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Easter01's Father Michael's Saga

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tilly
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Posttilly on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:27 pm

Oh I was gripped, right til the end. I read faster and faster as i wanted to know what had happened. And now i have to wait.....brilliant job Joanne! coffeetime
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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:29 pm

bigsmile

I did the same thing tilly..omgosh it was awesome.. giggle


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:42 pm


You all are so wonderful. Thank you so much for your comments.

I'll be posting the next chapter tonight. YAY!!!

Easter01

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Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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tilly
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Posttilly on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:46 pm

My heart is seriously beating faster..... danceani
You write professionally...right?
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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 10:47 pm

No she don't but I have been hounding her to put these in a book..I would be the first one to figure out a way of buying them..all..one way or the other giggle


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:06 pm

tilly and Sam,

I'm a relatively new writer. I always wanted to write stories, but I had to earn a living.

Second thought: maybe, if you count all the status reports, projection reports, and after-action-reports that were professional. Oh, and the 'big waste of time' reports.   thlol

Thank goodness, that's in the past. Now, I'm having so much fun. I have so many ideas that seem to just jump on the page.

Easter01

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Last edited by Easter01 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:18 am; edited 3 times in total




Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 11:20 pm

This is soooo exciting.. :Spring2 more new stories. yippee ymd


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 2:19 am

Oh, wow! I didn't see that coming!!!

I do hope Simone completely heals... that would be both cruel and sad if she does not.

...and I really hope that vanilla vamp stays dead.



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 3:11 am


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016

Part 8



Father Michael was relaxing in the comfort of his easy chair in the sitting room of the rectory, reading his second-favorite book. It was an old book, published at the end of the nineteenth century, bound in leather with that slightly musty odor so appealing to true bibliophiles. It had been a gift to him by his father on his sixteenth birthday, to remind him of his heritage, and he had carried it with him on his travels ever since, just as he had the Bible that had been given to him at seminary by Father Raphael.

Embossed on the cover in gilt lettering was the title, Cantar de Mio Cid, the Song of My Cid, translated from the original manuscript in old Spanish housed at the National Library of Spain in Madrid. Written in the twelfth century, it was a stirring epic poem, full of action and romance, based on the life of his ancestor, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. He turned the fragile pages carefully. He had read the poem dozens of times, but the account of the great Spanish victory over the formerly invincible Moors in October 1094, at impossible odds, still stirred his blood. The city of Valencia was under siege by a vast Moorish army that had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar under command of Yussuf bin Tashufin. The defenders, fewer than 4,000 mounted men-at-arms led by El Cid, rode out against a Moorish force six times their numbers. In his mind, he could see the war elephants of the enemy and the showers of burning arrows, hear the pounding of thousands of drums and the fierce cries of men grappling in bloody, no-quarter combat. He turned the page, and read, in Spanish:

Were with the Cid four thousand less but a score and ten,
They came gladly to a battle against fifty thousand men.
Alvar Alvarez and Minaya on the other side did smite.
It seemed good to the Creator, and they threw them into flight.
With the lance the Cid did battle, hand he set to sword as well.
So many Moors he slaughtered that their numbers none might tell.
Down from his elbow streaming the blood of battle came.
Even against King Yussuf three buffets did he aim.

The Moors were routed, and Rodrigo Díaz claimed the sword of Yussuf as his own. Michael looked down at the coffee table at the open box where Tizona lay nestled in her velvet finery. That very blade.

Molly the Cat came sauntering into the room, casual as only a cat can be, brushing against the furniture and his legs to assert her ownership, and then hopped up into his lap. She stood up and placed her forepaws against his chest and stared into his eyes. He knew that look. Feed me, humble servant!

He sighed and laid a silk strip to mark his place and closed the book, placing it on the table beside the sword. Michael went into the kitchen and opened a can of cat food and scooped it out onto a saucer for his very demanding mistress. He checked his watch. It was a little after five o’clock. Marcel and Simone would be arriving in about an hour, so he had better get busy. He had promised to prepare Spanish cuisine for them tonight, but it had been a long time since he had fixed anything more complicated than a sandwich, and he was still learning where things were kept in the kitchen. He missed Rosa. She had been of the opinion that all men were like small boys who never washed behind their ears and never picked up after themselves unless taken firmly in hand, but not only had she run the household cheerfully and efficiently, she had also been an excellent cook. The thought brought a small, sad smile to his face.

It had been a very eventful few weeks in Pleasantview. The heinous murders of Rosa and the Perez family had brought another media circus to the town, especially since the killing of Rosa Morales was the second to take place in the Charles Gray house. Rosa’s body, in fact, had been found beneath the bed on which her severed head had been arranged with such malicious care. We never thought to look beneath the bed, he mused, not for the first time. We were hunting a vampire, and only children really believe in monsters under the bed. The Pleasantview police had investigated vigorously, and even called in a well-equipped forensics team from the city, but eventually were forced to conclude that the savage crimes had been the work of some transient serial killer.

So, once again the press had descended upon our fair community, along with hordes of thrill-seekers with nothing better to fill their lives. Doubtless many of those, along with the reporters, had been hoping that another gruesome and sensational murder would take place while they were here. Fortunately, they had been disappointed, and after a few days had passed the town was emptied of strangers and life had returned to something like normal. Except for those who had lost loved ones, whose lives now contained sorrowful gaps that could never be filled. He had held Mass for both Rosa and the Perez family, and presided over the graveside services. They had been interred in the Catholic cemetery behind Saint Joseph’s. The sight of the tiny caskets for the children had been heartbreaking. The Perez’s had been settled in Pleasantville for many generations, and the church had been filled with mourners. Rosa, on the other hand, was a relative newcomer, but she had a husband and two young children, and her mother had been able to make the trip up from Juarez in time for the services.

Marcel and Simone had been treated at the hospital and released; none of their injuries had been considered serious. Marcel had three cracked ribs, now securely taped, and Simone was sporting a plaster cast and sling for her broken left forearm. They had told hospital staff that they had been exploring Wind Cave, certainly an outstanding example of bad timing, and had barely escaped from the collapsing passages caused by the earthquake. Although the cave was a good fifteen miles from the community, the residents of Pleasantview had been alarmed by the shock and noise of the explosion, and many had rushed outdoors in a panic. The blast had set seismographs tingling all through the region, and the geologists at the State University had managed to track the epicenter to the Wind Cave valley. They had been puzzled by the occurrence of an earthquake in what had been believed to be stable bedrock, but ultimately attributed the quake to movement along a previously unmapped minor fault.

Michael himself had escaped with little more than bruises, except for a slightly chipped tooth. He ran his tongue along his teeth and could feel the tiny gap; he had an appointment with the dentist next week to have it repaired. His two French companions were hors de combat, out of action for a bit while their cracked and broken bones mended, and had decided to spend their medical leave from the Directorate recovering in Pleasantview. They were not living at the rectory, for his home had but the one bedroom, but had instead taken an efficiency apartment, posing as a married couple. It had now been a little over two weeks since the final confrontation with Alaric in the cave, and since then Marcel and Simone had visited him on almost a daily basis, at first to help him work up the after-action report to the Directorate, and then simply to socialize as friends. It was good to be able to close the book on the vampire Alaric, who certainly must have been one of the most prolific mass murderers in all of human history, though the account of his crimes would never be made public.

Michael puttered about in the kitchen, having first managed to locate all of the utensils and ingredients he would need for the meal he planned. He was no chef, by any means, but he knew his way around a kitchen and should have no great difficulty preparing some of the traditional Spanish cuisine on which he had grown up. It would be a relatively light repast. He had already started the rice, and now was chopping up vegetables for a salad, which he would stow in the refrigerator until it was time to eat. The main dish for the evening would be sautéed garlic shrimp with tomatoes and mushrooms, with the rice, and of course, bread and cheese on the side. There was a bottle of red wine, which he would use to make sangria, adding chopped fruit, some sweetener, and a dash of brandy for flavoring.

It was nearly six o’clock when there came a brisk knock on the door. Michael quickly rinsed and dried his hands with a small towel, and hastened to the front door to admit his two French guests. Simone came in first, followed by a grinning Marcel, who raised his hand to brandish a bottle of Chardonnay, exclaiming, “Eh, monsieur, real wine tonight, no more of that Spanish swill!”

Michael closed the door behind them and turned to fix Marcel with a mock-fierce gaze. “Oh no, my French friend! My house, my rules. Tonight we will be dining el Español…unless, perhaps, you would prefer to drive by the local fast-food emporium for some American hamburgers?”

Marcel and Simone both shuddered involuntarily. “Avoir de la pitié!” the Frenchman exclaimed in horror. “I thought we were friends! Why would you torture us so…I would rather face another vampire than American food!”

The priest grinned at their discomfiture, and then stepped forward to take the bottle of French wine. “I do believe this will be just fine for after dinner, amis, and I thank you for your thoughtfulness. Now, let’s go into the kitchen. Dinner is almost ready.”

Half an hour later, they were sitting back in their chairs, the remnants of Michael’s feast before them along with the lingering aroma of garlic and spices. “Shall we sample your Chardonnay?” Michael asked, and soon they were sipping on the vintage, served at room temperature as was the custom in much of Europe. At last, the Father reluctantly pushed back from the table, and said, “I am afraid I must cut our evening short. I have to make some calls on my parishioners tonight.”

Simone spoke up, “We will clean up these dishes, do not worry.” Michael started to protest, but she shook her head firmly. “We ‘ave been your invités…your guests, il est le moins que nous pouvons faire!”

Marcel stood up. “Yes indeed, mon ami, it is the least we can do, after such a fine meal,” he agreed. “We will lock the door when we go.” Michael bowed in defeat, and was about to depart, when he had a thought. “Ah, I must put Tizona away. I do not like to leave it out when I am gone.” The priest retrieved the box from the sitting room, closed the lid, and took it into the bedroom, stashing it beneath his bed. He picked up his Bible and his kit and went out the front door.

It was a fine evening for a walk through the neighborhood. The sun was low in the sky, the air was cool but not chill. Most of the residents were inside having dinner, or watching television. There were a few sitting out on their porches taking in the night air and socializing with visiting neighbors. It was an ethnically mixed, working-class neighborhood, though predominantly Hispanic. These were good people, strong in their faith and in support of the Church. He only had a few calls to make, and he appreciated the opportunity to get to know the members of his flock a little better, and to ease the burdens of troubled souls when needed. His first visit was to old Melissa Hancock, eighty-six years old and a shut-in invalid, who more than anything just wanted some company from time to time. Next he would go to see the Ramirez family, who wished him to counsel their daughter who was about to get married. His last stop for the evening would be to see Ramon and Sofia Ortega, whose newborn child would be christened Sunday at the church.

It was nearly nine-thirty when he bade the Ortegas farewell, and started back to the rectory. The moon had risen in the mean-time, the silvery disk riding midway above the horizon. The Ortega’s house was on the block on the other side of St. Joseph’s, and so he decided just to cut through the Catholic cemetery to the rectory. Michael had never feared graveyards, did not believe that they harbored restless souls. In the daytime, it was a lovely and tranquil setting, beautifully landscaped with a small pond near the center and painstakingly maintained. It was filled with many ancient trees, some even older than the town of Pleasantview, which provided peaceful shaded refuges beneath their wide-spreading boughs. The trees were beginning to shed their leaves, and they crunched pleasantly beneath his feet as he walked through the grounds. The air was still, and a fine mist was beginning to form close to the ground as the air continued to cool.

Michael was about halfway across when he suddenly checked himself, about to step into a newly-dug grave, almost invisible in the darkness and mist. Ah…yes, he recalled. It was for Manuel Vargas, who had passed away a few days ago, and was scheduled to be interred tomorrow. He would be saying Mass for Manuel in the afternoon.

He continued on his way, skirting the grave, when the rustling of leaves alerted him to another presence approaching through the darkness of the cemetery. He stopped, listening carefully. As the figure came out from beneath the overhang of an immense oak, the gleam of the full moon shone brightly down upon a form walking slowly but purposefully toward him, the mist swirling about his feet. It was human, yet not quite human. The clothes that it wore hung in tatters, so that the creature was nearly naked, one arm hung at an awkward angle, and, wherever skin was exposed, it had been horribly rent and slashed. The scent of vanilla spice came strongly to his nostrils, and he inhaled sharply. The face, as much as remained, was grotesquely disfigured, but Michael knew who, or what, it was, immediately. The figure came shuffling up to him and halted, red eyes staring balefully out of dark sockets like pits.

Michael realized he had been holding his breath, and he let it out. “Alaric,” he said. “You look terrible.”

The voice that came out of the apparition wheezed like a leaky valve, but cold and malevolent. “I am not so easy to kill,” it said. “Many have tried; none have come so close.” The dark lips spread in a rictus of a smile. “Yet here I am, even so, and I grow stronger every day. I am not as I was, but I am enough to rid the world of a pestilential priest.”

Michael felt an immense calm. This was his time to die, yet he felt no fear. He had no allies he could call upon in this moment of dire need, the great sword Tizona was stashed away a hundred yards distant, he had nothing with which to defend himself. Except for his faith in God. His faith was his sword and shield, his armor against the minions of Satan. If he must die now, at this time and in this place, at the hands of this foul creature, he would know that he had served his Lord faithfully and well, and that others would take up the battle against the creatures of evil.

He let his kit drop to the ground, and clasped his Bible with both hands, holding it firmly against his chest, and, as the torn yet still powerful vampire approached, defiantly stood his ground with both eyes open. In a strong voice, he began to recite the verses of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…” Soon he could feel the hot breath of the monster on his cheek, yet he did not flinch. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…”

Suddenly, he heard a snarl like the ripping of cloth, and a powerful body leaped past him, brushing him aside…Marcel! He staggered a brief step, and as he recovered his balance, he could see the ebony form of a huge panther astride the vampire, feet on its chest, powerful jaws clamped down on its shoulder, tearing, tearing, while the monster beat futilely at its attacker with its free arm. There was a bloodcurdling shriek, and the panther fell back with the detached arm between its teeth. Marcel shook it loose, off into the grass, and crouched down, ready to leap again, as the vampire lurched to its feet, swaying.

Astonished, Michael whipped his head around when he heard a familiar voice cry out, “Père Michael! Prends ça!” Running out of the darkness came Simone in human form, bearing Tizona in her hand. She tossed it to him across the distance, the blade slowly pinwheeling, the moonlight reflecting off the steel, and much to his own surprise, he snatched it easily out of the air by the handle. Stepping forward, with one fluid motion Tizona sang through the air and the vampire’s head went flying. As Alaric’s body collapsed to the ground, Michael sank to his knees, dropping the sword in the grass.

Marcel’s feline form rippled and in moments the young man stood up. He gagged and spat. “Mon Dieu, vampire tastes horrible.” He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “Especially old vampire.” He walked over to the priest, who for the second time in as many weeks, was surprised to still be alive. As Simone joined them, Marcel extended his hand. “Michael, it is over.”

The shaken priest gratefully accepted the hand and struggled slowly to his feet. “Thank you, my friends. Thank you!”

“Michael, did you think we would not always cover your back?” Marcel exclaimed. “We shadow you every evening you go out, and keep a watch on your house, as well. We destroyed the vampire, certainement, but, tous les mêmes…” He shrugged. “And tonight, tonight…it just did not feel right to me. I could feel a danger in the air.”

Once he was again steady on his feet, Michael shook his head and said, “But it is not over, not yet. We must destroy the body of the vampire, lest somehow he regenerates again.”

Marcel nodded. “Oui. There must be a final end to the monster.” He turned to Simone, who held his clothing. “Merci, cherie!” He dressed quickly, and then walked behind the Frenchwoman and unzipped her backpack. Rummaging around a bit, Marcel drew out two small grey canisters and showed them to the priest. He looked at Michael and raised an eyebrow. “Thermite should do it, n’est-ce pas?”

“Indeed,” Father Michael agreed. Marcel set the incendiaries on the ground beside the open grave, and together they began to gather up the pieces of the fallen vampire and dumped them into the hole, making sure all were in close proximity to each other. Marcel and the priest each took one of the grenades, pulled the pins, and dropped them onto the chunks of vampire flesh. The grave was immediately filled with a brilliant glare as the chemical reaction quickly reached a temperature of nearly 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, consuming everything it touched, even the soil and rock inside the hole. In moments, nothing material was left of the vampire, but as they watched, a black cloud rose from the grave and hovered over their heads like a malignant fog. They looked up in alarm, but suddenly a breeze arose, causing the branches of the trees to sway and groan, and the black fog was torn to tatters and drifted away.

Marcel took a shovel that he found nearby, and took several scoops from the mound of earth that had been removed to make the grave, scattering them over the bottom to conceal, as best he could, the scorch marks of the intense heat. Satisfied, he leaned on the shovel. “It is a shame, ne l'est pas, that some poor innocent must spend eternity with the remains of a vampire.”

Michael placed a reassuring hand on the shoulder of his friend. “What is in that grave now is no longer a vampire, my friend. Manuel Vargas, who will be buried here tomorrow, will share his final resting place with the ashes of a great king, who died long ago.”

Wearily, they walked back together to Saint Joseph’s rectory, Father Michael with the sword of a great warrior tilted over his back, the young French couple holding hands.


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with the Epilogue
coming soon





Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 3:50 am

Yeah!

And everyone is okay who should be okay!!!

Great story, Easter... you and your hubbie are marvelous writers <3



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 2:48 pm


Saint Joseph’s Home for Orphan Children
02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016


EPILOGUE

Father Michael was seated on a small, park-style bench beneath a tree, newly planted and as yet too young and too small to give any real shade. It was mid-May, nearly seven months since all the excitement that had rocked Pleasantview. Earthquakes and serial killers, of all things! It had been enough to keep the gossips busy for months, and tongues were still wagging. The past winter had been unseasonably mild, but there had been a cold snap a few weeks ago, and even a light touch of frost in the first days of May. So Michael was perfectly content with his spot in the sun, enjoying the warmth. He smiled involuntarily as a couple of small children, a boy and a girl, ran past his seat, immersed in one of the incomprehensible games of childhood. Tag, perhaps, he thought, and then, catching a sudden movement from the corner of his eye, instinctively raised a hand to fend off a brightly colored ball that came sailing out of the air from his left. It passed harmlessly by just over his head and was caught by a boy of about eight years who exclaimed, “Sorry, Father!” and, grinning, ran off with the ball.

He leaned back on the bench and let his gaze roam around the playground. It was all brand new, and furnished with the best and most colorful playground equipment money could buy, a swing set, a group of slides, several sets of monkey bars, a merry-go-round, even a climbing tower (not too tall, mind you) with a playhouse on the top. Toward the rear of the lot was a small cottage that housed restrooms. To his eyes the scene was utter chaos, a hubbub of noise with children running about everywhere, yelling at the top of their lungs, but he trusted Sister Maria to keep track of things and keep it safe for the little ones. He could see her off a few yards to his right, consoling a toddler who had apparently fallen and scraped a knee. He doubted it was very serious, since the new spring grass of the playground had come in lush and soft and sprinkled with dandelions.

Michael brought his consideration of the scene back to the left, taking in the house which stood at one side of the playground, separated from it by a low fence and a floral border. The house bore very little resemblance to the tired old structure that had occupied this location last year. The work crews had performed a miracle in renovating the Charles Gray house; the basic lines of the former building were still there, if one looked closely, but almost hidden beneath new construction and some rather drastic remodeling of the exterior. The most significant change had been the addition of a third story on top, providing some greatly needed additional space. A main door had been cut through the front, new sidewalks poured here and down the side of the building to the door which had once been the only entrance, and an additional door, for fire safety, installed in the rear. In the beginning, Michael had never imagined the number of rules and regulations, state and federal, that would have to be navigated to see the project through to the end, and quite often he had been of the opinion that fighting ancient monsters was far easier than drowning in paper and dealing with regulators.

Yet it had all come together in the end, and now his vision for the Gray house had become a reality with the opening of the Saint Joseph’s Home for Orphan Children a few weeks ago. Last year, the Goth Foundation had provided the seed money with a substantial grant, and the city council had agreed to come up with matching funds, but even so, this had not even begun to cover the necessary costs involved in taking the old house and turning it into a state-of-the-art facility for children ages infant through nine years. The community of Pleasantview, recognizing the need, had however come to the aid of the project by staging a variety of fundraising events, both here and in neighboring communities, and local businesses had also chipped in with several large donations. Daniel and Mary Sue Pleasant had used their political connections to tap into some state funding, which was used to acquire the lot next door and put in the playground which was to be accessible to not only by the orphan children but also those living in the area.

Lost in these pleasant musings, Michael’s attention was brought back to the present when he felt a hand placed on his shoulder. When he looked up and turned his head, there was Marcel, wearing his usual cocky grin, and the elfin Simone beside him…and a stranger, clad in black and wearing a priest’s collar. He sprang to his feet, and stepped around the bench to face the muscular Frenchman, and then stepped forward to embrace his old friend. “Marcel! It is so very good to see you!” he said, when they drew back, grinning at each other. “It has been far too long, what, half a year?”

Oui, mon ami,” Marcel said, “Not since our little dust-up with Alaric, no?”

Michael turned to Simone, and enveloped the petite French girl in his arms, and then held onto her shoulders at arms’ length, examining her. “Ah, mon cher, you are lovely as ever! Have you been able to keep this brute of a Frenchman in line?”

Je désespère, monsieur, je désespère,” she said solemnly, and then laughed, a sound like the tinkling of a mountain stream.  

As the priest continued to hold onto her in the pure pleasure of seeing her again, Marcel cleared his throat. “Excusez-moi, monsieur! I fear you are becoming a bit too familiar with my future wife,” he said, forbiddingly, but could not maintain his threatening demeanor for long and smiled broadly.

Michael was delighted, and stepped back to take both Marcel and Simone by their hands. “Mes amies! I am so happy for you! When is the big day?”

“Next month,” Marcel said. “Ma chère wanted a June wedding…in Paris, bien sûr!”

Simone looked at Marcel, and then turned her blue eyes on the priest. “We were ‘oping, very much, that you would perform the ceremony,” she said, softly.

“How could I not!” Michael exclaimed. “It would be my honor! Please, tell me all about your plans. Simone, no doubt every bachelor in France will be in mourning.”

From behind them came a discreet throat-clearing, and they turned to see the other priest, who had been waiting patiently during this exchange, smiling with his hands clasped at his waist. He was darkly handsome, long-haired and sporting a Van Dyke moustache and goatee, with stubble on his cheeks. Marcel slapped his forehead and quickly said, “My apologies, Father. We were so caught up in the moment that…well, ça ne fait rien! Father Michael, allow me to introduce Father Patrick Logan from Boston.” The two priests shook hands, sizing each other up.

“I am very pleased to meet you, Father” Michael said. “What brings you to Pleasantview?”

Before Father Patrick could respond, Marcel said, “The Father is your replacement, Michael, did I not say?”

Michael was completely flabbergasted. “Replacement! But…have I done something wrong?”

“Oh no, Father! Not at all! You have been promoted!”

Father Patrick now stepped in hastily. “What Marcel is trying to say,” and here he shot a rather severe look at the completely unrepentant Frenchman, “is that the Directorate has been quite pleased with your performance of late, particularly in the regrettable affair of the vampire Alaric.” He dropped his voice for the last few words, and then continued in a more normal voice. “Pleasantview has been relatively quiet for the last few months, and they believe you would be more useful in another role. I have been assigned here to hold down the fort, so to speak.”

“We are to be a permanent team,” Simone interjected, happily, and Marcel nodded, taking her hand in his.

“Well, this is quite a surprise,” Michael said. “I think we should go over to the rectory and have some tea and talk about this. But first,” and he turned and waved in the general direction of the new orphanage and playground, “What do you think? A little different from the last time you saw it, perhaps?”

“I cannot believe it is the same place,” Marcel said. “It is truly amazing.”

“We are quite proud of what we have accomplished here. Let me give you all the grand tour, and introduce you to some friends.” Michael turned and led the way out to the sidewalk and down to the front door of the house. “Father Patrick, this will, after all, be your charge in the future.”

At a gesture from Michael, they stopped just before the house. “The Charles Gray house, as you will recall, Marcel and Simone, was in pretty bad shape but structurally sound. We replaced a few rotten boards on the outside, scraped off all the old paint, and repainted it, as you see. Our overall vision was to remodel the exterior to resemble one of the “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco. This door,” he indicated the front door, “is new, as is the porch. Before, you could only enter the house through the side. And we were able to save those marvelous bay windows, thank goodness, and extend them up to the third floor. Come on and I will show you the interior.”

Michael walked up onto the front porch and opened the door, and waved his guests inside before following them in. They went through the front foyer and came out into what had been turned into one very large room that occupied nearly the entirety of the first floor. “The engineers gave us their approval to remove the interior walls and open it up,” Michael said. “Of course, we had to install some rather heavy steel beams in the ceiling to span across the room and take the load. That was quite a task, I assure you! We tore out all the old lathe-and-plaster and put in all new wiring and plumbing, new drywall and bright white paint…no institutional drab!”

Father Patrick was inspecting the spiral staircase that wound up to the second floor. “I really like this staircase…is it original?”

“Oh, yes,” Michael answered. “All we did was to strip off the old paint and repaint it. The grillwork all the way around and behind each step makes it safe for the children to use. They just love it, although we try to keep the toddlers off. It has a plexiglass enclosure upstairs to keep anyone from accidentally falling down the stairwell.”

In the center of the room was a long, glass-topped dining table covered with papers and documents. Two people, a man and a woman, had been seated at the table when the newcomers had entered, and had stood up and now waited expectantly for an introduction. Michael led his guests over to meet them. “This is Salma and Cyd Roseland, who live here and manage the orphanage for Saint Joseph’s. Cyd is a social worker from the State University, and Salma is a registered nurse who used to work at the hospital but now devotes full-time to the needs of the children here.

“Salma, Cyd, these two young folks are very good friends of mine from France, the lovely Simone Bataille and her fiancé, Marcel Guillon. They have asked me to officiate at their wedding in Paris next month.”

Cyd reached out and took Simone’s hand, nodding at Marcel. “Enchanté, young lady.” He smiled, adding, “And that is just about all the French I have.” He released her hand and took Marcel’s in a firm handshake. “Young man, that’s quite a prize you have there. Congratulations.” Salma likewise introduced herself, and then turned to Father Patrick. “Father, you are a new face in town. Are you visiting with Father Michael for a while?”

Michael now formally introduced his colleague. “This is Father Patrick Logan, from Boston. Actually, you will be seeing quite a bit of him from now on, since he is going to be replacing me here in Pleasantview.”

“Goodness, Father!” Salma exclaimed in shock. “We really are going to hate to lose you!” Then, a bit flustered, “Oh dear…Father Patrick, I didn’t mean…”

Father Patrick stepped forward and took her hands in both of his. “It’s quite all right, Mrs. Roseland, I quite understand. Father Michael has been a good friend and an asset to the community, and I know that I have some large shoes to fill. The good Father has actually been promoted, and is being reassigned.”

They exchanged a few more pleasantries, and then Father Michael excused himself, saying “I’m giving my friends here a tour of the house, so I’ll let you get back to what you were doing.”

“Sure, Father,” Cyd said. “I’m sure you and Father Patrick have a lot to discuss. Hey!” he said, as a sudden thought occurred to him. “Why don’t you all come over tonight and be our guests for dinner. I bet the children would love to meet Father Patrick!”

“That’s a great idea!” Michael said, and Patrick agreed enthusiastically, as did Simone and Marcel.

Michael showed them the rest of the first floor, the large modern kitchen just off the dining area, and the two half-baths and laundry room, then led his guests up the spiral stairs to the second floor, which also had a very open floor plan, consisting mainly of a large, well-lit play area for the children, covered with soft carpet and filled with a variety of colorful toys and child-sized furnishings. In the front of the room, before the large bay window, was a reading area with a couch and bookshelves, and a comfortable rocking chair to help soothe fretful infants. Off to one side was a desk used by the Roselands for the business of the orphanage, and their master bedroom and bath was at the rear. When they arrived on this floor, they were introduced to Sister Theresa, who was feeding an infant from a bottle. There were two toddlers engrossed in stacking blocks in the center of the room, and another infant asleep in a swing.

Marcel looked up. “Steel beams in the ceiling here, too?”

“Yes,” Michael acknowledged. “We really wanted to give each floor a very open appearance. The floors are extra thick to conceal the beams, but that was not a problem because these old Victorian houses had high ceilings. There are also vertical beams inside the walls to support them. Let’s go on up to the third floor.”

The third floor was again very open and used as sleeping quarters, most of the space consumed by a dorm for the children. There was a row of four child-sized bunk beds along one wall, separated by a partition into spaces for girls and boys, and, on the opposite side, four cribs for the infants and toddlers. On the other side was the bedroom used by Sisters Maria and Theresa, who were residents of the home. There was a changing table on the far wall. At the rear of the floor were two bathrooms with showers, separate accommodations for male and female children.

“Right now we are pretty much at capacity,” Michael explained. “The home is designed to take care of children from infants up to about nine years old. Older children, unfortunately, have to be cared for at a state facility, but we are hoping to expand in the future. There is a vacant lot behind us that we hope to acquire, and build on an addition if we can get funding.” He nodded at Father Patrick. “Or rather, Patrick, that will be a project for you!”

“This place, she is lovely!” Simone said. “The poor enfants are lucky to have such a home, and such good people to take care of them.”

“We have a lot of help from the community; I don’t know how we’d manage without them,” Michael said. “We have people who help with sports activities for the children, who teach art classes, music and dance, volunteers from the library who come in every day to read to them, and bring new books. The church bus takes them to school and back every day. We also work closely with state agencies to place the children in good homes.”

“I am truly impressed,” Father Patrick said quietly. “This home is just wonderful. I feel blessed to be able to be part of it in the future.”

“Eh, Père!” Marcel laughed. “If you had seen it before, you would not say ‘wonderful,’ you would say, ‘miracle’!” At this, they all laughed with him.

Father Michael led the way back down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk. “Let us go back to the rectory and have some tea, and discuss the news you have brought me. Later, I would like to show you Saint Joseph’s. We have a beautiful church here.”

Michael raised a cautionary finger. “There is one very important test that you must pass before you can take up residence.”

Patrick was startled. “A test? What…”

Michael cut him off, waggling his finger. “Yes. I will introduce you to our Molly, and she will have to decide whether she wants to adopt you.”

“Adopt…?” Father Patrick said wonderingly, and Simone dug an elbow into Marcel’s ribs while Michael draped an arm across the confused priest’s shoulders and led him down the sidewalk, followed by the quietly giggling French couple, arm in arm.

Twenty minutes later, Father Patrick was settled comfortably at one end of the couch, balancing a tea cup in his lap, with a furry, four-legged vibrating muff draped across his shoulders and Marcel and Simone at the other end.

Michael, in his usual chair, took a sip from his teacup. “It seems that Molly the Cat must approve of you.”

Patrick veered his eyes sideways, trying to catch a glance of his neck-warmer. “I take it this means I am suitably adopted?”

Michael set the cup back down on the saucer. “It would appear so. Now, I would like to hear about my new assignment.”

Patrick deferred to Marcel, who spoke up. “As I said, ami, it is a promotion. After receiving our report on the Alaric incident last October, the Directorate called us in for an interview about you. Naturellement, we gave you glowing reviews.”

Simone gave her fiancé a sideways kick. “Imbecile! He has earned it!”

Marcel gave her a wounded look, and turned his attention back to Michael. “As I was saying, the Directorate was impressed, not just with how the vampire was handled, but by your performance over the last five years, since you joined the organization. This is due, je suis certain, to my influence!” He jerked his leg out of the way as Simone aimed another kick. “They ‘ave decided, and the Vatican has agreed, that it would be best to no longer divide your efforts between your duties as a parish priest and those of the Directorate.

“They wish you to be a full-time officer of the Directorate, and devote all your efforts to keeping humans safe from non-human lawbreakers.”

“We are a team now!” Simone was practically bouncing up and down in her seat.

C'est vrai,” Marcel agreed. “They liked the way we have achieved results whenever we have worked together. So we have been assigned to work as a permanent team, with a roving assignment, going to wherever we are needed.”

Father Patrick spoke up. “Putting out brush fires, so to speak.”

“So…,” Michael said, “When do we start?”

“Immediately,” Marcel answered, and put down his teacup. “Start packing. I have us booked on a flight to London tomorrow evening.”

“Tomorrow?” Michael was surprised. “That is not much time to get Father Patrick settled in. What is in London that is so urgent?”

Marcel looked him in the eye, and solemnly said, “Zombies.”


Saint Joseph’s Home for Orphan Children




















































(c) 2016 Joanne Easter and Richard Easter. All Rights Reserved.

Credits:
Dead Houses - 02 Starling Lane
Original storyline and outside
pictures of original house are
by BearTrapTree at GOS

Marcel and Simone's
pics are from Oopsie's Sims




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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 8:15 pm

This story was a beautiful one and if I remember correctly this was the first one we read..and that is when you started putting your stories up here on CBS..and I am truly thankful and honored..to have you and your stories..here..lovepaint


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
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I am so proud of all of you..
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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:48 pm

I see, now, how the group got together!

Thank you, again, Easter for sharing your stories with us <3



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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croiduire
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Postcroiduire on Sun Feb 26, 2017 3:35 pm

Great story! Thank you!



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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:43 pm


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016


Part 1

Dr. Marie Rose Saint-Just was a diminutive but startlingly attractive and slender black woman of thirty-seven with short wavy hair, dark brown eyes, skin the color of milk chocolate, and a flawless complexion. She was a rising star at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital on the outskirts of the old City of London, head of the Department of Internal Medicine. Marie Rose had come a long way from the ramshackle Haitian dwelling in which she had been born, and expected to rise still further in her field.  Today she was sitting as chair of the monthly meeting of the hospital’s Morbidity and Mortality Committee. The business of the committee was to select for peer review a number of cases in which patients had died, either following a surgical procedure or because the case was of special interest or teaching value. The committee was composed of representatives from the medical, surgical, obstetric, and pathology departments; attendance was mandatory for residents and interns. As chair, Saint-Just’s task was to lead the critique and encourage discussion on any questions concerning the deaths.

There were more than fifty cases on the docket for this month. For each case, the attending physician had presented the facts of the case, including the date of admission, the date of death, and autopsy findings, as well as any imaging scans and, if relevant, video of the surgical procedure. Most of these could be dispensed with rather quickly, being DOA’s brought to the doors of the emergency room from which the spark of life had already fled. The human body is such a fragile thing, she reflected, as she listened to the litany of stabbings, bludgeonings, drownings, drug overdoses, vehicle accidents, electrocutions and the amazing variety of other ways by which people were unfortunately prone to dispatch themselves and others. Even an occasional shooting, although these were relatively rare in Britain, where firearms were illegal to possess. Criminals, however, seemed to have no great difficulty in obtaining these weapons.

Fortunately, just as frequently the victims arrived still clinging to life, and the dedicated staff of the hospital were able to fan that tiny spark back from the brink. The battles were also diligently waged against the ailments that afflicted the spectrum of humanity from infants to the elderly, the never-ending war upon old enemies such as cancer and heart disease, and newly emerging threats such as the AIDS virus and antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis.

What was intolerable, however, was when the battle was lost as a result of a care-giver’s incompetence, a circumstance all too common in the health-care system. Marie Rose had no forgiveness in her heart for physicians and other health workers who put patient lives at risk as a consequence of their own carelessness or sloppy procedure. The cases under discussion today had all been relatively straightforward, with no indication of physician or staff error. The last case was a different matter, however, because even though it had not resulted in a death, it appeared that there had been a major blunder by a resident and very likely would involve litigation.

Marie Rose steepled her fingers as she listened to the presentation. The patient had been a slightly obese man of about fifty years old, who had been brought in for cardiac surgery to repair a leaky heart valve. During the procedure, the surgeon had missed tying off a bleeder and had closed the incision unaware of the problem. Over the next few hours, blood began to pool in the abdomen of the patient, and his condition had begun to deteriorate alarmingly. The man had been rushed into emergency surgery where he had been opened up and the problem discovered and corrected, but unfortunately the patient did not respond well and died on the table. As she recalled, this was not the first botched procedure by this particular surgeon, and she made a note to follow up on it. If her impression was correct, she would institute proceedings for a full inquiry that would most likely result in the doctor’s privileges being revoked at St. Bartholomew’s.

“I believe that was the last item of business on our agenda,” Marie Rose observed, neatening up the stack of papers on the desk before her. “Is there anything else we should discuss, before we adjourn?”

The pathologist, a short, white-haired man named Walter Williams, cleared his throat. “I suppose it is not really the business of this committee, but there is a problem of which I thought you should be informed.”

Marie Rose looked up, interested. “And what might that be, Walter?”

Walter looked very uncomfortable, and hesitated, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopping his forehead. “There has been a rash of thefts in the morgue.”

“Thefts? What kind of thefts?” Marie Rose prompted. “Are you missing supplies, or equipment?”

“Well, no, not equipment. It’s bodies.” Walter now had the full attention of the committee. “Bodies have been disappearing, and we simply have not been able to figure out what happened to them.”

Fred Abernathy, a vascular surgeon, chuckled. “When we lose a patient, Walter, they end up in your shop. Just exactly how do you lose one? Do you suppose they just got tired of waiting and left?”

Marie Rose frowned at him and turned back to Walter. “Could this simply be a computer error of some sort? A record-keeping problem?”

He gave her a stricken look. “I honestly don’t know. We had no idea there even was a problem with the bodies until we started getting complaints from the medical school that they were being shorted on cadavers. My staff and I checked our records very carefully as soon as we became aware of the situation. All the cadavers were properly signed for, but somehow they got lost between our morgue and the school.”

She drummed her fingers lightly on the tabletop. “How long has this been going on? Just how many bodies have disappeared from your morgue?”

Walter could not help but notice that she had said, your morgue, not the morgue, and he reddened with embarrassment. “As best as we can determine, during the last year the hospital has lost no fewer than twenty bodies.”

Miranda Long, representing the obstetrics department, was aghast. “My God, Walter! Twenty? How could you not notice?”

“Do you know how many bodies come through the morgue each year?” he said defensively. “Hundreds, that’s how many, and the last round of budget cuts reduced our staff! We’re doing the best we can!”

Miranda sniffed derisively. “I think missing bodies is pretty *&%$# inexcusable.”

“Of course it’s inexcusable!” Walter was angry now. “Do you think I haven’t turned my department upside-down and inside-out trying to get to the bottom of this? A big part of the problem is that, without exception, every one of the missing bodies has been a homeless person, an unclaimed body, and nobody cared to inquire about them.” He paused. “There’s one odd thing, though. All of them have been male, twenty to forty years old. No missing females at all. And none of them had been scheduled for an autopsy, just being held pending disposition to the school or burial in potter’s field.”

“That’s pretty specific, and yes, pretty strange,” Miranda mused. “Perhaps it is time to contact the police. There needs to be an investigation into this.”

Marie Rose held up a hand. “Let us not be premature. I don’t think there is any need to bring the authorities into this, just yet, for something that is probably just an error in record-keeping. For now, let’s keep it in-house. Walter, I suggest that you make a more rigorous investigation, and question your staff and the mortuary service.”

When he nodded miserably, she said, “Now, if there is nothing else…? Very well, we are adjourned.”

With that, the meeting broke up, and they returned to their departments. Marie Rose continued to sit at the table, deep in thought. Despite her outwardly dismissive attitude, she knew this was going to be a real problem.


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
continues with Part 2
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Last edited by Easter01 on Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:42 pm; edited 1 time in total




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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Mon Feb 27, 2017 11:27 pm

bravo

I hope you continue this Saga for a very long time..I just love stories like this..lol..

Awesome job girl
bigsmile


Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
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I am so proud of all of you..
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croiduire
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Postcroiduire on Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:55 am

I love the beginning. Brilliant characterisation; speaking as a former nurse, I think you nailed that warped sense of humour so common to many surgeons.



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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:41 pm


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016


Part 2

The sun was not far above the horizon over the city of Lyon, France. In a small, one-bedroom apartment on the Rue de Bossuet, in the Sixth Arrondissement not far from the banks of the Rhone River, Edouard Leclerc was getting ready for work. He was a short, thin man of late middle age, rather vain of his appearance, who wore his hair long on top and combed over to conceal an enlarging bald spot. Of late, Renée Dupont, a computer analyst in his office, had been teasing him by rubbing the spot, “for luck,” she said, a habit he found most annoying. Edouard was standing in front of the mirror mounted on the wall in the bath, adjusting his bow tie. It was one of his few extravagances, having paid nearly fifty euros for the silk tie with its paisley pattern in red, blue and yellow. It would provide that one little bit of color in his outfit, a dark business suit with a white dress shirt beneath.

Biting his lower lip, he gave the tie one more tug. There, parfait! As a single man, he needed to look his very best for the ladies in the office. He thought perhaps that Renée would not be singling him out if she were not interested in him. Edouard glanced at his watch; it was nearly time to leave, although the office was only a short ride away by bicycle. He walked out into his bedroom where his suit jacket was hanging on front of the wardrobe. On the bed was his faux-leather briefcase, which only held his dinner and a few yellow legal pads; he liked to carry it, nevertheless, for it made him feel more important, even though he was not allowed to bring any documents home for the sake of security.

The doorbell rang. “*&%$#,” he muttered, and walked briskly out into his living room to the apartment door. He flung the door open, irritated by the intrusion, to find an attractive red-haired girl in messenger’s livery standing there with a package under her arm and holding a clipboard.

Êtes-vous Monsieur Leclerc?” she said.

Oui,” Edouard replied. “Pour moi?”

She nodded. She was a pretty little thing, he observed, with such lovely green eyes. “Je dois voir votre identification, s’il vous plaît,” she inquired briskly.

He clucked his tongue in exasperation, and waved her inside. “Entre, mademoiselle,” he sighed. This was going to make him late, and his superior was insistent upon punctuality. While she waited, just inside the door, Edouard walked back into the bedroom to get his wallet, which was tucked safely away in the inside breast pocket of his jacket. He turned about and was startled to find that the messenger had followed him into the bedroom and was standing right behind him. She no longer had the package or the clipboard, he noticed,

He was just about to open his mouth to protest this outrageous behavior, when she reached up and placed a hand on his cheek. Her eyes, which had been such a beautiful shade of green, were now glowing yellow. At the touch of her palm, he found that he no longer had the power to speak, or to move, but was frozen onto the spot.

“Ssshh,” she crooned, “Cela va bientôt fini…” To his horror, he felt his face beginning to melt, under her hand; it felt as though his very flesh was being absorbed. In another moment, he felt no more, and he fell into darkness.

The figure that had been Edouard Leclerc shrank rapidly, losing its shape and becoming smaller and smaller as its substance was taken in by the creature that had posed as an attractive messenger-girl, who followed him down to the floor as the last bits disappeared, kneeling to keep its hand in unbroken contact. As the transference continued, a cloud of greenish vapor boiled off of the thing, swirling across the floor, as its former mass was replaced by the new acquisition. At last there was nothing left of Edouard but a pile of rumpled clothing on the floor. The creature knelt there for a moment with its eyes closed, breathing deeply, and then lifted its hand off the floor. Turning its hand over, its tongue flicked out and licked the palm, once, twice. It gathered up the pile of clothing and stood up.

The thing quickly stripped off the messenger’s clothing, which had split and torn to accommodate the new, larger form it had assumed, and began to dress in Edouard’s clothing. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, it carefully adjusted the bow tie to its satisfaction. The face that gazed back out of the mirror was of a middle-aged man with hair combed over a bald spot. It went back into the bedroom and put on the suit coat, buttoning it up, and secured the briefcase on the rack of the bicycle which was parked just inside the door. He rolled the cycle out of the apartment, closed and locked the door behind him, and rolled it over to the elevator at the end of the hallway.

Once outside, the thing with Edouard Leclerc’s face and body threw its leg over the bike and pedaled a few blocks to the Pont Lafayette, crossing the bridge over the Rhone River, and then followed the river road southward to Leclerc’s workplace. It was not a great distance, only about five kilometers, but the transformation had taken time and it would not do to be too late. At last the warehouse building came into sight, a two-story red-roofed structure of concrete block painted along the sides in large, gaily colored squares of red, blue, yellow, and green, located on the Presqu’ile peninsula just north of the junction of the Rhone and Sabine rivers. The shape-shifter (for that is what it was) wheeled the bicycle into the parking lot at the end of the building, dismounted and carefully chained the bike to one of two long racks next to the wall, both nearly filled. In between the racks was a large overhead roll-up door, and beside this was a human-sized plain steel door, painted blue, over which hung a sign identifying the premises as Les Importations de Médaillon. On the door, just above the handle, was an electronic lock with keypad.

“Edouard,” using the memories it had absorbed along with the body of its victim, entered the code on the keypad. There was a sharp metallic click as the lock disengaged and allowed the lever-style door handle to operate. The thing stepped inside and walked down the center of the warehouse, briefcase swinging, between rows of stacked crates and boxes piled up nearly to the ceiling. A yellow line painted on the concrete floor divided the warehouse into left and right sides. About midway, the line made an abrupt right turn into an aisle that led to a door in the sidewall of the building, equipped with another keypad.

There was a desk beside the door with a man in a white shirt and yellow hardhat seated behind it, a clipboard on the desktop before him. Mounted on the wall beside him was a bank of video monitors showing the feeds from security cameras mounted outside the building, and behind him was a row of steel lockers. He looked up briefly at the shapeshifter, who lifted the security badge hanging from a cord around his neck and showed it to him, and then set the briefcase down and opened it for inspection. The guard poked around inside with a pencil and then nodded. The Leclerc imposter entered the appropriate code at the door and walked inside, stepping through a metal detector built into the frame.

The creature was no ordinary shape-shifter. There were two types of shifters that were essentially human, with the special ability to assume another form. The most common type could take on the shape of a specific animal, and these included the were-wolves and were-panthers and a whole host of similar types who could only become one particular animal. Far more rare were the human shifters who could transform into nearly any animal shape of roughly equivalent mass. The laws of physics imposed certain rules even in the domain of the supernatural. It was not possible, however, for a shifter to change from a human into a fly, for example. The thing that had become Edouard Leclerc was neither of these kinds, nor was it in any sense even remotely human. It (for it had no discernable gender) was a creature of the Underworld, a demonic creature that could take on the shape of nearly any human or animal. In order to do so, however, the original subject had to be absorbed, destroying it in the process. The shifter took in the DNA of the victim, and possessed not only its form identical down to the molecular level, but also its memories and personality, while retaining its own identity dominant in the shared space of the duplicated brain.

The first, and least rigorous, of several layers of internal security successfully negotiated, the shifter now found itself in a small unadorned room confronting a set of elevator doors. Beside the elevator was a badge reader. The shifter inserted the badge into the slot of the reader, and a moment later the doors opened. There was no control panel inside, no buttons to select a destination. Instead, a bland female voice, computer-generated, instructed him to move forward and position his face next to the control panel, where a digital scan would be made of his retinas. This completed to the satisfaction of the security programming, the elevator began to move downward into the earth.

Even the real Edouard had not known exactly how far underground the elevator traveled, but after about ten seconds of motion it came to a rest and the doors opened. The imposter stepped out into a brightly lit corridor with unadorned concrete walls that stretched off into the distance for hundreds of feet. There was a final check-point just outside the elevator, manned by two unsmiling guards who again carefully examined his credentials and checked his fingerprints against those on file in the database of authorized personnel. Pseudo-Edouard’s nostrils flared unnoticed; one of the guards was a were-beast of some sort. Having successfully passed all of these tests, the thing in human form waved to the guards and strolled down the hallway, briefcase in hand, passing numerous closed doors to the left and right, until it came to the very end, where there was a simple gray door, with another electronic lock, marked “Directeur.”    

A pass with the security badge, and the door clicked and swung open, revealing a very modern office with oak paneling and two desks. Against one wall was a series of large flatscreen televisions tuned to a variety of news stations, with the sound muted. “Edouard” stepped inside and walked across the thickly carpeted floor to his own work station, an L-shaped modular desk with a thirty-inch LCD computer monitor on each section, slaved to each other. He set the briefcase down in the space under the desk and lowered himself into the swivel chair, reaching under the desktop to power up the computer system.

Bonjour, Edouard!” came a cheery greeting from the only other occupant of this outer office, who had swiveled around in her chair when he entered. Renée Dupont was seated behind a similar work station on the other side of the room, the difference being that her desktop contained not two monitors, but four, reflecting her position as a highly skilled computer analyst. She was holding a demitasse of very strong café express. Renée winked at him and put her cup back down on the saucer. In French, she continued, “The Director wishes to see you, first thing.” She waggled her finger at him. “He’s not in a very good mood…he tends to get very cranky when his personal assistant is late!”

The shifter smiled ruefully at her and, rising, walked over to the door at the end of the room and knocked lightly. A gruff voice bade him enter, and he opened the door and went in.

The brass nameplate on the door was inscribed:

Bjørn Kriger
Directeur
Directorate 14


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
continues with Part 3
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PostEaster01 on Fri Mar 03, 2017 3:23 pm


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016


Part 3

The French-built Dassault Falcon 2000LXS business jet streaked across the Atlantic at an altitude of 13,000 meters, burning up the distance at 850 kilometers per hour following the MTR – Minimum Time Route -  from Halifax. It was a little after one o’clock in the morning, the plane slipping through star-sprinkled velvet blackness. Inside the cabin, three passengers were reclining comfortably in the white-upholstered seats, sipping Merlot from crystal stemware. On one side of the wide-body cabin was Father Michael Mendez, toying idly with the beads of his rosary as he gazed absently through the large window into the vast darkness outside the plane. On the opposite side were Marcel Guillon, a well-muscled Frenchman with a shaggy mop of chestnut hair, his fiancée Simone Bataille in the seat beside him, an attractive blonde sporting a pixie cut. They had their heads together and were laughing about something; a closed laptop computer lay on the desktop before them. All three were agents of Directorate 14, the secret branch of Interpol charged with investigating supernatural crimes and criminals.

They were nearly halfway through the flight across the ocean, their destination London, England. The three young warriors had boarded the private Interpol jet in the early evening after driving to Philadelphia from the community of Pleasantview. The first leg of their journey had taken them to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for refueling, since the jet did not quite have the range to cross the Atlantic in one hop in a direct flight from New York or any other east-coast city. The pit stop in Canada had been fast and efficient, so that they were again airborne in less than an hour. They should be making their descent upon Heathrow in little more than three hours.

Marcel returned his seat to the upright position, set his wineglass down, and flipped open the lid of the laptop, pressing the power button. “Euh, cherie,” he sighed, and continued in French. “Perhaps we should tend to our homework? Let us see what the Directorate has on file about zombies.” He winked at Simone, who brought her seat up so that she could see the screen. “Tu vois, we may not ‘ave access to all the sooper-dooper double top-secret files without a direct link to the agency server, but there should be some general background information.”

“Zombies, they are so disgusting, no?” She made a face. “I would not want to ‘ave to bite one! Can we not just shoot them?” Simone was referring to the dual nature of herself and Marcel; they could fight as humans, using a variety of modern weaponry, or, being shape-shifters, could transform into a pair of sleek and powerful black panthers, especially useful when a stealthy approach was the best strategy, or when sheer strength and ferocity were needed.

They waited together impatiently as the machine went through its tedious start-up routine. At last the laptop had finished whirring and beeping, and the screen lit up with a blue background on which was displayed the symbol of Directorate 14, a crossed sword and Christian cross with a dove superimposed, representing the alliance of Interpol and the Church in their joint mission to protect human kind from the depredations of non-human criminals. Just below the logo was a box requesting user name and password. Marcel filled in the required information and pressed the key. The screen view now changed to the secure home page of the Directorate, showing a reduced version of the logo with a menu across the top of the page and, just below the symbol, the mission statement of the organization.

Marcel stared at the screen for a moment, tapping his fingers on the table-top. “Père Michael! Are you awake over there?”

Michael jerked upright. “Umm, yes. I was just woolgathering. What is it, Marcel?” He turned in his seat to face the young couple.

The Frenchman turned the laptop around so that the priest could see the screen, leaving his left hand on top of the monitor. He hesitated for a moment, trying to select his words carefully so as not to make the wrong impression. “Michael, mon ami, do not mistake me. I believe that what we do is very important, and I am fully committed to my oath as an officer of the Directorate.” He paused, and Michael, not sure where his friend was going with this, nodded his agreement. Without looking at the display, Marcel pointed to the bottom of the screen. “I ‘ave always been a little annoyed with the language of our mission statement. Every time I log in, I am reminded that the Directorate does not consider me or Simone or those like us to be fully human.”

Oui,” Simone agreed fiercely. “C'est debile!”

“You see what it says here,” Marcel continued, “that the purpose of the organization is to protect humans from the actions of non-humans. Elsewhere on the site, there is a list of non-human species, which includes shape-shifters! What are we to think, if our own agency does not consider us to be human?”

Michael could tell that his friends were truly upset, and while perhaps they were just blowing off steam, they also needed some reassurance. “No one who knows you and Simone could ever believe that you are not human. It might be fair to say that, perhaps, you are more than human, that you have been endowed by God with special gifts?”

Marcel heaved a massive sigh. “Oui, oui, bien sûr, Father,” he said slowly. “That is the best way to look at it, but c’est relou! It is really frustrating, to think our friends might doubt our humanity. How does it go, now, ‘if you prick me, do I not bleed?’”

“If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” Michael finished the quotation. “I see you know your Shakespeare, mon ami, and it is quite appropriate. It is from the Merchant of Venice, and Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, was complaining that the Christians of Venice did not perceive Jews to be fully human. Would it help you to know that the Church does not see eye-to-eye with the Directorate on this, that long ago they acknowledged the humanity of shape-shifters?”

Est-ce vrai?” Marcel was surprised. “I have not heard this. What do you mean?”

“You are a man of action, Marcel…and woman, forgive me, Simone…so you may not be acquainted with the history of the Directorate. I would be willing to wager that you have never clicked on that little button at the top of the screen there that says ‘History,’ am I right? Have you ever heard of the Málaga Accord?”

When they admitted their ignorance, he continued. “The bishops of the Church met at Málaga, Spain, in 1911, to reexamine the definition of evil. Among the most contentious of topics was the nature of beings that may commit evil acts. The Church, of course, has long acknowledged the existence of supernatural beings, angels and demons, for example. After a long, and often acrimonious debate, evil-doers were divided into two basic categories, non-human or supernatural creatures, and humans. The debate largely focused upon determining whether certain types were to be considered human, or not.”

Excusez-moi, Father, but it sounds as if you are going into lecture mode, and that is thirsty work.” Marcel topped off his and Simone’s glasses from the bottle of Merlot, and reached across the aisle to refill Michael’s. “Continue, s’il-vous plait!”

Merci,” Michael said, raising his glass for a long sip. “First, the supernatural beings. Demons, of course, are the essence of evil, although there have been no confirmed sightings for centuries. Likewise, there was no controversy whatsoever about creatures such as vampires and zombies. All could agree that these were dead things from which the soul had long departed, that had been reanimated by evil spirits and so were to be hunted remorselessly and destroyed wherever they could be found. Then there were various types of non-human creatures, such as gnomes, trolls, elves and fairies, who were not inherently evil but whom as individuals might commit evil acts, just as humans can be either good or evil as individuals…”

There was a choking sound from Simone, who clamped a hand over her mouth in an effort to suppress the laughter that threatened to erupt at her mental image of a group of sedate bishops gathered to debate the nature of fairies.

Michael shot a look of mild reproach at her and continued. “Hmph. Of course, for many of these beings, there was no direct evidence of their existence, but the Council of Málaga made their ruling based on the existing body of lore.”

Michael paused for another sip. “You’re right, this is thirsty work. Now to the special cases, witches and shape-shifters. Witches, of course, had long been a particular enemy of the Church, persecuted for centuries on the belief that these were women who were in league with Satan, having sold their souls for the powers they were granted. However, in the more enlightened air of the twentieth century came the realization that this was not necessarily true, that many, perhaps most, were simply practitioners of a pagan religion who drew their powers from the Earth, rather than from Satan. Hence, the judgement was made to treat them on a case-by-case basis rather than assuming all were evil by nature. As to the shifters, it was decided that, as I suggested, that these were humans who possessed an extra gift. Perhaps the most telling point was the fact that, upon death, all shifters will revert to their human form, and this was taken as proof of their essential humanity. Thus, in the view of the Church, shape-shifters are humans who are capable of salvation.”

Euh, Father, thank you for a most enlightening history lesson,” Marcel said. “I did not know any of this, and it is a relief to know that the Church, at least, considers us to be human.”

The priest held his glass in both hands and said, softly, “My dear friends, no one in the agency would think anything different. And, as you know, the Director is himself a shifter.”

“Perhaps that is so, but it would be nice if the mission statement could reflect that.”

Un mémo,” Simone said suddenly. “Envoyer un mémo.” She ducked her head and grinned into her drink.

Marcel roared with laughter, spilling his wine in his lap. “*&%$#!” he exclaimed as he dabbed at the mess with a linen napkin. “Send a memo! Tu rigoles! That would guarantee it would never be read!”

At that moment, the merriment was interrupted as the copilot came out of the cabin and coughed to get their attention. “Pardonne-moi, mademoiselle, monsieurs. We ‘ave just received a radio message from the Directorate. We are to divert to Lyon, instead of landing at London. The Director wishes to see you all.”


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
continues with Part 4
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Samantha61
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PostSamantha61 on Sat Mar 04, 2017 12:45 am

I love reading these stories over and over..but am ready for a new chapter as well.. bigsmile

Thank you Joanne watermelon watermelon


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I am so proud of all of you..
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Postszanne7000 on Sat Mar 04, 2017 2:06 am

Yeah, Easter!!!

I love your zombies!



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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Sat Mar 04, 2017 6:48 am


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016



Part 4

The Dassault jet landed shortly before 9:00 a.m. local time at the Aéroport de Lyon-Bron, an international airport dedicated to business aviation, and taxied down the tarmac to the private hangers. The three passengers who disembark were seriously jet-lagged; although they had tried to nap on the way over, curiosity as the reason for the diversion to Lyon had kept them awake and discussing possible scenarios. As usual, there was no Customs inspection, once they had presented their credentials, and they found a car and driver awaiting them at the hanger. The vehicle was no limousine, for that would draw unwanted attention, but instead a roomy 5-year old black Renault Kangoo passenger van, deliberately unwashed. They loaded their luggage into the back, consisting of a single duffle for the French couple, a similar bag for Father Michael, and of course the slim sword case containing Tizona in her velvet nest. All were accustomed to traveling light.

The trip to Directorate headquarters was only about a dozen kilometers from the airport, but the snarl of morning traffic ensured that the trip took the best part of an hour. Traffic became lighter once they crossed the Avenue Berthelot bridge across the Rhone and into the peninsula of the Presqu’ile between the two rivers. In a very short time after that, the van pulled into the parking lot of the gaily painted warehouse that housed Directorate 14 and stopped before the overhead door, engine still running. After the new arrival was inspected by the security cameras mounted on the side of the building, the door rolled up and the van pulled inside, the door closing behind them.

Michael and his two companions followed the yellow line that led to the side door and the guard stationed there. The guard, a well-built young man in a white shirt and yellow hard-hat, looked up and smiled. “Bonjour, Simone! Et Marcel! C'est bon de te revoir!” He turned his attention to the priest, and extended the same cordial welcome. “Vous dois être Father Michael Mendez, n'est-ce pas?” He continued in French, “We have been expecting you. You can leave your duffels in the lockers here, although you have permission to carry your personal weapons, if you wish.” He eyed the wooden sword case tucked beneath Michael’s arm. “Father, I assume that is your sword? The Director requests especially that you bring it with you. He wishes to have a look at it. Now, if I may see your badges, please?”

Cleared by the guard, they went through the door and in a very short time had passed through the various security measures designed to safeguard the inner sanctum, and presented their badges to the scanner at the door to the Director’s outer office. Their credentials accepted, the heavy steel door opened and they walked through into the carpeted office. Inside were two people, an attractive young lady at a bank of computers, who, being engrossed in her work, merely lifted a hand in greeting, and a short, thin, middle-aged man who rose as they entered. “Bonjour! The Director asked that I show you in immediately on your arrival. Please, follow me.” He led the way to the door at the end of the office and rapped smartly, once, waited for a second, and then opened the door, gesturing for them to enter ahead of him.

Rising from his desk with a welcoming smile was one of the largest and hairiest men that Father Michael had ever seen, easily massing 150 kilograms and nearly two meters in height. His build was all nearly muscle, scarcely a gram of excess fat, though there was the slight beginning of the belly that often accompanies middle age. Nevertheless, the expensive Armani suit that he wore was fitted perfectly. His neatly groomed hair was dark brown and woolly, gathered into a ponytail behind his head and the lower half of his face was obscured by a short, neatly-trimmed beard that was met by furry sideburns. His wrists were covered with a thick mass of hair, even between his fingers, and chest hair threatened to escape from beneath his tightly buttoned shirt collar. The eyes were dark brown, almost black, beneath thick and bushy eyebrows, and he appraised his visitors with an intelligent and penetrating regard.

All this Michael took in within a few seconds as the Director came from around his desk. He strode forward and enveloped the young Frenchwoman in a great hug, beneath which she seemed almost to disappear. “Simone! My dear child! It is so very good to see you, and you are as lovely as ever,” he said in unaccented English, stepping back, as Simone shook herself and patted down her hair. “Director,” she said demurely, as the huge man turned to Marcel, extending his hand. As the Frenchman grinned and stepped forward, the Director took Marcel’s hand in a grasp which swallowed his up entirely, and then also embraced him with equal gusto. He pushed back at last, and took Marcel by the shoulders in each hand, standing back. “Ah, let me look at you, lad! It has been, what, six months or so since you were last here? I hear that congratulations are in order! When is the happy event? You must tell me all about it!”

Before Marcel could answer, the Director dropped his hands and turned to Michael. “And you, sir, must be the good Father Michael that I have heard so much about from your compatriots here.” He shook Michael’s hand, and held on to it while he spoke. “I am, of course, Bjørn Kriger, and they tell me I am supposed to be in charge of this place.” When Michael nodded, momentarily nonplussed by the voluble Director, he turned him loose and continued. “You have been with us now, I believe, about five years? That was some very good work in the Alaric affair, and I would like to hear your perspective on it when we have time. Not now, of course, we have other matters to discuss.”

Bjørn turned now to the other man in the room, who had been waiting patiently while the brief reunion and introductions had taken place. “Edouard, you of course know Marcel and Simone. Father Michael, this is my valuable assistant, Edouard Leclerc. He knows our operations inside and out, and keeps me appraised of what I should know about. I would be lost without him.”

The shape shifter stepped forward and shook Michael’s hand in a friendly manner, all the while fighting to control the lust that boiled within him to absorb the flesh of this pathetic man-thing. “Père Michael, mon plaisir,” he said simply, with a smile that did not touch his eyes.

“Edouard, why don’t you bring us all some coffee,” his chief suggested, and then motioned to his guests to be seated in the comfortable furniture that occupied one section of his office. “Father, I would like very much to see this remarkable sword of yours.”

“Gladly,” Michael agreed, and when they were seated around the coffee table in the corner, he took the box and laid it on the table and sprung the latches, exposing Tizona.

The Director took a deep breath at the sight of the shining blade, and asked, “May I…?”

“Certainly,” Michael replied, and Bjørn leaned forward and reverently lifted the famous sword and held it up to catch the light.

“Magnificent!” he exclaimed, turning it back and forth. “So this is the blade that was favored by El Cid, and which you used recently to dispatch the vampire Alaric! Oh, there is Edouard with our coffee!” He laid the sword gently back onto the red velvet cloth in the box as his assistant brought in a tray with four cups, a porcelain coffeepot, cream pitcher, and sugar bowl. Edouard carefully laid out the coffee service and poured for each of them. As they fixed their coffee, each to their own taste, Bjørn addressed his assistant. “Edouard, thank you. Would you bring me that small box from my credenza, and then leave us alone to visit for a while?”

“Of course, sir.” The demon in Edouard’s form obtained the item in question and handed it to the Director, and then quietly left the room, shutting the door behind him.

They sipped coffee in silence for a while, and then Bjørn set his cup down on the table. “My friends, I know you have been wondering why I diverted you here when you had orders to fly to London and attend to the situation there. This was partly because I have some additional intelligence that I wished to impart to you in person, but mostly it was because of a personal matter.” He turned a sympathetic gaze upon Michael. “This concerns you, Father. I am so very sorry to inform you that your old mentor, Father Raphael, passed away in Rome four days ago. I knew him well. He was a good man, a good priest, and a dedicated warrior against evil.”

Michael closed his eyes and bowed his head, as Simone whispered, “Oh, Michael,” and placed a hand on his knee. She was echoed by Marcel, who grasped his friend by the shoulder in sympathy, knowing what the old man meant to the priest. Michael was saddened, but not surprised by the news. He and Raphael had exchanged letters regularly for years, and he knew that his old mentor’s health was failing. “He is with God, now,” he said softly.

Bjørn now picked up the small box Edouard had brought to him, and handed it to Michael. “This arrived by courier from Rome yesterday afternoon. It is a bequest to you from Father Raphael, something he very much wanted you to have.”

Michael took the box, which was intricately carved of olive wood, and held it in his lap for a moment. At last he summoned up the will to open the lid. Inside was a well-worn leather belt scabbard containing a dagger. He picked it up and pulled the weapon free, examining it. It had a ten-inch blade with a bronze hilt wrapped in rough, non-slip sharkskin. The weight and balance were perfect for his hand. He held it, unable to speak, so strong were his emotions.

In the silence, the Director cleared his throat. “I took the liberty of examining the dagger. There was a note with the courier. This was Father Raphael’s personal weapon, and in his younger days he used it well to destroy the enemies of humanity. It has a very special blade, an alloy of silver and palladium most suitable to be employed against many kinds of supernatural creatures in close combat. Solid silver alone would be too soft, but the palladium gives it strength.” In a kindly voice he continued, “There also is a personal letter to you in the box, which I did not open.”

Michael looked at the Director with gratitude in his eyes and in his voice. “Thank you, sir. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

“Just use it as it was meant to be used,” the Director said, rather gruffly. “Such a weapon was never meant to be kept on a shelf.”

Michael slipped the dagger back into its sheath, and replaced it in the box, closing the lid. “I believe you said you had some information for us about the situation in London.” He took a slim notebook out of his pocket and prepared to write down pertinent information.

“Yes. The zombie attacks.” Bjørn rubbed his beard as he thought. “There has been another incident, just last night. A medical supply house was broken into about midnight. The silent alarm was tripped and the London Metropolitan Police Service responded. According to their report, there were three “men” involved in the break-in, who were busily engaged in stuffing supplies into sacks when the police arrived. They ignored orders to desist, and when the officers attempted to handcuff them, resisted violently. So far, nothing particularly unusual about the affair, aside from the fact that the felons took no notice of the police presence until they were interrupted.

Marcel raised a finger to ask a question. “What were they taking?”

“We do not have that information yet, not until the firm has a chance to do an inventory to see what might be missing. The police did recover one of the bags that was being used to stash stolen items, and it contained various types of drugs and medical equipment…but I’m getting ahead of the story here. What really caught the attention of the responding officers were the offenders’ complete indifference to pain. When the offenders began to fight back, the police first attempted to subdue them with batons, but to their astonishment the criminals paid no attention to repeated blows. This failing, they resorted to the use of incapacitant spray, CS, with the same inexplicable lack of results. At this point, the officers hastily called in for backup, since they were the verge of being overwhelmed. The backup arrived in moments, and included an AFO.”

“AFO?” Michael asked.

“Authorized Firearms Officer,” the Director explained. “As I am sure you know, in most of Britain - Northern Ireland being the exception - police officers do not carry firearms. The AFO is one of the few who has the authority to do so. At any rate, when the backup arrived, the initial officers on the scene were all down, most with severe injuries, and the criminals had returned to pillaging the stockroom. The AFO, taking in the carnage, immediately drew a taser and fired it into the nearest man. Incredibly, the target ignored a shock of nearly 50,000 volts coursing into his body, which certainly should have been sufficient to drop him in his tracks.”

Simone was fascinated by the account, as were they all. No one in the team, either as individuals or working together, had ever encountered zombies before. “What did they do?”

The Director paused to wet his throat by taking another sip from his coffee cup. “The subjects now attacked the backup squad, and the AFO, with his men under threat, felt he had no other recourse but to draw his Glock 9 and fire into the attackers. That got their attention, but apparently they were able to shrug off bullets as easily as the CS or tasers, since repeated fire did not drop any of them. The perpetrators left off ransacking the premises and fled out into the night, all but one.”

“And…?” Simone prompted.

“The AFO rallied his greatly shaken men, and they were able to stop the last one heading out the door by the simple expedient of piling onto him en masse. Even that was not an easy task, since, according to the officers’ reports, the man was unusually strong. The Met now has the offender in custody, but since he continued to resist violently, they strapped him into a straight-jacket. Now, here’s an interesting bit. When they fingerprinted the man, they got a hit. Seems that the man they have in lockup died from a hit-and-run vehicle accident six months ago. Our colleagues in London have a dead man in jail.”

“I can see why they called us in on this,” Michael observed. “Will we be able to question it?”

“Yes, the Met is holding it for us, although the creature has been totally unresponsive except to struggle against its bonds. Even so, you might be able to get something from it, perhaps some non-verbal clues. The Met has also placed its forensic unit at our disposal, who have already collected and analyzed trace evidence from the thing’s body and clothing.”

“Sir, you sent us to bring Father Michael back to help us investigate an earlier series of possible zombie attacks,” Marcel said. “Do you have any more details on these?”

Bjørn shook his head. “No more than what I already informed you.” Addressing Father Michael, he summarized. “All we had were second-hand accounts by civilian witnesses who reported seeing persons behaving strangely, engaged in thefts of various types of industrial equipment and chemicals over the last several months. Bystanders who attempted to interfere were severely injured, and all accounts reported that the offenders appeared to be impervious to blows or pain. It was only after we started putting all these separate incidents together that the pattern suggested zombies. And, of course, now that we have our hands on one we can be certain.”

Michael finished jotting this down and looked up. “Who is our contact with the Met?”

“That would be…” the Director closed his eyes briefly, considering. “Oh yes, Inspector Ian Mackenzie. There’s one more thing. All of these zombies were in very good condition with little or no trace of decay, nothing like the usual rotting flesh type. They were all dressed in clean and serviceable clothing, all very much alike, working man’s clothes, light blue shirts and denim trousers. Almost like they were outfitted in sort of a uniform.”

“Ah, that is a pretty good clue, Directeur!” Marcel exclaimed. “These zombies ‘ave never seen the inside of a grave. They are fresh bodies. That means we can skip the cemeteries and focus on morgues and ‘ospitals!”

“Exactly!” Bjørn agreed. “But it is important to keep the big picture in mind. We need to find the necromancer, the person responsible for creating these monstrosities, and make an end of him.”

At that moment there was a light knocking on the door, and when bade to do so Edouard opened the door and stuck his head in. “Sir, the pilot has called. The jet is refueled and ready for take-off at your convenience.”

Director Kriger dismissed him with a nod and turned back to his guests. “That is your cue, my friends. I am afraid our visit is at an end. I know you must be exhausted after your long flight across the Atlantic, but I would like you to get to London as soon as possible. When you arrive, get some sleep and start fresh in the morning.”

Michael and his two companions rose to their feet and, after a round of handshaking, took their leave of the massive Director and of the agency in Lyon.


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
continues with Part 5
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Last edited by Easter01 on Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:24 am; edited 1 time in total




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Postcroiduire on Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:24 pm

...so Directorate 14 has been infiltrated but not overrun or subverted. Yet. Fascinating!



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Postszanne7000 on Sun Mar 05, 2017 12:39 am

Ah... more suspense!

:coffee:



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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Mar 06, 2017 5:23 am


THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016



Part 5

Rose Marie Saint-Just stood alone within a circle of brilliant white light cast by the single cluster of halogen lights hanging overhead, in a small room far beneath the streets of London. She wore a knee-length lab coat, open in the front, with a stethoscope tucked into the breast pocket. Her right hand rested lightly on the upper edge of a large rectangular cabinet of stainless steel, placed horizontally directly beneath the lights. A large-diameter power cable was attached to one end of the cabinet and snaked across the floor, disappearing into the wall. The other end was a mass of pipes and plumbing fixtures, many of which were coated with a thick layer of white frost. The room was filled with a low humming sound from the operation of the equipment. On the front of the container was a raised panel which displayed numerous dials and gauges that served to monitor the condition of the contents.

She looked down at the top of the box, through the thick layer of transparent borosilicate glass, at the face of the man inside. The overhead lights lit sparkles from the ice crystals on the inner surface of the glass, and on the skin of his face. He was a handsome black man of about her apparent age, who lay inside the cryogenic chamber with his eyes closed, his skin slightly gray from the freezing process. He was her husband. He was dead.

Marie Rose closed her eyes, remembering him as he was in life, nearly a year ago. “Ayuba,” she murmured, stroking the glass gently, “I miss you so much.” She felt tears welling in her eyes, and shook her head. She had been charmed by him at a party in 2002, when she was an undergraduate at Queen Mary’s University here in London. Ayuba Masari was a history professor and director of the school’s African Studies program. Nigerian born, he had fled the violence and corruption of his native country in the summer of 1995 and, as an educated man from an affluent family, had little trouble becoming a naturalized citizen of Britain.  Marie Rose had signed up for one of his courses as an elective, out of an interest to discover her own heritage. Masari had been tall and dashing, dark as ebony, and passionate about history, and she had been fascinated by his intellect and flattered by the interest he had shown for a lowly twenty-two-year-old junior student. That there was ten years between their ages did not seem to matter at all, and after a whirlwind courtship, they were married in a lovely civil ceremony at the Battersea Arts Center.

She had been married to this wonderful, thoughtful man for fifteen memorable years. He had loved her completely, encouraged and supported her education and ambition. When she had been accepted into the program at Barts and The London School of Medicine, he was by her side all through the unbelievably intense and demanding years required to obtain her medical degree. The subsequent internship and residency had been a challenge to their relationship, especially after working as much as forty-eight hours at a stretch when she would come home exhausted and drop straight into bed, too tired even for dinner let alone romance.

All those difficult years, Ayuba had been the rock to which she clung for safety, the beacon that had guided her unfailingly through uncharted waters. It had been a good life, a wonderful life, the professor and the doctor, who still acted as though they were newlywed. And then it had all been taken away from her. Ten-twenty-four p.m., the twentieth day of June. Every moment of that night was indelibly engraved in her memory, the night her life had been shattered.

They had gone out for dinner and a show that evening. What a delightful surprise it had been when a horse-drawn open-air carriage, drawn by an elegant pair of matched black Friesian horses, had shown up at their doorstep at five o’clock, a special treat arranged by Ayuba without telling her beforehand. They had enjoyed a leisurely ride down Piccadilly to Seven Park Place, an exclusive five-star restaurant not far from the Ritz Hotel and Green Park. She had no idea what strings her husband had to pull, what favors he had to call in, to obtain a reservation, but the food had been exquisite if, in her opinion, overpriced. Afterward, they had walked back to Soho, enjoying the sights of the bustling city. Ayuba had tickets to a show at the Piccadilly Theatre, a performance of the hit musical Jersey Boys, which told the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The curtain went up at 7:30, and after being enthralled by the inspiring story and fabulous 1950s American music, they left the theater a little after ten.

The theater was only a few blocks from their home, and the evening being pleasant, they had walked back arm in arm, lost in their own private world, sharing a very special moment. They were young, and in love, and had built a wonderful life together in the greatest city in the world. Leaving brightly lit Brewer Street behind, the handsome young couple took a shortcut through Walker Court, which would bring them out at the beginning of their own street. Halfway through, all their dreams came to an end in one horrible moment.

Less than a block from their flat, a pair of young hoodlums had stepped out from the shadows between two buildings. They were roughly dressed, and had caps pulled down over their foreheads. The shorter of the two was holding a bottle of cheap gin. “Give me yer handbag or I'll stick ye,” threatened the taller one, brandishing a knife. “Y'r jewelry, too. Be quick about it if yeh don’t want to get hurt.” He eyed the expensive Rolex on her husband’s wrist. “That’s a noice tad of sparkle. I’ll hae that, and y'r bleedin’ wallet, too.”

Terrified, Marie Rose hastily thrust her purse out, and the short thug snatched it from her hand. Ayuba’s expression was smoldering, but he dared not do anything that might endanger Marie Rose, so he simply undid the clasp from his watch and handed it over along with his wallet, saying, “You can have anything you want. Just don’t hurt my wife.” The man with the knife looked him over and said, “My, yer ’re a big one, ain’t yeh, mate?”

The shorter of the two was examining Marie Rose appreciatively. “This bird is a noice piece, Harvey. Maybe we ought to hae a little fun with her, ye know?” Hearing this, an outraged Ayuba lost his carefully maintained calm and stepped forward, smashing his fist into the face of the knife-wielder before the man could react. Harvey staggered back a step, and then lunged forward, plunging the blade into her husband’s stomach. She screamed, and then saw the gin bottle descending and felt an explosion of pain in her head, and then blacked out.

When she came to, she was lying on the street next to her husband’s body. The two assailants had vanished into the night. She crawled over to him, heedless of the broken glass cutting her hands and knees. It must have been only moments since Ayuba had been stabbed, but there was a large pool of blood around his body and more was rapidly pumping from the wound in his stomach. The professional part of her mind distantly observed that the knife must have severed the abdominal aorta, even as she ripped open his shirt to see what she could do. But it was already too late; beneath her hands, a final spurt of blood from the cut and his heart, with nothing left to pump, faltered and stopped. He was gone. Marie Rose sat back on her heels and rocked back and forth, her head in her hands. Someone was screaming without pause, and she dazedly recognized it as her own voice.

When the police found her, she was sitting motionless in a pool of blood, her hands and clothing soaked in her husband’s blood. Her screams of anguish had diminished to a constant low moan. The sad-faced bobby led her out of the narrow court to the waiting ambulance on Brewer Street where paramedics examined her carefully and treated the cuts the glass had made on her hands and knees. She came back to herself suddenly and drew a deep breath. “My husband…?” she asked.

The officer placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry, marm. ‘E’s gone. We’re waitin’ on the coroner to make it official.” He took a notebook out of his pocket, and cleared his throat awkwardly. “What is your name, and your ‘usband’s?”

She stared at the entrance to Walker Court. She could not see through to her husband’s body because of the crowd of police officers in the way. “Saint-Just,” she said absently. “Marie Rose Saint-Just. My husband is…was, Ayuba Masari. We’re married, but have different last names.”

He wrote this down with a short, blunt pencil. “Can you tell me what ‘appened? Who did this to you?”

She ignored his insistent questions. “What are they going to do with his body? Where will they take him?”

He looked surprised. “Why, I expect they will take him to the city mortuary at Westminster. Are you sure you are all right?”

Suddenly she was sure of what to do. “They must not do an autopsy,” she said, fiercely. “I want him taken to St. Bartholomew’s. I’m on the staff there.” She could not bear the thought of her beloved Ayuba laid out on some metal table, a stranger cutting into his body.

The officer closed his notebook and scratched his head. “Well, marm, that’s going to be up to the coroner to decide. Law requires a postmortem in cases of sudden violent death.”

Marie Rose turned on him, glaring. “No!” she hissed. “There must be no post-mortem!” She had a sudden inspiration. “Our…religion…prohibits it. My husband is from Africa, and I am from Haiti. To cut into the body would violate our most sacred beliefs!”

He was puzzled by this woman. She was acting oddly, not as he would expect from someone who had just lost a loved one to a savage crime. But then victims of violent crimes often did and said some very strange things in the aftermath. He pondered how to respond. “Maybe it won’t be necessary,” he said in a soothing voice. “There really isn’t any doubt as to the cause of death. You can speak to the coroner when ‘e arrives…it should be very soon.” He flipped his notebook open again and held his pencil at the ready. “I really do need to ask you some questions about what ‘appened, while it is still fresh in your mind. You want to ‘elp us catch who did this, don’t you?”

Marie Rose did not know exactly what she had in mind at this point, she just knew that she did not want to turn her husband over to strangers. It had all been so sudden; one moment they had been walking and laughing, and the next, her beloved man was dead. She just wanted to get him back to the hospital where she could spend some time with her husband and her grief, in a quiet place where she could think.

The coroner, Morgan Harris, arrived soon after the officer had taken her brief statement. He was a short pudgy man in a rumpled suit, and when he climbed out of the battered Range Rover he took one look at the woman standing at the end of the ambulance and immediately came over to her. “My God, Marie, is that you?” he said. “I got the call out for a murder victim…please don’t tell me that it’s Ayuba!” When she could only mutely nod, he took her hands. “Oh, Marie, I am so sorry. We’ll take good care of him.”

He started to turn away, and she caught him by the sleeve. “Morgan. I don’t want him autopsied.”

He spoke slowly and reassuringly, assuming that she was in a state of shock. “Now, Marie, you know the law requires that a homicide victim must undergo a post-mortem examination.”

“I won’t allow it, Morgan! It…violates our religious beliefs,” she stammered.

Morgan cocked his head sideways and examined her closely. He chose his words carefully. “I’ve never had the impression that you and Ayuba had any strong religious sentiments. What’s really going on here, Marie?”

“Please, Morgan. Examine him here, and send him over to St. Bart’s. A post-mortem would only be a formality. He…my husband…was stabbed in the abdomen and bled out in minutes.” She made a final appeal. “Please do this for me. Do this for Ayuba.”

He sighed. “Right, then. I’ll have a look at the body, and if it’s as straightforward as you say, I’ll have the body released to your custody after the scene has been cleared.”

“Thank you, Morgan. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

Morgan went into the court, carrying his bag. Pulling on a pair of latex gloves, he bent over the body of his friend. A short while later he came back out, stripping off the gloves, and went over and talked to the police officer in charge of the scene. After a few minutes, he walked over to the ambulance, giving Marie an affirmative nod as he passed, and spoke briefly to the driver. He then climbed into his Rover and drove away.

With the coroner’s departure, the forensic team moved in and began collecting evidence, and soon after, a pair of Met detective inspectors arrived. While one of the detectives spoke with the police who had responded to the call, the other took Marie aside and questioned her, going over much the same ground as the bobby who had first spoken to her. She promised to come down in the morning to the West End police station on Saville Row, the closest to the Soho district, and give a more complete statement. After the inspector had finished with her, she continued to wait by the ambulance. An hour passed, and the forensic team finished up their work and gave their approval to move the body. The ambulance driver and his assistant collected the body of her husband and loaded it into the vehicle.

The driver held the back door open for her, and waved her inside. “Doctor Saint-Just, isn’t it?” he asked. “I am so sorry for your loss. Doctor Harris told me to take you wherever you wanted to go.” Marie told him St. Barts, and he nodded, closed the door and went around to the driver’s side and got in and started the vehicle. He turned on the flashers but not the siren. There was no need to hurry.

The ambulance passed through the nearly empty streets of London in silence. It was nearly three o’clock in the morning, and while a city this size was never completely asleep at any hour, there was little traffic out. Marie Rose sat contemplating the body of her husband, strapped to the collapsible gurney. It wasn’t right. He had been so vital, so healthy, so full of life. He should not be dead! He had a big strong heart, and the only reason it had stopped was because there was no longer any blood in his body for it to pump. It would have been a simple repair, if only she could have kept him alive long enough…. A thought came to her. She shook her head. No, it was crazy, it was impossible, it was only grief propelling her mind into fantasy.

She reconsidered. What did she have to lose, after all? Certainly, she risked her job, her medical license, her freedom, if she carried out this insane scheme, for it would involve breaking a great many hospital regulations as well as civil and criminal laws. It would mean crossing an ethical line from which there could be no return. But what did it matter?  She had already lost the one thing that mattered most to her. If there was any chance, no matter how slim, to bring her husband back, she would take any risk. She thought furiously, planning, as the ambulance sped through the night.

THE ZOMBIE EXPERIMENT
continues with Part 6
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Last edited by Easter01 on Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:45 pm; edited 1 time in total




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