Director Phleer sat in a small conference room with what she considered to be all the key members of the incident at the bowling alley.
Norton Bellmore sat to her immediate left, oscillating his chair back and forth a few degrees with the balls of his feet while he stared off into space, looking every bit the part of a small child, bored at a parent teacher conference.
To her right, First Sergeant Wolf Thompson glowered at everyone and everything. Meetings made him angry. He understood the confusion merited this meeting, but the whole concept of sitting around and talking about doing work instead of actually getting anything done just irritated him. It was like being back in the Army all over again. Twelve hour days and two hours of actual work done.
Across the small, round table Eluria sat too close to Travis – their sides would have been touching if the chairs didn’t have armrests. She was thankful that the skinny black haired man across the room, seemed to be too disinterested in the proceedings to actually look at her. After watching him laugh and joke at Strike Zone, she didn’t want to meet his eyes. He was bestial.
Travis Stein patted the hand that had snaked under his arm rest to tightly grip his knee, trying to comfort Eluria. He assumed she was intimidated by Bellmore and Thompson. He couldn’t blame her – Travis didn’t think either of them were very nice, especially after seeing them work first hand.
That was it. None stark, emotionless Presidential face looked down upon them from a far wall, no Generals and their aides took up any space in the small, drab room with its ugly brown table. None of Wolf Thompson’s lackeys accompanied him, nor did any of Mr. Bellmore’s team accompany him. John Jones had been similarly uninvited to this particular party. The large meeting would come later. This small one was for the key players to suss out the details of what had gone wrong that night, and how twenty five dead men had walked back in to their jobs when they should be piles of ash in downtown bowling alley.
“Alright, so Dr. Stein – start us off. I don’t think the ride over is pertinent at this point.” Director Phleer said, after clearing her throat. Her throat was raw and scratchy from another night of drinking, not much different than the last four nights.
“I took Eluria through the first few phases of the lift until she was had ten or twelve bowling balls off the ground. She was doing well, but beginning to struggle. I was encouraging her and she was telling me she couldn’t do it. We went back and forth like that until we were both screaming at each other. As it happens, she’s the better screamer. Throwing bowling balls through the walls and out into the city is much more impressive than just yelling, which is all I was capable of.”
“Alright, so we have projectiles leaving through the walls and ceiling of the building and then -” she looked to her left at Mr. Bellmore expectantly.
Oblivious to the meeting, Mr. Bellmore still swiveled lightly in his chair, head tilted back and eyes fixed to the ceiling.
“Oh, yes. My turn is it?”
“Yes, what happened after the walls of the building were breached?”
“Right. My team and I were in our observation post, waiting for things to go south so we could get to work. I saw unknown projectiles fly through all four walls and the roof the bowling alley. I immediately radioed you and asked permission to engage. I was met with silence and I repeated my request with greater urgency. You answered, authorized my mission and my team and I began to do, what it is we do best.”
“I’ll need details Mr. Bellmore. We’ll need to go over every second of this and figure out where things aren’t matching up.”
“Details, right. We were in the adjacent building, one of the others that got burned out in the aftermath, so it didn’t take us long to breach Strike Zone. The neighboring building was only two stories, so say forty five seconds from the rooftop to the ground at most, ten seconds across the street. One full minute after authorization I personally breached the side door of Strike Zone. Myself, and the rest of my squad – I gave you my personnel file if you want names and such – flowed through the door and began shooting. As I recall, I personally shot Doctor Stein, twice in the chest and once in the head, but saw no sign of the girl at that time.”
“Do you recall personally killing anyone else?”
“I mean, I shot six other people that night, but Doctor Stein was the only one who stuck out to me. The rest of them were just security personnel, Thompson’s guys – they were all dressed about the same. I shot two striped polo’s, one plain blue, one pastel blue and one pastel yellow, if that helps?” His tone became agitated at the prospect of remembering the people he’d shot in detail. Did that bitch remember every fucking piece of paper she signed in a day, or does all paper look white and rectangular?
“Alright, so six others with Doctor Stein being the only memorable encounter for you personally. Then what happened?”
“After the initial shooting, we did a quick clear of the building looking for the girl. When we didn’t see any sign of her, I sent two men outside to canvas the surrounding area and the rest of us began to process the bodies to hinder identification. I had one man off to the side photographing the process as we went.”
“And do you have those photos still?” Director Phleer queried?
Mr. Bellmore silently slid a manilla folder over to her. If she wanted to look at a row of corpses all lined up then that was fine with him. He actually kind of looked forward to it. He knew she couldn’t stomach any of his work, that he was just a convenient tool for her that she didn’t like dealing with the realities of. He was really hoping she’d lose her lunch in front of everyone else.He’d never liked her and knew she didn’t actually respect him, she was just afraid of him and he wanted to see her humiliated.
As Director Phleer thumbed through the stack of photographs – a large stack, one head shot of each person, one full body shot, one close up for eye removal, one shot before and after of the open mouth, one shot of each hand before and after as well as final photos before the incendiary grenades were activated, Bellmore prided himself on being thorough – he watched her face and was disappointed by what he saw, or more accurately what he didn’t, there.
Wordlessly, she slid the folder to her right.
“This some kind of fucking joke?” Thompson snarled as he flung the folder to Stein.
He flipped through the stack of photos before quickly reaching the same conclusion as everyone else at the table.
“There’s nothing here? These are photos of the empty bowling alley.”
“Thank you for corroborating that for me, gentleman.” Phleer said over Bellmore’s protests. “One last thing, before we all go, could you take a look at the photos, Eluria? Maybe, with your… abilities, you might see something different.”
Eluria hesitantly accepted the folder from Travis and was pleasantly surprised to find it was as they had said, empty photos of an empty bowling alley. Definitely the same one, sometime at night for sure, if not the night, but no bodies alive or otherwise were present in any of the photos.
“Empty, Director. I assume I’m seeing the same photos you are, which are apparently very different from the photos he’s seeing.” She motioned to Mr. Bellmore. Eluria still wouldn’t meet his eyes, and didn’t want to say his name. Though he was doing well to control himself, she could feel him seething with hateful rage, like an exploded fire hydrant. It was making her head ache and she didn’t see how everyone else could sit here unaffected by it, even without powers.
“Alright, that will be all for now. If you could stay and have a word with me, Mr. Bellmore, everyone else is dismissed until further notice. We’ll reconvene when I’ve got this sorted out.”
Travis led the small group as they paraded out of the room silently, happy to be done with this business, for now, leaving Bellmore and Phleer – a match made in hell if Travis had ever seen one – alone with each other.
Back in the small conference room, Director Phleer did her best to handle the delicate situation she found herself in. She genuinely hoped her most trusted killer wasn’t having some sort of psychotic break – more out of concern for her own wellbeing than any for his.
“Alright, first thing we’re going to do -”
“I fucking killed those men. I cut their goddamn fingers off, scooped their eyes out and yanked their teeth out with pliers goddamnit!” Bellmore cut her off.
“I understand. You’ve never let me down before, I’ve never questioned your competency, or trustworthiness and I wouldn’t now if I hadn’t just spoken to two men you told me were dead. So, the first thing I’d like to do is get you evaluated by our medical staff – a full panel. I doubt they’ll turn anything up, I’m sure this is more complicated than that, but I’d like to be certain before we move forward. Then I’d like to speak to each member of your team, individually and alone to corroborate your version of events. I’m sure minor details are just slightly different, but the general timeline and activity should match up. Furthermore, I’m very curious as to how far this reaches and if there’s anyone who was present that saw things different than how you did.”
“Okay.” Bellmore deflated. In one large exhale, all the anger left him, his shoulders slumped and he lost a crucial piece of himself that helped him cut his imposing figure. For now, he was just a regular guy.
Author’s Note: There we are, finally something new. It’s been a while. Life is still crazy. I’m officially no longer sick, which is fucking fantastic because the whole “I’m dying of lung cancer, don’t mind me” cough I had going on was getting old.
Unfortunately, I’m still swamped at work. A coworker dropped a two thousand pound coil onto his foot a few weeks ago. Luckily for him, our metatarsal shoes kept all his bones from getting fucking pulverized, but he does have some other unspecified damage and his foot is in a boot for a while, so I’ve been covering three of his shifts a week until he’s back and it’s driving me up the fucking wall. He works second shift, which is probably the worst shift for being a normal human.
I think I’m going to move to a once a week update schedule, at least for the time being, as twice a week is clearly beyond me at this point. My bad, everyone.
Also, I’m officially listed on Web Fiction Guide, so if you like the story so far and want to support it, it’d be amazing if you registered and gave it a review over there. Now that the listing is official, I intend to move it over to WordPress.Org some point in the coming weeks and hopefully get some “area beautification” done on the site itself.
I also just realized I need to work on some sort of cast of characters page as I was having to go back and re find names to reference while writing this.
As always, I’m all ears on anything you’ve got to say about all this. What’s good, what’s bad, what’s missing, what you want to see more or less of.