Tibet…

The sky was a blinding blue, but the only thing Jed noticed was the depths of Wei’s impossibly dark eyes. They stood together on a rock ledge high above the green flowered valley hidden among the Himalayan peaks. It was a landscape painted from an artist’s dream, but all Jed could see was Wei.

He’d first noticed her while he was still in training. She brought flowers to the monastery every morning; the first time Jed saw her face, he thought her to be the loveliest thing he’d ever seen. He remarked to Lo Han that her face was the most beautiful flower of the bouquet. Lo Han replied by striking Jed sharply with a bo stick.

“You have no time to think of such things! You must think of your training only!”

But Jed could never fully erase the beautiful Asian girl from his thoughts. He made sure his duties would take him to the courtyard each morning so he could be there when she arrived with the daily flowers for the temple. Jed marveled at her as she walked across the courtyard’s stones; she didn’t walk so much as glide – it was as though her feet never even touched the ground.

The flower girl never seemed to notice Jed. Finally, one morning, she saw him looking at her. Jed caught his breath, afraid that she would take offense. She paused for a moment, seemingly puzzled by the Occidental stranger who was gazing at her with rapt attention.

Then, her face framed by her raven hair which shone in the sunlight, she smiled. And, to Jed’s surprise, she smiled at him each and every morning thereafter.

That was when he was in training. After many months his training was completed and he was free to leave the monastery. Jed chose to stay on in Tibet. He sought the flower girl out and, much to his surprise, won her heart. They were inseparable thereafter. Jed would accompany Wei to the monastery each morning as she brought flowers for the temple. In the afternoons they would ride horses, or hike to the bluffs above the valley. And sometimes, in the evening as they walked through the vast wild gardens of this hidden valley, Wei would sing to him. In the twilight, among those eternal blooms, Jed would listen to her voice and swear he was in heaven, listening to an angel.

Jed was in heaven in that sun-kissed mystical Tibetan valley. Each day was like a beautiful dream; Jed and his love were always together.

A warm breeze surrounded them as Jed lost himself in Wei’s eyes here on the rock ledge high above the valley. He began to speak, but she softly placed a slim finger across his lips. As he silently watched in amazement, a single glistening tear fell from one of those impossibly deep dark eyes.

“Beware, my love,” Wei whispered. “Few things are ever what they seem.”

Her hand snaked its way behind his neck and she drew his face to hers. As their lips touched, the temple bell chimed from far off down in the valley. The sound grew louder, then louder still…

St. Nicholas, Maryland. April 4, 1936…

The sound of the telephone on the nightstand cut into Jedediah Singletary’s skull like a hatchet. His eyes flew open and the morning glare was like a second blade slicing into his head.

“Awwww, God, shut up!” He fumbled for the phone and pressed the receiver to his ear.

“Yeah?”

“Jed! Did I wake you?” Davis’ voice was rough and not what Jed wanted to hear first thing in the morning, but it still beat the phone’s awful ringing.

“Nah,” Jed replied.

“I’m glad. Listen, I know you’re still banged up from the other night, but I need a favor.”

“Go on.”

“There was another tenement fire last night. Four more people killed – one was just a baby.”

“Oh, damn…”

“Yeah. Listen, I need you to go down to City Hall, to the records department. Find out who those buildings belonged to. And, while you’re there,” Davis continued, “see if you can find out who owns that warehouse with the bootlegger hideout in the basement.”

“You think there’s a connection.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Maybe, but the cops won’t tell me a thing. Listen, Jed, I know you’re still healing up, so I hate to ask you to do this. I’d do it myself, but I can’t show my face down there without a world of grief. There’s an old bat named Horvath who runs the records and she hates my guts – won’t give me the time of day.”

Jed laughed. “I hear that’s going around.” He could hear Davis’ derisive snort on the other end of the line.

“Wise guy. Would you do this for me?”

“No,” Jed replied. “But I’ll do it for us, and for those people getting hurt in those fires.”

“Thanks, Jed. I mean it. Call me with the skinny when you get it.”

Jedediah hung the receiver back on the hook and looked out the window across his manicured lawn, more like a park than a lawn. Tucked away in a far corner was a small garden of exotic flowers, none native to America much less to Maryland. He gazed wistfully across the lawn to that small garden and thought again of Wei.

His beautiful flower girl had been dead for many years, Jed’s fault, and he wore his guilt like a dark shroud when he prowled the streets at night as the Twilight Phantom.

But he knew Wei forgave him and loved him yet, because she sometimes still came to him, gliding silently though the night before she softly spoke to him – in his dreams.

Another installment from my Hideouts and Hoodlums RPG adventures. More to come…

Have fun! – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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