Kenneth’s Snack Shield

kenneth with vending machine - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Kenneth Carrying Vending Machine, 2017; Graphite

Kenneth waited in the Emergency Room with his grandmother. It was a brightly lit area kept clean on the surface, but his young nose picked up traces of every sickness in the room. He was unprepared for the sick people and he was unprepared for the wait. His grandmother’s symptoms had been frightening to him, and he had rushed her to the hospital. However, the Emergency Room staff had not even considered excusing her from filling out forms – much less from sitting for a long while among other miscellaneous sufferers. The department’s remedies for boredom included a television that only played health infotainment, untouchable magazines because of the number of sick people who’d deposited their germs on them, and an improvised game of guess-what-ails-him.

“The tall one by the desk just hit his head with the doorframe on his way in,” his grandmother joked.

Kenneth felt responsible for his grandmother’s symptoms. She had gone to work without the yellow jewel whose power had kept her healthy for so many years. Her regular job tasks had worn her out. She had been feeling tired most days. She had not been able to sleep. She had forgotten things and had not been able to concentrate. If she had not given him the jewel to have on his person, she would have still been healthier than women one tenth her age. But she had refused to take it back insisting that her body had to learn to take care of itself.

Kenneth stood up and walked over to the vending machines that were along the back wall of the room. One machine sold sodas and water. The other sold snacks. He laughed that a hospital would offer such unhealthy choices. As he looked through the assortment of chips, chocolates, and candies; he heard a commotion in the distance. Then, the sounds grew louder. The still sick air in the waiting room was shattered by the distant, but undeniable, sounds of screaming and the baritone bang of a shotgun.

Kenneth went where the ends of two halls met at the Emergency Room entrance. One hall led to the ambulance bay and the other, much longer hall, led to a receptionist’s desk at the front of the hospital. He heard another low bang. It came from the end of the much longer hall. As he looked down it, he saw a man turn the corner and walk down the hall toward him. He held a shotgun. Kenneth was out of range, so he watched the shooter for a moment to see what he was up to. The shooter checked doors as he walked down the hall. He did not bother trying to open locked doors and the few that were unlocked led to broom closets and supply rooms. He was looking for anyone to shoot.

Kenneth walked back into the Emergency Room. He looked around to assess the people’s awareness of the danger. They did not know the man was coming. The sounds of screaming and shots fired seconds ago were absorbed by the walls and drowned out by the television. The people by the Ambulance bay doors probably evacuated promptly.

Even if the people in the Emergency Room knew the danger that was coming, many of them would not be able to flee. Kenneth looked around the room and lamented the number of disabled people. Most of them would not outrun the shooter. They would be easy targets. He thought about just alerting everyone as he carried his grandmother out to safety, but immediately felt badly about having considered leaving disabled people to fend for themselves.

Kenneth decided to take action himself. The jewel made him very fast and very strong, but not faster than bullets and not strong enough to keep them from harming him. He needed a shield. He grabbed the sides of the vending machine he had shopped at earlier and picked it up. He realized that may have appeared very unusual to anyone who had seen him and quickly looked over his shoulder at the people in the waiting room. No one had noticed. He carried the machine a couple of steps and almost dropped it when the power cord, which was still plugged in, went taught. He tugged on the machine a few times until the plug came out of the socket. Then, he looked around again to see if anyone had noticed him. No one had; so, he carried the machine across the room and to the hall.

The shooter was much closer to the entrance of the Emergency Room. He paused for a moment when he saw Kenneth carrying the vending machine, but he quickly snapped out of his surprise and his defenses kicked in. He fired his shotgun at Kenneth who then used the vending machine as a shield. The sound of the gun firing was startling and frightening. Kenneth felt the bumps of the shot as they struck the back of the machine. He shielded as much of his body as he could while still being able to see the shooter.

“Put the gun down, er, Mister,” Kenneth said. Kenneth’s original plan was to throw the vending machine at the shooter. Having seen him up close and as just another person, Kenneth feared he might crush or kill him. If it could be done, Kenneth would find a nonlethal way to stop the shooter. “You don’t need to do this.”

“Yes, I do,” the shooter said. “This is the only voice this country hears.”

Kenneth continued to advance slowly toward the shooter using the vending machine as a shield. Then, shots pierced the back of the machine. Food bags were shredded and the metal flew through the inside. The plastic cracked. The next shot would likely come through.

“I’m not old enough to vote yet, but I think I can reply to you for my country,” Kenneth said as he felt adrenaline explode from his core and rush out to his extremities. His fear crossed a threshold and thrust him to action. He rushed forward and quickly closed the gap between him and the shooter. The shooter held his ground, so Kenneth rammed him with the vending machine and sent him flying. The shooter fell hard on his back, slammed his head on the ground, and released the shotgun as his arms struck the ground. It slid spinning away from where he laid.

Kenneth heard the footsteps of people running down the hall. He looked up and saw that they belonged to two security guards and two hospital staff. They spotted the shooter on the ground. As the shooter reached for his shotgun, the two security guards pounced on him. One staff member helped them restrain the man and another picked up the shotgun to make sure its owner would not be able to retrieve it. The shooter was finished.

Kenneth saw everyone’s attention focused on the bad guy, so he slipped away. He walked quietly back into the waiting room to sit with his grandmother. The room was nearly empty. The only people left were his grandmother and a few others who could not move themselves and had been left behind.

“Why are you still here?” Kenneth asked his grandmother. “Didn’t you hear the gunshots?”

“Yes, but I didn’t want to lose my place in line,” she replied.


A Silent Community

ashley shot - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Ashley Shot, 2017; Watercolor

“No, you cannot go outside of our jurisdiction,” the police lieutenant answered. Ashley observed that the lieutenant was leaning back on his chair. He always leaned back when his mind was made up. Perhaps he felt physically relaxed after making a decision. “That case is closed. Good job. Don’t ask me about it again, Detective.” The lieutenant leaned forward and picked up a file. He tossed it so it slid across his desk and stopped in front of Ashley.

“What is this, Lieutenant?” Ashley asked. She picked up the thick file folder, opened it, and scanned the contents.

“It’s your next assignment,” the lieutenant answered. “You and Detective Jackson have a look at that. If you have any questions, come see me. Now go out there and get me another win. And play nice with the SWAT Team this time if you call them in.”

Ashley studied the contents of the file at her desk. Someone had been killing drug dealers. The locations and patterns suggested that someone was taking territory held by another gang. It seemed to her that the case should have been solved a long time ago.

Turf wars were not new to Ashley; but as she looked through the file, she saw this case was different. There were no leads from people. In most cases, someone in the neighborhood said something to the police. The reasons for saying something ranged from simply wanting the violence to end to having a preference for which gang held the territory in the end. According to the documents, no one was willing to talk to the police. People were afraid.

Ashley and Kimberly went to investigate the territory where the murders had been committed. There were no clues, so they went door to door to talk to residents. Some people answered the door, but refused to talk. Others who were obviously home did not answer.

“No one’s talking,” Kimberly said. She and Ashley stood on the sidewalk across from one of the many apartment buildings. “Let’s go back to our desks and go over the murder books again.”

“Maybe we should stick around a little longer,” Ashley suggested. “The dealers might talk if we can find them.”

“They might,” Kimberly said.

“They get killed eithe’ way,” a woman said behind them. Ashley and Kimberly turned around and saw an old woman who appeared homeless. She had a shopping cart full of blankets, a tent, cardboard, a jug of water and cans of food. “That boy is takin’ ‘em out.”

“What boy?” Ashley asked.

“Boy in 137,” the woman answered. “Seen ‘im do it. Get out the way.”

“You saw a man kill another man?” Kimberly asked.

“Get out the way,” the woman repeated.

“Just a moment, please,” Ashley said. “You know who killed the dealers?”

“Yep. Boy in 137. That buildin’,” the woman answered. She pointed to a building in the next block. “Kill me too, but I look like the trash in the dark. It’s my camo. Get out the way.”

Ashley and Kimberly had to follow the lead. They walked to the building the woman had pointed to and found apartment 137. Once outside of it, they listened through the front door for a few moments. They heard music coming from the inside of the apartment, but that was all. They rang the doorbell and waited, but no one answered. Then, they knocked and waited.

A short and muscular man answered the door. He had a butch haircut, a weary face, and cold eyes. He wore a white tank top, jeans, and black steel toed shoes. He looked at the two women as if he was trying to guess the intent of their visit before they announced it. Ashley pretended to scratch just below her clavicle. She did not have an itch: she only made sure she wore an orange jewel that gave her the power to replicate herself.

“Sir, I am Detective Smith and this is Detective Jackson,” Ashley said. The man looked at their shoes as he scratched his head as if he tried to understand what she had just said. Ashley glanced at Kimberly to read her thoughts. In the second she looked away, the man had pulled a gun out of his back. There was a loud bang, and Kimberly fell to the ground.

Ashley drew her firearm as she moved behind the wall for cover. The man moved to shoot Kimberly again, but Ashley fired her gun at him. She missed, and the man retreated into the dark apartment.

Ashley was focused on getting through the situation. That focus allowed her to replicate effortlessly. She left a copy of herself, Ashley 2, to protect her partner and then moved into the apartment in pursuit of the suspect.

When Ashley walked into the first room, she noticed the apartment was bigger than she had expected. The layout was a problem because there were rooms in both directions. If she went the wrong way, he could surprise her or escape. It was too risky to pursue the suspect alone. She replicated again. She and Ashley 3 moved through the apartment room by room. The rooms were meticulously clean and organized, so they were easy to search. Still, she expected to be shot every time she looked through a doorway.

Ashley 3 noticed a back door in the laundry room at the back of the apartment. Ashley moved into a position to cover Ashley 3 as she opened the door. When Ashley 3 turned the doorknob, multiple shots were fired through the door from outside. Ashley 3 dropped to the ground. She yelped when a bullet hit the front of her shoulder and went out the back. Both Ashleys remained completely still until the gunfire stopped.

Ashley heard footsteps pounding the pavement outside. She looked carefully out the doorway, saw the suspect running away, and ran after him. Ashley 3 chased him too, but the pain from the bullet wound slowed her down. As Ashley began to tire, she replicated. Ashley 4 sprinted, caught up to the suspect, and tackled him to the ground. She tried to restrain him, but the man resisted. He was too strong for her. He knocked her to the ground and pinned her there by climbing on top of her. He pulled his arm back to punch her, but Ashley and Ashley 3 arrived just in time to grab his arm. The three women wrestled the man to the ground and cuffed him.

Once Ashley was certain that the suspect was restrained, she absorbed Ashleys 3 and 4. She felt exhausted. She also felt the pain of a wound in her left shoulder. The man was armed, dangerous, and impulsive; but that did not justify the communities fear. The case did not feel closed to her.

After police officers arrived to pick up the suspect, the Lieutenant called Ashley. He told her to go to the same hospital where they had taken Kimberly and get her bullet wound treated. After treatment, she was to report to his office. He was concerned that the reports and facts of the events were not lining up.

She took the orange jewel out of her shirt and clenched it in her fist as she took a deep breath. Before going to see the Lieutenant, she needed to find and absorb Ashley 2. After doing that, she would know everything that had happened and be ready to say anything she will need to say.


Doctor Moore’s Drive

rearview mirror - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Rearview Mirror, 2017; Watercolor

Doctor Andrew Moore clenched the steering wheel and squinted as he scanned the horizon of the desert landscape for civilization. After seeing none, he checked the truck’s rearview mirrors for any signs that he was being followed. He had known the risk he had accepted when he had remained at the site of the dig after the government lost control of the area to criminals. He had not expected the risk to be realized and to find himself fleeing in a truck filled with whatever he could hastily gather.

Andrew reminded himself frequently to slow down. He pressed the gas pedal down when he thought about getting caught and taken prisoner. However, he slowed down when he remembered why he had stayed in the first place. In the back of the truck, he transported a mummified chief and a few artifacts that provided clues to his identity. He had carefully, but hurriedly, prepared the precious cargo for the trip by truck and plane. However, the desert road he traveled upon was bumpier than he remembered it and he was afraid he would break something.

As Andrew scanned the rearview mirrors again, he saw a cloud of dust behind him. Not from his own truck, but from another vehicle. It grew in size as it closed in on him like a ravenous and monstrous grub. At the mouth of this threatening worm he saw a black sport utility vehicle. People who lived and worked in the area did not drive such expensive and polished vehicles. Such vehicles were usually employed in nefarious business.

The SUV was close enough for Andrew to see four men inside. The driver and the passenger sat normally in their seats, but two men in the second row leaned toward the center. They obviously studied his truck. They noticed him looking at them through his rearview.

The driver flashed his lights as he motioned with his right hand to Andrew to either move over or pull over. Andrew could not tell which of the two options the driver wanted to communicate, so he slowed down and drove as far to the right as the road allowed. That must not have been the response the driver wanted because the front passenger leaned out the window and fired an assault rifle at him. Each pop of the rifle was followed by thump or something breaking in the truck. One round hit the rearview mirror and made him unable to keep track of the SUV. Then, he saw the SUV pull up beside him. He saw the front passenger’s brown and bearded face stare coldly at him. He saw the assault rifle’s muzzle raised and pointed at him. The muzzle flashed.

Andrew felt the worse headache he’d ever felt. It felt like someone had put a screwdriver against his head and hit it with a hammer. He allowed the truck to slow to a stop and lay his head on the steering wheel to let the pain pass. The spot where the bullet hit his head felt hot. Then, it developed its own tiny heartbeat. The bullet had struck his head and he had felt the pain, but it did not break his skin. He did not feel swelling either.

Andrew heard two sets of feet grinding desert stones beneath them as they approached the truck. He could tell that one walked up on his side and the other walked up the passenger side. He was an Archeologist and had only ever fought other people with words at conferences. He did not know how to physically defend himself. He had no idea what to do.

Andrew held his breath as a man opened the door. He felt the man’s eyes on him. The cold muzzle of a gun was placed against his temple. Andrew grabbed the gun and simultaneously thrust his head back and pushed the gun forward. The man pulled the trigger and fired the gun as he tried to keep hold of it. The bullet hit the second man as he looked through the passenger side window. Andrew bit the man’s hand without restraint. The intense pain caused the man to pull back his hand. As he did, he dropped his gun and fled.

Andrew was driven by impulse. He knew one man was down, but did not realize what that actually meant. He straightened out the gun in his hand, pointed it in the general direction of the fleeing man, and fired multiple shots. He did not know how to properly use a gun, so the bullets whizzed away safely into the desert. When the gun clicked and no longer fired, he regretted his reaction.

As the man approached the SUV, the driver and front passenger stepped out. They both went to a place behind the truck where Andrew could not see them. He heard one of the men move quickly up the side of the truck. The man tossed something that looked like a black aerobics dumbbell into the cab. As he looked at it, the dumbbell burst into a blinding light and made a deafening sound.

Andrew was disoriented. He felt himself dragged out of the truck. As he lay on the desert floor, the men kicked and stomped on him. He felt some discomfort, but they were unable to do him harm. His sight and hearing returned as the men grew tired of kicking him.

Out of frustration, one of the men pulled out his gun and shot Andrew’s head. He felt severe pain again, but the bullet bounced off. The men were shocked. They looked at each other and an argument broke out about the gun. Andrew took advantage of their distraction and tackled one of the men. He knocked the man to the ground, but did not know what to do with him after that. He tried to restrain the man’s arms, but his attempt was so awkward that the man did not fight back. As he withdrew the hug he was giving the man, he felt a pin like the one he had seen on the device the man had thrown in the cab. He pulled it, got up, and ran.

Andrew’s plan was to run in one direction until the device flashed and banged. Then, he would change directions and find somewhere to hide. He did not expect to see the flash, but he would know when to change directions when he heard the bang.

Instead of hearing a bang, he heard a loud explosion. He dove to the ground and did not look up until everything was quiet and debris stopped raining down. He peeked back to where he had left the men. They were no longer standing. Based on what he saw, the pin he had pulled belonged to a grenade.

Andrew picked himself up and dusted himself off. As he walked back to his truck, he pulled out the necklace he was wearing and kissed a red jewel set in it before tucking the necklace back into his shirt. The red jewel he had found at another dig had made him bullet proof. He got into the driver’s seat and just stared at the road ahead as he felt the weight on his heart of what he had done.


Finding the White Living Jewel

caliginous - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Caliginous, 2017; Watercolor

Melissa Taylor walked purposefully down Washington’s 14th Street North West wearing business attire to blend in with early morning commuters. Once she was across the street from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, she stopped walking and pretended to type out a message on her phone. Her true purpose for stopping was to become more familiar with the public facing security of the facility.

Melissa planned to steal items from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for a foreign collector. She planned to go in through a back door either exploiting a weakness in their physical security or personnel or both. She also planned to pick up some things for herself along the way to help maintain her very high standard of living.

As Melissa observed the building, she noticed a person staring at her from across the street. The person wore plain casual clothing: sneakers, jeans, and a hoodie that concealed a face in shadow. Yesterday’s word of the day, caliginous, came to her mind. Her best guess from the overall look of the person’s body was that the person was a male.

In Melissa’s mind, her only option was to confront him. She had a natural tendency to want to dominate others. She put her phone down and glared at him. His response was to raise his right arm from his side to bring forward his gloved hand with the palm up.

Melissa interpreted his gesture as a challenge. She made her posture even more defiant and exaggerated so he could see it from across the wide street. She placed her left hand on her hip, positioned her head above her right shoulder, and with her right hand extended dared him with her own gesture to go to her and get her.

He immediately began to walk toward Melissa. Without looking in either direction, he stepped off of the sidewalk and into the street. Automobile tires screeched to avoid hitting him. A van stopped too late. It rammed him and sent him flying forward onto the asphalt. He hit it with a thud and his body rolled to a stop. Melissa watched the accident in astonishment.

The driver of the van checked on his passengers. Then, he opened his door and stepped out to check on the man. The man stood up and began walking toward Melissa.

“Are you OK, sir?” the driver called out to him. “Don’t try to walk, sir. You may fall.” The man ignored the driver of the van.

Melissa realized she was not being threatened by an ordinary man. She pulled herself out of her shock and walked briskly up the street. She looked for options to get away. There were not enough pedestrians out for her to disappear into a crowd. She could run, try to catch a passing cab, or lose him in the subway.

Melissa looked behind her. The man continued to follow. There was no cab in sight. Around a corner about fifty yards ahead of her was a subway entrance. She was far enough ahead of him that she could turn the corner and descend into the subway without him seeing her do it. He would need to guess whether she went down the street and into an alley, into a building, or into the subway.

Melissa walked faster. She turned the corner and then walked quickly down the escalator to the subway tunnel. She had a monthly pass, so she went through the gate quickly as she heard a train approaching the platform. She had to travel another 25 yards and go down another set of escalators to catch that train. She took off her heels and began to run. At the top of the escalator, she heard the train’s warning chime that the doors were about to close. She descended as fast as she could; but, as she reached the bottom step, the doors closed and it departed.

Melissa looked back. The man was walking down the escalator and would surely intercept her if she tried to leave the station. The other end of the platform was a dead end for subway passengers, but she thought she might find a way to escape through the maintenance corridors.

Melissa looked back again as she ran. The man extended his gloved hand with its palm up. He asked her to give it to him. She realized what he wanted. The only thing that would interest such a creature was the white jewel. She was not going to give it to him.

When Melissa looked forward again, she ran into a pole that displayed subway maps. She hit it so hard she bounced back and fell to the ground. When she looked up, he stood over her. She could not see his face. ‘Caliginous,’ she thought. That is what she decided to name him.

Caliginous extended his gloved hand, and Melissa slapped it away. A black blade shot out from his wrist. He stabbed her with it. She had been stabbed before and had adapted to it. She screamed both from the pain and as a battle cry. She kicked Caliginous’ feet out from under him. The blade exited her as he fell to the ground face down. She moved quickly onto him as he was in a vulnerable position. Then, she placed him in a chokehold.

Instead of Caliginous, Melissa was the one who began to choke. There was no air in the tunnel. She let him go as she gasped for air. While he got up, her body adapted to the lack of oxygen, and she functioned as a facultative anaerobe. He attacked her as she recovered, but she was able to fight back. She dodged his blade and struck him. Her body burned from the buildup of lactic acid, but she defended herself as he assaulted her.

Caliginous stepped back and out of Melissa’s reach. She watched him to anticipate his next move, but her head began to hurt. It felt just like the first time she had been stabbed, lost a lot of blood, and her brain began to die. She felt the desperation of it again trying to keep itself alive. The pain intensified as she felt like the fluids were being squeezed out of her head.

Melissa could not stand what she felt. She grabbed a chain around her neck and pulled it until it broke. It was the necklace she used to keep the white jewel close. She threw it to Caliginous’ feet.

The pain stopped. Melissa gasped as the air returning to the tunnel filled her lungs. She kneeled on the floor as Caliginous walked away. She looked at her hands and watched as they aged. Her eyesight became blurry. She felt her lower back spasm.

Melissa was intelligent. She always figured out a way to get what she wanted. That time, Caliginous had caught her by surprise. In the future, she would be prepared for him. In fact; she planned to hunt him, get her jewel back, and make him pay for the pain she had felt.


Finding the Gray Living Jewel 

Eduardo Suré; Brian Throwing Rock, 2017; Watercolor

Pahrump, Nevada

At the neglected parking lot of an abandoned shopping center, one man handed a car key to another and said, “You have enough explosives in that trunk to collapse the entire opening to the mountain. Remember, all of the workers leave for lunch at the same time per their Union’s contract. Blow it then, and they’ll be too scared to come back to work. That’ll give you some breathing room to set up to tie the company up in court. No one will be putting radioactive waste in your backyard for a long time.”


Las Vegas, Nevada

“Look at this,” Brian Wilson said gesturing toward the beautiful art on display, the lavish food and drink being served, and the high-class guests conversing with each other. “It isn’t fair.”

“Your parents do love you, Brian,” Helen said.

“If they loved me, they would help me,” Brian said. He unbuttoned his suit jacket and leaned back in the chair. “They just invite me to these things so they can shove their wealth in my face.”

“Your parents hosted this party to support local artists,” Helen said. “I grew up with your parents, as you know, and they have never shoved their wealth in anyone’s face.”

“Well, they do in mine,” Brian said.

“They invited you because they wanted to see you,” Helen said.

“That’s not their only reason. They have a specific purpose for everything,” Brian said. “I bet they hoped I would network.”

“It is a good opportunity. Everyone here is interested in art, and you are a wonderful artist,” Helen said.

“I’m not an artist anymore,” Brian said. “I’m just an iron worker thanks to them.”

“Your parents want you to own your achievements. You must be both an artist and a businessman if you want wealth,” Helen said. “They want you to learn tenacity and build what you have from your own hard work.”

“Structural steel work is hard work,” Brian said. “And what has it gotten me? While they’re in museums having champagne, I’m sweating under a mountain. They’re building art collections as I’m building a waste storage facility.”

Helen leaned toward Brian. “Is the company you work for building the radioactive waste repository?” she asked.

“Yes,” Brian answered. “I’m not even contributing to anything anyone will ever see. After we’ve finished, they’ll fill it with waste. No human will go near it for hundreds of thousands of years.”

“Hundreds of thousands of years?” Helen whispered to herself. Brian stood up and buttoned his suit jacket.

“It was nice seeing you again, Helen,” Brian said as he leaned down to embrace her.

“Please wait for a moment, Brian,” Helen said. Brian sat back down at the edge of his seat and observed Helen’s face. She was the same age as his parents, but her face was younger. Her clothing and makeup encouraged observers to estimate her age to be nearer to that of his parents. “I need to ask something of you.”

“Anything I can do,” Brian said.

Helen looked around the room, lowered her voice, and said, “I need you to bury something in that facility for me.”

“What is it?” Brian asked after leaning closer to Helen.

“Nothing at all to anyone, but me,” Helen said. “It’s just something in a little jewelry box I don’t want anyone to find. Ever. I want you to bury it in that facility.”

“Certainly, Helen,” Brian said. “I can pick it up tomorrow on my way back to the valley.”

“No need for you to go out of your way,” Helen said. “I have it with me.” She opened her purse and took out a small jewelry box. She paused to look at it, took a deep breath, and offered it to Brian. He took the box from her and tried to open it. “I’ve sealed it shut. Kindly do not open it.” He watched her and waited for more information. “Allow an old woman her secrets, Brian. Would you please do this for me?”

“Consider it done,” Brian said.


Amargosa Valley, Nevada

On Monday, Brian took Helen’s jewelry box with him to work. He kept it in his pocket. All morning, he noted places where he might hide the box when his coworkers were not looking. His best idea was to tuck the box in a gap between the steel reinforcement he had installed and the wall. Later, it would be sealed in with concrete. No one would ever find it.

“C’mon, Brian. It’s lunchtime!” Brian’s coworker shouted.

“I’ll be out in a minute!” Brian shouted back.

“You better not be workin’ overtime!” the worker joked.

“Who, me?” Brian shouted. “I just need to put my tools away so I don’t lose them again!”

Brian gathered and arranged his tools as workers made their way out of the facility for their lunch break. Once everyone was out of sight, he took the jewelry box out of his pocket. He tried to shove it into the largest gap he had found, but the box was too wide. He pulled a knife out of his tool belt and tried to cut the glue that kept the box closed, but Helen had done a thorough job sealing it. He then tried to force the box open with a screwdriver. He broke the hinges, but opened the box.

Inside the box, there was a gray gemstone. It was the size and shape of a small piece of chocolate, but as smooth as glass. Brian tried to grasp it, but his work gloves were too thick. He tipped the box over so the jewel would fall out and into his hand, but it would not. So, he took his gloves off and grasped the stone with his fingers. It took a lot of finger force, but he was able to pinch it out.

As Brian looked closely at the stone, he heard an explosion at the entrance to the facility. He dropped to the ground and covered his face as a cloud of dust rushed toward him. He could not see, but he heard the side of the mountain crumble down.

Brian stayed on the ground until the rumbling sound stopped and the cloud of dust cleared. The generators near him worked, so he was able to see around him. Everything by the entrance was destroyed, so the front of the facility was obscured by darkness.

Brian stood up. He walked carefully toward the entrance. The further he was from the light, the slower he walked. He continued forward until he stepped on stone and debris. He saw the entrance collapsed. He was trapped.

“Help!” Brian yelled. The sound of his voice was swallowed by the rubble and a faint echo mocked him from the deeper parts of the cavernous facility. He growled and kicked a nearby boulder with his steel toed boot. The stone flew as if was hit by a sledgehammer. He wrinkled his brow, tucked his head back, and asked himself, “What?”

Brian looked into his hand as if he did not remember what he was clutching. He saw that he had held the jewel since the explosion. He put it in his pocket to free his hands. Then, he scanned the rubble until he found a stone similar in size to the one he had kicked. He bent down to pick up the stone, and found that it was quite heavy. He dropped it on the ground, wrinkled his brow, and stared at it.

After a minute, Brian pulled the jewel out of his pocket. He transferred it from his right hand to his left hand and held it. Then, he bent down and picked up the rock he had dropped. It was much lighter. He studied it, and then crushed it with his hand like it was just a cracker. He picked up another large stone and threw it as if it weighed nothing. Then he picked up and threw another and another and another. He began to laugh as he did it.

Brian walked up to a boulder larger than the grasp of his hand. He looked at the jewel in his hand and, after some hesitation, put it into his mouth. He bent down to pick up a boulder the size of a backpack. As he applied force to lift it, the muscles in his arms and core grew larger. He dropped the rock and examined his muscles. After the shock diminished, he approached a boulder that was the size of a large suitcase. When he applied force to lift it, the muscles he used grew. His clothing ripped around his arms and other places where the muscles grew. He picked up the boulder and threw it easily.

Brian cheered and began to dig his way out of the cave. Then, he stopped. He spit the jewel out of his mouth and into his hand. When he placed it in his pocket, his muscles became normal. He walked back to the light. As he walked, he picked up tools and other things that would be useful if someone were going to wait a long time to be rescued.


Finding the Purple Living Jewel 

amanda and smell - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Amanda and Smell, 2017; Watercolor
Amanda Miller did not expect to make discoveries in lost luggage. The task of looking through suitcases was to her like looking obsessively through a stranger’s laundry basket. Her job was to catalog everything. She handled every smelly article of clothing in the suitcase. If she found something valuable, she was not allowed to keep it. The administration had to hold it for ninety days to give the owner a chance to claim it. After that, it went to auction. The most she could hope for was to find something suspicious to investigate or something ridiculous to tell her colleagues about.

Inspecting lost luggage was not all Amanda did at that job, but she felt she did it more often than her coworkers. She did not like to be alone, wearing an immaculate blue uniform no one could admire, and exhibiting professionalism no one could judge. She wanted to be with her colleagues among the flying public. She chose to be an agent so she could catch criminals and terrorists before they could do harm; not to spend time alone with suitcases meticulously cataloging skid marked briefs, toiletry items, and smelly shoes.

Amanda selected a silver suitcase from a group by the entrance to the room. The suitcase’s shell was gray and made with an unusual metal with no branding labels or factory markings. It was small enough to carry on, so its former owner must have been forced to check it in just before boarding the aircraft. He or she must have been livid when the airline told him they lost it.

The suitcase was locked. It was a common lock, but one that was exceptionally well made. It gave her so much trouble, she almost gave up trying to open it. The suitcase was unusual and that added to her usual tenacity. After a long while and after breaking the lock, she succeeded in opening it.

The contents of the suitcase were not unexpected. There were two days of worth of men’s clothing in it. They were of fine quality, but she had seen rich people’s clothing before. The toiletries were exceptional. The deodorant, lotion, aftershave, and hair product appeared handmade.

Amanda knew better than to stop examining the suitcase after it was empty. She slowly and carefully felt around all of the edges for hidden compartments. When she felt an unusual bump with her finger tip, she pressed it. It did not move, so she pushed it sideways in every direction. When she pushed it horizontally from right to left, it moved and clicked. The fabric inside of the suitcase separated from the shell and fell forward to reveal a box.

The box attached to the inner shell was made from the same gray material as the shell. Amanda felt around it for a button that would open it, but it did not have one. She pressed the top down to see if it would spring back and pop off, but it did not. She thought it might unscrew and open, so she grasped the top and twisted so hard that she tore some of her glove’s fingertips. She grasped the bottom of the box and squeezed it. When she did, a side popped out revealing a small lever. When she pulled on the lever, the top came off.

Inside of the gray box, there was a purple jewel held in place by a customized frame. The jewel appeared to be in a raw form. It had smooth surfaces that looked like crystal, and rough surfaces that looked like stone. Amanda thought it looked like alexandrite. The jewel was opaque where it was smoothest; but she could see through a lighter surface layer and a slightly darker inner layer to a very dark purple core.

Amanda reached out to remove the jewel. Because her glove was torn at the fingertip, her skin made contact with the jewel’s surface. The color of the jewel exploded in her eyes. She gasped from being startled. As she drew in breath, she tasted the room: the dust in the air, musty suitcase shells, and chemicals used to clean the room. She closed her mouth, but her sense of smell was even stronger. She stopped breathing to keep the tastes out of her mouth and the smells out of her nose. When she did that, she noticed she could hear everything outside of the room as if there were no walls. She heard people walking and talking, public announcements, and even aircraft engines as they approached their gates. She removed her hand from the jewel so she could cover her ears. It all stopped.

After the bombardment of Amanda’s senses ended, she opened her eyes. Nothing like that had ever happened to her before. She looked closely at the jewel for any sign that it could be special: a light, a haze, vibration – anything. It just sat quietly in its mold looking harmless. But just as it is easy to identify the object that burned you, she knew it was the jewel that made her senses go berserk.

Amanda felt that she should take the jewel to her supervisor. She took her torn glove off, discarded it, and put on a new one. She carefully reached out and touched the jewel gently. It had no effect. She grasped it firmly, pulled it out of its mold, and walked out the door toward the nearest security checkpoint.

Amanda had to work her way through crowds of people to get to the checkpoint. It was crowded, noisy, and bustling before and after the scanners. She approached a colleague and asked where she could find her supervisor. The agent answered that he was at another gate’s security checkpoint.

Amanda worked her way out of the crowd and briskly walked toward the next gate. She thought about what she would say to her supervisor. She wondered if she should tell him or show him what had happened. When she rehearsed what she would say in her mind, it sounded ridiculous. She thought about how embarrassed she would be if he touched it and it did not have the same effect on him that it did on her. She did not want him to think she had cracked under the pressure of the job.

Amanda looked at the jewel in her hand and stopped walking halfway to the other checkpoint. She wanted to make sure she had not imagined what she had felt. She put the stone in her pocket so her hands would be free to remove a gloves. Then, she reluctantly took off one glove. Next, she carefully reached into her pocket. When her fingertip made contact with the jewel; her senses were bombarded by the airport lights, sounds, and smells. She even felt the clothes on her body. She was overwhelmed until something caught her attention. An unusual, but recognizable, smell gave her focus. It was a scent she remembered from her training. She could tell it was coming from the direction of the security checkpoint where she was headed. She should not have been able to smell it, but she did. She smelled a bomb.


Finding the Blue Living Jewel

kevin - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Kevin in Trouble, 2017; Watercolor
“C’mon, it’s easy money,” Emily said. She looked tired of giving Michelle, one of the most attractive girls in her network, reasons to take a job she offered. She found a gap between throw pillows that hid the age of Michelle’s couch and carefully sat down. She crossed her ankles, leaned forward, and rested her forearms on top of her thighs. She fiddled with the cap of her empty water bottle as she waited for Michelle to come up with another reason not to take the job.

“You call that easy money?” Michelle asked. “Because I don’t call it easy money.” Michelle stood across the small room, turned toward a mirror, and checked her hair and face casually. She smoothed out her dress with her delicate hands and frowned at some lint on her dress that no one would ever notice. “Besides, I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m focusing on my acting fulltime now.”

“You need to eat until you land that big part, don’t you?” Emily said. “Look – all you need to do is wear a flirty uniform, serve drinks, and be friendly.”

“Oh yea? Just friendly, huh? And who am I going to be friendly to? Whose party is it going to be?” Michelle asked.

“George Brown’s,” Emily answered.

“Are you kidding me?” Michelle said. “No way I’m going near that guy.”

“What do you have against George Brown?” Emily asked.

“Oh, I’ve got plenty against George Brown,” Michelle said. She sat down in a chair that was next to the sofa where Emily sat. “Two weeks ago, I was on a yacht with Joshua Davis.”

The Joshua?” Emily asked.

“Yes, the Joshua,” Michelle answered. “I was on his yacht making some of that easy money you’re talking about. We were inside having drinks because we were in the middle of some storm. The ocean was choppy, but everyone was having a good time.”

“So it wasn’t a big party?” Emily asked.

“Nah. It was more of a weekend getaway with his friends and me and some girls,” Michelle answered. “The yacht was big though: it had a crew. Really fancy. So, everyone was laughing about how sick some celebrity got on Joshua’s jet. Then Joshua just told one of his guys to sit down.”

“One of his friends?” Emily asked.

“Hard to tell. He was a quiet type. Didn’t speak unless spoken to. Looked like he could be a body guard or something,” Michelle answered. “And so everyone stopped laughing. It was like we were listening to canned laughter and somebody turned off the TV. Joshua then asked, ‘Kevin, where’s that blue rock I gave you?’ And then no one made a sound. Even I knew to hold my breath. All I heard was white noise outside from the rain and the yacht’s hull slapping the occasional wave.”

“What did the guy say?” asked Emily.

“He swallowed hard and took a while to answer,” Michelle said. “It was like he wasn’t too bright. Like he was really thinking about it. Then he said, ‘I sold it to George Brown so I could retire someday.’ The room was so quiet. Nobody looked at Joshua, but everyone looked at Joshua: you know what I mean? I was really getting scared, but I couldn’t go anywhere. The room had this weight in it. It felt like I would die if I moved without Joshua saying I could.”

“Wow,” Emily said.

“Yeah, I didn’t know someone could do that to a room,” Michelle said. “So then Joshua said, ‘Who said you could retire?’ Kevin’s face turned white. Joshua started laughing and looked around the room at the other guys. So we all started laughing. I mean; it wasn’t really funny, but I was just so scared. You know?”

“You poor girl,” Emily said.

“Then Joshua stood up, grabbed Kevin by the collar, and pulled him up and out of his chair,” Michelle said. “He dragged the guy across the room and through the door leading out onto the deck of the yacht. When Joshua opened the door, the sound of the rain outside drowned out every sound inside. It looked pitch black outside to me. It was just crazy for him to go out there and drag Kevin out there too as the boat heaved and waves crashed onto the deck from the storm. Then one of the guys tried to say to another without me hearing, ‘Did I just see Joshua drag Kevin out?’ And the other guy was like, ‘I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t right here.’ I didn’t know what was going on. I just tried not to cry.”

“Where were the other girls?” Emily asked.

“They were with some guys on the other side of the yacht,” Michelle answered. “Joshua liked me, so he kept me around most of the time. I thought that was great since he was paying the bill, you know? But I didn’t want to be there right then. I asked one of Joshua’s friends if I could go be with the other girls, but he just shook his head. He was probably right. No one moved from where they were – not even to close the door. Then Joshua emerged from the dark and walked back into the room. He was soaked, of course. He grabbed an ice bucket where we’d had a champagne bottle earlier and stuck one of his hands in it. He told us to have a good time, and then went to his room. I didn’t see him again the rest of the trip: not even when we got back to port.”

“I still haven’t heard what you’ve got against George Brown,” Emily said.

“Really? Joshua Davis, George Brown, the Boogeyman – they kill people,” Michelle answered. “I’m not going anywhere near scary people anymore.” Michelle stood up and walked back to the mirror to look at herself. She combed through her hair with her hands and straightened a necklace she wore. “Do you think Joshua was mad about the blue rock or the guy wanting to retire?”

“Oh, he was mad about both,” Emily said. She leaned back into the couch letting the throw pillows gather around her as she sunk in. “He called it a rock, but it looks like raw benitoite.”

“Like what?” Michelle asked.

“It looks like a blue gemstone called buh – nee – toh – aight,” Emily said. “Look it up on your phone.”

“But it’s not a bunny toe thing?” Michelle asked. “What is it then? And how much was it worth that he got enough money to buy his way out of the bad business he was in?”

“Well, I heard it’s not just some fancy jewel,” Emily said.

“Go on,” Michelle said.

“I heard it has powers,” Emily said.

“Shut up!” Michelle said. “What powers?”

“You touch people and you get their strength,” Emily said.

“Like, where do you touch people?” Michelle asked. “Do you touch them with it? Or do you say some magic words?”

“I don’t know,” Emily said. “But it makes sense when you think about it, right? That guy Kevin was muscle for Joshua. And he always had that blue jewel with him. He had a reputation of being unstoppable. Tough and loyal, but not too bright. That’s probably why George Brown was able to get the jewel from him.”

“You heard all this where?” Michelle asked.

“Joshua Davis mentioned it when he, um…” Emily hesitated. She leaned her head back and looked up at the ceiling.

“When what, Emily?” Michelle asked. Emily swallowed and straightened her posture. She made eye contact with Michelle.

“When he told me to tell you to steal the jewel back from George Brown,” Emily said.


Finding the Green Living Jewel

carol in fire - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Carol in Fire, 2017; Watercolor
I found it on the worst night of my life. That night, I was dragged out of sleep to flee from my home. I was tortured. Everything I had was destroyed. When I was rescued, I was only wearing a diaper and this gaudy bracelet.

The night I found it, I was woken hours before dawn by the sound of a woman screaming. It came from outside and was muffled, but I could tell she was nearby. The woman screamed familiar names: the name of my male neighbor and of their children. ‘Get out!’ she screamed and ‘Hurry!’ Her panicked screams contrasted with the beautiful yellow glow outside of my window. It was as if the sun had risen and its light was diffused by my curtain as it entered my room. The light did not come from a sunrise: it came from my burning neighborhood.

I knew my house was next. I had to get out of it. I thought about what I would take with me. I lived alone. I did not have pets. I did not like to have things. All I had was my own skin, a laptop for my livelihood, and a gaudy bracelet I acquired from a shady character.

My cousin and I had been browsing at a market in Mexico City. A handsome man had approached us and, with a charming accent, had asked us if we would allow him to show us a jewel worthy of our beauty. We had pretended to listen to his description while surreptitiously enjoying his attention.

“Buy it, Carol,” my cousin had urged. “It’s not fake. It looks like he stole it from a museum. There might even be a reward. Or you could sell it for a lot of money.” So, I had been hoodwinked into buying something I did not want. I had paid a lot, but less than he had asked for. He had seemed happy to be rid of it.

I had not had any particular feelings about the transaction at the time. I had just hoped either the metal the bracelet was made of or the green stone encased in it would be valuable. But then I had to sneak it out of Mexico and into the U.S. It was then that I had felt like a part of corruption and a thief. I would not sell it or get it appraised: I would keep it in the safe in my home office hoping to forget about it.

I heard the roar of the fire outside as I walked into my home office to retrieve my two belongings. I heard propane tanks explode. I easily found my laptop on my desk. When I tried to open my safe, the sounds of danger outside made me ham-fisted and I had trouble turning the knob. I couldn’t even remember the combination. I tried everyone’s birthday: my mother’s, my father’s, my sister’s, and my own. At last; it was the numbers from my closest cousin’s month, day, and year of birth that opened the safe. As its door clicked open, the smoke alarms in my house went off.

Back when I had shopped for a home, I had fallen in love with my house because it had a porch that wrapped all the way around it. I had really enjoyed that porch over the years. I had watched it rain in the afternoon under its protection. I had walked barefooted on its cool wooden deck drinking my coffee. I had watched the sun rise and set while rocking in a chair my parents had given me as a birthday present. The deck I loved so much burned all the way around the house and trapped me inside.

I went upstairs to try to jump out of a window. The house was filled with smoke, so I scuttled close to the ground and held my breath as much as I could. I could not see, but I could have found my way through my house with my eyes closed.

When I found a window, it would not open. I broke the glass with the closest thing I could find. I grabbed some pillows from a bed beside the window and stuffed my laptop between them for its protection. I then tossed it out of the window as far as my strength would allow. I was also going to throw the bracelet. Instead, I put it on and protected my wrists from broken glass as I pushed against the window frame and climbed out.

I stood on the roof of my porch and searched for a place to jump to. Once I found it, I changed my posture to get ready to jump. The shingles must have melted because I slipped on one. I fell and my body hit the roof causing it to collapse.

I found myself burning in the middle of a fire. Flames were all around me. I was in excruciating pain. I flopped like a fish on land trying to move my body away from burning material, but my movements were ineffective because there was no place to go. I hoped I would pass out and it would be over.

But the torment was not ending. I decided to get myself out. I tried to use my hands to stand, but the ground was covered with burning materials. I finally steeled myself to endure the pain, got up, and pushed through the burning materials that were once my home. I walked over a red and black ground feeling my bare feet burn.

Once I got out of the flames, the pain stopped. I looked at my hands, and they were unharmed. My clothes and hair had completely burned off, but I could not feel burns on my face or see burns anywhere on my body. I was going to take the bracelet off, but it was cool when I touched it. I also had no better way to carry it.

There was smoke all around me as my neighborhood continued to burn. The wind blew smoke and the heat of the fire at me. I stumbled over the pillows I had thrown out the window. I used a pillow case to make a diaper to cover my bottom. Then, I held a pillow and my laptop against my chest to cover my top.

I ran down the center of the street searching for a way out of the neighborhood. The most open place I could think of was a golf course that was a couple of miles away. I did not know what else to do or where else to go, so I walked in its direction.

On the way to the golf course, a group of firefighters emerged from the smoke. They led me to safety. As I sat by the firetruck, a firefighter told me I had made the right choice in getting out immediately without stopping to get anything. Most of my neighbors had not been able to escape.


Finding the Yellow Living Jewel

farm - 2017 - 3x2 (2)
Eduardo Suré; Farm, 2017; Watercolor

“I’m glad that you read a lot, but I’d like to see you having a good time with people your age,” Donna said.

“Grandma, all the kids in my high school are stuck-up,” Kenneth said. “Besides, I need to keep my grades up so I can go to college and you can stop working at that factory.”

“Don’t you worry about me,” Donna said. “I like staying active, and the ladies I work with are hilarious.”

“You can’t do that job forever,” Kenneth said. “What happens if you hurt your back one day?”

“Your grandfather left me enough to comfortably spend all day in chat rooms,” Donna said. “But we’re talking about you right now. You can’t tell me there’s not one decent kid in your school.”

Kenneth remembered that no one had talked to him in any of his classes since the middle of last year. He remembered all of the lunches he had spent alone. He felt like a stunted plant in a garden: neglected, but watched. The gardener not pruning or expecting blooms – not wanting to kill a plant, but hoping for it to die. “There’s not,” Kenneth said. They stood together in the living room for half a minute staring at each other. When it was clear the discussion was not going to move forward, he left.

Kenneth’s response broke Donna’s heart. After his parents died, she had watched him live quietly like a beggar on the side of the road being ignored by the same people over and over again. She could not replace his parents. The few friends he had before they died, avoided the stench of his sadness.

Donna conjectured reasons Kenneth did not acquire new friends. He did not seek nor draw attention. His looks, intelligence, athleticism, and personality were so average he was imperceptible among others. He never caused any problems. His most remarkable trait, that he truly loved others, did not help him. It actually kept him from others. He knew people were afraid to be loved and their existence valued automatically. Those feeling, when revealed, were misunderstood and repulsive. Most of all, he did not want to feel the pain of losing someone again.

“This is as good a time as any,” Donna said to the living room furniture.

When Kenneth walked through their front door after school, Donna was waiting for him on the sofa. He looked at his grandmother. She radiated energy as always. Were it not for her gray head of hair, laugh lines, and vintage glasses; she could have been just another young woman in a sweat suit.

“Put your exercise clothes on. We’re going for a jog,” Donna said.

“I’m tired, Grandma,” Kenneth said.

“That’s because you don’t exercise,” Donna said.

“I have P.E. at school in the morning,” Kenneth said.

“I guess you’re all set then,” Donna said. “Well – if I don’t come back in an hour, please call an ambulance. My heart has been funny today.” She put her right hand over her heart and took a deep breath.

“Hold on,” Kenneth said, “Just let me get my shorts on.”

Minutes later, Donna and Kenneth were running up the left side of a road. Donna ran ahead of Kenneth. She led him out of their neighborhood and into a rural part of town. She allowed him to catch up several times, but then pulled ahead so he would follow her to where she wanted to go. After three miles, she stopped in front of a tractor that was parked on the side of the road and waited for him to arrive.

“Grandma,” Kenneth said out of breath, “Your heart. You know we have to run back the same distance, right?”

“I’m perfectly fine,” Donna said. “I want to show you something and this is a good place. The sun is shining brightly above us and no one is around.”

Kenneth leaned over and put a hand on each knee as he breathed heavily. Donna had maintained a race pace, but that did not seem to have an effect on her. She walked to the back of the tractor making sure he was watching her. She looked around to check that no one watched them. After she felt sure there were no eyes on them, she walked between the tractor’s links and put her hands under the towing hitch. She lifted the back end of the tractor off the ground, looked at him, and lowered it back down.

Kenneth stood up and walked to Donna. She backed away from the back of the tractor and suggested with a motion of her hand that he should try to do what she had done. He put his hands under the towing hitch and tried to lift the tractor, but it did not move. He looked underneath it for a jack, and there was not one. He waved his arm over the top for a wire.

“What would it be tied to, silly?” Donna asked.

“How did you do that?” Kenneth asked.

“A family secret I’m about to share with you,” Donna said. She reached up to her neck and pulled on a silver chain until she held the jewel at the end of it in her hand. “Do you know what this is?”

“A sapphire,” Kenneth answered.

“That was a trick question because I don’t know what it is either,” Donna laughed. “I only know it was passed down to your grandfather by his father. I actually didn’t know about it until the day he asked me to wear it. It was the same day he died.”

“Are you a super hero, grandma?” Kenneth asked.

“Heavens, no!” Donna laughed.

“Then how did you do that?” Kenneth asked.

“I don’t know,” Donna answered. “What I do know is that whatever I try to do, I can do more of it when I wear this. I can lift heavy things. I can run really fast. I can do so many neat things.”

“Do you get tired?” asked Kenneth.

“Well, no. I need to take it off so I can sleep,” Donna answered. “If I’m not in the sun, I’ll get hungry before I get tired. Trust me, you don’t want to get tired while you wear this thing. It feels bad.”

“Can I try it?” Kenneth asked.

“One day you can, but not today,” Donna answered. “You need to do three things for me before I’ll let you.”

“What?” Kenneth asked.

“You need to make friends,” Donna answered. Kenneth groaned. “You also need to do something big on your own.”

“Like what?” Kenneth asked.

“You tell me,” Donna answered. “Big. And you must never, ever, ever, ev-er tell anyone about this thing.”

“Why not?” Kenneth asked.

“Walk with me,” Donna said. She and Kenneth walked back down the farm road a quarter mile. They approached a dead raccoon they had seen earlier on the side of the road. It was fresh. She looked around to ensure no one was looking. Then, she reached down and touched the raccoon gently with her bare hand. Kenneth cringed. The raccoon’s stomach began to fill and its body became bloated. It released gases, fluids, and a stench into the air that Kenneth could not bear. The body began to disintegrate. The raccoon’s dry skin covered the ground for a few seconds, and then it was gone. When she pulled her hand back, there were only bones left on the ground.

“OK, grandma,” Kenneth said. “I won’t tell anyone.”


Finding the Orange Living Jewel

ashley and orange jewel - 2017 - custom
Eduardo Suré; Ashley and Orange Jewel, 2017; Watercolor
Ashley leaned against a police car, held her gun with both hands, and wondered how the suspect would try to use the hostage to escape. The man she and her partner, Kimberly, called the Quantum Killer had beaten her twice that evening already. The first time, he had killed the victim almost right in front of her. The second time, he had been able to flee the scene as she pursued. As she stood against the car and took deep breaths in the dark, she was relieved the chase was over. However, she had a new problem: the suspect had kicked open a front door and a woman who lived alone in the house was his hostage.

Ashley was not going to let him beat her a third time. She and four officers had secured the perimeter of the home and they had it under surveillance. She and two of the officers were at the front of the house, and two officers were at the back. The SWAT team was on its way.

Ashley took her right hand off her weapon and tapped around her body to make sure she had everything. She felt her vest, badge, handcuffs, and her hair tied back. She fidgeted to keep herself alert. It was late and she was tired. The seconds were long as she waited. She tried to keep her mind in the moment; but it wandered around the mysteries of the case. The biggest was that earlier that night, like every other night, the Quantum Killer took two victims in two cities in the same way at the same time. It had been an impossible and horrible trick.

The murders had been in the national news, so the suspect had gotten sloppy trying to make sure he would be given credit. He must have thought little to nothing of the intelligence of the police. The clues he had left were more than enough for Kimberly, her partner, to correctly identify the cities in which the crimes were to take place. In fact, she had correctly identified the possible locations of the crimes within a couple of city blocks. The women had split up and each had been allowed to lead a special team of police officers to protect civilians and arrest the suspect.

To ensure the victim would be found quickly, the Quantum Killer had been bold. The two victims had been newsstand sales associates on busy city streets. There had been one or two perfect minutes where there had been no pedestrian traffic and the suspect could strike. The back of the newsstand faced the street, so passing cars could not see inside of it. Ashley had not actually seen the crime occur, but she had spotted a man dressed like a runner step out of a newsstand. He would have blended in perfectly with other pedestrians, but looked odd as he stepped out of a newsstand. Kimberly had not seen the suspect in her city, but she had heard a woman who found the victim scream.

Ashley was snapped back into the moment when the SWAT team arrived. The SWAT teams’ vehicle looked like a mobile home painted black. It was too large for the neighborhood they were in. The SWAT team leader jumped out of the vehicle and walked briskly toward Ashley.

“Detective Ashley Smith?” asked the SWAT team leader. She nodded. “I’m Johnson. What’s the layout?”

“This neighborhood has no outlet for motor vehicles,” said Ashley. “Woods run behind the houses: five acres wide. The home is on a slab and there’s no attic. Front door and garage exit, two windows on each side, one door and a large window in the back. Bathroom windows do not open.”

“Weapons?” asked Johnson.

“A knife. Possibly a handgun,” said Ashley.

“Possibly?” asked Johnson. He scanned Ashley from head to toe.

“We did not have eyes on him when he carjacked,” said Ashley.

“One hostage?” asked Johnson.

“Yes,” said Ashley straightening her posture to match Johnson’s.

Johnson spoke into his radio, “Williams and Jones, I want intel on the suspect and the hostage.” Immediately, two men exited the SWAT team’s mobile home. They disappeared into the shadows.

“We last saw them in the kitchen,” said Ashley.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Johnson dismissively. He looked at her again as if checking that she was a woman. “Is the perimeter secure?”

“Yes, there are two…” began Ashley.

“And under surveillance?” interrupted Johnson. Ashley did not like how he was asking his questions. When she took a deep breath both to stay composed and reply, Johnson’s and her radio chirped. The SWAT team members and an officer conveyed the same message at the same time to their leaders: the suspect had walked out the back door of the house and was holding a knife to the hostage.

Leaving Johnson behind, Ashley sprinted down the side of the house toward the back. She slowed down just before arriving at the corner and prepared herself to aim down the sights of her handgun. When she peeked around the corner, she saw the two police officers on her team aiming their weapons at the suspect. He shielded himself with the hostage and controlled her movements with the knife.

The suspect was only aware of the police officers, and he faced them. Having a side view of the suspect and hostage, she saw she had a clear shot. She hesitated. It was a shot she did not want to take. If she put the suspect down, she would not be able to interrogate him. She may never find out how he coordinated the simultaneous murders. As she considered her nonlethal options, she heard a shot fired from a sniper rifle. The hostage screamed and the suspect fell to the ground.

Early the next morning, Ashley sat in her cubicle doing her paperwork for the case. She could not bring herself to put words down on the standard forms. She knew she could not put it off because she would need to participate in the SWAT team’s review and evaluation that afternoon.

Ashley was dreading seeing Johnson again. He had handled the situation perfectly, and she had botched almost everything. The SWAT unit would be relaxed and able to declare success. She would be able to declare how she allowed three victims: the man who’d been found dead in the newsstand, the driver who’d had his car jacked, and the woman who had been held hostage. All she had to show for that disastrous night was a dead suspect, a knife from the hostage’s kitchen, and a rock the suspect had in his pocket.

Ashley picked up the evidence bag in which she had placed the rock. She examined it through the plastic. It looked to her like a gumball made of orange sugar. She looked for something like it online and it looked like it could be an orange diamond. Given its size, the suspect would not have taken it from the last victim or hostage.

Finding the owner of the orange gemstone would have to wait. Ashley’s highest priority was to find the other killer. She absentmindedly took the gem out of the bag and fidgeted with it as she considered if there could be more than one accomplice out there. She asked herself, how many monsters could there be? How many people were willing to end human lives for vanity? How many were capable of taking human lives for sport? It was her and Kimberly against these monsters.

Ashley held the stone tightly and pounded the top of the desk softly and rhythmically. She fidgeted as she thought about what they could do to solve this case once and for all. She felt stretched thin. She thought, if only there were more detectives on the case like Kimberly and herself. She suddenly felt dizzy. She told herself it was the stress, but then she had double vision. She felt faint and as if she might slip out of her chair. She closed her eyes, leaned back, and put her hands on her head to steady herself. When she opened her eyes, there was a woman in front of her. It was not Kimberly, but someone who she felt she should instantly recognize – like her mother or sister. However, there was something wrong with the appearance of the woman. It was herself. She was looking at herself standing in her cubicle.