I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
Death of the Unicorn
As Topher walked away from Princess Lotus Flower's house, he realized that he had really gotten himself into some really deep stuff this time. It wasn't unusual for him to end up in weird situations. He always felt this need to help other people. He didn't know why. His parents had raised all of them to be good Christians. But he was the only one who really put himself in tricky spots trying to help others in need.
Of course they went to church every Sunday and then Sunday school. But more than that, Mom and Dad had taught them that being a good Christian meant that you followed in Jesus' footsteps. You did good things for others and protected those who were weaker. And sometimes, that meant making sacrifices to help others.
Lately his Mom thought that he was making too many sacrifices and that one of these days he was going to end up in big trouble. But then Pastor Jason told him that he could never go wrong if he followed his best instincts. In fact, he told him that God would always protect him.
That was why he went out on his crazy rescue mission last month, but he couldn't explain that to his mother. It was like after he committed to saving the Everetts, he suddenly had everything that he needed to do it. And he never felt scared. In fact, he thought that everyone had made a big fuss over nothing when he brought them all back safely.
But this time around, things seemed to have gotten out of control. He knew that Trelawney and Francine were in trouble from this unicorn guy. It felt like out of nowhere he and Mike had met up with this other guy Liam, Trelawney's older cousin, who was determined to save them too. And as they talked out the situation, they were able to think their way through things, to a kind of rational explanation for what was happening. And then make rational decisions, sort of.
So much of what they had to figure out had to do with the premonitions that the Princess had made. By the time he had seen her latest performance he had gone from thinking that she was crazy to believing that she was a raving lunatic. That was the only word for it. If she hadn't hit so many things right with the deep trances before then he would have totally dismissed her. But for some reason, this time he couldn't.
He wished that he had been able to talk to Liam about the auras. He had heard about auras before and they had seemed interesting. And of course when he became curious about something, he went out to find out everything he could about it. It seemed like once Liam and the Princess started talking about them, he could see them too. Liam's was certainly red for anger. He had noticed that Mike's was green, the healer, but it was dim because he was also scared.
But the Princess had the weirdest aura. It was first grayish-brown, which meant that she was lying. And then when she went into her deep trance it turned a mustard color, kind of like sulphur. He had only the slightest knowledge of what the colors of the auras meant. He hadn't even heard of mustard yellow. He could only guess that it was evil, since sulphur tended to be associated with the devil. He could tell that Mike couldn't see it and that although it had caught Liam off guard, it did not scare him. But he was too interested to be scared. He wondered what color his own aura was.
Right before they had left, however, he had turn to take one last look at the Princess. What he saw was astounding. She was surrounded by deep black, billowing clouds, the color of anger and malice, pure evil. And there were bright red streaks, anger within and around it.
When they exited the house, he looked up and saw the same black, billowing clouds in the sky, repeatedly streaked with flashes of lightening that looked, oddly enough, red. He had a scientific mind and had never really gone in for all that metaphysical jazz. He suspected that before the night was over, he just might change his mind.
Once they got in the van, they all sat still for a moment, each processing the events of the past few minutes in his own way. Since everyone was silent, he flipped on the radio for some background noise. The station was still broadcasting alerts for the city. Some kind of a freak storm was just sitting over town dumping rain, blowing up dangerous winds, and continuously lighting up the sky with thunderbolts. Half the town had lost power from fallen trees and limbs, including all of Oak Street where the Everetts lived.
"Did you hear that?" he called back. "The Everetts' street is without power and phone. It's in one of the worst hit areas."
"Yes," said Liam. "It would be, especially if Cholmondeley is there. Yes, that all makes sense, but there isn't enough time to explain why. In the end it will make our job easier."
"Why is that?" asked Mike.
"Well, it's like this," explained Liam. "A storm that's keeping everyone inside makes it safer for them. And then we don't have to worry about any collateral damage, so to speak. If we can keep our own heads, then that will be a good thing because matters could get very confusing, very quickly. All around the storm is a good cover for what we're about."
"And what are we about?" asked Topher.
"Why we're out to find the unicorn of course," said Liam patiently.
"What will we do when we find him?" asked Mike with trepidation in his voice.
"That will be decided by how it all plays out," replied Liam. "Everything will depend on how Cholmondeley reacts and if we have him penned in, so to speak. If we get him in a position where he can't escape we'll have more options. All's I know is that we can't let him get away."
Topher silently agreed, but didn't know how they could accomplish that. However, now that he knew how to look for auras, he was hoping that he could use that skill when they met up with Cholmondeley, and perhaps Cousin John. If he could ascertain their emotions then perhaps he would be able to use that information somehow.
He just wished now that he knew what Liam meant when he said that the Princess had made one too many predictions. The information was obviously important to knowing what the situation all was really about, but he didn't want to get into anything else. He wanted to get moving before someone else got hurt.
Topher started up the van.
"Okay," he said. "Let's find this unicorn and be done with it."
It had been a long night at the police station so far. Half the town was out of power and phone service, and they had lost contact with the worst hit areas. The news that was coming in from those people who did still have phone lines was not good. Unless there was someone who was hurt, there wasn't anything that they could tell them to do, other than to stay inside. It wasn't really safe for them to be out either. Fortunately, the local riffraff seemed to all agree. There had been no reports of any crimes.
Around ten o'clock, however, the chief decided that storm or not, they had to know what was going on out in the part of town that was out of communication with them. He had called in every officer that he could reach. Among them, was Officer Hadley. He was a good man and when the chief asked for volunteers to go out and check on the worst hit areas, he immediately volunteered.
Hadley knew the area of his own beat very well. It also happened to be in the very hardest hit area of town. Being a beat cop was hard work, but he had turned down promotions so that he could take care of the families who had come to rely on him. He was determined that he would get assigned to his own turf.
"Chief," he said. "I know those blocks like the back of my hand. Even if it's dark and rainy and there are trees down, I know my way around very well. I also know where the old folks are who might need help."
"That's sounds good to me, Hadley," replied the Chief. "But you're not going out alone. Anyone want to volunteer to ride along with him?"
"Hey, Hadley?" called out another officer. "Your beat includes Oak Street doesn't it?"
"Yeah!" he replied. "You want to come out with me?"
"You bet I do," he answered. "I have friends out there and I owe them big."
"Okay, Parsons," said the Chief. "You and Hadley are Team Alpha. Now don't forget to stay on your radio. We don't need any heroes tonight."
Hadley shook his head. Team Alpha. The guy thought that he was still an army colonel in the Korean War or something. Parsons approached him.
"Hey Hadley," he said. "I'm Parsons. You have the Everetts in your area, right?"
"Yep, got two Everett families in fact," he replied. "Are they your friends?"
"You bet they are," he said. "And I just got the strangest feeling that they need my help. What do you say?"
"I'll go with your strange feeling," he said. "We have to start somewhere. It might as well be Oak Street."
"Good, then let's go," replied Parsons.
"Hey man," he said. "What do you owe them for?"
"My son, Billy," he said. "If it wasn't for them, Carolyn and I wouldn't have adopted him almost a year ago. And I know that Mrs. Everett is due to have her baby any day now. I just want to be sure that nothing is wrong with her and the baby."
"I understand," he said. "I got to know them when her sister got lost last year. Poor kid, they both went through a rough time. That was before she was Mrs. Everett. I even helped the Professor look for his lost rooster one other night."
Parsons looked at him curiously.
"Don't even ask. Let's get going."
When they walked out of the station and to the car, Hadley realized that this was no ordinary storm. It had gotten even worse than when he had come in a few hours ago. He had never seen anything like the rain, wind, and lightening that was blazing all over. Visibility was poor, but luckily no one else was out on the roads. The best he could do was make his way slowly over to Oak Street. When they got there, a couple of huge tree limbs were blocking the road at the intersection before the Everetts' block.
They stopped and noticed a van parked near the same intersection. Hadley looked at it closely.
"Hmm," he said. "I wonder who that is. Nobody around here owns a van like that."
"You really do know your beat well," said Parsons. "Maybe it's some guy who got smart and decided not to drive any farther."
"Good thought," he said. "Let's go and look inside. Maybe someone needs a lift to a safer location."
The two men got out. They could barely stand up in the wind. They shined their lights in the windows.
"Nobody in there," said Parsons. "I wonder what's up?"
"Me too," agreed Hadley. "Let's walk onto the block. Wait a minute! I don't recognize that blue sedan either."
Once again, they went over and looked in the windows.
"No one in here either," commented Hadley. "But look on the front seat!"
"Rental agreement," replied Parsons. "So we know they're out-of-towners. Know of anyone who has visitors?"
"No," said Hadley thinking. "Not since this afternoon anyway."
"Now what kind of an idiot would drive into a storm like this?" asked Parsons. "Especially if he's from out of town. But he didn't get onto the street before the limbs came down that's blocking it. Too bad we don't know when they fell."
"I don't know," replied Hadley. "But now I'm getting the feeling that this is not good. I just don't like it."
"Yeah," answered Parsons. "I don't like it either. Either they went in to help someone in trouble or . . ."
"They went in to cause trouble," replied Hadley grimly. "Let's do a house to house search. But let me be the one who goes to the door. We wouldn't want to scare anyone."
"We may anyway," said Parsons. "It's late and we can't tell who's up and who's asleep with all the lights out."
"Somehow," said Hadley. "I don't think that anyone can sleep in this storm."
They knocked on the first six houses on the street, but no luck with finding the strangers. At least all the folks inside were safe. But it had been too stormy for anyone to have seen anything outside. The whole thing was starting to make Hadley very uncomfortable. He was determined not to leave the street until he had knocked on every door.
"Maybe we should go back to the car and radio in for updates," suggested Parsons. "We should try and dry off a little bit too."
They had just gotten to Fowler's house. They could see the limb that had taken out the wires. It had fallen from a tree between Everett's house and Fowler's. Hadley knew that Mr. Fowler was away but figured that if anyone could get through a storm it was Mrs. Fowler. And he also had the oddest feeling that they had gotten there too early, but too early for what?
Liam was glad that the two lads had found him. They were both sharp boys. He could tell from what he had discerned from their minds that although they were both a bit scared for themselves, more than anything they wanted to save Trelawney and help Francine. Mike was smart and sensitive, typical actor type. But Topher was a load of surprises. He had become aware while they were talking to Auntie that he was able to read auras. In fact, he had somehow figured it out by watching them.
The better he got to know him, the more he realized that despite being an outsider, he had some pretty good intuitive gifts of his own. The young man had a pretty clear turquoise aura. He was good at leading others and organizing them. And he was energetic. Like himself, he hated to sit still. But this young man was more than this. His character was sterling and he deeply cared about others.
His actions tonight were not only about Trelawney. This was a good young man who was determined to help all in need. If he didn't know better, he might have thought that he was Trelawney's angel. But he knew that that could not be. The aura was all wrong. If he were an angel, he would not have agreed so readily to looking for Cholmondeley. He would have known what he himself was up to.
After what seemed like forever, Topher finally got them over to the street where the Everetts lived. The first thing that they discovered was that it was blocked by tree limbs.
"Well," said Topher. "The only way that we are getting in there is on foot."
"That's good with me," replied Mike.
"A little rain never hurt me," shrugged Liam. "It's not like I'm made out of sugar you know."
"No," agreed Mike. "I certainly would never have guessed that."
They covered up as best as they could and left the van. They might not have bothered. Within a couple of minutes they were soaked. As they talked to each other, they found that all they could do was yell.
"From this end of the block," yelled Topher. "The first house that we will get to is Fowler's."
"Then let's go there first," yelled back Mike. "We can see if they are okay inside."
"Sounds like a good idea," hollered back Liam. "Then we can go over to the Professor's house."
Progress up the street was slow. In addition to what branches and limbs had already fallen from the trees, more were coming down. It was difficult to tell the difference between the crackle of lightening and the cracking of tree limbs before they had fallen. The only light that they had was a single flashlight. And it wasn't a very good one at that.
They got better light every time there was another crash of lightening. Looking at the houses, they were almost completely dark inside, although occasionally they caught a glimpse of a candle or flashlight through a window. When they finally reached the Fowlers house, there were no lights on anywhere.
"That's weird," said Mike. "Knowing Mrs. Fowler, you would think that she would have on as many flashlights and candles that she could find."
"Maybe they're not home?" asked Topher.
"No," replied Mike. "The car is in the driveway. It looks like a small tree is down behind it. No way they could have gotten out. This is real suspicious looking."
"And how," agreed Topher. "Let's go around the back."
"Man!" said Mike. "Will you look at that mess?"
A tree had taken out the fence between the two houses. They could see that both yards were full of leaves and branches. A quick look assured Liam that even though their cages were all undamaged. The animals were all scared to death by something. And it wasn't the storm. Unfortunately this was no time to start having a conversation with a guinea pig or a rooster. At least they all looked unhurt. Phoebe loved her little creatures and he was glad for her that they were safe. Topher looked over at the Everetts.
"Liam!" he called out. "That's your cousin's house over there. It really looks like they're blockaded in. There's one huge branch leaning against the roof and another one blocking the back door."
"Yes, lad, it is," replied Liam. "But look, there's one of the rooms on the second floor all lit up. I wonder if that's where Phoebe is having the baby?"
"The bedrooms are all on the second floor," replied Topher. "That's what Sarah said. So that would make sense."
"Hey!" said Mike. "Did you look out in the front yard? A huge tree limb pulled down all the lines between the two houses. It looks like the front door of this house is pretty much blocked in too."
"That's probably a good thing as well," said Liam. "It would make it harder for Johnny and Cholmondeley to get in."
"Did you hear that?" asked Mike.
"I can't hear nothing in this storm," answered Liam, but he was aware of a presence. Despite the fact that the air was warm and muggy like the tropics, he felt a cold chill run through him. Whatever was out there, it was evil.
"I don't know," said Topher nervously. "But I have a feeling that we may have some company out there."
Back on Duty
Hadley realized once they had returned to the car that it was a good thing that Parsons had suggested that they take a rest. There was no way that they could dry off, but at least they could recuperate from the stress of moving out there in the storm. They were also able to call into the base station to report the mess on Oak Street, including the downed lines.
"Good work, men!" said the chief. "Keep up your house to house search. Make sure that everyone out there is safe."
"You got it, chief," said Parsons.
"Oh," said the chief. "Be on the lookout for two teenage boys who have gone missing in the storm, Michael Lenihan and Christopher Tucker. Their parents have called them in missing. They haven't shown up in anyone else's area yet."
"Roger that," said Parsons.
"What the hell?" Hadley asked.
"Sounds like our friend Topher is out playing hero again," said Parsons. "And this time he's brought along Mike for the ride."
"And I don't think that it's a coincidence that they haven't shown up anywhere else yet," added Hadley.
"Bet you anything that those two young idiots are down at Everetts," replied Parsons.
"Well," said Hadley. "As soon as we catch our breath, we should really get out there again and make sure."
Parsons nodded. In a few minutes he got a funny look on his face.
"I think that we should go out again now," he said. "I have a feeling that something is about to go down."
"Me too," agreed Hadley. "And whatever it is, it's gonna be big."
The officers looked at one another again and stepped out. Hadley wanted to get back to Fowler's as fast as he could. He somehow knew that now was the time. It still took a while for them to walk through the mess that was continuing to build up in the street and on the sidewalks. As they arrived at Fowlers, there wasn't time to knock on the door. They heard a loud noise in the backyard. Over the roar of the storm, it sounded like an explosion.
Liam could feel in his bones that it was finally about to happen. He could sense him nearby, even if he couldn't see him. The storm was interfering with most of his perceptions and sensibilities now, but his hatred for the man that he was chasing ran too deeply to be knocked off his inner radar.
The bloody unicorn was hiding out there somewhere. He could feel his anger. Now that they were aware that Mrs. Fowler and Francine were probably not home. There was no doubt in his mind that Trelawney had made sure that they were safe from them.
The heavy limbs and wires that had blocked off the house were no doubt frustrating the hell out of old Cholmondeley. He knew that someone up there was looking after those inside. He took a glance up at the glowing yellow light in the bedroom and saw the silver stars within it. This was no ordinary light. It indicated that a new life was coming into the world, a child of light. Trelawney had won. And she had done it by herself. She had made sure that her sister's little baby had made it into to the world safely.
Auntie's last premonition had continued one word too long. "Unless." But in that flicker of a moment between when she spoke the word and Mike had asked "unless what?" he had discerned it from her mind. There was one way to save the innocent third party and the two sisters. The unicorn must be destroyed. Fortunately, she was so dull that he doubted that she knew what that meant. The little one had done her part. Now he must do his.
Topher was scanning the yard with his flashlight. Weak as it was, it was able to pick up movement in a clump of leaves on the large branch that had taken out the fence. He was glad that he knew Cholmondeley so well. He always equivocated, never could make up his mind. So now he was caught between the two houses.
"Get behind me!" he hissed to Topher and Mike. "Gimme the flashlight. You've done your bit. Listen to me and we'll bring you both back home safe to your mothers."
The two young men obeyed him right away and moved back immediately behind the doorsill. Good, thought Liam. If I don't have to worry about them, I can focus on the enemy. However, it only occurred to him now that he didn't have any kind of a weapon. He could only hope that Cholmondeley didn't either. If he could get him into a physical fight, then he could beat him barehanded.
"Come out you bloody fool!" he called out. "You and me have some business to take care of."
And bloody fool that he was, Cholmondeley stepped into his light and shone on him a light of his own. Liam's heart sank as he saw the glint of silver reflecting off the gun. But he also saw the aura. This was not the aura of the dithering idiot that he had traipsed all over Africa and Asia with. This was an aura blacker than the night itself, with the same red streaks as the sky. And it looked exactly like Aunt Henrietta's aura did before they had left her. It was obvious. The same evil that was using her was using him as well.
But now he was the one who was caught. It was himself or the other man. He knew that if he lost, the Cholmondeley and whatever evil possessed him would continue to wreak havoc on the lives of those he loved. He might even try to get into the house and do something to those upstairs. He couldn't let that happen. But he now had a decision to make. Should he call upon the good or the evil forces to help him through?
He closed his eyes and thought back to the words of Sylvia on the plane. Two wrongs don't make a right. Two wrongs only breed more wrong. Auntie's premonition had told him what must be done, but it didn't tell him it how it could be done. The force that had sent it was probably hoping that he would pick the obvious choice, kill the bastard. With all his heart, he wanted revenge for what the bastard had done to Trelawney. He wanted to put a stop to her persecution once and for all.
And yet, deep down in his very soul, he knew that there was only one way to conquer the evil that stalked his cousins. And that was with the power of goodness. If he retaliated to Cholmondeley in kind, the storm would grab hold of his own wickedness and strengthen itself. And who knew where that would all end?
The results could be disastrous for all. A more powerful storm could create more destruction. If Cholmondeley got away, who knew what he would do to Trelawney, Phoebe, and the baby? Surely those up in the house had no weapons. So he made his choice. For the first time in a long time he prayed.
He prayed to God to save him so that he could save his cousins. He prayed that God might help to dissipate his own anger. He knew that he couldn't do it alone. It was the only way. He thought of little Trelawney. What had Syl said? If you damn your soul forever on her account, you will break her heart. The child was pure good. She was a child of light.
And there was Trelawney, only yards away up in the house. He knew that her psychic connections were powerful. Were they powerful enough? Oh child of light, he prayed, lead me toward the goodness you inspire in others. His answer came into his heart immediately. Somewhere, her spirit was reaching out to his. She was calling him toward the light.
When he opened his eyes, he could see Cholmondeley there. The unicorn was even closer than before. In fact he, and his gun, were practically in his face.
"I have no weapon, see?" he said, showing him that his hands were empty except for the flashlight. "Let's talk this out man. It wasn't you that did this. It was a canker in your soul, some evil that got hold of you. It's still there, but you don't have to do this. Let it go, man. Let it go. We'll help you if we can. You know the little one. She'll forgive you if she understands. In fact she'll help the rest of us forgive you too."
But whatever had grabbed hold of him would not let go. Dithering and weak fool that he was, he was not strong enough to fight it. No wonder he had been chosen. Liam was facing the barrel of the gun but he refused to back down. If he did, then the worst could happen to the girls. He was neither a coward nor a killer. He had made his choice. And then from behind him he heard a voice.
"There is only one way," called out Topher bravely. "God's way. Drop the weapon and walk toward the light."
At any other time, he would have thought that the lad was a bloody fool, but not tonight. Something told him that in her own effort to save him, Trelawney had called out to him as well. Topher, Christopher, Christ-bearer. This young man was offering Christ to both of them. He immediately accepted. Topher moved forward, clearly unafraid, and took his place next to him. He felt the strength of the young man's goodness and it gave him hope.
And as he stood beside him, Topher's aura glowed a bright yellow-orange. Liam could see that he was a child of light also. God bless little Trelawney, he thought. She knew her gallant knights well. They were fearless and they were good. Even the unicorn must see it. But if he saw it, he didn't acknowledge it. He was too angry. The anger was consuming him. It was blinding him. Instead he cocked the gun. Liam closed his eyes as the shot rang out through the night.
Knowing that he wasn't harmed, he looked to the ground and opened his eyes, expecting to find Topher there. But instead it was the unicorn. It was over. He looked up and into the eyes of the young man, his savior and then looked down as he held out his hands. They were empty. It was not Topher who had fired the shot. A child of light would never take another life anyway.
He looked up again and saw Johnny walking towards him. He looked down at Cholmondeley in horror.
"What have you done, man?" he asked.
"Nothing," said Liam.
Mike came up from behind them on the other side and looked down.
"Oh my God!" he said. "It's the unicorn."
"Shut up about that, I tell you!" hissed Liam. "Don't go talking about no unicorns, unless you're directly asked. Understand?"
Topher and Mike nodded, and then they heard a voice front the front yard.
The Arrival on the Scene
When Hadley and Parsons made their way around to the other side of the house, they saw four men standing there, looking down over another lying on the ground. They all seemed, to one degree or another, stunned by what had just taken place.
"Nobody move!" shouted Parsons. "Everyone stay right there in your places and lift up your hands."
Hadley watched as they all slowly obeyed. Then he scanned their faces with his flashlight.
"Topher! Mike!" he yelled. "What the hell are you doing out here? You both should know better than to be out in a storm like this! We have an APB out on you. You've scared your families half to death."
The two boys looked back at him nervously, but didn't move. Hadley didn't recognize the other two men. But he looked down and saw that the fifth man was lying in a pool of blood. No doubt about it, he was mortally wounded. Nobody could lose that much blood and still live.
"I don't suppose that any of you fellows know how this happened?" he asked, looking up at them.
"Sir, none of us is even armed," said the older man with a British accent. "You can check us out. The lads and I are clean. Never even owned a gun myself."
"What about him?" asked Parsons, indicating the fourth man, who was opposite the other three.
"I don't have a gun!" he said immediately. "But he did."
Hadley looked down and saw the gun in the fifth man's hand.
"Okay," he said. "So if no one had a gun except the dead man, who shot him?"
"I did," called out a tall, grey-haired man coming out of the bushes from the side of the house. "This guy (pointing to the dead man) was holding the gun on these two (Topher and the British man) and was about to fire at point blank range. I shot my weapon to protect them. I didn't intend to wound him fatally, but with the storm and the speed that everything happened my aim was off. Here's my gun. I can assure you the bullet will match."
"And who are you?" asked Parsons. Now another man had come from behind him.
"We're security guards that were hired by a Mr. Bob Everett to guard his brother's house," he explained. "The names are Rick Jones and Larry Kimble. We were told to let no one in. These two (pointing to the man down and the single man standing) have been casing the place for the past hour. Then we heard these three come in."
"We decided to watch and see what would happen," the other man explained further. "These two (pointing to Topher and the British man) tried to reason with him. Then I saw him point the gun. Larry over here took him out before he could hurt the others."
The story seemed plausible to Hadley. Of course in the heavy wind and rain, at that point he would have listened to any explanation and thought that it was plausible. But now they had six men to bring into the station and one car. Plus they had the body to deal with.
"Okay you six," he said. "Let's walk out to main road and call it in. Then you will all have to come down to the station so that we can sort this out."
Since everyone was amenable, after he read him his rights, he only put cuffs on the shooter. Until it could be established otherwise, they would have to treat this as a homicide case. He was glad that the boys seemed to be bystanders rather than participants. But he still wouldn't want to be them. If they didn't have a really good explanation for why they were out there, Janet and Lois were going to kill them.
When they got back to the car, they called for back up so that they could get everyone to the station and a truck from the morgue to deal with the body. The storm was still roaring away, although it did seem to be easing off a little. It was going to be a long night for everyone.
To be continued . . .