Uncanny tales of crush a.., p.1
Uncanny Tales of Crush and Pound 3, page 1
The Uncanny Tales of Crush & Pound 3
by Christopher D. Carter
Text and Illustration Copyright © 2013 Christopher D. Carter
All Rights Reserved.
Also by Christopher D. Carter:
Uncanny Tales of Crush and Pound Annual 1
Uncanny Tales of Crush and Pound 1
Uncanny Tales of Crush and Pound 2
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Table of Contents
About the Author
Run to the Hills
Sherry closed her eyes, and thoughts of her childhood rushed through her mind, much like an 8-mm film spinning out of control on a drive-in theater screen. She saw her parents, her friends, her dog, and the old neighborhood. In an instant, all of the fears she had felt and all of the joys she had experienced flashed across the screen of her open mind. Then she opened her eyes in the breeze, and the sensation of falling overcame the other senses, such that there was no sound, no smell, and no taste that could place her back into the real world. There was only the sensation of pain in her injured arm and the sight of the dangling rope ladder as it slowly passed by in the wind that could relay to her that there was more to her life than just memories. There was life itself, and she reached out to hold onto it so that she too would not become a passing memory. Her hand slipped between two rungs of the rope ladder, and the crease between her forearm and bicep pulled the rope taut. Following the dynamic leap of faith from the top of the building to the rope ladder, the sudden jolt of pain in her arm injected the sound of the helicopter blades, the smell of the cool breeze, and the taste of grinding teeth. Sherry was indeed alive, holding Crush and herself fifteen stories above downtown Durham, North Carolina, and hanging on for dear life.
Before she could bark out an order, Crush had grabbed the rope ladder with his free arm, thereby relieving the pressure on her forearm, and within seconds they were making their way up the ladder to the helicopter fuselage above. When they reached the top of the ladder, I. M. Pound reached a hand out the side door and helped them both inside. He then pulled the length of ladder onto the skid and closed the door. Sherry was given a seat between Dr. Theresa Tatum and Crush, and though she felt glad to be safely inside, her stomach churned over and over to the step of the chopper blades in a turmoil of churning wooziness. As she leaned forward to relieve the spinning motion, she lost the contents of her stomach into a bag that she had been given by Dr. Tatum. The flight to freedom for the DAM began with the tossing of a barf bag out of the cabin door to the downtown streets of Durham.
“Lay still,” Dr. Tatum encouraged her as she stroked her hair. “It will be a short ride.”
“Is the house ready?” asked Crush.
“Yes, it has been prepared. Though I doubt we can stay there for long, not with everyone looking for us,” Dr. Tatum replied.
“You might be surprised. We’ve made a few friends over the years,” Pound countered.
“And only part of the authorities are actually looking for us,” Seth added. “No one in the executive branch really believes we had anything to do with the Senator’s disappearance.”
“What about my escape? We’ll be lucky if there aren’t pictures already on the internet,” Sherry suggested from her position on the floor.
“Don’t worry. We have a chance to find the Senator, but we have our work cut out for us,” admitted Dr. Tatum.
“What happens when fugitives hand over a Senator? Won’t that prove we were responsible for his disappearance in the first place?” asked Sherry. The group all looked one to another with no answer, and it was clear from their blank expressions that their circumstances had become dire rather quickly.
“Regardless of the outcome, we have to put an end to the disappearances,” said Crush. “Are we all in?”
“I am,” said Dr. Tatum.
“Me, too,” agreed Seth who then gazed at Pound.
“Of course, I’m in,” Pound answered, leaving only Sherry and the newest recruit Philip who was piloting the chopper. “Are you in, Phil?”
“In what?” Phil turned his head and asked with a blank stare. Then just as hastily he turned his attention back to flying.
“He’s in. How about you, Sherry?” Crush queried.
“I’m in,” she replied from the floorboard with a purple face, “but I wish my feet were on the ground.”
The flight northwest to the Mount Airy airport was approximately one hundred miles as the crow flies and lasted less than an hour, which Sherry was most thankful for since the motion sickness that she was experiencing had only become worse. When the crew arrived, they unloaded their equipment, and Crush carried Sherry to a pre-arranged vehicle. Within minutes they had crossed onto Highway 52 South toward Pilot Mountain.
“Let me get you up to speed, Sherry,” offered Dr. Tatum. “Fortunately, no one appears to have followed us by aircraft from Durham. Apparently search parties were not put together quick enough to search for you or for the stolen helicopter. However, I cannot guarantee that no search will be started imminently due to two main reasons. The first reason is that Senator Fromage is still missing with Bat Jackson and yourself as the prime suspects. The second reason is that the rest of the DAM is wanted by the authorities for the alleged cover up of your disappearance in Blowing Rock over a month ago.
“Since we are all on the run now, it should comfort you to know that we are not completely abandoned. The DAM exists as a department that reports up through the Secret Service and ultimately to the Executive Branch of the federal government. The Department currently is under investigation with the circumstances surrounding the Senator’s disappearance; however, the execution of the investigation still remains within the Executive Branch. And the Executive has been briefed on all of the details, and he has placed a hold on execution of the internal investigation until more data becomes available. Fortunately for us, the Executive believes in ghost stories.”
“You mean the President is involved now?” asked Sherry.
Yes. Now we would all like to hear your story since your disappearance in Blowing Rock,” requested Dr. Tatum. Sherry then took in a deep breath as she tried to organize the thoughts in her mind. After a moment’s hesitation, she explained what she could of her own experience within the dark dimension and of the illness from which Bat suffered. She told of her escape into the Senator’s office and of the final battle with Drakthos there.
“Even with the apparent time differences between the two dimensions, there wasn’t much hope of survival for Bat or myself, and in my mind the Senator’s daughter Carol may be dead by now,” Sherry postulated.
“To have survived under the circumstances, you’re made of tough stuff, kid,” said Crush. “But we really need to find the Staff of Helios if we are going to have any chance of rescuing the Senator and Carol, assuming she’s still with us.”
“Don’t you have it?” asked Sherry.
“It was taken as evidence when you were arrested,” replied Pound.
“You say the Staff had some effect on this creature Drakthos?” asked Crush.
“He definitely had trouble with it,” said Sherry.
“Pound, we have to go back and get it,” Crush suggested, and the ideas went back and forth between the two heroes.
“If it’s in a police station, there’s nothing a few doughnuts can’t do to persuade them,” said Pound.
“I’m up for it,” agreed Pound with a
“Now just hang on, you two!” interrupted Dr. Tatum. “We just narrowly escaped the law earlier, and I am not about to let you go out and give us away so easily. We have to think our actions through before executing them. Understood!” The members of the group all looked one to another in silence before she continued. “There are only six of us, and we cannot afford to be apprehended. So my first suggestion is that we set up the safe house and plan carefully while in concealment at the base of Pilot Mountain. There are supplies in the trunk of this car that should keep us for a week. After that, I’m afraid to say that we are on our own.”
“Doc, I can’t speak for the others, but I’m worried that we aren’t going to succeed at anything in a week’s time,” said Seth. “What exactly is your plan?”
“The way I see it, there are three things we have to do,” said Dr. Tatum. “First, we have to steal back the Staff of Helios, as was suggested. Second, we have to go after and somehow catch the escaped demons. I have studied the local history, and I have an inkling about how we might manage their capture. And third,” she hesitated. “Third, we have to go into the abyss to find the Senator. The order of the last two parts is up for grabs, but reacquiring the Staff is first and foremost.” Silence followed Dr. Tatum’s declaration as the team members contemplated their part. As if an anvil had just been dropped on her chest, Sherry was silent for the remainder of the ride.
At the safe house located at the edge of the woods, a guard who called himself David unlocked the front door of a two-story farmhouse, and the six fugitives entered the home, each carrying a bag of groceries and a duffle bag of clothes. The front door closed behind them, and the sound of the deadbolt and lock followed. With the car hidden in a nearby barn, the home looked deserted from the outside. The curtains were pulled shut, the lights were off, and no sign of life as we know it was visible at the home. Yet the front porch swing swayed with the pulse of a life once lived. A gray bearded face peeked out from the second story window for just a moment and then vanished into the gloom.
Inside the living room of the home, the group of six DAM agents gathered around a coffee table while Sherry laid down on an adjacent couch. Pound, who had not had a chance to catch up with Sherry since her return, busied himself with changing her wound dressings. Among his many talents, Pound was a certified and accomplished field medic, a skill that had fit in well with the needs of the organization over his tenure.
Not wanting to lose any more time, Dr. Tatum rolled out a map of North Carolina onto the table, and Crush recorded the driving route back to Durham where he and Seth would eventually be sent to recover the Staff. After a lengthy debate, the decision was made to dispatch Pound and Phil to Winston-Salem, where an historic Moravian settlement was centered in the heart of downtown. There they would borrow the sacred Quilt of Blessings, a hoary old patchwork fabric, hand-stitched together by the wives of the fallen members of the Moravian Church. The quilt was rumored to hold the power of exorcism, something they would need when they encountered their adversaries. In the meantime Dr. Tatum would remain with Sherry at the safe house under constant vigil.
“No one is allowed to use a cell phone since the signal and location are so easily traced,” instructed Dr. Tatum. Seth scratched his head in deep thought.
“That’s good advice,” said Seth. “But in the event something happens to us while we’re away, how can we let you know?”
“Seth, my friend, you may not be able to contact anyone. That’s the nature of clandestine work,” said Crush, and slapped his partner on the back.
“Doc is right,” agreed Pound. “We have to accept the reality that we have a week to get the Staff and Quilt. If we aren’t back together by then, those left in the safe house will have to carry on the mission and leave the others behind.” The mission had become serious very quickly, and since they were wanted and on the run, time management and mission execution were the top priorities.
“Our lives have become sacrificial when we consider the danger posed by these other worldly invaders. Together we stand a chance of vanquishing Drakthos and rescuing the Senator, but we must succeed in these two tasks,” Dr. Tatum emboldened her friends.
That evening they prepared a casual meal of fresh vegetables and tuna salad, Crush’s favorite dinner choice. They laughed at jokes and shared stories of their latest adventures with each other late into the night until sleep began to take hold of the team. Before she could rest, Sherry had a question that had been bothering her all evening, and she felt it needed answering. Without a hint of shyness, she redirected the conversation back to the matters at hand.
“Doc, if the guys succeed in acquiring the Staff and the Quilt, what exactly will that do for us? We still have no idea where to begin searching for an entrance to Drakthos’ realm.”
“That isn’t exactly true,” replied Crush before Dr. Tatum could answer. “Seth and I had an experience just recently that was very similar to your own.” Seth nodded his agreement.
“At the Devil’s Tramping Ground? I do remember reading about that in your report,” Sherry guessed as she began to recall some of the details.
“We had some unexpected help on that case. I don’t think we’ll have that luck again,” Crush replied and then gazed at the clock on the wall. “It’s been real, but I’m turning in for the night. See ya in the morning,” he said as he climbed the stairs to the second floor bedroom alone.
“Sleeping arrangements, Doc? What are we doing?” asked Phil.
“There are three bedrooms for us, and the guard has the couch. Crush has his own room as always so that leaves a room for the men and a room for us, Sherry,” replied Dr. Tatum.
“Not that I care, but why does Crush get a room alone?” Phil questioned to no one in particular.
“Trust me, dude. You do not want to sleep in the same room with him,” answered Pound.
When Crush finished brushing his teeth, he leaned against the bathroom counter and stared at himself in the mirror with a numbness that radiated into the silence of the bedroom. With his fingertips he traced the outline of his cat-like ears, and he wondered if he would ever be accepted as he was in this world. Then he held his hand out in front of his face examining it, and he was thankful that his feline claws were retractable at will. People in general stared at his ears and the short hair that covered his body, so the fact that his hands could appear normal and that he could shake hands with others kept him from shying away from contact. Still, there were days when his confidence ebbed, and even though he had rescued Sherry from imprisonment, he had inadvertently injured her in the process.
“Tomorrow is another day,” he thought as he undressed and lay curled up in a ball in the center of the bed. In a soft purr, he closed his eyes and drifted off into a restless sleep. At first everything went dark, and he could see nothing in his mind’s eye. Then in the distance a point of light appeared and began to grow as he stood resolute on an ever shortening edge. Closer and closer his feet moved to the precipice, almost as if he was stationed on a moving sidewalk, and he held his breath as his feet went over the edge. Yet he did not fall. He merely floated in place in the expanse of an immense block of pure light, saturated in photonic waves and mixing with the purity of the thickness of light. Then the Staff formed in his grasp, and all presence of light disappeared. He banged the end of the Staff to the ground, and nothing happened. He wielded the Staff but was lost in the darkness of the void as a menacing laughter surrounded him on all sides. Then he awoke in the bedroom once again.
“What is it that you fear, my child?” said the voice from the corner of the bedroom. A bearded elderly man formed from the darkness, facing Crush at the foot of the bed.
“Nothing. I fear nothing,” Crush answered.
“Then you have not the wisdom which you will need.”
“What will happen to
“You have seen it. The future. It is what you make it.”
“I do not want to be alone.”
“Ah! That is your fear. But you must be alone for a time, and therein lies the wisdom.”
“I don’t understand.”
The old man shook his head. “Do as you have been shown. Face your fear, my child,” the spirit said, and then disappeared as a wisp of smoke in the wind.
Crush laid there in the bed contemplating his dreams and the old man’s advice for what seemed an hour. Strangely enough, Crush had always trusted the old man’s advice when it was given, and he gave it often enough and in the most bizarre of circumstances.
“Who could argue with the dead,” he thought as he rested his head against the pillow and went back to sleep.
The next morning before dawn, the group solemnly gathered around the breakfast table, sharing toast, dry cereal, and fruit. The guard David stood by to watch the windows as they ate.
“I don’t think I like being on the run,” said Sherry holding her injured arm against her body. “Cereal without milk sucks.”
“It beats crickets,” commented Seth.
“Oh, geez. Do you have to bring that story up again?” I’m eating,” replied Pound crossly as he sat next to Sherry.
“Iraq was tough, dude,” Seth continued. “The little legs get caught between your teeth,” Seth continued while rubbing the space between his front teeth with his fingernails, as if imagining some phantom piece of food caught between the gaps. Pound picked up his bowl and stormed out of the room. Everyone stared at Seth in unison, relaying discomfort back to the source.
“Sorry, just making conversation,” Seth said, rolling his eyes.
“I don’t think I have heard this story yet,” said Sherry.
“Don’t be in a hurry, dear. You’ll get your chance,” Dr. Tatum cheerfully replied. “Pound, do you think you could check on Crush? I made his favorite tuna omelet, though it burned on one side without milk in the mixture.”
“Anything to get away from bug-eating stories,” Pound remarked with a spoonful of dry cereal in his hand. He disappeared up the stairs and then came back down again quickly as if he had forgotten something important. He pulled back the curtains to scan the backyard, his eyes moving in all directions. Then he silently ran to the front window and peeked through the blinds.
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