June 16, 3:30 pm
As Mattie was racing away from the university, with her two prisoners locked into the back of the squad car, Sutton Deary and his shadowy wingmen were descending in the elevator to the sub-basement of Building C. It was a large freight elevator, and it moved very slowly. And as the car rumbled its way down, Sutton reveled in the strength of the two dark angels at his shoulders.
When he first discovered the pair, they seemed ancient, and very troubled; like spirits of pure chaos. Their madness and rage were nearly a match for his own, but each was unique. The tall one with the long hair had seemed especially familiar, like they had once been old friends, or that perhaps they had been traveling companions in a former life. But even if that were not true, he sensed in the ghost with the shotgun a kindred spirit, as if they looked upon the world with the same pair of eyes.
The other Dark Ghost was less familiar to Sutton, and far more mysterious. There was an air of chaos and danger around the old man that was disconcerting, even to God. But he couldn’t doubt the power and rage lurking in the man with the silver knife. Where the long-haired ghost was cold and cruel, the old cowboy just radiated a hunger, and a desire to see the whole world burn.
Sutton knew that both ghosts had committed great atrocities in their respective times, and that the shame of it had burned away any humanity either of them had left. What remained were barely embodied presences of pure violence and hate.
They were beautiful, and he loved them both from the day he found them.
And Sutton’s presence had enthralled them as well. When he needed cunning and merciless evil, he called on Mattie. But when he needed pure chaos and destruction, he called on his Dark Ghosts.
Slowly, the doors opened on the sub-basement, and the first of three security and containment checkpoints that he’d have to navigate on the long, winding corridor that led down to the Wheelbarrow labs.
From here, he smiled, it should all be absurdly easy.
And it was.
Two security guards staffed each checkpoint. And even though all the guards were armed, Sutton and his Dark Ghosts used the same play as they had used on the pair above ground. Sutton distracted the first guard, while one of the Dark Ghosts entered the other, and quickly dispatched his partner. He then cut his own throat with Sutton’s razor sharp pocket knife.
Sutton wanted to move quickly, but it was even more important that they moved silently. So they were careful never to use the guns, or give the guards any chance to cry out or hit their panic alarms. Their method was simple, it was easy, and it was effective. And step-by-step they worked themselves deeper into the underground complex, leaving dead bodies and pooling blood in their wake.
And it was all so much fun! Indeed, as they progressed downward, Sutton felt even more alive and excited. The Cleansing was getting nearer with each step, and it made the tremors and shooting pains in his chest and shoulders seem almost like ecstasy.
If I had realized that this kind of close-up murder could be such a delight, he mused, I would have indulged myself in it all along!
After the last containment level, Sutton and his companions passed through the decontamination showers and locker rooms, before emerging into the huge, vaulted cavern that made up The Wheelbarrow itself. Taking up the bulk of the space in the cavern was a glass cube that reached almost to the high ceiling. The cube itself was divided into two chambers. The first was the outer lab, where the scientists spent most of their time working on samples. But the back half of the cube was the storage warehouse, with row upon rows of black, briefcase-sized boxes with carrying handles, each containing a deadly nerve agent or other ridiculously lethal poison.
He knew that the two sections of the glass cube were walled off from each other with a high security containment airlock, to which only the scientists themselves would have access, and only with a biometric code.
There would be two scientists in the lab. But he would need only one.
At the door to the glass cube was the last guard that he had to get past. The man recognized his superior officer at once, but still looked guarded and suspicious as he snapped to attention. The two soldiers traded salutes before the young man spoke.
“I’m sorry, sir. But I’m not allowed to let even you pass without an authorization from the General.”
“Of course,” Sutton said with his most disarming smile. “We appreciate you following protocol, son. I have the authorization right here.” He fumbled with his briefcase in what was becoming a very practiced gesture.
And as he did, his beloved angels went to work.
Sutton himself cut the frozen man’s throat this time, being careful not to get any blood on the cuffs of his starched uniform. In just seconds, the guard was dying on the ground, quickly bleeding out onto the rough stone floor, and Sutton was wiping the blade clean on the young man’s chest.
Luckily, the guard was a fairly small man. Sutton hoisted him into his arms and held the man’s dead eye in front of the biometric reader. The door slid open and granted him, and his friends, access to The Wheelbarrow.
As he expected, there were two scientists there, and happily, both were still hunched over their work, completely oblivious to the dead guard that now lay crumpled on the floor outside of the lab. As they looked up, they seemed surprised to see their visitor, but both of their faces remained calm and impassive. One of the two actually smiled, as if he had no reason at all to fear for his life. He was a big galoot of a man, with bad acne and slumped shoulders. But he looked pleasant enough, and was actually rising to his feet to offer Sutton his hand, when the long-haired angel slammed into him and drove the man to his knees.
The smaller scientist suddenly realized the danger they were in. That, or perhaps he had noticed the dead guard just outside the glass cube. He was lurching toward a big red button on the wall when the old cowboy intercepted him. He froze with his hand just inches away from the button, and then slowly let it fall.
Both of the scientists now turned and looked at Sutton as if they were waiting for their instructions.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” Sutton said, pleasantly, setting his briefcase on a lab table. He knew he would no longer need it. “I hope you’re all having a pleasant afternoon, here on this, the last day of the world.”
He didn’t wait for the men to reply, because of course he knew they couldn’t. His dark angels would keep their consciousnesses alert enough in their bodies to listen and understand, but not enough to respond. So they just stared at him, their eyes glassy and cold.
Across the room was the door into the storage area at the rear of the lab. It was a heavy steel door, surrounded by what looked like inch thick glass or plexiglass, which Sutton knew would be immune to any gunfire or other assault he could hope to unleash upon it. He looked closely at the locking mechanism. It had the same type of biometric reader as the external door, but in addition, there was a numeric keypad, with a small green display above it, reading “READY.” It looked as if the display could accept as many as a dozen digits.
“So… this looks to me as if I’m going to need not only one of your eyes,” Sutton said, glancing from one scientist to another. “But also, an access code. I can get your eyes easily enough. But I suppose I’ll have to persuade one of you to give me the code as well.”
Without needing to be instructed, the larger and stronger of the two scientists grasped the other by the wrist. Once he had him secure, the ghost with the shotgun over his shoulder stepped from the smaller man and released him.
The man immediately screamed in agony. It was clear that the ghost who was holding him was not aware how strong of a grip this big scientist was capable of exerting.
“Ease back a bit, please, my friend.” Sutton said, calmly seating himself next to the marble counter. There were a line of Bunsen burners built into the top, and he ignored the gibbering and pleading of the scientist as he lit one of them.
Ten minutes later, the right hand of the smaller scientist had been cooked to something that resembled an overdone pork chop. His larger colleague had held his hand over the Bunsen burner for so long that there was actually little left of it. And all during the horrific screaming and pleading, Sutton had not bothered to ask the man a single question. He had just sat in one of the rather uncomfortable lab chairs and watched the man wail and batter at his captor’s face and chest with his free hand. The bigger man’s face was a bloody mess from the beating he had taken, but he had barely even blinked.
And now, there was no fight left in the smaller scientist. He hung from his wrist as if he was manacled to a wall, and all his screams had long ago turned into moans.
Finally, Sutton took his feet down from the desk.
“That’s enough, my friend,” he said. And the Dark Ghost, almost reluctantly, moved the man’s useless hand away from the flame.
Crouching down next to the broken man, Sutton lifted his chin up with his fingertips. “Now, before we start on the other hand. I just have one request. Please tell me the code for the vault door.”
“I…. don’t…” the man groaned, and his head fell to his chest as if he was about to pass out.
“No, no, no!” Sutton said, slapping the man’s face roughly. “You’re not to leave us yet. Not until we finish our… transaction.”
“I don’t know… the code.” the man said. Drool was dripping down his chin. Sutton took a handkerchief out of his pocket and gently wiped the man’s face.
“Oh, I think you do. Let’s start on the other hand and see.”
Quickly the ghost holding his wrist dropped the burnt and mangled hand, and grasped the man’s other wrist.
“No! Please!” the man cried. And Sutton felt the supreme joy of victory wash over him.
Quickly, the man began to rattle off a string of numbers. There were, surprisingly, only seven digits to the code. Sutton quickly memorized it and then walked to the secure door. The ghost holding the scientist followed him, dragging the gibbering man by his good wrist across the floor.
“Would you like to place your eye on the reader, please? Or would you rather I dig it out of your head first?”
Slowly, the scientist crawled to his feet and leaned his head heavily against the biometric reader. It took a couple tries before the tears in his eyes and his rapid blinking didn’t interfere with the reading, but on the third attempt the machine let out a sharp beep, and the red light above the door turned yellow. A timer on the display began counting down ten seconds.
Sutton punched in the seven-digit code he had memorized, and the door slid open with a hiss. He could feel the negative pressure of the room drawing the air of the lab into the storage area and over his shoulders. Sutton walked into the storage area, and surveyed the endless rows of death and destruction that lay arrayed before him, like a glorious buffet of which he could eat his fill.
But he was not a greedy God. He knew he only needed one case. It was the one that the scientists here had been working on for the past year. The one that had required all the secrecy, and all the subterfuge that surrounded The Wheelbarrow. What he was looking for was one particular case, which would bear the designation NVCK-9.
He walked into the rows of black suitcases and began scanning their labels.
In the second row, he found it. It was a black case, like all the others. But this one had the code he was looking for, and this one was also sealed with two strips of adhesive tape that said “BIO-CONTAINMENT LEVEL 5 – AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.”
In a small plastic window, attached to the front of the case, was an index card. On it, he read:
Nerve Agent NVCK-9
60 count, 70 cc canisters
Dispersement grenades 1382-B
Excellent, he thought. He wasn’t sure that the nerve agent would already be packed for disbursement. It appeared the research in the Wheelbarrow had gone further than he had discovered.
He took the black case, but on the way out, on a whim, he grabbed a second case as well. It was labeled ANTX-170. This one, he knew. It would be weapons-grade anthrax.
Better too much than too little, he thought.
On the way out he handed the case with the NVCK-9 to the first scientist—the big man with the bad acne, the hunched shoulders, and now the battered face.
He was pleased to see that the second Dark Ghost had made his way back into the scientist with the burned and mangled hand. He suspected that even now, his angel was feeding upon the man’s agony like a fine wine. Fortunately, he still had one good hand to carry the second case.
The two Dark Ghosts, now in their white coats and carrying their two suitcases, fell into step behind Sutton as they all marched proudly from The Wheelbarrow.
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.
If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.
Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.