Preface: This is Chapter 1 in a full-length novel. If you are interested in reading on, please feel free to email me at the address at the bottom of the home page. Also, the following starts book 2 in the series. If you have not read Black & White, I would highly advise starting there.
Cyan woke up in the early morning hours to Scarlett nestled into his shoulder, fast asleep. He didn’t want to open his eyes – not yet – but he could smell the early summer air at the estate and feel the weight of her head on him. Hers, with the open window, was a scent that made him feel incredibly safe and at peace.
Scarlett had come over last night – just to talk – as she had four nights in the past week. His sister had come to her own conclusions about their friendship, but Breanne was inaccurate in her assumptions. Not that Cyan didn’t find Scarlett attractive, quite the opposite, but she had never wanted more than to converse and spend time together, and Cyan enjoyed her personality more every chance got exposed to it.
Cyan imagined she must tire of relationships based solely around physicality. He couldn’t think exactly, but someone once said that it was easy to get naked with someone, but to be honest was to be truly vulnerable. Sounded like something Scarlett would say, actually. She loved the old Hollywood and quoting stars from that era.
Scarlett shifted under her blanket and opened her eyes, looking up at him in an adorable half-asleep way. Cyan’s breath was taken for that moment, wishing nothing more than this happiness to continue forever. Then she closed her eyes and went back to sleep, breathing shallowly and calmly.
Cyan reached back into his memory, careful not to stir in case Scarlett might waken fully beside him. Last night she had brought a DVD of Some Like It Hot, one of her favorite films, and they had fallen asleep watching it together. There was likely leftover popcorn nearby, long since stale in the crisp overnight air. This was the first time he had fallen asleep beside anyone since just after college. Why had she stayed this time? She never had before.
Suddenly Cyan heard his phone vibrate against the glass coffee table in front of the loveseat they were on. Really? Now? Couldn’t it wait? He opened his eyes again and glanced to the phone to see who it was. If the organization, he’d likely want to answer it. Surely Scarlett would understand. After a few blinks more, the gunk cleared from his eyes and he could read the sender line on the phone: Monday. It had been a year and a half since Monday had been freed and able to rejoin the organization. In that time, he had replaced Cyan as second-in-command of this branch, if it could be said that Cyan ever held the position. He had mixed feelings about the change, but Monday was a good leader. Anyone else and Cyan might have been miffed at the displacement, but, unlike his brother, Monday was a natural leader and Cyan was happy – most of the time – to follow him, as he did Saturday.
Cyan leaned forward a little bit to read the first few words of the text, kissing Scarlett on the top of her head as he did so. The action was more out of habit – he had fallen asleep on the couch with Breanne more than once – than any intentional display of affection. The woman beside him now made some indeterminable sounds and pulled away, leaving a cold spot on his skin in her wake.
The text contained an address – one that Cyan was not familiar with. That wasn’t unusual, but he could guess at the neighborhood. The message was clear: come to this address when possible; they were likely waiting for him there. Why on earth they would be any place this early, though, was beyond him. With a little struggle for the blanket to release him, Cyan stood. Scarlett took the invitation to take the warm spot he had vacated on the couch and curled up into it, so Cyan folded the blanket over her, tucking her in as he did so. Her hand wrapped around the corner and pulled it close, slowly, as an infant would. For a moment Cyan forgot himself and just stared, admittedly entranced by her, until a cool breeze made his hair prickle and reminded him he was no longer protected by the comfort of the couch and blanket.
Cyan opened the text and read it wholly. It was next to a park he was familiar with. If he hit the lights right – and he likely would, as the synchronization between stoplights reset at midnight and gradually lost each other throughout the day – then it would take little more than ten minutes to get there from his estate. He responded to let them know how long to wait and went to change into less wrinkled and popcorn-stained clothes. He was almost done buttoning his shirt when a thought struck him. What if Scarlett had been summoned, too, but missed the text? He didn’t dare open her phone without permission. Instead he looked at his own phone and checked the group it was sent to. Saturday, Black, and himself. That made four, assuming Monday was coming too, as he had sent the summons.
So Cyan jotted a note on the popcorn bag – it was the only paper he could find and didn’t want to stall any longer than he had to – requesting Scarlett make herself at home and explaining that he was called away. Had anyone else been tucked in on his couch like that, they would likely be furious, but Scarlett would understand. Wouldn’t she?
Cyan arrived within seconds of his estimated time. The address was across the street from an elementary school baseball park. Cyan parked there and rolled down his windows, waiting to be seen and simultaneously scanning the horizon for his friends. The sunrise was coloring the skies now, lighting up the few summer clouds in the expected yet breathtaking array of colors.
“Cyan,” came a voice from the passenger side window. Cyan’s head spun instantly, startled, to see Black standing there, both hands on the door.
“Oh! Hello, Black. How’re you this fine morn?” Cyan asked. He couldn’t help his good mood. Black just brought his hands back to himself and walked away, toward the miniature dugout next to the baseball diamond. Cyan smiled in spite of himself and turned off the car.
Following Black wasn’t hard unless the quiet man wished it to be, and it didn’t take Cyan long to see Saturday and Monday sitting together in the dugout, each with a coffee in hand.
“Is everything alright?” Cyan asked as soon as they were within earshot without him waking the neighborhood with a shout. As they approached, Monday set his drink down to pull out two more, handing one to Cyan and another to his brother as soon as they were within reach.
“Yes, yes. Everything is just fine,” Saturday answered with a smile.
“In truth, we called you both here because we needed your opinion on something.” Monday indicated for them to sit, but Cyan concluded the bench would likely be colder than just standing, and instead positioned himself in front to face them.
“How can I help?” The coffee was pleasant and warm and just what Cyan needed at that moment.
The glance that passed between Saturday and Monday unsettled him for a moment, then Monday explained. “We are looking at splitting our organization and expanding. Saturday and any who stay with him would remain here, and I and those who joined me would establish a base of operations in another city, kind of like Tuesday is in Phoenix.” Silence greeted his proposal. All Cyan could think was that he would stay here. He respected them both, of course, but this was his home! He couldn’t move his sister, not while her friends and school were here and she was so close to graduating high school. That, and Saturday had been the one to bring him to the organization, and even though Cyan was loyal to the cause and therefore both Saturday and Monday, Cyan felt an intimacy to Saturday he couldn’t quite describe. It wouldn’t take any convincing to assume the coffee, though from Monday’s hands, had been Saturday’s idea.
“Brother?” Monday asked Black.
“Where you go, I’ll be there.” With those few words, Black summed up or implied so much more. He was incredibly protective and supportive of Monday, and the pair together would be a force to be reckoned with wherever they went.
Monday then turned to Cyan, who, being lost in thought, had forgotten he hadn’t said anything. “Cyan? What are your opinions on the matter?”
Cyan swallowed another sip, allowing himself a little more time to think before answering. “It seems a reasonable proposal,” he stated, “but I fear splitting up the organization. We’re strong; so incredibly powerful right now. I’d hate to weaken both sides by breaking it apart.”
“A reasonable assessment,” Saturday said, nodding. “If it were to happen, would you go or stay?”
“I’d stay. I couldn’t move Breanne.” Then a thought occurred to Cyan, one that concerned him even to voice. “Would you order me to go?” Cyan didn’t know how he’d choose, if it came to that.
Saturday waved his hand dismissively. “No, no, of course not. It’d be of everyone’s own accord, as is everything.”
“Where?” Black asked, contemplative.
Monday was the first to answer. “They have bases of operations in Detroit, Memphis, and Boise.” Though he never talked about it, Cyan was sure Monday knew these things from his time being held captive by the government. “That’s where we’d do the most good, I think. Why? Do you have someplace in mind?”
“Care to elaborate?”
Cyan watched the brothers banter, continuously amazed at Monday’s ability to get Black to talk.
“White has gotten an offer from Detroit,” Black explained. Ah. Black was protective of the organization and its members, but White had taken it upon herself to become his protector. Continuously, but not annoyingly so, White had made sure he had a room to himself at headquarters when he needed it and time alone when he wanted it. They had become the oddest of friends over the past year, but it worked for them.
“We would need to scout it out,” Monday said, “but I’d be happy to keep White with us as long as we can. It is up to her, in the end, of course.” Cyan got the impression of subtext between the two, but tried to ignore it out of respect.
“Cyan?” Saturday asked, looking straight at him. “Do you disapprove of the idea?”
Cyan took a moment before answering. He didn’t disapprove, not exactly, but it was the location that bothered him. “I like the idea of expanding our influences, but not to Detroit.” He spoke slowly, more to buy time to organize his thoughts than for the benefit of his audience. “When we needed help from Tuesday he was too far away to be of any service in the time we needed him. Detroit is even farther from Phoenix, and far more dangerous of a city.” It was not lost on him that, in a city known for racial tensions, sending two people called Black and White might not be the best idea.
Saturday nodded. “You make a good point. Our network is only powerful if we can help each other.”
“Have you pitched the idea to Tuesday yet? He might have some helpful insights.” If they didn’t care which city in particular they expanded to, Cyan couldn’t help but wonder just how well-thought-out the plan was.
“Not yet. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves if it wasn’t a feasible idea.” Monday spoke this time. He would be a strong leader to another branch of the organization. Not in the same way Saturday was, but Cyan could imagine all kinds of people following him.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Cyan said, realizing how he may have come across, “I think it can happen. It may need to be thought out a little more thoroughly first is all.” Saturday reached across the group to clap him on the back.
“That’s why you’re here.”
Black’s next words interrupted Saturday’s warm smile. “Why am I?”
Suddenly Cyan realized he had a point. Monday made sense. Saturday, of course. But Black? Beyond being Monday’s brother, Black’s role in the organization was more like a field agent, less like an operations planner. White, with her potentially moving soon, made more sense.
Monday answered. “To be honest, I can’t do this without you. If we want to move forward with this idea, I need you to come with me. Otherwise the point is moot.”
“Of course.” Black’s support for his brother showed no hesitation.
“And if White chooses a different path?” Saturday asked, eyeing Black. Something had developed there, between them, but Cyan hadn’t heard what.
Black was a little slower to answer this time. “She would not wish it on me to separate from Monday’s side.”
“We can guide our choices to coincide with hers,” Cyan reminded them. “Unless she decides to stay, of course.”
“She’s gotten multiple offers from larger markets,” Black explained. “The local station can’t pay her what she’s worth now.” The story that had brought the reporter to the organization had also catapulted her into the national spotlight. Cyan wasn’t really surprised that she had her pick of locations.
“We can just ask her when she wakes up if she has any opinions. She –” Monday’s words cut short, and it was only after a nod from him to Black that Cyan realized Black had detected a threat. “She has a family in Colorado, as I recall?” Monday’s tone of voice sounded as natural as it had a moment ago, but Black had slipped behind Cyan and disappeared out the dugout. Cyan drained the rest of his coffee and set it down on the concrete ledge beside him. It was level with one the baseball diamond behind him but about three feet up from where he stood, chain link separating the rest of the field from the leaders of the organization.
Catching that Monday had just continued talking to cover the fact that they had noticed the incoming threat, Cyan carried on the conversation. “She has a father there, I think.”
Saturday nodded. To any onlooker he would appear to simply agree with Cyan’s words, but he knew him well enough to understand the action was double-fold: He answered Cyan’s question but also approved of whatever Black was up to. “Denver. Would that be too far, Cyan, do you think?”
“I was imagining more like Vegas. Halfway between us and Tuesday. Sort of.” In reality it was more like a third, but Cyan was really more focused on talking than accuracy.
Before Monday or Saturday could respond, a man jumped out behind Saturday, blocking the exit on that side of the dugout. Behind him another man popped out, holding a handgun over the first man’s shoulder. They were young, between 18 and 22, if Cyan had to guess. A gang, then, more than likely. A look on Saturday’s face told Cyan that someone had blocked the exit they had entered through, too.
Monday was the first to speak, addressing the one with the handgun. “Your friend’s going to go deaf if you fire that from there.”
The one in front sneered, flicking a knife open. “You three can just take your wallets and cell phones and put them on the ground.”
Cyan didn’t hesitate to obey, dropping the wallet at his feet and bouncing his phone off his foot so it landed safely, all while putting his hands in the air. “We don’t want any trouble.” He knew Black well enough to know he needed to keep their assailants eyes on him and buy as much time as his comrade needed.
“Us neither.” The one with the knife seemed to be the leader, as he was doing all the talking. He descended down the steps toward them while the one with the gun stood guard over the exit. It didn’t take long for the young man to reach them, stepping up between Saturday and Monday. Saturday backed away, and Cyan followed, both against the outside fence near the dirt and Monday closest to the bench.
“Aren’t you four up a little early?” Saturday asked, giving a number aloud in case Black had trouble seeing them all from wherever he was positioned.
“Not if we never went to sleep,” someone giggled from Cyan’s right. What kind of drugs were they on? Cyan dismissed the thought without seeking an answer.
“Thank you,” the leader said, picking up the cell phone that had bounced closest to him, then Saturday’s wallet, like a bird following bread crumbs as he neared them.
Then Black decided to strike. Cyan merely watched with fascination. Like a flash, he bear-hugged the man with the gun, knocking his elbows down and forcing the gun to point upward. Monday lunged for the baseball bat – though little league size, they would serve his purpose – and tossed one to Cyan. Alarmed, Cyan’s hands went up as he ducked out of the way. Unfazed, Monday shoved another under the fence to Black. Ever protective, Saturday passed between Cyan and the baseball field to ward off the other two assailants, armed only with an admittedly substantial wad of keys. The organization must have taken the gang members by surprise because Monday already had a third bat in hand before those in Cyan’s started to fight back.
It was obvious to Cyan that he had no skills in this arena, so he knew better than to engage and put himself in unnecessary danger. Helping would only cause his friends to need to split their focus and protect him. So, instead, Cyan stepped away, toward the bench, sitting where Monday had been moments before, strictly observing. Black caught the gun from the gangster he had first attacked and dismantled it with one hand as he smashed the man’s head against the edge of the dugout with the other. Saturday, though probably pretty powerful in his youth, could not hold the line well against the two who had the high ground. Monday must have noticed, as he tossed another bat to him to help him. It sailed upright and immediately over the leader of the gang’s head, who was remarkably unaware of the chaos around him, instead still focused on picking up the wallets and cell phones. That changed when Black’s first victim landed with a grunt as Black picked up the bat Monday had slid him. Instead of descending the stairs, as Cyan would have expected, Black ran and leapt, stepping off the chain link across the dugout like some movie hero. His next step took him to the dugout bench, beside Cyan and next to the gang leader, who got a healthy konk on the back of his head from Black’s bat as he passed by. Black touched down again adjacent to Saturday, having spanned the entirety of the dugout without touching a foot to the ground, reminding Cyan of chain lightning from a Tesla coil. The whole movement took less than two seconds.
Immediately following Black was his brother, though with feet on the cold concrete. Cyan pulled his own feet in, under the dugout bench as Monday passed, bat also in hand, though held horizontally and defensively instead of the standard swinging fashion.
The three of them were a force to behold. Monday tossed his bat to the feet of the gangster closest to Black, who tossed his bat to Saturday and caught the miscreant Monday had tripped as he fell. Saturday, though the oldest in the group by far, was like a blender with two bats now, scaring the last one standing into dropping his rusted iron pipe and running away.
The whole event, starting from Black’s reappearance, took no longer than thirty seconds. Cyan scanned the area, still somewhat amazed. Black, in a remarkably gentle fashion, put the assailant he had caught and choked out down on the ground as Monday collected the bats from Saturday and around the area to put away again.
The leader of the gang seemed to recover first, groaning and sitting up. “Saturday,” Cyan warned, calling his attention to the event. Was it not over yet?
Immediately Monday and Black were alert and ready to fight again, but Saturday waved them off, instead kneeling by the young man.
“What is your name?” Saturday asked, pulling the switchblade from the gangster’s reach and folding it expertly, then handing it back. Saturday’s fluency with the blade surprised the gang leader, and Cyan a little bit too, if he was honest. Not a lot was known about Saturday and where he could have picked up such a skill.
“Stephen,” the man answered after a moment, still kneeling. Monday and Black conversed in hushed tones in the far corner where the bats had been replaced. Part of Cyan considered joining them, just to give Saturday and the gangster some privacy, but the trip there would interrupt the conversation, so he just remained as still as possible.
Saturday reached for his own wallet and opened it, pulling out all the cash inside. “Stephen. This is forty seven dollars. I have some work around my place that needs to be done if you need more.” Saturday held out the cash, but the young man seemed too afraid or stubborn to take it, instead just shaking his head. So Saturday put it on the ground between them, along with a business card. “You may feel like you’re trapped in this life, but you’re not. When you’re willing, I’ll be happy to help you.”
The young man suddenly found his voice – and attitude – again. “What do you know about it? You’ve never –”
Saturday put his hand on the gangster’s leather-jacketed shoulder. “I know.” The words were quiet, yet strong.
The young man shrugged Saturday’s hand away, snatched the pile of cash and card Saturday had placed between them, and dashed for the steps. “I said willing, not ready,” Saturday called after him, letting him go.
Cyan stared in wonderment at the moment. He had made a point not to research any real names or histories of the people in the organization, Saturday most of all because Cyan respected him so. Now, though, as he watched the older, slightly overweight man pick up the wallets and cell phones and hand Cyan’s back to him, he wanted to ask. Had he been a part of a gang once before, perhaps in his youth? Surely not in this town. Gang culture here had only developed in the last couple of years.
“Let White know of our idea?” Saturday asked, handing Monday the items he had dropped but addressing Black, comfortable as if the items had merely slipped from Monday’s hands during the conversation.
Black merely nodded to Saturday’s request.
“I think, though, it is time to go?” Monday said, looking at the two unconscious gangsters as he pocketed his things.
“Agreed.” Saturday looked at Cyan. “Ready?”
It was then that Cyan realized he hadn’t stood up or put his wallet and phone away yet. “Yes, of course.” He hurried to comply before the remaining two gangsters awoke.