Marcus Blaine’s eyes came open with a pop. It took him a moment to place what had startled him awake. He listened intently, finally throwing the covers back and sitting up. It was silent outside. He poured himself a glass of water and looked around the room. Everything was where he had left it. The door was closed, and the painting of rolling grass still hung on the wall. The bookshelf in the corner was still dusty, and the thick leather chair next to it still had the three holes in it.
He instinctively reached under his pillow and felt for his pistol. He pulled it out and flipped the safety off. He then looked out the window, and stood up abruptly. That was what had woken him up. It was quiet outside, perfectly quiet. He pulled his pants on over his shorts, and then quickly pulled a shirt on and buttoned it. The whole time he was cursing himself. He had apparently been retired for to long. Any decent detective would have noticed that fact right away. He slipped into his boots, all the while keeping a cautious eye aimed at the window.
Peace and quiet had been what he wanted, but when you live on a farm in New Jersey, the world is almost never quiet. Most mornings, Marcus was woken up to the animals noisily calling for their food. He would wake up and feed them, and then collect the eggs and make breakfast. His next chore was to milk the goat. Once that was done, he would do the little things around the house that always needed to be done. He would chop wood, and pull weeds in the garden. Finally, before lunch, he would hike into the forest and shoot two boxes of ammunition, just to keep in practice.
It may sound like a boring life to most people, but Marcus Blaine wasn’t most people. He had lived his younger years wild and free, and in all of that time he found a deep longing for a simpler life. Finally, after twenty-five years as a detective, he decided to retire and move to a small farm in New Jersey. His colleagues said that it was his last case on Saturn that had made him hang up his badge. Some said that he lost his nerve, and some said that he was too old, but all of them were wrong. Marcus Blaine simply wanted to settle down.
At the kitchen door he pulled back the curtains slightly and peered out. Everything was still as a snake. He couldn’t see the stock pens from where he was at, so he slowly cracked the door and stepped out cautiously. His pistol was in his hand, and he had a second one stuffed in his belt. The grass beneath his feet folded over noiselessly. A quick scan showed him that the chickens were all dead, and his goat was gone. He walked over to the chicken coop and looked it over for signs of an animal breaking in. There was nothing. He looked closer at the chickens, and saw that they had all been shot. A moment later, he threw himself down on the ground and crawled to the barn as fast as he could.
The chickens had all been shot through the head, and he had heard nothing, that meant a silencer. And a silencer meant a professional. He closed the barn door behind him and turned around, looking into the darkness and listening intently. The barn had been ransacked very carefully, with everything moved, but nothing tipped over so as to make a noise. He nodded in approval. Whoever had done this was very good. He figured that whoever it was had most likely taken his goat as food. He was three hours drive from town, and if they were looking for something, then they wouldn’t have had much time to eat.
A rustle in the corner over by his knife making station made him move to cover and listen carefully. Finally, he called out. “Whoever you are, come out where I can see you.” There was silence. “I know you’re there, and I don’t think you want me to come get you.” Still, there was nothing. “You did a good job of killing my chickens, and I don’t really want my barn all shot up as well, so why don’t you come out and we’ll talk things over.”
From the corner, Blaine saw a small figure rise up. He hoped it wasn’t a Martian midget, he despised them. The figure moved forward slowly and put up its hands. “Don’t shoot. You’re the owner of this farm, aren’t you?”
Marcus didn’t move, “yes.”
The figure came forward some more. “They’re after me, you have to help me.”
The pistol didn’t move from the target. “Who are you? Come into the light.”
The small person moved into a sliver of light. Marcus lowered his gun; it was just a boy. “My name is Lateef Neola, and I am in trouble.”
Marcus looked around the barn, and then stepped toward the boy, he shied away back into the shadows. Marcus didn’t like kids; they were so helpless and unreasonable. He shook his head, to think that he almost had one once. He squatted down. “Look, you want my help?” The boy nodded. “Good, then you’re gonna have to trust me just a little bit. Okay?” Once again, the boy nodded. He took a cautious step forward. “Now, this is how it is…uh, what was your name?”
“Lateef huh, well, I’m gonna call you kid.”
“You could call me Neola if you would like to.”
Blaine stared at the boy for a moment. “This is how it is kid. I’m gonna ask questions, and you are going to give me answers. From the looks of things, you were what they were looking for. By the way, where were you hiding?”
“I was in the rafters. It was dark, and they didn’t even think to look there.”
Marcus glanced up at the rafters. They were at least fifteen feet off of the ground. He looked back at the kid. He must be an agile little bugger. “Good place to hide. Now, as I was saying. Since they didn’t find you, they probably moved on, but since you are still here, they won’t find a trail, and if they don’t find a trail, then they will be back here. We probably don’t have lots of time, so who is after you, and why?”
The kid looked suspiciously at Marcus, who could see that he was making up his mind just how much information to give out. Marcus figured that the kid had gotten mixed up in a gang or something and that he didn’t want to admit it. Finally, after ten seconds of silence, Marcus turned and started to walk out. “Where are you going?”
“I’m leaving. I have to go to town, and since you aren’t telling me anything, I figured I might as well get some work done. I have to go buy new chickens, and see if I can find a new milk goat.” He suddenly stopped short, and then cursed himself in his mind. He’d been retired for much to long. If the kid was in a gang, then why the killing of his animals. He spun around and looked at the kid again. He suddenly had a feeling that there was something bigger going on, and he wasn’t so sure he wanted to be around when that something came to light. He penetrated the kid with a stare. “Who’s after you kid?”
Lateef Neola looked around and then whispered, as if someone was trying to overhear him, “Regan Killian.”
“Killian?” Marcus knew the name from three years ago. “Why is Regan Killian after you?” He suddenly knew that his hunch was right. If Regan Killian was involved, then the situation was going to be very bad.
“I know something that he wants to know.” The kid still didn’t fully trust Marcus, and he could sense that.
“What would a boy like you know that Regan would want?”
The kid’s mouth shut tight. He looked into Marcus’s eyes and shook his head. “I can’t tell you. I can’t tell anyone except the Marshal of Red Colony.”
Marcus thought for a moment. He didn’t want to get involved with Regan; he didn’t want to get involved in something big again. He had given all of that up. He was retired, and retired detectives didn’t get involved anymore. He cast a sideways glance at the kid. He really looked at him for the first time. He couldn’t have been more than twelve. He was skinny, and not that tall. He had black curly hair, and ears that he would have to grow into. His eyes were brown, and he had a small nose. Overall, the boy looked fairly helpless.
Marcus sighed. “Where’s this Red Colony? Is it on Earth?”
The kid shook his head. “No, it is on Mars. My father told me to go there.”
Marcus Blaine shook his head in disgust. He hated Mars. “Okay kid, where’s your father, I’ll take you to him.”
The Kid just shook his head and looked at the ground. “You can’t, he’s dead.”
Marcus looked around the barn. More light was coming in, time was growing thin. He would have to make a decision. He motioned for the kid to follow him, and then he turned and walked out the door. He cautiously scanned the yard before venturing outside. When he was sure it was clear, he hurried back to the house. He closed and bolted the door behind them, and then he started to pack food into a back sack. The kid watched him, and finally broke the silence. “Are you taking me to Red Colony?”
Marcus stopped packing and sighed deeply. “No, I don’t do Mars anymore.”
“Let me finish. I’m going to take you to town. I don’t have communication out here, otherwise I’d just call the sheriff and have him take care of you.”
The kid suddenly started to cry. That was another thing Marcus didn’t like about kids, they were always crying. “You have to help me. I’m just a little boy. My father is dead, and I don’t know what to do. Please help me get to Red Colony.”
Marcus poured a glass of water and handed it to the kid. He drank the whole thing and that stopped his tears. Then Marcus kneeled down and took the boy by the shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry about your dad and all, and I know this must be rough on a kid, but I don’t want to get involved. I’m retired from this kind of thing. I just want to laze around and take care of my animals.”
The kid looked like he was about to start crying again. “You don’t care. Nobody cares. I shouldn’t have trusted you. No one will help me.”
Marcus didn’t know how to reason with this kid. It was very easy to understand in his mind. “Now wait a minute, I’m not a heartless giant. I’m going to take you to the sheriff in town, and he will figure out how to get you to Red Colony. Now that’s the most that I can do.”
Marcus stood up and continued getting some food together. He figured the kid would be hungry, and so he wanted to have enough for the drive. From behind him, he heard the kid sit down at the table. “The sheriff won’t believe me. He’ll just send me off to an adoption home, and then Regan Killian will find me.”
Marcus turned his head and looked at the boy. He suddenly felt sympathy for this kid. He had to be honest with himself. If he hadn’t seen his animal’s bodies, then he would probably have written the kid off as a runaway not wanting to go home. As it was though, he believed the kid, and he didn’t want to get mixed up with anything adventurous anymore. That was the job of the sheriff, and he was ready to take the kid there.
He finished packing and turned toward the kid. He was sitting with his head down on his crossed arms fast asleep. Marcus realized suddenly that this kid wouldn’t make it to Red Colony on his own. He sighed and shook his head. He was retired.
Just out of curiosity though, he went into his bedroom and over to his bookshelf. He pulled out one of his old record books and flipped it open. He typed in Regan Killian, and then closed the book and went back into the kitchen. He would read about Mr. Killian on the drive to town, just to satisfy his curiosity.
He threw the sack on his back and then shook the kid gently to wake him up. Then, he opened the door and scanned the area, he didn’t see anyone, and so he pushed the kid outside and followed him. Marcus Blaine thanked his training at that moment, since he reacted to the shots before he had a conscious thought. He grabbed the kid and rolled behind the woodpile as four bullets kicked up dust around him. He glanced around the pile of wood, but didn’t see anything. Then a voice came from the edge of the woods.
“Hey, farmer, we don’t want to hurt you. We just want the kid. Send him out and we’ll go away. You don’t want trouble with us. We don’t want to hurt you.”
Marcus didn’t answer for a moment. He looked at the kid, and was surprised to see him remain calm. Then he whispered to the kid. “How many of them are there?”
The kid held up four fingers. “One has a rifle; the others only have pistols.”
Marcus was confused. This kid seemed to know exactly what to do and say when they were being shot at, but not ten minutes before he had been crying because Marcus wouldn’t help him. He might have been confused, but he knew what to do. He double checked his pistol and then took a deep breath. In one movement, he stood up and fired three times into the trees where the voice had come from. He then scooped the kid up and took off running for the truck. He fired twice more at the trees, and then stopped behind the front of the old truck. He jerked open the door, and threw the kid inside. He leapt in right as a bullet whizzed past him. The truck automatically started, and he threw it into gear and stomped on the gas. The kid was already on the floorboards, and Marcus was glad he didn’t have to tell him what to do. Soon, the gunshots stopped, and Marcus looked into the rearview mirror. The only thing he saw was a man talking into a communicator. He let out a curse in his head. He knew that they would soon have reinforcements.
Marcus Blaine had hoped that he could get out of there without bringing attention to himself, but now it was to late for that. The four men would search his house and find out who he was, then they would come for him as well. He looked over at the kid who had fallen into his life. That kid had him confused, and he wanted to find out where he had learned everything he knew. He wanted to be retired, but he supposed that one more case wouldn’t hurt him. At that moment, Marcus Blaine was once again, a detective.