Tuesday, May 15, 2018

#047: SHATTERED GLASS




BY THE TIME MAGGIE and I had arrived back at the Police station, the effect of the goblin mist had worn off of Anthony. He’d been sitting at a desk filling out paperwork when we walked in.

Anthony cried. Maggie cried. I pretended not to cry. It had all happened as I said it would.

Diana had gone home to recuperate from her temporary blindness. I’d wanted to see how she was doing, but it would have to wait. It was late and she would need her sleep.

Pat was still on duty. She’d refused to go home until she’d heard back from me. In fact, she wanted me to do paperwork.

“A statement?” I said.

“A statement, Norman, yes,” she said. “I need you to fill out a statement. Tell us what went down tonight, on the record.”

“Come on, Pat,” I said. “What good is that gonna do? No one’s gonna to believe it. There was a dang minotaur and a giant slug involved. You’d be locked up in the loony bin if you file that.”

“It still has to be done,” Pat said. “I don’t have to file the paperwork officially, but it will be good to have it on paper.”

“Well,” I said, yawning. “Can it wait till tomorrow? I feel like I’ve been dragged over about four hundred miles of Kansas asphalt.”

“It’s always best to get it on paper while it’s still fresh.”

“Trust me, Pat,” I said. “I ain’t gonna forget this one for a great long time.”

I had planned on heading straight for home, but then I remembered that I had two small bottles of chocolate milk sitting in the mini fridge at the office. I didn’t think I had any at home, and I really didn’t feel like running to the store.

So, I told Pat where to find Cleon’s body, and I headed for the office.

I downed the first bottle of milk in four big gulps before I’d even closed the fridge door. I took up the second bottle and stepped over to the window. Jack had done a good job, the new glass looked great. I sipped at the chocolate milk and looked out on Main.

I’d spent most of the last two days fighting, being injured, healing, being injured again, and even taking some time off to visit the Black. A couple of days like that can really take a toll on a person. I was only a quarter of the way in to my second bottle of chocolate milk when I started to crash.

The idea of spending the night in the office, sleeping there at the desk, sounded simply divine to my exhausted brain. So, with my gun belt still on, I took a seat behind the desk and let my head fall forward, welcoming sleep like an old friend.

I didn’t have the nightmare. I don’t always have the nightmare. That makes me happy, knowing that each time I fall asleep I’m not going to dream about having my intestines pulled out. It’s the little things in life you have to cling to.

I did dream, however. It was fuzzy, something about Diana shooting little bald men full of arrows. When I asked her what she was doing, she held a finger to her lips, made a shushing noise and said:

“Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting zealots.”

Then she laughed like Elmer Fudd.

Trinity was there as well, with all three heads looking both sad and scared.

“Why didn’t you come back for me?” the dog said from all three mouths. “I waited.”

“I did come back for you,” I said. “You were gone. Where did you go?”

But Trinity faded away to be replaced by Maggie.

“I’m not safe,” she said. She still wore the rags she’d had on when I’d left her at the station. “You thought you could save me, but the monsters are still out there.”

“You’re safe,” I said. “You’re home.”

“I was safe before,” said Maggie. “And they still took me. They can take me again.”

“I won’t let that happen.”

“What are you going to do, Norman?” She said. “You can’t watch me all of the time. You can’t watch all of us. You can’t save all of us.”

“Why are you saying this?” I said. “I saved you.”

“Wake up, Norman,” she said.

“What?”

“Wake up.”

She pushed me and I found myself rolling down a steep and rocky hill. I bounced as I hit rocks as large as my head.

“Wake up, Norman Oklahoma.”

But this time the voice wasn’t Maggie’s, and it wasn’t in the dream. Someone was in the office with me.

I woke with a start.

A figure stood by the window. The lights were out in the office, but the figure was silhouetted by the streetlights from outside.

“Who are you?” I asked, standing and resting each hand on the butt of a pistol.

“You made me look like a fool, human,” the figure said with a man’s voice. A familiar voice. “I do not like being made to look a fool.” He had his back to me as he watched the world outside.

“I make a lot of people look foolish,” I said. “But not more often than I do myself.”

I reached out and pulled the cord to the lamp on my desk, powering it on.

The man turned as light crept into the room. He wore a suit and had bleach-blond hair. He smiled an unfriendly smile.

It was Stone Face from the pub. Furthermore it was a...

“Vampire,” I said.

On instinct I drew both revolvers, thumbing back the hammers as they cleared leather.

The vampire charged.

I opened fire.

I alternated between the gun in my right hand and the gun in my left. I worked like a machine. Right, then left. Right, then left. Not too fast, not too slow–just right, then left–squeezing off shot after shot.

The slugs slammed into the vampire, knocking him back a step with each shot. I stepped forward, following the biter back across the room toward the window.

By the time I’d fired off my ninth shot, the biter was up against the glass. The window that looked out over Main Street. The window I’d been thrown out of by a walrus just the other morning.

My tenth shot hammered into him and he fell back against the glass. I heard the it crack and I fired off shot eleven. He slammed into glass again and it shattered behind him. Shot twelve took him out through the open window and he fell, following the shattered glass to the empty sidewalk below.

I holstered the pistols and ran to the desk. I pulled open the top right drawer. In it was a box of bullets. Not your regular ones, but custom made. These were made of silver. They were vampire killers. I grabbed some up and loaded both pistols as I ran to the window.

I looked down at the fallen biter as I slid the last cartridge home. He’d picked himself up from the sidewalk and looked up at me. Then he ran.

I considered shooting him down, but I’d happened to blast him out the window as one of Eudora’s finest had been driving by. I’d also managed to gather a small crowd, regardless of the hour, and I didn’t feel good about opening fire among innocents.

I took one last look at the broken window as the sound of running feet thundered up the stairs, and I realized that I was gonna have to call Jack back out to put in more glass.

Maybe I should just brick the thing up.

THE END… FOR NOW.






So ends Volume One of the Adventures of Norman Oklahoma. It's taken a long time to get here, but get here we did.

There will be more Norman Oklahoma coming at you in the very near future. In fact, I'm working on the next story right now. Until then, I'm going to take a few weeks off. Hopefully no more than 4, but it might be more like 8 while I get ready to start in on Volume Two. I like to have a number of chapters under my belt before I start.

But hey, now that Volume One is over, wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One, on eBook now for just $4.99 to read on all of your electronic devices.

JUST CLICK HERE or click the cover below.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

#046: CHOCOLATE MILK




“YOU NEED NOT FEAR me, Maggie Keaton,” Mike said. “I have no intention of harming you.”

Mike’s voice was deep and soothing. It made you ignore his monstrous appearance and see the compassion that rode in his eyes.

“In fact,” Mike said. “I wanted to thank you.”

“Thank me?” Maggie said.

“You freed me from the dark wizard’s spell,” said Mike. “Who knows what terrible wrongs I would have committed under his control. If there is any service I may be able to do for you, Maggie Keaton, you only need ask.”

“Um,” Maggie said, looking more than a little embarrassed. “I can’t really think of anything.”

“Take this,” Mike said, handing her a large, brass coin. “If you need me, hold this to your heart, think of me, and I will come.”

“Okay, wow,” Maggie said, her embarrassment growing. “Thanks.” She pocketed the coin.

“Norman,” Mike said, turning to me and clapping me on the shoulder. My knees threatened to buckle. “It has been a long time. I hope that you are doing well. It pleases me to see that I did you no permanent damage.”

“You mean the hug?” I laughed. “It was nothing. How are you doing? It ain’t every day you fall under a magic spell.”

“I will admit that I did not handle it well once freed,” he said.

Now, I ain’t never seen a bull shamed before, wouldn’t know what the expression would look like on a bovine face. But I could see it now on Mike’s.

“I have spilled much blood this night,” Mike continued. “But it was this one I was looking for specifically.” He gestured to the body of the High Priest. “But I see that you have handled that already.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Sorry, but it needed doing. What about the rest of the Brotherhood?”

“There were few who escaped,” Mike said. “They are still running. You need not worry about the Brotherhood. The head has been cut off, and the body has been scattered to the four winds.”

“So no more kidnappings?” Maggie asked. “He said there were going to be thirteen more.”

“I think I may remain here for a while,” Mike said. “I’ll keep an eye out for activity with the Brotherhood. I am the only one of my kind in the area. If the Brotherhood wants to continue with the sacrifices, they will need me. But this time, if they come looking, they will not like what they find.”

“Here,” Maggie said, holding out the brass knuckles. “If another wizard comes after you, these will break the spell.”

“Thank you,” Mike said, the brass knuckles looking like a toy in the palm of his hand. “You do me a great honor.”

“You let me know if you need anything, Mike,” I said.

“I will, thank you, Norman.”

And with that, Mike turned and walked back through the corridor, and into the labyrinth.

“He seems nice,” Maggie said, smiling.

“Mike’s a peach.”

Outside the moon hung lazily in the sky, a gibbous moon that was slowly on its way to becoming full.

“Thank you,” Maggie said as we stood outside the door and took in the night. “You know, for coming to get me.”

“You ain’t gotta thank me for that,” I said. “It’s what I do. Besides, in the end, you saved me.”

“Yeah, only then you saved me.”

“Okay, we can go back and forth on who saved who. You’re out and breathing. That’s all that matters.”

“Well, all the same, at one point, when they had me in my cage, I’d begun to think that I would die in there. But then you showed up.”

“Well,” I said, shuffling my feet and looking at the ground. “I’m happy to oblige.” I don’t do complements too well.

We made our way across the field to my car.

“What do we do now?” she asked as I started up the engine.

“I take you home,” I said. “Your fiancĂ© cries, you cry, I pretend not to cry. Everyone is happy.”

“Sounds good,” she said, a smile on her face. “And you?”

“Me?”

“Yeah. What does a man typically do after saving a damsel in distress?”

“Well, I can’t speak for the rest of them, but me,” I scratched at my chin. “I plan on throwing back a celebratory bottle of chocolate milk and sleeping for at least sixteen hours.”

“That sounds wonderful,” she said. “Except for the chocolate milk. I’m lactose intolerant.”

“That’s the most horrible thing I’ve heard all night,” I said.

She laughed and I pulled out onto the gravel road, heading back into town.






Enjoying The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma?

Wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One, on eBook now for just $4.99 to read on all of your electronic devices.

JUST CLICK HERE or click the cover below.

Monday, May 7, 2018

#045: STAND OFF




CLEON LOOKED LIKE HELL.

I’d only seen his face for a second before he ducked behind Maggie, using her as a shield as he peered at me over her left shoulder. But what I saw wasn’t looking too healthy.

“What is this, Cleon?” I said, pointing my guns at what little I could see of him. “It’s over, you know it.”

Cleon popped up over Maggie’s shoulder.

His upper lip was torn, swollen, and trickled blood. His right eye was swollen shut and turning black. And his nose was bent in an unnatural way. Most of his face seemed to be crusted in blood which cracked and broke as he attempted a smile.

I could have popped off a shot, taken him down right there, but Maggie was struggling against him, and I didn’t want her head to move in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

“Asterion demands that this woman’s blood be shed in his name,” the High Priest said. “I will spill her blood. Then I’ll gut you next.”

“You sound pretty sure about this,” I said, both barrels staring him down.

“Norman?” Maggie said, her voice wavering on the edge of panic.

“Don’t worry, Maggie,” I said. “I ain’t gonna let nothing happen to you.”

I knew what had to be done, and I needed her still and relaxed.

“The Bull God demands her blood,” Cleon said. “So He demands, so it shall be.”

“Mike wants no such thing,” I said.

“You will call him Asterion,” Cleon said, his voice going quiet.

“Sure,” I said. “No problem. I’m just saying, I know Asterion pretty well, and this isn’t what he would want.”

“You dare to pretend to know the mind of a god!”

“Mike’s no god, son. He’s mighty powerful, sure. But he bleeds, just like you.”

“You will call him Asterion!” His one eye blinked furiously at me over the top of Maggie’s shoulder.

“How do you think this is gonna end?” I asked.

Cleon looked confused.

“Say you kill the both of us,” I said. “I mean, I ain’t gonna let that happen, but say you do. What’s the plan after that?”

“Thirteen more nights of sacrifice,” Cleon said. “Six more girls, seven boys. Asterion will bathe in their blood and we will draw power from it.”

“And what if I won’t let you,” I said.

“You?” Cleon laughed. “You have no power to stop me.”

“I have these,” I said, giving both pistols a quick shake.

“I am the High Priest of Minos, ape. Your paltry fire arms can’t touch me.”

“Sure,” I said. “You proved that back there, that’s for certain. I have to admit I was a little taken aback when my bullet bounced off that magic barrier. But how do I know you’re up to conjuring more of the same. I mean, you don’t look up to walking across the room, son, much less performing what I have to assume is some powerful magic.”

“My magical abilities are fine,” he said.

But, of course, he was lying. I could see it in that one good eye.

“Now,” he continued. “You are going to let me walk away with her. If you don’t…”

“You’ll what?” I said. “Kill her?”

“Yes!” the High Priest’s voice went up an octave. “I’ll slice her open right here!”

I sighed. “So let me get this straight. If I don’t let you take Maggie with you so that you can sacrifice her to Mike, you’ll kill her here instead?”

“You will call him,” Cleon’s voice shot up about four octaves. “Asterion!”

“Either way she’s dead, Payday,” I said. “You aren’t giving me much incentive to step aside.”

His one eye blinked. “Payday?”

“Payday,” I said. “The nut bar.”

“Let us go or I’ll kill you!” Cleon’s voice had, by now, reached mad scientist’s levels.

“You can’t kill me,” I said. “Mike couldn’t even kill me and he’s supposed to be your god or something.”

The High Priest screamed and stood up straight behind Maggie, his face coming into full view. Maggie, seeing the look in my eye, didn’t move.

“You will call him—”

The crash of both my guns cut him off before he could finish. Well, that and the two bullets that slammed into his forehead.

Maggie screamed and Cleon fell to the floor in a heap.

“Asterion,” I finished for him.

Maggie stood stock still, and for a moment I was afraid that she’d gone into shock. But then she turned and looked down on the body of Cleon, High Priest of the Brotherhood of Minos. She nudged at him with her foot. When he didn’t move I could see the tension drain out of her as she slumped slightly forward and let out a relieved sigh.

“Can I go home now?” She asked.

“You bet,” I said. “Follow me.”

But then, as we reached the glass door, as I put my hand on the handle and began to pull, a deep voice spoke from behind.

“Norman Oklahoma.”

We turned, and there behind us, having just exited the corridor that led to the labyrinth, stood Mike.

“Oh, Hell no,” Maggie said.






Enjoying The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma?

Wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One, on eBook now for just $4.99 to read on all of your electronic devices.

JUST CLICK HERE or click the cover below.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

#044: ANGER IS A GIFT




NO ONE MOVED. NO one, that is, except Cleon.

Maggie’s punch had nearly knocked the High Priest off of his feet. His head flew back, he rocked on his heels, and the light from the skull tattoos flickered and died. Before he could recover, however, she was on him like a wild animal, her fist flying.

Maggie screamed in rage. Cleon screamed in pain. Mike shook his head in confusion. The monks were frozen with shock. I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a good long time.

One of the monks from the ritual came out of his shock and pulled a knife with a wickedly curved blade and made for Maggie. Her back was to him as she wailed on Cleon.

“Maggie!” I shouted as the monk approached. But she couldn’t hear me.

I began to throw myself back and forth in the chair, causing it to rock, my original plan of smashing the chair apart on the stands below still in play.

The monk was now right behind Maggie. He held the blade high. But as he was about to bring it down and pierce young Maggie between the shoulder blades, Mike seized the monk’s arm in a massive hand, and twisted.

The monk’s arm snapped like a toothpick and the man’s scream echoed out across the silent stands.

That’s what did it.

The entire place exploded into chaos as a thousand or so bald spectators ran for their lives.

Mike still held the screaming monk by his broken arm. The great bull bellowed a war cry as he twisted the monk’s head from his body like taking the cap from off a tube of toothpaste.

He tossed the lifeless monk aside, bellowed once again, and then waded into the sea of shaved heads.

Some of the monks, bless their hearts, attempted to fight back, turning to Mike with knives in hands.

Using horns and fists, Mike worked his way through them like a thresher through wheat. It got real bloody real fast and I soon lost Maggie in the mass exodus.

I went back to trying to topple the chair, with me in it, from the emperor’s private box when Maggie was suddenly there beside me, a wild look in her eyes, and a smile on her face.

“We meet again, at last,” she said in a deep, low voice. “The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” Then she laughed.

“Cute,” I said. “Can you get me out of this chair now? My knife should be in one of the coat pockets.”

“I’m just saying,” she said as she searched my pockets. “It’s kinda funny, right?”

“What’s that?” I said.

“Well, you came here to rescue me.” She found my switchblade and popped it open. “And yet here I am, rescuing you.”

“And I appreciate it, believe me,” I said as she sawed away at the leather bands.

So far, the monks were avoiding us, preferring instead to flee before the terror of an angry minotaur. But eventually some were gonna to realize that Mike couldn’t be everywhere at once and then come after us. Most especially Maggie as she’s the one who took down their High Priest

The thought made me smile and I giggled.

“What’s so funny?” She asked as the band on my right arm broke free.

“I was just thinking about what you did,” I said. “I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting you to clobber Cleon like that. Obviously the idea hadn’t entered his mind either, otherwise he would have tied your hands behind your back.”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” she said as she went to work on my left wrist. “I mean, I was just so angry.”

“It was brilliant,” I said. “You’re quite the scrapper.”

“I had some help.” She reached into her jeans pocket and held up the brass knuckles. “I picked it up after you dropped them. Figured it might come in handy.”

“Well that explains it then,” I said.

She gave me a questioning look.

“Those aren’t normal brass knuckles,” I said. “That’s a mighty powerful magical item you hold in your hand.”

“Magic?” She said, looking at the brass knuckles in distrust.

“It’s a spell breaker,” I said. “You touch someone with it who’s working some magic, you break the spell.” Then I laughed. “But really, you only need to touch them, not beat them like an egg.”

“I touched him,” she said, and laughed along with me.

“Brilliant,” I said, shaking my head. “Anyway, when you hit Cleon, it broke the control spell he’d put over Mike.”

“Why do you call him Mike?” She asked, getting back to work on my bonds.

“I can’t pronounce his real name. Mik-el-oto-something-or-other. It’s Greek,” I said. “Not sure what that whole ‘Asterion’ nonsense was, though.”

“Asterion was the Minotaur at the center of the Labyrinth,” she said cutting through my final bond.

“Labyrinth?”

“Greek mythology,” she said. “The Labyrinth was built by Daedelus for King Minos to hold the Minotaur, Asterion.”

“Well, I ain’t up to date on my Greek mythology,” I said. “So they think that Mike is this Asterion?”

“I suppose so,” she said. “But even if the story was true, and after today I’m thinking it might be, it’s not really possible that Mike is really Asterion.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because the Minotaur from the Labyrinth was killed by Theseus.”

“You know an awful lot about this stuff.”

“My minor is Greek mythology,” she said.

“That sounds useful,” I said.

By the time she got me free, we were alone in the arena. I found the quiet unsettling.

I could still hear Mike roaring and men screaming somewhere beyond the stands, but for now Maggie and I were alone with the bodies.

“Can we get out of here now?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “I think we should.”

My gun belt was on the floor next to the chair. I strapped it on, checked both pistols, and found them fully loaded.

I held one of the Colts out to Maggie.

“You ever fire a gun, Maggie?”

“No,” she said. “And I would prefer not to start.”

“Fair enough,” I said as I holstered the gun.

We made our way down to the arena floor. I wanted to check on Cleon. I wanted to have a long talk with the man. But once down on the floor, we found that he was gone.

“One of his people must have carried him off,” I said. “Was he still breathing when you stopped wailing on him?”

“Yes,” she said, a bit of red creeping up in her face. “I was furious at what he’d done to me, but I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“Okay, well,” I said. “He’s obviously not here. I say we beat feet and put this place as far behind us as we can.”

“Right behind you.”

I decided to leave the way I’d come so that I could pick up Trinity along the way. The exit, however, was still barred by the gate. I gave it a push and it didn’t budge.

I gave it a kick.

Nothing.

“You can—” Maggie began.

I gave it another kick.

Still nothing.

“Well,” Maggie said.

I kicked it again. Then again. Then once more. Then again for good measure.

“How about—” Maggie said.

I kicked at the gate over and over until my only other choice was to back away, bent over, hands on my knees as I tried to catch my breath.

“Did you try the handle?” Maggie said.

I looked up.

She gave the handle a turn and the gate swung inward.

“Ah, well,” I said. “Of course.”

She tried to hide her smile.

“Sorry,” I said.

The path back through the maze proved to be uneventful. Except for the fact that Trinity was no longer where I’d left her. Chained to the wall as she had been, I figured she wouldn’t wander off, but when I examined the chains, I found them cut.

But I couldn’t worry about that. I had to get Maggie home safe.

We reached the wall of obscurity in no time flat. Maggie gave it an uneasy look.

“What’s that?” She said.

“It’s the way out,” I said.

She didn’t move.

“It’s harmless,” I said. “Trust me.”

She gave me another look of unease, but stepped on through. I was close behind.

I came out of the obscurity and into the white corridor to find it empty.

No Maggie.

“Maggie?” I called out.

I heard a slight thud in the office beyond and rushed in with both pistols drawn.

Standing over by the desk was Maggie. Cleon was behind her.

He had a knife to her throat.






Enjoying The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma?

Wouldn't it be cool if you could own the first volume, all 47 parts, on eBook?

Good news, Awesome Reader, you can purchase The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma Volume One, on eBook now for just $4.99 to read on all of your electronic devices.

JUST CLICK HERE or click the cover below.