The Morning After
Tina dressed by candlelight and then went outside to look at the man who had been hit by lightning. His body, still on fire, was being consumed; a scent of burning flesh mixed with plastic filled the air. The burning tree cast a strange, flickering orange glow over the yard, further enhancing the bizarre nature of the scene. He was obviously dead: his head and shoulders had been vaporized by the strike. The barrel of the rifle the man had been carrying was fused at the end. The path the lighting took to the ground was outlined by a vivid red line of seared clothing along the man’s side. His torso, relatively unscathed, was covered by a military vest festooned with various tools and compartments.
Tina returned to the house to call the sheriff. The phone was dead. She became terrified at the thought that there might be other people in the woods around her and reluctantly got the keys to her car. Tina’s driver’s license was restricted to daylight hours but she felt that she had to leave the farm. As she began to drive away, she heard a ‘whoomp.’ When she turned to look, she saw that the body of the man had been engulfed in a fireball. She drove away as fast as she dared.
Sean tried to console Mary as best he could. He was unsure what she meant by her remark but, after a few minutes, Mary had regained her composure enough to tell Sean about her ‘coyote vision’ in the scrub land behind the motel.
“The Brotherhood is beginning to catch up to us. I’m afraid that the assassin was looking for you and me,” said Mary, “We should phone Tina and warn her.”
“I’ll give her a call. If The Brotherhood is behind this, they probably won’t stop with one attack,” said Sean. When he phoned his aunt, the call was answered by a recorded message stating: “Service to this area is not possible at this time. Please try again later.”
“The storm must have knocked out the phone lines.’ said Sean, “We can try again in the morning.”
“I’m exhausted,” said Mary, “It’s hard work being Thor.”
“Well, now I’m wide awake,” said Sean, “I think I’ll take a warm bath and have a cup of tea.”
When Sean was finished with his bath he crawled back into bed and spooned next to Mary. Her hair held the faint odor of ozone.
The Leader of The Brotherhood checked his email for the tenth time in an hour. His operative was supposed to confirm the completion of his mission by 0300. It was already near dawn in Virgina. In a few hours, he would have to face the other members. It was becoming apparent that the mission, his mission, had failed. Roger Ramsen had failed before him. The Brotherhood’s members had been skeptical of that plan. Now, with the failure of this one, there would be little to stop them from taking a vote of confidence. The position of The Leader had always been held by a Regelind: Senior was the first, junior the second, and, now, John Regelind III.
“With no sons to take on the mantle, the line would be soon over anyway,” he mused. “Perhaps it is better this way, I’ve lost my touch.”
In Decorah, Tina had finally been able to find the sheriff and persuade him to come out to the farm. The sun was just beginning to rise by the time the sheriff and Tina arrived. The tree was still smoldering, but the body was almost completely destroyed. Only the weapons and other metal items remained in a recognizable form. The sheriff looked closely at the charred remains and then radioed his dispatcher, telling her to call the FBI. As he was talking, Tina heard the telephone in the kitchen ringing.
Sean had woken early, the sky was becoming lighter but it would be nearly an hour before the sun came up. Mary was still asleep. He went out to the balcony and called Tina. The phone rang several times before Tina picked up.
“Tina, are you alright?” said Sean, “Mary was concerned about your safety; she had a vision of the farm last night.”
“A man was hit by lightning, by the old tree. He had guns. The sheriff is here now, he’s going to have the FBI look at what’s left of him.”
“O.K. Tina, that jibes with what Mary experienced last night,” said Sean. “Don’t tell the sheriff anything about The Brotherhood or Mary’s visits with Emily. We’re in Billings, Montana and should be back in Seattle by nightfall. Is there someplace you can stay?”
“I’ll see if Edwin can put me up. I might be able to get into the assisted living facility if there is an opening… ” said Tina, as the sheriff walked into the kitchen, “… thanks for calling, Sean, I’ll try to call you tomorrow in Seattle.”
“Who was on the phone?” asked the sheriff.
“That was my nephew, Sean,” said Tina, “He’s on his way back to Seattle with his new bride. They got married here last week. He called to let me know where they were.”
“He married that black woman, the one who’d been in the news?”
“Mary Robinson. Yes, I guess they’re both a little famous, from that business in Iceland a while ago. She’s a sweet girl.”
“I remember the story. She’s his boss, isn’t she?” said the sheriff.
“Was his boss. She sold her business.” said Tina. “Although she still might be, in some ways. They’re good kids.”
“I’ve put in a call to the FBI,” said the sheriff, “That man wasn’t just an unlucky prowler. His weapons were Russian military issue. You don’t have any enemies from Russia?”
“God! No,” said Tina.
“Do you have someplace you could stay for a few days? I’m sorry but you will have to leave. This area will be under investigation for a while.”
“Yes, I know someone,” said Tina. “Let me get some clothes and things.”
The sheriff’s radio crackled.
“That’s the FBI,” he said, “Go get your things, I’ll take this call in the car.”