17. Like a Thief in the Night

I burst into awakening,  breaking through the water’s surface and gulped in a huge breath of air. In a state of shock and confusion, I looked around to assess my situation. I was in an indoor swimming pool. I tread the water silently, trying to figure out how he ended up there. I looked up toward the glass ceiling that rose high above the pool. The glass had been shattered and a gaping hole was left in it. A clear night sky could be seen above with surrounding skyscrapers stretching into it and a maglev line running across it. To my surprise, I was wearing the Knight Suit, the trench coat over it and the mask stuffed down my collar. Why I was wearing the suit confounded me, but I suspected it had something to me with me being there in the first place. The place seemed closed for the night so luckily no one was around. Either way, I stole out of there as fast as a could.

I was in some part of the city, with no clue of how I got there. The first thing that came to my head was Id; I was here because of him. I needed to figure out what happened, but first I would have to find my way home. I buttoned up the jacket all the way so the suit underneath couldn’t be seen, and I pulled the hood over my head, leaving the mask off. I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. Remembering the few things I took from Id, I managed to shift into phantom state to sneak onto a subway, and navigated my way home from there. Standing on the platform, wearing a soaked, ankle length trench coat and peculiar looking boots, I imagined I looked like some goth who just left a rave.

Eventually, I made it back to my basement apartment. I tore off the coat and suit and collapsed onto the bed, trying to wrap my head around what I just experienced. Then as if on command, drip by drip the memories of the previous night came back.

It was another dream. And I remembered it in full detail. My personality known as Id had been on the move again last night, still trying to gain more knowledge on the Estate and their operations. Two weeks had passed since Jeremy Powel was locked up and it didn’t look like he’d be paying his way out any time soon. It was a clear night that evening and a golden moon appeared freakishly large in the indigo sky; one could even discern a few stars through the thick haze. But from Id’s city depth he could see nothing. In the distant air he could hear the usual police sirens, even their radios, while he perched on an old rusty street lamp, seemingly invisible to its light. It was quiet in those dank streets that night on the Floor, then again it was a Tuesday. Either way, if you weren’t carrying a gun or part of a gang, you’d better stay where there was light.

Over head ran a lone maglev line running north. He sat their waiting for the train to arrive. The station was actually just down the block, but he preferred to catch the train while it was moving, instead of waiting on top of it for it to leave. As usual the train was right on time, and as it hummed out of the station and gained speed, the ghostly figure vaulted and rendezvoused on its roof.

As the maglev carried him through the streets, he leapt off and on various other lines as he interchanged trains that would take him to his desired area. He did this seamlessly and fluidly as two maglevs passed by and over each other. He did this over and over again, and rode some of them out as he gradually ascended to higher altitudes. Within minutes he was a hundred stories above the Floor, and he found that it was easier to breath and make out the stars. You will guide me this night, he thought as he looked up at them. The magnetic train made one last turn and a stop before crossing Firefly River. He caught a brief scent of salt in the air as he looked down at the calm, black water below, and soon the maglev began to decelerate as it approached its station in East Lucicrescens. Disembarking the train, he hopped over a tall wire fence and continued through cages of rafters and fire escapes as he navigated his way through the alleys, avoiding the light of the streets.

My dream then seemed to fast forward and I saw that Id had at last made it to one the most notorious spots on this side of the city: Rosa Park. By day it was a place where parents brought their children to frolic, joggers ran their constitutionals, and where animal lovers walked their dogs. But after sunset, it shows its true face. Known for the crimes that get carried out there, Rosa Park after dark had become a Mecca for drug addicts, dealers, sexual predators, and in some of its areas, a spot where in-the-closet businessmen could find some action. Its restrooms and benches have become art galleries of graffiti. And it has also been rumoured that the mob’s errand boys, including those of the Estate are known to congregate here. Truly, it has brought shame to its namesake.

It was this decaying nature of the park that brought the Ghost here this night. He knew that here he would find the elusive answers to his questions, and all he had to do was either scare or beat them out of the worthless lowlifes who inhabited this urban forest. He took up roost in the trees and barely touched the ground as he roamed around the area. The trees were bare at this time of year, so there were no leaves to conceal him, but his dark attire was sufficient enough to cloak him with the help of his phantom state. This allowed him the glide stealthily from tree to tree as he stocked his prey. It was a small group of three men, barely out of their teens, pretty much my age. For a second I even thought I recognized one of them from school.

The three of them strolled along the path as they talked amongst themselves, and rambled on about their bullshit. Id watched them near by from a tree. Initially he planed on getting the drop on them, scaring two of them away while he kept one all to himself. That way he could get as much info as possible. But as he continued to listen he found that that wouldn’t be necessary; he apparently was in a gathering spot where young thugs came to discuss business. The trio had stopped at a flickering lamp post near a garbage bin with flies still hovering over it. The Ghost was about ten yards away and eavesdropped on their conversation, listening to every word that was said.

“Where the rest of them at?” asked a peculiar one who was wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night.

“I guess it’s just us three tonight,” said the second.

“Yeah, a lot of them are at the airport,” added the third.

“Ah, that’s cool,” replied the first in the sunglasses.

“So you got that?” asked the third man to the first.

“Yeah, man. I got you. It’s right here…” The man in the sunglasses went over to the fly ridden garbage bin, reached in despite the odour, reached all the way to the bottom where he rummaged for a bit, and then pulled out a brown paper bag. He then handed it over to the third man who opened it to reveal another clear plastic bag containing a white powdery substance. He then tucked the paper bag away in his coat. The third then gave the first an envelope who placed it in his pocket.

“So what’s going on at the airport?” asked the second. “Why’s everyone there?”

“They got another shipment coming in at Harrison from Thailand,” replied the man in the sunglasses. “Fresh, and in prime condition. I’m heading over there right now to get a piece.”

“Yeah, I was gonna go there myself,” said the third, “but I got nuff shit to take care of as it is.”

“Oh, aight,” understood the second.

“Anyways. I’m out,” said the third as he slapped hands with his partners.

That was all the Ghost needed. From his understanding, there was going to be an exchange at an airport that could possibly be a new shipment of drugs for the Estate. He watched as the three men went their separate ways, but he kept a particular eye on the one in the sunglasses, for he was going to bring him to his next destination.

The dream once again jumped forward to show the young man in the dark shades speeding along the Inner City Highway in his blue Nissan Skyline, clearly disregarding the speed limit. He had his stereo on blast as he crooned to various rap songs. The music made the ride seem all the more quicker.

Harrison Airport was a small, privately owned landing strip for local air traffic on the east coast of Main Island, and was located several miles east of the city. The man with the sunglasses drove along a narrow road that brought him down an embankment and into the airport. Ignoring the security gates which were wide open, he continued on to the landing field. The security guard at the booth didn’t seem to mind. He passed a large aircraft hanger and rolled into a collection of other cars that were parked near the landing strip, and turned off the engine. He got out and joined a group of men who were already present, smoking and sitting on the hoods of their cars to pass the time. It was a little over dozen of them, and while some seemed to have a foothold on the latest and most expensive fashion trend, others seemed a little behind. Perhaps about three quarters of the men there were wearing some kind of prized metal on some kind of appendage. One man in particular had so many rings on him that one could call him Saturn. As a matter of fact, Saturn was his name. Big Saturn. Other than him, the rest of them acknowledged the new comer’s arrival as they flashed a silver handle from their jacket pockets.

Over the next half hour, the congregation waited for the plane to arrive. The man in the sunglasses waited silently as he tried counting the pinhole stars in the heavens. But soon one of those pinholes seemed to get larger and started to move. Gradually it manifested a fuselage and wings. The roar of the plane’s engines could be heard as it began its decent. The patient men looked on as the private jet kissed the runway with a screech of the landing gears. “It’s about time,” said Big Saturn, who stood just a few feet away from the man in the sunglasses. The jet continued down the runway then taxied into the large hanger. The group then followed.

As the men left their parked cars near the runway, the car that belonged to the man in the sunglasses was left alone. When the coast was clear, its trunk suddenly burst open and out hopped a stowaway– the Ghost. He had been waiting this whole time in the cramped space of a trunk. He then crouched behind the car and watched the party of men walk over to the hanger. When they were finally inside, he did not hesitate to follow. He performed one big leap diagonally and soared over to the hanger’s roof. He then phased through the paneling and secured himself on the steel rafters, giving him a complete birds-eye-view of what was going down. He watched silently, using the shadows as his camouflage.

Inside the hanger, the men gathered around the plane as several voices began to whisper back and forth. “Whoever organized this must be loaded if he can book an entire airport,” said one man.

“That’s because he owns the airport,” said another. But the uttering stopped as the jet’s hatch opened. A step ladder folded out and a well dressed man stepped out from the plane, sporting a distinctive, silver, two-finger ring on his right hand. He looked around as if surveying the group, and when he felt that everything was as it should be, he leaned back into the plane and said, “Hey, bring em’ out.” His command was obeyed, and as he got off board the plane he was followed by a short Asian girl, apparently in her mid teens. She had a scared look on her face as if she was lost. As she stepped out, she was followed by yet another young Asian girl, who looked about the same age and was followed by another, and another. “Have em’ stand in a line in front of the plane,” commanded the man from the jet to his associate. Eventually about a dozen of these teenage imported girls were standing in front of the plane in the frigid atmosphere of the hanger, waiting to be auctioned off. It did not take long for Id to figure out what was really happening.

The men looked at the girls with anticipation. “All right, let’s get this show on the road!” shouted one man.

“Nice, nice!” said another. “I like the looks of that one.”

“She’s beyond your price range,” humoured another. The girls were all dressed in a plain attire, nothing too cheap nor too extravagant. Yet it was obviously not enough to keep them warm. The man from the jet promptly got down to business and began to take bids as he called forth each girl individually. However he noticed that the star player, Big Saturn, was unusually silent for this particular occasion. “What’s with the silence, Big?” he asked. “Usually you don’t give the other bidders a chance.”

The tall, light-skinned negro seemed to have much on his mind. But he knew exactly what the problem was. “How old are these girls, man?” Big Saturn inquired.

“Should that matter?” replied the man from the jet.

“Yeah it should matter.”

“Why should it?” said the man indignantly.

“What do you mean Why should it?” said Saturn.

“Look. We’re trying to run a business here,” said the man from the jet. “And business is business. Now you know how the game works, Big. We’ve been doing this for years.”

“Nah, man. Not like this,” said Saturn.

“I know this ain’t what you’re used to. Frankly, I didn’t really like the idea myself. But our slice in the sex trade has been running kind of slim lately, so we thought we could use a little revival, something a little more… young.”

Saturn tried to maintain his professionalism. “But I’m not gonna make anything off of them. They’re just kids.”

The man from the jet simply laughed. “Don’t you know that businesses thrive back east with girls like this.”

“This ain’t no third world country, man,” insisted Saturn.

“Eh! I’m not the one you should be talkin’ to, all right,” said the man form the jet. “Like I said before, business is business, and you know how the game works. We bring the women, YOU buy them, you work em’, and you send us back a piece of the cake in exchange for your protection against all those mofos that’ll love to see your black ass laying in a chalk outline. That’s the deal. No questions asked. So don’t be trying to have a conscience on me now.”

Big Saturn tightened his lips as he rubbed his hand across his cheeks, trying to let this insult slide. And after an intense silence he said, “I want out.”

The man from the jet looked puzzled. “What?” he questioned.

“I want out,” Saturn repeated with a shrug of his shoulders.

“No, no-no-no,” the man denied, stepping closer to Saturn. “You don’t walk out on us. Nobody walks out on us,”

“Yeah. Well one just did.” Big Saturn made a gesture to his boys signalling their leave.

As he walked away, the man from the jet continued to harangue him. “Big, you can’t do this! There will be consequences.” After seeing that his threats were being ignored, he tried a different approach. “Come on, Big, don’t be like this.” But that did not convince Saturn at all.

The Ghost watched from high up as the whole event unfolded. He didn’t want to interfere, for he wanted to learn faces and names, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen. He wondered if the man from the jet would get on with business or cancel it because of that little disagreement. Nevertheless, the man did continue on with the auctioning as the pimp with the conscience walked out.

Meanwhile Id debated: should he go after the so called “Big” and find out more from him personally, or should he take matters into his own hands right here and now, and make sure those guys keep their putrid hands off those girls. Ultimately, the latter decision seemed more attractive. The first thing he had to do was to get rid of the lights; for light was his enemy, shadow was his ally. Clairvoyantly, he located the fuse box; it was just on the other side of the hanger. He nimbly crawled his way through the support girders like a lemur on a branch until he had a perfect shot of the fuse box. Then allowing the electrical charge to build up within his arm, he directed the arc towards the box via his two fingers. The fluorescent lights suddenly went out with a flash, and the hanger was immersed in darkness. An uproar of confusion immediately rose amongst the remaining men as they pulled out their pistols. The only source of light was coming from inside the plane. The man from the jet made a hasty command to get the girls back on the jet, and they were quickly hustled on board.

Other than the light coming from the jet, the men couldn’t see a thing in the immense empty space of the hanger. They were in a small circle of light surrounded by blackness, and vulnerable. The Ghost had the element of surprise. As one man ventured to the circle’s perimeter, the darkness suddenly manifested arms and pulled him into the abyss with a yelp. At the same moment, another witnessed this only to be sucked back himself. The remaining men watched in horror as each of them got picked off one by one. The few who were left scurried away from the dark as far as possible, but the man from the jet ran on board the plane and locked the hatch behind him. The men pounded and banged on the hard aluminum to get in. “What the hell is going on here!” said the man from the jet. The banging suddenly stopped, and there was only an eerie silence. With his desert eagle drawn, the man from the jet looked out the cabin window and saw nothing except a pair of sunglasses lying on the ground. He looked back to see the young girls quivering with wide eyes. The images of the botched raid at the MCC, Jason Powel, and all those other stories began to run through his head. “No. This can’t be happening. Not to me. This isn’t real,” he whispered to himself. His heart was pounding like those men had been pounding on the hatch, and he was sweating profusely. Finally he stormed into the cockpit and ordered the freaked out pilot to start the plane and get them into the air. The pilot objected as the hanger doors were still closed, but as the barrel of a gun was pointed to his temple, he changed his mind. The jet engines roared to life, and the plane did a 180 degree turn. The jet plowed through the hanger doors and accelerated down the runway, took off and climbed into the night air.

The man from the jet fell back onto a couch and poured himself a glass of scotch. He took a sip with a sigh of relief and scanned across the cabin with those surveying eyes to study the state of the girls. They were all looking at him with fear and doubt. “What the hell you all staring at?” he snapped. He knew well that the situation had them uncomfortable. However, he forfeited his chivalry years ago, so he had no intention of easing their anxiety. “Don’t fuckin’ look at me.” The girls did as they were told. He slouched back even further as he thought about his predicament. “What the hell am I going to do now?” he said to his assistant. “How am I gonna tell the Boss that the deal went bad? I’m a dead man…. What the hell happened back there? How could eight men disappear? Not one shot went off…. Shit, I’m a dead man, I’m a dead man.”

The assistant, however, was not so pessimistic and saw a silver lining to this cloud. “Just calm down a minute,” said the assistant. “You’re in a well-fuelled plane, with over two million worth of prostitutes. Fuck America. You could start your own business.” The man from the jet played with the buttons on his shirt as he considered this. He didn’t disagree with the assistant’s proposal. He got up, went back to the cockpit and told the pilot to take them to Chile where the Estate had no presence. The pilot complied and switched routs.

The man then went to the lavatory at the rear of the jet. When he walked in, he bent over the sink to wash the stress off his face, almost forgetting to put the lights on. And when he was done washing and straightened up to see himself in the mirror, he was horrified to see that he wasn’t the only reflection. Right behind him was a hooded masked figure, cloaked in a dark trench coat. The man’s heart leaped into his throat, but before he could react, the washroom light went off, and a powerful hand wrapped itself around his mouth and pulled his head back. He couldn’t move his arms for they too were in a lock. All he could see was the mirror reflection of two crimson eyes that seemed to be floating in the darkness. The man tried to scream but his cries were silenced by the gloved hand over his mouth. Then a bone chilling whisper began to speak to his ears. “No use crying for help,” said the voice. “Even if you could, who would come to your rescue? Those girls out there?” There was a short pause.  “Who do you work for?” The hand gently loosened its grip to allow the man to speak.

“H-how should I know,” squeaked the man.

“You have to do better than that,” said the voice.

Tears could be seen forming in the poor man’s eyes. “I’ve never seen his face.”

“Give me a name,” the voice pressed.

“We just call him the Boss,” peeped the man.

“What’s his name?”

“If I tell you they’ll rip me apart.”

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll rip you apart,” threatened the voice.

“There’s nothing you could do that’s worst than what they’ll do to me,” the man bluffed.

“Oh yeah?” Then from his view in the mirror, the man saw a spark of light electrifying upon two fingers. The blazing spark slowly began to rise to the man’s left eye. The brilliant opal light flared into his pupils. He tried to close his eyes but the hand across his face forced his eye lid open.

As the intense spark neared his cornea, his breathing became rapid and his chest rumbled like a volcano about to explode, when finally he blurted out, “ZHANG-ZIN!” At that moment the two fingers spread apart breaking the circuit, allowing the fiery spark to fade away into the air.

“What did you say?” the voice asked.

“Zhang-zin,” the man repeated. “Zhang-zin.”

“Where can I find him?”

“He’s everywhere,” said the man. “But that’s all I could tell you because that’s all I know. I’ve already told you too much, and when they find out what I’ve done they’ll kill me.”

“They can’t kill what’s already dead.” And with a flick of his wrist, the Ghost snapped the man’s neck, then allowed his lifeless body drop to the floor.

Outside the lavatory, the lights had been turned off for the duration of the flight, as the Lear jet was now approaching the Atlantic coast. The lone assistant remained who was keeping an eye on the girls. “Get some rest,” he said with a smirk. “You’ll need it.” He turned his attention back to the lavatory. His friend seemed to be taking an awfully long time in there and he thought he had heard a shout. Plus, he really needed to use the toilette. He stood up and walked over the washroom. He gave the door a knock and asked if his friend was all right. Instead he was answered by a wraith that seemed to step right through the thin door and take physical shape before him.

The assistant gasped with eyes wide open, when the grisly being said, “Shhh. Sleep.” And before the assistant knew it, he fell into unconsciousness induced by a bright spark to his forehead. The Ghost stepped over the body and continued down the short aisle, passing the dumbfounded girls without even looking at them. He walked up to the cockpit and phased through the door, stunning the young girls even further.

Now Id had no real knowledge on how to fly an aircraft, and he had no desire to give himself a lesson at that moment in time. Therefore, he decided that keeping this pilot alive was his best option. “You!” he called to the pilot who was half asleep. The startled captain woke up and was about to turn around. “Keep your head still,” commanded the Ghost, “don’t look at me.”

The pilot immediately froze and said, “Who are you? What’s going on?”

“Who I am isn’t your concern,” replied Id. “What you should be concerned about is getting this plane back on the ground.”

“But I was told to go to Chile–”

“Whoever told you that is dead,” interrupted the Ghost. “I’m in control now, I call the shots.”

“Dead? What’s happening?” At that moment a shrilled scream came from cabin outside the cockpit.

“Looks like those kids have found the body of one of your friends,” said the prowler. It was then when the pilot got the picture.

“What is it you want me to do?” the pilot asked .

“I want you to take this plane to Lucicrescens International Airport, and land it on one of the main landing strips.”

“But that’ll–”

“Don’t look at me!” commanded Id just before the pilot spun around in his seat. “You will do what I tell you to do, or you’ll end up like your friends back there.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m just a figment of your imagination.” The pilot remained silent. “Now,” continued Id, “I believe you were turning this plane around.” The pilot reluctantly complied and turned the plane with a bank to the left, and headed northbound.

For the entire trip back, the pilot didn’t dare turn his head to look behind him. And before long the cockpit became illuminated with the lively glow of the city skyline, and the pilot saw the parallel lights of a runway, a pair a flashing lights that seemed to continuously sprint down the strip. Suddenly a voice broke through the radio. “Unidentified aircraft this is LIA, you do not have the clearance to land, do you copy?”

“Ignore him,” said the grim voice behind him. But the voice on the radio simply repeated itself. “Unidentified aircraft, you do not have the clearance to land, do you copy?” Nevertheless, the pilot did as he was told. And as the Lear jet approached the runway, a cadre of police vehicles swarmed the scene. Meanwhile on board in the cockpit, the pilot initiated the landing procedure, and touched down with no trouble.

“What now?” asked the pilot as he heard the sirens coming.

“You will explain everything you know to the police,” said the Ghost. And with that he put the pilot into a small, temporary coma with a jolt to the head. “You’re going to be my witness.”

Id shifted back through the doors and walked over to the still frightened, underage sex slaves. He approached the eldest looking one who cringed back at his advance. The flickering outline of his form could be seen against the blue and red flashes from outside. Then looking down at her and somehow speaking a Thai dialect, he said, “Tell the police what you’ve been through… And you never saw me.” The young girl nodded her head in understanding, but she still had a fearful look on her face. Then right before her eyes, that shadowy figure seemed to become an apparition, and it leapt right through the roof and out the aircraft. A second after that, the girl saw the hatch open from the outside, and an officer came springing in, swinging his gun from left to right. And when he discovered the planes human cargo, he gently lowered his weapon.

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