Jivaja: Chapter Nine, Part Two

 

Can’t wait? Buy Jivaja now!

 

Welcome to Free Fiction Friday! Every week, I’ll be posting a scene or two (in order, of course!) from my book, Jivaja. If you want to read along, just come on back every Friday!

Some scenes will be shorter, several hundred words. Some will be a thousand or more. Read them in order though, otherwise none of this will make sense!

Follow along as Mecca, a young woman with a Gift for manipulating human life force, runs head-first into a shadowy vampire-like society that discovers her power and wants to use her.

If you missed any parts, head over to the Jivaja Table of Contents to get caught up!

Want an email every time a new segment drops? Get Free Fiction Friday notifications!

.


 

Chapter Nine – David, Part Two

 

Little Five Points was more crowded at mid-morning than he’d expected. He parked behind the plaza shops in the back lot pocked with holes. The bumps made the van creak and shake.

This is where Mecca was attacked.

He pushed the thought away. He didn’t want to waste energy on it now. He parked, tucked the hard drive into his waistband, locked the van and slid the key into his pocket.

Sunshine warmed him as he made his way toward the tiny hole in the wall shop. Street sellers and musicians had already begun setting up in the small cobblestone plaza. A tall, whippet-thin man with deeply ebony skin and thick rasta braids gave him a white-toothed smile and a nod. David inclined his head in return. His weariness weighed on him, and he realized how little sleep he’d gotten. There probably wasn’t a drop of adrenaline anywhere in his system.

He sidestepped into the shadowy entrance of the apartments above the shops. He closed his eyes, leaned back, and let his spirit reach out into the air above the moving crowds.

The energy crackled as people ambled and rushed, talked and laughed, or simply sat and watched others in their daily meanderings. When he opened his energy, his soul, to it, the familiar tapestry super-imposed itself on reality, the buildings across the street playing a backdrop behind the gorgeous layer.

Colorful and vibrant, like the greatest masterpiece, that collective life energy woven into a work of art. David had always found the swirl of colors mesmerizing. Blues, reds, oranges, every color of the rainbow and more, all infused through with the richest golden light.

Read #Jivaja for free! ~ Colorful and vibrant, like the greatest masterpiece, that collective life energy woven into a work of art. David had always found the swirl of colors mesmerizing. ~ Click To Tweet

He picked at the tapestry above, snagging a thread and pulling it to him. When he embraced the thread with his own life’s fabric, it funneled energy down to him, filling him, making his entire body prickle. Faint pain mixed with the energy, like the bristly feel of a sharp metal brush against skin. He released that thread and chose another.

When he knew he couldn’t take more, he slit the thread and sent it back to the invisible cover above. The breath he took in the next moment filled his lungs in an electrifying rush, and the hairs on his body rose, his limbs tingling. When he exhaled, muscles that he didn’t know were tense unknotted and relaxed.

His stomach growled.

The rich smell of brewed coffee enveloped him as he stepped back into the sunlight. In front of the cafe, people sat at rickety metal tables, but they didn’t seem to mind. Many looked to be on the tail end of an all-nighter, bringing cups to pierced lips and drinking deeply.

Inside, ceiling fans whirled overhead to combat the heat of the coffee machines and steamers. Behind the counter were two women who looked to be complete opposites.

The younger, a teenager, had black hair tipped in electric blue, dark black eyeliner, and silver pierced through lobes, nostrils, brows, lips, and one dimpled cheek. Her colleague wore her graying auburn hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, curly wisps framing a face dotted with pale brown freckles. The goth and the earth mother, working side by side.

“What can I get for you?” the earth mother asked.

“Large black coffee.” He pointed to the glass display case between them. The cloudy windows showed their age, but on the inside, muffins, doughnuts, and pastries teetered in high piles on clean stoneware plates. “Those cheese Danish look good. Give me one of them as well, please.”

She hummed along with the flute music being piped through the place as she placed the Danish on a brightly decorated ceramic plate and then filled a large paper cup with steaming coffee. She rang him up on an old fashioned register. It clanged in an oddly comforting way.

“Four twenty five, please.”

He handed over a twenty from the roll Jim had given him. “You’ve got pretty low prices.”

She smiled indulgently as she counted his change back. “Just holler if you need a refill.”

He nodded his thanks, took his coffee and Danish and turned to find a place to sit. Small round tables with mismatched chairs packed the tiny dining area, and a beautiful mural graced the back wall. Fashioned in the shape of a giant window, it looked out over a bright green meadow edged with majestic oak trees. The painted sun was perpetually setting, throwing rays of ocher and deep lavender across the sky.

“Hey.” A quiet female voice spoke from behind him. “Grab the back corner table and I’ll be there in a second.” David looked over his shoulder at a young woman of about twenty who carried a worn nylon satchel over one shoulder. The girl went to the counter and spoke with the earth mother. “Hey, Maggie! How’s the brew today?”

David made his way to the corner and dropped into a chair, turning so he could observe the room. And the girl. The energy from his tapestry pull still tingled along his nerves, like adrenaline in his blood. It made him a little edgy, but it was better than the bone-tired exhaustion that he knew was waiting in the wings to overtake him. He looked toward the counter.

Sara stood just over five feet with short, tightly curled black hair, a pale complexion and freckles along her nose. She approached, a large ceramic cup in her hand. She blew on the foam riding the surface and gave him a small smile.

She looked exactly like her grandmother, Susan Harrington. No doubt at all. A pang of regret echoed through him.

She settled in the chair to his right.

“How did you know who I was?” he asked.

“I was outside watching you. You look just like the picture on Mom’s dresser. A little more grey, maybe, but….” She waggled fingers at the top of his head and then shrugged with a grin.

“Your mom has a picture of me on her dresser?” He hadn’t expected that. At all. Some weird mix of happiness at that, guilt, and the ever-present regret coursed through him.

Sara nodded and slipped the satchel from her shoulder. “Yep, in a double frame. Your pic on one side. Gran’s on the other. You don’t look grandfather-aged though.”

“Yes, well, I was young when we got married. Your mom was about thirteen.” David’s face grew hot. This is a bad idea.

“My mom, a teenager.” Sara laughed, then took a sip of her coffee and licked the foam off her upper lip. On an older woman, it would have been seductive. On Sara, it simply looked practical. “Okay, so what is it you need?”

David looked around and then pulled the hard drive from beneath his jacket. He set it on the tabletop. “It’s a Windows OS, but I couldn’t get in manually. And I have no idea what security I’ll find once I get inside.”

“We’ll have to go to my place. We can hook it up to my machine there.”

David’s mind spun. Too close. He was getting her too involved. “Can’t we use your laptop?”

“No, what I need is at the house. Come on.” She slid the hard drive into her bag.

“All right. But we have to hurry.”

She nodded and stood, grabbed her coffee, and then slung her satchel over her shoulder. “Let’s go then.” She zigzagged around chairs toward the door, raising a hand to Maggie, who smiled at her as a mother would. “Be back later, Mags!” She hefted her mug. “I’ll bring this back.”

“Careful out there, Sara,” Maggie said.

Sara laughed. “I will, Mom.”

David watched her without moving, uncertain whether to follow. Finally, he stood and took his coffee too, which was in a paper cup. He’d left his Danish untouched. He wasn’t really hungry anymore.

“It’s only a couple blocks away,” she said when he joined her outside.

David nodded and scanned the crowd as they walked. He didn’t want to go back to her place. He didn’t want to get that close to her. Not only for her sake, but for his. He didn’t want her personalized any more than she already was.

But he had no choice.

“So who are you looking for?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” Did she know about the vampires, if that’s what they were? About Mecca being kidnapped? Surely not. Surely his paranoia was knocking him in the head and scrambling his brains.

“Well, you keep checking everyone out. Thought you were looking for someone.”

“Oh. No, I’m not. Just keeping an eye out.”

“Okay, if you say so.” They walked half a block. “What is it you think is on this thing?”

David hesitated. He hadn’t wanted to bring her into things, but he did anyway. Because he was selfish. So now, didn’t he owe her some of the truth? Maybe. “I’m hoping something on it will lead to where my daughter is.”

The rhythm of her step faltered, but she recovered quickly. “What happened to her?”
“I don’t know. Someone has her.”

“You didn’t call the cops.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Yeah. Okay.” She quieted for a moment. “Mom never mentioned that you have a daughter.”

“She doesn’t know.”

“Why not?”

“She just doesn’t.” She tensed beside him, but he didn’t elaborate. He felt a little crazy just then. His worlds were on a slow-motion collision course. And he couldn’t stop it.

Sara quickened her pace and turned a corner to the right. After several minutes, she pointed to an old, but well-maintained, wood frame home. Painted a robin’s egg blue with white trim, it fit in well with the other pastel homes on the street. She took the steps up and unlocked the door. The door on the right. He hadn’t realized it was a duplex when he’d first looked at it.

“How does a college student afford this?”

She held the door open. “Mom bought it with the money you gave her after Gran died. She saved every check in an account for my education. She used that savings to pay for my college, and she bought this. She rents the other side out to some nursing students.” Sadness tickled at the corners of her eyes as she added, “She comes here sometimes.”

Susan’s only daughter, Grace — Sara’s mom — had been thirteen when David married Susan. Grace had just graduated from high school when her mother died, and Grace had gone over the edge, plunging into silence and refusing to speak to anyone for months.

One evening about two months after Susan died, David had returned home early from work and found her passed out in the bathtub with an unlabeled prescription bottle, empty, on the floor.

It had been a turning point for him. He’d tried to make amends. Was still trying. He continued to send Grace a check every month, though he hadn’t spoken to her in decades. She’d gone through emotional hell to make a life for herself, he knew. That she was funding Sara’s college life with the money didn’t surprise him.

Serious second thoughts — who the hell was he kidding? Third and fourth thoughts — flitted through his mind about whether he could handle this situation. He could just leave, find some other way to crack the hard drive. Or maybe Jim could give him more information on how to find Laos. Even as he thought of each of his options, he knew none of them were valid. Sara was his best hope. But, God, he hated it.

The house looked larger on the inside than it looked from the outside. He came into the main area from the foyer to find a stairway leading up along the left wall. The living room opened to the right.

A comfortable-looking blue sofa and rust-colored love seat crowded around an oak coffee table. Nothing matched. Goodwill decor at its finest. A battered armoire that probably housed a television leaned against the front wall. The living room faded into the dining area toward the far wall and ended in a swinging door which he assumed led to the kitchen.

Sara locked the front door and came into the room, unloading the satchel onto the floor near a silver umbrella stand. She bent and retrieved the hard drive. “The setup is downstairs.” She pointed to a door set into the paneling beneath the stairway to the second floor. “You want more coffee?”

“No thanks. Any more caffeine and I’ll start jitterbugging.”

She laughed as she slid a key into the lock on the basement door.

“You keep it locked?”

“Yep. Lots of expensive and secret stuff down there. Shh.” She winked at him and led the way, turning left after entering the doorway. She led him down a flight of wooden steps.

The air cooled the lower they went, and David took a deep breath. He realized he was starting to relax. He didn’t think they’d been followed, but he was still surprised at the safety he felt. His muscles began to unknot themselves.

“Light,” Sara said. Brightness illuminated the room and the hum of computers filled the air.

The basement spanned the entire length of the house. The concrete floor should have made it like a cell, but the cherry red paint covering the floor offset that impression a lot. Furniture and equipment took up much of the space. Each wall had been painted a different, bright color, a lot like a kid’s playroom. David suspected Sara spent most of her time down here.

A microwave and sink huddled in the back corner, near a brown dorm fridge covered in stickers. A coffee maker on top of it held about an inch of dark sludge. The light for the hot plate was off.

Two desks dominated the room: one was large and L-shaped, pushed up against the wall where four flat-screen monitors had been mounted. The smaller desk stood almost in the middle of the room with another desktop computer with two more monitors along with several docking stations with multiple ports on each. Homemade cinder-block bookshelves stuffed with books lined the front wall, where the door would be upstairs.

“Welcome to Headquarters.” Sara smirked.

“Interesting place.” He walked around as she plopped into the chair in front of the wall-mounted monitors. They each had different things on them. One a Windows desktop, two with Linux desktops, and the fourth held lines and lines of code, green on black background.

“Yeah, it’s home.” She took the hard drive and hooked it up to a tangle of cords jumbled together at the back of the desk.

The bookcase caught David’s attention. He found an interesting range of subjects from black holes to computer books. And there was Ender’s Game, snuggled in between Stephen Hawking and .NET architecture. David smiled, though his heart ached with regret. Again.

“Sara.”

She looked up, startled. “I didn’t think you even knew my real name.”

“Of course I know your name.” It startled him that she would think he wouldn’t. He wandered over to her desk. “How’s Grace — sorry, your mom?”

Sara shrugged and went back to installing the drive as she spoke. “Okay, I guess. Slightly boozy, but that’s normal for her. It’s been worse.” She typed her password in to the computer.

“Hello, Sara.” A deep, masculine voice tinged with a Scottish brogue, boomed through the room. Sara grinned. “A little megalomaniacal indulgence there.”

David couldn’t keep from laughing. It felt good. “We all have our vices.”

Her eyes twinkled. She leaned back in the chair and waved a hand at the monitor in front, which had changed from the original Windows desktop to the password screen that David had seen in the warehouse office. A small black square was now in the lower right corner.

Sara tapped some keys and word combinations began flashing through the box. “There won’t be a whole lot to see until the program cracks the password. It’ll just go through the dictionary first, then it will add special characters and numbers and stuff. Finally it will start a methodical testing of random groups of characters and numbers until it eventually finds the right combination.”

They watched it for a few moments, and David asked, “How long will this take?”

“It could take five minutes. It could take three days.”

“Three days? How do we speed it up?”

“We don’t. It’s going as fast as its little processor can go. And actually, that’s pretty fast. You hungry?”

His belly growled, and he remembered his uneaten Danish at Brew-haha. “Well, yes, I suppose that means I am.”

She laughed. “Come on upstairs, and we’ll see what I’ve got in the fridge. Don’t expect a gourmet meal or anything. I’m not my mom.” She stood and made her way up the stairs, leaving him to follow.


Ready for the next installment?

Did you miss a scene?

Head to the Table of Contents.

Want to get Free Fiction Friday a week early? Be a Patron!

In addition to other cool rewards, at the $3 per month level, you get FFF posts a week in advance! How cool is that? And at higher levels, you get cooler stuff. Plus, you’ll be showing support for an author. That’s the coolest! 🙂

Like what you’re reading?

Don’t want to wait for the rest of the book to be posted?

You’re in luck! You can purchase the entire book and read it in one fell swoop! Hop on over to the Jivaja book page for links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Jivaja is available in both ebook and print editions!

Don’t forget to leave a review!

See you next week!