Phillip Bauer took off his jacket and hung it in his closet. After removing his tie and putting it away as well, he sat at his desk and logged into his computer. There he found a folder containing pictures from a fishing trip he and Ryan had gone on as well as pictures from the hockey league they played in. He sighed deeply as he thought of the many memories. He and Jen had just returned from Ryan’s funeral. In a matter of weeks he and his wife had lost two friends and all he wanted was one answer:
“There’s a tow-truck outside.” Said Jen. “Looks like they have Ryan’s old car.”
Phil stood and walked to the front door just in time to see the truck driver back over his mailbox.
“Of course…” said Phil.
“Sorry about that.” Said the driver as he handed Phil a clipboard.
“What’s this for?” asked Phil
“Apparently it was willed to you by someone.” Said the driver. “Now if I could get you to sign here and initial right there and there, I’ll be on my way.”
“And the mailbox?” asked Phil
The driver scratched his head and looked back at the mailbox.
“It’s an easy fix…” said the driver.
Phil signed the paperwork and the driver left. He and Jen stood in the driveway admiring their new car, but did not notice someone walking up behind them on the sidewalk.
“What are we going to do with this?” asked Jen
“Well, the gas mileage is terrible, but it is a classic.” Said Phil. “I could probably sell it for a decent amount.”
“Sell it!?” said a familiar voice behind them.
Phil and Jen turned quickly and saw Ryan standing there with a look of disbelief that rivaled their own.
“Ryan!” said Phil. “How the heck…”
“Yeah, long story man.” Said Ryan. “But I’m fine. I’m going to go look for Annie.”
“Why did you give me your car?” asked Phil.
“Because if I didn’t leave it for someone, it would have been auctioned off or something.” Said Ryan. “Speaking of which, here’s the deed to our house. Just hold on to it. Annie and I will be moving back in one of these days.”
Phil took the deed and stared at it as he shook his head.
“I just came from your funeral, man.” Said Phil.
“Oh really?” said Ryan with a laugh. “How was it?”
“Sad.” Said Phil. Clearly not amused. “Jen, could you get us something to drink?”
“Sure.” Said Jen. “Glad you’re not dead, Ryan.”
“Thanks, me too.” Said Ryan.
Phil waited for Jen to walk inside, then asked:
“He’s back at the house getting some supplies ready. Guns, ammo, camping gear. Pretty much everything we might need.” Said Ryan.
“I hope you find Annie.” Said Phil. “How are you going to pay for the trip?”
“Yeah, about that…” said Ryan. “Have you checked your bank account lately?”
“Yesterday. Why?” asked Phil.
“Check it again.” Said Ryan.
Phil pulled out his phone and opened his bank account info.
“Oh my freaking g---!” said Phil as Ryan covered his mouth with his hand.
“OK, so it worked.” Said Ryan. “That’s the deposit from my life insurance. I need that.”
“That’s $100,000!” said Phil.
“I started a new account with a new name.” said Ryan. “Just transfer $95,000 into it and buy a boat with the rest. Or whatever you want.”
“What name did you make the account under?” asked Phil.
“Gordon.” Said Ryan. “Gordon Howe.”
“You wish.” Said Phil with a laugh.
“I also need you to register the car in your name.” said Ryan. “That’s all.”
“Alright, I suppose I could go do all that now.” Said Phil. “Do you have any idea where Annie could be?”
“Nope.” Said Ryan. “Not a clue. But she’s out there. Somewhere.”
* * * * *
A man wearing a white lab coat walked down the hallway of a poorly lit building. He reached into the pocket of his lab coat and pulled out a single key. He stopped in front of a door, unlocked it and slowly opened it.
“Mrs. Easton.” He said firmly, but respectfully. “Please come with me.”
Annie couldn’t see who it was since the person was standing in darkness, but she was somewhat relieved as this was the first time the door had been opened in weeks and he didn’t sound threatening.
“Who are you?” she demanded. “I’m not going to cooperate with you until you start cooperating with me!”
“We have met before.” Said the man as he stepped forward into the light. “My name is Doctor Apocalypse.”
Annie gasped at the sight of the man standing before her. His face and hands had been severely burned and his lower jaw was missing. In its place was a crude steel jaw that looked to have been hastily made by someone with little skill in such tasks. He also wore a strange pair of goggles on his eyes and seemed momentarily bothered by the light he had walked into.
“Your face…” said Annie.
“Nothing to concern yourself with.” Said Doctor Apocalypse. “I just needed a moment to adjust to the light. As you can see, I have had a few run-ins with your husband and his dog.”
Annie thought for a moment then recognized his voice.
“You’re the one who kidnapped me and took me to that warehouse.” Said Annie. “All you wanted was one of Ryan’s hockey sticks.”
“Yes, you are correct.” Said Doctor Apocalypse.
“He destroyed the stick last year.” Said Annie. “You’ll never get it now.”
“We don’t need the stick. We need you.” Said Dr. Apocalypse. “We need your mind.”
Annie looked confused.
“What do you need my mind for?” she asked
Dr. Apocalypse pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it to Annie.
“The original plan was to kill you and Ryan outright, but while following you around your college campus, we learned a little more about you than we thought we would.” Said Dr. Apocalypse
“This is my research paper.” Said Annie. “How did you find it?”
Ignoring her question, Dr. Apocalypse continued:
“We need you to recreate those bacteria. It’s resistant to extreme heat and…” his voice trailed off.
“And what?” asked Annie.
“It’s so very deadly.” Said Dr. Apocalypse, unable to fight back a sneer.
“I found them by accident.” Said Annie. “I had no intention of making something so powerful. Even if I could recreate them, and there’s no guarantee that I can, I would never make them for you. You’ll hurt people!”
Dr. Apocalypse took a radio from his jacket pocket.
“She says she won’t do it. Are you ready with the ultimatum?” he said
“Yes. Bring her.” Said a voice through the radio.
“Come with me.” Said Dr. Apocalypse. “You will want to see this.”
* * * * *
Ryan pulled into his driveway and parked the car. Sawyer met him outside with a few bags of supplies.
“There’s more in the garage.” Said Sawyer. “Do you think you can get it? I wanna see if Buffy is home so I can say goodbye.”
“Yeah, sure. Take your time.” Said Ryan. “Wrap it before you tap it!”
“She’s classy!” Sawyer snapped.
Ryan finished loading everything into the Malibu. His shotgun, Sawyer’s AK-47, ammo, pipe bombs, fishing gear, camping gear. Gear, gear and more gear. Ryan and Sawyer had no idea if they would need any of this stuff, but they sure weren’t going to risk not having it if they did need it.
Sawyer came back after an hour and jumped in the Malibu, ready to go.
“You alright?” asked Ryan as he got into the driver’s seat.
“I’m fine. She’s sad.” Said Sawyer. “Let’s get going before I have second thoughts.”
Ryan pulled out of the driveway and headed towards who knows where. He looked into the rear view mirror at his house, wondering if he would ever live in it again.
“There it goes, Sawyer.” Said Ryan, still looking in the mirror. “All those good times.”
“What the heck!?” cried Ryan and Sawyer.
Their house had just exploded in a ball of fire. Debris was raining down all around them as a robot flew over their heads and out of sight.
“Well, we just got our first clue.” Said Ryan.
“General Evil…” growled Sawyer.
* * * * *
“That house was empty.” Said a man in the dark trench coat as he turned off the video feed from the robot that had blown up Annie’s house. “The next one will be loaded with your family members.”
Annie buried her face in her hands and sobbed. “Please just leave us alone…” she said.
“Agree to help us and no more harm will come to your family.” Said the man in the trench coat.
“Agree to help us and we will reward you when our plans have come to fruition.” Said Dr. Apocalypse.
Annie weighed her options. If she didn’t help them, they would kill her family. If she did help them, she would be helping them kill someone else’s family. Unless…
“I’ll do it.” Said Annie. “I hope your plan fails, but I’ll help. Just leave my family alone.”
“You won’t regret your decision.” Said Dr. Apocalypse. “Guards, take her to her laboratory. We will start right away.”
Two guards escorted Annie from the room. Dr. Apocalypse waited for them to close the door behind them, then spoke:
“I have not been able to contact the lawyer for days, Evil.” He said.
“No matter. He did what we needed him to do.” Said General Evil.
“Did he?” Apocalypse challenged. “Ryan Easton and his dog disappear off the face of the earth the same day the man who tried to put him in prison does? He’s going to come here…”
“And he will die.” Said General Evil. “This is all too prefect, really.”
Dr. Apocalypse looked uneasy as he placed a hand on his steel jaw.
“One of these days, my luck will run out.” He said.
“Don’t worry about Ryan and his dog.” Said General Evil. “If he is alive, and I doubt he is, I have a surprise waiting for him.” General Evil motioned towards a reinforced iron door.
General Evil changed the subject:
“Have you gained her trust?” he asked.
“She will never trust either of us. Nor should she. But she will cooperate.” Said Dr. Apocalypse.
“Good.” Said General Evil with a sinister grin. “Cooperation is all we require.”