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.
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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

Acciddents Happen

And so, due to a episode of spastic incompetence on my part,  I managed to push the wrong  friggin button and accidentally post the piece of fiction that I planned on publishing this day two days ago. I thought I was just saving it as a draft. Instead it went out unfinished, and unedited, and unnoticed by me until morning. A simple mistake, one that I could easily prevent in the future, I probably won’t though.

Anyway even though it annoyed me to no end I decided to just leave it and just let it ride. Unfortunately it is part of a serial(ish) and I had to double check some continuity issues, and while I had it up on the blocks I went back and did some work on it and I’m a little happier about the situation. That particular scene, Coffee Talk can be found here.

If you’ve already read that part the index for the rest of the serial is here.

If you’re already caught up, or don’t give a crap, and still want want some thing else to read there’s always the library.

Or you can check out Catastrophe Jones’ latest serial DeathWatch over at her site. I Finally caught up with it and highly recommend it.

In the meantime I’m just going to go binge watch Daredevil. I’ll see you on Monday.

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.”

Interdepartmental Meeting

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Zoos, thought Janice, are testament to the fortitude of  human will. It is no small feat of courage to spend the day watching these magnificent beasts mope around the far corners of their little enclosures, trying to ignore all the noisy assholes with cameras, and not finish the afternoon by going home and hanging yourself.

The truly maddening part was ridding on the little tram around its circuit of reproduced continents and listening to  the prerecorded tour guide drone on about all the good research and breeding programs that the facility was involved in. Another one of mankind’s attempt to put its thumbprint on the world. Part of a long series of pompous attempts at controlling nature, this time by trying to save it.

The little mock safari train rounded the final bend to the back-end of the zoo and came to a halt at the cute little rundown station right in between Asia and Australia. Just past the Komodo dragons was the Pagoda Cafe, a small plaza surrounded by an ornamental garden and complete with a large pond. Crossing the bridge she took a moment to admire the gold jumbo koi before scanning the cafe for her meeting. She gave an annoyed little sighed when she spotted him.

“I thought you’d be kidding about the pink carnation,” she said approaching the man in the white linen suit, “you look like a walking cliché.”

“I’m sitting if you hadn’t noticed, and the good thing about clichés are they’re obvious sweetie. The obvious tends to go unnoticed. I can I buy you a drink? I’m afraid the strongest thing they got here is Gatorade, but I’m sure something can be arranged.”

“I’ll be fine thank you,” Janice said taking a seat. “Please tell me why we are meeting in this god awful place.”

“You want god awful you should go to the Africa exhibit when they feed the White-backed vultures,” the old man smiled, “talk about a stench.” He took a sip from his drink and looked around casually. “Let’s just talk about our little problem. I know this isn’t your preferred venue for our little interdepartmental meeting, but this is the one place that I know our mutual friend is not”

“Any word on him?”

“Nothing yet, but he ain’t got too many places to go. So tell me Doc, what do you think happened?”

A scowl briefly ran across her face. “I am not a physician,” she snapped, “so please don’t address me as one. What I do requires more skill than those glorified barbers.”

“I’ve had a long look at your dossier, I picked you for this job myself, and I know damned well what you are. Doctor you ain’t but, there are several names for what you do as a matter of fact, and lady most of them ain’t pleasant. But that isn’t what concerns me right now. What I got on my mind is that I got an asset runnin’ loose with his memories all scrambled. You were brought on to keep that from happening, you pretty much screwed that up. Now, I’m not pissed about that,” he leaned back in his chair, “it’s a temporary setback, we’ll fix it. What I want right now is for you to tell me, in your professional opinion, how long you think we got before he gets his old brain back?”

“Untreated? I estimate a week at best,” but we’re probably looking at closer to four days.” She softened he tone but still couldn’t hide the insulted look on her face. “He’s developed some tolerance to the serums, also he was under a great deal of mental strain. I recommended a longer series of treatments but, that was obviously disregarded.”

“Your objections were noted but I don’t control of the timing on this one, there’s outside influences at work. Can you mix up a cocktail,” he asked, “that will bring his head back to where we need it?”

Janice winced at the comparison of her art to that of a bartenders “I was already planning on upping the dosage, on your suggestion. That and a few days of rest and further treatment should repair the situation. I will need some time and a few samples from our subject to create a more permanent solution.”

“Well, we can’t have him running around remembering things, that would be inconvenient as all hell. Probably get him killed to boot.” There was a ringing from under the table and the old man pulled up a large shoulder bag and dug through it for a moment. He produced an antiquated cellphone from its depths and stared at it for a moment. “Excuse me Janice,” said Mr. Davis, flipping it open “I have to take this.”

Janice nodded, pulled out her own phone and toyed with it patiently while he talked.

“Yeah? What’s that? Good, good, just take care of it, but be careful I don’t want anyone hurt, and I don’t want you seen doing it either. She’s with me now, we’re on our way.” He shut the phone and dropped it casually back into his bag.

“Good news?” she asked looking up.

“They located our boy. He used the credit card I gave him to check into a motel about two hours ago. He’s still there sleeping off his little fit. One of my other associates is going to scoop Jerry up and bring him back to his apartment sedated,” he said getting to his feet. “Get your stuff and meet me there in an hour, you can do that right.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but Davis was already heading across the little carved bridge. She watched him go as he lazily plucked the carnation from his lapel and dropped  into the koi pond. Jerry was right, she thought, his boss  is kind of a jerk.