Monday, December 20, 2010

The Mystery of the Mysterious Boat, Prologue


The Night of the Urban Jungle

Los Angeles

The half-human critter watched California State Senator J. Stephen Chen as he left his Downtown office. The senator had been working late — already, night had fallen. An elevator took the senator down to the garage. Chen's Lincoln Town Car exited the garage, climbed up the ramp to street grade, and merged into the westbound traffic on Wilshire Boulevard. Behind a Dumpster in the alley beyond the ramp lurked the thing.

The senator was lost in thought: His probe into the eco-terrorist activities of the California chapter of Attaque Verte was finally going somewhere. A few more days — and evidence would be watertight. The facades of the skyscrapers, covered with constellations of manmade stars, receded behind him. Ahead, red taillights blinked at him. Actually, there was not much traffic. When he had passed through MacArthur Park, he heard a bang.

The car started to swerve. With a curse, he wrestled the wheel to stay in control, braked, and pulled onto the parking lot of an office supply megastore closed for the night. Building, parking lot, and sidewalk were deserted. The sodium vapor lamps of the parking lot were off, leaving it in as much darkness as can be found in a metropolitan area.

Chen got out, walked around the car, and stooped to inspect the flat tire. "Damn. Should have bought those run flat tires."

At second glance, the flat tire was a strange and startling sight. The senator was so surprised that he knelt down beside it, oblivious of his expensive dress pants. An arrow shaft protruded from the wall of the tire.

Chen plucked it out. The arrow was handmade and appeared ancient: The arrowhead looked like obsidian, the shaft was made of wood, with feathers as vanes. He suppressed the horror rising within him, refused to permit his mind to make the logical connections with recent local news. It was nothing. Maybe some punk had looted an Indian weapons collection and found it amusing to try bow and arrow on passing automobiles. The senator rose to get tools and spare tire from the trunk. As he looked up, he beheld a ragged, somehow furry-looking figure standing behind the Lincoln.

A bolt of fear struck him. He could no longer deny the reality of those things. They existed, they existed right here in the middle of Los Angeles, in what was in fact the second city of the most civilized country he could imagine. Now they had come to get him, too. And he was unarmed, defenseless, helpless.

On the ill-lit lot in front of the closed megastore, it was hard to see any details of the tall, thin silhouette confronting him. But the half-human figure was handling something. Suddenly, Chen felt a stinging pain flooding his chest.

Read on…

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