Marcus Killihan had been Jericho’s friend, confidant and fellow enemy of the Order going on twelve years. At about five-feet and ten-inches, one-hundred and eighty pounds, with a full salt and pepper beard, hazel eyes, and in his mid-50’s he wasn’t precisely a classically imposing figure. Add to that the reality of thin, scraggly, gray hair growing only from the sides and back of his head to below his shoulders and the ever-present wardrobe of old Hawaiian shirts, creme-colored cotton pants or shorts (pants on this particular morning), and Birkenstocks with socks pulled all the way up, regardless of the weather, and you had the picture-perfect image of a behind the times, aging hippie.
Appearances can be deceiving, Marcus being a prime example. The fact of the matter is he was an ageless soul, armed with information beyond the understanding and capacity of most as well as an intimate knowledge of the esoteric uses of all crystals, regardless of type or effect. He had been using his intelligence and skillset to thwart the Order at every possible opportunity for over three decades. As enemy number one of the shadowy organization only his wits, innate connection to the Universe, and the ability to pull power from crystals had allowed Marcus to carry on the fight. When away from his house he always took a small, canvas satchel filled to the brim with whichever gemstones he felt at the time would allow him, and those dear to him, the best chance of survival. Marcus had had the misfortune of running afoul of the Assassin on more than one occasion, and his haversack and its contents were some of the main reasons he still lived to talk about it.
He and Jericho initially crossed paths in Denver, Colorado while they both were separately hunting down a businessman they suspected of laundering money for the Order. Having tracked this man to his home, Marcus utilizing his mysterious abilities as nearly everyone in the organization was off the grid, and Jericho applying sheer belligerence and laser-sharp focus, the two future comrades literally ran into each other in the darkened space of their prey’s living room at about two o’clock in the morning.
Once the initial trepidation subsided, they concurred, in whispered tones, to abandon their mission, for the time being, regroup at a twenty-four-hour pancake house a couple of miles away, and figure out just who they each were, and why they were both stalking the same man.
Two pots of stout coffee, several stacks of unlimited pancakes and four hours later, Jericho and Marcus were fast friends. Marcus too had loved ones targeted by the Order, and once that came to light, the bond that would carry them through the next twelve years began to affix and would grow steadily stronger with time and circumstance. With some nudging by Jericho, Marcus quietly related the story of his wife and daughter.
A little over a year before the night he met Jericho, Marcus was a delighted man. He had just concluded a successful three-year investigation into an Order holding company, causing it to shut its doors permanently, and become a father to a glorious little girl. He and his wife named their new bundle of joy Ailsa, meaning “supernatural victory.” Marcus felt very blessed by the Universe and decided a celebration was in order.
Leaving his young bride and infant child at their home in Dunsmuir, California, Marcus made the twenty-minute trip to the largest grocery store in the area, which happened to be in Mt. Shasta, to pick up some lamb, fixings, and replenish the Scotch supply. In the excitement, he forgot to reset the wards that guarded his house whenever he was gone. These served a two-fold purpose: To construct a palpable barrier that physically denied entrance to intruders and to warn Marcus something was wrong, regardless of where he was.
Thinking everything was okay and lulled into a false sense of security by the flush of victory, Marcus took his time shopping. The last three years had been extremely taxing on both him and his family. Aside from the fact he had rarely been home when Marcus was “on the hunt,” he became very distant, focused only on achieving his goal. He wanted to make it up to his wife, Deoiridh. He wanted tonight to be singular.
He had just finished purchasing the food required for his decadent celebration and was about to continue on to the liquor store when a dark, ominous sliver of dread stabbed at his heart. The sensation was so abrupt, so intense, that Marcus dropped his bag of groceries, shattering the jar of capers in the process. As lemons, grapes, and garlic rolled across the floor, he grabbed his heart and momentarily staggered.
A fellow customer reached out to him with concern written on her face.
“Sir, are you ok,” she asked.
No! Goddammit, no!
Marcus pushed the nice lady out of the way and flew out the door, groceries entirely forgotten, and ran as fast as he could to his old Citroen, fumbling for the keys. As the sliver of dread continued to grow and take shape within him, it became harder and more difficult for Marcus to function.
How could I be so fucking stupid?! How could I leave them unprotected?!
After several manic attempts, Marcus got the car started and peeled out of the parking lot. While it had taken him thirty minutes to get to the store, the panic-stricken return trip required less than half the time.
Marcus swung into the driveway of his modest two-bedroom, two-bath home, slammed the Citroen into park, threw open the car door and sped to the door.
“DEOIRIDH,” Marcus screamed as he flung it open and switched on the living room light. “Ailsa! Deoiridh!!! Sweetie, are you here?”
As he went through the house, room by room, his calls became more and more manic, and his heart threatened to burst. Tears rolled down his cheeks unbidden, his eyes nearly swollen shut with grief and his throat so raw his cries became croaks.
Marcus’s wife and child were gone as if they had never existed. Nothing had been disturbed. There had been no forced entry of any kind. No clothes had been packed, nor lights left on. The house was eerily quiet aside from Marcus’s ebbing sobs. On any other night, it would have seemed peaceful. On this night, the silence ripped through him like the eater of worlds.
Marcus did everything in his power to find his family. He enlisted the aid of the authorities, first local then federal, to no avail. He pushed his knowledge of the esoteric to its limit and beyond. Typically, through the combination of crystals of finding and Marcus’s natural, intimate connection with the Universe, nothing could hide, or be hidden, from him. But still, to no avail.
Thirteen years after the disappearance of his family Marcus was every bit as much in the dark as to the specifics of what happened as he was that night. Except for one thing. Marcus knew one thing with absolute surety. He knew the Order had taken his family and destroyed his life. He knew that.
Jericho sat in the café in the wee hours of the morning listening to this man he had just met imparting a tale of such grief and loss to him in subdued tones that it made his soul ache. He realized he finally had a friend, a steadfast ally, who truly comprehended what they were up against and how important it was they persevere.