Part 1

Shadow Village Today


Waving “Uncle Lou” farewell as he pulled out of the parking lot, Chase headed for the store entrance and there sat the black mole, still.

Looking from the SUV into the oversized stationary glass window – there it was; a fat, short man sitting at the counter, who was none other than… the Village’s Chief of Police, Ronald Fitz.

There is hatred and then there is something beyond hatred that words simply cannot justify.

Standing next to the black mole, Chase threw out his arms, followed by a loud and penetrating shriek. The old man pretended to be absorbed with the Village newspaper. This time Chase chose to use words as he screeched again, “Haaaayay… Old man!”

The chief looked up momentarily, locking eyes with Chase, as he turned the page. Chase held his stare long enough to work up a mouthful of spit.

Sleeew. Spit bounced off the tire of the SUV.

The fat man slightly lifted his eyebrows before returning to the newspaper. Chase turned back to study the SUV, which looked more like a rig the CIA might ride into town. He walked to the front and bent over in an overly dramatic fashion, noting how there were no official plates on it.


Holding the door wide open, Chase stood in the threshold and shouted again, “Hey, old man! You’re looking fit as a fat, swollen tick today. And as always, it’s appalling to see you… Chief. Chase choked out the title.

Smelling fresh brewed coffee mingled with the odor of cooking grease, Chase stepped over the threshold and inside the store. The door behind him closed with a familiar chime. The coffee would wait as he simply stood momentarily and hovered over the fat man.

Julia came from the restrooms from the side of the store, wiping her hands with some paper towel, missing the pleasant exchanges between himself and Fitz.

“Hey, hey! Good morning, Chase.”

Nodding toward Julia with a wave, Chase returned her greeting without a word before sneering at Fitz one more time. He was the kind of cop that desecrated a uniform, and yet he looked oddly strange without one.

No uniform and riding a civilian vehicle, hmm.

Speaking low enough so that Julia couldn’t hear him over the radio in the background, Chase whispered, “Sold enough drugs last year to finally buy your own vehicle, huh? And stop riding the taxpayers, huh, Fitzy? Or did you do a few favors for the selectmen ‘n request they replace the cruiser with an unmarked vehicle using civilian registration to make your drug dealing less obvious? Or perhaps human trafficking this week?”

The chief didn’t look up, he didn’t respond. Chase hated the man. Hell would do him well.

The sound of a chugging muffler slightly vibrated the building.

Chase glanced to the parking lot as the lost love bug choked and gagged its way past the front door.

Avoiding eye contact with Julia, Chase walked back to the coolers. Grabbing three bottles of orange juice, he took them to the counter then walked to the coffee station.

The bells chimed. Chase looked up to see the “bug-wonder boy” walk in.

Julia called out on cue, “Good morning.”

The boy nodded toward Julia in acknowledgement then turned to the newspapers. Fitz glanced over at the kid then back to his paper. The kid picked up a newspaper when Fitz looked over at him again. Fitz seemed to be studying the boy with a distant recognition as he tilted his head, squinting his left eye.

Chase poured coffee while watching Fitz watch the boy. The kid laid the newspaper down, picked it up and put it down again, repeating several times. Whether or not the kid felt Chase glaring at him, he wasn’t sure, but the kid turned and looked straight at him as though Chase should recognize him.

Chase didn’t.

With all his eye movement to the left, Fitz seemed to have made a connection with this boy somewhere in his twisted mind. Then the old man turned to Chase. Moving his head from the kid, then back to Chase a few times before he leaned into the table and rolled off his perch. The man sounded like a suffering swine.

Approaching the coffee station, Chase could see by the look on Fitz’s face that he was drawing conclusions, whether real or imaginary, and these conclusions threatened the old man. And if Fitz felt threatened by the kid, then Chase wanted to know why.

Covering his medium-sized black coffee with a lid, Chase grabbed a jelly donut from the glass shelves to the right as Fitz came to a halt on his left. With the man in such close proximity, the feel of a thousand needles brushed his skin. He laid the donut on the counter in front of the man.

“What you need, Pork Chop, is another donut.”

No response as Fitz poured coffee then returned the green-rimmed pot to the burner.

Chase looked at the man’s fat hands. Creepy. Not a visible callous, soft as any woman’s. Yet, that old man’s soul was as calloused as a legion of demons.

Chase spat, “Hey listen, Porky, it’s not free refills here.”

Ignoring Chase, Fitz walked back to his throne as the kid moved down the aisle, mindlessly looking up and down the candy section. The kid, now head-on with Chase, Fitz would see only the kid’s profile. Chase picked up his coffee and grabbed a small bunch of bananas at the end of the aisle where he hesitated… waiting. The boy looked directly at him and shook his head back for the hair to fall away from his eyes.

Greasy, black, curly strands masked the sides of the kids face. Early twenties. Small in size, slightly shorter than Fitz. Not a bad looking kid, just greasy.

Could you be any more obvious, boy?

If this kid was trying to get some sort of silent coded message to Chase, he was an amateur for sure.

The kid must’ve realized his mistake as he shook it off and looked back to the candy counter. He chose a candy bar. As Chase approached the counter, he thought the kid would come up behind him. Instead he went back to the newspapers.


Julia rang Chase up at the register while throwing a sideways glance to the boy. “You know the guys will want donuts instead, Chase.”

Chase mumbled, “ah huh.”

Julia continued conversation, while Chase continued to be distracted with the kid and Fitz. “Heading for the city tonight, huh? LakeRidge Seafood I hear?”

Chase turned momentarily to Julia and gave a polite smile with an affirmative nod and then quickly returned his attention to the kid. The boy continued with a newspaper, picking it up and putting it down, up and down, up and down. He wanted to rip the paper out of the kid’s hand and whack him upside the head, instead, Chase muttered, “Mindless idiot.”

Again Julia looked over at the boy. He was making them all uncomfortable. Not because he was dangerous but more likely, stupid.

“Frankie’s stopping by this mornin’, huh, Chase?”

Chase looked politely back in Julia’s direction again and nodded affirmation with a half-smile as he ran his hand over his head. He felt a shift from within and like a commanding officer, he turned to the kid and barked, “Move along, boy, or Chief Fitz here will shoot your ass.”

A startled chuckle let loose from Julia. “Chase Manning!”

The kid looked surprised as he dared a quick glance toward Fitz before walking over to the counter. He dropped two dollars for the candy bar and headed for the exit. Fitz looked back at Chase, eyes squinted.

Something about this kid had Fitz on edge, and Chase would pay a thousand bucks to know what.

Julia called out mechanically after the kid, “Have a good day.”

Fitz turned back, observing the boy through the picture window. He waited until he had walked around the corner of the building, out of sight, before getting up and waddling out behind him.

Outside, Fitz positioned himself at the back of the SUV, now having an open view of the kid.

Julia sighed with relief. “Thanks, Chase.”

She bagged the items and handed him the change.

Chase responded directly this time, “Yeah, sure. Why don’t you meet us at Nan’s for lunch today? Frankie, Joe, and Cody’ll be there.”

A bit of shock displayed in her facial expression followed by a rush of purple and reddish colors, starting with her neck and spreading to her face. She just got busted.

Avoiding his eyes, she said, “Sure. Thanks, Chase.”

Julia may be discreet in her feelings, but Chase was pretty certain of her crush.

Bag in one hand and coffee in the other, he thrust the bottom of the door open with his foot. The door swung back far enough and in a rhythmic fashion for three men to follow before closing behind him.

He would wait for the kid to leave and others to arrive before he left. The kid wasn’t a threat, and Chase knew it. But Julia didn’t.


Coming to a halt at the side of the building, Chase looked from Fitz to the boy. “You’re practically drooling, old man. What is he, one of your catamites?”

No response.

The kid opened his passenger door. Chase walked to his truck to empty his hands should he need them.

Bouncer was on alert but not growling yet. Her eyes darted back and forth from the kid to Fitz. Bouncer hated Fitz.

Chase grabbed a biscuit from behind the seat as he heard a car door slam. Handing the biscuit to Bouncer, she wasn’t interested. Instead, she stared in the kid’s direction and began a low guttural growl. Chase looked at her. She glanced at him. Her growl turned nervously into moans, as she moved her tongue in and out like a lizard before returning her full attention back to the kid. Bouncer took offense position.

The boy was headed their way. Commanding her to stay, Chase shut the door and closed her in.

Turning sharply, Chase snapped, “Whaddya want, kid?”

Bouncer hit full bark mode now.

Chase, surprised as the kid handed him a sweatshirt.

A sweatshirt?

With a turned up nose, Chase yelled at the boy, “That’s what this is all about? A damn sweatshirt!”

The boy appeared to be lip-syncing as Chase could not hear a single word over Bouncer’s ferocious barking.

Agitated himself, Chase yelled at her, “Quiet!”

He glared at her to let her know this was a one-time command. At this, she toned it down about seven notches to only three, a bearable level. He turned back to the kid with much the same tone in which he just commanded his dog, “Whaja say, boy?”

The boy’s eyes darted all around him with uncertainty.

Chase put the boy’s fear into words, “You made a mistake stopping here.”

Affirming with a nod, the kid abruptly turned from Chase and picked up a light jog toward his car. Chase couldn’t place him. He’d worked on a lot of jobsites, both in the Village and in LakeRidge. He’d worked with many subcontracting crews, directly and indirectly.

This sweatshirt must be from an old jobsite, but why all the fuss to give it to me?

He watched as the kid pulled out and headed for the T. Fitz, still stationed at the rear of his SUV, was staring after the boy as well. The kid led a trail of black smoke lingering in his wake.

Okay. What in the hell was that all about?

Chase dropped the sweatshirt behind the seat when he got a whiff of… mothballs. Ignoring the shirt and the repulsive scent along with it, he turned to Bouncer. With Fitz at a distance and the kid gone, she would now chew on her biscuit. He assured her everything was okay. Having cleaned his truck thoroughly earlier, Chase’s eyes swept the interior for something to take to the dumpster. Anything.

The kid was a threat to Fitz. Why? Chase hoped he might learn what it was for future leverage. Though Fitz would tell him nothing, not directly at least, Chase would carefully watch the man’s body language and listen to what the man didn’t say – maybe learn something. Fitz would also try to learn what Chase knew about the kid – which was nothing.

Taking Bouncer’s box of biscuits from behind the seat, he dumped them into a small built-in compartment on the floor beside the blue prints. Letting the seat fall back into place, he closed the door and headed to the dumpster.

Fitz stood watching as Chase ignored him.

Pushing back the heavy lid to the dumpster once again, Chase tossed the box in and let the cover drop with another loud and nearly echoless thud. He replaced the sign and headed back toward the truck, pretending like he wasn’t playing the game.

Chase feigned slight surprise that Fitz had cornered him. Now about eight feet away, Fitz was just where Chase expected him to be. No matter how many times he saw the fat man, he was repulsed at the sight of him – anew each time.

Chase halted… waiting.

Glancing over to where the kid had just been parked, Fitz nodded before turning towards Chase. Rubbing his hands together, Fitz looked down at them. He spoke barely above a whisper, “He’s not my catamite. He didn’t return my sweatshirt.”

Chase raised his upper-body to a height that felt like he was ten feet tall. His facial expression gave nothing away as he silently applauded Fitz for the witty comeback. Instead, Chase sneered, “And you, old man, have been a cop since before I was born. Isn’t it time you expired?”

Fitz shifted his grossly distorted body. Pulling his shoulders back, he brought his hands to his waist and tucked his thumbs in the sides of his belt for lack of hips to settle them on. His elbows pointed like extended wings. He appeared to be readying for battle. Chase chuckled at the sight.

A perfect diamond shapeabsolutely pitiful.

“Okay, old man, let’s do this.”

Chase considered the spats with Fitz at this level as cat and mouse play. But inside… there was a much more fatal game playing out. How many would get caught in the crossfire?

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