Paradigms Lost – Chapter 15

Chapter 15: Enter Freely and Of Your Own Will

“Ten o’clock,” Carmichael said. “Jeez, will you look at that stuff come down!”

Even as worried as I was, I had to admit it was an impressive storm. Gusts of gale-force winds battered the house, blue-white lightning shattered the night, torrents of rain came down so heavily that they obscured our sight of the front gate, even with all the lights of the estate on. An occasional rattling spatter showed that there was some hail as well.

“Man, did the weatherman ever screw up this one. Forecast said clear and calm all night. Boy, that put the crimp in some party plans, I can tell you.” Carmichael picked up the phone and dialed. “Yo, Morgan, put Verne on the line.” He listened and his brows came together. “What do you mean, ‘not available at the moment’? Listen, you just tell him he’s got two goddamn hours… Yeah, well, he damn well better be ‘planning to discuss it with me momentarily.'” He slammed the phone down. “I dunno, bud, maybe Domingo doesn’t give a crap about you.”

I glanced outside. Could it be…? “I wouldn’t bet on that if I were you.”

He looked out speculatively. “He couldn’t be that dumb, could he?” I heard him mutter. Then he pushed a button on his desk — looked like one of several, probably security — and said “Hey, Jay, look, I know it’s a dog’s night out, but pass the word to the boys — Domingo and his gang might try something on us tonight. Yeah, yeah, I know, they’d be morons to try, especially in this crap, but people do dumb things sometimes.”

He leaned back. “If he does try, I’ll make sure he gets to see you shot, you do know that, right?”

I looked back at him. A faint hope was rising, along with the shriek of the suddenly redoubled wind. “Yeah, I guess you will.”

The intercom buzzed. “Mr. Carmichael, Jimmy and Double-T don’t answer.”

His relaxed demeanor vanished. “What? Which post were they on?”

“Number one — the private road entrance.”

“The line down?”

“No sir, it’s ringing, they just aren’t answering.”

He glared at me, then flicked his gaze to the window, as did I. So we were both watching when it happened.

The huge gates were barely visible, distorted shapes through the wind-lashed storm; but even with that, there was no way to miss it when the twin iron barriers suddenly blew inward, torn from their hinges by some immense force.

“What the hell –” Carmichael stared.

Slowly, emerging from the howling maelstrom, a single human figure became visible. Dressed in black, some kind of cloak or cape streaming from its shoulders, it walked forward through the storm, seeming almost untouched by the tempest. I felt a chill of awe start down my spine, gooseflesh sprang out across my arms.

Battling their way through the gale, six men half-ran, half-staggered up to defensive positions. Stroboscopic flashes of light, accompanied by faint rattling noises, showed they were trying to cut the intruder down with a hail of bullets. Even in that storm, there was no way that six men with fully automatic weaponry could possibly miss their target, especially when it continued walking towards them, unhurried, no attempts to dodge or shield itself, just a measured pace towards the mansion’s front doors.

The figure twitched as gunfire hit, slowed its pace for a moment, was staggered backwards as all six concentrated their fire, a hail of bullets that could have stopped a bull elephant in its tracks. But the figure didn’t go down. I heard an incredulous curse from Carmichael.

The figure raised one arm, and the three men on that side were suddenly slapped aside, sent spinning through the air as though hit by a runaway train. The other arm lifted, the other three men flew away like rag dolls. The intruder came forward, into the light at the stairway that led up to the front door, and now there was no mistaking it.

Verne Domingo had come calling.

He glanced up, seemed to see us, even though the sheeting rain and flashing lightning should have made that impossible. The winds curled down, tore one of the trees up by the roots, and the massive bole smashed into the picture window, showering both of us with fragments of glass.

I felt Carmichael’s immense arm wrap around me and a gun press into my temple. Verne came into view, walking slowly up the tree that now formed a ramp to our room. He stopped just outside of the window. “Put the gun down, Carmichael,” he said, softly.

“You… whatever the hell you’re doing, you just cut it out, or you can scrape up Wood’s brains with a spatula!” Carmichael shouted.

I wondered why the heck Verne wasn’t doing something more. Then it clicked for me. “Come on inside, Verne,” I said. “We were just talking about you.”

With my invitation, I saw a deadly cold smile cross his face, one that showed sharper, whiter teeth than I’d seen before. “Why, thank you, Jason. I do believe I shall.”

The two thugs charged Verne; with a single backhanded blow he sent both of them tumbling across the floor, fetching up unconscious against the back wall.

Carmichael’s hand spasmed on the gun.

Nothing happened. I felt, rather than saw, him straining to pull a trigger that had become as immovable as a mountain. Verne continued towards me. “Put my friend down now, Carmichael,” he said, in that same dangerously soft tone.

Carmichael, completely unnerved, tried to break my neck. But he found that his arms wouldn’t cooperate. I squirmed, managed to extricate myself from his frozen grip, and backed away.

Now Verne allowed Carmichael to move. Deprived of me for a hostage, the huge man grabbed up the solid mahogany chair and swung it with all his might.

Made of wood, the chair was one of the few weapons he could’ve chosen that might have been able to hurt Verne. But to make it work, he also had to hit the ancient vampire, and Verne was quite aware of what he was doing.

One of the aristocratic hands came up, caught the chair and stopped it as easily as if it had been a pillow swung by a child, and the other whipped out and grasped Carmichael by the neck, lifting him from the ground with utterly negligible effort.

“You utter fool. Were you not warned to leave me and mine alone? I would have ignored you, Carmichael. I would have allowed you to live out your squalid little life without interference, if only you had the sense to let go. Now what shall I do? If I release you, doubtless you shall try something even more foolish, will you not?”

Purple in the face, Carmichael struggled with that grip, finding it as immovable as though cast in iron. He shook his head desperately.

“Oh? And should I trust you? The world would be better off with you dead. Certainly for daring to strike in such a cowardly fashion I should have you killed.”

“No, Verne.”

He looked at me. “You would have me spare him?”

“Sure. Killing him will force the cops to investigate. You haven’t killed anyone yet, have you?”

He shook his head. “No. Battered, unconscious, and so on, but none of his people are dead, as of now.”

“Then leave it. I think he’s got the point. It’s not like he’d be believed if he told this one, and he can’t afford the cops to come in anyway; even if they tied something to you, they’d also get stuff on him.”

Verne gave an elaborate shrug, done as smoothly as though he was not actually holding three hundred pounds of drug lord in one hand. “As you will, then. I, also, prefer not to kill, even such scum as this.” He let Carmichael drop. “But remember this well, Carmichael. I never wish to hear your name again. I do not ever want to know you exist again. If you, or anyone in your control or working for you in any way, interferes with my life or that of my friends again, I shall kill you… in such a manner that you will wish that you had killed yourself first. Believe me. I shall not warn you a third time. This is your final chance.”

Carmichael was ashen. “I gotcha. I won’t. You won’t ever hear from me again, Domingo, I promise.”

“Good.” Verne turned to me. “My apologies, Jason. It never even occurred to me that you might be in danger. Let me get you home.”

Outside, the storm was already fading away, as though it had never been.