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Retribution

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*And the fourth wall suddenly disintegrates, blown apart by a lethal intellectual grenade* (Oh wait . . . does that mean my thoughts are as scattered as shrapnel? Probably, lol.)

Anyways, hi guys! Thanks for reading the random and somewhat intense stuff I’ve been posting. I appreciate the comments and feedback: it’s great to hear from y’all.

I have been thinking about expanding the story, developing the plot and characters and publishing a paperback version, probably around 200 pages, on Amazon. Is that something you’d be interested in buying?

Back to the story . . .

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Henry Foster’s 1969 Pontiac Firebird roared into Carthage, Missouri at ten forty-six PM. The vehicle wasn’t in prime cosmetic condition, but everything under the dented hood worked just fine. The trip normally took fifty minutes, and they’d made it in half an hour.

Henry shifted down into second gear as he pulled into the parking lot at the hospital, and the rumble subsided. “Here’s our stop, boys,” he said. “Do you want me to go inside and ask someone to bring a stretcher?”

Ivan grunted something that sounded amused. “I’ll carry him, Mr. Foster. It’s no problem.”

Henry shook his head in bewilderment. “Well, good for you, Ivan. You’re very spry for an older gentleman. But I wouldn’t push it if I were you.”

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” was the reply. “You never know whose face you’re looking at.” Ivan opened his door and gently lifted Jack out of the car.

The three of them crossed the parking lot. The electronic doors opened for them. Henry approached the receptionist and explained the situation in a low voice, and she made a call.

“A nurse will be here presently,” she told them. “Please feel free to take a seat in the lobby.” She motioned toward the side room. Nobody else was there at this time of night: there were plenty of extra seats. Hopefully that meant the wait would be short.

“I prefer to stand,” Ivan said. “The less I move him the better. I think he’s asleep right now.”

“Just because my eyes are closed doesn’t mean I’m asleep,” Jack grumbled.

The nurse made her appearance, pushing a gurney. “I’ll take him from here,” she told Ivan. “Please set him down as gently as you can.”

Ivan did as he was told, painstakingly maneuvering Jack onto the transport and trying not to aggravate his broken ribs.

Jack groaned, his face contorting. “Just get it over with, Molchalin. This is like being run over by a gigantic snail.”

“You’re pretty talkative for a guy with a shattered ribcage,” Ivan commented. “You really just want me to dump you on the stretcher all at once?”

“Whatever it takes. Just be quick.”

The nurse wrung her hands, biting her lip in sympathy for Jack. “You really shouldn’t have been the one carrying him. You have no experience with wounded people.”

“You’d be surprised,” he smirked. Then, turning to Jack he said, “Alright. This might be somewhat . . . ” He swiftly lowered Jack to the gurney.

Jack shouted something unintelligible that ended in a long groan.

“. . . painful,” Ivan finished. “Good job, buddy. You handled that very well.”

“Thank you for ending it,” Jack wheezed.

“Hire somebody else, next time,” the nurse said frostily.

Henry and Ivan shared a look as she wheeled him away. “What now?” Ivan said.

“I think I’ll head back to my house,” Henry said. “I don’t know if there’s anything else I can do here.”

“Thank you for everything.”

Henry offered a tired smile. “Hope he mends quickly.” They shook hands.

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The next morning, Guy Harmon stumbled into Rocky Comfort, Missouri. The wounds in his chest had scabbed over, but the shrapnel was still embedded in his flesh. One of his arms wasn’t responding properly, and he guessed he also had something in his shoulder. That was the main one he was worried about.

He entered a gas station building and asked for a recommendation on a doctor. The name Garret Thatcher was suggested, and an address given. It was only a few blocks away, so he decided to walk.

He’d learned from many other wounds that if he didn’t keep mobile, it would be far harder to get moving again after sitting down.

As he entered the small office, he briefly wondered how long it would take for him to get back on his feet.

He had business to attend to, and the longer he waited, the longer it would take him to track Ivan Molchalin down and exterminate him.

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Chaos V

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Written by Carter Pierce

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“You boys gotta see a doctor or something,” Henry Foster told them. “Y’all look terrible.”

They were all in the living room, Jack Raummi lying on the couch, asleep, and Ivan sitting on a stool with a warm cup of coffee in his hands. Henry had invited them in and told them to make themselves at home. Ivan had not been about to decline the invitation. “Where is the nearest doctor?”

Henry pursed his lips, counting on his fingers. “Well . . . there’s a good one who lives 45 minutes away from here. We have a few local guys, but they don’t mend bones.”

Ivan responded without hesitation. “Then we’ll need a car. The bike is out of gas, and it’s not even ours.”

“Who’s is it?”

“No idea. The guy who had it before us stole it.”

“That could present some problems,” Henry frowned, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “I’m liking this situation less and less.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll find the owner eventually. But that doesn’t solve the problem of transport. You guys don’t have a city bus or anything around these parts, do you?”

Henry shook his head. “I’m afraid not. I’ll just take you in my car. It’s the fastest way.”

Ivan raised his eyebrows, vaguely surprised. “Well, uh, thank you. But you don’t even know us. Why would you do this?”

Henry smirked. “Southern hospitality, buddy. In little towns like Rocky Comfort, people always have each other’s backs. It always comes around. But we’ll have to go soon: the longer your friend waits for medical attention, the worse his condition will become. We need to get those bones set, pronto.”

Ivan looked out the window skeptically. “It’s already dark. I’m sure Mr. Raummi wouldn’t want to inconvenience you like this.”

“Raummi?” Henry asked. A strange look entered his eyes.

“Yes. His name’s Jack Raummi. I’m Ivan Molchalin.”

Henry stood, taking a coat from a hook and putting it on. “We’d best be off right away. I’ll go start the car; y’all follow at your own pace. Wake him up.”

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Guy Harmon coughed as cold air entered his lungs. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d drawn breath.

His chest was in severe pain.

He stood slowly, supporting himself against a tree. His shirt was stuck to his skin. He reached up, feeling the shrapnel protruding, and winced. At least the bleeding had stopped.

He’d have to get some medical attention. He knew there was no way he could mend himself. Ivan’s bomb had really messed him up.

Ivan was going to pay dearly. Both for the gambling debt and the wounds.

Guy Harmon smiled a nasty, crooked smile, as he imagined the torment he would inflict on the man he was beginning to consider his mortal enemy.

End of the CHAOS mini-series.

Keep an eye out for the next mini-series with Molchalin and Raummi: RETRIBUTION.

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Chaos IV

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Henry Foster was in no way related to the goings on concerning Ivan Molchalin and Jack Raummi. He was just another guy, somewhere in the world, minding his own business. He was the CEO of a small, local bank in Missouri.

And until the plane crash, he’d been having a great day. He was hosting a business conference scheduled for the next afternoon. Other smalltime bankers were coming from various states: Josh Rollon from Georgia, Hank Cecil from Texas, Jack Raummi from Wyoming, and Liz Garfield from North Carolina.

They were thinking about joining forces in a business venture. A quite promising venture at that. But the plane crash had ruined everything in a matter of minutes.

Jack Raummi’s flight, out of the air. An acquaintance dead. An amazing business venture down the drain.

No survivors, the news reporter had said. They only had helicopter footage but were sending in a ground squad and a rescue team. They didn’t have much information.

Henry kept a close eye on the television, just in case. But for several hours, it hadn’t been any use. No more updates. No new information.

It was getting late.

A motorcycle rumbled down the street outside his house.

He barely looked up.

In the little town of Rocky Comfort, people minded their own business.

The motorcycle rumbled away. Then it came back. Somebody was joyriding.

Not him. He wasn’t joy-anything-ing today.

Then it stopped. Right in his driveway. He looked up.

There was a knock at his door. A voice shouting, “Hey! Anybody home? We need help!”

He went to the door and opened it, staring across the threshold at two mud-besmeared, scratched, scraped, bloody guys in suits that had once been worth looking at.

“What’s goin’ on? Who are you guys?”

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Chaos III

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Ivan whirled about.

Sure enough, someone was standing behind him. The man was large: tall and thickly built, with scars covering his face. There was an unpleasant glint in his black eyes; something murderous. Something gleeful.

He was wearing a black trench-coat that reached his feet. The collar was flipped up, but the front was open, exposing a dark grey turtleneck shirt and blue jeans.

“I’ve been looking for you, Mr. Molchalin,” he said quietly. But he wasn’t looking at Ivan. He was looking at Jack. “But it seems like someone else has beaten me to you.”

He stepped forward, coming slowly, like an animal of prey closing in, freezing its quarry’s mind with sheer terror.

Except there wasn’t much terror going on. Jack was smirking, trying not to laugh. Ivan was just confused.

“You really know your stuff, big guy,” Jack said. “I’m sure I look exactly like the boy Dmitri you killed so long ago.”

Guy Harmon paused, curtailing his penultimate step, and halting a few feet from the pair of them. “Explain yourself.”

“I’d rather not.”

Ivan stood up with a sigh. “Who are you, bud? What do you want with Molchalin?”

“He owes me a debt. A rather large one.”

Ivan crossed his arms, tilting his head to one side in annoyance. “You didn’t answer my first question.”

“People like me often do not answer that sort of question.”

“My mistake.”

Guy smirked haughtily. “And who are you, if I may ask?”

“People like me don’t normally answer questions posed by people like you.”

“Very well. Perhaps a touch of steel will loosen your tongue.” He pulled a long, wicked-looking knife from his belt.

Ivan’s eye’s widened almost imperceptibly. “You work at Razerr Industries, don’t you?”

Again, Guy Harmon paused, unsure of himself. “How’d you know that?”

Ivan gestured toward the knife. “That’s Henry Farris’s design, a prototype. It hasn’t been put into production yet. They’ve been trying to get a permit for the length of the blade for six years.”

“You really know your stuff, old man.” A look of vague curiosity crossed the villain’s features.

“I’m not as old as I look, friend. Trust me.” Ivan fingered the lump on his nose that he wasn’t quite used to. It had bothered him when he’d been wearing his thick-lensed glasses . . . but he’d lost his glasses during the fall from the plane. Now it was hardly noticeable. “In fact, you should never judge a man by his face, because you never know for sure if it’s his real one.”

Guy lunged forward, grabbing Ivan’s wrist and yanking him around so that his arm was pinned painfully behind his back. “Answer my question,” he hissed in Ivan’s ear. “Or you will feel this blade in your side.”

“I could easily answer your question. Very easily.” Ivan was slowly fingering a string hanging down the middle of his back. “But I don’t know if you would have time to listen.”

“I’ve got nowhere to be.”

Ivan feigned a sigh. “Well, let me go. We’ll sit down and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

Guy’s grip lessened just a little.

It was all Ivan needed. He gripped the string firmly and yanked. Plastic shrapnel exploded through the back of his suitcoat, hurling him forward and plunging into Guy’s chest at the same time. Blood went everywhere.

Ivan slowly got up off the ground, wincing. He’d never used that particular weapon before. It was more painful than he’d thought it would be. He turned to Guy, who was lying on his back in the leaves. The front of his grey turtleneck shirt was shredded and soaked in blood. His face was pale.

But his eyes were open.

“Never mess with the owner of a weapons manufacturer,” Ivan told him. “It doesn’t work out well. Especially when you’re they guy who killed his brother.” He knelt beside Jack. “We’re getting out of here,” he whispered. “Sorry about the ribs. Try to bear it.”

“Did you kill him?”

“No. But we’re going to strand him. He can find his way out when he wraps himself up. We need to get you medical attention.”

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Chaos II

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Written by Carter Pierce

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It only took a few minutes for Ivan to realize that staying where they were wasn’t very productive. Jack was hurt, and they had no food. No way to stay alive for any extended period of time in the middle of a forest.

They’d have to move, sooner or later. They’d have to find a town.

Ivan turned to his brother’s killer. “You know, we can’t stay here forever.”

“You look old.”

Ivan was silent.

Nothing more was forthcoming. Ivan awkwardly replied: “You look bloody.”

Jack didn’t crack a smile. At least not any more than it already was. After a while he said, “What’s your name?”

“Ivan. Ivan Molchalin.”

“Rings a bell.”

I wonder why, Ivan thought. I’ve stayed under cover pretty well for years. Out loud he said, “Molchalin was the name of a pretty prominent software salesman based out of Denver . . . maybe you knew him?”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “Yeah. Maybe that was it.”

Ivan was growling inside. But he didn’t show it. “Are you a salesman or something yourself? Your suit used to be something worth looking at.”

“Banker,” he said laconically. “You?”

Ivan was at a loss for words. At last he said, “I technically run a weapons factory in Montana. But I’m rarely there. I dedicated the last several years of my life to hunting down the man who killed my brother.”

“Your brother was killed?” This seemed to pique Jack’s interest. “Who did it?”

Ivan really did growl this time. He wasn’t feeling very merciful at the moment. His fingers were itching to get around the wretched man’s throat. But he disguised the growl in a cough. Maybe Jack would expose himself. Then he’d really deserve the punishment he had coming. “Uh, I don’t really know.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Ivan gave him a sidelong glance. Doubt formed in his mind for the first time in years. “Never mind. It doesn’t bother me anymore,” he lied. “It’s been a long time.”

There was a silence between them that wasn’t quite awkward. At last Jack said, “Do you mind my asking how he died?”

“Knifed to death in an alley at night.”

Jack stared at him. His mouth dropped open. His next question came in a whisper. “Where?”

Ivan felt a sneer curling his lip but refused to let it show. Either this man was an extremely good liar, or he was actually being genuine. “Pinedale, Wyoming. Across the street from a cowboy shop of some kind. After 10:30 pm. Why do you ask?”

“Because . . . I was there.”

No slip, Sherlock, he thought. “How do you mean?”

“I tried to help him. I saw the man who did it: he got away scot-free.”

“What did he look like?” Tall, lean . . . wearing a nice suit? Maybe with the name RAUMMI, JACK engraved on a metal nameplate on his coat?

“Like . . . like that,” Jack said. He raised one hand weakly, pointing over Ivan’s shoulder. “Just like the man that’s standing behind you.”

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Chaos

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Ivan Molchalin’s thoughts whirled as he slowly regained consciousness. It was dark outside. He was freezing. His brother’s murderer had gotten away.

He tried to move his legs. They wouldn’t respond. They were stuck. Mud?

And then it all came back. He’d jumped out of the airplane after Jack Raummi. He’d hit a bunch of trees on the way down. They’d slowed his fall somewhat, but not nearly enough; he’d hit the bog hard. It’d felt like concrete. The plane had crashed. He’d heard it.

He wondered how many people he’d inadvertently killed.

He hadn’t wanted to murder anyone.

He just wanted to avenge his brother.

A sick feeling overpowered him. He was a killer. He had the blood of dozens of people on his hands now. Before, he hadn’t thought it’d be so bad. Before, he had but one initiative. Now, he realized something. He’d taken something very important from all the families of the people on the plane. They’d never see their loved ones again.

He’d become a worse rendition of the man he was trying to eliminate.

And Jack Raummi was still at large. The real killer. The intentional killer. The cold-blooded killer.

Ivan knew what he had to do: Jack Raummi had to either be thrown in prison, or else removed from this world in the other, less pleasant way.

Whatever it was, he couldn’t be left to slaughter more innocent people while Ivan stood by and did nothing.

He groaned as he stood up. The plane had crashed sometime around noon: he must have been lying there for several hours. His muscles were stiff and cold: the mud hadn’t helped his cause. Something was slithering across his foot. He shook it off.

As he rose, he reached out and grabbed in the dark for something to hold onto, finding a protruding branch. He hauled himself into a standing position and rested there for a few minutes. His head felt light. He was still sick to his stomach.

Eventually the sickness lessened, and he was able to move forward. The forest slowly enveloped him.

For hours he trudged on, stopping often, gasping for breath, waiting for his lightheadedness to subside before stumbling forward a few more steps.

Just as dawn began to break, off to his left, he stumbled over something. At first he thought it was a log, but then he realized it wasn’t hard enough.

It was a body.

Someone from the plane.

He knelt down beside the man, rolling him over so he could see him.

Covered in blood, scratched and scraped from the trees, Jack Raummi’s face was a terrible sight. His nose was broken. His lower lip was split, and he had a black eye.

But he was alive. Ivan’s first thought was to end it right then and there, to kill him. Mercilessly.

But he was no cold-blooded killer. Deep down inside, he knew he couldn’t deliberately take another life. The first time had been accidental.

Never again.

He gently ran his hands over Jack’s body, checking for broken bones. There were quite a few. His back was still in pretty good shape, maybe bruised and tweaked a little. But several of his ribs were cracked, and his left shoulder was dislocated.

Ivan rolled him onto his back. No use letting the man’s full body-weight rest on a shattered ribcage. He scooped a pile of fallen leaves under Jack’s head as a makeshift pillow.

Then Jack Raummi’s eyes fluttered open for a moment. By now the sun was almost up, golden light slanting down through the morning mist and the leaves. Ivan saw the movement clearly.

The fallen man murmured something unintelligible.

Ivan leaned closer, putting a hand to his ear.

Jack tried again, forcing syllables out between chipped and bloodied teeth. “Pleased . . . to meet ya.”

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Diabolical V

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Written by Carter Pierce

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When Dmitri Molchalin opened his eyes, he was staring up into a familiar face, but it wasn’t Jack Raummi’s.

It was his brother’s.

“Ivan?” he whispered. His tongue felt dry, and the name came out sounding harsh and raspy.

Ivan knelt beside him, a concerned look on his face. “What happened to you, buddy? How do you know my name?”

Dmitri coughed, trying to form words. “Brother. I’ve seen . . . pictures. I’m Dmitri.” He tried to raise his hand to shake Ivan’s, but his body wouldn’t respond. His arm remained motionless. He groaned.

Ivan gulped visibly. “Dmitri? What happened?”

“I . . . was stabbed . . . .” Dmitri felt his eyes drooping against his will. He couldn’t keep them open any longer.

“I’m going to get help,” Ivan told him. “I just found you again. I’m not going to lose you.” He stood swiftly, preparing to head off down the alley toward the main street. But Dmitri whispered something, and he knelt back down. “What did you say?”

“. . . Jack . . . Raummi,” Dmitri choked. It was the last thing he said.

Ivan watched as Dmitri’s body went completely still. The shallow breathing stopped, the rising and falling of his breast gradually ceased. Ivan checked his brother’s pulse, but there was no sign of life. Dmitri’s hands were already going stiff. His face was pale and cold.

His brows knit in anger, and he stood slowly. Whoever had done this was going to pay.

He picked up his brother’s body, carrying it down the alley to his rental car. He’d deal with any stained seats later. For now, Dmitri needed a proper burial.

Then he’d start tracking down the guy who’d killed him . . . Jack Raummi, had he said? It would be no use telling the police. They wouldn’t kill the guy. He’d handle the situation himself.

It was probably the guy who’d been running down the street a minute ago: the one that had alerted him to the fact that something was going on in the dark alleyway.

He’d track him down, sooner or later, and then he’d deal justice. He didn’t care how long it took: Jack Raummi had stolen his long-lost brother from him, and he was going to pay.

In the worst way he could think of.

End of the DIABOLICAL mini-series.

Keep an eye out for the next mini-series with Molchalin and Raummi: CHAOS.

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Diabolical IV

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Dmitri Molchalin was growing frightened. He’d been more than a little ticked off before, perhaps indignant. This thug was interrupting his night, and he was in a hurry.

But when the gunshot failed to scare off the attacker, he grew unsettled. “What do you want from me? I don’t have any money.”

Guy Harmon growled in his ear, barely above a whisper. His scruffy beard scratched against Dmitri’s cheek. “Oh yes you do. Remember Russia? You have my money, and I want it back.”

“I haven’t been in Russia since I was four years old! I don’t even speak Russian. What are you talking about?”

“At the casino. Three million. Don’t tell me you don’t remember, you pasty-faced slacker!”

“I don’t gamble,” Dmitri retorted indignantly. “And for the record, I’m not a slacker, and my face isn’t pasty.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it’s not!”

“We aren’t arguing about this. Give me my money.”

“I told you, I don’t have it.”

Guy ripped the revolver from Dmitri’s hand, and hit him over the head with the butt, hard. Dmitri gave a cry of pain, stumbling backward. “You’ll regret this eventually, you know!”

“I never regret hurting people. Where’s the money? In the briefcase?”

Dmitri practically threw the case at him. “Go ahead: look inside. There’s nothing.”

Guy rattled the fastenings with one hand. “It’s locked.”

Dmitri was already pulling a key card out of his pocket. He handed it to him.

Guy stuffed the key into his pocket.

“I’ll need that back,” Dmitri said. “It’s my only form of identification.”

“All the better. The police will have a harder time figuring out who you are after you’re dead.”

Dmitri paled.

Guy smirked. “Hey look. You’re pasty, my boy. I win all the arguments. Remember that.” He drew a long, wicked-looking knife and stabbed him. Not in the heart: that would have been too fast.

Dmitri gasped, his mouth wide open, his eyes staring. He sank slowly to the ground.

Guy smiled benevolently, following his movements with the still-embedded blade. “Don’t worry. It’ll only take a few minutes for you to bleed out. I’ll stay here with you. I will make you a deal: if you’ll tell me where I can find my three million, I’ll patch you up and let you live.” He dangled a long piece of cloth in front of Dmitri’s nose. “How’s that?” He wrenched the knife free. A dark stain grew in the middle of Dmitri’s white shirt.

Dmitri sagged further toward the ground, trying to support himself on one elbow while his other hand pressed into the wound to staunch the bleeding.

Suddenly Guy’s attention was drawn to the main road. There was a figure standing in the entrance to the alley. Dmitri saw him, too. Guy snatched up the briefcase and the revolver, and raced off into the dark.

There was a shout from the unidentified figure as he moved forward. “Stop, thief! What’s going on here?”

“Could I get some help?” Dmitri asked, sounding as brave as he could. Inside, he knew he wasn’t going to make it. But it was worth a shot.

The stranger moved quickly, covering the distance in a few long strides. He knelt at Dmitri’s side. “What happened?”

Dmitri tried to explain, but his brain was growing foggy from loss of blood. His heart was racing to compensate, pumping it out through his chest all the more quickly. “I . . . ” he panted, “I . . . was attacked . . . I need help . . . he stabbed me.”

“Oh dear.” The man seemed flummoxed. “I, I uh, I’m terrible with blood. I’ll get help.” He stood, turned, then turned back. “What’s the name I should give them?”

“Dmitri,” Dmitri whispered. His vision was going black. He felt very cold. “And who are you?”

“Jack Raummi. I’ll be right back.”

“Pleasure . . . to make your acquaintance . . . Jack,” he said. Then he coughed. Blood spilled over his bottom lip, making another stain on his white shirt.

Jack’s footsteps were already racing away.

Hopefully to get help.

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Diabolical III

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Dmitri Molchalin had been flown to America when he was four years old, and immediately began his education. It was all thanks to his eccentric Uncle Barnabas, whom everyone called ‘Bonkers Barny.’ Barny was very old, had no family, and was quite rich. He was also quite lonely. He’d convinced Mr. and Mrs. Molchalin to allow him to give their youngest son a good American education, in return for nothing but the boy’s company.

It took much convincing, but Barny won in the end. Dmitri’s parents had come with him to America, and returned the next month after seeing him properly settled into his new estates. Barny had begun Dmitri’s education without further ado, hiring private tutors from all over the globe. Dmitri had learned quickly. By the age of nine he spoke fluent English without an accent, was conversant in French, German, Spanish, and Chinese. He was wonderful with figures.

In short, Dmitri was a boy genius. His parents would have been proud of him. But they never knew: Barny seldom responded to their letters, and when he did, he didn’t fully let on how well their boy was doing in school. Dmitri was allowed to add his own excerpts to the reply letters, but dared not brag about his own achievements. As far as he knew he was doing exactly what was required of him and no more. He had no peers to compare to.

When Dmitri turned thirteen, Uncle Barny sent him to an elite boarding school for boys, where he was to learn new subjects which had not been in his erstwhile curriculum. Science, social studies, anatomy, art, and music. He excelled in them all. His tutors were impressed. They recommended that Barny send him to college.

And Barny did.

Dmitri was sent to the most prestigious college in the country when he was sixteen.

Barny tried to convince him to become a lawyer. Most of his professors did as well.

But Dmitri had other ideas. He was interested in technology. He was fascinated by the way it worked. And he was brilliant. Everyone knew he’d get whatever job he wanted.

He chose a software company in Colorado. He started mopping floors. Then an offhand comment about the way a computer booted up impressed a co-worker, and the next week he was promoted to answering the phone. The managers quickly saw how much he knew, and how fast he learned.

He was promoted again.

And again.

And again.

By the time he was twenty he was working in the sales department, making good wages, great royalties, and astounding bonuses. He was sent on business trips. People liked him. They bought things from him.

And he was offered another promotion.

They wanted him to be a manager.

He declined.

Dmitri loved working in sales. He couldn’t stand sitting behind a desk all day: answering the phone had taught him that. He liked seeing new places and talking to new people. So he stayed in sales and got a raise instead.

Uncle Barny encouraged him to get a gun. Wealthy men were often attacked by thugs looking for money. With Barny’s persuasive skills, it didn’t take long. Barny funded the weapon as well as the training and permit for concealed carry.

But Dmitri never fired it in self-defense: he was a peacemaker. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. But he liked waving the thing around. It gave him confidence, and it scared off the thugs that Barny had predicted.

All except one.

Guy Harmon hadn’t batted an eyelash.

So Dmitri fired the gun. Not at Harmon, but at the ground.

And the gunshot caught the attention of a middle-aged banker walking home from work late that night: a small-time banker who worked at the First Bank of Wyoming in Pinedale.

A banker whose name was Jack Raummi.

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com

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Diabolical II

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Written by Carter Pierce

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Guy Harmon arrived in Pinedale a little after 10 pm. The air was still warm from the long, hot day, but it wasn’t quite stifling, even in his black trench coat.

He stood on the sidewalk under a streetlamp, appearing inconspicuous, acting just like the other people he saw. Some were travelers waiting for the bus to make its stop. Others were locals exiting restaurants or closing their business doors for the night.

There was a quaint little store across the street called the Cowboy Shop. The windows were dark. Behind him there was a lawyer’s office with a wooden sign hanging above the door reading “WM. H. TWICHELL ATTOURNEY.” Those windows were also dark. The Mexican restaurant just down the road was still open, but people were leaving.

Pretty soon all the big businesses would be closed for the night. He’d still have to deal with saloons and night clubs, if there were any night clubs in this little town, but the people who frequented them were not likely to bat an eyelash if they heard a scream in the night.

He checked his watch.

The bus would be here any minute.

And on it, probably looking for a hotel room for the night, would be a young man by the name of Dmitri Molchalin. Wanting to get some sleep before his big day tomorrow. His information from the police department said Molchalin had a meeting where he was supposed to sell some wares. He worked for a big company in Denver. Software or something. Harmon hadn’t paid attention to those details. He didn’t need them.

The bus was exactly twelve minutes and three seconds late to the moment it came to a complete stop at the curb. Tired passengers offloaded, and new ones got on. Guy Harmon picked out the few wearing suits and carrying briefcases, and quickly checked three of them off his list. One was a woman, and the other two were men in their fifties. Molchalin had been a young man. Even after several years he wouldn’t pass for fifty.

That left two possible matches. One went right, and the other went left.

Harmon bit his lip. He’d have to take make a gamble. Something he wasn’t exactly known for doing well.

The guy who’d gone right was wearing a dark blue suit, carrying a black briefcase. The briefcase didn’t have any lettering on it. He had short black hair, a nondescript face.

The guy who’d gone left was walking quickly, vanishing into darkness past the streetlamp. Harmon couldn’t tell if his suit was grey or white. The briefcase had a few letters printed on the side. The word apart, maybe. That triggered a memory. it was Molchalin alright. Harmon recalled the name of the company he worked for: it was Appit. Mobile app development, whatever that meant. Harmon wasn’t exactly up to date on modern technology.

But he didn’t give himself time to think about it: he was already walking after the guy, his long strides eating up the distance. Soon he was right behind him.

Silent.

Like a hunting wolf.

He grabbed the young man’s arm, turning him violently into an alleyway. “Let’s stop here for a moment, friend.”

Dmitri Molchalin whirled about, dropping the briefcase and plunging his free hand swiftly beneath his suit jacket. He whipped out a small revolver. “Let me alone.”

“Or what, you’ll shoot me?” Guy’s lip curled in distain. He didn’t release his grip on the young salesman but dragged him sideways into the alleyway.

He never saw Molchalin pull the trigger.

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Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved

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~Reflectionsofrenaissance.com