Talent, Chapter 9
I wrote this chapter last evening between 7 and 9pm. It hasn’t been edited or proofread.
You can’t buy the book, not yet; it’s not written. But this is a sample of what I’m writing now. And even without having read the chapters, the two books which have been written before this one, even without knowing where the story will take you, I hope you’ll find it interesting:
“Come on in, Bobby. We’ll have supper in a while. You can take a shower and change while you’re waiting, spend the night here and go back to the mine tomorrow. How’s the leg doing?”
“I think Doc Shezzie was right, it’s growing. It looks funny, too, lumpy in places. Maybe Doc will know. But sometimes it hurts and the rest of the time it itches like fury.”
“I’m guessing you picked up some of my other talents besides levitation. We’ll try later tonight or maybe tomorrow morning after Shezzie leaves for the clinic; she’ll be home soon. You’ll have to put up with my cooking, at least some of it. We’ve got steaks and potatoes. I’ll get them wrapped in foil and on the barbecue while you’re getting cleaned up. She’ll do the frozen veggies, I’ll do the rest. There’s beer and wine in the cooler when you’re ready. And there are towels in the guest bathroom.”
“Thanks, T. Not all the itching is coming from the stump! I suspect I’m not fit to be around people right now. Be back in a little while.”
Bobby floated down the hallway toward the bedroom and T went out to the patio. The gas grill was already hot, so T punched holes in the large potatoes to vent gases from building up while the potatoes cooked. Wrapping them in aluminum, he placed them on the grill and closed the lid. Fifteen minutes, perhaps? The potatoes always cooked slower than the steaks. Best to check them in five minutes, give them the fork test.
Shezzie drove up while the potatoes cooked. T poured her a glass of merlot and had it ready when she came in.
“Bobby’s here. He’s showering and he’ll be out in a bit. He was telling me the stump looks lumpy, now that it’s growing.”
“I’ll need to take a look at it. All this regrowth, one thought that crossed my mind was cancer. Growing a leg likely uses some of the same changes to cell ultrastructure that happens when a cell becomes cancerous. That’s one reason I didn’t want to scan the stump with an X-ray. It would be a shame to be forced to amputate the leg because it became cancerous.”
“We can wait until after dinner, can’t we?”
“Sure, that won’t make a difference. But if I don’t look at it tonight, I’ll need to see him first thing tomorrow morning. Make sure he understands that. With some cancers, they’re only curable if you catch them in the initial stages. After they metastasize, it’s often too late.”
Bobby came out and helped himself to a Modelo before joining Shezzie at the table. The vegetables, green beans and a squash dish, were ready. T was outside at the grill, but the steaks were cooking and he’d be in shortly.
“Bobby, T told me about your itching stump. You said it’s lumpy?”
“Yeah, a small lump on the front, kind of long, and a thicker one in the back.”
“I think I should look at it, right after dinner. But for now, let’s just enjoy the evening. Are you finding anything at the mine?”
“Nothing new. T’s the only one who knows about how far back that ore body extends. I looked at the surface, collected a few rocks and cracked them with my hammer. Nothing special. I found an old five-wire barbed wire fence back there, way back in the mountains. It might be the old Bureau of Land Management fence, but if it is, they haven’t been maintaining it. It’s down in a lot of places.”
“Maybe T would know. He’s been looking at the old deed, trying to find the ranch’s boundaries. It’s been frustrating. A lot of landmarks are simply missing since the ranch was laid out.”
“Yeah, that happens a lot with some of these old deeds. What’s Ray doing?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him and Ana Maria hasn’t said anything. I could call him if you want.”
“No, don’t bother. I just wondered.”
“If I see him, I’ll tell him you asked. Those steaks should be about done, shouldn’t they?”
On cue, T brought in the platter of steaks and a bowl filled with roasted potatoes. Shezzie put out the vegetables, added a butter tray and knife, then laid a loaf of French bread with a slicing knife for that. A separate bowl contained sour cream and bacon bits.
Bobby ate two of the steaks and looked wistfully at the empty platter.
T had a glass of the merlot and refilled Shezzie’s glass, emptying the bottle. Bobby got a second Modelo and the three settled into the living room.
“Doc, you want to look at this stump, have at it. I’ll just kick back with this beer. Pretty good, T.”
“I like Mexican beers. Modelo and Bohemia are excellent, some of the others are good, a few are poor. For what it’s worth, one of the poor quality ones is really popular over here. No accounting for tastes, I suppose.”
T had been leaning back in his comfortable recliner. Suddenly he sat bolt upright.
<Shezzie! Did you hear something?>
<I heard something. I didn’t recognize the comm. It wasn’t Ray or Ana Maria, that much I can tell you.>
<Yeah, Ray. Did you pick up a comm?>
<Something. I wasn’t sure. It’s nobody I know. Anyway, it’s not there now.>
<I can’t pick up anything either. Strange. Could it be one of the oldtimers in LDC?>
<I doubt it. They have only a trace of the talent, and Shorty doesn’t even have that.>
<If you’re not doing anything important, come on over. Bobby’s here with us. Bring Ana Maria if she wants to come.>
<I’ll ask her, but don’t hold your breath. She’s busy writing the Great American Novel. Maybe the Great Mexican American Novel, who knows?>
Ray broke the connection but soon drove up the driveway and parked.
“What are you guys drinking?”
“Bobby’s having a beer, Shezzie and I are having wine. I’ll open another bottle if you’re interested.”
“Got any of the scotch left?”
“Sure, give me a minute. Over ice, right?”
Ray joined the others and sipped his drink.
“Anything unusual about that comm?”
“Not very strong, I thought. Shezzie?”
She sipped the wine and thought.
“Not strong, you’re right. And it seemed a little…well, high pitched? Does that make sense?”
“That could have been it. I couldn’t understand anything.”
Bobby looked from one to another. His own telepathic Talent was weak, but he hoped it would get better with practice. For now, it often was no more than a buzzing in his ears.
The other three sipped and thought.
Suddenly the comm was back. And this time, it was easily understood.
Joe’s phone rang. He and Shorty were watching a documentary on the Military Channel, another rerun of the series about World War Two. Shorty had watched this one several times, wondering if he had been one of the men exiting a landing craft on Omaha Beach. He’d been there, but there had been a lot of landing craft chugging their way to the beach.
So far, he’d seen no one he recognized. But still he watched; perhaps the next time would be the one.
“Joe, it’s T. Is Shorty there?”
“Sure is, want to talk to him?”
“No. I was more interested in your daughter Libby. Is she there?”
“No, she’s next door. She said she’d come home from school with Sherrie and they’d finish their homework at Sherrie’s house, then probably come over here and play video games.”
“Can you call her?”
“Sure, or she can call you back when she gets home.”
“I’d rather you called her now, please. I’ll hold.”
Joe laid the phone down and went next door. He was back in a moment.
“T, she didn’t come home with Sherrie. Sherrie said she didn’t show up at school today.”
“Joe, can you put Shorty on the phone? Or if you have two phones, put him on the extension?”
“Hang on. Dad, pick up the kitchen phone.”
“Shorty, I just picked up a message. Don’t ask me how, but I think it’s your granddaughter. She’s been abducted. She was calling for you and her dad. She called her mom at first, but the last two calls have been for you two.”
“What did she say, T?”
“It didn’t make sense at first. She called Dad, then Grandpa. Something about being afraid and two bad men. Have you had phone calls or have you had trouble with neighbors, anything like that?”
“No, nothing, T. I’ll call you back, I’m calling the police.”
“You need to do that, all right. But you can’t tell them where you got the information. Just say she went off to school like always and never arrived.”
T thought for a moment.
“Shorty, I’m coming to Vegas. I’ll see you when I get there.”
“T, there’s no airport at LDC, despite that danged sign. It’s gonna take you a long time to drive up.”
“I’m not driving, Shorty. See you in a little while. And keep your mouth shut about me, OK? You can…just reassure Joe that I’m your friend. But let’s not take the conversation further, OK?”
“I’ll do that, Mr. T. Maybe you can help.”
“I’m going to Vegas. Ray, you might want your wingsuit or maybe you’ll want to drive. But I can’t wait. Bobby, you stay here with Shezzie. I’ll keep you posted. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
T walked out but came back shortly. He was wearing leather biker clothes and carrying a motorcycle helmet. A light backpack with a change of clothes was in the other hand.
“I’ll keep in touch. I’ve got my plastic, I’ll get a car at the airport. Better than raising eyebrows by zipping down Glitter Gulch.”
“Yeah, someone on Fremont would be bound to notice that, a guy dressed like a biker but riding an invisible Harley?”
T smiled and shrugged into the backpack.
“See you when you get there, Ray.”
He pulled the helmet into place and closed the visor. A quick shake to settle everything into place and T walked out the door to the patio. A deep breath, and he lifted straight up, curving north after reaching five hundred feet altitude. Ray watched for a moment; T’s body inclined forward and he began accelerating across the desert. Ahead lay mountains, but T continued rising while racing toward Las Vegas. Clearly, T had continued to improve his levitating ability. Ray…had spent more time with the horses and Ana Maria. He resolved to find out what kind of breakthrough T had made.
<Ray, I’ll stay in touch. I’ll be there shortly, this is faster because I can go straight and I’m cranking the miles pretty good now. I’ll use my precognition, see if I get a hunch while I’m circling. I’ll just pause in a few places, get an indication, then go on to the next place and do it again. Make sure you bring a map, because I’m going to triangulate until I find Libby. I should have an idea by the time you get here.
<You’ll be short on sleep by tomorrow, T.>
<Not the first time, Ray. It won’t matter. One thing I found out in Afghanistan, I get mean when I’ve gone without sleep.>
<Yeah, me too. See you there, T. Good luck, buddy.>
<Thanks, Ray. You too.>
Ray drove the short distance to his house and packed an overnight bag. Explaining his reasons to Ana Maria took only seconds. She’d heard nothing of Libby’s panicked telepathic call.
A perfunctory kiss, and five minutes later Ray was driving toward Las Vegas. As soon as he reached the open highway he floored the accelerator.
“Mister…Joe, was it?…. Are you certain your daughter didn’t just stop somewhere with a friend?”
“Her friend is home, and she doesn’t have other ones. She’s never done anything like this. Matter of fact, she’s been spending a lot of time with my father while the divorce was going through. But my father’s here too. No one has seen Libby. I called my ex-wife, she’s on her way down. And no, she hasn’t seen or heard from Libby.”
“I’ll need a description. You don’t happen to have a recent photo, do you? School picture, maybe? And what was your daughter wearing?
“I’ll activate Amber Alert. If any of the cruisers sees a little girl dressed like yours, they’ll call it in. Expect a call from the FBI as soon as they’re notified.”
But no one saw Libby.
And no one saw the man in the black leather biker suit and helmet drift around the city, pausing from time to time, trying to follow a thread that only he could sense. All night T continued, nothing very usable. Sometimes he got nothing at all, other times a vague urge to go in a certain direction. It was very frustrating. Once again, a little girl was in danger, and he could do nothing.
Finally, T found a deserted spot and changed out of the leathers as the sky was lightening in the east. He stashed them, along with the helmet, atop a roof. The service station had been boarded up some time in the past; no one would be looking on the roof for leather clothing and a motorcyclist’s helmet. Dressed in casual jeans and a sport shirt, T rented a car at the airport and drove toward the downtown area.
He called Ray and arranged for the two to meet. Ray intended to stop somewhere for breakfast and T suggested a location.
As it happened, the location was on Balzar Avenue. A short distance away was Martin Luther King Boulevard, west of Interstate 15.
That area, along with another not far away, was ranked in the top ten worst neighborhoods in the nation based on crime statistics. Locals understood; most made sure they didn’t show undue interest in goings-on.
Goings-on such as a nondescript van with two drivers who drove into a garage and quickly closed the door. A click announced the locking of the door.
Then the house was silent.