Episode 1 (Prelude and Ch. 1)
The Blake Johnson Files Part 1: Hope
By: Justyn Hogan
Once I forgot why it was I did this;
Gave life to stories...
I remember now.
I do this for you, dear reader.
I truly hope some message from this series helps you in your life, or at the very least, this story, and all to come, entertain you, and bring you peace as you read.
Thank you all.
And thanks to you, Desiree, Dee, and Danielle.
My first fans
The fan who holds my heart.
In the end, are all heroes the ones we truly expected to rise and face our various humane, and inhumane evils? Was not the first true President of the great United States just a boy at the start of the war? Did not the most honored of our battalions in the World War bear the emblems or colored men? Were not our greatest of producers, our mightiest of laborers once all women while the men fought a war they would never survive if the women, whose rights were still being denied in many forms, had instead of risking life and limb in the factories, sat at home cross stitching? All throughout history, David’s, unexpected underdogs, rose against Goliath’s, massive opponents who put all hopes of the righteous down with a single blow until one, unexpected hero arose and felled them. However, as the world falls once more into darkness, and the people beg for a hero, would you accept aid from the one man who seeks to save you all? Ponder this, ponder it well, ladies and gentlemen, fore, as the world falls once more under the veil of darkness, a hero arises, but this David is unlike any other you’ve ever known. So, I bring you the start of what should have been the end.
The sunlight blazed with a vibrantly gold heat that was so very familiar to him as it touched his skin, he didn’t even notice it anymore. The engine purred at the ruby tinted red-light, rumbling with the cadence of classic America. He listened to his own voice say the same sentence he always did while his hand moved of its own accord to the velvety soft hand of the only woman he ever truly loved, settling from the black, gleaming ball shifter, to rest in warmth. “Serenity, your belly isn’t bigger than all the other women, they’re just not pregnant.”
That particular statement was enough to make him want to cry even as his cheeks lifted in a sign of unstoppable happiness. The opposition of the two facial gestures was not lost on him, however. Of course when you know how the scene ends, you always feel a tad bit differently about it than you do the first time you watch it. Just as he had every night for the last five and a half years. Mind straining, he pushed that thought away, focusing on every single detail of Serenity as intensely as possible for just that instance, if only, because he wanted to prolong her existence, selfishly needing those three seconds to become an eternity. His eternity. The only eternity.
The car smelt strongly of freshly fried onion rings, greasy, pungent, and uniquely sweet and bitter. This wasn’t an oddity by any means, as he knew that just moments before this ever-repeating scene played out in its originality, he had stopped at a drive in burger joint to buy the pregnant love of his life her one pregnancy craving; a large order of fresh onion rings. They had to be fresh, salty, and overly greasy. Lord only knew why the little angel wanted the greasy snack when both of her parents were fry people, but she did. Softly in the background country music played, a song sung by a deep voiced man about Cowboys and Angels, as they correlated to his love life. The engine could be heard rumbling, a kind of feral purr that sent pulses through the old steel frame. As he turned to look at her he took in those beautiful eyes first; deep chocolate brown and filled with a mother’s joy. Her soft pink lips curved as evidence of that joy, frozen in a perfect smile as her musical laugh blocked out the music, engine, and all other noise. His favorite melody. Her freckles curved over her nose, the ends of that speckled trail reaching skyward as her cheeks lifted towards their peak. Her brown hair glinted with golden highlights in the vibrant sunlight, as dazzling as a gem in the rough. Her royal purple tee bulged over her eight month pregnant belly, a foretelling of bright beautiful life. God knew as well as he did, she was the definition of beautiful.
The light turned a blazing emerald green, and he smiled wildly, feeling his heart rise even as it shattered once more. This was the last stop light before they made it home. Or was it? He pressed in the accelerator and as the sixty-nine GTO rolled into the intersection a sound like thunder filled his ears in the same moment an explosion of light destroyed his vision. He felt intense heat, the jagged edges of something razor sharp, and knew as always, that once again he’d lost her. Once more, he had lost all hope of happiness, his whole world.
It was in this very moment that thunder boomed just on the edge of his consciousness.
As thunder boomed over one man, it also boomed above the house of a woman.
Sophia Lovejoy lay awake, as she always did at this hour of the morning, thinking of what would come to pass in this, her new day. She had never been perfectly right, and was genuinely okay with the notion she never would be. After all, what point was there to a life of absolutes, when a life of surprise was so much... more. She glanced around the room now, seeing the bright yellow walls look dull in the darkness of the early morning. The pictures of happy moments seeming like dark humored shadows, the white and bright curtains hanging like somber grey clouds. Yes, they were all bright during the day, however, as a wise, yet deeply wounded man had once told her, all the world smiles when the sun is high and bright, but when night falls... darkness is inevitable.
This, she knew came from his shattered heart. He was happy, during the day, when he was doing the same thing she did every day, but at night, his worst moments were always at his heels, just far enough away that they might not catch him. However they were just close enough that every time he lay down his head... Well, darkness was inevitable, was it not? She shook her head in the manner one does when they clear their head. Why was she thinking of him, and if there was a good reason, why the dark side, why not the side she saw in almost every waking moment they had shared? Why was she foolishly fixating on the shadow of such a bright light, when she ought to be preparing to brighten the day of another light that was oh so dear to her? For that matter, did any of these early morning thoughts really matter at all?
Pushing aside her thoughts she moved the rough cotton blanket aside and slid her bare feet to the cool laminate floor, allowing her skin to soak in the coolness through the bottoms of her feet. Today was to be a day of joy, not one of the sadness that seemed so eager to consume her every thought. A day of hope, at her House of Hope. On that note, she was running behind. How could she, the purveyor of said hope ever be late, much less today of all days? She stood, taking a moment to feel the soft silky sheets slide away from her bare skin before she strode towards the window to glance out at the still starry sky. It was something else that glimmered in the night, however which caught her eye.
A gleaming, red sports car of a make her dark friend would know, but she wasn’t fond of, sat under the street light across from her window. That was certainly odd as, firstly the soft top was down and there were signs of a storm blowing on, and secondly, no one in this town could afford a car that top of the line. Save maybe, for the dark mystery of a dear to her heart friend she had. Even as she noticed this sleek sportster of an automobile, she heard the creak of her bedroom door opening and spun, but it was far too late as the needle like tip of a taser gun sank into her flesh and several hundred volts of electricity catapulted her from consciousness.
Little did she know she’d thank god for this later.
The news had predicted the closest rain storm to be in some little town across the state, still, Luke Davenport was in his office an hour early, with the rain being an excuse to his wife, who would undoubtedly be asleep all day anyway. He knew lying to her was wrong, but this time he didn’t need her worrying over him. This time, he needed to be free of not only her oversight, but that of most of his superiors. This time, he needed autonomy as his body armor.
The email he had received late the night before still showed on the back on his eyelids, as it had the whole night, flickering with the back light of digital secrecy. Could it really be true, could there be a possibility, any small possibility... he had to check, and if what he read was the truth... there was a lot of work to do. Firstly, he had to hunt the man who had once taught him how to aim for the heart... and put it behind three layers of armor. A legend among heroes of the SATTF, and yet a secret to the outside world. His brother in arms.
Pushing that thought to the back of his mind he put a pot of coffee on and sat in his stiff desk chair. Alright, so I have to find him, shouldn’t be too hard, it’s only Blake after all. This thought made him laugh out loud before he set to typing an email for a group of people who hadn’t been together since the man they’d soon hunt put up his badge once and for all. Remembering the e-mail, he reanalyzed that thought.
No, his badge would decorate his chest one final time...
Popping his neck he re-read his email and grimaced. “The Wolf lives on. My office, 09:00, full uniform, full arsenal. Bring everything you would need for a top spec mission. Prepare, we have to locate the Captain.” Short, bitter, to the point. He hit enter and watched his message send to the departments best operatives. Game time was here at last. It had only been half a decade of waiting, to lead up to this.
Her breath caught in her throat as she screamed out.
Even the knowledge that it wasn’t, couldn’t be real didn’t shake the fact that it scared her more deeply than any of the myriad horrors she had faced over the years. His palm was rough as it covered her mouth, his stench cloying as it assailed her nose, his breath hot on her ear as he whispered “Scream again and I’ll gut you when I’m through with you.” His arm wrapped tightly around her as he pulled her deeper into the darkness of the roadside forest, the cold air chilled her to the bone as he ripped at cloth and pushed her to the ground. As she did every night, she wished her night terror would skip over this part, but it never did. Never would. Never could?
What he did to her was wrong. It was an act of sheer evil and he took what he wanted by force. Pushing his way into her deepest sacred places, tearing his ways through her dignity, shredding what was left of her self-worth. Desecrating her. Until at long last, she lay discarded, destroyed utterly, and lost in the torment of youth’s horror. Yet Mother Nature was far kinder than he.
When he left her in the ditch, naked and hopeless, the dream fast forwarded and she found her younger self screaming in a new kind of pain. A pain laced with hope, and life, and perhaps a salve for her hatred. The doctors shouted a variation of “Breathe!” “Push!” And “Almost!” As she fought through the red haze of pain, each contraction bringing her one inch closer to the ultimate goal...
The smell on antiseptic grew stronger as a nurse let out a delighted squeal “It’s a girl!” And in second a weight that wiggled and squirmed was in her arms, warm against her chest as she opened her eyes. Drenched in fluid, and crying anew, a plump and pink baby lay her head on her mother’s breast. To the delirious dreamer, the child still glowed, even if only in a dream swept memory.
“Emily... Joanna Anderson. My baby girl...”
The images blurred once more and she found herself on her knees in tears as the woman she had only called Lillian since that fateful day stood in front of her with an empty baby carrier and a hard pressed grimace. “It had to be done. You’re only sixteen V. You couldn’t take care of her, she has no father, and I am dying.”
Her sobbing continued though, and finally she looked up at her mother. “I had hope... I had hope for us...” She did have hope, she had hope and love, and perhaps, maybe just a hint of need to be with that child. Her child. Her Emily. A light in her deepest darkness, now torn away from her.
The tall, grey haired woman only laughed cynically. “Ironic as that is, there isn’t hope for a child made of the devil’s work.” As she strode off thunder rolled into the dream, nearly awakening her.
She sat in the leather seat as the engine rumbled with a low growl. The candy apple red beast vibrated as she held the wheel and glanced to her side to see the child asleep in the passenger seat. Her face was pressed up to the glass, long golden curls splayed out around her like an angelic halo. The epitome of beauty, and most definitely her father’s child.
The woman straightened as the light turned green. Once upon a time on the opposite side of this light, a man she once knew and loved lost everything. She pressed the accelerator, flinching as she always did, but no explosion of light came. No shattering of glass. No, this time she rolled into the stream of fate leading her back to her love, and hoping it wasn’t too late, even as the crazed terror that had been both her partner, and her warden, broke into the insanity of death’s embrace once more. Perhaps, just maybe it was time he found out why.
Thunder boomed on the other side of the dirt stained windows, as he lay, covered in sweat, and free of cloth confines. To some men and women, there can be no peace found on earth, quite like the one to be accepted after a long, steamy night with a partner of the opposite sex to play along in nature’s game. For Blake Johnson, not even Armageddon knocking on the door to his low rate, motel room get away, could ruin his pleasured peace. Of course, as he ran his hand along the bare skin of the woman next to him, he thought of the one thing that could ruin his peace; the fact that by tomorrow it would be a totally different woman who lay in his arms, and he seriously doubted he would remember either of the women’s name by the day after that. So was the curse of the bachelor who settled for the rewards of lust versus those derived from love. What else could a man whose heart had been taken, and shattered seek?
Blake smiled to himself, even as those vilely depressing thoughts faded, a much more pleasing thought graced his mind: she had enjoyed every moment of this night, as was a trend for him now. Of course with practice comes near perfection... if only of the shadow used to cover the pain. The past few months had shown him to be far more talented than he had once believed, and though many a woman awoke alone the morning after, they drifted into a fuzzily, completely fulfilled sleep after hours of stimulation that was so precise and science-like they would be caught imagining someone else next time they found a lover. This was a thought he found fulfilling, even if it shined a black light on his once bright soul. ‘Oh well,’ he thought, ‘so goes life these days.’ So went life indeed.
He grimaced as he smiled up at the dingy white speckled ceiling, once more finding the same minor annoyance at the lack of evenness in the swirling patterns. Closing his eyes to the early morning he pictured that face once more, seeing her deep chocolate eyes, as he breathed deeply, reminding him of who he was. What he was. And not the playboy cowboy Casanova all of his little hometown seemed to assume him to be. What he had been, back when he had hope.
He chuckled, slowly leaning up, and pushing the blankets aside as he eased out of the too soft motel bed, and slowly strode over to his clothes, which had been unceremoniously strewn aside in the hasty need for hormonal satisfaction the night before. “Mmm...” she moaned, nearing the edge of wakefulness. Tensing, he slowed his efforts to clothe himself and seemed to watch her with an unnatural alertness, keen on her every motion, her every single breath. ‘Don’t wake up yet,’ he thought like a prayer in his head, ‘just let me get out first, save us both some pain.’ Unfortunately, his prayers went unanswered, not a first for Mr. Johnson. “Baby? Blake?” Her voice, still rough from sleep, was enough to drive him crazy... It was definitely time to go. Past time, it seemed.
With a series of colorful words floating through his mind, he quickly cinched his belt. “Yes, dear? Sorry I have an early appointment at the housing center.” He put as much of his naturally gleaned southern charm into the sentence as possible. Moving with a lithe quickness, he slipped his shirt over wiry muscle, which stretched easily after the previous night’s work out. Another reminder as to just why he truly needed to be hitting the road.
She gazed at him with an expression of confusion mingling with annoyance. Her eyes sparkled as sunlight streamed through the dusty curtains. “So... you were just going to leave?” As he slipped his wallet into his left back pocket and put the black bladed knife he always wore on the right side of his belt, all the easier to draw for him, he didn’t bother interrupting the silence. What was there to say? She already seemed to know his answer. “Ha! Please tell me after everything that happened last night, you were at least planning to leave your number?” Anger rippled in her voice now, making him wonder at just what another round with... erm, her, would be like.
He began to slip on his boots, and despite knowing if he didn’t put a wall between them now he’d only hurt her, he felt bad for what he said next. “Dear, I honestly never plan anything. Besides, after all that time standing in a freakin’ line, don’t ya think it’d be rude to hold up the rest of the ladies in line?” He grinned, a charming flash of his teeth that had always disarmed the ladies. However, on the contrary to his outward appearance, he did feel guilty. Had he have gotten out before she awakened, there would be no need for him to play the part of the ass. One moves onward, however. “Darlin’, if you really want a repeat of last night, it’ll cost two shots of whiskey at the White Picket Bar tonight. I’ll be there at eight, sittin’ on the same bar stool you found me on last night.” He looked up, expecting to see fury alight on her facial features, yet he was in for a surprise.
She was smirking, a light and devilish smile that set Blake’s teeth on edge, making him want to press his lips to that sly grin. “Blake... Mr. Johnson... hmmm... what will I do with you?” She laughed, musical, and like the beat of a down home country song, it stirred something within him, something he had tried for the longest time to bury and hide. Something that made him want to offer a few suggestions that would make him late to the housing center for sure. She whipped her hair back, waist length, and golden, it flowed over her ripe, firm breasts in a tousled mess, which offset her aquamarine tinted eyes so that they both seemed to glow softly in the sunlight. “Tell me something... Babe...” she seemed to ponder the word choice before using babe. “Why are you scared to stay with one woman?” Her voice suddenly shifted from luscious and sultry to solid, and inquisitive.
The sudden leap from comedic teasing to her seriously deep question startled Blake so much he almost told her then and there. ‘Get a grip,’ he thought, ‘don’t let her unearth your secrets after one night of great... amazing... Seriously, did I just think that?’ But when he spoke, he did so under the guise of one with complete, undiminished calm. “Mmm... Tell ya’ what, meet me at the White Picket tonight, and I’ll tell you over drinks. I’ll even buy the first round.” He winked, standing, and striding towards the door. Finally, he might just make it out of this situation. Maybe.
“Blake.” Her voice was serious this time, completely and utterly serious. He turned towards her and saw that serious, or not, she was grinning. “If I’m late, or you decide you’d rather grab dinner, try the County Police Department Office’s number, extension three. See ya tonight.” He stared at her, realizing she was being completely serious, and that she would be there. He strode over and pulled her towards him, lightly placing his lips on hers. Her lips tasted sweet. ‘Alright,’ his mental voice spoke in a voice that matched his smile. ‘If she wants to try and fix a broken man like me, let her. But first, I need to remember her name.’ Pulling away, he smiled at her. “It’s Veronica, in case you’ve forgotten baby.”
Trying not to show surprise at the fact she had known he had, he laughed, kissed her again and said “Alright, Veronica, you’ve got yourself a date tonight. I’ll call after my appointment this mornin’. Might even bring ya’ a surprise.” Lord only knew she was already surprising him.
As he walked out, jingling the keys to his black Chevy, he left Veronica smiling. Maybe this would be a humbling experience for both of them. Perhaps they would find peace in each other’s shattered hearts. There was even a chance, though slim, she knew, that they might make something work in such a way where they could heal. Or maybe she’d just save the horse, and ride the cowboy one more night. It was a good ride, after all.
“Wake up.” The feminine voice echoed across the plains of her unconsciousness. Where was she? What had happened to her? The last thing she had remembered was turning at the sound of her- “I said, wake the hell up!” The scream was accented by the sound of air whistling by an object until Slap.
Fire, and the sensation of pain surged through her, snapping her into total wakefulness. She screamed even as her eyes opened wide. There before her, holding what looked to be a sap made from a sock and stuffed with some hard material, was a red headed woman, wearing sunglasses, and grimacing at her. She felt chilled, to the bone, and as she strained to glance up, she could see that she was hanging from chains that now marred the ceiling of her bedroom. Dear God, hadn’t she been punished enough in this life? She struggled to keep her breathing even as she focused on her attacker. “Who... are you? And why are you here?”
The sap flew, smacking her in the side, right across her ribs, with a loud crack. The woman she faced smiled cruelly, and twirled the crude weapon. “Don’t we think we’re important, you harlot.” twisting, she lunged, slamming the sap home into the woman’s jaw. “Thinking you, of all people, get to ask me questions. Ha! As if I’d let my man’s new dog whine for any form of mercy.” She swung again, a dull thud ringing as the sap thrashed into the trussed up woman’s right thigh. “Sophia Lovejoy. Sophie. Soph’s. Try Harlot.” Slap. “Slut!” Slap! “Whore!” SLAP!
Sophia screamed anew, her ragged scream animalistic as she keened to the world at large. Her body ached, her blood pounded through her veins as her heart raced, the sound of rushing water racing through her mind even as the woman before her continued to slam that vile, bloody sap home, again and again.
Minutes rushed by, as she ran dry of tears and her voice broke. Finally the woman turned to stride away from her, moving aside so that she could see the coals gleaming with bright red light in the fireplace that had been blocked from her view. Sticking out of the angry coals, was an iron handle, wrapped in leather at the end, just wide enough to rest two hands upon. “My name is Anna. I am his first, and I will be his last, and though he will never believe it, I am his guardian angel. But for you, I am only the Apocalypse.” She pulled the iron from the coals and turned a ruby red glowing brand to face Sophia. “And you shall be my sister, as well as my next warning.”
Sophia screamed, until blood caked her throat, as the scent of burning skin filled her nose until at last she blacked out, falling back into the darkness. Her last thought was of a single man, whose darkness had finally come calling, just as he’d always known it would.
Elsewhere, a child awakened, to face her day.
Emma’s golden curls framed her face as she sat up, as stared at the pictures she kept beside her small bed in her tiny room of the hope house. Framed by plastic cowboys and encased in clear Plexiglas was her picture of her hero. Standing tall, his golden hair streaming from beneath his black velvet cowboy hat, the sun, and the house of Hope at his back, as he stared off into the sky, her Blakey could take on anything.
Next to it, in a simple wood frame, with the word HOPE carved into the bottom of it, was her Sophie. Pale, yet strong with eyes that were ageless and yet could only be described as kind, the woman smiled at the camera. The closest thing she had ever had to a momma, and yet the woman was content simply with making sure that she was as happy as could possibly be. This woman was an angel.
They both were. Her angels.
Not the kind with wings, who came down to guard and protect the world, but the kind who truly lived down here with her. She smiled back at the pictures,
Soon they would be here, for her, and she would be truly happy and hopeful once more. Or rather “I see you soon, Blakey, Sophie. I can’t wait. I loves you both.” Her eyes shone with the words as her smile raised to meet them. Today was her birthday after all.
Copyright of Justyn Hogan, June Twenty-first, Twenty-twenty. No remakes, copies, or productions are to be created without his consent.