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Month: October 2018

The Redeemer: Godfrey

The Redeemer: Godfrey

Revenge in the age of the crusades. Knights, Saracens and a whole lot of folly and fury. Enjoy!

Godfrey kneeled in front of the altar of the church with his hands together and head bowed in silent prayer.  A great ray of sunlight cut into the room from a small east-facing window above him lighting up his polished chain armor with only the painted black cross of the Knights Hospitaller on the chest and shoulders breaking it up. His brown bearded face, green eyes and head were covered by a polished iron helmet with a holy cross shaped guard that came down between his eyes and mouth and across his nose and cheeks.  A great longsword with the markings of his Frankish family displayed on the pommel and guard was strapped to his right side and a scuffed but fine iron shield bearing the mark of his order was resting against his left. His mouth slowly and silently mouthed the lord’s prayers as he had done three times daily for over two decades before.

Godfrey’s mind was elsewhere. Sultan Saladin and his Saracen armies had defeated the bulk of the Christian armies of Jerusalem months before at the Horns of Hattin. Saladin then conquered Tiberius, Ten Acres, Sidon, Beirut, Gaza then pushed to Jerusalem where he took it under siege and defeated the defenders. He was merciful in allowing the survivors of Jerusalem to escape but many small garrisons were left across the conquered territories were granted no mercy. They were being overrun, enslaved, converted or killed. Godfrey was in charge of one such garrison in a small roadside village along the road to Hebron and he worried they would be next.

Godfrey completed his morning prayer, rose and then walked outside the small chapel into the confines of the small fort which rested in a lush valley of green grasses and Pine, Cyprus, Oak and Olive trees.  The flowing hills above and around casted long shadows in the morning and evening but didn’t keep out the warming sun for long. The fort itself was as humble as the small rise it sat on and simple farming village it overlooked.  It contained a wood and stone chapel, a one floored barracks, and a horse stable that was surrounded by four wooden walls that were twice a man’s height with guard towers at the corners. The village consisted of a dozen or so small wooden homes, a smithy, a church, a granary and a small mill which sat on a gentle brook that snaked down from the hills passing through the village and further down into the valley.  A large farm and orchard sat opposite the fort and a simple single dusty gravel strewn road passed through it all.  It may not be Jerusalem but was heaven on earth to Godfrey.

His thoughts were interrupted by the rhythmic thump of approaching horses and he looked over to see two riders had entered the fort and were making their way to him. Both were dressed in far lighter leather hide armor with the markings of Army of Jerusalem. Their horses were lightly tacked and outfitted for speed, not battle. The young men were a pair of the half-dozen scouts he had conscripted from the townsfolk and charged with manning a small observation post in the hills. Another pair had taken this pair’s place for the day and would only return if something of note was observed until relieved for the night.

“Any sightings of the savage?” he asked smiling upon the two young scouts.

“None, my lord,” replied the elder of the two.

“Very well.  Get those horses watered and get something to eat,” Godfrey replied.

As the two scouts headed toward the stables the barracks door opened up and a grizzled elder knight walked out the barracks with a stretch of his arms and back.

Sir Edwin’s body told the tale of a lifetime of battle. His face from chin to forehead had the scars and marks of a traveled road. The left side of his mouth was missing all teeth which were taken by a Saracen’s mace years ago. He took great pride in displaying the hole to all with a mighty grin from ear to ear. He walked with a pronounced limp and with the help of a simple spear which he claimed to have stolen from a Sultan while he was poking his wife with another spear.  It was this good cheer and humor that endeared him to all and made them forget about his decrepit state.

“Lord Godfrey. I feel stiffer than a heathen’s cock!” said the old knight.

“I would trust your expertise on that fact, Sir Edwin!” replied Godfrey with a grin.

“It’s the next Sultan’s wives who need worry about my expertise! said Sir Edwin.

“I would hand over my lands the day you kneel before the Lord and confess,” said Godfrey.

“Me too, my Lord,” Sir Edwin said with a wink, who then walked off toward the stables to likely torture the two scouts.

Godfrey smiled and walked into the barracks. The two scores of knights under his command were sitting at a long oak table eating breakfast and preparing for the day. It was warm and smelled of cooked sausage and warm bread. They all rose as Godfrey entered and issued a quick salute.

“Scouts have nothing to report.” Godfrey said, taking a seat and pulling off his helmet.

“Do you think the devils are coming soon?” Asked a very young fair haired knight named Francois asked.

“Yes. I don’t know when, but they will come here. This valley is paradise and we are in the way,” replied Godfrey.

“And you best pray for the grace of God, Sir Knight! When the heathen comes he won’t show any mercy for us so you show him none. You strike him down like he’s the devil himself,” Said a stern dark haired warrior that was digging into the stewpot next to the stone fireplace.

“Yes Sir Bertram. I will pray for us all.” said Francois.

“Good lad!” Sir Bertram said sitting down to eat next to Godfrey.

Two other young Knights then emerged from the doorway to the barracks. Francois quickly rose and the trio rushed out the door to do their morning duties.

Godfrey looked at Sir Bertram and smiled.

“Remember when we were like that? Ready to rush out and face the world?”

“I do,” Said Bertram with a smile. “God willing we’ll be able to do it again soon!”

The knight’s duties of maintaining the fort, garrison, horses and equipment carried them through the day and into the evening. Nothing out of sorts occurred other than what Sir Edwin could manufacture for his own amusement.  The sun was just making its way toward the hilltop when the fast rumble of a trotting horse could once again be heard and one of the scouts appeared.

“What is it lad!” sir Edwin said to a very worried looking rider.

“A score of riders approaches from the north. They appear to be flying the banner of the Knights Templar.”

Edwin looked over at Godfrey and said. “I’ll ask the cook to put out the best silver!”

“Best to have Bertram hide it.” Replied Godfrey dryly.

Sirs Edwin and Godfrey returned to barracks and the calling bell was wrung. The knights dropped what they were doing gathered quickly and were informed that guests were on the way and they were to be in armor with banner flying within the hour. All guests were to be given the best the fort could offer.

A stern Templar knight and his lieutenants stood on a hilltop overlooking the lush valley an hour later. Sir Jacob and his knights had abandoned their garrison days ago as a Saracen Army led by Amet Al Jadari had crushed every other garrison and was moving toward theirs next. Jacob was neither coward or fool . He would not let his valiant knights die defending a position and village that meant little to retaking the holy land. He needed to fall back, find other garrisons and enlist an army to lead the charge back into the holy city. It was God’s will.

Jacob looked down into the sweeping valley and could see a village with a defensible fort atop. His map had marked it as a Hospitaller road garrison and it appeared to be as well maintained as the farming village below. He urged his troop forward as the sun began its slow descent and he thanked the Lord for his good fortune. “Onward!” he ordered as he coaxed his mount forward.

Sirs Godfrey, Bertram, Edwin and Francois gathered at attention with the rest of the order under the black and white crossed banner of the order as the dozen Templar Knights entered the compound on their great traveling steeds under their red crossed banner.  Numerous town elders had gathered as well and stood nervously next to Friar Jans who generally represented the town in any gathering. The Templar knights were led by a tall knight dressed in fine but soiled chain armor and helmet who carried a great shield with a blood red cross painted on it. The rest of the band appeared in similar armor and hefted similar shields, spears and the look of seasoned warriors. All seemed road worn and weary but sat tall and silently at attention as their leader dismounted his horse.

“I am Sir Jacob Coulvalier of Orange, Lord Knight of the Templar and servant of the Lord,” he announced proudly.

Sir Godfrey looked at Edwin who winked at him and then back the knight.

“I’m Sir Godfrey Lion of Alsace and Knight Hospitaller. Welcome to our fort brother. You and your fine men are our guests and are welcomed to stay as long as you require. “

Sir Jacob smiled and then waved his free arm at his troops to dismount which they promptly did to get squared away. Sir Edwin walked forward coaxing them toward the stable where their horses would be tied, fed and quartered for the night. The knights then all retired to the barracks where a great meal, baths and beds were being prepared. The barracks was filled to capacity which was something it hadn’t been in ages.

The two-plus scores of knights sat around a great table in the barracks and as loaves of bread and drink began to appear Sir Jacob got up to address the group. His face looked solemn as first recited the night’s prayer. He then looked up at the group.

“Knights Hospitaller, we appreciate your great cheer and hospitality however be warned. A great army of savages is but one day behind us,” Jacob said with one finger up. “They are led by the Heathen, Al Jadari, who has shown great cruelty and contempt for all of God’s children. We must stand together and defend this fort from his horde and then reform a great Army of God to drive them from the holy lands once again.”

Sir Jacob then looked at the shocked Sir Godfrey as if expecting him to immediately cede his leadership to him.

“Sir Jacob this garrison is with you and your brave men. We are sworn to protect this fort, village and all that believe in God!” He said while raising his chalice to the cheers of his knights.

He then sat down and the meal began to be served to all in earnest. The table was quickly filled with loaves of bread, bowls of olives, casks of wine and pots of stew much to the happiness of Jacob’s weary knights. Bellies were filled but so were thoughts as everybody focused on the dire threat at hand and conversations were directed that way.

“Sir Jacob. How big is this force of Saracens?” asked Bertrand.

“We witnessed the approach of at least 4 scores of riders and at least 20 times that number of archer and infantry. They had decimated at least three garrisons prior to reaching our position. We evacuated seeking to reinforce realizing our position was weak and our numbers low,” he replied.

“Well the twenty more of us should provide a fair fight!” Joked Sir Edwin.  Bertram, Godfrey and one of Jacob’s knights laughed but Jacob did not. He looked coldly at Edwin.

“You will do whatever you’re ordered to. This garrison and all in it are now under my command as I am the ranking knight,” Jacob looked at Sir Godfrey as he said this looking for his backing once again.

“Yes, my lord,” Sir Godfrey replied obediently bowing his head. He then raised his glass.

“To God and duty!” he said. The table then followed suit. Godfrey’s eyes then looked at Bertram and Edwin.

The meal continued in cheer and earnest. Many of the Knights retired soon after to rest up for what could be an eventful day. Sir Godfrey walked out to the stables with Edwin and Bertram to check on the mounts and talk.

“Sir Godfrey. What are we to do? It seems like too large of a force is coming this way,” said Bertram.

“We do our duty. We protect this fort, this village and road. God willing, Sir Jacob and his band of Templar’s can help,” replied Godfrey.

“I’m not so sure about Jacob. He’s wound a little too tight and didn’t say anything about the fate of the village he was charged with protecting before he up and ran?” asked Edwin.

Godfrey raised his hand to Edwin. “Old friend, I know something is amiss but we must all face it together.”

He then thought for a moment and rubbed his chin.

“Ride down to the village at dawn and let the villagers know what’s coming and prepare them to move into the fort. We’re likely looking at a siege so please have them bring what food and water we can. Do not panic them!”

The knights then completed their tasks in the stable and retired to bed in the great room of the barracks. The wine at dinner helped but many had a hard time falling to sleep and dreams were far from sweet. They had all seen what war had done to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and viciousness of battle. None wanted it again.

Morning came swiftly and as Godfrey emerged from the barracks he saw that Bertram had returned from the village with the elders I tow.

“Sir Godfrey, what is the meaning of this. How could the Knighthood not allow the people into the fort in a time such as this!” said the Friar.

Godfrey looked shockingly at Sir Bertram who replied, “Sir Jacob has ordered that the villagers are to remain in the village and fortify it, Sir Godfrey.”

Godfrey turned and saw the Templar leader speaking with one of his charge near the stables. He quickly stomped over.

“Sir Jacob. Why did you stop the villagers from evacuating the town? It is indefensible and they are no warriors!” said Godfrey.

Sir Jacob gave Sir Godfrey a hard look and said. “This fort is about to be brought under siege and there is hardly enough food and water to support our knights for a week never mind the entire village. They are servants of the lord and will do their part as I see fit. Your man Edwin spoke harshly to me as well. He is currently in the infirmary having his old jaw tended to and if you continue Sir Knight you will join him as well.”

“How dare you strike a man of this order!” Sir Godfrey said his hand going to his sword. All knights began drawing their weapons to stand off against each other.

Sir Jacob looked around and with a sneer said. “As a servant of the Church, you know the rank of order of things. Now, let us save this fight for the Saracens who quickly approach!”

Godfrey knew the cold Templar leader was right on that point and retreated into the stables where a young squire was wrapping a bandage about Sir Edwin’s head to support a broken jaw. Edwin looked at him when he approached and mumbled. “I’m starting to lose my good looks and charm!” he mumbled.  Godfrey patted him on the shoulder with a laugh.

The rest of the morning was spent stocking the fort for siege and moving obstacles to slow any approach to the fort. The town itself was busy with many of the same efforts and Godfrey had sent Bertram and several of the young Knights to assist. The farmers had gathered and formed a small militia of spearmen and archers that could offer a skirmish or two but little else. The knight’s hearts dropped knowing this.

The noon bell tolled and two scouts returned with the tale of a coming Saracen army. They detailed at least two hundred infantry, one hundred archers and half that number of Saracen Cavalry. They marched with speed and in good order.  It would be moments before enemy scouts breached the valley.

The bell was struck again to warn all of the coming attack and the Knights and villagers sealed their defenses and watched the northern hilltops for a first sign. They were rewarded less than an hour later as several mounted Saracen scouts were seen roaming in zigzag patterns and then disappearing over the ridge to report their observations.  It made the defenders nervous and ready for a fight.

The bulk of the Saracen army marched into the valley a short time later. A long column quickly formed into a solid wall of two ranks. The first line of men wielded spear and shield followed by a second line of longbow armed archers. They were all dressed in padded leather or hide armor with a bright green crescent painted on all shields and shirts. A swift column of Calvary wound like a snake behind them and came to rest forming a line in front of the infantry.  Two Saracens continued forward on their mounts toward the fort and dismounted a dozen paces before it.

Godfrey and Jacob both moved toward the large front gate of the fort. Sir Jacob quickly put his hand out in front of Godfrey. “Please see to the defense sir Godfrey, I shall parley with the heathens.”

Godfrey looked at Jacob sharply and but then turned back toward the stables. He motioned Bertram and Edwin to come with him.

Sir Jacob walked out and met the two Saracen horsemen. He kept one hand on the sword at his side.

“Halt! What is it you want you wretched jackals!” said Jacob in very broken Arabic.

One of the Saracen cavaliers quickly pulled out a curved scimitar from the scabbard on his belt exposing a gleaming blade but the other held up his hand and spoke to the knight.

“The great Amet Al Jadari, servant of Saladin humbly asks you to submit. You are to drop your arms and pray to Allah for mercy.”

“We will do no such thing!”  Godfrey then turned his back on the horseman and walked back to the fort. The Saracen messengers then got back on their horses and began to gallop toward their army. The first Saracen held his right arm up with fist clenched toward the troops in front of him.  The line of Saracen cavalry swiftly galloped to the left allowing the infantry to step forward and the archers began to set their arrows alight.

Godfrey seemingly gave the same notice when he wrung the bell next to the stable. The Templars assumed it was a call to battle but Godfrey’s Hopitallers knew what it meant as they left their defensive positions and rushed toward the stable to mount their horses. It was time for a mounted attack.

Godfrey looked at Bertram and Edwin as he quickly mounted his horse with a spear in hand and said. “Take a look down there and see what’s about to happen. The village will be taken under arrow and the defenders will be slaughtered while we sit up here. This is not the will go God! We must help them!”

The rest of the Hospitaller knights quickly mounted and fell in behind Godfrey who quickly coaxed his mount toward the door which cranked open as they approached. A lone knight had commandeered the large crank that opened it and saluted when all looked over at him.

Sir Jacob ran out with sword in hand in front of the horseman.

“Where do you think you’re going! You are to maintain this position!”

Godfrey looked down and calmly replied, “to mind the Lord’s flock you ass!” Godfrey looked up and with a snap of the reigns ,his horse lurched forward. The column behind him followed with the knight manning the door mounting a vacant horse at the end.

“Bloody Hospitaller fools!” one of Jacob’s men shouted out loud.

Godfrey’s knights exited the fort in a full run with spears forward. The sky was filled with lit and until arrows in response that fell on the village creating immediate havoc, death and fire. The invading infantry then started their march toward the town with only the village’s crop fields and orchards obstructing them. Jacob prayed it would give him time to reach the village before the infantry. There they could dismount, use the structures as cover and lend their expertise to the defense.

Amet Al Jadari and his lieutenants were experienced and could see what was unfolding. They ordered their more numerous cavalry to ride and engage the knights before they could reach their destination. The Saracen cavaliers began a hard charge snaking around the fields to intercept the line of knights before they entered the town.

Godfrey’s horse galloped hard and to his right he could see the young Sir Francois pushing his mount hard to his left Bertram was expertly driving his mount forward while bringing his spear to bear. He could feel the rest behind him as the ground rumbled, hooves thundered and the occasional horse grunted as they pushed forward.

His troop was moments away from the village when a flash of light to his right revealed many charging Saracen horsemen that were nearly upon them.  Sir Bertram then crossed into his view and angled out toward the mounted attackers aiming his sharpened spear at the closest rider. Godfrey continued forward and entered the village.  He could hear the clash of steel from behind him where Bertram and any others who followed collided with enemy riders. He feared for his comrades but had a responsibility to get to the villagers.

Sir Godfrey and the half dozen others that cleared the dueling cavalry charge jumped off their horses and pulled the swords, morning stars and maces at their sides ready to do battle.  Numerous mounted Saracens barreled out of the cavalry charge into the village only to be struck down from the flanks by enraged knights. The other Saracen riders behind quickly took note and swung wide clearing themselves from confines of the village. It was no place for mounted warriors to do battle.

Sir Godfrey dashed to the safety of a farmhouse and looked over to see old Edwin running with a limp and covered with blood.

“Bertram? Godfrey asked. The old knight just shook his head in reply as he reached the cover of the roof of the house as several arrows landed behind him.

“Let’s go! Get to the villagers in the center!” Godfrey yelled waving his blade toward the center of the town.

Godfrey looked around and counted only six of this troop had made it into the village other than himself and Sir Edwin. There were many fires in the village and much screaming coming from the north side. This had to be where the villagers’ defense was being mounted.

They arrived to find many of the village men and women arrowshot or dead in the village center and many buildings on fire. The friar moved about with several young men carrying buckets of water attempting to put the worst out. Godfrey waved to the friar who approached.

“The arrows broke the men. Most are dead or have retreated to the chapel to defend their families,” the Friar said in a near panic.

Godfrey looked toward the north end of the village and could see a large formation of Saracen infantry now moving down the road.  They had formed into an organized phalanx of spearmen preceded by skirmishers who were running and hacking at anybody they could find.

“Get your men back to the chapel. We’ll make our stand there!” exclaimed Godfrey.

Godfrey and Edwin then coaxed the survivors was toward the church. The townspeople were gathered inside and the seven remaining knights and armed villagers formed a half moon phalanx outside of the double doors.  They all could see the Saracens surging forward and knew this wasn’t going to be a fair fight.

Sir Edwin was the first to speak and mumbled. “Say your peace if you need to lads and give as good as you get!”

Godfrey looked behind him and for a brief second hoped that Sir Jacob and his knights would be charging to their rescue but that was not the case.  He looked toward the hilltop and could see the blood their banner had not moved from the fort at all.  His vision and mind went as red as the bloody cross on their banner.

“May the lord deliver justice to Jacob and his pack of cowardly dogs!” He shouted out loud to nobody in particular.

The first of the Saracen infantry closed on the defending knights in a great rush. Godfrey struck first by bringing his longsword down across the shoulder of a skirmisher nearly cleaving him into two. Francois followed with a vicious jab of his sword through the face of the next. Edwin then brought his blade up to block a blow of a sword but was quickly knocked backward as an unseen warrior punched a spear through the armor covering his chest. Godfrey saw his old friend fall and then walked into a sideward slash of a scimitar which parted his armor and opened his stomach. He fell to one knee holding the vicious wound with one arm and raised his sword high to deflect the killing blow that was surely coming down upon him. His last sight was seeing a great surge of enemy infantry swarm toward him. He fell dark shortly after feeling the bite of great weapon being driven down through his shoulder. His fellow knights died very much the same way.

Sir Jacob had watched Sir Godfrey and his band of fools charge to their deaths. Godfrey had lost most of his riders to the Saracen charge and his own life to a pointless last stand at the church that was now being put to the torch. If that fool had ordered all villagers to fight at least they would have not been burned alive hiding and hoping. The stupidity!

Jacob then looked around at his force and looked at the massive force of Saracen’s swarming the village below with some maneuvering around the hill. His force was small and surrounded by an enraged battle-hardened force that could likely breach the walls of this small fort and crush them at will.  Surrender was the only option.

Sir Jacob was not the only one thinking this as the chapel as the town’s inhabitants burned.  Amet Al Jadari sat on his warhorse looking down upon the scene with the lieutenants he had sent to parley earlier with sad eyes. He didn’t like killing brave men, women and children for such a small village. Why didn’t these fools just leave? He gave them the chance.

“Return to the fort and demand the surrender of who remains. Tell him Al Jadari is feeling merciful after such events!”

The horsemen nodded and road again towards the fort stopping within earshot. The defenders did not move and stirred like nervous farm animals on the battlements.

“What do you want!” shouted Sir Jacob.

“Your unconditional surrender!  Al Jadari does not wish for more massacres after what he has witnessed today!” said the closest rider.

“Will I and my men be spared?” asked Sir Jacob.

“Yes this is what I said. You will come with us and submit before Amit Al Jadari. God willing you will then learn the ways of Allah and serve him the way we see fit.”

“Accepted.” Said Sir Jacob.

The lieutenant smiled, turned and raised his right arm to the sky signaling the surrender. The army surged forward to take possession of the fort. As the lieutenant rode back to join his comrades he did wonder if this coward really deserved any mercy. He had just sat up on the hill watching his comrades in arms die and just surrendered his troops and position without pause.

The handover went smoothly with only one of Jacob’s knights beheaded for disobedience. The rest handed over their horses and arms and submitted to Allah as they had been instructed to. Sir Jacob was the first and handed his blade to Amet Al Jadari with a bow.  The leader smiled but then ordered them to collect all bodies in the village and add them to the pyre that was the church. Jacob and his men carried out the gruesome task in earnest, happy to still have their lives.

Godfrey first saw darkness but then opened his eyes to the light of a thousand suns. Squinting he put right hand in front of his eyes and rolled off the high bed he had been lying on and felt his feet hit the floor. Looking down he noticed his injuries were gone, his armor was removed and he was dressed in a white silken robe. Looking to the left and right he noticed he was in a large warm white room and his fellow knights were fast asleep laid out on similar beds but were not rousing at all.

He looked at a sleeping, Sir Beltram and called out his name.

A booming voice then called out. “Sir Godfrey, they do not hear you.”

Godfrey looked toward the source which appeared to be beyond the bright light. He squinted through the gaps of his fingers and saw the shadow of a large figure materialize and begin to walk toward him. When it got closer he recognized that it was Sir Edwin walking toward him. This Sir Edwin was not the decrepit limping old warrior he knew but a young vibrant one who carried himself high with a large blade in his hand.

“Edwin? Is that you?” Godfrey asked.

“It is and I’ve come to offer you the revenge you seek. It does not come cheaply though. If you take it you will not be able to pass on to heaven but instead will serve your Lord somewhere in between.  If you do take it you will be able to avenge the great injustice that cost you, your men and the villagers their lives. It is your choice to make. Take the sword if you wish it so,” said Edwin as he handed the sword to Godfrey hilt first.

Godfrey thought for a second, grabbed the sword and said “It is gods will.”

Young Sir Edwin smiled as he replied, “Still doing the bidding of another? It must be your will.”

“It is!” replied Sir Godfrey and in a flash he was gone.

Sir Edwin turned as the form of Godfrey disappeared as did the knights around him. He walked back toward the light and as he did his form changed back to the form of a lumbering demon.  It smiled as it thought how this lowly human thought the revenge it seeks is god’s will. He isn’t the first or the last to think that!

Sir Jacob and his men spent the rest of the day conducting the gruesome tasks of stripping the dead of their valuables and throwing their bodies into the fire. The dead Saracens were being collected by the Saracen warriors and an Iman to be prepared for paradise in their way. It was a hot and exhausting task and by the time of the Muslim’s evening prayer, they were exhausted. Their captors forced them to bow in the direction of Mecca and pray to the great Allah for forgiveness. They did not know the words but did as they were commanded. As they did the church still burned strong as if was being fed by scores of the dead that were quickly disappearing into the sky as ash.

A Saracen rider appeared a short time later to relieve them of this work. “Sir Knight. You and your dogs will wash from the brook and then attend our feast. This is my commander’s will.”

Sir Jacob and his men quickly moved toward the brook to wash, drink much-needed water and prepare for a meal with their conquerors.  They finished quickly and lumbered somberly up the hill toward the fort.  The sun had gone down and many campfires now burned in and around the fort as did the pyre that still burned behind them.  They moved toward where they thought the Saracen leader and his generals might be but a warrior quickly stepped in front of them and pointed to a small fire on the periphery of the fort where they would take their meal. A bucket of water and several loaves of bread sat unattended next to it that was quickly passed out to the men.

Jacob’s mood was foul, his fate was unknown but thank god they were still alive. He now had to devise a way to escape. He looked at his men for a second and started to work on what they could do to help him escape. His thoughts were then interrupted as the earth shook and sky night sky was filled with the fire of a thousand suns as something exploded behind him in the village below.

The chapel exploded and Sir Godfrey and his troop emerged from the raging fire on burning mounts. Their blackened charred skeletal forms burned brightly with whites, yellows and oranges of the hottest fire as smoke plumed from them as they charged.  Sir Godfrey felt great power flow through him and looking left and right could see it in his comrades as well. It was if the embers of a justice had been stoked! He also somehow knew though this power would not last forever and they would be consumed. They must be swift! He looked up toward the camp, drew a great fiery longsword and wished a hell storm down up it.  The chapel pyre exploded again throwing flaming debris high into the air above the village and fort.

Amit Al Jadari and his lieutenants rushed out of their great tent when screams of fear and horror could be heard after the roar of a tremendous explosion. Amit pushed through the tent flaps with sword in hand but his eyes were drawn up by the light of a sky filled with flaming debris that began crashing down on the camp like a great firestorm from the heavens. One of his lieutenants made the mistake of running and was quickly crushed down by a large chunk of flaming debris.

“Oh great Allah.” Amit said eyes wide as he ran back into the tent to retrieve his armor.

Sir Jacob and his men recovered from the blindness shock of the explosion and began fleeing away from the trajectory of the debris which arced high into the sky and into camp and fort. As their night sight recovered they looked back toward the village they then saw a wondrous sight. A troop of flaming mounted knights charged from the village and began snaking up the hill.

Most went down to their knees to pray. “God has sent his avenging angels to save us!” Jacob shouted to his men.

Sir Godfrey led the charge up the hill and on the periphery of the camp could see Jacob and his band of cowards. He quickly pointed at them directing his knights on where to attack. Their great lances came down bright with the fires that continued to consume them.

Sir Jacob saw the band turn and accelerate and as they got closer he starting feeling something was familiar about them. “Oh my God!” he mouthed as the details of the blackened plates of the smoldering horseman came into view. It was Godfrey and his troop!

Sir Godfrey’s lance ran through Sir Jacob rupturing his cowering form in first a blast of fire and then a spray of powdered ash. This was repeated by the other horsemen as each one of Jacob’s knights perished in flames. There were a few screams but they were quickly stifled out by the crackling of the flames that now consumed their sources. It was a hellish and brutal end. Justice had been served.

Sir Godfrey and his men then drew great fiery swords, maces and ball-and-chains and charged toward the chaos of the camp and fort. Their fiery mounts were starting to deteriorate with bones starting to break free and fall to the ground and shatter into powder.  They could feel themselves starting to deteriorate and knew they didn’t have much time before they would be ash as well.

Amit Al Jadari and several of his surviving troops now stood back to back in a circle as chaos reigned around them.  They had grabbed their weapons and shields but still had no idea what was going on until they had heard a great clash of steel from the peripheries. Then they saw what seemed to be a great fireball rush across their visions tossing men, horses and equipment far into the air trailing great plumes of fire and smoke. Leading this ball of flame were hellish riders with their weapons held high which they struck down upon their victims who exploded into dust and ash. This continued all around them for several minutes and quickly consumed the army around him.

Amit closed his eyes and whispered to Allah, “Give me strength.”

The hellish riders then slowed and circled outside of the ruined fort and army surrounding Amit and his men giving them a far better view of what they are. The riders were large, armored but skeletal with bones that looked like hot embers that would soon burn out. Their eyes, mouths spewed fire and ash and they seemed to look upon Al Jadari and his men like a great cat would its prey.

Amit decided he would not die a coward’s death and raised his scimitar high and led his lieutenants on a final charge against these demons on foot. The demons reciprocated and moved into a mounted charge behind their leader. The forces closed and the world around them was a blur. Amit swore as he saw a toothy grin form on skeletal form charging right at him. He then felt nothing.

The valley exploded in a firestorm that could be seen and felt in Jerusalem and the territories beyond. Most thought it was the eruption of a volcano or the impact of great rock falling from the sky. Those that had lived or come to the valley were never seen or heard from again. All that was left was a scared landscape that would quickly become as lush and beautiful as it was before.

The Redeemer: Maria

The Redeemer: Maria

red eye

Just a tale about revenge with some gratuitous violence.

Maria walked into her family’s kitchen amongst the chaos of their morning routine. Her Papi was sitting at the table with the Laredo Morning Times spread out in front of him. His graying hair and beard hid his massive grin as well as his favorite Hawaiian shirt hid his great belly.  His attention was on his feisty wife, Anna-Marie, who standing over a pan of sizzling eggs was joyfully shouting over the morning AM traffic report and waving her IPhone toward him with the latest picture of their nephews. Maria’s fiancé Danny was on the other side of the kitchen leaning against the refrigerator enjoying the scene with a cup of coffee in hand. He was dressed in slim blue jeans, a short sleeve black button down over a white tee and a million dollar smile.

His eyes went to her as she walked toward him and as always he slightly lost his breath at the sight of her. She was short like her father but had her mother’s stunning blue eyes and long straight black hair which she tied in a ponytail. She had been a star swimmer and gymnast in High School which gave her an athletic build and an unusually fast pace.

“Good Morning mi amor.  I thought you’d sleep all day! “ Danny said.

“Not today Danny. I’ve got to give a present our study results to the Docs today and need to call and see how my dress is coming. Only two weeks left until our wedding!” She said with a smile followed by a kiss.

“Danny have you ordered your tux yet?” asked Anna-Maria while pointing her spatula at him.

“Uhh, no not yet. Soon!”

“Tell you what. I’ll pick you up from the garage today and we’ll run to the shop before dinner” said Maria.

“Si, that would be perfect!” said Danny.

“Maria, sit down and have some breakfast,” said her mother poking the spatula toward her.

“Oh no thanks Mom, today I’m starting a cleanse.”

Her father looked up from his paper his eyeglasses at the tip of his nose.

“Cleanse?” he asked eyes bouncing to everybody in the room.

“Yes, Papi. A bride needs to be fit and healthy for her wedding,” she said with a sweet smile.

“How about drinking two cups of coffee then instead of drinking the space food?” said Papi.

“Oh Papi!” Maria said with a smile as she patted him on the shoulder on the way to the fridge to retrieve the ingredients for her shake.

Papi then looked at Danny sharply. “Danny, let’s get down to the shop. We’ve got to finish that Beamer this morning.”

“Sure Papi, no problem,” said Danny.

They both got up to leave and Maria followed shortly after making her shake and packing her things. Anna-Marie watched them go through the screen door with a smile and started cleaning up the kitchen. She would be needed down at the family auto shop soon as well.

Maria’s ride to the lab was as ritual driven as events in the kitchen. She started by reviewing her list of daily work tasks which today revolved around presenting clinical data to the hospital’s research chiefs to justify her group’s study on the connection between genes and macular degeneration. She wasn’t worried as this was a long-standing validated project but it was important to her to manage the project well and ultimately move the work forward towards a cure for the disease. She then moved on to her wedding tasks which include a follow-up call on her dress and a couple of emails to make sure the venue was all set as well as the other vendors. She mentally added making sure Danny was following up on his end as well with a sigh. This could be the hardest thing!

Danny arrived at Miguel’s Auto Body about fifteen minutes before Papi did which was typical. Papi liked to stop to buy coffee for the mechanics and maybe a donut or three for him. This was great as it gave Danny time to get things to order and clean up any messes before the boss got there. He suspected Papi knew this which was just another hint at how good he was at running the shop and managing people. Papi had run this business for thirty years and it had put Anna-Marie and Maria through college as well as employ and train many of the neighborhood kids to be mechanics, detailers and in Danny’s case a manager and future owner.

He walked through the central office into out into a large busy multiport garage. There were many cars in various states of repair and a half dozen mechanics moving about.  Business was being carried out as usual and there appeared to be no crisis to jump into.

“Andy! How’s that Beamer coming! Boss is gonna want to know! ” he yelled as he looked at a jet black BMV with a pair of legs hanging out of an open driver side door.

“Um ok. Still having an issue getting this panel back on but detailing and tint done.” bellowed a voice from the car.

“Ok. Pick up around noon. Give me a few and I’ll come take a look,“ Danny replied as he walked back into the office.

Maria’s day went fast.  Her presentation with the chiefs barely stretched the scheduled hour and nobody seemed to have any objections or criticisms beyond the usual budget concerns. Once clear of that meeting she was able to get back to the laboratory where her group was working diligently for a Friday morning. She spent the rest of her workday in her office completing paperwork, lab management tasks and making the calls she needed to her wedding vendors. She finished a little early so made her way to the University track for a good run. She could then pick up Danny after.

Danny’s day at Papi’s shop was slow and problematic. Papi had arrived with coffee and donuts as did Anna-Maria an hour later to help get the office in order and start processing the week’s receipts and pay the bills.  The computer systems went down mid-morning due to a kicked plug and then there was an issue with one of the lifts causing a pickup to be stuck above the floor for an hour until a repairman was able to fix the lift’s hydraulics and free it. It set the garage’s work back several hours and had Danny, Papi, and Anna-Marie scrambling until lunch.  The good news both Danny and Papi could dive under hoods and behind sprayers to help. The bad news is without their oversight it caused several key responsibilities to slip.

Paulo sat in his Charger at the intersection of the worst blocks on the US side of Laredo. His tinted window was wide open and his tattooed arm with a cigarette in hand dangled out as his mirrored sunglasses reflected at least five successful crimes being carried out in his name on the streets in front of him. His car engine rumbled as his free hand was on the wheel but not far from the black Beretta pistol on the seat next to him. His head bobbed slightly as his speakers thumped out the music flowing through them.

He picked up his cell phone and called a contact called Tigre.

“Yes,” replied somebody on the other end.

“Let’s go get Capo’s car,” Paulo said and then promptly hung up.

Three gang soldiers then emerged from a building a block down the street several moments later swaggering toward Paulo’s car.  The lead thug wore black Adidas running pants and a blue tank top that loosely covered his muscled frame. Tiger tattoos decorate the left and right sides of his shaved head and his eyes were covered by mirrored sunglasses. A single toothpick poked from his gold grilled mouth. The second thug was much older with greying jet-black hair and goatee. He wore black jeans and dress shirt separated by a large silver belt buckle with a matching pistol handle besides it. His polished black boots pounded the pavement as he moved forward with purpose. Finally, a lumbering giant picked up the rear with the dead-eyed glaze of a weed-induced high. He wore a backward ballcap, disheveled blue jeans and black tee shirt with a faded white skull on it. His left hand carried a large bag and the right gripped a worn aluminum baseball bat.  They arrive at his car several moments later and Paulo moved over to let the weightlifter drive and the other two get in the back.

“Weren’t we supposed to pick this up earlier today, Paulo?” asked the powerlifter.

“Yeah Tigre. They called earlier and said it might be a little late,” replied Paulo.

“Capo’s not gonna like that,” replied Tigre.

“Eh don’t worry about it, Homey. Capo’ll be alright,” the Giant replied pulling out a glass pipe.

Paulo then put the car into drive and they headed across the city to Miguel’s Auto Shop.

Danny had finished up his last car and was walking back to the office when he came across the BMW Andy was working on that morning. Not knowing what had happened he decided to poke his head in and as he had feared the panel was still sitting there on the passenger seat.

“Shit!” he said out loud.

“Anybody seen Andy?” Danny asked outload.

“Left a half hour ago,” a mechanic said walking bye on her way out for the day.

Danny got out of the car and looked at the time on his phone. Maria wasn’t due for another hour so he could probably finish this in time. The customer hadn’t showed up yet which is good as they aren’t the types to be understanding if things weren’t finished. He quickly walked back toward the tool bench looking for the right tool needed for paneling. If he could just bang this out and get things right no harm would be done.

Maria was approaching the final lap of her run around the university track and quickly transformed into the competitive athlete she once was.  Her mind opened allowing all the stresses in her life to come boiling to the surface. Anything big or small that was going wrong, had gone wrong or will go wrong was right there. Every person that had tried to wrong or hurt her was now visible to her mind’s eye. It enraged her and she used it and her fury erupted as she pumped her arms and legs as hard as she possibly could bursting into a hard final sprint around the track. It was her release and it felt great.

The Redeemer heard her on its dark plane. The girl had reached out and it had felt her rage and fury as if it was its own. Its hands balled, muscled arms tensed and jaw clenched as it saw the injustices in her mind’s eye.  She wanted to strike out and burn them all to the ground. This thought excited it.

Maria felt the surge of burned rage give way to something deep and dark in her mind. Slightly panicked she quickly brought her focus back to reality and crossed the finish line ramping down into a slow jog. The rage and darkness subsided as she put it behind her and she made her way back toward the gym and showers.

Maria sat down in her car after the shower and a change. She felt great as stress and weariness of the day had given way to the surge of energy that a good workout gave her. Her high school soccer coach had taught her to use life’s challenges as her rocket fuel and she always did on the last lap. She did wonder though if it would give her a heart attack one day as well.

It was now time to pick up Danny and go look at tuxedos.

Danny was having trouble with the panel. He had been at it for twenty minutes and still couldn’t get it to sit on the dash frame correctly.

“Danny! Time to close up shop. You ready?” yelled Papi from the office.

“Almost, just need a few!” replied Danny.

Paulo pulled his Charger into a parking space in front of Miguel’s and jumped out with Tigre.  The other two soldiers got out of the back of the car and then jumped into the front. The sun was nearly down and traffic had picked up slightly delaying them. The good news was the red neon open sign was still lit in the window next to the door so they walked in and walked up to the desk. Paulo impatiently banged on the bell at the counter that separated a waiting area from an office.

“Coming!” said a female voice from the office.

Anna-Marie emerged from the office behind the counter with a smile on her face.

“Hello,” she said.

“Olah! Here to pick up my car” said Paulo impatiently.

“Name?” she replied.

“Rodriquez, it’s the BMW,” said Paulo pointing through the office window to the car being worked on in the center of the garage.

“Ah, one second!” Anne-Marie replied with a friendly smile.

Anne-Marie walked toward the garage to see about the car.

Maria pulled her Honda to the curb in front of the shop.  She was hoping Danny would be there but it wasn’t the case.  Looking through the front window she could see a couple of customers speaking with Mama at the counter. Knowing that Danny probably couldn’t leave until they were finished she grabbed her cell phone and started thumbing through her work email.

Anne-Marie walked to the driver’s side to see Danny’s legs still hanging out of it as he was trying to manipulate a panel to the dashboard.

“Hey Danny, the customers are here to pick up this car.”

“Ah ok. Thanks Mama. I’ll take care of it.”

Danny climbed out of the car and walked toward the office while wiping his hands on a towel that had been hanging on the open door.  As he caught sight of who was at the counter his stomach dropped just a bit. They were bad news.

“Hello. I’m Danny and I’ve been working on your car. The tinting and detailing are done but I’m having a hard time getting a panel back on. You can wait if you’d like or come back tomorrow if it works better for you.”

“You’ve had the car for days. It needs to be done now.” Paulo said with a slightly raised voice.

Papi came walking in from the garage.

“Sorry for the delay. Sometimes the manufacture strips the fasteners which make it difficult to get the panel back on.  Give us a few minutes and we’ll get it done,” Said Papi trying to defuse the situation.

“Would you boys like a Coke? I’ve got some in the fridge. I’ll get them for you. Sit down and relax for a few.” said Mama with a smile.

“Bitch we want our car, not coke.” Tigre said aggressively.

Anne-Marie and Papi glared but Danny instantly replied. “Hey watch your fucking mouth!”

“Why?” Tigre replied while reaching for something tucked in his pants behind his back.

“You gonna do something about it Punto!” he said grinning as his hand swung back to the front revealing a modern pistol.

“Whoa T!” said Paulo putting an arm in front of him and then turning toward him. “They don’t need to see that!”

As Paulo turned back toward the counter he was instantly blinded and thrown backward by the wooden counter exploding out at him with a roar. He hit the lobby floor hard and his arms and legs stung from many small wounds. Looking over at Tigre he saw that he had been bowled over as well as had many small cuts all over him. He was rolling over with gun in hand.

Maria was just finishing a mail when she heard a large explosive crash and the sound of glass breaking. Looking over at the shop the glass front door and windows seemed to have been blown out and she could see dust and smoke coming from the lobby. She jumped out of the car phone in hand rushing toward the shop. She noticed two men had jumped from the car and were rushing to the shop as well.

Danny looked up after his hand released the trigger of the double-barreled shotgun that had been fastened to the underside of the counter under the register. He had reached over and fired both barrels at them when the smarter one had turned. The counter in front of him had shattered and wooden splinters had blown the bangers over and shattered and windows beyond.

Danny looked over at Papi relieved that the danger had passed but Papi wasn’t looking his way. Shifting his attention back to lobby he noticed the thugs were now slowly getting back up and both had guns in their hands.

Papi grabbed Anna-Marie as pushed her towards the door to the garage and Danny leaped to the standing remains to find the box of shells.  As Papi’s hand touched Anna-Marie and Danny reached the counter the thugs fired. Bullets from the semi-automatic weapons tore into their bodies. Anna Marie and Papi fell in each other’s arms and Danny was thrown back into the wall behind where he slid down the wall leaving a trail of blood.

“What the fuck!” Paulo yelled looking over at the people they had just gunned down.

“Crazy people man!” said Tigre pulling a small pellet from a wound on his face.

The other two thugs entered through the shattered door guns drawn and glared at Paulo as they processed what had just gone on.

“You two. Car’s back there in the garage,” Paulo said pointing.  “Get it out and drive it home.”

“T come on. We need to burn this place.”

Turning toward the door they noticed a beautiful young woman standing in the doorway.

Maria’s brain was trying to process what she was seeing. She had rushed in behind the two men and was stopped cold by the site of her family’s bodies and the bloodstained wall. Danny was bloody, slumped against the blood-smeared wall lifelessly staring out of the shop. Streams of blood seemed to still be coming from numerous wounds on his torso and neck. Her parents were on the floor together huddled in a growing pool of blood on the floor.

“Hey!” somebody shouted.

She suddenly found herself able to move and saw two of the thugs move toward her guns in hand.

A voice in her head said “Run!”

She turned and dashed as fast as she could out the doorway angling quickly to the left to not give them a straight shot.

Paulo saw the girl run and he raised his gun to fire but was answered by the clicks of an empty ammo clip. He stopped quickly to reach into his pocket searching for another and heard T’s weapon fire a few shots that struck the corners and went off into the neighborhood behind. The two others then passed by them rushing out the door with guns raised.

Maria ran to her car in seconds flat, opened the passenger door and dove in head first. She swore as her ribs were bruised by the hard center panel but rolled quickly to get her feet near the break and gas pedals.  Two gunshots rang out and the windshield above her head was holed and the window at the rear shattered. She quickly pressed the button of the key less starter, pushed the stick to drive and thumped her foot on the gas. She heard two more shots and felt two thumps on the car but she felt the car accelerated away and heard many more shots.  She kept low in the seat and pointed away from the shop and then popped her head up higher when she didn’t hear the gunshots anymore.

The two thugs emptied their magazines at the speeding car in vain. The girl was quick and their shots had failed to hit anything vital on the car or her to slow her down.  They watched helplessly as the car sped away.

Two seconds later Paulo and T came running out of the lobby reloaded guns in hand.  Hearing alarms going off up and down the street Paulo shouted,” Let’s go! Get Capo’s car and burn this fucking place to the ground!”

The Charger and BMW left the garage four minute later. The bodies were left where they lay and a hot gasoline fire now blazed in the garage which would quickly engulf the shop well before the police and fire department arrived.  Neighbors had seen and heard the commotion and even called the police but hid in place when gunshots rang out. The culprits had gotten away unseen.

Maria was still shaking from the adrenaline rush as her car screeched to a halt in front of the small police station. She fell out of the driver’s door and then dashed through the double set of doors into the arms of an older police officer walking out.

“You’ve got to help me! They’re after me!” she shouted as she grabbed him by both his shoulders.

“Hold on young lady,” he said looking at her.

“Here come with me.” the officer said as he turned her toward the long hallway into the station.

Detectives Tyson and Strauss arrived at Miguel’s Auto Repair as the fire department was still busy trying to put the flames out. Two fire engines were in front of the smoldering building. The first had its ladder up with firemen spraying down on the structure and the other had a couple of long hoses strewn from it where two teams of firemen were spraying into the garage. Two police patrol cars sat out front with flashing red lights on while several police officers were standing about talking to citizens. Two ambulances also sat nearby with their rear doors open with filled body bags on gurneys in the rear.

One of the officers looked up at the detectives approached and walked toward them.

“Evening Detectives. We’ve got three confirmed homicides and likely arson and larceny. The deceased who have been identified as the owners Miguel Vasquez, his wife Anna-Marie Vasquez and manager Danny Garcia were found with multiple gunshot wounds in the lobby.  The bodies were moved at the request of the fire department but photos were taken prior to them being moved.  Witnesses heard gunshots and cars speeding away an hour ago however no identification of the cars or people have been made.  The scene is secured and we’re gathering information from neighbors now.”

“Thanks, Officer” replied Detective Tyson while squinting toward the now steaming lobby.

“Any weapons found at the scene?” asked Detective Strauss.

“None. The front counter looks to have been blasted away and the rear of the office was riddled with bullet holes. I’m guessing a shotgun wiped out the counter but the small caliber stuff was definitely multiple small caliber pistols. Guessing some bangers tried to rob this place and it went sideways. It’s a real shame, the neighbors thought highly of these folks.” replied the officer.

Suddenly all three looked toward a parked police car as an Officer was yelling to them and waving them over.

“Detectives! Central just radioed. Looks like an eye witness just walked into the Parker substation!”

“Ok!” yelled Detective Strauss. He then looked at the Officer in front of them.

“Thanks Officer, please keep the scene as secure as possible and continue collecting statements. Forensics should be here shortly to at least start on the bodies until the fire is out.

The two detectives then walked to their sedan, got in and started their drive to the substation.

Maria sat in a wooden chair next to the older police officer that had brought her in. His name was Officer Allen and he had quickly brought her to a paramedic who examined her and treated the many small cuts and bruises she got in the retreat. He then had sat her down in the wooden chair next to his desk, given her a glass of water and taken her statement. He then had rushed off to another part of the station house to get people to her father’s garage.

She wearily looked up as he returned.

He put his hand gently on her shoulder and said. “Ok honey. Things are going to be ok. The police and fire department are already there and some detectives are coming to speak with you. It’s important that you talk with them so they have a good chance of catching the criminals. Please try and remember everything you can. It’s important.”

“Ok, thank you Officer Allen,” Maria said with tears in her eyes.

“I’ll be back again in a few. Do you want anything?”

“No, I’ll be fine. Thank You.”

Maria closed her eyes as Officer Allen walked away.

Three desks away a young slick-haired detective in a crisp white Oxford shirt and black tie had been listening to the whole thing. As soon as Officer Allen had walked out of the room he picked up his cell and texted a brief message to an unknown recipient. He then went back to a report that should not have taken more than an hour to complete.

The Vine was a popular club in downtown Laredo. People from all walks of life visited its neon covered dancefloor nightly to socialize, drink and do other things.  The papers said the building seemed to have a pulse of its own when the crowds were in dancing to the next up-and -coming deejay.  It was a success.

Luis “Capo” Saluzar had owned the place for well over a year and it had helped him gain greater notoriety than the small time pimp and drug dealer he was.  It was his pride and joy and he intended to keep it that way. He didn’t get to where he was being stupid.

He started down from the one-way office window to the air side of the dance floor and could see his nephew Paulo fidgeting nervously at a table with a drink in front of him.

Paulo was his nephew and a fuck-up. He had style but no brains. He had taken him into his crew reluctantly at the urging of his sister and regretted that decision every day since. Paulo made poor decisions and even worst friends.  This is why they were all in this situation.

Luis knew there was trouble by the way Paulo and his fuck-up crew rushed into the club in a panic. His heart dropped when Paulo told him the story and the fate of the Vasquez’s. He had grown up with Miguel, always used him to fix his cars and never had a problem with him. He also was a solid citizen which Luis always told his crew to steer clear of. Messing with solid citizens brought down a lot of heat from the cops but also the neighborhoods. He didn’t fucking need that and this was a problem that needed to be solved immediately.

Luis contacted the right kind of friend at the police department and learned that Miguel’s daughter, Maria, had turned up at the police station as a material witness. Given the story he just heard from Paulo she was likely the girl that had escaped.

He ordered Paulo and his crew to go over to the Vasquez home and kill Maria before she could do anything. He hated killing Miguel’s kid but he didn’t get to where he was making bad decisions like his nephew. He also let Pablo know if he fucked this up somebody was going to find him and his friends in a burning building.

Maria’s mind wandered. She had a brief flashback of the shop, Danny’s body and then her retreat. She suddenly felt very guilty about running. She then thought about her Mama and Papa’s smiles and then felt like she was out of breath as the vision of their bodies in the pool of blood came to mind. She then thought about the killers. She could see each one of them and felt a surge of rage build up. She wanted them to die. She would take each one apart piece by piece. She could see herself doing it. She had the bald one against a wall, his head in her hand and she was slowly pushing a long knife into his face.

“Maria!” came a voice from darkness.

Maria shook and opened her eyes and Officer Allen was standing there with a man and woman whom she guessed to be detectives from their dress.

“This is Detectives Strauss and Tyson. They’re here to help. Please go with them,” said officer Allen.

“Hi. I’m Patricia Tyson and this is Dan Strauss. I know this is the worst day of your life but we need to ask you some questions to try and catch the people that did this.”

“Ok,” Maria said as she got up and followed.

“Good luck Maria. We’ll get them,” said Officer Allen as Maria walked away.

The Redeemer smiled as he felt Maria leave once again. Her rage satisfied it and it could still feel the dark energy she had radiated. It would have her soon. It then looked at the small devil sitting next to it, grasped its head with a mighty claw and squeezed exploding it in a great splash of gore.

Maria and the detectives spent the next couple hours walking through events of the day. Every retelling grew the incredible sadness and grief she was feeling in her heart and the adrenaline and shock gave way. They went through a number of photos of possible perpetrators but she was unable to match any picture with those that were at the shop. She finally reached a point of exhaustion.

“I can’t do this anymore. I need to go,” she said wearily looking at the Detectives.

“Understood.” said Detective Tyson. “I’ll give you a ride home. Please rest for the night and we’ll be bye tomorrow to talk about what’s next.”

“Ok, thank you, ” replied Maria.

They all walked back into the central office. The Detectives went back to their desks and collected their things while Maria watched. They then made their way out of the office and out of the station.

The young slick detective with the white Oxford shirt was still at work. He was leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk while talking on his desk phone. As they walked he bye his eyes followed them and once they passed out of the room he pulled out his cell phone and started texting.

Detective Tyson and Maria pulled up to an empty Vasquez house a short time later. The old white Cape was dark with the exception of the kitchen and front door lights which Papi always liked to keep on. The neighborhood itself was dark and most lights were out as people had gone to bed for a night. A light wind blew against the care shaking it just a bit and a nearly full moon gave a glow to everything.

“Are you going to be okay, Maria?”

She looked at the Detective for a second and replied. “Yes.”

“Get something to eat and some sleep. I’ll be by around 10 tomorrow to pick you up. If you remember something or just need somebody to talk to here is my card. My cell number is at the bottom. We’ve also asked for a few patrols to drive bye although I’m sure the criminals are in hiding or running as fast as they can.”

Detective Tyson got out of the car with Maria and they walked to the front door. Maria fumbled with her keys and then opened the door allowing Tyson to step though first.  Detective Tyson stepped through and before she could reach for the light she saw a blur of movement to her left and then felt a crushing blow from above. She felt nothing after.

Maria watched as the detective stepped through the door and was swiftly struck by a baseball bat swung from above. Tyson’s head and neck bent at an awkward angle and she crumbled to the floor prone with blood pouring from a vicious wound at the top of her head.

Maria was about to scream when a familiar bald muscled thug stepped from the front hallway, bloody bat in hand. He reached out and grabbed her forcefully by her hair and pulled her into the hallway. Two others were there as well who she vaguely recognized. One was dressed in all black and the other was a familiar looking giant.

She then let loose gut-wrenching scream hoping the neighbors would hear.

“No you don’t!” is what she heard in reply and then felt herself being thrown toward the kitchen at great force and speed. She saw she was spooling toward the stove, felt the painful impact of her head striking it first, heard a ringing and then nothing.

Tigre and his two companions looked down at Maria.

“Ok Amigo, let’s kill this bitch and torch the place,” said the large one looking down.

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe we can have a little fun first!” said the older leather dressed thug.

Tigre smiled. They did have the night and this girl was beautiful.

Maria could feel the rage flowing through her. Her family and Detective Tyson had been violently murdered and she knew she was about to be as well.  She should be scared but she wasn’t. She was angry and she wanted to make them pay, make the world pay, burn it all.

She opened her eyes and she was not in the kitchen. Fact where she was nowhere she had ever seen or been before. The walls were made of blacked stone and to her left was a great fireplace that sheltered a crackling hot fire. In front of that fire facing it was a great muscled female form sitting in a chair back to her.

Maria rose from the floor and the form swiveled on its chair facing her.

Maria stopped in shock as the form appeared to be Maria but not exactly.  She had Maria’s face, hair and gait but was it much larger with muscled arms and her fingers were sharpened claws. This beast grinned at Maria exposing a vicious set of white gleaming vampiric fangs and blood-red pupils that it seemed to look right through Maria with. It seemed demonic; something out of the stories Mama would read her as a child.

“Hello Maria,” the Demon said.

“I can give you what you want.“

Maria’s mind was spinning. She first questioned if it was a hallucination and then if she had died and gone to hell but there was something familiar about the way it made her feel. She felt the surge of energy of something powerful. It felt like it was coming from her, not the demon.

She got up and walked toward the demon and as she did she felt that power surge with every heartbeat. The demon moved toward her and they embraced. It felt warm, comforting and the then the world seemed to explode in that instant.

Maria opened her eyes once again and she was in the kitchen against the stove. She knew she should be hurt but felt a great surge of adrenaline flow throw her. She could see three pairs of feet of her adversaries and heard one of them say something about having fun with her. This made her very angry.

Tigre was walking toward the girl to get her up when her eyes appeared to open and she jumped up from the ground landing in a crouched stance in one lightning fast action. Her face looked that of a warrior instead of a scared girl and her eyes were a bright red. This confused and enraged him.

“Oh so she’s gonna put up a bigger fight, huh?” Tigre said as he blitzed Maria.

Anticipating his low tackle Maria jumped high with legs spread allowing him to charge underneath head-first into the oven with a loud thud.  She then allowed gravity to do its work landing hard on his back driving him downward face first into the floor.

Tigre responded slowly but then spun himself with great force which threw Maria off him.

They both rose and then faced off across the kitchen from each other.  Maria’s back was against a counter with no place to go. Her hair was a little disheveled but she was smiling hands up ready to go. Tigre was across from her blocking the door with his companions behind him. His nose was bloodied and he was missing two teeth in front. He was wheezing and snarling at her like a rabid dog.

“Tigre looks like this bitch has your number.” the stoned giant said out loud. The man in black laughed out loud.

“I don’t think so, amigo.” said Tigre.

He then grabbed a small steak knife that was in the sink next to him and once again charged at Maria.

This time she quickly reached behind her and grabbed a knife in each hand from the butcher’s block on the counter behind her, turned and ducked just in time to avoid Tigre’s first sideward slash from left to right.

She answered by then jabbing him in the lower gut with both knives which bloodied his shirt. He looked down to see what she had done and then up as both here blades buried themselves to the hilt at the base of each side of his neck. She then ripped them back out spraying the wall, kitchen, herself and his comrades with his blood.  His lifeless form dropped to the floor into an expanding pool of blood.

“You fucking devil!” the giant stoner shouted as he came at her swinging the baseball bat Tigre had used to brain the detective. Maria felt a sting on the right side of her body the aluminum bat struck her side. The blow should have shattered the ribs of anyone Maria’s size but Maria wasn’t even stunned. She quickly slashed across the top of his wrists with both knives causing him to drop the bat. Releasing the knives she then reached back and grabbed the open griddle on the counter and slammed it down over his exposed head while slamming it shut.  Bone, blood and brain erupted from it as the thugs head fractured instantly. His limp and lifeless form dropped to the floor adding to the blood and gore already on the floor from Maria’s first victim.

She then turned to the final thug to see he had pulled a silver pistol out and was pointing at her.

“You get the fuck away from me sister!” he fearfully said.

“You’re not getting out of this,” she said with a grin.

The thug began to pull the trigger as he leaned back to run. However, as he did so the gore-filled griddle slammed against his gun causing both to spin off to the side.  Before he could get his wits back about him Maria was already on him delivering a powerful kick to his midsection which threw him back into the hallway across the body of the Detective.

He shook his head and twisted to rise. As he turned to look back toward the kitchen Maria was right in front of him, pointing the silver pistol right at him.

“Where are the others?” she asked.

“Don’t kill me. I’ll tell you anything!” he pleaded.

He told her everything including their employer, Paulo’s name and the name of the club he was waiting for them at. She smiled and then shot him in the face covering the wall behind him with brains and blood.  She then walked casually upstairs to get ready. She had the perfect dress!

Maria stepped out the cab in front of the Vine and walked toward the entrance.

A large bouncer stood at the door and had just let a couple of fools in when he saw a beautiful Mexican woman walking towards him. She was short and had the build of an athlete. Her face was oval, lips cherry red with eyes that seemed to match. She was wearing a red party dress and her long flowing pitch black hair was tied at the top but then flowed down over her neck and shoulders to the front of her. She walked with the grace of a cat and she seemed to be looking right at him as she walked up and stopped inches from him. She smiled and he swore he could see fangs in her mouth but was too stunned to think more about it.

“One please,” she said.

“You are beautiful!” he said.

She gave him a seductive smile and opened a small clutch and pulled out the cash for the cover charge.

“Oh don’t worry about that. Save it for your first drink.” the bouncer said.

“Thanks.” Maria said as she walked by giving him a small peck on his cheek as he opened the door to the club for her. He smiled at the kiss but also notice his cheek felt like it was burning a little bit. With a shrug, he turned and went back to managing the door.

Maria surveyed the club as she walked in. In front of her was a filled neon dance floor that seemed to change color with every pulse of the speaker. The thick crowd moved to the beat and gave off the heat and smells of perfumed bodies in motion.  A tall female DJ dressed in black leather bodysuit twisted and turned as she manipulated her records and boards on a platform overlooking the floor.  To the right, several neon-lipped bar tenders at a neon- lighted bar were hustling to meet the demands of a crowd shouting their orders. To the left was a series of tables, mostly occupied with people drinking and reveling over the events on the dance floor.

Maria walked on to the dance floor and began dancing with the crowd but looking around the room as she did so.

A young blonde in a tight white dress pushed closed to her and writhed seductively next to her. She then twisted, pushed close and said in awe “how’d you do that to your eyes?” Maria showed a toothy grin and then swatted the girl away as if she made of paper machete.

The girl’s trajectory carved a lane through the crowd and her broken form slid into some tables beyond. Maria watched and then noticed Paulo sitting at one of the tables staring sheepishly at her. Maria eyes seemed to set aflame as she felt the rage once again course through her veins.  She launched herself at Paulo with a high athletic leap and landed on the table in front of him crushing it down.

Paulo looked into the face of the demon and could see his doom. He reached around to grab the pistol he had tucked in a shoulder holster but Maria quickly slashed down with her now sharpened claws tearing three viscous wounds into his chest and knocking his reaching arm away. She then grabbed him by his face with the other claw, lifted him off the ground and squeezed as hard as she could.

Luis jumped up to look out his office into the club as he heard a great commotion coming from the dance floor. He could see the crowd was now frozen in place as they first watched a woman in red first slash his nephew with something and then palm his head like a basketball.  The crowd then screamed and his heart skipped as Paulo’s head seemed to pop in her hand spraying the room with gore. There were screams from the crowd and a tremendous rumble as they rushed to get away.

Luis ran over to his phone and hit the button to call security. “Get out there. A woman in red just killed Paulo!”

Luis then opened his front desk drawer and grabbed a semiautomatic pistol from it and then opened up a side drawer were he grabbed several magazines for it. He then rushed toward the door of his office that leads to a stairway to the floor below.

The large bouncer manning the door had heard the commotion but before he could open it to look the doors burst open with a rush of customers screaming and trying to get out. He didn’t know what was going on until his headset came to life with Luis’s dire message. He then put his shoulder down and bulled his way through the onrushing crowd.

The bouncer pushed through the final group of people and could see the beautiful woman in red he had seen earlier standing over a headless body to his left. She was covered in blood and gore and as she turned toward him her red eyes seemed to be shimmering like open flames.

She sneered and bolted toward him. He swiftly pulled out his 45 caliber pistol from its holster and felt and heard the explosion of firing three rounds at her which connected and blew her body to the back of the room into the utility doors with a resounding crash.  She then crumpled to the ground like a broken doll.

The bouncer then approached gun in hand to make sure she was down. She was lying on her side against the doors.  He reached out his foot to roll her body over. As soon as his leg touched her side her arm shot out grabbing his leg lifting with intense speed and strength sending him sprawling backward landing skull first on the floor.

Maria looked over at the fool she just flipped and then leaped on his prone form like a panther. He was attempting to bring the hand cannon he had blasted her with around but she quickly pinned that arm down and began punching him in the face as hard as she could with the other. It took three punches until she felt his skull shatter.

She then got up and could feel her body getting numb. She looked down and could see the bullet holes in her chest which were now streaming blood. She couldn’t see the greater exit wounds in her back which were bleeding even more profusely. She didn’t know that several organs were damaged and bleeding internally. Maria did understand though, she was dying.

She looked at the exit sign above and pushed the doors open in front of her exposing a darkened utility room in from of her.  She made her way forward for a few feet and then a door to her left immediately sprang open and an older man emerged with a gun in hand.

Luis saw Maria as he opened the door but before he could raise his weapon she charged and hit him with the force of a pro linebacker. He felt the pain of his ribs and vertebrae cracking when his body hit the utility box on the wall behind him. He slid to the floor he gasped trying to catch his lost breath. He looked up and saw that his attacker was down on a knee as well and the floor around here was pooling with blood rapidly.  He could also smell gas coming from the now ruptured pipes behind him. He started to both reach for his dropped gun and stand.

Maria looked up and the man was now up on one arm with the other hand grasping the weapon he had dropped.  Behind him was the jagged wreckage of some pipes which were now spewing gas into the room.  She leaped up at him once more and he in turn raised his pistol and fired.  The world then erupted in fire, pain and then darkness for both.