Sapphire Angel – Beginnings (Chapters 24-25)
Written by CJS :: [Wednesday, 17 July 2019 22:16] Last updated by :: [Thursday, 18 July 2019 09:57]
Beth was getting sore. She had been laying on the hard ground for at least an hour, maybe two. With each passing minute she became more worried, but not because of her discomfort. The hunger in her captor’s eyes as he looked at her was unmistakable, and it kept growing.
She wondered why she was even alive. These people had shot at her during her first encounter with them, back in the Fizzure building. Now they had brought her to this barn, unharmed, instead of executing her.
Beth contemplated how the news media would report about their new sensation, Sapphire Angel, if they knew she was just a normal girl, tied up and at the mercy of these people. Had it really been less than three days since she first put on the costume and necklace?
So much had happened in that time. Most significantly, John had died. She had obtained amazing powers, foiled an initial attempt on John’s life, and had twice interfered with Fizzure’s plans. But soon these goons, and perhaps everyone, would know she was Sapphire Angel.
The large barn doors slid open and a black Mercedes pulled in. Beth looked toward the back of the barn and watched as the car stopped and the driver climbed out. He rushed to the back door and pulled it open. Moments later another man exited the vehicle.
He was huge, in more ways than one. He was a tall black man, but his stomach also looked to be three sizes too big for his body. Even his hands were massive. This had to be Demarco Dominick. Stanley had told her about the man during their drive to Philip Gruden’s home.
Dominick glanced Beth’s way, before walking over to Beth’s captor. The two spoke in hushed tones, and Beth couldn’t make out their words. She knew exactly when her captor revealed that she was Sapphire Angel, though, as Dominick’s eyebrows arched, his jaw fell, and his head whipped sideways to stare at Beth.
Beth’s captor handed her costume to the big man, who took it in his large hands and studied it for several moments, turning it this way and that and running his fingertips over the smooth material. Eventually he stepped toward her. He didn’t say a word, instead peering down at the petite woman. She met his gaze with a glare, trying to appear more brave than she felt.
“Are you sure?” Dominick called over his shoulder to the other man. “She doesn’t look like the girl from the videos.”
Perhaps she could explain this away, Beth thought. She shouldn’t have discounted the ability of the necklace to conceal her identity, even faced with strong evidence. As she looked up at Dominick, she saw his eyes swirl in confusion. It was as if some strange drug were taking hold of him.
“Boss, hold the costume up to her body,” the other man said.
Dominick crouched near Beth and pinned her down with one of his meaty hands. He did as suggested, laying the costume against her body. He stared at her.
“I guess it could be,” he murmured. He turned and walked back to the chairs, setting her costume on one. He spoke to the other man in a hushed tone before walking back to Beth. He stopped a few feet from her.
“Sapphire Angel or not, we have questions for you,” he said to her in an even voice. “But I promised a phone call to someone first.”
He dug an iPhone out of his pocket and started a call before holding the phone to his ear. He looked at her as he waited for someone to answer.
“Hey,” he said finally to someone on the other end of the call. “You told me to call you once I learned anything at all about Sapphire Angel. I have some news for you. I can’t be sure, but we may have captured her.”
He listened, nodded, and spoke again.
“Oh, we captured someone. She has the whole costume in her bag - that little spandex number, gloves, tights, necklace, and boots. And she’s the right size. But I can’t be 100% sure it’s her. She looks… different. I can make her tell me, though. That I can assure you.”
A jolt of fear shot through Beth at those words. She had no doubt what he meant. This could get very unpleasant.
But a split second later a crestfallen expression crossed Dominick’s face. He sighed.
“I understand,” he said. “I’ll be waiting.”
He ended the call and looked at Beth, shaking his head.
“I need information from you. More than just whether you’re Sapphire Angel. But you’ve been given a reprieve. A very temporary one.”
He turned back to the other man.
“Take her to the pen,” Dominick said.
Majid Azari ran a hand through his close-cropped hair as he watched the man with silver eyes talk on the phone. Many men in his position wouldn’t tolerate the interruption, even for a second. But this man intrigued Azari. There was more than a hint of fear there, too. For all Azari’s power, and the fear he commanded in others, there was something about the robed man he couldn’t put his finger on. There was a silent power to him.
“Forgive the interruption,” the man with the silver eyes said as he ended the call. “That Dominick. The man working on your project.”
Azari noticed the twinkle in the man’s eyes, as if something amused him. Or perhaps it was just the bizarre silver colors of those eyes. They made the man hard to read. He was one of the strangest people Azari had ever met, from the flowing robes he wore, to the eyes, to the quiet voice that somehow filled the room, to the promises he made.
“Good. Was he calling to say he made progress?” Azari asked, tensing his athletic body in anticipation.
“If you consider the removal of an obstacle as progress, perhaps,” the man answered, the corners of his mouth upturned slightly as he spoke.
Azari’s intuition told him not to cross the robed man. That’s all it was - intuition. He knew little of the man, including his name. But intuition be damned. He had a business to run, and even bigger plans for the future. He needed to keep his machinations moving forward.
“Don’t waste my time,” Azari snapped, and immediately held his breath. He forced his calm expression to return to his face a moment later. “What did he say?”
The silver-eyed man’s expression didn’t change. Instead he gave a slow nod.
“You recall the woman - the girl, really - that I mentioned last time? The one giving them trouble?”
“Yes,” Azari replied. “The one they call Sapphire Angel.”
“He thinks they captured her.”
“Yes. There’s something about the girl’s appearance that is giving him pause.”
Azari shook his head. “With the latest footage on television, they can’t match her face? She wasn’t even wearing a mask.”
“Perhaps there’s more to the hiding of her identity than just a mask,” he replied.
There again was the twinkle in his normally lifeless eyes. Azari knew the look well, as he used that same look himself. The man knew something. But what could it be? Dealing with the stranger was infuriating.
“What do you think?” Azari asked. “Is it her?”
“She had a bag with the blue and white costume. But I have my doubts. Knowing what I know of her, they shouldn’t have been able to lay a hand on her. I will see for myself when I leave here, assuming Dominick can keep his men’s hands off her until I get there. I will be able to tell if it’s her.”
“Knowing what you know? What exactly do you know?” Azari asked, his eyes narrowing. “I’m paying them - you - too much money for you to get cryptic on me.”
“She may be an example, in a way, of what you can expect if we are successful,” the robed man replied. “She and I have a history. One she might not even realize herself.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“If she is what I think she is, her powers are similar to the power we’re trying to tap into. Similar, but quite different at the same time. Like the sample I showed you when I first met you, but tenfold.”
The sample. The robed man had shown him a simple black rectangular block, the size of a brick. But that block had given Azari the strength of a rhinoceros for a few moments. The display had so enticed Azari he had agreed to ally with the man, despite the stranger refusing to reveal anything about himself. The businessman had even put aside his thoughts on how preposterous the whole idea sounded. How contrary to any scientific theory it seemed.
“Why can’t Dominick just replicate that black brick?” Azari asked with a frustrated edge in his voice.
“We’ve been through this. The brick is not the source of the power. It’s just a tool. It could have been almost anything.”
“How about the girl, then? Can they use her to get them closer to the finish line?” Azari asked. “They have her. Won’t she provide some clues?”
“Perhaps. But they don’t realize what they have right now. That’s why I’m headed there, to make sure she is what I think she is. I’ve told Dominick to meet me at an airstrip near to where they are holding her.”
Azari leaned back. He didn’t understand everything, but this had to be a positive development. If he could trust him. Actually, Dominick was the one he had to trust.
“What’s to keep Dominick and his team from keeping the results of the project for themselves, and shutting you out, if they finally figure things out?” Azari asked.
“If he brings his daughter back from the edge of death, he won’t want to lose her,” the strange man said with a chilling smile. “His expertise, and his desire to believe what I told him, weren’t the only reasons I picked him for the project. I also picked him because I can control him. All because of one sick daughter. It’s a time-proven tale.”
The robed man’s eyes sparkled with malevolence as he spoke. Azari felt a shiver course through his body. It was as if coldness emanated from the man‘s core to fill the room. Azari thought of the fear that he couldn‘t put anything past the man. If Dominick felt the same way, the Fizzure CEO would believe he couldn’t keep his daughter safe.
“Use that control to make sure he never learns of me,” Azari said. “My involvement in this must remain completely secret. We agreed to that. That’s why I haven’t taken an end run around you and reached out to Dominick directly.”
He also hadn’t gone to Dominick directly because he didn’t want to find out what the silver-eyed man would do in response. But Azari didn’t need to tell him that.
“Understood. I promised you that, and I will keep my promise.”
“If this project ever becomes compromised, you also promised to eliminate any evidence that might lead back to me.”
The time would come for Azari to reveal his role. That would change his life forever. But now was not the time.
“I haven’t forgotten,” the silver-eyed man said. There was the slight smile again. “Don’t worry. I don’t want it to lead back to me, either.”
Azari sat back. He still did had no idea what the stranger hoped to get out of all this. And that worried him.
Stanley sat in a seedy motel room staring at his laptop screen, pouring over the mounds of data he had slurped down from his would-be mugger’s phone. With luck, the information would lead him to Beth.
He hoped the phone would tell him where its owner had traveled, which in turn could lead to Beth. But he needed to be fairly sure before calling in the calvary. He didn’t trust his old bones to go in the field to get the confirmation he needed. With O’Shea missing, and possibly dead, his options for backup were limited.
Stanley stared at his own iPhone for several moments, agonizing about the call he needed to make. With a grumble, he finally tapped the contact to make the call. After three rings, his call was answered.
“Ethan, it’s Stanley. Beth’s in trouble, and we need to do something.”