Finding the Orange Living Jewel

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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.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Finding the Red Living Jewel

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Eduardo Suré; The Dig Site, 2017; Watercolor

“Compare the color of the ground here,” said Andrew as he moved his hand in a circle over the earth with his right palm facing downward, “to the color of the ground over here.” Sandra knew he was only defining the edges of the excavation aloud and not instructing her, but she was irritated. His habit of thinking aloud made her feel as if he was talking down to her. It hatched the need to tell herself she was just as good, or better, an archeologist as he. She licked her teeth as she listened to him go on and on, and she looked at him from head to toe with a hint of aggression. She always expected him to be dirtier than he was, but then she remembered that all of his shirts and all of his pants were identical so he would not need to think about his clothing.

“We should expand the edges for belongings,” interrupted Sandra.

“Oh, I’ve looked and haven’t found any indication he had any,” said Andrew. He backed up and looked over the ground as if he could see through it. He had the look on his face a chef has just before diners begin having their meal. He had a theory that the chiefs of this tribe were judged by their generosity. Therefore, it was a great honor to have no possessions throughout their lives and be buried with none. When he examined the site, he only found one grave. That was unusual in such a beautiful location. The two archeologists excavated under what appeared to be the opening of an enormous cave. From a distance, they looked like two tiny figures under a colossal stone wave that was about to crash down upon them. Many could have used the formation as a shelter, but it was instead a massive headstone for an ancient human.

After weeks of careful work, Sandra and Andrew began to exhume a body. Sandra bit her lips as she looked at the boundaries of their dig. She was troubled. “Andrew, I don’t think we defined the edges of the context correctly,” said Sandra.

“No, no, no,” said Andrew. “They’re good. The ground penetrating radar only showed human remains.”

“I’m going to run the metal detector over the sides just to make sure,” said Sandra.

“Now?” asked Andrew. She nodded. He took a deep exasperated breath, but he estimated if he protested they would argue longer than it would take her to fail to detect a stray find.

She returned with the metal detector and began to work around the edges of their dig. Andrew listened to her move about, but focused on exhuming his chief. Then, the metal detector sounded a positive signal.

“You just had to look, didn’t you? Look, we are not going to dig out of phase,” said Andrew looking up at Sandra.

“No, we’re not,” said Sandra. “We’re going to define the edges of a new context and do a proper dig.”

“We’re not going to ruin our schedule for nothing,” said Andrew.

“You don’t know it’s nothing,” said Sandra.

“I’m leading this dig, Sandra,” said Andrew.

“Do you really just want to run with this and have that flaw in your work?” asked Sandra. “I’m not just going to forget about it.” She felt so strongly, she waved the metal detector around as she spoke without noticing. She emphasize, “I can’t forget about this.” As she unconsciously pointed to the location of the signal; the metal detector slipped from her hand, hit the earthen wall, and dirt poured down. A red object flowed down with it.

“What is that?” asked Andrew. He had seen the object in the earth.

“Don’t move!” exclaimed Sandra.

“Don’t tell me not to move,” exclaimed Andrew. “You’re the one that just over-cut the site.”

“Stop and listen, Andrew!” pleaded Sandra. He felt rumbling under his feet before his ears perceived it.

“Run!” shouted Andrew. Sandra did not hesitate. She was off like a sprinter after the gun. He would have taken his alleged chief with him if he could. Instead, he clawed with his hand into the earth where he saw a part of the red item peeking through. That decision cost him. There was a deep-seated landslide and a layer of the cliff they worked under broke off. It fell with the force of ice calving off a glacier. He sprinted, but he only made it to the edge of the debris flow. Earth and rock covered him. A cloud of dust made it impossible to see. He could not breathe from the heavy weight on his chest, and he felt himself slowly lose consciousness.

When Andrew woke, he heard Sandra crying near him. He opened his eyes, and they teared up to wash the dirt out. He looked toward the sound of her sobs and saw her sitting awkwardly on the ground. She was covered in dirt. Her wrists rested on her legs. Her palms faced upward. They were raw and had blood on them.

“Is that my blood?” asked Andrew.

“No, it’s mine,” answered Sandra. Andrew stood up and dusted himself off. Sandra let out an odd yelp as if someone had just given her terrible news.

“What’s wrong, Sandra?” asked Andrew.

“You should be dead!” exclaimed Sandra. After hearing the strange sound of distress in her own voice, she visibly tried to compose herself. She used the back of her hands to wipe the tears from her face. She slowly stood up. Andrew saw cuts on her legs. She appeared exhausted.

“Are you OK?” asked Andrew as gently as he could.

How are you OK?” asked Sandra. She motioned toward a pile of rocks. “All of those – all of them – were on top of you.”

“Those rocks?” asked Andrew in disbelief. The pile could have filled several bathtubs.

“And those,” said Sandra pointing toward boulders that appeared to have been dragged from where he laid. “I used the truck and a chain to drag them off of you. You were at the edge of the landslide. I thought I could save you, but after I removed heavy rock after rock after rock.”

“Thank you, Sandra,” said Andrew. She stared at him. There was along moment of silence during which he allowed her to look at him.

“You had no pulse,” said Sandra.

“I’m fine,” said Andrew.

“I may have hit you with the pick,” said Sandra.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Andrew. “Nothing is hurting.”

“And I may have been the cause of some stones falling back onto your head,” said Sandra.

“Your dissertation was on exhumation methods,” said Andrew.

“Of people who have been dead for years. I was trying to get you out, you jerk. And look at me,” said Sandra looking over her wounds. She looked at him again. “And look at you. There isn’t a thing wrong with you.” Andrew realized she was right. He felt like he was eighteen again, or at least the idealized memory of how he felt when he was 18. The only odd sensation was his clenched fist. He felt something in his hand. He turned away from Sandra so she could not see him looking into his palm. There was a red jewel in it.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Braddock Wizard and the Hikers

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Eduardo Sure; Braddock Wizard and South Mountain Witch, 2016; Watercolor on Paper
Years ago, a wizard was known to live in western Maryland. No one knew his name, so the people who knew of him called him the Braddock Wizard. The wizard drew his magical powers from nature. He was able to draw power from the mountains, the trees that grew on them, and the streams that flowed down them. He could also draw power from animals, but he avoided that. Taking magic from animals had an effect on them that he did not like. Many people enjoyed the outdoors where the wizard roamed. That was good for him because all of those people joined together to protect and preserve the environment where he roamed.

One day, the wizard came across a group of people hiking through the woods. He could hear them talking, but it was not the topic of their conversation that drew his attention. The conversation had an odd note and did not sound right to his ears. One of the people was especially agitated. The wizard could feel how nervous and troubled the person felt. That stayed with him. It reminded him that he had seen hikers crying earlier that month. He also saw hikers that had come to the area with a group only to break from their group and continue walking alone.

The wizard wanted to know what was happening. He traveled to the edge of the area he roamed and waited for some hikers. Two thru-hikers came along. He could tell that they were thru-hikers because they had stronger magic than people ordinarily carried with them. People hiking a very long distance built within themselves magic from being in nature and from their effort to hike so far. The wizard could sense the magic. The pair was made up of a man and a woman.

The wizard followed the pair as they traveled along the trail. He followed them all day unseen, but nothing happened. When the evening arrived, the hikers stopped and set up their camp. The wizard stayed with them. The sun went down, it became dark, and the hikers went into their tent to sleep. The wizard sat near them out of sight and kept watch. At midnight, the wizard felt unusual movement among the trees.

The wizard used magic to see clearly in the dark. He saw the South Mountain Witch. She was not a good witch. She prepared to attack the sleeping hikers. The wizard used magic to create a swarm of leaves and sticks from those that were on the ground. The leaves and sticks flew at the witch like a swarm of hornets. The witch used magic to build a ball of fire around herself and burned the swarm. She then used rock debris like bullets and shot them at the wizard. The wizard moved fallen trees in front of himself as a shield. Then, the wizard called water from a nearby stream and sent a powerful spray at the witch. Having seen it coming toward her, the witch immediately disappeared into the darkness.

The Braddock Wizard saved those hikers from the South Mountain Witch’s attack. The wizard thought that she must have figured out how to take magic from people. He thought that might have been the reason that he saw so many unhappy people recently. The witch did not care about the effect that stealing magic had on them. To help hikers, the wizard cast protective spells on them as they came through the area. However, some hikers arrived from the north and others from the south. Unfortunately, he could not be at both ends of the trail at once. The witch would surely find unprotected hikers and steal magic from them as they slept.

The End

Star Princess

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Eduardo Sure; Star, 2016; Photography
One night, three princes looked up at the night sky and wished upon a star that they could have a princess with whom to share their kingdom. One prince was from the Kingdom of the East, the second from the Middle Kingdom, and the third was from the Kingdom of the West. A star heard them and responded that she would be interested in being their princess because she had wanted for a very long time to live on Earth.

So each prince, for his own reasons, hosted a ball for the star on a night that she would come to Earth. The star could be present at all three balls at the same time, but would only choose one prince.

When the star arrived at the ball hosted by the prince of the Kingdom of the East, the prince and all of his guests were in awe of her beauty. Everyone gathered around her because, in addition to her great beauty, she was charming and affectionate to all. She was as friendly to the servants as she was to the royal family. However, as the night passed so did her beauty. So the prince from the Kingdom of the East lost interest in the star.

Guests at the ball hosted by the prince from the Middle Kingdom were also enchanted by the star. When her beauty faded, the prince was satisfied by her ability to charm everyone. However, as the night passed, she became shy and withdrawn. As the guests found other ways to entertain themselves, so did the prince. He left the star alone.

When the star arrived at the ball hosted by the prince from the Kingdom of the West, she marveled the guests with all of her fine qualities. As time passed and her beauty faded, the prince took the star aside and told her that she was beautiful. Later that night when the guests were no longer gathering around the star because she became quiet and shy, the prince took her out to dance. After many dances, the star pointed out her lack of beauty and charm to the prince and asked him why he was still interested in her. The prince replied that she was the same now as when he had met her.

When the sun rose the next day, the star was gone for the princes from the Kingdom of the East and the Middle Kingdom. The star chose the prince from the Kingdom of the West and all of her beauty returned when she accepted his marriage proposal. She knew that as her human form aged, that she would always shine the same for him.

The End