Helen had followed the direction in which she felt Ray and Michael had gone. Whilst she could remember everything that had happened in every life as if it were yesterday, and she knew what her powers should allow her to do, she didn’t exactly know what she would do once she found Ray. Would she deal with the situation or would Mandrake take over? She almost had them this morning when they had fled from the children’s activity place. At that stage she could feel how close they had been. She’d even had a hold of Ray’s energy for a moment there, but he had escaped. How the hell had he got this strong this soon?
“The equilibrium” Mandrake’s voice entered her thoughts.
She had had the feeling that Mandrake was tracking her every move, and now he was entering her thoughts. His persistent presence was beginning to irritate her. But she couldn’t ignore the equilibrium, although part of her wanted to. The next evening Ray’s force would be as strong as hers and she needed to stop it from happening. He would remember not just his own past lives but hers too, giving him that added advantage. Helen scanned everyone she walked passed. She entered cafes, restaurants, bars and office blocks searching for even a glimpse of Ray or Michael. She felt a mixture of excitement, exhilaration from the sensation of her powers and stress caused by her constant escort of shadows. She tried moving faster and changed directions frequently, but there seemed no way of shaking them.
She was mindful of what people were thinking as they passed her on the street, and tried not to draw their attention. She noticed that she could literally hurt the shadows by back-handing them and kicking out as she walked. It was just as if she was walking with body guards on whom she could inflict any amount of injury, just because she could. The more frustrated she got from their persistence and the more longing she had to find Ray the more brutal her attacks on the shadows became. People did start noticing when doors were flying open, walls were thudding, and people themselves were falling back, as what seemed like gusts of wind were colliding into them. The shadows started closing in on Helen as she was walking ever more violently. Helen could feel the annoyance projected in Mandrake’s presence.
“Shut up!” Ray ordered Michael.
“What?” Michael asked.
“She’s near. I can hear and feel the force… she’s pissed off.”
“Let’s leave!” Michael panicked.
“We can’t! Think of a person who looks as different to you as anyone can look” ordered Ray hastily.
“Why?” Michael had to question.
“Just do it!” with that Ray went silent.
Helen casually walked down the stairs leading to the café. She entered the door, smiled at the waiter and counter-hand, then walked around the space as if she were looking for an old friend. In the first booth she saw an older man, slouched over a newspaper, coffee in one hand, biro in another. The next booth was empty. In the next were two lovers absorbed in each other’s gaze. Helen paused for a moment, the woman turned to look at her and Helen moved on. Another old man with a moustache and glasses was sitting in the corner with what must have been his granddaughter. Like the woman lover, the old man had turned to stare at her. He reminded her of the old man in the barbershop from the movie Coming to America. She then resumed her search, finding nobody but giggling school girls and mothers who were possibly enjoying the down-time while their children were at school.
The waiter approached her, “Can I help you m’am?”
“No” Helen turned towards him, pulling a saddened facial expression she continued, “It doesn’t seem my friends are here. Perhaps it wasn’t this café we were supposed to meet at.” The old man turned to look at her again. With this Helen turned to look back. The little girl suddenly cried, “Granddaddy, look at this!” and pulled a ridiculous face as the old man returned his attention to the girl.
“What was the name of the café?” the waiter asked helpfully.
“Actually, I can’t remember, that’s the problem. I know it’s around here somewhere though so I’ll keep looking. Thanks for your help.”
“No problem m’am, and welcome back another time” the waiter then resumed his cleaning of tables, and Helen made her way out of the café.
The door closed behind her but the little girl demanded that her grandfather keep looking at her tricks. The old man turned towards the little girl again, “She’s g…”
“Her friends have stayed to play,” the little girl giggled. “Play with me for a little while until I tire. When I place my baby cup, on your dirty plate the game’s over.”
The old man sat still watching the girl play with the knives and forks on the table. It took about five minutes before the little girl placed the cup on the old man’s plate. “OK, you can relax” Ray said.
“How the hell did that happen? And why couldn’t we relax until now?”
“She couldn’t see you because your thoughts projected you as someone else. But the shadows had lingered after she left.”
“Do you think they sensed anything?” Michael asked.
“I don’t know, let’s go.”
Helen’s pace had slowed down. She had enjoyed the moments when the shadows had stayed behind in the café, she was finally alone, but the old man. Why the hell had the old man stared at her? Michael! She stopped. Coming to America was one of their favourite movies. The shadows had finally caught up to her but by now she had turned back and was moving at a rapid pace towards the café.
“Hi again m’am!” Helen heard as she burst passed the familiar waiter. She moved directly to the corner table and was aghast to find it empty. How did they get passed? In panic she moved like lightening towards the front door of the café, flung the door open as she charged up the steps to inspect both directions of the street, and moved back down the steps to approach the surprised waiter. “Is there a back entrance?”
“Yes,” he gulped “it’s over there” he pointed towards a door that looked more like a restroom entrance.
Helen rushed to it without thanking him. The door led to a corridor of what appeared to be a modern shopping mall. She moved down the corridor to enter the main traffic area of a multilevel shopping complex. There were people everywhere. She scanned intensely but did not pick up any signals or images of the two. She started scurrying through the space and remembered her power. With that she closed all the exits to the mall. She could hear and sense panic from the people in the distance who were trying to exit the building. The sound of people’s voices was increasing in volume as they voiced their concern. “Was there a fire?”, “Was there a bomb?”, “Was there a robbery, are they trapped inside with a criminal?” and “How could they help or get help?”
As she approached the second floor she heard a voice-over message on the PA system reassuring the customers that they were having minor technical difficulties, which would be resolved in just a few minutes, “Please relax and treat yourself to a coffee or ice cream at one of our fine cafes and kiosks while waiting.” She then caught an image of the two men running through the nightwear section of the main department store. It was on the third floor. Running up the escalator, scattering people left and right, Helen caught a glimpse of another woman’s thoughts, a sales assistant had seen them running towards a back exit. They were trapped. Her pace increased.
“Shit!” Michael panicked as Ray tried forcing the door open. “You’ve got powers, do something!”
“I can’t!” Ray yelled “She’s still stronger than me!”
“Fuck! What are we going to do?”
“Hide!” Ray demanded.
Helen’s pulse quickened as she approached the fire exit corridor that she saw through the sales assistant’s thoughts. Her pace slowed like a cat’s as it approached its prey. The shadows closed in around her and she felt Mandrake’s breath on her neck. Rounding the corner of the corridor her stomach dropped to the floor as she saw that no one was there. The exit door was still fastened tight. She checked for any other door and then spotted the man hole in the ceiling.
Michael had hold of Ray’s shoulders as Ray pulled the both of them up numerous ladders towards the roof. Every level looked the same, and on every level Ray slightly paused to consider as to whether or not he should try hiding there. They eventually reached the last set of steps, a smaller ladder leading to a door with an illuminated exit sign, just as he went to move to the steps he suddenly changed direction mid-air. They seemed to fly behind a ventilation fixture just as Michael caught a glimpse of Helen, blurred by the presence of the shadows. Helen flew up the steps and grabbed hold of the doorknob. Once she had confirmed that it was still locked she turned around self-satisfied.
“I know you’re here boys. I can sense you.” Michael quickly looked at Ray as if to ask “Can she?” and Ray replied with a slow, silent shake of the head. “It’s only going to be a few moments now before I have you. In case you haven’t noticed… you’re locked in. There’s no way out. Are you going to come out from where you are or are we going to have to force you out?”
The sound of one of the shadows snickering could be heard. “I’ll give you to the count of three before I come after you… one… twoooo… three!” On ‘three’ the added fixtures and objects in the building started shaking. Anything that had been standing upright had now been knocked out of its position, including the ventilation box Michael and Ray had been hiding behind. With this Ray stepped forward. A calm knowingness radiated from his face, which puzzled Helen. Whilst this was the moment she had sought, it was also the moment she had dreaded.
“Get it over with!” Came the hiss of Mandrake’s voice as he became visible behind Helen.
“In good time,” Helen smiled smugly. “Now Michael,” ignoring Ray standing in the foreground, Helen directed her attention straight towards Michael, “it really wasn’t such a good idea to get involved with Ray was it? I got involved with him and look where I ended up.” Helen burst into a fit of laughter as everyone surrounding her remained still. “At least now I don’t need to go and pick up Jane from the airport, do I?”
Michael had once again forgotten that tomorrow morning Jane would be arriving. A slight wave of relief came over him when he realised that Helen wouldn’t be there, waiting at the airport to cause Jane harm. At least if Helen had what she wanted here, Ray, and maybe him then perhaps Jane was safe. Michael sighed upon remembering that it wasn’t him whom Helen really wanted, it was Ray after all.
“Your thoughts are positively muddled Mike,” Helen laughed. “Now that I have you in front of me I can hear what you’re thinking, and you need to know that rejection’s not all that bad. I should know, I’ve put up with it all these years. Some things aren’t meant to be…” at this moment Helen suddenly raised her arm and an immediate bang so loud it sounded like thunder startled Michael so much he thought he’d been struck by something. Helen turned to focus her attention towards the two figures pinned to the walls on opposite sides of the space.
“Ah hah, Mandrake, thanks for the booster, but I seem to have regained my strength nicely and won’t be needing your help, or very thoughtful advice anymore. You can hang around a moment until I decide what to do with you.” With this she turned towards Ray, “And no, your strength isn’t quite strong enough yet is it? But isn’t this a nice feeling? Now I have you, and not the other way around… hmmm, what to do…” Helen faded off into her thoughts as she slowly approached Ray pinned against the wall.
Michael noticed that Helen’s attention was now completely on Ray, and he felt this would be the perfect time to do something. He almost thought of trying to hit her across the back of the head, but stopped the thought, hopefully before Helen had heard it. Instead, he started silently moving back towards the ladder they had entered with. The shadows were pre-absorbed with trying to help their master. Michael constantly had the feeling that at any moment someone would stop him from escaping, but no one turned around.