Part 1 of The Lazarus Tremaine Saga
Boston Brand is trying to enjoy a day at the circus, away from the usual perils he deals with as Deadman, when an attempted kidnapping leads him to another living dead man.
Boston Brand flew over the crowd below. There was something about the circus that thrilled his blood. Well, that let his spirits soar was perhaps a better metaphor for a Deadman.
He smiled at the thought. Today he would take a day off from saving the world and enjoy the show.
Deadman settled in the upper part of the tent to watch the festivities below. The opening parade had started marching, making him wish for popcorn or a hot dog.
A woman crying drew his attention. Noticing she was frantically looking around, he descended to listen. Maybe he could work some of his own magic and clear whatever it was up. After all, it came with the turf of being Rama Kushna’s agent on Earth.
Brand hopped into a nearby elderly man to get specifics. “What’s the problem, hon?” Brand said through the old man.
“My Ricky is gone,” the lady said. “I only took my eyes off him for a second.”
“Stay here and stay calm,” said the ghostly hero as he left a bewildered mother and bystander behind.
Deadman started with the big top and worked his way outside to the midway. He flew through the tents and people at the high speed he was capable of as a ghost. Many unconsciously felt him or sensed his presence and shuddered as he passed.
Brand searched the circus grounds with phenomenal speed; the Flash had nothing on him when he wanted to really move. But he could see no little lost boy walking around by himself. He did see two men taking a crying little boy out to the parking lot, though. He hovered over them so that he could listen to them talk.
“Hush, Ricky,” one of the men finally said. “You’ll see your mom soon enough.”
“I want to see her now,” sobbed the boy.
“We have to go somewhere else first,” said the man smoothly. “Just like I said.”
“No, Daddy,” said Ricky. “I want Mommy now.”
Boston Brand nodded to himself as he made his decision. Slipping inside the other man as easily as a rock sinks into water, he let the little boy’s arm go. His other hand punched Ricky’s dad in the face. The man went down with a heavy thud.
“Ricky, your mother is waiting for you in the big tent,” Brand said through the man. “Go to her. She doesn’t know where you are.”
Ricky ran back toward the circus.
“You shouldn’t have done that, man,” Ricky’s dad said, pulling a pistol from his waistband.
Brand flew from his victim in the blink of an eye, straight into Ricky’s father. Dumping the bullets out of the pistol, he walked over and buried it under the trash in a bright red can.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said to the other kidnapper.
“You feelin’ all right?” the friend said. “What will Tremaine say when you don’t have your kid?”
“I’ll tell him the truth,” said Brand. “You let him go.”
The other looked around fearfully. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Does it look like I’m kidding?” Brand said in a gruff voice. “You let him go and punched me in the face when I tried to stop you.”
“That’s not what happened!” said the other kidnapper. “You can’t lay that on me.”
“You see this bruise on my face?” said Brand. “What do you think Tremaine is going to say? He isn’t going to believe you over this, unless you come up with something better than ‘I didn’t do it.'”
“Look, I don’t know what happened,” the first victim declared. “But I know I wouldn’t do that.”
Deadman pointed to the bruise with a smile. “Sure, you didn’t,” he said in his best imitation of Batman.
“Look,” said the other man. “Can’t we work something out?”
“You drive and talk,” said the possessing ghost. “I’ll listen, and if the story is good, maybe I’ll help you out of your pickle.”
“You have the keys,” said the other kidnapper.
“I know that, stupid,” said Brand, trying to cover his blunder. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a keyring. He tossed the ring over and let the man lead him to a minivan.
Boston Brand sat in the passenger seat of the minivan, and watched the miles go by. So far, the other man had been silent about the unexpected events at the circus.
“What are we going to tell Tremaine?” the kidnapper finally asked.
“I’m waiting for you to tell me,” said the ghost. “I want to see what kind of bull you come up with.”
“Can’t we just say we couldn’t get the kid?” asked the other man. Sweat rolled down his forehead. This Tremaine couldn’t be all that scary, could he?
“Sounds reasonable,” said Brand, trying to smile so the guy would relax. No need to have an accident before he met the mastermind of this mess.
“You’ll go along with me?” asked the kidnapper.
“Sure, as long as you watch your driving.”
“Are you OK?” asked the man suspiciously. “You don’t sound like yourself.”
“Just worried about what Tremaine will say when we show up without Ricky.”
The truck pulled off the highway, passed through some rural routes, then onto a dirt road. At the end of the road was a gate and a guard armed with a rifle.
Brand’s driver slowed down to a stop. He said the password, and the guard pulled the gate back out of the way. The driver pulled passed quietly. Tremaine still awaited.
Deadman followed his unknowing host into a house that had been converted to a bunker. Armed guards were everywhere. Brand tried to act casual as he looked around with his borrowed eyes.
One false move would get his patsy killed before Brand could get answers to his questions. He had to do his best was all. Rama would understand, or not.
Brand walked into the converted house. Barricades covered the windows, blocking out the sun. A bar slammed shut on the door as soon as he was inside. The man went toward the center of the house. Stairs were cut in the center of the floor, leading under the house.
Deadman descended into the darkness, wishing he knew what was going on. The cellar had a chair at one end. Torches burned on either side of the chair. Some kind of decoration had been carved into the floor. And the remnants of what had once been a living man sat on the chair.
Brand tried to hide his expression as the other man stepped forward to explain their failure.
Standing in the shadows, Brand quietly observed the proceedings. His unknowing ally in deception told their concocted tale nervously. Deadman closely watched the figure on the chair.
It appeared to be a skeleton with thin hair and strands of flesh hanging from its skull. A smoking jacket was belted around it. A bony finger tapped the arm of its chair as it listened to its underling.
The zombie stood up, looking angry at Brand. He raised one skeletal hand. A bright blue beam lanced into Deadman’s erstwhile partner. The man vanished into a stream of boiling blood and destroyed flesh.
“Step forward and tell the truth,” said Tremaine.
Brand stepped into the dim light.
“You are not Randall,” said Tremaine.
“Bye, now,” said Brand, ducking out of his host.
Deadman flew away from his host, and brilliant blue beams of light raced after him as he dodged and weaved. The militia men began to empty out of the room. He dropped into the last one, pulling at a grenade as he ran up the stairs. He could hear the zombie lumbering after him, and the crackle of energy.
The grenade came free from its belt. He made sure that the safety spoon was gone before tossing it under a shuttered window. Brand flew out of his host, letting the man make his way out of the building on his own.
Brand hovered in front of the boarded-up window. He didn’t know what he to expect as Tremaine lumbered up the stairs. A blue glow surrounded the man’s hands as his skeletal visage glared at the former acrobat.
“So, you turn to face your doom?” rattled the undead man.
“Not,” said Brand as the grenade went up.
A hole was blown in the wall. The sun mercilessly shone through the gap on both dead men.
Smoke began to roll up from Tremaine’s body in the light. Brand whistled silently as the other dead man caught fire in the otherwise darkened room.
“What have you done?” wailed the undead figure as he exploded into fiery fragments. The house caught fire immediately. Black smoke roiled into the air as Deadman flew off.
Boston Brand still had a circus to attend.