Dillon and The Mask of Amiri Ezana: Part Two

Dillon had no idea why the small man dressed as a server was at the convention center. Well it was obvious that the little man was up to no good given how he turned rabbit and ran when Dillon saw him preparing to hide a package on one of the serving carts going into the hall where the delegates were meeting. Even without looking around, Dillon knew that Rual had seen him move for the door and was probably signaling his men to give chase and find out what was happening. This was one time the Xoniran security chief’s obvious disdain for Dillon would work to his advantage, he had been so obsessed with showing up Xonira’s favorite adopted son that Dillon figured by the time he caught up to the little man with the package, Xoniran security and the assorted military escorts of all the delegates on the island would show up en masse to back him up. Right now, though, Dillon was having a devil of a time keeping up with the springy little man who was starting to open up his lead.

The small man did a quick look over his shoulder, his long hair was tied into a pony tail and whipped across his shoulder like a ferret hanging on for dear life. Without being right up on him, Dillon could see he was of either Asian or Islander origin. With Xonira being a land founded by uniquely diverse groups of people from across the world, this didn’t mark the little man as unusual – he could’ve been a native, immigrant or tourist. Dillon wouldn’t know anything until he caught him. That task was starting to look easier as he pushed himself to pick up the pace. Dillon was a big man, but his size was deceptive where speed was concerned. The gap bean to close a little as the two men flew down rain slicked streets like they were the leads in a marathon, when the little man looked one more time, flashed Dillon a smile and sprang into an alley. Before he even reached the mouth of the alleyway, he heard the noises that made him want to spit nails. Sure enough, the little man was already scrambling up the side of the building to the rear employing some kind of freerunning method that Dillon wasn’t going to pull off in a tux and dress shoes.

That was when Dillon heard a roaring noise behind him and he turned.

The convention hall, that was filled with international dignitaries when he left, had exploded and was being consumed in a conflagration that belched waves of heat that Dillon imagined he could feel even though he was several blocks away.

As his mind raced over what he should do next, he saw the little man’s package in a heap about midway through the alley. His movements were automatic, he saw the contents of the package strewn across the concrete and moved to investigate. Dillon hadn’t noticed that his quarry hadn’t left from his perch, but the little man wore a smile as he watched Dillon squat down and extract a pen from his pocket to poke around the debris. His eyes widened as he recognized the materials were not just items that could be used to make bombs…

…they were from his weapons locker on his plane.

“I’ll save you the trouble, Mr. Dillon. There is plenty of evidence at the site of the blast to tie you to what has just happened”, the little man yelled. “Let me be the first to congratulate you on becoming an international terrorist. By morning you’ll be the most wanted man in the world.”

Dillon stood. It was a frame, probably not a solid one, but one that would pull him off of the quest to discover the secret behind the mask of Amiri Ezana long enough for this joker and his friends to find the Golden Lady before he did. Plus this would cut him off from everything he usually had at his disposal, his friends, his resources, anywhere, including Xonira, was no longer a safe haven. The little man wasn’t seen by anyone else, and Dillon had the sneaking suspicion he was lured away from the hall in a manner that made it look like he was trying to escape the building before it blew up.

In a sentence: Dillon knew he was screwed. Still, he didn’t bother with anything other than burning the features of the little man above him into his memory. Dillon made a promise to himself that he would resolve their unfinished business sooner over later.

“One thing, friend” Dillon said by way of a response.

“A dead man should have a last wish, Mr. Dillon, what shall yours be?”

“I’d like to know your name.”

The little man smiled and stood with an ear cocked. Dillon did likewise and could hear the distant sound of sirens. He was going to have to get the hell out of Dodge soon if he wanted a chance at getting off the island before security locked the place up tighter than a convent in Miami during Spring Break.

The little man bowed low from the waist. “That is the easiest wish to fulfill, Mr. Dillon. I intended to leave it with you. A dead man should know who murdered him.

“I am Xuanzhuan Siwang of the Society of the Azure Dragon. We await you should you survive long enough to find us.” Siwang, stepped back, bowed once more, and was gone.

The sirens were getting louder, coming closer. If he could make it to the roof, Dillon could double back to get to his suite of rooms, grab his bug out bag and lay low in his bolt hole while he figured out what to do next. He had no one to call and no one he could count on or trust.

But he had a name. “Xuanzhuan Siwang”, Dillon whispered to himself as he tried to remember his Chinese. He frowned as he figured it out and what the name translated to. The sirens broke him from his thoughts and he did the only thing he could do, Dillon ran.

But in the back of his mind, he was already trying to work out what he had to do to clear his name when he found the Society of the Azure Dragon and once again met Xuanzhuan Siwang, the polite little man whose name translated to “Whirling Death”.

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Sean E. Ali’s Been Busy…

From the same folks who brought you the greatest live action hero film adaptation never, Derrick Ferguson’s DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN, comes the six episode animated miniseries that never happened: DILLON AND THE MASK OF AMIRI EZANA.

Here’s some of the dialogue from the first episode: “THE LAIR OF THE GOLDEN LADY”…

“Lady, after everything I went through to get here, there’s not a damned thing you can say that will be any more effective than all those guys downstairs hoping that medical is part of the henchmen health plan.” Dillon’s eyes were pools of molten gold as his gaze fastened on the mask of Amiri Ezana in the slim fingers of the Golden Lady. “You took something that doesn’t belong to you, and I’m here to get it back.”

The Lady seemed to not be terribly concerned over Dillon’s declaration. She continued to focus her attention on the mask. “Mr. Dillon, you say nothing will prevent you from taking the mask back to the museum. Fine. I’m happy to return it once I’m done with it.” She whispered something that even Dillon’s acute hearing could not make out and with her free hand she made a pass over the mask. Dillon thought it was probably a trick of the light, but mask seemed to be… struggling to break free of the Golden Lady’s grasp. Her fingers fell away as if she were releasing a bird and the mask of Amiri Ezana began to glow as it glided above her outstretched palm.

“Tell me something, Mr. Dillon. Have you ever heard of a land called…Shamballah?”

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So Is Dillon’s Real Name Dillon Or What?

This has been a question asked of me for longer than I can remember, actually. It seems as if from his first online appearance way back in the Frontier days where DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN was first serialized, people have been asking me on a regular basis; “Is Dillon his first or last name? Is it an alias? If it is, what’s his real name? And if it isn’t, then why does he only have one name?”

An old online writing pal of mine, Joel McCrory thinks that Dillon won’t reveal his last name because it’s Savage. Gave me a long laugh there (which I seriously needed, considering the summer I’ve had) but no…Dillon is in no way, shape or form related to the Savage clan. Except that the exploits of Dr. Clark Savage, Jr. have most definitely been an influence in the adventures of my creation.

So here’s the straight skinny: Dillon’s never had another name because when I created him that’s the way he presented himself to me; as Dillon. One name and one name only. And here’s one of the main reasons why. As I said many times elsewhere, there’s a lot of DNA in many characters in Dillon such as James Bond, Derek Flint, James West, Doc Savage, Race Bannon. But the one character that I think can legitimately claim to be Dillon’s creative grandfather is Paladin, the hero of the classic Western TV series “Have Gun Will Travel”

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No, Dillon doesn’t doesn’t go around passing out business cards proclaiming his stock-in-trade. But like Paladin he is an highly educated man with extensive knowledge in martial arts (there are some episodes of “Have Gun Will Travel” where we see Paladin practicing judo). They both are proficient with weapons and while they both take pay for their services that doesn’t mean they don’t have a sense of honor or what is right. Remember in DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL when he forfeits a twenty million dollar payday if Lord Murphy C’jai will blow up The Golden Bell so that nobody else will find it?

And they both go around in well-dressed suits until it comes time for them to go to work and then they both dress in highly distinctive and stylish outfits that proclaim to the world that they mean business. We know right from the start of the show that Paladin resides at the obscenely lavish and expensive Hotel Carlton in San Francisco (which I’ve always believed he secretly owned) but we’ve only just learned in DILLON AND THE PROPHECY OF FIRE that he has an obscenely lavish and expensive private estate in Pennsylvania named Coppereye (in homage to Ian Fleming’s Bahamian Goldeneye estate)

And like Dillon, we went through most of Paladin’s career not knowing much about the man he was before taking up his unusual career until the 6th and final season’s first episode; “Genesis” in which we at last learn the origin of Paladin. I’m not gonna summarize it for you here. Go find it for yourself. It’s one of the best origin stories you’re ever gonna see. Trust me. But I will tell you this: at the end of the episode we still don’t find out what Paladin’s real name is.

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Over the years I have been revealing Dillon’s background little by little and I think that those of you who have been following the character like it that way. But on the subject of his name content yourself with knowing him as Dillon.

And quite honestly…would you want to know him as anything else?

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Coming Attractions: March 2017

Happy New Year! And I sincerely hope that you’re enjoying yourself as we go into the third month of 2017. It’s been three months since we’ve talked like this and it is my wish that you and and your family have enjoyed nothing but prosperity and good health since then. Me? I’ve been doing okay aside from suffering from a really weird rash that attacked mainly my hands and certain parts of my body (getcher minds outta the gutter.) You can check out my Blood & Ink blog for further details about that. And since I’m on the subject of my other blogs, if you’re as big a movie fan as I am, check out The Ferguson Theater for my movie reviews.

But this here blog is about Dillon and news about what you can expect in the coming months as far as his adventures are concerned so let’s get right to it, shall we?

It’s come to my attention that many of you don’t know that THE VRIL AGENDA written by Yours Truly and Josh Reynolds, featuring the epic team-up of Dillon and Jim Anthony, Super Detective as they square off against Sun Koh is available as an audio book. Well, it is. So if you don’t want to read the paperback version or the Kindle version, here’s the link to the audio book version. I highly recommend it. I am utterly and totally amazed at how listening to one’s own book in audio version is a completely different experience from reading it. Hell, I helped write the daggone thing and every time I listened to it I was on the edge of my bed (I would listen to a couple of chapters on my Kindle in my bed at night before going to sleep)

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The current Dillon serialized adventure; DILLON AND THE PROPHECY OF FIRE is up to two chapters on my Patreon page and the third chapter is going to drop on the 8th of March. I’m having fun writing this one in a different way from the usual Dillon adventure and it started with the previous Dillon serial; “Dillon and The City of Stone” I co-wrote with Erik Fromme. Lemme explain;

It was Erik’s concept that “City of Stone” be different from previous Dillon adventures in that we see him on vacation, bonding with ordinary people and behaving like a regular guy before we get into the wild and crazy adventure. And in co-writing it with Erik I got caught up in that notion as well and I liked the concept a lot. I always wanted to present Dillon as being a well-rounded character and I always enjoy seeing him interact with ordinary folks who are normally a part of his world. So I followed Erik’s lead and I think we came up with a pretty damn good yarn that not only managed to be a rollicking good Dillon adventure in the tradition fans of the character and stories have come to expect but also added a new dimension to Dillon himself. If you agree, thank Erik. If you don’t blame me.

And in following Erik’s concept, DILLON AND THE PROPHECY OF FIRE reveals new aspects of Dillon’s character that we’ve never seen before. We learn that he has a permanent residence in the form of a palatial house and estate named Coppereye (My homage to Ian Fleming’s Jamaican estate) in rural Pennsylvania. We learn he has a housekeeper/majordomo name Mrs. Jenkins who along with her two daughters looks after Dillon’s house while he out nemesising evil. Dillon even has lawyers who manage his money! And that’s not even half of what we uncover in those three chapters.

But it’s necessary for the growth of Dillon’s character, I think. I see these serialized stories on my Patreon page as filling in spaces that you don’t get during the big, widescreen summer movie blockbusters that are the novels. The Patreon stories are more like television mini-series, for lack of a better analogy.

So what else?

DILLON ANNUAL COLLECTION VOL. I is all done and only waiting on a cover from Sean E. Ali. My goal is to put out an Annual Collection every year that will compile all the Dillon novellas in chronological order. The contents of DILLON ANNUAL COLLECTION Vol. I is as follows:

Young Dillon In The Halls of Shamballah

Dillon And The BadAss Belt Buckle

Dillon and The Judas Chalice

Dead Beat In La Esca

Dillon and The Alchemist’s Morning Coffee

Dillon and The Last Rail To Khusra

I’m 29,000 words into THE RETURN OF THE SPECIALISTS (formerly known as THE SPECIALISTS 2) which sees Dillon recruiting a brand new team to tie up some loose ends from that adventure. All I can say is that I hope you guys will have as much fun reading this as I am writing this. It’s like I’m getting to write my dream 1980’s Action Movie. There’s a Sneak Preview on my Patreon page if you’re interested.

After I finish with THE RETURN OF THE SPECIALISTS it’ll be time to finally get to work on DILLON AND THE SECRET OF SHAMBALLAH which will most likely be my major Dillon project for Fall/Winter of 2017 with an eye for publication in 2018.

And what will I be featuring on my Patreon page after I finish with DILLON AND THE PROPHECY OF FIRE? I’m planning on a buncha solo stories featuring Dillon’s supporting cast. You can vote on who your favorite is right here and I’ll have a poll of the Patreon site as well.

Aren’t you getting tired of hearing me mention the Patreon page? Don’t worry, I’m all done for now. You guys go read some good books, watch some good movies and be good to each other until we get together again, okay? God Bless and Take Care.

Coming Soon: November 2016

DILLON AND THE NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS is a story I think is fairly unique for a pair of reasons I’ll get into in a minute and then I’ll explain why it’s being presented as this month’s feature on my Patreon page. First off, the story’s history. It was written for the 2014 PULPWORK PRESS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL and kinda just came to me in a rush as I had written a Dillon Christmas story for the 2012 volume and honestly had no intention of writing another one. That one; “Dillon and The Night Before Christmas” was a mash-up of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.”  Which I did because every time a writer decides to do a Christmas story with his/her favorite character they do either “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Carol.” So I figured by mashing up both stories into one, I’d do my obligatory Dillon story and get it over with.

So how did I come to write DILLON AND THE NIGHT OF THE KRAMPUS? It’s partly the fault of Joshua R. Reynolds, curse his hide. Long before The Krampus became a cultish rage, Josh was telling me stories about The Krampus. Yeah, everybody and their mother know about The Krampus now, but Josh was in love with the critter long before they were. I was intrigued with The Krampus and as I do with most ideas Josh gives me, I scribbled it away in one of my notebooks, figuring that I’d use it in a story later on. Which story, I had no idea. I certainly never thought that I’d use The Krampus in a Dillon story.

So how did The Krampus end up in a Dillon story? For a couple of reasons. I wanted to write a story where Dillon again has an adventure with Wyatt Hyatt and Reynard Hansen who he worked with in “Dillon and The Judas Chalice.” I liked the interaction between the three of them as they’re all black men but they’re all very different types of black men whose skills and personalities mesh well together. Especially Wyatt and Reynard who have a relationship that is not as contentious or as cantankerous as Monk Mayfair and Ham Brooks but that vibe is there and I wanted to explore it further.

The Krampus got into it because I wanted to write a Christmas story that was more of freewheeling, action/adventure filled romp than “Dillon and The Night Before Christmas” which was pretty dark and grim (but ended on a hopeful note, Thank Odin) and the idea of Dillon fighting a Krampus struck me as being just goofy enough to work.

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So I wrote the story and it was published and I thought no more about it. Until an odd thing started happening. One that is the perfect example of one of the things I love about writing: you never know what is going to resonate with readers and what they’ll pick up on. You can’t predict what readers are going to like and you’re a fool if you try. Just be glad when they do latch onto something and even more, they let you know what it is.

In this case, it’s a scene where Dillon reveals to Wyatt and Reynard that he has a house. Now if you’ve been following Dillon for awhile then you know what a shock this was to Wyatt and Reynard since Dillon has never before mentioned to them that he had a permanent residence somewhere. They’re even more amazed to learn that the dog they’ve come to Alaska to pick up is Dillon’s second dog. Here’s a picture of an Alaskan Husky, which is the type of dog Dillon prefers and that he names Festus.

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Wyatt and Reynard are naturally pissed off that all this time he’s had a permanent residence and a dog and he never thought to mention it to two men he claims are close friends of his that he’s been on dangerous adventures with where they’ve saved each other’s lives many times over. And they both quite loudly express their dissatisfaction with Dillon. To put it mildly.

The feedback I got from readers (stop your snickering. I do have readers. I DO.) was that scene was their favorite in the story and they wanted to know if I was going to follow up on it.  And while I didn’t have any ideas of doing so, once the suggestion was planted in my head, it took root and began to grow.

So starting next month on my Patreon page I’ll be starting a brand new serial which doesn’t have a title yet although I’m kicking around two or three of ‘em. What can I tell you? I have a hard time with titles. But what I can tell you is that the story will be a direct sequel to “Dillon and The Night of The Krampus.” which is why that story is going to be featured on my Patreon page this month so that those of you who haven’t read it can get caught up before the new serial begins. Dillon doesn’t manage to get Wyatt and Reynard back to their homes in time for Christmas for reasons that will be explained in the story. As compensation, Wyatt and Reynard demand that Dillon take them to his house along with their new friend, Professor of Occult History & Science, Folklore and Mythology, Ursula Van Houghton. That’s where the story starts and I promise you it’ll get wilder from there. And along the way you’ll hopefully find out a lot more about Dillon that will enhance your enjoyment of the character and his world.

Okay, that’s it for now. If this is your first time here, feel free to stay awhile, look around and maybe leave a comment or take one of the polls. Until next time, watch some good movies, read some good books and be good to each other. And don’t forget to vote, dammit!

And here’s a handy dandy visual aid so you don’t have to burn up brain cells imagining what Big Pig looks like:

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Preview: “Dead Beat In Khusra”

Mahaiso

The capital city of Khusra, North Africa

Dillon adjusted his backpack more comfortably on his shoulders as he walked along the busy, extra wide sidewalk. The location of the hotel he wanted was in what was popularly known as Downtown Center. Renowned for its many business and residential skyscrapers of innovative design and construction, its parks and its shopping malls, Downtown Center represented what the Khusra of the 21st Century was all about. A thriving, vibrant country, this Khusra. Full of tradition and power that made it one of the strongest and most prosperous of North African nations for thousands of years. While the backbone of the country’s economy was the export of oil and natural gas, Khusra was rapidly embracing technological research and development as well as reviving it’s once thriving tourism industry.

Khusra had once been a major tourist destination but that had been before Omoro had taken the throne. Omoro had severely limited tourism and made deals with several major terrorist organizations, turning Khusra from a country known and respected as an ally to its neighboring countries into an active threat. If Dillon had been wearing a hat when receiving the news Omoro was no longer in power in Khusra he’d have tossed it in the air with a whoop and a holler. The country would be far better off without him. Dillon liked Khusra. He liked the people, the energy, the food, the culture. He looked forward to spending a few days here and getting reacquainted with the country.

The Amber International derived its name from the unusual amber color of the building itself, a color enhanced at night by a special lighting system that intensified the color of the structure, causing the entire building to glow as if it were made of amber. Dillon entered the sparkling bright lobby which looked large enough to comfortably park airplanes in. He waved away the offer from a porter to help him with his backpack as he walked to the registration desk. The extraordinarily pretty young girl behind the counter smiled at him and said in a voice so bubbly and cheerful it was almost unnerving, “Good morning, sir!”

“Good morning to you as well,” Dillon replied, setting down his backpack and reaching for his wallet. “I’d like a suite, please.”

“I’ll be happy to accommodate you, sir. Right after your meeting.”

Dillon blinked. “Meeting? What meeting?”

As if by magic, men appeared on either side of him. Four big men. Four big unsmiling men in black suits. Blindingly white shirts with ties the color of carbon black. Sunglasses so dark it was hard to believe they could see out of them. The universal uniform of security men the world over. Dillon sighed. “Yes, I do believe I have a meeting with these gentlemen. Would you be good enough to look after my luggage?”

“But of course, sir! Happy to be of service!”

Dillon nodded at the four men. “Gentlemen, I am at your disposal.”

They escorted him efficiently and quietly to the security office. Dillon had a suspicion as to who wanted to see him. He wasn’t particularly worried. More curious than anything else, actually. If someone wanted him dead, they’d have tried to kill him as soon as he left the American Embassy. And these men hadn’t bothered to search him for weapons which if they knew him then they knew he was armed. No, this was someone who actually only wanted to talk.

A man waited for him inside the security office. Blocky, beefy, with an amiable, friendly face and even more friendly smile. He waved to a chair. “Please, sit down, sit down. Make yourself comfortable. I will not keep you long.” He now waved to the four men. “Wait outside.”

Once the four men had left, the smiling man leaned forward, rubbing his palms together. “Let us get down to business, shall we? I am Monde Meiceli, Director of Internal Security and Intelligence.”

“The Khusran secret police, you mean.” Dillon crossed his legs, interlaced his fingers behind his head to support it as he leaned back slightly.

Monde Meiceli blinked in honest surprise. “Not at all. Once my brother was removed from the throne, one of the first things we did was to dismantle his secret police and reorganize the legitimate police department and my office.”

“And who are we?”

“Ah, I should have made it plain. We are the Mwinyimkuu. My family is still in control of Khusra. It was the family who made the decision to rise up against Omoro. It was the second eldest brother Kunimu himself who delivered the death blow. A tragedy to be sure. But it was one that had to be done.”

“You don’t sound very regretful at having a hand in killing your own brother.”

“Between the two of us-“ and here Monde lowered his voice and leaned forward even more as if sharing a bawdy joke with Dillon. “-nobody in the family liked Omoro much anyway. Even as a child he was obnoxious and disagreeable. Papa said frequently that he believed one of the nannies must have dropped Omoro on his head twice or thrice. Mama said many times that yes, she loved Omoro as she did all of her children but she did not like him.” Monde shrugged. “He never should have been king.” Monde leaned back and again rubbed his palms together vigorously as if washing his hands of that subject. “But let’s get back to a more important subject. You.”

“I suppose you want me out of Khusra before sundown?”

“On the contrary. You are welcome to stay in Khusra as long as you like. My sole purpose here is to inform you that as far as my brother King Kunimu is concerned the slate between you and Khusra is clean.”

Dillon raised one of his severe eyebrows in honest surprise. “Really? What about the whole thing with me stealing The Horns of Bren?”

“Did you not hear? Our sacred artifact was recovered by my youngest brother, Farega. Stole it right out of the Natural History Museum in London.” Monde chuckled. “It was quite the exploit. If you ever meet Farega you must get him to tell you all about it. He fancies himself quite the swashbuckling adventurer, in fact. He idolizes a grand uncle of ours who achieved some notoriety adventuring around the world back in the 1930’s and ‘40’s.”

“What about your train station? I’m pretty sure you know I was involved in that.”

“I personally had a long and informative conversation with John Velvet who completely and comprehensively explained your part in that whole debacle and I am satisfied that you were not responsible.”

Dillon frowned slightly and sat forward. “So that’s it? All you wanted to do was to tell me that all has been forgotten? Just like that?”

“My brother Kunimu wishes to restore the reputation of Khusra as a fair and honest nation that seeks nothing more than to be once again respected and honored as it once was by the other nations of the world. The proud reputation of Khusra was severely tarnished by Omoro’s greed and paranoia. To this end, Kunimu has granted pardons to thousands of political prisoners and released them from our jails. He has also rescinded all bounties placed on the heads of imagined enemies of Khusra. He has either slain or extradited the terrorist elements infecting our country. Knowing that you were in the country, I took it upon myself to personally meet with you and assure you that you can enjoy your stay in Khusra with no worry or concern. As I said, you have the word of my brother that the slate is wiped clean. Our artifact is once more in our museum where it rightfully belongs and we do owe you a great debt of thanks for seeing that the Princess Salena arrived here safely.” Monde leaned forward, eyes and voice suddenly serious. “But let me make something clear. And this comes from me, not my brother. Whatever you choose to write on that slate from here on out is entirely up to you. You understand?”

Dillon nodded. “I want no trouble with you or King Kunimu, sir. And I intend to make none while I am here. I intend to rest and relax for a few days and enjoy myself in your beautiful country. That’s all.”

“Excellent. Then I shall let you complete your registration and leave you to your enjoyment. The staff at the hotel has been instructed to extend to you every courtesy as a guest of His Majesty. Your money is no good in the Amber International. And here is my card.” Monde stood up, removed a business card from his jacket pocket and gave it to Dillon. “If there is anything you require, please feel free to make use of that number. I can be reached there at any time of the day or night.”

Dillon stood up as well, accepted the card. “Thank you. I would assume you would appreciate me giving you a call when I leave Khusra?”

“That would be most satisfactory, sir.”

They shook hands and Dillon left the security office. Monde’s four men stood out in the hall but did not follow Dillon back to the registration desk. The same young was still there and a porter had Dillon’s backpack on his own back, waiting patiently with a smile.

“And how was your meeting, sir?” the young girl asked with that same near manic cheerfulness. Dillon looked at her name tag.

“It went very well, Adia. Very well, indeed. Thank you for asking. What rooms to you have available?”

“It’s all been arraigned, sir. Mr. Meiceli has instructed us to give you one of the Diplomatic Suites.”

“Oh, he did, did he?”

“You’ll find it supremely adequate for whatever your needs may be while you honor us with your presence. It features a pre-function lounge, three bedrooms, a private bar and a dining room that can accommodate eight.”

“That sounds lovely. I’m sure I will be quite comfortable there.” Dillon was sure that the room was bugged in every and any way conceivable but he didn’t mind. True to his word he wasn’t planning to do anything but relax and sightsee a bit. A week of just hanging out would be just the thing he needed to wind down after the week he’d just had.

“Can you send your tailor up to my suite? I’d like to purchase some suits and be fitted.”

“But of course, sir. If you’ll just give me a minute to get someone to relieve me here, I’ll fetch him myself and we’ll both accompany you up to your suite.”

Dillon nodded and grinned. I think I’m gonna like it here

 

AMBER

Dillon paused outside the main entrance of the hotel to light a Vegas Robaina cigar. He admired himself in the reflection of the glass doors as he did so. He had to give the hotel’s tailor credit. The Forrester tux fitted him as well as tuxedoes he’d owned for years. Considering the man had such a short amount of time to alter the tux, it was nothing short of amazing. Dillon took out his cellphone to make a note that he should buy a few more suits and have the tailor alter them before he left Khusra.

One of the porters walked up to him. “Everything okay, sir?”

“Yes, yes,” Dillon put away his phone and took the cigar out of his mouth. “Where’s a good place to go get a good dinner and a show?”

“We’ve got fine entertainment and restaurants right here in the Amber International, sir.”

“I’m sure you do and I intend to sample them as I’ll be here for a week at least. But for tonight I’d like to get out a bit.” Dillon passed over a folded bill. “Someplace that sings and swings, know what I mean?”

“Yes, sir…I do believe I do. Let me get you a cab and instruct him to take you on over to The Sandstone. I think it’ll be just what you’re looking for.” The porter whistled up a cab and soon Dillon was inside and the driver eased the vehicle into the moderately heavy traffic. Turned out that The Sandstone was only a ten minute drive away. Dillon would have actually preferred to walk if he had known where it was. But like most hotels, the porter and the taxi drivers had an agreement to work together so that everybody could make a little money. Dillon didn’t begrudge them. He paid the driver, gave him a reasonable tip and stood outside the nightclub/restaurant, smoking his cigar for a bit before he went on in.

A limosene pulled up to the curb and Dillon moved aside so he wouldn’t be in the way of the three obviously skittish bodyguards that emerged from the limo as if ready to battle to the death. Dillon had to grin a little. Young, eager. They needed a few more years of seasoning. They were drawing unnecessary attention to themselves with their exaggerated looking about and grimacing at pedestrians who gave them a “what the hell is wrong with you?” look back.

Apparently satisfied with the street, one of them opened the passenger door and helped out the woman he and his partners were escorting. Dillon got a good look at her. A very good look. And his eyes opened as wide as they possibly could. The cigar fell out of his mouth, landing on the pavement between his feet, sparks spraying. A couple of pedestrians actually chuckled at his expression and one could not be blamed for Dillon at that moment did indeed look quite comical.

But he felt anything but funny at that moment. There were so many emotions churning inside of him that he had to start doing deep breathing exercises to get his madly beating heart under control.

The woman walked into the nightclub with the poise and regal bearing of a queen. Her floor length, one-shoulder ebony evening dress glittered gloriously as if a million stars were caught inside of it. It had been five years since he’d seen her but to Dillon’s eyes she looked as exotic and as gorgeous as the last time he’d seen her.

She did not look to the right or the left and so did not see Dillon. She did not just walk. She strode as if the red carpet underneath her four inch Zanotti heels was woven from gold thread and not cloth.

Dillon continued to gawp in astonishment, trying to calm down his pounding heart. He couldn’t breathe. His vision dimmed. With a visible effort he got himself under control and went on inside the nightclub. He saw the woman with her three bodyguards walking rapidly through the well-lighted restaurant. Dillon corralled the maître d’ and pressed some bills in his hand. “Who’s that woman who just walked in?”

The maître d’ smiled knowingly and nodded his head in approval. “You have a good eye, sir. The lady is extraordinarily beautiful, is she not?”

“Who is she?”

“Miss Sathyra Folasade, sir.”

Dillon pressed more bills in his hand. “Is she from Tosegio?”

“I have no way of knowing the young lady’s country of origin, sir. Do you know her?”

“I don’t know,” Dillon said slowly. Folasade was a Tosegian name but it wasn’t this woman’s family name. Obviously she was traveling under an alias. But why? Dillon turned back to the smiling maître d’ “How is it that you know her name?”

“She came in with the gentleman who is our headline performer in our Starpool Theater.” The maître d’ turned away to indicate a holographic display window showing the headline performer. The maître d’ turned back around to face Dillon and took a step back away from him in sudden surprise. And with good reason. Dillon’s eyes were no longer their usual copper color, sparkling like freshly minted American pennies. They had darkened into a moody, molten gold that radiated pure rage. Dillon pointed a shaking finger at the image. “Him. You mean to say that…that…that…HE is your headline performer?”

“Yes, sir.” The maître d’s voice came out in a squeak.

“And she’s with HIM?” Dillon’s voice held nothing but implied murder.

“Of course I’m not one to gossip, sir…but to my eye they seem most enamored of each other.”

“We’ll see about that. Is he playing here now?”

“His first show of the evening is about to start, sir.”

Dillon stalked away. Took five steps. Stopped. He turned his head, fixing his hot molten eyes on the maître d’. “You’re going to get the notion that you should call Miss Folasade and tell her there’s a man here looking for her. My strong advice is that you don’t.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, sir.”

Dillon again turned away and made his way through the restaurant and down a long hallway to a lounge area. From there, one doorway led to the dance floor where a DJ spun the latest electronic dance music. The other door led to The Starpool Theater. Dillon went on in. He was surprised at how large the theater was. Easily able to accommodate a thousand patrons, it boasted vaulted ceilings and plush red leather booths. An usher attempted to lead Dillon to a table near the stage but Dillon spied Sathyra sitting right up front. He wanted to remain unseen and so with the casual tip pressed into the usher’s hand, Dillon obtained a seat in the back.

“What would you like to drink, sir?”

“Bring me a Vesper. And make it a double. And bring me one every fifteen minutes.” Dillon passed over another bill.

vanuatu-vesper

The usher’s smile increased as he examined the bill’s denomination. “Very good, sir.”

The stage’s velvet curtains were completely closed but the concert band were already on stage as they could clearly be heard tuning up their instruments. A miniskirted hostess brought Dillon’s drink. He downed it in one gulp and handed it back to the girl. “Another.” His eyes never left Sathyra.

Ever since she had flown away with Timothy “Awesome” Times, leaving Dillon on the island of Tosegio to be chased by her bodyguards, Dillon had made an effort from time to time to find her. But Sathyra proved to be highly elusive. He’d get a report of her being in Singapore or Sydney or wherever but by the time he got there, she was gone. And usually there was a rich man left behind both broken hearted and considerably less richer. Sathyra was obviously enjoying being out in the world and not the pampered princess she had been. On Tosegio, Sathyra had virtually been a prisoner, unable to even take a walk in the palace gardens without an extensive entourage.

Dillon had wanted to take her away from all that and he had been thisclose to proposing marriage to Sathyra. But then everything had sort of went to hell and ended up with her flying away with Awesome Times while Dillon spent the rest of the afternoon trying his best not to get killed.

The lights dimmed and applause rippled around the theater. The curtain opened. The stage was absolutely black. A commanding male voice emanated from the speakers: “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us tonight here at the world famous Starpool Theater here in The Sandstone, the premier club for entertainment, dining and dancing in Mahaiso. For your safety we ask you to please take note of the clearly marked exits at the front and at the rear of the theater. If there is an emergency, please follow the directions of our staff. They have been trained to know exactly what to do in multiple emergency situations and your safety will be their primary concern. At this time we also ask that you silence your cell phones. We also would like to remind you that audio and visual recording of this performance is prohibited by law. Thank you for your kind co-operation.”

The unseen announcer paused for a few heartbeats. And then;

“And now, The Starpool Theater is proud to present our feature performer.”

And here a spotlight came on to illuminate a Music Man StingRay bass guitar on a stand over on the left side of the stage.

“With his brothers he has become renowned as one of the world’s premier rock guitarists.”

Another spotlight came on to illuminate another bass guitar. This one a Fender Precision Bass likewise on a stand on the right side of the stage.

“Nominated for multiple Grammy, Billboard and American Music awards for his first solo album, ‘The True Blue Chariot’…ladies and gentlemen it is our honor to introduce to you, the one…the only…the spectacular lead guitarist of one of the music industry’s truly great rock band legends, The Gantlet Brothers…ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together and make some noise for SLY GANTLET!”

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