Chapter 17: EXOTIC CONSPIRACY OF TIME
Evil hair? The demented notion born in Hectors demented mind came back and slapped him in the face like a bucket of cold water. He was okay now. He knew where he was and what was going on around him. He knew about the switch in his head that turned on and off from civilized man to madman as the situation demanded.
He knew that the enemy was not the earnest young Canadian in his entertainment room going through scene after scene of improbably timed jammed weapons, bad shots and frozen trigger fingers to show how he had beaten death so many times in the field. He knew that Brandon Krouse was, in fact, on his side.
He wondered if Brandon would understand how the emotional overload of Vivians disappearance and this unprepared-for return to the battlefield had accidentally flipped on the madman switch. He wondered if Brandon would ever understand how important it was to have discovered that switch when he was fighting in South America. Seeing the remarkable things outside of himself that allowed him to return with his body intact, he remained as respectful as ever of the madman switch inside which allowed him to return with his mind. Only God could say what would happen to his soul.
Now that he had flipped the switch in his head back to the appropriate setting, he noticed something about his high-strung guest that he hadnt noticed before. He had seen it, but only now did he recognize it for what it was. It was the same look that he himself had no doubt had on his face as a child watching his first telewindow flashback of Hank Aaron smacking his 715th home run. Brandon Krouse was looking at him with awe and respect so deep that it bordered on worship.
Hector was stunned.
He was embarrassed.
He didnt know what to do until he remembered why the odd-shaped little man had come to his house.
His heart hardened once more and he closed the lid on the computer. "Thats enough," he said, getting to his feet and grabbing his bag. I appreciate what youre trying to do, but I have to go."
Brandons eyes flew wide in horror. "No!" He reached for Hector who pulled away and told him to come back in a couple of hours. Brandon refused, gripping the back of the couch like a non-swimmer in a shipwreck hanging tight to a life preserver. "Im not going anywhere!"
"Suit yourself," said Hector. "You can wait for me here if you like. But Im leaving."
Brandon looked about frantically for a way out of the grave that Hector was digging for him without knowing it. "Ill call the police!" he threatened in a voice so shrill that he scared himself.
Hector turned slowly and looked him in the eyes as though he were the lowest of the low. This was not just anybody looking at him this way. It was Hector Clay, a great man, greater than he himself could comprehend.
Brandon shrank within himself. His cheeks flushed with the shameful knowledge that he was a coward. In the closing hours of his earthly existence he was more concerned with continuing that existence than anything else.
Brandon didnt want to be a coward. He certainly didnt want to die a coward in the eyes of his hero. But he couldnt just sit there knowing that he would die and Hector would suffer some nameless personal tragedy if he went looking for Shag Man. What exotic conspiracy of time would take his life? What could he do to escape the inevitable, to prove the Fate Principle invalidor at least inapplicable, in his case?
In the next instant something happened that nobody could have predicted. Hector started for the door and Brandon started for Hector with a flying leap. Brandon could not have said what force propelled him through the air in what had to be a losing fight. It wasnt something he planned. It was more like something that was planned for him. He didnt even feel attached to that ridiculous body which was sure to get mopped up in any kind of fight.
In the brief span before his short flight ended, he wondered if this was the way he would die. If so, maybe it wasnt such a bad idea after all.
The old soldier whirled in his tracks in time to catch the leaping tracker and throw him to the floor in one fluid motion. He could have taken him out for good right there and he would have if his combat switch had been turned on. It hadnt been and it wasnt going to be with the likes of Brandon Krouse.
"Are you crazy?" said Hector to the man on the ground with one of his Daylight lenses missing.
Brandon growled and reached for Hectors powerful legs.
Hector sidestepped him effortlessly.
He reached again and again, frantically trying to grab hold with no success. But he kept coming, grimly determined to fight to the end. He scrambled to his feet. He lunged and scratched and flailed away with no better result than if he had been all by himself. Hector had never fought anyone so inept at attacking him and defending himself. He was like a sick child trying to take on an Olympic wrestler. It was absurd.
It was so bad that it would have been funny if Hector hadnt seen early on that Brandon was fighting for Hector as much as he was for himself. He was a man who saw himself in a death struggle and fully expected to loose; a man who wanted to live yet continued to fight, continued to press the fight.
It wasnt pretty but it was noble and Brandon was, at that moment, as great a hero in Hectors eyes as Hector was in his.
The scuffle lasted far longer than it had to. Hector was not about to let the oddly shaped little man stop him from leaving, but he wasnt going to dishonor him with too quick a defeat. He simply parried and ducked and sidestepped as long as he had to while Brandon lunged and flailed and fell on his face until he was too exhausted to continue.
Ninety seconds, Brandon knew he was beaten when he could lift himself no farther from the floor than his hands and knees. He had tried his best and failed. Maybe he could bluff him.
With much effort, he raised his florid face to the victor, barely able to catch his breath, and smiled, "Is that...the best...you can...do? Ha!"
Hector returned the smile. "Dont worry," he said, breathing normally, "Ill be all right."
Brandon nodded wearily and wiped the drool from his mouth. What the hell, he thought. Maybe Ill sit here and bust a spleen. Maybe an airplane will drop on the house. Whats the difference. Maybe the important thing is that I die trying.
Before Hector could leave, Brandon made him promise to hang on to the attaché case until he was sure it would end up in the right hands. Hector promised, without even trying to pretend that he thought it would mean anything. Brandon waved him away.
A moment later the door closed behind Hector...No, not Hector. The Bogeyman.
Brandon rocked back on his knees. He knew that something terrible was going to happen soon, not only to himself but to the man on the other side of the door who couldnt be stopped from walking into it. He could only guess what that terrible thing might be and he was powerless to help him....Or was he?
Suddenly, he was assailed by another vision that pumped new vigor into his tired body. In the abortive struggle to keep the Bogeyman in the laundry bag, Brandon had come to terms with his own imminent demise. Maybe there was another struggle he was fated to be a part oflike the gallant soldier in South America who came out of nowhere and pulled Sgt. Clay to safety when nothing else could have spared him.
He stood and staggered to the door, opened it, and saw Hector climbing into his car which, was parked across the street because another car had been parked in front of his house. He closed the door behind him and called out in as strong a voice as his breathless condition would allow, "Hey, wait!"
Hector looked at him and shook his head, giving no indication that he was going to wait for anybody.
Brandon hobbled down the stairs and across the lawn, his single Daylight lens glowing peach in the fading evening light. He was almost to the sidewalk when the sound of squealing tires turned his head to the right. An old, dark blue convertible loaded with laughing black teenagers was roaring down the narrow side street much faster than it should have been.
The sound of squealing tires from the other direction turned Hectors head to his right. He saw a bright red sports car screaming around the corner in a wide, flat turn.
The two speeding drivers saw each other and the futility of trying to avoid the collision at the same time. They broke hard and swerved anyway to lessen the impact.
The last thing Brandon Krouse ever heard was a crash of Super-light Exline plastic and steel that sounded like a bomb. The last thing he ever saw was a red-nosed, bug-eyed, middle-aged drunk through the windshield of a bright red, fast moving sports car.Back to top
Click here for Adobe PDF version of The Random Factor
Contact the author: Jasper Garrison