Here is the first chapter of Archi.
ARCHI BRIANT stretched as he noticed the bozo who had been under his radar for the last two weeks. He appeared nonchalant as he sauntered over to the bartender for another drink. Archi dressed in dark clothing that allowed him to slip in and out of situations without being noticed. Archi had been following this particular cretin for some time now. He and his brothers followed information about sexual assaults and baby stealing in the San Antonio news and from informants in the field.
They heard from friends of friends as they expressed anxiety about the women who had been attacked, some of them at home, some of them in public places. This case involved those assaults that occurred to women who sometimes went through the legal system. Sometimes, the woman disappeared for months until she had her child. Then, the child was taken and the woman released. Arch and his brothers were working a separate case too — one involving the missing child of wealthy grandparents — the Pattersons — and their missing granddaughter.
The creeps had no discretion, no pattern, no schedule, no reason. Each of the women fit no particular type; they were poor, middle class, rich, white, black, Latina, Asian, and some of them were pregnant. The police were always a step behind these crimes, so it had to be a group of actors who had it all well planned, with someone “in the know” involved, maybe someone in the legal and medical professions. These assailants seemed to have no particular area of geography for focus. They were all over the place. But Arch had figured out what they were after — thrills and possibly babies. It didn’t matter whom they attacked, as long as they could get thrills and possibly later, an infant.
For that reason, these were the type of people who needed annihilation. The police, with their understaffed force, had a difficult time keeping up. Detectives were always a step behind. His San Antonio detective friend, Sam, had asked him and his brothers to share information about the case, knowing that they were already working on a related one. The pattern of the criminals was such that they assaulted a woman, later took her baby, if she become pregnant with one, and then lay low for a while, maybe a long while. If she turned up pregnant later, the child was taken and adopted to unknown parties. Of those women who were not abducted, but pregnant from other sources, the criminals seemed to know when a woman was about to deliver. Then, up the bastards popped. Arch smiled as he thought about the disgusting criminal behavior. Not many people were patient enough to wait for the scum to strike again.
But Archi, short for Archilokos, had nothing but patience. His specialty was criminal investigation, finding the criminals that most law enforcement overlooked or were unable to find. His job in the military was finding the criminals who drove mayhem. But now that he was out, finished with his two tours, he had found a way to use his skills as part of a lucrative security and detection business.
He was good at it and used his skills to help as quietly as he could, without being noticed. He saw a pattern where the police did not. He and his brothers also had special insights that were not recognized by traditional law enforcement. Archi could see into the future, but only a couple of days or so, and only under certain circumstances. He had to be close to a person to see something concrete.
His brother Herman could see into the past, but only a day or so, and this, sometimes, only if he knew the person. Roland, unfortunately, could talk to people who passed away. Again, his gift was not foolproof and worked sometimes only when the person who had passed was someone Roland knew. Will, Herman’s twin, had the unenviable gift of being able to control some aspects of the weather. Their parents had gifts of their own and had tried to give their children as normal a life as possible. Their one daughter, Althea, was a healer and a medical doctor. She hid her gifts under the cloak of professional medicine. The four brothers protected their sister so well that she’d never had a decent date. Archi thought about the debt he owed his sister and the guilt he felt for the overprotective interference of himself and his brothers. She might thank them one day, but not anytime soon.
Archi also felt responsible for the behavior of his brothers. Will sometimes used his weather talent secretly when there was not an altruistic reason for it. The brothers had long agreed as youngsters to use their talents for good. However, Archi often found himself bringing his brothers to task about the moral aspects of their behavior.
Roland especially taxed Archi’s patience, since Roland had found ways to use his talents that confounded Archi. Roland was a noted ladies’ man, a predilection that Archi found dangerous, and he urged his brother to be careful about his rakish ways. Herman was so shy that Archi often did not know he was there. But his ability to see into the past was disturbing for his brother. Herman found dating to be a trial because once he got to know a woman, even on a limited basis, he often found disappointing information. Women tended to steer clear of them if they became aware of the talents of the young men. Archi was determined to keep their secrets as well as possible. He dated a woman once who thought he could see enough into the future to know what the winning lottery numbers would be. How the woman found out about his talent, he didn’t know. But it was clear that the brothers needed to control knowledge of their talents.
Althea had often joked that she might need to disappear in order to have a life of her own. She commuted from the home she owned near her parents to the hospital where she performed heart surgery in San Antonio. They all enjoyed a close relationship and gathered once in a while at the family home in the Hill Country. Archi thought about the last time he’d seen his sister. He felt a deep responsibility for the women who were being attacked. What if one of the women attacked by these men was his sister? He would never forgive himself. He needed to put a stop to this pattern of assaults and abductions.
Each of the women these particular criminals attacked was alone and unsuspecting. So he watched women who appeared to be similar to the victims. There was no better place to watch than those places that women frequented, bars, restaurants, grocery stores and malls. Lately, Archi had added hospitals and obstetricians’ offices to the list of surveillance areas.
At more than six feet, Archi was muscular, but hid it well in baggy jeans and a dark hoodie. His olive skin and broad chest attracted the ladies, but he never mixed pleasure with business and stayed focused on his task. The women who passed his table gave him a look, which he politely acknowledged with a nod, but not much more. He wasn’t available and made that clear in his closed body language. He had been coming to this bar for three weeks, trying to see whether one of the men he suspected could be a rapist or kidnapper would try one of the women. It was possible the man was in league with others, but this guy seemed to be smart. He wanted to ask this man some questions in a particular way. He hunched over his drink and watched the other patrons from the mirror at the back of the bar.
This was a good watering hole for women, who now aware of the attacks, were mostly coming and going with one another. They walked one another to their cars and grouped or paired up. But tonight, across the dimly lit bar, he spotted the same undistinguished man, sitting at a table by himself. He shot a glance at a lone woman, one that seemed to be lingering by herself.
The atmosphere in the bar changed, the tension growing tight as though the suspect sensed that this one woman was available. Dressed in a long black dress, she checked her watch impatiently as though she were waiting for someone. She appeared to be pregnant but somehow, Archi thought that must be a ruse. She didn’t walk like a pregnant woman. Having watched his mother carry his youngest brother, he knew something was not right. The man in the corner was the guy who had been preying on unsuspecting women. Since he didn’t know the man, getting a clear vision of what the man might be up to the next day was difficult. But Arch did get a clear vision of this felon meeting someone involved in the case.
All he had to do was hold his course and allow the suspect to think the woman was available and alone. Arch had been thinking of the creep as “the Felon” and the search for the assailants as Operation Vengeance; soon, the Felon would make his move.
Archi’s three brothers, also in the detection and surveillance business, were waiting for his signal that things might go down soon. Roland, some distance away from the action, was working on background information, from his pattern of behavior to alerting officials once they had the suspect pinned down. If it was at all possible, they might leave the details to the police or detectives. However, it seemed this case was larger than the one suspect they’d managed to track down. Sam Merino and Archi went way back, before his days in the service. Merino’s work as a detective for the San Antonio Police Department helped keep Archi and his brothers informed and helped the officials in charge.
Herman, built almost as tall and as capable as Archi, had served in the military too. At two years younger than Archi, Herman had kept up with his brother throughout their service and had helped Archi from time to time using his gift for seeing into the past. Will had taken a different path than his twin, Herman, much to the surprise of the family; while he could handle himself as well as the other brothers, military service was not Will’s idea of well spent time. Roland, the youngest brother, had joined Will, Herman and Archi later but, in spite of his lack of focus, was every bit as dedicated to helping to put the bad guys where they belonged, preferably in jail.
Archi took a sip of his Coke and placed it on the table, looking for the suspect. The Felon had left the booth and was walking out of the bar. The Felon followed the good-looking woman out. Her sleek, long legs seemed to beckon to Archi. Archi shook himself; he needed to focus on catching this Felon, especially if this man was in league with other creeps committing the assaults. Was he connected to the rash of abductions too? Was he targeting them to get them pregnant? Was he, along with others, looking for women who were already pregnant or just those capable of having children? How did they know which ones to target? Did they get women pregnant on purpose? Did someone do the selection for the men?
For Archi, it was a disturbing thought. The idea was so distracting that he nearly lost track of the moment. He had to focus on this woman, who seemed elusive and almost as if she knew what she was doing. She had a bulky purse at her side. Her curly, dark hair fluffed out down her back. Her buttocks, firm and full, swayed with a gracefulness that had Arch holding his breath.
He struggled to snap out of it and texted Will, Herman and Roland, letting them know that the suspect was moving and that he was likely following a woman to the back of the bar. She slid down the hall to the restroom and shut the door with a slam. Archi kept his eyes on the suspect as the Felon seemed to wait for her to come out. There was only one restroom in the tiny bar. When she came out, she didn’t look at him but turned and tried the door to the left of the rest room. The Felon stood there for a moment and looked as though he was thinking about following her. He tilted his head to one side, looked around to see whether he was being watched, and turned to the door to follow the woman.
Shit, this wasn’t part of the plan. Archi’s heart pumped up a notch. This woman was in danger, and she didn’t know it. She was supposed to go out the front door. How did she know there was a back exit? Maybe she worked here or knew someone who worked here. Maybe she was part owner of the place. Just as he was getting up to follow the Felon and the woman in black, a group of giggling women came through the front door of the bar and raced to the back of the room where the restroom was. He could not get through the gaggle of women and realized that if he wanted to get to the woman in black quickly, he would need to go out the front door and to the alley. He alerted Will who would be the closest of the three. “On it.” Will texted.
He left money on the table for the waiter and dashed out the front door. His heart pounded as he considered what might happen to the woman. As he turned the corner to the alley, he saw a figure slumped in the alleyway. No, no, no, no. His heart accelerated as he sprinted to the figure. He turned the body over and was shocked to see it was the Felon, who had followed the woman out into the back area. “Shit!” How did this happen, and so quick? He wanted to interrogate the suspect, find out more about these crimes. He looked around for the woman and saw, in the distance, a small dark car turning a corner. He called Will. “See if you can get a license plate on the car that pulled around the corner,” he said.
“Got it already,” he said. “The chick was walking kind of fast and so I made a note. Why, what happened?”
“The Felon is dead,” Archi said. “Ask Roland to call in the necessary officials and keep us out of it as usual. I’m going to try to follow that car.” Archi kept his motorcycle nearby and left quickly to follow the car.
It took little effort to catch up with the woman as she was not speeding or seeming to take any kind of extraordinary effort to hide. He pulled up to her at the stop sign and raised his helmet visor. He smiled her.
Her long dark hair hung in loose curls down her back and around her face. Her lips were full and red and she licked the bottom lip as though she were waiting for him to come on to her. She wore a silver chain around her long neck with some kind of symbol on it. She smiled briefly as though she didn’t want to have much to do with him, but he could feel her interest, the heat. He felt himself stir. The black dress she wore in the bar showed her cleavage. He remembered her long legs, her well developed hips. She was a real looker.
But he had to find out whether she was the one who killed the man in the alley. Could she have done it? She looked so innocent. She tilted her chin up and gave him an appraisal with her eyes that suggested she was ready to find out what he had. In that instant, he saw into the future. She was dressed in white, he in a morning suit. They were getting married. He shook his head. This could not be. Then, as quick as he saw the vision, she was gone. One minute she was there. The next minute, she had vanished.