The doorbell rang just as John Fisher was sitting down to dinner with his mother on a rainy Monday evening at their home in the suburbs.
“Oh, who could that be … at this hour?” his mother hissed, throwing her napkin down beside her plate. “Don’t they know it’s suppertime?” She rose from her seat and started making her way down the corridor.
John leaned backwards in his chair to get a glimpse of the entrance as his mother pulled the door open. A stocky policeman was standing on the front porch, shielding his face from the steady downpour with a raised hand. His bushy moustache jumped.
“My name is Corporal Booker,” he said, biting through the violent wind whipping across his face. “Is this the Fisher residence?”
John’s mother nodded nervously. “What can I do for you, officer?”
“And you have a son … a John … a John Fisher,” said Booker, looking up from his notepad. “Is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s right,” said his mother, her voice choking up slightly as she spoke. “What’s this all about?”
“Well, we’d like to have a word with him – is he home?”
“Is he in some kind of trouble, officer?”
Booker folded his arms across his barrel chest. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I can’t go into detail about that. May I have a word with him please?”
“Not unless I’m there.”
“It has to be in private, I’m afraid.”
“Well I won’t have it!” snapped John’s mother.
Booker tipped his head forward and looked through his lowered brow. “Ma’am?”
“The answer is no!”
Booker stepped forward and leered down his stubby nose. The corner of his bushy moustache twitched. “I am a police officer, ma’am. And are you saying you’re willing to obstruct justice? Do you know what the penalties are for that?”
His mother bit her lower lip, and recoiled as if she could smell his poison breath on her. Then she stole a small step backwards, as she cleared her throat. “Yes. Yes, of course you may see him. Please, come in, officer,” she said in a small voice, meekly waving the officer into the entrance as she turned to the kitchen and called, “John! There’s someone here to see you! A police officer.”
John’s pulse quickened as he slid off his chair and made his way down the corridor. When he approached the entrance, his gaze connected with Booker’s. The officer’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“You John?” he grunted.
John let off a shiver, but nodded.
“I’d like to have a word with you – in private,” said Booker, shooting a quick glance at John’s mother. “Please follow me to the cruiser.”
Outside, the rain was stinging. As John made his way down the path to the cruiser, following in Booker’s footsteps, he pulled his jacket collar up and ducked his head further into his hoodie to shield himself from the falling pellets.
“Just hop in the front seat,” barked Booker, waving a hand at the door.
John pursed his lips, but hesitantly rounded the cruiser, opened the passenger door and climbed in. Booker sat down on the driver side and slammed the door. When he settled himself into his seat and took a clipboard in his hand, he looked over at John with a stern expression on his face.
“How old are you, John?” he asked.
“And you live with your parents, is that right?”
Booker glanced down at his clipboard. “You go to Southdale Elementary School – correct?”
John nodded again.
Booker then paged through some papers on his clipboard until the photo of a man appeared between them. He unclipped it and handed it to John.
“Have you seen this man before?” Booker asked.
John inspected the photo of the man. He had a black beard and matching long shaggy hair down to his chin. His eyes were a piercing ocean blue, and there was no trace of smile on his face. Instead, his expression was one of menace.
“Who is he?” asked John.
“Do you recognize him?” Booker asked, ignoring John’s question. “Look carefully.”
John looked at the photo again, and then shook his head. “No, sir.”
“Are you sure?” grunted Booker. “Look again. This is the only picture we have, so try to imagine what he may look like without the beard or long hair.”
John studied the photo some more, placing a finger to his chin. Then it hit him. He had seen the man, earlier that day.
“Actually, I think I might have seen him at school today,” he confessed.
Booker’s eyebrows leapt up. “This man?” he barked, jabbing a finger at the photo. “You saw this man at school – today? Are you absolutely sure, boy?”
John took another glance at the photo, then nodded. “Yes, I’m sure. During recess, he was standing around across the street, pacing back and forth. I noticed because one of the other kids pointed him out. They were making fun of him because he was wearing weird clothes.”
Booker slammed a fist down onto his clipboard with a crack and cursed loudly. “We’re taking you in … immediately!” he thundered, fumbling with the gear shift.
“Wait a minute – what do you mean?” cried John, sitting bolt upright in his seat. “Taking me in? Taking me where?”
“It’s for your own safety,” Booker muttered, slamming the cruiser into gear.
“But I have to let my mom know!”
“There’s no time for that!” yelled Booker, as he stepped on the accelerator, and the cruiser lurched backwards onto the street.
“This isn’t l-l-legal, is it?” John stammered, his stomach sinking, as the cruiser shuttled down the street. Rain blasted against the windshield as buildings flew past in a blurry haze. “Y-y-you can’t just take me away like this, sir!”
Booker looked over his hunched shoulder. “Oh, can’t I?”
But Booker said nothing in response. Only silence followed. John wondered what was up with him. He wasn’t acting the way a police officer should, was he? But what could John do about it?
“Are you taking me down to the station?” he finally asked, fidgeting with his fingers.
“To a safe house,” replied Booker, grimacing.
“A safe house?”
“That’s right. You’ll be well protected there.”
“Protected?” said John, raising an eyebrow. “Protected from what?”
John furrowed his brow. “Who – or what – is Enigmus?”
“The man in the picture,” said Booker, yanking the steering wheel to the right as he turned the cruiser down a side street. The wind howled loudly outside.
“Why do I need protection? I don’t understand.”
“Enigmus is a notorious killer and we have reason to believe he’s coming for you next.”
John swallowed hard. “For me?” he said in a lowered, chocked up voice.
“That’s right,” grunted Booker.
“But why me?”
“Your father’s a doctor, isn’t he?” Booker answered, glancing sideways at John. “A while back he operated on Enigmus’ mother. Let’s just say the operation didn’t go smoothly. His mother ended up dead. Now Enigmus wants revenge. He wants to get your dad back where it really hurts.”
“So you’re saying he wants to kill me then?” John asked, wiping at a bead of sweat that was forming on his temple.
“That’s right. And that’s why we need to protect you.”
John’s veins seemed to stop and freeze into ice. He felt cold all over, like he was sitting naked in the winter. A dangerous killer was after him? All because his dad failed in an operation?
“He figures a life for a life should do it,” Booker continued, his moustache twitching erratically. “We’re just lucky I got to you first. Who knows what would have happened if Enigmus had reached you before I did!”
John took a moment, trying to free his tongue. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“A-a-and this Enigmus escaped from prison?” he said finally.
John shivered and folded his arms, hugging his back with his hands. “But shouldn’t we have told my mom what’s going on?” he protested, noticing the hard rain was now dying down to a mild drizzle. “She’ll be wondering what happened to me.”
“Like I said … there’s no time for that.”
“But can’t we call her from here … to let her know?”
“Radio’s down,” Booker grunted quickly.
Finally, John resigned himself to let it go. Booker was a police officer, after all. And they were there to help, weren’t they?
“How many people has he killed?” John asked at last.
Booker’s moustache twitched on one side. “Dozens.”
“Why’d he do it?”
But John was curious. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know all there was to know about this Enigmus character.
“Is he deranged?” John asked.
Booker grunted. “Worst serial killer in the country right now.”
“But why haven’t I heard of him?”
“I said enough questions!”
“Wouldn’t he be all over the news?” John pressed on.
“It’s very hush-hush right now,” Booker said, wiping his forehead with the back of a hand. “We don’t want to create a public panic – at least, while there’s still time to recapture him before he strikes again.”
“How does he do it?”
Booker crumpled his brow. “Do what?”
“You know … kill people.”
“Mostly knives,” said Booker, tweaking his nose with some fingers. “He’s carved people up real good. But he does use guns from time to time … when they’re not likely to attract attention.”
“Have you ever met him?” John asked.
Booker shook his head. “I wasn’t on duty when we arrested him last time.”
“I wonder what he’s like.”
“Trust me, boy,” Booker snorted, as he glanced sideways. “You don’t want to come face to face with a killer like that.”
The cruiser came to a halt in front of a red stoplight. The rain had completely stopped now. John cast his gaze out his window, wondering what a mass murderer would be like in person. A man on a motorcycle pulled up beside him. His long hair was glued to the sides of his face and his beard was drenched from the rain earlier. He looked over at John with menacing ocean blue eyes, and when their gazes connected, the man smiled broadly. Then he reached into the insides of his strange looking jacket.
John’s heart almost exploded!
“It’s him!” he cried, turning to Booker, whose eyes shot out the window. “It’s Enigmus!” John shouted at the top of his lungs. He looked again, and Enigmus was pulling a strange looking gun out of his jacket. He drew it out and aimed it straight at the window between them.
“Get down!” Booker yelled, flashing out a hand and ducking John’s head toward the glove box.
A weird zapping sound reverberated through the air and the window shattered, throwing shards of glass across John’s back and shoulders.
Booker pressed a button, and a siren began to wail as splotches of red and blue flashed intermittently on the wet pavement outside. The cruiser then bolted through the red light, narrowly missing a van which swerved wildly in front of them.
Brushing chunks of broken glass off his shoulder, John looked back to see that Enigmus was in hot pursuit, his motorcycle’s engine revving with a rumble that filled the air.
“I think you’d better put on your seatbelt, boy,” Booker muttered through the side of his mouth.
The cruiser torpedoed down the double lane street like a rocket blasting off into space, its siren blaring and its lights flashing against the passing squares and shops. Cars in front of them parted to make room as they sped past. John kept looking back to catch glimpses of Enigmus, who was closing the distance between them.
“Keep your head down!” Booker shouted, putting a hand on top of John’s head and trying to push it down.
“Don’t touch me!” John snapped, swatting at Booker’s hand. “Shouldn’t you call for back up or something?”
Booker pushed his mouth to one side, then said, “They’re all tied up right now. There was a huge fire downtown.”
John got a sick, uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something didn’t feel right.
“I want you to stop the car – right now!” he said firmly.
“Can’t do that … you might get killed.”
“I might get killed driving this fast!”
“Quiet down, boy,” grunted Booker. “Let me concentrate on my driving.”
Suddenly, there was a brilliant flash of light and the rear window of the cruiser shattered. Glass was thrown all over the back seat, some pieces flying as far as the front where they bounced off John and Booker’s backs.
“See!” Booker yelled. “You want me to stop the car while a crazed lunatic is shooting at us?”
John pursed his lips. “How far is this safe house?”
“Not far. But we have to lose Enigmus first. Otherwise he’ll know where we’re hiding you.”
Booker wrenched the wheel to the left as they came to a near vacant intersection. The cruiser sped down another street. John turned around in his seat to look back again. They certainly weren’t losing Enigmus. He was following very closely in their tracks, waving a weapon above his head with one arm.
“What kind of gun is that, anyway?”
“Which one?” asked Booker, glancing down at his holster.
“No, the one Enigmus’ is using,” said John, jumping as the cruiser skimmed a parked car. The side mirror broke off and got lost in the scuffle, sending sparks flying. “It doesn’t sound like a normal gun, and the bullet should have ripped through the front windshield too – but only the back window shattered.”
Booker shrugged. “Weird angle, maybe.”
A distant voice reached John’s ears but he couldn’t make out the words. It was Enigmus. He was shouting madly as he followed after them.
“What’s he screaming about?” asked John, glancing at Booker.
“Beats me,” said Booker. “He’s crazy … probably babbling nonsense.” He reached down to his belt and pulled his gun from its holster. “Here, take this,” he commanded.
“You want me to take your gun?”
“Fire off a few shots at him.”
“What – can I do that?” John asked, eyeing the gun suspiciously as he reached for it.
“I’m a police officer, and I’m telling you to shoot at him.”
John scrunched up his face. “But is that legal?”
“Here, gimme that!” Booker barked, taking the gun back in his hand. He twisted around in his seat as he stretched out his arm, aiming the gun out the back window. A few bangs echoed in John’s ears, and shortly after the stench of gun powder filled his nostrils.
“I can’t hear properly,” shouted John, sticking a finger in each ear and twisting his hands.
“It’ll wear off,” Booker shouted back, as he glanced into his rearview mirror. Then he smiled. “See, look,” he said, motioning a hand at the mirror. “He’s pulled back. Now, to get you to the safe house.”
He cut the siren and lights, then pulled the steering wheel sharply to the left, causing John to fall against the door, his head popping out of the now open window. The wind licked at his hair, before he managed to climb properly back into his seat, facing forward.
They barreled down several more streets before the cruiser pulled over to a curb in front of what looked like an abandoned building. Most of the doors and windows were all boarded up, and the roof didn’t look like it would have been keeping the rain out very well.
“This is it,” said Booker, extending a hand at the building. “There’s a few other officers waiting inside.”
“But I thought you said they were all down at the fire,” said John, narrowing his eyes.
Booker grunted. “Well, these are special agents. C’mon, out of the car, boy.”
John opened the door and climbed onto the sidewalk. He looked back in the direction they had just come from. There was no sign of Enigmus. The air was still too; no sound of a roaring motorcycle. He shrugged and followed after Booker, who was making his way up the lane to the main entrance of the building.
“Hurry up, boy,” Booker snorted, looking back over his shoulder as he approached the front door. It was the only one that wasn’t boarded up. He opened the door and held it for John. “In you go.”
John hesitantly took a step through the threshold. The sight wasn’t what he was expecting. In the shabby lobby stood two burly men in suits and sunglasses, one standing at the foot of a staircase, the other leaning up against a wall. Both were holding guns closely against their chests.
“I really should give my mom a call,” John said, almost in a whisper, as he turned to face Booker, who was locking the door behind him. “She’ll be worried sick about me.”
“There’s no cell service in here,” murmured Booker. “C’mon, we have a room waiting for you upstairs.”
“I just want to go home,” said John, eyeing the men with guns.
“That’s not possible,” said Booker. “You’re perfectly safe here.” He motioned a hand at the armed men. “These men are trained to protect people. Enigmus won’t get to you here. That’s a promise.”
John eyed the door. Should he try to make a run for it? But how far would he get? Certainly the men would catch him and restrain him, even if it was for his own safety. And what if Enigmus had followed them? What if he was waiting outside? John found himself torn as to what to do.
“Well …” grunted Booker. “You coming?”
“Right this way,” Booker said, gesturing a hand up the stairs. “We have video games too. You play them, don’t you?”
There was little else for John to do but follow Booker up the staircase into a medium sized room. It had a large screen TV and a bed in it. The only window was boarded up.
“Make yourself comfortable,” said Booker.
“How long do I have to stay here?” John asked.
“Until we know it’s safe.”
“How long will that be?”
Booker grunted. “We’ll let you know.” Then he left the room, closing the door behind him. A clattering sound came from behind the doorknob, followed by a resounding click.
John raced over to the door and tried the knob. It was locked. How strange, he thought. Something felt off. He wandered over to the bed and let his body slump onto it. This didn’t seem right at all. There were too many things that didn’t add up. And now, here he was locked up, almost a prisoner.
He sat thinking about what he would do when Booker returned when a scratching sound came from the window. It sounded like someone was prying nails out of wood. John jumped to his feet and moved closer to the window. Someone or something was definitely on the other side. Then a beam fell off, leaving a small opening out into the night sky.
“I-i-is someone there?” John whispered through the crack, even though he already knew the answer.
Then another board fell away, leaving enough room for him to squeeze through. But before John could make a move, a dark figure appeared in the gap. Yet another board came tumbling down, and a leg shot out into the room, followed by a man’s entire body. When the light hit him as he straightened up, John’s mouth fell opened.
It was Enigmus.
He smiled broadly, and his ocean blue eyes twinkled.
“Help!” John murmured, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, as he turned for the door. “Help!”
“Quiet!” Enigmus hissed, whirling around John and clamping a hand over his mouth.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Enigmus whispered, staring straight into John’s eyes. His gaze had an intensity about it. “If I let you go, do you promise not to yell?”
John thought it over for a few seconds, then nodded awkwardly, as Enigmus’ hand was still glued over his mouth.
Enigmus released his grasp and took a step back, as he brushed off his strange looking jacket. Then he looked at John as if he was inspecting him thoroughly.
“You look just like your mother,” he said at last.
John furrowed his brow. “But you’ve never met my mother – have you?”
“No,” said Enigmus, placing his hands on his hips. “You haven’t met your mother.”
John screwed up his face. “What are you talking about? I was just having dinner with her this evening.”
“That’s not your mother – your birth mother, I mean. That woman adopted you when you were just a baby.”
“Rubbish,” John sneered, batting a hand through the air as he took a step back.
“You’re not from this world, John,” said Enigmus, taking a step closer. “You come from a distant planet called Motomica. That’s in the Quanoro galaxy. You were kidnapped as a baby and brought to this planet to be hidden from your real parents.”
“This is ridiculous. You’re a deranged killer! You tried to kill me! Why should I listen to you?”
“I’m not a killer, John,” said Enigmus, strolling over to the bed and taking a seat. “And I wasn’t trying to kill you – I was trying to rescue you. You’ve been lied to … and those men downstairs, they aren’t police officers.”
John pursed his lips. “Yeah, I was kind of suspecting that.”
“I bet you even thought Booker was the killer.”
“How’d you know that?” asked John, raising an eyebrow.
“Call it a hunch,” said Enigmus, shrugging. “But he is, you know.”
“A killer – he’s killed plenty of people.”
John shifted his weight from leg to the other. “Who exactly are you?”
“I’m a bounty hunter. I search the universe for missing people … people like you. Your parents hired me to find you – and I finally have! It’s been a long twelve years, let me tell you. And now it’s about to pay off – big time!”
“If what you’re saying is true,” said John, sitting down beside Enigmus on the bed, “why was I kidnapped in the first place?”
“John – because you’re royalty.”
“Yes, your parents are the king and queen of your home planet.”
John’s jaw dropped. “You mean I’m a prince?”
Enigmus nodded. “You’ve been held hostage here on Earth since right after you were born.”
John felt a little dizzy. A few stars were starting to form in his vision.
“But why?” he asked, giving his head a shake.
“That’s a long story,” sighed Enigmus, rising to his feet. “I’ll tell you all about it later. Right now, we have to get you out of here before they notice I’m with you. Can you squeeze through the window?” he asked, as he walked over to it.
John followed him. “So I-I-I’m an – an alien then?”
Enigmus, who was tearing another board away from the window, chuckled. “Well, that’s one way of looking at it, I guess. But from our perspective, you’re the one who’s been living with aliens.”
John thought about this for a moment. It was almost mind bending.
“Okay, up you go,” said Enigmus, taking hold of John’s elbow and helping him through the window. “There’s a roof just outside.”
John found himself standing on a rickety old roof that fanned out towards the street. A moment later, Enigmus was outside too, creeping along it.
“There’s a place to get down over here,” he whispered, beckoning John forward.
John practically tip-toed his way across the surface until he arrived at the ledge beside Enigmus. Below was a dumpster stationed against the building’s wall. One by one, he and Enigmus climbed down, before setting their feet down on solid ground. Then they crept along the lane leading up to the sidewalk along the street.
“Now to find a car,” said Enigmus, scratching his head as he looked around.
“Find a car?”
“You don’t want to ride around on a motorcycle, do you?”
John shrugged. “And you’re just going to take one?”
“I’m going to borrow one,” said Enigmus, smiling. “Look, over there. C’mon.”
John and Enigmus hurried down the street to where a line of cars was parked. There was a street light towering above, scattering rays of light over the area.
“So why was I taken as a baby?” asked John, coming to a stop in front of a car.
“Your real parents love you very much, John,” said Enigmus, as he wound up and hurled an elbow through the window of one of the cars. The glass shattered into the front seat. “They’d do anything to get you back … and to see to it that you’re safe and well.” He reached into the car and unlocked it, then climbed into the driver’s seat while motioning John to get in the passenger side, which he unlocked shortly afterwards.
“What does this have to do with me being kidnapped?” asked John, as he climbed into the passenger seat.
“Well, you’re essentially being held for ransom here, John,” Enigmus replied, reaching underneath the dashboard and fiddling with some wires. “Acculous promised that no harm would come to you – if your parents do what he wants.”
John furrowed his brow. “Who’s Acculous?”
“A space lord,” said Enigmus, touching two bear wires together. They sparked, and the engine roared to life. “A very cruel, cold-hearted … but extremely powerful man. He has dominion over all of Quanoro … you know, our galaxy.”
“And what’s he making my parents do?”
But before Enigmus could answer, a loud voice hollered behind them, cutting their conversation in half.
“Look! Over there! Quick! After them!”
John whirled his head around to see Booker and his two thugs racing towards them on foot, their guns drawn and aimed in his direction.
Enigmus looked over at John. “Ready?”
John nodded, as he strapped his seatbelt across his chest.
Enigmus gunned the engine, and the sound of squealing tires echoed down the wet pavement.
They were off.
“I have to remove your chipset – right now,” said Enigmus, as he pulled a pencil like object out of the lining of his jacket, not taking his eyes off the road as they cruised down the dimly lit street.
“My chipset?” said John, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you know that small scar on your left wrist?”
John nodded. “What about it?”
“That’s where they made the cut to insert it,” Enigmus said, glancing in the rearview mirror.
John messed up his face. “But what is a chipset?”
“It’s a small device that’s inserted into peoples’ wrists that tracks their location and tells the cameras on the satellites where to point – here, give me your hand.”
“What cameras?” John asked, as Enigmus took John’s hand and pointed the pencil like object at it, using his knees on the steering wheel to guide the car as he looked back and forth. A laser beam shot out of the device’s tip, which warmed John’s wrist in the place of his scar.
“Your parents have watched you grow up, John,” said Enigmus, as a microchip visibly surfaced on John’s wrist. “The cameras on the satellites have filmed you your entire life, and that feed has been broadcasted to your parents.” He took the microchip in his hand and tossed it out the window with a snap of his elbow. “That’s the reassurance Acculous gave them that you’re still alive.”
“You mean they’re watching me right now?”
“Could be,” said Enigmus, shrugging, as he turned the car down a dark back alley. “But now the cameras won’t know where to point, so they can’t film you anymore. Booker and his men won’t be able to track us anymore either.”
“So my parents know me, but I have no idea who they are?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Enigmus, pulling the car into a deserted driveway, where he stopped and killed the lights and engine. He looked over at John. “But you’ll get to know them once we return to Motomica.”
“You mean you’re taking me there?”
John felt a little bewildered. His thoughts began to race.
“I’m gonna leave Earth – and travel through space?” he said, letting his jaw hang slack.
That was too much for John. He folded his arms, slouching back into his seat. “But I don’t want to go. I like my life here. Sure, it’s boring, but I don’t want to leave it.”
“Your people need you, John.”
John furrowed his brow, as he sat forward again. “What do you mean – my people?”
“Only you can free them,” said Enigmus, angling his torso towards John. “Acculous has forced them into slavery. All they do is build weapons for him. Day and night. As long as you remain here, your parents will be forced to make your people do his bidding. And the only reason they do that is so that he won’t kill you. But if he no longer has control over you, your parents will be free to liberate your planet.”
John remained silent, thinking this over. It was all a bit much to take in.
“Billions of people are counting on you, John,” Enigmus continued, absent-mindedly fiddling with the gearshift. “Besides, can you really go back to your life, knowing your true origins and that you’re nothing but a hostage here on Earth – a prisoner?”
John clenched his jaw. He felt faint. His whole life had been nothing but a big deception. Could he really go back to the people he believed were his parents, knowing they adopted him, and pretend everything was well? And could he forget about his people – even though he’d never met any of them – knowing they were suffering because of him? Could he live with himself?
He finally drew in a deep breath, held it and then slowly let it out in a long sigh.
“Fine, I’ll go,” he said at last. “I’ll return to Motomica and free my people.”
Enigmus slapped him on the back. “That-a-boy.”
“Where do we begin?” asked John at once.
“First, we have to get to my spaceship … then … outer space,” Enigmus said, spreading a hand out against the star littered night sky.
If you want to finish reading the entire novel, visit my website to find out how: kynanpatram.com