Just when I thought it was safe to jump back into life, I awoke during the night with some kind of intestinal bug so I’ll keep today’s introduction short. Speaking of short, today you’ll find two short chapters as Jason Stoval’s story continues to unfold. But first, here are a couple more review from readers who enjoyed Stars Beckon Call while it was on Inkitt.com.
I wasn’t expecting that! This is an awesome story that is more than it seems.The twist and turns made for an interesting read.I liked the characters and due to the ending I hope this is multi book series.
I Loved It
Wow! What a great story. I thought the plot was very unique. The beginning captured my attention, but it just keeps getting better and better. The writing style is very easy and pleasant to read. I thought the characters were interesting and well developed. It is a complete book but I think it would lend well to a sequel.
Be sure to leave a comment at the end of the chapter. Let me know what you think.
As it turned out, it was early evening before Jason finally slipped away from Casey’s, his time filled with interview after interview, mostly from various shows of the Patriarchy Network. Later in the day, officials who identified themselves from different branches of the Patriarchy asked him an endless stream of ridiculous questions to determine how Jason had gamed the system. Knowing his own innocence, the questions didn’t bother him at first, but as the interrogations grew in length and intensity, he began to wonder if his innocence really mattered. Everyone knew how corrupt the Patriarchy had grown over the years. If they considered him a threat to the status quo, it wouldn’t be all that hard for him to suddenly disappear. It had happened to others that had fallen on the wrong side of the government.
The last agent dressed in a dark suit with matching sunglasses took the most direct and brutal approach of all. After an hour of questioning, Jason felt his shell of confidence and detachment begin to crack. Maybe he really had done something wrong even though he couldn’t imagine what.
The agent, who’d identified himself simply as McCurry, leaned across the table that separated the two in a private office Casey had provided. “Are you absolutely sure you have no connections with any employees of Lottery Central?”
“As I’ve told you and several of your colleagues for the past four hours, I know no one, absolutely no one,” Jason replied feeling his ire mounting despite his best effort to remain calm. Hold it together, fella, he told himself. Getting angry at an agent of the Patriarchy could land him in jail.
McCurry chewed on his lower lip and was about to ask another question when he paused for a moment, raising his left hand to the side of his head. He nodded then leaned back in his chair.
“Okay, you can go now.”
His sudden change in disposition shocked Jason who stared at him in surprise. “That’s it?” he finally asked.
“Yep, you’re free to go,” McCurry replied. “Of course, we know where to find you if we have any further questions.” He stood up to leave but as he approached the door, turned. “Hey, kid. Do yourself a favor and keep your nose clean, and for your own sake, stay away from the Wheel. That was the dumbest move I’ve ever witnessed.” And with that, he turned around and left.
Jason sat there in stunned silence for several seconds. What had just happened? Clearly, someone had been in touch with the agent through some kind of comm-link. Had they finally believed his answers, or was this just a ploy to keep him off balance in the hopes he’d do something stupid.
After McCurry had left, Jason crossed his arms on the table and nestled his head on them. He felt a dull headache pounding behind his eyes and a wave of fatigue washed over him, the glow from earlier in the day completely drained away. Obviously, there had been a few contingencies he hadn’t considered in his original plan but wasn’t that always the way with even the best-laid plans.
Wait a minute, he thought. None of this mattered. He hadn’t done anything wrong despite their effort to convince him otherwise. Screw them if they didn’t like his good fortune. It was time to get on with his life.
He sat up and was about to stand when Casey entered, smiling consolingly. “You may want to go out the back way, just in case any of your adoring fans are still hanging around out front.”
“Thanks. I’ll do that.”
“And don’t worry. Within a day or two, something else will grab the news cycle, and you’ll be able to walk around without interference. People today do everything possible to avoid eye contact, so even though your face has been broadcast throughout the MED, you’ll be surprised how short a memory span the public has. I’ve seen it before. Just hang low for a few days. You’ll see.”
Jason nodded. “That’s good to know. One more thing I hadn’t considered.”
Casey reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a plastic card the same color as his jacket and handed it to Jason. “This pass will get you in anytime you like–front or back door. Your choice. You’re now one of our most valued patrons.”
“Thanks again,” Jason said as he placed the card in the back pocket of his jeans. “Oh, one more thing. Who was that woman in the green dress who played the same number as me?”
“I don’t know her real name. Everyone calls her Emerald Eyes for obvious reasons.”
“Does she work here?” Jason asked.
“No, not officially; she’s not on the payroll or anything. I offered her a job when she first started coming around a few years ago, but she declined. She said she liked her independence or something like that. Let’s just say she’s one of several young women that enjoyed keeping our upper echelon clients entertained. As you can probably tell from the bet she placed, she’s quite good at her job.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Any idea how old she is?” Jason persisted.
Casey stared at him for a moment, a smile slowly forming. “I’d say, twenty, maybe twenty-two. Why?”
“Oh, no reason. Just my natural curiosity,” Jason said, suddenly embarrassed. “Thanks again for the card. I’ll see you around.”
As Jason left Casey’s that night, a young girl dressed in a black, hooded cloak and habit of the Universal Life Church stepped out from the shadows of the alleyway. Had she been lurking there in wait for him? Jason wondered.
Even in the subdued lighting, Jason could see the blond hair too long to be confined by the hood as it cascaded down her shoulders in wavy ringlets. He could also make out the large G A lettering on the front of her smock that identified her as one of the ULC’s Guardian Angels. According to the church’s official position, Guardian Angels dedicated their lives to the divinely inspired mission of bestowing blessings to the masses in the form of prayers and devotional sayings in exchange for a contribution from those so blessed.
No one knew for certain how much money the ULC raised from their flock in this way, but rumors floated around that is was in the millions of value-credits every year. Still, it had been a memorable day filled with good fortune despite the hours of interviews and interrogations so Jason decided to play along rather than brush her off as many people tried to do. Not that it was all that easy. The Guardian Angels were known for their persuasive and tenacious abilities to fundraise for the ULC.
“You have had a long day,” the girl said before Jason had an opportunity to speak. As she approached him, he realized she was younger than he’d first thought. Probably no more than twelve or thirteen, he guessed. He also noticed a pleasant fragrance that reminded him vaguely of his mother’s cologne from many years ago.
“Yes, that’s right,” Jason replied, “but how did you know?”
“Because I’ve had a long day waiting for you, Jason Joval,” she replied with a demure smile, one hand disappearing into her robe.
“You know who I am?” Jason asked, surprised to be called by name.
She nodded. “Yes, of course. Everyone knows who you are now. I have been sent by Holy Mother Church to bless you and to remind you how well God took care of you today…” She left the sentence hanging as she pulled her hand out from the robe and extended the begging bowl in his direction.
“I thought you were supposed to give me a blessing or something like that before asking for a donation.”
“I’ve been praying for hours on your behalf,” she replied without hesitation. “And since the Patriarchy’s agent didn’t haul you away in handcuffs, it obviously worked, so…” She held the bowl out farther.
Jason chuckled as he reached into his pocket, being careful not to take out his credit disc. Everyone knew better than to let a Guardian Angel get access to their disc. The chances of them withdrawing only the agreed to amount from the account were less than you would get from playing the Wheel.
He pulled out a quarter year chip, placed it in the palm of his right hand as was the custom and held it out to her. She leaned closer to get a better look at the denomination, then laughed.
“Dig a little deeper.”
You’ve got to be kidding, Jason thought, but as she continued to smile at him with a look of determination, he dug into his other pocket where he found several other chips. He hid them in his hand as he pulled it out, reversing the lining of the pocket.
“Sorry. I don’t carry much on me. Maybe next time.”
He started to put his hand back in the pocket, but before he could do so, she grabbed his wrist in a viselike grip. Their eyes met, his filled with shock, hers filled with determination and just a touch of anger.
“Well, look what we’ve found,” she said as she pulled his hand out and deftly opened it to reveal three, one-year chips.
“Whoa, wait just a minute,” Jason blurted. “That’s three years of life.”
“You can afford it,” she countered, then still holding his hand firmly in her own, continued. “Besides, a smarty like you will be able to make that back quickly, right?”
Jason hesitated, taken aback by the comment.
“Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll make sure you aren’t hassled for the next two weeks. Just imagine, two weeks of complete freedom from our dear Mother Church.”
Jason cocked his head to one side. “You can do that?”
“Sure, no problem. I’m not just any Guardian. I’m an AGA. The other Guardians will follow my orders.”
“What’s an AGA?”
“It’s an Assigned Guardian Angel. I’ve been appointed your personal G A. All top dogs get their own. I’ll make sure you’re left alone.” She tapped the begging bowl against the side of his hand, then held it below until he dropped the chips in it.
“Funny, this doesn’t feel much like a donation. More like a shakedown to me,” Jason said.
“Call it what you like. I’ll continue to pray for you in either case. See you around. “As she turned to leave, she called over her shoulder. “By the way, my name’s Celeste.
Jason stood there with his mouth agape long after she had disappeared into the shadows.
More to come. Stay Tuned.