CHAPTER THREE: DANGEROUS
Flynn had a momentary panic attack when he reached the Arkham Airport and had no idea how to get to the Gulfstream G6 private jet that was idling on the tarmac. He could see the jet through the fence that divided the street from the runway, but he didn’t see any way to actually get to the jet. The instructions Professor Fall had sent around said that they were not to go through security as it was a private plane, but how else would he get out onto the tarmac? It’s not like he had private plane experience!
And Flynn was already late. Again, he thought miserably, but he had discovered that all his research that he had painstakingly backed up on a portable hard drive to bring with him to Hamilton was suddenly corrupted the night before. He needed the hard drive, because there were reports that Internet and cell technology was spotty at best. Luckily, he also kept a copy on a file sharing site, but it wasn’t as up to date as the hard drive had been. So he had been frantically updating everything that morning onto a new drive only to realize that time had gotten away from him once more.
And then the cab was late! Could I look any more like a flake to Professor Fall then I already do? Fuck!
Flynn shook his shaggy head. He should have been more careful! He should have been more on top of things! But it seemed the harder he tried, the worse things got. So with his palms sweating and heart pounding, he ran along the chain link fence, looking forlornly at the plane that was sitting only a hundred feet away.
“Flynn! Flynn Haggerty!” someone called.
Flynn’s head snapped towards that voice. It was the Dean of Occult Studies, Charles Marstand. Relief and gratefulness rushed through him. The Dean wasn’t scheduled to go on this expedition, but surely he would know how to get to the plane!
He jogged over to the spry septuagenarian. “Dr. Marstand!”
Dr. Marstand looked at him out of those famous sharp blue eyes. He was dressed in his traditional tweed jacket and had a crimson bow tie on, which complemented it. Flynn wouldn’t have been surprised if he had pulled out a pipe and started smoking. He looked so like a “college professor” that his picture should be by the dictionary definition.
“Running a little late?” Dr. Marstand asked. Flynn’s heart clenched with guilt and he must have shown it on his face, as the older man was quick to add, “Don’t worry, son, they won’t leave without you. Professor Fall was quite determined that you be on the expedition.”
Flynn followed Dr. Marstand’s gaze, which had drifted over to the stairs that led up to the plane. Professor Xavier Fall stood just outside the doorway at the top of the steps. He had on a long, stylish black coat with his collar upturned. He also wore his trademarked purple-tinted lenses. He wore them because of his sensitivity to sunlight, but Flynn – and everyone else, Flynn guessed – just thought they looked cool and that was reason enough to have them on. Though he was too far away to see clearly, Flynn felt sure that the professor had smiled as soon as Flynn looked at him. Some of the tension leaked out of Flynn’s lean frame.
He’s not mad. He seems almost relieved I showed up. But why wouldn’t I?
He then saw that just past Marstand was a gate onto the tarmac. David Kwon, one of the expedition’s members, was wheeling past a bored security agent several large roller boards, likely filled with electronic equipment. There were dark circles under his eyes despite the lightness to his step. He reminded Flynn of a member of one of those pretty Asian pop bands with his delicate features and perfectly styled black hair. Watching David head towards the plane had Flynn itching to join him.
“Well, I had better get in, Dr. Marstand. As you said, I’m already late and –”
“I was rather hoping that you were not going to show up at all,” Dr. Marstand said, which had Flynn snapping his head towards the older man.
“Wh-hat? Why?” Flynn’s heart began to pound in his chest again. Had Dr. Marstand somehow figured out his connection to Hamilton? Was he going to forbid him from going on the expedition? He had to be allowed to go! Everything depended on it! If he had to, he would buy a commercial ticket and follow after the group. Dr. Marstand couldn’t stop him. No one could.
“Calm down, son. I’m not saying you can’t go. That isn’t my call. Professor Fall, as I said, is quite determined that you be on the expedition,” Dr. Marstand said, patting his shoulder gently.
Flynn though was still on high alert. Part of him wanted to brush past the Dean and run to the plane, but that would imperil everything he’d worked for. So instead, he forced himself to stare steadily at the Dean and ask, “Why don’t you want me to go?”
“Professor Fall has taken an interest in you,” Dr. Marstand said.
Flynn blinked. The way the Dean stated “interest” it made it sound almost prurient. Almost, but not quite. “I’m sorry, but why would that be a bad thing? Professor Fall is one of the most revered professors at Miskatonic. It is considered an honor to even be in his class let alone on one of his projects. To have him be interested in me is a good thing.”
Flynn bit back what more he was going to say. Surely Dr. Marstand knew Professor Fall’s reputation as well as he did, probably better. Was there a personal problem between him and Dr. Marstand then? Was that why he was warning Flynn off?
“Yes, yes, Professor Fall is very well thought of and is quite impressive. But he has that reputation, because he pushes,” Dr. Marstand said. His lips pursed. “He pushes hard, Flynn. He doesn’t stop. No matter what the cost.”
Flynn blinked again. That sounded good to him. So many people had simply ignored Hamilton for so long that it would be great if someone were to push and not accept the pap that the police and other officials had been putting out for years. Professor Fall would get answers instead of more questions. He would help Flynn find out what really happened and this black hole in his life would finally be gone.
Flynn though only said, “He’s passionate. I respond to that. I respect it.”
“He’s going to push you, Flynn. How far are you going to let him move you?” Dr. Marstand asked.
He won’t have to push me. I’ll be way out ahead of him on this. But I can’t tell Dr. Marstand that.
“I have a good relationship with Professor Fall. I feel quite confident that it if he asks me to do something that’s – that’s inappropriate then I’ll push back,” Flynn said with a shrug, acting as if he was completely unconcerned about Professor Fall.
“He’s different away from the university than he is in the classroom or even in his office, Flynn,” Dr. Marstand said. He didn’t seem relieved by Flynn’s answer at all, but rather more concerned. His forehead furrowed. “Without the university and its officials watching over him carefully, he’s a different person. He can even be called dangerous –”
“Dangerous?” Flynn really blinked that time. He was too shocked to self-edit before he exclaimed, “You’re kidding, right?”
“Charles is always deadly serious,” Professor Fall’s sultry voice rolled over him.
Flynn’s gaze immediately jerked to the beautiful man who was sauntering through the gate. His hands were in the pockets of his coat, which was open. He was dressed all in black. Black pants and black turtleneck that caressed the bottom of his strong jaw. The all black ensemble drew attention to Professor’s Fall’s olive-toned skin and the blush of color on his lips. His hair fell loose to his shoulders in tousled curls. He looked sexy and earthy with that half-smile on his full lips and hooded violet eyes. In comparison, Flynn felt ratty in his jeans, dark blue hoodie, tan woolen hat and worn black leather coat.
“Professor Fall …” Flynn found himself just saying his name like a whispered prayer.
“Xavier, remember. Professor Fall is not going to exactly trip over your tongue when we’re running for our lives in Hamilton, now will it?” Professor Fall reminded him.
“Running for our lives?” Flynn gave out a soft laugh. “You really think we’re going to be running for our lives?”
“In the woods? In the dark?” Professor Fall was not smiling nor laughing as he said that.
“There’s a lot of that in Hamilton,” Flynn said, but then realized he had just intimated knowledge of the town. He quickly stammered out, “Or so I’ve heard. Never been there myself.”
“Neither have I! Well, I’m looking forward to the big, brave outdoors. Maybe we’ll roast marshmallows under a night sky.”
This time Professor Fall did smile and Flynn felt a loony smile cross his lips. He tried to squash it, but the smile just grew. He couldn’t stop staring at Professor Fall’s beautiful, classical face. But while Flynn found himself unable to look away from Professor Fall, he noticed that Dr. Marstand didn’t even turn around to face his subordinate as Professor Fall walked up behind him and stood at his side.
“Trying to steal my student away from me, are you, Charles? You have some project of your own that you need Mr. Haggerty’s assistance on so desperately that you would warn him off me?” Professor Fall’s voice was light, but there was a challenge in it, too, that had the skin between Flynn’s shoulder blades tightening. He realized at that moment that he would not like to be Professor Fall’s enemy.
Dr. Marstand finally turned a bland stare towards Professor Fall. “When an expedition of this nature is authorized, as Dean I want to be certain that every student on the expedition is prepared for what to expect.”
Professor Fall looked at Dr. Marstand with that faint, cat-like smile that, after a few uncomfortably long moments, had Dr. Marstand looking away. The older man’s cheeks flushed with color as if he had been chastised in some way though Professor Fall hadn’t said a word.
“Flynn has made his decision.” Dr. Marstand cleared his throat and fiddled with the ends of his bow tie. “I have said my piece. I hope that things turn out well.”
Suddenly, the professor stuck out one black, leather-gloved hand to Flynn. “Come, Flynn, everyone is waiting for you on board. We need to get this party started. Goodbye, Charles. I will try and write to keep you updated on our progress, but things might be too hectic to do so. Might as well just expect to hear from me when it’s all over.”
Dr. Marstand’s face seemed to be made out of granite at that moment. Flynn guessed that there were many emotions running beneath the surface, but he wasn’t going to give Professor Fall the satisfaction of revealing them.
“Goodbye, Dr. Marstand,” Flynn said and felt odd as he said it, as if he really might be saying goodbye to the man forever. But that was ridiculous and he quickly shook off the feeling. They were going to Wisconsin and while that might seem like Mars to the rest of this East-coast born and raised group, he knew it wasn’t.
Flynn didn’t hesitate as he actually took Professor Fall’s hand. The leather was smooth against his palm. The professor’s grip was pleasantly firm. Flynn allowed himself to be lead through the gate and to the staircase leading up to the impressively sleek white jet. Professor Fall didn’t release his hand until they were at the base of the stairway.
“It’s like we’re running away together and Charles is your evil father -- no, grandfather -- who is trying to keep us apart. Romeo and Romeo?” Professor Fall chuckled.
“Let’s hope that this thing doesn’t end with us both dying. That’s how the play wraps up, doesn’t it?” Flynn felt himself feeling light there were wings on his feet and it wasn’t just getting on a plane to Hamilton. It was talking to Professor Fall like this. Flirting and sparring. It was intoxicating. He knew he should stop this, withdraw, be professional, but he couldn’t.
Professor Fall leaned in. His lower lip was caught in his white, sharp teeth. He was so close that Flynn could smell the mint on his breath. “They do say that we all die some time.”
“But not today,” Flynn found himself breathing in his professor’s breath. He felt drunk on it. His eyes nearly fluttered shut as if they were going to kiss.
“Not today,” Professor Fall agreed and then he grabbed Flynn’s duffel from him.
“I’m assuming that’s just clothes, right? All you really need is in here.” He touched the messenger bag with the computer and hard drive in it. Then he touched Flynn’s temple. “And in here. Correct?”
The touch burned even though it was brief.
“R-right,” Flynn got out.
Professor Fall then tossed the duffel with shocking ease over to one of the flight crew that was putting luggage into the bottom of the plane. The crew member actually staggered under its weight, but then caught himself and he handled luggage every day. Hard to believe a professor was stronger than someone like him. But it was just one more mystery about Professor Fall to add to the ever growing list.
Professor Fall then gestured for Flynn to go up the stairs first. It was as if he didn’t want to chance Flynn actually staying behind.
Strong. Dangerous. Handsome as sin. Yeah, if he wasn’t wrapped up in Hamilton, I’d be totally mooning over him like everyone else.
“What was that all about?” Flynn asked over his shoulder as they mounted the stairs, referring to the words of warning from Dr. Marstand. “Why did Dr. Marstand warn me about you?”
“Interference,” Professor Fall said. His voice sounded clipped, but when Flynn glanced over at him curiously, there was a quick grin on his face. “I didn’t think he could convince you to stay behind. Not after what you wrote in your paper.”
Flynn’s cheeks were the ones to heat this time. The line he hadn’t meant Professor Fall to see was the one that got him on this expedition. He still couldn’t quite believe it.
“Nothing could keep me away,” Flynn admitted, which won him a blinding smile that had warmth forming between his legs.
“That’s all that I needed to here,” Professor Fall said.
Flynn quickly hopped up the last few steps and ducked his head to enter the G6. He immediately skidded to a halt in amazement. Luckily, Professor Fall didn’t barrel right into him though his front was distractingly near Flynn’s back. Flynn could feel the heat coming from his teacher’s body.
“It’s impressive, isn’t it? Miskatonic has twelve of these that they allow staff to fly all over the world,” Professor Fall said, his breath puffing against the right side of Flynn’s face. He again smelled the mint of his breath while the rest of him smelled of pine and snow again. Another rush of heat flooded Flynn’s groin. He imagined turning his head and burying it against Professor Fall’s neck.
“Y-yeah, it’s incredible,” Flynn got out. “I think it’s bigger than my entire apartment.”
The plane’s interior was plush. It was certainly nothing like the cramped, dated interiors of the commercial jets he’d been on during his life. They had entered the plane near the galley area with the flight deck to their left similar to a commercial jet, but there the comparison ended. There was a built-in cabinet on the right side of the plane with a polished teak top. A flat screen liquid television was mounted on top of it. Directly opposite it was another teak table flanked by four seats for people to sit and work or dine on. Behind that was an actual couch with thick, comfortable-looking cushions.
Corey Rudman was sprawled out on the couch, his socked feet were propped up on the arm rest, wiggling. He was a big guy with a Santa-like beard, but it was bright red instead of white. He had the bulging, rolling tummy that Flynn had seen jiggle cutely when he laughed.
Corey was talking to Jaela Smith who sat in one of the large, leather reclining seats opposite him. Jaela was an African-American woman in her late twenties. Her hair was a mass of tight ringlets. The top of it was drawn back in a clip while the rest hung down to her shoulders. She had rich, black skin and an expressive mouth beneath an inquisitive nose. Her eyes were a dark brown with hints of copper. She wore a bright blue shirt, a flowing cream wrap and dark blue jeans with boots.
Isabel Aumont’s slight form was behind Jaela’s and seemed to be almost swallowed up by the huge seat. She had long blonde hair that curled becomingly around a heart-shaped face with widely set apart blue eyes that gave her an almost dreamy expression. She wore a striped blue and white shirt over laid by a tight sweater above a short skirt with a ruffled edge and laced-up gray suede boots that reached her knobby knees. Even though the plane hadn’t left the airport, Isabel was staring out the window avidly when she wasn’t smiling at something Corey was saying.
David Kwon was in the far back of the plane. He already was setting up a computer. He had stripped off his jacket and was in a v-necked sweater with a stylized dragon on the front. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater to his elbows just as he flashed Flynn a brief smile. He then was tapping on his keyboard again, oblivious to the world.
“Professor X! Flynn! Hey, ho!” Corey called to them gaily.
“Hey, Corey,” Flynn said. He had seen the red-bearded guy all over campus and instinctively felt after Corey’s warm welcome that he knew him much better than he did.
“Corey, you’re dressed so … drably,” Professor Fall said with a laugh.
Corey was dressed drably for him. Every time Flynn had seen him, Corey would have on a Hawaiian shirt and violently colored shorts. But today, he had on a forest green sweatshirt and long dark blue board shorts. He always wore shorts even in the deepest of New England winters, but these seemed so colorless for him.
“It’s camouflage!” Corey said with a touch of one finger to his nose.
“Really? How so?” Professor Fall’s lips were twitching right by Flynn’s cheek.
“Yeah, because when the beasties are least expecting it, I’ll flash them with … this!” Corey then pulled up bottom of his hoodie to reveal a banana yellow T-shirt.
Professor Flynn raised up one arm as if to shield his eyes from the color. “You proved your point, Corey. Put it away. I’m blinded now.”
Corey tee-hee’d delightedly and pulled the hoodie down, hiding the banana monstrosity.
“Speaking of light and blinding, please shut the window shade, Isabel,” Jaela said over her shoulder to the younger girl. “You might not be aware, but Professor Fall is sensitive to light.”
“Oh, yes, of course, how foolish of me! Forgive me, Professor!” Her English was perfect though her French accent caused her to elongate certain syllables and shorten others in a way a native speaker would not. Isabel’s blonde curls bounced as she quickly shut the shade. All the other shades were already shut in the plane.
“No worries, Isabel, and please, everyone call me Xavier. Though, Corey, you will undoubtedly still call me Professor X as you always do,” Xavier said dryly. “Come on, Flynn, let’s sit down together here.”
Professor Fall pointed to seats around the table. Flynn drew his messenger bag off and slipped into the seat nearest the window. Professor Fall sat opposite him. Though the plane was roomy, Flynn was careful not to stretch his long legs out and accidentally play footsie with the professor. His cheeks heated again just at the thought of doing something illicit with Xavier Fall.
I’m sure being in close contact with him during the expedition will quell these feelings I’m having now. I can hardly stop looking at him. There’s something so arresting about his face and it’s not just his beauty. He’s fascinating to watch.
Even the way Professor Fall sat in the seat was graceful and languid. He had taken off his long coat, which a flight attendant had taken eagerly from his hand. He had given her a murmured thanks and one of those slow smiles that had her twittering to her colleagues in the galley. Even though there were just a handful of them on the plane, not even enough people to fill every seat, there looked to be two attendants to see to their needs. The attendant that had taken his professor’s coat, popped back in to ask if they were ready to go.
“Yes, everyone is here,” Professor Fall assured her. She hustled back to the flight deck to inform the captain.
Flynn began rummaging around to get his seat belt on. No one else though appeared concerned. Corey still lounged on the couch. David clearly wasn’t turning off his laptop and stowing it. Professor Fall had one long finger placed against his lower lip as he watched Flynn struggling to buckle himself in. Flynn’s cheeks flared with color once more that day as he noticed the professor’s regard.
“Don’t we have to – ah – buckle up?” Flynn asked, gesturing with the two pieces of metal in his hands.
“Or we could live dangerously, and not,” Professor Fall suggested with a twitch of his lips. He was clearly referencing what Dr. Marstand had said.
Realizing that this could be taken as a throw-away line or mean something more, Flynn dropped the two pieces of metal down onto his lap. “I like living dangerously.”
“Good.” A slow smile this time from the professor had his jeans tightening. Flynn slumped lower in his seat so that the table covered his nascent erection. “So! Why don’t we get the introductions out of the way and get our plans in order. David, shall we dim the lights?”
David chuckled. “No need, prof—Xavier. Just look at the screen there.”
He was referring to the large liquid crystal television that was opposite Flynn and him. Everyone could easily see it. Corey put his feet down and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. Though Jaela sat back, her dark eyes were fixed on the screen. Isabel sat up straighter, her long slender hands rested in her lap.
The screen turned on and Flynn immediately recognized a map of the region. It showed Hamilton surrounded by thick forests on all sides. There was just the slender highway that he swore he remembered driving with his family a million times yet couldn’t quite pluck out any individual memory to examine. His wiped his suddenly sweaty palms on his jeans and stared at the map as if there were answers there.
David’s voice rose above the soft whine of the engines as the plane started to taxi its way to the runway, “We all know the immediate history of Hamilton, including the little that is known about the Incident, and the time directly before it. But most people who have investigated the town have not gone further than a decade earlier than the Incident. And that’s a real shame, because all the good stuff, maybe the reason for why half the town disappeared in one, single night, can be learned from a little farther back.”