopping in small town along the way on his way to some remote rental house . He smiled, shaking his head , then remembered that she couldn’t see him.

“You said that last time.” He chided and could picture her rolling those big brown eyes of hers in exasperation.

“But this one is really the best. I mean what is the most haunted city ever?”

“Paris.” He mumbled and see her close her eyes an count to ten. He was the only person on the face of the earth who could frazzle Kelly Sanderson- Phillips. As a teen ager, he’d made her her scream and stomp into her bedroom on many occasions. As an adult, she had learned better coping skills, so she treated him like an imbecile.

“In the U.S. , smart ass. New Orleans, of course and this house is epic. It is the best possible place for you to finish your latest novel, Walls. ” She squealed and he couldn’t help laughing. He could picture her, standing in her clean white kitchen, the doors to the patio open as a late summer breeze blew through the space. Outside the kids would be playing either in the yard or the pool, while her husband watched over their brood. She would be barefoot, her crop brown hair tousled as she prepped dinner. Her home always smelled of fresh bread and she always had a smile on her face, even when she was angry. Right now, he knew that she was bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. That was one of the things he loved about her.

“Is that my sister or my agent speaking?” He chuckled.

“Both. Your agent because that book was due on my desk two months ago and I can’t stall for much longer. Your sister because the story that goes with the house is fucking bananas.” She said. “Perfection in the sickest, most twisted way possible. It’s called Mirañda House and it has a gruesome, gothic romantic history.”

“Sounds interesting.” He said. He still had more than an hour of drive time before he reached his destination.

“Do you know who the Los Isleños are? Of course you don’t because you only read your own books. Anyway, they are descendants from the Canary Islanders, and they had large settlements in the south in the early seventeen hundreds . Anyway, one of their settlements was in St. Bernard Parish right outside of New Orleans and the house was built by one of the earliest settlers, Andrés Mirañda. He built it for his youngest daughter Ana-Lucia.”

“Sweet,” He mumbled.

“You would think,but it turned into a nightmare. So, as the story goes, Andrés came to the states to get settled, building a cattle farm before sending for his wife Julia and two young sons, Tomás and Juan-Andrés. By the time they reached New Orleans , Andrés was a very rich man. He had built a huge house, had working staff and farmhands living on the property and was super rich and popular. It was wonderful, a regular freakin Southern fantasy land. By all accounts they were blissfully happy, Julia gave birth to two more boys Jose and Don-Julio. But she longed for a little girl.”

“Of Course,” Walls grumbled only to be shushed again.She also was not a fan of his commentary.

“Anyway, she miscarried a bunch of times and delivered three stillborn daughters. She went to doctors and priests and healers looking for a reason, but they had none. There was no reason why she shouldn’t have been able to have a healthy baby girl. Finally, she was informed by one of the servants- read slaves- that she was cursed. The servant, Magda, was a priestess of Santeria and gave her a healing potion that was to fix everything. Magda said that it was powerful magic and that Julia would have to promise something to the spirit world in exchange. So you know what she did, right?”

“She agreed?” Walls mumbled.

“Of course she did. I never found out what was promised that part is sketchy, but Julia did get pregnant almost immediately. Her pregnancy was stressful, she was sick the entire time and had strange cravings for raw seafood, like oysters and fish, and she ate hot peppers by the bushel and drank red wine like water.”

“Good Lord,” He whistled.

“Yea I know. Talk about what a pregnant woman is not supposed to eat. Despite all of that, she gave birth to a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl with thick dark hair and pale amber eyes that they named Ana-Lucia. It was said that she was so beautiful that she stole the hearts of her father and brothers instantly, and that she stole her mother’s breath. Julia died suddenly a month after Ana-Lucia was born. She was found in the baby’s room in a rocking chair, a smile on her face, dead. Ana-Lucia was still suckling at the breast of her dead mother, gruesome, huh?”

“Nauseating.” He agreed, picturing the blue tinted features of a young smiling woman, her bare breast in the mouth of a healthy, pudgy faced little girl with large amber eyes. He wondered if the milk had soured or if the child had simply sucked the life out of her mother. It left a nasty taste in his mouth as bile rose in his throat.

“I know, makes my stomach churn just thinking about it. I mean could the milk have gone sour?” She echoed his own thoughts. “Yuck, ecck, bleck.”

“Are you done?” Walter asked once Kelly began to dry heave. “I’m half way across Mississippi and you still haven’t gotten to the alleged good part.”

“Sorry. Anyway, Ana-Lucia grew up to be a very pampered and very lovely little girl. She was a champion equestrian but she excelled in the water. She would take her horse to the lake and spend hours in the water. Everyone thought she was sweeter than honey, polite and gentile. Her mother’s maid Magda doted on her and treated her as if she were her own, and she kind of was. Magda never had any children. Until she hit the dreaded ‘tweens, adolescents seemed to wake something up in her and things began to happen.”

“What kinds of things?” Walter asked, his interested suddenly piqued. He had to admit, this story had begun to intrigue him slightly. After days on the road listening to talk radio and what seemed to be the same ten songs on top 40 radio, Kelly’s meandering tale was a welcomed distraction. He didn’t know if was his sister’ excited retelling or simply his enjoyment listening, but the miles seemed to be flying by as he crossed Northern Mississippi and headed south.

“Do you remember that movie, The Bad Seed? “ He did. It had been one of his favorites for years. The story was of a pretty little girl, who was the picture of sweetness but deep down was a sociopath and murderer. “Well Ana-Lucia was a cross between the kid from that movie and that little boy from The Omen. Anyone who crossed or disappointed or just disagreed with her would have an accident. When she was about five, her nanny punished her for disobeying a rule and the next day, the girl took a tumble down the grand staircase and broke her leg. She was the first, but as the years went on there were more accidents. One of the maids was scalded with boiling water, though none was boiling at the time.A farm hand who’d innocently teased her was mauled by dogs, another fell from his horse and broke his arm. The servants gradually began to avoid her, making themselves scarce whenever she was nearby, whispering about her. They believed that whatever Magda had given her mother had cursed the child with an devil spirit. Magda, of course, was the only one who wasn’t afraid. At least until the thing with Tomas.’

“The brother?” He asked.

“The oldest brother, the one she idolized. He was much older than her and she saw him more like a father than a brother and he treated her as if she were the most precious thing in the world. Tomas was a gentle, kind heart soul and he was closer to Magda than any of the other boys. When his mother died, he had been heartbroken and Magda had taken care of him, spending time with him and his baby sister, treating them as if they were her own children. He was the light of her life, many said. She was most proud of the man he had become. When she was twelve or thirteen, Tomas had gone to Puerto Rico to take care of business for his father. When he returned months later, he brought a young beautiful…wife. Ana-Lucia hated the girl immediately. She felt as if this girl had stole her brother’s affections,he no longer had time for his baby sister. When the wife became pregnant, Ana-Lucia was devastated. She locked herself in her room for days. The pretty young wife, whose name was Bianca, tried to comfort the girl, telling her that they would be like sister;s and that she would be an aunt. But Ana-Lucia wanted none of that. Three weeks later, they found Bianca who was six months pregnant, dead. She was found in her bed, her face blue, just like Julia. Only her lungs were full of lake water. She hadn’t been near the lake since her arrival. No one knows what really happened, but Tomas never looked at his baby sister the same way again. He returned to Puerto Rico and never came back. Not even when his father died.”

“Then, there was the other brother, Jose. He was not as keen on dotting on his baby sister as she got older. He thought of her as a spoiled brat and told their father that he should not spoil her so much. When she begged and begged her father to buy her a new horse, a new Arabian or something, Jose put his foot down. He said that she already had three horses and did not need another. There father conceded and within hours of that little victory, Jose was trampled to death by a stampeding bull. The bull that killed him, was one of the most docile creatures on the ranch and one of Jose’s prized bulls. No one could figure out why it charged and figured something must have spooked it. His skull was crushed in front of his wife and young son.”

“Jesus,” Walter whispered more to himself.

“ Yea. But it gets weirder and worse. When she was sixteen, she met and fell in love with a man named Antonio de la Fuenta Garza. He was older , suave sophisticated and rumored to be some sort of criminal, he was know to associate with gamblers and pirates. Anyway, he spotted Ana-Lucia at some ball and he did everything in his power to woo her.”

“Woo her? Who says woo?” Walter laughed.

“I do. Shut up and listen. Antonio proposed to Ana-Lucia and as a gift to his precious daughter, he built-”

“The Miranda House.”

“Yes. A gorgeous house on the edge of the lake she loved so much. It was isolated, one road but it was fantastic. She and Antonio were married and had this huge party that went on well into the night. The next morning, Ana-Lucia,and her new husband set off for their new lives in the new house. It was hell from the beginning for her. On their first night in their new house, Antonio raped and brutalized his new bride. It was a vicious attack that left Ana-Lucia bed-ridden for days. He would leave for days at a time, returning home drunk and smelling of other women, even bringing prostitutes and criminals to the house. He would have loud parties and spend money, a regular douche. But Ana-Lucia loved him because when he was good, when he wasn’t drinking and whoring he was wonderful and charming, showering her with gifts and attention.”

“Why didn’t something mysterious happen to him?” Walter asked.

“She loved him. She wouldn’t hurt him. Until she got pregnant and miscarried. Turns out, ol Antonio slipped his wife a little more than the big D at night. “

“Must you?” Walter sighed.

“I didn’t say dick. I know who you get when I say dick or cock or boner…”

“Okay, okay stop it. No man wants to hear his baby sister talk like that cut it out. Get back to the story.”

“Fine,” Kelly sighed. He could hear shifting, the sounds of children running through the room, their laughter fading as they moved past her into another part of the house. She yelled for them not to run in the house, but could tell by her exasperated sigh that she had been ignored. “Anyway, he’d given her a disease. I’m not sure which but most likely syphilis, and the doctors told her she was sterile. Antonio, being the major dick he was, left her after the news and continued partying in New Orleans with his whores and criminals. Ana-Lucia’s father and brothers begged her to leave and even threatened to have him killed, but she refused. Te servants said she would just sit in her room, rocking back and forth in the looking out over the lake, seeing nothing. Even Magda, who hadn’t really forgiven her for what happened to her brothers’ tried to get her to leave, but she refused. She did , however , leave the room. She would swim at night, spending more and more time in the soothing waters of the lake. The servants said it seemed to calm her and make her lucid almost like a new person, but as soon as the sun rose, she would be back in that chair, rocking. “

“So, a few months pass and a storm comes rolling in from the Gulf. Antonio has returned by this time and he has moved in a bunch of whores and his unsavory friends and they hole up at the house,eating, drinking, fornicating ready to ride out the storm. Andres sends word that they should leave, since the house is unprotected from the storm and that Ana-Lucia is too fragile to be so isolated. Antonio says he won’t leave and neither will Ana-Lucia, she is his wife she stays where he is. The servants, on the other hand-bolt.”

“As they should.” Walter agreed.

“So the storm rolls in, the city floods, buildings are destroyed. But as soon as its over, Andres and his sons go to check on Ana-Lucia, but the road is washed away. It’s another three days before they can get through to the house and what they find is a blood bath. They find that someone had gone through the house and slaughtered every person in the place. It said it looked as if someone had taken a machete to everyone in the house, except Antonio. They find Antonio the same way they found Bianca, in bed, soaking wet, his lungs full of water. Ana-Lucia was no where to be found, only a nightgown was found on the shore. They think she killed everyone in the house and then swan into the lake to die.”

“Creepy but not life changing.” Walter said. “Sorry.”

“That’s not the end. Andres was so devastated he died within hours of the discovery. His remaining sons could never bring themselves to step foot in the house again. So it was boarded up and left to the elements.

About thirty years later, the Prescott family bought the house and completely renovated it. David Prescott , his wife Sally and their two teen aged sons David Jr and Peter lived in the house for all of a year before they were all dead. Sally went first, the same as Antonio and Bianca. David Jr, who was described as a big farm breed Norwegian looking youngster- actually drowned in the lake. He had told people that he’d seen a beautiful dark haired woman swimming in the lake at night, with eyes as pale as the summer moon. No one believed him but they discovered his body floating two feet from shore, The younger fell from a third floor balcony and David Senior , died in his desk chair in his office. For the next hundred of so years, the house changed hands and over twenty seven people have died inside the house, fifteen with water in their lungs in their beds. The others have had freak accidents. But there have been over thirty drownings or disappearances in the waters surrounding the place. Every person who has ever lived in the house reported seeing a haunting beautiful young woman with long dark hair and bright amber eyes swimming in the lake at night. The current owners included . They only use it in the summer and they rarely stay overnight, only when they absolutely have to do it. Over the years, with erosion and everything , there is no road so the only way to the house is by boat. Fishermen have claimed to see her as well, on late nights, standing in the window looking out over the lake. Some have claimed that they’ve seen her swimming in the murky water, her skin tinted blue from years of living in the underwater, and that she’s always naked, young and beautiful. There have been all sorts of stories like that, fishermen catching fish with human bites taken out of them, naked girl in the water luring men to their deaths but no one, no one stays in that house for more than an overnight visit. “

“Okay, I’ll admit. That is a pretty cool story. And I’m here.” He said pulling his car into the parking lot of the dock listed in his directions. He climbed from the car, leaving the car door open so he could hear Kelly on the speaker. He could see the house in the distance, a lone house , three stories overlooking the lake one all sides. It was nice enough and no more than a couple miles from land. He had to admit, Kelly’s story had intrigued him but he didn’t dare believe it to be true. HE was a horror writer after all, he created monsters on a daily basis. It took more than a ghost story to spook him. “I can see the house from here, looks nice and normal.”

“Of Course it does. The owner’s daughter should be along soon to take you over there. Her name is Teri and she will be your contact for anything you need. She lives in Chalmette, her parents have moved to Baton Rouge so she takes care of everything. Anyway, take care of yourself, and call me tomorrow.” He was dragging his suitcase from the car as they said their good byes. He disconnected the phone, slipping it into the bag with his laptop, just as the whir of a boat motor approached at his back.

He turned to see a young woman standing at the helm, her dark hair shining in the late afternoon light, her skin tanned and her eyes shielded by dark sunglasses. She pulled the boat to a stop and quickly ties it to the dock before she bound over to him.

“You the writer?” She asked in her distinct St Bernard parish twang. She smiled, a brilliant sunny smile and he nodded. She wore cut offs that had seen better days, a faded red tank top and low top red converse sneakers, she looked adorable.

“You the daughter?” He asked, reaching for her out stretched hand.

“Depends on who’s daughter you’re referring to. My name’s Teri,”

“You are the daughter. I’m Walter.”

“That makes you the writer. Come on, big city. Let’s get you settled before your sister calls back to chew me out. I understand you have a deadline.” He laughed, letting her take his smaller bag while he managed the suitcase and computer case.

“My sister talks too much.”

“Maybe, but everything she has to say is interesting.” Teri teased. “Come on, it’s a thirty minute boat ride.How are you in the water?”

“I can manage not to drown.” He joked and she laughed.

“Okay, good enough. Let’s go. The sun is starting to set and it gets pretty dark on the water. Freaks some people out if they can’t see where they’re going.”

 

The house was not what he expected, which was saying a lot. He expected some gothic memorial to a long dead woman instead,he stepped into modern luxury. It was fully stocked with movies, satellite television, wifi and even a hot tub. He looked around and whistled following Teri as she led him through the place. She showed him the industrial kitchen that opened onto a covered patio. He inhaled the fresh air and watched the sky melt from vibrant orange to deep purple.

From the second floor he could see for miles around, just water and the marsh grass that poked through, pelicans dipping into the water , the fading sunlight casting a deep golden glow on their wings. He had to admit, haunted or not, he loved this place.

“This is your bedroom. “ She opened the door to a beautifully decorated bedroom. It was luxurious to the point of decadence and he couldn’t help but smile. In the corner was a writing desk that faced one of the huge bay windows. There was a fireplace that faced the bed and a television that hung high on a wall and could be viewed from the bed, the desk or the small sitting area off of the master bath. He stepped into the bathroom and gaped at the large tub that was sunken into the floor and faced another bay of windows.

“What do you think?” Teri leaned against the open bedroom door, her arms folded across her chest. Her lips were quirked up in a knowing smile and he couldn’t help but return her grin.

“It’s perfect.” As he spoke,his phone sang to life in his bag. He excused himself and went to answer, his eyes on Teri as she removed the band from her thick dark hair.

“Hello,” He said, still smiling as he turned to face the view he would be waking up to for the next few weeks. Breathtaking was the only word he could think that fit this moment.

“Walls, were are you?” Kelly asked.

“What do you mean where am I? I’m at the house.”

“What? How could you be at the house?” She asked, more annoyed than she had been.

“Teri. The owner’s daughter. She picked me up like you said she would. “ He turned to look at her over his shoulder, watching as she ran long fingers through midnight dark hair. Sighing, he turned to the fireplace and looked at the cluster of photos that lined the mantel.

“Teri is at the doc waiting for you, Walls.”

“No she’s not she’s right here-” He froze, his eyes falling on a picture that made his blood run cold.

“Kelly, do you know what Teri looks like?” He asked in a hushed voice, his heart thumping in his chest.

“What?” She asked in annoyance.

“Just answer me, Kells. What does Teri look like?” He could hear her take a breath, blowing it out as she counted to ten mentally. “It’s important, Kelly.What does she look like.”

“Um, she’s fair, red-head freckles about five three- Walter, who is with you? Walls! Wally! Walter, who’s with you? ” With shaky hands he picked up a framed picture from the mantel, his fingers going numb as he stared at the faces smiling back at him. There was an older couple, a man with snow white hair, his wife with graying red and in the center a youngish woman with pale skin, freckles and bright red hair. Teri.

Walter turned slowly, a chill setting into his bones as he looked into a pair of brilliant amber eyes.

 

The Escape Plan

 A few days ago, I saw a picture that was classified as afro steampunk.  It was of a beautiful little brown-skinned girl with her hair in afro puffs wearing a white sundress in a field of yellow flowers. Beside her, holding a parasol over her head as if to protect her from the sun, was a robot. The image struck me and within an hour I had created a story.  I couldn’t find the picture  but this Is the story. Enjoy

      They stood on the curb in the growing shadow of Flynnwood Academy as the sun rapidly descended. Ms. Chestwood looked at her watch nervously, her delicate features twisted with worry as time seemed to whiz by. The street was emptying quickly and soon they would be cast in darkness, alone. It wasn’t safe.

If it had been any other child, she would have had them wait in the building or she would have driven them home herself. That would not do with Zendie Dolhonda, she was not to be taken anywhere without a proper escort. Her driver and guard being late was not something that was tolerated , but due to the circumstances, it was understandable. It was a historic event, Ambassador Dolhonda’s return planet side after eighteen months on a foreign world was historic. The streets had been blocked off, traffic rerouted for the parade. The mandatory curfew had been lifted for those who’d registered to attend the parade and Leisl Chestwood was not one of those people.

She looked at the girl beside her, her worry intensifying. Zendie, with her thick curly hair in two puffy pigtails, wore her pristine white uniform dress and shiny black Mary Jane’s played a game on her comm-bracelet oblivious to her surroundings. She was a beautiful child, with skin like deep brown velvet , hair as dark as night, she was petite and looked much younger than her thirteen years. Chestwood thought of bringing the child with her if the car didn’t arrive soon, she would have to face the consequences later. She watched the girl, her attention focused on the colors and sounds at her wrist, like that she looked at any other child. Truth be told, Zendie Dolhonda made her uncomfortable.

“It’s coming now.” Zendie spoke in her soft, aristo-class accented speech that Chestwood had become accustomed too teaching the children on the elite society. Zendie looked up at her with eyes that were as dark as midnight and hinted at an intelligence that frightened many. Chestwood opened her mouth to speak when headlights illuminated the two of them in the dusk. The car advanced soundlessly coming to a stop inches from them, the back door opening to allow the little girl entry.

She gave Chestwood a wave before sinking into the inky darkness of the interior, the door closing behind her. As they pulled away Chestwood felt unease, but shook it off. She only had thirty minutes before full dark,thirty minutes and the marauders would be out lurking the streets for easy prey. She looked after the car once more, watching the brilliant red taillight fade into the distance before jogging to the relative safety of her own waiting vehicle.

***

“Who are you? Thomas is never late and he would get out to open the door for me.You do kind of look like him though, from a distance.You even had me fooled for a moment. Only a moment.” Her tone was low and even, showing no real emotion other than slight annoyance. “ So who are you?” Zendie asked as they pulled away from the school. “And when is the other going to sit up?” She mumbled without looking up from the game she was playing. The driver glanced at her in the rear view mirror, then shook his head. “I can smell his stinky tobacco.” She said.

“So, you’re as smart as they said you are. Don’t worry kid, just cooperate and you will get out of this just fine.” He sat up, turning to look at the child in anger a barrel of a gun aimed at her head.

“I’m not worried. Just mildly irritated.” She said finally pausing her play to look at her captors. “So, what’s the plan? Is this some political statement on colonization of alien life forms? Or am I a sacrifice, an example that speaks to the excesses of the aristoclass? Some psychotic plan to make you famous? Or is this just a money grab?” She asked calmly, looking from the man with the gun to the man posing as her driver.

“The way I figure it, your Ma will pay a pretty penny to get her precious angel back home. I mean look at you, if you were my kid I would do whatever I had to to get you back. Pretty little thing that you are. So just sit back cutie and enjoy the ride. This should be quick and painless. Then you can get back to your big fancy house and all your nannies and butlers.” He chuckled nastily.

“Are you a pedo? Sick.” Her face twisted in disgust. “Gross.”

“I’m not now, nor have I ever been a pedo.” He growled, throwing an elbow at the driver who stifled a chuckle.

“Whatever.You aren’t going to give me back.” She said. “If your plan was to return me safe and sound, you wouldn’t have let me see your faces. Now that I can identify you, you have to kill me. Oh, you won’t do it right away, at least not until the drop is made. I mean when we get to where ever we’re going, you’re going to have to make the call. And since my mother isn’t a stupid woman, she’s going to want proof of life. You’ll let me talk to her, but only for a moment. But the problem with that is I could pass her a message, something subtle that only she and I would understand. It could be such a little thing that you could never be sure, not really. Of course , you could just cut off a finger or an ear and send it to her,but that would expose you. Sure, you could get a courier, but they would crack as soon as a little pressure is applied. The feds are experts at applying pressure. And you don’t trust each other enough to let one of you do it. Because, if either of you get caught you’d sell the other out in a heartbeat.  I can say that I won’t tell, that I will play dumb, say I was blindfolded and I never saw your faces or heard your voices but you both know you can’t trust me. And you know that as soon as you attempt a swap or exchange, the feds would be all over you. Your only viable option is to kill me. So, I think I’ll just have to escape.” The men shared nervous looks but said nothing. Zendie returned her attention to the thick silver bracelet she wore and began swiping the screen.

“She’s fucking spooky.” The driver mumbled.

“Your comm won’t work in here, kid. We have a cell jammer in the car, no emails, no calls, no texts.” The one with the gun said, ignoring the driver who‘s hands had tightened on the steering wheel. She glanced up briefly and smiled. Shadows inside the car and the eerie light from street lamps cast a yellow pallor across her skin giving her angelic face a sinister gleam.

“I’m not calling anyone. I don’t have to.” She said with a grin. “I told you, I have an escape plan. It’s been successful so far. And with this amateurish operation, it will be successful again.“ She continued swiping her game , vivid colors and shapes filling the dark interior of the car. Her captors looked at each other nervously, but said nothing else.

“You can’t believe that you’re the first to attempt this.” She said after a long pause. “Others have tried and they had pretty ingenious plans. I was going to be hung in effigy when mother was first announced as Interplanetary Ambassador. That was planned by a bunch of graduate students who felt that inviting extraterrestrial life forms to the planet would lead to genocide. They took me from a park where I was at a birthday party with friends. It didn’t end well for them.”

“We never heard of that-” The gunman said.

“Of course not. But you did hear about six grad student murdered in a house on the edge of Crest Park about three years ago.It was horrific, no motive, no suspects, just six dead kids.” She mumbled, concentrating on her game play. The men looked at each other, the driver’s face creased in memory.

“I remember that.” He whispered to the other. “It was gruesome, Danny. Like the worst murder in the history of Crest Park.” The driver said

“She’s just trying to spook us. Don’t listen to her.” Danny mumbled.

“Yea, don’t listen to me. What would I know?” Zendie nodded her agreement and chuckled.

“She’s just a smart ass little rich brat. That had nothing to do with her. We woulda heard about it. It would have been all over the news.”

“Unless my mother didn’t want it all over the news. Then there was the crew who wanted to extort seventy million dollars from mother just before her launch. That debacle only lasted three hours, I mean , snow addicts are not the most organized group and thinking seventy mill could fit in a suitcase…” She laughed shaking her head at the memory.

“But you two pure bush league. Did you even do any research before you planned this great coup?” She asked, a long low whistle coming from her comm as her game ended. “Did you ever wonder why I don’t have a bodyguard like the other kids at Flynnwood?” She asked, looking at them steadily. “Don’t you find that to be a little weird? I mean I have one of the  wealthiest and most influential families on the hill. Don’t you think that’s strange?”

As she spoke, the driver noticed that the car was slowing on its own. He pressed his foot on the accelerator, but nothing happened. There was only a slight whir of the engine as it slowed then stopped completely. He pushed the start button, his foot pumping the pedal to get the car moving again but nothing happened.

“What are you doing, Gus?” The one called Danny asked.

“Nothin. It just stopped. It died. I need to check under the hood.” He mumbled, reaching for the handle to open the door, finding it locked. He tried to release the lock only to find that it no longer worked. Neither did the windows. They were trapped on a desolate street in the middle of nowhere. Danny reached into his pocket for his phone and began dialing.

“I’m guessing that jammer was not the brightest idea.” Zendie said with a smirk. The two men remained silent, but she could feel their anxiety rising, a nervious heat filling the car. In the distance, the clink of metal on concrete could be heard moving toward them at a  rapid pace. The clink-clunk,clink-clunk moved faster,disrupting the silence that shrouded the night. Something very large was coming toward them.

“What the fuck?” Danny mumbled as he saw what was approaching through the side mirror.

“What is that?” Gus asked, turning to look over Zendie’s head out of the rear window. It was large, silver moving like a bullet train down the empty street toward them.

“I don’t have a guard because I created my own escape plan.” She said pointing over her shoulder. “His name is Thomas.”

The driver’s side window exploded and Gus was pulled out into the darkness. His screams echoed in the night, blood curling screeches accompanied the sound of flesh being torn and bone being twisted.  Blood splattered against the windshield and Danny let loose a tirade of curses, before turning to glare at the girl in the back seat. Zendie returned his glare with a glint of malevolence in her midnight dark eyes. Danny fought with the door, trying in vain to free himself, before finally shooting out the window. It took six bullets before the heavy glass crackled, the sounds of Gus’ screams becoming muted grunts and gurgling until they stopped altogether.

He leaned back and began kicking the shattered glass, trying to make a hole big enough to shimmy through. His sneaker clad foot finally broke through. He seemed to sigh with relief but that was short lived, as Thomas reached in, pulling him out feet first. Danny screamed, clawing at the soft leather of the seat as Thomas yanked him through the window and into the street.

“Call him off, kid! Call him off !” He turned firing shots into the dark until the gun was empty and there was only the click of him continuing to fire an empty gun. His screams only lasted a moment stopping abruptly after what she assumed with the sound of Danny’s neck being broken. There was a loud crunch, then a squish before she heard his body drop onto the concrete with a muted thud.

Zendie swiped at her comm bracelet and the engine roared back  to life, the doors unlocking  with a soft snick. There was a loud snapping as the windows replaced themselves and rolled up , just as Thomas opened the door and slipped behind the wheel.

“What took you so long?” She asked. He turned, his chiseled features serene and beautiful in their simplicity. His eyes were a soft brown, his skin a tawny brown and his smile radiant.  He wore his usual dark suit, his shirt unbuttoned at the collar, his dark hair cut short and neat. He looked as if he could have been her older brother, his eyes twinkling in the darkness.

“There was interference from the jammer. It interrupted the signal from the locater chip in your comm. It was only a minute or so. Besides, I wanted to give you time to play. I know how you like mind games, Miss. Let’s go. Your mother will be expecting you when she arrives.” He said in his highly trained aristoclass accent.  He grasped the steering wheel, a glint of silver catching in the light for a moment before his synthetic skin knitted itself back together.

“I think that was a new record.” Thomas said as he turned the car in the direction of their home.

“Less than twenty minutes.” Zendie confirmed.  “That is a new record.”