Mr. Houston

At the age of 6, Courtney Jackson was stripped from his family and put into a secret government agenda to be trained to take on special missions as a "ghost"--as if he doesn't really exist in the system. When he becomes a teen, he rebels and leaves setting a new trend for the other kids who also find their own ways to leave after hi and use the skills they have learned throughout the years to help people in their everyday life. Everything is as "normal" as it can be when issues start arising bringing Courtney back to his past.

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5. STRAWBERRY

 

He got to the end of the street and slowed his walk. His right hand slowly reached for his holster.

“Oh, calm down will ya?” A feminine voice said.

Courtney did a one-eighty but didn’t move other than that.

The woman, though, started moving closer. Courtney got a bit defensive.

“Gosh, you obviously didn’t miss me.” She said.

She stepped a foot closer allowing the streetlight to catch her face.

Courtney stared at her. He recognized her face. But from where?  He recognized the blue eyes, nice figure and pale skin.

He recognized the face but not the hair then realized why.

Her red hair was once blond.

“Vanna?” He said finally fully recognizing. “Savannah Gables.”

He frowned.

“Right?” He asked.

“Actually, I prefer code name Strawberry.” She said flipping her dyed hair with her left hand.

Vanna Gables?” Echo said shocked.

“Gosh, I don’t even remember the last time I saw you.” She said taking a step closer.

“Same.” Courtney lied.

 

“Houston! Come back here!”

Courtney panted running down the hall and into a room.

“Houston! You’re not smarter than me. I trained you!”

Courtney dashed back out the hall and through the kitchen to another room before hopping out the window and hopping in through another window.

He looked to his side and shushed the two teens in the room who were a little closer than the women in the House allowed. Logan Rogers and Penny Tracy. There had been rumors about them going out. Now it was basically proven. Nonetheless, Courtney was still on the run.

“Houston! Why’re you hiding? You scared?” The voice came from a different hall but was close.

Courtney rushed out of the room but ducked into another room upon the sound of footsteps. He thought the room was empty until someone grabbed him and put a hand over his mouth. He grabbed the wrist and twisted it until their positions were switched and Courtney was the one holding the person.

It was Jordan James. Courtney let go.

“I’ll help you.” He said. “I’ll set a diversion. Then you run like hell.”

Jordan sneaked a peak out the door before scurrying to another room.

Courtney waited as his stomach tensed. Was Francis going to betray him? No. They were friends. He just had to wait until he knew he could run like hell.

There was the sound of glass shattering followed by a yell.

“He just went out this window! Hurry!” Jordan yelled. “Hurry! He’s headed towards the front!”

Courtney waited for the rushing footsteps to fade. Just before he could open the door, it opened. In front of him was the quiet and shy blond. For a second, the scene stopped and the two stared at each other. They had never spoken to each other in the eleven years they had been in the House.

He looked into her sky-blue eyes; one was peeking through a thin strand of hair. He tried but couldn’t think of the name to match her face.

“Are you leaving?” She asked quietly.

Courtney held a finger up to his lips and nodded before looking past her down the hall. His attention went back to the girl.

“Well…be safe.” She said. “And, always remember the rest of us in The House.”

“I will.” He replied quietly through tired pants of breath. “And you do the same because I want you and the others to get out of here as soon as possible also.”

He checked his watch before passing her on his tiptoes. He looked back at her once before running towards the back door and hopped past the gates.

 

They stared at each other.

“You been following me?”

No verbal answer but he took her white smile as a yes.

He stared at her. She wore all black, tight fitting clothing with a utility belt, gloves and boots proving that she was on a mission.

“So, are we gotta talk over a dinner that you’re treating me to or do I have to offer?” She asked taking off the gloves and sticking them in a back pocket.

“You got a change of clothes on you?” Courtney asked her.

“Of course I do.” She said. “Even when you’re going by yourself, don’t go alone.”

Courtney had heard the quote during his training from the Home. He had also been taught it. It meant that no matter what, always have extra clothes with you to change into for any reason.

They both changed. Courtney came out with a dark blue shirt and dress pants and shoes to match. Savannah had on a skinny black dress that went down above her knees and accompanied it with six-inch heels. The dress had the design of black flowers on it that no one would be able to see unless they were angled correctly. There was a velvet black ribbon that went around her waist and tied into an elegant bow on the side. In addition to that, Savannah had also layered her face with makeup in lightning speed.

“You ready?” Courtney asked Savannah.

“Yeah.” She said.

They both got into Savannah’s car and headed to a fancy restaurant. They passed the valet insisting to park the car themselves.

They parked and went to the restaurant. The black walls looked good considering the fancy chairs and table cloths were a perfect red. A waitress approached them at the door.

“What a lovely couple!” She said at the sight of them. “Table for two, this way.”

Courtney didn’t get a chance to disclaim Savannah as his date but just decided to leave it. The waitress took them to the side of the restaurant and gave them a table for two right against the wall.

“I’m Anna and I’m gonna be your waitress tonight.” The waitress said a bit too excited. “What can I get you two to drink?”

“Water thank you.” Courtney said and flashed a fake yet convincing smile.

“Same. No ice though.” Savannah said.

The lady wrote furiously in her pad then swung on a heel to the back. She arrived in seconds with the water. One with ice; one without.

“You can just call me when you’re ready to order.” She said before walking away.

Savannah watched her walk away. When she was far away enough, she turned to Courtney.

“So this is what you do now, huh?” She asked him.

“What are you talking about?” He asked without looking up.

“Oh, please. I’ve been watching you. I’m your stalker.”

Courtney was uncomfortable at the thought of that but didn’t let his body language show.

“I stalk you for a different reason. It’s not like I’m crushing on you or something.” She said not knowing how awkward it was making things.

“OK…so what about you? What do you do?” Courtney asked.

“What do you think? I’m an assassin. Just like you, I was trained. But I finished my training before rebelling and choosing who I wanted to work for.”

Courtney clenched his jaw and forced a smile.

“Was that the rumor going around when I left? That I didn’t finish my training? Well, newsflash: I finished but I left right before they were to send me off for my first assignment. So I finished training but never got to work for them.”

She smiled and nodded.

“Assassin. That’s why the hair and name change, right?” He asked.

She sipped her water and put the glass down.

“Hair, yes. But for what I do to people, I needed a cute name. Red hair meant I could’ve picked Cherry or something like that.” She leaned in a bit. “But doesn’t matter what’s in the fruit bowl, as long as it’s sweet. Get what I’m saying, hon?”

“So you seduce men and kill them.”

“I gain their trust then shatter it with a bullet. I love it.”

Courtney just nodded.

“And I don’t sleep with the guys, for the record.” She said. “I never take it that far. I may lead some to think that they’ll get that chance, but of course not.”

Courtney picked up the menu and stared at it without actually seeing what was on it.

“Listen, that guy in the bathroom at that house, was all me. Yeah. Who do you think could do that? Someone from the outside? He definitely would’ve got you if not for me.”

“Well, thanks.”

“You owe me. Big time.” She said crossing her arms. “And I already know what I want.”

“Alright, what?”

“You.” She said then paused. “Just kidding. I’m messing with you.”

Courtney just stared at her face.

“Lighten up, Court.” She said and softly punched his arm. “By the way, who’s that girl I saw you with some time ago?”

Courtney remembered Rachel.

He looked up from the menu.

“A client.” He replied before switching the topic. “So why are you stalking me?”

Savannah wasn’t expecting that question. She stared into his eyes before looking down. She sighed knowing that she couldn’t lie to him then looked up and forced a composing smile in return.

“I’ll tell you when you’re ready.” She said refusing to look at him while she said it.

She scooted her chair back and stood up. Courtney followed her lead. He took a twenty-dollar bill from his pocket and folded it under the cup before heading with Savannah out.

Echo had parked a car outside the restaurant for Courtney to get home with.

“You know?” Courtney said to Savannah walking her to her car. “It’s nice seeing you again.”

She smiled.

“You too, Court.” She replied.

She got into her car.

“Hey. Stay in touch.” Courtney said to he and helped her close the door as the window rolled down.

“Of course. Duh, I stalk you.” She said with a wink.

She reversed and drove joining the main road.

Courtney jogged back to his car and changed into some casual clothes. He went to check on Rachel who was awaken by him walking through the door.

“Sorry to wake you.” He said.

She had on one Courtney’s white T-shirts on over a pair of shorts that were barely visible under edge of the shirt. Her hair was in a messy bun. She stretched and rubbed her eyes.

Courtney stared at her. For the first time since he had met her, he realized how attractive she was.

He removed his shoes then went and sat on the couch. Rachel joined him and sat to his right. Her legs tucked under her as she began dozing off.

“Thanks for staying with me.” She said after a few minutes before yawning. “I feel safe when…”

She put her head on his shoulder and dozed off.

Courtney waited half an hour without moving to make sure she was sleeping deep enough then carried her to the bed and headed out.

He headed to Demi’s restaurant.

It was a small building of red and white and purple with the neon sign Demi’s illuminating the street.

He parked and began approaching the building. A family of four had just exited the diner and headed for their car talking and laughing. Another group of people stood in front of the “No Smoking” sign with their lit cigarettes puffing smoke into the air.

Opening the door, Courtney walked towards Demi when he saw her. She turned and was shocked to see him.

“Courtney!” She said a bit too loud.

“Didn’t mean to scare you.” He apologized.

“No, it’s alright. What are you doing here?”

“Just decided to stop by and see how you’re doing. I also wanted to show you the templates I created.”

He had created the templates. He had hundreds of templates already created so whenever people asked him to make one, he would ask them for time even though already had them ready. Then he could use the extra time that he was “making the templates” to actually do his real work.

“Oh, I’m coming.” She said. “Sit in one of the booths.”

He did.

Demi ordered some workers around before taking off her Demi’s apron and joining Courtney in the booth.

The two of them spent about forty-five minutes picking a template out of the three Courtney showed her and filling it.

Demi yawned as the two of them walked to the parking lot.

“Do you want me to drive you home?” Courtney offered. “You can leave your car here and I’ll drop you off in the morning.”

“Are you sure?” She asked.

“Yeah, sure.”

He walked up to his SRT8. The Dodge was white and spotless. He pretended not to see the surprised look on Demi’s face when they got to it.

“Where’s your daughter?” Courtney asked when they started driving.

“I take her to work with me in the morning and her friend’s mom comes to pick her up for school and drops her here sometimes. She’s sleeping over at their house tonight though.” She explained.

Courtney nodded as he reversed out of the parking spot.

Silence.

“You don’t want a wife or kids?” She asked. “Like, I don’t know how that’s even…”

Courtney looked at her and met her eyes. He forced a smile and turned his eyes back to the road without a word about the subject.

“Amanda. She’s how old?” He asked instead.

“Five.” She replied.

“She’s a good child.”

“The best. I would do anything for her.”

Courtney thought of Kori.

“How’d you get into advertising?” Demi asked.

“I’ve always been told that I have a creative mind, and I was looking for a new job during college but was having a hard time. One of my friends found out and said that he knew this guy who worked making signs and ads and he would see if I could get a job there. I did and I worked my way up to main designer. I eventually stopped working there for some time in order to start my own company.”

Courtney saw her nodding at the story out of the corner of his eye.

“What about you? And your restaurant?” He asked her.

“My mom used to work at a diner. She neve3r made enough money and was stressed all the time. I helped her at diner she used to work at till she died then, like you, I took a break and later decided to make a restaurant and name it after her.”

Courtney glanced at her with a confused face.

“You and your mother are named Demi?” He asked.

“Yeah, but she was actually Demi; I’m Demetria, the full name.”

“Demetria.” Courtney repeated. “I like that. So, Demi’s Diner is actually your mom, not you.”

“Yeah, not many people know that.”

Pause.

“Sorry to bring it up, but you said your family is gone. What did you mean?” She asked.

Courtney thought before replying.

“I haven’t seen either of my parents since I was little. Like really little. Six. I was basically raised as an orphan until I left the place; I haven’t found anyone ever since.”

Demi was silent.

Courtney glanced at Demi.

“You know, I have a sister.” He said.

Demi sat up a little more as her eyes widened in surprise.

“Are you serious?” She asked.

“Wanna hear about her?” Courtney asked knowing she would.

“Only if you wanna talk about her.”

“First off, she looks nothing like me. Lighter, shorter; people can’t really tell we’re related. I last saw her when I was four and she was six. I’ve looked for her but she’s off the radar or something.”

“Four?” Demi said a bit loud. “Amanda’s five. If she had any siblings, I couldn’t imagine her being separated from them.”

“Do you plan on her having siblings?”  Courtney said changing the subject.

Demi noticed.

“I’m not really sure. I don’t know if I can get married again unless…” She started then stopped.

“Unless what?” Courtney asked after three long seconds of silence.

“Unless I’m sure. Like really sure. Like really, really…I don’t know. I don’t think I can.

Courtney didn’t reply.

“I was young and dumb. I just wanted to get out of the house, married, have a child.” Demi continued. “I did and look at what happened.”

Courtney noticed how she sounded a bit pissed off.

“Hey, at least you’re not alone. Look at you; look at Amanda. She’s a great child and you love her. That’s a blessing. Don’t let other things that don’t even matter bring you down.”

 

They arrived at their location and exited the car.

“Thank you so much.” Demi said for the millionth time.

“No problem.” Courtney replied. “What time do you have to get to work?”

“Seven.”

“OK that’s good.”

 

The next morning, Courtney dropped Demi at the restaurant then started on his way to Rachel when he was stopped by a red light.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Five taps.

He looked to the window on the passenger’s side and saw Savannah. He unlocked the doors. She got in as the light turned green.

“Good morning sunshine. Where are you going?” She asked.

“I was gonna go check on my client, but I can’t take you with me.” He replied.

“Good because I have some suspicion about your client. She’s a pretty shifty character. Turns out that Dallas isn’t after her at all.”

“How did you know Dallas was supposedly after her?” Courtney asked.

“I’ve been stalking you.”

“For that long? And what do you mean Dallas—”

“Yes, I was able to find out that he knows her and he’s actually after the people who are after her. That’s why he wanted to see her. Dallas, for some reason, has direct beef with these people after Rachel.”

“I’m confused.” Courtney said as his phone started ringing.

“Same.”

“Hello.” Courtney said into the phone.

“Courtney!” Rachel’s voice yelled. “They’re here! They’re at the door! Come!”

“Did you press the button above—”

The line went dead.

Courtney made an illegal turn and rushed to the house.

When he arrived, Rachel was gone. The door was on the floor. The window was shattered from the outside in. He looked at the alarm system; it had been disarmed before it could even go off.

“Can’t you track her?” Savannah asked.

“I didn’t put a tracking device on her.” Courtney said looking around for clues to figure out where she could have been taken.

“You’re supposed to always track your clients. Twenty-four-seven, Court.” She said ashamed.

“She wasn’t even supposed to leave this house without my permission.”

“Well, I didn’t see her kidnappers take permission. That’s if they are her kidnappers.”

Courtney continued checking around.

“Call Echo. Find Dallas.” Savannah said.

Courtney speed-dialed Echo.

“Echo the—”

“Listen, we need to find Dallas. Fast. Please tell me he’s still not hiding.” Courtney said.

“No he’s currently…he’s at a church.” Echo replied.

“Send the address to my phone.” Courtney said and hung up darting to his car.

He got in and Savannah did too. They rushed to the church address.

It was a medium sized building. It was stable. Nothing was fancy about it.

The doors were open so Courtney went in. Carefully.

There were three columns of tan pews. Dallas was sitting alone in one of the pews.

Courtney’s hand was ready by his hip.

“Where is she?” Courtney asked.

Dallas turned around and looked at Courtney without a word. He looked stressed out but calm. Courtney didn’t trust him.

“Dallas, what did you do to her? What did you do?” Courtney asked.

“You know, I think that’s the first time you’ve actually said my name. Well, the first time you’ve said it to me.” He said.

“I’m not here to play games with you?”

“All that hatred over the years.” He continued. “It’s tragic. Isn’t it Houston? You and I. We could’ve been a team. A good team.”

“Where’s Rachel?”

“We’ve wasted our lives Houston. We’ve sinned. And you know? I’ve learned to forgive. I’ve forgiven the cops even though they’re still on their feet. I’ve even forgiven myself now, but…do you think—”

“I’m serious.”

“I am too. But…do you think that the Lord has forgiven us? Me? Will I see heaven?” He asked and put his hands on the pews in front of him.

“Dallas, don’t make get any closer.”

“I just want to know—”

A spark and then an explosion.

Courtney flew back and onto the floor. When he looked up, fire consumed where Dallas had sat.

He stared for a second before he actually heard Savannah’s voice calling him. Her hand grabbed his and began pulling him to the car. He continued to stare at the church.

“Courtney! Get in the car!” Savannah said.

Courtney did. He didn’t even realize that he had stepped into the passenger’s seat. His gaze fell on Savannah.

“I have to get Rachel.” He said.

“No, you idiot! Can’t you see? She’s with the bad guys. She always was. If those people said that Dallas was the one to kill her then who just killed Dallas? It definitely wasn’t them. It would have to be a third party…or it would have to be that Dallas wasn’t a part of their team.”

“Rachel’s a part of this? Bianca’s kidnapping was fake too?”

“No. Rachel arranged her sister’s kidnapping. She hated her sister…step-sister.”

“Arranged? Why?”

“To kill you!” She yelled. “They’re coming after us one by one now.”

They? Us? Why?”

“They’re killing off the rebels. Anyone who didn’t follow their orders to the dot over the I is being hunted down. You, especially. Dallas, me, Echo…where’s Echo?”

Courtney shouted something that he couldn’t even understand.

They rushed to Echo’s shop. Courtney ran in immediately and found Echo on the floor with a gun in his hand and a gunshot in his side.

“Echo! Who did this?” Courtney asked. “Who? You got their ID’s?”

“They shut off all the cameras…but I had hidden ones. I’ll find them.” He said in a raspy, coughing voice. “I’ll survive but I’ll need a bit of medical help.”

“Come on, I’ll take you.” Courtney said.

“No wait. Let me get to my computer first.”

Courtney helped him to his computer.

“You gonna ID those guys?” Courtney asked.

“Nah, I’m wiping my computer history.” He said sarcastically despite the pain in his body. “Actually, I’m doing both. Got some stuff the cops would love to get their hands on in here.”

“I’m gonna kill every single person who’s a part of this.”

“Calm down. We can do that later.” Savannah said. “I’ll help. But right now, we have to save Bianca and find Rachel.”

“I can track Rachel.” Echo said. “I put a device on her.”

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