Welcome to chapter 4 of Arena of Souls, my new, Doc Savage-style, pulp adventure. A new chapter every week! If you missed the previous chapters, check them out here:
Arena of Souls
Chapter 4- Trinity
Stone didn’t flinch as the bullet whizzed past him. He returned fire, aiming for the spot where he’d seen the muzzle flash. He followed with two shots, one to either side, in quick succession. He guessed right with the third shot. A man’s voice cried out in pain, and footsteps thudded down the hallway away from him.
Silhouetted against the floor-to-ceiling window at the end of the hall, the man’s short, thick outline identified him as the same man who had attacked Stone at the attorney’s office. Hand pressed to his side, the man staggered as he ran.
Stone dashed after him, but his fleet feet were not sufficient to close the gap before, with a loud crash, the man smashed through the window and plunged into the darkness. He scarcely had time to cry out before he hit the ground with a thud. Reaching the window, Stone looked down at his quarry, hoping the man was still alive, so he could be questioned, but he could immediately tell that the fall had done him for. The man lay on the grass, his head twisted at a severe angle, limbs splayed out. He’d tell no secrets.
By the time Stone descended the stairs and reached the spot where the intruder had fallen, Alex and Moses were already there, kneeling over the man— Alex’s face twisted in disgust, Moses’ expression unreadable.
“Who is he?” Alex whispered.
“That’s what I hope to find out.” Stone searched the corpse, patting it down and rifling through the man’s pockets. He found only a few spare bullets and a single coin.
“This is odd.” He held the coin up, letting the moonlight glint off its worn surface.
“Is that a doubloon?” Alex asked.
“Perhaps. It’s unlike any I’ve seen before.” Despite its wear, he could clearly make out the markings on the coin’s surface. One side featured a warrior in an ornate headdress; the reverse, a sunburst behind a mountaintop temple. “It’s quite old, but it doesn’t look Spanish. In fact, it’s primitive looking. See how the edges aren’t crisp?” He turned the coin around so Alex and Moses could see.
“There’s no date,” Alex observed.
“No value on it, either,” Moses added.
Stone nodded and pocketed the coin. “That’s just one mystery.”
“True. We still don’t know who the man is or what he wanted.” Alex looked up, as if the answer lay in the sky.
“Killing Mister Brock is what he wanted. Ain’t that obvious?” Moses asked.
“Moses, if you can’t bring yourself to call me Brock, at least call me Stone. Whatever you do, lose the Mister. We’re friends.”
Moses shifted uncomfortable, but didn’t argue.
“There’s another mystery to unravel.” Stone rose to his feet. “This man planted a listening device on the window of the attorney’s office. If he was either listening or recording it, where is the the other piece of the device?”
“Perhaps he only planted the bug, and someone in another building was listening in?” Alex suggested.
Stone shook his head. “The range is too limited for that.”
“He had to get here somehow,” Moses said. “Might be he left it inside his car.”
“When I last saw him, he was leaving in a cab. Of course, that doesn’t mean he didn’t drive here. Would you mind scouting around?”
Moses agreed. He propped his rifle on his shoulder and disappeared into the darkness.
Alex gave Stone a long, level look.
“There’s something else on your mind. What is it?”
Just then, twin beams sliced through the damp night. Stone sprang to his feet and drew his Webley. Who would come here late at night, or at all for that matter?
“Put your gun away. I recognize the car.”
“Who is it?”
Alex thrust his hands into his pockets and shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I told her you were back,” he said in a rush. “The way you left things with her, I thought you two should talk.”
“I don’t want to talk to her. But you and I are going to have a serious talk later.”
The driver parked the car behind Alex’s DeSoto and cut the engine. The driver’s door opened, and a woman stepped out and closed the door behind her.
The years had been good to Trinity Paige. She had realized the promise of beauty that had been evident in her younger years. Stone had seen her at his parents’ funeral, of course, but she had changed in some indefinable way. Gone was the girlish quality she’d retained well into her twenties, replaced by an air of self-assurance that Stone found striking.
He took in her ivory skin, wavy brown hair, full lips, and fuller figure as she glided toward him…
… and slapped him across the face.
“I’ll be inside.” Alex hurried away, leaving Stone and Trinity staring at one another.
They stood only inches apart, but to Stone, it seemed like miles.
“You left without a word, and I don’t hear from you for years.” Trinity’s voice, husky with emotion, still held that breathless quality that Stone found so appealing. “And then you finally come back and I have to hear it from Alex?” She drew her hand back to slap him again, but Stone grabbed her wrist.
“None of that.” He felt her arm relax and he released her wrist.
He hadn’t thought to grab her other wrist. Her left handed slap sent a burst of white light flashing across his eyes and made his ear ring.
“Are you finished?” he growled.
“Does it hurt?”
“Of course it hurts.”
“Then I’m finished. For now.” She folded her arms and tapped one foot impatiently. “Explain yourself.”
“It wasn’t just you I left behind. I had to get away from the world, from myself, for a while.” Stone’s cheeks stung, but he refused to give Trinity the satisfaction of seeing him acknowledge the pain. “I was going to call you as soon as I figured out what to say.”
“The truth would have been a good start. I don’t know what was worse: thinking you were dead, or thinking you’d forgotten me.” A single tear traced its way down her cheek. Stone reached out to brush it away but she batted his hand aside. “That’s not true. Of course I didn’t want you to be dead, but you hurt me. Deeply.”
“That’s not even close to enough, Stone. You owe me an explanation.”
“I’m not sure I can explain, but I’ll do my best. Right now, though, I need to deal with this.” He gestured at the body lying on the ground.
Trinity seemed to notice the corpse for the first time, and flinched. “Who is he?”
“The man who tried to kill me. That’s all I know.”
“Kill you?” For a moment, Trinity’s features softened, but her resolve firmed almost instantly. “I didn’t hire him, if that’s what you’re thinking. I will admit to considering killing you myself, though.”
“I’m glad you changed your mind.”
“I haven’t completely dismissed the idea.” She rummaged in her purse and pulled out a pencil and pad. Her posture changed. Suddenly, she stood ramrod straight, the tip of her pencil hovering just above the paper. “So, tell me what happened here.”
“What are you doing?” Stone asked.
“I’m a reporter for the Washington Scribe, and this is news. Do you want to tell me your side, or should I fill in the blanks myself?”
“Trinity, this is the last thing I need.”
“I don’t care. It’ll be in the papers anyway, unless you plan on covering this up.”
“Of course not. I didn’t do anything wrong.” Stone ran a hand through his hair. He had enough hassles without Trinity making things worse. Then again, she might be a useful ally. “I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll tell you about two attempted murders this evening. If…” he paused, “… you do some investigating for me.”
Trinity considered this for a moment, her brown eyes boring into his. Finally, she nodded.
“Done. What am I investigating?”