As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Trudging behind Katie, Lloyd keeps his hands in the pockets of his hideously floral swimsuit. He winces at the feeling of cool air on his sunburned back, the bright red skin already starting to peel. The temptation to reach back and scratch is maddening, but the promise of lotion and a medicinal bath helps him retain his limited self-control. The serial killer gradually falls further behind the warlord, who is busy pushing a shopping cart full of boxes of butter sticks and bags of salt. Even though she is not as red as he is, Lloyd can tell that Katie is in pain due to the way she is walking. Having taken her parasol, she was able to avoid most of the effects of Grannus’s tanning room, but her legs are still slightly cooked. He is about to ask his girlfriend to slow down to avoid chafing when he spots a familiar figure resting on a nearby bench. Curious about his friend’s presence, Lloyd silently sneaks over to Cassidy and looms over her with a smile.
“I hooked up with a mermaid,” the mercenary dreamily says with a grin.
“Congrats on getting crabs, kid.”
“None of your jokes can undo this glow. What did you do?”
“Something so boring that it isn’t worth writing about.”
“That’s nice . . . We did it in a hot spring.”
Amused by his companion’s blissful state, Lloyd sits on the edge of the bench and immediately regrets leaning back. “King Grannus talked with us in a room designed to help people tan. The sterile old coot doesn’t burn, but I went up like a witch in Salem. So, you made it with a mermaid. Not counting Calliope, which was business, your most impactful lovers have been air and sea. You know what this means, right? You need to have sex with a cowgirl to complete the land, sea, and air set. Then, you can work on zodiac signs, the four elements, languages, and whatever other collections your loins desire. Huh, not even the threat of violence after that? I really can’t dent that glow.”
“She could hold her breath for eight minutes,” Cassidy replies, licking her lips. Sitting up, she stares at a nearby pool where Arethusa is watching a group of children. “Maybe I’m going down a bad path here. I remember getting so angry at my ex for trying to have a girlfriend in every state. Now, I’m doing it with any woman who catches my fancy and is willing. Am I any better than him since it’s not manipulating people into thinking it’s a relationship? Does this make me a slut?”
“Only if you think you’re one. Not anybody’s place to judge, kid,” the serial killer answers with a smirk. He leaps away when Cassidy tries to put a hand on his shoulder, the sudden movement making his body hurt. “Personally, I think you should do what makes you happy. We live in a lethal world and indulge in a life of violence, which means tomorrow can be the day we die. Sure, people will call you a whore and judge you as if they’re the voice of God. That shit is all on them though. Do what makes you happy, kid, and live your life. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone . . . Never mind. That doesn’t sound right coming from me and we both have more kills under our belts than birthdays. By the way, I know it’s a ways off, but do you want a chocolate, vanilla, or rum cake?”
Gunfire and small explosions can be heard coming from the train, the noises causing the pair to sprint for the nearby station. Realizing that the terrified guests and employees are stampeding in their direction, they dive into one of the pools to avoid getting trampled. Grabbing bodyboards from an unsuspecting couple, they continue heading towards the train while the panicking mob rushes along the walkways. They are making terrible progress until Arethusa and another mermaid arrive to grab the cords, the powerful swimmers towing the pair along. Coming to the end of the pool, Cassidy gives the emerald-haired woman a quick kiss of thanks before climbing out. Obviously worried about Katie, Lloyd rushes ahead regardless of the pain rippling along his scorched skin. Another explosion sends a plume of fire into the air, the sound echoing until it is consumed by the roar of multiple engines. Slow and steady gunshots ring out, each one ending with the telltale ping of bouncing off metal.
Coming to the top of an arched bridge, the partners get a clear look at the chaos that has consumed the station. Beyond a few fires that are already contained and some overturned supply carts, the damage is nothing more than cosmetic. The train remains untouched and there are only five bodies in view, all of them guards. Lloyd nudges Cassidy to bring her attention to a trio of dust clouds that are dissipating near a broken fence. They can barely make out the departing vehicles, which appear to be two oddly-shaped jeeps and an ATV with a metal shield on the back. Spotting Katie and Tyler on the stairs to the platform, they hurry to join the heated conversation. As soon as they comes into view, the warlord and businessman point their fingers at them. The matching beckon seems unnecessary since they are clearly already heading towards them, but nobody mentions the wasted movements.
“They took Cola!” Tyler shouts over the noise of approaching fire engines. He checks his pocket watch to see how long it takes Grannus’s people to react to the problem. “At least our host is quick to respond. He isn’t very good at warning guests of the local dangers. Seems there’s a band of kidnappers who work in the area and they took Cola right out of the train. People said they saw a Librarian and some guy with a baseball cap leaving with him. I’m going to talk to Grannus about lending us someone who knows the way to their hideout. Best to take care of this before things get worse.”
“Go take care of that while I discuss things with my partners,” Katie insists with a tender smile. She waits for Tyler to disappear over a bridge, the man doing his best to jog while avoiding those who are arriving to see what happened. “I know of these people, but didn’t think they’d try anything within Grand Aquae. Nobody who lives in the area would risk getting banned from a place like this, especially since the summers can be brutal. My guess is that they’ve been hired by a third party. To call them a band is wrong too. Each member does their own thing and they share the spoils, so it’s strange that they took someone as a team. Do you think you can infiltrate and get some information?”
“We can try,” Cassidy says as she watches her jeep get unloaded from the train. She looks down at her swimsuit and considers changing, but knows that they have no time. “I’ll have to openly wear my weapons. Best bet is to claim to be new kidnappers to the area and pretend that our guide is our hostage. That means we need somebody important, which gives me an idea that I’m not going to like. Are you sure we won’t be recognized? We’ve been identified pretty easily lately, so I don’t think stealth is a tactic we can use anymore.”
The warlord clicks her tongue and scowls at the mercenary, her sunburn making her too irritable to endure being questioned. “Well, you bloody better think of something since going in guns blazing could get Cola killed. Without him, the Holly Sage Express is dead in the water. At least until we can find another conductor and master engineer. Not to mention, Tyler wants to know who is actively against him. Hiring kidnappers is a bigger step than putting out that bounty. It means our enemies are ahead of us and not content with leaving things up to random agents. If we can uncover them here then we can kill them.”
“What about sending me alone and letting me do what I do best?” Lloyd suggests as he leans against a lamppost. The feel of warm metal on his damaged back makes his eyes bug out and he pulls away with a whimper. “Okay, I see your point. Can’t really be a stealthy killer if I’m crying at the slightest breeze. We’re going to need some lotion for this trip. I’m talking buckets with a lot of gauze. Seriously, this hurts.”
“You take care of the big baby while I get our guide,” Cassidy mutters, slapping Lloyd on the back. She holds back the urge to throw up when her hand comes away with pieces of peeled skin. “Oh, that’s just disgusting. I know Cola is important, but take all the time you need getting wrapped up. Don’t even think I can look at that without wanting to hurl.”
“It really is gross, dear,” Katie adds while shying away from the serial killer. She waves over a young man, who is dressed as a shirtless sailor. “Can you please take my boyfriend to a doctor? He needs to be made ready for travel and battle, so do what you have to do. I just have too many things to attend to before you leave. Love you, my sexy slaughterer. I’ll make it up to you when you get back with Cola. Promise.”
Lloyd watches as Katie heads for the train and Cassidy jogs over the bridge. “I feel so abandoned and betrayed right now.”