“Who Invited That Guy?”
Three Days Later
A Condemned Frozen Food Warehouse in Lawrence, Kansas
Detective Stack, correction: formerly Detective Stack startled himself as the giant metal door slammed shut to his rear. As his eyes adjusted to the dark entryway decked out in wall-to-wall 1970’s wood paneling and nigh-unidentifiably colored shag carpet, it became clear that this space had not been used in a long time. The reception desk featured a day calendar where every day featured a different puzzled looking animal with a speech bubble that read ‘Where’s the beef?’ He picked it up and smiled to himself, muttering “There was a time in my life I was disappointed I never lived to see this future.” The calendar flopped back onto the desk with a dusty thud, “toss that in with my VHS copy of The Untouchables. I’m sure every boy dreams of one day being played by Jake from Silverado,” he laughed to himself.
“Oh my god, Stack!” A voice yelled from behind him. The former detective spun around in the darkness and into the incoming hug from Alex; he was unable to divert the course of the embrace. “How the hell did you get out of there? I figured the Los Angeles county police department would be making lunchmeat out of you by now.”
“Please let go of me,” Stack said through labored breaths.
Alex released him and took a step backward into the darkness, embarrassed.
Stack looked around for the overheads. “Is there a light switch in here somewhere?”
“The breaker only works in the warehouse. Come on, there is a lot of people here already.” He turned and began to walk down the maze of hallways meandering toward the warehouse, “I don’t think there’s been any food stored here for fifteen years and the place still smells like goddamn fish sticks.”
“Wait, are there other returners here?”
Alex smiled. “Quite a few, actually.”
“How on Earth did you get in contact with all of them?”
The kid smiled again, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small stack of crumpled papers. “Stole your list when you were still clinkin’ bars in the joint.”
Stack’s brow advertised his lack of amusement. “Don’t try to talk like me.”
“You don’t have a patent on cool-ass 1920’s slang. I’m twenty-four hundred years older than you, you friggin’ chelóna.”
“It’s Greek for turtle—in my day that was a big insult. If somebody called me that I’d have stabbed them all up in their face-brains—oh, we’re here.” Alexander put his shoulder into a metal door and stumbled into the large open (and lit) warehouse. “Welcome to home base, man. From here on, you’re just Eliot.”
Eliot Ness removed his cap and looked around in awe at the size of the warehouse towering all around them. “Are we safe here?”
The two continued talking as they made their way across the distance of a football field to where the others were sitting and talking. “Minimal points of entry. We’ll need at least one person awake on a twenty-four hour rotation. You know, after a couple of days, it really hasn't been that bad.”
Eliot could see a few familiar faces and a few he could not yet recognize. “I imagine you set up sleeping areas in the warehouse.”
Alex laughed. “It’s 2012, man.”
“No reason to upset common courtesy. I sleep in boxers with an open front.”
The kid stopped Eliot short of the group. “Eliot. Modesty went out the window when a psychopath, who, by the way, killed Marie Antoinette and put Paul Revere into a coma four days ago, decided to pick us off!” He turned back to the group, mumbling as he rejoined their ranks. “Grow the hell up, man.”
Eliot ran after Alex, trying to catch up. “Then I will need two pairs of sweat pants!” He froze. A rush of embarrassment came over him as he realized that he just shouted that in front of a table of six going to town on two massive trays of Bagel Bites.
“Don’t eat the cheese ones! I want the cheese ones!” Richie screamed at Albert, trying to protect his undercooked bagel pizzas.
The cacophony of the bagel pizza-apocalypse was difficult for the older gentleman to deal with. Eliot walked around the edge of the table, situating himself in the middle of everyone, and announced loudly to the group, “How many people in this room are currently wanted by the police in any state?”
Five hands shot up, most not resting their ulterior bagel-shoveling hand in the process (John Quincy Adams chose to abstain from the pizza bagels on the grounds that “the food was an abomination, and further, a lack of sausage toppings was an egregious oversight.”)
“Richie, put your hand up!” Albert scolded his young friend across the table from him. “You’ve been kidnapped.”
“Oh yeah!” He squealed through his high-pitched East London accent, propping both hands in the air as a cheese bagel drooped from his mouth.
Alex attempted to take a seat next to Janey, but she got up in a huff and left the moment he sat down. She relocated next to Harriet and pretended to be completely unaware he was even in the room with them.
Since the run-in with Chloe at the motel pool, he was in the doghouse when he put them all in danger. Worse still, upon returning to the room, he refused to divulge any of the information he learned out of fear that Janey would go ballistic. It was not his finest hour, as the resulting argument was out of control, and she was not entirely wrong. After he held Paul, bleeding in the street, he became reckless.
Which meant he now had information that no one else in the group possessed. Alex looked across the table to Eliot, watching him suss out an oven-baked pizza bagel as he attempted to eat the thing with a fork and knife. The former police detective had to be the first person he informed of what Chloe revealed.
John piped up. “Excuse me, if we are all present, do you think we could address the issue of a psychopath trying to murder us all?”
Harriet shot a sideways glance to John. “Really? In front of the kids?”
“Due respect, as I have adored your work for two lifetimes now, Ms. Tubman, but Richie and myself have seen more bloodshed than everyone else at this table combined.” Albert said with an even tone, careful not to offend. “He killed four armed men with a pair of dulled kitchen knives on my birthday—saved my life.”
Richie excitedly extended his fist across the table in cheerful hope that Albert would return his fist bump.
He did not.
“Kid’s got a point,” John laughed and pretended to pour Coke into his rum and rum. “Probably doesn’t hurt that he has the highest IQ in the room.”
Albert raised an eyebrow and looked back. “We all retained the memories and education from our previous lives, so you’re half right. From an early age we all started to recollect memories of a life we were not currently living. While the information is there, our brains are still far too small to process any of it.”
John took a swig, taking a moment to enjoy the burn on the way down, and wondered, “So, what does that mean, kid?”
“It means I’m about five percent as smart as I should be, and my name is Albert not ‘kid.’”
The rum disappeared into a funnel of trapped ice cubes. He slammed the glass back down onto the table. “Me too, Al.”
“This isn’t going well,” Eliot angrily whispered down into Alex’s ear.
“Well, what do you want to do about it?” He whispered back.
Eliot pulled out his service revolver and fired once into the ceiling of the warehouse.
Everyone stopped what they were doing (except Richie who was still piling pizza into his mouth,) and turned their attention immediately to the gunfire.
“Everyone shut up for a second.”
“I’ve been trying to get a group of returners in the same room for months now. Do you think this was easy? If this is amusing to you in some way, then, by all means, there’s the door.” Eliot pointed off behind him. “I knew Marie. She was a friend and she was brutally massacred fourteen miles from here, only a few days ago. I didn’t come here to babysit a bunch of immature knuckleheads; I came here to help us stay alive long enough to understand why all of us came back for a second round. I gave up my career, a career I love so much I did it twice, to come make a game plan and hopefully work on finding others like us.”
“How many of us are there? Do we even know?” Harriet asked politely.
Albert raised his hand and wiggled it around as if this were fifth period English class.
Eliot scratched his forehead. “Yes. Albert.”
“As you all know, I’ve been working on my data-basing software. Well, Eliot doesn’t, but I’m sure you can figure it out. Actually, if you wouldn’t mind spending some time with me later I bet you could help me refine it.” Albert waited from validation from the man who had recently fired a live round into the ceiling to continue. “Okay, in a nutshell, I pulled phrases from the profile my psychologist kept on me. This lead to Richie, whose phrases I added into the database and so on. Harriet and Janey then supplied records from their high schools that I was able to widen the search with. With a wider breadth of phrasing, and a highly illegal database worm, I can pull information from all over the planet and rank it based on how closely it matches us. From there we’ll have to investigate by hand.” Albert finished.
“You’re a genius,” Eliot said without thinking.
“He’s Albert fuggin’ Einstein,” John slurred from across the table much to the chagrin of Harriet.
“So how many returners do you think there are?” Alex piped up suddenly.
Albert took a deep breath and scribbled a few things onto the reverse side of his paper plate. “Without knowing what percentage were never discovered by the system—”
“Just guess, Albert.”
He let out a deep sigh. “Uh, as few as forty—as many as two hundred, probably.”
Harriet did a spit take with her water. “Two hundred?”
Albert shook his head. “I can only guess with basic percentages based on the data we have collected. It’s possible we won’t ever know without a better way to spread information to potential returners.”
Eliot grinned and stepped back into the conversation. “Doesn’t that excite you guys? There are possibly more than a hundred other famous historical figures out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered. Wow, to think they’re all different—”
Alex touched his shoulder. “Eliot, that’s not exactly correct.”
“You bastard!” Janey slammed herself up from the table and yelled across to Alex.
“Can we try to keep it to one conversation at a time? When did this shit turn into a Mamet movie?” John growled as he poured another rum and rum.
Eliot again thought about The Untouchables. “Mamet!” he cursed quietly to himself.
“Now, Janey, just hang on a second. I—I do have information from Chloe.”
The whole room got louder at the mention of Chloe Freimont.
“You talked to Chloe and neglected to tell all of us that?” Eliot was yelling at the top of his lungs now. The meeting was quickly spiraling out of control.
“Where are my gummy worms? Dude, did you take ‘em?” Richie was yelling at whoever would listen.
Alex looked at the table and realized that everyone was arguing with someone else. Not knowing what to say, he took a deep breath and prepared to come clean about everything. “Okay! Here’s what I found out from Chloe!”
The slamming of a door on the other end of the compound stopped him cold. He pulled his pistol out of a thigh-holster he found in the warehouse offices.
Three other guns cocked around him and they all aimed toward the noise looming across the complex.
Footsteps began to echo across the hundred-or-so yards of concrete. A minute passed before a figure emerged that none of them recognized. He was in his early thirties with dark hair and a square jaw with a none-too-accidental five-o-clock shadow plastered across it.
The man recoiled when he realized he was at gunpoint from four people. “Whoa, whoa! I was told to come here,” he spoke in a soft French accent.
“Who told you to be here?” Eliot barked as if he were still on the job.
“Paul! Paul Revere! I was his friend and he told me to meet here on this day,” the man screamed in terror. His eyes darted around to the pistols drawn in his face.
Alex walked up slowly and patted the man down, keeping his gun trained at center mass. Coming up clean, he turned his attention back to the conversation at hand. “You’re clean. So who the hell are you?”
“Did he not tell you? He said he was going to tell you,” the man said, suddenly on the verge of tears.
Harriet stepped forward, putting forth a sympathetic smile. “Son, Paul was attacked.” She swallowed. “He’s in a coma—we don’t know if he’s gonna make it.”
The man took a moment and fell into a squat as he covered his face in his hands. “I talked to him—I talked to him a week ago. Oh my god. Oh my god.”
Eliot and Alex exchanged the same uneasy look, gave each other a knowing nod, and squeezed in on the flanks of the man on the ground. They grabbed his arms and lifted him to his feet. “You really need to tell us who you are. Now, please,” Eliot spoke calmly, finger lingering on the trigger.
The man looked back into Eliot’s eyes with his own swollen tear-filled eyes. “Sorry, I just lost track there. I’m Richard—my name is Richard.”
The room maintained its silence, waiting for him to finish that thought.
“Richard the Lionheart?” he looked around puzzled. “Paul told me you would know of me?”
Every mouth in the room, save Richie’s, fell agape.
Alex pushed the newly discovered Richard with an incredibly aggressive force and wheeled around to the rest of the group. “Get Richie out of the building now or we’re all dead!”
Janey grabbed Richie and ran from the room without needing any further information.
Alex knocked the older Richard to the ground and put his gun firmly against the forehead of the terrified man beneath him.
“Oh please don’t! I’ll leave—I’ll do whatever you want; just don’t shoot me. Oh God!” Richard pleaded from the ground.
Alex could feel his finger squeezing down on the trigger.
Was he about to kill this man in cold blood?