Outside the house inhabited by Flencer, Officer Sheila Holmes and Detective Harry Rheems were each talking with one of the locals.
“Now, I’m not one to pry or snoop, you understand,” the nice older woman was saying to Holmes, “but something about that new neighbor of mine…”
“He’s an odd duck,” the older black man was saying to Rheems.
“I think I heard some children over there the other night, and him never with a woman…” said the old lady.
“He got some packages delivered recently,” said the old man, “and I saw him unloading some barrels that smelled like tanning solution, like I used to work with as a young man back in Texas.”
“I couldn’t swear to it, of course; it could have been the television,” said the old lady. “But I do declare I heard children there.”
“Sometimes I still smell that odor,” said the old man. “It’s acidic — very acrid — and having worked with it for years… well, you never forget that smell, I tell you.”
“You really should be investigating why he — a single man — had children there,” said the old lady. “Now, like I say, I’m not one to spy, but he’s very secretive.”
“No one ever really sees him,” said the old man. “Keeps to himself a lot, and this being a street mostly of retired people, a young man like him stands out indeed.”
“Never a kind word to anyone,” said the old lady, “and he’s never mowed that lawn of his!”
“He’s definitely doing something in that basement,” said the old man. “I sit in my kitchen, and I see…”
“Coming and going at all hours!” cried the old lady. “Why, just the other night, before the storm…”
“He was down there making a lot of racket — and that smell!” said the old man. “My God, I had half a mind to–”
“–see what he’s up to,” said the old lady. “I’m sure it’s no good!”
“And last week, I swear someone drove my car while I was sleeping,” said the old man.
“I can’t prove it, of course, but I think he took my car two nights ago,” said the old woman. “Now, I’m an old lady, but I can still–”
“Eyesight’s still good, reflexes OK,” said the old man. “But I don’t drive much, and there was more mileage–”
“And the gas was low,” said the old lady.
The uniformed officer and the detective met back at their cars and compared notes.
“We came here without a warrant, and we don’t really have probable cause,” said Holmes.
“I know, but the more I hear about him, the more I really got an ache to talk to him downtown,” said Rheems.
“I hear you, Harry. I really do. But…” Holmes shrugged. “What can we do?”
At that moment, a large car pulled up behind their squad car. Two familiar-looking women got out.
“Mrs. Durrel and Mrs. Durrel. Wonder what brings them here?” Holmes said to the detective.
“Guess we’re about to find out,” said Detective Rheems. A moment later, he snapped his finger and said, “We do have probable cause! You go see what the Durrel women want. I gotta call the D.A.’s office.” He climbed into his car, leaving Officer Holmes to talk to the women who were approaching.
“Hi, ladies. What brings you here?” she asked, smiling.
“We’re here,” Magdalene Durrel said with a glance at the rundown house across the street, “to rescue Dr. Monroe and his granddaughter!”
“What?” Sheila Holmes was shocked.
“I know this is hard to accept, Sheila,” Sharon Durrel said calmly, “but my mother-in-law is a psychic who has helped solve quite a few crimes.” Her mother-in-law nodded, and Sharon continued. “And she’s been consulted by super-heroes like Doctor Fate!” she added proudly.
“I know, I know,” Holmes replied. “But what do you have in mind? You can’t just go barging into someone’s home! We can’t do anything without a search warrant.” She glanced back at her partner, who was animatedly talking into his microphone. “Which may be several minutes yet.”
“We may not have several minutes!” Magdalene Durrel exclaimed.
The voice was definitely a commanding one, and Terry Lee Travis froze in his tracks. Had it been one of the bad guys, he reasoned, they wouldn’t have bothered speaking.
“Raise your hands above your head and turn around slowly.”
Travis did as he was commanded, and when he saw the state trooper aiming a pistol at him, he grinned, though the trooper couldn’t see that because of the mask. “Robey?!” he exclaimed. “Rob Gladd?”
The trooper peered at him. “I know you?”
“We served a few missions together — you, Mikey, and me were the ‘unholy trio’ before you left for civvies.”
Gladd looked around. The two of them were alone in this wooded section. “OK, maybe we did. Who was our C.O.?”
“Lieutenant Torne. Richard ‘the Ripper’ Torne,” Travis said.
“That’s me,” Travis said. “Can I lower my arms now?”
“One moment.” Gladd paused to spit out a wad of chewing tobacco, and then a smile lit up his coal-black face. “Man, I thought you were dead!”
Motioning for Terry Lee to lower his arms, he said, “Let me see that ugly mug of yours, man.”
Terry Lee removed his mask, and then the trooper lowered his own pistol.
“What you doing out here, man?”
“Trying to fulfill a promise to Mikey,” explained Terry Lee.
Rob Gladd’s face lowered. “Yeah, I heard he bought the farm.” Then he looked up. “He ask you to run around in a get-up like that?”
“No. This get-up is… well, it’s sort of a family thing.”
“Your daddy the Vigilante?”
Terry Lee lowered his mask. “Nope.”
A car was pulling up, and as state trooper Rob Gladd turned to see who it was, Terry Lee rolled into a copse of trees. Gladd turned in surprise, then back at the oncoming patrol car.
“Gladd, you see anyone?” It was another state trooper.
“No,” he replied. “Thought I did, but no — can’t say I really did.”
“Well, too bad. But at any rate, hop in. The sarge says things are winding down back at the ‘O.K. Corral,’ and it’s time we moved in.”
Gladd nodded and walked over to the passenger side. Looking toward the woods, he said softly, “Good luck, SEAL.”
Elsewhere, a state police lieutenant was talking to one of his sergeants. “We get a make on that rental?”
“Yessir,” replied the sergeant. “Rented this morning in Seminole by a Vincent DiGeorge, described as fifty-ish, hippie-like, with long gray hair and beard. Most likely, though, our mystery-man was wearing a wig and such.”
“You think? OK, well, let’s get the tow trucks in here and move these pieces of scrap metal outta here.” The lieutenant looked around, lit a cigarette, and added, “Whoever our masked man is, we can’t let him run around taking the law into his own hands.”
At that moment, a distraught Dr. James Monroe Jr. stormed his way into the Seminole City Police Station. He saw a lot of chaos and confusion, as armed men hurried out a side door carrying heavy-duty fire power, and others were anxiously watching a television tuned to WSEM. On screen, a fierce, three-way gun battle was being broadcast live in living color.
“Dear God in Heaven!” he exclaimed as a woman fell at his feet, her face and arms covered with oozing body sores.
Nearby, Agents Smith and Jones looked at each other. “I think we picked a bad time to come to Seminole City,” said Agent Smith.
Agent Jones nodded as they watched the famous Dr. James Monroe, Jr., M.D., D.Psy., checking over the collapsed body of a police officer, the third down in minutes.
Police Chief Lawrence Durrel was frantically chewing on a cigar. “What the hell is happening to my people?” he demanded of no one in particular.
“It’s apparently happening all over town, Chief,” stated Stanton, the desk sergeant. “The hospital says an ambulance will be here soon, but they’re being swamped between that shoot-out and people collapsing with these sores. The good news is the A.F.B. is sending in some medicos.”
Durrel nodded. “Thanks, Stanton. Say, any luck reaching my house yet?”
“No, sir. Still no one answering. Hospital says neither your mother nor your wife have come in, though.”
Durrel nodded again, and with a weary sigh he looked around, finally really noticing the two visitors to his station, Smith and Jones. “You two FEMA guys, come into my office.”
“Sam?” Al Calavicci popped in and saw his friend, Dr. Sam Beckett, currently in the form of Dr. James Monroe Sr., struggling to loosen his bonds.
“Al, the little girl all right?” he asked.
“Yeah. That creepo was gonna do something to her, I think, but something happened across the street. He’s busy peering out at two police officers. But not to worry. Magdalene is coming.”
Sam nodded, then had an idea. He slammed himself to the floor, shattering the old wooden chair he was bound to, then swiftly moved his arms under and over his legs. Able to then untie the ropes, he was struggling to get up when Flencer burst into the room.
“I’ll check on the cavalry!” Al said, punching a button. “You can take him, Sam!”
“They’re across the street!” shouted Sam.
Flencer growled and aimed a kick at Sam, who rolled aside and, using his own legs, took his red-haired attacker down.
But Flencer quickly rolled and started up again, his face now clenched in pure hatred and anger, and Sam barely dodged a blow as he rolled to the side. He rose to his feet, but his leg muscles were not strong, and he braced against a wall.
“Well, well, well, Doctor — think you can take me, old man?” Flencer laughed. “I don’t think so, gramps!” He aimed a blow at the older-looking man, but he was surprised when Sam blocked it and leveled one of his own, striking Flencer hard in the stomach.
In another room, the frightened Amy Monroe managed to work the gag off of her mouth. Hobbling over to a window covered with boards but no glass, she found a hole and started screaming, “Help! Help!”
Sam crawled across the floor, unable to rise again, but he managed to aim another punch at Flencer, who was moaning on the floor. Al shouted encouragement and waved his hands around. “Get him, Sam! Get him!”
Hearing Amy screaming, Al said, “Gooshie, center me on the kid.” He vanished, saw the little girl yelling, and pushed another button. “Now on Mrs. Durrel! Hurry!”
Moments later, he was across the street, and Magdalene Durrel spotted him. Before she could say anything, he said, “Hurry!”
Without a word to her daughter-in-law or Officer Sheila Holmes, she started running across the street, quickly followed by the other two women. Holmes then heard the yelling and put a hand on her pistol.
“Sounds like an emergency to me!” she said.
Al popped back in on Sam. Flencer was unconscious. “Good work, Sam! You got him!”
Sam nodded wearily.
At Seminole City General Hospital, a very worried nun approached another one and took her aside. “Sister Catherine, she is back! The woman in black has returned!”
“Dear God have mercy! I should have figured, with all of these people coming in with such sores. Come — we must find Father Lecroix!”
Meanwhile, Terry Lee Travis was watching two state troopers talking to two men. “We’re just defending our homes, Officer. Ain’t nothing illegal in that! We are not the bad guys here!”
From behind a tree, Terry grinned. “Well, they got one of those things right, I guess.” And he slipped away.
Unknown to him, three black-clad Peruvians were closing in on the four talking on the road.
Police Chief Durrel looked coolly at Agents Smith and Jones, who returned the look with their own casual cool styles. “Chief Deputy Inspector William Henderson of the FBI called me, told me about an inter-agency cooperative effort in the war on drugs,” he said to them. “He told me two men named Smith and Jones would be here today as FEMA inspectors.”
Then he slammed his fist on his desk. “He did not tell me you would be bringing a war with you!”
“Whoa, Nelly! Hold on, there, Sheriff,” said Agent Smith.
Agent Jones looked at his partner in bewilderment. “‘Nelly’?”
Smith shrugged. “We are here for a soft probe, to find out what we can and report on it. This shootin’ gallery going on down the road ain’t our doing.”
“You tell ’em, Red Ryder,” Agent Jones quipped.
Now Agent Smith looked at his partner with a puzzled look.
“Right now,” Durrel growled, “just outside of my jurisdiction, there is, as you call it, a ‘shootin’ gallery’ in which some of my people are now en route to back up the state boys and girls. The hospital in my jurisdiction is loading up with wounded from that ‘shootin’ gallery,’ not to mention this new black plague erupting all of a sudden, and if — if I could think of some way to blame it on you two clowns, I would.”
Smith and Jones both assumed totally innocent looks. “We seen some people here having a problem, but we aren’t responsible,” said Agent Jones. “Don’t know what’s happening or why, but I, for one…” Jones cleared his throat. “If I were I you, I would call the CDC in Atlanta muy pronto.”
Durrel glared at Jones. “Oh, you would, eh?”
“Yep. Me, too,” Agent Smith added. “And I’ve got the number right here with me.”
Terry Lee Travis heard the crack of a walkie-talkie and Spanish being spoken. Quickly ducking behind some trees, he moved quietly and quickly toward the direction of the sound.
“We got four men in our sights,” said a man speaking in Spanish over the radio, “two in uniform and two of Donnici’s dogs.”
“So? Kill them,” said a voice nearby, also in Spanish.
The masked Terry Lee peered and saw a man in black. Thinking quickly, he realized that the two in uniform and two of Donnici’s soldiers, the same four he had seen just moments ago, were the ones the killer was aiming for. Quickly, he slugged the man who had ordered the killing, knocking him out. Then he started running back the way he came, even as he heard the sound of machine guns firing, followed by return fire from pistols.
Detective Sheila Holmes was placing cuffs on the still-unconscious Flencer and began to say, “I’ll just haul this bas–” But she stopped herself when she remembered the presence of the two Durrel women and the little Monroe girl.
“Thanks, mister,” Amy Monroe was saying as she embraced Dr. Monroe. “You, too, mister ghost,” she added, looking at a man in a red suit.
Poor kid, Holmes thought to herself, unaware that one of those present was not who he appeared to be, and that there was another presence that only three of the seven in this room could see.
“Uh, Sam, Ziggy is trying to figure out why you haven’t leaped yet,” said Al. “It must have something to do with the sores on this son of a — well, you know.”
Suddenly, Al’s handheld device beeped. He looked at it, frowning, and pushed some buttons. It whizzed, he slapped it, and it beeped. Then Al’s face went pale. “Oh, my God!”
In my experiences as a time traveler, I have leaped into many types of people — men and women, black, white, red, young, old, law-abiding and criminal. Once I even leaped into a college kid in the ’50s who was trying to make the world a better place by wearing a mask and a cape.
I thought that was the most unusual one so far. That is, until…
“Dr. Monroe? Are you all right?” Sharon Durrel asked with deep concern.
Sam, still in the form of Dr. James Monroe Sr., was sitting in a chair. He nodded, then looked at Officer Sheila Holmes, saw she was scratching her arm frantically, and asked her to roll up her sleeve. What he saw was shocking. There was a large red welt that was already beginning to fester.
“We have to get this woman to the hospital, and fast!” Sam stated.
“I see it!” Magdalene Durrel agreed. “Lord, what is happening here?”
What is happening here? wondered Officer Davison from his hospital bed as he watched out the door of his room and saw people frantically rushing about, some of them pushing medical equipment, and some moving in panic or fear.
“Just what is happening here?” Police Chief Lawrence Durrel questioned as he was speaking to a representative of the Center for Disease Control out of Atlanta, Georgia.
“What the #@%& is happening here?” Brian “the Eel” Tortelli asked state trooper Steven Benton as the two of them crouched side by side, taking fire from attackers clad in black.
“Madre de Dios, what is happening here?” a Dominican nun asked as she stood over a fallen doctor whose skin had suddenly erupted in open, oozing sores.
“What is happening here?” Dr. James Monroe Jr. asked, inspecting a small red welt on the hand of a police officer. Some people had been hit hard, and others had only small signs of the bizarre infection.
Magdalene Durrel was surprised when Sam was suddenly enveloped in sparkling blue light, and the form of the real Dr. James Monroe Sr. suddenly reappeared. “Good luck, Sam,” she whispered.
“What is happening here?!” Dr. Sam Beckett cried, suddenly finding himself above the community of Seminole City, falling quickly toward the ground.