Title of Story: Sacrifices to a Worthy Cause
Author: Joel T. Kant
Date Written: August 2000, heavily modified March 2, 2019
Chapter Title: Unexpected News
Chapter Number: Nine
Copyright: March 2019
Fritz felt like he was choking on poison gas. He then realized he was in a bed with the pillow pulled over his head, making it hard to breathe. He moved the pillow, and breathed freely. Awake now, he got up. Enough light filtered in through the drapes for him to realize this was a motel room. It was the room Dr. Ruby had rented, but he had not been there all night. He and John were in it now. John lay sound asleep in the other bed. Calmed down, Fritz climbed back into his own bed.
Fritz's nightmare resumed, but had altered. This time, he could inexplicably breathe, but he ran through Port City while the other citizens choked to death. He tried helping, but nothing would stop the gas to which he was somehow magically immune. Sea breezes from the bay swept away the gas, but it was too late. The gas had spared the inert buildings, which stood as tall and beautiful as ever.
Fritz woke again. He thought about how this latest nightmare differed from his recurring nightmares of the previous months. In those, Washington D.C. was left a shattered, radioactive ruin. Fritz felt he needed no psychiatrist to explain these dreams. The nuclear holocaust nightmares had started after he and John had barely saved a city from a nuclear bomb exploding. He currently knew Port City faced a poison gas threat. While there was no mystery why he was having the nightmares, that did not make them any less unpleasant. He secretly admired how John had been seeing an Entangle-approved psychiatrist after the D.C. case.
The phone in the motel room rang. The phone was next to John's bed rather than his. Fritz waited. On the second ring, John blearily opened his eyes.
Fritz asked, "Are you going to get that?"
John twisted in his bed toward the phone, then abruptly stopped. He groaned. The phone rang again. Fritz threw back his covers and got up. He crossed the room and grabbed the receiver.
A voice said, "This is your wake-up call."
Fritz looked at the time and said, "Quarter to noon, just as we requested."
John said, "I barely feel like I slept."
Fritz headed to the bathroom. As he shaved, he said, "Up and at 'em, John. It's nearly noon. I know you like to sleep late, but we've got things to do."
John shut his eyes, "We're supposedly dead, so we shouldn't have to do anything."
Fritz called from the bathroom, "Would you turn on the television and the laptop? Dr. Ruby said that we were supposed to monitor the news to see how our deaths are reported."
John exclaimed, "Ouch!"
Fritz popped out his head out from the bathroom, his face mostly shaved already, "What's wrong?"
"My back hurts like the devil. I'm going to just lie here for a while."
"If you're bleeding, I'm not sure how we get you to a doctor without revealing we're alive."
John pushed back the covers and said, "I don't think I'm bleeding, just very sore."
Fritz went back to his shaving and asked, "Didn't you consider that riding a motorcycle after getting a couple stitches in your back wasn't a smart thing to do?"
John admitted, "I was so engrossed in searching for Iris that I never gave it a thought. Probably the local anesthetic the doctor put in before doing the stitches was still working back then."
Fritz had to chuckle at that. Acting without thinking things through was so typical for his brother.
John indicated the electronic stethoscope and asked, "Can you come check on what is going on in Jason's room?"
"It's recording all the time."
John replied, "I know, but I want to know now what's happening."
"Do it yourself."
"Please," John begged.
Fritz wiped his face with a towel, then came over and got the earphones of the electronic stethoscope, then said, "You seem to really be hurting today."
"Tell me something I don't know."
Fritz said, "They're moving around. They've turned the TV on to channel seven."
Rolling over in the bed and using the remote bolted to a table between both beds, John turned on their television and switched it to channel seven. The news was just starting.
Fritz got down from the earphones.
On the TV, the primary local story was on the death of Fritz and John Falkowsky. The story said that initial reports from the police indicated that carbon monoxide had killed them. A woman announcer commented it'd been chilly last night, so the furnaces had gone on in most houses.
"She has that right," John said. "Last night was not the time to be on a motorcycle in a flimsy cloth coat."
The announcer said that at the Falkowsky household, according to the police, the furnace had been turned on automatically by the thermostat. The furnace hadn't been serviced for a long time and had been sitting off since the weather had been so warm for the rest of May. The newscaster went on that while the Falkowsky house had a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, the batteries were dead. Both Falkowsky boys had died breathing the poisonous, odorless gas.
Still on the bed, John said, "That's the dumbest way of dying I can imagine. This is more like a public service announcement for keeping your carbon monoxide and smoke detector in good working order than a news story."
"Doing that is a good idea, John. Our supposed deaths is serving a good purpose," Fritz said philosophically.
John said, "Couldn't Dr. Ruby just have put out the story the gas put us in the hospital, struggling for life? That'd be less trouble when this is over."
Fritz thought a bit, then said, "The Obliterators are getting so bold that they might try to attack in the hospital to insure our death if that was the story. That would put innocent hospital personnel and patients in peril."
John remarked, "They're in peril anyway from the chemical weapon."
The reporter then announced the boys' bodies had been found by Officer McCormick, who'd stopped by to pick them up for questioning on how their SUV had exploded the previous day. The reported brought up the possibility the boys had deliberately killed themselves by tampering with the furnace.
John said, "I was wrong. That is an even dumber way of dying! I'll bet she hints we blew up our own SUV next."
The reporter then hinted the Falkowskys' blew up their own SUV to get attention. Presumably since it had not got the attention they craved, they had resorted to suicide by carbon monoxide by tampering with their furnace. However, the reporter added that situation was still under investigation and might still be ruled an accident. Her manner and tone indicated strong doubt it was an accident, though, even though she kept repeating the word "alleged."
The news report switched to a male reporter out in the field. He held out a microphone to a middle-aged, tired-looking woman. The woman was at the door of her house. Her hair was in curlers.
Fritz said, "I've seen her."
John agreed, "She lives two houses down. She used to talk with Mom about gardening. That was before Mom and Dad moved away."
The woman described being woken up by a car that was not the Falkowsky's SUV park the Falkowsky driveway. However, she saw the news about the SUV being blown up, so she thought maybe this was their new car. She saw the Falkowskys got out. She gave an accurate account of the show through the picture window that John and Fritz had put on for Joyce. The woman told the reporter she'd told this to the police already.
The neighbor concluded, "The boys just fell down at the same time. No sounds. No signs of struggle. It was some sort of poison gas, I'm sure. It wasn't any broken furnace! A yellow car parked on the road left about fifteen minutes later. It's illegal to park there at that time, so this person was the murderer. As Mrs. Falkowsky once told me before she moved away with her husband leaving the house to their boys, it's a small step from illegal parking to murder!"
John said, "Use the stethoscope again. I want to know how they are reacting to this."
As Fritz put it back on, the reporter was continuing to talk to their neighbor. To Fritz and John's complete astonishment as they'd never had a witness do this before, the neighbor woman recited every single digit of the license number of the yellow car. Although the writing was now very faint due to washing his hands, John looked down at his hand and still managed to follow along as the woman said it.
"She got the whole thing right," John remarked in astonishment.
Fritz reported, "They're shouting. Jason wants to sink the car in the bay. He's concerned about his fingerprints being on the car and thinks sinking it will get rid of them. Joyce wants to park it in an obscure place and torch it, arguing that burning will eliminate fingerprints even better. Karen...I mean Iris...joined in on Joyce's side. She thinks they're less likely to get caught torching a car than sinking it. Jason is now saying they aren't coming back to this motel either!"
"Are they leaving now?"
John said, "We had to leave the rental car behind to make us really seem dead, as it was under our real names. Other than my motorcycle, we don't have transportation until Dr. Ruby shows up. A cab won't be here in time."
Fritz said, "I'll ride behind you on the motorcycle."
John moved and winced, "I can't ride today. I'm not kidding!"
"I didn't realize you were that bad. I've got to get you to a doctor."
John insisted, "We're trying to save the city, and that's more important! Dr. Ruby knows I'm in this room and will stop by later. Take the bike and go!"
Fritz rapidly got in his clothes. He snatched the motorcycle key, grabbed the helmet, and headed toward the door.
"Take care of yourself," Fritz urged.
Fritz locked the door on his way out.
With Fritz gone, John turned his attention back to the television news. He expected some of their friends to be interviewed next. Would it be Conrad Morrow? Maybe Fritz's girlfriend, Christine? His heart sunk as he realized it might be his girlfriend, Vicky! He looked at his smartphone on the nightstand. He longed to send a text or even phone her to let her know he was still alive, but he knew better than that. John thought of how the sacrifice it had been for Iris to have let people think she was dead for three years.
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