Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 13)

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I nodded.

“That’s a moot point,” Edward said as I nodded. “He’s here now, one way or the other. We need to find out if he has it before it’s too late.”

“If I have what?” I exploded, rage making me careless as I remembered Edward’s hands running up and down Lila’s—my Lila’s—body. “You people have managed to completely wreck my life in the space of a few hours, the least you can do is give me an explanation.”

“We could search him,” Ms. Cold-Smile’s duplicate mused. “At least, his exterior. But we’ll have to wait for the doctor to find out if it’s inside him.”

“Inside me?” I spluttered, trying not to panic at the thought of what they would do to get whatever it was out. “There’s nothing inside me that shouldn’t be there. Lila never gave me anything to swallow. No pills or serums, no—”

“She never kissed you?” Not-Exactly-Lila purred.

Oh, we’d kissed. My god, how we’d kissed, and more. Remembering the heat of those kisses, the desperate fervor as Lila’s tongue explored my mouth, my breath caught in my sternum. I had assumed those kisses to be filled with passion, but what if they were filled with need, instead?

Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe.

Not-Exactly-Lila smiled viciously, her gaze predatory as she watched my thoughts play out through my expressions.

I wanted to deny the possibility, but I knew it was futile. With growing horror I recalled the first few moments after my Lila’s death, when Edward had scanned her hair, her body, her fingernails for whatever It was. If it were small enough that he thought she could hide it beneath a fingernail…

Edward nodded. “Outer exam now, then. The doctor should be here by the time we’ve finished.”

The younger Ms. Cold-Smile advanced toward me.

“Don’t worry,” she soothed, her expression as clinically reassuring as that of a pediatric nurse. “This part won’t hurt a bit.”

PART 14

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 10)

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He shoved the barrel of the gun into my lower back, directing me towards the waiting Mercedes just up the street. Blaring sirens and flashing lights overwhelmed my already shaky senses as I shuffled forward like a man walking the long mile. For all I knew that was exactly what I was, a dead man just waiting for the bullet in the back with my name on it.

Mr. Mercedes casually opened the drivers side door and motioned me to sit.

“Would you believe me if I said I can’t drive?” I asked wryly, momentarily surprised at the calmness of my own voice. Shock. Had to be.

“I’m afraid not,” he replied. “Get in.”

I did as I was told sitting down behind the wheel, wondering for a moment if I could speed off before he entered. I hesitated too long and felt the car shift as he sat across from me, his gun leveled at me as he held it casually just in front of his stomach. He seemed to be scanning the scene of chaos up the road, possibly looking for something in particular or just surveying the scene. I couldn’t tell which.

“Drive,” he said, tilting his head towards me. “Carefully. Do nothing to attract attention.” Gone was the mirth in his voice from moments before when he laughed at the mention of the sexy assassin’s death. I felt an involuntary chill, not just from the prospect of being in such close proximity to an armed man in a strange country, but the uncertainty of what lay ahead of me.

I put the car in drive and slowly edged it past the emergency vehicles and onlookers who were pointing and speaking amongst themselves. The hotel visitors shuffled about in the cool night air with looks of confusion and panic on their faces as emergency responders rushed to inspect them. How I would have loved to have been standing with them at that moment instead of sitting behind that wheel.

Once beyond the scene he told me to speed up and we started to put distance between ourselves and the hotel. It occurred to me that sitting in the car with a gun pointed at me was the most peaceful moment I had experienced since it all began.

“I don’t suppose you would like to tell me what this is all about?” I said, my knuckles white as I tried to keep the vehicle moving in a straight line. The streets were thankfully quiet leaving few obstacles for me to avoid and the orange glow of the street lamps gave the city a haunted look as we drove through the night.

“Not particularly,” he replied, still scanning the night. “Unless, of course, you want to tell me where it is?” I knew he must have meant whatever it was that Lila had possessed.

“I don’t know, honestly,” I replied, keeping my voice calm and hoping I sounded convincing. I shuddered to think what the man would do if he suspected I knew something, which of course I didn’t.

“She didn’t have it,” he said casually. “My guess is it’s either on you… or in you.”

“What?”

“Take the next left.”

I did as he asked and brought the car around into a poorly lit street. Is this it? I thought to myself. Is this where I die? Sure seemed like a likely place to get murdered.

“Pull over…” he started to say. There was a bright flash of light through his window from an adjacent alleyway. The world erupted into a chaos of broken glass and numbing pain. I felt myself become momentarily weightless, then blackness.

As I came to all I could sense was a sharp throbbing pain in my neck and pressure on my chest. It wasn’t long before that pain was joined by others all over my body. Disoriented, I dared to open my eyes. The car was on its side, passenger side down, leaving me half slumped half hanging from the seat belt that held me fast in place in the drivers seat. I groaned as my body shifted waking a whole new batch of painful sensations.

I glanced over and saw Mr. Mercedes, his head bloodied and eyes closed. His chest was rising and falling causing small fragments of glass to tumble clinking to the ground. The gun was nowhere to be seen, but the scrap of paper with the address lay partially crumpled on the cement showing through the shattered window. I felt an urge to reach for it.

Headlights faced me through what remained of the windshield forcing me to squint. Through barely open eyelids I saw a figure approach, backlit by the white glare. It was a tall lean figure moving with grace and confidence but I could not make out any fine details in the silhouette as it approached.

As the figure came closer I began to make out more. It was a woman, that much was sure, in a long coat and high heeled boots. Whoever she was she closed the distance quickly and finally stood before me, her face just hidden by the rim of the window shield. She leaned forward and looked at me with a face ringed by red locks of auburn hair.

“Lila?…” My heart skipped a beat. It was her. The face of the woman I loved. In every detail the same. Her full, red lips. Her skin like silk.  All of it the same. Except for the hair… And the eyes. The eyes were cold, like those of a predator.

“Not exactly,” she replied, a slender blade appearing in her black gloved hand.

PART 11

 

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 9)

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Everything in me, wanted to jump over the barrier that separated the walkways from the water. If only to drown away the emotions from the day. I could still smell the acrid stench of smoke hanging on my clothes. I could still see Ms. Cold Smile’s grin taunting my subconscious, as she fell to her death.

Just what the hell had Lila been hiding? Peering down at the paper I noted the address, which may have been in a foreign language, for all my knowledge of the area. The bustling of people around me hadn’t slowed, though it was near nightfall. Perhaps, if I could manage to be brave enough, I could find someone willing to help me.

The faces around me all had the same thing in common. They were unfamiliar, and I knew one thing. I was low on money, and I had nothing to prove I was who I said I was. Damn. I turned to face the water, resting my elbows on the wall, and buried my face in my hands.

“What the Hell am I to do?” I said aloud. I felt something hard jab into my back, and Mr. Mercedes voice slithered like a snake to my ears.

“Well, you can start by coming with me, and not making a fuss… You see… Killing a man in broad daylight is minuscule compared to setting off a bomb in a building full of innocent people. Have I made my point?”

“Damn.” I muttered, and nodded my head up and down. “How the Hell did you find me anyway?”

“Wasn’t hard. You came running from that building like ants from an ant hill. Did you really think it would be that easy to be rid of me?” I shook my head ‘no.’ “Which leads me to ask…” He glared at me.

“What?” I responded indignantly.

“Was there a lady assassin in there with you? Sexy? Lethal?”

“Yeah.” I paused. “She didn’t last long.” The look on his face was one of total surprise.

“You mean, they got to her?”

“Actually, I would say ‘you‘ did. That nifty little bomb you planted sent her plummeting to her death.” I waited to see the look on his face. He stepped back from me at that moment and then, for no reason at all, started chuckling.

Mr. Mercedes laughed and laughed, tears coming out of his eyes. His cheeks reddened from the blood flow. Had he absolutely lost it?

“Oh, oh… I’m sorry. What a way to go…” He paused for a minute, regaining his composure. “Well, that takes care of that, I guess. One less person for me to deal with.” He was still chuckling, and without warning, yanked the paper with the address out of my hand. He quickly flashed the barrel of his gun at me. I nodded my understanding. “Well then, let’s go, shall we? Things to do and people to kill,” he said jovially.

Hot damn, what was about to go down? 

PART 10

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 4)

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I made it down and into the lobby without a word to my elevator traveling companion. I find it hard to trust anyone who has ever pulled a gun on me. I kept him in my peripheral vision to avoid a stare down. Something here didn’t seem right. Hell, it wasn’t right. It crept in like a whisper and intensified as the floor numbers got lower.

By the time the elevator stopped, it was an inescapable clamor. I had to lose this asshole and get back to the room. How was that going to work? We walked through the empty lobby and out onto the sidewalk. Mr. Mercedes made me nervous enough not to pay any specific attention at first to the fact we were the only people in the hotel. The concierge and clerk who were always at their post were gone. Not a soul in the typically bustling lobby.

This whole thing is wrong and getting wronger. I need to get back up there now.

I tried, “I will meet up with you later, there is something I have to take care of.”

Mr. Mercedes stared back with a scowl, I was surprised when he answered, “How long do you need?”

“Not sure.” I knew he could tell I was bullshitting, I bit my lip to attain some focus. “Give me an hour, I’ll meet you…” The nag of suspicion was blown away by the tsunami of realization. “Fuck me! Everything I have in this country is in that room…my money… my passport…” I knew I was cooked.

Mr. Mercedes showed more surprise than I would have expected but he blurted out “casino, one hour” under his breath before he bolted himself. I considered my options carefully over the next one and half seconds. As the second hand drifted in slow motion in the direction of two, I turned back toward the hotel doors. I walked the fifteen or so steps re-weighing my options.

Out of habit I thanked the door man and stepped into the lobby. It didn’t even strike me as odd until I heard the noise from the lobby which was bustling like an entry gate at the super bowl. “What the ffff….” I said it out loud. A large man bumped into me in the commotion and looked me up and down as if I said it to him. I ducked my head down and tried to press through the crowd toward the elevator.

PART 5

 

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 2)

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Shocked as I was I answered it. My mind screamed a warning, but with the love of my life dead in front of me, I didn’t heed it.

Another man was at the door. He had dark short hair and a handlebar moustache. He seemed to be well-dressed, but at the moment details were not at the forefront of my mind.

With no hesitation this new man raced around me to Lila’s corpse. Although he had a grim look on his face he rifled through her clothing, her fingernails and her hairline as well.

Based on his scowl and deep grumbling he didn’t find what he was looking for. “It’s not here … maybe, I hope, it never was.”

He turned to me. He took a small piece of paper from his shirt, and a pen from the desk in the room. “Remember this address, and then destroy it. Go here and tell them that Lila is dead and she did not have it. You will be told what to do next by the people there.” He made a quick phone call.

“I’ll need a cleaning crew at –“he gave the address of our hotel and room number, and then hung up.

“You are in what are likely very unusual and sorrowful events for you, my friend. I am sorry for your loss and wish you luck. Goodbye.” He opened the room door, and after looking to each side, rushed out, closing the door behind himself, so that no one could see in.

Before he fully closed it, he reopened it to turn to me. “I nearly forgot: leave your passport and any personal IDs, and your phone if you have one. You should not be traceable.” Now he left – his destination unknown.

I was now alone with Lila’s body and an address on paper. I read it, but couldn’t get rid of it just yet. She was the one who knew Zurich, not me. I would have to keep it until I had something better to work with.

I took my papers from my pocket then looked at Lila’s form again. With a shaky voice, I said goodbye to her, then left.

PART 3

 

Exploits of a Midnight Traveler (Part 1)

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ZURICH, Switzerland (JUNE 4)

We had the greatest week of our lives as we were free to do whatever we pleased after graduation. Lila always dreamed of going to Switzerland and I followed her because she was my closest friend in the world. She studied European history and imagined a past life there. We saw all the sights. Lake Zurich. The churches. The museums. We spent two days in Konstanz and had our first kiss. I was smooth and leaned in as we watched the sunset over the lake. Lila had long brunette hair and tan skin. The trip was everything I ever wanted and imagined.

Everything changed when Lila said she was going to the lobby to meet an old friend who had driven a long way to see her. Not wanting to seem jealous, I said it was cool, but waited six minutes before sneaking out the room to see what she was up to. I took the stairs just in case she forgot something. Along the edge of the main corridor I walked. Only an older man with an oversized grey mustache and old blue suit noticed my stealth mode. I peeked around the corner to find Lila chatting with a guy I thought I recognized, but didn’t. I snooped from a distance and waited.

And waited.

They talked for an hour. At the end of the chat, they exchange handshakes and she returned to the room. I followed the man out as far as I could and saw him leave in a black Mercedes. This seemed highly unusual; I needed to ask Lila what was going on. I took my time returning to the room as I needed to gather my thoughts. Lila wasn’t a girl who liked being confronted. I swiped my keycard to the room and entered.

Lila was on the floor. Blood soaked into the carpet by her head. I leaned in next to her with trembling hands. “Lila … lila …” I shook her arm and turned her over.

She was dead.

I cursed and looked around the room for clues.

Then there was a knock at the door.

PART 2