Lumen - The Guise of Darkness

Men tremble,
as the humble stumble
before the proud.

Women quiver,
shudder and shiver,
while evil walks in pride.

Inside, hearts cry out:
For justice, for truth,
for light.

Night falls.
The righteous whisper,
the bellicose shout…
and though fading
like the last rays of day,
hope calls…

Lumen: The Guise Of Darkness!

 

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Lumen: The Guise of Darkness by Patrick Bain

Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved

This is the world's first VEIN... ok, I made up that name. A VEIN is a Visually Enhanced Interactive Novel.

Chapter 1 2 3

Chapter 2

City Central High School was directly in the center of Caliginos City.  It was the oldest and largest of the many high schools in the city.  In spite of its last-century architecture, the unadorned brick and block buildings made up a meticulously maintained campus.  As an urban high school, the students and faculty represented diverse racial, cultural, and social backgrounds. 

Two of City Central’s students, part of that diverse panorama, bantered about a favorite topic.

 “Ramon, I’m telling you, Dex has been so louse the last few days,” the African American girl asserted.

“Come on, Shanaya, why do you say that?”

Shanaya tried to be patient with her Hispanic friend, Ramon.  It wasn’t Ramon’s fault that she was crazy in love. “You know, Ramon.  Haven’t you noticed how he’s been acting?  He’ll come up and put his arm around me and say something like, ‘Hot chocolate cupcake, Shanaya, you look scrumptious!’” Shanaya’s mock macho voice was an unflattering imitation of Ramon’s boyfriend.

Ramon was unconvinced.  “What’s wrong with that, you’re beautiful! Anyway, he’s nice like that to everybody.”

“More like lame—and racist…” Shanaya muttered under her breath.

“Don’t be saying my boyfriend is louse.  You’ll be embarrassed at our wedding!”

 The two girls’ conversation was interrupted by the intercom system at their school. “Coach Saladon reminds all students that tryouts for the golf team will be held today after school at the Downtown University Golf Course.  The student council urges you to practice safety first and use the buddy system when walking to and from school.”  The intercom shut off with a crackle.

“Safety first… what are we, first graders?”

“Hey Ramon, you were the one in a hurry to leave when that girl was murdered a couple weeks ago.”

The bell rang, and both hurried from the high school hallway to their first class.

Thornbush sat in his office and stewed.  Sitting and waiting for the bad guys to act was never comfortable for a man of such severe rectitude.  His thirty dollar office chair was especially disagreeable at the moment.  Annoyed, Thornbush puzzled over the dilemma of having not a single credible lead. 

“The perpetrator dropped a lot of pieces in a downtown alley, but not enough to complete the picture.  I can’t figure out a motive that fits.  I’d stinkin’ trade my pinky for the lid of this puzzle box.”

The detective leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling.  His thoughts troubled him.  So what to do?  It’s a good thing the media hasn’t been able to get a picture of any of these girls. Whooah, what a black eye for the department if they knew!  Some job I’m doing as head of homicide. Two weeks since the last one and still nothing to show for it!

Pounding his palms on his desk, Thornbush refused to sit any longer.  “If I can’t root out the dangerous, maybe I can warn the endangered.  Going on defense is better than waiting and spectating.  It’s time to put on my proverbial backpack and go to school!”

It was early afternoon and a school day. Checking his map app, he located the high schools nearest to the victims.  The first of three schools within the five mile radius was City Central High School.  It was only a short walk from each of the bodies. 

Thornbush rolled down the windows of his city-issued car.  He felt brighter doing something.  The mild spring day and fragrance of early blooms refreshed his outlook.  Though the weather seemed ideal, in the distance dark billowing clouds were building—tumultuous winds and drenching rains were on the way.  The detective noted the dark towers of the cumulonimbus with foreboding.  With irony he smiled, “Best I’ve felt all day, and now, my umbrella is at home!”

Arriving at City Central High School, Thornbush immediately sought the administrator in charge.  Principal Elder was too young to be a dinosaur, but his mannerisms and philosophies on education might make some wonder.  Tall and thin, but only in his upper thirties, Elder carried the stern, humorless appearance of a much older person.  He had dark short hair on the sides and in back, but was virtually bald on top.  His metal rim glasses usually had smudges on them as if he wiped them clean with his generous eyebrows.

After introductions, Elder boomed, “What brings you here, Lieutenant Thornbush?”  Elder’s conversational voice was like a megaphone.  Thornbush surmised the principal’s wife probably complained that Elder thought he was in the front of an auditorium when asking her to pass the beans at the dinner table.  His musings continued: what type of librarian or golf announcer would the principal make?

The detective joined Elder walking around the large campus so he could discuss what was on his mind.  It was a habit of the administrator to canvas the school grounds everyday:  show the students that the ‘hammer of discipline’ was always near.  Mostly, they ignored the principal when he passed, but there were always some who stuffed things in their backpack or under textbooks as Elder approached.

Strolling through the courtyard and up and down various hallways, Thornbush spied students clustered everywhere.  As with most schools, it was easy to spot the various rungs of the social ladder: the jocks were bold and proud, the studious were oblivious to all but their books and pseudo-intellectual hypotheses, the slackers were slacking, and the potheads had their munchies and were probably headed back to the empty parking lot outside school grounds.

The veteran police officer made a mental note that he needed to have some boys in a black and white drive by at lunch time occasionally just to keep the wild bunch on their toes.

Without giving any gory details, and keeping the crux of the investigation to himself, Thornbush advised Principal Elder on the perceived threat.  He wanted to be very clear about the danger to all the students, while still being honest about who were the most at-risk individuals.  Thornbush stopped.  He needed Elder’s undivided attention.

“The killer is preying on the young.  Every one of them has been a minor… and a runaway.”  Thornbush spoke slowly and deliberately.

Elder looked at Thornbush, contemplating the ramifications.  He looked away seemingly indifferent.  “Hey, we’ll make some announcements, put up some awareness posters.” Elder continued on his customary circuit, “I have 3000 students, I can’t hold their hands and walk them each home.”

Thornbush shook his head and watched with annoyance as the principal kept walking.  He caught up with Elder wondering how to graciously call him an idiot.

Elder interrupted that thought.  “You know, Thornbush, why don’t I introduce you to our counselor.  He’s a young guy, hasn’t been here too long, flakier than a bowl of cereal, but he has his pulse on the students.  His name is Encendrez.  He actually likes talking to the kids—really knows what they’re into.”

The detective had to be satisfied with that.  He continued pacing Elder in silence.  They passed more students milling around or grabbing books on their way to class.  Near Elder’s office he saw a group of excited teens watching two guys in the center playing a game. “Bones!” one of them shouted excitedly.  Everyone else let out a roar and the group broke up to go to class.

When Thornbush was introduced to Counselor Encendrez, he wasn’t sure if the guy was really a school counselor, or a maybe the star of a Latin soap opera.  Thornbush himself was a tall muscular man, but Encendrez was every bit as tall and perhaps even more physically fit.  His perfectly pressed and finely tailored clothing appeared out of place on a high school campus.  While Thornbush and Elder both sported rumpled button down shirts and polyester ties, the counselor would have fit in at a photo-shoot for a ‘men’s style magazine’.

Thornbush appraised Encendrez.  He first noted the strong jaw line, which was good.  Then he considered the waxed eyebrows and perfectly trimmed sideburns-- that raised the antenna of his personal radar.  What finally left Thornbush with an askance look in his eyes was Encendrez’ glossy full head of hair.  Short and trim on the sides, full and long enough to swoop upward in the front like a teen idol; it was the scalp to melt a million female hearts.

Breathing deeply before he spoke, Thornbush didn’t want to convey his typical suspicion (or envy) while speaking to the counselor.  “Mr.Encendrez—“

“Call me, Doctor.”

“Encendrez,” Thornbush reasserted himself, “Elder here tells me you’re in touch with the kids here at City Central.  I’m making the circuit of High Schools in this area to get the word out about the threatening situation these young people are in.”

“I am familiar with the news stories—too much local news can be depressing—but that incident of a week ago certainly hits near home.”  Encendrez spoke with a matter-of-fact clinical manner.

Counselor Encendrez had stood up to greet the principal and detective when they entered his office, but now he sat back down in an executive style leather chair.  He pushed his chair far enough away to put his feet clad in alligator leather shoes on his mahogany desk.

Thornbush paused to look at the man, noted the apparent arrogance, wondered at the expense of this office furniture, then continued on, “So Encendrez, I figure dropouts, kids with troubles at home, anyone trying to escape—they are the most at risk.”

Closing his eyes, Encendrez seemed to be looking at a roster in his mind of the students at City Central, carefully considering the ones that might be described as potential dropouts, having troubled home lives, or those wanting to get away.

Thornbush pressed on, “Wherever they find themselves, is probably where the killer is finding them.”

Encendrez pondered that statement long enough for it to sink in, and then looked at the detective and the principal.  Finally, he spoke with the guardedness of his profession, “Naturally, there are privacy concerns,” he looked directly at Thornbush, “but I will be mindful of the downcast.”

DOWNCAST!” Principal Elder boomed, apparently ready to engage, then the flicker of hope Thornbush held faded when the principal finished his outburst. “I’m downcast!  This is high school!  There’s always something to be depressed about… brain cramps, bullies… breakups!”

 
Ramon Peres and Dexter Dray had been dating for the last few months.  Dexter or Dex or ‘God’s gift’ as the guys in the locker room called him, was senior captain of the state champion football team.  In fact, Dex was a quarterback with first-team honors and college recruiters calling upon him weekly.  Ramon, on the other hand, was a sophomore: quiet, academic, usually shy.

Dex was a ladies man, hence the ‘God’s gift’ moniker.  He had that blonde hair, bright white teeth, always wore shirts a size too small look about him.  He and his buddies trolled the halls early in the year and made a list of the best new recruits to date.  The buddies got the leftovers, but that was still the crème de la crème.

Ramon, though somewhat introverted, was a beautiful young lady with her Hispanic skin tone and long lustrous dark hair.  Her personal history always left her feeling inadequate.  It prevented her from regarding herself well, but guys in her classes frequently shot furtive glances her direction, and the girls always spoke to her with a hint of envy and jealousy.

Dex with his oily charm and supreme confidence easily overwhelmed Ramon early in the year at a basketball game.  Ramon had gone with some friends just to get out of the house.  Ramon’s friends saw Dex sitting a few rows above with some other senior football players.  Her friends were getting a little “Ga Ga”, when Dex decided to climb over a few fans that were actually watching the game to come sit in the midst of these sophomore girls.  Dex asked Ramon out and she somehow found herself dating the captain of the football team.

That was a few months ago.  Today, during lunch, Ramon had hinted to Dex that she would enjoy fixing a picnic lunch that they could take to the lake.  He put her off like he hadn’t understood her.  Now, in the hallway prior to 6h hour, Dex turned to stare dispassionately at his paramour.

It was time for Dex to have a “heart to heart” with Ramon.  A public hallway in front of his locker was as good a place as any. The popular beau had done this many times before so his recitation was always flawless.  His breakup speech was always 33 seconds long.

“Dex, don’t do this!” she looked pleadingly in his eyes.  He didn’t even feign remorse or hurt that it had to end this way.  Ramon begged, “I’ve given you everything you’ve wanted…”

A look of glee shined from Dex’ eyes: something chilling and evil.  Ramon instantly regretted saying that, she intuitively knew what was coming next.  Dex looked down at her and grinned widely.  “That’s just it, Ramon, you no longer have anything I want.” 

Pierced, Ramon deflated like a balloon with a pinhole.  She knew exactly what he wanted and what she had given up.  A dark oppressive hand clutched Ramon’s heart and squeezed.  Through tearing eyes she watched her former boyfriend walk away.

“See you never!” he stated smugly. 

Thornbush was a little peeved as he left the offices of Counselor Encendrez and Principal Elder.  He was shocked by their reluctance to seriously address the warning he raised.  Feeling uncertain about this ‘defensive’ strategy, he questioned if it was even worthwhile to follow up at the other schools.  Would they accept the gravity of his warning?  Would the students even change their behavior if the alarm was sounded?

Meanwhile, Ramon was stunned and dazed.  Eyes puffy, summoning all her restraint to avoid sobbing audibly, Ramon grabbed her books and started for class.  If she had any avenue of escape or any source of refuge, she would have taken it.  Head down to avoid stares, she walked blindly toward her classroom.

Closing the door behind him, Thornbush muttered out loud the thoughts he was lost in. “Hard to tell what Elder will do with my information… and I have no reading at all on the counselor.”

Oops, Thornbush wasn’t paying attention and collided with someone.  He quickly begged pardon, only to see a young Hispanic woman who was clearly upset.  She was even deeper in her thoughts than he had been.  Uncharacteristically, Thornbush felt a pang for this girl he did not know.  Perhaps his empathy stemmed from his own inner turmoil.

She walked on, apparently not even realizing they had bumped.  “I’m …sorry,” Thornbush breathed barely loud enough for anyone to hear, arms outstretched as if to offer comfort.

The police detective knew there was nothing left to do so he sauntered to the doors leading to the parking lot. His casual gait hid the burden he carried. Thornbush was anxious to return to the office and study the forensic evidence more fully.

At the moment Thornbush stepped outside, a cloud burst soaked him.  He was too proud to run to his car or try to cover his head.  Somehow, it only seemed fitting that he should spend the rest of his afternoon drenched and smelling like a wet dog.

Elder had raised the blinds in his office to look out the window at the parking lot.  He and Counselor Encendrez watched as Thornbush waded through the parking lot to leave. The normally comedic moment was lost on the two men.  Gazing out the window, Elder asked the younger man, “What do you think, Counselor?” 

The question may have been small-talk.  It may have been an indication of true concern.  Encendrez paused, furrowing his brow as if summoning wisdom from an unknown source. “I think,” again he paused, “Detective Thornbush will be back.”  The counselor’s next words sent a chill through the principal’s spine.  Somehow, he too felt these words were foreshadowing what would come, “And, NOT to share glad tidings.”

 


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Copyright 2015 Patrick Bain All Rights Reserved.

illicit lover
secret, stealthy
disapproval
cloud formation associated with severe thunderstorms
correct in judgment, right conduct
taking great care in small details