May 20, 2007

The Crane (16 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

While Mr. Omega rapped on the door, Mr. Alpha stroked the handgun sitting in its holster. He knew it was there, but he just needed to feel its comforting, Foundry-cast edges. His stomach was in knots; Morgana might still make an appearance.

The door opened and Mr. Bolt invited them into the hotel room. They entered and, before closing the door behind them, Mr. Alpha made a quick sweep of the adjoining corridor, only partly to keep up appearances. He noticed some kid had scrawled something in crayon on the kitsch, flowery wallpaper opposite: “the handle turns”. He closed the door.

‘Good,’ said Mr. Omega. ‘It was better that we arrived here separately.’

Mrs. Bolt was sitting on the edge of the bed, having removed her bland coat and scarf to reveal an equally bland underbelly. Mr. Bolt was standing near the window, looking out and looking nervous. He was still dressed for a harsher environment.

Mr. Alpha said, ‘Please, sir, best you come away from the window.’

Morgana’s father resisted but soon caved, moving to sit beside his wife. Mr. Alpha watched his fingers creep across and hold his Mrs. Bolt’s hand. She turned her head in surprise and smiled weakly. Her hand accepted his advance.

‘What about our little girl? What do we do now?’ asked Mr. Bolt.

Mr. Alpha reached under his jacket to fondle his handgun again. The trigger licked his fingers.

‘Like I was explaining earlier,’ Mr. Omega said, ‘you are both in great danger. I’m afraid to say your lives, as you have known them, are over. If we don’t get you to a safe house, it’s possible you’ll be dead before the day is out.’

Mrs. Bolt blinked. ‘I don’t care about us. What about Fay? Is she okay?’

Mr. Omega’s mobile rang on cue. He pulled it out and answered, ‘Hi, this is Morrison.’ Supply said their scripted piece. ‘Really? Are you sure it’s her?’

Morgana’s parents responded immediately with worried stares.

‘Thank God for that. How the hell did she – whatever, questions for later. Get us some ambulance transport ASAP, we need to get her parents to the compound without delay.’ There were more scripted words on the other end of the line and then Mr. Omega closed the mobile.

‘What? What happened?’ Mr. Bolt asked, eyes wide.

‘Sorry to have to tell you this… it seems that your daughter was cornered by, we suspect, Cloth agents. They shot her several times-‘

‘Oh no, no!’ Mrs. Bolt wailed, hand fleeing her husband’s grip to hold her mouth.

‘-but she got away. Looks like she’s going to live, and she’s on the way to our safe house to be cared for.’

‘She’s alive? Really? She’s okay?’ Mr. Bolt asked.

Mr. Alpha felt disengaged from this obscene ballet taking place before him. He watched but could not participate. Her parents had been through enough yet the Cloth continued to torture them. He felt responsible. If he hadn’t let Morgana escape… if he had… if he had done what?

Mr. Omega was still explaining. ‘…can’t afford for either of you to work out where the safe house is, just in case… you are captured down the line. As I said, you’re probably going to have to stay with us for some time. So once you’re unconscious, we’ll get an ambulance to stretcher you out and it’ll take you to the compound.’

‘Unconscious?’ said Mr. Bolt, alarmed.

Mrs. Bolt cut her husband off. ‘Manny, I want to see her.’ She looked up at Mr. Omega with a begging expression. ‘I’ll do it even if he doesn’t want to. I don’t care. What do I take? Tell me, what do I take?’

Mr. Omega held out his hand, which unfurled to reveal two small red tablets. ‘One of these, and you’ll be out for around 24 hours. You won’t be able to guess how far you’ve travelled this way.’

Mrs. Bolt snatched at one and swallowed without hesitation.

Mr. Bolt shouted, ‘Fi-ona, for God’s sake, what are you doing?’

She moved backwards and laid down on the bed. ‘I want to see her, Manny. I want to see her.’ She closed her eyes and whispered, ‘Come with me, Manny. Let’s do this together. Come on. Fay’s waiting.’ She put her arm out and patted the space beside her, summoning her husband to follow.

This is what we do, Mr. Alpha thought. Perception and belief are our tools. This is what we make.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1834

May 9, 2007

The Crane (15 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

The large letters spelling out Brighton Pier were meant to invoke feelings of excitement, albeit a cheap fried doughnuts, greasy chips and coconut shy kind of excitement. Mr. Alpha felt nothing of the sort; there was only a sense of foreboding. The unadventurous palette of the overcast sky did nothing to lighten the mood. Mr. Omega was slightly ahead of him and, this time, he was content to follow.

Mr. and Mrs. Bolt sat on one of the benches along the Pier, facing the coastline, the last sign of man before the lonely, blue expanse.

They were neither touching nor talking. Mr. Alpha saw two people who no longer considered themselves in a marriage, rather a covenant to wait together for their daughter or death – whichever was first. They looked older than their years, staring ahead with sunken eyes into tumbling, colourless waves. They’d both wrapped up warm, protected from the cold, salty wind by sensible coats, scarves and gloves that dared not enliven the environment with rich colours. This pier was the final stop on their arduous, unrewarding journey.

Mr. Alpha tensed, still half-expecting Morgana to make an appearance. He knew she was quite prepared to wade into a situation as desperate as this. Snipers were ready for her, but the resulting carnage would probably take years to manage in the media. The Saints would not be pleased, but at least it would be over. He imagined a twinge in his shoulder; he could almost feel Ms. Cancer’s rifle trained on him. He really, really hoped they didn’t have to go to Plan B.

Mr. Omega walked right up to the bench and Mr. Alpha joined. They stared briefly at Morgana’s parents, then scanned their surroundings for something intangible, finally returning to look at the parents. Mrs. Bolt seemed listless and unresponsive, but Mr. Bolt glanced up.

Mr. Omega opened with a quiet whisper, his eyes darting around surreptitiously. ‘Excuse me, sir.’

Mr. Bolt blinked. ‘What is it?’ His eyes were watering from the wind.

‘I’m afraid the two of you are going to have to sit somewhere else.’ Mr. Omega withdrew a police ID from his jacket and showed it to Mr. Bolt. ‘Police business, sir. We’re supposed to meet an important informant at this very spot and we would be grateful if you could vacate this bench, here.’

Mrs. Bolt stirred out of her trance and spoke loudly. ‘What did they say, Manny?’

Mr. Bolt replied to his wife in the same volume, ‘They said… they said they want us to sit somewhere else. They want us to go.’

‘We can’t move, Manny. We have to stay here.’ She didn’t look up at the Clothmen, preferring to use her husband as an intermediary. ‘Tell them Manny, tell them we-‘

‘Shhh, Fi. Shh shh shh. We don’t need to go chin-wagging about that right now. These are police, Fi, police.’

Mr. Alpha noted that they had both lost their Australian accents in favour of something from the south east of England; it made him wonder how Morgana had retained hers. Had she been assigned to any Australian Cloth work?

‘Alright,’ Fiona said to her husband, still ignoring Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega. ‘Well we don’t want any trouble. Let’s move for now.’

Manny seemed uncertain, a little jittery, but stood up despite some reluctance. He helped Fiona up and the pair of them stumbled away.

Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega sat down on the bench and waited for Morgana’s parents to come back. If need be, they’d move Morgana’s parents everyday until they twigged; hopefully, they were smarter than that. Mr. Alpha coughed as the sea air fouled up the ordinary workings of his lungs. He never liked the seaside and looked down through the pier boards at the choppy sea with some distaste.

‘Excuse me, sir, it was Detective Morrison, wasn’t it?’ Manny’s voice said behind them.

‘Yes it was,’ said Mr. Omega, turning around to face Manny. Fiona was a few steps away, continuing to use her husband as spokesperson. ‘Please, you’ll have to move along, sir. Please. It’s vital.’

‘But, yes, yes, I understand, detective. But, uh, but…who is the, umm, person you’re going to meet? Is it… is it a lady?’

‘Look, as I’m sure you understand, I can’t really talk about the details.’ Mr. Omega shooed them away, but they did not move.

Manny was crestfallen. Mr. Alpha could see the struggle going on behind his face. They had been warned not to reveal anything about their daughter to anyone yet here was the police, potentially on their side. Dare they trust these strangers? To say something was dangerous. To not say something could be missing an opportunity.

He turned away, a decision made.

‘Fay Bolt,’ shouted Fiona, finally acknowledging the Clothmen.

Mr. Omega stood up, shocked. ‘What’s going on here? Who are you?’

‘Fay Bolt, are you waiting for Fay Bolt?’

Mr. Omega thrust his hand out, palm down, and approached Mrs. Bolt. ‘Hush, please. What do you know about Miss Bolt? You’re too young to be her, so don’t even try it.’

Mrs. Bolt said nothing at first, but then her lips quivered and tears poured from her eyes. She forced out, ‘Daughter.’ Mr. Alpha was moved, but didn’t show it.

Mr. Omega continued the hard line. ‘I’m sorry, madam, but for all we know you’re pretending to be her parents.’

‘She wrote to us,’ Mrs.Bolt said. ‘She sent us a mail about the Cloth.’

Now Mr. Alpha stood up in alarm, ‘God, she wrote to you about the Cloth?’

Mr. Omega cut him off, ‘Hasty, John, too hasty. We still can’t be sure they are who they say they are. Do you have this letter on you? We need proof.’

Mr. Alpha watched Manny, who seemed beside himself because he was unable to stop his wife from revealing everything. The desire to see their daughter again had got the better of her.

Mrs. Bolt pulled out pages of a letter from her purse and handed it to Mr. Omega, looking hopeful. Mr. Omega went through the pages and shook his head. ‘Dear god, dear god…’ he muttered to himself. ‘If she sent this to you, you are both in terrible danger.’

Mr. Bolt replied, ‘What? What do you mean?’

‘The Cloth will want this suppressed.’ Mr. Omega shook the letter in the air, excited. ‘We’ve been looking for a break like this for years. Your daughter told us we should meet her here… I guess it was you we were supposed to meet.’

‘You know about the Cloth?’

‘We’ve never managed to get one of their number to turn, but we know they are behind a vast number of crimes – kidnappings, murder, torture. You are both in danger, very serious danger.’

Mr. Alpha stood stock still, unwilling to risk the chance that Ms. Cancer might miss the shoulder and spray his brain across the board walk. Ms. Cancer would shoot him in the shoulder if the Bolts needed extra convincing that the good guys had arrived. He now wished he hadn’t had lost his temper at Ms. Cancer and Ms. Capricorn. He was glad they had everything under control. He was glad they hadn’t forgotten anything.

Morgana’s parents weren’t sure what to do. They debated in complete silence, exchanging worried looks with each other, at the Clothmen, and also at the sea. The sea roared and provided no consolation. Mr. Alpha closed his eyes and prayed to The-God-To-Be that a bullet would not visit him this day.

Mr. Bolt then said, ‘So… what should we do?’

Mr. Alpha sighed with relief. He pictured Ms. Cancer wondering aloud, ‘Shouldn’t we shoot him anyway?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2151