She lifted her weary eyes and moaned as the noise of her dog’s relentless barking refused to let her sleep. Normally, Sammy’s sweet nature didn’t propel her to do that sort of thing, so she knew she probably an urgent need that required tending to, but she grumpily wondered why, out of all days, did she have to do this tonight? She peeked at the alarm clock in front of her, and she vowed that if Sammy didn’t have a good reason to be doing this, she would start getting crated at night! Her exhaustion almost tempted her to stay in bed, but with her husband snoozing soundly next to her, she didn’t want to shout and wake him up. She envied the fact that his deep slumber almost never got interrupted no matter how loud his surroundings became, but she didn’t dwell on that too long. It certainly wouldn’t solve her immediate problem, which only seemed to grow worse as time went on. Her annoyance over the cacophony gave her the motivation she needed to get up, and she begrudgingly rolled onto her back to start the process. Before she got out of bed though, something on the ceiling caught her eye…
At first, she thought a speck of the streetlight reflected into the house, but when her eyes focused more, she noticed a definite discoloration. She first assumed a water leak stained the plaster, but the more she examined it, the more she noticed that it had a very straight, rectangular shape to it. That didn’t come from any kind of structural mishap, she realized it had to have come from something deliberate, which made no sense to her unless her husband hung something romantic in an odd spot as a considerate act of encouragement since work brought her more stress than usual lately. He didn’t usually do that sort of thing, but she supposed that it was never too late to start! She sat up to get a closer look, but once she gained a better vantage point, she detected the location Sammy had been barking from- she was already in her crate! Her heart pounded wildly, she knew that neither she nor Kurtis did that! She hoped that Sammy had accidentally locked herself in, but with this unknown object looming over her, she got a very eerie feeling about what happened!
It terrified her to finally identify this mysterious oddity, but she needed to know what it was in order to plan out her next move. She stood up, and right then, she could see that a poster had got hung up there! Any hope of this being a token of affection vanished when she saw what looked like a jack-o-lantern with sharp, jagged features, so she now thought that her husband wanted to pull a Halloween prank. Again, she didn’t think he would do that sort of thing normally, and it wouldn’t have explained why Sammy got locked up, but if he didn’t do it, then that only left one possibility… But that seemed too far fetched! She needed to find out more, but she couldn’t make out what the writing said, so she had to risk waking up Kurtis by turning on the lights. She flicked on the lamp next to her alarm clock, and after she turned back to the poster, she screamed!
Justin walked up to the door of the people who called about a possible intrusion, and a familiar face met him on the front stoop. “Hey, I know you!”
“Yeah, yeah! Joanette Joules, Channel Five News!” Joanelle’s jangled nerves made her brush off the friendly banter he tried to use on her. “Can you just come in and look at this? We’re really freaked out!”
“Lead the way, ma’am!” Justin sometimes got called to potential breakins only to find a case of paranoia, but he could tell that something occurred to really spook her like this, so he knew had to get right to business. He followed her into her home and hoped that, whatever happened, he could find something to put her mind at ease!
He saw her husband holding a black Australian shepherd’s collar, and their pet fought its restraints in an attempt to merrily greet him. Normally, he would gladly have taken a moment to interact with such a friendly animal, but the grim expression on its owner’s face told him that he better not! “It’s in here!” Joanette pointed to her bedroom and stared at it as if she were afraid to go in it. Justin had brought his kit for preliminary investigations into places many times without actually having to open it, but in this instance, he had a feeling he may need to use it!
It surprised him to see a poster taped above her bed, and when he positioned himself to read it, it perplexed him to find a political message that claimed the mainstream media was lying to the public and that no one should trust them because of that. He expected to find something much more ominous, and he guessed that Joanelle sensed his alarm over the event starting to ebb since she exclaimed, “Someone was here! They stood right over my head as I was sleeping! I work in the media, this is obviously a threat!”
“That is pretty disturbing!” Justin caught another glimpse of it, and his impression of the incident evolved into something much more foreboding! He tried to hold onto the notion of this ending on a lighter note as he asked her, “Does anyone else have access to your house besides you and Mister Joules?”
“No!” Joanette answered with a slight burst of optimism as she saw Justin taking this incident more seriously. “I mean, my kids have keys, but neither of them live near Virginia anymore!”
Justin inquired, “Did you leave any doors or windows unlocked?”
Joanette shook her head, but Kurtis put in, “One of the windows in our bedroom has a busted lock, but it’s right above our bed, so we’d know if someone climbed in through there!” He paused and added, “Right?”
“You would think so!” Justin had come across a lot of suspicious activity lately that led him to believe otherwise, but he wouldn’t dare to bring it up to two frightened victims! He opened up his kit and pulled out his brush and powder. He checked the window for fingerprints, really itching to give them a clue to bring whoever did this to justice, but after combing through the area thoroughly, he got disheartened to unearth nothing! Kurtis and Joanette gazed at him with a glimmer of sanguinity shining on their faces, so it crushed him to reveal the truth! “Sorry!” He hated seeing them slump from disappointment, so he tried to draw out other possibilities for him to solve this crime. “Can you think of anyone who might’ve done this to you?”
“No one I know personally, but lately, I’ve been getting a lot of hate mail.” Joanette explained, “Ever since Rialowe jumped into the race, I get a lot of angry people harassing me every time I speak out about him or if I mention anything about Venenatus Sanguis. The station manager wanted to quiet them down, but I still talked about it on the air if I had the chance. They moved me out the prime time slot hoping that if my segment had less viewers that we’d get less vitriol, but it’s getting worse! I stopped talking about it after we got death threats, but I certainly won’t tell the lies that these fiends want me to, so it hasn’t stopped the problem.”
Justin sympathized with her, but it also spelled out bad news for the Joules. “I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I wish I could do more to help, but unfortunately, Rialowe’s numbers keep shooting up, so that’s a lot of potential suspects! I’ll hand this over to the detective unit, but if they can’t find any evidence here…”
Joanette finished his sentence, “It’s not likely you’ll find the suspect unless they do it to someone else or I get attacked.” Justin sadly nodded, and then Joanelle ranted, “My case won’t even be a priority ’cause they’re too busy looking for those quarantine evaders! Aside from that court martial breakout, they haven’t done anything! If they were so concerned about slowing the spread of the virus, they’d put a stop to Rialowe’s super spreader events! People are dying, and no is doing anything about it! No one cares!”
“I care!” Justin asserted.
“That’s good! I wish there were more people that gave a damn!” She sighed.
Just put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I’ll do whatever I can to help! In the meantime, stay safe, okay?” Joanette agreed to it, and it ached Justin to leave the Joules like that. As he walked back to his squad car, he gave the full scope of this reality serious consideration. He had a hung of what he needed to do to make a real difference, and he hadn’t done it yet due to his commitment to the rules, but lives were at stake now, so he knew the time had come to take action!
The silence inside the cave got broken as Kierram stirred. He hadn’t been particularly loud, but with the lack of movement from the other Rebels, his minor shifts sounded deafening! Gwynivara asked him, “Where are you going?”
“Vulpes Press,” he answered. “I still have a job to do.”
“In light of the two tragedies we suffered, you can take the day off,” Emorick offered.
Kierram politely declined, “I have to! We wouldn’t have even known that Casey and Ansel died that day if I didn’t work there! Plus, with everything else going on, it makes me feel better to be somewhere where we can know what’s going on right away! Especially since Cedric and Easton were spotted in Great Dismal Falls! I just need to know they’re okay!”
Riley remarked, “I totally get that! I just don’t know how you could stand to listen to them rattling on about how great Rialowe is at a time like this!”
“They don’t always talk about him,” Kierram responded. “Granted, they talk about him a lot, they do have families and lives outside the paper… Well, not all of them do, but it’s alright, they’re still nice people.” Everyone tittered a bit at his quip, and then he waved to them all. “Well, see ya later!”
“Wait!” Gwynivara stopped him. He gazed at her quizzically, so she told him, “You forgot to give me a kiss goodbye!”
Kierram apologized, “Sorry! There’s just been a lot going on!”
After Kierram gave her a kiss, Gwynivara sweetly expressed, “Stay safe out there, okay?”
“I will!” Kierram gave her another kiss before heading out, and as he exited the cave, Gwynivara watched him closely. She didn’t think he had lied, but she caught a hint that he may have held back on something important. She could decipher anything concrete, but the fact that he defeneded the zealots at that propaganda center and deemed them as nice people gave her cause to worry. She hoped that her lack of sleep made her mind distort its better judgment, and she put her suspicions aside for now. She had much more urgent topics to deal with, although she found it too hard to focus on that right then. Not only because of Kierram’s behavior, she couldn’t get her mind off of everything she did that day they escaped from the FBI…
“What did I tell you about that?” Emorick reminded her.
Gwynivara reacted with a slight confusion, “I didn’t say anything!”
Emorick countered with, “Yes you did! I can see it in your eyes! You’re still blaming yourself for what happened to Casey and Ansel! We already established that it’s not your fault!”
“I know last night you all said that I did my best and that I couldn’t have foreseen the circumstances that led to their demise, but I can’t help but wonder if I could have done more to have prevented it from happening! How could I have missed them when we were leaving? If I had just been more careful, maybe they’d still be alive!”
“Don’t do that to yourself!” Emorick advised. “I’ve led scores of missions in my lifetime, do you think all my men came back? I’ve seen hundreds lose their lives, thousands maybe, and of course, I always thought about what more I could have done, but at the end of the day, you gotta remember that you didn’t kill them, the enemy did! We’re at war, that’s a risk we all take when we go out onto the battlefield! Casey and Ansel died in their effort to save the planet from destruction, so what do you think they would tell you to do if they were here? How will you honor their memory?”
Emorick’s wise words put steel into Gwynivara’s spine! She recognized the truth of how the two men went down, and she realized that she spent more time beating herself up when the people actually responsible for their deaths should be her true target! She did her fellow Rebels a disservice by focusing on the wrong subject, so she shifted to the right one, and now a fire burned within her to put halt to the atrocities that cause two innocent souls to perish! “We gotta do everything we can to make sure no one else dies from this evil!” Emorick beamed in approval.
Bernadette brought up, “We have a big decision to make. Since the FBI is probably listening to all of the phone calls coming from my mom’s boarding house, so we can’t find out if the other Rebels are still there let alone if they’d be willing to try out the cure! One of us will have to take the vaccine! Most of us need to keep our incantation abilities to fight Rafeneita though, so which one of us can we afford to lose?”
“You can let me get infected and then I’ll take the shot,” Cody volunteered. “I’m already used to helping the Rebellion without any incantation abilities!”
“No way!” John objected. “We’re trying to reduce the amount of people who have it, not increase it! What if you get infected and the cure doesn’t work?”
José tacked on to that, “Plus, you’d be untrained with your abilities, and you don’t know whether or not one of the beasts you’d create would kill you! Who knows how long it would take for the cure to kick in! We can’t risk it!”
Naama probed, “Well, if not him, then who?”
Gwynivara and Bernadette walked down the dark halls once again, but they walked with a little more confidence on this occasion. They kept their eyes peeled for any potential threats, but they felt reasonably more assured of its security after going through it before. “Are you nervous?” Cody inquired.
“A little,” Rebekah replied. “I’ve lived with Venenatus Sanguis for so long, and even though I hate it, it’ll be weird to see it go! But it’s what Daddy would’ve wanted! Now, I’ll never have to go back to quarantine again! I just hope it doesn’t have any bad side effects!”
“Whatever side effects it might have, it can’t be as bad as what we go through with the virus!” Gwynivara half kidded. They all laughed at that concept as they rounded the corner, but their mirth soon came to an end when they spotted something shocking at the end of the corridor…
Thank you! 😊