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A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
Bree sat in the dry grass, under an old redwood tree. The spiny branches obscured the view of the sky overhead, so everyone else had avoided that area of the hill. Everyone else sitting in the dry grass was there to watch patches of the sky burst forth in color. Bree just wanted to be depressed, and to be left alone with her thoughts. She looked up as a figure approached, clearly with something behind his back. A firework blazed to life above, illumining the man and revealing his identity.
"What do you want, Mac?" she asked.
"Just making sure you're okay."
"I'm fine." The blond pulled a long, odd-shaped tube out from behind his back.
"Yard of Daiquiri for ya?" He offered the three-foot long, alcohol-filled vessel to her. "Something cool to enjoy under the fireworks." She smiled.
"Sure," she said, accepting the drink. "I could use it. Sit. I guess I'd be better off with company." He sits down, careful to avoid spilling his own tube of Daiquiri.
"You know, things will work out."
"I just don't see it right now, Mac. Duncan, the man whom I pretty much think of as the love of my life, hates me because he thinks I'm lying to him. And the crap part? I am." She took a quick pull from the straw at the top of her yard of booze. "I mean, can I really blame him?"
"Bree," he said, "there is only so much you can take upon yourself - yes, the situation is bad. We've been thrust into this strange world and we can't tell anyone. Maybe there's a way though. Some sort of loophole? I can ask Enid."
"Yeah, you two have been spending a lot of time together."
He shrugged."I suppose. I'd be happy to ask her."
"No. Why would I want to bring Duncan into this anyway? This world is messed up, dangerous. You know better than any of us. Damn. I'm sorry."
"It's okay. You're right, I do. I hate that the Ghost Lords killed Adam. It was so fuckin' senseless. I wish I just knew why… No. That's not true. I want vengeance more than I want the truth."
She reached a hand out and placed it on his shoulder. "Mac, I wish I could help. We just don't know enough about them and what they can do. We don't want you getting hurt. Also, we're part of this now; attacking them could start a war, which we are so not prepared to deal with. I still don't even understand how my power works, beyond there's a lot of it."
He tilted his head onto her comforting shoulder. "I know. Besides, what could I even do? I'm not like you and Rod. I don't have a power or special gift. I'll I got was widowed and a friendship with an odd British lady."
She turned her head slightly and kissed the top of his head. "Yep, this pretty much sucks." The clinked their plastic tubes and the celebratory fireworks continued to explode above them.
Rod navigated his way through the throng of enthusiastic patriots. As fire blooms opened above, Rod was lost in thought about how best for him to proceed next. The next few decisions we make are critical. There is so much we just don't know; we can't even guess at what is really afoot. Rod moved away from the crowd at the beach and started walking down the shore, the dark waves reflecting glimpses of the explosive kaleidoscopes above. What are we going to do?
"Rod," spoke a voice from the darkness. He pivoted in the sand, looking for the source. A familiar face stepped out from the shadows of the dunes. He saw the handsome blue-haired street punk.
"Ant, don't do that. You scarred the shit out of me."
"My apologies Rodrigo," he said through tight lips, "it's just that I need to talk. Now."
"It's personal. I mean, it's not about the hullabaloo that's been going on. Well, no. Maybe it is, but it doesn't involve you. Not directly. For once, you aren't the source of the chaos that's been sweeping through Santa Maria."
"How can I help?"
"I just need someone to talk to. Someone who isn't directly involved. A friend of mine is unaccounted for."
"That's rough. Have you called the police?"
"You don't call the cops when a Gamin goes missing. There isn't anyone to call but our own ranks and maybe your allies. No, if we are going to find Savarna, we're going to have to do it ourselves. Well, not me and you, but the Gamin I mean."
"I would help you," Rod said, looking Ant in the eye.
"I know, but there are rules. You know that. Better than most. I just need to vent."
"Well, as long as listening to you isn't against the rules, I'm game." Rod smiled and Ant smiled back. The two sat down and got comfortable in the sand while the fireworks exploded above.
"Savarna's been missing for about two days now. She's a younger member. I recruited her." Ant let loose a heavy sigh. "It's just not fair. I can't imagine who would want her; or worse, who might want to do her harm."
"Could it be someone from her mundane life, her past?"
"Not likely. That's part of being a Gamin. We've lost or had no connection to family and friends when we join. Sort of a requirement. She didn't have anyone but us. Me. I let her down." Rod put his arm around him.
"What do you know? About the disappearance I mean."
"She was last seen by Bonita at Whitney Park. She skipped and wherever she showed up next, nobody connected with the city saw or sensed her."
"Think of it as teleporting."
"Is that all?"
"Well, if nobody sensed her wherever she teleported, then maybe she reappeared outside of the city."
"Then maybe she never teleported back in? Like a transporter accident on Star Trek?"
"Hmmm… very unlikely, but possible," he said as he squeezed Rod's hand.
"So how do you think this is related to Bree's and mine problems?"
"Oh, just indirectly. I think the Ghost Lords are behind the Savarna's disappearance."
"But what would they want with her? Adam was killed because he was with Aubrey and Diasuke, I think, and they were after them because of Bree or me. Again, that's just what I think. How could Savarna be connected to us?"
"I don't think she is. Whatever the Ghost Lords want with her may be connected to why they want Bree. I'm pretty sure it's Bree."
"Why do they want Bree?"
"Because of the Shaman, but that's a subject for another night. Look, I think for tonight maybe I just want to be distracted, to not think about the possible abduction or anything with you and Bree. I thought talking about it might help, but it isn't."
"I think I can distract you." Rod leaned closer and gave Ant a gentle kiss on the lips. Ant smiled and held Rodrigo closer. They lay back and watch the myriad of colors bloom in the night, trying for just a little awhile to forget their problems.
She screamed. She kept screaming. Slick, black tendrils, not unlike cable, whipped out from its skeletal fingers and pierced the skin of her arm and began to burrow. Savarna wanted to die.
"Just tell me what I want to hear and this ends," it hissed. Savarna tightly closed her eyes, not wanting to look at the horrific creature that was torturing her. "You cannot wish this away. You have been plucked from your safety, little one. A captured pawn, purely expendable to both players-but even a pawn has its uses." Savarna fought against the chains that restrained her, her mind burning with the pain of her body.
"I'll never tell you the secrets of skipping," she forced out. "Besides, sometimes the queen comes to protect the pawn." It opened its jawbone and let loose a haunting cackle.
"The Shaman won't save you; she cannot reach you here. You see, I led Father Valencia and his corrupt monks. I slew the Shaman; she cannot save you," it grimaced, taking its face from disgusting to a truly horrific visage. "Now tell me what I want to know!" it shouted.
"Then you're Paulo Tornicasa?"
"Yes. You do know your city history, don't you?" it croaked. "It's a shame you'll never be able to share my identity with the rest of the Gamin." More tendrils snaked forth and tunneled into her flesh.
Savarna steeled herself for what was about to come and prayed that she would die sooner rather than later.
"What the hell are we doing out here?" Duncan asked.
"I said I'd explain when we arrived."
"Sure, but we're in a graveyard. Isn't this here?"
"Not quite yet," Grace said as she weaved between tombstones. "We are almost there."
"Fine. Look, Grace. I really think I'm going out on a limb here. I mean really, meeting in a graveyard in the middle of the night. This is some weird shit."
"Perhaps, but you wouldn't be here if you weren't curious." She took his silence as an acknowledgement of her position. They continued walking until they came upon a large marble mausoleum. "Now we're here." Duncan peered at the brass plate mounted to the side.
Tornicasa Family Mausoleum
May all the Tornicasa kith and kin
find peace within these marble walls
"Tornicasa? Why does that name sound familiar?" Duncan asked.
"Tornicasa was one of the first American families to settle in Santa Maria."
"That's right. I remember reading about them in school. Why are we here?"
"It is an important spot in Santa Maria and what is about to happen is important too."
"Hmmm? How do you mean?" Grace tucked her dark hair behind her ear.
"Look closely at the steps of the mausoleum." Duncan looked where he was directed. He squinted his eyes and thought he saw a faint outline on the steps.
"I don't see anything, just shadows playin' with my eyes."
"Are they? I'm impressed that you can see it."
"It's a ghost, Duncan."
"Okay. That's it. We're done. This has been crazy. My girlfriend and I are no longer together and I don't think I'm getting any more of a straight answer out of you than I am her." Duncan started to walk away. Grace, far more quickly than Duncan imagined she could move, drew a gun from inside her blazer and leveled it at Duncan. He immediately moved his hands up to a passive position. "Now, let's not get crazy, Grace."
"Oh, there's no crazy about it, Duncan. After tonight we can tell you all about what is really going on with Bree and Rodrigo, but first you have to prove yourself," she said with a slight sneer.
"I don't understand…"
"Toss over your cell phone."
"Do it!" she shouted. He slowly reached into his pocket and fished out his cellular phone. He tossed it to her. She caught it in her off hand and tucked it into her blazer pocket. "It's simple Duncan. There is a ghost here. That will become apparent soon enough. Either you will gain control of the ghost and bind it to your spirit or it will overcome you, killing you. Now, there is a possibility that you might defeat the ghost, but not be able to bind it to you. If this is the case, you will bleed to death. Only with the aid of the ghost will be able to heal your wound."
"What? This is insanity! No!" She fired once, into his stomach, near the liver. Duncan crumpled to his knees and then toppled backwards. Grace lowered her gun-arm and walked over to the Duncan, glancing down to watch the grass stain crimson with his blood.
"Why?" he gasped, his hand extending in a silent plea for aid.
"I hope to hear from you in the morning, Duncan. You will undoubtedly have many questions." She turned and walked away, looking at the fireworks in the distance. She didn't turn around when she heard him scream, but reflexively her hand went to her stomach, where she had been shot. She smiled to herself. I hope you make it, Duncan.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007