Chapter the Eleventh: Two Investigations
"I grasp at the threads of reality until I see the tapestry that has remained hidden.”
--William, to anyone that will listen.
The aged-yet-sturdy bartender eyed William with an arched eyebrow. Filling a glass of beer, he said in a gruff, friendly voice. “What’s with you, Will? Why are you nursing that beer like a schoolgirl?”
Will exhaled some smoke, smirked, and replied simply, “I’m on a case.”
“What are you talking about? This something to do with the ghost stories you’re always telling?”
A barfly looked up from his beer nuts and said, “I like the one about the dead prostitute in Amsterdam, don’t you like that one, Angus?” He pointed to the bartender with a slightly shaky hand.
Angus replied curtly, “Brother, you believe the stuff this kid says? I can refute that story on several well intuited thoughts.”
“Ne’re you mind.” Angus sighed, handed a patron the beer, and said as an aside to Will, “He’s been drinking ever since he flunked out of the same college you go to. Now! As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by the Cro-Magnon wonder…”
“Shut up, Harry, I’m telling you something here. Will’s fantastic tales are always complete tommyrot. The one in Amsterdam is particularly spurious because--”
“Harry, so help me I’m gonna beam you. Buy a dictionary before you come back here tomorrow. Reading it will give you something to do between sips of beer. Now--stop laughing Will!--now, as I was saying, Will is full of it. Right up to those brown eyes of his. Eyes are the window to the soul don’t you know. Anyways, there are several things I find to be incongruent in--” He paused, and dared Harry to interrupt him again with a fierce look “-- the young English lad’s tale. First, the very setting: Amsterdam. That right there tells me that he was stoned out of his mind the whole time, and is not to be trusted to any events he claims transpired.”
“Never touched the wicked weed,” said Will calmly. “That’s why Americans go to Amsterdam.”
Harry ignored this rebuttal. “Point two.: A whore would never come back from the dead. They’re so used to being on their backs that the grave feels like home to them.” Harry laughed and nodded. “Point three: Ghosts don’t exist anyway, anywhere. Not here, not Amsterdam. With all due respect to the lad--and we all do love ya, Will--he is as daft as a Sumerian waltzing into a non sequitur.”
“What?” said Harry. “Now you’re just making words up.”
Will erupted into uproarious laughter.
“But the most important reason why it couldn’t have happened--”
Will snapped upright in his seat. “Wait!”
“What, you don’t want to hear me talk anymore? This is your punishment for being such a lousy customer tonight.”
“I must go!”
“Why?” asked Harry.
“The supernatural calls, my friends! I swear to you, it most assuredly does exist. Got to run!”
In a flash Will was out the door.
Harry turned to the bartender. “What do you suppose that was about?”
“I don’t know, but I hope the boy will be alright.”
“Say, maybe you really do think there is something to the supernatural after all?”
“Not at all. Nevertheless, there are strange things in this world Harry; I’ve heard enough tall tales during my tenure here to believe that. And that boy, he tells the best ones. Drink up Harry. The night is young.”
William stood at a corner near the bar, letting the time ripen while he smoked a fag. Then he felt it again. “Ah, my spider-sense is tingling!” He joked to city. The city did not laugh, but Will was too busy looking around to lecture a city about its sense of humor. Within seconds, he spotted Trent.
Trent was walking around in a rather subdued manner, and seemed to be lilting back and fourth as a leaf on an autumn breeze as he walked along. Stealthily, Will began his pursuit.
Trent seemed rather oblivious to his surroundings, from what Will could tell. He would bump into debris every once in a while, but he seemed to manage around most of the larger obstacles in his way. As Will got closer, he could hear sibilant utterances that seemed to be coming from Trent.
He’s gone completely daft. thought Will. He took it as a sign that he could approach closer without large risk of detection from the shambling boy, who seemed to be on drugs for all anyone knew. Or perhaps even dead as Will half-believed. Much as Will put stock in the supernatural, he still found that he had the healthy skepticism of any Western European in this modern age, and he even questioned his own sanity at times. But this Trent, he was fascinating, and he might hold the proof that always eluded Will’s kind.
As he drew closer, he tried to distinguish the whispering issuing from Trent. He could make out some snippets. “Too great an honor…”, “well, I do my best with what God gave me…” and “What manner of offer are you making?” were among the things that Will imagined he could discern.
The young Englishman decided that it was okay to test the waters. “Trent,” he said quietly. There was no response from the hypnologic American. “Trent. Can you hear me?”
“Surely this is madness…” Trent whispered in a sucking gasp. His eyes, seeing some far off event, widened.
Boldly now, Will darted a hand in front of Trent’s face and waved it about. “Hello. Anyone home?” Trent merely walked and whispered on. “Where are you taking us, pray tell?”
If Trent knew the answer to that, he was in no state to tell. Blindly, he walked on. Will sighed and decided to see this journey through. Hopefully, answers were forthcoming.
“Okay,” Mark said. “Ask her.”
“Whoa. I don’t know if I should ask,” responded Jared.
“What do you mean you don’t know if you should ask? We come all the way to the hospital and now you don’t think you can ask?”
Jared looked down. “I should have said something earlier.”
Jared motioned to shush Marcus. “Sssh. She might hear you!” He whispered exasperatedly.
“Listen, you said she might be here, and she is, and you know her well, so what is the problem?”
“Maybe we should find someone else to ask…”
Marcus grabbed Jared’s arm. “What’s the problem?”
“Look we’re here. At the scene of a recent crime. And we’re going to inquire about our friend, who happens to be the ‘missing patient’ that everyone is looking for…”
Marcus stroked his goatee for a second. “So we won’t bring up our friend. It’s okay.”
“What are we going to ask then? Excuse me, but did you see anything supernatural around here lately? Do you think… --I don’t know--that there could be a logical reason why someone would heal from a gunshot without so much as a scar?”
“Relax,” said Marcus. We’ll ask her about… uh… pathogens.”
Jared rolled his eyes. “You have no idea what we’re doing here, do you?”
“Well, at least I’m willing to try!”
“Ssh. Keep your voice down!”
Marcus smirked. “Hey, why are you so afraid to talk to her? She’s you’re ex girlfriend, isn’t she?”
“More or less.”
“So what’s the problem?!”
“She’s-- listen, I don’t have good luck with previous love-interests.”
Mark rolled his hand invitingly. “Pray tell.”
“Well, I have really bad luck with women…”
“Seriously? You seem to be in their company constantly.”
Jared nodded vigorously. “See, that’s part of the problem. I’ve got this… charm.”
“Yeah, charm. I tend to seduce girls without realizing what I’m doing.”
Marcus rubbed the bridge of his nose, as if he was in pain.
Jared continued, “So, the thing is, when the girl snaps out of her spell, she is inevitably mad at me.”
“I’m not following the logic.”
“Girls don’t like to be tricked. They like to be in control of the relationship. They want to be the alpha-controller.”
Marcus cocked his head in confusion. “Wait, seduction is a trick?”
“Well, maybe. But like I said, I don’t mean too. It just… happens. I have some sort of preternatural charm.”
“Preternatural stupidity is more like it,” Marcus snorted. “Look, I’m sure she was a rational girl that dated you because she liked you, and I’m equally sure she doesn’t hate you.”
“Oh yes she does. I have never had a good break up. Girls get mad when the spell breaks.”
“Jared?” Both Jared and Marcus jumped with surprise at this female voice. They turned to see that a young woman in scrubs was walking towards them. A smile beamed on her face. “Jared! What are you doing here?”
Jared smiled embarrassedly. “Hey… Sheila! Fancy meeting you here. At the hospital. Where you work.” There was an awkward beat, where Jared looked to Marcus for help. “So, how’s pre-med going for you?”
Marcus stepped forward. “I’m Marcus. Wow, Jared never told me you were so hot.”
Sheila smiled and rolled her eyes. “Really?”
“Hot?” Jared said, “Jeeze Marcus. Anyways, how are you, Sheila?”
“I’m fine, hon. But how are you? I never hear from you.”
“Sorry ‘bout that. I’m always busy. Taken care of my crazy friend’s and stuff.”
“Hey!” said Marcus. “Did you just try to make me into the Shemp of this conversation?”
Sheila blinked. “What?”
“You see what I mean?” Continued Jared, “They’re crazy.”
“Come on, you know Shemp. The fourth stooge? He knows the reference. Tell her.” Marcus pointed from Jared to Sheila.
“You see, absolutely crazy.”
Sheila laughed politely. “Right. I don’t get it. Anyways…” at this point, she switched to a more serious tone, and Marcus, upon hearing the next words she uttered, instantly wondered if this was, indeed, a woman scorned. “What are you doing here, Jared?”
“It was your friend, wasn’t it?” Both the boys let their draws drop ever so slightly in surprise. “I remember Trent. I even saw him while he was here.” She crossed her arms.
Jared laughed meekly. “Well, um, the thing is… we were wondering about him…”
“I don’t really know anything about the incident. Except what I saw and felt, which was fleeting, and dark, and terrifying.”
Marcus’s brow rose. “You saw the attack?”
“No. But I saw the thing that did it. I think I did. It went by.”
“Well, I’m not especially convinced…” she looked around quickly and covertly, then leaned in. “I’m not sure it was human.”
“How would you describe it?” Jared asked.
“As a force. A primal force. Personified. Incarnate. Insane. Like if nihilism had legs.”
“You saw all that?”
“I said it was hard to describe. And I‘ve had time to think up that description. If you were there…” She shivered. “I hope it didn’t get your friend.”
“He’s okay,” Marcus said before he could stop himself.
“Marcus!” chided Jared. “You really are a Shemp sometimes.”
Sheila was confused. “What’s the problem? Is there a reason why Trent disappeared? The cops--”
“We’d rather the cops not know. Please, you can’t tell them about him, they’ve already bugged us today and we don’t really know what to tell them.”
Jared looked to Marcus. “We… have a theory. It’s crazy. Nothing really. But we were wondering about some things. I was hoping… you could help us?”
Sheila cocked her head in consideration. “I get off in two hours. I may be able to help you then… but, I’m not sure what I can do…”
Jared enclosed her hand between his own two palms. “We just need to talk really. How ‘bout we meet you at cold rock? The coffee shop where we used to go.”
“Fine. Right. I’ve got to get back to work.” Sheila started to walk away.
“Sheila! Please, keep this all confidential!” Jared pleaded. She simply nodded and rushed off.
“Well,” Marcus said after she was gone, “that was less painful than we thought it would be, right? For you at least. That was bloody painful for me.”
Jared sighed. “Quiet, Shemp.”
“Hey now! I take umbrage to that; I started this conversation as the lecturer, not the lecturee!” He grabbed Jared into a headlock.
“Boys!” Came the familiar voice of the angry nurse that had kicked them out of Trent’s room just days before. They both stopped in mid-motion. Filled with trepidation, they looked up. The large woman stood with her fists on her hips, glaring furiously at them.
“Uh…” squeaked Jared.
“This is a hospital, not a frat party! I suggest you go elsewhere!”
“Yes, ma’am!” The two said in unison and quickly made for the nearest exit.
As she watched them scamper off, the bitter woman thought, haven’t I seen those two before? With an angry sigh, she turned and walked off in a huff. No rest for the wicked.