Title: A Change of Grace
Chapter: 3 of 41
Excerpt: Staring into the empty space where his family should be, he found himself willing it into reality. “Please, please, I’m sorry, just come back!” Familiar adrenaline surge, the burn of acid in his throat, and then a sudden unknown tingle… as if all of the nerves in his body were being shocked, and before his tear filled eyes there appeared, misty and wavering, almost but not quite there, the Trump. His shout of triumph was drowned out by the screech of tires and the blast of a car horn, causing him to jump back… into silence. The hotel was gone, the strange electric tingle diminishing. The sound of the angry cab driver’s horn drifted away on a breeze, leaving the boy standing… staring.
Kathryn watched the shadows flicker in the glow of the streetlamp. Full dark. Soon. It would be soon now. She settled onto the window seat, cradling her tea cup. The street below the window was quiet. Behind her, she could hear her partner fussing with the window latches, muttering to himself. She laughed her musical laugh, and turned to look at him, sea green eyes amused. “Benjamin, dear, relax. He’ll be here.” The man turned, dropping the latch pole. “We have no way of knowing that, Kathryn. We don’t know if he’ll be able to breath…” “He’ll be able to breath, Benjamin…” “Or if the dizziness will be too much for him. He could faint, right out there, and we’d never know, he’s used to breathing that poison…” “He won’t faint, dear…” “We don’t know if he has the key…” “He has the key, love…” “He may not come here. He may be so disoriented he just wanders about the city…” “Benjamin, my love, he’ll come here. He’ll be fine.” She stopped, eyes drifting upward for a moment, as a wave of faintness washed over her. “Oh, oh, now we can’t have this… Benjamin!” Already alert to it, Benjamin joined hands with her, putting out the peculiar electric signals common to his kind. A very few moments later, he dropped her hand with a self satisfied air. “You see? He’s panicking. He almost slipped back. I should go get him.” She smiled gently. “Almost doesn’t matter, and you know very well that you can’t go get him. He’ll be along. Now sit down and relax please. He’ll need both of us to be ready for him. It won’t be long now.”
Taylor stood in the shadows of the park, emotions completely out of control. Where was the Trump? Where was his family? What was going on? Terrified, confused, convinced he must be dreaming, he pinched his cheek, unaware that he was echoing his brother’s actions of a few hours ago. As Isaac had discovered in his own time, Taylor now found to be true, as well. Whatever this was, it was painfully obvious that it was not a dream. Voices startled him, and he flew into the shelter of the trees, fear having driven him down to an instinctively animal level. He sank down low, watching the couple stroll by. “Why are they dressed like that?” His earlier thought that he’d stumbled into a night filming had crumbled. What kind of filming could explain the disappearance of the Trump International? No, no something was wrong, he was crazy, he was dead, he didn’t know. Desperation drove him into the street as soon as the couple had passed, fear of what could be in the darkness of the trees almost stronger than his fear of the overall situation. Staring into the empty space where his family should be, he found himself willing it into reality. “Please, please, I’m sorry, just come back!” Familiar adrenaline surge, the burn of acid in his throat, and then a sudden unknown tingle… as if all of the nerves in his body were being shocked, and before his tear filled eyes there appeared, misty and wavering, almost but not quite there, the Trump. His shout of triumph was drowned out by the screech of tires and the blast of a car horn, causing him to jump back… into silence. The hotel was gone, the strange electric tingle diminishing. The sound of the angry cab driver’s horn drifted away on a breeze, leaving the boy standing… staring. “My God, I have no place to go… I don’t know where I am…” Crossing to where the hotel should have been, he tentatively set a foot where he knew the steps were. Nothing. Nothing there. No illusion this, it was gone. “Well God, what do I do?” He questioned the air, realizing that he had to take himself in hand. Standing here crying and wishing wasn’t going to do anything but get him beat up or robbed. Or both. He had to find someplace to get off the street, and he had to do it fast. “Okay. Do I have money?” He stuck his hands in his pockets, scowling. The last of his cash had gone on the coke he’d bought that kid in the park. “Okay, no money, I need to find someplace open, and lit…” City instincts were kicking in, and he nodded to himself. Yes. Other people, bright lights. “Why is it so damned quiet?!” It was unnerving. Shivering despite the summer warmth, he pushed his hands further into his pockets, freezing suddenly as his fingers encountered a hard metal object. Pulling it out he found himself staring, an odd sensation of tugging in his mind. The key. The key George had given him. Its old, comfortingly worn finsh was no more. In place of the tarnished, antique relic of the past, his hand held a shining brass fixture, glittering, almost glowing in it’s newness. “I don’t…” He stopped, and closed his hand around the key. The tugging was stronger. The Dakota. It had to be there. It had always been there. It was only three blocks away… he could at least go see… there would be a guard in the guardhouse. Maybe it would even be George. He would at least go in and call someone for him. That was what he’d do. He’d go there. Nodding, clutching the key as if it were a safety line, he started down the sidewalk, for once ignoring the hair that fell in his face, struggling to keep his balance as a city alien in the midst of aching familiarity, tipped and spun around him.
Diana paced around the suite. “Walker, it’s almost ten, and he’s not back yet! When did you plan on doing something?” Ike and Zac sat quietly on the overstuffed couch, worry written across their faces. Helpless, they sat close, letting contact sooth where words could not. Still, for Zac, it was an edgy contact. Too many things were confusing him, and his head spun with a multitude of conflicting ideas. He glanced at Isaac now and then, his brow creasing, as he thought of the words he had heard Ike speak before. “I’d rather have you dead than like you are now…” No, it didn’t make sense. Ike was too controlled, too *Ike*, to have lost his temper to that extent. And he sucked as a liar, Zac thought, no way could Ike have killed Tay. He was nuts even for thinking it. Yet he HAD said it… “I’d rather have you dead.” And he had gone after Tay. First Tay, into the park. Then Ike, into the park. Then Ike, back from the park alone. And where was Tay? But no… this was Ike. Ike loved Tay. Everyone got mad sometimes… that was no reason to think he’d killed him. Sighing, he leaned against his big brother, feeling the comforting weight as Isaac slid an arm around him. No… Ike didn’t hurt him. He couldn’t have.
“Diana, I really hesitate to call the police about this. He’s in a snit, he’s wandering around, knowing we’ll worry. He’s probably hoping that Ike is hip deep in trouble.” Walker sat in the chair, looking out the window. His concern had not reached Diana’s frantic level. Taylor knew this city, he knew how to avoid crowds, and he knew how to stay safe out there. If the most likely thing had happened, and he’d simply fallen asleep somewhere, an occurrence that had kept him out late more than once, he’d wake up and get back here as soon as possible. Besides, Walker was pretty sure Taylor hadn’t fallen asleep anywhere. And he was just as sure nothing had happened to him. No, he suspected, strongly, that Taylor was trying to make a point. He knew how to worry them to death, he knew what buttons to push. He was mad, and he was getting them back. He was just playing games with them, and he was going to pay for that, when he got back. Diana slowly counted to ten, and to ten again. Nope, that wasn’t going to work. “Walker, he’s been gone since early afternoon. I know he’s a big boy now, I know he was angry, but even Taylor’s not that inconsiderate. He’d know we’d be scared out of our minds, he’d know the little ones would be worried, he’d have come back… or called. I want something done, and done NOW.” Zac sniggered “Ya know, he may just have gone home with one of those girls…”, the laugh dying in his throat as he quickly shut his mouth, confronted with “the LOOK” from his mother. “If you haven’t anything constructive to add, Zac, don’t bother, don’t even bother.” She spat the words, and dismissed him in the same breath. “I want the police called now, Walker. Please. No matter how mad Tay may be, this is not like him. He’d have at least called, and let me know where he is. You know that.” Diana paced around the suite faster. Isaac, getting dizzy watching her, stood up and intercepted her. “Mom’s right, I think it’s time to get help with finding him. I searched all over, we need professionals in on this.” Relief on her face, Diana echoed Ike’s sentiments. “Yes, call, please. I’m worried, worried to death.” Walker sighed. “Ok, I’ll call. But when we’re told that we are simply overprotective parents, I’m going to tell them that his mommy was worried…” He stopped short, “the LOOK” working equally well on him.
Zac watched the goings on, frantic mother, annoyed father… and Ike.
“Well, maybe I’m wrong… Ike wants the police called… my head is just too weird. I should just ignore me,” Zac was relieved at his thoughts, yet something still niggled at his brain. Where WAS Taylor?
“Yes, Officer, We’ll stay here, and wait for a call from him. You’ll let us know what you find?” Diana continued pacing, unable to stop, knowing she’d not relax until her second son was home, safe. “Walker, I *have* to go out. I have to look myself…” “Di, you can’t… now just calm down a minute.” He managed to stop her long enough to get an arm around her, and felt her relax a little, the haven of his arms bringing a measure of comfort. “We’ve called the police. We already have half our tribe out looking. We’ll wait here, and be ready to ground him for life for doing this as soon as he walks in. Ok?” Diana sagged in Walker’s arms, bringing gasps of alarm from Zac and Isaac. “Mom, I’ll personally throttle him, ok?” Isaac stated. Zac’s eyes flew to his oldest brother. Did Ike really mean that? Was it just a comment, or was it a statement of intent? “But wait…” his mind took off again. “If he already killed him, he can’t very well choke him to death when he gets back… oh shut UP Zachary!” He mentally yelled at himself, and stomped off into his room, too fed up to cope.
Diana poured herself another coffee. Time for another pot, she idly thought. Busying herself with that mundane task helped get her mind off the night of worrying, the night that wouldn’t end until the phone rang…
The thought was barely finished when the shrill ring of the phone filled the apartment. “In the name of God…” Diana scraped herself off the ceiling, and stepped over the puddle of coffee at her feet. Rushing to the phone, running over Walker, and her sons, she grabbed the receiver.
“Yes? Taylor? Where are… Oh. Lt. Montgomery. What have you found? Where is he? Do you have him?” She listened, waving her husband towards the extension across the room. “Mrs Hanson, all we found in the park was a bunch of drunks, several muggers, and some joggers. We’re going to intensify the search to include the surrounding areas this morning. I wish you had called sooner. It’s hard to conduct a search in the dark.” Diana glared at her husband, “Well, Lt., if we can help… Isaac may be able to show you Taylor’s favorite spots. Yes, we’ll be here, we’ll tell the front desk to send you right up.” Walker pushed Isaac towards his room. “Get cleaned up a bit, son, they’ll need your help.” “Sure thing, but he’s not in the park. I could have told them that. I searched it top to bottom…” Isaac continued to talk as he tiredly went to his room. Zac watched everyone scurry around, his sleep deprived brain spinning. “Ike doesn’t want them to look in the park again? Why? But he’s going to go with them to help. I’m just too confused here…” His eyes connected with his mother’s, and he edged closer, wishing she’d put her arms around him, feeling too much like a baby to ask. It was going to be a long night.
Taylor stood on the sidewalk, gazing in rapt amazement at the Dakota. The familiar, much loved building stood, just as it always had, right were it belonged. His relief at seeing that had been replaced with astonishment, and something close to delight, upon drawing near. The building he’d grown to love was old, chipped, worn. Lower doors and windows boarded, wrought iron fencing full of gaps, missing pieces… and the entire lower corner of the dwelling sharing a wall with the T station. It made him ache, seeing the sad repair it was in, knowing it would continue to go downhill as the years passed. “Oh, but look at it now…” His words were whispered breath, as his heart sang at the sight of the building now. Fresh, shining, balustrades and fencing solid and glowing, paint gleaming in the soft light, the brass of the guardhouse shining like gold. “Oh it’s so beautiful… it’s so…” He shook himself, the reality of his predicament slamming home again. “Okay. Who’s in the guardhouse…” He walked up, his face registering delight. George. It was George. He rapped on the door, and stepped back smiling, as the man inside swung the little gate open. Delight became dismay. Not George. It looked a bit like him but… Dropping his eyes, expecting to be sent away, he opened his mouth to tell the man his trouble… and gawped in amazement. The man was gesturing him up the stairs, with some urgency. Taylor’s brows met as he puzzled this. Why would he signal him to go in? George, his friend of months, wouldn’t even let him in. The man inside laughed and shook his head. “Boy, did you want to spend the night standing outside?” Taylor shook his head, dumbfounded. “You got your key?” His eyes widened, and he held it out to the man, who waved it away. “No, no don’t give it to me. I got no use for something like that. Now step lively, hurry up with you.” He slammed the door to the shelter then, and pointed once more at the front door of the apartment building. Taylor swallowed, set a hand on the banister, and gazed up at the door. Could he? It seemed he had no choice. Fighting the dizziness, he started up the steps.
Taylor stopped, out of breath. Hadn’t these people ever heard of elevators? He knew the key in his hand went to a rooftop apartment, and it was one heck of a long climb. Not to mention, in all of his dreams of going inside, he’d never imagined the shadows. No electric lights graced these halls, the glowing wall lamps were gas flames, lovely and a nice touch, but eerie. Shapes seemed to be constantly shifting, things looming in the corners of his sight, ducking away when he turned to catch them. And there was something missing. Something… his bruised mind couldn’t quite grasp it, but there was something… that should have been here and wasn’t. He felt tears again, for an instant, as the thought “Oh I just want to go home” forced out everything else. Even the wonder of being in the Dakota wasn’t enough to sooth him right now. And he was beginning to be angry. He’d had enough. Finally, finally, up one last flight of stairs, he recognized the shape of the roofline. Peaks. “I’m there. It’s up here somewhere…” Weary now, exhausted and already homesick, the wonder of his being here vanished.
“I don’t care… I just don’t care…” He checked the numbers tiredly, trudging past all the wrong doors, until finally, at the very end of the hall, he found the one he was looking for. He looked at the key for a moment, at the lock, and turned, shaking his hair away from his face. He could turn around. Something inside him knew it. He could turn around. He didn’t have to go in. For a moment he almost ran. But the voice of reason spoke up, drowning what may have been the voice of sanity. “Where else do you have to go?” Frowning, hand shaking so badly he had to use his other to steady it, braced against the constant pitch and yaw that seemed a permanent state, he slid the key, shining and new, into a lock as pristine as the key, and turned it. For just a moment, that strange tingle, and the door slipped open. He ducked back a moment, not sure what sort of monsters he expected, letting out his held breath as warmth, and soft light, shone out into the hall. His tearing eyes took in the image of a comfortable room, candlelight nearly bright enough to read by, flickered in breezes through windows open to the soft summer night. He took a step in, and his eyes lit on a woman, just setting what looked like a teacup, down onto a window seat. She stood up, holding out her arms, eyes warm and comforting. “Taylor… come in… it’s all right now.” He stepped into her embrace, the sound of his name making him helpless to do anything else, tears spilling over, as the entire story poured out of him. Behind him, he could vaguely hear someone fussing around, a worried male voice, but it barely penetrated the soft comfort of this woman’s arms around him. Slowly, he got himself under control and stepped away a little, wiping his eyes. If anything, he was even dizzier, and he had to hang onto the woman’s arm to stay on his feet. “You see?” The man’s voice was harried. “You see? He’s sick… he can’t breathe here, this was a mistake Kathryn, and look at him!” The woman’s laughter, like silver bells, rang out. “Oh Benjamin, he’s fine. Taylor, come sit down.” He followed her, holding onto the walls, and the man nodded. “You have to slow down your breathing, you’re getting too much oxygen. Just slow down until you get used to it. Kathryn…” “Benjamin, he’s going to be fine.” She turned her attention to Taylor, who was again trying to make it clear to these odd people that his home was GONE. She nodded, smiling again, and took his hand. “Taylor, we can explain everything…” “Not gone… Taylor, not gone”. Benjamin’s voice broke over the woman’s. “Not gone, hasn’t been built yet.” He handed Kathryn a cup, which she pressed into Taylor’s hand. “Here, drink this… it will help with the dizziness. What Benjamin is trying to say to you, is that your home hasn’t vanished, love. It simply hasn’t been built yet.” Taylor held up a hand, and silenced her. He was taking things one at a time. He had to. His mind was screeching and snarling at him, and he could feel himself on the ragged edge. He drained the contents of the cup, feeling clearer almost immediately, set the cup down, and turned to the woman. “Okay. What do you mean it hasn’t been built yet?” She smiled, glanced at Benjamin, and took Taylor’s hands. “It’s simple, sweetheart. It’s 1883.”