In the Whiskey Room (3rd floor, left wing) of Summerwood Estate, James Kaur reclined on a red leather couch. Later tonight, (the twilight hour being the optimal time) he and his fellow hunters would go out along the sea of flat lawn which would lead - during that hour alone - to a mountainside where they would hunt the elusive Filbybirds.
At most times, the lawn ended at the border for the golf course. James was here early because of a meeting beforehand on the possibility of transporting the bird’s eggs for breeding purposes to other centers. Maybe when hatched, the birds would lead explorers to other pathways.
James’ knowledge of these types of roads came from placing orders for Olivia. She had plans involving all sorts of exotic supplies and he wanted to know where they came from. Sure enough, when Brock first arrived, James had asked him about his journey and was smothered with a boring tale of running a cart along a dirt track.
Still, James thought that the nearest dirt track to downtown could not possibly be as near as Brock described, so he had to listen in on Olivia and Brock talking. Olivia was pulling some strings, that much was clear to James and she would never let him in on it. Or if she did, it would only be to use him for something and he didn’t want that. He would author his own destiny. He had no respect for puppet masters, at least, not ones that were so blatantly transparent. When he heard that Brock also did work for Summerwood, he walked right in.
Easy enough at first. However, it was obvious that James had not had the lifetime of nutritionists and trainers at his disposal as did everyone else. The Hunting Club took a dislike to him asking for immediate entry and he decided to play his trump card. The words Filbybird. At this point, he was little more than bluffing, but the manager gave him a look that said, ‘go on.’ So James described for them the way that Brock made his way to the club.
He lead the manager - along with the few members that were there during the day (lazy, retired drunks who had fallen into mockery by the rest of the more active club) - on the path that Brock would take to get to their toolshed. His prediction proved true and within a few minutes, they were on the dirt path complete with cart-trails. Other paths branched off from it along with wooden signs written in lettering that none could decipher.
An older member spoke up, slurring slightly. He told a tale of twilight. The mountains of the Filbybird, only conducive to certain atmospheric conditions that weakened walls between the worlds. He said that he had been stupid to never think to try it here. Hunting lodges tended to be established on crossover areas such as this due to ancestral knowledge, forgotten by word-thoughts, but not by trans-generational memory. He told the group they would surely get lost if they continued on these paths and they should come back at twilight, which they did.
James lead the way, carrying an old unused trapping cage meant merely for display. When they reached the base of the mountain, he pointed to a crag for James to set the trap on, and what kind of leafy bait to use. It would resemble a distressed nest and the Filbybird would fly in to check on any starving children. They caught one immediately and James became an honorary member overnight.
He finished his whiskey in time for Brock’s break, at least according to the schedule James had looked at earlier, and headed down to the stables to try and strike a bargain.
There were no horses in the stables because racing season was not underway. The horse regularly sponsored by members lived elsewhere and generally came here to train a month before the big race. James found Brock, sitting on a tree stump, where riders usually sat to get their boots on.
“Tough day at the office?” asked James.
“James, what on Earth,” said Brock. “Do you live here?”
“I’m a member. Recently appointed. You must have paths everywhere.”
“They’re not my paths.”
James took one of Olivia’s pouches out of his pocket. “You figure anything out for these yet?”
“I’m just a delivery guy. Occasional set-up, you know,” Brock replied.
“I have a quick yes-or-no question for you,” said James. “Will you assist us in mapping those paths you take?”
“I can’t do that,” said Brock. “I just know them. I can’t draw or anything. Or even read the signs. At least, not in the way that people would call ‘reading’. I understand what they’re pointing at.”
“But you could show me and some colleagues. Or rather, just me. I could show colleges some other time.”
“Why do you need to know?”
James walked over to a stable and opened his pouch. He looked up and knocked on the wall twice. A beam of sunlight, like a stage spotlight, sailed across the empty stable. “That idiot on the roof, knows how to do one thing.” James emptied his pouch, which contained dirt, onto the hay. “Brock, what I need from you is the availability of those roads, and knowledge of their destinations, or at least, lead me to someone who can do that.”
“James, I can’t. It’s just too much a violation. Olivia didn’t ask you for this, did she?”
“Would you believe me if I said yes?” asked James.
“I’m . . . guessing that I shouldn’t,” replied Brock.
“Give the man a cigar!” James whirled around back to a stable and whispered a few words into the dark and dusty air before closing the door. He asked Brock one more time. “Will you give me what I want? Last chance.”
Brock stood up. “I’m really not comfortable with this. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something.”
A woman’s voice came from behind the stable door. It rattled a bit.
“Calm yourself,” yelled James to the door. He turned back to Brock. “If you don’t help me, I’ll kill her right now.”
“What are you fuckin’ talkin’ -”
James slid open the viewing panel of the stable and Julie’s raging eyes glared back. “James, what is this? I’ll tear this fucking door off -”
James rapped twice on the walls and a beam of sunlight shot down behind Julie, causing her to scream. Smoke poured from her back and James rapped on the wall again and the light disappeared. Julie collapsed into the hay.
“I will kill her if you do not obey my every command,” said James. “I tried to be reasonable, buddy.”
“You have to let her out sometime,” said Brock.
James shook his head.
“I’ll find a spot where he can’t get me,” said Julie, “then you’re dead.”
“Three knocks and he tears the tarp off,” said James. “Also, if it even sounds like I’m in distress, he’ll remove the tarp as well. This is a shoddy old barn and Julie would never escape in time. After all, she’s a trespasser.”
“Fuck you,” said Julie. “Let him have it Brock, I’ll find a way.”
“What happens if I do what you want?” said Brock. “You let her go in the evening? She tells Olivia, and they both come to kill you?”
“This isn’t easy for me,” said James. “But I plan on being untouchable by then. Power always finds a way.”
“You have no idea the forces Olivia could send after you.”
James shrugged. “I have no idea of the forces that could protect me. So here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to knock three times. The roof is coming off, and she is going to die.” James walked over to the door. Furious sounds of Julie trying to bury herself in hay. “It’s useless my darling.”
On the third knock, Brock shoved James aside and dove into the stable himself. Sounds of a tarp being pulled away and the room filled with sunlight. He threw himself on top of Julie who curled into a ball, barely able to keep out of the light.
James yelled, “you gonna stay there all day? Suit yourself.” He looked up to the open sky and waved at his companion. “I’ll help you with the ladder in just a second.” He walked to the next stable over, started his cigar and tossed the match in the hay before heading back to the main mansion of Summerwood Estate.
“Think we can get inside?” asked Brock. “If we crawl to the door, just stay in my shadow, and we can get in the main building.”
“He could have security on his way,” said Julie. “We could be thrown outside.”
“We’ll find you a better hiding spot,” said Brock. “Work out a better plan from there.”
Julie shuffled through the hay, taking care to only move in Brock’s shade before they got to the door.
“I’m gonna pull it open now.”
Just an inch was all she needed and she slithered into the darkness of the closed stable. The relief at being away from the sun was so total it took her a moment to notice the growing fire.
“Brock, you’ve gotta get out of here. I’ll find a place to hide.”
“He could have more of your soil,” said Brock.
“That’s why you need to find him and stop him.”
“He’ll have me arrested.”
“Just go,” said Julie. “Don’t burn to death. That’s rule number one.”
Brock tried the main doors which of course were locked from the outside. The flames crawled up to the ceiling and the flush of heat was like a tidal wave, knocking him over. He gripped the cool dirt on the ground and rubbed it in his face. Julie was nowhere to be seen. Brock looked over to an office door and headed in that direction. Perhaps he could lock himself away from the flame. He watched the sheet of flame trickle along the wooden beams, running along like a scared spider. Soon after that, all the wood started cracking with the sound of a thousand gunshots.