Learning "The Game"
The border to Hollow Creek wasn't unnatural. In fact, it resembled any normal arched gate made of aged bricks and dotted with moss. But still the sight of the reddish-orange bricks sent chills down Olivia McDaniel's spine. Her angel caseworker, Hampton, stood just outside the Hollow Creek border. His face was stern and commanding which was an unusual sight since usually he was happy and jovial.
"Many things are converging in the Hollow, Livvie," Hampton said without a smidge of a smile.
"Duh. There's a news flash." She leaned up against the wrot iron gate in defeat. "They could use a lotta help in there."
"I wholeheartedly agree," the distinguished man said.
"Right. The guys and I will double guard the border..."
Hampton cleared his throat making Livvie stop mid-sentence. "That's not exactly what we had in mind."
Livvie was used to Hampton's vague remarks, but this one took the cake.
"Not guard the border? But... that's my job. My only job."
"Not any more. We feel you would be much better suited as an angel caseworker. Undercover, of course." Hampton hitched his eyebrow in a curious fashion.
"Of course," Livvie said slowly with a skeptics voice. She didn't know what to make of this revelation. She had dreamed of one day becoming an angel agent, but had never hoped the day would come when she would actually be one. "So, where am I being transferred to? Chicago? Los Angeles? New York?" Her excitement mounted.
"Oh, you're not being transferred. We have decided to make you an undercover angel in Hollow Creek. You will receive your new directions shortly." Hampton proceeded to disappear before Livvie could comment.
"No! Never! Not in this lifetime." She shrieked, but Hampton didn't seem to notice or care.
A red and purple blur ran through the forest. Hampton, guardian angel and sometimes caseworker, followed the path of the whirling dervish. Figment, that was the colorful blur's name when he wasn't running through the forest in holy terror. Hampton simply nodded and sent Figment the dwarf wizard in the direction of the Hollow Creek gate where Livve McDaniels was cautiously crossing. The girl was too timid for her own good sometimes, although, she would never let others see the fear that hid inside of her.
Hampton set up an eventual collision between them. When he was certain the two lost souls would meet, he silently disappeared.
Kevin Fairchild followed the map leading to an obscure town called Hollow Creek. He tried to focus on the converging lines but the map seemed to blur right before his eyes.
"This lead better pay off," he mumbled. He was ready to find the maniac who kidnapped Sabrina and bring him to within an inch of his life. Then hopefully he would rot in a prison somewhere for the rest of his natural life. The cell phone in his breast pocket chirped. Kevin grabbed it, yelling a greeting into the receiver.
"Mr. Fairchild. How nice to hear your screech."
Kevin recognized the voice immediately as the source who had called in the tip on Sabrina's kidnappers.
"Barker," Kevin bit out. "You better have been straight with me. If I drive all the way out here and find Sabrina's not close to being in the same zip code..." He let his threat hang in the air.
"What?" Dawson Barker said with a tone of humor. "You'll mame me? Slaughter me? Kill me?" He laughed making Kevin cringe. "Oh, your dear Sabrina is not far now."
Kevin watched the road finding the last turn off easy enough. Now it was a straight drive to Hollow Creek.
"You're getting warmer, Fairchild. Much warmer indeed." Dawson chuckled and behind the chuckle he would hear a woman's scream and shout for help. The woman was too far away from the phone to recognize her voice, but he distinctly heard her screaming his name.
Kevin pounded his fist on the steering wheel. "You bastard! You've had her all along!"
The laughing continued becoming more manical with each passing moment. "Catch me if you can, Fairchild."
Kevin couldn't believe this was happening. The bastard actually had her all this time. He chided himself for being so stupid. Maybe he truly was losing his edge. He hadn't even noticed the difference when a look-alike took over for Michela at The Legacy. Hell, he'd even fallen in love with the imposter while the real Michela Forsythe sat at home back in St. Louis.
The black night unfolded before him like a hand opening quietly waiting to bait and trap him. He didn't care what lie in wait before him. He had to find Sabrina and bring her back home again.
"We've got him, sir." A minion dressed all in black hefted a lifeless body over his shoulder.
"Good. Good. Put him in the holding area. We're still waiting for two more guests."
The minion nodded throwing his human cargo behind a magical barrier. The man was severely beaten, but not dead. Dawson Barker didn't care much what conditions the contestants were in so long as they stayed alive long enough to entertan his viewers and play "The Game."
He had to admit not being the one to come up with such a marvelous plan. The beauty was in its simplicity. There had to be a way out of The Hollow. Now it was the contestants job to find that exit. And if they didn't succeed, they would die trying.
A.W. Larson had been right when he said people would watch anything -- even a reality television show where the violence was genuine and the death real. They were only up to their fourth episode and the public was calmering for more. So far not one had found a way out of Hollow Creek. Eventually, someone would and that victory would mean freedom for them all.
Lane Larson felt as weak as he ever had. Spending so much of the day with Cora and David had taken moere out of him than he'd care to admit.
Hardly anyone had ever seen the real Lane Larson with his bed-ridden, almost corpse-like body. No one really remembered what had happened to him in 1888 in England except Ella, Nicholas, Maurice, Thornswell and, of course, his mother, Morgana.
In a previous life, pre-1888, he had gone by the name Mordred Pendragon. History rembered him as the hated son of King Arthur. What a fowl wrap his reputation had gotten back then. He had done nothing to deserve the ill words of the scribes. Words that eventually graced the history books and fell into legend. But he had no control over what others had written about him.
By 1888, he had tired of the red mark the past had branded him with. That was when he changed his name to Lane Larson. Soon after he found the love of his life, then was banished to this bed due to another's jealousy. Someone else had loved his finacee, Violet York.
He could never hate Violet for her suitor's obsession affection, but he could put the blame where it belonged ... with the notorious Jack the Ripper. He was Violet's other suitor.
Lane had an old score to settle with the maniac. One day he hoped to be strong enough to bring him down for good.
When a long enough period of time had elapsed and he regained some of his lost vitality, Lane would once again use his mind to project his image on the world. The only way he could truly live in the world was to astral project his mind to where he wanted to be. With his mind, came an image of himself that appeared full of health and vigor, but was in truth merely a ghostly appriation.
One day soon he hoped to walk among the living once again.
Nicholas de Charme entered his mansion full of conflicting emotions. He'd learned many things today. He'd finally realized he was in love with Sarah Osborne. Maybe he always had been. He also learned he had a daughter who was in danger, and it was his job to protect her.
Lane's astral form appeared in the sitting room next to Cora who was still acting very strangely. She hadn't spoken once since he arrived home and she didn't even seem to acknowledge the fact that Lane was standing next to her.
"What's wrong with her?"
Nicholas shrugged. "I have only now arrived. Maybe Thornswell would know better."
As if in answer to his name, Thornswell entered the sitting room armed with a tray of tea and scones.
"Know what better, sir?"
"About the girl's condition."
"She's been that way since Master Larson brought her in."
Lane nodded. "She's probably still freaked out about what happened earlier." He paused and looked toward the front of the mansion. "A.W. sent you a message. He used the girl's father as a calling card."
Nicholas shook his head. "A.W., I should have known his silence wouldn't last long."
"Yeah, when he's gone underground the result could never be good. I wonder what he's up to now."
Before either of them could contemplate on the shenanigans of A.W. Larson, a shimmering ball appeared between them.
"Help me," the ball groaned. "Help me."
The silence was deafening as the shock ran through both of them.
"It's Ella," Nicholas's concern mounted. He then stared at the ball of light. "Show us where you are."
Lane's astral image flickered. "I'll try and zero in on her energy."
As he disappeared, the shimmering ball hovered and zipped out the front door. Nicholas wasn't far behind.
Figment was so worried about his master he failed to adequately watch where he was going. As he flew around the next bend, he made impact with a solid wall of female flesh.
"Oh, sorry. Sorry. So sorry." Figment mumbled and helped up the women he had knocked over. "Love to stay, have to run."
Livvie had a feeling this wasn't an accidental meeting. "Couldn't you give me a little celestial guidance?" she whispered heavenward.
Then she smiled cautiously and asked, "What's wrong? Why are you so scared?" Livvie tried to calm the wayward wizard.
"The Game. It's The Game. My master is in The Game." Figment tried to run away but Livvie held fast to his arm.
"What's The Game?" she asked.
"Game evil. Stay away. Must stay away."
Before she would question him further, the tiny wizard yanked his hand loose and ran away.