Hey nerds! Here’s the second chapter of my Fanfiction, In The Shadows. If you missed the first chapter you can check it out here: In the Shadows chapter 1, or you can read the current chapter by clicking the “Continue Reading” tag below.
Eugene trudged over the sharp stones, the sun beating down on the dry Israeli flatland.
He had only wept so hard once or twice, and only in the presence of his wife. This was why he had always hidden his emotions. It damaged his ego, and it brought back that fear of exposing his weakness in front of other people.
His sandaled foot hit a very jagged rock. Augh. He sucked in his breath, trying not to let the pain get to him. He couldn’t really see between the sun, his blurry eyesight, and the dust on his glasses.
“Sir!” A woman’s voice rang out from the right. “Sir!” She repeated.
He turned and saw that a woman of middle age was pattering towards him. She had come from Bethany, and he could see the dark outlines of the villiage houses behind her.
“Yes?” Eugene quietly tried to mask his grief.
The Israelite woman’s face softened softened. “You weep for Lazarus. Are you one of the Rabbi’s disciples?”
Eugene shook his head, almost wishing this was a different adventure. “No, I am not, though they are probably a short distance behind me.” Probably. How about positively. He had programmed this adventure for the Imagination Station, after all, he knew exactly where Jesus and his disciples were.
Her teary face lit up as she looked down the road. “I see them! Thank you sir, thank you!”
A group of people walked across the land in the hazy distance, where the woman had come from. They were the Jews who were going to the grave of Lazarus. Eugene followed them at a distance, just trying to get his own thoughts sorted out. He wondered if he could get to know Wilson Knox, back in Odyssey. He hadn’t thought that the pastor would be his mentor, but perhaps that could change.
“Hey, Eugene.” Jason appeared out of thin air to his right, sporting a shepherd’s cloak, sandals, and smell. “You gonna hang out in the Imagination Station all day?” Jason fell into Eugene’s slow pace, kicking up dust behind him. “I know that it’s been willed to you, I just thought-”
“I calculate that it has only been thirteen minutes.” Eugene replied in a colder tone than he had meant to.
Jason shrugged. “Fair enough. I need some help sorting out the stuff in the office. Most of it goes to Goodwill unless you or Connie want it.” He kicked a stone as he walked, and winced in pain.
“You sound very callous, Jason.”
“I don’t mean to. It’s been two weeks since dad died, and I’ve cried all day and all night since then,” Jason pushed the collar of his itchy cloak away from his neck, “It’s O.K. to move on with life, Eugene. I’m not forgetting everything or pushing it away.”
Eugene sighed, watching the moving crowd across the dusty desert. “You’re correct, of course.”
“It’s in God’s plan to take us through this.”
“Correct again. To borrow the colloquialism, ‘bring it on’.”
Jason grinned, reaching for his remote to stop the Imagination Station.
“Aw, my gosh, man! This place is just-” Richard, gesturing with fluttering papers in his hands, couldn’t find the words to describe the seemingly unending stuff in Whit’s office.
It was three days after the initial attempt to clean the place out. It seemed that it just continued on, without any end to the papers and knicknacks that cluttered the room.
“Just…” Connie attempted to finish the sentence, but found that she couldn’t either. She was using Mr. Whittaker’s desk as a hub to sort papers that needed to go or stay, and her trusty blue paper shredder was being a big help.
Eugene looked up from the lower left corner of the office, where he was sorting books. “I think that the best word to describe this office is insane.”
Richard snapped his fingers. “Yep, it’s insane.”
“Definitely insane.” Jason walked back through the office door. He had been supervising the office workers and starting his own organization of the basement workshop. “Thanks again for helping me out.” It would have been a nightmare without their help. He had told them that more than once.
Connie waved a credit card that she was about to shred, her ponytail swishing. “Anything to help,” she said cheerily.
Eugene grinned. “I, on the other hand, think that you ‘owe me one’, to borrow the colloquialism.”
Jason groaned as he pushed aside a stack of papers on the bookshelf. “I’m gonna owe you two.” He hooked three fingers on the handle of a silver briefcase and held it up. “I found it.”
“Found what?” Connie looked from Richard, who looked blank on the matter, to Eugene and Jason, who were looking dismayed.
Jason ran his hand over the combination lock, experimentally moving the numbers. “It’s an old briefcase of dad’s, willed to a guy in Chicago. I can’t get out of here right now-”
“I’ll take it.” Richard volunteered, a gleam in his eye.
“Actually,” Eugene set down a copy of The God Delusion into the ‘trash’ box, “Jason requested of me in advance, that should the briefcase be found, I traverse the country in his stead.”
Richard grinned. “I’ll come with you, then.”
Connie rolled her eyes. “Don’t listen to him.”
Richard held out his hands, “Connie, babe! When have I ever not been useful?” He grinned even harder, recalling many adventures in the past. “Don’t answer that.” He quickly added.
Eugene stroked his chin, reluctant to turn down his friend. “I’ll think about it,” he finally said.
“Sure Houston, you think about it.” Richard came over and peeked into the ‘trash’ box. “You’re throwing this away?” He plucked the copy of The God Delusion from the cardboard box.
“Yes, Mr. Maxwell, that piece of writing is an abomination to humanity.” Eugene gently took it back from Richard’s hand and suggestively put it back in the box, as if he was talking to a toddler.
Richard stared at it from above. “I’ll need something to read on the trip.”
Connie began to shred papers again. Over the noise of the machine, she said, ” It’s only like an hour and a half by plane.”
“Nope!” Jason shouted as Connie began to shred some thicker paper, “They’re driving!”
“I am unsure about the contents of this briefcase!” Jason nodded in agreement as Eugene continued, “It is possible that it contains delicate electronic equipment, or perhaps chemical vials, or an explosive substance, or-”
“Or harmless papers that can be on an airplane!” Connie turned off the shredder. She had that you guys are nuts tone in her voice.
“Well,” Jason raised the briefcase above his head and delicately stepped through the maze of papers and boxes to hand it to Eugene. “Better get going soon.”
Eugene pointed at Jason as he exited. “You owe me one, don’t forget.”
Jason saluted. “I owe you two.”
Katrina gloomily set her clean pie plate down onto the drying rack, watching the rain stream off the roof. Rain, rain, and more rain. She longed for the bright sunny days for which Odyssey was known.
Suddenly, a heavy knock sounded on the front door. “I’ll get it!” Katrina shouted in the direction of the stairs, though she doubted Buck had heard the noise, anyway.
She rushed to the front door, trying not to keep whoever-it-was waiting. Did they use the doorbell first?
“Heyyyy…” The door revealed Richard, dripping with rain and clearly trying to remember what her name was. “Katrina.”
Katrina smiled in spite of herself. “That’s correct, Richard.”
Richard pumped a fist in the air as he swaggered in. “Score for the Maxwell Man! Is Eugene around? I want to talk to him about Chicago.”
Katrina held her breath. Eugene had warned her that Richard might show up about it. “He ran to Wal-Mart for some items for his trip.”
“Great.” Katrina bit her lip as she watched Richard walk through the entryway, leaving thick, muddy boot prints every two feet on her freshly mopped floor. “I’ll just wait around for him,” Richard said. He peeked around the corner of the entryway, spotted the door to the bathroom, which was slightly ajar, and made his way in as he said, “Hey, you got a towel I can use?”
Oh no. Katrina grit her teeth and followed him in. Irritation swelled up within her as Richard grabbed a towel –her towel, the clean white one with the ‘K’ embroidered in purple thread on the corner- and wrapped himself in it. “Thanks,” Richard nodded to her as he pushed past her back out into the kitchen.
Katrina silently prayed for Eugene to return as Richard rubbed his clothes dry, sopped the rainwater out of his hair, and wrung out the cuffs of his jeans. “Sorry about those footprints,” he nodded toward the mud puddles on the floor. “Here, let me fix that real quick.” He got onto his knees, folded up her pretty white towel in a wad, and began to wipe the brown mud up off the floor.
“RICHARD!” Katrina cried, louder than she intended. She felt like bursting into tears. “Um,” she blushed as Richard looked up at her, dripping towel in hand, wondering what he did wrong. “I- here,” she tried to smile sweetly. “I have a mop in the closet you can use- it’ll work, a lot better, I think.”
“Nah, it’s ok, I’ll just use this.” As he continued to wipe the floor, Katrina held her breath and went into the kitchen to cool off for a moment. Buck came in, wearing his shorts and a baggy sweatshirt.
“Hey, Miss Katrina, is everything… ok?” he asked when he saw Katrina, red in the face, rubbing her temples. “Is that Richard out there?”
“Yes, that’s Richard all right,” she said irritably. She heaved an exasperated sigh. “Buck, I don’t know what to do with him! I know he’s here because he’s going to ask Eugene about that stupid breifcase. He’s tracked dirt on my floor, he’s shoved into my bathroom to get my towel to dry himself off, and now he’s using that same towel to sop up mud off my floor! I just don’t know what to do!”
Buck dug through an upper cabinet and found the box of Ritz crackers. “Well, is there anything I can do to help?”
“I don’t know,” she said helplessly. “Hopefully Eugene gets back soon. Buck,” she said, looking at him pleadingly, “Do you think that maybe you could try to distract him for me till Eugene gets back? I know it’s a lot to ask, but, it would be a big help.”
Buck grinned and saluted with the box of crackers. “You can count on me, Miss Katrina.”
“Thank you,” she gave him a big hug. Just then, Richard swaggered in, grabbing the box of crackers from Buck’s open hand as he passed, and began shoving them in his mouth. Buck raised an eyebrow, looking over his shoulder at Richard, then looking back at Katrina. She gave him an encouraging smile and patted his shoulder. “Good luck,” she whispered, just before she stole out of the kitchen.
“Hey, what was she wshing you luck for?” asked Richard with his mouth full.
“Just so happens I’m in a situation that needs a lot of luck, I guess,” shrugged Buck.
“Huh. Hey did you know I was like you once?” asked Richard.
“Oh really?” Buck said, unconvincingly trying to sound interested. “In what way?”
“I have grand tales of adventure, kid!” He said, spraying crumbs all over the kitchen from talking with his mouth full. “Did I ever tell you I was also a pickpocket in the ’90’s?”
Buck tried not to laugh. Did I tell you I pickpocketed the Secretary of State last year? Or how about my grand tales of counterfeiting in San Francisco, or maybe Orlando, Florida?
“Really,” Buck said, sounding fascinated. “Well why don’t we go into the living room and sit on the couch, and maybe you can tell me about it.”
Eugene rushed through the front door with his plastic grocery bag, trying not to get wet from the water dripping off the roof.
“Hi Eugene,” Katrina walked in to the tiled entryway and hugged him tight, “Richard is in the living room.” She said this quietly, and had a fake smile plastered on her face, as if to say get him out of my house, please.
Eugene patted her shoulder. “I appreciate your kindness towards him.”
Katrina rolled her eyes. “Oh please! It was all I could to to keep from strangling him!”
Eugene handed her the Wal-Mart bag, “I found a replacement razor blade and a few other necesseties. I would appreciate it if you would put the contents of this bag into my suitcase, I’ll deal with Richard.” He kissed her as a tender thank- you for her trouble, then carefully took off his shoes and walked into the living room, avoiding the muddy footprints and the soiled towel that was still wadded on the floor. This will be interesting.
Richard stood from the leather couch where he had been sitting next to Buck, as Eugene said his name. He clapped Eugene’s hand into his own and energetically shook, trying to make a good impression. A good impression is always gold. “So, Houston, have you thought about my offer?”
Eugene cleared his throat, and pushed his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose. “Offer?”
“Yeah, you remember, Chicago? Briefcase?” Seeing that Eugene wasn’t taking the bait, he persisted, “the trip to Chicago to bring the briefcase to the guy, Houston, you remember.”
Eugene forced a painful grin, “Yes… that.” He wasn’t sure he wanted Richard along, especially when he noticed that Richard had helped himself to the entire bowl of mints on the coffee table. He consulted his watch, already knowing what time it was. “Actually, Richard, I find that I must leave in an hour or less if possible.”
“I can pack in fifteen minutes.” Richard said. He gave a thumbs-up. “C’mon, Houston, what do you say? I’m useful for car trips and people like me because I’m handsome.”
Buck snorted from the couch.
“I don’t know,” Eugene said firmly, departing for the bedroom.
“Awww come on!” Richard protested, following him into the master bedroom, where he kicked back on the bed. He folded his arms under his head. “It would be great! I could be your co worker!”
Eugene began shoving the remainder of his items in his suitcase as he wondered how to tell Richard that he would not be a co worker but a conundrum. “I’m not sure,” he said, in effort to buy some time. He felt annoyed as he saw his bedroom slippers on Richard’s feet. “I was packing those,” he said suggestively.
“Oh.” Richard sat up and took off the slippers, handing them to Eugene. Eugene shoved them in his case and closed it tightly.
“So can I come?” asked Richard.
“Oh…” Eugene tried to find any possible way to let Richard down easy. “I suppose if you-”
“Great!” Richard jumped up, “I’ll be packed and waiting at the door of my apartment whenever you’re ready to go, you know where it is.” Score for the Maxwell Man. “Thanks, Houston!” Richard waved and was gone before Eugene even realized he had accedentally said ‘yes’.
Yeaaaaaahh, Richard placed his feet on the black dashboard of the car, adjusted his seat so that he was laid back almost flat, and stretched his left arm as far back into the car as it would go. This is the life. Open highway full of cars, snack food, Richard patted the bag of Jalapeno Cheetos in his lap, And best of all, I’m not paying for gas.
“Please refrain from placing your feet on the dashboard, Richard.” One hand on the fake leather steering wheel, Eugene reached for another almond. The tin can was carefully placed in the cupholder.
Richard pulled his feet down, and put his seat back in the upright position. “Sorry, ‘Gene, sorry.” Can’t a man relax in peace? The highway had gradually filled with cars as they neared Chicago. They were only about an hour away, though it was nearing eight o’ clock. It was dark, but the highway shone with the red and white lights of traveling cars.
Man, I need some real food. Richard pulled out another fiery Cheeto. “Let’s stop at Carl’s Jr. or something on the way to the hotel, Houston.”
Eugene leaned to the right, trying to pull his phone out of his pocket. “Speaking of a hotel,” he thumbed the password on his AppleBerry, “I believe you are capable of searching for a hotel and making a reservation.” Eugene changed lanes and slowed down slightly. The indivudual in the sedan in front of us is acting like he is under intoxication.
Oblivious, Richard’s face glowed from the white light of the Google page. “Hey, Google,” he spoke into its search command, glancing out the window at the residential area they were now passing. “Hotels in Chicago, Illinois.”
The page blinged and performed a search. Eugene had four bars of 4G network on his phone, and the page loaded quickly.
“Holiday Inn?” Richard scrolled down to find the number.
“Mhm.” Eugene was focusing his concentration on that car which was diagonally positioned to them. The car mirrored his speed exactly, no matter how sporadically he sped up or slowed down. The car was too close, he couldn’t move behind it again, and the other cars on the busy highway effectively blocked Eugene from going anywhere to get away.
Richard hit the number and glanced at the cell phone. “Your battery’s at five-percent.”
Eugene’s concentration broke, his hands relaxing on the steering wheel. “What? I recharged the device before we left!”
Richard put the ringing phone to his ear. “You didn’t install the latest update, did you?”
“I believe I did yesterday.” Tightening his grip on the wheel, Eugene watched the annoying car begin to swerve like it was going to cut in front of him.
“Yeah, the latest update drains-” Richard threw a hand up, “Hello? Can I make a reservation for a single room with two beds?”
“Two rooms,” Eugene hissed, his attention divided again.
Richard put his hand over the microphone, “I can’t afford my own room, I’ll split the cost with you.” He returned to the call, “Yeah, put that under Meltsner.”
Ugh. Eugene tried to focus on the highway and ignore Richard altogether. The black sedan continued to swerve, as if trying to decide whether or not to change lanes or not. Lord, protect us. Hittting the brakes was impossible, for a semi truck had pulled into the lane behind.
What happened next seemed to take an eternity, but in truth it was only a matter of a few seconds. The driver of the sedan changed lanes, clipping the front of Eugene’s smaller Saturn. Eugene held his breath as his car went slightly out of control and ran off the road, smashing into the concrete barrier on the left side of the highway. Eugene’s knuckles were white as he gripped the steering wheel, pressing on the brakes with controlled effort. His stomach felt sick and tight. Sparks flew as the hot metal of the car smashed against the concrete barrier at high speed. Eugene pressed the brakes harder, at last slowing the car to a stop on the side of the highway.
A moment of silence reigned supreme as the other cars passed, almost oblivious, on the busy highway. The red tail-lights blurred in the night as they passed at speeds of sixty and seventy miles per hour.
Almost in shock, Eugene shakily pushed aside the airbag that had deployed and glanced over at Richard. He was in the seat, unconsious. Eugene pulled the door latch and pushed his way out of the car, an extreme squeeze between it and the concrete barrier.
The cold night air helped calm his shaken nerves. Gently closing his door, he ran his hand over the dents and scratches in the red paint, slowly walking over the asphalt to the front.
It was brutal. The front right of the car had completely crumpled, and the headlight and dozens of other pieces were spread over a 100- yard stretch over the highway. Thank you, God, it could have been ten times as disastrous.
Up ahead, a car was backing down the side of the highway. The other drivers honked angrily. The driver probably coming to make restitution.
“Richard?” Eugene opened the passenger’s side door and poked his head in. Richard was watching the car ahead. “Are you all right?”
“I hit my head on the door, I think.” Wincing, Richard touched his forehead. “No less brains than I had before, Houston.”
Eugene cleared his throat. “Is that good or bad?” Seeing that Richard didn’t laugh, he said, “Actually, I wish to summon the police. May I have my phone?” He reached his hand in, expecting the phone to be given.
Richard flipped the white AppleBerry in the air as if it was a toy. “Dead,” He tossed it into the driver’s seat. “Sorry about that, Houston.” He glanced up at the offender’s car, the door was thrown open and the man himself stepped out. “But I did almost finish our hotel reservations before we crashed. Maybe they’ll let us in.”
Eugene closed the door of the car, and prepared to have mercy on the driver walking towards him.
Red shirt, black suit-coat, black pants, black shoes. In the dark setting, Eugene couldn’t make out the man’s face, but so far this was not what he had expected.
“You’re not injured, sir?” His smooth voice betrayed that he was an older man, probably in his fifties. He must have been a salesman of some sort in his career. A passing semi truck’s lights revealed the man’s face to be clean-shaven, sharp cheeks and a bald head.
“Not seriously.” Eugene put a hand out, “I thank you for returning.”
Just as Eugene shook the man’s hand, Richard threw open his door and clattered up, little rocks skittering from underneath his feet. “Thanks for the gift, sir,” he said, “I want you to take me back to my hotel, as a first piece of my payment. I’ve got an awful headache.”
The man cleared his throat. “I apologize, as I realize it was a result of the crash.” He gestured to his sedan parked up the highway. “I’ll take you there, and I will personally see to your car. I can’t say enough how sorry I am for this.”
Richard smirked as he walked up the road towards the red lights of the parked sedan. Not as much as you will be.