Friday, December 9, 2022

Is The Doctor Like Jesus?

The Doctor from the popular British science fiction television show Doctor Who has often been compared to Jesus due to the similarities in their personalities and actions.

Both characters are seen as powerful, wise, and compassionate beings who are devoted to helping others and fighting injustice. The Doctor, like Jesus, is known for his willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good and his ability to inspire others to do the same.

One major difference between the two characters, however, is that while Jesus is a religious figure, the Doctor is a time-traveling alien. This allows the Doctor to use advanced technology and knowledge to help those in need, whereas Jesus relies on his faith and teachings to guide him.

Despite this difference, both characters share a similar sense of determination and selflessness. They are both willing to put the needs of others before their own and will go to great lengths to protect the innocent and fight against evil.

Another key similarity between the Doctor and Jesus is their ability to forgive. Both characters are known for their capacity to forgive even those who have wronged them in the past, and they often use this ability to help others find redemption and turn their lives around.

Overall, while the Doctor and Jesus may have different origins and abilities, they share many important qualities that make them both powerful and inspiring figures. Both are dedicated to fighting for justice and helping those in need, and both are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Griffin Chronicles--Chapter Eight

When the four men emerged from the stairway, the first thing they saw was a burst of light erupting from the exhibition hall. It was followed by what sounded like a huge clap of thunder. A police officer’s limp body flew through the door and crashed into the opposite wall. The impact caused two paintings to fall, setting off the alarm again.

The security chief and Seargent Fines both pulled their guns from their holsters.

“Whoever is in there needs to come on out with their hands up,” Fines called. “We don’t want to have to hurt you!”

The sound of wind filled their ears, and an icy breeze rushed through the corridor. A voice called from inside. Every one of them felt as though the voice was coming from inside their own minds.

“Please,” it called. It sounded like a low growl but also gargled as if it were coming from underwater. “Come and try!”

“That didn’t sound human,” the professor said. “Oh my god!”

“Professor, calm down!” Daniel said. “It has to be human. What else can it be?”

It stepped into the hall.

Most of it was still bones. Black bones that looked like rock. Its left arm, right leg, left side of its chest, and the whole head was that of a petrified skeleton. The rest of it not only had new, pink flesh but also a very young and athletic build. It was looking at them with the crazy terrifying smile of a skull with a bright yellow glow coming from its eyes.

The chief screamed and took off running. The thing held up its flesh-covered hand and a crackle of raw energy erupted from it. The chief instantly vanished into a cloud of golden mist, which the thing sucked up as if it were sipping soda. It moaned as new flesh began to grow across its bare arm. Lips and cheeks formed on its face.

Fines pointed his gun at the creature and fired twice. The thing held up its hands. The bullets stopped in midair, dropping harmlessly to the floor. It pointed at the officer and a bolt of light shot out from its finger. It hit Fines in the head. He fell to the floor, dead.

“Run, Professor!” Daniel said. He turned back to the stairs and could feel the professor following him.

“Robbins!” the creature screamed. The professor froze in place. It was not that he did not want to run. The thing had forced him to stop. He slowly rose from the ground, his body turning to face the thing.

“Stop!” Daniel screamed.

“Daniel!” the professor yelled back. “Go! Get out of here!”

“Robbins,” the creature said. The energy it had absorbed from the chief had made it mostly normal again. It had the face of a man in his late twenties, but he still had nothing but naked light where his eyes should be. His voice was less like a growl. Though when he spoke, it sounded like two voices were coming from his mouth. “I must consume you. I will be complete.”

“I pulled you out of the ground,” Robbins said.

“And I thank you for that,” the creature said. “But I must consume you.”

Daniel watched in horror as the professor’s body was reduced to mist and consumed by the creature. He did not wait his turn. He ran into the stairwell and flew down the stairs as quickly as his legs would carry him.

He had to get the kids and get out.
__________________________________________________________________________

Tyler opened his eyes and woke with a jolt. He sat straight up and looked around himself. He was sitting in the middle of the street, surrounded by broken glass. He breathed deeply, sucking in the cold, damp air.

“Tyler!”

He looked up and saw Megan running toward him. He remembered what had happened now. She had to go back to the lobby and out the door to get to him. There was a police officer and a couple of other people coming toward him as well.

“Are you okay?” Megan asked as she got to his side. He was starting to get up and she gave him her hand to brace with.

Tyler looked down at his body. He had some tears in his clothes and there was a big patch of blood on his thigh. He had probably cut himself pretty well on the way down. Other than that, he felt fine.

“I think so,” he said. He looked down and saw the medallion lying on the ground next to where he was. It was different now. It did not look like an old relic, but shiny and brand new. Hesitantly, he reached down and touched it. Nothing happened. He quickly swiped it up and put it into his coat pocket just as one of the policemen reached him.

“What happened?” the man asked. He looked at the glass all around them and back up at the two broken windows in the museum.

“The guy that set off the alarm came this way,” Tyler said. He pointed down the street. “He got into a car and went that way.”

“And how did you get out here?” the man asked.

Tyler shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I flew.”

“Shots fired!” a voice called out over the officer’s radio. “Shots fired! All units to the Museum of Natural History! Shots fired on the third floor!”

All of the cops on the street took off back to the museum entrance. Tyler and Megan followed them.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Megan asked as they ran.

“I’m fine,” he said. “I still don’t know what happened, but I’m fine.”
__________________________________________________________________________

Daniel burst from the stairwell just as a group of officers was about to go up. He waved at them, gasping desperately for air. Tyler ran over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.

“Dad!” he said. “What’s the matter?”

He shook his head and looked at one of the policemen. “Don’t go up there!”

“Where is Sergeant Fines?” one of the men asked.

“He’s dead!” Daniel replied. “They all are! Everyone that went up there is dead.”

“Grandpa?”

Daniel looked over and his shoulders slumped. He had not realized that Megan was standing there. “I’m sorry, honey. Yes. We all need to get out of here right now!”

Thunder clapped above them. Another loud crash came from outside. They all looked out to the street just a huge piece of the building had fallen on top of one of the police cars. A second later, a smaller object landed on top of it. It was a naked man.

“Who is that?” one of the cops asked.

“That’s him,” Daniel said. “That’s the guy that killed everyone.”

The cops all ran out onto the front steps and drew their weapons on the man. One of them yelled for him to freeze. He sent a bolt of energy in that officer’s direction and the man vanished. The other officers responded by opening fire. The naked man held his arms out and all of the bullets slowed down until they floated six feet away from him. He dropped his arms and all the pieces of metal fell to the sidewalk.

“I can sense it!” the man yelled. “I know it’s here! But now is not the time! I must prepare!”

With that, he turned and ran down the street. He ran quickly at first, but then shot off into a blur of speed. The police all went after him, but by the time they had reached the bottom of the stairs he had vanished.
__________________________________________________________________________

Daniel, Tyler, and Megan were sitting in the lobby in three of the chairs that were still there from dinner. It had been ten minutes since the man had disappeared into the night. An entire fleet of police cars was outside with their lights flickering in the darkness. There were police officers all over the museum.

The coroner and a team of detectives were upstairs taking pictures and filling out reports. Another group of detectives and uniformed officers were busy trying to get fingerprints in the conference room and here in the lobby. And a detective was standing in front of them.

He had introduced himself as Detective Isaacs. He was not dressed like the detectives Tyler had seen in the movies. This man had on a button-down shirt and a pair of blue jeans. He guessed he had been sleeping when he got a call to come down. He had a notepad and a pen in his hand and had just finished listening to Daniel give his account of what happened on the third floor. Even after the things that Tyler had seen tonight he had a hard time believing what he was hearing.

“So, this guy was sucking people into his eyes?” Isaacs asked.

“I don’t know,” Daniel said. “He was feeding off of their souls or something. He got stronger every time he did it. I’m telling you that it was the skeleton that we had on display! It was encased in stone when it was brought in here, and now it's running around downtown!”

“Dad,” Tyler said. “Calm down.”

Isaacs turned to Tyler. “And the person you saw was a different guy?”

“Yes,” Tyler replied. “I know that his first name is Raloam. I don’t know his last name. He was here tonight with Anya Blake from the Channel Nine news.”

“And you think that he stole something?” Isaacs asked.

“I think so,” Tyler said. He had to will himself not to reach down and touch the coin in his coat pocket. “I don’t know what it was, though.”

“It was a medallion,” Daniel said. “That’s the only thing missing. Well, that and the skeleton.”

“Do you have a picture of it?” the detective asked. Daniel reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the brochures he had printed about tonight’s event. He opened it and found a picture of the medallion. He handed it to the detective. “Thank you. Okay. I’m going to put in a report on this and I’ll probably have some more questions for you tomorrow. In the meantime, you all need to go home and get some rest. DCF is working on getting a place for Ms. Robbins to spend the night.”

“Thank you, Detective,” Daniel said.

The man handed Daniel a small piece of paper. “This is my card. Call me if you remember anything else. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch.”

Detective Isaacs walked away, and Daniel stood up. He looked at Tyler and Megan.

“I’ve got a lot to do here tonight guys,” he said. “But, Tyler, I’m going to have someone take you home. You have school tomorrow.”

“Dad,” Tyler started.

“Don’t argue, son,” Daniel said. “It’s been a long day.” He took Megan’s hand and looked at her. “I’m sorry, honey. And I’m sorry for the way that you had to find out. Your grandfather was a very good man.”

“He liked you very much, Mr. McDawn,” Megan said.

Daniel smiled and turned. “Tyler, be in the parking garage in ten minutes. There will be a car there.”

Tyler gave a little salute and turned to Megan.

“I’m sorry about your grandfather,” he said.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I don’t really know,” she replied. “I don’t feel anything right now.”

“You’re in shock,” he said.

Megan suddenly opened her eyes wide and looked at him. “Oh my god! Tyler, I totally forgot! Are you okay?”

“I told you I’m fine,” he replied.

“But that thing blew you out the window like a cannon,” she said. “How did it happen?”

Tyler reached into his pocket, pulled the medallion out and held it in his hand.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not doing anything now. But all of the age and corrosion is gone.”

Megan took the medallion and looked at it. “It’s beautiful. It looks brand new.”

“I know,” Tyler replied. “There’s something about it. I felt power come out of it.”

An older lady in a blue suit walked over to them and put her hand on Megan’s back.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m with DCF. I need to talk to Megan for a few minutes.”

“Okay,” Tyler said. “I have to go, anyway. Call me tomorrow from where ever they take you.”

Megan smiled. “I will.”
__________________________________________________________________________

“Do not answer that.”

Anya looked over at Raloam. He was lying back in the seat with his eyes closed. A second later her phone started to ring. She rolled her eyes. She had given up a long time ago trying to figure out how he did that. She looked down at the display on the dashboard.

“It’s my boss,” she said. “I have to answer it.”

“No you do not,” Raloam said. “He is calling you to go cover the robbery. You can not take me back there.”

“They won’t know it was you until tomorrow,” Anya said.

“Unless the girl gave them my name,” Raloam said. “You had to introduce yourself.”

Anya gritted her teeth. After a few more rings the phone stopped.

“Did you kill him?” she asked.

“What?” Raloam replied. “Of course not.”

“I had to ask,” she said. “It looked like a pretty big explosion back there, and I’m almost positive I saw someone fall out the window.”

“It was the first floor,” Raloam said. “He’s fine.”

“So, he has it now?” she asked. Raloam nodded silently. “I’m still not sure that this was the right thing to do.”

“Anya, this was not your decision,” Raloam said. “I am sorry. But it was something I was going to have to do eventually.”

“But as on edge as you got when they showed that skeleton, I thought you would have second thoughts.”

“It is not my fight anymore,” Raloam said.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Anya said. “Everything you’ve searched for all these years just showed up in Birmingham, Alabama, and you just want to stop?”

“The only thing that I have searched for is that medallion!” Raloam yelled. “I found it and I used it for its purpose!”

“That medallion’s purpose was to create a sentry,” Anya argued.

“And it has created one,” Raloam replied.

“A kid that doesn’t even know what’s happened to him,” she said. “You’re not the man that I thought you were.”

She reached over and switched on the radio.

“If you’re just joining us we have reports coming in from the Birmingham Museum of Natural History,” a reporter was saying from the speakers. “We do not have anyone on the scene yet so we’re not exactly sure what’s happened down there. What we do know is that there has been at least one explosion, and an exchange of gunfire left at least seven people dead. We know that three of those were Birmingham police officers. It is believed that this all stemmed from a robbery attempt after tonight’s gala event. As soon as we have more information we will let you know.”

Anya looked at Raloam.

“Damn,” he said.
__________________________________________________________________________

Tyler walked into the apartment and hung his coat on the hanger next to the door. It felt like it had been years since he had last been here, even though it had only been a few hours.

He reached into his coat pocket and pulled the medallion out. It lay there in the palm of his hand. The gold glittered in the dim light and the red jewel gleaming at him looked like an eye staring into his soul. He had never seen this thing before tonight, but somehow he felt like he had owned it his whole life. He looked at the etching on the surface. He had seen it earlier and thought it looked like gibberish. It was not written in any language he had ever seen. He had been around ancient languages as long as he could read. However, it looked strangely familiar.

“To the soul of a warrior,” he said to himself. “The soul of a griffin.” He did not know why he said that. He just felt like that was what the writing said. He laid the coin down on the table next to the door and went down the hall to the bathroom. He turned on the shower and started to get undressed. He winced as he pulled down his pants. He had not taken the time to look at the wound on his leg, but judging by the size of the blood stain in the fabric of his pants it was going to be pretty bad.

He took a washcloth and wiped away the blood on his leg. There was a wound, but it was not much more than a scratch. It had pink skin and was a little red around the edges of it. It almost looked like he had gotten a bad cut weeks ago, and it was well on its way to healing. He just stared at it. There was no way that a cut like that could have caused the amount of blood he had on the thigh of his tux pants. He shook his head in disbelief. This night could not get a whole lot weirder.

He pulled the rest of his clothes off and took a quick shower. It was nearly two in the morning and he was going to be lucky to get any sleep before time to go to school.

When he climbed out he heard his phone ringing. It was still in his pants pocket. He retrieved it and swiped his finger across the screen to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hi, son,” his father said from the other end of the line. “I just wanted to be sure that you got home alright.”

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’m just getting a shower and heading to bed.”

“Good. Listen, things got so crazy around here before you left. I’m sorry about that. I realize now that you had blood on your leg. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, Dad,” he said. “It was nothing. I just scratched it chasing after that Raloam guy.” He left out the part about flying through a glass window into the street. He had managed to keep any of the cops from saying that to him and he would rather he not find out now. His dad had been through enough tonight.

“Okay,” his dad said. “Well, take care of it. Put some peroxide on it and bandage it before you hit the sack. How was Megan?”

“She’s okay for now,” Tyler said. “I don’t think she will be, though. It didn’t seem like it had hit her yet.”

“I know,” the older man replied. “Poor girl. Her parents are back in Greece. I called her dad a few minutes ago to tell him what happened. He’s heading out tomorrow to get her and take her back.”

“She’s going back to Greece that soon?” Tyler asked.

“Well, it’ll probably be a couple of days before she actually leaves,” Daniel said. “But, yeah. I mean, probably. You really like her. Huh?”

“I guess,” Tyler said. “Listen, Dad. I’ve got to get some sleep.”

“Yeah,” Daniel replied. “I probably won’t be there when you get up in the morning. But I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

“Okay, Dad,” Tyler said. “Good night.”

“Good night, son,” Daniel said.

Tyler ended the call and went into his bedroom, but he did not sleep.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Griffin Chronicles--Chapter Six

“May I give you a lift back to your hotel?” Daniel was saying as he stretched his arms and tried to work out the crick in his neck.

“Not at all, Daniel,” Professor Robbins said. “I have to catalog everything before I leave.”

The two men were propped on the rail of the third-floor balcony, overlooking the main lobby. The wait staff was busy clearing the tables while another crew broke down the stage.

The professor was staring intently at the massive tyrannosaurus skeleton at the far end of the lobby. It seemed to be staring down at everyone as they worked, as if it were waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.

“Isn’t it funny how things that don’t look very dangerous can be deadly?” the professor asked. “While things that look as if they are ready to kill, like our dino friend over there, are no more harmful than a wooden chair.”

Daniel laughed. “How much have you had to drink?”

The professor smiled warmly. “Not much, my friend. Just the ponderings of an old man, I suppose.”

“Well, to answer your question, yes,” Daniel said. “It is funny. And some of the most beautiful can be the most dangerous. But what’s brought it up? It’s kind of some dark territory to be going to on your big night.”

“I know,” Robbins said. “I’m sorry. I was just thinking about the rumors.”

“Rumors?” Daniel asked.

“Don’t pretend you haven’t heard,” the older man replied. “As much as I tried to keep it all under wraps, it got out somehow. I must have overheard at least three people talking about it tonight.”

“I didn’t want to say anything,” Daniel said. “Look, Professor, it’s nothing to worry about. Strange things happen anytime a group has to stay out in the wilderness for a long time. Your group has been camping at the base of that volcano on and off for a decade.”

“Two people just up and vanished, Daniel,” Robbins said. “They didn’t take anything with them. They didn’t leave anything behind. They were just gone. That’s more than just strange.”

“And you’ve done everything you could,” Daniel replied. “What more could you have done?”

“That’s the question that will plague me forever,” Robbins said. “Or until they turn up. I thought about shutting the site down.”

Daniel pointed in the direction of the exhibition hall. “After a discovery like the one in there? You found a skeleton that shouldn’t exist! You found a medallion unlike anything anyone has ever seen. And you proved the existence of a civilization no one believed in. You can’t shut it down, Professor. It’s too important.”

“Those are the same words my investors used,” he said. “I’m heading back to Greece next week. I just pray that nothing else like that happens again.”

Daniel looked at his watch. “It’s getting late. I have to get Tyler home. You’re sure you don’t need a lift? I can have a car take you when you’re ready.”

“Maybe in a while,” Robbins said. “I believe I’ll take a look around while your crews are finishing up with the cleaning. I don’t usually get to spend any time in a good old-fashioned museum.”

“I’ll tell the guard staff to leave the lights on until you’re done,” Daniel said, patting the older man on the shoulder. “And a car will be waiting for you out front. Good night, sir.”

“Good night, Daniel,” he replied.
__________________________________________________________________________

The car pulled up to the curb about a block from the museum and Anya switched off the engine.

“I don’t understand how you plan on doing this,” she said. “The cleaning crew is still in there, not to mention the normal security staff. The place is also covered in surveillance cameras.”

“Do you think this is not something I have done before?” Raloam asked. He was pulling off the jacket that was part of his suit and loosening his tie. “I will handle this. Drive in a five-block radius around where we are now. Do that three times. Then park across the street from the east side of the building.”

“Okay,” Anya replied. “Good luck.”

Raloam looked at her and gave her hand a slight squeeze. “It will all be fine.”

Anya gave him a small nervous smile. “I hope so,” she said.

He got out of the car and threw his tie on the seat. He reached into the back and pulled out his long, tattered raincoat, and pulled it over his shoulders. He looked more like the guy that he usually was. Except this version was clean-shaven and had on nice pants. He closed the door, ducked into the shadow of the building beside them, and was gone.

Anya let out a long, slow breath and blew the bangs out of her face. This was going to be a long night.
__________________________________________________________________________

Professor Robbins stood solemnly and stared at the paintings lining the walls of the museum’s east wing. He was just down the hall from the room where his exhibit was. A vase from ancient Rome had caught his attention, and now he was enraptured by the artwork of many of history's great Italian artists. He could not claim to be much of an art expert, nor did he know meaning of every symbol hidden in the details. He was not versed in much of the information about the artists themselves. But he enjoyed looking at these pieces.

He came out of his trance of deep thought when he heard what sounded like footsteps coming from the room he had started. He turned and looked back in that direction. He thought he saw movement but decided it was just the shadow of a person who had just walked through the doorway. The guards were conducting rounds, or one of the cleaning crew members was trying to give him a subtle hint. They probably wanted him gone so they could get back to business as usual.

He shrugged and walked back down the hall, intending to say goodnight to whoever had just gone into the exhibit and to head for the elevator. He came to the doorway and leaned over to peer inside.

There was no one there.

The exhibit hall where his items were displayed was a large, nearly empty space. It was about thirty feet in diameter. There were four display cases in the actual floor space. The two located to the left of the door contained large pieces of ancient pottery. The one at the center of the room contained the medallion he had talked about earlier in the evening. A fourth one on the right side had several photographs of objects still being uncovered at the site. In addition to these were two large cases that ran along the length of the back and left walls. These cases had various pieces of pottery, jewelry, tools, and even fragments of what were believed to be weapons.

On the right side of the room was the showcase of the exhibit, The piece of black rock holding the skeleton frozen inside. It was standing on a small platform with a velvet rope attached to four stanchions to prevent people from touching it.

Other than that, there was just the professor.

He immediately turned and looked back out into the hallway. There was no one there either. He could have sworn he had heard someone. He was even sure he had seen something.

“Hello?” he called down the hall. “Is someone there?” He looked up at the security camera peering at him from the ceiling. He waved at it.

“Mr. Robbins,” someone called from the air. It sounded like an intercom though he did not see one anywhere. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” the professor said. “I thought that I saw someone.”

“I don’t have anyone on your floor right now, sir,” the voice said. “Where did you see someone?”

“In the exhibition room,” he replied. “But there’s no one there.”

“I’ll send someone up, sir,” the guard replied.

He nodded and walked back into the room where his treasures were.
__________________________________________________________________________

The doors were locked from the inside, but that did not concern Raloam. He knew the wait staff and the cleaning crew were still inside. That meant the main locks had not been activated yet since the doors would have to be opened again in a little while. Even if the place had been locked down tight, he had a pretty good feeling he would still be able to get inside. He had gotten in and out of tighter places than this.

He crouched low behind a dumpster and watched patiently as a cook and a waiter took their cigarette break outside the roll-up door of the loading dock. They stood and talked casually for a few minutes before finally throwing the smoldering butts down on the concrete platform, grinding out the ember with their shoe. As they walked back inside, one grabbed the chain on the pulley and let the door slide back into place.

Raloam listened carefully for the sound of the locking chain but did not hear anything. It was what he had thought would happen. They did not want to unlock and unchain the door every time they went out for another cigarette, so they left it unfastened until they got ready to leave for the night.

It was too easy.

He glided carefully through the shadows to avoid the security cameras for as long as possible. It was inevitable they would capture his image sooner or later. But the longer he could remain invisible, the simpler this task would be.

When he reached the loading dock platform, he grabbed the roll-up door and pulled up on it gently. It raised about half an inch.

He smiled.

He pulled the door until it was eight inches from the ground. Then he laid down on the platform, slid inside, and lowered the door.

The stockroom of the museum was mostly empty. The inventory was all out in the exhibition halls. There were a couple of forklifts and some pallet jacks. A messy break area was on the other end of the room, and a small office was on a balcony above it. Most of the lights were turned off. There was just enough light for a guard to be able to get a quick look around when he came through on his rounds.

The cleaning crew would be here in a matter of minutes. They would be hauling all the tables and chairs from tonight’s dinner into this room to be picked up in the morning. Raloam needed to stay on the move.

He slipped out the door and found himself in a hallway that looked a lot like hallways in a hundred office buildings all over this city. This was the administration area of the museum. None of the ornate lighting fixtures or fancy carpet would be seen here. The accountants and HR personnel had their offices in this area.

He had been studying the layout of this building for weeks. He knew where to go. He moved his way down the dim hallway until he reached a double set of fire doors. Pressing the handle down on them, he hoped an alarm did not go off. It did not. At least there was not one he could hear.

On the other side of the doors, the d├ęcor changed a great deal. A set of restrooms were on the right followed by another hallway. This one had paintings on the walls and there was the sound of a waterfall coming from the distance. He had made it into the display area.

“Almost there,” he whispered to himself.

The exhibition hall that held tonight’s display was on the third floor. He could not use the elevator. It had most likely been turned off for the day and would not work without a security card. The stairs were not a choice because the doors from the stairwell would probably be locked from the outside. He would be trapped inside once the first door closed behind him.

That only left climbing.

Once he reached the sound of the waterfall, he found himself about to enter the lobby. He looked up at the tyrannosaurus, grinning at him with its jaws full of sharp, white teeth. He looked over at the area that had been used earlier for their dinner. Some of the tables were gone but the crew was still busy breaking everything down. He looked up and saw the second-floor balcony, and then the third-floor balcony above it. Beyond that was a glass ceiling. The rest of the building could not be seen from here in the dark. The effect made the lobby three stories high but still gave plenty of room for exhibits on the other two floors. The entire lobby had been designed to hold the dinosaur bones.

Raloam slouched behind a pillar and quickly moved to hide behind a plant next to the elevator. He checked that no one was looking. Everyone was gone at the moment. No doubt they had taken another couple of tables to another room where they would be loaded on a cart to go into the stockroom he had just come from.

He took in a quick breath, set his foot up on the huge pot next to him, and launched his body as high as he could go. His other foot reached out and connected with the elevator housing, propelling him further. His outstretched arms grabbed the railing of the balcony. He somersaulted, landing perfectly on the carpeted floor.

Raloam pressed his body as close to the wall as he could and looked around quickly to be sure there were no guards on this floor who could have seen him.

He was halfway there.

He peered over the balcony. None of the crew had yet returned. Without hesitating he jumped onto the railing and sailed into the air toward the tyrannosaur skeleton. He caught the main cable that held the bones together and spun around it, using his momentum to sling himself back to the balcony. This time when he climbed over the side he was standing on the third floor.

He ducked into the shadows of one of the dark corners. Voices were coming from the main exhibition hall, so he slowly moved his way in that direction. When he was finally within sight of the door, he could see a guard standing in front of it talking with an older man. The older man was the professor that had made a speech at dinner.

“What’s he still doing here?” Raloam muttered under his breath.
__________________________________________________________________________

“I’m sorry,” Robbins said as the young security guard put his flashlight back on his belt. “I guess I’m just seeing things.”

“That’s not a problem, sir,” the younger man said. “That’s why I’m here. I need to get back to the lobby now.”

“I’ll go with you,” the professor said. “I’ve caused you enough trouble for one night.”

The two men walked down the hallway toward the elevator together. As they went, the professor had the distinct sensation of being watched from the dim light of the corners of the abandoned rooms. He felt a shiver go down his spine. He stopped and turned. Of course there was nothing there. He chalked it up to the lateness of the hour.

They arrived at the elevator and the guard pressed the button. After they had waited for a minute or so there was a beep from the radio on the younger man’s hip. He pulled it off of his belt and pressed the button.

“Jones,” he said, identifying himself.

“Stu,” a garbled voice called from the handset. “Are you still up on three?”

“10-4,” Jones replied.

“Cut that out,” the voice called. “You’re not a cop. Some of the motion sensors down on two just went off. It’s probably just a glitch but I need you to check it out.”

“10…,” Jones started and then caught himself. “Okay. I’m on it.” He put the radio back on his belt and turned to the professor. “Can you see yourself down, sir?”

“I’d like to go with you if that’s alright,” Robbins replied.

“That’s not necessary, sir,” the guard said. “The motion sensors go off all of the time. It’s usually nothing, but we have to check out every instance or else there’s no use in having them. You go on back down to the lobby. I’ll take the stairs.”

The elevator doors opened and Robbins nodded. He stepped inside and the young guard watched as the doors closed again.
__________________________________________________________________________

Raloam watched the professor get on the elevator. When he was gone the guard walked down the hall, past where he was hiding, and on toward the other side of the building. He was sure he was the one that had set off the motion sensors on the lower floor. He was just lucky that the other two men had been on this floor or the security office would have noticed that he had set the sensors here off as well.

Raloam took his chance. He walked quickly down the hall in a slouch until he got to the main exhibition hall and ducked inside. There were security cameras trained on most of the exhibits here, but there did not appear to be one focused on the spot by the wall where he was right now. He took this opportunity to look around.

The thing he had come for was right in front of him. But the item against the right wall was what had his attention. The blackened bones of a man frozen for thousands of years in a case of black volcanic rock. The skull was protruding from the rock just enough so that the ancient human appeared to be grinning maniacally at him.

“Not my fight,” Raloam said to himself. “Not anymore.”

He turned to the display case containing the medallion that the professor had been so proud of. The parts of it that still looked like gold were glistening under the bright bulb mounted over it. The rest of it had become corroded and green. He looked at it closely, barely making out the two indentations under the jewel on the front. Two small places that looked like they once held smaller jewels themselves but were now empty.

Raloam took his coat off and wrapped a big part of it around his arm. He held his breath and punched the display case with all his might. The glass shattered into thousands of shards that flew to all parts of the room. Immediately the electronic beeping filled the air. The police station a few blocks away would already be getting a report. He grabbed the medallion and ran out the door, into the hallway leading to the east side of the building.

If he had not taken off so quickly, he would have noticed that deep inside the black rock that used to be the recesses of the skeleton’s eyes, there was a dull glow that was slowly becoming brighter.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Griffin Chronicles--Chapter Five

A few minutes later the professor wrapped up his speech and Daniel McDawn invited everyone to move to the exhibition hall to view all the items. Everyone got up from their tables and began to make their way toward another area in the museum.

Anya got up and started to follow everyone but quickly saw Raloam was not getting out of his chair. She sat back down and leaned over to look into his eyes.

“What's wrong?” she asked. “You freaked out when they showed that skeleton.”

Raloam looked at the waiters coming into the room to clear the tables. “I can’t talk about it now,” he said.

“Well, I have to go interview the professor and Daniel McDawn,” she replied. “I’m supposed to be on air in thirty minutes.”

“Anya,” he said quietly. “Do not go into the exhibition hall. It is too dangerous.”

“Ray, that isn’t an option,” she replied. “If you can’t give me more to go on, I have to go do my job.”

Raloam looked at her. “Fine,” he said. “Go. But keep your eyes open.”

“I haven’t done anything else since I met you,” she said as she turned away to join the others.
__________________________________________________________________________

“Tyler!”

Tyler turned at the sound of his name and saw Professor Robbins walking toward him. Walking next to him was a girl who appeared to be around his age. She had reddish-brown hair and was wearing a blue dress with tiny sparkles. He felt his back straighten and tried to will his eyebrows not to raise. He did not think he was successful.

“Professor,” he said, shaking the older man’s hand again. “I enjoyed your speech.”

“Thank you,” the professor said. “I’m much better at digging than speaking. But I do enjoy showing off what I’ve been working on.” He motioned to the young woman standing next to him. “I would like for you to meet my granddaughter. This is Megan Robbins.”

Tyler shook her hand lightly and smiled. “It’s nice to meet you.”

The girl smiled and Tyler had to control his breathing. Her smile was beautiful and her green eyes lit up. He could see the same sparkle he had noticed in her grandfather’s eyes earlier. But this time it had a different effect on him.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” she replied.

“Professor Robbins,” a voice called out. The three of them turned and saw another woman in a black dress carefully jogging toward them. Tyler recognized her as a woman he had seen on the news a few times since he had gotten to town.

“Ms. Blake,” he said. “I was wondering where you were.”

“Yes, sir,” the woman said. “May I speak with you for a few minutes in the lobby? My cameraman is setting up and I’d like to get a couple of lines from you for the ten o’clock news.”

“Of course,” Robbins said. “Megan, why don’t you and Tyler head into the hall and have a look at the exhibit?”

“Okay, Grandpa,” she replied. He went off with the reporter and Tyler turned to her.

“Would you like to get something to drink?” he asked. She nodded and Tyler turned to one of the waiters walking by with a tray. “Do you have anything other than champagne?”

The waiter nodded. “That is sparkling grape juice on the left, sir.”

Tyler took two glasses and handed one to Megan. She thanked him and took a sip.

“So, what did you really think of my grandpa’s speech?” she asked.

“It was very interesting,” Tyler said. He sipped his drink and looked back at her. She was looking at him with a laugh in her eyes. “Okay. It was boring.”

She laughed. “I know. He’s been practicing all week, so imagine having to hear about ancient artifacts and petrified skeletons every night for hours.”

“I see your point,” Tyler said. “But it can’t be that bad. I’ve grown up going to things like this my whole life. I’ve heard speeches about everything from mummies to birds.”

“This is not my kind of thing,” she said. “I’m much more comfortable with my hands in the dirt.”

“Oh, are you planning to be an archeologist as well?” Tyler asked.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I already think of myself as being one. I spent the summer with Grandpa in Greece. I was there when they finished uncovering that skeleton.”

“Really?” Tyler asked. “That whole thing is kind of interesting. How is it possible that it wasn’t destroyed by the lava? I mean, not even part of it.”

Megan finished her drink and handed the glass to one of the waiters as he walked by. “Do you want to know what I think?”

“Sure,” he replied.

“Well,” she said. “It had to be magic. It’s the only explanation.”

Tyler stopped. He hoped that all that beauty was not just a cover for ten tons of crazy.

“Magic?” he asked.

“I know you think it's nuts,” she said. “But there were some bizarre things that have happened on the site. Some noises and lights came from that cave at night. And two people turned up missing.”

“Really?” Tyler said. “I hadn’t heard anything about missing people.”

“They don’t want it to get out,” she said. “Grandpa is afraid it will hurt the exhibit. They’re doing a whole search party thing back in Greece. But he’s trying his best to keep it out of the news over here.”

“And no one has any idea of what happened to them?” Tyler asked.

“No,” she replied. “Everyone went to bed one night and when they woke up there were two team members that were just gone. They didn’t take anything with them, and the site is at least thirty miles from the nearest town.”

Tyler’s father walked by and stopped when he saw his son.

“Tyler,” he said. He looked at Megan and smiled. “Who’s your friend?”

“Oh,” Tyler said. “This is Megan. She’s the professor’s granddaughter.”

“Well, it's a pleasure,” Daniel said. “Listen, Ty. I have to go down to the lobby and talk to Anya Blake with the local news.”

“Okay,” Tyler said. “She already came and got Professor Robbins.”

“Good,” Daniel said. “Have you two seen the exhibit yet?”

“Well, I have,” Megan said.

“Of course,” Daniel laughed. “You were probably there when they dug this stuff up. Well, would you please make sure that my son takes the time to look it all over? He needs a little culture.”

“I have culture, Dad,” Tyler said.

“Right,” Daniel said. “Zombies and aliens. Anyway, go look at the stuff.” He patted Tyler on the back and headed toward the lobby.
__________________________________________________________________________

“Tonight’s gala at the Birmingham Museum of Natural History is meant to serve two functions,” Anya Blake was saying as she gazed into the camera lens pointed at her. “The first is to display several of the unique findings of Professor Jonah Robbins and help bring awareness to the things he has been working on for several years. Another reason for this event is to raise funds for the new museum, and for Professor Robbins’ excavation which is continuing in Greece.” She turned her attention to the waiting professor, just out of view. The camera moved so that he was now in the shot. “Professor, what would you like to say to the average person in this city that will compel them to come out in the coming weeks and months to see the things that you’ve brought here?”

Robbins smiled. “Well, this is my passion,” he said. “So, of course, I’m a bit biased. But I think there is a little bit of a history lover in all of us. These relics are links not only to the past but to a civilization that we believed to be a fairy tale until just a few years ago. I would think that anyone, not just those of us who attend galas and functions of this sort, would find a lot of interest in seeing these sorts of items.”

“Thank you,” Anya said. She turned to Daniel who had just stepped up behind the professor as he spoke. “Also with me is Daniel McDawn. He is the curator of this museum, as well as many others all over the world. Daniel, you have museums in New York, Chicago, and London. What made you decide to come to Birmingham?”

“Well, I don’t remember having any discussions about why I shouldn’t come here,” Daniel said. “Birmingham is a great place. The people who live here are just as deserving of a nice place to get a little culture as anyone else in any other part of the world.”

Anya turned back to the camera and began to make some closing remarks so she could send the newscast back to the studio. Daniel and the professor stepped away and began to make their way back toward the exhibition hall.

“I’m glad that’s over,” Robbins said with a chuckle. “I don’t believe I’ll ever get used to being on camera.”

“It’s easier than being in front of a crowd,” Daniel said. “At least you can’t see the audience.”

“As I said before,” the professor remarked. “I’d rather be somewhere with my hands in the dirt.”

They were laughing as the elevator doors slid apart to reveal Tyler and Megan standing there with a noticeable amount of nervous distance between them.

“I thought you were looking at the exhibit,” Daniel asked. He gave his son a little smile that told him he knew he had other interests.

“Well, we did,” Tyler said. “We were thinking about going down the block for some ice cream or something.”

“That sounds like fun,” Robbins said. He gave Daniel a sly wink. “Perhaps we’ll join you.”

“No!” Tyler exclaimed a little more quickly and louder than he had intended. “I mean, that’s okay, Professor. There are a lot of people upstairs who want to talk to you.”

Daniel laughed. “Okay. But be back here in an hour. It’s already getting late and you’ve got school tomorrow.”

Tyler nodded and they watched the two men get onto the elevator. The doors closed and he chuckled.

“Your grandfather is great,” he said.

“He is,” Megan said. “He works too hard. But he loves it so much.”

“And he’s good at it,” Tyler added as they walked toward the front door of the museum. “I don’t know much about that sort of stuff. But that skeleton is really amazing.”

“Really creepy,” Megan replied.

They got to the front door just as Anya Blake was stepping back inside. They could see the news van driving away down the street.

“Hi,” Anya said. “Aren’t you Daniel McDawn’s son?”

“Yeah,” Tyler said. It came out sounding more like a question than a statement. “You’re the reporter on the news.”

“Anya Blake,” she said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“You, too,” Tyler said. He looked and there was a large man with long hair dressed in an expensive-looking suit stepping out of the shadows behind her.

“Hello,” the man said.

Anya turned and looked at him. “Ray. I thought you’d gone upstairs.”

“I was waiting for you,” he replied.

Anya turned back to Tyler. “I’m sorry. This is my date, Raloam.”

Tyler looked up at the man’s eyes and felt a cold shiver travel down the length of his spine. There was something about those eyes.

“Hi,” Tyler said. “Have we met before?”

“No,” Raloam said. “I do not believe so.”

“You kids leaving?” Anya asked.

“Yes,” Megan said. “I’ve heard enough about this. Professor Robbins is my grandfather.”

“Oh,” Anya said. “Yeah. I guess there’s only so much of this kind of thing one can stand.”

“Well,” Tyler said, opening the door for Megan. “It was nice to meet you.”

“Very nice to meet you as well, Tyler,” Raloam said. 
__________________________________________________________________________

Anya's smile faded as the two teenagers stepped outside and headed down the sidewalk.

“So that’s him?” Anya asked.

“Yes,” Raloam replied. “That is him.”

Anya sighed deeply and turned to face him. “Jesus, Ray! He’s a child!”

“I told you all about it,” Raloam replied calmly.

“You said he was young,” Anya said. “You said nothing about him being a little kid!”

“I have studied him, Anya,” Raloam said. “He will be eighteen in a matter of weeks. This is normal.”

Anya turned back and watched the two kids moving down the street. “There’s nothing normal about this.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Griffin Chronicles--Chapter Seven


Tyler put the last spoonful of ice cream in his mouth and placed the spoon back in the dish. He looked over to see Megan smiling as if she had a secret.


“What is it?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied.

He took his napkin and wiped his mouth. That only seemed to make it worse. She was almost laughing out loud now.

“What is so funny?” Tyler asked. He was getting ready to do a nostril check.

“You’re grunting,” she said.

He cocked his eyebrows in confusion. “Grunting?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “You’ve done it the whole time we’ve been here. Whenever you take a bite of your ice cream you make little grunting noises until you swallow.”

Now it was Tyler’s turn to smile. He had been told this before. However, it was a little more embarrassing to be told by a pretty girl.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s just that I really like this ice cream. I just can’t help it. It just does something to me!”

Now she really was laughing. He thought that it was a good sign that he was able to make her smile and laugh this much. He laughed as he began to make mock grunts and pretended to continue eating.

Tyler looked out at the street just as the sleek green town car slid up beside the curb. The headlights went out and the door opened. Daniel McDawn got out and adjusted the collar of his coat before heading toward the door of the diner. Tyler reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his phone. He glanced at it and rolled his eyes.

“I guess we missed our curfew,” he said.

Megan followed his eyes and saw Daniel just as he was stepping inside and taking a look around. He spotted them seated at the counter and made his way toward them.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“Ten minutes after eleven,” Tyler replied.

“Did you get lost?” Daniel said when he reached them. He sat down next to Tyler and motioned for the waitress.

“No,” Tyler said, a slightly embarrassed groan coming out with the word. “We were just talking and the time got away from us.”

Daniel smiled. “It’s okay. I knew where you were.” He looked at the waitress when she came over and ordered a cup of coffee in a to-go cup. “But, Megan, I need to give you a lift over to the museum. Your grandfather is having a look around, but I’m sure he’ll be ready to head back to your hotel soon.”

“Okay,” Megan said.

The waitress came back with Daniel’s coffee and he took a sip. Tyler motioned to the ice cream dishes in front of them.

“So,” he said. “You got this?”

Daniel’s eyebrows went up a little. “Do I got this?”

Tyler rolled his eyes a little. “Are you going to take care of this?”

“Are you asking if I’m going to pay for your ice cream?” Daniel asked.

“Yes,” Tyler replied.

“Why would you ask a girl out for ice cream if you don’t have any money to pay for it?” Daniel replied. He looked over at Megan. “Is this the kind of bum that you want to go out with?”

Megan smiled.

“I have money,” Tyler said. “I would just rather not spend it.”

“Oh, I see,” Daniel said with a chuckle as he pulled his wallet out of his coat. “I’ll pay your bill but only if you use your money to take Megan out to dinner this weekend.”

Tyler looked down at the counter and shook his head.

“Nice, dad,” he muttered.

“You weren’t going to ask her out again?” Daniel asked as he laid a few bills down next to his coffee cup.

“Not in front of you,” he replied.

“It's okay, Tyler,” Megan said. “I’d like to see you again. On Friday?”

Tyler nodded without looking up. Daniel laughed and patted his son on the shoulder as he got up and tilted his head toward the door. Tyler and Megan got up and followed him outside.

“That’s strange,” Daniel said as he opened the driver’s side door. Tyler followed his gaze back to the museum.

“What is?” he asked.

“That light on the third floor,” Daniel replied. “It’s blinking.”

“Maybe there’s a bulb that needs to be replaced,” Megan said.

“That’s not what it looks like to me,” Daniel said. “The light is almost blue.”

Just then Tom Petty started singing “Free Falling” from inside Daniel’s coat. He reached in and pulled out his phone.

“Hello?” he said into it. Tyler’s attention went into overdrive when he saw the look of panic that washed across his father’s face. “How long ago did it start? Okay. Where is Professor Robbins? Call me as soon as one of them radios in. I’m on my way!” He turned to Tyler. “Get in!”

Tyler and Megan climbed into the car and Daniel spun it in the opposite direction so hard that they were all thrown to one side. As they sped back down the street toward the museum Tyler thought he could hear the sound of police sirens. They seemed to get louder.

“Dad,” Tyler said. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“The alarms are going off,” Daniel said.

“The motion alarm?” Tyler asked. “Those things haven’t worked right since you bought them.”

Daniel shook his head and Tyler could see his grip on the steering wheel was so tight his knuckles were white. “Not the motion alarm. The alarm on one of the display cases went off. Those are not that sensitive. They’d only be activated if someone broke the glass.”

It only took them a few seconds to make the two blocks back to the museum. Daniel pulled up to the curb, ignoring the fact that it was not only a no-parking zone, but also that he had pulled across the lanes so that he was now facing the opposite direction. He climbed out and began jogging up the steps toward the door. Tyler and Megan got out and began climbing after him.

“Stay here!” Daniel said. “It may be dangerous!”

“Dad, it can’t be any more dangerous than a city street in the middle of the night!” Tyler argued. By then Daniel had gotten to the door and was fishing through his keyring to find the right one. He almost never used the front door.

“Fine!” he said. “You’re right. But you’re staying in the lobby!”

He found the right key and opened the door just as three police cars came speeding around the corner and skidded to a stop.
_________________________________________________________________________

Jones stopped on the stairs connecting the second and third floors. The high-pitched whine of the alarm had pierced his ears and nearly sent him tumbling. He pulled the radio off of his hip and pressed the button.

“This is Jones,” he said. “What is that alarm for?”

“I don’t know, Stu,” a voice came over the radio. “It’s one of the glass alarms. It’s centered on three. Can you head back up there and check it out?”

“10-4,” he said. His supervisor on the other end did not say anything in return so he guessed he was ignoring his trucker lingo.

Jones walked back out into the third-floor hallway and immediately noticed that there were glass shards all over the floor outside of the main exhibition room.

“There’s glass on the floor by EX-3,” he said into his radio. “I’m going to go check it out.”

“No, Jones,” his supervisor said. “I’m sending Howard up there to back you up. Wait for him.”

“Whoever it was isn’t on here anymore, Chief,” Jones said. “I’ll be fine.”

“Jones, wait for Howard,” the radio repeated.

Jones shrugged. He put his radio back on his hip and pulled his revolver out of its holster. What the Chief did not know was not going to hurt him. He stuck close to the wall until he got to the door. He spun around the edge of the doorway with his weapon held out in front of him with both hands. He thought about yelling “Freeze”, but decided against it. His heart was pounding, and his head was swimming with adrenaline.

There was no one there.

He lowered his weapon and looked around the room. There was no one hiding in any of the corners and there really was nothing to hide behind. He saw the display case was destroyed, and evidently whatever item had been inside was gone. He pulled out his radio again to tell his boss what he had found. Then he decided to wait until Howard got up here since he was not supposed to be in this room.

That was when he noticed it.

At first, it was not something he saw. It was more like something he felt. There was a low buzz that seemed to come from deep inside his body. After a few seconds, it evidenced itself as a low hum that filled the room. Eventually, it centered itself on the display of the skeleton on the wall in front of him. The sound was coming from everywhere, but also specifically from there. It was the strangest sensation he had ever felt. That was when he noticed that the eyes appeared to be glowing.

“Oh my god!” he said to himself. He decided that he did not care how much trouble he was in. He pulled the radio back off the clip. “Chief! Something’s up with the skeleton thing in the new exhibit! It's glowing and humming! I swear to God!”

“Jones, I told you not to go in there!” the chief’s voice screamed over the radio. “Howard! Are you almost there?”

“I’m headed up the stairs now,” a deep voice called from the handset. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“Hurry up,” the chief said. “Jones is seein’ things.”

“I’m not seeing things, Chief,” Jones said. “There’s something going on with…”

He did not finish his sentence. As he stared at the display the humming grew almost deafening before the entire thing seemed to explode. The room filled with a light so bright it was impossible to see anything. The sound caused his eardrums to instantly rupture, and he felt the blood run down the side of his face.

The light slowly dissipated. There was now simply a long, brilliant, white beam from the eyes of the display. It was running across the room and connecting with his chest. He was completely enveloped in a sort of golden mist. He looked down and found himself floating nearly three feet from the floor.

Jones looked over and saw Howard had finally made it to his location. He was looking from the display and back to his limp body as he screamed into his radio. Jones could not hear what he was saying, but he was sure that the chief would believe him now. As he hung there helplessly, he saw another beam erupt from the display and hit Howard squarely in the chest. It picked lifted into the air as well, and caused him to hang there just like him.

The two men floated motionless like two lifeless dolls for what seemed like hours. However, it only took a matter of seconds for the process to complete. The golden cloud grew thicker as their solid substance faded. After a time there was nothing in the room but the cloud, and it was dense enough that it could not be seen through. It was slowly pulled into the skeleton’s eyes like a vacuum cleaning up a mess.

When there was no sign left of the two men, the black rock that encased the skeleton began to crack.
_________________________________________________________________________

“I mean it, Ty,” Daniel McDawn said as he jogged toward the security office. “You and Megan stay in the lobby!”

“Okay, Dad,” Tyler said. He watched his dad disappear down the hall. He immediately started looking around the lobby. They were mostly alone. There were a few members of the crew were standing around. Evidently, they had been cleaning up when the alarm went off and security had gotten too busy to evacuate them.

Behind them, the doors were opening again and several police officers were coming in and running off to various places in the building.

“What are you doing?” Megan asked.

“Don’t you want to know what’s going on?” Tyler asked.

“Where is the security chief?” one of the policemen said.

“I’m not sure,” Tyler said.

“He’s in the security office,” one of the guys on the cleaning crew called out. Tyler turned toward him.

“Do you know what’s going on?” he asked.

“There’s a security radio in the kitchen,” the man said. “One of the guards called in from the third floor. He said there was broken glass in that new exhibit. He got cut off after that.”

“The third floor?” Megan asked. “Isn’t that where my grandfather’s exhibit is? Where is he?”

“Who?” the crewman asked.

“Professor Robbins,” Tyler said. “The man that spoke tonight.”

“Oh,” the man said. “I think I saw him in the security office.”

“I’ve got to find him,” she said.

“Okay,” Tyler said. “Calm down. I’ll take you there.”

“Wait a minute,” the police officer said. “Who are you guys?”

“I’m Tyler McDawn,” Tyler said. “Daniel is my dad.”

“Well, you’re going to stay right where you are,” the man said. He turned to another officer standing a few feet behind him. “Let’s get some guys up on three and at least one man on every exit. I’m heading to the security office.”

The other man started talking into his radio as they both jogged off toward the office side of the building. Tyler looked at Megan and saw the tears beginning to build up in her eyes.

“Tyler,” she said. “I have to get to him.”

Tyler nodded and took her by the hand. “Come on,” he said. They ran off in the other direction.
_________________________________________________________________________

“Professor, I haven’t got a clue what I’m gonna find up there,” the security chief was saying as Daniel stepped into the security office. “I can’t take you up there.”

“I’ve worked for the past decade on that exhibit!” the professor said. “I’m not asking you!”

“What’s going on?” Daniel asked. He looked around at the banks of monitors until he found the one for the third-floor exhibition hall. It was black. “The camera went out?”

“Yeah,” the chief said. He was a short, overweight man with an angry disposition. He sighed as he walked out into the hall with the other two men in tow. “I haven’t gotten a feed from that thing since the alarm went off. Jones and Howard were up there but I can’t raise them on the radio.”

“You’re headed up there?” Daniel asked.

“I have to,” the chief said. “I’ve only got three other men and they're searching the rest of the building. The Doc here wants to go with me but there could be anything up there.”

“It’s okay,” Daniel said. “We’ll all go.”

“Wonderful,” the chief replied. “So if something happens to two of the most important men in the city I can be the one to answer for it.” He looked over Daniel’s shoulder and breathed what seemed to be a sigh of relief. “Good. At least they’ll take some of the burden.”

Daniel turned around to find two police officers headed toward them. One of them was about the same age and build as the chief. The other one was a young and wiry man who seemed to be a little anxious.

“Are you Daniel McDawn?” the older officer asked.

“I am,” Daniel said.

“Sargent Joe Fines,” the man said. “You had an alarm get tripped?”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel said. “Two men have gone up but we lost contact.”

“I’ve got people on their way and I’m heading there myself,” Fines replied. “I think it would be best if you all just stayed here until we have an all-clear.”

“I think we’re all determined to go see what’s going on,” Daniel said. He saw the professor’s steely gaze and did not want to see the old man put into handcuffs.

“I’m with you, Fines,” the chief said. “Mr. McDawn and Mr. Robbins, you should both either stay here or head back to the lobby.”

“We’ll be fine, Chief,” Daniel said. They went into the stairwell and headed for the third floor.
_________________________________________________________________________

Tyler opened the door to the security office. It was empty. The monitors were showing various parts of the museum, but the only people that he could see were on the screen for the lobby where the few cleaning crewmen still hanging around and the two police officers left behind to guard the door.

“We must have just missed them,” Tyler said.

“Where would they have gone?” Megan asked.

“Upstairs, I guess,” he replied.

“Can we go up there?”

Tyler shook his head. “There are cops up there with their guns out, Megan. They wouldn’t know that we’re coming. We could get shot.”

Just as he said that he saw a dark blur move down the side hall at the end of the one they were in. He placed his hand on Megan’s shoulder and moved her aside. He stepped around her and looked toward the end of the hall.

“Tyler?” Megan asked.

“Hey!” Tyler yelled after a moment. He took off down the hall with Megan right behind him. When he reached the intersection he slid to a stop and started down the other hall in the direction he had seen the image. Halfway toward the door leading back out to the lobby, he came to a complete stop so quickly that Megan nearly barreled him over. She followed his gaze.

At the exit door was a man dressed in a long black coat. He looked at them. There was a small smile on his face that made them both shiver.

“I know you,” Tyler said.

“He’s the guy that was with the reporter,” Megan added.

“Yeah,” Tyler said. “Rayla, or something.”

The man rolled his eyes. “Raloam,” he said.

“Did you do all this?” Megan asked.

“You mean set off the alarm?” Raloam asked. “I guess.”

“What did you do?” Tyler asked.

“Follow me, Tyler,” Raloam said. “I have something for you.”

Without warning, he stormed through the door and down another hallway. Tyler shot out after him, and Megan tried her best to keep up. To Tyler’s surprise, the man did not head back to the lobby. He veered off toward the east wing of the building. They finally emerged in an area that was mostly taken up by a large classroom and a conference room. Raloam went into the conference room.

There was a loud crash. When Tyler got to the door he found Raloam had used a chair to break one of the huge windows that overlooked the street.

“I’m sorry I had to make you chase me,” Raloam said. “But I couldn’t stop until I got here.” He reached inside his coat and pulled out a small bundle wrapped in a handkerchief. “This is all that I took. I’m giving it back now.”

He tossed the bundle and it landed with a thump on the conference table. With that, he turned and leaped out the window. Since they were on the first floor he had no more than a ten-foot drop to the sidewalk. Tyler ran to the window and caught sight of him just as he was climbing into a dark-colored car. It sped off.

“That was weird,” Megan said.

“I know, right?” Tyler replied.

Megan walked over to the conference table and looked at the handkerchief. She unfolded it. Inside was an old coin. Tyler could tell it was the medallion they had seen in the slide show earlier that night. He stepped closer and looked at it more carefully. He saw the red jewel in the center and the writing etched across the surface. Near the bottom was another smaller jewel and an indention next to it as if it had once held something similar.

“So, why would he steal something if he’s just going to turn around and give it back?” Megan asked.

“I don’t know,” Tyler replied. “But I guess we should take it back to my dad since this is what all of the fuss is about.”

He reached out to grab it. As soon as his skin made contact with the surface Tyler felt an intense burning sensation run up his arm and throughout his entire body. He felt like millions of volts of electricity were running through his bloodstream. He screamed loudly, but the sound was covered by what felt like an atomic explosion that threw him into the air.

Tyler crashed through one of the other windows and fell hard on the sidewalk outside. He could hear Megan’s screams in the distance, but he could not move. He looked up just in time to see that the medallion was sailing toward him. The surface of it was glowing like a hot ember that had just been shot out of a campfire.

Then everything went dark and he passed out.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Griffin Chronicles--Chapter Four

Anya handed her keys to the valet as Raloam went to the man at the podium situated by the museum steps.

“Name, please,” the man said.

“Well, her name is Anya Gates,” Raloam said. Anya stepped up next to him as he placed his arm around her.

“And guest,” she said.

The man looked down at the tablet in front of him, slowly scrolling his finger across the screen. He tapped it a couple of times and looked up with a smile.

“Of course, Ms. Gates,” he said. “I have a note here that says that you’re expecting a crew later this evening.”

Anya gave a little laugh. “Not a crew. Just my cameraman. He’ll be here around nine thirty to set up for the ten o’clock news.”

“Of course, ma’am,” he replied. “We’ll take care of it. I’ll let you know when he arrives.”

“Thank you,” Raloam said and moved to walk up the steps. Anya reached out and grabbed him by the elbow. She gestured to the man with her eyes. Raloam looked upward as if he had forgotten something. He reached into his coat and slid a bill into the man’s hand. They smiled and started up the stairs.

“How much did you give him?” Anya asked.

“Ten bucks,” Raloam said. “Not that he’s going to be able to use it. Everyone in the city has switched to credits.”

“Really, Ray,” Anya said. “You’re not new to modern life. You still can’t remember to tip?”

“I’m not a people person,” Raloam said.

Another man in a tuxedo opened the front door for them and they moved into the main lobby. Several people were already moving about the room, and the wait staff were serving drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Anya immediately reached out and took a glass of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter.

“Is that wise?” Raloam asked. “You’re going to be on television in two hours.”

“It’s one glass, Ray,” she said. “I’m not going to get drunk before doing a report.”

“I hope not,” he replied. “Not if you’re planning on getting that anchor position that you’ve been hoping for.”

“Are you going to have any?” she asked.

“Not tonight,” he said. “I want to stay focused.”

“Do you see him yet?”

Raloam exhaled slowly, looking around the room. “No. He’s here, though. I can feel it. But he’s in another part of the building.”

Anya nodded, sipping her drink and taking a look around as well. Her senses were not as finely tuned as her companion’s, but she had sharpened her skills over the past few years.

“Do you want to find him?” she asked.

Raloam shook his head. “I don’t want to give any reason for us to have to leave before the time comes,” he said. “We don’t need to be seen in closed-off parts of the building. My guess is that he’s in one of the offices upstairs, getting ready for the banquet. We’ll bide our time.”

__________________________________________________________________________

“Dad, the photographer is ready.”

Daniel McDawn turned away from the conversation he was having with the caterer. He nodded and held up his index finger.

“Go ahead and open three cases of wine. Be sure everyone has a drink,” he said. “We’ll start seating for dinner in about twenty minutes.”

The caterer nodded and left. Daniel joined his son in front of the ornate desk to be used as the background for the picture. He hardly ever came into this office. He was not the a man who sat around making calls all day. He had opened museums around the world because he loved museums. So when he had the opportunity to be here, he took advantage of it and spent his time on the floor.

A man Tyler had not met was standing by the door. Daniel gestured for him to join them in the picture. The man came over and stood beside the two of them.

“Tyler,” Daniel said. “This is Professor Jonah Robbins. He’s the head of the team that made the discovery we’re showcasing tonight.”

Tyler reached out and shook hands with the man. He was taller than his father, and very thin. He was older as well, most likely in his late sixties. He smiled warmly, and Tyler could see his smile was genuine as he had a light dancing in his eyes. This was a man who was realizing something he had worked for his entire life.

“Pleased to meet you, Tyler,” Robbins said. “Your father has said a lot about you.”

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Tyler said.

Robbins laughed. “Good. I assure you.”

“Okay,” the photographer called out to them. They turned their attention to him. “Smile!”

The three of them grinned as the camera flash went off. He took one more for good measure and gave them a thumbs up.

“So, are you planning to get into the museum business as well?” Robbins asked.

Tyler shook his head shyly. “No, sir. I’m not much of a history buff.”

“Tyler wants to be a writer,” Daniel said, placing his hand on his son’s shoulder. “He’s been writing short stories since he could hold a pencil.”

“Well, that’s impressive,” Robbins said. “Have you ever had anything published?”

“They put a couple of my stories in a magazine when I was younger,” Tyler said. “But they were kid magazines.”

“Tyler, don’t ever put a but on your accomplishments,” Robbins said, that little light shining in his eye again. “Be proud of the things you’ve done. Don’t feel like you have to justify their importance.”

Tyler smiled. That was the same thing his father said to him often. He did not know why he had to make things seem less than they were. He suspected it was because he thought people already thought he was a snob because of his father’s wealth. He never wanted to sound like he was bragging.

“Thank you, sir,” he said. The older man smiled and patted him on the back.

“My granddaughter is here tonight,” he said. “I think that she is about your age. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to spend a little time around her. She feels awkward at events like this.”

“I know the feeling,” Tyler said and they all laughed.

Robbins turned to Daniel and shook his hand. “Mr. McDawn, I thank you again for your hospitality. I’m looking forward to tonight.”

“I’ll see you downstairs in a few minutes,” Daniel said. He called out to the hallway for one of the security men and instructed him to see the professor got to the exhibit hall. The guard nodded and the two men left together. Daniel turned to Tyler. “You don’t have to babysit the professor’s granddaughter, Ty.”

“It’s alright, Dad,” Tyler said. “I don’t mind. We all have to do our part. Right?”

“Right,” Daniel said. He looked his son in the eye and straightened his tie. “Look at you. A grown-up.”

“Big boy clothes and everything,” Tyler replied with a laugh.

“Your mom would be proud of you,” Daniel said.

Tyler looked down and then back to his dad with a smile. They did not bring up his mother often. It was a sore subject for both of them.

“Thanks, Dad,” he said. It was all he could think of to say. With his father’s arm across his shoulder, they stepped out into the hallway and moved toward the elevator.

__________________________________________________________________________

There were about five hundred people on the guest list for the gala. As the glass elevator dropped down into the main museum building, Tyler could see that almost all of them had made it, most of them bringing a guest. With all of the service personnel moving around, there looked to be more than a thousand people. The guests were in the main banquet area outside the exhibit halls. The wait staff was already starting to serve dinner.

Tyler and his father stepped off the elevator. A young lady met them there and walked them to the table set up by the podium on the stage. A huge banner hung across the entrance to the area that said “The Birmingham Museum of Natural History Welcomes Professor Jonah Robbins”. There was also a slide show projected onto a blank wall with pictures of the professor and various other men and women working on the excavation site in Greece. There were huge holes dug at the foot of a mountain, and into the rock face itself. Pictures of various artifacts Tyler could tell very little about flashed slowly on the screen. Vases, pots, bones, coins, and some that looked like little more than rocks.

“What exactly did he find, Dad?” Tyler asked as they were seated at their table. Their salads were already there, waiting for them.

“Well, it's a little more than I can explain five minutes before the program, Ty,” Daniel said. He took a sip of the water in front of him. “Just wait. The professor will explain everything.”

Daniel McDawn had hired John Larrington to serve as the master of ceremonies at the gala. Larrington was the face of WIET’s “Good Day”, a morning news and entertainment show. He was exactly as one would have imagined. His hair and suit were perfect, and his smile was irritatingly permanent. He showed his glowing white teeth at every chance he got, and he gave himself plenty of chances.

At precisely eight o’clock, Larrington marched to the podium and switched on the microphone. He introduced himself and made a few jokes about the museum and several of the members of high society who were in attendance. Tyler was not sure how funny his father thought the jokes were. Especially the dinosaurs being bored into fossils by tonight’s speakers, or that he was going to the mummy room to cruise for chicks. Tyler just rolled his eyes. His father looked at him and gave a smirk and a wink. His father may have been a well-off museum mogul, but he still had a good sense of humor.

Finally, Larrington turned his attention to Daniel McDawn. He thanked him for bringing such positive attention to the city, and for all the work he had already put into the community. Tyler did not know to what community work he was referring. His father was a charitable man, but since they had arrived in the city he had barely left the museum for much more than a few hours of sleep.

Daniel got up and took over the podium. He leaned into the microphone and thanked Larrington, joking about his having the nicest teeth outside the Tyrannosaurus exhibit.

“I would like to thank you all for coming tonight,” he said. “It hasn’t been very long since we opened the doors on this establishment, and to already be having an event of this magnitude is really something.”

“I’ve had the honor of managing six museums of various kinds worldwide. They have all had the standard exhibits you would expect to find at any other museum in any other major city. We’ve had permanent exhibits of rare fossils, and the remains of many extinct species. A lot of artifacts from different periods in history, such as armor and weapons, can be found here and at our other facilities. We’ve had many exhibits that have visited us for a short time, with art from famous artists like Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and Worhol.

“However, the fact that Professor Robbins has uncovered an entire city at the base of what was once an active volcano is tremendous. There have been stories about the city of Dartha for generations, and we’ve always thought it was just an old tale. Something to tell your children in the old days to frighten them into behaving. Be good, or you’ll be burned like they were in Dartha. But now we know that the city was real. And while we have a long way to go in understanding what happened to it so long ago, I’m proud the professor has allowed us to become the permanent home to some of the things he has uncovered so far.

“And now, to talk more about his discovery, I’d like to turn the stage over to Professor Jonas Robbins.”

The room erupted into applause as Daniel stepped back from the microphone. Professor Robbins got up from his chair and walked across the stage. He shook Daniel's hand and turned to the audience. Daniel sat down in his chair and glanced at his son.

“That was good, Dad,” Tyler said.

Daniel smiled. Tyler knew that his dad was accustomed to speaking in front of a crowd. But Daniel had always made a point to congratulate him on his accomplishments, so Tyler tried to do the same.

“Thank you, Daniel,” Professor Robbins said as he pulled his glasses and notes from his coat pocket. “I’m not sure of which I’m more envious of. Your wealth, your youth, or the fact that you know more about history than I do.” The audience chuckled.

“You’re the one with the Ph.D.,” Daniel called out and the professor nodded with a smile.

“Ten years ago my team and I decided that we believed the city of Dartha to be a real place. Since that time I have spent most of my time in Greece. We made the initial discovery of evidence of a human presence in the fields on the very boundaries of the country. These remains appear to be no less than three thousand years old. After that, we went about trying to prove that what we had discovered was indeed the lost city we were in search of.”

The professor began a long speech about the legend of Dartha. Tyler had heard the stories before. His father was a huge fan of classic Greek mythology, and he can remember a lot of books lying around his office on the subject. He had always liked looking at the pictures of Zeus and Hercules, and listening to stories of the gods and goddesses. The city of Dartha was only mentioned in a couple of those stories. But Daniel had books that were completely dedicated to the subject.

The actual story, as it was told to Tyler, was not very complex. There was a city that was more advanced than any other city in the country at the time. It was believed it was helped by magic. There had been an old mage that most people agreed went by the name of Kalan. He protected the city with the magic he got from the spirits of ancient warriors and animals.

That was all that was known of the city. The rest of what had been in Daniel’s books was speculation of what became of it. A lot of people believed the city had been at the foot of what the citizens believed to be a mountain. It was a volcano that erupted, burying the city in hot lava. Another belief is that the valley it rested in flooded and buried the city under a massive amount of mud. Of course, some believed that either one of these could be true, but that the disaster was brought about by a magical battle between Kalan and someone else.

“Now I want to show you a couple of the items that have been uncovered,” Robbins said. He had been speaking for about twenty minutes and showing several pictures of the excavation on the screen. “There are twenty different things that will be on display in the exhibition hall, and hopefully there were be a few more joining them over the next few months. But one or two items are of particular interest to me, and I would like to tell you about them.”

__________________________________________________________________________
Raloam sighed and Anya shot him a look that quickly told him to be quiet. He was not good at this. Sitting in one place for a long time and listening to someone talk was one of the most difficult things he ever had to do. It was in his nature to move. It was also in his nature to stay away from crowds. He was completely out of his element here.

But this was the part of the night he had been waiting for.

“The first item is a medallion that I find extraordinary,” Professor Robbins said. Instantly, the image of his excavation team on the wall vanished and was replaced by a round, ancient-looking coin, scarred with time. In its center was a small red stone that was dull with age, but still seemed to shine.

Raloam inhaled deeply.

Anya looked at him. “Is that it?” she asked. He nodded but did not speak.

“This medallion would not have been used as currency,” the professor said. “It most likely was a decoration or a symbol of wealth. The stone in the center is pure ruby, and there is a carving on the back of it. You’ll be able to see it more clearly when we move to the hall. But the carving appears to be writing although no one on my team can identify the language. There is also a cat or a lion drawn above the writing.”

“Or a griffin,” Raloam muttered. Anya was the only one that heard him. She reached over and squeezed his hand.

“Patience, Ray,” she said. He sighed.

“Most of the other items found were relics of the time,” Robbins continued. “Pottery and jewelry of many different types. And we found a lot of bones. But the other item I find the most interesting is this.” The image on the wall changed to a huge chunk of black rock lying inside a display case. After a moment the audience was able to see that there was a clear outline of an entire human skeleton encased in the rock. “This rock was once red hot lava. This was found in a small cave inside the mountain that used to be a volcano. We aren’t sure who this person was, but it is clear to us that he died by being covered by the lava. What is amazing is that the bones were not disintegrated by the heat of the liquid rock. Every bone in the human body has been accounted for. All of them are perfectly preserved and encased in this rock.”

Anya winced and realized that Raloam was squeezing her hand to the point that it hurt. She yanked her hand away and looked at him. He was staring at the image on the wall so hard it looked as though his eyes would set fire to the building.

“Ray,” she said. “What’s wrong?”

“Gods!” he whispered loudly.

Griffin Chronicles--Chapter Three

Raloam slid behind one of the pillars holding up the overpass above him. He could feel his heart pumping furiously and imagined it matching the thumping of the cars passing overhead. He closed his eyes to calm himself, listening to the sound of the dust falling every time another vehicle drove by. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

That was stupid.

He cursed himself silently. The kid had seen him, and that was not supposed to happen. It had never happened before. He knew his skills were beginning to fade, but he had thought he still had it in him to go unnoticed by a child. He had been following him for ten years and never left so much a hair or shadow to be found.

He cursed again.

He peeked around the corner of the pillar toward the bookstore where the kid had been a few moments before. He was gone now. He pulled his greasy ponytail off his shoulder and let it hang behind him. He ran his fingers over the scruffy stubble on his face. He could not screw up now. It had been too long to let it all fall apart now.

He reached into his tattered coat and pulled his watch out of his pocket. The chain had broken long ago but the mechanics were still running after all of these years. He pressed the small button that let the face open and looked at the time. It was almost four o’clock. It was time to prepare for tonight. He was supposed to pick up Anya at seven.

All thought stopped at the distinctive click that perked his ears. It had come from behind him. He had not heard anyone walk up, and that was another mistake he would not have made in the past.

Now that he was alerted, his senses kicked in. He knew exactly what position the sound had come from. He could also see in his mind that there were three other bodies scattered behind him at different points. He knew where they were within an inch.

“Hey, weird Jesus,” a voice called from behind him. He could practically see the gun in his hand. From the sound it made when the wielder pulled the hammer back, it had to be a nine-millimeter. From the high-pitched sound of the voice, it was held by a young Hispanic male of about twenty-two. He was probably even holding it sideways.

“I don’t want any trouble,” Raloam said.

“Well, you got some,” the young man said. “I saw that watch you just put in your pocket. I want it!”

“Okay,” Raloam said. “That’s not a problem. Just let me get it.”

“Move slow, Scruffy,” another voice called out. This one came from his right, but still quite a good distance behind him. The owner of the second voice was older than the gunman.

Raloam held his hands in the air and slowly moved his right hand back into his coat to retrieve the watch. He took a breath and centered himself. He closed his eyes and felt his heart rate slow almost to a complete stop. He tuned his ears, listening to the breath of the men behind him. The sound had gone from extremely nervous and fast to extremely slow.

What he did next felt like he was in slow motion. It was as if someone had turned down the speed for the entire world. He pulled the watch from his pocket and turned around to face his attackers. Four men were standing ten feet behind him. Six or seven feet of space separated each man. They all appeared to be standing completely motionless, like gangster statues. This was good. It was just like practice.

The watch left his fingers with precise accuracy and struck the man with the gun square in the forehead. He slowly began to fall. His hand released its grip, and the gun fell at a snail’s pace to the ground. It landed with a thump and an exaggerated explosion filled the air. Raloam could see the bullet make its way from the barrel of the weapon to the shoulder of one of the other men. He screamed and began his descent to the pavement.

Raloam launched his body into the air and put both feet onto the chest of one of the remaining men. He stood on the man for a second before reaching down and landing a punch on the man’s temple. He looked over to see that the final man was just beginning to react to the gunshot. He swung one leg out and connected it with his nose. The man sailed through the air, crashing hard into one of the concrete pillars.

Raloam stepped off of the man and looked around. It had all happened in less than three seconds. The passing of time seemed to catch up again and he could hear the cars passing overhead once more. The man with the gunshot wound was groaning, his blood spilling all over the ground. Raloam picked up his watch from the ground and wiped the dust from it before returning it to his pocket.

He knelt on the ground next to the man who was bleeding and pulled his hand from the wound. The man looked at him and started to draw back but Raloam put his hand on his throat.

“Relax,” he said. “I won’t hurt you unless you cause me to.” The man grimaced but allowed him to continue. He grabbed the man’s shirt and ripped it down the front and looked at where the bullet had struck him. “You’re going to be alright. The bullet passed through and it didn’t hit anything. Do you have a phone?”

“Yeah, man,” the thug replied.

“Call an ambulance. Your friends will be waking up soon. I think the one I landed on has a couple of cracked ribs.”

Raloam turned and began walking away, back toward the street.

“How did you do that,?” the man called from behind him. “Who the hell are you?”

Raloam pulled his last cigarette out of his shirt pocket and put it between his lips as he kept walking. “Don’t worry about it,” he said.
__________________________________________________________________________

“Jesus! Where have you been?”

Raloam stepped into Anya’s apartment and pulled his coat off. “I got held up,” he said.

“Well, I didn’t know that the plan was to just show up when everybody else got there,” she replied. “I thought that we were gonna check the place out first.”

“We are, Anya,” he said. “Would you relax? We’ve got some time.”

He watched her walk toward the bedroom and he realized that she was dressed for the occasion. Anya usually dressed nicely, as her job required her to have a certain amount of style. But usually, it was just a nice top and a skirt, or possibly a pantsuit. Right now she was wearing a black dress that came down to her knees and exposed a lot of skin up top. Her blonde hair was pulled up in a way that looked like it had been easy to do classic and stylish at the same time.

“Anya,” he said.

She stepped back into the hallway and looked at him as she put on her earrings.

“What?” she asked.

“You look nice,” he replied.

She rolled her eyes. “Like you notice things like that anymore.”

“I’m still a guy,” he said with a grin.

“At your age?” she said, laughing. “Ray, you’re barely human.”

Raloam looked at the mirror next to the front door and ran a hand through his hair. He could once see nothing but solid black. Now he had several gray hairs on his head, and more appeared in his beard every day.

“Ray,” Anya was saying. He looked over at her and raised his eyebrows. “Are you going to get dressed? You can’t go like that. You look like you haven’t showered in days.”

“I haven’t,” he replied. “That’s the look that I’m going for.”

“Well, we’re not supposed to stand out tonight,” she said. “Now, I went through a lot of trouble to get us into this thing. The least you can do is look presentable. And I want you to shave!”

Raloam nodded and went into the other bedroom. His bedroom. Although he lived here he could not quite call it home. He always referred to it as Anya’s. It was mostly because she did not charge him any money to live here. She had told him a long time ago that he was welcome to stay with her for as long as he needed. He knew that most people said things like that without any real meaning behind it. But with Anya, it had been sincere. She had gotten him off of the streets. And even though it had been his choice to live on the streets in the first place, it was nice to have somewhere to go.

He closed the door and went to the closet. He did not have a lot of clothes. He spent most of his time alone, melding himself into the homeless community of the cities he resided in that it did not make much sense to carry around a lot of extra things. But he kept some here for those times when he needed to mix into other classes of society. Tonight he would be with the high rollers, so he would have to look like one.

He had a tuxedo, but he was not going to wear that. He thought the museum event was going to be fancy, but he did not want to look like he was going to the prom. He reached into the back and found the black Armani. It was covered in a plastic dry cleaning bag he had left there to protect it from dust. He had only had a chance to wear it once since buying it a few years ago. He hung it on the closet door and stepped into the bathroom.
__________________________________________________________________________

“Wow,” Anya said when he finally emerged from the bedroom ten minutes later. “You clean up nice.”

Raloam smiled as he clipped his cufflink into place. “Thanks,” he said.

She brushed his lapel and adjusted his tie. “I’m still amazed at how fast you can do that. You even shaved.”

“Well, I trimmed. I told you there was nothing to worry about,” he said. He pulled his watch out of his pocket and opened it. “Look at that. Plenty of time.”

“Yeah,” Anya said. “Enough time for you to take me to dinner.”