Beyond Shadow & Trial | Episode I | Chapter I

Below, you’ll find the most current draft of the first chapter of the first episode of the “Beyond Shadow & Trial” saga. Please… if it is indeed possible, enjoy!

In the end, justice would have its day. Revenge wouldn’t have its day. It would come mighty close to having it’s day. But never it would.

As inevitable as selfishness is… revenge would never have its day. And as likely as this world is to come up on its own with something as unearthly as justice, justice would have it’s day.

There was a beautiful, summer, afternoon sunset hovering over the Gates Mansion. It glistened just on the horizon and shined through the treetops. The treetops shimmered as a result of the sunset’s hovering and glistening.

The air was warm and soothing. The kind of air that would send warm waves of tingling goosebumps up and down your back. Just thinking about the sunlight on a day like that was enough to bring the goosebumps. You didn’t even have to step into the sunlight for it to happen.

It was afternoon, as has been established already. A summer afternoon. And you know what that means?

That means mosquitoes. Swarms.

Swarms of mosquitoes.

Blood-sucking, life-sucking, murderous creatures they are. Why do they even exist? As an example? Of what? And why?

Oh. I think I know.

Of other blood-sucking, like-sucking, murderous… human creatures.

Now, the blood-sucking, like-sucking, murderous mosquitoes don’t have a choice to be blood-sucking or like-sucking or murderous. They’re just that way. They’re born like that. Gotta wonder why the murderous parents of those murderous mosquitoes wouldn’t want them dead so as to prevent the deaths of live-loving humans. Guess it’s just way of killers. Don’t care much, I guess.

Oddly enough, humans are just born that way too. Blood-sucking, life-sucking, and murderous, that is. But we humans have the choice.

Too bad one has to develop a little character to knock that blood-sucking, like-sucking, murderous streak out of oneself. It’s not an easy feat to achieve selflessness. That’s a hard thing to come by. But anything worth having or being requires a little destruction of our old, natural-born selves.

Funny. The blood-sucking, like-sucking, murderous, human creatures don’t seem either to have a choice about being blood-sucking or like-sucking or murderous. It’s almost like they’re chained up. With chains. Self-made chains. Self-made, link by link.

Anyway. Back to mosquitos.

Swarms of late afternoon mosquitos hovered nearby. Up…

and down… Up…

and down… Up…

and down…

The blood-suckers made their way towards the mansion. The Gates Mansion.

Beyond the sun streaks across the lawn, in the shade of the towering mansion, Jerome, Caroline, Lawrence, and Anne Gates enjoyed themselves as a family as the day drew closer to its end.

Jerome grabbed his little daughter, Anne’s ankle. Half his face plastered with grass stains, grinning, laughing, and growling. “Come here, little girl! I’m gonna get you!” he chuckled.

“No, Father! No! Help me, Lawrence! Save me!” Little Anne Gates screamed, tugging at his grasp and away from her father’s grasp. Young Lawrence Gates tackled his father like a bear, growling and howling.

Back from the comfort and ease of the shaded back patio, Caroline Gates, fanning herself, smiling at the horseplay, cheered the family on. “Come on, Lawrence! Kill the bear! Save your sister, Lawrence!” she smiled.

“Come here, Momma Bear!” Jerome shouted from beneath a pile of kids. “I need your help!”

“Oh, no. Not Momma Bear,” Caroline smiled, pushing herself off the chair with the table. She clutched her tummy, flinching.

Jerome stopped, looking at her.

“I’m fine,” she said, sitting back down.

Looking back to Lawrence and Anne, he smiled back up again with a roar.

Deep breaths, Caroline gathered her strength, stood to her feet, and looked up to Jerome.

“I did it! I finally did it!” he shouted. He had both Lawrence and Anne over his shoulders. Caroline smiled. She smiled at her family. Her family. She remembered her own brothers and sisters. Now she was here. Separated from her own family. Braving it like her mother and father did.

“Now, I’m going to cook my yummy, little dinner and eat my yummy, little dinner,” he said walking over to Caroline.

“No, Father! No, no!” Lawrence and Anne laughed and giggled and tried to wriggle free from their father’s firm grip.

Jerome looked down into Caroline’s eyes. She looked up into his. They smiled at each other. She wiped the sweat from his mouth and he leaned down and gave her a kiss.

“Oh, no!” Lawrence shouted and flailed.

“Ew!” Anne tried to wriggle away.

“Oh, yes,” Jerome laughed heartily, leaning down in for another kiss. Caroline chuckled, pulling his head in for a good, long smooch.

A voice cleared its throat and the family stopped. They looked over to the backdoor of the mansion. Sammy, the butler, stood there smiling.

“Oh, Sammy. Why don’t you come and join us?!” Jerome asked.

Sammy chuckled, blushing. “I’m sorry, Mr. Gates, but it just so happens that dinner is served. I been workin’. Unlike some peoples who just take to playing all the time.”

Jerome laughed. “Oh, well, excuse me,” he said, pretending to be offended. “I guess I’ll just have to work a little more around the house, won’t I?”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that, sir,” Sammy smiled.

“Well, I guess I don’t get to eat these little rascals today,” Jerome shook Lawrence and Anne up.

“Help us!” they giggled, as Jerome set them back down on their feet.

Lawrence and Anne scampered away over to Sammy. Jerome and Caroline watched them tug on Sammy’s hands till they all disappeared inside.

Jerome turned and looked down into the hazel-colored eyes of his wife.

“Are you alright?” Jerome asked.

“I’m fine, Darling,” she wrapped her arms around him. He stroked her long, hazel-colored hair. “When did you want to tell them?”

“Tell them what?” he asked.

“You know…” a smile spread across Caroline’s face.

“I do?”

He flinched.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she smiled.

“Well, Darling, I said we should tell them tonight and you didn’t want to do that,” Jerome joked.

“Oh, would you stop? Just…” she had to stop to do a little chuckling. “Just… cut it out.”

“Alright. Alright,” Jerome smiled.

They stood there, just holding each other. Like they always did.

“Come on, let’s go in now.”

They started off for the backdoor.

“Wait a minute,” Jerome stopped them both. “If we wait until morning to tell them, we won’t be able to sleep tonight.”

She looked up to his face. He was perfectly serious. Then his expression melted back into a smile.

“Well, I’ve never had a bad experience with that with you,” she smiled, brushing his cheek.

In the dining hall just inside, Izzy, the head maid scooted Anne into her respective spot at the dining table and Sammy, the head butler scooted Lawrence into his respective spot at the dining table directly across from Anne’s.

“What’s for dinner, Miss Izzy?” Anne asked.

“Food.”

Lawrence and Anne giggled. “What kind of food?”

“Fish.”

“Lawrence,” Anne whispered, “we’re having fish for dinner again!”

Jerome and Caroline walked into the dining hall.

“Oh, boy!” Lawrence tucked a corner of his napkin into the collar of his shirt.

“Let’s pray,” Jerome said.

Folding hands, the Gates family bowed their heads. Upon thanking the Lord for the gift of the food before them, the family began their meal together.

“Alright, who wants a slice of dead fish?” Jerome asked.

“Me,” Lawrence and Anne spoke up.

“Lawrence, let your sister go first,” Jerome said, cutting into the fish.

“Yes, Father.”

“Annie, let your mother go first.”

“Yes, Father.”

Caroline smiled down from her end of the table. Jerome grinned back with a wink.

Minutes passed into the meal. The sun disappeared behind the trees and the horizon. The shroud of darkness befell the Caribbean mansion.

The levels of drinks in the four glasses fell and rose. Meat was cut. Potatoes slid across plates as forks chased them, cornering them into the meat.

The knives and forks clanked against the elegant dinner plates and serving bowls as the family chewed, swallowed, and enjoyed each succulent bite and sip.

Caroline chewed a few minutes on a particularly succulent piece of salmon as she watched her children, happily digging into their meal, slowly, ever so slowly, falling deeper and deeper into a lethargic daze.

Jerome let cool wine sooth his throat, a bit dried out from that last bite of potato. He cleared his throat and pushed his plate away a bit.

“Children… Lawrence… Anne,” he said.

“Yes, Father?”

“Mother and I have a little surprise for you,” he smiled. “Well, Mother has a little surprise for you.”

Jerome took another sip from his glass. He set his glass back down. They smiled at each other. Lawrence and Anne couldn’t keep from from darting their eyes between each other and Mother and Father.

Setting his glass back down, a sudden hush fell across the room as everyone waited for his next words.

“In a few months, Mommy will have a little brother or a little sister!”

Lawrence and Anne squealed and jumped out of their seats.

“And we’ll have three on our hands, Darling,” Jerome smiled.

“Oh, three’s not so bad. At least one of these will be a girl. Maybe we’ll have another girl,

“Oh, a girl!” Anne squealed.

Jerome to his dear wife. She watched the children. He watched her watch them.

He rubbed his tongue alongside his teeth to swath up the stuck potato on the left side of his mouth. He looked over to the windows again.

Jerome looked to Caroline, his face almost freezing. “I’m not sure. Something’s not right.” His eyes fell to his children, fearing for their sense of security. “But we’ll be alright.”

Anne looked at the last few morsels of salmon left on her plate. A weird sensation crept up her back as though she felt those last few moments symbolized the mere moments their family had left.

Jerome turned to the window. His eye caught something. His eyes backed up and took in as wide a view of all the windows of the dining room. Another wave of goosebumps rushed down his back. They were cold goosebumps.

“Darling?” Caroline asked. “Dar-

BOOM!!!

A vehement explosion blinded the family for a moment! The windows blasted into the dining room, and the blast covered the table in flaming, charred, smoking splinters!

“Father!”

“Get behind me now!” Jerome shouted.

Another explosion blew the remnants of the wall of windows out and across the room. The family cowered behind Jerome, shivering and clenched in horror, waiting for the next explosion.

The family hacked and coughed in the darkness. Smoke and dust settled and also didn’t seem to settle at all.

“Stay down, everyone. Stay very still,” Jerome whispered.

“Obey your father, children,” Caroline wrapped her arms around Lawrence and Anne.

Jerome’s eyes scanned the smoke, bolting and shifting to any sign of movement. He looked to his feet. A table knife and shard of glass were within his grasp if he could only drag them closer to himself with his toes.

Waves of frigid goosebumps sliced his body over and over again, up and down his arms, over his scalp, down up and his legs again, and all over again. He searched the pitch black of the night mixed with the smoldering flickers in the smoke. He searched and searched and – stopped.

A sinister pair of legs crunched onto the dining room floor. Two black boots, followed by six other pairs thumped across the room, kicking dust up and debris across the floor.

The boots stopped only a dozen feet away. The legs on up of these individuals could not be seen. Darkness concealed their faces.

“Can I… help you?!” Jerome asked.

“Well, there he is. The rich man,” a sinister voice slurred. “Hello, hello, hello. Oh, Mr. Lusk.”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Go get two dozen hands to search the rest of the place and take care of whoever else is here. The servants is probably all there are.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Mr. Lusk trotted back to the ship on the back lawn to carry out the captain’s orders.

“Who are you?!” Jerome shouted. He pulled his knife and a piece of jagged glass from the floor and jumped to his feet with them.

Two of the voice’s henchmen stepped forward and knocked Jerome’s hands empty.

“The poor man.”

Jerome’s brow furrowed with confusion.

“This is not the time to become violent, my good man,” the voice said. “Or just… my man. The man. For thou art the man… Or are you even that? Because you have a real way of being lower than any man I’ve ever seen.”

“Well. From your appearance, doesn’t sound like that’s saying much for you. Are you the monster that just blew my home open?” Jerome asked. “Or am I mistaken and that was really someone else?”

“Well, I’m the only one that most closely fits that description, yes.”

“And am I understand that what you just did was not violent?” Jerome asked.

“No,” the voice said.

“What?”

“It was violent. It was very, very violent. Blowing a house wall out with forty-gun broadside volley off a floating frigate is extremely violent. What kind of a question is that? It was horrendously violent. But. They made me do it. So… don’t know what to tell ya.”

“Cap’n, I didn’t -“

“Go wait on the ship, Huckabone,” the voice said. “Don’t chapter ’n verse me. I’ll do the chapter ’n versing. You keep your mouth shut. Go sit down on the ship till I say it’s alright. I’m the captain, remember?”

The voice turned back to face Jerome.

And two dozen other henchmen climbed off the ship and scattered across the dining room and headed through the three doorways leading into the dining hall.”

“Be sure not to traipse through here, boys, when you’re done, you lug heads!” The face of the voice smiled at Jerome. “Anyway. I merely said that this is not the time to become violent. Besides, I’ve spent plenty of years becoming violent. You don’t know how long I’ve waited for this day. Night, rather. Because it’s nighttime, you know. And come to think of it, you just might actually know how long I’ve waited. If you can remember that far back. When things were… simpler.” The face in the dark before Jerome stared into thought a few moments. “So much so. When we were friends. And not when you and her were ‘you,’ but when she and I were ‘us.’ You and her was a mistake. Remember now? How long’s it been?”

The faceless voice stepped to the side and looked behind Jerome’s frozen self.

“They seem no older than ten years of age… do they, Jerome?” the figure asked.

Jerome’s frozen eyelids blinked and his head turned to face the figure’s more directly. “Edwin?”

“Hello, Jerry,” Edwin said through a partially toothless smile. “Show me that lovely little family of yours, why don’t you?” he asked, stepping closer. “They are rather adorable cowering back there on the floor behind you. So… so, helpless. Aren’t they? So pitiful.”

Lawrence and Anne looked up through the embrace of their mother’s arms. They shivered. Anne could feel tears coming on. So could Lawrence.

“And there she is… the love of my life,” Edwin said, sending a dark, smiling, patronizing look bending down towards her.

“Not the only one, I’m sure,” Caroline said under a curled lip.

“Ah, finally. She speaks to me. I was wondering if I was ever to hear the love my life address me again,” Edwin sighed.

“No, I do believe Edwin’s only ever had one love of his life,” Jerome said.

“You see, Caroline? Even your own, dear husband agrees with me.”

“Not her, Edwin. Not her. You.”

“Oh, please now… don’t be ridiculous, Jerome. It could only ever have been Caroline.”

“Well, I could try explaining it, Edwin,” Jerome began. “But I’m afraid it would be useless trying to do so at all to you. The ludicrous ideology you’ve led your life with would blind you from real, common sense and the truth.”

Jerome could almost see in the dark the glowing flames growing within Edwin’s face. Edwin’s fists with rage turned white. He turned his back to Jerome and his family. Looking at the floor while facing his band of cutthroats, he muttered, “Seize them.”

The six henchmen thumped past Edwin and tore the Gates family apart.

“No! No!” Caroline wailed. “Give me back my babies!”

As the guards dragged Jerome over to Edwin, Jerome could only stare Edwin dead in the eye. And all Edwin did was stare back.

“Leave my family alone, Edwin,” Jerome said through gritting teeth.

Anne’s innocence looked up into the weather-worn, battle-scarred face of Edwin. “You’re a bad man.”

“Well, what do you know? Did you hear that, Jerry?” Edwin smiled at Anne. “You’ve trained your children well. Even they hate me.”

“I didn’t train them to do that, Edwin. You make it easy enough for anyone. Not just me or my family.”

Edwin stepped forward and punched Jerome across the jaw.

“Father!” Lawrence jumped.

“What do you want, Edwin?!” Caroline cried.

 Edwin slowly, ever so slowly, scraped his long blade out of its sheath. It rang out death as he set the tip of it on Caroline’s smooth and delicate throat. Lawrence saw a tear on his mother’s neck run down onto Edwin’s blade. His own tears blinded him as he looked to the horrified face of his mother.

“I want you,” Edwin whispered. A smile oozed out of his face.

“Over my dead body,” Jerome spat a tooth out.

“Interesting idea,” Edwin replied. “But I actually had other plans for you.” He gave Jerome a look that only indicated to Jerome that Jerome’s suggestion wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Still, perhaps, it was a bad idea. Under the circumstances, the idea of a good idea had appeared to have taken its leave. Nothing good was to come of any of this.

“Come with me, my love. Remember who you really loved? Before you met this… knobhead?”

Caroline stared, another tear streaming down her face and neck.

“Thick as thieves, we were,” Edwin said. “No person on earth could have separated us. Except for –“

“Alright, we get it,” Caroline said. “You’re sad. Somebody made a decision you didn’t like. That’s life. Why can’t you… grow up?!”

“I see… you don’t care anymore,” Ed muttered, standing. “Maybe this numpty is just a waste of time, Jerry. For you and for me. All she wants is what she wants when she wants it. In no time, she’ll be saying the same things to you, you little tomfool.”

“You’re wrong, Edwin… she does care. She cares so very much.

“Ah. See, you agreeing with me, Jerry, is something I didn’t think was going to ever happen again. What I really -“

“But not for you,” Jerome added. “And neither do you really care for her. And she loves me. So, get out of my home.”

Edwin’s face had dropped out of disinterest. “I’ll put the offer to you once more, sweetie,” he said, looking down to Caroline. “Even though it’s not really an offer… Come with me… the way you’ve always wanted to… the way we would’ve done… the way we did… all those years ago.”

In a tearful mess sitting on the floor, she simply stared. And waited. And waited for Edwin to leave.

“You might want to consider doing what I’ve asked… before I lose my temper.”

“Oh, we’re scared now,” Jerome snarked.

Jerome went cross-eyed at a double barrel pistol staring him in the face.

“Shut. Up. You scum-sucking miscreant,” Edwin snarled. “You haven’t seen me lose my temper, Jerry… but,” he knelt down to Caroline. “But this one has.” He stroked her cheek.

She spat in his face.

Infuriated, Edwin held his sword up to Anne’s cheek and slashed!

“No!” Caroline cried. Her head fell against the grip of the restraining henchmen. Caroline’s sobbing tears faded into everybody’s ears.

“Had enough?” Edwin asked.

Anne screamed, holding her face. Jerome stared at Edwin, struggling to free himself of the henchmen’s grips. Lawrence burst free of the unsuspecting henchmen’s grip, ripped off a part of his sleeve, balled it up, and pressed it against his little Annie’s face.

One of the henchmen kicked Lawrence into the floor.

“Why?!” Caroline sobbed.

Edwin rolled his eyes, leaned down, and grabbed Caroline by the hair. “Alright, I’ve had enough of that.”

“Mother!” Anne screamed, the blood mixing with her tears.

“Caroline!” Jerome struggled against the forceful henchmen’s grips.

The family sat helpless, restrained by the guards while Caroline’s face skimmed the floor as Edwin dragged her back towards the darkness from which he had emerged.

“Please, Edwin! Please! I don’t want this! Please! Stop!” she screamed.

Edwin stopped. Holding his real emotions back as hard as he could, he dropped her face into the debris and the floor. He looked back to Jerome. “She ever do this to you when I’m not around?” Edwin asked calmly. “So sorry to have to admit this, Carry… but I never thought I would actually get annoyed by the one love of my life. I thought we had something together, Carry. Before that… husband, for lack of a better word, showed up.”

“Do you even remember what he was before he was my husband?” Caroline asked, not lifting the side of her face from the floor. She saw Edwin’s jaw clench with aching memories.

“But you were the love of my life,” Edwin said, trying to smile.

“No, I wasn’t… You were the love of your life. I was merely the personification of how you wished to express your love. Nothing more. I was nothing more… Nothing…”

“Then why torture myself with you now?” Edwin asked. He yanked a pistol from his belt and pressed it into her shoulder.

“Edwin!” Jerome broke free of the guards from across the room.

BANG!

Caroline dropped altogether to the floor.

“Edwin, you motherless goat!” Jerome moaned, grappling across the floor, unable to use his legs out of sheer horror. “Caroline?!”

Edwin knelt down to Caroline. Gasping, Caroline looked up at him.

He looked deep into her eyes.

He looked up to watch the guards restrain Jerome as he was only a few feet away from his wife’s limp body now.

“Alright.” He cocked the second barrel of the double barrel pistol and pressed it against Caroline’s temple.

Seconds hung like minutes.

Jerome stared. Lawrence stared. Anne stared. Caroline closed her eyes with a tear.

Jerome wailed, breaking free of the guards and clambering to Caroline.

Edwin’s pistol fell to the ground next to her blood-spattered face. He stared down little Annie, sobbing into her brother’s shoulder now.

“Leave us alone! Get out of our home! Now!’ Lawrence sobbed. “Go! Go! Leave! G-“ he broke down into tears. Nothing left in him.

“Indeed, I will, young master Gates,” Edwin said. He looked to his guards. “Bring the girl.”

Two guards tore Annie away from her brother and threw her over one of their shoulders, calmly walking away while the guard without Anne picked Lawrence up and tossed him into the dining table. “Little sprite!” the guard snarled, taking the butt of a pistol and laying it into Lawrence’s face repeatedly.

Edwin stared down at Jerome, paralyzed over Caroline’s body. He shook his head. “Love, I guess… Jerry… is never a good idea. Let’s go!” he shouted.

Edwin, followed by the guards beating up Lawrence, followed the guard holding Anne outside.

“Goodnight, Jerry,” Edwin grinned. “Oh, and thank you for the use of your daughter.”

“Annie?! What have you done with her?!” Jerome asked, so paralyzed with shock, he hadn’t noticed her disappearance.

“Oh, she’s gone,” Edwin shrugged. “She’s gone, Jerry. Just like Caroline.”

“What have you done with her?!”

“See you later, Jerry,” Edwin waved goodbye, backing out of the house.

Jerome sat up on the floor… alone. He looked down to the widening, glistening pool next to Caroline’s head.

Footsteps limped over from behind Jerome and crumpled beside him. Lawrence fell to his knees, and wrapped his arms around his father, and clung tightly to him, shivering.

The smoldering debris dimly illuminating what was sitting out there in the dark, Lawrence and Jerome looked out into the darkness to the blurred image of Edwin and his henchmen climbing aboard the frigate in the back lawn.

Lawrence sobbed into his father’s shoulder. Jerome slowly wrapped his arms around his son. He looked at the ship take flight into the night, the massacred dining room, the ashes flicker’s reflection in the pool beside Caroline, and rested his head on her.

“Sleep well, baby.”

Footsteps limped over from behind Jerome and crumpled beside him. Lawrence fell to his knees, and wrapped his arms around his father, and clung tightly to him, shivering.

The smoldering debris dimly illuminating what was sitting out there in the dark, Lawrence and Jerome looked out into the darkness to the blurred image of Edwin and his henchmen climbing aboard the frigate in the back lawn.

Lawrence sobbed into his father’s shoulder. Jerome slowly wrapped his arms around his son. He looked at the ship take flight into the night, the massacred dining room, the ashes flicker’s reflection in the pool beside Caroline, and rested his head on her.

“Sleep well, baby.”

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