Part 3

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Tsar rolled the knife around in his pocket as he stood before the Old Orphanage that had been built near the railroad tracks. He studied the building, his mind taking him to similar places; places he’d visited… dark places. Places where the murmurs of demons were as audible as any human.

Something vibrated against his thigh as a cool whisper iced down his neck. The simultaneous actions sent his torso into an unexpected twist. Righting himself, he pulled out his phone and opened a text from Gloves…

Northern tunnels small shadow

Tsar wrinkled his forehead.

A small shadow? A child perhaps. In the tunnels?

The Bunker files reported that any and all activity, aside from the underground Bunker, was snuffed out decades ago.

Tsar checked the time on his phone before he shoved it back in his pocket; 12:27 p.m.. Any moment now, his local connection would send the ten-minute signal to meet at Jr. Command. Taking advantage of the few minutes remaining, Tsar began his inspection of what would be the final building used to connect their underground operations here in the Village.

He checked the foundation of the building; no basement windows all the way around, only two breathers with heavy dark screen, and those were located at each gable end. The building still looked solid. Looking from the front porch to the southern side, not even a broken window or any real signs of graffiti.

The Old Orphanage had been scheduled for demolition by the Villagers, but with the recent local political influence of the Network, it was now designated for resurrection. The building, more than just a building; was a cover for what lied beneath…

The channels.


The channels under this building currently connect to the Lodge and the Corner Church. There was a fourth connector that had yet to be accessed – the Hotel. Tsar had studied the Orphanage history preparing for his role in the Village. The underground, engineered and structured by the Network during the Second World War under the guise of public utilities, meant no one questioned the details of the work. Maybe a dozen people alive today within the Village know the channels even exist.

They were all Network.

Given the reports, not everything went according to plan during and immediately after the construction phase of the channels; The Network did not complete the purchase of the fourth site after renovations to the Hotel. Buffered by several layers, the Network had a contract with the Silverton family who owned the parcel along with the Resort. The state restructured the Village map by constructing a state highway dividing the Resort and the Hotel. An offer was made for the Hotel only, and Silverton accepted.

The contract stated that Silverton would renovate the twenty-unit, two-story Hotel. Once the Hotel work was completed, technicalities stalled the final sale. And while underground operations continued with the other three sites intact, the Network could never fully develop and meet the demands intended within the area.

Sometime later, one local man made a discovery bringing Village Network operations to a near standstill that lasted for decades. With potential exposure looming over their heads, the Regionals shut operations down and pulled out of the area altogether.

The Network never fulfilled their contractual obligations. To this day, the Silverton’s held title to the Hotel property. But with the old man dying last year, and the reading of the will coming on the one year anniversary of his death, they had plans to take possession of the Hotel now that Network operations had been reactivated in the Village. They would get the Hotel one way or the other.

Tsar tapped the side of the building as though it were an old soldier buddy, “Time to wake up, time to work.”


Walking onto the porch of the Old Orphanage, Tsar caught a glimpse of his repulsive reflection as he grabbed the doorknob.


He reached in his pocket retrieving his knife to use as a key. Positioning the knife between the door and the jamb, he looked again to the glass pane. This time he did not see the repulsive reflection. Instead, there stood an image on the other side of the door. The image having appeared as quickly as a ghost!

Snapping his head back as though he’d been slapped, he took a moment to collect himself. Then carefully, he leaned forward into the image. His eyes wide with wonder that perhaps he was hallucinating. He stepped back a few inches from the door and lightly shook his head. Tsar looked first to the right of the building before doing a near full circle looking over the front area of the grounds – no one was around. He shook his head again before returning to the glass pane. A woman was still staring back!

She looks real enough.

He lowered his head from her penetrating eyes as he gripped the door knob trying to shake it open. Nothing. He looked back at her and banged on the door trim with the palm of his hand. She didn’t even blink. An irritated sigh escaped his chest as his eyes met hers in a standoff as they studied one another.

Her hazel eyes penetrated his. He studied those eyes and found a maze of tiny creatures darting and searching all about. He wasn’t sure but those tiny creatures were looking for a way out, or perhaps even, a way in – inside his mind.

And mask or no mask, hood or no hood, she knew who he was; he could see it in her eyes.

He took his pocket knife once again as he held her eyes. He slid the knife in between the door and the jamb, letting it find the metal with a small clinking sound. Wiggling the knife, he began to pry the catch as he looked back to the woman.

A partial smile slowly formed on her face, perhaps mocking him even. Putting more of a wiggle to the knife, still, it would not pry loose.

With a low, threatening voice, he demanded her. “Open this damn door – NOW!”

Speechless, she responded with a dip of her head as though he should somehow know who she was. He narrowed his eyes in on hers, some from annoyance and also with curiosity. Vaguely, a hint of recognition registered from his long past.

Who are you and how dare you!?

Her face softened. She could read his face that he recognized her. But the look revealed more than simple recognition between the two of them, something deeper – mysterious even. The woman was physically striking, but her lack of fear was her most attractive quality… a challenge.

Slowly she moved her right hand to her chest… to her heart. Her eyes bore into his with such fierce intensity and – purpose. She lowered her head in what appeared to be… humility?

Tsar jerked his head slightly, feeling a sense of loss, vulnerable even.

Did she just pay homage to me?

He shook it off and immediately hardened himself as he made tight fists and pounded both sides of the door. “Open this damn door now, woman, or I’ll bust it down!” Even as he threatened, he knew he would not, could not, bust the door down. Network rules.

His phone rang in the midst of his rage. He answered it. He was more focused on the strange woman than the call as he subconsciously took in the details; a colleague from the Phoenix, a restaurant, 6:30 p.m., and…

Is this damn woman Network or just someone messing with my head? A spy or a plant perhaps? But who would dare challenge me in this Village? Network or not!

The other end of the phone went silent. Before he could sort out his confusion, she saluted him, turned, and moved quickly toward the door in the foyer leading down to the basement, where she would no doubt disappear into the channels. He glanced at his phone for the time. The signal would come any moment now, yet he was nearly desperate to follow her. She could be a threat to their plans. He looked back to the foyer. The woman was gone.

He pulled back his fist to shatter the window, only catching himself before he smashed the glass. Leave no evidence, no trace of entry. Network rules.

Even if I could get in, there isn’t enough time… the phone vibrated again against his thigh… to search for her.

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