Ben Anderson paused to savour the sweet smell of alfalfa. He had no idea that his world was about to collide with a very different world. A world that would attack without provocation or warning. A world that for all eternity would feed off his soul like starving rats in a war zone. Ben was a farmer. He didn’t know this other world existed.
He tossed another bale onto the hay elevator and watched as the bale slowly ground its way to the top before tumbling into the loft above.
It was early afternoon and the sun was hot. The morning shower had done little to cool the air. The sun sucked the moisture out of the ground and the added humidity caused his shirt to cling to his back and chest. The smog from Vancouver, over an hour’s drive away, hung in the air. Ben chose not to notice the smog. The smell of cattle and alfalfa was much more rewarding.
He caught a glimpse of Maggie’s freckled face and her red hair done up in pigtails as she scrambled to keep up with the bales falling from the elevator and bouncing down onto the loft floor. For a ten-year-old, she was a hard worker.
At two years younger, her little brother was not a lot of help. But no one ever told Ben Junior that. His hair was blonde and his face was well tanned from working on their family farm. Unlike his sister’s pressed jeans, his were dirty and ragged over one knee.
Ben Junior looked serious as he swung a hay hook into another bale and dragged it with both hands across the wooden floor. The bale slid easily. The floor had become shiny and polished over the years from bales being dragged to the back of the loft.
Wizard drove the new silver Acura down the highway. He had already switched cars three times within the last two hours, but now that The Suit was with him, his paranoia intensified. He slowed down and watched his rear-view mirror. Cars passed him. A good sign.
At a glance, Wizard’s clothes gave him the appearance of a businessman who had taken the day off to go golfing. It was Wizard’s face that gave a clue as to what business he was in. His nose had been broken so often in his younger days that the swelling between his eyes had become permanent. Deep creases in his forehead gave the impression that he was much older than his forty-five years. His salt and pepper hair was trimmed short, and his moustache and greying goatee partially hid a scar that traversed his upper and lower lips.
It had taken him twenty years to become president of Vancouver’s west-side chapter of the Satans Wrath Motorcycle Club. It had been a long road, and he wasn’t finished yet. Satans Wrath had dozens of presidents in charge of chapters in eleven countries. Each country had one national president. Wizard would do whatever it took to replace Damien as the national president for Canada.
Wizard glanced at The Suit’s face. The Suit was about his age, but he was skinny and weak. He hated that he needed him. It was Rolly, another member of the club, who had first told him about The Suit.
Rolly had told Wizard that The Suit was a sick bastard. Someone to be shunned. Wizard was more of a businessman. He saw opportunity. It was his idea to recruit him. Not as a club member, of course, but strictly for business. Only Rolly and Damien knew about The Suit. His identity remained top secret. His real name was never spoken, and personal meetings were handled with extreme care.
Wizard played the game well, and Damien rewarded him by assigning him to oversee their most valued business ventures: drugs and prostitution. Many in the club thought Wizard was a genius when it came to business. Some said he had a psychic ability when it came to beating the competition or the police. It was what eventually earned him his nickname. Wizard wasn’t psychic. He didn’t have to be. He had The Suit.
Ben shut off the machinery and for a moment enjoyed the silence. He put his hands on his hips and slowly arched his back. He was a big man and the work came easy to him, but a heart attack he had suffered two years ago told him not to exert himself.
Maggie’s face immediately appeared up above.
“What’s the matter, Dad?”
“I think it’s time for some lemonade. I’ll come up and see how you two are making out.”
Seconds later, Ben Junior’s face appeared. “Did it break down again?”
“No, Ben Junior, it didn’t break down this time.”
“Are we finished then?” asked Maggie.
“No, not yet.”
“How come you turned it off?”
“Slow down, Ben Junior, I thought we could use a rest is all.”
“Yeah, Doodle looks tired. But not me! I’m used to man’s work.”
Maggie pretended not to care. Doodle wasn’t a nickname that she appreciated, but this time she wasn’t going to give her little brother a reaction.
Ben climbed the ladder into the loft. Without being asked, Maggie poured three glasses of lemonade from a plastic jug.
She gave her father a big smile as she sat down on a bale.
Ben grinned to himself when he saw her concentrating on holding the plastic glass while extending her little finger. That’s my girl, always trying to be a lady. His attention to Maggie didn’t go unnoticed.
Ben Junior retrieved a cardboard cutout that he had made that morning. It was in the shape of a shark and he had used silver foil to give it extra large teeth. Seconds later, the shark attacked the back of his sister’s head in a feeding frenzy.
Maggie swatted at the shark and the silver teeth fell off.
“Daddy! She broke it! I made this for Uncle Jack.” He started to wail.
“He started it! I was just —”
“That’s enough, you two! Keep that up and you’ll both spend your last few days of summer vacation weeding the garden.”
The children knew enough to keep quiet, at least for the moment. Maggie pretended to pick particles of hay from her glass. She then flicked her wet fingers in Ben Junior’s direction. Seconds later, the children made a face at each other, then giggled, forgetting their anger.
Ben Junior gulped down his lemonade and went to swing wildly on a rope hung from a rafter in the loft.
Maggie saw a yellow jacket walking around the rim of Ben Junior’s empty glass. Several other wasps, attracted to the sweet smell of the lemonade, hovered nearby.
She took a small sketchpad and stubby pencil from her hip pocket and drew a caricature of a wasp, sporting a happy face, climbing out of a glass.
Ben leaned over to take a look. “Pretty good, girl,” he said. “I think you’re going to make one heck of an artist some day.”
“Thanks, Dad.” Maggie flashed her newly grown adult teeth, which looked out of proportion in her face.
Ben looked at all the bales that had been dragged to the far end of the loft. The children’s muscles had not developed enough to stack them properly.
“Okay, I think you kids have earned your keep for today. Check with Mom first. I think she’s in the garden. If she doesn’t need you then you can go and play.”
“Whoopee!” Ben Junior yelled. “Come on, Doodle, let’s go!” he said, leaping from the rope and crashing in amongst some bales. Both children scrambled to be first to reach the ladder.
Moments later, Ben Junior raced down the gravel driveway on his bicycle. Muddy water sprayed out from the puddles in some of the deeper potholes. Ben Junior lifted his feet high off the pedals, but not high enough to avoid getting splashed by the mud. Maggie followed behind but kept her distance.
Elizabeth, watching from the garden, shook her head.
“You two be back in time for supper!” she shouted. Then as an afterthought she added, “Maggie! If you want to pick some berries, I’ll make your favourite pie for dessert!”
Wizard checked his rear-view mirror as he turned off onto a gravel road. He held his breath and let it out when he saw that the Acura was the only car on the road.