New to Quest Five?
The stories are best enjoyed when read in order beginning with May 1, 2009.

Welcome To Quest Five
Allison Beaumont is having trouble finding a job after college until one day the wealthy and powerful Joseph Candle offers her a job at his rather unusual corporation, where mistakes can lead to bare bottomed spankings. Adopting the alias of Virginia West, she joins four highly skilled colleagues, racing around the globe in search of mysterious treasures, but wherever she goes, trouble is sure to follow.
Note: Some stories contain scenes of a sexual nature, corporal punishment, non-consensual corporal punishment, and strong language which some reader's may find offensive. If you feel this material might be inappropriate for you please move on to another blog by clicking the next blog link at the top of the page.

March 19, 2010

Taking Control: Strangers In A Bar

The message light was flashing on the phone beside the bed. I frowned at it from the doorway, my replacement luggage, courtesy of Tom, dropping from my hand to the floor beside. The place was low-rent, curtains straight out of the sixties, comforter out of the eighties and carpet older than both combined. Okay, maybe not, but it looked like it. Kyra had apologized profusely from the moment we arrived. I guess my disappointment was written all over my face. It might have had something to do with the neon sign pointing to the nearby watering hole, screaming, "Live NUDE Girls, Girls,GIRLS" or maybe it was just the way the place reminded me I had not slept in a bed since I left home over a week ago.

What I needed more than anything was a nice, long, hot shower and at least eight hours of sound sleep. With Jack and Gene gone, I was unlikely to enjoy any of it, if I even got it. The blinking light was probably some urgent message from Mr. Candle and that meant we all might well be packing ourselves back into the rental car for a drive back to the airport and a flight home. Home, it sounds real nice, but if we do not beat the man in shadows to the mountain library described in the codex, then Jack and Gene were risking their lives for nothing.

I settled myself for the argument and punched the button to listen to the message. I recognized the voice immediately, but it was not Joseph Candle calling us home. It was Alexander Kemp with a request; "We need to meet, face to face. I'll wait for you at the bar next door. Come alone and you'll find some answers to all those questions spinning around in your head. Come with friends and you'll find nothing at all."

I sat on the edge of the bed. The pillows called to me, but the allure of answers was more enticing. Kemp would know that, he would use my curiosity against me and quite possibly kill the cat. Me being the cat of course, but does the cat not have nine lives? Jack would have raided the place with Tom and done his best to capture Kemp, perhaps use him as leverage when the time came. It was a tempting course of action. I might have tried it even, but answers were worth more to me.

I pushed myself up off the bed and headed toward the door. Walking out the door, I could almost hear Olivia laughing at me, taunting me. "Shut up," I said and slammed the door closed. It was time to start trusting myself and something was telling me to trust Alexander Kemp.

I watched him approach in the mirror behind the bar. He was dangerous of course, but I was far from being afraid. The shot glass in front of me was still full of tequila and I had yet to make up my mind if I was going to drink it. If I had been alone I might have downed it in a single gulp and part of me wanted to do just that regardless of the man approaching and his intentions, whatever they were. Unfortunately, it is easier to be lonely than to actually be alone. I spun around the stool to face him, shoving the shot glass sideways on the bar and splashing its golden liquid on the black surface of the bar.

"You know you look just like her," Alexander Kemp said, swaggering up to me.

I leaned back, resting my elbows on top of the bar and asked, "Who's that?"

He chuckled, nodding his head as if to say we both knew to whom he was referring. I shook my head hopefully making it clear I did not care whether I looked like her or not. Alex sighed and sat on the stool next to me. He looked tired as he dabbed a white handkerchief on his forehead, removing a sheen of sweat.

Alex said, "The first time I met her was in a place not too different from this. The place was packed though and she was the only woman in the place. You see back then, women could work in a place like this, but they didn't drink in them. Your grandmother didn't care much for the rules and so she ignored them. Sound familiar?"

I shook my head and waited for him to get to his point. He said, "One look at her and I just knew she was trouble. First time I saw you, it was the same thing all over again. The only thing I wasn't sure about was for whom you were going to be more trouble; Joey or us."

"What do you want?" I asked, allowing my exhaustion to carry itself in my tone and hoping he took it for an utter lack of interest.

He said, "A second chance."

"To kill me?" I asked.

"No, and I would not have killed you anyway," Alex said.

"Don't waste your lies on me," I said, shaking my head. "I was there."

"You don't have to believe me," He said, turning to face the back and leaning on it, "but consider this; How much do you really know about the people you are working with?"

"They aren't trying to kill me," I said.

"Are you sure about that?" He asked.

"If you have a point, make it," I said.

He said, "Olivia underestimated you. She didn't think you had the killer instinct, but having worked with your grandmother, I knew better."

The mere mention of Olivia's name sent a cold shiver through my veins. Her face was forever imprinted on my memory. The shock, the pure astonishment as she stumbled backward, dying from my actions, haunted me. Alex was wrong, she had not underestimated me. I had acted against everything that I was because being me was not good enough to survive. She pushed me to the edge of survival and forced me to choose between her life and mine. In the end she gambled wrong, but for the right reasons; Had it only been my life in the balance I might have rolled the dice and trusted fate.

"I'm not my grandmother," I said, hoping it was more truth than argument, "You don't know anything about me."

"I know this," He said, his hand twitching as if he wanted to grab hold of me, "If you keep allowing Joey to manipulate and use you, you'll be betraying a lot more than everything your family has ever stood for. You'll be betraying everyone who has ever lived and anyone who might have."

"Exaggerate much?" I said, glaring into his somber eyes. "You want to convince me of something? Why don't you try facts without the grandiose insinuations? You want me to believe Joseph Candle is a threat? Then tell me why? Tell me anything that isn't more deception than truth and then we'll have something to talk about."

"Joseph Candle has never been a threat," He said. "Joey on the other hand is quite possibly the most dangerous man on the planet and as long as he controls you, he'll stay that way."

"You do realize you're contradicting yourself?" I asked.

He said, "I'm too old to play games, Allison. You are working for a man whose goals are synonymous with death and destruction. Maybe you didn't know what you were getting into when this all started, but if you still can't see the difference between right and wrong at this point, then we're all doomed."

My thoughts stalled on his use of my real names. The pretenses were being set aside and yet the world still felt askew. I had doubts about Mr. Candle from before I ever met him. Alarm bells had rung in my head even as I signed the papers, agreeing to work for him. I filled those doubts with the connections between him and my family and I empathized with him, creating explanations for his actions which suited my ethics and morals. What if I was wrong? What if Joseph Candle was as devoid of ethics and morals as I had first thought?

"If we're dropping all the pretenses," I said, "I have no more reason to trust you than Mr. Candle."

He said, "If you want to blaze your own trail, never trusting anyone, that's a lot better than allowing yourself to be blindly led into a dark alley and I can certainly live with that. The trouble is, Joey won't just let you slip away from him."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He said, "You're too important to him. If he thinks you're starting to waiver from his plans, he'll find a way to squeeze you."

"He hasn't so far," I said.

"So far, you've done everything he wants," Alex said.

"Not everything," I said.

"Everything that matters," He said.

"Just so we're clear, what exactly are you asking me to do?" I asked.

"Leave with me," He said.

I laughed.

"It wasn't a romantic suggestion," Alex said.

I said, "I know that, but why would you think I'd just hand myself over to you?"

"I didn't," He said. "I'm asking you to trust me. Keep your weapon, keep your independence, but there is someone you need to meet in the light."

"The man in the shadows?" I asked and Alex nodded.

I said, "I've already met him and I can't say I'm in a hurry to meet him again."

"Things would have been different if he had known who you were," He said.

"Nobody deserved the greeting I got," I said, "no matter who they are."

"It's not a pleasant business we are in and sometimes people get hurt," Alex said. "You should know this, after all, are you not the one who killed Olivia Stratford?"

"That was different," I said, anger boiling my blood, "She would have killed Jack or me or both of us. It was her choice and she chose."

"Did she or did you?" He said. "I think it was you who decided her intentions and now no one will ever know for certain. People get hurt and sometimes we're the ones hurting, other times we do the hurting. Don't pretend you're so different because we both know you're not."

Alex reached inside his jacket and pulled out his gun. Our eyes locked together. My heart pounded against my chest waiting for him to act. His lips turned upward, enjoying my momentary misinterpretation of his intentions. Pointing the gun down at the floor between us, he ejected the clip and slapped it down on the bar. I stared at the clip full of bullets, recognizing them as the non-lethal variety Mr. Candle had shown me as being under development.

Alex pushed off his stool, glancing at me and the ejected clip sitting on the bar. He slipped his gun back inside his jacket. I recalled the first time I met him. We danced and even though I had not known a thing about him at the time, I had felt safe. My instincts had told me to trust him and yet I had allowed myself to be convinced otherwise. Maybe it was time to start re-evaluating.

"What's the difference?" I asked.

He turned back to me. His head cocked to the side and eyebrow raised quizzically at my question. I knew he understood of course, but he wanted to hear the whole thing. My saying it aloud would give him hope and it occurred to me, it might also give me hope. If I was lost in darkness, it could be the way out.

"Between Joseph Candle and Joey," I said.

Like a proud professor, Alex smiled and said, "Night and day."

I said, "That's not an answer."

"Some things you have to see with your own eyes to believe," He said, turning his back to me and walking toward the exit. "I'm afraid time is running out though and if you don't open your eyes soon, you never will."

"What is it I'm supposed to see?" I asked, frustrated with to cloud of mystery still hanging over my head.

Hand on the door, he glanced back over his shoulder and said, "We all see what we want to see. If you want the truth all you need to do is open your eyes and look."

I watched the door slam closed, leaving me alone once more. Turning back to the bar, my gaze fell to the clip he had left behind and then drifted to the shot glass. I tossed the golden liquid down in a single gulp, stuffed the clip in my pocket and headed out the door. Nothing made sense anymore, if it ever had. The lines were drawn and I was on the opposite side of Alex Kemp. For better or for worse, I have only one direction to go; Forward.


  1. Ash,

    Great story... looks like there is a lot for V to see if Alex Kemp can be trusted v has a lot to think about wondering what that clip means v Recognised as being bullets under testing that do not kill..I have my theories but wont say them for now. golden liquid I like that name.
    thanks Al

  2. Ash, I think Allison should trust Kemp, Virginia
    should wait until she understands the difference between Joey and Joe.
    You are making me think, which is very good.
    An excellent chapter, thank you dear girl.
    Warm hugs,