Twilight Town (Part Two)
"Twilight Town (Part Two)
by Barry H. Smith
She raced down the fire escape at the back of the building, making good time by cutting through the
woods. The wolves continued to howl, but seemed too distracted by the ultrasonics to pose a danger to
her. She remained concealed at the side of the highway as the column of glassy-eyed people passed. She
recognized Hunter, Ruth and Ginny. All of them kept in step like good little soldiers. No one herded them
forward. The end of the column approached. Elsa reversed her jacket, opened the sleeves' seam-like
closures to provide easy access to her weapons, and joined the end of the column.
As they neared the factory, she noted that it was a hub of activity. The gate had been opened to
receive the silent marchers. The front of the column was already entering the factory building. A lone man
in hunter's garb stood by the gate with a rifle in hand. Steele fixed her stare on the bald spot of the man in
front of her. All expression drained from her face. They entered the factory and filed into a makeshift
auditorium, filling the rows of folding chairs in orderly fashion. Once everyone was seated, the lights
dimmed and the large screen and speakers came to life.
A man holding a microphone stood in the shadows beside the screen. His voice was the same one she
had heard in her sleep. He spoke in a slow melodic tone as images flooded the screen... images of
American cities and well-known political figures. In between the pictures flashed lists of names in
subliminal fashion. Steele noticed Owen Hunter's name amongst them.
"It is time for the final group to depart in preparation for your individual assignments. Our seed will be
scattered by the four winds, and the harvest will be great. Only those who have not received specific
assignments will remain behind. As always, continue to be suspicious of strangers in your midst. We are
the twilight body, and outsiders are a virulent plague." Elsa reacted ever so slightly when Hugh Summers'
face filled the screen. "This target was an unexpected bonus. He wandered into town on a fishing trip and
was immediately recognized and eliminated by the Washington cell. Good work, gentlemen!"
As the voice played to his captive audience, one of the soldiers walked up the aisle, sweeping his
flashlight across the impassive faces. He was making notations on his clipboard. The flashlight's beam
lingered overlong on Steele's face before moving on.
After a further twenty minutes of subliminal flashes, the significance of which Elsa could only ponder,
the group was dismissed and started to file out of the room. As she entered the hallway, the soldier with
the flashlight ordered her to follow him into an adjacent office. She obeyed without hesitation. She was
instructed to stand at attention. Visually, she fixed her eyes on Wichita, Kansas, a dot on the United
States wall map. Mentally, she was using her other senses to get a fix on numbers and position. She
detected three men: the one holding the flashlight, a guard stationed outside the door, and the leader of the
group who stood directly behind her.
"Is she fully under?" the leader demanded.
"‘Pears to be. She's a real looker."
"Stick to business." The leader cocked his revolver and pressed it against the back of her head. "Frisk
Laying his flashlight aside, the man checked her boots for weapons. Finding none, he ran his fingers
up her legs, then patted her crotch and buttocks. When his hands slipped under her open jacket, he
eagerly explored her breasts out of his commander's line of vision. The stink of his body and breath
assailed her senses, but she didn't flinch. Then he felt the knives secreted in her jacket's sleeves.
The explosion of the gun momentarily deafened her. She was already in motion, dropping into a
crouch. A backfist knocked the gun from the leader's hand, and a karate blow to the head dropped him to
his knees. When the other man snatched up the flashlight and tried to brain her with it, the palm thrust
shattered his nose.
"Mind if I feel you up now?" she quipped, then drove her knee into his genitals. He dropped to the
floor, writhing in pain.
The guard finally kicked in the locked door. He raised his rifle to fire. Her hurled knife drove through
his eye to embed itself in his brain. He was dead before his body struck the floor.
The uproar alerted the balance of the cadre of terrorists. The leader was a large man in his fifties with a
swarthy complexion, bushy beard, and extremely poor vision. Her blow had shattered his glasses. He was
feeling about on the floor for his weapon. Steele seized him from behind and placed her other knife across
"What are the numbers in this facility?" She spoke calmly, but forcefully. She gestured at the man
who was still writhing on the floor. "Talk, or both of you will be singing soprano."
"Seven. I swear." As if on cue, two men in black berets and khakis stormed into the room with M-16's
in hand. Her human shield tensed. "D-Don't shoot. She'll kill me." In the hallway, the townspeople
continued to file from the auditorium, completely oblivious to the armed conflict. If her hostage was
telling the truth, only the guard at the outside gate and the announcer remained at large.
"Thank you for the movie, boys, but I shan't be staying for drinks. Now, if you'll kindly move aside,
your commander will live to tell the tale."
She started to drag her hostage toward the door, when a third man appeared in the doorway with
revolver drawn. Slick hair and trimmed mustache coupled with silk shirt and dress pants gave him the
look of a gentleman terrorist. The ugly scar that creased his cheek lent him a sinister look. Without a
word, he began firing. Her human shield shook from the impact. Three bullets tore into his chest. He fell
into a bloody pool at her feet, leaving her defenseless.
"Drop the knife. Now!" the killer demanded. It was the voice of the shadowy announcer. He was the
real leader, not the dead man at her feet. Her weapon clattered to the floor. "Take her to the interrogation
room. She will talk before she dies."
"Yes, Lord Rehman."
Steele was seized and roughly removed from the room by the two berets. The interrogation room was
a converted workshop. Steele was lifted onto a workbench. Her arms were pulled over her head and
bound to a wooden column. Then they jammed her ankles into vises on either side of the bench. The
vises were tightened until they drew blood. As she struggled, Elsa furtively pressed her head hard against
her shoulder, so hard that the earring's stem dug into her flesh before it snapped into depressed mode. A
machine bolted to the edge of the workbench loomed over her helpless form.
Rehman, the gentleman terrorist, set about his work, while the other two men were stationed by the
door. He slapped her repeatedly, tossing brunette hair about her face. Then, he turned his attention to the
machine that she now identified as a table saw. He flicked a switch. The circular blade hummed to life, its
jagged edge transforming into a smooth blur above her. Rehman balanced a brick lengthwise on her
throat. He reached for the handle, and levered the blade downward. The blade bit into the brick, forcing it
down hard on her windpipe. It started to choke her. She refused to cry out, but her mouth was forced
open by the pain. He leaned down close to her, placing his ear next to her lips.
"Tell me who sent you here, and I'll stop the pain." He pulled down on the lever, and she gasped for
air. Reddish-brown dust sprayed into her face. "Who sent you?" Her lips moved, but only a gurgle
escaped constrained vocal cords. He eased the tension. "Say again?"
"M-My husband... k-killed... I-I came... t-to avenge..."
A crooked smile twisted her tormentor's face. The injury that scarred his cheek had apparently
deadened the left side of his face.
Hard obsidian eyes finally betrayed a hint of emotion. The saw sliced easily through the brick, and it
fell away in halves, releasing the tension on her throat.
"You're John Steele's wife? How unfortunate for you. Your husband etched this scar with a sword
secreted in his cane. Now, Allah has granted me the opportunity to return the favour. It's a shame...
you're a beautiful woman."
He slid the blade directly over her face and locked it in place. Elsa moved her head to the side, as far
as her bonds would allow. Rehman's crooked smile returned as he lowered the blade until it tore into the
skin of her cheek, washing her face in a fine crimson spray.
The tracking device pulsed from its cradle on Grogan's handlebars. He gunned the engine, popping a
wheelie as he powered his Harley onto the highway. He sped towards Twilight to the intensifying sound
of the tracker.
Just outside of town, he skidded to a stop. He couldn't believe his eyes. An army of people had just
finished filing from the abandoned factory grounds. His homing device indicated that Steele was inside.
The squeal of tires alerted the lone guard. The perimeter alarm sounded. The guard hurried to swing the
gates closed, but Grogan was already on top of him. He roared through, kicking the guard aside, and tore
across the lot towards the building. Two soldiers in black berets appeared at the factory's entrance with
M-16's in hand. Distinctive arm bands marked them as Black Venom troops. Grogan veered away from
the spray of bullets, but one caught his arm and a couple pinged from his helmet. He slid the bike to a
stop, dove behind a storage shed, and flattened himself below its concrete foundation. Bullets ventilated
the shed's tin walls.
He checked the guard at the gate. He had recovered and was lining up Grogan in his rifle's scope.
Grogan rolled and fired. His .45 slug struck the scope dead centre, exploding the man's eye in a spray of
blood. The berets were more challenging targets, crouching as they were in the mouth of the brick
structure. He removed the HK69A1 grenade launcher from his backpack.
After ordering the two berets to investigate the alarm, Rehman returned to his work.
"Now, where were we? Ah yes. You told me you came to avenge your husband, but then our facility
is attacked by persons unknown. My first pass inflicted only a minor flesh wound... a hint of the pain to
come. You'd best cooperate, or the next cut will sever your facial muscles, inflicting permanent damage.
Who's attacking this facility?" The blade was lowered once again to within an inch of her bloodied face.
"Now, Mrs. Steele!"
"I don't know. Maybe you've offended someone with your atrocious social skills."
"Very well. If threats to your vanity are ignored. What about threats to your life?" He repositioned the
blade directly above her throat. Her eyes still flashed defiantly up at him. "You're a brave one. John
would be proud... if only he could remember you." Her eyes widened and the blade hesitated in its
descent. "That's right. He was my first guinea pig. I wiped out his memory and sent him undercover. My
success with him gave me the idea of creating an entire town of unsuspecting assassins. John was
programmed to kill Clinton, but Bill destroyed himself through public humiliation. One day, we'll call John
into active service again. Now, talk while you still have vocal cords, Mrs. Steele." He lowered the saw
blade so that it nicked at the soft whiteness of her throat. She shut her eyes. Salty tears stung her open
The explosion disrupted Rehman's sport. Through the doorway he could see the cloud of smoke and
powdered concrete sweeping into the building from the crushed entrance. The saw sprang back into rest
position, as he released it to race toward the hallway. A roar like a rabid lion echoed down the hall, and a
1200 c.c. Harley Sportster rocketed into the room. Rehman reached for his gun, but the hurtling machine
struck him full throttle, and carried him across the room. Elsa was screaming to Grogan, pleading for her
tormentor's life. Before he could interpret her cries, Rehman was crushed against the concrete wall with
such velocity that his head exploded.
Elsa Steele sat perched on Grogan's motorcycle in the factory's parking lot. A tactical team arrived to
secure the crime scene, while Grogan tended to her wounds.
"Are you sure John's still alive? Rehman could have just been yankin' yer chain."
"He was seconds away from separating my head from my shoulders, and he was deadly serious. He
meant for me to take the knowledge to my grave. I'll find him, Grogan... if it takes my entire fortune and
the rest of my life."
Grogan finished bandaging her wounds. "No permanent damage. Lucky, or we'd have babe watchers
committin' suicide in record numbers."
"You're an incorrigible sexist, old chum." Her wry smile returned. She swung astride the bike and
kick-started it on the first try. "You need a few lessons from the Elsa Steele Charm School for Men. Hop
aboard, Grogan, and I'll take you to your Jeep. Chauvinists in the rear."
Grogan was swinging into the seat behind her when she gave it full throttle. He hugged her
instinctively to steady himself. Brunette hair swept into his face intoxicating him with her essence.
He called into her ear over the rush of air. "You're one tough little lady, Elsa."
"That's Mrs. Steele. Now, I've got a husband to find."
"An' here I thought we were engaged."
The Harley rocketed into the early morning haze until it was naught but a dot on the horizon.
The End (for now)