Hounds

He was running.

That’s all Josh knew. He was running away. Faster, he had to run faster. He had to escape the howls and barks running behind him.

He had been traveling along the highway, trying to make it south before the weather changed. It hadn’t been a good couple of days. Most of them spent getting hassled by small town cops. He managed to hitch a ride with a guy that agreed to take him as far as Clementsville. The dude seemed alright at first talked a lot of religious nonsense, Josh had learned to tune that crap out after a couple of years of hitching. After a couple of hours in the guy started getting creepy. He started asking Josh a bunchof pervy questions about himself. All sorts of bad experience told him it was time to bail.  He told the guy he needed to take a leak, and  got him to pull over. Josh got out and tried to grab his bag from the back of the truck. Pervy guy saw this and jumped out of his seat. Josh just bolted into the woods. The bag was just stuff, it maybe everything he owned but just stuff.  

He wound up trekking pretty deep into the woods just in case the weirdo decided to be persistent about looking for him. He got farther in than he had planned but, through experience, was able to figure out which way was south and started walking. It was getting dark and all of his gear was in the back of some creeps pick-up. He really hadn’t set out planning on doing survival camping today. At least the moon full so he would be able to see where he was going. He figured on traveling through the woods for a while, find a reasonable place to hunker down and head back out to the highway in the morning and try his luck thumbing up a ride. It was a couple hours later when he ran into the asshole with the dogs.

Josh spotted the light from the campfire a little ways off. He didn’t see any people but he could see the dogs lying about near the fire. Huge black dogs, some kind of hounds he was pretty sure. They were noisily chewing on their evening meal. Josh figured it was just some rednecks out hunting hogs and getting drunk. That type of good old boy was usually friendly enough but he figured it was best if he didn’t spook the dogs by sneaking up on them. While he stood there wondering what to do he felt a hand fall on his shoulder. He wheeled around and came face to face with this really tall psycho wearing a ghillie suit.  Josh started to back away cautiously and raised his hands.

“Hey sorry man, didn’t know you were out here. I’ll just be on my way.” Josh peered over his shoulder at the dogs, they didn’t seem to know he was there.

“You should run.” The man said, as if to no one in particular. He was wearing a crown sort of thing made of antlers.

“What?” Josh heard himself questioning what was clearly a sound idea.

The man took his distant, blue eyes off of Josh’s and motioned with his oddly long chin towards the dogs, “You run, they chase. That’s how it works.”

“How what works?” Josh, looked over his shoulder, the dogs weren’t paying any attention.

“The hunt, now run.”

“Hey look,” Josh slowly backed away, “I don’t want any trouble from you, or your hounds.” Maybe, he thought if I just move real slow I’ll get out of this. He’d been on the road long enough to know dogs. They’re way more likely to ignore you if you just don’t run.

“Run.” The hunter said impatiently.

Josh took another cautious step back. Still nothing from the dogs. He breathed heavily.

Run! The thought screamed into his brain and down his spine. His heart slammed blood into his legs. The dogs looked up suddenly and then Josh’s legs took over.

Then he was running.

That’s all he knew. He had to run. Faster. He had to out run the howls and barks that were chasing behind him. Faster. His lungs burned. His legs ached. He knew he couldn’t stop. He had to keep going. He had to get away. He had to… Where was he running to?

After a few years on the road he was no stranger to running. Away, was important. That was always first priority. But, you needed somewhere to run to. You needed a plan. Dogs, what was the dogs plan? He crashed through the brush and low hanging branches as he pushed forward.

People, People was always part of a good plan. Get to where the people are. People out here, in the woods, nearest to town was maybe twenty miles down the highway. Which way was the highway? Could make it to the highway. There might be a passing car, a cop, someone who could help. The highway. He could move faster on flat ground. So could they.

Running.

Running water. Some how through the pounding of blood in his ears, over the howls of his pursuers he could hear it.

Water. There was a stream ahead. The highway, he remembered. The highway ran over a stream. The water might throw the dogs off. It lead to the road. People, get to the road get to where there’s people.

He surged forward, heading for the sound of the water. Legs pumping faster, burning. His foot slid sideways as he planted it on some wet leaves. His other leg buckled. He fell, sliding down an embankment. His head struck against a rock. The world clouded. For a moment felt warm. He was bleeding. He was falling. He was fading.

Stark coldness woke him as he rolled into the stream. His arms flailed. He tried to right himself. His hand caught something. Sharp. He cut himself. He grabbed anyway. He pulled himself up. The thing cutting his hand came loose. He stumbled. Reached out with his other arm. Found his feet. Standing again. Shaking ankle deep in the water. His bleeding hand still clenched around a piece of rebar he’d wrenched from the mud of the stream bank. He panted heavily as he wiped away the blood from his forehead away from his eye. He could hear them coming. He ran plodding through the water, towards what he was sure the highway.

Down the stream. To the road. Get to people.

He kept moving. He was cold. Blood kept running into his eye. HIs legs ached. He couldn’t tell how bad he was hurt. Later, he knew, later he’d feel all of it.

He stepped out of the stream after a time. He couldn’t hear them after a while. Had he lost them? Where was the highway? He should be able to hear cars, even this late. What time was it. His eyes drooped just a bit. His pace slowed. He staggered from side as he jogged along. He was tired. He had to have lost them. He need to rest just for minute.

A twig snapped behind him.

He spun around and lashed out with his blood soaked right hand. The metal bar he still clung to struck the mouth of the hound just as it was lunging. He cut his hand again on its razor teeth.

The beast leapt sideways and let out a long wail of pain as it rubbed its face in the dirt. An acid smell filled the air. The black dog’s cry was answered by it’s brothers off in the distance.

Josh ran.

A stumbling, half-hearted, run.

He was going to die. He was going to be ripped apart by this fucking psycho’s dogs he knew it. His feet kept pulling him forward. Down along the edge of the stream. It was over.

The sounds of branches breaking behind him.

Tears began to stream down his face, washing the trickling blood from his eye. He passed through the edge of the woods.

Excited yowls and growls of eager mouths

Josh stumbled forward, finally collapsing near the deserted highway, next to the old drainage pipe that let the stream run under it.

Hungry black shadows at the edge of the trees.

Sobbing he pulled himself into the drain and curled up. The cold water flowed around him.

The shadows came forward and stopped at the entrance of the pipe. They sniffed cautiously at its edges and whimpered. They circled the highway, to the other side of the pipe. Josh shook in fear and cried. He waited. The dogs barked and lunged at the entrances to the pipe, never quite coming far enough in to reach him. From both sides of the drain they bayed at him. 

Josh screamed out at them, in great sobbing breaths. Why didn’t they just kill him? They just kept at it, growling and barking. Menacing from the outside all night.

The long hours passed, and as the sun began to come up the dogs quieted. Josh peered through his hands. As one turned and walked back into the woods. Just like that, as if he no longer existed.

***

Josh woke up crying. He sat up and grasped the piece of rebar he kept near his bed. It always made him feel better, more grounded. The dreams were getting worse again. Bea said they would around this time every month.

Sometime after the dogs left, he crawled out that pipe. Made his way down the highway. He found pervy guy and his truck a few miles later. He’d had some kind of spear through his chest. But the keys were still in his truck, as was Josh’s bag. He drove it, through various scenes of horror, south til he got to Clementsville, or what was left of it. There were people there. Most of them digging graves. The rest huddled around a pizza shop and listening to the old woman who ran it. She took him in and got him cleaned up. Some young girl named Harper treated his wounds as he told them his story.

She told him that the dogs could smell the iron in the rust of the drain pipe. That like all fey they were loath to touch it. That corrosion was what had saved his life. That if they had caught him and killed him, he would become one of them. Rebirthed as a hound in the huntsman’s pack.

“Not many people manage to get away from a wild huntsman,” she told him when he had finished, “but you outlasted his hounds and survived til sun up. For that insult to him, he’ll chase you for the rest of your days. Even in your dreams. Best you not wander far from The Circle on nights of the full moon.”

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That Face

His eyes fluttered open and then immediately slammed shut again. Screwed tight against the light that screamed at him through the window. The damned nurse must have opened the blinds again. He fumbled for the button box that controlled them but came up empty. He must have knocked it off the bed in his sleep. With the brace on his leg getting up was problematic at best. There was a low muttering sound coming from somewhere. They must have turned the television on television as well. He rolled his head away from the window. That’s where the face was.

The face, leaned close, hair neatly swept back and all smiles. It was attached to a lab coat and a blue paisley tie, with an ID on a lanyard that didn’t match that face. It was sitting on the back of a chair, with pink high topped sneakers planted on the seat cushion; bent at the knees that its elbows rested on, both hands up to let that face rest on them. The smile didn’t show teeth, but it was quite clear that teeth were an option. That face again. He knew it was going to turn up sooner or later, he had just hoped it would have stayed away a little longer

He reached again for the remote, to press the call button. But, the face reached down and lifted it by the wire that trailed from the bed, dangling it.

‘Here you go Guy, I think you dropped this,’ The face said offering it to him.

Guy took it from him and decided not to bother the nurses, He was pretty sure they weren’t qualified to deal with the likes of him, not in this ward anyway.

‘You got yourself all banged up on that last one, didn’t you? Took us a while to figure out which quackery you ended up at.’

‘I got hit by a car.’ It hadn’t been that bad, just some bruises and a torn meniscus but, he had faked a head injury to get them to keep him for a while. It would only be a few more days they’d be willing to keep him here.

‘Mama always told you to look both ways before fleeing a crime scene didn’t she?’

‘I guess she did’

‘Where is it?’

‘Safe, it should be until I get out of here.’

‘Cut the crap Guy. Where is it?’

‘I said it’s safe. It’s as safe as I am. How safe is that Jacob?’

‘You wound me my friend,’ protested the smile, ‘You know I’d never hurt you. I like you to much.’

It was probably true, for some unknown reason Jacob had some weird, psycho, guardian angel complex toward him. It was a shame that Jacob wasn’t the only one he had to worry about.

‘Look, it’s safe. Tell them that for me,’ Guy relaxed a little, ‘Tell them I can recover it as soon as I get out of here.’

Jacob’s smile flattened out on one side. It always did that when he was weighing his options. He oozed off the back of the chair and stood beside it. ‘Alright, when you get out then,’ he said finally, ‘that’s fair enough. He stood there for a few more moments and gave a short nod before turning around and walking out of the room.

The door made a quiet click when as it shut and Guy took a deep breath. Talking to Jacob had always been unsettling, the doctor’s coat didn’t help. He’d wait until after they served breakfast and then start insisting on a discharge. Hopefully he could find away to leave the hospital without being noticed. He wasn’t sure how long he had before Jacob came back.

Then it dawned on him. Jacob didn’t say goodbye. Jacob never left without saying goodbye.

He sat bolt up and started to inch himself off the bed. His foot had just touched the floor when the door flew open. In came a wheel chair being pushed by that smiling face.

‘Good news Sunshine! You’ve got a clean bill of health, time to go home.”

Sentinal

Ellis Durant was crouched on the ledge, looking down at the dark blue sedan parked in front of the warehouse.. It was a slightly older model Taurus, kept clean. It was in good repair. He could barely tell the engine was running. He knew Jerry was behind the wheel, waiting. A few floors below him, in a vacant office was a man, he was also looking at the sedan. He was also waiting. Ellis could just see the tip of the rifle’s barrel sticking out the window, pointed at the driver side roof. He turned his head slightly to see the unkempt figure behind him.

He was younger than Ellis, but shared the same impassive, grey faced expression. The same rough cut muscular build. He wore jeans and a black hooded sweat jacket, the zipper open, with no shirt beneath it. Ellis motioned downwards with his index finger and his feral looking companion nodded and walked quietly toward the stairwell door. If things went badly, they would take the man with the rifle back to Mr. Davis. This would probably happen too late to prevent Jerry being killed. He hoped thing would turn out well for Jerry today. He liked Jerry, but guarding his life was not why he was here. Not that it mattered. Today, tomorrow it was going to end the same way. It always did, it was just a matter of when, and who. Then there was the why.

Ellis didn’t bother with why. The priests had always said that everything happens for a reason, all part of the divine pan. Ellis had taken to this notion quite well. If it all came down to divine reasonings, then reasons didn’t matter. People lived, events happened, people died. If you eliminated the whole question of why everything else was simple to deal with. He had often marvelled at mankinds need for whys, they so seldom got around to figuring out the hows. when he talked to the Cardinal about this he didn’t pretend to have a thoughtful response. Ellis remembered thinking this was one of the few points in the man’s favor. Being up on this roof, watching, waiting, made him mis his days with the church. The days of guardianship over that cathedral were a lifetime ago, at least one at any rate.. He and his band were proud of themselves once. “Before the whole world went to shit.” as Mr. Davis would say.Now they had to settle for being something between a spies and a babysitters. Still, everything happened for a reason; and, even if that weren’t true, everything still happened. At least he had today to be out in the sun and the wind.

People began to come out of the warehouse. First one man, then the other holding the door. Then, Ellis’s eyes widened slightly. He could not believe what he saw. It wasn’t possible. The thing that walked arm in arm with the man to the car, should not be here. she was supposed to be dead. Dead and a world away.

The blue sedan lurched forward slightly then smoothly pulled out, and drove away.

No wonder, Mr. Davis did not want Baba’s name spoken. She was The Baba. After all this time, she had come back to the world.

This scene is the 16th in the series “The Untitled Thing” The rest of the story is indexed here.

The Pick-up

Jerry sat in the car parked outside the warehouse, engine idling, struggling to keep his eyes open. He was sure he fell asleep at some point each night but, he could barely tell. He would be laying in bed  each evening in, his alarm  sounded and it was morning again. The time between just gone, blank, devoid of either rest or dreams. What he really found draining right now, however, was how monumentally boring the waiting was. He began to think the reason why Maslow’s guys all smoked was just to pass the time.

He reached down to the console for his coffee, the cup now half empty and cold. This was supposed to be a simple pick up. Something in a shipment, something hidden from customs, was delivered to the warehouse. Jerry didn’t know what it was but it had to be small enough for Victor and Joseph to carry it out themselves. Drugs, jewels, art, the people who dealt with Maslow had diverse tastes. Somewhere, high up, Jacob would be looking at the car, just in case something went wrong. In case Jerry couldn’t be trusted. He was fairly certain there was a rifle involved. It didn’t worry him, just more of Peter’s over zealousness when it came to planing. Betrayal wasn’t part of his job at the moment.

The more he thought about it the less sure what is job actually was in all this. He began to wonder what was taking the other two so long. This thing should be pretty straight forward. The warehouse was friendly. Peter said he got the call confirming the package was delivered earlier today. What if someone else had gotten turned? Working for someone else? One of the warehouse employees, one of Maslow’s people?

Suddenly Jerry could feel the cross hairs weighing on him. He wanted to throw the car in gear and take off. He knew that was the worst decision. If he wanted to get through this he had to ride it out. He just had to wait. He breathed out slowly.

Glancing into the rear view he saw the door to the warehouse open. Joseph stepped out and walked to the rear passenger side door of the sedan. He just stood there. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t look at Jerry he just watched the door he had just come out of.

A long minute later Victor emerged. He held the door for an older woman in a business suit and dark green sunglasses; hair graying probably in her fifties. Victor took her arm as the door closed behind them. They walked towards the car. Every step she took seemed thought out, purposeful.

Joseph opened the door of the car and the woman entered the vehicle. Victor stepped around to the other side and got in. Joseph closed the door behind the woman then stepped into the front passenger side. They sat for a moment in silence.

The others began to have a quick paced conversation in Russian. Jerry struggled to understand at the speed they talked. He was able to figure out they were discussing his credentials. He just stared forward and pretended not to listen.

“Your name is Jerry?” the woman asked with a slight accent.

“That’s right ma’am.” Jerry looked at her in the mirror, his gaze reflected in her sunglasses. His head began to ache slightly.

“Do you know who I am?”

“No ma’am.” The dull ache in his head seemed sharper now, almost piercing.

“I am Liliya. They,” she waved her hand around the car indicating the two other men, “they call me Baba. For you, ma’am will do for now.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good, you will take me to see my nephew Peter now.”

She turned her head away from him. He felt the pain begin to ease.

Jerry put the car in drive, and headed back to the office.

This scene is 14th in a story currently known as “The Untitled Thing”. The rest of the series is indexed here

Coffee Talk

The cafe was situated on a quiet side street, away from the noise and smoke of heavy traffic. Its outdoor seating area was a large plaza surrounded by small little boutiques filled with mid-scale clothing and jewelry. There was of course a head shop operating under the label of a tobacconist. They weren’t fooling anyone, no one really smoked cigarettes anymore. Casual nihilism was loosing its charm.

Janice used to frequent a shop like this when she was younger. She and her little covey of friends used to meet there and act all artsy and tragic. Sipping coffee like it was wine, scrawling in little notebooks and sketch pads, and generally discussing life as if they had unraveled some deep spiritual mystery. She would bet even money that inside the shop there would be a little shelf full of board games, all of them missing pieces. She let herself smile for a moment, remember her life as a teenager. The smile quickly vanished when she spotted the person that she was here to meet.

“Is this going to take long?” she asked taking the seat across from the old man, “I do really despise our little encounters.”

“Don’t worry sweetie, I’ll try not to take up too much of your time.” Davis checked his watch, tapping on the glass covering its dial a couple of times. “I got a full schedule myself. Where is he now?”

“I thought you had your gargoyles keeping tabs on him.”

“They don’t like bein called that. At any rate, you’re the one sitting in front of me, not Ellis. You look like you need an espresso. Let me get you an espresso,” he waved his hand to attract the waiter, “and maybe a biscotti. You look like you could use a somethin to eat.”

“I’m fine,” she said. “Jerry’s at work right now, I’m meeting him for lunch in about an hour.”

“Two espresso and biscotti. Don’t worry I’ll try not to make you late. You’re gonna love the biscotti here, They got it right, just almonds and anise. Beautiful, simple.”

“Get to the point Davis. Did you want to see me for some reason pertaining to my work, or are we having this meeting solely so you can be irritating to me socially?”

“Jerry needs to forget about me.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said, No.”

“I don’t think you understand the terms of your employment. You remember where we found you, right?”

“First, I wouldn’t call this situation I am in employment. Second you are done defining the terms.” She paused, smiling politely at the waiter while he placed the coffees in front of them. “I have a carefully designed serum that is already suppressing large portions of his memory; it would take months to alter it any further, especially to remove something as specific as a single person. Beyond that it would be dangerous to him.”

“I am more concerned with the success of this operation than his safety. You and I both know this kids basically a walking corpse as it is. Let’s also remember that your continued safety is tied into the success or failure of this endeavor. So, let me say it again, I want him to forget about me. I’m not asking you this Janice, I’m telling you what’s going to happen.”

She pushed the little cup and saucer away from her and leaned in to meet the gaze of the man across the table. “I heard you the first time. I said no. Not only is it dangerous, it is unnecessary. Your association with him is already pretty weak at this point so in another week or two there will be no practical sympathetic link back to you. You will be safe. He won’t be, but that that’s not what matters to you. If you insist that I jeopardize his sanity because you are feeling insecure about the plans you set in motion, I am going to walk away from the whole thing.” She leaned back in her chair. “Now would like to  threaten me with what ever you think you have on me. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”

Davis glared at her.

“You’re done? Good. Let me be clear about this. We both know, if anything happens to me your whole operation falls apart. If Jerry stops treatment, he’ll start remembering his old life again. Unless you want a repeat of that little episode we had two months ago I suggest you don’t push me too far.

The old man smiled at her. “Okay, Have it your way. After all, when it comes to fuckin with people’s minds, you”re the expert. If you say everything’ll be fine, I’ll believe you.”

“Glad you see it that way.” She stood up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a lunch appointment.”

You really like the kid don’t you?”

“Not really, he’s quite boring to be around actually. I just have too much pride in my skills to let someone else take care of him. That, and treating him provides the occasional opportunity to annoy you.”

This scene is part of an ongoing work. The rest of series can be found here.

Day Planner

He sat slumped on the office couch, staring out at space, slightly trembling hands shaking lightly clasping at a half-drank Redbull.

“Jerry? Jesus Jerry, you still with us?”

“What?” He shook himself back to the world, “Yeah sorry Pete must’ve just drifted off for a minute.”

“You look like shit man. You feeling ok? You ain’t doing drugs are you?”

Jerry let out a thin exhausted little laugh. “No Pete, nothing that much fun, not since college at any rate.” He shifted himself back to a sitting position. “Just been having a rough time sleeping lately, can’t seem to stay down at night.”

“Well just try and keep up, we only got a little bit more to go over.” Pete turned back to dry erase board.

Jerry watched him walk back across the room. It wasn’t that Peter Maslow was necessarily a bad person, it wasn’t even that he was a stupid person. He was just grew up with people not expecting too much from him; now that they did he really let it get to him, he overcompensated. This was the fourth time they were going over his carefully, thought out, bulleted list of equipment, and his ridiculously ordered time table. It was all he could do keep his eyes open while a telescoping pointer drifted repetitively across a diagram of a rather unremarkable intersection. The other men in the room seemed to just sit with humored impatience.

They were the real talent here. the specialists of the organization. They’d been working together for years, some of them had known Pete when he was just the boss’s son. Now the boss was dead, and  the bigger fish up the line were letting the kid run the show for the time being; because that’s how it was always done. They listened as Peter droned over his plan again and again knowing that when the time came, they’d have their own plan to follow.

This was a comforting thought to Jerry.

“Jerry, you paying attention?”

It didn’t matter they’d been over it enough and his end was the easy part. “I wait in the car til Joseph and Victor get back from the pick up. Been a while since I’ve been a wheel man but, I think I got it.” Jerry let a smirk creep over his face  “The gas pedal still the skinny thing on the right, or did we change that?”

The rest of the guys started to chuckle but saw Pete’s look of annoyance.

“Alright,” he said, “that’s enough for tonight. You guys go get something to eat.”

Jerry could tell that was not directed at him. He waited patiently for the managerial talk that was sure to follow as the other gentlemen left the room.

“Look Jerr, I know this kind of job is old hat to you but, this thing it means a lot to me. I’ve been under a lot of scrutiny, you know how it is. The new kid handed they keys to the corner office. I know I seem uptight about this but, I got a lot to prove.” he poured a couple of drinks from the decanter on the credenza,  “Look, we got someone big in the organization coming in soon, and lets just say my transition into management hasn’t gone as smooth as I’d like. ” He handed one of the glasses to Jerry. “You, well from what we hear you’re good at what you do. Despite that, until I get the go ahead with my bosses I got to ease you into the job. When you look at you got a lot riding on this too.”

“I got you Pete, I really do,” he waved his glass casually at Peter,  “sorry about that little joke. Just, everyone’s tired and tense, and we’re all anxious to just get the job done. I really do want to get back to work. ”

“Well you got your wish then. The date’s set, we move on Teusday.” Pete fished in his pocket for his cigarette case. “Just do me a favor Jerr, get some rest.

Jerry rubbed his neck. “I’ll sure as hell try, so long as you do something for me.”

“Sure thing.”

“Stop calling me Jerr,” he smiled, “it’s bugging the shit out of me.”

“Try and take this seriously Jerry. I’ll hook you up with my doctor, he’ll give you something to help you sleep”

This scene is the 13th in a series. The rest of the story is indexed here.

Status Update

Ellis Durant entered the suite and walked along the only path not cluttered by the entropy that had taken over in the two weeks since he had last visited. He looked around at the empty take-out boxes, stacks of photographs and reports that he had sent over, the random placement of magazines most of them laying open and face down. There was a pattern here. There was always a pattern

As he walked, he looked. He was observant. It’s what he lived for. To observe, to watch, to see. Sometimes you had to see what wasn’t there. There was always a pattern.

There were no clothes. All this chaos and there were no dirty clothes strewn about. Ellis blinked. The clothes would all be found neatly folded in drawers or hung in the wardrobe, each hanger facing the same way. The laundry stored neatly in a hamper, waiting for the service to come pick them up.

The mess was window dressing. An elaborate prop.

Sometimes the pattern was a lie.

Ellis came to a stop behind his employer, who was standing at a purposely cluttered counter fixing a drink.

“How’s our boy?” The older man dropped a handful of ice cubes into a glass, and poured the amber liquid over them before turning to receive his answer

“Tired,” the gray faced man replied flatly, “and nervous. He does not like it that you do not return his calls”

“Can’t do it, you know that.” He swirled his drink, watching the ice spin for a moment “I can’t have any direct contact with him at this stage.”

“So you have said.”

“You don’t believe me?” The old man took a long sip off his drink. “I’ll have to say I’m a little hurt by that.”

“To be clear Mr. Davis, I do not see my beliefs, or your feelings needing to enter into this.”

Davis smiled broadly and patted his shoulder. “You’re a good man Ellis.” He looked his companion over quickly, shrugged and then added, “Well you know what I mean.”

Ellis stared at him, waiting.

Davis turned and topped off his drink. “What has Jerry been up to lately?”

“As planned he has been meeting with Mr. Maslow and his associates. They are thoroughly satisfied with the credentials you have provided him. We have overheard several of them discussing offering our Mr. Standish a position in their organization.”

“What about her?”

“Jerry still spends most of his later evenings in the company of Ms. Karns,” little else on Ellis face besides his mouth moved as he spoke, “they were at his hotel room when I left.”

The older man pinched the bridge of his nose. “I ain’t askin about Janice. I know what they get up to at night, I order it. I mean Maslow’s boss, you know our actual objective. Any word on her.”

“They are certain she is on her way. They do not know when she will arrive. Some think she is already here. The word on her appears to be Baba. They don’t use her real name.”

“Neither should you. Especially, not in my presence.” Davis briefly fiddled with something around his neck, then dropped it back down his shirt. “We clear on that Mr. Durant? You do not speak her name anywhere near me.”

Ellis nodded, “I assume this measure is for security.”

“Yeah, mine. While we’re talkin security, from here on out if Jerry starts trying to discuss me you get him to change the subject, pronto. What about his language studies?”

“He uses the interactive course some. I have been helping him practice. His usage is crude but passable.”

“You speak Russian Ellis?”

The grey man just blinked at him.

Davis shook his head, “Of course you do.”

This Is the 12th installment in a series of scenes that bears the uninspired name The Untitled Thing. The rest of the serial is indexed HERE.

Making Connections

The rain was coming down hard as he ran from the cab to the awning over the bar, he tried shielding himself with a folded newspaper. It always seemed so much more effective when he saw it done in the movies. In real life not only did you still ended up with wet hair, only now your newspaper was ruined too. He paused at the door and tried to shake some of the water off his coat. He didn’t feel quite as certain about his plans as he did this morning but, this was his chance. If  he didn’t have this meeting now it might take weeks to set up a new one. He took a deep breath and chucked his sodden newspaper into a trash can, it was time to commit and hope for the best.

The inside of the bar was comfortable and familiar, in a generic tavern for the business man sort of way. Warm earth tones and wood veneer accented with brass surrounded a quiet clientele. He took off his coat and neatly folded it over one arm. Using in the mirror behind the bar he straightened his tie, and smoothed his damp black hair; he hadn’t noticed how long it was getting, or how grey. For a moment he met the gaze of his own reflection and felt as if he were lost.

He shook the cobwebs from his head and walked around the bar and took a seat next to a weary and hollow looking young man. He flagged the barman and ordered a beer. He couldn’t help but notice that the man next to him wore nearly the same suit as he did. The exception being that the younger man’s seemed to have seen more use and had begun to fade from repeated dry cleanings, and his neck tie was loosened and a different pattern.

“Can I help you with something pal?” his neighbor asked, noticing the brief scrutiny.

“Just think I found the only guy that the world’s working over harder than me. You look like you had a rough day.”

“They’re all rough,” the man said lighting a cigarette. “Don’t see why today’d be any different.” He shrugged and returned his gaze to the television.

“You’re a hockey fan I take it.”

The young man shrugged. “It’s what’s on.”

“My dad used to take me to the Devils games back when they played in The Meadowlands. God they sucked back then but, they were ours.” He took a long sip off his beer.

“Jersey huh, you’re a ways from home.”

“Came out here a few years ago for a job, wich never amounted to much more than an ulcer. Now the company’s gone tit’s up. I’m out of a job, supposed to be meeting a buddy of mine with a line on a new one,” He pulled out his phone and checked the screen. “He’s late and not answering my texts, guess I got stood up.” He finished his beer and set the glass on the bar, pushing it forward so the barman would notice it. “Story of my life. How about you?”

“I help manage my family’s business, imports mostly.”

“What kind of imports?”

“Whatever. I just make sure the paperwork gets done. I can’t talk details, client confidentiality stuff.” The younger man blew out a long stream of smoke and put his own glass next to the empty beer mug. He waved to fingers over both glasses to signal for another round.

“Yeah I know how that confidentiality stuff is I work, well worked in financials. Hedge funds and such. Thanks for the drink.”

“No problem, anything for an out of work hockey enthusiast. Name’s Pete Maslow,” the haggard man said smiling slightly. “Pleased to meet you, Mr.?”

“Standish, Jerome Standish,” he replied shaking the offered hand. “Everyone calls me Jerry.”

This it the Scene 11 of an on going serial. The rest of the story is indexed here.

The Watchman

This is the tenth scene in the serial“The Untitled Thing.” The previous installment is here You can get up to date on the rest by checking out its index page.

The door of the hotel room was open by muscular,  grey-faced man wearing  a black wife beater and an annoyed look. He stared for a hard moment at Jerry then, seeming to reach a judgement, turned and walked away across the room to the balcony and stared out. Jerry followed him in part of the way before he was greeted by an all too familiar face.

“Hey there kiddo,” Davis smiled at him getting up from his chair, “you look a hell of a lot better than you did  at breakfast a couple weeks ago.  You’ve been damn hard to get a hold of, when I told you to get some rest I didn’t mean for you to go on damned two-week sabbatical. Good lookin’ suit by the way”

Jerry unconsciously ran his hand down the lapel of his jacket. “Thank’s, I’m going for the over achieving middle manager look. I’m thinking Maslow will relate, well to the middle manager part anyway.” he crossed the room and shook hands with the older man, “So any reason why you wanted to meet here? It’s a little more upscale than your office, roomier too, so I’m not really complaining.”

“Up yours Jerry. Let me introduce you to Ellis Durant,” Davis said indicating the man at the balcony. “Mr. Durant here is the gentleman in charge of our surveillance team on our boy Peter and company. He’s who got you everything in the files you’ve been studying so far. Ellis, this is Jerry, our inside man.”

“Nice to finally meet you Jerry. Mr. Davis expects a lot from you,” Durant shrugged. “Help yourself to the mini bar if you like.”

“Careful there Ellis,” smiled the old man, “he’s likely to bite your head off if you offer him a drink.”

“Jesus Davis, let it go. I already said I was sorry.” Jerry walked past the bar towards the man staring out into the city. “You’ve done some great work Mr.Durant, I feel like I almost know Maslow personally. Like Davis said though, I’ve been out of the loop for a couple of weeks, anything new happening with him?”

“Peter Maslow is a very boring man lately.” Durant spoke without turning from the balcony, ” He rarely ventures far from home unless it is to go to his office. Except on Thursday. Thursdays he goes out to dinner. ”

“Where does he go? Who with?”

“Different restaurants. Different people. Sometimes there are drinks afterwards. There will be a pattern. There is always a pattern.” The gray man said in a hollow tone. “You should call me Ellis. We will be working very closely from this point.”

Jerry glanced at Davis.

“Ellis is going to be my eyes on you for the next leg of the job here kiddo. He’s very good at watching people, it’s what he lives for. He’s kinda strange that way.” Davis walked over to the bar and fixed a fresh drink.

“So what, you’re done with this?”

“Nope I’m still in part of your life for the foreseeable future sport, I’ll just be a little more behind the scenes. Our friend here will let me know how things are progressing. You’ll be using this hotel as home base.” Davis finished his drink and picked up his shoulder bag, “You have a room reserved on the next floor, right above this one.” He fished a piece of paper out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Jerry. “From now on, if you need me call this number. Leave a message on the voice mail if no one answers. Just don’t be dumb enough to call from your cellphone.”

With that he walked out the door.

“So Ellis, what’s next here?”

“In the morning I will bring you more information,” Ellis said. After a long silence he finally turned his gaze away from the balcony. “It is a beautiful night. You should spend it with Janice.”

Jerry felt something sink in his gut. “What do you know about her?”

“I would be surprised if there is something I don’t already know about your life Jerry.”

“I think I’ll have that drink now.”

Memory Lapse

This is ninth in a collection of scenes that I lazily refer to as “The Untitled Thing”. If this is your first time reading the exchanges between Jerry and Mr. Davis, it would probably be best if you started at the beginning. If you think you might have missed an installment, the complete collection can be found here. It’s all right, they’ll wait here for you while you catch up.

“Rise and shine kiddo,” said the familiar gravely voice, “you can’t sleep all day.”

“I feel like crap,” Jerry groaned as he tried to focus. Davis’s face swam more or less into focus in tune with the throbbing of his head.

“You look like crap too, if that’s any consolation. You gave us one hell of a scare for a couple of days.”

“Us?” Jerry asked with slight panic, as he became aware of the cool metal encircling his wrists, binding him to the chair “Where am I, Davis?”

“In your apartment,” the old man said calmly. “The handcuffs are really just to make sure you don’t do anything rash. It’s really for your own good.”

Jerry’s head began to throb faster, he was getting nauseous. “Why would I do anything rash Davis? I thought we were friends.”

“We are friends kiddo, but as you get on in life, you’ll find that’s one of those words with a pretty flexible definition.” Davis brought his flask up to his lips and took a long sip, then waved it casually in the air. “I’d offer you some but I’ve been told that we need you to be completely dried out before we can continue treating  your condition.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me.” Jerry wanted to believe that but, he knew it wasn’t true. Nothing had been right with him for weeks now. He could hear someone moving in the kitchen, it smelled like they were making coffee. “Who else is here?”

“A mutual acquaintance of ours. unfortunately, for some reason it’s vital that you don’t see us both at the same time. Something to do with visual associative memory. I don’t know what that means but our friend in there is sort of an expert with memories.” Davis screwed the cap back on his flask and leaned forward in his chair. “I’ve been led to believe you’ve had some troubling ones lately. What was that little scene at the bar about Jerry?”

Jerry gritted his teeth to keep from vomiting, sweat was beading on his forehead. “I think you know what the hell it was about Davis,” the pounding in his head began to get more insistent, he felt like he was about the pass out but, he could see it now, so clearly, everything, it was excruciating. “You were there,” he wheezed, “at the industrial park. I saw you.”

“Well, there you have it sport. Yeah I was there, I told you we seen your chops, that’s why I wanted you for this little project I got going. I just can’t have you going around remembering what happened there, not yet.” Davis leaned back again. “So, here we are.”

Jerry fought to keep focus, his world faded in an out between his living room and laying on the cold wet pavement that evening. The pain, the eyes of that thing staring at him. The gaunt figure with its bony finger cutting into his forehead, it smiles. Inch by inch he reaches for his gun.

In the here and now he could sense someone behind him. A sharp pain stabbing in his neck. The warm rush of something familiar surges into his veins. Both worlds collapse.

***

“Rise and shine sleepy head,” says the familiar lilting voice, “you can’t sleep all day.”

“I feel like crap,” Jerry groaned as he tried to focus. Janice’s smiling face greeted as he pried open his eyes.  She stood at the doorway wearing one of his shirts and carrying two mugs of coffee. He always thought she looked her best like this, at the beginning of the day before she started toying around with make-up.

“Well considering how much you drank last night it’s no wonder you feel horrible. Here, this will help.” she said sitting down on the edge of the bed and setting one of the mugs on the night stand.

He sat up and took a sip of the coffee, and tried to shake the cobwebs out of his mind. “Well, if I remember correctly I wasn’t the only one drinking.” He yawned and rubbed his face. “Wait a minute,” he said with a smile “it’s daylight don’t you turn into a pumpkin or something if you’re here when I wake up?”

Janice looked at him and laughed, “No, I just decided to take a sick day today. You were in such a bad mood last night I thought you could use some company. Now if you hurry up and get dressed you still might have time to take me somewhere for breakfast.”