Sometimes, the night is placid, covered in cloudy vales, and unnoticeable. Sometimes, it is full of restless ideas, uncommon sounds, and ominous sensations. There are nights when the stars race to outshine the moon while it is recovering from its long cycle. Nights where the deepest parts of the universe come into view. Reminding us of the long past, the small present and the distant future. Open your eyes and your heart on a night like this and gods just might let you see the things you shouldn’t see. Glimpses into the true terrors or happinesses that makes your reality. Words from the past reminding you that the future can change, but not from your will alone. Sometimes, the gods’ messages come with warnings. Sometimes, they come in a cryptic sequence of events. Sometimes, they come as clear and eternal as the big dipper.
Jane felt like something was filling the empty spaces in the air tonight. She felt a weight. Not a weight like the past few weeks of decision-making and planning. She had worked very hard to make sure their plans would be flawless. Making sure all the right lies were told at the right time, with the right emotion, at precisely the right time. Many times over the past ten years, she had worked things over and over in her mind. Jane had waited long enough. It was time, to have her time. But, tonight the weight was something else. There was something about the weight that was not tangible or rational. The weight seemed to exist for existing’s sake.
The night was warm for early spring. The French doors to the bedroom were open. The crisp breeze caught the white linen curtains. Like ghosts, they swayed and billowed into the room. That was what she was feeling-ghosts. Leaving Axel to sleep, she walked out on to the porch and let the air chill her naked body. Sage and new grass filled her nose. She looked up; the clear new moon sky pressed down. The Milky Way expanded overhead, and Orion slashed his way over the eastern horizon.
Maybe this being in charge business is not all it seems, she thought to her self. She wondered if her ambitions had robbed her of her sight. Robbed her of her ability to objectively look at her life and what she wanted. Was she not able to see the immense pressure of obtaining the status she desired? Surely she could not have misjudged the job. She had been around the clan her whole life. Granted, she came into the main family later in life when she married Reynor. True, it was not a marriage of absolute love. More a marriage of convenience but always rooted in respect. She had lost her husband to stupidity, and he needed a competent woman to manage the home and kids. A woman that understood the business he was involved in. Jane and her family were never in the inner circle of the clan workings, but she did grow up around it. Hell, her grandfather set up Gunnar Johnson with all his Asian contacts after World War Two. Contacts that led to a sizable fortune during the rebuilding of Japan and China. Sure it was Reynor that had her husband killed, but that was her husband’s fault. Had he not played the family for fools, he would have been just fine and the Regulator wouldn’t have been needed.
From an early age, Jane had an overwhelming interest in the clan business. She made no effort to hide this from Reynor. He, in turn, let her inside. Not fully inside but pretty close. She was never in charge of anything, but she did befriend many in the middle and upper ranks. Through these relationships, she developed a good working education of how the clan’s systems work. The funny thing was that the closer she got the more confused she was about her husband’s role. Frankly, it didn’t seem like he did all that much. Nor did he make a whole lot of important decisions. He seemed to be very lackadaisical about, well, everything. Never directly involved in any operations. Never checking in to see how things were going. He seemed just to let everyone do as they pleased. She began to thank the gods for the lower ranking people they had. They were the ones making it all happen. They were the ones that got the work done and made the clan a force.
Axel constantly reminded her to pay close attention. Reminding her that Reynor was doing more than he let on. Reminder her to read between the lines. He would say, “Listen and look. You have a front row seat to the big show.” She tried, but after a while, she directed her attention back to the lower ranks. Reynor’s life was boring. He spent most of the day having pointless meetings with people of no substance. And the meditation. Don’t get her started on the hours of sitting quietly and meditating. No, in the lower ranks, this is where things were happening. She figured this was giving her the best way to learn.
She saw his easy-going demeanor and lack of oversight to be his ultimate downfall. Not seeing the assassination coming. Three armed men easily stroll into his house, and he doesn’t get off one shot. Jane had convinced herself long ago that she had a better handle on the family business and as soon as Axel and the Hansen family made their bid for a takeover, she would be running the show. This she was sure of. Hell, the fact that the ten-generation pact was coming to an end never even came up. Reynor seemed to be oblivious to the ramifications of this. They were going to lose a major partner that is the Hansen family. For generations, the Hansens have wanted to break off and/or take over the clan. But, he never once mentioned his plans to deal with it. In fact, the one time it came up he just shrugged and said, “All will fall in place, as it should.”
“Really,” she thought. “Just like that.”
Jane always knew Reynor had a heavy belief in the gods and all the mythology, but this was ridiculous. But then again Reynor’s ways had always confused her. He never seemed to stress out about anything. Not even the disappearance of his daughter. Jane had, for the most part, raised Sanna. She was stunned when she ran off. Reynor took the incident surprisingly well. Saying that Sanna never belonged, to this world and that wherever she was and whatever she was doing it was on her terms. That was good enough for him.
He was always a caring father, but for Jane’s taste, he let his kids run wild far too much. Not like her boys. She kept them under strict command, and they knew their places. She made sure they grew up right and ready. Ready to take over when they had their time. She didn’t let them in on the whole assassination thing. Or the bid to support Axel and the Hansens. But, with Sanna gone and Bob being, well, Bob, she figured her sons would soon be in control no matter what.
Bob, she thought. Just what was that wingnut up to, she thought. He always had a knack for disappearing at just the wrong time. Very unpredictable he is. She thought about the time when he was 12, and he talked a bunch of his friends in to leave school at lunch. They took a bus up to Idaho Springs, just up I-70 into the mountains. There they stopped at a convenience store, bought a bunch of junk food and headed off into the mountains. Apparently, just before dark, they had found a cave and Bob thought it would be a fabulous idea to spend the night. The other boys were not so keen on the idea, but Bob had made up his mind. He was staying, and so, the other kids did too. No sleeping bags, no water and a little bit of food. Bob started a fire with a flint rock. The other boys marveled at his skill in this. He found a couple of tin cans and boiled some water from a nearby stream. This too, the boys thought was pretty ingenious. Heat, water, and food being secured, Bob figured all was perfect. Two boys started to cry when the sun went down. This was odd to Bob. Bob started to wonder aloud if they were in a bear’s cave. This sent the scared boys over the edge. They said they were going to walk out in the dark. Bob convinced them they were safer in the cave next to the fire. Later, Bob said that besides the other boys being total wusses, it was a great adventure.
The next morning, they came down off the mountain and walked right into town. Right up to a large group of Search and Rescue volunteers that had gathered in a parking lot by the trailhead. Bob asked a guy what all the fuss was about. The volunteer was checking over his pack and without looking at Bob just mentioned something about five boys being lost up in the mountains. They were all getting ready to find them. Then the guy looked up, saw the dirty, exhausted boys, knocked his head and asked, “You’re the kids, aren’t you?”
Bob just shrugged and said, “That all depends.”
The volunteer stood up and said,” Depends on what?”
“How much trouble those kids are in.”
But, before they could get away one of the crying boy’s mothers started screaming and running towards them. The jig was up. Needless to say, Bob was not allowed back at the school.
The strange part of it all was that Bob was never scared. He didn’t make up any stories about what they did or why. He told the story exactly how it all went down. He admitted being the instigator and at the same time reveled in how much fun they had. Well, he had. Jane always found Bob a bit off, but this sealed the deal. No normal kid is that honest and confident in his actions. Her sons for sure were not this way. They lied and schemed about everything. She always had to keep an eye on them. Bob was his own little island. Other kids loved him and even looked up to him, but in some way, they all feared him too. No one has ever gotten super- close to Bob. That was the way of his upbringing and that is how he lives today.
Reynor thought the whole adventure was awesome. He never let the other parents know that, but in private he laughed and told Bob sarcastically to stop fooling around. Reynor knew Bob wanted to be off in the wild. He loved the ranch in South Park. So, he sent him up to live with the ranch hands. He went to “school” in Fairplay and ran feral through the mountains. He learned to survive for days on his own. Hunting small game and fishing. He would leave on Thursday afternoon with his backpack and return as late as the next Friday. Carrying the bare essentials and a sleeping bag. He would always talk about the great conversations he had with the deer, the squirrels, and the bears. He was at home and he was training to be the Regulator. Whether he knew it or not.
No, Reynor’s kids were not Jane’s, but they always treated her with respect. This she loved and she even felt like they loved her back. One thing that Jane could never figure out was why Reynor didn’t teach Bob the ways of managing the family. Bob was always privy to the goings on and the details of things. But, Reynor didn’t teach him the details of management. He was the Regulator and that seemed to be where he was to remain. She once asked when he would start training Bob.
Reynor replied in his whimsical way, “Bob will be just fine. He knows all he needs to know. When the time comes, the gods will favor him, and he will be a great clan leader. Time is on his side.”
The wind blew with an extra bite. Waking Jane from her thoughts and sending a shiver through her naked body. A presence now filled the air. A familiar feeling came over her, and an uneasiness worked its way through her bones. She knew what was in her midst, but she was not about to turn when she heard the shuffling behind her. She was not going to look upon whatever it was that smelled of death. She stood straight and stared up at the darkness between the stars.
A voice came, slow and painful. “Is it all you wanted, Jane? Is it the fulfillment you so desired?”
She still did not look upon the figure. A presence she had hoped would never come. “I guess that all depends.” She tried to hide the truths inside her, but her voice betrayed her. She sounded weak.
The figure shuffled forward a few more steps. “You have done well my love, but your lack of imagination won’t let you see why. Your mind stumbles in your aspiration. Your sight sees only what your greed allows it to. You can’t even see the reality of what you have made of me.”
Jane gripped the railing. Something was being forced into her mind. A notion was being heaped upon her. “No!” she said in determination. “This is not real. It is just a dream, a nightmare.” Her head began to pound. She lashed out, “You don’t belong here, Reynor. You failed. Your family is done because you failed to prepare your precious Bob.”
She was finding a bit of arrogance now. She was feeling righteous. Her voice rose a bit. “He will never take over this clan. He is overwhelmed and as far as I can tell he has run away. Just like his big sister. They have abandoned you Reynor, just like you abandoned them.” She was breathing hard now. Taking in the cold night air and allowing herself a small victory.
A few more shuffles and she could hear the labored breath. Her perfume would have filled his nose if he could have smelled. Low and steady but somehow playful he said, “Yes, just like his sister. The Regulator will do exactly what he was raised to do. The gods are playing their game, and Bob is one of their favorite pieces. He has his purpose. Just like I had mine, you have yours, and the rest have theirs. You can’t escape it, Jane. It will all happen just the way it should.” His voice told the story she didn’t want to hear.
Jane’s hands were turning white from gripping the railing. She locked out her knees, and it was all she could do to stay standing. Tears rolled down her face. She breathed in the rotting smell. She screamed up into the night, “I am in control now!”
She slumped over the railing and Axel shot up in bed. He saw Jane’s body slide off the railing to the deck. Through the sheer curtains, he saw another figure, but it was starting to fade away. Through the breeze came a whisper, “Look into the shadows and you will see.”
The figure disappeared into a fine mist that smelled like rot. Axel ran to Jane. She was trembling with sweat and mumbling something about finding Bob. He asked her what she was talking about as he rocked her.
Jane stared blankly at the floor, “We have to find Bob before he finds us. He knows, Axel. He knows.” Her voice trailed off.
Axel rocked her and held her close. “He was just seen in South Park. Heading south towards Monarch Pass. I was going to tell you in the morning.”
She sat trembling in Alex’s arms as her mind raced. Why had Reynor come to her? Why had he given her this warning? Then another thing came to her. “Alex?”
“Yes, Jane.” His voice was smooth and calm.
“Why is Bob heading West? Why is he heading away from Denver, away from the problems at hand?”
“I don’t know Jane. Why does Bob do half the things he does?” The man is an enigma.
“Do you have anyone you can trust, to take care of Bob?” Jane’s voice was serious, but there was a hint of embarrassment in it. The embarrassment of asking a question she full well knew the answer.
“Trust yes. Capable, well, that is a whole other thing. Are you asking if I know someone that can kill a ghost? I will have to think on that one.”
“Well think fast and hard, because we need just such a person.”