Dave’s hard whispered words startled me awake. The conversation was being muffled by the pounding of my pulse against the inside of my skull. I strained my ears to listen. The first eavesdropped word I heard was prison.
It was self-defense. I wanted to scream it at the top of my lungs so everyone would understand, but no sound would come from my mouth. People of authority were discussing the timeline of events at the restaurant. My mind was awake, but I couldn’t make my body move.
Where is Matthew? What happened to Dave’s arm, did he need stitches? The older couple across from us did they make it out of the restaurant unharmed? Questions raced through my mind falling over one another until it became a jumbled mess.
I wish my memory was better. Some days it’s as if I have Alzheimer’s. It's a lingering gift from a particularly awful car accident I was in years ago. I've been told I was fortunate to have survived the wreck. Being bounced around like a ball in a box is why I can’t recall my life before the accident. At least that’s the prevailing theory.
None of the specialists I saw after the accident could figure out why I had no recollection of my past. My brain supposedly looked healthy. Retrograde amnesia is what they all finally decided on. My memory should have returned within a few years if the diagnosis was correct. It hasn’t.
The few flickers of information I did retain are only bits and pieces of disjointed images that don’t make sense. I remember playing with my Barbie dolls in a bathtub half filled with ice cubes. My mother explained that I had pneumonia several times as a child and did need the ice bath to bring my temperature down on more than one occasion. I can still smell the sterile room and the cold, metal tub. It's only a few seconds of information, but it's my oldest memory.
I recall one Christmas breaking my Grandmother’s glass top coffee table with my uncle’s new golf club. The broken glass flew out in all directions. My crystal mug of hot, butterscotch chocolate bounced off the light beige carpet, backlit by the twinkling lights on the tinsel draped tree. It was a beautiful sight though I’m sure no one but me thought so at the time.
These memories are like a photograph I memorized. I know the details of the one frame of information, but nothing more. Other memories are like a suggestion. Maybe I remember something tiny about a place or smell. It's like a movie I saw while I was half-asleep, the basics of the plot are there, but the details are not.
I have a younger sister Lila. I have no memory of us as children. There are a few boxes of pictures left that prove she didn’t just show up out of the blue one day. Sadly none of my memories include her. I don't have a clue as to why.
I was married and divorced in my early twenties. Honestly, I don’t remember anything about my first husband. I’ve seen the candlelit wedding pictures. It all looked lovely, but I can’t recall one moment of time with him. He died several years after our divorce. He was in some foreign country, in combat, according to the newspaper article my mother showed me. She kept crap like that. Somehow being printed in the newspaper made the story worthy of keepsake status.
This stranger and I moved to a military base in Germany, and that’s where my car accident happened. We divorced weeks before I drove my car over a cliff and landed in a pile of rock and tree branches. I returned to my family home in California once I was well enough to travel. The reports I saw claimed it was a mechanical failure, but I’m sure it was the nut behind the wheel. I have always had a led foot and poor self-control. Putting me in a sports car was a bad idea.
Recovery was terrible. I don't recall much of my first few weeks home because of the medication I was given, but that is how I met Dave. He broke his arm on a construction site, and our doctors shared the same office. In hindsight, my accident wasn’t entirely tragic. Fate gave me an even trade.
My real memories, the ones I can recall at will, start when I met David. We have seventeen solid years together that I can remember vividly. I can conjure the sound of his voice, the warm feel of his touch, and the smell of his skin in my dreams.
I took a deep breath and forced my dry, swollen mouth to react.
“Dave, where are we?”
“Caly can you hear me?” Dave questioned placing his heavy hand on my bruised knee.
“Matt, where’s Matty?” I labored to form the words and pronounce them with any degree of clarity.
“Everything is fine. Matt is fine. Don’t talk baby.” Dave kissed my forehead. I tried to move my arm to touch him, but it was useless. My hand was a huge marshmallow shoved the end of a stick. “They gave you morphine sweetheart. Try not to move. We are at North View; the doctor should be back anytime now. The bullet only grazed your stomach, and the glass shard didn’t hit any organs. It looks much worse than it is. We got lucky.”
A nurse fluttered around my bedside adding something to my IV. I was only aware of her for a moment before I drifted back into a deep morphine slumber.
“This should let her rest quietly. You should go get yourself some coffee and a bite to eat while she sleeps.”
“I’m fine, but thank you. I’d like to wait here if that's all right.” Dave's voice trailed off into the distance. I tried to hold on to the feeling of his warm hand on mine, but it slipped from me.
It felt like only a blink of an eye, but I woke groggy, stiff and disoriented to an altogether different situation. I could hear several male voices arguing. One man was loud and commanding. His voice was vaguely familiar like I had heard it on a late night commercial. I wanted out of the jumbled noise. My pulse began to race. The heart monitor announced my fear to the room.
“She’s awake. Good, let’s get moving.” The forceful sounding man commanded to the room.
A bright light flashed in front of my face. I tried to swat it, but all the needles that were stuck in my hands pulled at my skin. I brought my arms down to the bed with a whimper.
“It’s okay let me get those for ya,” A deep male voice offered. I was startled. I hadn’t noticed him next to me. His warm hands firmly grabbed my arm, and he removed the first IV.
A flimsy cup of shaved ice chips appeared in front of me. I took a mouthful of cold slush and rolled it around the inside of my cheeks letting it melt slowly. My mouth ached. My whole body ached and whatever they gave me for the pain was wearing off.
“It will stop hurting here in just a moment; I promise.” His calm tone and the momentary quiet allowed me to relax.
I let my heavy eyelids close. The loud ripping noise of a medical tape dispenser startled me. My eyes flew open, and I grabbed the soft-spoken man by the wrist. He was clean-cut, young and terrified. The room became dead silent.
“It is okay. All good. Let’s get this done.” I could hear the men around him sigh in relief as they all took a step backward.
“Officer the paperwork and medical files about this incident are now the property of the United States government. All evidence you have in your possession leaves with me. This is not a request. This is a directive from the Department of Homeland Security.” The harsh sounding man was loud, smug, and incredibly annoying.
Paperwork was rustling, and bodies were shuffling against the walls of the small room. You could feel the tension. The air was so thick I found it hard to take a breath. Panic was setting in, and I began to sweat like I was in a hotel sauna.
“Homeland Security? No, you don’t understand Colonel this is a police matter, and there are procedures that I am bound by civilian law to follow. I won’t release her to you. She is needed for questioning.” The officer took the paper from the Colonel and examined it closely.
“You’re the one that doesn’t understand. We are leaving in five minutes, and I’m taking my target with me.” The harsh man chuckled and scoffed at the police officer. It got so quiet you could hear air moving through the ductwork in the ceiling.
“Now wait a minute she is my wife. This was self-defense, and she isn’t some lowly criminal. I don’t know who you people think you are, but none of you aren’t taking her anywhere. We have rights damn it.”
“This can't be happening? What is this shit? Who are these people?” I grabbed David's hand and tried to pull him to me.
“These men claim to have the right to take you with them. They claim to be from our government. What the hell are they talking about Calynn?”
“I don't know? There's been a mistake. I’ve never been involved with the government. Get them my driver’s license. Show them my press pass. They've me confused with somebody else.” I tried to get up but lost my balance and plopped back on the narrow hospital bed.
A large figure bent down to my ear. His shape blocked out the light and filled my breathing space with the smell of cologne, mint gum and a hint of whiskey spice. “Cal I am taking you with me. We can take better care of you on base. You killed three men, out in public for fuck sake, stay here, and the next place you’re going is a prison infirmary. Come with me. I’ll bring all your mess with us.”
“Who are you? You smell like whiskey. Jesus, stop breathing on me. It was self-defense. They were going to kill us.” The forceful sounding Colonel stood over me shaking his head back and forth. I swear I saw him start to laugh.
“Cal we’re leaving. Enough of this crap. The car is ready. On your feet girl, let’s go.”
“Are you insane? I don't know who you think I am but you have the wrong person."
"Subject born Caylnn Isa Lopez on October 15, Catholic, blood type AB positive, no known allergies. I have the right woman."
"Well, I don’t care what you know or where you’re from. I’m not going anywhere. I can barely move. My clothes are all ripped.” I pointed helplessly at the pile of shredded black and purple fabric on the floor. “I can’t go anywhere like this.” Before I could take, my next breath hands were on me.
My admitting bracelet was cut off. The sound of the scissors slicing through the thick plastic made the hair on my arms stand up. Blankets were tossed aside, and the cold air hit me. The hospital gown was not providing me with privacy. My skin was exposed and grabbing at the blankets to cover myself was a useless effort that made the needle holes in my skin weep.
“Mr. Mcnair I’m Nick Sir, the specialist assigned to you. I can assure you our government is going to make every effort to make this transition as smooth as possible. I will be staying behind to get you and your son settled.” Dave stood motionless and stared at the young man in front of him with a blank look of total disbelief.
I could hear David arguing with the young man. He was trying to get him to look at my driver’s license and understand that they had the wrong person. Dave’s voice was frantic and sounded further and further away as they methodically moved him to the back of the room.
Hands continued dressing me. It was like being in the middle of a beehive; each drone with his own purpose. Each man with his part of the task to complete. I felt a tank top go over my head and slide down my arms. I felt the warmth of the hooded coat. Long soft pants slid over my bruised legs. Socks and a pair of lace-up shoes came next. The hood covered my head and tugged at the dried blotches of blood on the back of my neck.
“I killed those men after the tall one stabbed my husband and beat the hell out of me. I didn’t do anything wrong. That skinny bastard was going to cut off my fucking finger. Get your hands off me damn it! Should I have let them kill me, Richard?” I could hear the collective gasp in the room it echoed my own. “You touched me. Why do I know your name?” I growled the question at my would-be kidnapper. “Is your name Richard?” I was sure I had heard the words Colonel and Sir thrown around, but no first names were used. “What the hell have you people done to me?” The man in charge stood there and stared at me. He wasn’t laughing now.
My short, pathetic protest was all I had to give, and it left me completely spent. They were walking me out of the room, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I was in the middle of a clean-shaven, cologne cloud, and the single-minded force was heading for the exit.
“What did you do for these people Calynn?” Dave yelled from the hallway.
“I’m sorry Sir, but the nature of Ms. Calynn’s past service to our government is classified.” Nick moved in between David and the hive.
“Her name is Mrs. Mcnair. She is my wife. I demand an explanation. You can’t take her.” I could hear Dave’s thick work shirt brushing against the wall as he fought to follow me. The sound of bodies thudding against one another, restraining and stopping, the scuffing of shoes on the hard polished floor.
The Colonels determined steps were in perfect unison with the men around him creating a rhythmic lullaby as they moved me closer to the waiting car. The canopy of heads blocked most of the light coming from the ceiling.
As we moved through the hallways, we walked past several of the hospital staff. Not one person tried to help me; they watched as I was removed out the back door like a dirty secret.
We reached a set of butterscotch colored double doors. The doors flew open with a loud metal clank. The hard sound startled me awake, and I let out a muffled scream.
“I can’t get in the car. You’re as good as dead once you get in their car!”
“Damn it, woman, you’re not being kidnapped. You are coming with me, Cal. You can’t stay here, and we need to leave right now.”
“No, I can’t leave my son and my husband. I have to go back to work. The mortgage is due by Friday. School starts again in four weeks. I have a load of towels to put in the dryer. I have shit to do God damn it!” My fingers were cold and weak, but I grabbed the center support of the double doorway and held on with all I had left.
The deep cut on my hand began dripping blood. I watched the droplets hit the dusty floor and pool in the screw holes of the metal threshold below me. I tried to look back down the hallway to find David, but I couldn’t see past the group of men that stood between us. The pain from my hand was the only thing I trusted to be completely real. I was awake, I was alive, and people I have never seen before were taking me away against my will. This was not a hallucination. This was not one of my dreams.
“Cal you have to come with me. You are dangerous like this. Your son and your husband, you could hurt them without even knowing you’re doing it. We are leaving a man behind to take care of your affairs. I give you my word everything will be taken care of.” The smug man’s word meant nothing to me, but I let my fingers go limp. He pulled me away from the door and steered me towards the SUV parked in the alleyway.
“Why am I dangerous?” I could hear David arguing with the men who were keeping him from reaching me. “You can’t hurt my husband.” I grabbed the man’s jacket collar in both hands and shook him with all I had left. “Promise me you won’t hurt him.” I pointed to David as I looked up at my captor. “Answer me Goddamn it!”
“Hot damn there she is. I knew you were hiding in there somewhere. I promise you that I won’t hurt him. I can’t promise that you won’t if we don't leave right now. Calm down Cal it will be easier for him that way.”
The Colonel stared at my face as if he was looking for some hidden message. There wasn’t a hint of deception in his face. He believed what he was telling me.
“Get the footage from this camera here. See if that camera at the south end of the alley is operational.” The colonel was barking orders all the way to the car. The sound of men running on the gravel alleyway woke me. I was passing out, and Richard was the only one left holding me up. The canopy of heads disbursed, and I was able to look back at David.
“I will figure this out. I love you. Tell Matt I love him.” It was all I could do to yell. My side felt ripped, and my throat was falling apart, but I yelled anyway.
“What am I supposed to do? I don’t even know where they are taking you.” Two uniformed men corralled Dave at the back of the building as the Colonel moved me closer to the car.
“I will figure this out. It will all be okay.” I was lying of course. I was terrified. I had no idea who this man with the death grip on my arm was or what he was planning to do with me.
Nick was left holding Dave back. “Mr. Mcnair, your wife is going to get much better care with us. It’s too dangerous to allow her to remain here. I’ve seen the surveillance footage from the steakhouse. You witnessed it firsthand. Can you honestly tell me that was normal behavior for your wife? That woman screaming by the car. Do you even recognize her?”
“No, but she was pushed. She was pushed. Everyone has a point where they will do anything to protect…”
“I’ve seen protection, David. May I call you David?”
“That was training. That was muscle memory. That was bloodlust. She can’t be here. Better we take her than the police. Better we take her while we still can.”
Strong hands lifted me into the back seat of the waiting car and nudged to the middle seat. After Richard had got in, I leaned past him to look out the window. Dave slid down the door. He was sitting on the concrete ramp that led to the dumpsters holding his head in his hands. Nick was by his side. As we drove off, I saw Dave take Nick's hand and rise to his feet.
“Okay let’s make time. We are behind schedule,” Richard ordered.
“You’re going to dump me in a hole someplace aren’t you?”
“No Cal. If I were here to kill you. You would have never seen me coming. It would have been quick and painless. I would at the very least make sure you didn’t suffer.”
“Why are you doing this to me. I didn’t do anything wrong. It was self-defense.”
The man seated behind me was too quiet and purposeful in his movements. I wanted to turn around and look at him, but all I could see was Richard.
“The truth isn’t important. The facts of the evening aren’t important; there are greater concerns here.” Richards’s half cloaked riddle only upset me more.
I covered my face with my bandaged hands and tried to disappear. The man seated behind me shifted his weight, and I heard the sound of a heavy-duty zipper open.
“What are you doing?” Richards grip on me tightened, and I felt the pinch of a needle poke my left butt cheek. I looked up into the face of the man who held me tightly and managed to one last word as the stinging liquid spread silencing my mind completely. “Bastard”
“Yeah, today I'll agree with you sunshine.”
“Sir we need to keep her upright, and we should immobilize her neck and get a fresh wrap on that hand.”
“She will be fine Corporal; she’s not nearly as fragile as she looks. Notify medical we are in route. Scan the medical file we retrieved and send it as soon as you have a secure connection. Has Doctor Gerald made it to the compound yet?”
“Not yet Sir. The Admiral was in Boston when the retrieval contingency began. I’m told he’s on his way to the base. His ETA puts him on location before us.”
“Wonderful.” Richard groaned sarcastically as leaned back against the seat. He carefully cradled Calynn’s limp body against his before tightening the seatbelt around her.
“Sir, may I begin her initial assessment?”
“Knock yourself out. I think we are safe for the moment. I don’t feel anything funny. I don’t think she’s siphoning.”
Calynn’s body was scanned for a tracking device. The one she was equipped with decades prior was located. A ceramic screw was placed in her hip bone along with an appropriate medical notation attributing it to her car accident; it still worked perfectly.
“Sir, one question, the file indicates she manipulates energy. Is this ability negated when the subject is unconscious?”
“Negative. She is most dangerous when not in full control of her ability.”
“Sir, how do you know we are safe from the effects?”
“Since we aren’t all dead or dying. I think we will be fine. She’s not active, but I have no idea how long that will last.”
It would be a half hour drive to the airstrip where a helicopter was waiting, and another hour to the base outside of Michigan. The locals know the Lake Huron hilltop compound as simply The Colony. It once housed recluse artists in perfect bohemian seclusion. Now it’s the site of a multi-divisional facility. The small town below is home to the people who work there.
This town isn’t on any map. The residents get mail at post office boxes in a nearby township, and there is diligent care taken to hide the occupants from outsiders. The Colony is safe, secluded, and practically invisible. This seclusion is partly due to the height of the mountain top it’s located on and partially due to the long tradition of absolute privacy for the artists who are rumored to call it home.
Richard could picture how each part of the journey would execute; the entire plan complete in his mind he allowed himself to relax. He checked the time on the front console of the vehicle, nodded to the driver in the rearview mirror, leaned back against the seat, and closed his eyes. There were twenty-eight minutes left to rest, and for the moment everything was going according to plan.