Vincent Macleod: Agent of T.R.A.C.E.
Book by: Derek Smith
It was a bone chilling, miserable night in the town of Southdale. Trees blew about in the breeze and the echo of raindrops bounced off the road. Just beyond the town limits came the roar of a car approaching town with great speed. Inside the car sat a middle aged man, his wife, and a new born baby boy.
The woman looked over at her husband and very quietly asked, "Curt, are you sure this is the right thing to do? What is going to become of him, and what are we going to do about Trish? This is all too much for me to take in right now!"
The man looked at his wife with a sense of concern and shame. "Mary, I know this is a lot to take in but you have to trust me. I never wanted things to be like this. I've made all the arrangements for the baby and we will be watching him always. A family has already been chosen through a contact of mine. If the Imperial Brotherhood finds out he is still alive it could mean catastrophe, not only for us but the world.
"As for Trish, the lab is doing everything they can to keep her alive. I will never forgive myself if we lose her. I have to focus on the task at hand and make sure we are not seen by the Brotherhood."
Sunlight began to peek through the clouds as the car came to a stop outside of a family services building. Curt and Mary exited the car with the baby, approaching a man waiting for them outside.
Curt handed the baby over to the man and sighed. "Harry, I trust you when you say that you have found the perfect family for this child. I can only hope that he is safe until the time comes that we meet again."
Harry gave Curt his word that everything would be fine and informed him the adoptive family would be arriving shortly. Curt and Mary said their goodbyes and left as Harry walked back into the building with the baby.
A few short hours had passed when Harry received a page from his secretary that William and Catherine Macleod were waiting outside of his office to see him. The soon to be parents were pacing anxiously in the lobby when he arrived to introduce himself. "Mr. and Mrs. Macleod, my name is Harry Buckman. We spoke on the phone earlier. It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person."
William and Catherine shook Harry’s hand with joy. They gushed to Harry how thankful they were that their family was about to gain a member. "Well, let’s not waste anymore time," said Harry. "Let's head up to my office where we can fill out the necessary paperwork and I can introduce you to your son."
The couple proceeded to Harry’s office with great anticipation and tears of joy in their eyes. As Harry finished the last of the paperwork, it was apparent they were becoming more and more anxious to meet their son.
"Before I conclude our business here and get you and your family on your way, there is one important thing we must discuss," Harry explained. "Usually when we place a child in a home, we receive some limited information regarding the birth parents. Interests, family histories, like allergies, illnesses and the like. In this case, the birth families on both sides have chosen not to disclose this information with us, so we are unfortunately unable to provide you with any information about his natural family at this time."
"That is definitely too bad," Catherine said, clearly disheartened. "However, I can assure you that with or without that information we will always be open with our son about his adoption and love him all the same."
Harry looked over the paperwork filled out by the boy's new parents. Satisfied, he spoke. "Everything seems to be in order, but there is one last thing we need to fill out for your son before you may leave. Have you decided on a name for him?"
"Yes, we have." said Catherine "There was always one name we had in mind if we were to be blessed with a boy. Vincent David Macleod, after Bill’s father."
Harry buzzed his secretary, asking her to bring in William and Catherine’s son. A moment later she entered the room carrying the swaddled child and handed him to Catherine. Tears of joy streamed down their faces, ecstatic that their prayers of having a family were finally answered. "He’s going to grow up to be such a strong, handsome boy, Bill. I could get lost every time I look at those blue eyes," Catherine admitted as she held her son for the first time.
Overcome with emotion, William reached forward and gave his son his finger. Vincent gripped it with anticipation and began to squeeze. Suddenly, William felt his finger being crushed by the boys grasp. He pulled his hand back in amazement as their son let out a playful laugh. "Saying he'll to grow up to be strong is a bit of an understatement. He’s got one hell of a grip!"
The couple thanked Harry for their help and placed their son in a carrier. They left the child services building excited to know that their lives were about to undergo a great change. Little did they know just how great a change that would be. Vincent would grow to be strong, but that was not all.
This was only the beginning.
Fifteen years had passed since William and Catherine welcomed Vincent into their family. William, a successful psychiatrist, had recently opened his own practice in Southdale Square, a complex composed of small retail shops and professional offices. Catherine became a stay at home mother after Vincent joined the family so she could focus on her family full-time.
The Macleods lived in a beautiful Victorian two storey home, the backyard facing the fifth hole of the Southdale Country Club and Golf Course. Catherine could almost always be found in the front yard of their home on Sweetwater Bay, working hard day in and out to keep their garden in order. Nearly every housewife on Sweetwater Bay was secretly in competition with one another to make sure that their yard looked better than all the rest.
The town of Southdale was a happy but busy town. With its trendy shops and local businesses, it was the perfect place for the Macleods to call home. Vincent spent most of - if not all of - his time with his group of friends: Justin Thompson, Matt Mackenzie, and Adam Moore. Justin’s parents, Hank and Angela, owned and operated “Game On” Amusements and Sports Centre in Southdale. The facility boasted two indoor hockey rinks, indoor soccer, and an indoor wave pool and waterslide park. Darren and Diane Moore were a successful husband and wife realtor team with their own real estate firm. Cleverly titled “Moore Realty”, their slogan was “Why settle for less when you can have Moore?” Doug Mackenzie was a journeyman electrician with his own contracting business that he ran from home with his wife Margaret. All of the families on Sweetwater Bay knew one another well and would often organize house parties and block barbeques during the summer.
Fall was here, which meant Vincent was about to begin his first year at Lakewood High. His eyes opened to find he had slept in nearly half an hour past his alarm. He sprang out of bed and made a mad dash for the bathroom. Less than a minute later, he darted out with water on his hair to give it his trademark spiky look and a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. The stench of his father's aftershave could be picked up from a mile away as Vincent had practically bathed in it to mask the fact he did not have time to shower. He quickly made his way back to his room, threw on his Southdale Scorpions hockey jersey, and stumbled into a pair of jeans. Knowing that he had made up for lost time, he resumed his regular morning pace and headed upstairs from the basement to join his parents for a quick breakfast.
As Vincent sat down at the table he noted his father’s face covered by the morning’s paper, as usual, while his mother was lost in her crossword puzzle. Vincent stuffed his mouth with whatever he could before he had to leave for school. William drew down his morning paper and took a look a Vincent. “Well you know that life can’t be too bad when we can eat like this.”
Vincent shook his head. “I know dad you say the same thing every time we sit down to eat. I’m aware we are fortunate, but you sound like a broken record.”
Catherine laughed and shook her head in favor of her son. William simply let out a deep sigh and continued to read his paper, wishing just for once he could get the respect he deserved.
Vincent finished gorging himself on the last of the pancakes and bacon on the table as the doorbell rang. Catherine opened the door to see Justin's familiar tall and slender build standing in front of her. As usual, his long black hair covered half of his face and he wore a pair of jeans four sizes too large for him. “Hey, Mrs. M, I’m here to get Vince for school.”
Catherine called to Vincent when he suddenly came running down the front hall of the house. Vincent quickly grabbed his backpack and jacket, and said quick goodbyes to his parents before rushing out the door with Justin.
They'd just begun their fifteen minute walk to the school when Vincent asked, “Hey, where are Matt and Adam? I thought they were going to walk to school with us.”
Justin shook his head and laughed. “They decided to fake sick so they don’t have to risk being seen by seniors and get a pounding their first day. Matt promised he wouldn't miss tonight’s hockey practice in the off chance that you start to look like a better player than he is. I don’t get the two of you. No matter what the event, you and Matt just cannot stop competing with each other.”
Vincent shrugged his shoulders and snickered. “I didn’t start competing with Matt, it was the other way around. I guess some people just can’t handle being second best.”
Justin laughed at his friend’s narcissistic attitude. “Personally, I can’t wait to start this school year. This is where it all comes together for us. Girls, cars, parties, you name it. High school is going to be our one way ticket to the simple life, my friend. And maybe this will be the year you finally ask Alexis on a date without getting knots in your stomach.”
Vincent had known Alexis Sommers since first grade. Catherine occasionally babysat Alexis for her single mother, Susan, while she was away at work when Vincent was younger. The blonde bombshell always had an eye for Vincent and had made several attempts over the years to express her interest in him. As always, he attempted to persuade himself that they were nothing more than mixed signals.
“Why would Lexi want anything to do with a guy like me?” asked Vincent. “She could do so much better. Besides, what if it ruined my friendship with her?”
Justin let out a frustrating sigh. “That’s your problem, Vince. You have no self confidence. How are you ever going to get anywhere in life if you’re always waiting for something or someone to fall into your lap?”
Vincent simply shrugged his shoulders as he let out a quiet laugh trying to not let Justin know that he was getting to him. As the boys approached the school they could see what looked like someone tied around the flagpole outside. As they approached they discovered Adam stripped down to his underwear and tied to the flagpole with duct tape. He had a large sign hanging around his neck that read “Welcome Lakewood High Freshmen.”
Justin laughed hysterically. “Wow, it looks like someone decided to really roll out the red carpet for you, Adam. I thought you were going to stay home today.”
Adam dropped his head in shame. “I tried to pass off to mom that I was sick by mixing some lemonade and peanut butter together and pouring it in the toilet. Mom was just about to send me off to bed when Mrs. Mackenzie called to tell her that Matt was faking sick as well to avoid getting a traditional Lakewood High welcome. So mom made me get dressed and catch a ride to school with the Mackenzies. I mean, what a waste. Do you have any idea how much time and planning it took me to figure out the best way to come up with fake puke in the toilet?”
The two could do nothing more than stand in front of Adam and laugh. Adam was always a bit of a mastermind when it came to figuring ways out of or around things. When a plan failed to get him favourable results he would simply move on to the next scheme.
Vincent rolled his eyes and attempted to help Adam remove the tape from his body. “Here, let me help you get out of this,” Vincent offered. “Should I even ask what happened to Matt or should I assume that he’s probably wearing women’s underwear by now?”
“Matt ran off as soon as everyone got a hold of me. I have no idea what happened to him. He is probably hiding out somewhere as usual,” replied Adam.
Vincent continued to remove the tape from Adam’s body layer by layer until reaching the final layer. Vincent then closed his eyes and ripped it away as if he was removing a bandage. Adam's screams could be heard a mile away. It was then that Lakewood High principal Ernie Schwartz came out the front doors of the school and approached the friends.
“Would you care to explain to me why you might be standing outside of my school in your underwear, young man?” Mr. Schwartz asked.
Adam twisted his story around so he could explain what had happened without feeling the embarrassment that came with it. Mr. Schwartz nodded his head knowing that this was a usual ritual for his senior students to pull on freshmen. Mr. Schwartz told Adam to follow him to his office where they would find out where exactly Adam’s clothes had gone. Vincent and Justin followed them inside to collect their class schedules for the semester and begin their first day of classes.
As the first morning came to a close, the students were dismissed for lunch. Vincent made his way to the school cafeteria where he bought his lunch and joined Justin, Matt, and a properly clothed Adam.
Vincent looked over at Matt. “So what happened to you this morning? I heard you made a run for it when Adam was getting inducted into the underwear hall of fame.”
Matt laughed. “Yeah, I had to think of somewhere that no one would find me in a million years, so I hid in the library and spent the whole morning there.”
Laughter emanated from the table as Adam gave Matt a thrashing for leaving him tied to the flagpole alone.
Vincent quickly finished his lunch and told his friends that he was going to go find his locker. He needed to store some of his books since they weighed more than what felt like a metric tonne. As Vincent was leaving, Justin made sure to remind him that they were all going to Game On after school to play hockey and to make sure that he showed up.
Vincent took to exploring the halls, frantically searching for locker number 316 as was noted on his assignment slip. Lunch was coming to a close when he finally found it. He placed his books inside and locked everything up. Not having carry around all those books anymore was such a relief. A quick read over his class schedule informed him that science class followed lunch. He started towards his next classroom when he turned the corner of a hallway and saw Cyrus Drake talking to Alexis.
If anyone in Southdale met the requirements for the title of town bully it was Cyrus. He lived across the street from Vincent and the two had always been rivals. Cyrus spent most of his life in and out of juvenile detention for petty crimes, like shoplifting and assaulting other kids. He had even shocked Catherine Macleod when the boys were younger when he showed up at their front door with a hatchet behind his back asking if Vincent could come out to play. Cyrus was a freshman at Lakewood High but was given immunity to freshman rituals because of his brother Travis. He was a senior and would crush anyone who so much as laid a finger on his brother.
Vincent could see by the look on Alexis’ face that she was not comfortable with the conversation taking place between her and Cyrus. Vincent saw Cyrus move closer to Alexis and place his hand on her shoulder and whisper something in her ear. Alexis slapped Cyrus in the face and called him a pig with disgust over what had been said to her.
Vincent could not help himself and knew that he was throwing himself into the lion’s den as he opened his mouth. “Leave her alone, Cyrus. She obviously doesn’t want anything to do with you.”
You could almost see the relief on Alexis' face when she noticed Vincent standing behind her, ready to defend her. Cyrus let go of Alexis and moved toward Vincent. Alexis knowing it was her chance to leave picked up her books and ran down the hall.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, Macleod. Now what am I going to do with you for ruining my day?” said Cyrus with his two senior friends standing behind him cracking their knuckles.
Vincent said nothing as he stared boldly into Cyrus’s eyes determined to stand his ground. Cyrus turned to his friends, asking, “Would you guys mind escorting Vince to my brother’s car for me? I’ll go get the keys.”
The two gorilla sized boys grabbed Vincent by the arms, practically dragged him outside to Travis’ vintage Pontiac GTO, and slammed him face first onto the trunk. Cyrus followed behind with the keys in his han. “I was going to leave you alone for a few days before making sure you got a proper hazing, Vince. Since you decided to botch things up for me, I’m going to see to it that you get some extra special treatment. This will ensure you never stick your nose where it doesn’t belong again.”
Cyrus opened the trunk and shoved Vincent inside. As Vincent lay in the dark space he began to wonder why in a million years he would do such a stupid thing like cross Cyrus Drake over a girl. The car engine fired up and roared down the road with tires squealing and loud music blaring from the front seat. Vincent started to panic, wondering just what was going to happen to him. A short time later the car came to a stop and Cyrus opened the trunk. When Vincent climbed out he realized that they had taken him just beyond the town limits to a long gravel road.
“Looks like its time we had some fun!” Cyrus said with an evil sneer on his face. He pulled back his fist and punched Vincent in the face, knocking him down to the ground. Then Cyrus sat on Vincent’s chest, laughing and slapping Vincent in the face while his two friends hauled over a long rope from the trunk and tied Vincent’s feet together.
When Cyrus got up, he moved toward the back end of the car and tied the other end of the rope to the bumper. Cyrus and his friends piled into the car while Cyrus started it, revving the engine.
Cyrus stuck his head out the window and yelled, “Have a nice ride, Macleod!” Maniacal laughter followed as the car shifted into drive.
As the car shot forward, the slack on the rope gave out and tightened, dragging Vincent down the gravel road. Excruciating pain shot through his body as the rocks dug into his back and stomach as he rolled about on the road like a rag doll.
Within minutes (what felt like hours to Vincent) the car came to a stop. Cyrus and his friends exited the car to see they had done more damage than they had anticipated. They gazed upon Vincent’s unconscious but bloody body lying in the road. Panicking, Cyrus quickly cut the rope from the car and drove off with his friends to avoid being seen.
Hours passed before Vincent finally came to. His body burned as if on fire from all the cuts and gashes. After struggling to untie the rope and get to his feet, Vincent removed what was left of his hockey jersey and spotted his jacket and backpack lying in the ditch beside him. Putting on his jacket he felt each individual thread as it brushed his wounds, adding a sharp, painful sensation on top of the burning. Once he had finished, he calmly collected himself and began the slow journey home.
When Vincent finally shuffled up the driveway of his house, he noted his parents were out which gave him the opportunity to get inside without anyone questioning him. He grabbed some iodine from the medicine cabinet and proceeded downstairs to his bathroom where he could clean his wounds before anyone got home.
Vincent turned on the light in the bathroom to a larger shock than he expected. Not one scratch was evidenced on his face. Confused, he removes his jacket and braced for the worst. But as he pulled off the jacket he noticed that all the cuts and scrapes he'd witnessed after Cyrus cut him free were fully healed. He assumed the pain had subsided because his body was numb, not that injuries themselves were gone. Vincent began hyperventilating, shocked and trying to understand how this could be happening to him when a few hours ago he could have been pronounced legally dead.
Continued examination of his reflection for any evidence of a cut or scar turned up nothing. Startled at the sound of the front door and his parents footsteps as they called out for him, Vincent quickly ran across to his room and threw on a shirt before heading upstairs to see his parents. As he entered the living room he was greeted by the angry and concerned faces of his parents.
“Vincent David Macleod! Where on God’s green Earth have you been all day? The school called to inform us that you had not been in any of your afternoon classes, and none of your friends had seen or heard from you. You had better have one heck of a reason for being missing in action for so long! We have been worried sick about you and have spent all night looking for you!” Catherine reprimanded, ending what could have been a four hour lecture to see what her son had to say for himself.
Vincent started to sweat as he put together something, anything, to say to his mother. Facing the wrath of his parents was something Vincent tried to avoid on a daily basis. In fact, he convinced himself that he would rather be back in the trunk of the car than avoiding a lecture from his parents. Rather than spend any more time thinking about what he was going to tell them, Vincent decided to open his mouth and hope that something believable would come out of it.
“Well, I was on my way to science class this afternoon after going to my locker to get my books. As I was walking down the stairs to the lower level of the school, I tripped and fell down almost the entire flight. I tried to get up but my ankle hurt so much I could barely stand on it, so I hobbled outside and caught the bus to the hospital to get it checked. They just put some ice on it for a few hours and then it felt better so they let me come home. I should have called and I’m so sorry I didn’t.”
Vincent stared at his parents with fingers mentally crossed and praying the story that spilled out saved him from their wrath. The look on Catherine’s face shifted from anger to worry as she looked at her husband in shock.
“Are you okay? Why didn’t you call us? We were so worried about you,” exclaimed Catherine as she reached forward to embrace her son.
Vincent let out a huge sigh of relief for dodging the thrashing of a lifetime. He didn't want to lie to his parents but knew that he couldn't tell them the truth about what had really happened when he was still trying to figure that out for himself. “I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal so I just went. I promise it will never happen again. I feel much better now and I can walk fine but I’m really tired. I just want to go to bed.”
Catherine and William said goodnight to their son as he bounded down the stairs to his bedroom. Vincent sat on the end of his bed for what seemed like hours, pondering the day's events. Nothing made any sense to him. He tried to convince himself that he was in shock and lucky to walk away with no injuries. Getting ready for bed, he walked over to pick up his jacket from the floor and realized his assumptions were wrong. Vincent's eyes widened as he lifted his jacket to see his blood smeared all over the inside.
Vincent dropped his jacket and rushed over to his desk, frantically throwing the drawer open and searching until he came upon his pocket knife. He ran out of his room and across the hall to the bathroom, shutting the door making sure to lock it behind him.
He unsheathed the blade of his knife and stared endlessly into the blade while he decided where the best place to test his theory would be. Not wanting to do anything drastic to himself, Vincent decided it would be best if he pricked his fingertip first. He pushed the tip of the blade gently into his finger and watched as blood trickled forth. Vincent examined the deep cut but it was not healing like he had presumed his body did earlier that day. Vincent turned on the faucet and held his finger under the warm water to clean the cut he had gained for his own stupidity.
As he drew back his finger, shock overcame him. The wound had completely sealed with no sign of the cut he had just inflicted. Dizzy, he sat down on the toilet trying to make sense the situation and talking to himself aloud. “How… What is happening to me? This kind of thing only happens in comics, and usually people get bit by radioactive insects or fall in a vat of toxic waste or something. I’m just a normal kid. At least I thought I was normal...”
Sitting in the cool basement bathroom, Vincent came to the realization that although this was definitely a weird situation, it had it's positives. He could not be harmed or injured. Vincent walked back to his bedroom where he laid down on his bed lost in thought until the fatigue tugging at his body convinced his mind it needed rest.
As the night went on, Vincent tossed and turn in his sleep. Ever since Vincent could remember he would have the same dream over and over again. His dreams sometimes haunted him to the point where he would wake up and see people or images that weren’t there. His doctor informed the Macleods that Vincent suffered from hypnagogic hallucinations, a case where one would have episodes of seeing and hearing things as one is falling asleep. Vincent didn't like his doctor very much and refused to accept his analysis of his problems.
Time and time again, Vincent found himself in the same dreamscape standing in the same large white hallway filled with green doors. As he walked down the halls and opened doors, he witnessed events of his past as though they were portals to his memories.
All doors opened for him save the black door at the end of the hallway. It was always covered in yellow tape and a sign that read “Turn Back” plastered dead center. Vincent subconsciously knew what was behind that door and every single time he'd push past the caution signs, bashing on the door until it opened and he fell through it.
After moments in the pitch black, a solitary light would flicker on illuminating two all black figures standing in front of him. The beings had no faces and stood staring at Vincent until finally speaking to him. These shadowy figures claimed to be his biological parents and urged him to leave this uninviting place. Vincent would always refuse, pleading with them to answer his many questions about where he came from, who they were, and if he would ever see their faces. The two dark figures would just stand and stare without movement at Vincent.
“If you do not leave now we cannot be held responsible for what is going to happen to you, boy!” both of the figures said in a very aggressive tone and perfect synchronization.
“Why won’t you tell me anything? It’s not fair! Just answer some of my questions and I will leave. Please?” Vincent pleaded.
The two figures slowly moved toward Vincent from across the room. An evil, bone chilling laughter filled the room as their walk turned into a very fast run. The two shadowy figures would bombard Vincent, tearing at him and beating him to a pulp as they insisted he was not meant to live, that he was a burden and nothing more than garbage.
William awoke to the screams of his son. He was aware of what was going on as this dream had affected Vincent for many years. He grabbed his housecoat and ran to the basement, throwing open Vincent’s bedroom door to find his son tossing and turning violently before coming out of his trance and waking from his dream. He was out of breath and drenched in sweat.
Vincent took a quick look at his father and his eyes began to water. He struggled to let out a faint “I’m sorry” before burying his head in his hands. William sat next to his son on the bed, giving him a hug and assuring him that everything was alright.
“Son, I can understand that you are troubled about your adoption. You've always been curious and your mother and I have certainly never tried to keep anything from you and never will. I’m sorry we have so little information about your biological parents. I can assure you that if there ever comes a day that something presents itself, we will do everything within our power to make sure we help you answer all of your questions. We love you, Vincent, and always will. No matter what.”
Vincent took a moment to collect himself as best as he could before looking up at his father. Vincent hated showing this type of emotion because he felt it a sign of weakness. He quietly cleared his throat before answering William.
“I don’t know how to say this without offending you, but I’m just going to say it anyways. You aren’t adopted, you have no idea what it's like to look at all your friends with their parents, brothers and sisters, and realize that they know when they go home at the end of the day that their home is their home. They know where they came from. They don’t get to live out their lives wondering if they will ever meet their blood relatives, or if there is a chance in their lifetime that they could have walked by each other on the street and not have even known."
Vincent sighed and wiped his eyes. "It’s like my life is a puzzle and I’m missing the last piece. No matter how much I try to fit another piece in its place, I will never have the right piece and I will always be missing something. I know that you and mom are my mom and dad, but it just feels like I am living my life not knowing who I am.”
William took a second to take in what his son had said, and let out a deep sigh. “I understand why you feel this way and I am truly sorry that you continue to be haunted by your mind. All I can tell you is that my prayers, as well as your mother’s, were answered the day we got the phone call and were told that we were the proud parents of a newborn baby boy. Why don’t you get up and come with me? We can get you some new sheets and you can get back to sleep, but I think there is something I want to show you first.”
Vincent got out of bed, ripped off the bedding, and followed his father upstairs. They walked down the main hallway of the house to the two large doors that opened into William’s home office. As he entered the office, Vincent moved toward his father’s very large executive desk and sat in the chair that was situated in front of it. William opened one of the drawers on his desk and pulled out the key to his filing cabinet. Vincent knew at that moment that his father was about to show him something important. Anything that was locked up in his father’s filing cabinet was locked up for a reason.
William unlocked the drawer and began to search through the files of patients that he had deemed restricted in order to protect them from any kind of exposure. He thumbed through the files until he came across a file folder entitled Harry Buckman.
He paused for a moment after pulling the file, and took a calming deep breath before turning to his son with a face that almost said he was relieved. “What I have here is something you weren’t supposed to see until you had turned eighteen. This file has all of the information we have from when you were born. There is not a lot of information in here that can really help right now because, as I have always told you, we were given very little information. I think that you need to see for yourself that we are not hiding anything from you.”
William placed the file down on the desk in front of Vincent and sat down in his chair. Vincent opened the file and began to scramble through the documents. Papers that the Macleods had signed with Harry were in the folder as well as all of the legal documentation from when William and Catherine had completed the adoption process. As Vincent got towards the end of the file he came across a single sheet written by someone with very messy handwriting in point form. The paper had a time on it as well as doodles and stats of a person’s appearance.
Tearing up, William smiled as he explained that page to Vincent. “That was all I had in my hands when we got the phone call. I could barely write the information down, I was far too excited and you mother was trying to read everything I was writing while yelling at me to keep my hand steady. It was the happiest day of our lives and will always be. So anytime you think that you’re not wanted or accepted, think about that sheet of paper and remember that we love you and always will.”
Vincent closed the file and walked over to his father giving him a hug. “You know that I love you and mom. I am not trying to say that I would have things any different. I just would have liked to know something about my background. Nothing will ever change the fact that you guys are my parents.”
“I know, Vincent," his father replied. "If anything should ever come our way, you know we will do everything we can to help you get your answers. It’s late. Why don’t we get you some new sheets and get you back into bed. You do have school tomorrow, you know.”
They left the office and went to the linen closet and grabbed some new sheets for Vincent. While they were in his room making up the bed, Vincent couldn’t help but wonder if the reason that his parents were given no information about his biological family was because of what had happened to him earlier that day. Little did he know that he couldn’t have been more accurate in his estimates, and that very soon he would have more answers about his past then he would have ever expected.
When Vincent awoke the next morning, he picked up his fully charged cell phone from the nightstand and phoned Justin. Vincent asked Justin to meet him on the usual walking path with Adam and Matt as soon as possible. He quickly ran into the bathroom, had a fast shower, and got dressed for school.
Vincent found his mother sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for her son with a plate of poached eggs cut into tiny cubes and placed on small wedges of toast. Catherine made this special meal for Vincent for as long as he could recall whenever she wanted to make him feel better. “Your father told me he showed you your adoption information. Are you okay? Is there anything you want to maybe talk about?”
Through a mouthful of toast, Vincent told his mother that he had no time to talk. He needed to meet his friends for school. He gave his mother a hug and assured her that they would talk just as soon as he got home from school before bolting out the door.
The concrete path was a familiar shortcut for many people walking toward the high school. Situated between the backyard fences of two different streets of houses on each side of the path, it ran directly to the school. Since most high schoolers drove, only a few neighbourhood freshman and sophomores would be speckled along the trail. This would serve to give Vincent the privacy he needed for the talk he was about to have with his friends.
Vincent reached the halfway mark on the walking path, meeting up with Justin, Matt, and Adam who had all been waiting for Vincent for quite some time at this point. “What’s the big deal all about, Vince?” asked Adam. “I had to get up twenty minutes early for school when Justin called me with your big emergency.”
Justin, obviously frustrated with Vincent, threw himself into the conversation. “And what exactly happened to you last night? You were supposed to meet us at Game On for hockey. We got our butts handed to us five to one by the Destroyers because you didn’t show up. Coach Lederer wasn’t happy at all. You could have boiled an egg on his forehead. What gives?”
Vincent took a second to plan out how he was going to say what he had to without making his friends think he was a mental patient. “Guys, something happened to me yesterday that is really hard to explain. I need to tell you but you have to promise that this conversation stays strictly between us.”
“Jeez, Vince, you'd think that your dad would have had the getting hair in different places talk by now,” Matt winked.
“Could you just stop and listen to me!” yelled Vincent. “This is big, I mean real big. Yesterday I got into an argument with Cyrus and he stuck me in the trunk of his car, took me to a dirt road where he dragged me behind his car, and then left me there.”
“Is that where you ended up yesterday? That explains why you didn’t make it to the hockey game. Hell, I’m surprised you’re not in the hospital after an encounter with Cyrus… Wait, did you say he dragged you behind his car?” Adam asked, a growing sense of alarm in his voice.
The three boys stared at their friend in shock as not a single one of them could believe what they were hearing. “That’s not even the worst of it. When I got up I had all sorts of cuts and bruises. I could hardly walk, so it took me a while but I walked all the way home. When I got home and took a look in the mirror, I noticed that all of my cuts and scrapes had fully healed without even a scar.”
Justin, Matt, and Adam all looked at each other with a stunned face and then back at Vincent. “Well, now I have heard it all. You could have tried to make a better excuse up than that. I mean, you expect us to believe that you were maimed beyond all repair and then magically healed yourself? Sure thing, Vincent. While we're at it, my parents won the lottery and I can fly like Peter Pan, ” Justin said sarcastically.
“I’m not making this up,” Vincent insisted. “Something really amazing happened last night that changed everything and it made a little sense. My dad showed me some things about my adoption. It got me to thinking that maybe there is a reason that no one knows who my birth parents are or where I came from. Maybe it’s all related somehow.”
Vincent was anxious for someone to say something. All was quiet, save the chirping of nearby wildlife. Justin looked over at Adam and Matt, then back at Vincent. “Maybe it’s best that we keep this sort of quiet, Vince. I’m pretty sure that this is something that no one else would accept or understand. The kind of thing they would put you in a nice white jacket and lock you up for. So for now we will just keep it between all of us.”
The boys agreed and continued to walk down the pathway toward the school when faintly in the distance they could hear the buzzer for the school go off, signaling to the students that classes were about to begin. They all quickly picked up their pace and ran for the school making it just in time before the official buzzer rang for classes.
The boys parted ways and Vincent scurried off to his locker to quickly grab his books for his first period science class. As he was attempting to remember the combination to his new locker by aimlessly twitching the combination dial, out of the corner of his eye he saw Alexis and her older sister Carrie walking his way. Carrie was a senior at Lakewood High and head of the cheerleading squad. She had the attitude of a rattlesnake, venomous when someone she didn’t like crossed her path.
Vincent kept his eyes focused on the locker and hoped that Alexis would not try to talk to him about what had happened the previous day, but it was too late. The young girl already had a look of despair on her face as she rushed over to him. As she approached, Vincent wondered what he was going to tell her had happened yesterday in the scuffle with Cyrus. He knew he had to keep what had “really” taken place a secret at any cost.
“Oh my god, Vincent! I tried to call your house last night and your parents told me that they hadn’t heard from you all day and that you didn’t come home after school. I was so worried about you. I just wanted to thank you for everything you did for me yesterday. It was really sweet. I was worried that maybe something had happened to you. Cyrus didn’t hurt you, did he?” Alexis gushed, lightly brushing her hand down his arm as if to assure herself he was really standing there.
Vincent lifted his head and took a look at Alexis’ face. The sheer expression on her face was enough to kill him. Her eyes were as large as baseballs, ready to make a small puddle of tears on the ground. Her bottom lip quivered as she awaited Vincent's explanation.
Unable to come up with anything more than a white lie, Vincent shrugged his shoulders. “There is no need to thank me, Lexi. I didn’t want to see you get hurt. Cyrus and I worked things out and there is nothing to worry about. It is all over with, as far as I’m concerned.”
Carrie didn't buy Vincent’s story. She squinted her eyes and with pursed lips retorted, “Do you honestly expect someone like Alexis to believe that you got into an argument with Cyrus Drake and that nothing at all happened as a result of it? Alexis wasn’t born yesterday!”
Vincent knew that trying to win an argument with Carrie was as pointless as having a screen door on a submarine. The boy stood there dumbfounded, shaking his head as he tried to think of something worthwhile he could say. Alexis had folded her arms and raised one eyebrow while pouting her lips and tapping her foot on the floor. Her scowl alone was enough to turn Vincent inside out. Vincent was convinced that any chance he had with Alexis Sommers had just been flushed down the toilet. She couldn't keep up the facade and her face turned from what was the meanest look in the world to a smile as she leaned forward and kissed Vincent on the cheek.
The young man’s body almost seized up as Alexis stood there waiting for Vincent to say something. He could not believe that a girl he assumed didn't have a real interest in him had just kissed him. So Vincent stood in front of Alexis and Carrie mumbling incoherently. Realizing he needed to say something, Vincent decided to open his mouth and pray something comprehensive would fall out. “Maybe we can get together sometime and hang out. It would be great to spend some time with each other.”
Vincent could not believe what had just come out of his mouth. He mentally crossed his fingers hoping that what he had just said was not going to end up being a social bomb dropped at his expense, in turn decimating his entire high school experience. A wide grin spread across Alexis' face, blushing as she replied, “I would really like that, Vince. Why don’t you give me a call this weekend and I’m sure we can work something out.”
Carrie clearly did not care for this turn of events. Scowling, she grabbed her sister by the wrist. “Come on, Alexis, we have to get to class. And I am not going to have the school call home tonight saying I was late over someone like Vincent!”
As the two girls walked away, Alexis looked over her shoulder smiling and waved goodbye to Vincent. Vincent slowly jolted back to reality when he noted the time on his watch and he realized he was ten minutes late for his science class at the other end of the school. Quickly scooping up his books and backpack, he ran down the halls toward his class as if his life itself was depending on him making it there as soon as humanly possible.
With all of the students already in class, the sound of the crashing of Vincent’s feet slapping against the floor echoed through the empty halls of the school. When he finally approached the classroom, Vincent could hear Mr. Lederer dictating his lesson to the class. Rob Lederer was a tall, balding, quirky man who thrived on making his students feel more like his friends. He was always poking fun at his students, and as a part time hockey coach to Vincent’s team, he loved dishing out push-ups on command as humiliation for insolent behavior for both his players and his students.
Vincent let out a deep sigh as he knew that no matter what the excuse there was no explanation that would escape Mr. Lederer's grasp. As he walked into the classroom, Vincent kept his head down and moved toward the back of the classroom to toward one of the last vacant desks next to Matt. He placed his backpack gently on the floor and slowly sat down in the very hard and squeaky chair attached to his desk.
Removing his binder and pen from his backpack, Mr. Lederer approached Vincent with a grim but slightly amused chuckle. “And just where were you for our game against Windsor Park, Vinnie?”
Vincent attempted to explain the same story of injury that he had given to his parents, when the science teacher suddenly cut him off. “Vince, do you really think I’m going to care where you happened to be yesterday? Crying about your frail body? We lost our game last night and I never lose, never. So for starters, you can get down on the floor and give me 20 push-ups for our loss yesterday. Then you can give me an additional 10 push-ups after that for being late to my class in hopes that you will never do it again.”
Embarrassed, Vincent dropped to the floor while the other students giggled almost silently at his misfortune. He was almost at push-up number five when he felt someone using his back as a chair. Mr. Lederer was sitting on him, continuing his lecture with a playful smile on his face and remained there until Vincent fell to the floor on push-up number thirty. Content, the teacher returned to the front of the class and Vincent to his seat.
A video on cell osmosis made Vincent's eyes heavy. The lights flickered on as the buzzer rang, urging Vincent to move onto his physical education class when suddenly he felt a strong, sharp pain to the temples of his head. Every second felt like an hour as each pulse of his brain caused Vincent’s head to hurt more and more and he leaned forward grasping his head.
Matt took notice and placed his hand on Vincent’s back and leaned in to speak to him. “Hey, are you okay? What’s wrong with you?” Matt asked who was now quite concerned about his friend’s health.
Vincent tried to stop grinding his teeth as he looked over at Matt. “My head. It feels like it’s about to explode!” Just as suddenly as the pain began it ended, and everything seemed back to normal. Vincent caught his breath, completely drained from the experience as he looked to Matt. “Why? What’s happening to me? I don’t know what to do. I can’t even see a doctor and tell him what’s going on without someone thinking I’m crazy or locking me up and treating me like a human guinea pig.”
“I don’t know what to say, Vince. Maybe you should wait until we can all get together and talk about it. If put our heads together, I'm sure we think of something to help you, but for now let’s just try and get through the day.”
They met up with Justin and Adam in the locker room for physical education class. As Vincent sat down on the locker room bench to change for class, he couldn’t help but feel partially dizzy from the excruciating headache he had experienced.Something about the way his friends were acting was unusual to Vincent as they came over and approached him.
“We think we can help you with your problem," Adam whispered. "Meet us outside the front doors of the school on the lunch hour."
Vincent was hesitant to believe what Adam had just said to him, as he noticed the unsure look on his face as he was talking to him. Adam had a tendency to avoid eye contact with Vincent, always shifting around as though looking for ninjas in wide open spaces.
“What did you do?” Vincent asked as he slammed Adam up against a locker by the collar of his shirt. “Did you tell someone? Do you have any idea what might happen to me if someone found out what was going on?”
Adam began to stutter every little incomprehensible word that he could out of his mouth as Justin placed his hand on Vincent’s shoulder. “Take it easy, Vince. You know we would never do anything to put you in any danger. You can trust us, everything will be fine. Just meet us at lunch, okay?”
Vincent took a deep breath as he let go of Adam’s shirt and let his feet fully touch the floor. “I’m sorry, guys. I just don’t know what is happening to me. I don't want to turn into some kind of freak. I just want to be normal.”
Sitting down on the bench he buried his hands in his face, completely stressed out over everything that had taken place in the past twenty four hours. His friends stood by his side to comfort their friend in what seemed like his darkest hour.
“You are normal, Vince. You’re just normal with a twist is all. Everything is going to work itself out, you’ll see,” Matt assured him, patting Vincent on the back.
Finally, Vincent took a deep breath, decided it was best to just get on with his class, and trust in his friends as he walked out of the locker room.
Mr. Cox towered over the boys with his clipboard and whistle in hand. “Well, it’s nice to see that you girls could join us this morning. All four of you maggots are late for my class, and if you’re late, you're running laps!” he exclaimed, his face two inches from the boys, and the scent of stale coffee on his breath.
Addressing the remainder of the class, he said, “And let that be a lesson to the rest of you. I will not tolerate tardiness in my gymnasium. Since the rest of you decided to show up on time, we will be playing dodge ball while these four run laps and do general exercises.”
The whistle blew and the students took their places on the floor for dodgeball while Mr. Cox motioned the remaining four to begin running. Twenty minutes later, the friends felt a burning fatigue from all the running they were doing while dodging the balls the rest of the class was taking pleasure in throwing at them as they ran past. Mr. Cox finally yelled at the boys to switch it up with a brief rope climb.
Vincent reached for the rope but stopped as a resurgence of the same sharp pain rushed through his head.
Justin saw this and moved to his side. “Are you okay, Vince?”
Vincent took a moment to collect himself before standing upright. “I keep getting these headaches and they hurt like hell. Maybe it’s from all the running.”
Focusing what strength he had left, Vincent shook off the pain and gripped the rope in both hands, ready to climb. Just as Vincent began to pull himself up, the rope snapped from its steel support on the ceiling and fell to the ground. Students behind them abruptly ended their game, the sound of unattended dodgeballs bouncing to a stop.
Mr. Cox ran over to the boys. “Is everyone ok?” he asked, examining the rope on the floor. “It looks like the support broke while you were trying to climb. I keep telling the school board we need more money for repairs. Well, at least no one was hurt.”
Vincent was puzzled; he knew for a fact he'd barely put any weight on the rope, and was fairly certain it had not fallen because of faulty equipment. His head pulsated again with unbelievable pain and he fell to the floor, vomiting on the padded mats. As he lifted his head back up, the pain started to subside but his ears rung with the voices of a million people all trying to talk at once. He tried to stand up and Mr. Cox grabbed his arm, helping him to his feet.
The voices wouldn't stop and Vincent began to think that maybe he was losing his mind.
“Can one of you kids go get the school nurse?” yelled Mr. Cox. When Vincent began to see straight again he heard Mr. Cox say, “God, what a mess. I’m sure glad I don’t have to clean that up.”
“What did you say?” asked Vincent.
Mr. Cox looked at Vincent, puzzled. “I didn’t say anything,” he replied.
Voices still clearly going through his head, Vincent surveyed the room. Most of his classmates stood in stunned silence, a few of them whispering to one another, but nothing so loud that he should be able to hear. That's when it hit him; he could hear their thoughts. The boy fell to the floor in a panic, frantically pushing towards the main door of the gymnasium with his hands and feet. Mr. Cox tried to calm Vincent down, saying the nurse would be there soon and they could call his parents. Justin, Matt, and Adam all walked toward Vincent attempting to try and help him to his feet.
As his friends moved to help him to his feet he snapped at them. “Get away from me!” he yelled as he pulled back from them. Scrambling to his feet, he ran out the door and into the main hallway.
He ran down the hallway and burst through the front door of the school where he stopped to catch his breath, hands on his knees, panting. “What’s happening to me?” he again asked himself out loud.
“I think I might be able to help you with that problem young man.”
Vincent looked up to see Principal Schwartz, an extremely concerned look on his face. He walked over and offered his student a hand. “I know about the strange episodes you have been having, Vincent, and I know how you can control them.”
Vincent looked Mr. Schwartz straight on trying to hide his emotions. “I don’t know what Justin and Adam told you, but it’s all lies. There is nothing wrong with me. I just don’t feel very well. In fact, I think I’m getting sick or something.”
“I haven't been told anything. Please hear me out, Vincent. I've spent most of your life watching you and I know what is happening to you,” Mr. Schwartz replied. “This day has been a long time coming, and I can help answer the questions you may have.”
Vincent was confused and took a few steps back. He looked at Mr. Schwartz and very quietly asked, “Who are you, and what do you want with me?”
Mr. Schwartz moved towards Vincent. “I had to pose as your principal so that I could keep a steady eye on you in public without drawing other people’s attention," he said. "You are unique, my boy, and I can help you get those abilities of yours under control. I will even show you how to use them to benefit mankind.”
“Abilities? I don’t have any abilities. What do you think this is, a comic book or something?” Vincent quivered as he backed away from Mr. Schwartz.
“This is becoming a waste of our time, Vincent. I have abilities, you have abilities, and your father before you had abilities,” said the principal as he took another step toward Vincent.
The young man stopped in his tracks. “Well, that's where you are wrong. You couldn’t possibly know who my biological father was because no one knows who he was.”
Mr. Schwartz smiled. “Vincent, I know your biological parents better than anyone else on this earth.”
At first Vincent believed it some sort of magic trick. Mr. Schwartz’s clothing changed and his facial features shifted about. In no time at all, he had morphed into a middle aged man with grey and brown hair dressed in a bomber jacket, knit sweater, cargo pants, and big black boots. Vincent froze with fear as the man neared him, looking Vincent straight in the eye.
“Vincent Macleod, I am Colonel Curtis Marshall. I’m your grandfather.”
Vincent let out a huge cry for help when the old man threw his arm forward and shot a green gas out of the sleeve of his jacket. Vincent instantly felt light headed before his eyes drooped and he fell unconscious.
The hum of tires on the dry roadway was an automotive lullaby. The last thing he could remember was the old man standing in front of him and distributing some kind of gas in his face. Whatever Mr. Schwartz used on him made his head heavy and the rest of his body weak. Vincent tried to open his eyes but all he could see was a blur. It reminded him of coming down from sedation and nitrous during his wisdom teeth extraction. Vincent attempted to convince himself it was all a dream as fog cleared.
He pulled himself up from the fully reclined passenger seat using the door handle since he was still a bit weak. Once upright, the motor of the seat kicked in and Vincent felt the softened leather against his back.
One glance out the window of the car shattered any illusion this was a dream as it confirmed he was far away from his home in Southdale.
“Sorry I had to knock you out like that, kid, but it was the only way you'd come quietly.” Colonel Marshall's voice made Vincent slightly jump with fear. The boy frantically grasped for a door handle, hoping to jump out of the car, but there was no handle to be found. In place of the usual dashboard was a massively lit panel with of all types of colorful flashing buttons and dials. And instead of a windshield was a screen running all sorts of diagnostics for the car took the place.
The vehicle traveled at high speeds as it flew down the highway. Vincent knew there must be some sort of way to open the vehicle, so he reached forward and pushed every button, hoping one would work. The colonel laughed aloud.
“There's no point in trying to push any of those, my boy. Your fingerprints aren’t registered with the car so won't respond to you. This is a good thing, seeing as your button mashing would have killed us about five times over. You might as well sit there and enjoy the ride.”
Reluctantly, he let out a huge sigh. “You said you were my grandfather. Aren’t you a little a young to be a grandpa?”
“I am flattered that you think so. I fear if I told you how old I actually was, you wouldn't believe me. Our powers sometimes have a catch to them. Aging happens to be a side effect of mine.”
“What exactly do you mean when you say powers?"
The older man sat silent for a second, then turned to Vincent, removing his hands from the steering wheel. Vincent lunged forward, gripping the wheel to take control of the vehicle. “Are you out of your mind?” yelled Vincent. To his surprise, moving the wheel did nothing. The vehicle was in fact driving itself to its destination.
“Holding the wheel was just for show, to make you feel safe about being in the car,” replied Colonel Marshall, laughing at the boy’s panic.
“You're part of a much larger picture than you could have ever imagined, Vincent. I am taking you to the headquarters for Tactical Recon and Covert Espionage, TRACE for short. We are a secret government agency, so secret in fact that even the F.B.I. and C.I.A. are kept in the dark about us. Our job is to keep the world in one piece, no matter what it takes.”
Everything was happening way too fast for Vincent's liking. Although skeptical of the man claiming to be his grandfather, he decided to push for answers. “So can TRACE explain what is happening to me, and why?”
“There's a microscopic bacteria produced in your bloodstream known to us as an Evolved Cell Organism, or Eco. Although not common knowledge,
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