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Chapter 10

I shoved my skull key into the ignition, fired up the bike, and sped off down the street. Very few street lamps still illuminated this road. It gave the street an unnaturally dark feeling. It felt like I was in the woods or on a mountain side road that had no electricity. I felt all alone with nothing to guide me. It was spooky. The only light I could make out was coming from off in the distance, from the Neon District. They were spotlights shining from the heart of it all, the long arm of seduction.

I parked my bike on the street a few stores up from the restaurant. I pulled the key out of the ignition and murmured aloud, “Stay.” The bike had a different theft deterrent than the church’s door. It was simple really. When the key was out there was no way to start it. You couldn’t hot wire it, you couldn’t break the steering lock, and you couldn’t push it. I gave the bike a little more help when I worked up an enchantment to coincide with the anti-theft devices. It worked like the others. When the key wasn’t in place the bike couldn’t be picked up or moved in any way. It was the opposite of anti-gravity. You could have a crane intended for building bridges and sky-scrapers and you still wouldn’t be able to lift this bike. I left knowing when I returned my transportation would be waiting for me, in the same place, and exactly how I left it.

The neon lights highlighted the stragglers as they staggered out of the various places, trying to find their way home. It looked like they had made an unwise decision to have that one more round and they were paying for it. Cabbies lurked near by, coming and going with precision, darting between other cars and, on a far too often occasion, people. They staked out the hottest clubs and patiently waited for the last call; their meters were always running.

I found the entrance to Forever Dark…or Void of Light…or whatever the name was for the restaurant-bar-club-brothel-drug den I had finally arrived at. I tried the door and it was locked, the open sign had already been turned off. I started to politely knock when I remembered why I had come here to begin with…noise, and lots of it.

With my left hand balled into a fist, in my mind I imagined spikes six inches long coming from the end of it. I then pushed my will, my power down my arm and into the steel door. It was as easy as punching through a wet paper towel. The hardened door ripped from its hinges taking the coat rack with it. It slid across the tiled floor, settling 30 feet away. Now, that was more my style.

A worker came running out of the kitchen and into the waiting area to see what had made such a noise. I stood in the empty doorway marveling at the impressive work I had just done.

“What the heck happened?” The kid asked.

“I’m sorry,” as I spoke, I looked at the kids work attire and found his name tag, “Chris, but the door was sticking when I tried to open it. I thought it was a heavy door, so I gave it a little nudge.” I threw my hands in disbelief, it was my, I was just as surprised as him, look.

He looked bewildered, bright eyed and all. His mind was frantically racing, trying to come up with a logical explanation for the door being 30 feet from where it normally hung. The kid was the definition of gawky to me with his skinny body framed with his red hair, his slouched posture and his un-tucked shirt.

“How do you know my name?” He asked with a touch of squeakiness in his voice.

Ha. Poor kid was obviously tired and rightfully so; it was almost 5am. Either he was at the end of his shift or at the beginning of it; either way he seemed a little off his game. I’d better take it easy on him, he didn’t do anything wrong. He shouldn’t have been the one to deal with me.

“You’re wearing a name tag, Chris.” He looked down to confirm what I had told him. “I’m looking for the owner. I was hoping to catch him on his way out. Is he available?”

“I’ve never met the owner. I wouldn’t be able to tell you who he was if he was standing right in front of me.”

I exhaled ever so slowly, frustrated with life at the moment.

“Is there someone else here that could help us?”

The kid was thinking awfully hard for such a simple question. Maybe I gave him too much credit earlier, maybe this was him at his best.

“I dunno man, I just clean after closing.”

“Don’t worry about it, Chris. I’ll come back at a more appropriate time.”

“I can leave a note or something, you know, try to get a message to the manager,” he said, doing his all to help.

“Do you have a marker or sharpie…or perhaps a crayon?” I asked.

He dug around in his pockets, but to no avail. He spotted something near him behind the counter, grabbed it and handed it to me. It was a red sharpie…perfect.

The door, mangled on the ground looked like a pup tent. I used big, bold, block letters to write a note on the door, making sure they would know it was from me.

Wes was here

It was simple, effective, and juvenile. I liked it.

I tossed the sharpie back to Chris and with a bounce in my step I made my way to the empty doorframe. It’s the little things that kept me going.

“Lay off the drugs Chris, you’ll need all the brain cells you can muster.”

I left the restaurant, pretending to open the door as I stepped through the empty threshold. The sun had started to show itself in the east. It was still more-dark than light but then again this town had always been that way. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

The ride home was cool and refreshing. It felt good to do some damage. It had been a while since the last time I was able to destruct property like that. I parked my beautiful bike in its plot, said good-bye, and it disappeared back into the earth. I lumbered up the three flights of stairs and hugged my terrier good-night. I passed out. No dreams, only the passing of time.

I woke up refreshed and strangely happy. I went to the kitchen and poured out a delicious cup of coffee–extra creamer. I always make my coffee in the evening and have it on a timer for noon the next day. Even if it wasn’t that late of a night, coffee would always be good at noon.

Gizmo received fresh water and a cup of food. We would have to go out back in a little bit but for now he looked content in our “morning” routine. I turned the TV on and flipped to the local news channel…nothing. I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t make the news, but it would’ve been cool if one time I could be a side story or something. I should think of a pseudonym, you know a code name I could go by. Rick Deckard could work, yeah I like that one. I may need a good alias someday and that one would do fine.

I feel like I wasted a day. I’ve gone nowhere. Besides some light vandalism, I was still at the beginning with nothing to show for it. Now, my helpy-helper, Harry, has lost his cool and Eddie is–well Eddie is a dick. Speaking of Eddie I should go play my N64; Bond, James Bond–007. Top ten games of all time, all platforms included. No, no, I can’t be distracted; perseverance, dedication that’s me.

My left arm twitched. It was never a good thing.

Bang, bang, bang. The front doors of the church echoed throughout my home. Crap, I knew I was in too good of a mood.

I took my time going down the stairs, waking up, enjoying my coffee.

Bang, bang, bang. The front doors shook a second time.

I walked even slower, my guard dog at my side.

I cracked the door slowly, two police-people stood there impatiently. An annoyed look on their faces as I opened the doors fully, greeting them in my PJ’s which were the same clothes I wore earlier that morning, minus the coat and shoes. I hadn’t even had a chance to brush my fangs yet.

“Good morning Officers or should I say good afternoon,” I said greeting them with as much politeness as I could.

“Sir, we’re responding to an incident that happened earlier this morning. It took place at…” he flipped open his little notebook, “the restaurant, Eternal Night.”

“Can’t say I know what you’re talking about. I was here asleep. What happened? I hope there wasn’t another shooting. I saw that the other night on the news. It’s terrible, things like that happening in our great valley.”

The officers exchanged a glance. I don’t think they believed me.

“We have reason to think you were there…” he checked his notebook again, “around 5am. We have a witness saying a man in a black coat, that fits your description, was there. And his name is Wes.”

Before I could make up some lie, the officer’s radio went off; it sounded important. There was something about a high speed pursuit on the southern end of town; I didn’t know all the cop codes, but they looked fired up.

“Sir, we will be back at some point to finish this conversation.”

That’s all he said and both of them went to their cruiser and left, quickly and abruptly.

Well…shit. Am I the only Wes in this town or what? I closed and locked the front doors with my eight foot oak lock. It felt like I was securing a castle and that was fine by me.

The police had to be randomly going to people named Wes in a ten block radius or something. They were grasping at straws, right? Admittedly, it was a little nerve racking to think that they might come back, but my little shenanigans should fall between the cracks. No one was hurt and a door was broken; no big deal, right? Yet, I still didn’t make the news. I felt like punching myself in the face for using my real name when I ordered power and water and all that stuff for the homestead. I should have used an alias. Rick Deckard, how may I help you? The restaurant probably had to file a police report to get the insurance to cover the damages. I wish that little red-haired kid kept his mouth shut. I thought I was pretty nice to him overall. I gave him a story to tell all his ginger friends. If anything, I helped his life; a good story can do wonders for your reputation. Embellish a little here or there and say I tried to punch him, but he blocked it and threw me to the ground and I went off crying. I wouldn’t have minded if he helped himself.

I’m glad it was past noon. I needed an adult beverage.

On your mark, get set, and go.

Gizmo took the early lead up the stairs, but I was right on his stubby tail. We rounded the second floor platform neck and neck. I abruptly stopped half way up the third flight of stairs, turning to head back down. Gizmo stopped and headed back towards me–where I went he would follow. I quickly darted back up the stairs and passed him with a juvenile cry of joy. One word described how I felt…winning.

We made it back to our room; Gizmo sulking only a little bit. I collapsed in my recliner in the corner as if someone pulled all my bones out of my body at once. I had to get back to the beginning, the basics of the investigation. I started with the newspaper from the morning after the shootings. The paper, Heretic Herald, gave the shootings a front page spread. Usually you would find it on the back side of the page. It must’ve been a slow news day.

Two individuals, both men, were gunned down outside of a local nightclub. Around 2am the partiers exited the building and were waiting for a taxi. A black SUV with tinted windows pulled up. Two masked people leaned out and opened fire. The club, Night Shade, known for keeping the inside barely visible, declined to answer any of our questions. The club has resumed its normal operating hours after the police finished their investigation of the crime scene. One of the men, David “Deals” Hester, a local drug runner and dealer died on the scene. The other victim, N other information could be given at this time. The authorities are awaiting the contact of any family members before they are able do anything else. David is survived by his grandmother Pearl whom he still lived with. Anyone with any information please call the H.V.P.D. @ 1-555-276-6533.

I put the paper down. I felt a slight frown surfacing. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt anything to go by the club. Going to the scene of the crime is generally a useful tool for a private investigator. But, I’m not really a private investigator. There was a problem with that idea though. Jace’s place was only a block away from the club and though I’m not scared of him in general, I shouldn’t draw any more attention to my unforgettable face. I felt like I was in the same place as before. I was in that proverbial tar pit watching the world change as I became a skeleton of my former self. Yikes, that was a little dreary even by my standards. It must be lunch time.

My lunch: a PB & J sandwich on buttermilk bread, an apple, pretzel sticks, and a glass of water to wash it all down. It was better than it sounded. I ended up adding some peanut butter to the apples as well. Gizmo received a couple treats, but the bag was nearly empty. A trip to the pet store was due; he needed to relieve himself anyway.

The sun still tried to make itself visible through the clouds as we stepped out back, but like before the light couldn’t find its way through. It was a typical afternoon here.  The walk to the pet shop took 4 minutes on average. It’s quick and short enough that I didn’t complain. The pup produces a lot of strength within his little frame, pulling me the whole way. I’m not gonna complain about it, he saves me from using too much energy. I wouldn’t want to break a sweat.

Before us, stood a two story brick building with a small sign, handwritten with the name of the store, Pets are People Too. In between two windows, a single glass door held another sign declaring it open. Gizmo pulled us in.

There wasn’t another soul present except for the owner, Charles, a man in his late 70’s. He had thin white hair covering 60% of the area that it should’ve covered. His light brown sweater vest screamed old man and he wore it proudly. He was doing today’s crossword. He was always doing the daily crossword. His glasses rested on the tip of his nose, but not to worry, his slender, silver chain attached to each ear piece would prevent any damage being done if they were to fall. His trusty companion Charge: an enormous, massive, beast of a dog, rested by his side. The bull mastiff, one of the largest breed of dogs, looked nearly as old as Charles. Don’t let his lethargic appearance fool you, Gizmo would attest to that. He learned a very valuable lesson one day: never wake a sleeping bear or in his case a bull mastiff.

Charles greeted us with a genuine smile, few that had ever been directed towards me, (even though I knew it was mostly meant for Gizmo).

The quaint shop looked out of place in the Valley. It belonged in the country side, off of a dirt road, nestled under a sycamore tree. Charles exuded that country, grandfather appeal.

The pet store never sold any pets, it only provided you with the tools and supplies to take care of the ones you already had. Charles did have a fish tank in the middle of the shop with a school of fish in it: a white angel fish, many goldfish, guppies, and a clown fish like ‘Nemo’. These fish were not for sale, this was Charles personal tank.

An aisle on each side of the tank held the various dog and cat supplies. One of the walls was dedicated for fish and the other for rabbits and various vermin. The back aisle had been dedicated to our products. It was our very own special wall.

“Good afternoon Charles, how are you doing today?”

“Hello Gizmo. Hello Wes. I am doing as well as the last time I suppose. I’m still able to get up every morning, open the doors, and go about my business.”

“The little tyke here ran out of treats. Are they still on the back wall?” I asked knowing the answer. “His puppy chow should still have over a week left, so only the treats for today.”

“He looks a little portly, maybe you’ve been giving him too many of those treats. And yes they are on the same wall as last time,” He answered with a smirk.

Gizmo wasn’t portly. He could run circles around any person or any dog for that matter. I have to cheat just to beat him up or down the stairs. And I’m sort of fit.

“Don’t say that Charles. He already has one complex, he doesn’t need another.”

I went over to Charge and gave him some firm pets and how-do-you-do’s before finding my way to the back wall and to the pup’s veggie-friendly treats. Gizmo went to Charge tentatively, giving him a quick lick and a wag of his tail before joining me to pick out his snacks. Last time he had the fake-fish snacks, this time I picked the fake-chicken flavored snacks but the dog in command brought over the bacon flavored snacks. I couldn’t say no, they were shaped like real bacon.

We made our way back to the counter. Charles was still working on the daily crossword. Like I said, he was a typical old man.

“There you go sir, just the snacks.” I said interrupting his concentration.

“Huh? Oh, yes you’re still here. Sorry, today’s questions are harder than usual,” he said motioning to the newspaper.

“What are you stuck on? Maybe this young gun can get his good deed out of the way early today.”

“We’ll see about that, Wes. It’s 12 down. I can’t for the life of me think of the answer.”

“If you think any harder that vein in your forehead may burst, you better relax and let me have a look.”

“Fine, kid, here’s the question,” he said. “The now destroyed home planet of Princess Leia. It’s 8 letters.”

I shook my head and laughed. He pulled one over on me, there wasn’t much else I could’ve done but smiled.

“Good one old man. You got me. If you didn’t want my help you could’ve just said so. I can always help an old lady get through an intersection later or something. I don’t need your help fulfilling my self-appointed daily quota for good deeds.”

“What?” He asked abruptly. “No, that is the question. I’m not trying to trick you,” he said seriously. He looked down his wrinkled nose, “Who is Princess Leia?” He asked pronouncing her name incorrectly.

My jaw dropped. Whatever look I had on my face wouldn’t have been enough to display my shock. Even in his late 70’s he should have known the answer to that question. The original Star Wars movies are the most widely known trilogy of all-time. It hurt me to know there were still people out there that hadn’t experienced the “force”.

“If you really are being serious Charles, the answer is ‘Alderaan’. The home planet of Princess Leia is Alderaan. I would love to go into great detail about the movie but I’m afraid the information would fall on deaf ears.”

“Huh?” He asked turning an ear to me.

“I said, the answ…” he interrupted me before I could finish.

“I know what you said. I heard you loud and clear.” He said with a smile. “Please don’t go on about anything though; I’m too old to learn new things.”

I nodded in agreement. “That’s very true.”

I try to forget how this store stayed open on our desolate street, but if it wasn’t for me our favorite little pet shop would’ve been long gone by now. I only wished that we hadn’t met under such circumstances.

Shortly after I found myself with a dog, I found the store. I started going there almost every day getting something for the puppy. Gizmo was as demanding then as he is now. On one of our daily trips we came in to find Charles behind the counter, but he wasn’t doing the crossword; he was on the ground, bleeding.  It turned out he had been pistol-whipped. The butt of the gun split the middle of his forehead, causing blood to spurt out of the two inch gash. He had been going in and out of unconscious. I remember seeing the faint white coloration of his skull in between the rag changes.

I waited for the paramedics to show up, doing the best I could until they arrived. His dog, Charge, had been locked up in the back room. By the time I let him out the door had all been knocked off of its hinges. Charge had two nails ripped out of his left paw and one out of his right. He never stopped trying to get to Charles, to his family. From that day on nothing would keep Charge away from Charles. I doubt Death himself could.

When Charles returned from the hospital two days later I went over to the store to see if I could help. He gave me the same details as he did two days earlier while we were waiting for the police: two men, both wore masks, one talked with an English accent, and the gun was a revolver—a big one.

The police told him they weren’t very hopeful if no one else were to come forward. The police never particularly cared about this part of the valley; except if someone broke down a door and then left without further incident. If that sort of thing happened they would get that case solved A.S.A.P.

I asked Charles to walk me through the robbery, step by step.

It happened very quickly. They came in waiving the gun, ordering Charles to put Charge in the back room. He did. When he made it back, the one with the English accent smashed the butt of the gun straight down on his head. He fell back behind the counter in a heap on the floor. The other assailant went to the register and hit his hand on the top of it when it stuck halfway open. He snatched the $100 or so that had been in the register. The robber looked down at Charles bleeding and as if he was trying to add lemon juice to his wounds, he ripped the wedding band off of Charles finger.

Charles remembered that the bastard cut himself; an important fact that he hadn’t remembered until that moment. The thief had cut himself hitting the register. Blood…blood was good. I could do something with that.

Magic, energy, aura, or whatever you want to call it, lives inside of everyone. Small, trace amounts in most people but in cases like mine, it thrives and empowers me to be able to do extraordinary things. One of those things is being able to locate anyone, anywhere if provided with a sample of their DNA, their energies fingerprint. And there are no two alike.

I gathered the dried blood from the register and placed it in the middle of my left palm and closed it. I shut my eyes and relaxed, focusing on the energy I felt pulsing on my palm.

It hit me in the face like a freight train. I could see the path this coward had taken to get to the shop. I could’ve seen his whole life if I had wanted to but all I cared about was his location then, right then and there.

He lived close to the shop, within 2 miles. I should’ve taken a minute to think about what I was going to do, but I didn’t. Instead, I made a direct line for the apartment that he was in; the second floor of a three story complex. Shabby and run down but mostly occupied. His name was Scott Miller.

 

 

 

Chapter 12

Apartment 26.

I stared at the mustard-colored paint peeled door. I could feel him in there. I would always be able to feel his breath crawling on my skin if he was anywhere near me. It was the cost of taking his blood. I didn’t knock, I knew he was home. I kicked it in and let my rage wash over me. He sat on his torn couch eating a bowl of fruit loops. Even bad guys liked fruit loops. He was scared and I could feel it. I wasn’t in to torturing people but I knew the longer it took for me to talk it would be like pulling his finger nails off…one…by one.

I waited…and waited some more. I waited until he was prime for what I was about to say.

“You hurt a friend of mine,” I said through clenched teeth. “I don’t have many friends so when something like this happens to one of them I take it very personally.”

“Please, take anything you want, just leave me alone.” He said sinking into his couch, motioning around the apartment, spilling his milk on his already dirty t-shirt.

“Scott, it won’t be that easy. How do I know you won’t be out there tomorrow night? How do I know you will change? There’s only one way I will be sure.”

“I’ll turn myself in man. Call the cops, I’ll confess.”

“Not good enough.”

I closed in on him and grabbed him by the throat with my work hand. I squeezed and he couldn’t do anything about it. Although, it wasn’t for his lack of trying; I was abnormal. I put my mouth as close to his ear as I could and whispered. “I can always find you–remember that.” I lifted him from the floor and threw him against the wall. He landed awkwardly and I heard a snap. He screamed in agony and I didn’t care. His foot pointed in the wrong direction, a moment of satisfaction entered my mind.

“I need you to tell me your partner’s name, Scott. I need to have a conversation with him,” I said, my eyes fixed on his watery ones. “I know he was the one who hit the old man in the skull. The only reason you’re in one piece is because you weren’t.”

Through his tears he answered me.

“I don’t know who he was man. He came to me and asked if I wanted to make an easy $500. All I had to do was help him knock over a pet store. It sounded easy, so I said yes.”

“Why pay you so much? All you stole was a fifth of that and a wedding ring. Speaking of which, where is the ring?” I asked.

He pointed to the top of the T.V. where a tin container sat on top. I went over and lifted the lid. A simple gold ring, dull and dented, rested inside. It hadn’t been forged in Mt. Doom, or meant to rule them all, but it was special to the man who it was taken from. I grabbed it and stuffed it in my front pocket.

“What about the man with the English accent?”

“I don’t know where to find him, I already told you that. All I know is what he called himself.”

“And what was that?”

“King, he’s called King.”

I walked over to him. “You are leaving this valley tonight. Don’t come back. I’ll know if you do, I’ll always know. Every day you stay in my town a new bone of yours will be broken. Every day I will shatter a bone like I was snapping a pencil in two. Today it was your ankle, tomorrow who knows what I will feel like smashing.” I punched him across his temple and grabbed his cell phone. I flipped through it but nothing with the name King; I wrote a few numbers down just in case. I tossed the phone towards Scott, who was “sleeping”, and I strode away. When he woke up he could call for help. I wasn’t going to do it for him.

I returned to Charles and gave him his wedding band back. His wife passed away 8 years earlier from a heart attack. They never had any kids. All he had had in this world had been taken from him, except for his ring. His devotion to her was everlasting. When I gave him his ring back he lost control of all emotions, crying from his beloved’s memory.

I gave him my word that I would be there to protect him and to ensure that nothing like that would never happen to him again. I gave him a vial with a piece of my hair and a piece of my magic sealed inside. It was a way for him to call me if he was ever in need of my assistance again. It worked like a fire alarm: first break glass and alarm will sound. I would know immediately once the vial had been broken. So far there had been no need for such measures.

I’ve still never found who this King character is and it eats away at me every day. There will be a day where we meet and for me that day couldn’t come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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