“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXXI – Retribution

The doctors told him that he’d be lucky to breathe unassisted let alone walk and talk again, but after a few months of rehab, Ben Bostick took his first steps since his near-death experience at Black C.A.S.T.L.E. The grim spectre of death had been close at hand those first few hours under medical care, and only slightly farther back in the days and weeks that followed. When he’d regained enough strength, the Feds were allowed to get his story. Everyone involved was happy to see that Ben’s memory was also intact; his would be a necessary testimony to nail Stan Kijek to the wall, should they ever find him.

Another upside was that Ben seemed to suffer no long-term effects that rigorous physical therapy and a diligent work ethic couldn’t improve. The bonus for Ben was that his PT nurse was very young, and very attractive.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXX – The Return

The Feds had finally arrived on the scene in the sub-basement after what felt like hours. Rick and Kacie were happy to be free of the responsibility of watching over Agent Cohen. Kacie was just glad that the whole thing was over, even though she was sure she had at least a few hours worth of debriefing with the Feds to look forward to. After she’d told them about Michael Martin being locked up in the freezer, Wesley West folded up inside the autoclave, and Dennis Mulgrew imprisoned within a biohazard lab that was actually quite safe and sterile, she felt a great weight being lifted off her shoulders. They were the cops’ problems now.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXIX – Severe

Michael Martin was naked when the medical team found him. The experts called this “paradoxical undressing,” a phenomenon that occurs when formerly constricted blood vessels release warm blood back into the extremities due to muscular exhaustion, causing a “hot flash” sensation. At this point, his mind had become so confused and his nerves so damaged by the cold that the irrational sensation of overheating tricked him into disrobing.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXVII – Reunion

The freight elevator came to a stop in the sub-basement. As the doors opened upon a quiet and cluttered storage space, Agent Cohen swept his gun back and forth in a defensive, searching motion. Nothing moved. Nothing made a sound. He stepped forward and entered the maze of equipment wrapped in blue tarps and clear plastic-wrap. He picked his way through it with ease.

Nearing the recessed area of the sub-basement, Agent Cohen heard two voices: a man’s and a young woman’s. He’d bet good money it was the terrorist and his hostage because the odds that it wasn’t were pretty thin. Coincidences often meant that you hadn’t planned things out thoughtfully enough. This heist had been meticulously planned, expertly so. Still, as Agent Cohen stepped into a clearing of light cast down from a solitary overhead lamp just in front of a large crate housing a piece of industrial equipment, he kept his gun raised. Richard Malanan turned to meet him.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXVI – A Conversation

Kacie took stock of her situation. Her phone was gone and she’d dropped the bag of supplies before hiding in the cabinet; all she had left was her jewelry in her front pocket and the walkie talkie in her back one, covered by her shirt. The deck wasn’t exactly stacked in her favor. The gunman held his unwavering weapon on her the entire elevator ride down into the sub-basement, into the unknown as far as Kacie was concerned. She was caught  between 1,500 pounds of meth and 200 pounds of mercenary in a 10ft x 10ft metal cage. This wasn’t the time, place, or situation for heroics, so she took another approach.

“So what’s the plan now?” she asked.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXV – The Chase

The climb up 16 flights of steps in armored tactical gear while carrying heavy weaponry separated the men from the boys. The gathered forces of law enforcement from all conceivable branches had milled around outside Black C.A.S.T.L.E. for hours with little else to do besides rotate for coffee breaks and check the score of the hockey game. When a portion of the 16th floor had been annihilated in the blast, with shards of glass and flaming debris plummeting to the earth in full view of gathered spectators and news cameras, it was time for the boys in blue and the men in black suits to get into action. Luckily for them, someone on the inside had opened the door to invite them in.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXIV – Emergence

The explosion had been bigger than Kacie intended. Much bigger. Everything else up until that point had gone according to her plan.

When Kacie had happened upon the lab hazard placards, her mind had instantly put itself in a funhouse of sorts, conjuring up devious ways to use them. She wondered if she’d been mulling over these Rube Goldberg machines subconsciously since the first time she’d ever set foot in a lab back in high school. Whatever the source of her deadly creativity, it had worked like a charm.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXIII – Escape

Rick had just gotten everyone safely to the main lobby when he the building shuddered around him. It had felt like an earthquake. They’d had small ones pop up in the area more recently now that fracking wells had become a regular occurrence in the surrounding countryside; the engineers who had designed Black C.A.S.T.L.E. had taken that into consideration. Rick had faith in the building, but the slow and cautious descent through the stairwell had set all of them on edge. They had been so close to freedom only to find that the lobby doors were still locked down. And now this. The fire alarm sounded once more as strobe lights began flashing near exits that wouldn’t open. Rick wondered what had caused the shaking, if Kacie was okay, and what could possibly come next.

He turned to Matt. “Keep everyone here,” he shouted. “I’m going to check the security room to see if I can get the doors open. If you hear the locks click or see a light come on, anything really, try the doors, then get the hell out if you can.” By unspoken agreement, Matt handed Rick their remaining gun. Rick traded him for the walkie talkie. He’d be on his own from here on out.

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“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXII – Funhouse

After Stan had survived his hike up 16 flights of steps, managed to avoid being shot in the face, and expertly ditched the would-be heroes while keeping his cover intact–he couldn’t believe Rick handed him one of his own guns back–he thought that opening a locked door to subdue a scared little girl and claim their riches would be a piece of cake. Instead, he found more signs of trouble almost instantly.

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