*This sample chapter is the first of five. Cover by IMbeta.
An old game was playing out in the Diamond Kingdom, an assassination the first point on the scoreboard. Vying to steal an early victory, night fell on the beautiful land, a vibrant neon purple light its final line of defense.
Though the small business park was sparsely lit, the lone street lamp between the accounting agency and parking lot was so powerful that it made the terrible darkness outside it seem that much thicker. A slight breeze blew dead leaves along the cement.
Then the many voices of the all-knowing, infinitely wise Chatter appeared as if from the ether.
“The Royal Family is dead!” exclaimed a woman’s worried voice. “What happens next?”
Colleen Clarke stood in the cone’s center. As she looked past her limp white shirt and frayed navy blue skirt at the figure kneeling in a black zip up hoodie and black jeans, with a metal tube slung diagonally across its back, images of her family popped into her head.
“I know you’re angry and looking for someone to punish,” the figure said without emotion, “but don’t know who to blame.”
The Chatter continued, too preoccupied with itself to listen. “The coup was a long time coming,” said a concerned man’s voice. “But I’m not sure it needed to be so bloody.”
The figure presented a silver metal baseball bat cradled across small, calloused hands, the numbers ‘.357’ prominently spray painted at the end of the shaft in runny red ink.
“If it’ll give you the peace you need,” the figure laid out, “I offer myself.”
“I don’t know,” the weary voice of a woman chimed in. “There must have been a different way.”
“Strike me down,” the hooded figure said with finality.
Without flinching, Colleen grabbed the bat and lifted it over her head, like she was splitting fire wood.
Feeling the weight disappear from its palms, the figure lowered its head and patiently awaited the verdict. They knew Colleen Clarke as they knew so many others.
Colleen’s husband Jeff was injured in a car crash and the insurance decided to dump him rather than pay. Colleen didn’t know how they could afford the medical. Her youngest was struggling at school. She didn’t know what she was going to do about the tutor’s bills. She was in her best clothes and kept failing interviews because she didn’t have the hip new diploma that was somehow more relevant than her years of experience. She didn’t think it was fair.
In her anger, she looked down on the figure and sneered. Her muscles surged, bringing the .357 down.
And then the mighty gunshot of a magnum revolver split the air, making the figure’s eye twitch reflexively.
A swirling metal sound announced the bat rolling along the asphalt. It came to rest against the person’s knee. They opened their eyes and saw its spray painted name pointed up. The hooded head lifted.
The circle of light was one person short. Colleen Clarke had dropped the bat and vanished. She’d never said a word.
After a second, the space was occupied with the many voices of the Chatter once again.
“Cowards. I’m glad they’re dead,” came the acidic words of a bitter man. “If the Diamond Knight’s Commandant could see how the kingdom was in ruin, why couldn’t its king?”
The figure grabbed the bat and stood into the light, its rays casting a gold hue over blue eyes and the soft young skin of a twenty year old woman.
The bitter voice continued to spew bile. “There are things we deserved that they didn’t provide. So we found someone who would.”
The young woman slid the .357 into the metal cylinder strapped to her back. It clicked into place and the cover locked.
“I should have a good job, why don’t I?” asked the entitled man.
The young woman reached both hands into the hoodie by her ears…when a spoiled woman added “I want a nice house, where is it?”…and slipped a small pair of cushioned headphones off her head, dangling them at her side. As if having been beckoned to it, she turned her eyes to the east and the glorious sight miles away.
A large neon purple pillar of light extended from the earth to the sky, its color splashing out from the base.
As she stared its way, everything receded from her mind. If she had wanted to, the young woman could have taken great joy in the fact that Colleen Clarke had for hours had a return message from one of the most respected law firms in the city sitting on her home phone, but that wasn’t why she set those things up.
A man’s voice came over the speaker near her knee. “If the Royal Family had only listened to us,” he said self-righteously, “this never would have happened. Long live Drake, the People’s King.”
Even if she heard it, she didn’t. Instead, Alex stood there and enjoyed the silence.
© Dane Ian Thomsen 2016
Cover photo © 2016 by Dane Ian Thomsen