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Monkey Barn Campfire Story - full version

[Over on Monkey Barn we've been doing a campfire story, each day another contributor adding a chapter. Here the story is in its entirety (so far) in case you want to follow along]

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Part I - Hyperion

Harry and Anika sat there tense, trying to pretend they were no such thing. Last night had been truly awful. Three months in town and still no friends, they had jumped at a party invitation. The instructions to “bring your favorite weapon” were odd, but Harry assured Anika it was just small town humor.

Nothing at the party went well. There was a film noir buff, fascinated that Harry should have the same name as a character in some famous movie. ‘Harry Lime,’ the man had repeated all night, infinitely delighted.

Anika didn’t fare much better. Again and again she’d had to tell people, no, “Not like Star Wars. That was Anakin. I’m Anika.” The message didn’t seem to come through.

Then at the end of the party that…thing happened. Small town or not, Anika couldn’t stand it, and she told Harry to take her home. Angry words were spoken. The hide-a-bed unfolded.

Now they sat there, uncomfortable. Harry tried to read the paper, his mind on other things. He was dreading work today. What must his coworkers think of him? After Bob invites him over for a big shindig, Anika embarrasses him like that. Harry knew he needed to speak to her about it, but confrontation made Harry queasy.

Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw Anika playing silently, her fingers an inch above the keys. She used to love to play; a delicate touch and a flair for combining the most incongruous. The first time Harry ever met Anika was at another party. She was effortlessly melding Chopin’s Nocturne and the theme song from “COPS” together. Harry fell in love with her at first sound.

Anika hadn’t played once since they moved here, and Harry wasn’t quire sure why. Oddly, he noticed she was a little too dressed up for a Tuesday morning. Anika always looked lovely, but it wasn’t even 8, and already she had her makeup on, her hair done, and was that a hint of perfume?

Harry was going to mention it to her when out of the corner of his eye he saw the article with accompanying picture. Was that the guy? From last night? That they…..? Blood drained from Harry’s face as he soaked in the details.

“My, God, Anika, you’re not going to believe it. I know who that man was now.”

“What man?” Anika said casually, but Harry noticed her fingers had quit whatever music had been in her head. Did she know something?

Harry opened his mouth to tell her, when a knock came at the door behind them. Both looked up sharply at the sound, then eyed each other, nervous.

“You better see who that is.” Harry said hoarsely.

“Yes.” Anika answered faintly. I suppose I must.”

Anika began to rise, straightening her dress. Harry opened his mouth to tell his wife something important, but just then the door burst open, and whatever thought Harry had fell plumb out of his head.

Part II - Bear

Through the doorway stumbled none other than Bob. At first glance he was still suffering the effects from the previous night’s bacchanalia, before the ordeal turned sour. His eyes were haggard, but there was a focus in them. The same focus he had seen in so many eyes last night.

“You really ought to bolt your door tighter,” he said. “A lot of… passionate… people live in this town.”

Harry quickly got to his feet, putting himself in between the man and his wife.

“I don’t know how you found out where we live, Bob, but you better leave before I notify the authorities.”

“The authorities? That won’t be necessary.” Bob replied. “Not today, at any rate,” he added with a sneer. “Besides, do you think they would believe you were innocent bystanders?”

“Bob, please,” pleaded Anika. “I didn’t intend for any of that to happen last night. I thought it was…”

“…just a joke.” Bob finished her sentence. “Yes, I heard you last night, dear Annika.” The mispronunciation was intentional, and Anika winced all the more. “You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into. Everything is a game to people like you.”

Bob had a hard time thinking it wasn’t—that the entire affair wasn’t just some cruel joke played on newcomers, like the hazing he had experienced in his fraternity at Princeton. Only now did he begin to realize the full ramifications of that day when his employers had decided to transfer him to Waco. As for Anika…

“I still don’t understand!” she said loudly. She was bordering on frantic. Sweat beaded on her forehead. “We really only thought it would be funny.” She would have to redo her makeup.

Bob glanced over at the piano, then looked back at Anika. “That is as much of a weapon as any knife.”

He spun around to leave and took a step, then stopped and spoke over his shoulder.

“Mark my words. The true ‘authorities’ are not who you think they are. And you will be the ones to answer to them, not I.” Then he strode out the doorway and down the stairs.

For some time the two stood there in stunned silence, the smell of bewilderment slowly fading, being replaced by fear.

“So it really did happen.” Harry whispered softly. “It wasn’t just a dream.”

“Harry, what are we going to do?” Anika said.

Part III - Elaine

She was looking at him wildly, reminding him of their first time together. How smooth and sweaty they’d gotten…


“Harry!” Anika whispered harshly. He absently rubbed his cheek as she shook him by the shoulders. “Snap out of it. What should we do?”

He grabbed her wrists and threw them aside with a cruel chuckle. “Now you ask my opinion of what we should do?! I told you we shouldn’t go in the first place, but you wanted to go. I wasn’t enough company, you wanted to go make nice with those freaks.”

“You’re always at the office here… this move was…”

“This move was also your idea, Darling. You liked the idea of the money and prestige. I told you openning a new branch would mean longer hours for me.”


They both turned and looked out over their garden. “Did you see that?” Harry questioned, cautiously moving to the French doors.

“You mean the bird that just hit the window?”

“And a figure ducked behind the fence.”

She ran to him and threw herself around him. “Oh Harry, whatever should we do?”

The feel of her soft trembling body against his. The scent of her perfume. Her doe-eyes looking up to his on the verge of tears. A lion within him roared. He grabbed her tighter and calmly said, “We’ll act as if nothing has happened for the time being.” He felt her quiver and he absently rubbed her back. “Until we know more, we have no choice.”

He ogled her butt as he let her go and slipped into his jacket.

“You’re just going to leave?!?” She stood glaring at him, her fists poised on her hips, ready for a fight.

“Acting as if nothing has happened means I have to go to work,” he said to her through a grin, turning his back to the patio. He grabbed her tight and whispered in her ear, “you still have that Deringer I got you?” He felt her warm breath on his neck as she went to answer and he quickly said, “just nod your answer.”

She nodded slightly.

“Good. Get it and keep it on you, and loaded.” He kissed her forehead before breaking the embrace.

“I’ll be home on time, have that roast ready,” he said heading to the door.

“At a time like this you're hungry?”

He walked to her and held her even tighter. “Remember what you took as your weapon last night, Dear? Cook it and serve it. I’ll take care of mine before I get home tonight.”

He kissed her passionately, feeling her desire. He broke from the kiss and left before she could stop him again, pausing only monentarily at the car. They’d not been passionate sincethey moved here…just why was she looking so good this early in the day?

Anika chained the door. Watched her husband get into his car. Then ran to her nightstand for her gun. Unfortunately, the fake book she kept it hidden in was empty.

Part IV - Sea Hag

Anika stared at the hiding place the Deringer had been, her fingers absently tracing the indentation in the book where it should be, her mind whirling through the events of last night:

She had been inspired by an episode of 'The Twilight Zone' to take the roast as her favorite weapon, and Harry, wanting to be original, took the heavy porcelain top of the toilet tank. At the party, she had been disappointed to see that two other people had brought some sort of frozen meat as their weapons, but there was also a clever assortment of power tools, office supplies, and kitchen gadgets to be found. Just as the host was about to give an excellent bottle of merlot to the man who brought the most original weapon (which was an accordion), the last guest walked in the door.

The tardy guest had brought a leggy brunette with him as his weapon. The host was delighted at this. "Love as the ultimate weapon!" he cried, and declared him the winner of the night (much to the disappointment of the man with the accordion).

But Anika had recognized the brunette, and as the back of her throat filled with the long-forgotten metallic taste of forced desire and ruin, she knew that it wasn't love that was the ultimate weapon. It was knowledge.

Anika had been tempted to tell Harry the truth about her past the moment she met him at that party so long ago, but as the night had progressed and she saw the bashful flush of his cheeks, she knew that if she wanted to be rescued by his shy man she never could. And she wanted, longed, needed to be saved before she surrendered that last bit of her soul to the men that frequented her bed at night and paid her for the forced smile on her lips, her deft fingertips playing Bach on their skin.

She never could remember how she fell into prostitution, could never remember the name of the man who had violated her smooth, pale flesh the first time. She had lived in exclusive boarding schools for years, but then her parents died and the money was gone and she found herself alone in the city. Eventually her talent at the piano brought her relative safety from the streets and a few rich clients who kept her well and liked to show her off at parties. And then she met Harry.

She sighed and gently closed the fake book and slid it back on the shelf. She had thought that marrying Harry and moving to this small town would help erase her memories of the past, help her move on and forever bury the things she kept from her husband. But when she saw the brunette she realized that she'd been a fool, and that she'd go to any length to keep the truth from Harry. And there had been so many weapons lying around...

Part V - Ajax

Harry was still fuming, a few blocks from his office, when an old but very familiar sensation prompted him to quickly cut into the alley he was passing. He was a little rusty moving his hand up to the small of his back, removing the item there, and raising it to its accustomed position; shoulder height and steady as a rock.

The man who rushed around the corner was not, as Harry expected, thickset, greasy, and wearing a cheap suit. The thin man was well groomed and wearing something normally found on Seville Row. Thin Man smiled as he stared down the barrel of the revolver. “Looks like not all the skills have faded, eh Harry? It is Harry now, right?”

Harry simply cocked the hammer back in reply.

“We could have killed you twenty times between your front door and this alley this morning, Harry.” continued Thin Man.

Harry hissed his response through clenched teeth. “Should have taken your shot then, Gino.”

Thin Man smiled. “Actually, its Walter. Walter Johnston. I’m a cousin. By marriage. And we waited until now so the civilian down at the end of the alley with the camera could get this all on tape. The video, at least. So when the Fibbies get a copy, it’ll look like maybe you saw a guy who might recognize you, panicked, and murdered him in cold blood. So if our guys don’t get you first, you’ll wind up strapped to a table waiting for the potassium chloride.”

“You’re making a piss-poor case for your own survival here, Walt. I don’t imagine surrendering to you will improve my chances any.”

The thin man shrugged. “They’d improve the chances for that little lady you’ve taken up with. Anne?”

Harry’s lip curled. “Anika.”

“There are six guys in the hallway outside your apartment right now. If this goes badly, before she winds up working as a nickel whore in a heroin shooting gallery somewhere in the ghettos of Detroit, or L.A., or Shy-Town, or New York, they and every Family man will know her as intimately as her best friend, priest, and gynecologist put together. Capishe?”

The gun didn’t move. “Like I believe you’d go easy on her if I decide to play nice.”

Another shrug. “She doesn’t know who you are. Lord knows we offered enough money to anyone who could get us a line on you. Turns out one of your co-workers likes to vacation in Atlantic City. Also turns out he doesn’t really read the percentages very well. And once his money was gone, he started using some of ours. After that, you know how it is. He would have sold his own mother into that shooting gallery to get out from under. Turns out someone had one of your old clippings on the wall of his… office. Your boy Bob sees it, spills, and is allowed to go on his merry way. Unlike you.

Bob, thought Harry. Bob is now the top of my list. “What, I give up, you take me back to your uncle, a quick Moe Green through the eye, and all is well?”

Thin man shook his head. “No Moe Green for you, Harry. Unc, he’s got a fricken theme park of pain and unpleasantness set up for you. But the girl lives. And who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky. Get your hands on a gun, kill us all, and escape to South America with the girl.”

Harry’s teeth clenched again, and his eyes squinted down. He felt a bead of sweat run down his wrist as he made his decision. “Does this appear to be a lucky day to you?”

Part VI - Tracy Lynn

At the end of the alley a car backfired. Walt's head snapped around at the sound, giving Harry the opening he needed. In a matter of moments, Walt was a broken heap next to the dumpster, and Harry was once again moving purposefully through the crowds on the street, mind racing.

He had to get to Anika. With his cover blown, he had to resort to emergency procedures, and Anika was in the dark about everything.

When he met her at that party, he had been working deep undercover. He knew what she was doing there. It was his job to know.
But for the first time in his life, he had wanted something so badly that he had done something he had sworn he'd never do. He had brought an innocent person into his dangerous life.

He had tried to protect her, tried to keep her in the dark, even though it caused fights between them. But what she didn't know, they couldn't beat out of her. It had seemed to be the best way.

But now she had to be told everything, because they were going on the run.

Constantly checking to make sure he wasn't being followed, he circled through the city, moving ever closer to the apartment.

If the Family knew his location, how many others knew where he was, his current identity? And Bob...yes, Bob was going to have to be dealt with and sooner rather than later. There could be no loose ends when they left. And now that Bob knew his identity and his connections to the Family, he was a rather large loose end. It was just as well. He had never liked Bob anyway.

He turned onto 7th Street and walked up to the apartment building, surreptitiously checking for lookouts as he did. He didn't see any, but strived to look carefree as he entered the building, even though his adrenaline was crashing through his system, and every nerve in his body screamed at him to RUN!

He made his way up the stairs, taking them two at a time, moving faster the closer he got to home, until he was there, at his front door, and as he reached out with his key he saw it.

The door was ajar.

Part VII - Philogynist

Harry froze. Anika had chained the door after him, hadn’t she?

Harry continued up the stairs. The only reason he had shot Gino was his threat to turn Anika into a heroin gallery whore. Wrong thing to say. Heroin was the whole reason he was in this mess. The Bureau assigned him to Waco because black tar heroin smuggled in from Mexico was getting routed through Waco on its way to Chicago. The DEA was worried about another “Plano, Texas” incident, the result of which was a bunch of dead teenagers who had no idea that “chiva” was actually heroin.

With his mob ties in Chicago, it wasn’t long before he was plugged in. The name he had taken when he first went undercover helped, too. “Harry Lime.” Right away people in the business recognized it – it seemed to give him instant credibility. What he didn’t like was civilians recognizing it, like that guy at the party last night. It just pounded home the fact that he lived a double, no – triple – life. How had he let himself bring Anika into this?

He stepped out onto the roof. He couldn’t call for backup even if he wanted to – his cover might be blown, but other lives were still at stake. He had to get Anika and make it out of here alive. If he was captured they would torture him; they’d find a way to make him talk.

The fire escape was a metal staircase and it went right past the bathroom window of his apartment. As he descended the stairs, stepping as carefully as possible to avoid shaking the rickety structure, he could see that the window was a sort of glazed, smoked glass, opaque from the inside. The window was cracked and he could see that the door was only open by a foot or so, and the fan was on. Perfect.

Harry tried to ease the window up, but it wouldn’t budge. Pulling upward as hard as he could, the window began to jerk up in awkward fashion, the result of friction from too much congealed paint. He climbed in, stepping onto the toilet, and as he quickly moved to stand behind the door he saw through the mirror a man standing in the hallway.

The man had a shaved head and he was wearing a black suit. He was facing the other way and talking on a cell phone. Harry guessed he was 10 feet from the bathroom door. Not knowing how many other men there might be in the apartment, Harry realized he couldn’t use his gun. He needn’t to make this quick and quiet. The man looked to be at least 6’2”, and easily 220 pounds. He wouldn’t be able to do this with his hands, despite his training.

Harry surveyed the bathroom’s interior: plunger, cleaning products, safety razors – nothing that could be used as a weapon. Then his eyes settled on the porcelain top of the toilet tank. Harry eased the top off and hefted the heavy slab several ways to figure out how best to grip and swing it. He tapped the door softly, just enough to get it to swing open an inch. Another tap. Again. The man was still on the phone, oblivious to any approaching danger. The carpeted hallway masked Harry’s steps. CRACK! The porcelain top exploded as the man crumpled to the floor.

Revolver in hand, Harry looked into the bedroom. Empty. He made his way to the living room – it too was bare. The house was silent. Entering the kitchen, he immediately brought the barrel of his gun up to aim at the body on the floor. Lying face down on the tile was a young blond male, who looked to be in his early 20’s. His hair was matted with blood and next to him on the floor was the roast leg of lamb that Anika had taken to the party last night, still frozen. Anika was nowhere to be seen.

Harry knelt beside the body and noticed that the leg of lamb had blood on it. She must have swung the frozen meat like a club! Wasn’t there a Roald Dahl story about this? He didn’t have time to contemplate the literary analogy, or to consider the irony that each of them had used their mock choice of “weapon” from the previous night. He had to find Anika.

Harry’s mind was racing. He began thinking of the places they might take her. But something was tickling the back of his mind, like an inchoate thought he just couldn’t describe. Something was wrong, aside from the chaos and carnage that the morning had already seen. What was it? Then it hit him: this morning, Anika was dolled up and wearing makeup and perfume at 8:00 o’clock, yet she never mentioned having any plans. And she had tensed up when he had mentioned the man from the party who was in the paper this morning.

Just then music began to play. Harry walked toward the hallway, where the sound seemed to be originating. Just as he thought: the sound was coming from the cell phone lying on the floor next to the man Harry had just knocked unconscious.

Part VIII - Dragon

Anne’s eyes had not yet grown accustomed to her dark surroundings. The dust was making it hard for her to breathe. It was quiet now but she dared not move.

How did it come to this? Anne thought to herself as she sat in the cramped, dusty crawlspace. She was a mess, her dress was torn and covered in blood. She clutched the butcher’s knife as if it held the key to her survival.

My poor Harry, look at the mess I’ve made of our lives. We had a nice life here. She’d have to tell him the truth now. This frightened Anne more than what had just happened in the kitchen. It wasn’t my fault. she told herself. I didn’t have a choice. I have to protect Harry.

Her thoughts turned to last night….


Anne recognized the leggy brunette at first glance. Jane was another of Sal’s girls. The two had often worked parties together; Sal’s top earners. Her “companion” was Jack, one of Sal’s bodyguards. Jane locked eyes with Anne and smiled sweetly. There was nothing sweet about her. She whispered something to Jack, and walked towards the patio, her eyes motioning Anne to follow.

Anne began to shake and she leaned closer to Harry. “Do you feel ok, darling?” Harry asked.

“It’s just a little warm in here.” Anne answered. “I think I’ll go outside for some fresh air.”

Beside Anne’s drink was a small hammer, somebody’s discarded weapon of choice. She slipped it under her wrap.

Out on the patio Jane smiled again. “It’s been a long time, Anne. You look great. The straight life agrees with you.”

Anne babbled. “Why are you here? How did you find me? You and your goon can tell Sal that I won’t go back. I won’t.” She clutched the hammer tightly under her wrap, calming herself.

“Sal went nuts looking for you. It made me kind of jealous. I always thought I was his favourite. But it wasn’t you he was missing, was it?”

Anne felt the colour drain from her face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She tried to regain her composure. “I left to start a new life with the man I love.”

“Ah yes, dear Harry. Wouldn't he be surprised to know that his lily white wife was not so pure after all? I'm sure you keep no secrets from your husband, do you ….. Anika, is it? I prefer Anne, it’s easier to pronounce.”

Anne squirmed and she felt the tears welling up in her eyes. Jane was loving this, and continued her taunt. “I think I'll go introduce myself.”

“Don't!” Anne cried.

“You know what I want.”

“I don’t have it.” Anne was crying now.

“Do I look like a fool?” Jane said angrily. “Fine, you leave me no choice.”

Jane turned around and started to walk back to the party. In desperation Anne raised the hammer and swung.

Jane fell to her knees, swayed and then slumped onto the grass. Anne raised her hand to swing again but a hand caught her wrist and another covered her mouth. The hammer dropped harmlessly onto the grass and Jack whispered into her ear.

“Sal said you were beautiful, he never say you were deadly.”

Pulling Anne down with him, Jack bent to check on Jane. There was no need. He turned back to Anne, his voice a rasp.

“Sal’s not going to be happy about Jane, but if Sal gets what’s Sal’s, he just may let you live your nice quiet life here. Capiche?”

Anne nodded her head.

“Get out of here. I’ll take care of Jane.”

Jack loosened his grip and Anne stepped back from him. She looked down at Jane; her eyes were open but lifeless. Anne felt tears running from her own eyes.

Jack was unsympathetic. “It’s too late for tears, baby. I want you to meet me at the Petite Auberge tomorrow morning at 11. Bring it with you. If you don’t show up….” Jack’s eyes swept from Anne over to the party, where she could see Harry talking with Bob. “Capiche?”

Anne nodded.

“Good. Don’t disappoint me. Now scram.”


A loud crack startled her back to the present.
She heard something fall to the ground with a loud thump. Oh my god, it’s Sal. He’s looking for me. She tried to be still and quiet. She was sure whoever it was could hear her heart racing. The footsteps were getting closer. The tiny door to the crawlspace creaked as it opened slowly. Anne held the knife over her head........

Part IX - Hyperion

Harry inched open the crawlspace door, revolver at the ready. Anika tumbled out, waving a knife. Harry managed to stifle the reflex to fire, sagging with relief. The next thought was overwhelming joy.

Anika was alive!

She was a wreck, but Harry didn’t care. They fell into each other’s arms, sobbing at their good fortune. Danger lay all around, but for this precious moment, they were both alive, together.

“I thought you were…” Both began. “And then you were…” They stopped again, flustered. Finally both burst out with, “I have so much to tell you!”

The stress of their ridiculous circumstances were too much. They collapsed in a fit of giggles.

Harry recovered first, pointing to the dead man on the floor. “That’s the man from the party last night.” Harry said, bending over the fellow to expertly rifle through his clothing. “Jack something…D’Antonio.” Harry finished, reading the New Jersey Driver’s License.

“Bob told everyone he drugged that girl last night, but the paper this morning said he was arrested for killing her!” He looked up at Anika to see how she would take this news.

“He didn’t kill Jane.” Anika said, taking a deep breath. “I did.” Harry just stared at her. “Jane was going to tell you…about my former life. I’m not who you think I am. My name’s not even Anika.”

“You mean about you being a prostitute?” Harry asked, not even remotely flustered.

Shock on Anika’s face. “You knew?”

Harry nodded. Well, you showed me yours, he thought ruefully to himself. I guess it’s time to show you mine. Aloud: “When I met you I was undercover, working a sting.”

“You’re G?” Anika asked incredulously.

“Something like that. It’s complicated. I want to tell you everything. I want no more secrets between us.”

They talked. Harry was precise, to the point, like bullets from a gun. Anika meandered in her version, like a pianist lovingly playing all the keys. The conversation wound down, “And when Jack showed up here, I thought I was a goner for sure…” She trailed off, exhausted by the tale.

Jack stroked Anika’s hair and kissed her forehead. “Darling I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this. I’m going to make things right, but right now I think we should get out of here, before any more visitors show up.”

Quickly they made preparations to leave, grabbing essentials. Harry retrieved his cache of weapons (two hand guns, a Mac 10, tear gas and a smoke grenade), and then asked Anika about the derringer.

“It’s missing.”

Harry blinked. “What is it?” Anika asked.

“The paper.” Harry answered. They said Jack,” Harry nodded toward the body on the floor,” killed that girl…’Jane,’ with a derringer. I think you’re being set up.”

“But who would do that?” Anika wondered. They both looked at each other, and once more in unison, “Bob!”

Harry looked grim. I believe it’s time to pay that man a visit.”

As they were preparing to leave, Harry had a thought. “What is your real name?”


“That’s a beautif…” Harry stopped dead, suddenly remembering.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Gino…I mean Walt called you Anne.”

“The man from the alley that you…?”


The penny dropped for Harry. “I think my troubles and your troubles might be connected.”

Bob was the key. The got their coats and grabbed bags, ready to go. “Harry,” Anika asked, “What’s your real name.”

For the first time Harry no longer looked sure of himself. Looking down, he mumbled, “Orson.”

Anika suppressed a giggle. “That’s…nice.” Diplomatically she added, “To make matters easier, at least until this ordeal is over, how I think we should stick with Anika and Harry.” He nodded with relief.

As they headed out the door, Anika suddenly started. “Oh! I can’t believe I almost forgot the thing Sal wants. After all that, to almost leave it!”

“Where is it?” Harry asked.

“In the piano.”

“I’ll get it. Bring the car around front.”

As Harry opened the back of the piano he saw the small Crown Royal bag. Remembering when they’d bought it one Christmas, Harry smiled. How innocent they were both then, trying to start a new life together, each trying to run from their pasts. Harry was glad he had told Anika everything. Well, almost everything. Harry thought about his brother, and realized there are some secrets you can never tell.

But that was behind him. Time to deal with the here and now. Harry stepped into the hallway and heard music. It took him a minute to figure out it was the cell phone of that man he’d clubbed. Harry’d ignored it the first time, but now he pulled the phone out of this pocket. The LED gave enough light to see the Caller I.D.


Part X - Elvis

Harry's instincts screamed at him to answer the phone, but as always he delayed acting on these instincts until they were wiped from his mind with a wave of rationality. Realizing that he needed to talk to Bob face to face, Harry ignored the call and began walking out front where Anika had the old Lincoln waiting.

He wiggled open the door and then sidled awkwardly into the worn-down leather passenger seat. With a firm pull, he tried to close the door behind him, but the latch seemed to be jammed. Anika watched with amusement from behind the steering wheel as Harry made repeated efforts to force the door shut, focusing more of his strength with each attempt. After many frustrated attempts, he looked back at Anika, took a deep breath, and tried one last time to show the door who was boss. With a heroic pull, the door slammed shut, but the handle broke off and fell into Harry's lap. Anika exploded in laughter and Harry playfully acted as if nothing had happened at all. Seeing that she was still in a fit of giggles, he made a crack about it being a “luxury” car. Hearing the words come out of his mouth made Harry realize what he was doing: He was flirting with Anika – something he hadn't for years, yet it somehow seemed appropriate now, given that they just learned each other's real names.

Harry gently placed the handle in the glove box, and handed the Crown Royal bag to Anika, whose joyful eyes quickly turned somber upon meeting the bag. She slowly pulled out a red notebook and thumbed through it.

Harry's attention turned back to the cell phone he had picked up, and his thumbs began exploring its contents. From the many text messages it was clear that the phone belonged to Vincent who, like Jack, was one of Sal's bodyguard. The most recent text message, however, was particularly interesting:

After you get what you need from the girl, meet me and Sal back at the Petite Auberge. Walt is taking care of Harry.

“The Petite Auberge,” Harry said to Anika, “That's where we need to go.”

“I was ready to go there this morning,” she replied casually, her eyes still skimming the pages of the notebook. Names. Numbers. Addresses. All of them were carefully written by Anne years ago, but meaningless to Anika now...except for one name and one number.

Part XI - Schrodinger

Anika stared at the name and number in her little red book. It was burned into her brain, and yet, it seemed scary in her old casual handwriting from years ago. Anne’s handwriting. Someone she no longer knew. That woman seemed like a figment, a long lost twin sister. Anika settled back into her seat sighing at the dreaded duty that lay before her. She had to make a call she’d been fearing for years.

Anika leaned over and took Vincent’s cell phone from Harry’s lap. As she did, she brushed against him on purpose. She noticed the creeping smile on Harry's face. It made her smile too. It was almost like they were dating again, she thought. He would smile and flirt as she played coy. It wasn’t too far from reality, and she hoped that it would sustain them through this day. If they could just last until 4 o’clock, they could start over. Maybe be together forever. No more death. Just them.

Anika held the phone to her lips, held her breath and dialed the number trembling.
He answered.

“Hello?” His voice was gruff, as if she had awoken him.

“It’s Anne.”

Harry’s smile faded as he heard her use her old name. Anika turned away from him as she spoke into the buildings wisking rapidly by the car.

“It’s time. We’re heading to the Petite Auberge, and I have the cryptex.”

“Who’s we?”

Anne started. Could he possibly have not heard she got out of the life? That she was married now, trying to forget the past? She stammered...

“L... Listen, just be there in 15 minutes.”

There was silence on the line. Anika breathed heavily, awaiting his response. He wouldn’t be so cruel. He couldn’t be.

“Please?” she begged.

“Fine”, he stunted gruffly. The line went dead.

Anika hung up, and turned back to Harry.

“He’ll meet us there, with the code.”

“Good”. Harry wasn’t quite sure what else to say. He knew about this whole scenario from his days with the federal government. He had no idea his wife was involved, and to what extent she knew more than him. He couldn’t risk revealing the secrets he knew about this one particular object…and knew his wife probably couldn’t trust him either. His wife…the words sounded foreign in his brain. He was Orson, she was Anne. Two people that had never met. But now she was his wife, his partner with the cryptex, and the only person that could keep him alive.

Harry could hardly keep his eyes on the road, as Anika pulled the last item out of the bag. The item he knew was in there, that he’d avoided looking at for 10 years, that he hoped beyond all certainty could solve their problem.

Anika held it aloft in the light, and it glittered slightly….

Harry gasped. It was exactly as he imagined….

Part XII - Koz


In just the short time that they had taken their eyes off of the road the car drifted ever so slightly over center line. Unfortunately, tractor trailers are pretty unforgiving when they meet up with cars at a high rate of speed.

The car lay upside down and motionless except for the one spinning wheel that was slowing with each revolution. The headlights still glowing but growing dimmer with each passing minute describe the grim situation with accurate detail.

“Harry!” Anika screamed. “Nooo.” Bursting into tears.

The blood dripped from Harry’s mouth and his breath was very shallow. Except for a sore neck Anika seemed to have escaped the wreck unscathed.

“Leave me.” Harry raspily whispered. “You must get to the Petite Auberge…” he paused “…the President’s life depends on it.”

Struggling to get out any more words Harry muttered his final words “I love you.”

Anika’s tears dripped on to Harry’s face as she slowly ran her hands over his eyes to shut them for eternity.

“The President?” Anika thought to herself. Knowing he couldn’t be talking about the President of the Local 4H club, she knew the situation was more urgent than she had originally thought.

“Must get out of the car, must go now.” She thought to herself. It was all up to her now. Harry wouldn’t want her to fail. The future of the world was in her hands. She couldn’t think of it on such a grand scale – it was too overwhelming. “Must take it one step at a time.” she thought.

Still hanging upside down in her seatbelt, she opened the glove box and grabbed one of the handguns and used the Crown Royal bag to conceal it.

“No.” she thought to herself. “If I’m dealing with G-men, 6 bullets won’t be much help.” She reached in the back seat to grab the Mac 10 - which was now on the roof. “That should do nicely.”

“Now where was it?” She remembered that it had left her hand during the accident. It glimmered so brightly that she should be able to find it pretty easily, but it was so small maybe she won’t be able to find it?

She spotted it just out side the broken car window, still shimmering from the headlights of the immobilized tractor trailer. She unbuckled herself falling to the ground. Climbing out the window, she was careful not to crawl over the shards of glass.

“What’s so special about a trinket on a silver chain?” She thought to herself. She picked it up to find that it wasn’t a trinket at all but a locket. As the locket ever so slightly cracked open she heard ching as a small key fell to the ground, ringing as it hit the asphalt.

She could only think of one thing that the President could use a key for...

Part XIII - Lady Jane Scarlett

Charley Kane relaxed in the stiffly comfortable leather chair behind his desk, and quietly mulled over this morning’s events. In all his years’ as a gumshoe, he had never been in a shakedown of this magnitude. The irony of the situation gave him perverse pleasure and he couldn’t hold back from smirking. Despite his hubris about the cleverness of the job, there was one lingering wild card. Over and over his brain was plagued with the thought “I’ll be damned lucky if she doesn’t figure out the end move before the game’s up.” As a trusted henchman in his former life, Charley told Sal to off her, but to no avail. “Looks like I’m not the only stubborn ass in this chess game. And, now, that’s a good thing. ”, Charley smugly realized.

“Come here Rosey”-he called over the intercom to his trusty gal, Rosa Budde. Rosa had gams that would make Jean Harlow envious, and she knew how to use them. Rosa slinked atop the desk wearing scant more than a few patches of fabric, deliciously sweet vanilla perfume, six inch pumps, and her signature “fuck me” red lip gloss that drove Charley to the limits of his prurient desires. Women are evil alright, and nobody better was suited for the role than Rosa. “You look absolutely delicious this morning sugar”, Charley rasped, trying to control the longing in his voice. “I need you to contact Anika Lime ASAP and tell her that the oval office has moved. She has Vince’s phone, and is expecting our call”. Rosa purred with delight, knowing that she had her mark right where she wanted it, and replied “Is there anything else I can do for you Charley Boy?” before winking and gliding out of the office to leave Charley alone with his thoughts. In company of his favorite single-malt scotch and a few Marlboros, Charley sighed. He quietly cursed the man who had just surpassed Judas in grand betrayals. This time, though, checkmate meant a hell of a lot more than a mere thirty pieces of silver. And in the cloudy nicotine saturated mist, Charley smirked. “Yes, it was necessary” he mumbled to himself over and over.

As the fumes quietly wafted in Charley’s office, miles away, Anika lingered near the smoke of the crash. The timing of the distraction had been perfect, and the risk paid off. But now that the deed was done, Anika found an unbearable heaviness on her heart. She began to harden herself and the process was familiar yet, this time…so painful. Anika began to forget the bliss of their wedding way, the respite of their domesticity, their tender intimacy. As she waked on, so did the memory of Harry until he became a tiny dot in the sunset of Anika’s mind.

Thankfully, Vince’s cell phone also survived the crash and she wasn’t surprised to hear Rosa’s voice. She walked slowly to the French Quarter where the Petite Auberge, Le Président, and Café du Monde intersected. She knew right away as Harry lay dying that he was directing her away from the Petite Auberge, where Sal awaited his prize, to the safety of his best friend Charley. “It’s too bad Harry would never know that I meant to go there all along”, Anika haughtily thought. Rosa’s phone call confirmed Anika’s plans, and she threw Harry’s guns into the trash can. Inside these doors lies her salvation, finally. Anika entered the doors of Le Président to proudly meet her fate. The office was silent except for the quiet drag of a Marlboro.

What met her was not the adulation of her lover, but two slaps in the face, and a punch in the stomach. She crumbled onto the floor, and tears began to stream on her face. Charley kicked Anika again for good measure. “I knew that Harry loved you more than anything, and I knew of yours and his checkered pasts”, Charley sneered, “Once Bob set the wheels in motion, it was easy to manipulate you both”. “I knew more about the cryptex than you ever realized. And all this time, you thought you were working for me!” Anika, bloodied, nearly passed out, and desperate to save her life asked “I loved Harry but I did what you asked! I thought that you loved me. Who are you? I never understood why you told me to kill Harry when you were his best friend?” Charley snarled, “I am not his friend, I’m his brother. I love nobody but Rosa Budde, you stupid bitch. Checkmate.” And the last thing Anika knew before she descended into darkness was the faint smell of vanilla and the gentle click of a loaded Derringer. The full extent of the betrayal was revealed.

Part XIV - Hyperion

The story could have ended like this…..

ENDING #1 - Medium

Twin trails of smoke—from the body and the derringer—still rose in the air when Rosa Budde slinked back into the room. She looked at the dying figure of Anika with no revulsion. Maybe a slight curiosity, nothing more.

“Is Bob coming?” Charley asked, as he reloaded the small gun and slipped it into a pocket.

“Yes. You know we don’t get the final payment until he sees her body.” Rosa lit a gold-tipped cigarette and blew her own trail of smoke to add to the others.”

“I wonder what she ever did to piss that boy off so much?” Charley mused, as he pulled out a crushed pack of Marlboros and blazed one up himself.

“Who cares? At least the whole charade allowed us to get rid of your pig of a brother.”

“Ah, Harry wasn’t so bad.” Charley’d been calling him that so long he no longer thought of Orson.

Bob walked in, grunting in pleasure at the sight of Anika’s body.

“Everything go okay, Bob?”

“Harry’s dead. The apartment’s cleaned up. There were reports of a third man there that no one can identify, but I don’t think it means much.”

Charley’s eyes might have flickered, but Bob didn’t appear to notice. He was more keen on the goods. “You have the notebook and key?” he asked Charley.

“Sure do. Babe?”

Rosa sauntered over and put them in Bob’s hands. Bob handed her a duffel bag. Rosa peaked inside and then went in back to count the money. Bob bummed a cigarette and they stood watching the Anika’s blood congeal on the floor.

“You’ll give that to Sal?” Charley asked?

“Yup.” You should be in the clear and can head out of here. We’ll send a clean up crew for this bitch.” His shoe kicked her in the side.

Charley shook his head. “What’d she ever do to you?”

Bob looked embarrassed. “She taped me on day…” He swallowed and went on. “I was pretending to be a Jedi Knight, fighting with a light saber. Anika put the tape on the internet.”

“That’s rough.”

“Tell me about it.” A pause, a calculating look from Bob. “Since we’re sharing, what’d Harry ever do to you to make you want to kill your own brother?”

Charley took one long last pull on his cigarette and let it drop to the floor, where his wingtip stubbed it out. He put on his coat and hat and walked to the exit. At the door he looked back at Bob. “He stole my sled when I was 8.”

Rosa Budde poked her head back in. “It’s all there. You coming?”

Charley nodded, and the two walked out without a backward glance.

I suppose it could have even ended like this….

ENDING #2 – Rare

Awad closed the book the book gently, and looked down at his young son. The boy blinked back tears, trying hard to be a man in front of his father.

“Well? What did you think?”

After a few clearings of throat: “That story made no sense, father! Why would Anika want to kill Harry when she cared so much about him earlier? Why did Harry’s brother orchestrate the whole thing? Why did the action keep changing? What happened to Bob? Why did nothing from the beginning come back to make sense by the end. And why oh why Papa were some chapters so good and others so….not?”

Awad laughed softly at his son. “Who is to say? These are Americans, and they do things differently.”

“Well I hate them!” the boy declared resolutely. “When I grow up I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that evil storytelling of this nature is defeated.”

Awad laughed again, and moved to the door, turning off the light. “Hush now, Osama, and go to sleep. You have a big day tomorrow.”

But here is what actually happened…..

ENDING #3 – Well Done

Bob walked in, duffel bag over his shoulder. The smoke was still rising from Anika’s body, a twin to match the derringer. To complete the triad Rosa Budde came out of the back room and lit up one of her gold-tipped cigarettes, her expression bored. Bob whistled inside his head.

“You got the money?” Charley asked.

“Yeah. You got Sal’s stuff?” In answer Rosa opened a Crown Royal bag, removing a small notebook and a ring-sized box. This too she opened to reveal a golden key.

This time Bob’s whistle was out loud. “Do you know how long Sal and the others have been looking for that?” Charley merely smiled, and fished a Marlboro out of his pocket. He offered one to Bob, who cheerfully accepted. Bob handed the duffel bag to Rosa, who went in the back to count it.

“Harry’s body?” Charley asked.

Bob answered: “They’d already taken it to the morgue. It was pretty burned up, but I recognized his clothing.” This seemed to satisfy Charley.

“What about the house?”

“Taken care of. Jack’s body was taken away. Hell of a left hook that Anika had.”

Charley nodded in what could almost be pride.


“He wasn’t dead, so I slit his throat.” Bob hesitated, as if not sure whether to tell the last part. “There were reports of a third man there later, but I couldn’t confirm it. I don’t think it means anything.”

Charley might have blinked, but Bob missed it. He was back looking at Anika. “What made her go through with killing Harry? I thought she loved him?”

“She did. Sometimes the life is well, hard to get out of.”

Bob nodded. There were none but sinners in the room here. Nervously Bob started flipping through the notebook. “What the hell kind of language is this?”


“Oh yeah…duh: Sal. Anika knew Italian?”

“Harry taught her. He was in stationed in Venice for awhile. They were planning on going for a second honeymoon.”

“I guess not now.” Bob looked over at Charley.” So, you don’t mind me asking, what made you want your brother dead, anyhows?”

“He stole my sled when I was 8.”

“That’s it?” Bob was incredulous.

“Well,” reasoned Charley, “We were only foster brothers. The joke sailed right over Bob’s head, but what else was new?

Rosa Budde came back out. Charley went to the closet to put on his hat and coat. When he turned back around, Bob was holding a gun, and Rosa was holding on to him.

“Sorry buddy, but someone’s got to take the fall for all this. The cops should be here in five minutes. I give you that much of a head start, and the money, for old time’s sake.”

Bob walked out. Rosa waved to Charley. “Sorry Charley, but you know how it is; gotta roll with the punches.”

“You have no idea how right you are, doll. No hard feelings.”

Alone now, Charley calmly finished his cigarette. Stubbing out the butt on the ground, Charley pulled out his lighter again and slowly passed the flame back and forth along his neck. This allowed the epoxy glue to pull free, and Charley pulled the prosthetic mask off.

Whew! It was a lot easier to breathe now! Harry walked over to Anika and knelt down over her, gently shaking the girl. After a moment she roused, starting in horror when she saw Harry dressed in Charley’s clothing.

“How? What? How?” Anika spluttered.

“Three excellent questions.” Harry replied with a sardonic grin.

“But I killed you!” Anika exclaimed.

“Darling, how many times have I tried to get you to watch THE THIRD MAN? Don’t you know that everybody thinks that Harry Lime is dead, but he never is.”

“So what’s going on?” Anika was still groggy.

“Well, Bob came by to see proof that you’re dead and pick up the notebook and key. Rosa betrayed me right on cue, and they headed back over to Sal with the money.”

“That’s awful!”

“Not really.” Harry said. He lit another cigarette, and passed it to Anika. She really needed one. He lit another for himself, and explained, “You see, sweetheart, neither Bob nor Rosa can read Italian. I made another entry into that notebook, explaining that Bob and Rosa are responsible for both Jane’s death and yours, and that they stole all that money to boot. You know how Sal felt about you girls, even after all this time.” Harry’s smile was positively radiant now. “Yep. I imagine they won’t get quite the reception they were hoping for.”

Harry helped Anika up. “The cops should be here in a minute, and I need to explain the connection with the President night club.”

“Will they take down Sal?”

“I doubt it. Most cops—local and federal—are on Sal’s payroll. But at least it will be our of our hands.”

Harry tried to dust off Anika’s red dress, but there was still some raspberry syrup in her hair. Nothing to do about that.

Anika took Harry by the hands. “Harry, aren’t you mad at me for trying to kill you?”

Harry shrugged. “Nah. Nobody’s perfect.” He smiled. “Besides, all the twists and turns I had to put you through, especially with ‘Charley,’ I can’t say I blame you. Now if you’d been successful I might have a different opinion.”

They both laughed heartily, the tension finally gone.

“Where should we go now?” Anika asked.

“You know how you’ve always wanted to visit Venice.” Harry answered.

“Yes, let’s go there!” Anika said excitedly. “That city is so romantic, with the canals, the gondolas…”

“And the sledding.”

“The what?” The look on Anika’s face was simply priceless.

“C’mon.” Said Charley, putting his arm around her. “I’ll tell you all about it.” Nuzzling his mouth to her ear he whispered, “You know, you really gotta watch more movies.”

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