Chapter One:

There was drifting.

In a hospital, three miles down a long stretch of road that cut through the city, a baby was born. He was forced out of a pain riddled woman after his nine month lease was up. With the woman, there was a man. She held his hand lightly at first. Now, his hand suffered the worst of this woman’s birth pains as he repeatedly yelled, “Calm down, woman. Just push.”

The woman pushed and pushed until she felt the child’s head forcefully exit her birth canal allowing her a small reprieve from the pain of child-birth. It was this small victory that made her forget what this child meant to the dark and morally crippled family who had long awaited his arrival. It was with great happiness that this woman, long ago, married this man. As time passed, her happiness grew into an overwhelming sadness. Later, when she found out she was pregnant, it became unadulterated hate. The past she wanted to leave and the future she found herself trapped in, met to force her hand.

His birth marked the first of many penances left to pay, for the deeds of his father and the sins of his mother. His life was a gift unwillingly snatched from Death. When the child was grabbed by the doctor and lightly spanked the pain of his first breath made him cry. One would expect a smile as the child’s lungs filled with air. Instead, the boy’s death was immediately welcomed before the curse his life would bring. He was seen as nothing more than a disruption that would become a nuisance, if not properly managed. It was when the guests left the cramped birthing room that the boy’s mother reacted.

Her throat tightened as she held the boy. Her eyes filled with angry tears. She hated herself for giving birth to this small defenseless creature. What really aggravated her was the fact that this child wanted to depend on her and be protected by her. Who did he think he was to take the small bit of freedom she had left? It was then she realized, unwanted as he was, he was hers.

She pushed the child into a nurse’s arms with a disgusted look on her face. At that moment, the boy felt the first seeds of fierce cruelty take root as he was carelessly handled by the woman. The boy’s father had witnessed the exchange between reluctant mother and innocent child. He saw the frigid emptiness with which the woman had held the child and knew she had no intention of being a mother. His wife’s cold dark eyes confirmed his suspicions, leaving behind a sad impression that would continue to haunt his memories.

The tiny crying child wiggled in the nurse’s hands. He whimpered opening his eyes to the brightness of the world. That small gesture made the nurse hold the child tight as she cautiously walked to the door. Glancing back at the baby’s mother it became clear (to the nurse) that she had no intention of caring for her bruised newborn. Instead, the nurse saw a look of hurt and betrayal. Looking down at the small reddened mass she held in her arms she hoped he would never know that his mother wished he was dead; a stillborn child waiting to be buried.

The nurse left the room in silence as she walked away with the boy who had arrived into the world like some bandit Jesus. She made her way down the long hall to the nursery slowly rocking the child. She stared at the baby in her arms, wondering what could make a mother react so badly. Arriving at the nursery window, she stopped. Her eyes moved to the babies in their temporary cribs waiting to be taken home. Then back to the child in her arms. Standing by the door to the nursery, she hugged the boy. The nameless child opened his eyes again. She looked at the baby and whispered, “Gift.” She paused and smiled at the baby before adding, “You’re a beautiful gift.”

The baby closed his eyes and settled in the nurse’s arms. The nurse continued to rock the baby as she walked into the nursery. She placed him in a small crib labeled “Vassago”. The nurse left and the baby drifted off to sleep.

Two days quickly passed for the boy’s mother. All the while, the boy’s father observed. He saw the woman hold the child with immense irritation. Displeasure twisted her face. Her cold stare passed over the child. The boy’s father felt the tension. He watched the woman hand the boy off to a nurse as soon as he was done with a feeding. Walking away, the nurse looked back catching a glimpse of the woman’s eyes, which only confirmed the distance she would always keep. As the nurse left the room, feeling sorry for the tiny child, she asked what his name would be. The mother turned to the nurse and said: “Why should I give that thing a name? It’s nothing but a curse.”

The next day another nurse returned asking the woman to name the child. The woman flatly refused. She woman simply responded that this child was nothing to her. She despised the child. She knew the nurses called the boy “Gift” for lack of any other name. This only strengthened her resolve; she would NOT name the boy. When her husband sat beside her soliciting a name, she would not waver. “I want nothing to do with that thing,” she said in a voice lined with disgust as she pointed to the child.

The boy’s father then spoke to the nurses hoping to ease the tension caused by his wife’s refusal to name the boy: “Choose a name, ladies. One that will become synonymous with strength and power. Remember that the chosen name must fit. Keep in mind our last name, Vassago.”

That night, the nurses buzzed with excitement as they headed home. Each nurse chose a name that seemed fit for the boy. The next day, fifty-three names were dropped into a large dark jar. At noon, the jar was brought to the boy’s father. He shook the jar and put it down. The nurses waited. Some held hands. Others looked around. Only two looked down. The man pulled out a white slip of paper with crumpled edges.

“Thank you all for your suggestions,” he said with a slight toothless smile on his lips. He unfolded the piece of paper to announce the boy’s name, “Doren. Doren Vassago.” His voice was deep and low as it penetrated the light atmosphere in the room and darkened it. “Thank you all again,” he added.

The nurses could feel something different in the room after the announcement but none dared speak. The boy had suffered enough so far. To say there was something unsettling in the room would be too much. They clapped once a name had been chosen. Then left after holding Doren and receiving the father’s thank yous. None looked back or talked about the presence they felt that day. They all simply wondered if anyone else had felt the awkward chill down their spine or the goose bumps on their body.

Chapter Two:

Nearly endless drifting.

Years passed and the boy had grown. At fourteen he was caught somewhere between being a boy and a man. Not old enough to flee or fight back but still too old to do anything and get away with it.

His mother, on the other hand, instinctively shunned him. She started to do so after leaving the hospital by filing for a death certificate, ignoring the fact that Doren was alive. Not long after this she erected a grave bearing his name. The grave was marked by the figure of a fallen angel with a cross piercing its heart.

Every year on Doren’s birthday, she would sit in front of the dying angel cutting into her wrist with the sharp dagger-shaped cross on her rosary. Then, she would smear the blood on the angel’s heart. Patiently, she would flip her lighter open and heat the silver cross. Her hands would shake as the cross became hot.

Her mind would wander causing her eyes to glaze over until the cross burned her fingers. Then, when the cross was hot enough to melt flesh, she would press it to her broken skin cauterizing and scarring the place where the small cuts used to be.

As the pain subsided, she would watch the blood drip down to Doren’s name. Her eyes closely followed the trail of blood as a small haunting smile crept across her face. Then, she would suddenly stir. As if awakened from a dream, she always stood up and walked away a cold stare, unfeeling and uncaring.

Instead it was his father, Don Vassago who taught him everything. If only he hadn’t done so through power driven absolutism, Doren would live guilt-free. Of course, life never follows that kind of course. What actually happens is nothing like what anyone else imagines.

Any father would be all too proud to have a son. But Doren’s father, didn’t care about the child’s gender. His only concern was in relation to whether or not Doren could do as asked without question. In order to achieve this he forced Doren to live with the constant threat of death if he ever failed.

Of all the things to tell a son, Doren’s father reminded him of this the most: “Every man fears his own kind of death. Every boy fears all deaths and dying. When you come to kill me one day, I won’t be afraid. But be reminded that you’re a boy and I am a man. When I fight, I won’t hold back. I will look you in the eyes and take your life back.”

These words and many other actions made the “Gift” become cruel. He learned to suffer, knowing only the harshness imposed on him by the act being alive; not even living. Through this suffering he understood that very few choices were his to make.

At the same time, the boy grew into a tall young man with thick black hair and sad brown eyes. His skin was the color of olives lightly dusted with cinnamon. His body was trim and fairly muscular with a square hairless face and a pronounced jaw. His hands were large with clean, trimmed nails and thick callouses on his palms.

He wasn’t the type to care about looks but his father made it clear that looks and power go hand in hand. The Don could not look like a common thug and neither could his son. As the Don’s Trigger, he needed to be swift, clear, and unwavering. All who crossed him needed to know the price they were to pay. It was on Doren’s sixth birthday that his father set out to turn him into a cold blooded young man.

After explaining the worth of Doren’s life with one simple word; nothing. The true nature of the man became clear. He was as much a father as a business man making an investment. In Doren, he found the perfect one. And so on the morning of Doren’s sixth birthday as the sun slowly leaked into his room, he was pulled out of bed.

His father stood over him, looking down with a sinister smile. His gold tooth, a canine, was barely visible as he pulled Doren up by his hair and yelled: “Stand up, you piece of shit. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Doren looked up at the father he once, mistakenly admired. “What’s going on,” Doren asked in a low sleepy voice. He closed his eyes rubbing them hard with the back of his small hands. “Get moving!” His father pushed him forward.

Doren trudged forward in compliance, followed by his father barely two steps behind. There was no way for him to know that his family was unlike everyone else. They weren’t concerned with Doren, just his purpose. And so the day began with Doren’s father shoving him into the bathroom, turning on the cold water and pushing him under the shower head.

Cold, wet and thoroughly confused, Doren turned to his father, “Why?”

“It’s so you know your place. Your life is mine to do with as I please,” he replied with a wry laugh. “You’re my bullet, my shield and my gun. Got it?”

“What,” Doren cringed. His simple question hung in the air and thickened the tension. Doren’s father pulled him out of the shower and pushed him out of the bathroom. “Let’s go,” his father growled. “Move it!”

Doren reluctantly walked down the hall. He could feel the cold tile sucking away the small amount of heat he was able to conserve through feet. He shivered and sneezed. In response to Doren’s very natural reaction, Don Vassago grabbed Doren’s shoulder, turned him around and smacked him with the backside of his hand. Doren put his hand up to his cheek. The sting made him feel like crying but he held back.

He refused to cry in front of his father, especially now. It was not the time to cry or show weakness. There was no telling what his father would do. The one thing that was certain was that it would be bad.

Lost in his thoughts, Doren didn’t notice that they had arrived and stopped in front of a dark brown door. It was when his father jiggled the handle as he turned the key that Doren snapped back to reality. The door opened to a dimly lit room with scattered clouds of cigarette smoke floating to the ceiling. In the center there was a slow moving figure. From the doorway Doren couldn’t make out what the man said but it was followed by a breathy moan.

Doren’s eyes widened. When he heard screams in the night he always assumed they came from his mother or that he was having strange dreams. Now, he knew all the screams he had ever heard were real. They all came from this dark little room somewhere in the house. His breaths became heavy and staggered. His body shook as he tried to make sense of it all. Doren knew his father was a businessman. He had taught him to be ruthless in business but was this what he had meant?

In a matter of seconds, Doren had been pushed past the doorway and stood over the slow moving figure, which he could now tell was a very badly injured man. He wanted to look away and ask his father what was going on. He needed to stop this, whatever it was. As he opened his mouth to speak the smell of urine and blood mingled with his wetness made him fall to his knees and vomit.

The once quiet room filled with laughter as Doren hacked and coughed trying to keep himself from a second round of vomit. Then someone he couldn’t see spoke: “No offense Don Vassago but I thought you had a son. What the hell is this?” The man took a drag of his cigarette and let out a dry coughing laugh.

Don Vassago turned to Doren making eye contact for the first time that morning. Don Vassago’s eyes were frozen little daggers on a square face drizzled with facial hair and topped with a strong thin nose. “Defy me and die. Prove that you are your father’s son,” Don Vassago spoke in a steady, eerily calm voice. “Take this and do what must be done,” he added taking a butterfly knife out of his pocket and tossing it to Doren.

Doren caught the knife but couldn’t catch his breath. His father had taught him self defense; not offense. “What do I do,” Doren’s head shook slightly as he asked. His father smiled, proudly displaying his gold tooth. “Kill him or I’ll kill you!” his father yelled with a laugh.

“I can’t. I can’t.” Doren replied between heavy breaths. He held the closed knife in his shaking right hand. Don Vassago responded by reaching out to the nearest man with slightly wiggling outstretched fingers. The man turned to his right hip and removed a gun, which he gently placed on Don Vassago’s hand. Doren swallowed hard, was his father serious?

Don Vassago turned the gun toward Doren, cocking it for emphasis. “KILL HIM OR I WILL KILL YOU.” His words were slow and heavy. His face made it clear he was serious. “But dad,” Doren attempted. “I’m your boss! Not YOUR father,” Don Vassago yelled in a somber voice. The room was suddenly quiet.

Doren’s stare grew cold. He slowly opened the butterfly knife, cutting his thumb as he tried to keep a steady hand. He shifted his weight to his heels frozen in fear before prostrating himself in front of his father. “Please. I don’t want to,” Doren begged.

Don Vassago shot into the ceiling. When the shot rang out, Doren lost control of his body. He could feel warm wetness move down his leg as he steadied himself. He didn’t feel hurt but there was no way to be sure he hadn’t been shot. He slowly sat up looking for signs of change. Nothing. The butterfly knife in his hand felt heavy as he turned to the bleeding man.

“I’m sorry.” The words escaped his lips as he forced his hand forward pushing the knife’s blade into the man’s gut. The man tried to shield himself but Doren continued. He wanted to stop but he didn’t want to die. The thought made him vomit on the man. He continued to stab. It was when the man stopped moving and Doren was soaked in blood that someone intervened.

Doren was pulled away. His shaking wet body was taken to the bathroom and disrobed. He was pushed into a warm shower and left alone. Slowly his mind came back to him and he felt the sting of small cuts on his fingers. The droplets of water amplified the reality of what he had just done.

From that day on, the boy who woke each morning did hate his father and did plan to kill him. What he didn’t plan for was the nightmares and waking to constant reminders of the past. Every time he dreamt of his first nameless victim he was reminded that he couldn’t escape the past or change it.

The boy who suffered in the past would live in his dreams and a young ruthless man would awaken in his place. At fourteen it became clear that his slow, sickening descent into a cold blooded young man had started on his sixth birthday and never stopped. This haunting memory was reserved for his birthday and mornings (like today) when he woke up to the sound of an envelope being slipped under his door.

Each time he knew he would never be a child again. The boy whose ignorance blissfully protected him was gone. The boy who killed a man remained. He woke up day after day to take his place as the bullet, the shield and Don Vassago’s gun. Needless to say Don Vassago liked to pull the trigger and Luis Antonio de Caona was next.

Chapter Three:

Then came the light.

Doren was standing over a man. The man pleaded. Doren cocked his Zigana T pistol, Moria. The man shuddered, pleading for a second chance. Doren looked into the man’s eyes as he pushed Moria into the man’s mouth.

“You have been sentenced to death by Don Vassago. I am here to carry out your sentence.” The words were spoken with the kind of cold affection that the barrel end of a pistol could muster.

The man shivered as he began to pray, drooling on Moria’s barrel. He pleaded with Doren.

“Don’t beg.” Doren’s cold voice amplified the gravity of the situation. His listless stare as he playfully pulled the trigger only added to the man’s fear. An empty click meant another moment to live for the man.

This made the man feel safe, unaware that Moria’s trigger had a special feature. For a second, the man thought he would live. Then, Doren pulled the trigger a second time. The man’s brain was scattered on the ground. A well-dressed Doren smiled as he wiped Moria’s barrel with his sleeve. It wasn’t everyday his job required a suit.

Bending over the dead man, Doren pulled out the man’s handkerchief. He wiped what remained of the man’s face before closing the dead man’s frightened eyes, both of which were surprisingly intact. Doren moved on to the rest of the body. He positioned it like a traditional dead man: in a straight line with his hands locked together over his stomach.

He looked over the body checking off his mental list: Face – check, Hands – check, Body – check.

Doren stood back and admired his professionalism and kindness to this dead man. Not every body got this kind of professional treatment when they died. Most would need further damage and even some artful mutilation to truly project Don Vassago’s message but not this one. This was especially true when he thought about the fact that a suit was needed for this job and the man was to be left where he could be quickly found in a dead man’s pose.

Don Vassago had been very particular about this job. Doren didn’t know why so many particulars but he was never one to ask or question Don Vassago’s will. He just assumed the message was clear enough to whomever needed to receive it. The thought ended and Doren removed his black gloves to retrieved a small black notebook with frayed edges from his back pocket.

Flipping through the pages, he found the man’s name, Luis Antonio de Caona written in neat letters that slanted slightly to the right. He took out a black pen and scribbled Dead by the man’s name. A, for April, 42 for the twenty-fourth and 14 (Doren’s age) for 2008. Doren stared at the dead man as he tried to find one word to describe the location. He called it, Classy.

Doren closed his little notebook and pushed it into his back pocket. He put on his gloves and walked over to a black car with tinted windows. He put Moria in her holster just inside his suit jacket and opened the door to the front passenger seat. He bent down slightly to reach into the car and retrieve the blood colored rose. He caught a whiff of the soft scented rose and was reminded that a short distance away there was well-dressed dead man in a pool of blood-caked mud.

He straightened his tie walked back to dead man carrying the vibrant rose. He held the rose by its stem, pressing it to the dead man’s lips before placing it on his chest. Doren walked away leaving the dead man adorned by a red rose on his motionless chest.

When Doren got in the car he felt lonely. The silence reminded him that he worked alone. Always and forever alone. Moria kept him company but she too was a reminder of his constant need to be alive. He turned on the car and hit play on his iPod. Sound poured out of the speakers as he drove away from Classy and started to head home. His sudden loneliness was ebbing away. All he could feel now, was pride for a job well done.

Doren arrived at the back gate and saw a collection of cars and limousines parked near the back door. There were people getting out of cars and several others being led into the house.

Doren wasn’t aware of any upcoming gatherings but he was dressed to crash one. Maybe this was the opportunity he needed to kill Don Vassago. The idea of ending his servitude made him smile. Was it luck or something else that this life might end as it began? He parked amongst the other cars and made his way toward the house.

He knew Don Vassago would be impatiently waiting to hear about Classy. As Doren reached the house he thought of how badly an attempt on Don Vassago’s life could end. He pushed the thought out of his mind and decided to assess the risks once he met with Don Vassago. Then he could make his final decision on whether or not it was time to remove Don Vassago.

Doren made his way inside and up the stairs to Don Vassago’s office. He knocked, listening for his cue to enter. He could hear voices inside. Don Vassago was not alone and this would be a bad time to take a risk. He knocked again. Still no answer. Doren waited a few seconds before leaving as quickly as he had arrived.

He made his way down the hall, just past the staircase before turning right. He continued down the hall until he reached the third door. He stood in front of it glancing right and left. The hall was quiet, settling his suspicions. Doren opened the door and stepped through it, turning quickly to lock it behind him. Most of the people in the house knew he was Don Vassago’s Trigger and just as quickly as the thought of ending Don Vassago’s life entered his mind, the thought of ending the Trigger’s life could enter the guests as well.

There was no use denying that more than half of the guests would greatly benefit from Doren’s death. Eventually, the Trigger needed to die and Doren knew the day would come when someone would seek him out. The same way he had sought out many men before, he too would be hunted. Death was one of the simplest things he knew was true to anyone who held a gun, killed a man, or became part of this kind of association. Unfortunately, Doren was all three.

Knowing this, he always sat on his bed or a nearby chair with Moria in hand letting his mind consume itself with thoughts of a hunter being hunted. As several minutes ticked by silently, Doren started to let his guard down just enough to put Moria in her holster and take his jacket off. He listened again, making sure (for the last time) that no one was anywhere near the door or in the hall.

He relaxed, letting out a deep breath of relief as he unbuckled Moria’s holster and pulled it off both shoulders. He held it carefully as he pulled Moria out, then carelessly tossed the holster on the bed. Although he slept and spent most of his time in this room he felt alien in it. Moria was the only other thing he felt was alien. And like him it did not belong in a room meant for a completely different life that belonged to someone else.

The simplest answer was that this room was warm, somewhat cheery and much too bright. Whereas its inhabitant enjoyed low light, dark satin sheets and a wintry breeze. Doren drew the curtains closed, changed the white cotton sheets to satin grey ones and cranked up the a/c. He placed Moria on his bedside table and sat on the bed in front of the a/c letting the chill hit his face. He leaned back onto the mattress putting an arm over his eyes. The darkness made his senses come alive as he listened to the very specific sounds of this room.

Each sound drew him closer to sleep as he fought to stay awake and listen. Suddenly, he sat up and rubbed his eyes, clenching them tight as he tried to force himself to be alert. It wasn’t working. His body felt heavy and clunky as he walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. He turned on the cold water and splashed his face to no avail.

A groggy Doren stepped out of the bathroom tugging and pulling the buttons of his shirt in a futile effort to undo them. There was no winning against sleep. The idea that he would win against dreamless sleep after a long job was laughable. Doren quickly realized his efforts had been in vain and climbed into bed surrounding himself in dark satin.


Hours later Doren woke up instinctively grabbing Moria off the bedside table and pointing her at the door. There was no intruder but the feeling of being intruded upon would not go away. He glanced around the room. Not a thing out of place. He got out of bed and looked under the door for any sign that something was amiss. Nothing. He put his ear up to the door and listened. Silence emanated from the hall allowing Doren’s curiosity to unnerve him.

Doren cocked Moria and threw the door open. He jogged down the hall, stopping near the staircase to listen. The barely distinguishable sounds that came from the remainder of the guests made Doren feel at ease. He held Moria with the mastery that years of training had forged as he ran down the hall and entered the room. He locked the door and felt trapped in the necessary repetition. No noise. No one in the hall. The room was empty of all but Doren and Moria.

Once Doren was sure nothing had changed he eased back into a sleepy young man who needed to pee, badly. He turned away from the door and walked to the bathroom smothering yawns with his free hand. Moria sat still, enjoying the short, casual ride to the bathroom. Doren placed Moria on the wicker laundry basket next to the sink as he peed.

He washed his hands, staring into the mirror. His face was highlighted with small bits of dried saliva. His lips were dry and pale pink from thirst. Doren leaned into the mirror to inspect his face. It was pale and tight, showing no evidence of ever having smiled. His damp hand touched the image in the mirror. Was this the Doren he was expected to become?

He pulled his hand back to his face allowing his fingers to linger on his lips. Their light pink color reminded him that whether he liked it or not, he was alive. His hand continued to move, sliding down to his chest. He could feel his heart beat beneath the white dress shirt as he undid the small clumsy buttons.

But even though they were a nuisance, Doren didn’t mind. He thought of the dress shirt as one of small challenges he would be confronted with as his job grew in complexity. The thought of job growth made Doren chuckle. There wasn’t really any way to climb the ranks when you were always the only option.

He bent over to undo his pants, pulling them down along with his underwear. He put them aside. Straightening back up, he removed his shirt and worked his way over to the shower. He turned on the cold water and let it run. Doren picked up Moria and placed her by the sink. He folded his clothes making a neat little stack before placing them in the wicker basket. The basket’s lid closed with a low thump.

Doren stretched, holding his arms up and out. He took a deep breath and stepped into the cold stream of water, letting it hit his face. He tilted his head down watching dirty water pool around the drain. He felt the cool touch of liquid redemption wash over him as the rest of his body was exposed to the water. Cold, unforgiving Moria watched from the sink. There wasn’t enough water to wash away the dead or the blood they shed.

This made Doren aware of the weight of his sins and so the short time of dreamless sleep was gone. The burst of cold water woke him from a state of pleasure and pride. He had returned to reality with a new level of awareness and strictness in his necessary repetition. For a moment he thought he was feeling guilt. That quickly turned to survival and the feeling was gone. He was left with tame innocence as the dirty water drained away.

He snatched Moria off the sink and walked over to the bed drying his hair. Damp, naked and clean Doren sat on the edge of the cool soft bed. He slid over to the bedside table and pulled open a drawer. His hand stiffened as he laid Moria down in the dark confines of her wooden coffin. He leaned back into the satin sheets accepting sleep.

Nightmares invaded instead, bringing the dead with them. Why did we have to die, the dead always asked. Doren never responded. To them he offered his darkest thoughts, until something new forced him to be alert.

Awake, he listened for the source. Looking at the floor he found it. A yellowed piece of paper stuck under the door. Someone or something attempted to push it further in. Doren opened the door pulling the piece of paper out. No one stood on the other side, an empty hallway greeted him.

Doren quickly closed the door, tearing the seal on the note. He opened the note realizing that he forgot to his awareness check list. If someone had wanted him dead, it would have been done. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to blink or even think of blinking.

Knowing he had exposed himself made it difficult for Doren to focus. The note in his hand held little weight when compared to the ramifications of his death. He knew very well that he could not allow himself to let down his guard no matter how tempting it seemed. This incident would have become a small insignificant memory if he had not recalled the reason he was awake.

He stopped thinking about the things he did wrong and read the note. There wasn’t much to it. Just one line:

Doren Vassago, you have been accepted to Diablo High.

No signature, just an offer to join the living.

Chapter Four:

Safe for a second.


The invitation was vague. The location was unknown and almost desirable. Days quickly passed and another note never came. Doubt started to plague Doren. Necessity forced his hand. Don Vassago was his only choice.

Doren traveled his usual route to Don Vassago’s office. Stopping in front of the door, he knocked.

“Come in,” said Don Vassago.

Doren opened the door slowly and entered closing it behind him. Don Vassago motioned toward a chair. Doren sat.

“Did you do what I asked?”


“The handkerchief?”

Doren extracted the blood stained handkerchief from his back pocket. Don Vassago smiled. Reaching for the handkerchief, he spoke to Doren, “What do you want?”


“Concerning what or whom?”

“Diablo High.”

“So the day has finally come.” His expression darkened. “Very well then, just remember whom you serve.” Don Vassago took out a key. He unlocked a compartment in his desk and retrieved a black cigar box with a gold stamp embossed on the top. He reached in, pulling out a small piece of paper. He stared at it for a moment before handing it to Doren. “Read it. Destroy it,” he said. His face was cold and lined with seriousness. Doren shook his head.

Don Vassago locked the box and placed it back into its compartment. “You better go, if you plan on doing anything with that,” Don Vassago added eying Doren suspiciously. Doren walked away watching Don Vassago with the corner of his eye. He couldn’t fully trust the old man to just let him leave so he held the note tight and turned the doorknob. He waited a moment expecting to be attacked. Nothing happened but he could still feel Don Vassago’s eyes scrutinizing him.

He opened the door and stepped through shutting it quickly behind him. A small shiver ran down his back and the hair on his neck stood as it passed. Doren suddenly felt trapped. He balled up the note in his hand and made his way back to the room. Ever since his sixth birthday he could not feel comfortable in the room. Instead he felt like a prisoner returning to his cell.

Once he entered the room he locked the door and sat on the furthest side of the bed. He opened the note and tried to read the slanted writing. His eyes refused to focus. He glanced around the room. Nothing seemed out of place but he Doren could not quiet his discomfort. He folded the note and slid down to the floor. The bed kept him hidden from anyone or anything that looked in from the door.

Now that he had managed to corral his discomfort and dispel most of his paranoia, he sighed. The relief was immediate. He leaned in and opened the note. This time the writing was clear:

Flowers, Indigo, Peace.

Doren pulled out a lighter and lit the piece of paper, tossing the burning remains in the trash. He watched it devour itself and incinerate everything else. It burned quickly, leaving a trail of smoke. Pouring water over the ashes, he opened the window a bit.

With the note gone, Doren concentrated on the clue: Flowers, Indigo, Peace. He pulled out his little black notebook. Its frayed edges curled inward reminding him of his abuse of it. Opening it to the last few entries, he found it.

Flowers: Ruiz Santos. Riverside Park. Dead for eight days.

Flipping back he came across another clue.

Indigo: Etanislao Betances. Blue Moon Hotel. Dead for eight months.

Now, he was sure. With Peace, the pattern emerged. It was clear.

Peace: Javier Lorenzo. Vassago Estate. Dead for eight years. First Time Alone.

Doren’s past caught up with him quickly, slamming into him from every direction. Closing his eyes, he tried to stop it. Tears welled up. Frustration forced his eyes shut a second time, he swallowed hard. His mind was filled with the past.

Doren felt suffocated. He had to leave. It was the first time in the last five years that he was desperate to get out of Vassago Estate. He threw on a pair of jeans and a basic black tee. He looked out the window as he pushed it closed and latched it. He grabbed a leather jacket and walked down to the garage.

The garage was large and full of vehicles. Most of them were cars but it also housed a collection of motorcycles and heavily armored limousines. Doren searched for his car and couldn’t find it. He didn’t know the exact details of how the system worked but every time he arrived from a job he parked in the back. Then when he needed his car it was clean and ready to go in the garage. Not this time, though.

Doren looked around and found a motorcycle with a key in it. He put on the dark blue helmet that was sitting on the gas tank and jumped on. He turned on the motorcycle, revving it as he took off. Once out of Vassago Estate he didn’t know where to go so he rode around getting as far away from it as he could.

After several hours of riding around the motorcycle sputtered and stopped. It had run out of gas and started running on fumes a bit ago. When it slowed down to a stop Doren found himself checking the nooks and crannies of the bike for money or a weapon on the side of the road. Now he remembered his wallet and Moria; both left at the Estate.

Holding the helmet and his leather jacket he started walking down the road. He didn’t know what he had been heading toward but he stayed on the path. Turning back seemed pointless. He was stuck and he had to deal with it.

As he made his way down the road he noticed the lush greenery around him outlined by streaks of blue sky and green-blue sea. Each breath brought with it a refreshing saltiness he wasn’t used to. The air was stale between the cool comfortable breezes that came and went. Doren didn’t know where he was but he didn’t mind being stuck.

He kept an eye on the road as he analyzed the slowly changing scenery. The cloudless light blue sky was now cloudy and grey. The breezes stopped coming and the air was filled with moisture. Doren turned his head up and felt the cool touch of a raindrop on his forehead. He put the helmet on his head and continued down the road listening to the plip plop of rain. He was mesmerized by the cold droplets and their rhythmic dance, which made it hard to be alert.

It had been hours and he had not seen anyone or anything. His only company had been the rain and that was getting old fast. Soaked, tired and thoroughly sticky with the mix of sweat and rain he paused for a quick rest. He carefully walked into the wooded area and sat in the shadow of a Ceiba tree. He covered himself with his jacket and leaned on the tree’s trunk. The helmet made it hard to breath so he took it off. Sitting there he fell asleep.

He woke up several hours later to the sound of voices. He sat still, blanketed in darkness and listened. There were two voices, both men. One was deep and scratchy. The other was low.

“Shh. Ca-lla-te.” The first voice hushed the second.

“What are we doing out here?” The second voice asked again.

“Just callate.” The scratchy voiced man responded.

“Yes, pero why are we en el medio del bosque at this hour?”

“Look, Jr if you don’t want to help go home,” the scratchy voiced man said pausing.

The other voice answered back: “Sorry Don Julio. I know que el Chupacabra won’t find himself.”

Meanwhile, Doren slowly got up. At first he thought it would be best to stay. Then he realized they were serious and decided to leave. He took his time tiptoeing back to the road. With a sigh of relief he started to walk down the road again. He wasn’t as tired anymore so he was able to pick up the pace a bit. An hour passed and he started to see lights ahead.

Suddenly, there was a noise behind him and a screech. Doren managed to turn just enough to see a set of lights. Then BAAAM! Time slowed down and his life played itself back as he felt the impact of the car. The helmet flew out of his hand as his body tried to take control of itself. Doren’s body fell with a thunk and continued to roll toward the woods.

“Was it the Chupacabra, Don Julio?”

“Callate! I don’t know yet!”

The last thing he saw was a pair of feet and a set of lights heading in his direction. The clue flashed into his mind one last time: Flowers, Indigo, Peace. His mind went dark as the footsteps came closer.


A Barrage of Lightning

Doren opened his eyes. Light poured in. He cringed, shutting his eyes tight. His face ached. He panicked. Why was it hard to move his legs? Was this what death was like? His arms were heavy and bruised. He took a deep breath and slid his arms back. Every inch hurt worse than the last as he lifted himself on his elbows and tried to look around.

Although the pain in his neck was awful, the odd pain in his legs worried him. It wasn’t very often that Doren was caught off guard. He couldn’t fully piece together what happened but he knew it wasn’t good. Somehow he got hurt and ended up here. Where “here” was he didn’t know. For all his training and years of experience, Doren was nervous.

He could barely move and after staring at the room for a bit he was in too much pain to hold himself up. He slid his arms down and ended up on his back again. He fell on the bed with low thump. He stared at the ceiling for a few minutes trying to get past the initial sting of falling by reminding himself of what he saw.

The room was lemony yellow and too bright. The walls were bare except for three pieces of framed art. The first was a photograph of a large family dressed to the nines sporting crooked smiles and manicured poses. The second was a painting of the last supper with a Chupacabra Judas. The third piece was a watercolor of a green forest outlined by the sea and brought together by the sky. There was also a window without a curtain and a small shelf with sheets and towels.

Doren lay still for a few more minutes. The watercolor reminded him of the view from the road so he figured he must be in or near the town whose lights he saw from a distance. There was a chance that he could be wrong but he couldn’t concern himself with that now. He had to get up. Doren pulled himself up on his elbows and flipped over. He fought to distract himself from the pain; it wasn’t working very well. His body was tender and sore as he lay on his stomach.

He did his best to remain still as he tried to regain control of himself. His body shook. It was difficult to breath and the nausea was becoming unbearable. Each breath pushed down on his ribcage making the next breath harder to achieve. His thoughts were beginning to blur. Thinking straight was necessary. Doren was barely keeping it together when he pushed himself off the bed and fell to the floor. The impact cause him to vomit and pass out.



Groggy with the distinct and equally disgusting taste of stale vomit in his mouth, Doren woke up. His body was in no condition to move freely. He sighed, irritated by the unusual situation he was in. “I need to get out of here,” he muttered as he started dragging himself. The door seemed farther than he previously remembered.

He didn’t know for sure but at this point it didn’t matter. His first attempt had failed miserably. He had barely moved a few feet from where he started and progress seemed a distant wish. It was hard to imagine that only a while ago he was running away from Vassago Estates to figure out what three dead men had to do with Diablo High. Just the same, he had ideas beyond his current ability.

Doren stopped. He stared up at the doorknob. He attempted to lift himself enough to reach it. He failed, adding yet another thing he was unable to do to his long list of problems. He wiggled over to the wall and sat up leaning against it. Doren knew that as long as he was alive there was a chance to change his situation. How was just a matter of finding a sol9ution. He had never given a situation as much thought as he was forced to give this one. How could he escape if he was barely to move?

There was something about being trapped that made him squirm. He couldn’t think straight. He tried to come up with a part ‘B’ to his original plan but nothing came to mind. He was cornered and having a difficult time accepting it. Instead he decided to focus on his body. He continued to lean on the wall as he took his physical inventory. His head hurt. His neck was stiff and swollen. His arms were covered in scratches and bruises. His legs were swollen like thick honey hams. His stomach churned and grumbled with hunger. He tried to sit still as a small shiver moved through his body. When it was done, he stopped thinking about his injuries and turned his attention back to the doorknob.

This time he forced himself to reach it and turn it. His hand trembled as he pulled the door open letting himself fall through. Suddenly a man appeared. He was short and plump with a thick salt and pepper mustache. He stepped over Doren and knelt down beside him. “Como estas, chico? Hablas, Espanish?” The man stared at Doren and waited for a response. “Maybe you don’t speak Espanish? Are you okay,” the man asked extending his hand to Doren. “Let me help you up. Looks like you had an accident,” he said turning to the stale vomit near the bed. “No need to worry.” He took Doren’s arm and pulled. Doren grimaced.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, uh, injure you further. Let me ayudarte to the bed and I will explicar.” The man helped Doren into bed. Doren did his best to remain calm and formulate a “plan B” of sorts. He wasn’t too interested in what excuses the man might have but he made an effort to listen.

“My name is Don Julio. This is my home. Abajo is my clinic.” Don Julio paused. “And I’m sorry to say, it’s my fault you’re here. I didn’t see you until it was too late and I accidentally hit you with my car. Por eso, I brought you here. I want to make sure you are fully healed before you go.” Doren analyzed Don Julio’s words. He was angry at Don Julio. At the same time, he wondered what would have happened if Don Julio knew who he really was. If he knew all the things Doren had done.

“My name is Charlie,” Doren lied. “My motorcycle broke down, so I started to walk. I needed some gas and an oil change and I figured I could find some in town.”

“Ya veo. I see. Well, I will try to find your motora. Until then, por favor descansa and consider mi casa, tu casa.” Don Julio smiled lightly. “One more question, is there someone I can call and notify of your injuries?”

“There’s no one,” Doren replied in an icy tone.

Don Julio looked at Doren with parental concern in his eyes. “Look Charlie, I’m going to leave my phone here. If you need to call anyone, anyone at all. Call.” He paused before adding: “You are not a prisoner here so feel free to move. Of course, it helps if you heal properly before moving too much.”

Doren was stunned at Don Julio’s trusting personality. He had never met anyone who trusted someone without a strong reason to do so, collateral or an unspoken expectation of having a favor owed to them.

“Okay, thanks.” Doren replied forcing his lips into a small polite smile. Don Julio nodded back.

“My grandson, Julito will come and check on you in a bit. He’s around your age. He’ll help you get around. My wife Carolina will drop by to clean you up.” Don Julio smiled. “She is very gentle, especially with my patients.”

Don Julio sat on the edge of the bed. “One last thing, antes de irme. I want to talk to you about your injuries.” He stopped talking and looked over Doren.

“They will hurt and sting but they are not as serious as they seem,” he said lightly pressing Doren’s knee. “You have a fractured rib, sprained ankle, dislocated knee and a swollen wrist. Most of the swelling will be gone in a few days. And your small cuts and bruises seem to be healing quickly. But the rib is going to take some time, possibly one to two months. Overall, you should heal enough to go home in two weeks or so.” His kind face became serious as he spoke in an authoritative and official tone: “After that I strongly suggest you take it easy and come see me every one to two weeks.” Doren shook his head ‘No’ but he was promptly ignored.

Don Julio left and his wife Carolina came in. She was short and thin with wavy brown hair and silver highlights. She greeted Doren with a smile and a glass of water before turning her attention to the vomit. She cleaned it up quickly and quietly. Doren thanked her politely and drank the water. Once Carolina left Doren’s polite and subdued nature left him.

He picked up the phone and turned on its GPS. He never liked asking too many questions without trying to find answers first, so he googled his location. He looked at the Google map and saw the tiny speck near the beach. It didn’t mean much to the lost boy. But Doren wasn’t concerned. He looked at the date. He had been asleep for three days and nowhere near doing any of the things he set out to do.

Doren heard a knock and immediately reached for Moria. To his surprise Moria was nowhere to be found. In his sudden return to constant paranoia, he prepared for the worst. His thoughts went wild as his injured body became a distant memory.

When the door opened Carolina entered with a neatly folded stack of clothes. She set them down on the bed and gathered some towels. “Are you okay, mijo? You look very, um… palido. You know, pale.” Doren watched Carolina trying to regain control of himself. He opened his mouth to say, ‘I’m okay.’ Instead he uttered, “Find Moria.”

Carolina sat on the edge of the bed and used a low calm voice to speak to Doren. “Mira, Charlie, I don’t know what’s wrong but I want you to know y entender that you are safe. Please try to relax.” Carolina reached over and carefully lifted Doren to a sitting position. “Now, these are some of Julito’s clothes for you to wear and keep. Yours were ruined and there was no way to clean or repair them,” she spoke apologetically placing her hand on the stack of clothes.

“Please accept these,” she smiled. “It would mean a lot to all of us.” Doren let go of his paranoia just enough to become Charlie again. Then he shook his head. Carolina grinned. “Well, let’s get you changed,” Carolina added as she reached over and wiped Doren’s face. She put the rag aside and leaned in to help Doren remove his shirt. “I’ll be right back.” She grabbed a small towel and headed out the door. About a minute later she returned with a small bucket of water.

“It’s not a sponge bath but a quick wipe down will do you some good.” She smiled awkwardly. “Would you prefer doing this yourself?” Carolina blushed. “My son Julito can help you to the bathroom.” She looked toward the door and shouted, “Julito!” She turned back to Doren before continuing. “You know, there’s a stool for you to sit and clean up in the bathroom. I think that might be better. Then you can eat.” She paused with a mix of embarrassment and apology on her face. Then she shouted for Julito again.

A scrawny brown haired boy entered and gave Doren a quick nod. He turned to his mother: “Que paso, mai? What do you need?”

His mother smiled. “Mijo, por favor ayuda a Charlie. I would really appreciate it, si lo llevas al baño.”

Julito bobbed his head. “Esta bien, mai.”

Carolina turned back to Doren. “Charlie, this is my son, Julito. He will help you to the bathroom and answer any questions you may have.” She picked up the clothes and towels as she stood up. “I will go ahead and place these in the bathroom for you.” Carolina walked away leaving Doren and Julito with in an awkward silence.

“Umm, hello.” Julito extended his hand to Doren. “My name is Julio. Everyone calls me Julito. I guess I’m supposed to help you get to the bathroom.” Doren reached over and gave Julito’s hand a quick shake.

“Sounds like it,” Doren replied in his naturally cold and steely voice.

“Okay then,” Julito said pulling Doren up and helping him out of bed. “Let’s get you to the bathroom, Charlie.” Julito held most of Doren’s weight as he limped over to the bathroom. Then he placed Doren on the stool and walked out saying he would be right outside the door.

In the bathroom, Doren sat on the stool pushing his pants off. Normally, he’d fold them when he was done but this time he threw them on the floor. He scooted the stool toward the shower knob and turned on the water. At first, he sat underneath it letting it sting his shoulders and back. Then he leaned back and let the water hit his face. He let his body shiver and shake as he positioned himself to stand. He placed his hands on the wall and used it to pull himself up. His body trembled. His legs shook beneath him but he stood.

Each sting became a small prod of encouragement as he washed himself off. He wasn’t all right or even close to okay but he knew he needed to look it. He took deep breaths and practiced taking steps. The first few were shaky and he barely moved. The next set was stronger but only on the surface. Inside, Doren felt every bit of each step. Any minor thump, misstep or bump made his stomach lurch. He leaned on the shower wall one last time. These steps were it. They had to pass. He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.

He grabbed a towel off the sink and let his body lean into it as he dried off. His left knee panged as he put weight on it. His right ankle twitched as he forced it to take on most of the work. Doren ignored how uncomfortable he was as he got dressed. He turned to the mirror and forced his bruised cheeks into a polite smile. Once he was done there was nothing left to distract him from the annoying twinges of pain.

A shower wasn’t much time to fix yourself but it would have to do. Doren took one last look at himself before walking out of the bathroom with the most relaxed face he could muster. Julito stood up, surprised by Doren’s sudden appearance.

“Are you okay, Charlie?” Julito looked at Doren with concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine… enough,” Doren responded.

“Okay then. Let’s go eat. It’s just downstairs. I’ll go first in case you need help.” Julito smiled as he started walking down the steps. Doren nodded and followed.

Every step took a toll on Doren as he made his way down. He was dissatisfied enough with his condition and lack of real progress. He wasn’t looking forward to adding stupidity to his list of issues. But he knew that Don Julio wouldn’t just let him leave as long as he looked hurt. Don Julio seemed like the type to drive Doren home and put him to bed if he thought it would make Doren better faster. That and his serious attitude concerning long term care for Doren left very little room for error.

Doren pushed the thought out of his mind. It was time to smile and fight the pain. Surrendering was not an option. Neither was running or shooting. Acting was his only weapon. Good acting was the most he could call a defense. Doren hoped he could hide the pain long enough to convince Don Julio that he was okay enough to leave. He had been caught off guard earlier. Now, Doren refused to let it happen again.

“Just take a seat anywhere,” Julito said pointing at a small table with five chairs.

“Uh, okay,” Doren replied quickly taking a seat. “Thanks,” he added grateful for the seat and the opportunity to rest.

“No worries.” Julito smiled. “No need to thank me,” Julito added interrupting Doren’s thoughts again before taking a seat opposite Doren. “So I’m guessing you feel a lot better,” Julito looked at Doren.

“Yeah. Lots,” Doren replied politely. “Thanks for helping me to the bathroom.”

Julito pulled out his phone as he spoke:“Don’t worry about it. I help out when I can.” He lowered his gaze to his phone. “Do you want to leave that badly?” He eyed Doren suspiciously.

“No, I just have some things to take care of,” Doren said shaking his shoulders and realizing it was a mistake. He forced a smile as he grinned through the pain.

“If you say so.” Julito went back to his phone for a moment. “How ‘bout I drive you somewhere? I just got my license and I need a good excuse to get out of the house. How ‘bout it?” Julito smiled eagerly waiting for Doren’s reply.

“No thanks. I couldn’t accept more help,” Doren said coolly brushing him off.

“I’ll tell my dad you’re better. How ‘bout that?” Julito stared at Doren. “Please.” He stared at Doren with big puppy dog eyes. “Come on, it’ll be fun. Two guys on a road trip. Please.” Julito’s eyes grew bigger. Doren’s face turned serious and his stare went from friendly to blank.

“Dinner’s ready, come down everyone,” Carolina shouted as she walked into the dining room. “Oh. You’re here. Okay. Y tu papa, Julito?” She nodded a quick hello to Doren. “Everything all right? Why so serious, boys?”

“It’s nothing mom.” Julito gave his mother a wide toothy grin. “Charlie is feeling a lot better so we’re having a staring contest. Right, Charlie?”

“Oh yeah. Your son was keeping me company,” Doren added.

Carolina smiled. “I’m glad you two are getting along. Here’s some dinner,” she said placing plates in front of them. “You can go ahead and eat. I think Don Julio and I will eat later.”

“Okay, ma. Thanks.” Julito gave his mother a quick wave as she turned toward the stairs. Doren nodded with a slight sideways tilt.

“Oh yeah, Charlie and I are going out for a drive later. I have my cell so call me if you guys need anything.” Julito smiled. “Love you, ma.”

“Love you too, mijito.” Carolina took a step back and turned.She walked over to Julito and kissed him on the forehead. “Have fun. Be careful.”

“Will do, ma.” Julito turned to the plate in front of him. He dug in showcasing his voracious appetite.

Doren followed suit in a polite manner. Even though Doren was extremely hungry he ate slowly. He picked up his fork and brought it to his mouth at a steady pace. Then he chewed each piece thoroughly before swallowing. He gave little thought to his thirst or the ache in his jaw. He just ate; quietly, efficiently and politely.

“Yo, Charlie!” Doren looked up at Julito. “Want a Coke or a 7up? We got both.”

Doren spoke tentatively, “A Coke.” He glanced at Julito.

“Sure. Be right back.” Julito stepped into the kitchen and returned with two aluminum cans in his hands. “Here you go,” he said tossing one to Doren. “Finish up so we can go.”

Kiishhh. Doren opened the Coke. He pressed it to his lips. The first sip was surprisingly sweet. The second had hints of bitterness. The third was simply delicious. Doren forgot his manners and gulped down the Coke. Julito laugh lightly.

“Haven’t you ever had a Coke before?” He chuckled taking a drink of his Coke. “Not the last one on earth or anything.” Julito paused waiting for Doren to respond. Instead Doren put on a steely face. “I was playing around. No need to get pissed or anything. Geez. Can’t you take a joke, Charlie.” Julito finished his Coke.

Doren watched Julito’s reaction. He didn’t know how to respond. Julito was odd and awkward but in a strange way kind. To Doren he seemed the definition of comical. Doren’s problem was that even though he was taught to read, write and speak in three languages, he lacked the social skills to use most of it. He was taught to be serious at all times and to assume that anyone could just die. Beyond that, his only concern was whether or not he was the one to pull the trigger. Of course, Julito was raised differently. If he was anything like his grandparents, he was foolishly trusting.

Julito touched Doren’s shoulder. “Sorry, man. I didn’t think you’d be offended.” He shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the other side of the table. “By the way, are you done eating?”

“Yes,” Doren answered. Julito picked up the plates and took them to the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned with a set of keys in his hand.

“How ‘bout we go for a ride and talk to my buddy Chico at the impound lot. His dad is the local mechanic and tow man. He’s out of town for three weeks so I doubt Chico’s done anything with your bike.” Julito tilted his head slightly. “Come on. How ‘bout it?” He smiled.

“Fine. I’ll go.” Doren didn’t want to go for a ride but if it meant getting his bike back and leaving, he was all for it.

“All right! Let’s go.” Julito extended his hand to Doren. Doren refused to take it. He preferred getting up on his own. Julito simply watched as Doren willed himself to a standing position and started to walk. Julito cut in front of Doren and stepped out the door to his car. He unlocked the doors and turned on the car. “Jump in, whenever,” he shouted from the dark blue car with a goofy smile on his face. A minute later, Doren got in the car just as Julito picked a CD.

“What kind of music do you like? Do you have a preference?” Julito asked eager to get going.

“Anything is fine. I don’t care,” Doren answered quickly.

“Okay, then. My Rock Faves it is,” Julito replied as he put the CD in. Then he adjusted his mirrors and turned in the wide driveway. Once he was done, he drove down to the road and into town. The trip to Chico’s took about twelve minutes. Julito shook his head to the beat the entire time. Doren sat, still as death, barely breathing but constantly thinking.



At Chico’s Doren looked for his bike. Once he found it, Julito asked Chico if he could let Doren take his bike free of charge. At first, Chico said ‘No, I might get in trouble.’ Then the story became: ‘Oh, so you and your gramps are helping him out. Got it. Anything for Don Julio.’

“Great. Let’s get going Charlie.” Julito asked Chico if he could drop the bike off at his house. Chico quickly agreed and loaded the bike onto a trailer. Doren and Julito headed back to Don Julio’s house with Chico following closely behind. Julito tried to form a conversation with Doren. He asked the usual variety of polite questions and inquiries but that didn’t work. Doren gave precise and equally polite answers.

To Julito it became clear that Doren was not interested in sharing anything about himself. Instead, Julito decided, to share some of his background with Doren. It couldn’t be helped if he hoped to go on a road trip with this strange and mysterious young man. The thought of heading out into the world for a summer overtook Julito and he became brave.

“My parents died, you know. That’s why I live with grandpa and grandma. I was just a baby so grandma and grandpa are my mom and dad.” Julito paused hoping to elicit a reaction from Doren. Nothing happened. Doren was as stone faced as ever so Julito went on. “My grandma and grandpa are great folks. They’re just a bit— antiquated. They barely believe in having cell phones so life can get complicated. But other than that, they always mean well.”

“Seems like it,” Doren added before he could stop himself. Julito was overjoyed. Doren had responded.

“Aside from all that, this is a small town and I live in the middle of the boonies. Not exactly prime real estate for friends and stuff. Not that it’s awful or anything, either.” Julito let out a quick, small laugh. “I know I’m dumping all this on you. There’s just something about you that makes me trust you without thinking about it.” The conversation, well, monologue with some bits of commentary ended when they parked in Don Julio’s driveway.

“Thanks for letting me embarrass myself,” Julito mumbled as he got out of the car. Doren nodded his head and followed Julito. Julito helped Chico unload the bike as Doren watched. Once the bike was unloaded Chico left and Doren and Julito went inside. Julito offered Doren another Coke and Doren accepted. Julito climbed the stairs and knocked on a door upstairs. Doren assumed it was Don Julio’s door. Julito let his grandparents know he was home and came back down.

“So tell me, Charlie, how did you end up here,” Julito asked.

“I left home,” Doren responded with his iciest tone.

Julito’s face got pale. “Oh.” Julito felt sad. Then he pitied Doren, realizing that his icy attitude was a façade for the lonely person living inside this shell of a man. It didn’t take long for Doren to see Julito’s eyes turn from curious to sad. Just the same, he knew he had to leave and take his chances. Doren told Julito he needed to go the rest room and used the opportunity to slink down the steps and get to his motorcycle. He didn’t know where his keys were so he looked for a small slit near the back tire where a spare key was previously hidden.

Doren felt around in the dark. He found the slit and used his index finger to push the key out. Then he got on the bike and walked it out to the main driveway area. He put the key in and the bike roared to life. Doren revved the bike and took off. He flattened his body to the bike as he reached the road and headed to town. In town he found the main road and followed it out. His body felt heavy and more bruised than before but he was glad to have left.

A few hours had passed and Doren stopped. He was tired and in pain. The bike’s constant shaking had rattled him to the bone.To him it served as more proof that he had to continue riding until he was close to some semblance of home. He jumped back on the bike and continued to ride. Not into a sunset but simple, dark, cool night.

During his ride he had decided to go back and start his search over. This time, he would do it right. He would have a real plan, a target and a destination. He would start with Vassago Estate and Ruiz Santos. His thoughts were soon interrupted by bright colorful lights and noise as he got closer to the city. It wasn’t long before he was so close to Vassago Estate, he could feel Moria reaching out.

Once he arrived, it only took him two extremely quiet minutes to realize he had made a mistake in coming back. A terrible and ultimately necessary mistake.


  1. Even though pages are static, I will add updates as I continue to write. I will make sure to let everyone know which chapter is new in the updates so you’ll never skip a beat. ^_^

  2. Billi Crable says:

    Its fantastic as your other articles : D, thanks for putting up. “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it” by Steven Wright.

  3. Orval Katoa says:

    Keep working ,great job!

  4. I finally got to updating this story. Sorry it was such a long wait. For quicker future updates check it out at Thanks for reading!

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