Chapter the sixteenth: Forgotten friends
“Trent is a cool dude. But sometimes I worry, you know? I mean, it seems like sometimes he feels like he has to save the world. I think he got that from his mom, or maybe from his dad not being around… I don’t know, some kind of Freudian thing where he has to prove himself and take of everything-- psychology class was at eight in the morning so I didn’t really ever go. Anyways, yeah, Trent is a stand up guy, but I worry about him.”--Jared Bodaker
“I’m sorry, the crazy that came out of your mouth just then was so inane a trigger--no doubt developed somewhere along the line of man’s evolution for just this situation-- seems to have gone off in my brain, thus rendering comprehension of said crazy asunder, and I of course have to say, ‘come again?’” Jared folded his arms as he finished saying this.
“Look, all I’m sayin’ is you may have to come terms with the fact that we may have to put your friend down,” Will said in as un-aggravating a tone as he could manage. “The bloke you knew may well be long gone.”
Marcus jumped into the conversation, “I hate to be realistic, but these things are called spook hunts for a reason. I still remain unconvinced that anything supernatural has occurred to our friend, let alone the whole world.” Mark turned back around and faced out the windshield.
Will leaned forward. “This is the thing about normals that gets me--”
“Normals?” said Jared with a half grin.
“You all try so desperately to believe that the world isn’t falling to shambles around you. It is. We live in chaotic times, war-filled times, and dare I say it? Why yes Will, you do--we live in strange times. The fortune cookie has been split.” He made a breaking action.
“I totally don’t get that reference.” Mark took a sip of coffee.
“It’s a saying attributed to the Chinese. ‘May you live in… ’ Look what I’m trying to get at is we don’t know what has happened to your friend. We are vastly aware of our ignorance. But I think you should prepare for the worst, cause what little strangeness you’ve seen, you may think it’s nothing, and I can even see you two rationalizing it, but the fact is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a world out there, a shadow world, and it is very jealous of this world. The shadow world would love to eclipse our own. And some day, I fear it will. So… just… ya know, be prepared.”
Jared sighed. “Look, Will, we appreciate that you are… special. But maybe we shouldn’t have invited you along. If it’s so dangerous, why are you here?”
Will looked Jared squarely in the eyes. “I’m here because I’ve been given a gift. I see the shadows creeping, biding their time. I help because no one else can. When you’ve wrestled a Sumatran rat-monkey to the ground, or swapped blood with an ectoplasmic entity to seal a peace pact, or sung a baby to sleep that was never really born… well, maybe you’ll understand.”
Jared and Marcus both utter an exacerbated “Whaaaaaat?”
Before Will could elaborate further on his perspective, the passenger door opened, and Sheila plopped down on the seat. She seemed a bit out of breath as she said, “Go. Start. Now.”
Marcus started the engine. Jared leaned forward from the back seat. “What’s wrong?”
“I… it’s hard to explain…” Sheila mumbled.
“Oh, man, I sense them.” Will said, looking around excitedly. “Bloody hell, they’re close.”
Marcus pulled the car into traffic and the group was in motion.
“Right…” Jared deadpanned, “I sense that I am going to ask you for an explanation.”
“Were there suspicious people about?” Will asked Sheila.
“I don’t know. It was fine in the beginning. I got what we needed. But as I was waiting, there were… looks. I don’t know. The atmosphere of the place changed and everyone seemed… predatory. It was the same feeling from when I saw that thing at the hospital.”
“Relax,” assured Marcus. “We are far from the blood bank now. So you got the blood records? All three people?”
Sheila flipped through the manila envelopes in her hands. “Yes. I’ve got names. I guess we can try the phone book…”
“Guys,” interjected Will. “We have caught something’s attention.” In response to the other passenger’s questioning glances, he said simply, “We are being followed.”
Jared leaned forward. “Deploy the oil, Marcus.”
“What are you talking about?” Marcus scoffed.
“Oh right, we don’t have a spy car because we are not in a fictional universe, but in fact on Earth. My mistake.”
“Speak for yourself,” laughed Will. “Okay, well, I think we are being followed by the Impala two cars back. Those are low men. Mark my words, I can sense it! Now, I suggest you make like Hollywood and lose them.”
Marcus stepped up the speed. “I’d prefer to skip this part all together and get to the next scene, if it’s all the same to you! Hold on.”
Much to their chagrin, the four found that reality, as reality often does, ignored their desire for a clean transition or unseen resolution. The Impala was not easy to shake. Marcus weaved in between cars with measured abandon. Each time he cut in front of a car swiftly yet closely, Sheila sucked in a breath loudly and sibilantly.
Jared, with an uncharacteristic expression of sincerity on his face, gently put a hand on Sheila’s shoulder. “It will be alright. We can take who ever these guys are. Right, Marcus? Right Will.”
Will seemed to be chanting inaudibly. Marcus paused and curtly said, “Right.”
Shelia put her hand over Jared’s. “What have you gotten me into, you idiot,” she said with a wan smile.
“Sorry. Our friend was in trouble an--”
With a lurch they all were shoved forward. The Impala’s driver was not content to wait it seemed.
Marcus uttered a loud profanity. “They. Hit. My. CAR!” Within a short span of time, they were rammed again, from the direction of the back left tire.
Perhaps influenced by their drifting orientation, Marcus chose to turn the car abruptly into an alley. It turned out to be a bad stroke of luck, as it soon became evident that their progress was blocked by a dumpster sitting in front of a fence. Marcus stopped harshly. The wheels let out a cry.
“Maybe I can ram my way through!” Marcus propositioned.
“No,” Will responded calmly. They’ve won this round. Best now to cooperate. If we piss them off… we’ll be dead.” The others looked at Will with fear and trepidation, expectation something more of an assurance. Will, with a weary tone, said simply, “Cut the engine, Marcus. We’re not going anywhere.”
Low men, Will thought to himself. He had encountered the like before. The type of people the supernatural types used. The low men were flickering shadows, human offshoots of darker entities. Their very souls corrupted by service their benefactors. And the worst part was Will pitied them sometimes, they always got the raw end of the deal. Evil is not a generous master, and always eager to pull on the choke-chain. This time, the low men seemed to be a pair. One big, obviously the muscle of the two, and one smaller.
The small one, slightly emaciated with huge cheekbones, slicked back widow’s peaked hair, and sunken, sharp eyes, spoke. “What you think you know. It’s not what you know.” His thin mustache twitched under his nose in what looked like a tick. Or a rat sniffing. You’re messing with a world that you are never gonna understand. In fact, elaboration on the subject may well cause you to vacate your bowels with the force and violence of a car wreck. Right, Abe?”
The bigger one, a man that could easily double as a bouncer, yet looked to have some sharp cunning underneath his flat face, replied. “That’s right, Cain.” He eyed the group with a fierceness that necessitated they avoid his gaze. You ain’t nothing’. He is insanity. It makes my head hurt to think of him. Humans--”
“So we’ll spare you troglodytes the details.” Cain interjected. “What were you checking on?”
“What are you talking about?” Stammered Marcus.
Cain simply glanced at Abe as if to say, “Well?”
Abe took it as a cue to punch Marcus suddenly and squarely in the face. The impact was a swift and somewhat wet sounding one. With a mutter of surprise, Marcus brought his hands to his face and dropped to one knee. Blood issued at an alarming speed and alacrity from his nose soon after.
“Hey…” said Jared in astonishment. Shelia quickly glided down to check his condition. Will tightened his jaw.
Cain continued, “You see, our employer has bestowed on us, certain… endowments which facilitate and expedite our ability to not only keep tabs on when people are snooping where they shouldn’t, but also discern truth from excrement. So don’t lie to us. Now let’s see…” Cain put his hands to his temples, as if in thought. “Ah, there is information. You took information. Of course it doesn’t take a Da Vinci-sized intellect to figure out that much. But yes, I sense it. You have received information… you don’t comprehend it yet… But!” He spun towards Will. “There is something about you. The sort of smugness that can only come from knowing… That can’t be. What are you…?”
Abe stepped forward, as if incensed. Cain held him back absentmindedly. “I don’t know what you are. You don’t smell human, and yet you don’t smell dangerous either…”
“Oh, I beg to differ mate.” Will could not help himself. Some quips are just too central to one’s character to ignore.
The one called Cain arched his eyebrows for a second. He turned to the one called Abe and made a sweeping, palm up gesture as if directing a couple to their seats in a restaurant. He looks like a concierge with that hair and mustache-- Will started to think. Abe was on him, and he didn’t have the usual cool for his inner witty banner.
After a very long interval that may have in fact been relatively short, Will slumped against his aggressor; not having the strength to do much else. Cain idled up to Will, and spoke low and quietly, “You may think you know what we are. Maybe you have a glimpse. But I promise you, you have no idea what he is. Go back to you’re junior Ghostbusters’ headquarters, spooky kid. We prefer not to kill, because it makes so much hassle… but you try our patience.”
With that said, he briskly walked to the group’s car and opened the back seat. He pulled out the manila envelope and dramatically held it aloft in his left hand to show it’s importance to the members of the group that were still in shape to pay attention. “You kids are playing with fire. I bet you know what happens when you do that. Your mother’s must have told you.” Somehow, the file caught fire. Cain’s view stayed intently on the group. “Don’t let us catch you again.” He dropped the file, burned beyond all recognition, in a trashcan.
Without a word, Abe threw Will down. The throw knocked Will’s head against a brick wall behind him. He went fuzzy, barely noticing the two shadowy figures getting into the car and speeding off.
Sheila, ever the nurse, was soon applying first aid to Marcus and Will.
“All that, and we lost the file.” Said Jared in a dismayed tone.
“No, we didn’t,” said Sheila as she helped Will up. “The papers that were in that file are underneath the floor cover. I took them out and replaced them with something else. He burned the wrong thing.” She couldn’t help but smile triumphantly. Jared laughed in shock.
“Ach. Now we’re doubly dead,” Moaned Will. “They’ll probably figure it out somehow. In any case, I think we’re marked.”
“What do you mean,” asked Jared wearily.
“I mean the dark world has noticed us. We’re tainted. More tainted I should say; you lot reek of your vampy friend and me… Like big blips on their radars. Mark the words of this keen Englishman: If not those two goons, something else will come after us soon.