Sunday, February 28, 2016

Generation Three — Chapter Two: The More the Merrier?

Nathaniel was having the worst time getting over the loss of his father. Frankly, it seemed like nothing could or would help. So, he texted Sophia. Again, sad texts. She was quick to respond, as always, inviting him over to her place to hang out. She wasn’t alone, sharing the place with her sister Elsa.  

“Nate,” Sophia greeted him out front, throwing her arms about him and giving him a good squidge. He sure needed the comfort. They gazed at the clouds for a bit and Sophia shared her deep interest in space. She truly believed Sims were not alone in this universe. He would have scoffed outright at her allegations, but for two things. He loved her and as such had no desire to trample on her feelings, and for the fact both he and his Dad had discovered aliens in disguise right here in Willow Creek. One worked at the Police Department and had died just recently. 
The couple chatted for a bit, he met her sister. Elsa was quiet but she seemed nice enough. Nathaniel really wanted to propose to Sophia. They had known each other for several months now, and he loved her deeply. She shared the same feelings. Theirs would be a good union, of that he was certain. But, he found himself so overwrought with grief, he just couldn’t bring himself to utter the words. In fact, several times during this visit he actually contemplated breaking up with her. That would have been a huge mistake. He was just beginning to think she deserved more than some emotionally broken Sim.
After a little while, Sophia had to head out to work. So, Elsa fixed a nice meal, and the two sat at the table eating and chatting the hours away. Getting to know each other, really. Nathaniel began to think counseling was something Elsa had trained for. Whatever it was she said to him, he was feeling much better by the time Sophia got home again, for which he was grateful. Finally, he could see through that thick black, ominous cloud that hovered over his head continually. 

     “Nate,” she said, stepping through the front door. “I didn’t expect you to still be here, but I’m very glad you are. All the time I was working, I couldn’t get my mind off of you. Did you and Elsa have a nice chat?”
Nathaniel grinned shyly, and nodded his head. “As a matter of fact, we did. Thank you, Elsa, for all of your advice. I do feel like a weight has rolled off of my shoulders. But, I should get going now, I’ve already taken up enough of your time. Don’t wish to wear out my welcome.”
      Sophia followed him out the door. She was hoping for a kiss good night. She wasn’t disappointed. Not only did Nathaniel kiss her sweetly, but suddenly, he was getting down on one knee. “Sophia, I’ve been wanting to ask you this for quite some time, now. I know you’re a bit older than me, but we seem so right together. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” 

     “Nate, oh Nate! Yes, yes, yes, yes!” With that he slipped the ring on over her gloved hand. Sophia held her hand up to admire the ‘rock’.  Then she jumped up into his arms. 
“Come home with me,” he said, taking her by the hand.
Sophia moved into the Cantrell homestead that very evening. Both were tired, but excited about this new beginning. Adrenalin had kicked in for both of them, so they played chess to wind themselves down. Nathaniel decided it best to take over the ‘new’ master bedroom, a bit leery of its history. When he walked in, he was surprised to find a brand new double bed in place of his father’s bed. Jaylen was oddly hanging around, too. When Nathaniel raised an eyebrow at him, his younger brother merely shrugged and grinned. “Best of luck on your engagement,” was all he said, then turned to head back down the stairs to his room.   

Jaylen, as it came out, had many tricks up his sleeves. Well, he was a genius, and sometimes it does take a genius to figure things out. For instance, when Nathaniel goofed up on the bills allowing the electricity to get shut off, after their father died, it was Jaylen who stepped in. He continued the long-standing family tradition of gathering the wild fruits and flowers to sell. He got the bill paid, the lights back on and all seemed well. However, the bill was huge and any monies left wasn’t enough for a wedding. Once again it was Jaylen who came up with an answer. Seemingly foolish as the idea appeared, Nathaniel brushed it off.
“There’s this ancient wishing well the town Council replaced the old fountain with at Magnolia Park. Maybe I can ask it for some Simoleons. Who knows? Can’t be worse than trying to win the lottery, right?” 

Nathaniel smiled broadly, chuckling out loud as he hadn’t in ages. “You know what, Jay, if you can make it work, go for it. I won’t stop you. We do need some serious funding about now.” Between the two brothers working, and even Sophia’s wages thrown in, the income wasn’t even a close match to what Ayden brought in daily. They were barely scraping by.
That very afternoon, Jaylen headed straight to the park. There it was sitting right in the center of things. Old yellowy-brown bricks, ancient vines clinging to the pillars that held the roof over it, it looked almost like a gazebo without the bench, only smaller and with a deep hole in the center of it. Come to think of it, it really didn’t look like a gazebo at all.   
There was also a lion’s face on the front of it. He stepped up to it and made a bold wish, asking for Simoleons. Suddenly, as if a volcano was about to erupt, bright light splintered forth from the mouth of the well. Jaylen took a quick step back, in awe, not sure what to make of it, of what may be coming at him. Next thing he knew, he was being pelted with gold coins. Lots of them. By the time it quit and he got it all counted there was over twenty-two thousand Simoleon’s worth! Immediately, he was humbled. He made three separate donations back to whoever or whatever lived in that well, leaving him with just over eight thousand Simoleons. He didn’t wish to be greedy. Figuring what was left would allow Nathaniel and Sophia to have a nice small affair.
Hands shaking, he deposited it straight into the family’s bank account. He brought the receipt with him to show his brother. “Nate! Nate, you’re never going to believe this!” Jaylen shoved the receipt at him. 

“What? Jaylen, your trembling. What’s wrong? What happened?” Jaylen recounted his experience with the Whispering Wishing Well. Nathaniel grabbed his brother by the arms and then clapped him to him in a bear hug.
“You and Sophia can get married now, right?”
“You are the most generous person I have ever encountered in my life. Yes. That sum should do nicely. And thank you, Best Man.”
Sophia found a dress that suited her. They purchased a wedding arch, tables and chairs, flowers and a special table to house the wedding cake Gramps was baking. Nathaniel hired a caterer, a mixologist and he and Jaylen moved their bar outdoors onto the lawn near the tables. An outdoor boombox was also purchased. Sophia chose red as her color, so the radio was also red and chrome. Red flowers in pots sat to each side of the arch. Benches were rented to seat the guests during the ceremony. Lights peppered the yard. All was in readiness. The hired help had arrived, Erik had completed his baking, placing first the cake topper upon the white confection and then carefully moving the cake onto the special red cloth-draped table out on the north patio. 
Nathaniel, dressed in his black tuxedo and Jaylen, in a dark red tuxedo of the same style came out of their rooms to greet a few of the guest as they arrived. The wedding would commence just as soon as Sophia got home from work and had a chance to shower, dress, and otherwise make herself ready. The sun had already gone down. A magnificent sunset. Perfect for an evening wedding.  Nathaniel heard Sophia come in and hurry up the stairs to their bedroom. She was good at ‘slap and dash’, so he knew it wouldn’t be long from now and they would be Sim and wife.
He went out the back door, down the steps and headed around the north side of the house. He wanted to see if Jackie had arrived. She was a good friend and he hoped she didn’t harbor any ill-will.  He never really dumped her, he just stopped seeing her. He no sooner got on the other side of the smaller north patio to the right of the back door, when he was frozen stiff, unable to move on his own accord. Out of the evening sky came an eerie bright glow. Nathaniel could feel himself being lifted right off of the grassy ground, heading toward a mysterious glowing saucer. He remembered his father telling such a tale of what happened to him upon his very late night return, once.
“You can’t keep me here, it’s my wedding day. My bride will be at the arch any minute now,” he thought to the strange black-eyed, purple beings that surrounded him.
“This won’t take long,” one cajoled, holding up a platinum looking syringe thingie. Before Nathaniel could think his objections, since thoughts were how they communicated, they injected something through his navel. He hoped they hadn’t soiled his tuxedo in doing so. Or wrinkled it in any manner…
How he got out of the ship, and all that transpired while he was aboard, was stripped from his memory. Or even how long he was there. Nathaniel ran back around the north patio to the south patio, up the steps and over to his bride. “There you are!” Sophia said, taking him by the hands, leading him over to the arch. “I thought you’d changed your mind.”

“No, I was just checking on … something. Can’t remember now what it was, but it seemed important at the time. Shall we get started?”
From that point onward, the wedding went off without a glitch. The guests had a good time, the bride and groom were elated and properly wed. They ate cake, shared drinks and soon the evening festivities came to an end. Some of the guests uttering, “Now that was a gold award wedding, if ever I attended one.”
Within a very short time, Sophia learned she was pregnant. Nathaniel was overjoyed. They both were, eager to get on with creating a family. Sophia was getting up there in age and there was no time to lose. In fact, her biggest fear was she would only have time for one child. As time went on, she grew bigger and bigger. Nathaniel, in the meantime, seemed to share her discomfort. While hers was properly ‘morning sickness’, he put his down to something he ate. He, too, started packing on a few pounds. More than a few. By the time Sophia was nearing her launch date, Nathaniel had a bigger belly than did she.  

“Nate,” Erik said. The ghost accompanied his grandsons at the dining table. “I think we should talk about fitness. You’re starting to get on the portly side, there, my boy.”
“I’d be happy to work out with you at the gym anytime,” Jaylen offered. He was the team mascot, and as such was duty-bound to stay fit. “I’d be more than willing to show you some beneficial exercises. Get rid of that tire wrapped around your gut, there, big brother.” He gestured with his fork.  

Unconsciously, Nathaniel ran his hand over his bulging belly, much like they’d all seen Sophia do.  “I don’t know. I’m just not feeling right, these days. I’m not really sick, I’m just feeling, well, you know kinda erky. Not right. I can’t really put it into words.”
“You’re a writer, and you can’t describe it? Oh, brother,” Jaylen said.
Nathaniel shrugged and tried again, “Sometimes, it’s a lot like my gut is twisting around itself inside. Then I get what feels like something pummeling me. It doesn’t really hurt, it’s just weird, you know?”
“No, I don’t know and I think I’m glad of it. Maybe you’re pregnant,” Jaylen teased.
“Oh, don’t even go there. I’m a guy, remember? Physically impossible.”
Jaylen got up from the table, taking his plate with him. “Says he with the big fat, pregnant-looking gut. I’ve heard of guys having pseudo-pregnancies alongside their wives, but you, Big brother, and I really do mean Big, have taken it to the enth degree.”   

Before too long, Sophia went into labor. She walked across the long living room, since sitting only worsened the pain. Then she tried watching some television. She had the insane urge to clean things all of a sudden. Resting only allayed the pain for a short time. The next thing she knew the baby was here. A beautiful little girl. They named her Janeille Cantrell. She was perfect. All her little fingers, all her little toes. Sophia took care of her and then grabbed something to eat. She was starving. After that she went to bed. Erik floated up stairs to take a peek at the tiny girl. He gently lifted her into his ghostly arms, cooed at her and then fed her a bottle.
Nathaniel got home from work and gazed at his sweet little daughter. He too, held her, cooed at her and then cuddled her. His big belly helped to support her as he held her on his shoulder. He wished he felt physically better, as it was a bit ridiculous to walk around so fat when his wife was no longer pregnant. But, he just didn’t feel well — at all. In the next several hours he experienced some random cramping and his guts no longer flopped around inside of him so much as before. In fact, all seemed unusually quiet in there. As he went about his business, mostly eating and sleeping, at one point the pain was so intense he thought he would die — or that his gut would burst. One of the two. Jaylen’s words had played on him so much, he purchased a second bassinet — just in case. 

Suddenly, he hurt so badly, that just when he couldn’t take it any longer, a small baby squeezed out of his belly button to his astonishment. “What the —” Nathaniel held the little purple girl, staring down at her in awe. Suddenly, his memories opened up and he recalled that odd platinum syringe being emptied into his navel. “Oh, you didn’t … Owwww—” He barely had time to place the girl into the bassinet when another infant slid out of his navel. A baby boy, this time. He, too, was purple in color. A very nice shade of lavender, actually.  Looking around him, wondering just where he was to place this third baby, he found a very alien-looking bassinet in another room. Putting the baby boy inside, he brought it into the master bedroom. Nathaniel  named the twins Megan and Marc. 
Looking downward, he was gratified to see his stomach was flat again, too. Much as it had been on his wedding day. But, oh, what a surprise. Three children, born within hours of each other, like actual triplets. Did he and Sophia ever have their hands full.  

Jaylen came upstairs after his shift was over, Erik having apprised him of the new development in the family. He stood gazing into the three bassinets, two ordinary ones and one that looked decidedly alien in design and even seemed to levitate above the ground a bit. He held Janeille and fed her a bottle. Cuddled her and put her back into her little bed. Then he went to the boy, held him. Then he went to the boy’s twin to change her dirty diaper. Jaylen was squeamish and after he’d rescued the tiny purple thing from the yuk in her pants, he stepped back, himself, and shuddered.  “Eww, icky. Grossness. And aren’t you all just so … cute?” He shuddered again.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Generation Three— Chapter One: When The Passing of the Torch Burns

Nathaniel managed, with the help of both his father and his ghostly grandfather, to bring up his flagging grades just prior to graduation. His hard work paid off, the final report card reflecting  a strong B across the board. Taking his father’s advice, he decided to follow his creative spirit and got a job in the writing profession. He saw many things, including the entire reportage of his uncle Braylon’s trial and just what the man had been accused of.
Nathaniel stared at the computer in disbelief. “He killed my mother? He killed my mother!” When he got home from work, he cautiously asked his father about it. Both Ayden and the spectre of Erik sat him down on the couch and explained the whole thing to him.
“I’m sorry you had to read about it like that, son,” Ayden said.
“Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“Because you were only twelve at the time of the trial,” Erik said. “It was terrible enough you were without a mother at that tender age. We couldn’t risk further damage knowing she died at the hands of a heretofore trusted family member.”
We. You all conspired to withhold the truth.”
“For your own good,” Ayden said. “But, now that you know, please feel free to ask me anything about it.”
“Just who are the Mobwives and are any of us safe from them?” Nathaniel said, keeping his eyes on those of his father’s.  He had read all kinds of articles speculating about the possibility of a threat to the then Captain Ayden Cantrell and his family. Nathaniel was well aware security around their house and on their street had been beefed up. Ayden’s sigh was long, and Nathaniel noticed he looked away before he spoke.
“There’s no definitive answer to that I can give. It behooves all of us to watch our backs. Except — well, perhaps Gramps doesn’t have to be on his guard so much.” Ayden gave a wry grin, to which the ghostly Erik just shrugged.
“So, have you looked into what happened to Auntie Patrice? I know she was up there in days, but she was very active. Her death came out of the blue. So — sudden. And don’t bother to sugar-coat it. I’ve seen the pictures the National Simquirer published. Looks like a crime scene to me.”
“No, and I’ll tell you why not.” Ayden suddenly looked older to his son. Clearly the Sim was bearing a terrible burden. “She told me to just let it alone.”
“Before or aft—”
“I see ghosts, you know.”
“So, it was a hit.” Nathaniel blinked back the tears that stung his eyes. Even having read the articles, talking about the situation, the triple tragedy really, that his family had suffered was almost more than he could bear. In the months that followed, he worked hard, trying to make something of himself. Seeing just how lonely his father was, a widower all of these years, he also worked at finding the right woman to help him thrust the Cantrell family forward. The last thing he wanted was to die before his own children married. He had a strong desire to know his future grandchildren — in person and not through some supernatural shroud. However, in some ways he was following more in his grandfather’s footsteps.

He liked Jackie and Jackie appeared to like him, but even when she invited him out for an evening, she would suddenly disappear on him. That left him time, once, to get acquainted with another girl. Laticsha, or whatever it was. Her name was just too hard to pronounce. Before long, the potential for that relationship didn’t blossom, as he’d hoped. Fizzling out altogether. Due to lack of interest on both of their parts, no doubt.

Then one evening Nathaniel looked up and across the dance floor was a very cute blonde Sim. He had just finished showing off some rather slick dance moves before a most appreciative crowd that left him feeling decidedly confident. Nathaniel went over and introduced himself to her. There was something there between them, an immediate spark, an attraction, that he sensed right off. Her name was Sophia. Which, when translated from the original Greek, meant wisdom. He liked the fact he could pronounce it, at least. They chatted, they flirted. She was single, so was he. They exchanged cell phone numbers, something he hadn’t bothered to do with the others. Nathaniel was very excited about her. As if, maybe, he’d found the One.  
In the meantime, his father started becoming more social again, too. Nathaniel wondered how much of his seclusion was his mourning Jade, or if the threat of an ‘accident’ was enough to all but make the Sim a recluse. Ayden did seem to really like this Morgan Fryes he’d met on one outing. Morgan was a mixologist, but Nathaniel was always bothered by how often she refused to make drinks whenever she visited and was asked. Also, when she did make drinks, they weren’t really very tasty. This bothered him and he had questions. Many, many questions.  

Knowing everything he knew about the crimes and the threats, Nathaniel was still unprepared for what happened. He was up late one night, working on his latest attempt at a novel, since his boss required him to write. Finally, in the middle of the night, he went upstairs to his room to turn in. A short time later, he could hear the whispers and a few outbursts of giggles, as two somebody’s were climbing the stairs to the second floor.
He heard his father’s bedroom door open and shut. Smiling to himself, Nathaniel crawled into bed. Well, the Sim was lonely, after all. A widower for several years, now. He often talked about a certain young woman, Morgan, whom he seemed to have feelings for. But, Ayden was in his late eighties now. Nathaniel was certain he was thinking of him and Jaylen and refused to marry again, not wishing to derail their inheritance in any way. What little there was. The Sim in question was still well young enough to have babies. Shaking off his thoughts, Nathaniel rolled over and fell asleep. 

Moments later, or so it seemed, Nathaniel heard a loud thump from the other bedroom and swung out of his bed. That’s when he heard the screams coming from his father’s bedroom, a few feet away. He rushed to see just what was going on.
“Ayden! Oh, my gawd, Ayden!” Morgan Fryes screamed at the top of her lungs. Pushing open the door, Nathaniel saw his eighty-eight day old father prone upon the floor. He glanced over at Morgan, scantily clad in a short black negligee, holding a pillow over herself, doing her best to look frantic. Putting two and two together, Nathaniel realized his father went out with a bang. He must have desired some woohoo and over-exerted his old self. But, why would his father be so careless? Ayden had consumed a Youth Potion to give him more time. This made no sense to him. Mobwives, the thought wafted through his head. Was this a hit, made to look like an accident? They don’t normally investigate accidents …  

Nathaniel knelt on the floor, put a shaky hand to his father’s throat. There was no pulse. Fumbling, he grabbed his father’s cell phone from the dresser and called the police. “Hello, no this isn’t Chief Cantrell, this is his son, Nathaniel. Something has happened. We need a bus. Oh, gawd, I think he’s dead!”
Glancing upward, he caught the expression on Morgan’s face. She looked terrified. “Why did you go and call the police?” She all but screamed at him. “We were just having some fun, a night of woohoo. Your father was very flirty, and just so … so, well he just wanted more, let’s say. It was his idea—”
Nathaniel got back on his feet. “Don’t say another word, Morgan Fryes. You’re a Rebel. I wouldn’t be surprised if you had ties to the Mobwives. You did this to him. You kept him from getting any rest at all. You’re the one. Who paid you and was it worth it? You woohooed him to death!
“I — um,”
“Is that true?” Jaylen said from the doorframe. He glared at the woman with steely blue eyes.
“I think I should just be going,” Morgan fretted. She quickly grabbed up her clothing .
“You’re not going anywhere until the police get here.” Jaylen blocked the doorway. Looking at Nathaniel, he said, “You did call the police, right?” 
Before Morgan could get one leg into her black leggings, the officers from out front were slamming up the stairs to the only lit room in the house.
“Save your voice,” Nathaniel said, as he pointed behind him. “Right over there.” As the two officers knelt over the body of their new chief, Nathaniel spoke again, nodding his head toward the young woman now seated awkwardly on the edge of the double bed, dressed in a short, filmy black negligee, with only one leg partially into a legging. “You may wish to speak to her. She is the only actual witness,” he said.

“You sound just like your father, son,” one officer said, glancing up. “Sure you won’t consider joining the force?”
“Not cut out for it. I’d rather write, instead. Maybe I’ll become a journalist and just cover these things.”
The wagon was called for and then the two officers went over the perceived ‘crime scene’, leaving nothing unturned. Then they gathered up Morgan in her skimpy state of dress and hauled her downtown to the station for what they called “a chat”.
Nathaniel sat in his room for a long time, inert. Then he finally went downstairs and climbed into the closet in his younger brother’s room and had himself a good cry. He just couldn’t shake the incredible gloom that had settled over him. First his mother, and now his dear father. Ayden, who had meant everything to him. His father who took all care to ensure his sons a good upbringing, alone as he was. Ayden, who despite all the odds and the threats, made it to the top of his career. He was the Chief of Police in Willow Creek. And, now he was dead.

     After a time, Nathaniel sent a text to Sophia. A sad text. A few moments later, he sent another one. When she answered, she invited him over to her place. Her text message: You sound really sad, come over and we’ll hang out. First thing Sophia did was wrapped her slender arms around Nathaniel and held him tight. Nathaniel wished he could stay in the cocoon of her arms forever. For the briefest moment, he felt secure and the gloom lifted just a little.        
Nathaniel and Jaylen, under the guidance of their ghostly grandfather organized the funeral. There was a huge turnout. The entire Police Force in their dress blues, family, friends. After the grave side service was complete, the Honor Guard gave Ayden a three-volley salute, shooting blanks into the air. Nathaniel jumped with each pop. Squaring his shoulders, he tried to withhold the tears. Before long, he was taking the handkerchief from his pocket. The shots made it so final. Dad was gone.    

Standing under the great oak tree where Ayden would be interned, Nathaniel, with Sophia hugged tight to his side, stood silently saying goodbye. Morgan Fryes came up beside him.
“What are you doing here?” Nathaniel said, curtly. “Shouldn’t you be locked up or something?”
“I had my ‘chat’ with the police and they let me go. I didn’t do it, Nathaniel. I just wanted you to know. You’re wrong about me. I loved your Dad. He was the dearest, sweetest man I’ve ever met. He treated me like a lady. No one has ever done that.”

“So you honored him by woohooing him to death! I can’t believe you.”
“Your Dad was lonely and we were just having a little bit of fun. He was tense. I thought I could help.” A tear spilled down her face. “Don’t look at me that way. I didn’t mean for it to happen, I swear. I don’t think I’ll ever woohoo with anyone ever again. You can’t, for a minute, even understand how it makes me feel.”
“You’re right, I can’t know how you feel. I’ve heard of ‘killer women’ before, I just never expected to meet one in person. You know,” Nathaniel looked thoughtful for a moment. “I may have a solution for you.”
“Yeah, what’s that?” Morgan said.
“You could join a convent and then all of  Simanity will be safe.”
Sophia drew back from him slightly, slapping him on the upper arm. “Nate,” she said, “you need to forgive her.”
For a moment he looked chastened. Shaking his head, he gazed over at Sophia. “I don’t think I can. Not yet.” When Sophia’s look of dismay met his gaze, Nathaniel shrugged. “I’ll work on it, I promise.”
With that, Sophia held him tight.  
For Morgan Fryes, she merely turned on her heel, handkerchief in hand, and quietly left the cemetery.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Generation Two — Chapter Twelve: More Deaths Plague Willow Creek Police Precinct

Ayden’s week started off very strangely. He should have taken this as a clue of what was to come, he supposed, in retrospect. Beginning to feel his age, he was aware he was slowing down. When he brought his fears to his ghostly father, Erik advised him to try the Youth Potion, which he did. He also did his best to keep active.
     Working hard at cracking cases, working out from time to time. Mostly keeping his brain alive, that was key. So he made sure he was focused whenever it was time for work. One evening he was invited out to a bar for Singles Night. He went. There were some very nice people there, but he was in a bit of a relationship already. Ayden wasn’t one to fool around. So, after a time, when his body told him he needed sleep, he bid the group farewell and headed home. The hour was very late.
That’s when it happened. As he was walking up the drive in front of his house, he was suddenly frozen stiff. Bright light bathed the entire front yard. Eerie sounds filled the otherwise quiet night. Before he knew it, a beam of light shown right in his face, engulfing him. Slowly, ever so slowly, he could feel himself being pulled upward. Suddenly, his feet were no longer on the ground. Above him was a saucer shaped, shiny, metal object.  
   “What the heck?” Ayden gasped, although he was really only thinking it, unable to cry out or so much as utter a noise. Nor could he move at all. He had read a few reports, some articles in the Police Stories magazine put out by some obscure county department, of such events. Ayden really didn’t give them much credence. Scoffing at them, really. He supposed that’s how some looked at his ghostly visions, too. He did discover he was working with an alien in disguise, so that’s when his thoughts turned around and he began to wonder just how real aliens were. He was soon to find out. 

     If Ayden had any notion of sharing his abduction experience it was literally knocked out of his head. The movie,  Sims In Black came to mind. By the time he was returned, hours later, or so he guessed, all he could remember was a bright light and that saucer-like glowing thing in the sky. Everything else had been strategically washed from his memories.

When he returned to work the next day, he felt tired, achy and full of foreboding. Just last week, said alien cleverly-disguised-as-a-police officer had passed away at the station.  
   They had lost so many here, he was beginning to lose count. Was it six or seven? As he went about his duties, filing the last of his paperwork and getting his next case file, he became aware that the Chief, Angie Sizemore, was having some difficulties. He got up from the desk and ran into her office, just as she collapsed to the floor.  

Dashing over to her, “Chief, Chief, what is it? Somebody call 9-1-1! We need an ambulance.” He shouted over his shoulder. The Chief lay still. Suddenly the room was full of people. Ayden spied the Grim Reaper, who was no longer a shocking sight for him, out of the corner of his eye. Getting the Reaper’s attention, he took a moment to plead for the Chief’s life to no avail. Remorse settled hard on Colonel Ayden Cantrell. Before he even realized it, another officer, Derek Huston lay unconscious in the other corner of the Chief’s office. Two coffee cups, barely touched, sat on the Chief’s desk as if the two were sharing coffee and conversation. Ayden made a mental note of this as he snapped into rescue mode. He listened for any sign of breathing and then began CPR. “Come on, Derek, come on! Somebody make that call and get an ambulance here. On the double!”   
Knowing that once he started the compressions, he couldn’t stop, Ayden hollered at the Reaper, pleading with it to save Officer Huston. This time, his pleas were heard as the Grim Reaper levitated Derek’s lifeless form and the man regained consciousness. Sadly, it wasn’t for long. Derek showed up at Ayden’s latest crime scene and again collapsed on the concrete beside the pool outside while busy collecting evidence. This time there was just no saving him. It was over.

     Ayden was overcome with sadness. He tried to get Derek to go with the Paramedics to the hospital to get checked out, but the old man refused to go. In retrospect, Ayden should have pulled rank on the fellow. Another regret to add to his ever-growing tally of regrets. Finishing up with his new crime scene, he called for the Wagon to pick up what ended up being the fifth body at this site. Since Derek wasn’t part of the crime itself, there was no need to lay down any tape.  

What was going on? So much death. Willow Creek seemed like such a lovely place to live and raise children. Ayden finished up his work for the day and hurried home. The only redeeming point of today was the fact it was Nathaniel’s birthday. He quickly made a few calls and got a party underway. For a time, he forgot his troubles. Put his aching heart on a shelf and tried to unwind.  
His children were grown. He had a sweetheart, at least part time. He was one promotion away from that proverbial top rung in his career. All he needed to do was solve this last crime, figure out what killed both the Chief and Officer Huston, which would require he analyze both coffee mugs and the coffee carafe, for good measure. Then get to writing that biography of Erik Cantrell. Did he have enough days left? He had to try. That’s all any Sim can do, or so Erik was fond of saying.
Heading into work again the very next day, at least he was focused. Otherwise he was completely exhausted. There was a person in the Chief’s office who greeted him right away. “You’re Colonel Ayden Cantrell,” she said.
“Yes, I am.” he smiled and shook her hand.
“At the end of your shift, please come see me.” She promptly returned to the Chief’s office and settled in behind Angie’s desk.
Ayden got to work, analyzing evidence, adding clues to the board. At one point he went back to the crime scene feeling as if he missed something. At the end of his shift the temporary Chief called him to her office. “This just came down from the Commissioner’s office,” she said, handing him a large packet. “Congratulations, you’re  the new Chief.”
Ayden was stunned, guessing that all of the hard work he put into his career had finally paid off. He excused himself and went into the restroom. Tearing open the large packet, he found a new uniform inside. He dressed quickly. Shaking the hand of the temporary chief, he left the precinct to share his triumph with his family.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Generation Two — Chapter Eleven: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back …

 Ayden was promoted to Captain just prior to his sixty-fifth birthday, when he officially became an elder.  This troubled him, since from the start of his career, he had climbed the ladder of success rapidly, and had hoped he’d reach the top in his lifetime. Now, he wasn’t so sure. He feared, too, that he would become yet another officer to die right here at the precinct. But, he resigned himself to continue to do the very best job he could. Two more promotions and he would be at the top. If only he had enough time …
    When he got home from work, Nathaniel met him on the front walkway — the same place Ayden’s mother had collapsed and died.  Nathaniel had that look — as if someone had died.  
  “Dad,” Nathaniel said.
  “Nate, what’s up?”
“Not my grades,” the boy said, shrugging and hanging his head. “I need help. They gave me an F across the board. Every single stupid subject. Dad? How is this happening? I was just getting them up and suddenly they’re back in the dumpster? What am I going to do? Graduation is just around the corner —”
“Have you missed assignments?”
Still keeping his head hung, the boy scrubbed at the pavement with the toe of his boot.  “Maybe one or two …”

“We’ll start there. Finish the homework you missed and then get tonight’s done. I’ll help. And you know you can always ask Gramps to help you.”
“Like that’s not weird. He likes to levitate my pages sometimes!”
“He’s just drawing your attention to your problem area. Your Grandfather has his B.A. in Fine Arts.” 
“B.A.? I thought you said he was a Rock Star.”
“Your great-grandfather made your grandfather go to university before he’d allow him to even consider a career in music. Said he needed something to fall back on, should the music ambitions turn into a bust.”
“Wow. A Rock Star with a B.A.? Huh. He’s so playful, I can’t even fathom him focusing on his studies.”
“He graduated summa cum laude.”   
“Summa, what? — What does that mean?”
“The highest accolades. Top in his class across the board. Your Gramps is no dummy. Dead, but not dumb. He’s a musical genius, truth be told. I’ve always been a tad intimidated by him.”
          “I’m intimidated by Jaylen.”
Ayden put a hand on his oldest son’s shoulder, guiding him toward the house. “Don’t be. Your Gramps let me in on a secret once. Your grand uncle Joey—”
“The late renowned surgeon?”
“That would be the one. He was a genius, too, you know, just like Jaylen. But, as your Gramps pointed out, Joe was also a goofball, childish and clumsy.  Your Gramps scored higher in university in the long run. Even over the genius. Your Gramps tailored his studies to include his passions. As he often says, we all have our Gifts. You just need to find yours.”
“I wish I knew what that was …”
“You’ve always had artistic proclivities. Maybe you should start there.”
Back at work, Ayden was gratified to see the slew of new young faces at the precinct. He guessed the latest class of Cadets had graduated. This was a good thing. The force had been steadily thinning since he got here, nearly forty Sim years ago— Had it been that long? Seemed like just yesterday.  

Time flew by and suddenly, or so it seemed, Jaylen’s birthday was upon them. Ayden got off at five in the afternoon, and threw a birthday bash for his youngest son. The boy looked very different from his brother. He was altogether a bigger kid — more like the Cantrell men in stature. Whatever differences his sons had, were long forgotten. The two got along famously, to Ayden’s relief. He had hoped their strife was born out of the growing tension in the household. Turns out, he was right. They were genuine friends. They studied together, chatted, shared their hopes, dreams and insecurities. His family seemed whole again. He had no idea how much discord his own brother brought into his household.   

      Ayden had been very careful all throughout the trial, to never disclose that murder charges had anything to do with their mother’s untimely death. Nor would he allow either of them to attend. Ayden was only there as a witness for the Prosecution. They both loved their uncle Braylon so much. It was a tragedy all the way around. Talking it over with Erik, his father agreed. When the boys were fully grown and better able to handle the news, then they could be told. In the meantime, they were still healing. As their grand-uncle Joey would warn, it’s harmful to open old wounds. To keep them off the ‘net, Ayden just locked their cell phones and the only computer in the house using a very clever app. It allowed basic searches, but kept them from perusing news articles that included anything about the trial. There simply was no newspaper here in Willow Creek to worry about. Ayden also put a parental block on the television, too. 
What he couldn’t control were their friends, or other kids at school. So, he hoped and prayed they weren’t attuned to the news.
In the meantime, Braylon sent letters. Lots of them. At first, his anger was apparent, which switched to grief, which turned into constant pleas for Ayden to launch an appeal for him. Which was closely followed by a constant string of threats, when Ayden gently turned him down. Braylon wanted out of prison, in the worst way. “It’s unconscionable that you leave me in here to ROT. Don’t think for a moment that you’re even close to being safe, big brother. Unlike you, I have friends. Watch your back. Wouldn’t want you to suffer an unfortunate accident, now, would we? And NORMALLY, they don’t investigate accidents. Chew on that.”
Dutifully, Ayden turned over each missive to his Chief for analysis. She kept Ayden’s house on constant surveillance. The Mobwives weren’t merely a start-up group, they had existed for decades — as far back as the days of Prohibition, in fact.
      “More rantings?” the chief said, accepting the packet of letters from Ayden. Rifling through them, reading a few random phrases. “He just doesn’t give up, does he? Just don’t let him get to you, Colonel. We’ve got your back.”
      “Thank you, Chief. I do appreciate it.”
      “Wait, what? You just called me Colonel.”
   “Congratulations you’ve been promoted,” she smiled, slyly, handing over the accompanying certificate and his shiny new shield. “Word from the Commissioner just came in.”
      “Thank you, Ma’am.”
      “Consider it a belated birthday present.”  

      His birthday had occurred just the week before, largely unnoticed. Following closely on his younger son’s, it was merely overlooked, he reasoned. Trying not to be down about it, he went about his work, trying to solve his latest case.  The promotion helped. Getting a nice text from Bobbi just after he got home again, also helped. She congratulated him on his promotion and asked him out to celebrate it at the Oasis Lounge. Ayden was happy to oblige. 

   To her credit, Bobbi had turned out a nice group of their co-workers. There was a musician, and a would-be comedienne working the crowd. He chatted, ate popcorn, had a drink or two. Before too long, his day caught up to him and he thanked Bobbi for the celebration and gave her a nice hug before he headed home.  
      As Ayden left the lounge and headed home, he crossed the road and was very nearly clipped by a sports car that zoomed down the street. This shook him up. Braylon had repeatedly warned of an ‘accident’. Standing in the middle of the crosswalk, Ayden stared numbly in the car’s trajectory. He managed to get the licence plate number, hastily scribbling it in his little black notebook. “Damn,” he uttered to the darkness. Glancing about, the only police he knew that were anywhere near the scene were his co-workers, busily laughing it up and drinking, some of them, into oblivion upstairs in the lounge. He could have been killed outright, left in the street, for who knows how long. Chills ran up his spine.
      Bored, when he got home from work again, Ayden was more than happy to receive a text from one Morgan Fryes. She was a beauty and he liked her. A lot. She invited him to her house to ‘hang out’. Seeing her in the moonlight, he invited her to star gaze with him. Then he flirted, whispered sweet nothings to her, flirted some more, asked if she were single and when she said she was, he decided to go for it. Within moments the two were very flirty. So much so, she consented to woohoo in her closet. Ayden needed that, it had been quite some time. He was hoping for more, still painfully flirty, but Morgan had left the house. He looked around for her, but when he couldn’t find where she had disappeared to, he went home, instead. Once back, he sent her a flirty text. Ayden was looking forward to having a real date with her.  

      Ayden looked forward to chatting with Patrice about his new romantic interest. Lately, she came around fairly often. Most especially after Jade died, but also after the trial and incarceration of their younger brother. In her own way, she was attempting, Ayden thought, to keep their dwindling family together. She called, but, she didn’t come by as expected. When he didn’t hear from her again, Ayden grew tense. He texted her but got no answer. This was a real worry. Patrice was always texting back and forth. You would never find her without her cell, in fact. He tried calling her, several times over the course of a week. Still no Patrice.
      He checked with her work — she was on vacation and not expected at the office until the following Monday.
      This just wasn’t like her, of late.  Ayden stopped by to see her. He knocked and knocked and knocked some more. No answer. Just as he was about to give up, figuring she was either out-of-town on vacation, or out on the town, which is where she spent a majority of her life, something prompted him to grab the key she kept hidden underneath the door mat. He’d told her countless times, that was an unsafe practice, the very first place most would look. But, Patrice was, well … Patrice. There just was no ‘schooling’ her.
      Slipping the key into the lock he opened the door. Immediately, he was smacked in the face with the distinct, unpleasant, odor of death. The place reeked. Taking out his handkerchief, he placed it over his nose and slowly scoured the house looking for the body. She didn’t live alone, so he had no clue who he would find. Up the stairs, remembering to bypass the squeaky third step from the top, he called out her name. “Patrice? Patrice, are you here? Where are you, Patrice. It’s Ayden.”
      No answer. The house was eerily still. At last, he opened the bedroom door. There she was strewn across the bed like a child’s rag doll, abandoned. Her gray hair lifeless, and her blue eyes, now cloudy, staring upward at nothingness. Reaching for his cell, he called the station. 

     “This is Colonel Ayden Cantrell, I’d like to report a dead body,” he said, keeping his voice as even and professional as possible. Looking around, he soon realized her death was likely not from simple old age. Not being a physician or a coroner, he’d certainly seen enough crime scenes to recognize one when he stumbled upon it. Anxious, he paced about, careful not to disturb anything. “This is going to kill my father,” he uttered. 
      Just as quickly he heard a voice that echoed as if speaking through a metal tube, “Can’t kill a ghost.”
      “No,” he shook his head. “No, you can’t. Ah, Patrice, what happened to you?”
      “Look around,” she echoed. “What do you think? You’re the cop.”
      “Who did this to you?” his eyes blurred.
      “Might be better if you didn’t know, little brother. Don’t look so glum. I was old. I had my fun.”
      “Was Braylon behind it?”
      “Let it go, Ayden, I beg you,” with that she faded away.