Moon Madness - 23, Copyrightę 2001-2006 By
Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"
Moon KILLS A Student And VANISHES!
paced back and forth nervously in the balmy night air contemplating the best way to break the news of the kittens' tragic deaths to her trusted friends. She wondered how they would react to the fact that she had not tried to contact Vince and Anna. Even though it was her decision alone, she would still like to entertain their thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, she decided a quick, company meeting without Shawn's presence in the privacy of the Horizon would be in order to explain the situation. She instructed Shawn to wait for them at the car while she briefed her employees on pertinent company business whenever they arrived. He thought nothing odd in the request and leaned casually against the car to have a smoke.
Ten minutes dragged by without a sign of the jet. Stacey called the tower and told them to page her when they made radar contact. She was beginning to worry. It was not like her friends to be late, especially Rex.
A few minutes later, Stacey's pager sounded. She called the tower from the limo phone. The Horizon was still 60 miles to the north, less than ten minutes away. She
figured Anna must have told the crew to make a northern jag as they had done on their departure.
Stacey heard the high-pitched whine of the jet's engines long before she was able to distinguish the plane's position and flight path by picking the approaching strobe lights out of the star spangled midnight sky. As if by magic, blue, amber, and green runway lights suddenly added their sparkle to the dimness of the night while two uniformed runway personnel armed with long flashlights strode briskly past her toward the taxi area. Near the Horizon's hangar, she heard a fuel truck crank up to warm its engine during the spare moments before its usual customer was to arrive.
Stacey's troubled expression changed abruptly to a welcome smile of anticipation when the Horizon's landing lights finally illuminated the country-side on its final approach. The plane had barely come to a halt when she reached it. One engine had already been shut down and the ear-shattering whine of the other gradually diminished as the turbine blades coasted without power.
Stacey waited impatiently for the boarding hatch to be unlocked from the inside. Andy opened it. She did not give him time to step down, nor to even greet her! Instead, she quickly boarded, shut and latched the door behind her. Andy asked if anything was wrong. She elected not to answer his question at that time but asked him to please get Earl from the cockpit for a brief meeting. She would wake Rex, seeing that he was asleep on the plush lounge couch.
Stacey knelt beside Rex and kissed him when Andy disappeared through the forward hatch. Rex's eyes fluttered open as he smiled sleepily and asked, "Is this a dream?" Stacey kissed him again and answered, "What do you think?" Wide awake, now, he reached for her. She countered the advance with the explanation, "Later, my love. Business before pleasure. Get up. We're about to have an important company meeting."
Stacey poured herself a glass of wine from the built-in bar as Andy and Earl entered the lounge. She politely asked if anyone else cared for a drink before she started, adding that they would probably want one by the time she finished if they didn't get it now.
Rex started for the refrigerator for his usual beer but Stacey stopped him, "All except you! You still have to fly me home tonight. You can have all you want at my house. Sorry, Love."
The strange tone in Stacey's voice prompted Earl to change his mind. He turned to Andy, "Sounds serious. I'm going to have a Scotch and water. You want one, Andy?" He sighed deeply with a troubled frown on his brow before he spoke, "Now that we're on the ground, I guess so." Stacey sat on the couch beside Rex and thanked him for the roses while Earl made the drinks and sat down.
Stacey downed the remaining wine in her glass and stood back up to speak, "I'm sure you are all wondering what happened in your absence that prompted this meeting. I don't really know where to start, so I'm going to lay out the facts as I see them and then I'll answer any questions that I can. First and foremost is that the bomber showed up at the institute today. He sent me a personal note to my office stating that he would get each and every one of us even if we tried to run and hide. I presume he meant Vince and Anna, but I can't disregard the possibility that he might have added the three of you in his twisted vendetta since you're so close to us and have possibly spoiled his plans by putting distance between us and him. He also directly threatened the cats." She stopped for a moment, trying to override the growing lump in her throat to no avail. Her eyes filled with tears, her voice breaking as she painfully continued, "Somehow, he managed to breach security and poisoned Moon and Crip's kittens right under everyone's nose. They all died this evening." She paused to wipe her eyes. Rex jumped up to comfort her but she asked him to please sit back down until she was through.
Stacey blew her nose and apologized for the interruption before starting again, directing her next words to Rex, "The FBI thought the roses you sent were actually a bomb. The building was sealed, all non-essential personnel were evacuated, the bomb squad came, and right in the midst of all this shit going on, the kittens died. Extra security measures have been initiated and I've since found out that antifreeze was the poison used. Crip and Midnight are at my house for their own safety since the FBI has it completely surrounded. I allowed Moon to stay at the complex. The way he was feeling, I don't think I could have persuaded him to leave, and that scares me. His fear of this
person has turned to pure hate. Several times now, I've sensed that Moon has known this person from way back. I didn't wish to alarm anyone until I was sure of myself. Now, I am positively certain that Moon holds the key to this bizarre mystery. From some tragic event in his life, he has an old personal score to settle with the bomber, and now, a new one as well. How he intends to handle it when he finds the person is anybody's guess. I would like to confront the bastard myself simply because he is making life a living Hell for me right now! I'm surprised the FBI agent in the limo outside hasn't followed me into the damn bathroom yet! He's a nice kid and all, but I will never have any privacy as long as this bomber is on the loose. The only possible lead they have on the guy is a red '69 Camaro I spotted in front of a house for sale on the news video taken when Vince's car blew up, and they can't even seem to locate it. I'm really surprised they haven't hit me up to move to some safehouse yet." Rex interrupted her, "I've seen that car twice between here and my boat! It's got Texas plates on it! I never got a look at the driver 'cause I was checkin' out the car, but it has got to be the same one. Its the only factory original I've seen in this part of the country. Most of the ones that were sold in Florida have long since rusted out from the salt and ended up in the junk yards. It must be somewhere further south of my dock because the last time I saw it, I was just turning on the road and it was heading north!"
Stacey exclaimed, "Damn! If they can find that car, this nightmare may end soon. At least they might have a suspect. You need to tell our resident FBI chauffeur in the limo just what you told me before we leave. If something doesn't break soon, we may all have to go see Anna and Vince to take the danger away from the institute. So far, the media hasn't gotten wind of what happened today and most everyone aside from security had left for the day, but you can bet when the news leaks out, our public relations are going to suffer. I don't want any innocent people hurt by staying around. I would much rather lead the danger in some other direction. You all know I'm not used to turning tail and running, but there is a lot more to consider in this case than simply my pride. The safety of everyone at the institute will probably depend on whatever action we decide on taking from this point forward. So there it is, gentlemen. I would more than welcome any input, advice, or suggestions you might have to offer in light of the pertinent situation."
Several minutes of total silence prevailed as each of her friends assessed the facts. Stacey poured herself another glass of wine and sat down beside Rex. Andy finally got up and poured him and Earl another drink. Andy took a test sip of his, then downed it and put his glass in the sink. He turned to address Stacey, "Let me first offer our condolences on the death of the kittens, Stacey. We all know how close you were to them. I feel sure that they thought you were their human Godmother. I think I can speak for all of us concerning the rest of the situation in saying that you seem to have done everything within your power to keep things contained and under control. Given the enormous stress you've been under juggling school, work, and the art of staying alive, I for one, can honestly say that I'm proud to have you as my superior. I think Anna made an excellent choice for her successor. Anything we can do, all you have to do is ask, and we'll be there for you. I'm just sorry all of us were out of pocket during this last development. Unless someone else has a suggestion, I don't think there is much else that can be done until the FBI can follow up on the car Rex saw or some other clue turns up. I'm sure you have your reasons for not trying to contact Anna and Vince, so I won't do you the dishonor of even asking about it." He paused for a moment and cleared his throat, directing his next words to Rex, "Little brother, I think you would be wise to fly our boss directly home and use your legendary finesse with the ladies to persuade her to get some sleep. She deserves a break from her shadow outside. Earl and I can explain about the car while he takes us home. We'll be sure to let him know that Stacey's boyfriend is back and she's in good hands for the night. Maybe we can all get a good night's sleep. I'm sure we could all use some, . . with the exception of Rex, of course, since he planned the flight shifts so he could sleep on the last leg to be fresh for the lovely Miss Holden!" A broad smile replaced the anxiety on Stacey's face and he taunted his brother further, "Shame, shame, Rex! Manipulating your own family and friends simply to gain favor with the boss! Must be love sneakin' up on you!"
Noting the expression of chagrin on Rex's face, Earl seized the opportunity to join in the tease, to Stacey's obvious delight, "Tell 'im Bro' Andy. How he ought not to be doodling poems and notes on the flight plan an' leavin' 'em around the cockpit fo' other folks to find! Hell, Rex. You furnished the in-flight entertainment while you was sleepin' and didn't even know it. You are hereby officially busted!"
Stacey started laughing when Rex blushed a guilty, scarlet red. He grinned as he admitted, "Damn it! I never could put one over on you guys for long. Guess I got careless thinking about Stacey. I should have known you two would wait till she was here to front me out. I really didn't plan it that way, but I can't say I was upset when Earl wanted to trade out the first shift when we started out! I sure was glad he had a good time at that party the night before."
Andy apologized, "We're sorry for fronting you out in Stacey's presence. We just wanted her to see firsthand how devious you can actually be when you really want something badly enough."
Stacey stood up to defend Rex, "On the contrary, gentlemen, I think his plan was quite clever and romantic. I wouldn't expect anything less from any of the three best pilots in the world!" She paused a second to chuckle to herself and continued, "And as far as devious goes, don't forget the bottom line. He's going home with me tonight!" Rex chuckled defiantly, "Thanks, Love."
Stacey turned back to Andy and Earl, "You guys are the the greatest friends a girl could have. I sincerely missed you both. I'm glad you're all back safe and sound." She hugged each of them in turn and kissed them on the cheek before making her final request, "You guys mind hanging around a few more minutes and having another drink or something while Rex and I sneak over to the chopper and warm it up so we can leave without having to explain where we're going to our buddy in the limo?"
Andy assured Stacey that Shawn would not show up at her door that night even if he and Earl had to send him on a wild goose chase. They still had to check over the Horizon, refuel her, and put her in the hangar, anyway. She thanked him with another kiss on the cheek.
Andy told Rex he would give them precisely two minutes to get to the chopper. Then, he would start the engines on the jet to cover the sound of the chopper firing up and warming. They should be ready to lift off about the time he and Earl reached the hangar, long before Shawn ever realized what was happening. Rex and Stacey said good-bye and disappeared into the night seconds later.
Rex and Stacey landed on the beach behind her house amidst a hoard of armed FBI agents intent on verifying their identities. Stacey dispersed them in a matter of minutes and she and Rex retreated to the privacy of her house. Neither felt as though they were alone until all the shades were drawn and the doors locked and bolted.
In a moment of aggravated frustration, Stacey yelled a snide remark directed to the FBI that she did not appreciate being made a prisoner in her own house. Rex calmed her down with a gentle back rub while they shared a bottle of Stacey's favorite wine and talked of events that happened while they were apart.
Though the night was warm, Rex built a small fire in Stacey's fireplace and turned the thermostat on the air conditioner wide open. The sweet wine tempered their normally controlled emotions and for the first time, they openly professed their love for one another. Soon, the conversation turned intimate and Rex produced a small leather pouch tied with a pink ribbon. He told Stacey to please accept it and then turned away to stare into the fire.
With Rex's strange behavior, Stacey did not know quite what to expect. She pulled the ribbon cautiously and turned the pouch upside down to empty its contents. Into her hand fell a rough chunk of stone, resembling a milky shade of quartz. Puzzled, she asked him what it was. Rex took a deep breath and turned to face her before speaking, "It is what you were when I first met you, . a magnificent diamond in the rough! Ever since that moment, I've been privileged to watch every lovely facet of you to be cut and polished to reveal the stunning latent brilliance of a perfect gem so long hidden beneath your overly modest personality. It is truly your time to shine." He paused just long enough to kneel on one knee and continued, "And
I would be greatly honored if you would consider the possibility of marrying a lowly pilot in your service!"
Tears welled up in Stacey's eyes to match the lump in her throat. As hard as she tried in her moment of happiness, she couldn't manage to force even a simple "Yes." She got up and strolled silently over to where Midnight was snoozing, kneeling to scratch his ears to ease her anxiety. Taken aback by her crying silence, Rex misinterpreted her actions and stammered, "Of course, if this is a bad time to ask, I'll keep the stone until it is cut and mounted."
Simultaneously, Stacey crammed the diamond under Midnight, regained her composure and confronted him with the proposition, "If you think for one second, Mr. Mitzhoff, that you can get that stone back without fighting the both of us at the same time, then I would strongly suggest that you reassess your priorities in the interest of your personal safety!"
Rex paused and grinned, "Can I take that as a yes?" Stacey jumped up with a defiant fist thrust toward the ceiling and yelled, "Yes, not just yes, but Hell yes!"
Stacey pinned Rex on the floor and smothered him with kisses. Their passion grew as the night progressed to the feverish point of making love for the first time, almost to the point of exhaustion. They slept blissfully clutched in each other's arms until Stacey suddenly bolted upright in the bed, long after the sun had risen.
The sudden jerk startled Rex into rude consciousness. He instinctively reached for his pants, thinking Stacey must have heard an intruder in the house. Rex questioned her in a whisper while he dressed, "What's the matter, Love?" She held up her hand to quiet him and closed her eyes, obviously trying to concentrate. She broke out of the mysterious trancelike spell as suddenly as it had started with a horrified gasp and the explanation, "He's back! He's trying to kill Moon at the institute! We've got to get over there."
Rex didn't wait to put on his shirt or shoes before racing for the back door, yelling to Stacey that he was going to start the chopper. Desperate to save time, she threw on her silk robe, grabbed a pair of jeans, her purse, and a shirt and raced down the sandy path to the beach, scarcely a half minute behind him.
Stacey could already hear the familiar broken tone of the rotors cutting the wind as the cold motor stubbornly fought to build RPMs under the abnormal circumstances. Seeing the ongoing rush of commotion, Shawn was racing down the hill mere seconds behind Stacey, determined to find out what was happening. He reached the chopper before she
had time to shut the door and scrambled in, squatting behind her seat while demanding an explanation. She ignored him and told Rex to take off. He told her they needed more RPMs with the added weight.
Undaunted, Stacey twisted toward the open door and grabbed Shawn by the starched collar on his suit and yanked as hard as she could. Caught off his guard, he tumbled headfirst out the door to get a firsthand taste of the coarse Florida sand. Stacey yelled, "Go, Go, Go!" The craft lifted out of Shawn's reach with a violent shudder until Rex feathered the collective pitch, spun them 180 degrees, and adjusted the cyclic control to push them forward, all simultaneously!
Rex grinned as he complimented, "That was one helluva move on the pretty boy!" Stacey was serious with her reply, "I didn't have time to explain that I don't undress in front of strangers!" She had peeled off the robe before she even finished the statement and reached for her jeans. Rex sucked in his breath at her uninhibited display of total nudity in his presence and muttered to himself, "Rex, you lucky, lucky man!" Though pleased with the comment, Stacey reminded him that he would be wise to keep his mind on his flying instead of her, since time was of the essence. Rex told her to hang on for a minute while the jet booster kicked in and their forward air speed stabilized. The sudden burst of acceleration pinned her to the seat for several seconds before they reached top speed and she could lean forward to get her blouse. She finally got it on and buttoned as she spotted the same helicopter which had filmed the aftermath at Anna's house slipping down from a higher altitude to fall in behind them. The news chopper tried to hail them by radio several times, but Rex did not answer at Stacey's request.
The institute came into view in less than five minutes. An ambulance was pulling into the parking lot amidst several assorted police cars as they slowed to land. Stacey's phone rang in her purse. It was Vera, frantically giving her a rundown of what had happened in the last fifteen minutes. Moon had killed a student and the media knew about it through the 911 call! She also expected a flood of reporters to arrive at any second. Stacey told her to calm down. They were landing on the helipad at that very moment and would be inside in a minute. In the meantime, she was not to allow anyone access to their office floor. She would meet Vera in her office to get the details.
Rex, Stacey, and Vera played the security video tapes of the entire scenario as the cameras had captured it.
The ordeal had started in the student lounge where the young student could be seen opening a can of ordinary cat food, evidently intent on offering it to Moon. Moon sniffed the food one time, laid his ears back, and backed up slowly for apparently no reason out of the range of the camera.
Stacey knew Moon's body language well enough to know something had to have been wrong with the food to evoke such a strangely immediate response from Moon. A sandy-haired girl was with the boy in the first few seconds of the first tape. She was only visible one more time as she ran screaming for a security guard through the lounge door. The next tape showed Moon backing the boy down the hall with his arms held up in front of him to fend off a probable attack from Moon. One of his hands was bleeding profusely, probably the result of Moon's first lunge. They all gasped during the next seconds as Moon's plan of attack materialized with the lightning speed and agility of a truly wild animal, fully intent on killing his intended victim.
Stacey watched in horror as Moon's long canine teeth slashed the boy's jugular veins while he clamped down on the windpipe to cut off the boy's oxygen as well. It would take an autopsy to tell whether death came from loss of blood or asphyxiation!
Moon did not release the death grip until a security guard arrived on the scene and took a shot at Moon, grazing his head above his eye and blowing off a piece of his right ear! Moon left the boy dead in a pool of his own blood and raced down the hall, dodging bullets as the security guard emptied his revolver in a futile attempt to stop him. The tape ended with Moon rounding the hall corner on his way out of the complex, leaving only a spattered trail of his own blood from the severed stump of his ear.
After several moments of silence, Rex turned to Stacey and held her close to comfort her. She had tears streaming down her face. Vera was crying, too. Rex told Stacey it would all work out, regardless of what the tapes showed.
In Moon's defense, Stacey pulled away from Rex suddenly and stated bluntly, "I don't care what those damn tapes show! Sure, Moon killed that little punk, but he was justified 'cause I know that was the son-of-a-bitch that killed his kittens and tried to kill all of us, too! He is the same little bastard that blew up Vince's cabin and his car! The only problem is that the police will never take my word for it and right now I don't have one tangible shred of evidence to prove I'm right!"
Rex asked, "Where do you feel Moon is going, Love?" She was silent for a moment, as if trying to tune in to Moon's thoughts. Suddenly, she smiled and the tears ceased as she spoke, "I'll be damned, . . he's headed home to Texas to get the one piece of evidence that only he and Anna know about! It will link all of this bizarre puzzle together!"
Stacey's mind clicked into corporate mode as she formulated their next move. She addressed Vera first, "Call Andy and Earl and tell them to go get Anna and Vince. If necessary, tell them to hire another pilot to help out on my authorization. Brief them on the details so they will know how to explain the situation tactfully to Vince and Anna. Tell them to make it plain to them that it is over. Moon got the bomber. Also, get in touch with Vince's friend, Chief Dalhart in Texas and tell him to put 24 hour surveillance at Vince's old cabin site, but under no circumstances let the FBI know about it. Moon is going to show up there sooner or later. Whenever he does, it is imperative that his actions be recorded on film for evidence. Tell him Rex and I will try to be there to handle the filming, providing the police and FBI will let us go in time to get there. One last thing, Vera. Tell Andy and Earl that Rex will meet them at the Horizon with Midnight. Wherever they land in Africa, they are to turn him loose. I don't want him caught in the middle of the shit that is about to go down. Is that all clear?" Vera nodded in acknowledgment.
A little apprehensive, Rex inquired of Stacey, "Love, just how am I supposed to convince Midnight to get in the chopper without him getting irate and trying to kill me? You know he's only content when you are around." Stacey reached into her blouse and removed the double cat pendant from around her neck and handed it to Rex, stating, "He won't bother anyone as long as you show him this. When you get to the house, call me and put the phone to his ear and I'll explain the situation. Then go straight to the airstrip and tell Andy and Earl to get the hell outta here ASAP, before the police try to ground the Horizon! Load all of my camera equipment in the chopper before you leave the house. We're going to Texas as soon as the FBI gets my official statement."
An obnoxious pounding on the door signaled that the authorities were demanding to be let in. Stacey opened the door, face to face with Shawn, who personally chewed her out and then confiscated the tapes for evidence. He informed her rather rudely that the crime scene was off limits to everyone and he would personally escort her downtown to make a statement. Stacey motioned for Rex to head for the chopper behind Shawn's back. Vera said she had seen nothing and retreated to her office to carry out Stacey's previous instructions.
The news media tried desperately to get some sort of comment from Stacey as she was escorted out, but she avoided their persistence with a simple reply of "No comment at this time."
Stacey was questioned for several hours before the institute's staff of skilled lawyers arrived to rescue her from the onslaught of accusations of everything from criminal negligence, assault on a federal officer, impeding a federal investigation, and withholding evidence. Meanwhile, the Horizon had successfully made its departure and Rex waited patiently at the airport for her until she finally called to say a small problem had arisen to thwart their previous plan.
The FBI grounded the chopper for the next two days, during which the local media had a field day with headlines of "Killer Cat Loose In Florida" and others even further blown out of proportion. As a result, several human rights groups picketed the complex and someone offered a ten thousand dollar reward for the capture of Moon, dead or alive!
Stacey prepared a statement for the media pleading to the public that the situation was not such as the media played it up to be and asked that they not turn the situation into a witch hunt. Unfortunately, her plea was not heeded, and several hundred various species of cats were needlessly slaughtered in hopes of collecting the reward.
A hearing was convened the very next day by the town council. The presiding judge ruled that Moon would be destroyed whenever he was located, unless evidence could be presented to irrefutably justify the killing! So far, the FBI's investigation had turned up no such evidence to remotely suggest that the student was in any way connected with the bombings or the death of the kittens as Stacey had suggested. Nobody seemed to know anything about him. His fingerprints weren't even in the international computer data banks! He was virtually unknown to the law, with no criminal record whatsoever. The young girl in the tapes claimed she had only recently met him and didn't know where he lived or anything else about him.
Undaunted, Stacey vowed to prove them all wrong and set the record straight, even if it meant revealing her empathic gift with cats to the rest of the world. The FBI
watched her like a hawk, even monitoring her phone calls. In desperation for some sort of comfort, she tried to reach her mother, only to get a recorded message saying that Crip had showed up at her house in Stacey's absence, seemed to be homesick and she had taken her to her sister's house in Texas for a short vacation. Smiling inwardly, Stacey realized Moon had gone to her mother in his quest to clear himself. It pleased her even more so that her mother finally acknowledged she also shared Stacey's gift with the cats and put it to good use!
Stacey's spirits soared as she dialed Shawn's pager number to see if it would be possible for him to "chaperon" her and Rex on a chopper trip to see her mother at her aunt's house in Texas. After a brief consultation with his superiors, they agreed it would be a good idea for her to leave town till things cooled down with the media as long as he and another agent were along for the ride. She thanked him and apologized for slinging him out of the chopper the day everything started. He seemed to have already gotten over it and said he would pick her and Rex up whenever they were ready to leave. Elated, she hung up the phone and hollered a triumphant, "Yes."
This space RESERVED For LATER USE--LKH
Author's Note: Feel free to copy/paste the text contained herein to build your personal copy of "MOON Madness". As this is COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL by ME, the ORIGINAL AUTHOR, please DO NOT copy for UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION in any form or fashion. "ALL RIGHTS RETAINED & RESERVED" by Larry K. Hockman! Please don't hesitate to E-Mail me for permission to use my works in the classroom, etc. ThanX for Visitin'! I hope you enjoyed the story and pass it on to your friends. LKH
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