Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dark World: If a Tree Falls

(The story begins here.)

“I believe he’s asleep,” Dr. Fleming said, indicating Mr. Lassiter, who was slumped beside him in the front seat of the sedan. It was a dreary morning for a drive.

“I’m not quite fresh myself,” Darren Christopher murmured. “We had a rough night making all the preparations, especially with unseen assassins supposedly breathing down our necks.”

“His exhaustion is still unusual,” the doctor replied. “I think the transformation wearies him, especially when it’s interrupted so rudely. He’s almost in a coma.”

“And you think it’s a good idea to move him?”

“My friend has better hospital facilities than I do. That’s his primary qualification just now—that and his paranoia. His place is a fortress, and it always helps to have a safe environment when dealing with the unknown. Unfortunately, it also means that he has limited his approaches. There are just two ways of getting there, and if we have been watched, we may be anticipated.”

“You expect an ambush?”

“I acknowledge an unavoidable risk. Keep your eyes open, use the clips with the silver bullets only when necessary, and remember that Lassiter may turn on us in more ways than one. Or do you think you cured him with your exorcism?”

“There’s always an element of choice: what I ran off, he may invite to return.”

“Annoyingly plausible—perhaps even true, if only psychologically.”

“You still think it could be some extreme form of psychosom—”

Dr. Fleming swore softly as he hit the brakes. He only just remembered to put his right arm out to prevent Lassiter from hitting the dash, which only worked because he was driving slowly to begin with. “Tree in the road,” he muttered as Lassiter plopped back against the seat, still unconscious.

“At least we are dealing with old-fashioned villains,” Darren said. “I thought that trick went out with the horse and buggy, at least in America.”

“It may not be a trick at all. There was a windstorm here last night, and I’ve seen some other old trees and limbs blown down. That’s why I was being careful. Speaking of which, keep me covered while I check on the tree.”

Darren rolled his window down and prepared either to poke his arm and head out or to open the door and move.

Dr. Fleming returned almost immediately. “False alarm: it was broken off, not sawed. But we’ll still need to detour.”

They drove on in silence for nearly an hour, and Darren noticed that Lassiter was stirring. He wasn’t surprised when they encountered a second tree across the second route. “I’ll check this one.”

He took scarcely longer than his friend had to investigate and return. The doctor had already turned the car as best he could when Darren trotted up.

“There’s evil at work here. Let’s leave.”

“They sawed it down?”

“Of course not. They pushed it over.”

Next installment: The Dark Call

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