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Based in Northeastern, PA, Melissa Koberlein publishes novels that explore the worlds of tech, aliens, and space with humor and heart.

A Night Off

If you are already a fan of Fireflies, here is the first short story. I love all my Fireflies characters, and some of them have been nagging me for  a voice of their own. Enjoy. Agent Jeffrey Rushmore walked to the door, turned the lock, and slid the chain into its path, securing the hotel room. He walked back between the double beds, taking the phone off of the receiver. He needed a break from all of the chaos.

His life was turned upside down. Ever since he was reassigned to a special unit of the FBI, sworn to never speak of his activity, he felt isolated. Sure, he had his fair share of girlfriends. At one point he had been engaged. Still, now, his life was devoid of a woman or family. There wasn’t even a glimmer of hope, at least, not in his line of work.

He grabbed the Jack Daniels he bought at the local state store off of the dresser, and filled his glass for the third time. Booze was becoming his substitute for a life. It was sad, really. He sat down on the bed nearest the door of the hotel room, glancing into the mirror across the room. He wasn’t a bad looking man at 6’2” with sandy brown hair, and a physique that took years to craft. That was the way of it, though. People in this line of work had to take care of themselves. Still, a lot of good it did him when he was alone, without someone to share his life with, on the very few nights he had to himself.

Or, at least he thought he was alone…until he heard the knocking.

Jeff rushed to the door and stood beside it, his Glock at the ready. No one knew he checked in at this hotel.

“Who is it?”

“Room service…” a seductive female voice said.

“I didn’t order any room service,” the agent replied.

He heard a rich laugh, and then, “It’s okay, Jeff. It’s me, Jane.”

Jeff opened the door to his hotel room. Standing before him was the one person he didn’t want to see tonight. Jane Reed is a part of his case load. She is a beautiful, slender, woman with dark eyes and hair to match. It’s too bad she is happily married. She also has an uncanny gift for locating people, which would explain how she knew where to find him. What could she possibly want with him? It is his night off, and he was already into his third drink.

“I always wanted to say that,” she said, still smiling. “So, are you going to invite me in, Agent Rushmore?”

Jeff took notice that she was shivering from the cold, northern February wind. He recovered quickly, and holstered his gun. “Sure, sure, come in. What can I do for you? I wasn’t planning on working tonight.”

Jane moved inside the room, turning to the dresser where the whiskey bottle sat.  “How much have you had, Jeff? Not too much I hope.”

“Look, it’s my night off. What do you want, Jane?” Jeff said, clearly irritated.

“Well, I have a bit of a problem sitting in the backseat of my car,” she replied. For the first time Jeff noticed that her nearly perfect complexion was mottled with red blotches. She had been crying.

“Oh, no…it’s not another one is it?”

“It is, I’m afraid. I need your help getting a woman out of the car.”

Jeff shook his head. “What is wrong with you people? It’s really sick you know?”

“We are not all like this, and I would appreciate you not assuming such. My family is honorable and would never…” Jane trailed off, too upset to continue.

Jeff paused, looking towards the door. He knew she was right. There are only a few sickos out there. Most of her kind are decent people.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry, Jane. So what’s the plan? I can’t run her into the clinic tonight. Dr. Arcanas is off until tomorrow. ”

“Well, I was hoping she might stay here,” Jane said slowly, trying to play her cards right.

“What? What am I supposed to do with her? This is a hotel room! There is only one bed. You are really asking too much this time, Jane.” Jeff had only one night out of each month to himself, and he wasn’t about to give it up to babysit.

“I know, Jeff. I’m really sorry. I can’t bring her home with me tonight because we are hosting a party for our new neighbors. Please understand that I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t absolutely necessary.” And with that, Jane’s puffy eyes began to leak again.

So that was it. Jeff had always been a sucker for a woman in distress. Really, it couldn’t be helped. It was in his nature to help those in need. It didn’t matter that this was his only night to put a few back, to stretch out on the bed for a good night’s sleep, and ponder the current state of his life. A crying woman would always take precedence.

He walked with Jane back to her car, finding the small problem in the backseat covered in a blanket. The only visible sign of life in the mass of blankets was two piercing, purplish glowing eyes. The poor thing. She would probably be a handful for the rest of the night. Jeff had his fair share of experiences with this lot.

Jane and Jeff helped a very slow and weak woman back into Jeff’s hotel room, still cloaked in blankets. She sat down on the bed, looking listlessly into the mirror across the room. Jane turned to Jeff to be sure that he could take it from here. He nodded, and Jane left.

Jeff very carefully approached the cloaked figure. “Can I get you anything? Are you thirsty or hungry?”

The woman didn’t respond, not even a blink.

“Maybe we should take off your blankets. It is rather warm in here,” Jeff said as he reached out to tug on a blanket.

The woman pulled back seeming afraid.

Jeff held out his hands to her and turned them over. “No, no. I won’t hurt you. I just want you to be comfortable.”

This seemed to work as she allowed him to unwrap the blankets from her body. Once the blankets were removed, he stood back in awe.

She was beautiful. Jeff was at a loss for words. Apart from her strangely listless glowing eyes, she was the most attractive woman he had ever seen. She seemed to be in her mid-thirties, and her wavy blonde hair flowed down her bare shoulders, clear to her waist. Jeff continued to stare at her until he realized how inappropriate he was being. He was staring at a completely naked woman!

With a quick turn away from her, he urgently said, “Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I assumed you had clothes on. Please excuse me.”

Jeff grabbed a shirt from his overnight bag. He helped her shrug into the shirt, and he buttoned it up to the neck. She was still unbelievably beautiful, his shirt suiting her. He squashed his impure thoughts right then and there, reminding himself that she was part of his professional life, not personal life. Still…he found her very...

The woman stood up leaving all the blankets pooling on the red carpeted floor next to the bed, moving to the mirror, staring at her reflection. Jeff realized that she was probably still in shock about what had happened to her. In cases like hers, the victim had little to no memory of their previous life, let alone a consistent conscious thought. Her only thoughts now would be of nothingness unless the disgusting person who changed her called upon her for a task. She would only be able to follow directions from that person, while her own sense of self was essentially gone. It was very sad.

Then, the woman did something very odd. She spoke.

“Ingrid.”

Jeff couldn’t believe it.  It had to be her name. He needed to notify his superior and Dr. Arcanas of this right away. No person in her situation had ever been able to speak like this. This woman was clearly unique.

She turned back towards the bed and lay down. He covered her with blankets, and turned off the light. Before he made a makeshift bed on the floor of the hotel room, he made a silent promise to himself and to Ingrid, that he would find a cure. She had given him renewed faith in his job, and a purpose in life. It would be about her now, this woman with glowing purple eyes.

As he lay there drifting off to sleep, he wondered what color her eyes were before…

NaNoWriMo

Patience is a Virtue.