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  • Kirk Barbera

Once More Round the Infinite (Chapter 1)



Below is the first chapter of a book I wrote long ago, and have finally decided to publish. You can only purchase on Amazon Kindle at the moment. If you enjoy it please review it.


If you review books on a blog or podcast please email me at troubadourmag@gmail.com and I will send you a free version.






The gleam in Benton Zeek’s eye terrified the thief seated beside him.


The two men were parked outside Charlotte’s Jewelry Store. Benton’s black-gloved hand gripped the steering wheel like the grip of a whip. One drop of sweat cut a path down his forehead and over his sharp cheekbone. A man, dressed in black, burst through the door of the store clutching two bags of jewelry. He ran to the Camaro, while screaming something at Benton, who did not respond.


Benton’s gaze held transfixed on an object at the end of the dark alley. The two thieves prodded Benton. He did not move. Their terror rising as the sound of burglar alarms reverberated through the alleyway—in the distance sirens were speeding toward them.


The two men turned to see what had captured the driver’s attention. There was a flame of challenge flickering in his eye. Then they saw it. Standing at the end of the tunnel of darkness. Daring them.


The Woman in White.


Benton’s hand moved to the ignition. He flicked it on like a Roman charioteer. He pushed his right foot to the floor, giving a warning blast to the intruder.


A sound emitted from Samuel, the thief beside Benton. It escaped through his broken teeth. “Can’t be her. Can’t. Not again. Run her over. Kill her!”


Benton revved the engine once more. The Woman in White took a step forward, meeting his challenge. Her face became illuminated by the lone streetlight. Her grey eyes flashed.


The occupants of the car noticed her body, but they could not look away from her hair. The thick redness belied all constraint; it flapped in the wind like a crimson battle flag.


Samuel’s jaw began to ache. His front teeth were on the verge of bursting from his mouth. Benton had flushed his heart with fear, but this woman froze it. She was Medusa; her red hair infested with snakes. Whenever she had arrived at one of their jobs, men died. A few had been captured by the police. More died. This was the stark raving terror felt by ancient man, at the appearance over a January sky of a mysterious red streak.


Only Benton Zeek was able to look on her.


Samuel felt a breeze on the back of his neck. Turning around, he saw Fred in the backseat rolling down the window. He thrust his hairy fist outside and fired at the woman. Simultaneously with the gunshot, Benton released the clutch and roared down the alleyway with such violence, everyone was pushed tight to their seats.


Fred’s gun exploded inside the car, leaving a hole in the roof near Benton’s head.


Samuel screeched, “You could’ve killed me!”


“Nah,” Fred shouted back. “Maybe this one.” Pointing to Benton.


Benton wasn’t listening. The sound of the gun and the sound of sirens were outpaced by the burst of energy from Benton’s beast. Its blast echoed blocks away, where the vibrations entered the consciousness of a young child, awakening him in terror at a monster entering his room.


The Camaro picked up speed, yet the woman did not move. She did not blink. Her hair seemed frozen in the air. Fred looked on eagerly, bracing for what he hoped would be a bloody explosion.


The car shot through the air, barely touching the ground, and in a flash, her hair moved in front of her eyes and they could no longer see the dark gray orbs. Benton did not stop. His foot met the floor of the car as though he was smooshing a bug.


Windows shattered as Benton’s beast shot gravel from its tires like bullets. As the car came closer to The Woman, metal dumpsters vibrated.


Her eyes locked with Benton’s. A gust of wind found her body and swept around her, pressing the white dress tight against her body.

It seemed that the constituent elements making up the Camaro dropped from reality; The thieves disappeared. The vehicle disappeared; Benton floated through space; his body propelling to crush hers. Their bodies were just on the verge of colliding, when, upon exiting the alley into the street he was hit by oncoming traffic.


The impact was stunning, causing the car to spin uncontrollably. In a whirlwind of colors, black with red and white and blue, it took Samuel a few seconds to realize they’d been hit by a police car.


As Benton gained control of the car, everyone in the car looked to their left, to their right, behind them, under their feet, to see where The Woman had vanished. They had the feeling that a ghost had passed through their skin and blood and bones.


Benton reacted with the control of a man who could immediately sense the damage to his vehicle. Present in his soul was a connection with any vehicle he touched. When he ceased movement, and the peace officers created a semi-circle around him, he closed his eyes.


Across the way from the Camaro, a young cop dressed in a freshly pressed blue uniform was drenched in sweat. He was the type that growing up he had been in fights, but always without real consequence. As he stared down the barrel of Benton’s vehicle, he knew this night could be his last.


For a moment, Samuel had forgotten where he was. He no longer recognized Earth and feared he was in hell and the devil was in the driver’s seat. Benton cracked the whip and the beast roared. Racing toward the improvised police barricade, he was prepared to throw his entire life into them. He slammed his brakes, shifted gears, and turned the wheel with such precision that his tires seemed to lift from the ground. As he fled, his car hailed tiny rocks from the tires, leaving more cracked windshields in his wake.


The peace officers pursued. One made it close to Benton’s rear passenger side, bathing them in red and blue light.


The passengers could not see through the light. It felt impossible for Benton to be capable of maneuvering while blind. The colored lights vanished and were replaced with a bright white light. Another police car had circled round and barreled straight down on them.


Sweat poured down Samuel’s face, as his head jerked from the peace car to Benton’s face and back again, until no longer strong enough to cope, he clenched his eyes shut and gripped his side in anticipation of pain.


The black and white vehicle bore straight toward the Camaro, apparently prepared to die for his cause. At the moment of collision, the peace car swerved, and the sound of crunching metal sounded the mourning bell. Two cop cars had smashed into one another with such force that their back ends lifted five feet in the air before returning to the earth.


Samuel almost screamed at Benton—but he was silenced by the horror of a new discovery. Benton’s eyes had been closed and his seatbelt unbuckled. More sweat streamed from Samuel’s body. He had nowhere to escape. A religious man, he signed himself, said a prayer and gripped the sides of his seat as if he were dangling out of the door of an airplane thirty thousand feet in the air.


To Samuel, it seemed as though a host of locusts flooded the streets. There were more police cars than he’d ever seen in one place. They attempted to block all exits. Benton drove farther down the road, beating the cars from intercepting him.


The decrepit city was unworthy of the amount of justice flung at the tiny Camaro. The buildings were rough-patches of mangled bricks and rotted wood. They had long ago sputtered out death coughs. Bums wearing brown blankets and rags pushed carts or dragged ropes carrying bundles of garbage. One man with unruly black hair and a clean face stopped digging through a garbage can to watch the feast of lights.


At an intersection ahead of Benton was a fresh blockade. He whirled toward it and then twisted his car in a half donut. Turning down another street, he darted between cop cars as they took up his challenge.


Samuel’s fear subsided, replaced by a sense of awe. He studied Benton’s face. All determination. His eyes whipped from side to side making instantaneous calculations. His fingers were gripped tightly around the steering wheel. With a flick of his wrists the car veered one way, dodging a peace officer like a boxer slipping a punch. His face was molded in place and did not move. His audacity bordered between recklessness and insanity. Some might say it was bravery. Not Samuel. He knew it was something else.


There were seven cars now pursuing directly behind him. Benton slowed down and prepared a left turn down another alley; his tires spewing smoke as he slammed on the brakes. Those tenacious enough to pursue followed him down the alley. Benton sped up and turned down another street, forcing the coppers into a frenzy which they were unequipped to escape. Behind him, Samuel heard that most exquisite sound which metallic machines make as they ram into one another.


There was a maniacal laugh that erupted within the car. Not from Benton or Samuel, but Fred. He had been in a state of religious fervor. His eyes were wide. His hair stood on end. His body shook like one struck by lightning.


“Yes! Faster! We don’t need guns. These pigs haven’t what it takes. Faster. Kill them all!” The creature in the backseat sputtered, saliva dribbling down his bottom lip and onto his chin.


Nothing seemed to register to Benton except the world outside his vehicle. Ahead were the leering smiles of two separate parking structures, with gaping mouths and tongues unrolling onto the street. Benton aimed for one large rectangular building. As he entered the mouth of the six-story building he weaved around the slab pillars of concrete.


Benton sped faster up the ramp, hotly pursued by blaring sirens and blasting guns. The Camaro scraped the concrete as it spiraled upward at a speed that none of the officers would dare maintain. He left them a few floors beneath his screaming tires. The high-pitched squeal bounced around the concrete walls like ping pong, yet Benton seemed to outpace even the sound from the pursuers. The structure was a coiled snake and Benton was a mouse escaping its innards.


On the top floor, Benton’s muscular arm forced the car to take a hard right. Picking up speed he nearly crashed headfirst into a five-foot wide stone pillar. The pillars whipped by their windows. Samuel watched Benton shift gears, as he turned between each column. One false shift would wrap the vehicle around the unforgiving concrete. Yet, he did not flinch. His foot was lead. Then, the other occupants saw his intended destination. It was a partitioned part of the garage, one with no railing out into the night air.


Benton positioned the Camaro opposite. The peace officers were now catching up to Benton. He again closed his eyes as he hit the accelerator and engaged the clutch. The open air loomed large before them. As the car zoomed through the parking lot, avoiding a Peacer attempting to intercept, Benton cracked the whip one more time just before they burst through the partition and out into the pitch-black night. The tires spun wildly, and two of the thieves screamed like abandoned children.


Soaring through the air, the Camaro landed one floor down on the adjacent parking garage. Though damaged, not broken, the vehicle limped down the second garage and out into the L.A. streets.


They were approaching the freeway when two cop cars caught sight of the scarred beast. The fender was dragging, creating innumerable sparks. Catching up and pulling beside the Camaro, the officers of the law and Benton’s men fired their weapons like wooden warships blasting one another’s flanks. Fred squealed and gripped his side.


His voice came gurgling out, “Drive . . . Faster.” He lifted his gun and fired wildly at his foeman, missing the vehicle entirely.


More exchanges of fire ripped through Benton’s car, leaving tears in the upholstery and a buzzing in the ear. Then, there was silence. A gasp was heard inside the car. The man in the backseat spit blood. His hand shook as he aimed out the window. His movements were lugubrious. His head bobbed and then drooped. His lips sagged but he kept his eyes open and on the Peacer across from him. He lifted his weapon once again, it took all his might for his weakened finger to pull back on the trigger—as he struggled to pull the trigger, his head exploded in a mist of gore and skull.

Benton registered this not at all.


He made a bee-line for the freeway, the police were only yards behind him. Upon entering the freeway, he defied the laws of physics once more, spun his car in the opposite direction, and entered the offramp—car headlights buzzed past him. He shredded space and swerved around one car, twitched his big shoulder muscle, and commanded his warhorse to move out of the way of yet another vehicle.


Ahead on the freeway, a man wearing a denim jacket and stained jeans leaned against his car. He had a flat tire and decided to enjoy the night air before he began changing it. The sight of the Camaro appeared to him as a fighter jet dodging enemy missiles. He felt like reaching for his M16, one that he surrendered decades earlier. He wanted to cheer for his comrade, for it reminded him of a long-forgotten victor after a battle in a jungle no one cared to remember.


Samuel was able to breathe again. He watched the Peacers pursuing them, but he understood that they would never catch Benton. Their sense of duty forced them from endangering the civilians they had sworn to protect. They lagged farther and farther behind as they cautiously worked around the vehicles that were streaming toward them. To pursue Benton on his wild dash down the freeway was equivalent to murder.


Benton held no such sense of duty. Not to civilians, not to his comrades, not even to himself. He was all object set in motion, continuing solely on its built-up momentum. At the outset of the excitement Benton’s thick lips were curled in a snarl, but now they drooped as though the air had been leaking out.


He coursed through oncoming traffic in the same reckless manner as he would if he were on an empty raceway. There was a control emanating from his movements, which further calmed his companion. Samuel, having tasted the blood of a fallen fellow, lost all fear of death. Matching Benton, he removed his safety belt. He loosened his grip on the seat and felt for a moment as though there were no cars swirling inches from his soft flesh. The headlights became to him passerby, winking one at a time in friendly recognition. He opened the window to feel the night air push aside the folds of his skin.


“Faster, Benton! Faster!” he shouted into the night air.


Benton complied.


When their pursuers were long in their dust trails, Benton slowed and exited the freeway.


They went down dark roads and made their way to a red brick house in a rotted neighborhood. Each house was a dilapidated version of the previous one. Rust-colored cars sat parked in front. Broken streetlamps, with shards of thick white glass still left in heaps on the street below. Pit bulls and Rottweilers barked at their passing car. They pulled up to the ugliest house in the neighborhood, one that should have been torn down long ago.


When the vehicle stopped, Samuel realized that he could not move his body. He frantically searched for a bullet wound. There was nothing. Only the blood from his fellow thief in the backseat. He tried to move, to leave the beast’s presence; he could not. He was trapped with the red devil.


Benton turned to him. “We’re finished,” he said flatly. His voice had the depth and the force of the brazen horn. Samuel could sit in the car for eternity and Benton would not budge.


Samuel opened the door and it creaked so loudly that the dogs took up their chant. A solitary yellow light flickered on from inside the faceless house. The shadow of a rotund man crept across the window and peered out into the sweltering night. While Samuel was drenched in sweat, Benton had only shed the lone bead of sweat when he first saw the Woman in White; only she seemed to affect his intractable body; only she seemed to possess the power to unnerve him. Samuel took note of this revelation.


“Who’s that woman?” Samuel asked, inspecting Benton’s face. Samuel grew dangerously courageous with familiarity. “The others feel she’s evil. A demon. She can’t do the things she does. Always. Present. Always. Damn sure ain’t no lady cop.”


Benton’s head turned. The gleam which terrified Samuel was now long gone. There was nothing present but a vacuum. This was worse than the intense gleam. It was a void that Samuel feared falling into. Whatever power had possessed Benton, for the length of time needed to escape the clutches of the lawmen, had disappeared beside the broken street behind them. In horror, Samuel realized there was no difference between the man in the backseat and Benton. He would feel more comfortable had the headless man sat upright and attacked him.


A man from the house waddled toward them. Samuel focused his attention there, counting each footstep. The man reminded him of a rat scampering from a sinking boat. The house behind appeared created out of the mind of some madman. Three succeeding roofs were mashed together. There was a chimney poking from the left side. The garage door swung lazily on its hinges. Every breeze was like a hand swapping at the door and making it teeter to each side.


“Someone got Fred, eh? Well he was a pain. Fool. Too quick with a gun, but not good enough with it.


“Take the car to this address and they’ll wash you up and provide new clothes. Now, give me the jewels and get outta here.”


Samuel opened the door to the bloodied men in the back. He pushed the body out of the way with a black bag covering his hand. The gore slushed over his arm. He reached for the two bags of jewels. He pulled one out. Benton’s eye caught his. He did not move. A silent struggle went on in Samuel’s mind. He wanted nothing more than to kill Benton now.


“Is that all?” the big rat said.


“Nah. There’s another one here.” Samuel grabbed it and handed both bags to the long thin fingers of the rat-man.


“Now both of you go get on your way. You stink of death."


Samuel looked into the car.


“I’ll walk home,” he said. He slouched over and started to walk away. The sound of a cocking revolver and a bullet falling into a hollow chamber caught his attention. The gun was pointed right at the back of his head where a bullet would have exited his mouth.


“You get in the damn car. Think Aeton can have one of his boys walking’ the streets with another’s membranes all over him? We got one body already. Won’t be much difference to clean up two.”


Samuel shuffled his feet over to the car and sank back down into the passenger’s seat.


Benton turned the key. The car sputtered and died. In his desperation, Samuel prayed for an escape. He hoped the dead car meant he could escape Benton. He felt exhausted. It was a special kind of exhaustion, one that came not from physical exertion so much as from the fact that his entire body had been as taut as a steel cord for the entire night. Benton had that effect on everyone he met, but especially on Samuel.


Benton tried the engine once more, and it rumbled to life. Although injured, scratched, bent, and with bullet-holes, it would not let down its master.


The discordant sound coming from Benton’s beast calmed to a soft purr. Samuel stared out the passenger window. His fists were clenched, and his jaw muscles twitched. Samuel became transfixed with the fluidity of the streetlights, for he imagined it was the lights that moved and that he instead was fixed to the ground. His shoulder started to ache and he didn’t know why, but he did not rub it. There was a growing pain in his stomach, but he did not move. His head stayed glued in the opposite direction from the monster in the driver’s seat. Like a child fearing to look under his bed, Samuel could not look directly at the man. Horrid images flashed in his mind. All teeth and bone and snarl. Weakness was not to be shown, not in Samuel’s world, and yet he had never felt weaker than at that moment. The porch lights picked up speed and they created a mirage of a woman’s red hair. He blinked and it disappeared.


“You have to know who she is,” he whispered. “She’s there. Always. They’re scared. I won’t admit it, not to no one, but I’m freaked out too. Hear? Who the hell is she? What’s she doing here?”


Benton’s sharp cheek’s trembled once, but otherwise, did not react. He brought to Samuel’s mind a marble statue he had once seen as a child. It was the only art he had ever enjoyed. It was the statue of a man preparing to battle an incredible adversary. The statue’s bulbous eyes stared out at the ferocious enemy facing him; he was terrified but ready. His relaxed torso, his strained left leg, and his arm holding a slingshot over his muscled shoulder was a study in strength and determination.


Samuel always remembered the strange tense-relaxation in the way he held the weapon. His pose spoke of practiced skill and restrained fury, but with a veneer of apprehension coursing through his veins. His veins. As though he were human. He had found this strange as an adult—that he had remembered the man as being real. But somehow, as a child, he kept believing the statue was real. More real than anyone he had ever known.


Samuel had only seen a picture of this statue during his time in an orphanage. A droopy-faced man fiddling with a projector had shown it to him. He said something about it being a classic or some such nonsense. Samuel did not remember anything the man ever said. All he could remember was the way the statue held that weapon. And his eyes that were afraid yet daring.


Benton appeared neither afraid nor daring. He looked dead. His hair was in disarray and his shirt was speckled with blood. His hands gripped the steering wheel, at ten and two, just as though he were any normal driver on the street, and not a man who was being chased by peace squads and who had the brain matter of another human being on his shirt.


Samuel thought of the dead man behind him. He hadn’t liked him. He didn’t like anyone but his boss—for him he’d do anything.


Like Benton, the woman was a pit. The knowledge that this creature of the night whose actions affected the bosses’ activities, was after him. She had been on three of his previous jobs. Outwardly, Samuel blamed Benton. Secretly, he believed she was after him, like some dark avenger borne from his past misdeeds. Her body count was three already. A high body count for one who never lifted a finger. Samuel gathered his courage and glanced over at Benton, until he could no longer bear to look on him.


“Tell me! I’ll crack you, I swear.” He pulled out his gun and before allowing him time to respond, pistol-whipped Benton in the face. Blood dripped down Benton’s cheek and over the ridge of his jawline. The line of movement the blood had made was like a line drawn in the sand. One he did not know if he should cross.


He merely spoke in the low monotone of a drone: “When the boss finds out he’ll not take any more chances with you or her. He’ll do something about it. There’s no way you and that whore will destroy what we’re building. Sit there all night, sit and be dead. It doesn’t matter. Together we’ll solve this. We’ll get her. And whoever is behind her.” This garnered no reaction from Benton. The car kept sputtering down the road. Their destination was ahead. It was a single shock of white light invading the pitch of night.


Benton stopped the car. He stared at Samuel. That flickering flame was nothing but embers now—it was unsettling to see eyes change colors as though something inside controlled its projection. And his eyes did not change from green to hazel, they changed from green to black. Samuel blinked and then looked again: green.


Finally he tucked the gun back into his pants.


“I know it. You’ve got to know who she is. I know it."


The bullet laden car made the last leg of the journey, barely holding on, putting forth an extreme effort. It was prepared to give its heart to its master, and die upon arrival. But not sooner.