Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Purple Roses: Noam and Daniel's Wedding.


Noam and Daniel’s Wedding.

  Sitting by herself in the luxury suite of the Bali Island Resort, Noam took advantage of the quietness that surrounded her. Color bloomed everywhere she looked amid the exotic locale. Spicy scents floated in the warm balmy breeze, still tempting her appetite even after she had already eaten. But nothing drew her gaze quite as much as the veil did. Sitting on a low wooden table the veil shimmered enchantingly as the while tulle floated like clouds around it. Tomorrow was her wedding day.

It had already been a week since she and Daniel and many of their friends had arrived on Bali. Filled with fun and adventure the week had gone by fast but the memories would last forever. During that time they had also worked hard to get things ready for the wedding between her and Daniel.

Interweaving in and around her thoughts a sweet melody played, stirring the very depths of her soul. Closing her eyes she let music take her away and imagined herself dancing with Daniel. It took her a few more minutes before she realized the music was not coming from a radio but was directly outside her window.  Curious she stood and walked over to the balcony and stepped out into the clear night air. Below her stood her beloved, playing the violin with such tenderness and love that the Heavens themselves could never match. As soon as he saw her, he lowered the instrument and began to sing to her with his bravura voice, words that rose up from the very center of his heart, rich in meaning and filled with virtuoso.

It was as if world became more vivid and rich in color and brilliance as the magic seized her. Beckoning to her love she moved back into the room and towards the door to let him in. But to her surprise, he came through the window after climbing the trellis.

“Doors are for people with no imagination,” He smiled as he took her in his arms. “Wow! You look beautiful! But then you always do.”

Smiling she tugged playfully at his hoodie, admiring how handsome he was. “Good to see you too!”

“I have something for you,” He told her as he led her to the couch.

“What can you possibly have for me?” She wondered out loud.” You have already given me everything and more!”

Laughing softly he pulled something out if his hoodie pocket before sitting down. It was a glossy small oblong box tied with a silk ribbon.

“What is this?” She smiled in disbelief as she hesitantly took it.

“Open it and see,” He encouraged her gently.

With anticipation she opened the box to see the most extraordinary locket revealed inside.  Carefully she took it out to admire it, the light from the chandelier caught its sheen making the charm glow. Made from the finest silver and set with tiny pure white diamonds in its center, its beauty made her breathless.

“This is my gift to you before we marry.” He said as he took it from her to reveal a secret compartment inside.

“Oh, it has our pictures inside!” She exclaimed in delight. “They are the pictures we had taken a while ago to celebrate our engagement!”

“That’s right,” He smiled as he took the locket and placed it around her neck. “It looks beautiful on you.”

“Thank you so much, Daniel!” She hugged him tight.  “I love it! It is perfect; YOU are perfect!”

“I am glad you like it.” He stood then and held out a hand to her. “Would you care for a walk milady? It is a fine night to be out.”

“Any night is fine as long as it is with you.” She winked. “Let me get my jacket. The breeze seems to be picking up outside.”

A short time later found the lovely young couple walking the smooth sandy beach of Bali, the moon shining overhead illuminating the ocean and the exotic lush foliage all around. Quiet sounds serenaded them as they talked with each other about the dreams they shared for their future

Gradually all the sound hushed as the lovers lingered by the water’s edge. Neither one noticed the sudden silence or the abrupt withdrawal of the ocean from around their feet. For that moment all they could see was each other as they stood there incased in a moment of bliss.

A trembling beneath their feet shook them from their reverie sending shockwaves through them both.
“Daniel?” Noam’s voice came out small and was swallowed by a force in the air as all sound was sucked away.

“Just hang on to me, Noam!” He said hastily as he pulled her further up the shore. “We gotta get out of here! RUN!”

“What is happening?” She cried out as a roar, louder than anything she has ever heard rumbled from the depths of the ocean.

“It’s a tsunami!” He shouted over the noise, his face white and drawn with fear.

In fear and disbelief he looked back to see a twenty foot wall of water rushing over them. Saying a quick prayer he took his love in his arms and held tight.

“Just hang on to me, Noam.” He whispered desperately in her ear just before the water hit. “Be strong and stay with me! Please!”

She never had a chance to answer as the force of the tsunami struck them. For a long tortuous moment it felt like a mountain was on top of them, squeezing away all air and threatening to break all their bones.

DANIEL! Her mind cried out seeking the presence of her love but all she could see was blackness and there was no more feeling in her body. Terror gripped her and almost she opened her mouth to scream in panic but then the pressure let up a bit and she felt herself being swept up by the force of nature. A brief moment of light revealed to her that she was still wrapped up in Daniels arms.  Wide eyed he was looking back at her, his eyes sending pleading messages for her to just keep hanging on. Just hang on….

It was enough at that moment, the reassurance that he was still there with her. But then shock filled her as she felt herself being sucked away from him, caught up in a maelstrom as the tsunami pulled its victims back into the ocean with it, swallowing them whole.

Rage and panic filled her as she frantically tried to hang on but lost hold. Once more she lashed out willing herself to find him and regain the hold she had. Yet nothing filled her wild grasps. Instead she was pulled away by the power of the deep and pulled into its depth.  Darkness filled her vision once more as she lost consciousness.

Lost in a sea of darkness Daniel’s one and only thought was for his lost love. Feeling the weight of emptiness in his arms brought on a grief and despair that rivaled the power of the maelstrom. Something bumped into his arms and compulsion took over as he forced himself to grab on. It was a long piece of wood that he found himself holding onto with all his might, weakened as he was. Before he passed out he called out for his beloved amid the dark of the night. NOAM! Nothing was his reply. Against his will, his eyes closed then numbness ruled his mind and he lost consciousness.

Pain and thirst were the things that Noam felt first as she struggled to open her eyes. Yet the ach in her heart was worse by far as the knowledge that her Daniel was not with her anymore. Light penetrated her eyes bringing with it a sharp pain causing tears to well. Protesting, her irritated eyes stung causing her vision to waver. So instead she kept her eyes shut for a time and tried to move her hands. Sand and debris met her touch as she felt all around her. Slowly the feeling returned to the rest of her.  Cool and wet, the surface of the water lapped playfully at her toes and the breeze of the ocean tickled her face. Feeling somewhat encouraged by this she braved another look around her. Still not clear, her vision was able to show her that it was now day and she was alone on a beach. Greenery showed through her haze, lush and rich looking but not one clue was given as to any civilization nearby.

“Hello?” Her voice, harsh and weak, broke through the silence tentatively.

Only the sound of nature met her call.

 Slowly and feebly she rolled over to her stomach, her body protesting the whole time. Forcing herself to move, she half crawled, half dragged herself further up the beach. Just when she thought she could not take it anymore, a pair of strong but gentle arms picked her up and carried her into the dense tropical forest.

Catching only a glimpse of her rescuer, all she saw was a figure wrapped up in a white garment.  Disappointment that it was not Daniel made her almost cry. Bravely she kept still, trying to gather her wits about her and find the strength to satisfy her curiosity. Who was this person?

Worry festered within her until they entered into an opening that looked like the center of the jungle. Before her was fresh water spring with a water fall that surged down a rocky embankment, resembling a slide.  Color bloomed everywhere along the slopes amid the rich greenery of the foliage creating a landscape that truly looked like paradise.  The strange girl sat her gently down beside the water then left.

 If only Daniel could be here with her. Daniel. The reminder of his absence struck pain afresh into her heart. Instinctively her hand went to her throat to take hold of the necklace for comfort. Nothing was there. It was gone.

“My necklace!” she murmured in deep distress.

“Rest now,” The stranger had come back and was dabbing Noam’s face gently with a cool cloth. “Rest and eat. You need to regain your strength.”

“I must go find Daniel.” She protested weakly. “I don’t know where he is: if he is alive or not!”

Catching the distress in Noam’s voice the other girl knelt down beside her and gently took her hand, “Feel his heartbeat. His rhythm beats through yours. Even I can feel it through you from where I am standing. He is alive.” The girl smiled joyfully.

 Noam still could not fully see who this person was. Her eyesight had recovered somewhat but she could see that the girl wore a simple white dress with a white scarf tied around her head. 

Busing herself with something else, the girl paused a moment to point at something next to Noam.

“You need to eat.” She reminded with a smile in her voice.

Looking down Noam saw a variety of fresh fruit sitting tantalizing on a giant green leaf along with a coconut that was split open; its milk calling to quench her thirst.

Eagerly she began eating the fruit enjoying the sweet juices that tasted so divine. When she was done, her eyelids felt so heavy. Still, she fought the sleep that threatened to overtake her. She had to find Daniel. Attempting to get on her feet, Noam struggled uselessly. Upon hearing her sounds of distress the other girl returned to her and gently pushed her back down.

“Rest,” was all she said, kindness and understanding showing in her blue eyes.

Somehow the girl seemed familiar, but yet not familiar. Noam found herself obeying the girl despite being anxious and sad. In the end, her own eyes betrayed her and closed. Noam fell into a deep sleep. Next to her, the girl stood guard.

He didn’t know how long he had been drifting, but in between his dozing and waking the night had turned into day. Wearily Daniel looked about as the waves, calmer now, gently lapped against his body. Casting a gaze all around he could not spy land anywhere. Noam. Laying his head on the board he said a silent prayer for his beloved. In his heart he knew she was out there somewhere. She had to be safe! He would find her. But first he had to find land.

A sound in the distance drew his attention. Anxiously he looked to where it had come from. Slowly an image grew in size out of the horizon. A boat was headed his way. With rising hope he wildly waved with one hand while shouting. They had seen him!

Exhilaration grew as they came nearer. Now that it was close, he could see it was luxury yacht, but something seemed off. As they approached he could see it was crewed by men; big burly men with long raggedy hair; some with muscles the size of basketballs.

“Just my luck,” He groaned, wishing he could disappear. “Pirates!”

Then a horrible thought slipped in his mind. If there were pirates around, they could have found his Noam! He had to be sure.

With guns aimed at him the grinning pirates plucked him out of the water and let him drop onto the deck. Despite being weakened from his ordeal, Daniel faced them all bravely. Around him the pirates argued what to do with him, their guns still aimed his way.

“I say we drop him back into the sea!” One man said gruffly.

“He could be rich! We can hold him hostage and get some money!”

“We can’t be sure if he is or not.” The other one spoke up. “Search him and see if you find anything.”

 Not about to have anyone search him, Daniel stood up, speaking as he emptied his pockets out.

“You can see for yourselves that I don’t have a wallet on me or any identification. But it will be to your benefit if I am returned alive and unharmed to my family.”

The pirates jeered a bit at this but seemed to consider what he said. That is until the leader shouted his own ideas into the air.

“I say we just throw him to the sharks and be done with it. He’s not worth the bother!”

Half-drunk the pirates all cheered at this and raised their weapons once more. Sighing Daniel prepared himself. As a Purple Rose agent he had been through much worse. Ducking low he slammed his shoulder into the belly of the pirate nearest him, toppling the bigger man over. With his left leg he struck out behind him kicking the gun out of another pirate’s hands. Continuing in his smooth motion Daniel spun and twisted the gun out of the next pirate, flinging it into the ocean. Then he turned and found himself staring at the last gun, it being pointed directly in his face.

Stony faced he eyed the last pirate, unwilling to back down. Daniel could see by the gleam in the pirate’s eyes what he planned to do. It was as if everything turned into slow motion. Perhaps that is the way things are when one is about to die, Daniel thought to himself. Noam. Closing his eyes, he focused his last thoughts on the one who he loved more than life itself. As from a distance, he heard the click of the gun and then……nothing.

Taking a peek he saw the strangest sight. A banana stuck out of the end of the gun. A faint sound of a girl giggling drifted on the wind. Turning to see who it was, his heart hoped that it was Noam. Instead he saw a girl dressed in a plain white dress with a matching scarf wrapped around her head. The glare of the sun made it hard to see who it was, but he knew intuitively it was not his Noam. This girl was taller.

“Thank you.” He managed to say.

The girl curtsied to him playfully then handed one stunned pirate a life vest and pushed him over the side. Laughter sounded again, faint but amused as she gestured towards the other pirates. Smiling he got the idea. Swiftly he handed the remaining pirates life vests then tossed them overboard. Dumbly they held on, still not quite sure what was happening to them.

Not wasting any more time Daniel ran to the helm and took control.

“Go South East,” the girl’s voice whispered to him from the doorway.

Somehow he knew that was the correct way to go and set off there. Next he radioed for help and gave off the coordinates to the authorities for the pirates.

“Has anyone seen or rescued a girl by the name of Noam?” He asked hopefully and rattled off information regarding their plight. “We were last on the Island of Bali when the tsunami hit then we became separated.”
“No one here has seen a girl of that description, sir.” The other man radioed back. “There are many people still missing. However, you can be sure we will keep an eye out for her.”

“Please, let me know the moment you find anything concerning her whereabouts,” Daniel fought not to break down, so great was his loss. “We were to have been married today.”

After a lengthy pause the man answered back, a new understanding in his voice. “We will be looking hard for her, sir. I have many friends up and down the coastline. I will radio them and we will find her.”

“Thank you,” It was not enough to say to the man’s kindness, but it was all he could manage at the moment.

While he took a moment to gather his thoughts, he kept a lookout in every direction just in case…

“You need to eat,” The voice of the girl broke through his thoughts and pointed to a plate of food she had just brought him.

“I have to look for my fiancée!” He stressed at her. “There is no time for eating.”

“You need to keep up your health for your fiancée,” She answered him softly in a firm voice. “You eat then go below and take a shower. I found some clothes for you that you can change into. Meanwhile, I will pilot the boat and keep watch.”

For a moment he hesitated, his thoughts on Noam. What if he missed her while he was gone and the bat sailed past? These thoughts and more started to lay hold of him again. 

“Trust me, I will not fail you in the search for your fiancée,” she told him, “I will call you right away should I see something, anything that might help you find her.”

Something about her made him trust her though he could not put his finger on it. Still, he kept one eye on her as he ate, and the other scanning left to right across the ocean to see if anything was there.  A short time later he was enjoying a hot shower. Once dressed again in clean clothes, he felt a renewed and refreshed. Yet he could not fight the heaviness of his eyes. Taking a deep breath he sat on the edge of the bed that was in one of the rooms. In moments he was fast asleep. All the while the boat kept sailing safely towards land, with a girl in white standing guard.

Standing on the shore in front of the ruined Bali Island Resort, Octaboona stared intently off into the distance amid the debris. After a moment he would then pace up and down the beach, search. It had been his routine for the last 24 hours.

Watching him were some of his other friends, hearts broken and feeling helpless. It should have been a joyful day.

“We should bring him some more food,” Skyril said with tears in her voice. “It’s been a while since we brought him breakfast.”

“He still won’t leave the beach?” Raven asked softly as she came to stand beside the others.

“No,” Sam replied just as subdued as his adopted siblings. “He still insists Noam and Daniel are alive and out there somewhere.”

“I Pray that is true,” Thalia said with intense feeling. “There is still much hope that they will still be found. After all, in the last hour we found Lydia.”

“Wasn’t she up in a palm tree playing with the monkeys?” Flame asked, curious.

“Yes, that is how they found her.” Thalia nodded. “I do believe it was a food fight of sorts. Rescuers claim that there were coconuts flying back and forth between the trees. Lyd claims the monkeys started it.”

“It’s always the monkeys,” Rachel nodded, speaking with her charming Scottish accent.

“But she is safe and back with us,” NJ reminded them all, “That is a good thing. I have been hearing reports that many people have been found alive. So far no casualties.”

“That indeed is something to be grateful for,” Sarthacus said as he joined them.

A ways back stood Emerald with her son and husband. Chase had his strong arms wrapped around his family. It was something he did quite frequently after he found they were safe from the tsunami.

“I am going to go down and talk to Octaboona,” Hellboy said as he watched his friend pacing again.

Respectfully he approached his friend.

“How are you holding up, Octa?” He asked carefully. “Do you want a ride to the new resort? You can sit down and relax, get something good to eat.”

Looking startled that someone was with him, Octa did a double take.

“No, than you Hellboy” Octa answered him distractedly as he searched the surface of the ocean for any sign of life. “They might be found or come here on their own and I need to be around to help them. What if I leave and they come back but can’t find us because they don’t know where we went? I can’t risk that. Better that I stay here.”

“What if they don’t come back?” As soon as he said those words, Hellboy muttered a silent curse. He had not meant to let loose his fears.

But Octa did not turn on him or walk away. Instead the poet looked at him with eyes shining, full of hope. “Have you been to either of their rooms?”

Taken aback by this question Hellboy shrugged. “Can’t say I have. I know I could not make it to my old room. It was totally destroyed. I imagine everyone’s is as well.”

“Yes, I have seen it is this way with everyone,” Octaboona began, “But when I first went to Daniel’s room then later to Noam’s, what I saw astounded me.”
“What did you see?” Hellboy asked cautiously.

“The whole room…..an absolute mess,” Octaboona spoke with eyes shining, “All except their wedding garments. The whole room was totaled except the wedding dress of Naomi and the tux of Daniel’s. It’s a sign to me, clear as day that those two will make it back here in one piece!”

 

For an hour now, Noam had been walking along a trail through the dense vegetation. Sometime ago the girl had disappeared. All she had done was point the way with a smile. There was no choice but to rely on what the girl said.  Never did she figure out where the girl went when she left. All Noam knew was that when she was too tired to go on, the girl was there. It was always the same; silently she would kneel in front of Noam and then carry Noam along on her back…..just like a big sister.

Before long the trail led her to a dirt road. Looking up and down it, Noam could not see anything in either direction. Wondering which way to go Noam started to turn left but then a moment farther down the road on the right caught her attention. It was that strange girl wearing the white dress. Silently she was walking away from Noam. As if feeling Noam’s eyes on her, the girl turned around and beckoned. It was all Noam needed and she moved as quickly as she could to catch up.  But no matter how hard she tried, the girl was always a head of her.

“Listen to the music,” The voice seemed to whisper mysteriously in the air.

At first Noam did not know what the voice meant. Then as she became more alert to her surroundings, she could hear it, the song of life. Exotic birds called to one another; there were the hoots of monkeys and other animals who chatted through the jungle then the rustle of the warm breezes through the trees. Beyond that was the sound of music, faint in the air. Hope rose in Noam’s chest as she realized that civilization was nearby.

 

With a start Daniel woke up. Alarm shot through him as he realized where he was. Somehow he had fallen asleep. Even though he felt rested, his heart was still heavy with in him and the thought that he still had not been reunited with his Noam drove him almost to despair. Quickly he rolled out of the bed, grabbed his hoodie and ran up to the deck and to the helm. The girl was no longer there. Startled, he looked around. Somehow during the time he had slept, the girl had guided the boat to the port of a busy tourist town. Life was abundant here; it was obvious under the gaze of his observation.  It was clear that this area had not been affected by the surprise tsunami. He was glad of that. Never would he wish that kind of occurrence on anyone.

In almost a state of numbness, he got off the boat and wandered into the town. Something was pulling him towards the opposite end of the colorful city.  More and more it became intense till he was almost running.

“Listen to the music…” A voice said from beside him.

Whirling his head around he saw no one. But when the he caught the first few notes of music playing in the distance, he paid attention.  Focused, he walked the charming streets looking neither left nor right. His path took him to a small café located on the edge of town.  Turning in a circle he could see no one about. Yet something told him to stay put.

“Look again…” The voice said.

Startled he turned a full circle once more, seeing nothing. But his eyes turned back on their own to the lonely looking dirt road that lead beyond the café. Someone was running his way. Adulation filled him as recognition exploded from the center of his being. He KNEW that run; the way the long hair swung from side to side around the slender figure that could only belong to his one and only beautiful Noam!

Suddenly he had the strength of a million mighty men and he tore down the road to the girl who held his heart. Arms opened he gathered her tenderly within and whirled her about. Both of them were sobbing by now with tears of joy and tears of stresses being released.  Never had she looked more beautiful.

 

Back at the ruined resort it was Alex who first heard the news. While listening to the news reports on the radio he was approached by one of the local policemen and the manager from the resort. After hearing the good news, Alex tore down to where his friends were gathered along the beach in their silent vigil. It was to Octa who he told first.

With eyes bright from tears of joy, Octa turned to the rest.

“Someone go get the bride and groom their clothes! There is going to be a wedding!”

Cheers and shouts answered his news.

Sometime later found the close nit family of the Purple Roses reunited in a town a few hours away. Amid tears of joy and hugs, both Noam and Daniel briefly shared their accounts of what happened, before being hustled away to prepare for the long awaited event.

At a nearby inn, the girls carefully attended to their sister Noam, dressing her hair up in a simple but elegant style. Together they prepared her for her special day and at last assisted her in the gown of her dreams. For a moment, all her sisters could do was to admire how lovely she looked. Yet, despite all the joy she felt, Noam still felt a twinge of regret as she placed a hand to her throat.

A knock at the door interrupted the happy talk. Walking to the door, Mar opened it to find no one was there Instead, at on the floor lay a beautiful array of purple roses. Lying across it was a jeweled pendant made of the finest sliver.

“My locket!” Noam cried ecstatically in disbelief.

Mar, upon hearing this quickly scooped it up and handed it to Noam. Almost reverently she put it on.

“Now you look perfect,” Skyril smiled.

Mar handed Noam the purple bouquet.

In gratitude she looked upon her Purple Rose family. Someone from the village, after hearing about the wedding that almost never was, donated gorgeous elegant sundresses for the girls to wear as attendants for Noam, the bride.

Escorting her to the nearby garden, they were met by Chan who was licensed to be a rabbi for the occasion. Sam met her there looking splendid in a sparkly blue suit. In grand style he led his sister to her intended. Music played sweetly in honor of the event.

Daniel stood handsome in his tux, his eyes only for the girl who stood before him now. Their gazes locked and it was as if they were alone. Seeing this, Chan wisely picked up the pace and said the reverent words that wove together two souls under heaven and bound them everlasting to one another.

Then came Daniel’s favorite part.

“You may now kiss the bride.”

Taking the girl who looked like a queen into his arms, he held her lovingly and kissed her.

“Hello, my bride, my wife.” He whispered in her ears. “I love you.”

“And I, my dearest husband, love you.” She laughed softly and kissed him back.

Surrounding the entire procession the village children ran and laughed happily, climbing tall posts to let fall down white petals that scattered all around the wedding party. Falling along with the petals a single white scarf fell, floating gently down on the breeze. Somewhere nearby a girl sat with black hair falling free.

 

 Sometimes miracles just happen and when we least expect them. They remind us to live our lives and to embrace both the good and bad in our lives for both have their purpose. We are all reminded that life it’s self is a miracle and not to miss the miracles that happen every day around us. Mazel tov!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Purple Roses: After the Darkness


Cunning eyes watched the maid as she rummaged through the drawers of Skyril’s office then move on to the laptop the late Purple Rose director had left open the night she was murdered. Unaware of being watched, the maid muttered as she worked fast, trying to gain information as quickly as she could. From the look on her face, it was evident she was not finding what she was looking for.

“You seem to be having a bit of trouble.” Emerald said as she stepped out of her hiding place. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Defiance replaced the shock and fear that swept across the other girl’s face. Without answering, she struck out at Emerald. Having expected this move of a dishonorable coward Em stepped calmly out of the way and brought her own fist up and into the gut of the traitor. Falling to the floor the girl gasped for breath while glaring up at Em.

“Let’s see….you are Joni, aren’t you?” Emerald questioned her as she studied the girl who for many months had been spying on them. “You belong to the East side gang but are reporting to both Snake-eyed Jeff and to your own boss. Why?”

Snarling the girl didn’t say anything but rushed at Emerald with fists in front of her. Maneuvering easily around her, Emerald easily kept up with blocks to every blow then almost playfully would biff the girl in the head, enraging her even further.

“You have to keep your cool,” Emerald instructed her patiently as if she were a proper student. “When you lose your temper, you have already been defeated.”

“You will never get me to talk!” Joni sneered hatefully, still trying to land one on Emerald.

“I don’t need you too,” Em said, flipping the girl around so she was facing the other way. “We already know everything.”

Momentarily stunned and afraid the girl turned, staring at Em trying to decipher the truth. Calmly Em knocked the girl’s feet from under her so she landed on the floor.

“You are a LIAR!” Joni screeched as she leapt back up, reaching for the letter opener on Skyril’s desk.

Swinging it almost wildly towards Em, she lunged. Once again Em escaped harm by smoothly out witting her. With a move that would make Jacky Chan proud, Em knocked the make shift weapon from Joni’s hands.

“Believe what you like.” Em said as she twisted the girl’s hands behind her back, rendering her helpless. “You won’t be seeing the light of day for a very long time.”

Two other girls showed up then, coming through the doors. Lyd and Mar silently took custody of Joni and led her away with iron grips.

But Joni was not done. Twisting around as much as she could, she shrieked at the top of her voice. “I am glad all those agents are dead! Soon you will join them!”

At this Em punched the girl across the face rendering her unconscious.

“Never EVER mock my pain.” She whispered in the girl’s ear as she fell.

Turning away Em walked down the hall towards the solarium, her thoughts on Raven and the others. She wondered how they were coping.

The expanse of the sky was painted in array of colors as the sun began to set. Drops of rain still clung to the surface of nature long after the downpour had stopped, catching the last rays of the sun that chose to peek out from the clouds so late in the day. Down below the somber ceremony of putting the fallen Purple Rose agents to rest was taking place. Into a vast mausoleum went all eight caskets; so many precious lives, gone in a moment.

Raven stood at the entrance with many of the others, watching carefully as the gleaming wooden caskets were laid in their final resting place. Her sharp eyes missed nothing: from the people in attendance, to the surrounding area, and to the funeral home employees as well. Nothing was left to chance. Every unknown person and area had been screened and analyzed until absolute safety was assured. 

Satisfied, Raven nodded to the director of the cemetery signaling her consent. Nodding back he turned and shut the door himself then sealed it.

It was almost as if everyone had been holding their breath. A long sign escaped the trembling lips of her comrades.

“I still can’t believe this is happening.” Lyd broke the silence with the sound of her soft voice.

Wrapping a comforting arm around her friend, Mar hugged her. “I know, Lyd. It’s hard to believe.”

“What is hard to believe is that a fellow Purple Rose agent did this!” Thalia spoke with a hard tone, trying to cover up her sorrow in anger.

“Former Purple Rose Agent,” Raven corrected her darkly, her thoughts almost too heavy to bear.

“I will never forgive her.” Thalia muttered as they all walked back to their vehicles.

“Don’t even mention her name around me again.” Flame warned as he comforted Rachel.

“Nor me,” Sam added, grieved and angry.

“Lenka will be here soon from London to help us out.” Raven interrupted them gently. “Who was supposed to pick her up?”

“Sarthacus,” Mar answered her. “He left shortly after the service.”

“Good.” Raven replied as she paused to look at the sky, wondering if life would ever get back to normal. “I think I need some time alone.”

Hurrying across the crowded terminal, the immaculately dressed young woman brushed her blond hair back from her lovely but weary face. Tired after the long journey home all Lenka Sweet wanted to do was cry and be alone with her thoughts. So many of her dear friends had perished and by the hand of one who they all had trusted. Yet, with Skyril gone, there was no time for private grief. Even though the school and agency was “closed” there were duties that still needed to be done.

“Lenka! Over here!” It was Sarthacus waving over the heads of the frantic travelers.

Relief filled her lessening her stress somewhat as she headed towards him. Without a word the two friends embraced, each saying more in the hug then could be expressed out loud.

“I am sorry you have to come home too this Lenka.” Sarthacus said as he pulled away. “It all happened so fast. We were not prepared….never could I have even guessed in a million years that one of our own would….”

“Let us not talk of this now.” Lenka brushed back tears, walking towards the baggage claim. “We can talk more when we reach Kingfisher Academy.”

Silence reigned at Kingfisher Academy robbing it of the vibrant life it once had. Emerald sat by herself in the solarium watching her young son play with a puppy. Unaware of the tragedy that had taken place Ciaran smiled happily and laughed at the puppies antics. Sometimes Em wished she could be just as carefree again. A sound of ringing interrupted her thoughts.

“Hey Babe,” Chase’s warm voice spoke through the phone. “How are you holding up?”

“I miss you and wish you were here.” She confessed. “I have to debrief Lenka Sweet once she gets here then deal with another assignment.”

“I am finishing up with the job here and will be on a plane by nightfall.” He assured her. “Just hang in there. I will be with you soon.”

As she hung up the phone Lydia entered the solarium.

“Lenka has just arrived.” She informed her friend. “If you want I can take Ciaran and the puppy back to your room.”

“Thank you Lydia. That will be fine.” She smiled as she watched her son run to Lydia to hug her then left to do her tasks.




Time was ticking away, eating at Raven’s nerves as she rounded yet another corner of the long underground corridor. Well lit and spacious with 12 foot arched ceilings, the walls were covered in pyrite, serpentinite, obsidian, and other rocks of various sizes and colors that glittered and shone like glass. All were arranged artfully up and down the walls making this the most beautiful secret underground passage ever.

Shaking her head Raven had to laugh. It all had been planned and designed by Kallista herself. Every bit of the planning had taken so much of her time, she had taken great care to keep this and other projects covert so that only a few Purple Roses knew about it. All that it had taken was a science classroom to blow up and no one would then question all the construction activity at the school.

“So very clever, Kallista,” Raven muttered as she continued to walk the endless passageways. “Now if only there could have been a mode of transportation down here to make the trip shorter.”

As if by magic, she spied a Segway tucked into a tiny grove, as if Kallista had known exactly when Raven would get tired. Smiling, she stepped on it and continued on her way. For a moment she let her thoughts wander and pondered about Kallista’s fate.

“No,” She made herself stop. It would do no good to reminisce about what could have been. Kallista had chosen her fate. She alone had to face what was next.
Looking up she knew where she was. Small markings in the celling indicated where that part of the passageway led too, each property secretly belonging to the Purple Roses Agency.

There was the Ice cream place she had passed a while ago. There was also a veterinarian hospital, a café, bookstore, and a coffee shop. Last but not least, in fact it was the most important was the mausoleum and the special apartments underneath.

Standing before the sealed entrance Raven punched in the code and went through a series of tests before the doors opened for her. At last she was in.

The air inside the space was just was well ventilated as the passageways yet had a more modern look that was clean, simple yet sophisticated. Platforms lined the walls on either side if her.  There were eight in all. Pressing a button to her left Raven watched as doors opened up overhead reveling the mausoleum and the caskets that rested inside. As planned, the caskets were lowed gently, each to one of the platforms that lined the wall. After this was done Raven pushed the button again and the ceiling closed once more. Walking over to the first casket she checked her watch again.

“It’s just about that time again.” She muttered as she opened the first lid.

Inside Skyril slowly opened her eyes and smiled at her friend.

“Seems we were successful,” Was all she said.

“Hello to you too,” Raven said happily, already prepared to assist her friends.

Gingerly Skyril sat up then climbed out of her box. Before going over to help Raven with the other boxes she looked around the space in satisfaction. It was the first time she had seen it.

“Nice,” She approved. “This will do.”

Together she and Raven helped the others out of their boxes. Daniel hurried to the last box and opened it with a worried face. Inside Noam lay there peacefully, her eyes just beginning to flutter.

“Are you doing ok?” He asked softly, concerned.
“I am doing fine,” She assured him with a smile.

They embraced tightly, glad to be in each other’s arms once more.

“I don’t know about the rest of you but I sure could use a drink.” Hellboy said as he stretched while looking about.

“If you follow me I can show you the kitchen area as well as the rest of the living areas.” Raven said quickly and walked out of the room, showing them the way.

Soon they were all comfortable again sitting in plush chairs with every kind of choice foods under the sun available for them.

“Kallista went all out, didn’t she?” NJ muttered as she looked at the desert carts.

“Yes she did.” Raven answered dryly then pointed to the envelopes that had each of their names on them. “She left those for you, too.”

“What are these?” Dan asked as he found the one with his name on it.

When he opened his up it looked like a greeting card that one would get from a Hallmark shop.

I am sorry I killed you, the card read, and had a picture of a teddy bear bleeding from its heart. I hope in time you will forgive me and we can be friends again. Love, Kallista. It went on to give the customary X’s and O’s that symbolized hugs and love but had swirly markings too.

“What are these supposed to mean?” Noam asked as she looked at her card that had a unicorn bleeding rainbows from its eyes. “…and did she create all these herself?”

Disbelief and laughter showed on everyone’s faces as they each read their card.

“Those other marks on your cards represent noogies.” Raven sighed. “…and yes, Kallista had these made just for you when she found that they did not sell any, Sorry I Killed You, cards in any shop.”

“I like mine!” Octaboona said happily as he looked at his card that showed a picture of a large purple heart oozing sparkly flowers in color hues of purple, blue, green and pink from the wound. “She even wrote me a poem!”

Leaning over to get a better peak, Skyril read aloud, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I love the color Purple, I am sorry I killed you.”

The sound of people face palming could be heard all around the room.

“I think mine is supposed to resemble a baby giraffe that is bleeding musical notes.” Alex said, perplexed as he looked at his. “Is this supposed to be reference to my undercover gig as a DJ?”

“It’s better than mine which has a girl scout holding a pink gun.” Lizzy said glumly.

Dan had tossed his card aside and was happily munching on a muffin. “Mmm…this is delicious!” He said happily. “By the way, did anyone else have issues with Kal when we were dying?”
“You mean about the fact that she completely missed us when “shooting” at us despite all the hours of practice we gave her?” Hellboy gritted his teeth as he remembered. “I had to burst my own blood package she was so far off.”

“Same here,” Dan nodded.

“I had to actually jump in the line of fire.” Sky muttered.

“What is the situation now?” Lizzy asked as she made her way to yet another room that was filled with the latest high technology. “Was Kallista’s act believable?”

“Indeed it was.” Raven informed them all as she followed Lizzy. “She has made her place among the West side gangsters”

“What about the East side gang?” Daniel asked. “They have been quiet for some time now. Has Kallista found anything on them?”

“Not since the last time we talked.” Raven replied. “Now it’s not safe to even approach her for fear her cover will be blown. She’s on her own.”

“What about the spy in our midst?” Skyril asked. “Has she made a move?”

“We decided to end her time at Kingfisher Academy,” Raven informed her friend. “She is in a holding cell now where she won’t be a bother to anyone.”

Everyone took their places in front of laptops and other equitment to monitor the situation from their safe location. Their surveillance feeds allowed them access to all security cameras throughout the city as well as in their own agency.

Raven’s phone rang interrupting the commotion of the agents who sat working diligently.

“Yes? What is it?” Raven answered briskly.

“You have to do something,” Em’s voice came in panicked waves. “Sarthacus and some of the others went to go hunt down Kallista!”

“Crap,” Raven muttered then looked at everyone and spoke hurriedly. “You guys will be ok. There is everything down here to keep you safe, healthy and happy. Kallie made sure of that. If you need me, call me on my other phone.”

“Do you need us to come and help?” Hellboy asked her.

“No. I can handle it. It’s best you all stay out of sight.” Raven reassured him then left at a quick pace.

Dismal and dark, the abandoned warehouse district was a place Kallista found herself lurking quite frequently as of late. It’s broken down emptiness suited her at the moment and she liked the quietness that surrounded the place. It matched her desolate soul. With hands in her pockets she strolled idly down one alleyway, her fedora hat tipped low over her eyes.

Coughing racked her body suddenly, forcing her to pause for a moment till the spasms pasted. Flecks of blood appeared on her jacket sleeve as she clutched her stomach in pain. For a moment all she could do was stay in the crouch, half bent while waiting for her breathing to return to normal. Concentrating on the air around her and feeling the wind on her face she let that be her focus as her breathing steadied. Cautiously she stood back up and moved forward, irritated at the interruption. Lately her attacks had been coming more often and had become quite painful. In a way, she welcomed the pain. It kept her from thinking about the demons that tore at her soul.

This was the west side, in the control of Snake-eyed Jeff. Here she should have been safe. Nothing warned her of an opposing presence till it was too late. A clicking sound was all she got before she found herself surrounded by nearly a dozen agents, each standing against her forcefully with guns drawn, pointed straight at her.

“Looking a little sleazy now days Kallista.” Sarthacus was the first to peak, his voice dripping acid. “Perhaps it’s the company you keep.”

“Hello fellas,” Kallista spoke almost lazily as she gave a half smile, her hands still in her pockets. “Have you come to play? I see there is not as many of you now as there once was.”

Her taunts caused the faces of her former Purple Rose comrades to darken considerably.

“Don’t mess with us, Baby Face Bobby!” Chan snarled at her as he pressed his gun against her temple. “I am this close to pulling the trigger. Tell us why you did it! Why did you kill them?”

Steadily she looked into the faces of Sarthacus, Chan, Adra, Flame, Mar, Niall, Leo, Sam, Zath, and Nix. All of them looked back coldly, faces a mask of barely contained anger and grief.

Shrugging almost carelessly she looked up at the sky.

“What do you want me to say? That I am sorry?” Her voice sounded quiet and bored. “I did what I had to do. Believe me, it hurt me more then it hurt them.”

Disbelief and hatred shot across their faces and Chan moved forward to ram the butt of his gun against Kallista’s head. But a hand stopped him. Looking over he saw Raven standing beside him, holding his gun in her hands. Coolly she spoke to Kallista.

“I suggest you move elsewhere. Next time I may not be here to save your ass.”

Giving off a halfhearted laugh Kallista brushed past the circle of agents and continued walking.

“Maybe it’s time you stop saving my ass.” She tossed back over her shoulder. “I don’t need you. I don’t need any of you.”

All eyes were on her till she was gone then Raven found herself the focus of attention.

“Why did you stop us?” Sarthacus asked quietly

“You know why,” She answered evenly. “We are agents, not bounty hunters or vigilantes. It’s our duty to carry out the law. When we get all the proof we can, then we can bring her in and incarcerate her.”

“Sometimes doing the right thing, sucks.” Adra responded frustrated as she glared down the way Kallista had taken.

“It sure does,” Raven agreed so quietly that no one heard her.

Up on a roof no faraway lay Emerald in camouflage with gun still aimed at her fellow Purple Rose comrades. If worse had come to worse, her orders had been to fire in such a way to intercede any bullet that was aimed at Kallista.  Breathing a sigh of relief at Raven’s timing, she lay there for several euphoric moments till her heart beat normal. Then as stealthily as she could, she maneuvered from her position unseen and slipped off back to where she came from.

It seemed like a far off dream, something just out of reach. Only allowed a glimpse of the good life that held so much promise yet had slipped so easily from her fingers, Kallista could not hold onto it no matter how hard she tried.

“It’s time,” The voice broke through her reverie, driving away abstract and elusive thoughts.

Straightening from the wall where she had been slouching, Baby Face Bobby nodded at Quick-hand Luke. Fighting against another cough she grabbed a cup and went to refill her drink with more egg nog. It seemed to be the only thing that soothed her sore throat and upset stomach.

Other men filed out of the room following Snake-eyed Jeff and Quick-hand Luke. Baby Face Bobby was one of the last ones out followed by Slippery Pete. All evening the second rate gangster had been sneaking shifty glances her way, always seeming pleased about something. It gave her the creeps.

Moving over to Quick-hand Luke she slipped in beside him as they made their way to the vehicles. Half the group split off to go occupy their usual hangouts. One of the goons was dressed like Snake-eyed Jeff. Tonight he was supposed to be seen by as many people as possible, but not approached directly. The other goons were to make sure of that.

The rest of them piled into a large dark gray van.

“Stick with me, kid,” Quick-hand Luke said under his breath as they drove to the rendezvous point. “It’s gonna get fast and dangerous for a bit.”

Nodding, Kallista prepared herself for the secret mission that was beginning to unfold. Everyone pulled out dark masks just as planned and put them on.

“You gotta be kidding me!” Snake-eyed Jeff exclaimed as he looked at the sparkly mask Baby Faced Bobby wore.

“What!” Kallista asked innocently, “I like sparkles!”

Snake-eyed Jeff was about to say something but Quick-hand Luke interrupted him.

“Just leave it,” Luke advised lowly. “We have a job to do.”

Jerking his head in reluctant agreement Snake-eyed Jeff turned to the rest of them.

“We will have only three minutes.” He warned them all severely. “It will go down just as we planned.”

“You stay by me,” Quick-hand Luke said to Kallista. “Grab the weapons and don’t worry about the money.”

“These are the weapons that you lost when someone from the East Side gang sold you out to the cops, right?” She asked quietly.

“Yeah. It was last year.” Quick-hand Luke frowned. “The whole operation was shot. It was so carefully done. I still don’t know how we lost everything. But tonight we will get it back.”

The van pulled into the parking lot of a small forsaken looking laundry mat.

“This building used to be the post office half a century ago.” Quick-hand Luke told her as a portion of the van floor was removed, revealing a coved manhole underneath. “It has been different things since then, but one thing stays the same. There is a tunnel that leads from the basement of this building to the Julian Pembrook Bank.”

“We will blast through the wall and enter near the vault that keeps the valuables that are confiscated by the police.” Snake-eyed Jeff told the men. “You all know what you have to do. Don’t get distracted by any other items there. All we get are the money and the weapons.”

One of the men by that time had pried the man hole cover open and disappeared through the opening. Following quickly after the rest of the men followed with Baby Face Bobby once more bringing up the rear.

“This is so cool!” Baby Face Bobby giggled as they crept down the long dark hallways. “I feel like James Bond!”

Happily she hummed the Mission Impossible theme, much to the irritation of others.

“You are humming the Mission Impossible tune.” Slippery Pete told her bluntly.

“So? I like it.”

“Yeah, but it has nothing to do with James Bond. That is Ethan Hunt’s tune.” Slippery Pete told her superiorly.

“Don’t care!” Kallista stuck out her tounge through her sparkly mask at him, then coughed and hid the specs of blood that appeared on her sleeve.

Slippery Pete made a lunge at her but Quick-hand Luke stepped in between them, stopping him.

“You can pound on her as much as you like after this job is done!” He snarled at Slippery Pete. “Now concentrate! We have work to do.”

“I should have worn my bowtie for this special event.” Baby Face Bobby remarked to no one in particular as she mused out loud while studying her purple necktie. “I could have been like Doctor Who!”

“Who?” Someone asked irritated and confused.

“Right!” She nodded and coughed harshly.

“What?”

“No, Who!”

“What?”

“Who!”

“Stop that or I will kill you right now myself!” Snake-eyed Jeff snared at her.

“SOMEONE CALL THE DOCTOR!” She laughed then added. “Fezzes are cool!”

Arriving at their destination several of the crew worked efficiently together and placed the dynamite around the perimeter.

Waiting a ways back, Baby Faced Bobby watched, face intent beneath the mask. The blast came a moment later. Shielding her face, she turned away from the debris that still managed to rain down on her despite the distance.

“Boooooooooooooooooom!” She made sound effects again amid coughs earning more disgusted looks her way. “I give that an 8.9 on my scale. Of course I could have done better.”

Sighing, Quick-hand Luke kept a few more guys from punching Baby Face Bobby.

Not waiting for anymore debris to settle, the crew rushed in and ran to the vault on the right that held the weapons and money they were after.

“This is my first bank robbery!” Baby Face Bobby said happily as she took out her phone and snapped pictures of her in front of the vault and various other places with some of the guys. “I am going to journal about this when I get back!”

“Are you sure we can’t just kill her boss?” One of the men asked Snake-eyed Jeff as they watched the girl strike several poses in various spots, still snapping pictures.

Tempted, Snake-eyed Jeff glanced at Quick-hand Luke to see him frowning at him.
“We better not right now. But maybe later you all can have her and use her for target practice.”

The men gave a little cheer and brightened up even more when the vault opened.

“We are in!” One of them called back.

With a flourish, Baby Face Bobby bowed them in. Ignoring her they walked past her arrogantly and into the vault.

Waiting for them inside sat, Dan, Lizzy, Octaboona, Hellboy, Skyril, NJ, Noam, and Daniel.

“Welcome one and all!” Skyril said grandly.

“What is this?” Snake-eyed Jeff blurted out through a mind that was frozen with shock and horror. “I thought you Agents were dead!”

“It’s a MIRICLE!” Baby Face Bobby cried out dramatically spreading her hands to the heavens. “PRAISE THE LORD!”

Still very stunned the gangsters turned to look from the smiling agents to the one wearing a glittery facemask and then back again.

“We have been double crossed!” Quick-hand Luke said lowly as he glared dangerously at Kallista.

“Correction!” She spoke cheerfully. “YOU have been TRIPPLE crossed. Slippery Pete and Snake-eyed Jeff have just been double crossed.”

“Explain.” Quick-hand Luke said coldly, ignoring the fights that broke out all around him.

Calmly Baby Faced Bobby led him to the side, easily dodging a flying body of one of the goons that Noam had flipped over her back.

“I double crossed you, its true Luke,” She began. “But in a way, I saved you too.”
He did not answer but stood waiting for her to continue as all his dreams and goals seem to sink before him like the Titanic.

“We, at the Purple Rose Agency knew something was going down for a while now. The East Side Gang was suddenly quiet while the West side seemed to be growing in power.”

“We are hard workers, that’s all.” Quick-hand Luke spoke through clenched teeth. “We are business men and just coming to get back what was ours.”

“Maybe,” Baby Face Bobby said. “But the East Side gang was pretty competitive with you before. Sometimes between the two sides, this area seemed more like a war zone. We had to crack down on you.”

“That’s when our guns were stolen from us.” He nodded, coolly.

“Confiscated, due to the nature of the sell,” She corrected.

“Whatever.”

“But when the East Side Gang dropped off the radar suddenly we took notice.” She continued. “We also found suddenly that we, the Purple Rose Agency were under surveillance and that a lot of our missions became compromised. We had a spy among us. It didn’t take us long to find out who. We decided to let one Joni Lewis continue to “work” for us as a maid so we could keep an eye on her. We fed her false information quite frequently.”

Behind them, the Purple Rose Agents fought easily with the would be thieves, many already subdued.

“We found that Ms. Lewis was part of the East side gang but she reported to the leader of the West side gang. Can you think of why?”

Quick-hand Luke looked with narrow eyes to his boss who was busy fighting one on one with Hellboy, understanding coming into his eyes.

“That’s right,” Baby Face Bobby answered for him. “You have been betrayed by your own boss. He was going to set you up for this robbery. He knew this job could be traced.”
“What are you talking about?” A goon asked from beneath NJ’s boots.

Several of the men still had not surrendered and hid behind some boxes. Fear and uncertainty marked their body language as they overheard Baby Face Bobby’s words.

“She’s lying!” Snake-eyed Jeff shouted as he backed away from Hellboy and pulled a gun on Baby face Bobby. “Don’t listen to her!”

“Fine, don’t listen.” Baby face Bobby shrugged. “But outside is the East side gang waiting to ambush you”

“Not me,” Snake-eyed Jeff laughed as he backed away, keeping the gun trained on the girl with the sparkly mask. “Who is still with me? If we can leave here now, the East side gang will let us go!”

“That’s right.” Baby Face Bobby nodded and coughed. “Jeff here has plans to let the East side gang have most of the cash and the weapons. He intends to let the blame fall on Quick-hand Luke and the rest of you lot, disappearing himself once he got a cut from the money. With you out of the way, East side gets the money, weapons and the power left from you.”

“You little bitch!” Snake-eyed Jeff screamed and shot at her as he ran from the vault.

Stepping in the way, Quick-hand Luke took the bullet meant for Baby Face Bobby and fell to the ground. Catching him before he hit the hard surface, Kallista lowered him gently.

“Just a warning,” Daniel’s voice spoke out to the other men fleeing with their boss, “There is another Purple Rose team out there who has ambushed the East side gang.”

“That’s right,” Noam said. ‘It’s gonna be chaotic out there. Better surrender now and live rather than getting shot at and dying.”

Hesitating, the desperate criminals looked at the calm faces of the agents and decided they had better chances out in the chaos. Perhaps they thought they would be able to slip away. Little did they know that nothing ever slips by the cunning eyes of a Purple Rose agent.

“Go after Jeff,” Quick-hand Luke said weakly to Baby Face Bobby. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I just want revenge of the man who betrayed me.”

Smiling through tears, Baby Face Bobby took off her mask, becoming Kallista once more.

“Your sacrifice won’t be for nothing, Luke.” She spoke quietly to him. “You just hold on there. I will be back.”

Anger surged from her prompting her to run at a high speed to gain the distance between her and Snake-eyed Jeff. Rounding the corners of the underground passage she paused briefly, just long enough to listen and catch a clue to the whereabouts of the scum.

A rattling noise sounded off from opposite of where they had come in. He had taken another route. Charging after him she pondered in her mind all she would do when she had reached him. Thoughts of what she had to do under his rule and what he did to Quick-hand Luke went round and round in her head. One thing was for certain, she would not make things easy for him.

Up ahead she saw a light that came from above, illuminating the space below. Instinctively she knew he was now outside of the tunnels. Reaching the place she saw a ladder and climbed to the top.  Sounds of a fight reached her ears as she climbed out. Turning, she scanned the scene before her and saw many of her dear Purple Rose siblings fighting bravely with the goons who had come from the nearby night club and with the East side gang. Neither Jeff nor Pete were among them. Seeing as the agents were capable of finishing the fight, Kallista took off in the opposite direction following the trail of clues Jeff has left behind.

It was behind some alleyways Kallista found him, panting and sweating from unaccustomed exertion. A coughing spasm struck her then causing her to double over in pain.

Taking advantage of this Snake-eyed Jeff stepped over to her and struck her hard in the face, knocking her backwards. Empty boxes flipped over as she landed among them. At the same time, sudden weakness filled her as all the anger seemed to seep out with the next coughing fit she had.

“You have no right to come after me. You are just like me,” Snake-eyed Jeff snarled viciously as she struggled to stand again. “Plus you are ugly, useless and have not much brains.”

“True,” she admitted with a smile despite the pain. “But I do have something going for me that you will never have.”

“Yeah? And what it that?”

“I have my family, the Purple Roses. For some reason they like me and so I have more then you, more than most people. I will always treasure that.”

He lunged at her but she was ready for his underhanded approach and blocked him. But his strength was by brute force and she fell back clutching a broken arm. Yet strangely, she felt nothing. Numbness had begun to settle in, clouding her perception.

Slipper Pete walked up to the then, joining his boss. Swinging back his foot he kicked her in the chin knocking her flat on her back. The impact left little air for her to scream and so as she opened her mouth, no sound came out.

Standing over her, Slippery Pete gloated.

“I always knew you were not one of us.” He kicked her in the side. “That’s why I have been slipping poison into your drink all this time.”

Unable to answer, Kallista listened as blood began to trickle from her mouth.

“I don’t need to shoot you,” He continued to taunt. “You are gonna die anyways. There is nothing more you can do. We won! You lost! Except it!”

Snake-eyed Jeff looked at Slippery Pete in a new light and smiled. Then sounds of someone approaching were heard by all of them.

“Here come some more of my men to finish you off!” Snake-eyed Jeff sneered as he leaned down to punch her in the face again. “You will provide us with plenty of sport!”
“It could be some of my people.” Kallista smiled through black eyes and a swollen lip. “We will just have to wait and see.”

“Nah, I am not waiting,” Snake-eyed Jeff shook his head. “I’m off! I’ve already got what I needed. Now I am free!”

“Just to make sure you don’t follow us,” Slippery Pete pulled out his gun and shot her in the upper leg.

Turning the two men fled down another alley way and disappeared from her view. All she could do for a moment was try and not to drown in the sea of agony that swept over her like a fiery blaze when the bullet penetrated her leg. Tears spilled unbidden from her eyes as she gritted her teeth and tried to stand. Attempting to follow the two crooks she took a step forward before her other leg gave way beneath her. Stumbling she fell sideways down a small stairway leading to a basement, knocking into a pile of boxes on the way down. All sound and pain left her then as the world became still and silent.  Like a river, the falling boxes cascaded over her, covering her, burying her beneath a sea of brown.  It was the last thing she saw before the world went black.

Back at the vault, a reunion was taking place as police took away the bound East and West side gang members. Hardly believing their eyes, friends embraced their fellow agents who once had been thought lost forever but were now restored to them. Words could not express the joy and immense relief that everyone wore on their faces and felt in their hearts.

“Oh, thank God!” Em cried as she embraced NJ and Sky tightly.

Mar, Lydia, and Thalia ran over to Noam, Daniel, Octa and Hellboy and hugged them all tightly before running to and hugging the others.

“You know what this calls for?” Lizzy asked with eyes shining.

“What is that?” Raven smiled back happily, answering for them all.

“We need to have a party!”

Cheers of affirmation rang out at this.

“Let’s go home, guys!” Alex suggested as he got hugs from just about everyone. “It will be good to be home again.”