Follow Into the Dark- Chapter 1

Posted on January 25, 2013

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I will post a few chapters of what I am working on over the next two months or so.

Please give me feedback on this.  Liked it, hated it, why you liked or hated it, the normal.  But please, if you do leave a comment, make sure to give me more than loved it or hated it.  Neither of those statements are very useful for working on the craft.

Thank you.

Chapter 1

The harsh jangle of the phone tears him from sleep.  He reaches for the handset, trying to remember his name.  “Speak.”  Sleep clogs his mind, his eyes, his throat.  Dawn is a distant fable.  Courtesy is impossible.

“Is this Anton Sidorov?”

The name jars his memory.  Blows away the fog in his mind.  He remembers the life he leads this turn of the wheel.  “Yes.  Who are you?”

“This is Detective Brice.  There’s been an incident.  We need you to come to Mercy.”

Anton closes his eyes.  “Maria.”

“Please sir.  I need you to get here as soon as possible.”

“I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”

“Thank you.  I’ll meet you at the main entrance.”

The line goes dead.  Anton rests the handset in the charger.  The cold wells inside him.

He whispers her name again.

 

There is a man in comfortable clothes standing outside the hospital.  Anton approaches him.  “Detective Brice?”

“Mr. Sidorov?”  They shake hands.  “Please come with me sir.”

Anton has grasped a sliver of hope since being woken by the phone.  He hoped Maria was only hurt.  When Brice pushes the elevator button for the basement that sliver evaporates to nothing.  He leans against the elevator wall, eyes closed against the pain.  He fingers the silver star at his throat.  “Where was her body found?”

“Excuse me?”

“We’re going to the basement,” Anton says.  “Patients aren’t kept in basements.  Morgues are in basements.”

The detective stares at him for a moment.  “Maria Denton’s purse and ID were found in a room with a female body.  Your card was in her purse.  We called you to make a positive identification.  Until we have a positive identification I can’t discuss the details of the case.”

Anton nods.  “Very well.”

He wants to drag his feet.  He wants to delay as long as possible.  Brice is setting the pace and doesn’t allow him.  Before Anton can process what is going on they are standing before a shrouded body.

A technician pulls the sheet back, exposing Maria’s face.  Anton closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.  “Yes.  This is my daughter.”  He reaches out, then pauses.  “What happened?”

“We’re still looking into that.  We don’t think she suffered.”

“Show me.”

“Mr. Sidorov, I would recommend-”

“Show me.”  Anton’s voice is cold, weighted.

Brice nods to the technician who shrugs and pulls the shroud clear.

Since his first existence Anton has seen death in many guises.  He has dealt and been dealt death countless times.  He feels that there are no surprises left in the arena of death.

Of a sudden, he is aware once again that he still hasn’t seen everything.

He stares at her remains for a moment, breathing stopped.  Then his eyes cast about the room.  He focuses on the sink against the wall.  He walks across the room and vomits into the sink.

When he recovers the shroud is back in place.  He walks to Maria’s body again.  “Please.  Let me see her face one more time.”

Brice nods and again the technician pulls the shroud down.

Anton reaches out and gently touches her cheek.  Her flesh is cold.  Too quiet for the other men in the room he whispers old words.  Long forgotten words.  It is too late to tell her anything else in this life but he can find out where her soul has gone, send her a final message when he again decides to take another cycle on the wheel.

He whispers the words and nothing happens.

The experiences of lifetimes keep the shock from his face.  Keep his gestures from freezing.  Something is masking all traces of her soul and its destination.  It is as if she never existed.  What was nothing more than an act of human cruelty is suddenly something much more.

Anton’s hand drops to his side.  He thanks the technician and walks out of the room.  Detective Brice follows quickly.

“Mr. Sidorov, I’m sorry for your loss.  I understand what you must be feeling right now.”

“Do you have a daughter Detective Brice?”

“No I don’t.”

“Then you do not understand what I’m feeling right now.”

Brice nods slightly.  “Be that as it may-”

“You have questions.”

“Yes I do.  But they can wait until you’ve had some time.”

Anton shakes his head.  “I will have a great deal to do once the world awakes.  I would prefer to take care of this as soon as possible.”

“Then if you would meet me at the station?”

“Of course.”
Detective Brice’s office is tidy.  The desk is old and well kept.  The chair he gestures for Anton to sit in is torn and patched but soft.

“You called Ms. Denton your daughter.  Your name isn’t on her birth certificate and she had a different last name.”

“I adopted her when she was fourteen.”

“Why?”

“She needed a father.”

“How did you meet?”

Anton smiles thinly at the memory.

“She tried to pick my pocket.”

The case worker looked up from her paperwork.  “Excuse me?”

Anton smiled at her reaction.  “She tried to pick my pocket two years ago.”

Anton moved with the crush of people boarding the subway car and almost missed the light tug at his jacket pocket.  He stepped quickly to the side and scanned the press of bodies getting off the train.  A small figure darted between people and hurried away.

Anton stepped away from the subway door and idly followed the swiftly moving figure.

As they made their way to the street Anton was mildly surprised to see his pickpocket was a young girl.  Her technique wasn’t bad.  Just a tad heavy on the pinch and too eager in getting away.  If she hadn’t hurried he never would have found her in the crowd.  Now he was content to follow along and see where she went.

Anton watched as the girl stepped into an alley.  He gave her a moment then followed.

The girl was rummaging through his wallet.  Business cards were falling everywhere.

He cleared his throat.  “You’re going to be disappointed.  I keep my money in a clip.”

She squeaked and spun around.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Anton smiled.  “Of course you don’t.  You just happen to collect business cards.”

She sighed and threw the wallet back to him.  “You gonna call the cops?”

“I’m not sure.  A clumsy thief shouldn’t be encouraged.”

“Clumsy?  What?”

“Your pinch is too heavy.  And you scampered away to fast.  You looked guilty.  You’re clumsy.”  He put the wallet in his pocket then crossed his arms.  “What do you need the money for?”

“What?”

“I said, what do you need the money for?”

She looked down at her feet.  “I need new shoes.”  Quiet, ashamed.

Anton looked at her feet.  Her shoes were holed.  Her left sole was flopping at the heel.

He stared at her down turned head for a moment.  “What’s your name?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m curious.  What’s your name?”

“Maria.”  Still quiet.  Still ashamed.

“Well Maria, I don’t have any plans for the rest of the day.  Why don’t we get lunch and then get you some new shoes?”

“What?  Why?”  She sounded confused.  And wary.

Because you didn’t lie.  Because I’ve been poor.  Because you remind me of daughters I’ve buried and daughters who survived me.  Because I have lifetimes of sins to pay for.  He only said, “Karma.”

Maria lifted her head and gazed at him for a moment.  Then she nodded, “Okay.”

“Maria was twelve when we met.  I adopted her 18 months later.”

“Why did you adopt a pickpocket Mr. Sidorov?”

Anton was silent for a minute.  “What do you know about the foster care system Detective Brice?”

“Not a whole lot.  Why?”

“Being a ward of the state is one of the most demeaning ways to grow up imaginable.  Maria was wearing a pair of shoes that were four times hand me downs.  She had to hide the shoes I bought her so the other girls wouldn’t beat her and steal them.  She was a pickpocket to not be a whore.  I took her from that world and let her find her own way.  A new way.”  And then I wasn’t there when she needed me most.  More failure in a thousand lifetimes of failure.

Detective Brice leans forward.  Quietly, “Was there anything else between the two of you Mr. Sidorov?”

Anton’s control slips.  He almost responds as a man would through most of history.  Only in the past century could someone ask that question without weapon in hand.  Without someone’s blood ending on the floor.  He clenches his fists.  Reigns in the savage.

“Detective Brice,” Anton’s voice is pitched barely above a whisper.  “Maria was my daughter.  If not of my body than of my soul.  Our relationship was that of a father and a daughter.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  I understand you have to ask these questions.  It’s your job.  But never, ever, ask me that again.”  He reigns in the savage but he lets the weight of what he is fill his eyes, fill the room.  Brice looks away first.

“When was the last time you talked to Maria, Mr. Sidorov?”

Anton relaxes, leans back in his chair.  “A week, maybe ten days ago.  We would have met for dinner this weekend.”

“Was she seeing anyone?”

“I don’t think so.  Not anyone she mentioned to me at least.”

Brice nods, then stands.  “Thank you for your time sir.  I may have some more questions for you later.  Were you planning on traveling soon?”

Anton also stands.  “No, I’m not the traveling sort.  Before I go, I do have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

“Where was she found?”

“I can’t share that information at this time.”

“Detective Brice, when I get home I will turn on the morning news.  I very much doubt that this will not be the local lead.  I doubt it won’t garner national attention.  So I can find out from you, or I can find out from the television.  Or the internet.  Either way, I will find out.”

Brice sighs.  “She was found in a room at the Regent, downtown.”

“Thank you Detective.”  He turns to leave, reaches for the door.

“You’re welcome Anton.”

Anton opens the door, pauses.  “Detective Brice,” turning his head to the other man, “you and I are not friends.  Do not ever use the familiar with me again.”  He turns away and leaves.

 

Anton’s first stop is Gabriel’s house.

It takes a minute for the priest to open the door.  “Anton.  What brings you here so early?”

“May I come in Father Sullivan?”

Gabriel cocks his head.  “Of course Anton.  What can I do for you?”  He escorts Anton into his kitchen.

“Maria’s dead, Father.”

“I’m sorry Anton.  What happened?”

Anton falls heavily into a chair.  Gabriel sits across the table from him.  His hand wanders to the silver chain around his neck.  “She was murdered.”  He looks out the window to the back of the church.  Stained glass of a pale white man nailed to a cross stares back.  “I need two favors, Father.  Will you do the rites?”

“Of course.  What else?”

“I need a Sentinel.”

The priest stares at Anton for a moment.  “What are you talking about, Anton?”

“Something was done to her when she died.  I don’t know where she crossed to.  I know an old chant, it didn’t reveal anything.  But it’s not something I’ve ever been born to.  Mine is a learned skill.  A Sentinel can do things I can’t.”

The priest leans forward, rests his arms on the table.  “I’m not sure I can do that.  The Church doesn’t lightly send out the touched.”

Simmering anger boils over.  “Knock it off, Gabriel.  I’ve been your friend across two lifetimes.  Have I ever asked for something trivial?”

“Anton, I can’t make promises as to how the Bishop, how the Cardinal, how the Vatican will respond.”

“No, you can’t.”  Anton looks again to the cruciform image.  “You work for an organization that claims to be the guardian of mankind’s souls.  One of those souls is gone.  Make your masters aware.”  He stands.  “I asked this of you as your friend.  I will demand it of your masters as the Graysoul.  In my lives I have been many things.  Some faithful, others heretical.  But in the past two thousand years I have never been an enemy of your Church.  If they deny me this I will devote my existences to destroying them.  I will be a nemesis implacable and eternal.  Make sure they understand that.”

Gabriel’s eyes narrow.  “You have been neutral for all your existence.  You would do the work of Satan over this?”

“No Gabriel.  Whatever work I do will be my own.  But I will not allow what was done to Maria to stand.  If the Church does not help me with this, than they oppose me.”  He heads for the door.

“I’ll call you with the funeral arrangements.”  He is out the door and gone before his fury overtakes him.

 

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