LuckSon II - The Nightmare


Prologue 


Mrs. Whitting smiled as both Stacy and LuckSon faded from the First World.  Good, she thought.  If nothing else, at least I was able to save Stacy.  She walked out of LuckSon’s circle of stones and headed back into the forest.  As long as she was there, she wanted to go and visit her own circle of stones.

Taking a deep breath of the clean cool morning air, she walked in the familiar forest on a path littered with fall leaves.  “It has been too long,” she whispered to herself.  Slowly changing the forest around her, she strode confidently down the path until she recognized it as the one leading to a place she had grown to know in her own childhood.  She had spent many nights in this corner of the First World training with her father or visiting other dream walkers. This was her entry point. 

The path ahead of her opened up into a clearing with twelve tall, smooth stones.  These stones were grey as a cloudy winter day, each with an engraved Ojibwe word on it, the language of her fathers.  Every dream walker had their own entry point, with writing specific to them on their stones.  Approaching one of the tall gray monuments, she nostalgically reached out and touched the smooth, cool surface as memories of her father flooded her mind.  She hadn’t been here in many years, not since she had stopped dream walking when a job she had been working on went terribly wrong. 

Looking around her now, it felt like she was coming home after being gone for too long.  The forest, the trees, the Stonehenge-like circle, none of it had changed.  Only she had changed.  She was many years older, but standing back in her entry point to the First World, she felt young again.

Looking around, she saw something in the middle of her circle of stones that seemed out of place.  It was red and had feathers.  She walked up to it and froze.  It was a little duck that had been pinned to the earth with a knife.  The poor thing had died there.

As she stared down at the small bird, her blood ran cold.  It was a clear message – a threat that was meant specifically for her.  Only another Chippewa Indian would know that her first name, Sheshebens, meant little duck.  To find this here, meant that there was another dream walker out there that was threatening her. She was in danger. It didn’t look like the duck had been there long, although time could be deceiving in the First World. Still, the person who had done this could still be nearby, maybe even watching from the trees around her.

Her father’s training immediately kicked in.  She dove to the earth and rolled to the nearest stone to use as a partial shield. As she did so, her dream-self morphed into a much younger woman.  Gone was the old gray hair, replaced by thick, long black strands, pulled back into a pony tail that swung lightly in the air behind her.  Her wrinkled old skin tightened and smoothed out into lush, young skin as she rolled across the ground and crouched behind one of her tall gray stones. The old tired muscles in her arms and legs became strong and firm as they morphed into her younger self.  Even her clothes changed from an old NRA T-shirt and jeans, to a buckskin tunic, leggings and moccasins, leaving her appearance that of an attractive woman in her twenties, rather than her sixty year old form.  

Concentrating, she reached back into her home world and pulled her revolvers to her, feeling the familiar strong tug from the center of her chest.  One revolver flew to her left hand from the hotel room in Atlanta where she had been staying with Stacy; the other promptly vanished from a police evidence storage locker back in her home town and flew to her right hand. Holding each gun at the ready, she tried to pierce the thick forest with her probing eye but there was nothing to be seen but trees.

She listened.  Birds were singing in the trees around her.  Everything was peaceful, as it should be.

After a few moments, she realized there was no immediate danger and stood cautiously, careful to observe the familiar woods around her.  Placing the revolvers into hip holsters, she walked over to the center of the circle to look at the gruesome message that had been left for her.  She reached down and carefully removed the knife.  Lifting the small duck, she walked to the edge of the woods where she dug a hole and buried the tiny bird.  All creatures treated with respect, she heard her father’s voice whisper to her.

With that done, she walked back to the center of the stones and looked around.  Someone had come to her entry point and left her the ominous message.  She didn’t know who would have done such a thing, but it would have had to be someone who knew Ojibwe, the language of her native tribe.

It was at this point that she realized what else was amiss: the leather-bound book she had written with Stacy was missing.  She had left it in her circle of stones, and now it was gone.  Another dream walker must have taken it.“Now, who would do such a thing?” she asked the empty circle.  Shaking her head, she sat down to think about the few dream walkers she knew that were still alive. There weren’t many of them left and they were all her friends.  She couldn’t imagine any of them doing such a terrible thing. 



Chapter 1


It was early in the morning when Mrs. Whitting woke up in the hotel room she shared with Stacy.  She looked around at the quiet room.  The other bed where Stacy had gone to sleep the previous night was unmade and disheveled.  Stacy’s small, black carry on suitcase was leaning against the wall where it had been left the night before.  Her phone was plugged in and rested on the night stand along with the keys to her VW bug.  Everything looked just like it had when they had gone to sleep, only Stacy was no longer there. The room had a kind of empty feeling; she was alone.  Stacy was gone, escaped to the future.

“Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit,” she said in awe.  “It worked.”  Mrs. Whitting was an older woman, in her mid-sixties.  She was a plump woman with short gray hair and dark brown eyes.  Her skin was a light brown thanks to her father who was an American Indian from the Chippewa tribe.  Her mother was white and had grown up in Tennessee.

Sitting up in bed, she had a sense of hope and pride that Stacy was safe in the future, but a part of her was sad to see the young woman gone.  Mrs. Whitting had spent the past several years alone.  She used to think of herself as a very social person, but for a long time now, she had found herself avoiding others.

Having Stacy around had brought a new sense of purpose and life to her quiet world.  Her happy and positive personality was like a ray of sunshine in the old woman’s dreary life.  Now she was gone and although she was happy to have been able to help her, she felt sad as she thought about the Dark Death and what was going to happen to everyone over the coming months and years.

“Well, guess I best be gettin’ up and headin’ home,” she said to herself.  She got out of bed and began getting ready to leave while she thought about the second part of her dream.  Now who would have done such a thing?  She thought she knew all the remaining dream walkers that were still alive.  She hadn’t heard from any of them in a long time.  None of them would have left her such an ominous message. 

Shaking her head, she decided to take a quick shower and then finish packing.  She had just opened her suitcase and pulled out some clean clothes when Stacy’s phone rang. She walked over and looked at the number that was showing on the phone.  The 202 area code was familiar to her, so she quickly accepted the call. 

“Hello,” she said.

“She-She, is that you?”  Mrs. Whitting recognized the voice of her old friend and the nickname she used.

“Hey, Kimmy. Good to hear from you.”

“What’s going on?  What are you involved in this time?”  Kim’s voice was hushed and anxious.  Mrs. Whitting began to get a bad feeling inside.

“What are you talking about?” she tried to answer innocently.

“I just got off the phone with my contact at The Bureau.  The address I gave you for that car belonged to one of the lead researchers at the CDC.  Turns out he was murdered a few nights ago.  Shot several times in his front foyer.  No signs of forced entry, so the police think it was someone he knew.”

“Oh, really?  Hmmm.”

“Don’t you think it’s rather odd that you called me to ask for this guy’s address and a few days later he ends up dead?”

“Coincidence?” Mrs. Whitting said hopefully.

“Coincidence?  Coincidence?!?!  Sheshebens Whitting! Don’t think I will fall for that line of crap.”

“Well, maybe the guy deserved it.”

“Even if he did deserve it, you can’t go around shooting people like the old days!  I ran a trace on your phone, and where are you right now?  In Atlanta, not far from the dead researcher’s home!  Now, I don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into, but people are asking questions.  This is a real problem, She-She.  I need to know what’s going on and I need to know pronto!”

“Wait a second, you ran a trace on my phone? What do you mean?  The BIA can’t do that.” Mrs. Whitting said a little surprised.  She knew the Bureau of Indian Affairs didn’t have the authority to run cell phone traces.

“Look, we need to talk,” Kim continued, ignoring Mrs. Whitting’s comment about the BIA.  “I need to know what’s going on.  No secrets. Seriously.”

Mrs. Whitting paused for a moment. “I told you not to get that address unless you could do it quietly.”

“I know, but I didn’t realize you were going to go take the guy out!”  Kim spoke in a hushed voice that shouted her concerns loud and clear.

“Ok, Ok, don’t get your panties all in a wad.  I can tell you everythin’ about what happened.  You won’t believe me right now, but you will in a few weeks.  It’s complicated.” 

“Wait,” Kim interrupted her.  “You can tell me when I get there.  I’m flying to Atlanta this morning. My plane lands after lunch.  Pick me up at Hartsfield at one so we can talk.”

“Pick you up at Hartsfield?  The airport?  Kim, there’s no reason to fly down here-”

“You don’t get it She-She.  I don’t work for the Bureau of Indian affairs.  I work for the other bureau. I have for years. I got that address myself.  I need to talk to you and find out just what is going on before we both end up in serious trouble.”

Mrs. Whitting swallowed hard.  She realized her mouth was dry.  If she had known Kim worked for the FBI she never would have involved her.  Now, she had to add dealing with the authorities to her list of concerns.  “Ok.  Ok, Kim.  I’ll pick you up this afternoon.  We can talk more then.”

“Alright. She-She, be careful, whatever is going on.”

“It’s not goin’ to matter soon anyways,” the old woman answered her.  “But come on down if you have to and I’ll explain everythin’.”

The two said a quick goodbye, leaving Mrs. Whitting standing alone in the hotel room, staring at the phone in her hand.  She couldn’t help but feel badly for bringing her old friend into her crazy life, however, part of her was relieved to have her back again.  The two of them had gotten through some tight spots in the past and had many adventures together.  It was good to know Kim was still her friend and could help her out one more time.  She may even have some ideas on how best to help Stacy and LuckSon in the future.

Mrs. Whitting stretched her arms above her head.  She wasn’t hungry, but she felt like she had better eat something.  She was going to need the extra calories to deal with the rest of the day.  She once again thought of her strange dream from the night before and the ominous warning that was left for her.

“Just add it to the list,” she said out loud to no one in particular.  “Dark Death spreadin’, someone tryin’ to scare me off of the First World, now The Bureau is involved, and to top it all off, Kimmy’s pissed at me.  Swell.”

 * * * * *

Mrs. Whitting drove Stacy’s VW Bug through the arrival lanes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and looked for her old friend, Kim Studebaker.  She hadn’t seen Kim in many years, not since the “glory days” when she was much more active in dream walking.  As she slowly inched along behind a large green SUV, she couldn’t help but wonder about what Kim had told her on the phone.  She wasn’t surprised that Kim had ended up with the FBI, although she was disappointed that she had never told her about it.  What did surprise her was the fact that it sounded like she still worked there. 

Watching the side of the road where passengers lined the curbs waiting to be picked up, she saw Kim.  It wasn’t hard to pick her out from a crowd. She was a tall thin woman who looked a lot younger than she was.  She had shoulder length black hair and was wearing sunglasses, a thin navy jacket and dark pants.  Mrs. Whitting recognized her immediately, and pulled over to the curb.  Jumping out of the car she ran around and the two women gave each other a long hug.

“Well, hello there, She-She!” Kim said with a hint of too much cheer in her voice.  “How are you doing?”

“How am I doin’?  I’m doin’ fine, but nowhere near as well as you are!  You look fabulous!  You look the same as you did twenty years ago!  How is that even possible?”

Mrs. Whitting went back around to the driver’s side of the car and the two of them got in, Kim throwing her carryon onto the back seat.

“Oh, you know, good eating, lots of exercise, and a great hair stylist.”  As she closed the door cutting off anyone who might hear her conversation, Kim’s demeanor immediately changed to one of deep concern and a little frustration. “Alright, She-She, what’s going on?”

Mrs. Whitting pulled out into traffic and began making her way out of the airport and towards highway 85.  “It’s good to see you, Kimmy.  I’ve missed you.”

Kim’s features softened just a little bit.  “It’s good to see you too.  And I’ve missed you as well…Now tell me what mess you’ve gotten yourself into this time.  Please tell you me aren’t shooting people again.”

“Well,” she said, her voice trailing off.

“Good night,” Kim said in exasperation.  “Did you kill Dr. Stevens?”

“I didn’t have a choice.”  Mrs. Whitting admitted.  “It’s a long story.  Let’s grab some food and head back to my hotel so we can talk.  There’s a lot I have to tell you.  You may not believe me, and I can tell you, you are not goin’ to like what I have to say, but there’s no way to sugar coat it.  Things are about to get really, really bad, Kimmy, and there’s nothin’ I can do to stop it.” 

Mrs. Whitting’s voice was soft and deflated.  She sounded like she had given up all hope.  Kim had never seen her old friend like this in all the years she had known her. 

“It can’t be that bad,” Kim tried to say with some courage.

The old woman managed a small laugh.  “Oh, it’s not that bad, it’s worse.  Worse than anythin’ we’ve ever dealt with.”

The two were silent as Mrs. Whitting merged onto the highway and headed back towards the exit that would lead to a fast food taco spot near her hotel. 

“Worse than the cursed mortician?”

“Way worse.”

“How about when we had to deal with The Nightmare in Phoenix?  Nothing was worse than that.”

Mrs. Whitting was silent.

After a moment, Kim muttered to herself under her breath.  “Ok.  You’re right, I don’t like the fact that you killed that researcher, but I also know you very well, so I’m sure you’ll help me understand what happened.  It looks like you’re in a bad spot.  So, what can I do to help?”

Mrs. Whitting managed a weak smile.  “Kimmy, you are the best friend an old codger like me could ever have.  I wish I knew what you could do, but this time, I don’t think there’s anythin’ anyone can do.” She paused for a moment.  “It’s the big one, Kimmy.”

Kim’s blood ran cold.  Knowing how her old friend felt about religion and remembering their many long talks, she knew exactly what Mrs. Whitting meant.  She had been calling the end of the world, the big one, for many years.  “Are you sure?” she asked quietly.

“Sure as gas follows beans.”

The two drove in silence, Kim sitting quietly in the passenger seat biting her tongue.  She wanted to start asking questions.  She wanted to start working to help and try to find an answer to whatever crisis her old friend thought was on its way, but she knew better.  When She-She was ready, she would tell her.

They pulled through the drive through of a fast food Mexican restaurant to grab a late lunch, and then went straight to the hotel. Within a few minutes they were quietly sequestered in the privacy of Mrs. Whitting’s room, each of them sitting at the table in front of the window where just the day before Mrs. Whitting had sat with Stacy.

She picked at her taco, took a bite, and then absent mindedly placed it down on the paper wrapping it had come in.  “It’s a long story.”

“I have all the time in the world,” Kim replied.

Mrs. Whitting took a deep breath.  “I wish that were true.  It all started with the young woman I am rentin’ a room to.  She told me she was havin’ strange dreams about a man who claimed he was from the future.” 

Mrs. Whitting continued from the beginning and told her everything that had happened over the past few weeks.  She described Stacy’s dreams that convinced her that there was a dream walker in the future, a young man named LuckSon, who had contacted them.  She talked about how she had met him herself in a dream walk.  He had read a memorial to Stacy that warned him about a serial killer who was going to murder her.  With that knowledge, Mrs. Whitting had barely saved her young friend from the serial killer in the diner where she worked. 

Her story went on to describe finding Larry Jenkins, the first victim of the Dark Death, and trying to save him from the disease, only for him to die in a car accident. She described how they tracked down the disease to its maker, Dr. Stevens, and how they had visited him and ended up shooting him to protect themselves.  It was only afterword they discovered that he had already begun testing the disease on others.  The first victims would be in the homeless community, particularly from a shelter called “My Sister’s House.”

Finally, she described how LuckSon had pulled Stacy into the future to try and save her life and how happy she was for her young friend, but how sad she was knowing that there was nothing they could do about the pandemic. The Dark Death was even now spreading across Atlanta and possibly the world.

By the time Mrs. Whitting had finished, Kim’s expression would have been comical if things weren’t so serious.  She sat silently listening to every word, her eyes wide, and her face white as a ghost.

“So, that is where I found myself this morning – Stacy is safe in the future, but the Dark Death is already out there somewhere spreadin’.  There’s nothin’ we can do to stop it.”

“How long do we have?” asked Kim quietly.

“A couple of weeks till people start showin’ symptoms, maybe days?  Not long after that people start dyin’.  The articles that LuckSon read made it sound like it spread pretty fast after that.  So overall, maybe a couple of years till all humanity is wiped out?  Maybe more if you live in a secluded location.  LuckSon seemed fairly convinced he was the last man alive.”

“There must be something we can do.  There must be a way to stop it.”

“Believe me, we tried.  We did everythin’ we could to try and keep it from gettin’ out.  Now it’s too late.  Even if we could quarantine all of Atlanta, I don’t think it would be enough.”

The two of them sat silently for a few minutes, one silently grieving for the world, the other trying to think of how to prevent the Dark Death from killing everyone.

“We need to treat this like a case,” Kim finally interrupted the silence.  “We need to figure out how this Dr. Stevens created the Dark Death.”

“What do you mean?” asked Mrs. Whitting.

“Well, he obviously made it at the CDC labs.  The question is, how did he make it and is there a way to reverse its effects?  In other words, is there a cure for the Dark Death?”

“Sugar, I admire your optimism, but it’s a disease. I’m sure if there were a way to cure it, then someone would have found it in the future.”

“Not if they didn’t know where it came from exactly.  Maybe if we can find out how he created it, we can give the good folks at the CDC a head start in finding a cure.”  Kim’s expression was grim and determined.  “We can’t give up yet.”

Mrs. Whitting looked into her old friend’s eyes and slowly nodded.  “Alright.  We can at least try, but while we are doin’ that, I still have a lot of things to do.  I need to find a way to get a whole bunch of supplies to Stacy and LuckSon, just in case we can’t fix this.  I was thinkin’ about buyin’ a house not far from the church where they are hidin’.  I could fill it with all kinds of stuff that they could use.  Last I spoke with LuckSon, he was surrounded by a band of slow muties, so I need to get them some things to help them.”

“Ok.  Tell you what.  You start thinking about what you want to leave for them.  I’ll start looking into the investigation of Dr. Steven’s death.  I can use my FBI shield if I need to in order to get us some access.  Maybe we can still beat this thing.”

At the mention of the FBI, Mrs. Whitting got a scolding look on her face. “Speakin’ of The Bureau, would you like to explain how you ended up there?  I thought you were retired.”

Kim laughed.  “Oh She-She, I guess I can tell you now.  I’ve always worked for the FBI.  After we stopped dream walking together, I went to work for The Bureau.  I knew how you felt about them, so I just told you I was working for the BIA.  My boss said I could retire a few years ago, but I’ve still got plenty of work in me, so they gave me a desk job.  I mainly do research and analytics now.  It pays the bills,” she said with a shrug. “However, I still have my field badge.  I didn’t bring my side arm with me, but I can always pick one up from a field office if I need one.”

“I’d offer to let you borrow one of mine, but they happen to be wanted in a murder investigation at the moment, so I think I’ll keep it to myself.”

Kim shook her head.  “Speaking of which, we are going to have to be really careful.  Tell me again about the precautions you took at Dr. Stevens.  The last thing we want is for you to become a murder suspect in the middle of all this.”

“Oh don’t you worry now, dearie.  I was careful.  I’m not that old!  You’re talkin’ to me like I’m a rookie.  I trained you, remember?”

The two of them smiled at each other, thinking of earlier days and the adventures they had been on.  After a moment, Kim broke the silence. “We can still beat this thing.  It’s not too late.”  She reached out and took her old friend’s hand, giving it a squeeze. 

Mrs. Whitting smiled, and squeezed back.  It was good to have Kim with her.  It reminded her of years ago when they were partners.  Together they had helped a lot of people and solved a lot of crimes.  The world was a better place for all their efforts.

“Just like old times,” she said.

“Just like old times,” Kim replied.

* * * * *

Mrs. Whitting spent the rest of the afternoon calling a realtor friend of hers and arranging for the supplies that she would want to store for her two future friends.  While she made calls to various suppliers and services, Kim was busy on her laptop and on her mobile phone.  The afternoon turned to evening and soon they decided to take a break and get some food.

“Please, anything but cheap tacos,” said Kim. 

“What’s wrong with tacos?” asked Mrs. Whitting.

“Nothing – if they aren’t made out of grade D beef.  We have to take care of our bodies, She-She.  That means we need to eat healthy.”

“There is nothin’ wrong with cheap tacos.  I’ve been eatin’ them all my life, and I’m in perfect health.”

Kim looked at her old friend.  She looked good for her age, but she could look better if she took care of herself.  As she looked at her, she noticed for the first time that she was wearing an old NRA T-shirt that said “Guns don’t kill people, I do.”

“For heaven’s sake, could you at least change your shirt?  Why not just print in big bold letters: I shot Dr. Stevens on your front and go around with your arms in the air.”

“Sugar, it’s all I own these days,” she replied with a smile, proudly looking down at her front.  Standing up and stretching, she reached for her purse and her jacket.  “If it will make you feel better, I’ll wear my jacket over the shirt.  You pick the restaurant tonight.  We may only have a few weeks to live so we might as well make the best of it.”

“Would you stop with all your gloom and doom,” Kim said testily.  “Good night! Since when was Sheshebens Whitting a quitter?”

The old woman eyed her friend with a touch of frost in her gaze.  “Alright,” she said quietly.  “I deserved that one.  Let’s go get some food and get back to work.  We’ll see who quits first.”

The two of them left the hotel, and ended up at a Chinese chain restaurant.  True to her word, Mrs. Whitting wore her jacket the entire time. Halfway through dinner as the two of them were sitting across from each other in a booth near the back, Kim’s phone made a small chirping sound. She looked at it and after a few hasty movements of her thumbs, she got a dark look on her face.

“Well, that may make things more interesting,” she said under her breath.

“What?” Mrs. Whitting glanced at her friend as she lifted an eggroll to her mouth.

“The Dr. Stevens case was assigned to ole Detective ‘Bull Dog’ Thomas,” Kim replied.

“That man still works there?  Hmm.  Wonder if he remembers me.”

“You aren’t one that folks usually forget, my old friend.” Kim took another bite of stir fry chicken, then continued. “He’s pretty thorough.  Usually gets his man.  Are you absolutely sure you didn’t-”

“Positive,” Mrs. Whitting cut her off.  “We were careful. So, who told you Thomas is on the case?”

“Coworker of mine, who I asked to keep tabs on the situation.  For some reason, this case has gotten a lot of attention from folks in a very high pay grade.  They will keep the Bull Dog on a short leash.  As soon as they have a reason to, they’ll yank him and bring in the big guns from Washington.  Of all the rotten luck.  What was that guy doing at the CDC that would bring down so much heat at his death?”

“Tryin’ to end all humanity.”

The two continued their meals for a moment, until Kim interrupted the silence again.  “Are you absolutely sure you were-”

“Kimmy,” Mrs. Whitting interrupted her old friend as she started to lose her patience. “We were careful.”

“Ok, if you say so.  I’m just getting one of those feelings, like there is a gun pointed at my back.”

Mrs. Whitting paused.  Kim’s feelings were always reliable and had saved their bacon many times. Maybe she was being over confident. “Alright.  Tell you what.  Just to be safe, we can check out of the hotel that is under my name after dinner, and then check in somewhere else under your name.  That way you can pay the bill.  Satisfied?”

Kim nodded.  “It’s a good start.”

Neither of them spoke again until the meal was over.  Later that night, after packing up their things and checking out, they found themselves in much nicer accommodations.  Kim took them to the Marriott Suites in midtown Atlanta, explaining she got a discount there.  They would have to share a room with two double beds, but the suite would give them a good living area to work in, and they would have a kitchen as well. 

Mrs. Whitting sadly put Stacy’s carryon bag in the closet.  As the evening grew later and they finally got ready for bed, the old woman couldn’t help but wonder how her young friend was surviving in the future. Hopefully the slow muties hadn’t already gotten to her and her future boy.