Caulder: They Meet

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His iceberg blue eyes studied himself in the mirror. Briefly, his gaze darted to the woman behind his right shoulder. His long platinum hair was pulled into a neat bun at the back of his head. His beard was braided with a steel ball at the end. He wore his favorite tailored suit.

“You’re sure about this look, Carina?” he questioned.

She smiled and nodded. “I’m sure. It will certainly make an impression on the Master’s new pet.”

He turned to study her carefully. “You sound a tad jealous. It doesn’t suit you.”

She folded her arms over her chest and shifted her weight. “I’m not jealous. I just don’t understand what makes her so special.”

Caulder shrugged and headed for the door. “I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Thank you for your assistance. I appreciate it.”

She dismissed it with a wave of her hand and followed him out of his room. While he made his way to the balcony, she headed for the kitchen.

He leaned against the railing and stared out over the citadel grounds. At last, he found the petite, fiery woman sparring with Krzysrek on the patio. He watched with a touch of amusement. She was holding her own against him. On occasion, it looked like she was holding back, pulling her punches. He nodded, impressed.

At last, the two left the patio and headed inside. He assumed they were preparing for the evening meal. It was getting toward the time, so he made his way down and took the seat he hadn’t occupied in nearly a year. One by one, the others filed in.

For a dainty woman, her presence was unmistakable. Her verdant gaze traveled the room, settling on him for several moments.  At last, she inclined her head to him and took her seat.

Milan entered last. He sat and let his gaze travel slowly over the table. At that, he stood and called for silence.

“Gentlemen, another soldier has completed their training and joined our ranks. I want you to welcome Petra to the Nex Addo.”

A murmur rippled through the men. After a moment, Sasha began applauding. The others took their queues from him and a loud cheer arose. It was silenced on Milan’s order.

“She and Caulder will be enforcing my will in Zagreb for the foreseeable future,” he continued. “We will be having the traditional celebration tomorrow night.”

This announcement needed no motivation. A raucous cheer and cat-calls went up. It slowly died off. Milan sat. The meal began.

He saw Sasha lean over and say something to Petra. Throughout the meal he watched them converse. He finished eating shortly after those near him. At that, he stood and made for the door.

“Caulder?” called a strong feminine voice behind him.

He stopped, in the hallway, just outside the door. Patiently, he waited and studied her as she approached. He towered over her.

As she drew close, she extended her right hand. “It’s an honor to work with you.”

A slight smile turned up the corners of his mouth. As he shook her hand, he reached out and patted her head.

“You too, little sister,” he replied, then turned and walked away.

Caulder:  Part V

He was handsome, with dark hair and eyes, and a commanding presence. He studied Caulder as carefully as Caulder studied him.

“My men tell me you’re a force to be reconed with,” the man stated. “I came to see, for myself, if the rumors were true.”

Caulder folded his arms over his chest. He regarded the man even more carefully. “I’m Caulder Leiffson and I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

The man extended his hand. “Well, Caulder, my men call me the Master. You’re welcome to call me Milan, if you like.”

“You still haven’t told me why you’ve come to see me,” Caulder  stated. “I’m a nobody. Just a dock worker.”

Milan chuckled softly. “You, Caulder, are far from nobody. You have unparalleled strength and size. I think you would fit well into our . . . blossoming organization.”

Caulder arched a questioning eyebrow. “What, exactly, is it you want me to do?”

“First, I’d like you to quit your job here at the docks,” Milan explained. “Second, I’d like to take you to get fitted for a new suit. If you are to be one of my body guards, you need to dress the part. Third, well . . . we’ll see where things go from there.”

After several minutes of consideration, Caulder shrugged. He made his way to the office and tendered his resignation. At that, he followed Milan to his motorcade.

They stopped at Milan’s personal tailor. It took the man several hours to work out a pattern for Caulder’s suit. While he worked, Caulder and Milan spoke. Mostly, Milan explained his plan. Caulder asked the occasional question. Finally, the man finished. He explained to Milan, the garment would be ready the next day. Milan nodded, satisfied.

Caulder stared in astonishment as they rolled through the gates of a massive, sprawling citadel. “You live here?” he breathed.

“Welcome to the Nex Addo,” Milan grinned. “Come, we’ll get you a room.”

Caulder:  Part IV

The door swung awkwardly on broken hinges and creaked as he nudged it open.

“Leon?” he called. Making his way inside, the broken glass crackling under his boots.”Dr. Thompson?”

There was the smell again. He felt sick to his stomach. 

It was quiet. He could hear his heart, pounding in his ears.

The clinic was in shambles. The equipment was destroyed.

The stairs creaked as he climbed them to the apartment over the clinic. This door, too, was broken in. The smell was stronger. The sickness grew.

He dropped to his knees and retched. Leon and his father lay in mutilated heaps on the floor. After a minute, he collected himself and dialed the authorities.

It took hours. The questions were tesious and time-consuming. Once more, at the end of it all, he was alone. Only, this time, there was no one left to console him.

With a heavy sigh and quiet curse, he left and made his way down the street to the apartment he rented. The one-room flat was quiet. He closed the door behind him, leaving the light off. He pressed his back against it and sank to the floor.

The next morning, he went to work. He was quiet, kept to himself. He ate his lunch in solitude. The days blurred, one into the next. The weeks did the same.

Finally, his account reached the predetermined balance. He put in his notice and left the following week.

He left the city with his few belongings in a suitcase on the back of his motorcycle. The next day, he reached his destination.

In short order, he found an apartment and a job at the docks. He settled into the normalcy of a routine. He only went to work, the market, and home. Life was simple.

Caulder:  Part III

He opened the door and stepped inside. The house was strangely quiet. Sylus should have been in his room doing homework. His father should still be at work. There was a smell.

Caulder made his way into the kitchen. He stared in horror. His father lay near the back door in a pool of blood. His brother lay face down in his cereal bowl. He dropped to his knees and cried in sorrow and dismay. Tears streamed down his cheeks.

After several minutes, he took his phone from his pocket. He called the local law enforcement agency. Half an hour later, they arrived. Their work and questioning was tedious and nerve-wracking. Hours passed. It was dark, well past dinner when they finally finished and took the bodies away.

He left, then. It was too much for him to be in the house. The smell. The silence. He had to leave. He couldn’t go back there. Not ever.

There was a knock at the clinic door. It was nearly midnight. Leon stumbled down the stairs and answered the door, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“Caulder?” Leon murmured. “What are you doing here?”

“They’re dead,” he stated. “There was a break-in at the house, sometime this morning after I left for school. Dad and Sylus were killed. They knew exactly what they were looking for. They took only the real valuables, Sy’s laptop, the television, and the money I’d hidden away for Sy’s college fund.”

“Leon?” his father called down. “Who’s . . . Caulder? What are you going out so late?”

“His house was robbed, Dad,” Leon explained. “Sy and his father were murdered.”

The older man gave a small sound of sympathy. “I’m so sorry, son. Is there anything . . .”

“I just need a place to stay for a few nights until I get things sorted,” he answered. “If it’s not too much trouble.”

He placed a hand on Caulder’s shoulder. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you need.”

“Thank you.”

Leon motioned for him to follow. He took Caulder to the recovery room in the back. “I know it’s a bit small for a big guy like you. But it’s all we’ve got.”

Caulder nodded. “I’ll make it work. Thanks.”

At that, Leon nodded and left. Once more, Caulder found himself alone with the silence.

Caulder:  Part II

It’s not you, Caulder, it’s me,” she said, staring intensely into his eyes. “I’m just not feeling this relationship.”

She rose up on her toes and lightly kissed his chin. He found he could only stared at her in stunned silence. With that, she turned and walked away.

Caulder towered over all the students and teachers in his school. He was broad and stocky with his white blond hair braided down his back. The start of stubble shadowed his jawline. Thoughtfully he rubbed the spot and watched her disappear around the corner.

A strong hand thumped his shoulder. “Sorry about that, my friend. If she’s ready to dump you without an explaination, she’s not worth it.”

He turned and looked over his shoulder with a sigh. “Thanks for that, Leon. I appreciate it.”

“Come on,” Leon offered. “We’d better go or we’ll be late for class.”

The rest of the day was a blur. He paid less attention in his classes than usual. At the end of the day, Leon met him outside. Wordlessly, they walked to Leon’s father’s clinic.

“You look like you had a bad day, Caulder,” he stated.

Leon reached up and patted his shoulder. “Tyana broke up with him.”

The older man nodded his understanding. He reached into his desk drawer and took out a bottle of vodka and three shot glasses. His son stared at him in astonishment. He shrugged.

“We’re not in the States,” he stated. “You’re old enough to try some. And today’s situation calls for a little anisthetic.”

Not waiting for their response, he poured them each a shot. Wordlessly, he handed them each one. The youths coughed and sputtered as they slammed back the drinks.

“I’m here if you need to talk,” the older man offered.

Caulder wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He nodded and set the glass on the desk.

“Thank you,” he replied, then turned and headed for the front door, “but I’ll be just fine. There will be other girls.”

At that, he headed home. When he arrived, he found his father passed out on the sofa. His little brother was playing quietly in his room. He called the boy over, took him to the kitchen, and made them dinner.

“How was school, Sylus?” he asked.

Sylus bobbled his head as he chewed thoughtfully on his eggs. “It was all right. I came home and found Baba like that.”

Caulder sighed and nodded. “I’m sorry you had to see that. Tyana broke up with me in front of Leon. He took me to his dad to comisserate for a few minutes. It won’t happen again. Now, go take your bath and do your homework.”

The boy smiled. “I didn’t get any homework today.”

“That’s good. You can have extra time to draw, then.”

Sylus smiled and finished his dinner in silence.

Caulder:  Part I

He raised his forearm to ward off the rocks flying toward him. With a glance over his shoulder, he resolved to continue to protect the smaller boy until the others were done.

The bullies always picked on the smaller children. He always stood up for them.

He was only ten but already as tall as the teachers. His blond hair was longish and shaggy. The other kids were afraid to pick fights with him, most of the time. However, when he stepped in to defend others, they didn’t hesitate to take their anger out on him as well.

Today, it was the new boy. He was the son of a doctor who had just opened a practice in town. The boy was American with wild brown hair and startling blue eyes. He struggled with the language which led to his torment.

At last, the boys left off throwing rocks and returned to their walk home. He turned his attention to the new boy.

“My name is Caulder,” he offered. “Are you all right?”
The smaller boy managed a nod. “I’m Leon. Thank you. I’m all right.”

He nodded, satisfied. “I’ll walk you home, just to be sure. Where do you live?”

With a shrug, the boy turned and headed toward the center of town. Caulder sighed and followed. They eneterd the clinic and Leon stopped just inside.

“We live upstairs,” he explained. “So, I’m home safe now. Thank you.”

“Leon? Is that you?” asked a gentle older male voice from the back room. “How was your first day of . . .” His voice trailed off as he emerged and his gaze fell on Caulder. “You’re bleeding, young man. Come have a seat and I’ll take a look.”

Not waiting to see if Caulder complied, Leon headed upstairs. Caulder did as he was told.

“You’re in my son’s class?” he persisted.

Caulder nodded. “Yes.”

“Were you injured helping Leon?”

Again, Caulder nodded.

“The good news is, you don’t need stitches,” he announced. “The bad new is, I’m afraid my son is terribly rude.”

Caulder dismissed the incident with a wave of his hand. “It’s all right. He’s not the first person I’ve been injured helping and he certainly won’t be the last. I’m used to it. Thank you for patching me up. I appreciate it.”

With that, he slid off the examination table and headed for the door. He inclined his head, slightly, and was gone.

Terry: Part V

Book 4 (13)

His opponent landed hard on the mat with a thud and a grunt. A moment later, he frantically tapped out.

“Burton,” barked his T.O., “front and center.”

He pushed himself up and hustled over. “Sir?”

The older man motioned to someone standing near the doorway. “Looks like you’ve got friends in high places.”

He arched a questioning eyebrow. “I don’t follow, sir.”

“That guy is here to take you with him,” the older man continued. “He’s with the DEA. You now belong to him.”

For a minute, Terry stared at him, dumbfounded. A murmur rippled through the rest of the class.

“He’s not going to wait for you forever,” he stated. “Get going.”

With a sharp nod, Terry hustled to join the man. He extended his hand.

“Terrance Burton, sir.”

The man nodded and hooked his thumb over his shoulder. “Let’s go. We’ve got work to do.”

Not waiting for his response, he spun on his heels and headed out the door. Terry hurried to keep up.

Terry: Part IV

Book 4 (7)

He wrapped his arm around the smaller man’s waist and pulled him closer. Their mouths collided in a languorous kiss. The smaller man responded with matched ardor, tangling his fingers in his lover’s hair. Breathless, the two finally separated.

“I want you to meet my parents after graduation, tomorrow, Jax,” the taller man requested. “We’ve been together long enough that it’s about time.”

Jax took another step back. For a long moment, he studied his lover. His light brown hair was disheveled and in need of a trim, dangling over his storm-gray eyes. A nervous smile tugged at the corners of his full lips.

“I don’t know, Terry,” Jax managed at length. “Meeting your parents is a pretty big step in our relationship. I mean, on paper they seem to be all right with you dating a younger man. Once they meet me, it may be a different story. And, with you going away to the Academy in the fall and me finishing out my last two years of college . . . I just think we’re rushing things a bit.”

Terry looked down into Jax’s dark brown eyes. Those pool so deep he felt he would drown in them. “What are you getting at, Jax?” he questioned.

Jax sighed softly and raked his fingers through his hair with another backward step. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I guess I just need some time. It’s the end of the semester and I’ve got to deal with my folks in a few days. You’re graduating tomorrow and who knows when I’ll see you after that.”

“Hey,” Terry protested. “I thought we talked about this already? We’re going to spend the summer together before I go away.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Jax grumbled. “My parents are insisting I go with them to visit the family, back home in Spain.”

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying, Jax” he pressed. “Because if you are, just come out and say it.”

A silent tear ran down the younger man’s cheek. “I love you, Terry,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper, “more than anyone in the world. I just don’t see it working out for us. I’m sorry. It’s over. I’m breaking up with you.”

Before Terry could respond, Jax was out the door of his dorm and down the hall. He disappeared into the darkness outside the building before his words had a chance to sink in.

A growled curse slipped from his lips. It was followed by a merciless punch to the wall. His fist found the concrete block wall less forgiving than he expected. He dropped to his knees gripping his injured hand.

Just then, another student walked by the open door. “Terry? Are you all right?” he asked, and knelt beside him. “What happened?”

Tears streamed down his face as he struggled to speak.

“Never mind, I understand,” he stated. “Let’s get you to urgent care. This looks like it’s broken.”

Not waiting for a response, he ushered Terry out of the room, down the hall, and from the building to his car. They rode in silence.

As they arrived, Terry dried his eyes with the back of his good hand and heaved a sigh. “Thanks for doing this for me, Anjour. I really appreciate it.”

He patted his shoulder as they entered the building. “I’m here for you, my friend.”

Terry: Part III

Book 4 (7)

Their eyes met across the room. For a moment, he found himself lost in the dark brown pools. At last, he forced himself to look away. He returned his attention to his computer.

Someone standing behind him cleared his throat. Again, he looked up. The younger man stood over him.

“Is this seat taken?” he questioned.

He raked a hand through his unkempt sandy hair and sighed. “No, go right ahead.”

The youth extended his hand as he set his books on the desk. “I’m Jax Bandares.”

He took the hand offered. “Nice to meet you, Jax. I’m Terrance Burton. My friends call me Terry. You look a little young to be at college.”

The youth held his hand a moment longer than necessary. “I’m what most would call a prodigy.”

“Modest too,” Terry quipped.

Jax shrugged. “It is what it is. What’s your major?”

“Criminal justice,” he answered. “Yours?”

Jax grinned. “Computer sciences.”

Realization swept in. Terry folded his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. “How do you feel about coffee?”

“I’m a fan. Especially during mid-terms,” he stated. “Why do you ask?”

Terry shrugged. “Just wondering if you’d like to get some later.”

He ran a hand through his hair. Color rose in his cheeks. “I suppose I could take a study break in a few hours.”

At that, Terry returned his attention to his work. Jax too turned to his studies.

Terry: Part II

Book 4 (13)

He brought his forearm across to block the punch. His attacker hollered in pain and surprise. Taking advantage of the moment, he landed a solid left hook to the youth’s jaw. The blow sent him sprawling, dazed.

“Anyone else want a crack at the queer?” he snarled, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “Not as much of a wuss as you were expecting, huh, you narrow-minded ass-hats.”

With murmurs and downcast eyes, the group of boys helped their compatriot to his feet and hurried off. For several minutes, he stood there, half expecting them to return with older siblings or parents.

He sighed in relief, shouldered his bag, and headed home. His mother greeted him at the door. He opened his mouth to speak. Before he could, she pulled him against her chest and kissed his head.

“Go upstairs and get cleaned up,” she directed gently. “When you’re done, come down to the kitchen so I can see if I need to take you to the hospital. Bring my first aid bag down with you. If it’s nothing serious, I’ll patch you up myself.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

His bag fell to the floor with a heavy thud, he closed the front door, and headed up the stairs to the bathroom. Silently, he shed his clothing, turned on the shower, and stepped beneath the torrent. A heavy sigh escaped him as he cleaned himself. He hissed as the soap stung several wounds on his head and chest. At last, he turned off the water and climbed out. He toweled dry as he studied his injuries in the mirror. Casually, he wrapped the towel around his waist and hurried across the hall to his room.

After putting on a clean change of clothes, he grabbed the first aid bag from the bathroom and headed down to the kitchen. His mother set a bowl of chili on the table in front of him as he plunked into a chair.

“How long have you known?” he asked as she examined the cut over his left eye.

She sucked her teeth as she reached for the bag. “I’m your mother, boy. I knew before you did.”

He winced as she applied antibiotic ointment and a butterfly bandage to the wound. “You don’t seem surprised I got into another fight either.”

She sighed as she applied more ointment and a large bandage to an abrasion on his right shoulder. “I know how you like to stand up for the little guy. I figured it was only a matter of time before you came out while defending another gay boy, or girl, or y’know whomever.”

“You’re not mad at me?”

She folded her arms over her chest, shifted her weight, and studied him carefully. “You won?”

He nodded.

“Why would I be mad?”