They're Random, Baby!

Fan Fiction

Court of Darkness (chapter two): Kimberly Joy
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 31 August 2006, 4:18 pm

Read/Post Comments

Court of Darkness (chapter two): Kimberly Joy

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will … will …" Rocking back on his knees, Benjamin grunted with frustration and turned to his mother for help.

Sarah gave her eight year-old an encouraging smile. "Say of the Lord."

"Oh, yeah," Ben said, clenching his eyes shut and resting his forehead once again on folded hands. "I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust.' Surely He will save me from the fowler's snare …"

As her son continued Psalm 91, Sarah tried to receive comfort from the ancient words. But standing there in the haunting glow of the bedside lamp, she felt only fear. Thankfully, Benjamin had been spared his mother's awful memories and his voice spoke with a confidence that defied the shadows.

"You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness …"

Had he been looking at his mother rather than the back of his eyelids, Benjamin would have thought she was ill. Sarah was ashamed to admit it, but sometimes scripture reminded her of things that she would rather forget.

"That's enough, honey," she said, cutting him off mid-verse. "Better climb into bed." Jumping up like a coiled spring, Ben dove onto his mattress and wrapped the blankets tightly around him.

"That's all true, isn't it mom?"

"Of course it is," Sarah said in soft rebuke, even as she wrestled with her own doubts. "Why would you even ask such a thing?"

"The Bible was written on Earth, right?" His mother nodded. "Well, is he God of just Earth, or Tethra too?"

"He is God over the Earth, Tethra and the entire universe."

A relieved smile stretched across his little face and he began to nod. "Sweet, then I'll sleep without my light on tonight!"

Sarah looked at him with surprise. "And why's that?" Ben laughed.

"Because he's God here too! I want to show mommy that she doesn't have to be afraid of the terror of the night, or stuff that stalks in the darkness or anything!"

"Honey, mommy's not afraid."

"You're afraid of daddy, aren't you?"

Tears began to form in Sarah's eyes and the blood drained from her face. "No, I'm not. Why would I ever be afraid of your father?" With no small reluctance, she switched off the light next to his bed and walked quickly to the doorway.



"If you're not afraid of Daddy, then why are the doors always locked and," he added with jarring innocence, "when he died, why did you bury him wrapped in chains?"

Traveling in a Prowler brought certain advantages that most people, military or not, would never enjoy. The fast, sleek craft was invisible to the UNSC's most advanced equipment, could land almost anywhere without prior clearance, and was not even required to file a flight plan. All added up, it meant unparalleled stealth, and ODST Captain Helljumper was far too practical to let that go to waste. Everything he'd learned about O'Carrol said that she was not to be taken lightly; and since he and Lieutenant Sagus had a meeting with the Chairman of Tethra's Industrial Board of Governors on the same day they landed, the estimated time of their arrival was something that could be obtained with little difficulty. That being the case, he had deliberately arrived four days earlier than expected. If nothing else, it would provide them with an early start.

A cold, horizontal rain greeted them outside the terminal, making David's short wait for a shuttle seem like an eternity. Due to safety concerns, neither man wore his uniform, but something about their black, knee-length, military issue coats screamed "UNSC." Holding his briefcase over his sandy-blonde hair, Sagus looked at Helljumper with amusement. The older man stood straight and steady as a rock, seemingly oblivious to the frigid water running down his face and neck. Someone else might have assumed that such behavior was part and parcel with being an elite soldier, but David had spent over seven years in Naval special operations, and he'd never seen anyone like the man standing next to him.

"We could've waited inside, Hell!" Sagus yelled over the howling wind. He had tried to address the legendary ODST as Captain during the two-week trip, but Helljumper would have none of it.

"Son," he replied, his strong voice cutting through the gale like a knife, "I've been inside long enough! This feels good!"

A small white vehicle pulled up and the driver waved them in. Once the door clanked shut, the smallish red-haired man looked them up and down from the other side of a pane of thick glass.

"Where to?"

Curious, David tapped the clear barrier with his fingers. "Is this bulletproof?"

"Where to?" the driver said, wrinkling his stubbled face in annoyance. "I ain't got all day."

Helljumper pulled a map out of his pocket and pressed it against the pane. It's bright colors showed a large, walled community just outside the city. "Take us here."

"The Industrial Palisades?" the driver scoffed. "Forget it. Anybody they'd let near the Palace wouldn't be asking me to take 'em. Why don't you and your friend get the h—"

"Just turn around and drive," Helljumper ordered in a calm yet commanding voice. "I'll handle the rest." The stubble-faced man looked into the eyes of the tall, dark haired gentleman in his back seat and then did the only sane thing.

He turned around and drove.

Blige Edelson tried to appear strong as he listened to the person sitting on the other side of his desk, but it wasn't easy. The man frightened him—and that was not easily done.

"Mr. Chairman," the man said in a smooth, cold voice, "I cannot overstate the fact that this must be handled quietly."

"And I'm sure that it will be. We're expecting two men from the UNSC by the end of—"

The man shook his head. "No, that is exactly what we need to avoid. The UNSC is messy and imprecise. They would use a nuclear bomb to swat a fly."

Edelson sighed. "What would you have me do, Mr. Black? I doubt Admiral Denning would take any advice from me."

"O'Carrol must be stopped, Mr. Chairman, but not by the UNSC. She needs to disappear without so much as a trace." Mr. Black leaned forward and gave Edelson a look that chilled his blood. "She has had, shall we say, unimpeded access to men who carried volatile and dangerous information. Who's to say she didn't get them to talk before she killed them? If so, she would certainly have sense enough to use it as a bargaining chip if captured—and that is an eventuality that I refuse to contemplate. You want to know what to do? Buy us some time by making sure Denning's men get as little help as possible. Better yet, arrange for them to disappear." Mr. Black chuckled. "After all, Lifford is a pretty dangerous city."

"That might not be so easy," the Chairman said, wiping sweat from his forehead. "You do know who he's sending, don't you?"

"What do you think would happen to your plush lifestyle if the lid blows off of our past business?" Mr. Black smiled as more sweat formed on Edelson's forehead. "I'm confident you'll do your best."

"Mr. Edelson?" A voice crackled from the phone on his desk. Given the dark subject matter, he welcomed the interruption.

"What is it, Amy?"

"There are two men here, and they insist on seeing you now. They said they were sent by Admiral Denning."

Black stood to his feet. "I'd best get to work. Remember what I said, Mr. Chairman. I don't think a man your age would last long in prison. And even if you did, think of the fun the inmates would have with an ex-fat cat like you."

With his words still hanging in the air, Mr. Black walked out the door. Edelson took a moment to regain his composure and then punched a button on his phone. "You can send them in now."

"Yes, sir.

Walking into the office, Sagus couldn't help but be impressed. The room, which was at least as large as his apartment on Earth, was crafted entirely of walnut. Expensive paintings hung on the walls, and beautiful sculptures adorned solid wood pedestals. Twenty feet above their heads an exquisite carving depicted knights poised for battle outside a towering medieval castle—as if the massive domed ceiling it was carved into wasn't impressive enough.

By contrast, Helljumper walked straight past the luxurious surroundings and took a seat without so much as turning his head. Edelson reached across the table and shook his hand.

"An honor to meet you, Captain." The career ODST smiled slightly.


"And Lieutenant Sagus, I am glad to see that you've recovered." David shook the man's hand and took a seat next to Helljumper.

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to apologize for showing up so early." He shook his head and chuckled. "Slipspace is about as predictable as a woman."

Edelson smiled. "Believe me, I understand."

"But since we're here, we wanted to get right to it. There's no telling when O'Carrol is going to strike again."

"Indeed," the Chairman said nodding, "Just let me know what I can do to help. Anything at all." To Edelson's surprise, Helljumper immediately pulled a list from his pocket.

"For starters, we're going to need complete background information on the victims, as well as any records you have concerning their deaths."

"Those are matters you'll need to discuss with the civil authorities, gentlemen. I run a company, not a city." Helljumper took a folder out of his coat, removed a sheet of paper and sat it on the Chairman's desk.

"Sir, O'Carrol's actions may eventually compromise the UNSC's ability to prosecute our war against the Covenant. At stake is nothing less than the safety and preservation of the human race. Clearly then, this matter goes beyond civil jurisdiction. Admiral Denning has therefore given us complete authority regarding the apprehension of O'Carrol and, as you can read for yourself just above Denning's signature, you are to act as a liaison between your civil leaders and ourselves. To put it bluntly, you will use your influence and good name to grease the wheels of cooperation."

"Sir," Sagus said, looking at their host with genuine concern, "are you feeling okay? We can do this later if we have to." Blige Newton Edelson, CEO of StellarCorp and Chairman of Tethra's Industrial Board of Governors, took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice from shaking.

"No, I'm fine." He sucked in another lung full of air and managed a weak smile. "I'll make sure that you have full cooperation. I'm afraid that I have a meeting in a few minutes, so if you don't mind, I'll have Amy get everything together for you." Satisfied, the two visitors stood and took turns shaking the Chairman's hand. The moment the door shut behind them, Edelson picked up his phone and dialed a number.

Twenty kilometers away Philip Beerman, Lifford's Chief of Police, put down his crossword puzzle and looked at his beeping receiver. Only two people could call directly into his office, and one of them had left for Earth months ago.

Wonderful. "Hello?"


Beerman sighed. "What do you need, Blige?"

"Two soldiers arrived this morning from Admiral Denning, and they're here to find O'Carrol."

"'Bout time. I guess you can sleep a little easier now."

"Well," Edelson said nervously, "I'm not so sure about that. I, um, have reason to believe that O'Carrol has information that, should they take her alive, could prove to be damning. Remember that bit of business we did eight years ago?"

Beerman nearly dropped the phone. "Dear God."

"They just left my office, and they should be coming to you soon." Edelson paused, searching for the right words. "We need this problem to go away, Phil. Do you understand what I'm asking, or do I need to spell it out?"

The Chief of Police opened his desk drawer, wrapped five sweaty fingers around a small, black pistol and contemplated his immediate future. At the moment, death seemed like a pretty sweet deal. Mere months before, his marriage had come to an abrupt end when his wife of fourteen years left for Earth in the arms of his best buddy. In the despair that followed, he had been sure that he could sink no lower.

He had obviously been wrong.

Now he faced a difficult choice. He could either bring his life to a brutal end while sitting in the office he had so thoroughly abused, or he could put the gun away and do his best to cover his old sins with fresh, bloody new ones. After deliberating less than a minute, he tossed the pistol back in the drawer and closed it quickly.

"We're damned men, Blige: damned for what we've done, and damned for what we're gonna do."

"Don't speak nonsense. We've done what we've had to—nothing more. Now calm down, do your job, and this is where it will end."

Beerman let out a despairing sigh. "No, this will end in Hell, Blige. It will end in flames."

Sean Flannery sipped a cold cup of coffee as he waited in the alley beside McLoughlin's pub. Downtown Lifford was not a place most people would be caught alone, even in the middle of the day; but then, at six foot-three and nearly two hundred and fifty pounds, Sean wasn't most people. Gusts of up to sixty kilometers per hour blew his shoulder length brown hair into a tangled mess, but the rain had finally stopped, and for that he was thankful. Heck, he was even thankful for the stiff wind: half an hour of standing in the blow had nearly dried his previously soaked clothing. But he was most thankful for the tall, skinny man slowly making his way down the alley towards him. Terrence was their most trusted informant—and from the look on his face, he had just hit the jackpot.

He stopped a few feet away, and leaned against the wall to Sean's right. Under different circumstances, the two old friends would have embraced in friendship. But public meetings were risky enough, and there was no need to advertise that you were conducting business. All the same, the informant couldn't wipe the smile off his skinny face.

"It's good to see you Sean."

Flannery nodded, and tossed his cup into the pub's filthy dumpster. "It's been a while. O'Carrol was beginning to suspect your untimely demise."

"An ugly mate like me?" Terrence scoffed. "They'd take one look at this mug and be overcome with sympathy. It'd be like shivvin' a mental patient, an' no one's got a heart that black."

Sean chuckled. "What've you got, Terry?"

"Oh, Sean, it's good. I'd tell you to sit down if you weren't standing in a bloody puddle." He reached into his coat and pulled out a small envelope. "It's all in here." Flannery grabbed the information and stuck it under his jacket.

"And just what is it?"

If possible, the informant's smile got even wider. "Everything you're gonna need. It seems that a certain someone is finally venturing outside the Palace," he said, using the popular term for the Industrial Palisades.

"Are you gonna tell me who," Sean said sarcastically, "or will I have to beat it out of you?" Terrence gave him the name, and Flannery's mouth dropped open.

"Are you absolutely certain about this?"

The thin man chuckled. "Would I be here if I wasn't?" Sean shook his head slowly as he tried to come to grips with what he'd just been told.

"What's this gonna run us, Terry? Information like that doesn't come cheap." A dark look came over the informant's face.

"I don't want any money. Just make sure that man meets justice." Moments before, the voice had been cheerful, even jubilant. Now it trembled with anger and inconsolable grief.

Flannery turned and looked at Terrence, who now had tears trickling down his face. Throwing caution to the wind, he grabbed his old friend by the shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. "Terry, you have my word. He will meet justice, and with the names of your children still fresh in his ears." Terrence wiped the tears from his face and clasped a hand on Sean's shoulder.

"Then I'll consider myself paid in full."

Something was wrong, and both Helljumper and Sagus knew it. Problem was, neither of them knew what. Their meeting with Phillip Beerman, Lifford's Chief of Police, had gone well enough. Sure, he came off as manic-depressive at best, but judging from the city the man worked in, that was understandable. More importantly, he had given them the name of a likely place to start their search: McLoughlin's pub. Beerman said the tavern was a rebel hangout, and since they were fairly sure that Lifford was O'Carrol's base of operations, they would more than likely find someone with information to sell.

Helljumper parked their car a few blocks from the pub and the two of them approached on foot. One dilapidated building after another lined both sides of the street; each a gutted corpse of a failed business, useful now only as shelter for the homeless. Desperate eyes leered from sidewalks, alleys and doorways. Children were everywhere; climbing out of windows, running in the streets and screaming in their mother's arms. Filthy clothing hung on malnourished frames as they began reaching towards the clean-shaven strangers with hopeful hands and hollow eyes. Blige Edelson's opulent office in the Industrial Palisades might as well have been in a different galaxy.

Turning onto the main street, they could see McLoughlin's just half a block away; and even though it was only six o'clock at night, the small pub was already packed and noisy. Helljumper walked under the faded red sign, pushed through the door—and the place fell dead silent. Thirty unfriendly eyes followed him and Sagus as they walked across the room and sat down in front of the bar. Hostility hung thick as fog, but if the locals were hoping to see fear in the two men's eyes, they were sorely disappointed.

Looking around, Helljumper immediately saw the truth of it: the Chief had set them up. Every man in the room was carrying a weapon, and even though they were standing in the middle of a tavern, there wasn't a drink in sight. Since running away would only get the party started quicker, Helljumper decided to carry on as planned. He turned towards the short, thin bartender and spoke in a clear voice.

"I'm looking for information about Cairren O'Carrol, and I'm willing to pay for it." Rising from the stool he'd been sitting on, the barkeep walked over and stood in front of them.

"Oh, you're willing to pay? Did ya hear that, mates: they're willing to pay! What are ya waitin' for then? Come, sell yer souls to the Devil to help the likes of these filthy UN spies!" Hate burning in his eyes, the bartender leaned forward and spat in Sagus' face. "You can both go to Hell."

Right there, surrounded by enemies, with a stranger's saliva dripping off his nose, David began to realize how much rage he had locked inside. As a prisoner on Erebus, he had suffered more than any living man at the hands of rebels; and as he looked into the smug, smiling face that leered in front of him, the cork finally popped.

Before Helljumper even realized what was happening, David leapt across the bar and grabbed the bartender by the throat. Consumed by white-hot rage forged during months of unspeakable torture, the ex-special forces soldier slammed the man into the wall and pinned him there, feet dangling off the floor. As shocked silence prevailed throughout the pub, Helljumper saw Sagus' free hand sweep towards the twelve-millimeter pistol in the small of his back.

"David!" he yelled to his suicidal partner, as the other fourteen men began reaching for weapons of their own. But Sagus' mind was someplace else—and his hand had just found the handle of his M6C. Helljumper was good—real good—but even he couldn't take on this many men single-handed. On the other side of the counter, David's pistol cleared his belt.

"Lieutenant Sagus!" This time the ODST Captain yelled with such authority that more than one rebel dropped his gun. Finally shaken from his fit of rage, David turned his head.

But it was too late.

Triggers were squeezed and guns thundered as Helljumper dove over the counter and tackled Sagus to the ground. Hot lead smacked into the dry wall above them with dull thumps, spraying chunks of plaster through the room like brittle, white shrapnel. Hell rolled onto his back and yanked out his pistol as three rebels jumped over the bar. With Helljumper calling the tune, flame blossomed from their weapons in a grim dance of light and color that began with gold, and ended in red. Bits of brain and bone exploded into the air and the three rebels tumbled to the floor in a twisted, grotesque heap. Caught in the deadly crossfire, the mouthy bartender swayed back and forth for a moment before adding his corpse to the pile.

With four of his best soldiers lying dead behind the bar, rebel leader Raddy Lang signaled for his men to stop firing and took a moment to assess the situation. The long, solid oak counter ran in an 'L' shape across the front of the pub, with a slight overhang on the back. It provided their enemy with a measure of safety, but staying there too long meant certain death; and if he knew it, he had to assume that they knew it as well.

"You have no chance of fighting your way out of here," he called out in the friendliest voice he could muster. "If you want to live, throw your weapons over the bar, and come out with your hands above your heads!" Of course, he had no intention of letting them go, but lying was easier than fighting.

"You boys ever heard of what happened on Erebus?" a voice suddenly boomed from behind the counter. None of the rebels answered, but everyone knew the story. "Well, fellas, that was us. We fought wild-men, attacked a walled city defended by Turpolev himself, saw Spartans die, and stood unshaken in the presence of a Demon! We've defeated terrors from Hell itself, and mark my words: we will defeat you!"

Raddy Lang, a rebel and ex-Marine who had fought the Covenant and UNSC in more systems than most people could name, was immune to such obvious psychological trickery. The young men standing around him, however, were spellbound.

"It's nothin' but desperate talk," Lang stated calmly. "Pay it no mind. Now start—" But the voice called out again, cutting him off cold.

"You have until the count of five to drop your weapons on the floor and raise your hands in the air! Every man who obeys will get to go home alive; every man who does not will get his brains splattered across the room!" It would have sounded like empty bravado if they hadn't been splattered with brains mere moments before. In the brief silence that followed, Lang was the only rebel able to breathe.

"One!" The word rang out like thunder, echoing off the walls and sending a chill through the ranks. But, to Lang's relief, not one of his men caved.

"Two!" Three pistols clanked loudly to the ground, and the rebel leader was no longer relieved—he was angry.

"Listen to me!" Lang cried out in desperation. "The next man who dares drop his w—"

"Three!" In spite of his threat, more guns fell to the floor; and now the rebels were down to five men. Raddy nearly burst out of his skin.

"Pick up your weapons now, or I'll put you down myself! Do it!" But nobody moved, and even though he would've gladly made good on his promise, there simply wasn't time.

"Four!" Lang steeled his nerves, pointed his gun in the direction of the voice and waited for the final count.

Suddenly, two flaming bottles were tossed at them from behind the counter. With every eye fixed on the deadly projectiles and every mind consumed with the possibility of burning to death, Helljumper and Sagus emerged and quickly made good on their grim promise. Not a single man still holding a weapon lived to hear the bottles, which contained only ginger ale, shatter harmlessly on the hardwood floor. Six terrified, shaking rebels remained in the mini-battlefield; eyes wide as saucers and arms reaching up towards God. Weapons raised and ready, the two UNSC men stepped from behind the counter.

"As I told you a couple of minutes ago," Helljumper said with surprising calm, "I'm looking for information." Grabbing a pale, thin man by the hair, he led him across the room and tossed him on top of the bar. Without taking his eyes off the rebel's face, he placed the barrel of his gun on the man's leg and began circling it above his kneecap. "What's your name, son?" Looking up at one of the heroes of Erebus, the young man almost drew a blank.


"Okay Barry, let me explain the rules. I'm going to ask questions, and you're going to answer them." He pressed the gun down hard on the kneecap, and Barry winced in pain. "Do I need to explain what will happen if I don't like your answers?" The rebel shook his head. "Good, then let's talk about a lady named Cairren O'Carrol."

Due to the recent rash of executive assassinations, no fewer than twelve security guards accompanied Blige Edelson whenever he left the Industrial Palisades. Presently, four rode in the car in front of him, four in a car behind and four accompanied him in his limousine. It was quite a show of force, but even so, the rich and powerful man could neither relax nor feel the least bit secure. After all, the others had employed excellent security guards, and look what happened to them. In the end, however, there was little choice. Blige had loose ends that needed tying and lingering evidence that should have been destroyed long ago—and it wasn't the sort of thing you trusted somebody else to do. The Chairman glanced at his wrist and winced. It was already seven o'clock in the evening, and that meant he wouldn't have enough daylight to return to the Palisades.

This just wasn't his day.

The small convoy stopped at the entrance of Edelson Manor while a massive iron gate slowly opened. As they began driving down the long, heavily wooded path to his former home, Blige viewed the grounds with fond memories. Sure, things had become a bit overgrown, but the land was still beautiful, and he missed the quiet of the country. Perhaps he'd move back when O'Carrol was dealt with. Then again, both of his girlfriends did live in town, and that would mean a lot of additional lying to Mrs. Edelson, not to mention a lot more travel. Oh well, he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.

Emerging from the trees, the cars entered a circular drive that swept in front of the house. Seeing the sprawling mansion for the first time in many months, Blige basked in its stately majesty. Far and away the most luxurious home on the planet, it nevertheless sat completely empty. As they finally came to a stop, the thought troubled him.

Maybe I will move back here. I could always make Jennifer and Maria servants or something.

A guard approached and he lowered his window.

"Systems show no sign of trespassing or tampering, Mr. Chairman."

"Thank you, Mead. Tell the men they can go inside. We'll have to stay the night, so you'll use the servant's wing, with the usual exceptions." The guard nodded and opened Edelson's door.

"Very well sir. Will you require a personal guard tonight?"

"No," he said, obviously annoyed by the question, "I've got some personal business to attend to." Why do you think we didn't bring Jen or Maria, you moron?

A stiff breeze greeted him as he walked across the yard and into the house. Separating from the guards, he headed down a long, dim hallway until he came to his personal elevator. Quickly tapping out the twelve-digit code, he stepped inside and was lifted gently to his gargantuan bedroom on the third floor. Alone—completely alone—for the first time in recent memory, he looked at the room he had spent nearly six months designing, and smiled. He'd made his decision—mistresses or not, he was moving back to this place.

Yeah, I could get used to this again.

A long, powerful arm came out of nowhere and pinned him against the wall by his neck. Attached to the arm was the largest woman he had ever seen—and her expression was as red and fiery as her hair. Several men came from here and there in the room, and their looks were just as unfriendly.

"O-O'Carrol?" he stammered, almost unable to speak. The woman nodded. "Do y-you really think killing me will hurt the UNSC? Tethra's economy won't be hurt by my death." She almost smiled.

"I don't care about the UNSC or your precious economy." Edelson's face twisted in a mix of fear and confusion.

"Then what do you want?"

"Justice, Mr. Chairman. I'm interested in justice." She shoved him onto his oversized bed and looked down with contempt. "Eight years ago, at the height of the Silent Plague, you horded food and money and did nothing while millions suffered."

Blige scoffed. "What exactly was I supposed to have d—"

"But," she said, her eyes dancing with anger, "that isn't why I'm here—and that isn't all you horded." He suddenly understood.

"Vaccines?" At the mention of the word, O'Carrol's four henchmen bristled with fury.

"How many people are in your family, Mr. Edelson? Four, right? You're ignorant wife and two boys?" He nodded. "And how many doses of vaccine did you have?" The Chairman began to squirm.

"Some, n-not many, but some of those vaccine doses w-were faulty. I didn't want to take a chance that—"

"You had twenty-four doses of vaccine, Mr. Edelson." She shook her head in anger, took a deep breath—and then exploded. "Twenty-four! To save three people, you sentenced twenty-one to death!"

"P-please, there's more to this than you under—" With the speed of a striking snake, O'Carrol smashed her fist into Edelson's fat face, shattering bones and almost dislodging his right eye.

"Don't you dare make excuses for the death of our families! How many millions died to save a few fat, spoiled murderers?"

Blige tried to speak, but his jaw would barely respond. Somehow fighting off the pain and fear, he managed to form muffled words.

"Pweeze, hon't hill me. I mow fings yat you hon't. You're right apout the faccines, but hares more, awot more."

O'Carrol thought for a minute and then nodded. "Show me."

On the edge of shock, Blige stumbled across the room and removed a picture from the wall, revealing a safe. He dialed the combination and retrieved an inch thick stack of papers, which he then handed to O'Carrol. She thumbed through the documents for a couple of minutes and then her mouth dropped open. Turning her eyes to the Chairman with something beyond rage, she was about break the man's neck when she remembered their promise to Terrence, their friend and informer.

Like her, he'd lost three girls, but her daughters had been in their teens and early twenties. His were all under five. Sean had promised that Blige Edelson would die with their names in his ears, and she wasn't about to make a liar out of him. She spoke, pausing a few moments between each name.

"Katie Marie. Elizabeth Ann. Kimberly Joy." Tears streamed down Sean's face as he remembered his friend's grief at losing his three girls. He'd never forget the day Terry found Kimberly dead. The little eight-month old baby looked like she was sleeping, and might at any moment open her eyes, smile as only a baby girl can, and drive away her father's tears.

Sean was shaken from his memories by the sound of a neck being snapped. Blige Newton Edelson was dead, but then, so were their loved ones. He and O'Carrol had managed to kill so many of the people they hated, but they had never brought back a single one that they loved. Kimberly Joy was still dead; her body was still cold.

And she would never smile again.

C.T. Clown