A Hard Way to Heaven

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Chapter 3

Port Lewis, NY
One month later.

A thick fog covered the old dock area, muting the one flickering lamp affixed to a decaying wood and corrugated steel warehouse, and disguised the murder taking place on twenty yards of crack pavement that kissed the back door of the warehouse, and skirted to the dock beyond. It was an area no one visited in the day or night, located in a part of town that was slowly being consumed by misery and ignorance. Andreas Louvella watched his victim struggle for breath. The meds coursing through her veins kept her body frozen, her mind perceptive to the realization of what was happening. Slowly her eyes stopped moving, the fight gone, and focused to a point beyond his head.

There was a drawn out stretch of time now between each haggard rise and fall of her chest as the blood drained slowly from her body. Louvella drew a gloved finger along the outline of one of her dew covered breasts, watched the color of her skin change pallor. He leaned down, close to her ear, shuddering pleasurably, "Snow white." There was no last inhalation, just a soft outward sigh, and he had one more victim to add to his collection. His lids fluttered closed as he took a deep breath, inhaled, controlling his euphoria. The meaty scent of blood melded with her perfume, the remnants of their sex, and raw fear into a potent bouquet that tightened his body. Yet, with each tick of the clock, her death was fast losing its exhilaration.

Pity. Time is an enemy to everything.

The pleasure of his art was done with delicate, systematic haste. Andreas's next actions were quick, and he stole away to not allow the passage of time to sour the pleasure that was branded in his mind for eternity. He retreated, a triumphant smile lifting his lips as he tucked the souvenir into his pocket.

Glasgow, Scotland

The sun had finally settled in the west, painting deep gold hues on the buildings of Glasgow as Syn Macdonald drove home through the West End. She commanded a pretty hefty fee as a private computer consultant on human interactive and decision systems. Not that she needed the money, her family was loaded. Her father was one of the richest men in the world. Her own net value, put her in league with the big boys. But it was her philanthropic contributions that gave her the most joy. She had just handed over the latest innovations in water filtration systems to a company that services a host of African communities, desperately in need of clean water. And all for a zero ROI.

Syn frowned, recalling the exchange between one of the men at the meeting, bringing to light her checkered past. The man with sea-green eyes had accusing, hinting at something from her past. The benefactors had quickly changed the subject, steering the conversation away from those dark days. They didn’t care about her, just that Syn could deliver on her promises, and supply the equipment for so many families. Granted, the man had had a point, her skill set was a little more complicated, given her history. Three years ago she had been a decorated NYPD detective, using her computer skills to nab the bad guys. Until one rainy afternoon when a drunk driver plowed through a red light, and killed her Mother. The days after the horrid accident had left a bitter pill in her mouth. She had abandoned that lifestyle, unable to continue.

Suddenly, she swerved, twisting the wheel into oncoming traffic and then just as quickly, turned back into her own lane as a host of horns sounded. She glanced in the rearview mirror, cursing, spying someone in a beat up Vauxhall, finally closing the door they had courageously opened outward into the tight traffic. Syn shook it off as she hit her turn signal to pull off onto Dumbartonshire Road to snake through several alleyways before stopping at a security gate. Ian, the security guard, waved her through, and she drove along the Clyde, driving by several docks, and container ships off loading their cargo, towards a host of abandoned warehouses, and an imposing Victorian red brick building.

Syn had brought the old shipping headquarters five years ago on a trip over from the States. She depressed a button on her steering wheel and saw the security doors rising. She pulled into her underground garage, parking her Highlander next to an Aston Martin Rapide Bertone, and a 1933 500cc Triumph NT motorbike she was restoring. She hit the overhead door control, bringing down the double garage doors, and hit the security code. She sat there several minutes looking at her hobbies, and wondered what the hell she was doing. She shook her head, climbed from the vehicle, headed towards the elevator that would take her up to her living space. There was something missing in her life. Her line of work and personal life was a dichotomy of contrasting viewpoints, always on some precipice.

She set her postal bag onto the island counter of her kitchen, rested her palms against the edge, and looked at her open space. Everything was pristine white, dark floors, black furniture, and stainless steel appliances. Warmth was added by sheer curtains and deep seating couches, chairs with overstuffed purple pillows, and ambient lighting.

She took a deep breath, knowing deep down her life was good. Yet, she had an uncanny feeling something was about to happen that prickled the hairs on the back of her neck; a whisper tickling her flesh. Something Syn shouldn't ignore in her current state of exhaustion. She definitely had too many irons in the fire, too many projects that required her attention. When was the last time she had taken a break, escaped? Was it three years already since her Mother's death? Small jaunts had allowed her to keep her sanity, but still, she needed a long stretch of quiet.

Yup, that was the prescription. She couldn't focus, even now found herself staring at the granite counter, seeing nothing, but the staleness of her life. And for what her clients were paying her for her technology skills, she needed to be on game. Nothing held her interest any more, nothing kept her attention. She was a sterile as the room and hated it.

She went to the fridge, pulled out limes, tonic and opened the freezer taking out a half empty bottle of Blue Sapphire. She made a healthy G&T over crushed ice and then rummaged again through the fridge pulling out ciabata, fresh roma tomatoes, basil, and brie to make a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner with a large salad. There was no one across the table, no one to talk to, well no one that was human.

The quiet pressed in. She snagged her plate and drink, plopped down in front of her 72" LCD curved plasma, tripped through TiVO to her list of recordings, finding the Top Gear episodes. She hit play on an old episode and Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond filled the screen. Soon James May cued to an American adventure, Ken the Block. She settled in, trying to forget the emptiness of her life, becoming engrossed and letting the world pass without so much as an acknowledgement. Sometimes she just wanted to drop off the grid and walk away. Yet, the fingers of the future tickled at her coat tails.

Syn hit the tread mill after two episodes, walking and running for an hour, and then the punching bag for another before hitting the shower. She retired to bed to read before turning out the lights. She looked up at the ceiling as the minutes ticked away. Her life was mundane to a capital snorefest. Even sleep gave her problems. Her past transgressions haunted her night and day, making her toss and turn for more than a few hours before she slipped into sleep.

She had barely closed her eyes when she jerked awake from yet another nightmare. She threw off the covers, shivered, her skin damp from sweat. She rolled over, brushing the damp tendrils of sable hair from her eyes and saw the clock, reading 315am. She had been asleep barely four hours. She rubbed her face hard, her room cast in a thin gossamer veil of red hues.

She pressed her knuckles into her eyes, breathing slowly, keeping her heart from accelerating, and slipping into a full blown panic attack. Everyone's panic attacks were different, and hers fell into the realm of the strange. Past memories coalesced with visions of potential truth and half-truths.

Syn opened, closed and opened her eyes, taking five deep breaths as the doctors had taught her. It did not help, never did. They really never knew how the subconscious worked, and she wasn't about to take any prescription drugs. They dulled her mind, her senses, blurred her life, and her intuition told her not to ignore the dreams. She wanted to see each cutting edge, and not.

She opened her eyes and stared at the opposing wall. The red tint was still in place, shrouding the hard lines of the furniture. She took up her journal sitting on her bedside table to record the images, and forced her mind to fight off the lethargy that usually descended several minutes after waking from such tension filled kaleidoscopes. She took up her LED Pilot light pen and clicked it on. The light was a sharp slap to her cornea's, and made her temples throb.

Syn started writing quickly before she forgot. Dreaming helps the mind process the days events or past moments in your life. But Syn seemed to dream more. Call it clairvoyance or whatever, she just knew her dreams told her about the future. It was more than déjà vu. Some would think it freakish, disturbing, but it was a fact of her life as long as she could remember. Better to use it than ignore it.

Syn had tried to understand her complexities, spent countless hours on the couch with counselors and psychologists, and tried to explain her ability to the endless parade of doctors. They had cooly written down notes, and then dived into her sex life. Typical quacks, thinking everything resolved around sex, sexual desires. That thought still made her laugh. She had moved on, tried to live life as best she could.

She wrote as quickly as she could, filling several pages as her exhaustion pulled at her. She knew she could easily slip back into the dreams and prepared herself, knowing any episode drained her mind, her spirit as she felt the lasso encircle her soul, tugging her into the pit of red-blackness. She knew not to fight it anymore and succumb.

Long shadows broke the plains of the chipped pavement. A train shrieked overhead, supported on rails suspended over great iron arches. Dark silhouettes of people pushed by, unrecognizable. Her head whipped around at the sharp spit and hiss of an acetylene blow torch, and walked towards a billowing plastic shroud. She lifted aside the drape to an open construction sight and shivered, seeing the first of the incidents unfold. Everything slowed, every frame.

Death is never silent.

She heard a scrape, the clang of an iron rail; her eyes lifting upward, saw Death's oncoming instrument, falling from a great height, hitting the man with the torch on the shoulder, and shearing his arm clean from his body. He crumbled under the weight, crushed beneath the beam. Bright red blood pumped from his body onto the smooth concrete floor as he vainly struggled to shove the steel from his body; his face a mask of fear and panic. Death robbed him of life as he fell still, as his friends ran too late to his aid.

Fade out to black, fade into technicolor.

She knew this was just a prelude, the final sequence yet to play out. A reel of images, like a dvd played on fast forward, rushed through her mind. Like someone flipping through one of those old hand drawn paper cartoons until it got to the right page.

The city was a mix of old and new architecture, the lights twinkled under a black starry sky, and long stretch of water. Familiar and not. Her footfalls took her across the city, to the old deserted docks. There under the weak, flickering orange glow of a street lamp she saw them. Death stood, his long spiny fingers curled around his weapon of choice, slashing, striking, plunging, killing his victim. Death did not laugh; his victim did not scream. And she watched as Death stalked away.

Water lapped against the wood pilings of the dock, and she could smell the briny decay that washed against the aged wood and gagged. Her muscles felt heavy; her body fighting to flee, to wake, but the dream held her fast to this time, this place, this moment. She looked down at Death's artwork and anger percolated in her veins. The victim lay in a spreading pool of dark, inky red blood; its' ripe, meaty smell lifted to her nose with a subtle breeze. The victim's face was frozen in anguish. Her mouth was slightly open, rouged in a dark egg-plant or black color that had been smeared as if overly kissed, and a pinch furrowed her brows. Her sightless eyes stared up into the stars, asking God, why? Her begging long since past.

Syn's body lurched as if falling from a great height, towards the victim, and her knees buckled. Her hands fell into the cooling stickiness of the blood and she gasped, suddenly afraid that she would fall through into some uncharted darkness. Her eyes were drawn to images that flashed on the silky surface of the black pool. The fear in her own eyes, her pale features. Her face morphed upon the film and Death appeared. She clearly saw the distinctive lines of his face, the coldness of his luminous blue-green eyes.

His eyes locked on hers and Syn scrambled back, wanting to get away, wanting to wake up. He emerged from the pool, stood to his impressive height and followed; the blood sheeting from his body, leaving no trace. His bright white teeth a beacon of menace. He strolled towards her confidently, lifting his hand, lifting something to his nose, and then tossed it at her. Her breath caught hard, afraid, unable to move, frozen in place. Something black arced towards her, slow-mo, taking forever to land at her feet. She swallowed watching him close the distance, tempting her, teasing her with that maniacal smile and mesmerizing eyes. Her eyes dropped for a split second, seeing what was at her feet and then lifted to him. He was closer, her heart pounded, afraid, and then he disappeared. Simply faded away. She leaned down, looked properly, and lifted the black orchid from the ground. The flower crumbled into ash in her hand.

Syn fell into the blackness and returned into shades of gray.

She was back in her room, sitting on her bedside chair, watching her body sleep, watching her body fight the shadow that lay as a weight upon her back. This night the umbra was a great black wolf that snarled at her; its great white fangs glistening in the moonlight. The green eyes fierce, mocking, his claws digging into her back, holding her captive. She screamed for herself to wake up, but the dream would not let her go so easily. The wolf quieted, his paw rubbing her back, whimpering. Was he protecting her? Had she misinterpreted his intentions?

Syn woke with a start, breathing hard. Turned and looked at the clock, realizing dawn was several clock movements away...

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