Author's Note: This is a revised version of "Lovers in a Dangerous Time." This saga is intended to be a humanitarian project, with the idea that I give the books to a selected charity, and if the targeted charity approves of the project, they will act as my agent to find a publisher, and a portion of the sales from the books will go to the charity to raise funding for research and awareness that charity supports. The charity I wish to target with this project is the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which raises funding for research and awareness of cystic fibrosis. Because Boomer Esiason is a former pro quarterback for the National Football League, having spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets, this novel has a sub-plot related to pro football. I was told that a mere connection is not enough for the BEF, so I upgraded this novel from a pro football connection. For more information on this charity, or if you want to ask about my interest, please feel free to PM me or leave a question in your review, or type "Boomer Esiason Foundation" in your Google search. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy this upgraded version as much as the old version.
Lovers in a Dangerous Time
Anarchy is ruling this summer in the tropical metropolis of Crystal Isle.
As the month of July is more than halfway through, the voices of the citizens get louder and angrier. Though the clean-up process has begun immediately following the raid that happened six weeks earlier, citizens still stand outside City Hall protesting Mayor Philip Forlana and his lack of effort to combat crime in this city. Soft on crime and the Kensington crime family, they say.
Crowds gather outside City Hall every weekday to protest Mayor Forlana staying in office, calling on him to resign. Valerie Lombard, summer news intern at KUMI-TV, records video to give to the station. Today, three days after the Just Breathe Foundation's memorial dinner, she hears how deafening the voices are.
She thinks about interviewing some of the protestors away from the hall, perfecting her journalism and interviewing skills. But even if she can lure them away a distance, she wonders how she will able to ask them questions, and conduct a professional conversation, over all the noise.
"No," she says to herself. "Leave all the interview stuff to the professionals. You're going to be a university sophomore this September anyway."
She thinks about Diamond Bay, her hometown. She can use the chance to take a few days to go back home and see her parents and younger brother. But KUMI needs her six days a week, she was told at the start of her internship, and they keep telling to cover the protests at City Hall and the demand for a mayoral election. But although she agrees, the loud, angry chants are giving her a headache.
She takes five more minutes of video, saves the footage, then calls the news director. When he answers, she says, "Mr. Samawin, I don't mean to complain about the noise, but it's starting to drive me nuts. I'm sending you fifteen minutes worth of picketing and chanting. Tell me if you like it so I can get back to the studio."
She sends to the director on her e-mail and waits for a response. The time equivalent of the video passes, and her phone rings again.
"It's just right, Valerie," he says. "Now, why don't you take some of the protestors into the hall and interview them? It'll be much quieter. Get some of their thoughts. And maybe head to Java Jungle on Graciana and interview some of the regulars. I'm sure this is talk all over town."
"I hope you're right about it being quieter in there," she laughs. "Sure thing, and I'll see you later this afternoon."
She hangs up and looks around the crowd. There has to be three hundred people and counting, she estimates. She looks around to find ones who are the most concerned about the current crime wave, men and women. She asks them one thing: "Can you spare a few minutes for a short interview about this affair?" She gets five agreements for interviews, and brings the subjects inside to the front hallway of City Hall. She finds another protestor to volunteer to hold her camera phone as she records interviews
Inside, she asks the protestors several questions: "What has upset you the most about Mayor Forlana's term as mayor?" "Do you think the situation in Crystal Isle has gotten better or worse since Forlana has taken office?" "Who would you know among the politicians in the city that would make a better replacement?" "If an election is called, who do you think should run?" The answers she gets from these people send startling motions through her body.
"It most bothers me that Forlana has had five years as mayor, and has done little, if anything, to lessen or totally solve the crime wave that's been running rampant in the city. And don't get me started on the Kensingtons. They may be sitting in Quillahawka now, while those poor people they've kidnapped are trying to get their goodness back in hospitals. But we all know it's not going to last. Those people will go to all drastic measures to get out. And once they do, they will create more chaos in the city."
"Of course things have gotten worse. Forlana has never fancied himself an anti-crime politician, but even he has to see that it's gotten out of control in the past few years. He hasn't given youth any outlets to deter away from crime, no new teen programs to keep them occupied and focused on their studies. You bet that teen crime is out of control, and yet Forlana comes up with all these excuses about how there's no money, no good ideas, parents need to keep a stricter eye on them."
"But parents can't be with their children twenty-four hours a day, stuck like glue," Valerie says.
"Exactly, and this is what he and all those 'spend more time with your kids' advocates don't seem to understand," the interviewee says. "At some point, the parents need to go out and make a living, and especially pay the bills in the household."
"I wish I knew who'd be a better replacement. I'm thinking that anyone else would be better than what we have right now."
"At this point, I think my mother would be a better candidate for mayor, and she's in her eighties."
When she finishes the interviews, Valerie gets into her car and sends all five interviews to Mr. Samawin. She drives to the Java Jungle on Graciana and looks around at the crowd. She sees people sitting around drinking coffee and tea and juices, eating dainties, Danishes and cookies, reading newspapers, working on laptop computers, talking – and sometimes complaining – about the politics in the city, wishes for an election definitely been thrown around the coffee shop.
She orders a chilled hot chocolate, and overhears two older men and a younger man griping about the mayor's lack of efforts. She looks in their direction fifteen feet away, interested in interviewing them. When she gets her drink, she takes her camera phone and walks in their direction.
"Excuse me," she says.
The men look her way and take just as much interest in her. They probably can't stop looking at her beautiful face and hair, she thinks.
"My name is Valerie Lombard, and I'm a summer intern at KUMI-TV news," she says. "I'm covering the protests at City Hall, the people calling on Philip Forlana to resign as mayor, and I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about it."
One of the older men and the younger man vehemently agree to interviews, but the other man does not. "But my fingers are strong enough, and I'll gladly hold your video recorder for you, miss," he offers.
She asks the men the same questions she asked at City Hall, and some others to come into her mind. She even asks some questions about the Kensington family, such as what they think the family's next move will be once they're released from prison. The men shudder at that question, thoughts they are too afraid to share.
"I'm afraid that one of the sons will create a new version of Jack the Ripper, and target law-abiding citizens to bump them off," the older interviewee says. "They are known for bringing lawlessness to this town."
Valerie is still and silent, knowing she should ask more questions, but trying to think of what to say next. She knows the Kensingtons are lawless, and the thought of being killed for being a law-abiding citizen terrifies her. After a few minutes, "If you follow local politics, who do you know would be a good candidate in a likely election? Who do you believe should run?"
"I put a lot of faith into Lawrence Goldsmith, one of our most famed city councillors," the younger interviewee says. "He's tough on crime, and has been after the mayor to do something about the Kensingtons, especially in the past few months with that ninja army experiment of theirs. If you offend once, he will make sure you pay your dues, and double if you offend twice."
She asks them several more questions, asking about the future of Crystal Isle if the problem of this uncontrollable crime wave gets worse. Judging by the answers they give, it's as if the city is on the edge of destruction, but Valerie doesn't want to believe it. She thanks them and goes to look for other people to interview, taking her drink. Then it's back to the station.
She is concerned, yet confident. Concerned about what will happen to the city, concerned about what can be done, but confident that her efforts will bring on an election.
"Are you sure that you two can handle the crime wave on your own?" Valerie asks Leander and Highclear later that evening. "I mean, besides the Kensingtons, we also have criminal youth gangs at work, which are also operated under the Kensington family themselves. They're probably selecting some nineteen-year-old to lead to organization now as we speak."
She's arrived at the Golden Katana, a famous martial arts studio in downtown Crystal Isle, now speaking to the two oldest of the five Super-Human Martial Brothers. Valerie's boyfriend, Surfside, is the second youngest brother, and she has been hoping to speak to him about the story she's doing. She has learned that Surfside and Arrowman, the youngest brother, took the middle brother, Nightvisor, away from the city on a retreat. Their uncle and sensei, Master Abraham, is also with them.
"I'm pretty sure we can," Leander says. "With the criminal youth gangs, we're fighting about twelve members at a time. Not like four hundred, like we did last time."
"But if we need more help, we can also call on Master Abraham's students, along with Arrowman," Highclear adds. "Nightvisor's closer to Surfside, and he needs Master Abraham's wisdom. I don't think he can get through anything without them right now."
"Still bummed about losing Jordan Butler, is he?" Valerie guesses.
"He's still not strong enough to fight alongside us," Leander says. "You've been here with Surfside sometimes in the past few weeks. He's been kicking himself, and putting himself down for his choices."
"Where do you go for your retreats?" Valerie looks them over a bit, and decides they look like the types to go camping pretty frequently. "Is there a special cabin somewhere in the woods located on one of the smaller islands?"
"It's on the southeastern island," Leander says. "We go there at least once a year every summer, and sometimes on spring break. It gives us a chance to relax, reflect, unwind, and develop our ninja skills."
"And Nightvisor is there to get peace of mind right now?" she asks.
"Master Abraham hopes this will help him on the path to recovery," Leander answers.
"When do you suppose he'll be back? I would go find him, and we could spend some time together, but I can't really tear myself away from my work at KUMI. Not with all this stuff with Forlana going on."
She sighs and walks to the front window, looking out at the city as the sky begins to turn to sunset colours. "I just wish that Phillip Forlana would admit that he doesn't have a plan for the crime wave in this town, and he never did. I talk about this with my father every weekend. He thinks Forlana is a joke."
"Don't you have your communicator with you?" Highclear asks. "I don't think Technie ever built one for you, did he?"
"I don't think he did," Valerie answers. "He didn't even tell me that he was going anywhere, or even when he'd be back."
She folds her arms and pouts. She can feel her first special summer with Surfside wasting away. Then she lightens up, realizing her work is largely responsible for it.
"I think Master Abraham's plan is for him, Surfside and Arrowman to spend at least a week with him," Highclear says, "then Surfside and Arrowman can come back to Crystal Isle while Master Abraham stays behind, working on meditation and ninja skills."
"Understandable, but Surfside should've told me he was going with them," Valerie says.
"I'm thinking he wanted to, but Master Abraham convinced him to secrecy," Leander suggests. "Perhaps he wanted to keep this in the family."
Valerie smiles. "Well, that makes me feel a little better." She grabs her purse and asks for a favour. "When Surfside comes back, tell him to call me, okay?" She reaches in her purse for a small pad and a pen and writes down another phone number. She hands it to Leander. "That's my cell number. He can also reach me there if I'm at work." See you later. She leaves just as the first of Master Abraham's Monday class is coming in.
Minutes later, Leander and Highclear get a surprise visit from their cousin Technie, the family inventor and genius. They get the sensation that he's been listening at the stairs leading to the living quarters.
"Sorry," he says. "But I couldn't help but overhear you talking with Surfside's little friend about his whereabouts. I'm going to prepare a little something special for her, so it doesn't happen again."