“I simply cannot get over this car. Where did you get it?”
Dillon and Kris were riding in a huge silver beast of a car that turned heads as they drove to the West Manhattan condo Kris’s sister lived in, not far from the West Side Highway. It was an elegant, streamlined car--a convertible--and Dillon had the top down so they could enjoy the bright sunshine pouring down on the city. The massive hood was twice as long as a modern car’s and the large engine thrummed with barely contained power. Kris couldn’t get over the size of the front seat. It was like sitting on a living room sofa.
Dillon was tapping the steering wheel, listening to a Celine Dion CD. “This is a 1959 Bethea Roadmaster. One of the finest examples of an automobile you’re likely to see. I bought it about ten years ago. Cost me a fortune to have it rebuilt and refitted but it’s worth it.”
“You never cease to amaze me, you know that?” Kris asked. She was wearing a smart red pantsuit while Dillon wore a double-breasted pale gray suit. They had spent a couple of days in Antofagasto after their narrow escape and then Eli had flown them to New York, where Dillon intended to deliver Kris to her sister. Now that the danger was over, there was no reason why she couldn’t pick up her life again.
But Kris found herself having strange feelings she hadn’t felt before. Despite all the danger and the death she had seen and experienced since meeting Dillon, she couldn’t deny that she had never felt more alive. She now understood something about him: the rush you felt when you rolled the dice against Death and won. She had to admit, even though she’d been terrified half the time, the other half had been fun. And she wasn’t sure she wanted it to end.
Dillon pulled up in front a gleaming white spire that thrust upwards some 40 stories. The doorman hurried over and said, “You can’t park here, sir. Sorry.”
Dillon handed over a $50 bill. “I’m just going to see the lady upstairs and I’ll be right back down . . . give me ten minutes okay?”
The doorman made the bill disappear with a skill that would have wrenched a gasp of envy from David Copperfield, and made a slight bow, touching the shining black brim of his cap. “Very good, sir.”
Dillon and Kris walked into the lobby. “I love New York,” Dillon said. A bank of a dozen elevators was to their left. Kris placed a hand on Dillon’s arm.
“I want to say something before we go up to my sister’s.”
Dillon nodded. “Sure. Is everything okay?”
Kris took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Won’t you change your mind and take me with you?”
Dillon’s arms went around her waist and his copper eyes were serious and somber as he said; “I can’t, Kris. Really. I don’t have a normal life, as you can see. But I’ve never had a normal life. I’m used to this. This is the only life I know. And I’ve got too much to do yet. I made a promise to my mother and I haven’t fulfilled that promise yet.”
Kris sighed and placed her head on his chest. “Don’t you want to be in love? To get married? Have children?”
Dillon lifted her head and kissed her gently. “Of course I do. I’m arrogant, insensitive and rude, but I’m human as well. I want all those things. But not now. Not now.” He kissed her again.
Kris nodded and blinked back the tears that wanted to spill from her eyes. “Well, when you change you mind, look a girl up, okay?”
Dillon kissed the tip of her nose. “That’s a promise. Now, let’s go take you to your sister before I change my mind.”
A very petite woman who looked like a smaller version of Kris, except that her eyes were lighter in color and her hair was cut short, framing a heart-shaped face, opened the door. “Oh, my God!” she shrieked upon seeing them. “Didn’t you get my message?”
Kris hugged her sister Anna and kissed her warmly on the cheek. “Dillon hasn’t checked his messages since we landed an hour ago. I wanted to get right over here and see you and he’s got to leave right away.”
Anna’s eyes were large and full of meaning as she said quickly; “Why don’t you go back downstairs and I’ll meet you--”
Dillon instantly picked up that something was wrong and reached out to yank Kris back out of the apartment; but from behind the door, a massive hand shot out and seized Anna by the neck. A familiar voice snarled, “Come inside and close the door or I snap her neck like a chicken’s.”
Kris squealed in fear, but stepped inside. Dillon followed and shut the door. Frederick Whalen stepped into view, his hand still wrapped around Anna’s neck. “That’s right,” The Whale said in that voice that rumbled like two boulders grinding together. “Let’s all just relax and be friends.” He raised his voice slightly and said, “I have the situation under control, Lady Thelma.”
Lady Thelma Sharpe came stumbling in from the master bedroom, one wrinkled claw of a hand wrapped around tall glass of vodka. She looked terrible. Her eyes were red and her hair was stringy and unkempt. Her soiled brown dress looked as if she’d been sleeping in it for days, whereas The Whale looked cool and capable in khaki pants and a crisp white shirt. “At last,” Lady Thelma cackled. “At last.”
Dillon was honestly surprised to see them here. He’d actually forgotten about them after the throwdown at Numby Castle. “I got to give you two points for persistence. How the hell did you know we’d be showing up here?”
Lady Thelma flopped into a leather recliner and took a gulp of vodka. “I know more about Kris than she knows about herself. I knew she’d show up at her sister’s house eventually. It was just a matter of being patient and placing a tap on her phone and waiting until Kris called her.”
Whalen released Anna and she ran over to hug Kris. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know Lady Thelma was like this! Before I knew what was happening, they were inside and told me that they’d kill the children if I didn’t co-operate!”
Dillon’s copper eyes darkened to molten gold. He looked up at Whalen. “Y’know, I thought you were a professional. Threatening kids isn’t professional.”
Whalen was unmoved. “Where is Lady Thelma’s ring?”
“Blown to Hell and gone. Along with Odin, Chew Mi and the Gynts. I’ve settled all accounts with them in full.”
"Liar!" Lady Thelma shrieked and threw the glass at Dillon. He ducked, smoothly drew his Magnum Desert Eagle and fired at Whalen. The heavy Magnum slug smashed into Whalen’s thigh and the giant’s long arm swept out and smacked Dillon’s arm with an impact he felt in his whole body. The gun went flying across the room to hit the wall. But by then, Dillon had rolled under Whalen’s follow-up swing. His foot pistoned into Whalen’s ribs and everybody heard a distinct CRACK! as two of his ribs broke.
Kris yowled like a stepped on cat and leaped across the room to land on Lady Thelma. The recliner went tumbling over and both women were screeching and cursing as they rolled over and over, punching and kicking.
Whalen’s fist looped up and around and slammed into Dillon’s chest. Dillon went sailing through the air to hit the wall hard enough to crack plaster. He dropped to the floor, gasping for breath, shaking his head to clear it. Whalen rushed him and ran right into Dillon’s switchblade, which slid from the ejection sheath strapped on his right forearm. The blade took him in the stomach and Whalen roared and seized Dillon with both hands, clean jerking him right off the floor to slam into the ceiling. Dillon’s right foot lashed out to crack Whalen in the nose, splitting it like a tomato. Blood gushed as if from a garden hose.
Kris got to her feet and kicked off her pumps. “Go make sure the kids are okay!” she yelled over her shoulder to Anna. Lady Thelma got to her feet, and from a pocket of her dress withdrew a kitchen knife.
“I’m going to cut you until there’s nothing left but bone!” Lady Thelma snarled, waving the knife in front of her, advancing slowly.
Kris was bobbing and weaving like Sugar Ray Leonard on his best day. “Come on and do it then, bitch. ‘Cause I’m about sick and tired of taking your shit!”
Whalen dropped Dillon, who rolled between the giant’s legs and came up behind him. He reached down to his belt and twisted the buckle. It came free, along with a length of nylon cord. Dillon leaped on The Whale’s back, wrapped the cord around his neck and twisted viciously, whispering into Whalen’s right ear, “You wanna threaten kids, big man? Lemme show you what I do to tough guys who threaten kids.”
Dillon’s corded muscles bunched and the sleeves of his suit jacket split as he pulled backwards with all his strength, shoving his feet into the small of Whalen’s back at the same time. Both men fell backwards and Dillon shoved up and out with every bit of power he had. Incredibly, The Whale’s massive body went sailing the length of the apartment, right over the heads of Lady Thelma and Kris and right through the double doors leading to the balcony. There was an impressive smash as the glass door disintegrated.
Lady Thelma gawped at seeing Whalen manhandled thus. Kris neatly stepped in and swung her small fist, striking Lady Thelma’s jaw with such force that it shattered like cheap china. Lady Thelma dropped to her knees, the knife clattering on the parquet wood floor.
Dillon set himself and charged out onto the balcony, his hot golden eyes burning with that terrible anger that was usually the last thing his enemies ever saw. Whalen got shakily to his feet, his once white shirt now completely red, and his head came up as Dillon’s foot took him full in the chest. Frederick Whalen went over the railing and fell 12 stories to the street, where he landed with enough impact to shatter sixty percent of the bones in his body. He lay on the sidewalk, an immense, bloody slab of muscle that had just enough life left to see Dillon’s face looking over the railing. And those golden eyes blazing with a molten fire of righteousness.
Dillon went back inside the apartment. The fight had been short, but the living room was a wreck. Anna would be remodeling for days. Dillon hurriedly reached for his wallet and pulled out a handful of bills. He pressed them into Kris’s hand. “Give this to your sister and tell her sorry for the mess.”
“I will! I will. But you get out of here! The police will be here soon!”
Dillon gestured at the unconscious woman on the floor. “What about her?”
Kris waved a disdainful hand. “I can handle her. You just go!”
Dillon was digging through his pockets. “I got something for you. A little souvenir of your adventure. Ah, here we go!” Dillon withdrew the golden ring he’d taken from the control center of The Voice of Odin and slipped it on the index finger of her left hand where it fitted perfectly. “I had it resized back in Chile.”
Kris looked at the sparkling opal that was actually a piece of the stars. A piece that had powered the most dangerous weapon on Earth. “Oh…I don’t know what to say…”
Dillon kissed her warmly. “Don’t say anything. Just take care of yourself, Kris. Always take care of yourself.” And then he was gone out the door.
Dillon drove furiously down the West Side Highway. He was pursued by several police cars that had their sirens blaring and their bubblegum lights spinning like mad. After leaping over the dead body of The Whale, he'd jumped into his car and headed for the dock where Eli was waiting with the cargo plane. He could see the plane as it kicked the water into a frothing spray going. Eli was warming up the engines.
His cell phone rang and he reached for it, flipped it open. “I’m busy, Eli!”
“Just wanted you to know that the Coast Guard has been alerted. You want to step on it?”
“Open the hatch and start takeoff!”
“You gotta be shittin’ me.”
“Just do it!” Dillon yelled and weaved around slower traffic as he stepped on the gas. The powerful engine of the Roadmaster boomed and the vehicle surged forward like a metallic greyhound, leaving slower cars in its wake.
The cargo plane moved slowly away from the dock, even as the rear cargo doors slowly opened.
Dillon drove onto the dock, raising a shower of sparks from the car’s underside as it cleared a low curb and landed with a bone-jangling impact on the wooden dock. The police cars followed. Dillon gritted his teeth and tromped on the gas pedal.
The Roadmaster leaped off the dock, speeding through the air a dozen feet above the water, to land inside the cargo plane with a crash of breaking glass and crunching metal. The doors closed as Eli gunned the engines, and the cargo plane bounced over the choppy waves and lifted into the air.
Dillon climbed out of his car and looked ruefully at the smoke billowing from the hood. He walked to the cockpit, loosening his tie, and flopped into the co-pilot’s seat. “Y’know, I lose more cars this way.”
Eli looked at his friend and shook his head. “Where to now?”
Dillon shrugged; “Where else do the heroes fly off to? Into the sunset, bro…into the sunset.”
Anna had made sure her two children were fine. Lady Thelma had made them drink shots of vodka to put them to sleep and they would wake up no worse the wear. Anna walked through the wreck of her living room to find Kris standing on the balcony, fingering a golden ring on her finger. She was watching a plane fly into the sunset and tears were flowing freely down her face.
Anna touched Kris on the shoulder. Kris half turned and bent down to hug Anna tightly.
“Kris, are you all right?”
“Oh, my…YES…I’m all right…” Kris turned back to watch the plane disappear into the blazing corona of the setting sun and she laughed with true happiness. “We’re ALL going to be all right.”