Bill and the Sting of Death

Past and Present Collide

The steel handle felt cold against Bill’s hand. Darla stood behind and waited for him to enter. Bill took a deep breath, heard the bolt give way with a click, and pushed inward. For a moment, everything seemed covered by shadows as his eyes adjusted. Only one of the lights at the top of the hanger was on. The building sat empty except for some tool chests near the hanger’s rear.

Bill looked to his left, and four feet away stood a man in dark sunglasses and a suit with a submachine gun. He kept it diagonally pointed to the ground. At the far end of the building sat a man behind a folding table. He stood, and Bill took a deep breath and stayed his ground.

Darla gently pushed him in further and entered the hanger, shutting the door.

Darla said, “Follow me.”

Bill fell in line behind Darla, and the man began to walk towards them. Bill could see immediately that he was the same height. As his face came into view, Bill held his breath. He looked like the Joshua in his dreams. Gray hair and deep lines in his brow made the man look older, wiser. Something clicked inside of Bill. He walked briskly past Darla.

“Joshua,” Bill said with the excitement of a small child.

Joshua held out his arms, and the two embraced. Bill could feel the tears from Joshua’s face, and for some reason, he was crying too. He still held no memories beyond his dreams, but it felt like he had found a long-lost family member.

The two let go, and Joshua patted Bill’s shoulders. “Look at you. You’ve turned into such a fine young man.”

Darla walked up, “I can see I don’t have to make introductions. I know you two have a lot to talk about. Frank and I will be over by the door.”

Joshua put his arm around Bill, “Come, my boy. We have much to discuss.”

He led Bill over to the table, and the two men sat down. Joshua’s eyes twinkled with delight.

Bill looked at the armed guard, then back at Joshua and asked, “Who are you?”

Joshua answered, “I thought you recognized me.”

“I feel like I know you, but I’ve only seen your face in my dreams.”

Joshua leaned forward, “What did I look like?”

“Younger.”

Joshua grinned. “Yes. We were both much younger then.”

Bill asked again, “Who are you?”

The smile left Joshua’s face, “I can answer all your questions, but I’m going to need you to trust me.”

Bill looked over his shoulder at Darla and the guard conversing quietly by the door. The hanger had many shadows, and Bill hoped someone was not hiding in one of them.

Bill looked back at Joshua, “What do you have in mind?”

Joshua pulled a gold pen out of his pocket, angled it so it caught what little light was in the room, and began to twirl it. He asked, “Do you remember this pen?”

Bill stared hard at the object. “It feels familiar.”

“Keep watching it, and just relax. Your memories will start to come back.”

Bill watched it for a few more seconds. He blinked and shook his head. “Hey, you’re making me drowsy.”

Joshua’s voice sounded a little distant. “That’s just your brain, remembering. Focus on the pen and let your eyelids relax. Do you remember the woods we used to walk in?”

Bill thought he could see a green forest around him. His eyes opened slightly, and the glint of the cold pen caught his eyes.

Joshua spoke softly, “You do remember.”

Bill mumbled, “Yes.”

Joshua’s voice drew Bill in. “Good. Do you want to go there together?”

Bill asked, “Why?”

“To find your answers.”

Bill nodded and smiled, “Hurry, Joshua, let’s go now.”

Joshua’s voice was soothing. “Okay, let’s go on an adventure. Do you see the woods?”

The forest came into focus. Trees created a canopy above, and crisp air felt good against Bill’s bare chest. Joshua walked beside him. Both wore wolfskin, but Joshua also had a shirt on.

Joshua turned and asked, “Do you know where we are?”

Bill answered, “Helvsgud.”

“That’s close enough. We have a short walk this way.”

The two walked in silence. Bill breathed in the fresh air and beat his chest. “It’s good to be home.”

Joshua said nothing. They broke through the edge of the woods and into the clearing. Farmers were tending their crops, and people were walking to and fro through the village gate. Joshua sat down in front of a thatched hut and invited Bill to join him.

Joshua said, “I want you to concentrate on me. Tell me the last time you were in the village.”

Bill’s brow wrinkled. He drew in his breath. “The farms, they were on fire.”

“It’s okay, Bill. There’re no fires now.  Why were they on fire?”

Bill answered, “Raiders, they came to attack the village.”

Joshua asked in a soft voice, “What happened?”

Bill continued, “I protected the village. I went berserk and saved the town, except.” Bill’s voice trailed off.

“Except what?”

Bill said, “Lori,” and then began to weep.

Joshua held Bill as he cried. Bill finally wiggled free and growled, “I need to find her killer.”

“I thought you killed the raiders?”

Bill answered, “I did, but there’s someone else.”

Joshua’s whispered, “Who told you that?”

Bill looked Joshua in the eye, “King Adam told me. He said dangerous men were after you and my brother. Perhaps they are after me too.”

A strange voice echoed in the wind, “Doctor, we have company coming.”

Joshua spoke faster, “Bill, we have to leave now, but we will come back. I want you to remember everything we have talked about.”

Bill nodded.

Joshua continued, “Listen to me. We need to leave the village. Come back with me to the hanger. Will you do that.”

Bill nodded again.

Joshua continued, “Okay, I’m going to count to three. When you open your eyes, we will both be back in the hanger with Darla and Frank. One, Two, Three.”

Bill opened his eyes, blinked, and found himself back inside the hanger. Darla was walking quickly in their direction.

She said, “Our perimeter confirmed a vehicle coming in this direction with two men. They don’t appear friendly.”

“What about Garcia?”

Darla hollered over her shoulder, “Too far.”

Joshua asked, “What do you want us to do?”

Darla pointed to a rolling tool chest a few feet away. “Get behind that. I’ll tell you when you can come out.” She hollered across the hanger. “Frank, I’ll take this back door.”

Frank answered, “Heard.”

Bill whispered to Joshua, “I can help.”

Joshua put his hand on Bill’s shoulder, “Stay here. Darla and Frank are more than capable of handling two men.”

Frank peeked out the front door, shut it, and hollered, “They’re here.”

Darla yelled out, “Nobody move, make them come to us.”

Bill spoke to Joshua, “Come to us? Is she crazy?”

Darla answered, “Bill, sound carries in here, remember that. We want them inside because they could have a sniper. Our people on the perimeter will secure the outside once these two come inside.

Darla’s radio squawked, “I only have eyes on one, but both have left the vehicle.”

The front door burst open, and machine-gun fire raked the hanger. Bill watched Darla dive down and flip over the table for cover. His heart started to beat louder. Joshua put a gentle hand back on his shoulder and whispered, “Stay calm. They know what they’re doing.”

Bill took two deep breaths. His heart still beat loudly but slowed slightly. The back door slammed against the metal wall and echoed through the hanger. The gunfire stopped. Bill ignored Joshua tugging on his shirt, and peaked over the tool chests. A masked man had his arm around Darla with a gun to her head. On the other side of the hanger, Frank’s gun was pointed at his partner.

The masked man yelled across to Frank, “Let my partner go, and she lives. We only want Bill.”

Frank’s gun went off, and the side of the stranger’s head exploded as he fell to the ground.

The masked assailant holding Darla yelled, “Morons!”

Bill’s heartbeat grew louder and faster. He looked at Darla with the gun to her head and the masked man saying something in her ear he could not make out. The captor slipped his hand off the finger guard and rested it on the trigger. Bill’s world turned crimson.

His howl shook the metal walls of the hanger.

Darla yelled, “No!”

Bill growled, “No.”

He grabbed the top half of the tool chest. The masked man pointed his gun in Bill’s direction, and Darla’s elbow collided with the man’s ribs. His weapon shot wild before falling to the ground. Bill released the heavy tool chest towards his would-be killer, and Darla dove to the ground.

The fully loaded tool cabinet collided with the man’s head. The cabinet’s momentum carried the man to the ground and crushed his skull between the tool chest and the concrete. Bill smiled, doubled over, and tried to catch his breath.

Darla yelled, “You idiot.”

The sound of Darla’s voice caused Bill to look up. To his surprise, she was marching at a brisk pace in his direction.

Darla continued to rant, “You just killed our only lead. Who told you to do that? Was it you, Joshua?”

Joshua slowly emerged, shaking his head.

Bill took in large gulps of air and tried to regain his strength. “I was trying to save you.”

Darla walked up, grabbed Bill by the shirt, and stood him up.

Fire flashed in her eyes, “Get this straight. I’m a big girl and can handle myself. Unless I ask for help, stay out of my way.”

Bill stammered, “But he had a gun to your head.”

Darla poked him in the chest, and he back-peddled. His weakened legs gave way, and he fell on his butt against the concrete floor. Darla glared down at him, “I had it under control.”

Frank walked up and extended a hand. Bill took it and was helped to his feet.

Frank said, “Bill, that guy didn’t want to die. He was hiding behind Darla. The perp didn’t care that I shot his partner. All he wanted to do was negotiate his way to the back door. He would have rolled in an instant.”

Darla broke in, “At least he would have before you made a pancake of his skull.”

Frank went over to check the dead man’s pockets. He looked up at Darla, “Nothing, just like his buddy over there.”

Joshua spoke up, “How did they find us?”

Darla turned and kicked the dead man’s legs. “I screwed up.

“Bill.”

Bill quickly replied, “Yes, ma’am.”

“My name is Darla.”

Bill stammered, “I’m sorry, it’s just, well, it’s just how we were raised.”

Darla asked, “Do you always say yes, sir and ma’am?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Darla waved him off, “Whatever, I don’t have time for this. Give me your cell phone.”

“Why?”

Darla stuck out her hand, “Give it to me, or I’ll take it.”

Bill handed Darla his cell. She threw it on the ground on stomped on his until it lay in pieces and its broken screen went black. She picked it up and handed it to Bill.

Darla said, “Now it’s secure.”

Joshua asked, “I wonder how long they’ve been tracking Bill?”

Darla answered, “Long enough to create this fiasco. We’re compromised people, everyone on the plane.”

Bill asked, “What about me?”

Darla answered, “I said, everyone.”

Joshua spoke up, “You’ll like where we’re going.”

“What if I say no?”

Frank broke in, “Then their friends are coming to find you, and I don’t think they’ll care if you’re dead or alive.”

Bill nodded and then asked, “What about my house and my friends?”

Darla sounded irritated, “We’ll talk about it on the plane.”

She dialed a number, and her team gathered their things. She said, “We’ve been compromised. I need a cleanup team here, stat. Tell Alice that we’re headed back home, and Bill’s coming with us.”

Darla quickly hung up and grabbed the walkie talkie. “Are we secure outside?”

A voice answered, “Roger.”

Darla spoke into the mic, “Okay, wait for the cleanup team.”

“Roger.”

Darla addressed everyone else, “Quickly, to the plane.”

The crew briskly got into the plane. Darla took the front left seat, and Frank took the right. Joshua and Bill sat across from each other. In less than three minutes, she had the plane airborne. After another twenty minutes, Darla left the cockpit and sat down with Joshua and Bill.

She said, “Look, I’m sorry I was so harsh. Adrenaline and all that.”

Bill answered, “I understand, but you need to understand that my world is upside down. I’ve lost my fiancée. Someone is trying to kill me. Suddenly, the CIA is taking me to a secret location with a man I barely remember who did something to my head because of this monster inside me.”

Joshua spoke up, “We had hoped our reunion would be smoother.”

Darla said, “We’ll be at our island soon. You’ll meet my husband, your brother.”

“Harold’s married? To you?”

Darla’s brow wrinkled, “Yes, why?”

“It never made the papers.”

Darla asked, “Why should it?”

“Well, the business rags keep up with something like that.”

Darla said, “We’ve had to stay below the radar. Anyway, you’ll meet Harold and the rest of the gang. I think you’ll find your accommodations acceptable.”

Joshua spoke up, “Once you settle in, we can continue bringing back your memories and help you understand who you are.”

Bill asked, “What about the people coming after us?”

Darla answered, “Don’t worry about that. That’s my job. Your job is to listen to Joshua.”

Bill looked out the window and muttered, “It doesn’t look like I have a choice.”

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