The Strange – Episode 28 – A lot to Learn

“Central!”

Central jumped as she called out his name. It had been some time since their morning training and he clearly thought she had slipped out. The sudden realization that she never left put metal into his spine and rang him like a tuning fork.

“Yes! Um yes Bee. Central, go ahead.”

The wicked smile on Bee’s face was almost audible in the silent dark of the central monitoring station. “When was the last contact with Mr. Aye’s unit?”

“I…I don’t know, Ma’am.”

“You don’t know?”

The temperature of the room dropped a few degrees and it made Central stutter. “I…I’m just handling our routine security. I thought you were handling the … Uh … intelligence gathering.”

“And your unit does not report in?”

“Well he’s supposed to, but he hasn’t. I… Uh… Please don’t hurt me, but I thought he was reporting to you, like we loaned him to your team and you were controlling him. We don’t play offense here, just defense. I have to stay out of that stuff in order to work in the office.”

“So, you don’t actually know what we do here?”

“Well… No. I route phone calls, I watch monitors for unauthorized people and route security. Those guys get their marching orders from other people. I mean, I know this stuff is shady, and quite frankly, you people scare the shit out of me, but I don’t actually know what you are doing.”

Her voice softened. “Well then I apologize. So, no contact from your man Carl?”

“No. We do log these things and there’s nothing.”

Ms. Bee pulled her lips in, and the lines in her face deepened in the shadow of the room. “If you get any contact, call me. I will be available. Please, keep up your surveillance. Remember our lesson and reinforce it with the others in your group. We will be visited with hostile intent.”

“How do you know?”

Ms. Bee let her smile reflect the glare of the monitors. “I don’t, but I’d rather be wrong than in jail … or dead.”

 

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Mr. Aye came back to the world in the solar powered broiler of the Buick’s back seat. His face was one big bruise, his eyes were blood red and when he blew out, purple blood came out in little droplets. The drug store parking lot gave no cover from the heat and glare, even here around in the back, near the dumpsters. Mr. Aye didn’t seem to notice. Now that he was conscious, he thought about his prey.

“Goldberg.” He said the name while crawling out of the back of the car, disturbing a stray dogs inspection of the dumpster. “Dude lives like a pig. Juvenile, decadent pig. Makes me sick.”

He found his footing on asphalt so hot it softened the plastic of his shoe soles and cooked the blood that dropped from his face. A spot of shade on a narrow strip of grass that separated his parking lot from it’s neighbor called to him He wandered over. Again, the stray dog startled and growled protectively in front of his dumpster.

“Fuck you, dog.” Mr. Aye sat heavily, every bruise and ache complaining. “Lucky to be here. That bastard had a punch.” He spat again, noticing the absence of blood. “Heh. Lucky. Take that Mr. Goldberg. You aren’t the only one with luck. Shit, I survived the fucking Gulf War… twice, Contras, and countless wars with no names. And you, you fuck, you wind up with a hot girlfriend and more money than God for doing what? Sitting here, getting high and teaching kids to count?”

Thick hands rubbed over the purple and yellow bruise that was Mr. Aye’s face. He winced at the pain, but it focused his thoughts. Raw hate sparked in his eyes. “I’m going to get you, mother fucker. It’s my mission and I’m going to enjoy ending you.”

A sudden barking erupted from the dog, directed at Mr. Aye. The hired gun stayed perfectly still, eyes staring into the distance. The agitation in the dog’s bark increased. It repeatedly pounced forward and retreated, trying to scare Mr. Aye. Still the man did not budge

The dog quickly looked around, then appeared to change tactics. It slinked closer to Mr. Aye, growling all the while. It stayed beyond an arm’s reach of the man and crouched low. The growl exposed every one of the dog’s teeth all the way to its gums.

Mr. Aye’s eyes flicked over to the dog.

The dog yelped.

 

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Carl strolled across the parking lot carrying a bag of first aid supplies and two sodas. Getting into the driver’s seat he said, “Here’s your fucking cola. Bandage that face before you go scaring children.”

From the passenger’s seat, Mr. Aye grunted. He swept up the soda in one meaty hand while the other grabbed at the medical supplies.

“You’re welcome, jackass”

“We’re going north, around to the other side of the campus. We’ll cut him off up there.”

“So, you called in and got some intel or something?”

“Uh…” He paused. “Yeah. Something like that.”

“Good. I’m glad we finally called in. Mr. Loveless gets particular about that kind of shit. So, north side. That’s pretty far pretty fast. You sure?

“Just do what I tell you. I’ve got a nose for things like this.”

They exited the parking lot as a smear of red came from behind the dumpster and seeped into the small strip of grass.

 

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The hot afternoon sun, the post-lunch food coma, and the eventual crash from that morning’s bong hits made the world seem burnt and all too real to Dan. The canopy of green played with the sunlight and it streamed down from the branches in pollen-filled beams along with the Spanish moss.

As he walked with Molly, the aging pervert considered the freshman’s short, round body. While he’d never been terribly picky and actually liked a little heft on his women, Molly had the look of someone who had given up on fitness for good. Dan didn’t care. Fat, crazy, needy. These weren’t problems. Problems were for people who did relationships. Goldberg had problems, Dan had opportunities. And Molly? She was female and that meant he was waiting for an opening.

“I could use a coffee. You know if we finished off the coffee this morning?” The sound of the young woman’s voice was both strangely familiar and somewhat out of place to Dan’s ears. She hadn’t said much this morning, not much that made sense anyway, and somehow this straight forward, practical question was odd.

His response was cool yet friendly, betraying little of his thoughts. “If not, I can direct you to the Quick mart. I’ve been up since last night, so no coffee for me. More bong hits, maybe, but no coffee.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot. You are nocturnal. Isn’t that a little weird?”

Dan shrugged. “Nah. You find work or the work finds you. I’ve worked hard to get a life where I don’t have to work so much. Weird shifts are a part of it. Pays well.”

They rounded the corner to the street where Dan shared the apartment with Goldberg. It was the only quiet side street that had been paved recently, so there were a bunch of kids doing skateboard tricks on homemade ramps.

“But what about girls?” She searched for his eyes as they walked. “Don’t they, like, have a problem with it?”

He smiled and looked out for errant skateboarders. “I suppose the right girl won’t mind so much.” The clacking skateboards of a half-dozen young daredevils swirled around them as they approached the apartment. Shuffling up the dusty driveway, they slid through the open lower door.

Climbing the stairway, Molly said, “Well, I don’t mind it. Especially on a hot day, it makes all the sense in the world to sleep past this heat.” She got to the door to the apartment and pushed it open without a second thought.

“Well, you know… If you wanted to join me…”

She turned around with a shocked look on her face. Dan tried to keep his careful mask of nonchalance in place, wondering if he’d just made a huge mistake.

“I… I never thought you’d ask,” she said with a blush.

“Well, I didn’t want to rush it,” he replied with a grin and an internal sigh of relief.

Halfway hiding behind the door, she made flirty eyes at Dan. “So, can I make you a bong hit, Dan? Will you be able to stay… up… for me?”

He grinned. “Never a problem.”

Molly walked into the cluttered apartment with Dan now nakedly ogling the way her behind wobbled in her shorts. “Uh, Dan?”

“Yeah.”

“I think the cats got into your stash.”

His anticipation broken, he finally noticed that the coffee table was a total mess, the rolling tray upended and weed spilled out on to the floor.

“Crap! Look at this mess. Billie!” Dan went off looking for his cat.

He came out of the bedrooms with a blurry eyed white cat in his arms. Back at the coffee table, he picked up what could be salvaged. “At least they didn’t knock over the bong. Dang, they ate a lot of this. They are going to be acting weird all day.”

“Why? What do they do?” Molly asked.

“Junior turns into the ‘great gray hunter’ and Billie mostly just sleeps or chases stuff. They are hyper-annoying, though, so they get to play outside today. Besides, I think we want to be alone, don’t you?” He flashed a leering grin then turned and called into the house. “Junior!”

 

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Delgado drifted through the confused recesses of his own mind as it coped with the new doors opened and rooms created by the silver. In reality, he was in a toy car in the hot sun, but that world was lost to him now.

Thoughts drifted to dreams and dreams became crazy and jumbled, but surprisingly lucid. Delgado had not been much of a lucid dreamer. This nap though, this was something different and he knew it.

He began high above the desert, flying backwards, watching the sun set in the east. He knew it was east because a huge compass lay just beneath him, attached to his sternum with the north pointing off his left hand.

Bright light entered his eyes and then washed down to the color of sand. As the brightness faded further, the sand separated into a naked blue sky above and sand below. The horizon slowly sharpened and in the sand he could see acres of crops being planted along neat rows. The novel channeling of the far off river turning the silt to mud. Further focus found people in the fields wrapped in simple loin cloths, their bronze skin and dark hair marking their African heritage.

Delgado became momentarily disoriented as his view of the scene shifted suddenly. He realized that he was looking through someone’s eyes and that the viewer had been looking out a large, open window. Now the person whose eyes he was gazing through walked through the room. A high, thatched roof made of palm fronds kept the sun off of the dozen or so people examining papyrus documents and waiting for an audience with the man in the gold chair at the other end of the room.

“Nur!” a man called out, running forwards. Though Delagdo couldn’t understand the words, the meanings were plain as anything he’d ever heard in English or Spanish.

“Minister Makek. To what do I owe the honor? “

“Nur, I was wondering.”

“And what is it that I might help you with?“

“Well, it’s your brother. I was wondering if you might talk to him again.”

The man named Nur sighed. “Defense Minister, you have me in a bind. You know that my family is forever and always at the ready to serve the Pharaoh.  We are loyal people.”

“Yes, we understand. But the Assyrians from the East … Nur, they are a threat to us all!”

“I am aware, which makes my bind all the more painful to me. Pray thee, walk with me to my brother.”

The Minister stiffened. “I… I’m not…”

“Come now, Minister. We’ve talked of this before. My brother is a man and a simple man at that. I myself witnessed his birth. I myself had to shelter the boy, lest he fall to rogues. Retain a calm tongue and you’ve nothing to fear from my brother.”

“But if I’m to convince him to help us defeat the Assyrians once and for all, I must, I’m afraid, give evidence of the righteousness of our cause. These people are animals!”

“Then I’m afraid we reach, once again, my bindings. My brother is both simple in mind and quality and is, by his nature, very gentile. The thought of anyone suffering, even a foe – for he does not distinguish, upsets him greatly. You would have him aid our Pharaoh by bringing him to war, but his is the mind of a child. As such, he is much more attuned to playing with blocks.”

The pair crossed the room and swept aside palm frond doors and sheets of linen that separated the main room from the patio outside. The strangeness of the scene presented to Delgado in his dream made him question its truth. There on a pillow of white sat a young and frail boy with almost pitch black skin. He drank in the hot sun. Around him flatten disks of gold made crude mirrors that reflected even more sun onto him. If anything the blackness of his skin became even blacker for the light as it let no reflection escape.

As for the boy himself, his smile was docile and wistful. The glare around him was intense but the boy did not seem to notice or care. Instead, he looked off into the distance. There, Delgado could see both a quarry and a building site.   The site held the bottom third of a massive stone pyramid. As he watched, a gigantic stone rose up from the quarry and made its way over the land resting on a beam of golden light. It slowly rested on top of the incomplete pyramid and the boy stuck out his tongue, manipulating the stone into place. When he was done, he smiled again.

The boy noticed his audience and smiled even brighter. “Triangle and a square. Sun, Moon. The path of heaven in stone.”

“Yes brother, you have learned well of our spirits. You follow the instructions of our Priests and Architects. The gifts they have given you, you continue to repay.” Looking over at the Minister, he said, “To build is a calling, brother. Be safe with the men and give to the gods.”

The Minister’s eyes fell even as Nur smiled.

The boy turned back to the quarry where the quarry master had just raised a white and a red flag up, waving them. “Ah! Another block.” The boy’s skin seemed to suck the light in from the sunshine and the mirror’s refection. He smiled and stared again into the distance. The huge stone block rose from its place in the quarry and he said, “I like blocks.”

Nur turned to the Minister, who shied away from the boy. “Minister, we would like to help but it appears that all we can do is free up the men and resources while still giving our Pharaoh a just and fitting final home, a gateway from this world. My brother, though miraculous, is no weapon of war.”

The Minister stood straighter. “I can see that now.   Not all power is force. But we must remain vigilant. You say this boy is no god, I disagree. Let us pray that should the Assyrians find one of their number with similar qualities that they should be so peaceful.”

As the Minister turned from Delgado, looking through Nur’s eyes the scene washed out into the glare of the sun coming through the passenger side window of the micro compact car. Delgado shook his head, his real head, and tried to straighten out.

“Good morning sunshine,” Belatran said. “Or really, good evening.”

“What time?” Delgado said, but realized that he already knew. The silver had given him an internal clock. “Three thirty?”

“Yeah.”

The solid marine tried to untwist himself from his sleeping position. “What are we doing?”

“I’m asking questions, talking to people, getting the lay of the land.   You’ve been taking a nap.”

“Oh shit! Sorry.”

“Nope. No need. You are getting your training in.   History.   Let me guess, Nur?”

“Uh… yeah.   Did that…”

“Yep. Nowhere near the earliest, but interesting.”

“What happened to him… the kid”

“Pretty sure he eventually died.”

“Well, yeah, but… nobody bothered to note this, that he built the pyramids?”

“To be fair, he only helped with a few. The rest was blood and sweat. Look, recorded history gets weird around powers. The more power at play, the less reliable things get. People can’t handle the idea of powers so it all becomes folklore, explained away, outright changed and forgotten by the same forces that produce the strangers in the first place.”

“That’s convenient.”

“Yeah, but get used to it. These strange things happen but it’s hardly ever truly random. Too many coincidences. It’s almost like someone is fucking with us just to make it interesting.”

“Ah, now you are just being paranoid.” Delgado once again broke out into a big yawn. “It’s not like someone is watching us or anything.”

“You say that now.” He watched the younger man snuggle back into a nap position despite the heat. “You’ve got a lot more to learn.”

The Strange – Episode 29 – InVision

[Author’s note:  Back again in Houston.  Dad finally got out of the Hospital and though according to all of the doctors he’s not only extremely lucky to be alive but it’s a straight up miracle he doesn’t seem to have any lasting damage, he’s super weak.  And cranky.  Weak and cranky.  Glad to have him though.   So, The Strange hasn’t been a priority.  Sorry.

Thanks to everyone who has voted for the story on top web fiction and helped to spread the word that it’s here.  The likes and the votes and such help other people find the story, so if you could please help me out by keeping those coming I’d really appreciate it.

I hope this episode finds you all well and still enjoying the ride.  I hope to post again soon, but my posting schedule hasn’t been regular for quite some time and I don’t believe that will change soon, maybe not until the next project.  I’m working from a draft and frankly some episodes need more help than others.  Between the recovering Dad, and everything else that seems to be cratering this summer, I’m not sure I can promise that I can do much of any thing with regularity.  However, I am committed to being a weirdo, so you got that.

Stay Weird

SC]

 

 

The Strange – Episode 27 – Take Your Best Shot

The doors of the Pen opened out into the bright sun of early afternoon.  The concrete plaza outside reflected the sun back up and made everyone but Goldberg squint.  Two sides of the plaza, one opposite them and one to their right had walkways one flight up and there was a set of concrete stairs going up just outside the door.

“Well, I’ve got to get back to my office to finish up grading papers,” Joy said facing toward Goldberg.  “Remind me later never to make an assignment due on Friday.”

“Now where have I heard that before?  You are clearly taking council from a wise man.  And I’ll… I’ll stay in touch.  Ok?”

“You’re cute when you are stoned and awkward.”

Dan slapped Goldberg and turned toward the bikes they had rode down on earlier.  “I’m done, dude.  Time for me to turn in and call it a day.  Try not to blow up the house or if you do, try not to wake me up.”

Goldberg turned to Joy as the group broke up. “So, I’ll see you later?”  his eyebrows gave away the neediness in his eyes, obscured behind the rose-colored sunglasses.

“Maybe,” she said, fingers straightening out his new haircut. “Now that you look presentable.”

“Yeah, well… This really hot hairdresser gave me this nice do.  I think she was coming on to me too.  She kept pressing her boobs into my back.”

“Ah, you noticed that, did you?”  Joy put her arm around Goldberg’s neck and pulled him down for a long kiss.”

“You all need to get a room.” Sarah said and turned to go with Teague.  The two climbed the stairs that led to the upper plaza, leaving Joy and Goldberg to their kiss.

Dan wheeled his bike over to Molly.  “So where are you off to?”

“I don’t know, really.”  Her face darkened. “I guess I’ve got to figure out my life again and Joy was going to take me shopping later, but until then, I’ve really got no place to go.”

Dan looked around with eyes blazing red.  “Hey, well, you can hang out at our house.”

She sniffed.  “Really?”

“Yeah, sure.  You know how to get there from here?  You just follow…” He pointed up the stairs where Sarah and Teague were climbing but then looked back at Molly.  She looked clueless and more than a little cute.  “You know what, it’ll be easier if I just showed you.”  He walked his bike to the foot of the stairs and hefted it up to his shoulder with Molly bouncing behind.

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Hidden in the void between the wall of the student union and a planter holding a shrub, Mr. Aye opened his bag.  Inside he found, among other things, two guns.  One was a longer-barreled version of a revolver with a scope.  Kind of a cross between a handgun and a rifle.  This, he knew, was a medium range sniper rifle, at least in his trained hands, and with low-powder, subsonic ammo, as quiet as he could get.  The other was a longer version of the dart gun he’d used earlier.  More gas for more punch, better barrel for longer range, but still not lethal.

At that moment, with both guns in his hands, the door one tall floor down and across a paved courtyard Goldberg and his pack of idiots wandered into the sun.  “So much for catching them in the glare,” he mumbled.  “At least Carl got the head count right.”  The group formed clumps, then pairs.  Goldberg was entangled with one of the girls with funky hair.

Mr. Aye’s eyes squinted.  Veins appeared on his hands as he squeezed the guns tighter than necessary.  Without looking, he dropped the dart gun back into the bag.  He crouched behind a planter and steadied himself against the concrete.  Through the scope, he could see Goldberg’s smug, smiling face.

“Wing him,” Mr. Aye mumbled.  “Well, accidents happen.”

He went into his shot ritual.  Feel and mold your biology.  Breathe out, hold it, wait for the heartbeat to finish.

Ba-bump.  Squeeze.  Explode.

 

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Hot expanding gases created a shock wave in a tiny space.  Lead jerked into motion, propelled by the gas and the wave, down a tube lined with swirling groves.  The tube was tight and the swirls cut the sharp point’s outer flesh, twisting it.  The pressure from the explosion did not relent, and the pointed lead projectile continued to accelerate. Twisting and pushing until it finally reached the end of the tube. It screamed spinning through the open air at fantastic speed toward the unsuspecting flesh of its target.

 

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Goldberg and Joy continued to kiss.  After a while Joy broke it off.  “You know, this whole make-out as we are parting ways thing is really not my style.”

He smiled “Not really mine either, but I’m willing to make an exception.”

“It’s not like I’m evaporating.  I’ll see you again tomorrow.”  She chuckled as his hands were inadvertently tickling her.

“Yeah I know.  I just can’t shake the feeling like you are going to disappear or something.”

“Well you are just going to have to get over that.  Besides, I’m going to take Molly to get some clothes tonight after I finish grading papers.”  She glanced over to where Molly was following Dan.  “At least, that’s the plan.  You boys will just have to deal.”

“Sounds to me like you are ‘doing your hair’ or something.”

“Well! What! Ever!  You have fun getting lost, but here’s something to remember me by.” She jumped into his arms and gave him a big, playful kiss.  Goldberg wasn’t ready to be attacked like this and he stumbled back a good number of feet until he hit the front of the Pen.  By reflex alone, he quickly twisted Joy in his arms only by a few inches.  He noticed the sound of a fire cracker and Joy jumped.  With a naughty smile she said, “Whew!  Goldberg!  You pinch me like that again and I might have to give you a spanking!”

She kissed him again and Goldberg thought, “what pinch?”

 

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Up on the upper plaza, Sarah Grimaced and spun.  “Ouch! Fucker!”  She held her left butt right butt cheek and crumpled to the pavement.

“Sarah!  You ok?  Baby?”  Teague crouched down and put his big hands around his girlfriend as she sat on one cheek and winced.

“Yeah, it’s just… Ow!  What the hell was that?”

“What was what?”

“I just had this really sharp pain in… well… my ass.”

Dan came up the stairs with the bike over his shoulder and Molly in tow. “Man, you could at least have gotten more than a few feet away before you start talking about me.”

“Can the crap, stoner.  I think Sarah might have dislocated her hip or something.”

“Uh… ow… Actually, it felt like …  Like being shot with a rubber band or a pellet gun or something.  It stings like crazy, but I’m ok, I think.”

“Really baby?  Who would do something like that?”

Dan looked around the scene.  He narrowed in on the planters that lined the path where the plaza wrapped around the student union building, becoming a balcony.  “I’m just pitching, but maybe you should ask the guy with the gun over there?”

“Where.”  Teague’s voice dripped with chained rage.

Dan pointed before he thought better of it.  “Dude’s right there.  Between the bushes.  Just walk along the wall behind the planters and he’s right there.”

“What.  Where?”

“Right there!  Oh for shit sake.  Are you blind or something?  He’s hidden in the plant fucking thing right there.”

Teague took off mumbling, “Stay right here baby.”

“Teague!”  Sarah shouted.  “Don’t hurt him!  You’ll get suspended.”

“I’m already suspended.”  Teague said.  He squinted and followed Dan’s directions, running full steam.

Dan looked at Sarah and said, “Really?” His face clouded with loss.   “Ah crap, there goes the season.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Wedged in between the potted bushes and the student union’s wall, Mr. Aye manipulated his bolt action sniper rifle, ejecting the cartridge.  They had moved at the last second, but still, it was a dead-on hit.  Or it should have been.  But a look though the scope showed those two still sucking face.

“Bastard.”

Mr. Aye finally raised his head from his sight to see Teague barreling towards him.  He stood and calmly reached inside his jacket with his left hand while his right stayed in position on the sniper rifle.  His hand came out in a flash brandishing a black semi-automatic that looked small in his meaty hand.  The shot was almost casual, and dead on target.  Teague’s shirt exploded in a scorched rip, exposing his bronze chest between his pectorals.

A second shot ripped the shirt slightly to the left, but Teague kept coming.  He stepped right up to the man and grabbed him by the throat.  Two more shots went into Teague’s chest before Teague grabbed the gun and his hand.

“Dude.  Stop with them fucking bee bees.”

Wind had to force its way through the constriction in Mr. Aye’s throat before being formed into words, and even then, it also had to get through the bandages that now covered most of the assassin’s face.  “What Bee Bees?” He croaked out.

“Oh, you’re funny now.  You shot my girlfriend in the ass and now you owe me a new shirt.”

Mr. Aye’s eyes flicked over to where Goldberg and Joy are just now separating.  “Looks like she’s stepping out on you then.”  He tried to point with his eyes, but the way the big angry football player held him limited his motions.

“What the fuck did you just say?”  Teague’s eyes bulged out at the man dangling in his hand.  “You know I’ve been told today that I have an anger management problem.  They think I’m the same out of control street punk that came in last year, getting in trouble and shit, but you know what I say?  I say I’m being really fucking understanding here.”  He shook Mr. Aye by the throat and said, “Do I look like someone with an anger management problem?  I should kick your ass into paste, but I’m not.  You know what I’m going to do?”

“Urk.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not totally sure either.  But I am resisting the urge to throw you off this fucking balcony.  It’s not even a thing.”  Teague looked at Mr. Aye for a long moment.  “You familiar with the concept of Karma, mother fucker?  It means that if I do what I want to do and beat the ever-living crap from you, that I put a black mark on my own soul or som’thin’ like that.  But you see, Karma also says that you get what’s coming to you in the end.  Maybe not today, but some day, the bad man pays.

“Now here’s the deal.  You… are a Fucker.  A bad man.  You shot my girlfriend with your pea shooter and you ruined a perfectly good shirt.  It’s pretty well established that your karma here is pretty dirty.  You have some shit coming your way some day and some time, hanging over you like… like a fucking thing that hangs over you until it falls and wrecks your day.  But you know what?  I have the will and the means to help you out with that.  Right now.  You can pay right now instead of having it over your head, waiting to take you.  So, what do you say?  I’m feeling like being an agent of Karma.  How’s about we lighten that load you’re carrying around with you?”

“Merp!” the big man squeeked with nothing but his toes lightly tapping the ground.

“Great!  I thought we could work this out.  Now here’s the deal.  I’m going to punch you, but not in anger.  This is Karma for you and for me, an equalizing of the scales.  So I’mma hit you just once, but believe it…  I’m going to make it count.  You fucking deserve that.”  He reached back his enormous arm and said, “Say hello to karma, ya asshole!”

 

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From where Carl waited in the car he could see the punch, hear the wet, meaty slap it made and feel himself cringe at the result.  No stranger to fights, Carl had an expectation of what a punch should look like.  This one seemed all wrong.  When a fist hits someone’s face, there is always an interplay between the two objects, a negotiation of breaking strength and kinetic energy, not that he’d think of it that way.  In other words, even at its most lopsided, the face gave a little back to the fist, either by slowing it or diverting the blow.  None of this happened here.  The fist just plowed forward toward a point three inches past the plane of Mr. Aye’s face and came back out.  Carl could see the mercenaries head snap back, but it wasn’t enough, especially since the big black man’s other hand held Mr. Aye’s throat steady.  It was brutal and quick, like a piece of machinery stamping out a hole in sheet metal.  And when it was over, the black man simply dropped Mr. Aye and walked away.  No rubbing of knuckles or massaging of forearms.

“Holly fucking crap!”  Carl started the tan sedan and hopped up the curb with a loud scrape.  Mr. Aye lay like a pile of meat.  He carefully drove past the wooden benches and concrete planters that lined the balcony and rolled to a stop next to him.  A practiced hand threw the car into park as he popped the door open and stepped out.  The guy that had thrown the sickening punch was walking away and Carl had no desire to get his attention.  He walked around the car and opened the door to the back seat.

Once again, he had to get an unresponsive Mr. Aye into the car.  This time he didn’t even try to be gentile and instead relied on leverage.  He unrumpled the big man’s body and rested his face against the seat cushion.  Putting Mr. Aye’s ass on his shoulder, Carl pushed against a concrete planter with all his might, causing Aye’s body to fold and scoot across the back seat.  His face provided the foothold for this action and it both scraped along the seat and supported his whole weight.  Soon enough, the meaty body was in the back of the car and Carl slammed the door.  “You’re welcome, you comatose piece of shit.  You’d better not be dead.”

The Strange – Episode 28 – A lot to Learn

[Author’s note: Sorry for the wait – again.  Lots of life issues plus a lot of anxiety about this particular episode has not been a great combination.  I’m also now dropping it when people are least likely to be reading, so I’ve farked this along numerous vectors.

How’d you like, arguably, the first time the team went into action together?  Not exactly the X-men, eh?

I know I say this every time, but if you like what you are reading here, please spread the word.  Voting for me on top web fiction is extremely useful, as are likes and follows.

The story is getting a lot more actiony as the gloves come off, so hold on to your hat.  I’ll try not to have such a long pause between episodes again.

Thanks for reading and Stay Weird.

-SC]

The Strange – Episode 26 – The Eyes That Seek

Carl slowly opened the door to The Pen, trying hard not to open it too slowly, or too fast, or to do anything that might give any indication that he was anything but normal and definitely not being a spy.  The sharp scrape of the bottom of the door on the concrete outside turned every head in the bar towards him and people squinted to pick his features out of his silhouette.

“Sorry!”  He said weakly as he pulled the door free with an equally deafening squeal.  Finally inside the dim, close confines of the bar, Carl looked for the most logical thing to do.  He ducked his hands in his pockets and joined the back of the line of people waiting to be served at the counter.

From this vantage point, he scanned the crowd.  Students mingled with Alumni and the odd family with older children occupied the tables.  Over in a booth sat Goldberg.  There was no mistaking him. He was the only person still wearing sunglasses in the dim room, much less red tinted ones.  He didn’t look a thing like the picture they had in the paper, Carl thought.  Maybe money really does change people overnight.  He had an entourage, that seemed new.

Carl turned back to face the line, to see the cashier and the person in line in front of him both staring at him.   The line had moved on while he was casing the place and had left him standing alone.  Now it was his turn.  “Uh, hi.  I just…”

He shuffled up to the bar and tried to act natural.  “What do you have on draft?”

The cashier looked at the two tap handles not a foot from Carl’s nose.  “You mean aside from Bright Beer?  Nothing.  No bottles either.”

“I’ll have a Bright then.”  Carl smiled nervously causing the boy behind the counter to look at him twice.

“I’ll need to see some ID, Sir.”

Carl jumped in his skin.  The way the boy said it gave him a bad flashback to the last time he was arrested.  It wasn’t like he was trying to be stealth or anything.  Do you give out your drivers license when you are being stealth?  And anyway, he was pretty sure it was in the car.

Composing himself, Carl said.  “Never mind then, I’ll have a cola.”

“Sure thing.”  The boy lifted a red plastic cup from a stack and handed it to him.

Carl thought it was some kind of joke.  The two stood staring each other down, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  After a pregnant moment, the cashier lifted his eyebrows and looked of to the side.  Only then did Carl notice that he was practically leaning on a self serve soda fountain.   “Oh.  Yeah.”

“Buck Fifty.”

Carl fished into his pocket and pulled out a five, thankful to be done with this transaction.  He shifted over to the soda fountain and filled up his cola.  Again, he turned to scan the room.  Goldberg was talking in a group with one of the largest people he’d ever seen in person, bigger even than Mr. Aye.  The other kid was at that table, facing away from the door and there was someone small sitting next to him, across from Goldberg.  Using his deduction, he assumed that there was at least one other person who was in the party, but not currently at the table due to the large man being in a chair at the end of the table rather than at the fourth logical spot in the booth.

“Hey BUDDY!”  The bartender yelled.  Drawing everyone’s attention.  “Hey, you, in the skinny tie!  You forgot your change!”

Suddenly all eyes were on Carl again, sitting by himself at a table in the middle of the room.  He slowly stood up.  Turned and walked over to the kid behind the counter, who was holding out three dollar bills and two quarters.

Carl slowly slipped the currency from the kid’s hand and said, “Thank you.”

When he turned around again, most people had gone back to what they were doing.  He couldn’t tell about Goldberg, though.  Those damned glasses made it impossible to tell what he was looking at, and he was no longer talking, just sitting. The longer Carl sat, the more Goldberg’s eyeless gaze bored into his soul.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Goldberg wasn’t thinking of anything.   Still way too stoned to focus, he’d let his mind wander as Molly and Dan told Teague the story of the morning.  He was over the weirdness for now and was simply enjoying how the caffeine sharpened the blurry edges of his considerable buzz.

Teague looked at the three people in the booth with wide eyes. He looked from face to face and then he smiled wide. “You all had me going there for a sec. Pushed it a little too far, though, so I call bullshit.”

“Well, you did ask what was up.”

He leaned in and grabbed some nacho. “Shoulda know better.”

“Believe what you want, man,” Goldberg said, coming back to the moment. “So, they got you on two a days now?”

“Yeah, was… Long story.  New Coach is a hard ass. Said I was tackling too hard in our contact drills this morning. Gotta talk to him later.”

“But the team’s looking good?” Dan asked.

“Yeah, got a really good feeling about this year, even with the … recent injury problem.  Anyhow, we got this new set of plays that should keep people from teeing up on our backfield so much.  We were a little too pass happy last year, but they put in a trap package.  Should make D ends think twice.”

“Trap?”

“Well, yeah.  It’s a blocking thing, but it’s based upon Sun Tsu, you know, The art of war.”

“War?”  Molly burst out. “Football’s just a game.”  The boys all looked at one another, aghast.  “What?”

“So, where are you from again?” Dan asked.

“Connecticut,” she said, getting defensive.

They all grinned and Dan explained.  “Well, yeah.  You see, this is the South East.  Second only to Texas or Ohio maybe in how seriously people take football.  It’s not a game, it’s THE game.”

“Yeah,” Goldberg put in.  “Even I know what’s going on with the hometown team and I’m as nerdy as they get.  So is it top secret or something or can you tell us about this wrinkle.”

“Actually, it’s not secret at all.  We want people to know we’re practicing it.  The philosophy is… well, it’s like this.  It’s conventional to think in black and whites, yin and yang, right?  Can’t help it.  But with a trap, you flip that on its head.  Consider that there are just two sides, one has the ball and the other doesn’t, but aside from that the game is a struggle to push the line, right?  Well the power of the Offense is that they have the one thing everyone wants.”

“The ball,” Goldberg breathed.

“Exactly.  Without the ball, you got jack.  So, people will flow toward the ball, especially at the line of scrimmage.  So, you use that.  Flash the ball.  Play defense with it, defend the ball.  Make them the aggressors and over-pursue.  Make them go where you want them to go, then set up blocking to make sure they stay there.  Use their over pursuit against them.”

“Ok, so fine, what’s the pay out?” Dan asked.

Teague smiled. “Well, first off, if we do it right, it strangles the rush, sweeping them either into the middle or ripping a hole with a pulling guard for the running back.  Since you make the back wait a second, they can bounce out or use the hole to get to the second level.  Hopefully your happy four yards per down.  The second thing is that it looks like a pass play for long enough for the secondary to stay home and for linebackers to think about coverage.  Unless they bite huge, then it’s all up to your back to either be where they won’t be or for the QB to see it and throw against weak coverage down field.”

“You’re being sneaky.”

“No, we’re being smart.  We only have to use it once against someone and burn them good to plant the seed.  It won’t always work.  It’s not your high percentage bread and butter, but it doesn’t have to.  It only has to work once.”  He put up his huge index finger for emphasis.  “And having it in our pocket loosens up everything else that one little bit.”  Teague sat back and looked at the table.

“When does the season start?”  Molly asked.

“Season never ends, girl, but we play our first game last week in August.”

“Yeah, and let me tell you that first game is a sweat bowl,” Dan said, leering at Molly.

“So, what are you boys talking about?” Joy and Sarah walked over, Sarah putting an arm on Teague’s shoulder as Joy slid into the booth.

“Football, death, and explosives.” Dan said.

“It’s a regular Michael Bay movie in this booth.”

Teague tilted his head up to her.  “Nerd boy here is trying to convince me that he was in that building that had the gas leak this morning.”

“Where did you hear it was a Gas thing, Teague?”

“The news. Radio was on when we hit the showers and they covered it.  Had a press conference and everything.  The Mayor said something about upgrading our infrastructure.”

Goldberg looked at Molly.  “Did your kitchen use gas?”

“No, but it looked like it used to.”

“What are you thinking?” Joy asked Goldberg.

“I think I smell a rat.”

Sarah said, “Paranoid much, Nerd boy?”

“You weren’t at Bill’s place.  I don’t need my little bird to tell me that there was more there than meets the eye.  Besides, I would have smelled the gas, I was right there in the kitchen.  I told you guys I would need to investigate this personally.  I was given these abilities for a reason.”

“You mean, you really…” Teague’s eyes went wide again.

Joy nodded.  “Yep. Only good thing to come out of it is that it burnt off a lot of that hippie mop he’d been holding on to.  It’s crazy but true.”

“Well I still think you boys smoke way too much grass, man,” Teague said. “That shit poisons the mind. Plus, I bet you haven’t seen the inside of a gym since you graduated PE in high school.  Put down the bong and pick up some weights and your mind will clear.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that for a smart guy, you are buying your own press.  That’s why I never read any part of a newspaper I am liable to be in.  You are looking at that frontpage piece on your supposed luck and letting it mix with that drug addled brain of yours.  You may have been lucky, but that doesn’t make you superhero man.  Cooperate with the authorities.”

Dan looked at Goldberg.  “Makes sense to me, dude.  Told you that all along.”

“Yeah, but, I never even read that article.  And I did cooperate with the authorities and either they blew me off or… well hell, I don’t know what they are doing.  I gave them a lead, what else do they need?  And Dan, you were there with the dart gun guy.”

Dan’s voice went far away.  “Oh yeah.”

“And, no.  I’m not paranoid.  Look, if they are looking into leads, I’m a damned lead.  Maybe that’s why people are coming out of the fucking bushes at me.”

“So, go to the cops again if you are concerned,” Sarah said.

“Ah, I see you’ve been briefed.  No.  That’s not right either.  They would have just called me back, not send some dart throwing maniac after me.  Dan had his phone on him the whole time.  No.  Maybe there is some other player involved. …Unless they are about to come and pick me up for murder or arson or both…  Fuck!  I can’t go to the cops.  They think I’m a criminal.  I’m sure of it.”

“Well of course you are a criminal.”  Teague said.

They all went stone silent and looked at him.

“Hey man, don’t look at me like that.  Nerd boy’s a doper.  In my old neighborhood that’s a criminal, at least where the cops are concerned.  I know you all are more cosmopolitan and white about it and all, but that is against the law.  The man could come by and pop you whenever he feels like it, they just don’t.”

“I’m sorry, Teague, but that’s hardly helpful,” Joy said.

“It isn’t?  Perspective man.  You are no more a criminal now than you were this morning. It’s just that you have information that someone, the man, the… other man who ever that is… You have what they want.”

“Yeah, but what?” Sarah asked.

“Oh!” Joy reached into her bag and produced the wooden ball puzzle.  “This.”

“Hey!  You got it!”  Goldberg reached over and took the ball from her outstretched hand.

“Yeah.  Here.”

Goldberg started to press the ball in places and quickly had it shedding pieces.  “Did the police wonder why you wanted it?”

“Oh, we managed to take it without them noticing.  Seemed prudent.”

“Good,” Goldberg said as some of the last pieces fell away, leaving just a small square of plastic about the size of his thumbnail.

“What is it?” Molly asked, straining for a look.

Goldberg held up the small data chip and said, “A clue, hopefully.”  He looked at the home buyers guide which glowed faintly to him with possibilities. “And maybe a way out.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“You are a regular James fucking bond you are,” Mr. Aye spat along with a mist of dark blood.

“Well, he’s in there.  I counted four at his table with a spot for at least one more.  Might have been in the john.”

“You were in there ten minutes.”

“Maybe they were pushing out a duce, ok?”  Carl was still pissed and agitated from going into that bar with the target and being out here with the recently re-bandaged Mr. Aye held little respite.  “All I know is people tend to sit in booths if the space is available not fucking drag an extra table over for the hell of it.”

“Oh, so now you are Sherlock Holmes?”

“Hey, why are you fucking with me?  I got your intel.  I did what you asked.  This is not my fucking job to be doing this.  I’m a god damned driver.”

“And you forgot my cola.”

“And I forgot your cola.  Fuck!”

Mr. Aye let the whole thing sit for a moment while looking over the area from the concrete balcony before spitting out, “prick. Thirsty.”

The two squinted into the concrete plaza below, letting the hot wind blow past them.

“I’m going to go find a coke machine just to shut you up!”

“Fuck it.”  Mr. Aye said in a tone that made it an order.  “Wait in the car.  This might be the best vantage point, but I’m going to need to be mobile on the hop, and that means you.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I’m gonna separate him from his group.  Like a wounded buffalo”

“You have a plan?”  Carl nearly bounced out of his shoes with tension as Mr. Aye remained hard as ice.

“We’re beyond plans,” he said, more to himself than to Carl.  The bandage on his nose hid the deepening of his scowl. “I’m going to trust my gut.”

The Strange – Episode 27 – Take Your Best Shot

[Author’s note: Well… Day job. Sorry about the wait.  Please keep spreading the word and I’ll try to be more prompt.  And Stay Weird.

-SC]

The Strange – Episode 25 – Come Together – Part 2

In the back seat of the sedan, Mr. Aye found where the pieces of his body had been jarred loose by the frat boys and hurriedly cobbled them together.

The big man could now feel his legs, his spine had started working again and his face, though swollen, was roughly the same as it should be.  Whereas he could have been described as meaty before, now, he felt more like a pile of meat.

He knew he had at least a couple of broken ribs and he had thought that he had been kicked in the back hard enough to not want to be kicked that hard in the back any more. Even so, he was starting to feel strong enough to try to turn around and at least lie facing upwards.

The effort was fantastic and at one point he had to settle for being half way, on his side.  The uncomfortable feeling of things sloshing around in his torso, as if nothing was anchored down properly, convinced him to hurry up and get on his back.

Again, he could feel things moving around, but decided it was just a combination of his imagination, having his bell rung, and lack of sleep.  The doughnuts he had that morning while taking the reconnaissance pictures outside the Collectors house probably didn’t help, either.  Was that really just this morning?  And now it’s the afternoon.  The sun at a slight angle…  When he looked up, though his swollen eyelids, the sight through the car’s window conflicted with the picture in his mind.

“Carl!”  It came out as a wet slap, making Carl jump.

“Jesus!  Scared the shit out of me.”

“Where do you think you are going?”

“I thought you were dead.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to base.  I thought I was going to be dumping your fucking body in the swamp!”

“I told you to turn around and find a place to get a coke.”

“Which would have been odd last words, for sure.”

Mr. Aye ignored all pain and pulled himself to a sitting position.  Outside he found that they were driving out in the campus’s agriculture plots, near the hospital and almost completely off campus.  He reached back and hit Carl hard in the ear with his open right hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The desk stared back at Clive Brace.  His report was done.  He’d gone before the reporters and delivered his findings.  He came back and had been collating what little information he’d gotten out of the investigation.  His mind reeled from the whiplash of it all.  Blank.  Nothing stuck.  Things just didn’t fall together.

“Go home, Slick.”

Brace lifted his head to see Commissioner Painter standing at his desk, baseball hat on and briefcase in hand.  At least he’d changed out of his jogging shorts. The words carried the weight of an order and came from someone who was more than comfortable giving them.

“Yeah.  I will.  I’ve got some things to finish up here.”

“No you don’t.  Clive, you’ve been on since six.  You did fine work today and we’re done.  Put a bow on it and kill it under a pint or two.”

Clive smirked.  “Don’t drink, sir.”

“What?  Why the hell not?  Religion?”

He shrugged and sat back in his chair.  “Never took to it.  And yeah, I know… but I just didn’t.”

“So what do you do to relax?”

“Read mostly.”

Painter gave him a sideways glance and shrugged.  “Do that then.  This place isn’t like Miami, Slick.  We don’t live the job here and we don’t let the cases camp out in the head space, especially when they are done.  I only got three detectives, Brace.  I can’t have you wearing yourself out chasing ghosts or burning my budget on overtime.”

The chair under Detective Brace seemed to sink a little as he looked at his boss.  The thing that bothered him came into horrible focus.  In his mind, a replay of a conversation he’d had in a Miami break room came up, the one that led to the Inspector General’s investigation and his transfer.

He made a conscious effort to keep his blank expression as he probed Painter’s eyes.  “You know, we may just get some leads from that press conference.  Brine gave me a bunch of shit for even mentioning the tip line number.”

“Yeah, well Brine is right.  People are scared, scared people jump at their own shadows and call us to bring them a flashlight and hold their hand.  Still, knowing the Sargent, he was probably a dick about it.”  Clive knew a smirk was expected, so he smirked, his poker face gliding over his suspicions.  “So don’t worry about it.  Penington is detective on duty now.”

“I just want to clean my desk off before I leave.  Put a bow on it, as you say.”

“Good.  I’ll see you on Monday, slick.”

“Yeah.  Have a good day sir.”

The old coffee was stale and shook as Clive brought it to his lips. Bitterness slapped him as he hoped it would and his hand was steady resting the mug back on the desk.

Code fifty three fourteen.  Clive knew it well.  He knew that a detective could not be forced to leave a case within two days or if there were active leads without proper hand off.  An anti-corruption clause from the days of the old south.  Penington would close the case on orders the minute he clocked out.  Clive was certain of it.

He was on the clock.  Time to get going.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Car skidded to a stop, stuttering and smoking.  It drifted off to the right and came to rest rubbing a curb.

Carl got out of the car in a panic, not completely understanding what had just happened.  His hand was up to his ear and when he looked at it, he saw the blood, his blood, coming out.  Two more steps and vertigo forced him to one knee.

Behind him, a door opened.  Mr. Aye swiveled out in a single motion and reared up to his full height and girth.  He looked like he has been hit by several cars, but none of this surface damage was evident in his stance or his gait as he walked over to a now cowering Carl.

Mr. Aye’s shadow fell across the driver.  “I said East, fucker.”  The voice was low, loud and crackled with blood.  “We are on the hunt, man.  You don’t give up on a hot lead because of a little boo boo.  What the fuck is the matter with you.”

“You were dead.  I saw you.  You weren’t breathing.”

“Don’t care.  You follow my orders.  If you do anything else against my orders,”  He bent down to get right into Carl’s face.  “You won’t like it.”

Carl got his nerve back.  “I don’t fucking like it now.  Why can’t you drive yourself, you big asshole?”

The skinny man braced for another blow, but Mr. Aye backed off a bit.  “There are things I will need for you to do for me, like drive, like go into places I can’t go looking like this.  I’ve been spotted by our prey, you have not.  We will require more cunning and stealth at this juncture.”

“Hah!” Carl said “Big man needs me!”

“I didn’t say I needed you, just someone who isn’t me.  Your importance is defined by me now.”  He turned around and opened the door to the back seat.  “Let that sink in.”

Carl got to his feet and swerved back to the car.  “Sink this, mother fucker!” he mumbled. “We get done, we’re going to resume this little trip to the swamp and you get to meet my friends for dinner.”  He opened the driver’s side door with more force than was necessary and flung himself behind the wheel.

“So, we’re going to go get a coke.”

Mr. Aye nodded, looking around the back seat.  “Yes, and hopefully, a smile.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joy followed Sarah up the hallway to the bathroom, but raised an eyebrow as she took a turn and headed through the exit door instead.  Beyond the door, lay a cinder block hallway lined with emergency lights.

“So, what’s on your mind?” Joy said.  “And what’s with all the cloak and dagger?”

Sarah whirled, her black and purple hair umbrella-ing out in recognition of centrifugal force.  “The thing is, I’m pretty sure I’m going crazy, so hang with me.”

“Oooooh, Kaaaaayyyy”  Her eyes grew wide.  “So what.  What’s up?”

“Have you been having thoughts that seem a little off.  Maybe like they aren’t yours or don’t have anything to do with what you are currently doing?”

“Maybe a little.  I kept on thinking about how the apartment needs tidying up, getting a coffee.  But honestly this day…”

“Well, let me tell you about the thoughts I’ve been having.  I’ve been thinking about going and visiting a bombed out building with some freshman girl I’ve never met before.  Picking up a ball shaped thinger… Oh yeah, getting wasted first thing in the morning before that.  Going and reading some absolutely horrendous stories.  I’ve even got a list and a synopsis I wrote down as proof.  Then I wrap it up by coming here.  Sound familiar?”

“So what are you trying to say?”

“I’m saying that ever since the bomb blast thing this morning I’ve been… um…”  She closed her mouth and said into Joy’s mind ‘… hearing your insipid internal dialog.’

“Holly Shit!”

“Yeah.  I’ve been trying to get you to shut up too, but apparently you haven’t been getting the hint.”

Together they sighed and said “This is not cool.”

“You know, if you try, you can shut it out a little,” Sarah said.  “I have tried focusing on what I’m doing and that pushed the impression of what you are doing into the background.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want you looking over my shoulder at all. But why is this happening?”

“You tell me.  It’s your boyfriend that goes into burning buildings and the like.”

Joy opened her mouth, breathed in as if to speak, but then shook her head.

“Yeah, it is like something out of a stupid comic book.”

Rounding on Sarah, Joy snapped. “Hey! Stop reading my mind.”

“I wish I could, but you are leaving it too open for me. Keep your damned thoughts to yourself.”

Joy looked at her twin. “Nice hair.  Did you somehow do this?”

“No.  Goes with the territory I guess.”

They both asked each other. “Read anyone else’s mind?”

“Guess not,” They both said, dropping their chins in identical movements.

“So what do we tell and to whom?” Joy asked.

“Well Teague won’t like it.”

“No shit.  Teague doesn’t do weird.”

Sarah scowled.  “I was referring to how attached he is to me and his general love of privacy. This is going to be threatening to him.”

“And don’t forget weird. Ok, fine. But I think we tell Goldberg.”

“Why?”

Joy turned back toward the main part of the bar but stayed in the hall.  “Well, two reasons, First he’s got his own thing going on with that whole ‘Lucky as hell’ act he’s working on.”

“And the other?”

Joy looked over her shoulder and said, “He’ll figure it out anyway and may already know.  Come on.  Time to rejoin the party.  We’ll catch up tonight if not… you know… sooner.”

The Strange – Episode 26 – The Eyes That Seek

[Author’s note: This section was quite short for me so I didn’t feel good about having everyone wait a whole week for it.  I’m also testing the ability of WordPress to schedule releases so I can build up a buffer and get more consistent with the updates.  I figured this would be a good dry run.

Again, votes on Top Web Fiction are hugely useful for helping spread the word about the story.  Likes and comments in wordpress are also very helpful within the population of wordpressers.  I always feel a bit needy asking for word of mouth, but nothing happens without a request, eh?

So I hope you enjoyed our little interlude here.  I’ll be back next wednesday with more, if not sooner.

Stay Weird

-SC]

 

 

The Strange – Episode 24 – Come Together – Part 1

Carl drove the car down Frat row trying to find where Mr. Aye had gone.

“Big fucker has got to be around here somewhere. What was he thinking, tearing off like that?  And he says I’m an asshole.”

The street was lined with the huge houses for the fraternities.

“Wow, this takes me back a ways, I tell you. I remember that one year I had, pledging. Too bad I couldn’t stay. Grades and all that. I’d have moved into the house the next year if I’d a been able to stay.  Damned ROTC!  Flunk a couple of classes and you’re in the fucking army!  This, though… this is awesome! All the organization of the military, but with the sole purpose of scoring with chicks.” He drove up to where a group of boys, all with the same hat, were huddling. “You see? That’s organization.”

He looked into what they were doing and realized what was happening. “Holy shit!  That’s Mr. Aye!”

Bloodied and beaten with new welts on his face, Mr. Aye lay in a blob on the grass.  As Carl swerved the car up to where he was, the boys had become disinterested and drifted back to their house.

Carl got out and rounded the car.  Mr. Aye hadn’t moved.  When he touched the big mercenary, his back felt soft, like a bag of broken parts.  Fighting squeamishness, he pushed at his back, trying to wake him.

“Aye. Hey you big fat fuck, wake up.”  he squatted near the unconscious man. “Man, you really are stupid, you know that? Some big Mercenary you are, can’t even take out a couple of geeks. You know, I thought that when they assigned me to work with you that I’d see some really next level merc shit, maybe get into the bigger leagues than driving a truck for Loveless, but now that I look at you, you ain’t nothin’ special. Just some asshooo!!”

Aye’s arm shot up and grabbed him by his shirt while the rest of him stayed as still as the dead.  Carl’s extended “o” extended even further in shock as Aye turned his head mechanically, not bothering to lift himself up off of the turf. Only once the head was turned did he open his eyes and when he did, his eyes were soulless.

“Ooooooooo!” Carl continued, having lost control of his verbal faculties to fear.

Mr. Aye arched his back awkwardly and pulled himself up by Carl’s shirt.  The soulless eyes still staring at the scrawny driver as his other hand flopped into a position under his body.

“Get me into the car.” he said.  A bubble of blood came up where the bandage on his nose had been punched off by a drunk frat boy.  Blood now started to flow from the lesions the boys had made on his face, giving him the look of a candle that had been put out to melt.

For his part, Carl ran out of air, and his “o” finally stopped. Mr. Aye repeated. “Get me into the car.” and the lean man nodded. He half carried, half dragged Mr. Aye the few feet to the brown sedan, then dropped him while he fumbled for the door. Aye made a wet thunk sound as he hit the grass and made no effort to catch himself. Carl felt bad about that and took a step to help, but Aye was already flat on the turf. He jerked back to what he was doing and opened the passenger’s side rear door.  The door swatted Mr. Aye on the top of the head, making a new gash on his scalp.  While Carl winced, Mr. Aye stayed motionless with his face in the dirt.  “In the car” Mr. Aye said, sounding angry and muffled by the grass.  Carl straddled the man’s back and put his arms under his armpits.  Mr. Aye did not move, but merely accepted this, even as Carl trotted quickly with his feet, dragging him.  Once they got to the car, Carl’s form of carrying didn’t give Mr. Aye the necessary clearance and their forward motion mushed the large man’s face into the side of the rear seat’s cushion.  “Higher” he said, his voice muffled.

Carl regrouped and pulled him up from the side, kicking at the grass and pushing at Mr. Aye’s chest with his back. The large man fell into the foot well with his head resting unnaturally on the transmission tunnel. To get better leverage, Carl went around to the other side and opened the door.  He could now grab Mr. Aye by the jacket and pull him in, but with Aye being just dead weight, it wasn’t’ going to be easy on anyone.  As Mr. Aye’s face dragged across the bottom of the foot well, he left large crimson streaks.  Finally, he was in enough and Carl backed up.  It looked like he had a dead body in the car.  To belie that vision, Mr. Aye’s cushion side arm wriggled itself free and tried to pull himself up.

“Ah, good.  Finally helping out, you big bastard.  I thought I’d be on disposal duty here in a second.”  With that he slammed the door shut.

With the recent movement, Mr. Aye’s head just barely was in the way, so the slamming door jarred him and made a wet thudding sound.  By the time the skinny man had started the car, Mr. Aye had rolled up onto the rear seat and proceeded to bleed into the cushions.

“So boss, where to?”

Carl didn’t think Mr. Aye was in a position to answer, but he his wet voice asked, “Where is the nearest place to get a soda?”

Carl thought and blew out a breath.  “On campus. Summer. Weekend. Pretty much everything is closed.  Except the Pen.   …The bar at Student Union.”

“Which way?”

“East of here.  Up the hill.”

“Go there.”

“You get beat to a pulp and you want a coke?”

“No.  I want to kill someone.”  His lips rose. “Someone with cotton mouth.”

Carl looked in the rear view just in time to see Mr. Aye fall over and stop breathing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Goldberg wished he’d brought his bike all the way to the woods.  As it was, they were hoofing it.  The bikes would have just gotten in the way and anyway, the ride up the hill wasn’t nearly as fun as the ride down, especially not stoned.  Though a solid plan, Goldberg still wanted his bike.

The heat made his sneakers feel melted against the pavement and the softness made them squish just a bit.  The feel of it echoed inside Goldberg’s buzz, dredging up unwelcome thoughts of his completely fucked up morning. The whole episode with the guy and the tranquilizer dart was now like something he saw on TV, but was not actually a part of.  Likewise, the whole thing with Bill being dead and his house being destroyed had a plastic feel of unreality to it.  This always happened when Goldberg physically exerted himself while stoned. His life became TV, or like he was an alien riding around in the head of a big human shaped space ship. So, there he was, a meat-based giant robot trudging through the sticky heat of this alien planet for refueling on coffee and nachos. That idea put a smile on his face. Even if the alien inside had questions and problems, the Pen made some good nachos.

Glancing back at Dan, he noticed more than the normal amount of redness in his eyes. “Hey dude, you look like hell. Do you have sunglasses?”

“Nah. Fuck it.”  Dan waved his hand trying to move as little as possible.  “Someone wants to know if I’m stoned, let them know. I’m not proud.”

“Yeah, you and proud parted ways some time ago.”

“Just like you and… Ah crap, I can’t think of anything.”

“Dead Joke!”

“More like a zombie, it was walking around and didn’t know it had already died. I need a coke.”

“We’re going to a bar and you are getting a coke?”  Goldberg smirked.  “Who are you and what did you do with my friend?”

“Eh, It’s close enough to bed time that I’m going to start to slide. What time is it, like two?”

“Just about.”

“Good enough.”

“Well, at least you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.”

Dan grimaced.  “Thanks for reminding me, ass clown.”

“Sorry. But hey, at least you got me!”  Goldberg grinned wide.

“You supporting me big boy? My mom always said I’d make a good wife someday.”

“Really? your mom knew you were playing for the other team way back then?”

“Fuck you.”

“Hey man, I’m cool with it. Just keep it out of our bathroom.”

“So does that mean I can have homo butt sex in the living room?”

“Only if you wipe up the eventual spill.”

“Over the line!”  Dan protested.  “That’s just foul.”

“Considering we’re talking about your love life, anything short of foul would miss the target.”

“Well not all of us can bag a hottie like Joy. Then again, she does have a twin. Maybe I can saddle up to Sarah.”

“In your dreams. First off, she’s taken.  And she likes the athletic types.”

“I’m athletic!  Did you see the jumps I got on that guy with the dart gun? Tell me that wasn’t athletic.”

Goldberg frowned. “That was unreal. Dude, when did you learn to jump like that?”

“I don’t know. It just seemed the thing to do, you know?  It was cool though, felt all ninja!”

Again he frowned. He did know. That’s exactly how he had felt when he finally made good his escape inside Bill’s house. Though he knew it was remarkable, it seemed the right thing to do at the time. Natural.

His thoughts were interrupted as he took the left into the drive to the Student Union. Just before turning off, he saw a slight girl with straight red hair walking blankly down the street coming from the Natural History Museum. He wondered what could have happened to the girl to give her that look.

From inside his head, his power responded to the query.  ‘Insufficient data.  And with everything going on, you bother to ask me about some random stranger?’

‘When did you get so snarky?’

‘I’m you.  And for a full answer, it appears that person, from her physical state recently suffered a fall and trauma, though not enough to significantly wound.’

‘Well good for her.  And I have to ask, are you stoned?  I mean, I’m baked!’

‘Apparently the drugs do not affect the parts of the brain responsible for your power, leaving me to contemplate and continue to reflexively act to keep you from minor misfortune.’

‘That’s damned handy.’

‘Yes, but you still need to watch where you are going.’

Goldberg glanced off a light post and stumbled making Dan burst out in laughter.

“Dude!  You ok?  You looked so surprised like…”  A look of utter astonishment passed Dan’s face before he resumed his laughter.

“Yeah.  Just not paying attention.  I need coffee.”

Wiping his face Dan said, “I guess.”

They passed by the bikes, all alone on the rack, and walked to the unassuming doors to The Pen.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The two men crammed themselves into the tiny car, turned it on, and silently drove off on electric power.

“I am so not over having to drive a god-damned golf cart.  Wouldn’t be so bad if it had at least a little air conditioning.”

“Well,” Delgado tried to sound encouraging. “At least it’s not like we are battling LA traffic in it.”

Belatran scowled and stopped just a little too fast at a stop sign.

“So we’ve been rebuffed.  Belatran, what does that mean?”

“It means we adapt.”

Belatran manipulated the silver box like a lump of clay and said without looking up.  “And we have to hurry up and get your upgrades on line.  Get your memories in place.”

“Wait.  Memories?”

“Yeah.  Especially because that fuck Nixon apparently wiped out our mandate.  Though you have powers.  Not powers, so much as enhanced human abilities… senses, but you don’t know how to use them.  In order to fix that, there is a guide book of sorts in your head.  Or there will be when things click in.  Memories of people who knew how these things worked.  Get the memories and you will too.  There’s also history.  Past cases because they are often relevant.”

Belatran shot a glance at Delgado, who was still having trouble focusing his gaze.  “So.  What do I do?”

“Sleep.  Helps to sort out the memories and tune the body.  Right now, you’re a mess.  We’re pressed for time, but things can wait and I need to think without you jabbering.  So just see if you can…”  Belatran looked over at Delgado, who already had his chin in his chest. “… nap.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The inside of The Pen was low and dark, even with the few windows looking out to the empty patio.  Dark wood on the walls and ceiling sucked all the light out of the room and gave it the earthy feeling of a cave.  Except Caves didn’t smell like a beer bong.

A counter stretched across the remainder of the wall that held the front door.  It was this configuration that conspired to give Goldberg and Dan a weird vibes as they walked in.  Everyone in the line looked over at them. The noonday sun flowed in from the open door and lit their faces in a pale white of reflected concrete.  To a man, these were the new summer admittance students, so their unease with lunch away from mom and dad still haunted their faces, especially since this bar was currently their only option without venturing off campus and into the strange, wider world.  They were refuges, lining up for their life sustaining nachos and cokes.  To Goldberg, it was like feeding time at a prison camp.  Though they were happy to be fed, none had the slightest idea what lay ahead.

As the door closed, the mob in front of the counter retreated into the shadows and Goldberg regained equilibrium.  He stepped awkwardly around the line, secretly hoping he didn’t just betray how utterly he had just lost his shit.

“Jesus,” Goldberg said as he slid into line.  “Did you see that when we walked in?  That was fucked up, man.”

An incredulous smirk raised the corner of Dan’s mouth.  “What are you, some sort of blasted amateur?  You never stare down the public, even if they are a pack of washed-out freshman zombies.”

“So you did see that.”

“Dude, you are so baked.  Besides, how can you even see things being washed out with those Glasses?”

“It’s all about contrast.  You get used to the color and interpret.”

Dan flicked a hand.  “If you say so.”  He took a quick look around.  “Speaking of light, it seems way brighter in here than I remember.”

“Maybe they cleaned.  Besides, when was the last time you were in here?”

“Early spring semester.  Remember when I was having time with… uh…”

“I believe her name was Ronda.”

“Yeah.  Ronda.”

“What ever happened to her?”

“She dumped me.  Thought I was just using her.”

“Well?”

Dan shrugged.  “Observant girl.  Whatever, she had really nice knockers!”

“As I recall, she was more than a little on the plush side as well.”

“What are you trying to say here, pal?”

“That you are an opportunistic poon-hound, and possibly a chubby chaser.”

“Yeah, whatever.  The world is just full of opportunities then, isn’t it.  Speaking of which, I think that’s Joy over there.  I’ll fly if you buy.”

“Cool, get me some nachos, a coffee and a salad….  And a coke I can swim in.  Here.”  he handed over two twenty dollar bills.  “And don’t sponge my change, ya bastard.”

“Hey, would I cheat you?”

Goldberg smirked. “Only if I were wearing a dress.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joy smiled when she noticed him coming over to the table.  “So, have fun in the forest?  Did you leave nothing but footprints and braincells?”

He slid into a chair and stuck up his chin.  “I’ll have you know that my braincells are all present, accounted for, and having a good time.”

“I’ll say.”

Goldberg scanned the scene.  “Jesus, would you look at this place?”

“What?”

“Well, it’s funny.  It’s like… bar-light.”

“Not exactly Dirty Fanny’s is it?”

“You have been to Fanny’s?”

Joy feigned incredulity. “I’m amused and slightly insulted that you think of me as being above slumming it.”

“You just seem to have more sense than… well, me… is all.”

“Ha!  I can assure you, I make sure I’m current with all my shots before such adventures.”

“Yeah, but this place… sure you can get booze, but the place is so…”

“Tame?”

“It’s like one of those recreations you see at a theme park.”  He puffed up like a tour guide.  “And here on your right we have a early twenty-first century bar.  Note the DVD jukebox, beer taps, and distracting flat screens ensuring that you can completely ignore your friends while they ignore you.  Now if you step this way…to… futureland!”

“You know, if you didn’t want to come here we could have just met for dinner or something.”

“No, I… It’s just weird.  I mean, I wonder how many times I’ve been here.  A good couple dozen.  Mostly with students for a token appearance that the teacher is not a grading machine or worse some vindictive prick.”

“Don’t sell yourself short or anything tiger.”  she smiled.

“Yeah, well, check out the people here.  Only three types.  Alumni in unfashionable shorts, Parents thinking of sending their kids here, and the kids.  Where do we fit into that?  Where do I?”

“You will always be a kid.”

“Yeah, but it’s been a few years since I sat for my last degree, my recent interview with Rodger outstanding.”  He gestured at a table of gray haired men in polo shirts.  “I’m one of them.”

“You are not, Goldberg!  You’re a teacher.  A professional.  You took your students here as a bonding exercise because you are more them than the aged frat-boy club over there.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.  And I guess it’s scratching at my brain that Bill was often with us at those things.”  He looked down at the faux wood grain and added, “Now he’s dead.  How is it that I’ve almost forgotten about that?”

“Oh Goldberg you can’t think that way.  You haven’t forgotten.  It’s not like you haven’t been busy, or trying!  You did tell the cops all you know.”

“Yeah, but I can’t help but think it’s far from done.  Some jerk off came after Dan and I after we were done toking up!”

“Campus cops?  I told you that was foolhardy.”

“No, it was… you know I’m not sure what the hell that was, but it wasn’t a campus cop.  Campus cops don’t shoot darts at you.”

“Darts?”

“Yeah.  Totally bizzare.”

Molly came over to the table from the direction of the bathroom.  “What about darts?”

Goldberg noticed a power related shine about the booklets she had in her hands and said “Ah nothing.  What do you have there?”

“I’ve got to find a new rental, I guess. They had a couple of stacks of these over by that weird quarter operated phone.”

“It’s called a payphone and it’s from a time when people didn’t have phones bolted to their asses.  Anything interesting?” He asked as the power told him of multiple possibilities in that book.

Her eyes lit up.  “Plenty!  My mom was a realtor, so I just love looking through these things. Unfortunately, on my budget I can only afford a no-bedroom piece of shit.  My last place was the only one bedroom I could find and… it’s currently off the market.”  She shook her head.  “I’m starting to come to peace with it.”

“Ah.  Good.  So, but you said you found something.”

“Well, I picked up this homes guide while I was at it and there are some really interesting properties here.  And really cheap, too!  Did you know that the city is providing assistance for people to do renovations to historic properties?”

“I think I heard something about that.”

“Totally!  You can pick up a lot of real estate for a SONG if you have a working plan to spruce it up.  I mean, check out some of these homes!”

Goldberg took the book and started to leaf through it when Dan arrived.

“Ok, Ok, Clear a space.  We got Nachos we got wings, we got coffee…”

“Uh!  Coffee?” Joy wrinkled up her nose.

“Who drinks Coffee on a day like today?  At lunch?” Molly asked.

“And with nachos!”

Dan put the mug in front of Goldberg who just noticed the girls looking at him with disgust.  “What?”

“That’s pretty foul, tiger.”

Smiling, Dan said, “Bad crack kitty!”

“No, really, what’s the big deal?  After bonging it up in the woods, I gotta keep my edge sharp lest I get sleepy.”

“You hadn’t possibly thought to take one less toke, now did you?”

Goldberg looked genuinely perplexed.  “Well why would I want to do that?”

Joy rolled her eyes and picked up a wing with her long fingers.  She dissected it into long strips of sauce-covered meat before grabbing the whole concoction and dipping it into the blue cheese sauce.

Goldberg looked again at the homes magazine.  His power highlighted a connection between the business card stapled to it and himself.  He reached over and ripped it off, reading it.  “Hey Dan!  Check out who’s hawking real estate!”

“I wondered where that guy went!” Dan grinned. “Didn’t we score a quarter pound from him back in the day?”

“Nice to know he went legit.  I hear he got married with kids and all.”

“Who?” Joy asked.

Goldberg showed her the business card.  “Virgil Filtcher, aka ‘the Ack!’ for his horrible habit of getting drunkenly sick at parties.”

“Oh, that guy?  I remember him.  He threw up on my shoes once.  Selling houses, eh?  That just doesn’t seem unremarkable somehow.”

“Yeah.  Weird how that kind of thing fits,” Dan said.

When the door opened, Joy looked up.  Two figures, one massive and the other slender, stood silhouetted against the noontime sun.  Joy raised an eyebrow.  Once the door closed and the normal weak light of The Pen returned, the slight figure’s hair betrayed a very familiar shade of purple streaks.

Sarah slid across the room with Teague in tow, striding directly up to the booth.  “Hey Sis!”

“Hey.” Joy replied.  “Nice hair.”

“I could say the same for you.”

Dan motioned to an empty table with two chairs.  “Grab a pull in, I think we can get away with end-in’ it.”

“Uh, yeah.”  Joy struggled.  “Molly, Dan, this is Sarah, obviously my sister, and her boyfriend…”

“Teague London!”  Dan burst in.  “Last year’s Freshman wonderkid!  How’s it going?”  Dan put up a hand.

With a smile, Teague returned the high five.  “‘S good,” he said in a baritone rumble.

“And you guys know Goldberg.”

“Hey Sarah, Teague.”

“’Sup nerd boy.  Heard you got lucky.”  Joy started to blush but then he added, “What cha gonna to do with all that money?”

“Oh!  Yeah, that.  I’m really not sure yet.  What you see here is my first major purchase, actually.  Dig in.”

“Thanks.  Yeah, didn’t get a chance to eat.  Kinda got sidetracked.”

Giving Goldberg a little shove Joy said, “I’ve got to wash my hands.”  He got up just as Teague was moving over two chairs for himself and Sarah.  Standing together, the similarities between the two were even more striking.  Identical didn’t even begin to say it.  They even moved the same.

As if to accentuate the effect, the two of them turned and said, “We’ll be right back” at the same time.  Goldberg fell back into the booth as Teague looked at him, Molly, and Dan.

The situation was awkward.  While Teague was a local celebrity of sorts, his real tie to the group had just left.  His unique position on a chair outside the booth accentuated that fact.

Molly was fascinated.  “So, uh, Teague… How do you know Goldberg?”

“Nerd boy here helped me get through pre-calc last year.  So what’s up with the hair and the glasses?”

“He’s in disguise,” Molly said, grinning.

“Been a rough morning,” Goldberg added, sipping his coffee.

Teague broke into a grin and said, “So what’s been going on?”

All three considered the question for a beat too long. It was Molly who finally said.  “Well, should we tell him?”

The Strange – Episode 25 – Come Together – Part 2

[Author’s note:  Hi.  This one is a little long and the next is going to be a little short.  I’ve been able to hit 3k or so words with updates pretty consistently, but I didn’t want to break the scene.  And hey!  It took 24 episodes, but everyone is finally in one place pretty much.  It really has been a very full morning.

Please, if you like the story so far, please tell people about it and vote for it in top web fiction.  It really helps to draw in people looking for a story.  Also, if you are a wordpress person, likes, comments and follows also help get the story recommended to people wandering through their readers.

So that’s it.  I hope you are enjoying the story.  If you like something a little darker, you can check out the story I just posted in Liquid Wax called Idle Hands: The New Girl.  I’m still deciding if I’m going to Hell after I’m done with this story of The Strange.  Let me know what you think.

Stay Weird

-SC]

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 3

[Author’s note: This is the last of three parts and will likely not make much sense without parts one and two]

Mitch set up two drinks at the bar for Sal and Dee Dee.  The bar was deserted this late on a Monday, so he was cleaning glasses and listening in for the entertainment value.

“Hi, Sal!  I’m really glad you could meet me so we could go over this.”  Dee Dee took a sip of her Virgin Bloody Mary.

Sal felt both nervous and ungrateful.  “Yeah.  You know, I don’t want to do that job.  It just seems, and no offence to you, but it seems sort of … cruel.”

“Well, I certainly don’t want you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.  But we do want to see you out working and getting paid, so let’s see what we can do”

She opened up her lap top and pulled up the ever-changing job opportunities board.  Putting in ‘Accountant’, she was dismayed by the choices.

Beaming a plastic smile only slightly too wide for her face she said, “Ok, I want to emphasize that we one hundred percent guarantee that you will get these jobs.”

“It’s that bad a list, eh?  Well, let’s hear it.”

“We have a foreclosure specialist.”

“Keep moving.  I’m not taking away houses”

“Tax auctioneer.  Ah, here’s one!  An auditor for child protective services.  I hear that they have great Benefits!”

She beamed her too-wide smile at him, which freaked him out.

“Oh, uh, you know what?  If this is at the top of the list, we should just stop.”

“But, I’ve got a few more openings!”

“Stop,” he commanded in a quiet tone.

She started to lose her composure and gave him a glaring stare. “Look, I’m sure I can find a job that is good enough for you and your… particular tastes.  You have no idea what placing you means to me.”

“I’m sure these are fine jobs.  I’m just not so… I can’t check my heart at home.  I’m sure others can, but that’s not me.  Really, these kinds of things, selling people’s homes and taking away their babies, that kind of thing keeps you up nights.  I don’t think I’d be good at it, either.”

She glared at him with blue sparks in her eyes before finally saying “Fine! But can you please just finish out the week?  I have other candidates for the job, but I need a bit of time to transition them in.  And I really want to try to get you another job.”

“Sure, I guess.  As long as I can give notice tomorrow.  I don’t want to cause you any grief or anything, I just want out.  I can stay until Friday.  But after that… I don’t know.  These are pretty much all non-starters.”

“Yeah.  Good.”  She got up and stomped to the back of the bar, barely able to control her mounting anger. “I’ve got to go take a wiz.”

Mitch leaned over the bar after she was gone. “Man, What a bitch.  Bet she pees standing.”

“She’s just doing a crappy job, Mitch.  I can sympathize.”

“That’s your problem, Sallie.  You are too nice.”

“Well, I’d rather have that problem than be a bastard.”

Both men turned to the back of the bar as a feedback scream of frustration grew louder and more intense.  Suddenly, the wall at the back of the bar blew open as if a bomb had gone off.  Shrapnel and plaster flew out into the table area near the bar.

“Oh my god!  That girl!  She was in there!”  Sal walked toward the exploded rubble and was about to call after Dee Dee when a large, silver hand shot out and grabbed his neck.  Through the dust, a huge, shock-laden smile stretched across the hole.

Mitch threw a bottle of vodka at the monster in a panic.  It burst into flame on contact with the demon’s sparking skin.  In its surprise, the monster dropped Sal and both men ran for their lives.

“What was that?” Mitch yelled as they scrambled in to the haze of the night.

Sal looked back.  “I don’t know, but Dee Dee!…”

“Don’t even think!” the young man said, breathing hard.  He came to an exhausted stop in a nearby alley.  “Ain’t Nothing you can do, Sallie.”

“Yeah, poor girl.”  Sal walked over and slumped against the brick wall.  He looked back at the now smoking bar, rubbed his throat, and tried hard to make sense of what just happened.

“Who are you calling ‘poor’?”  A voice from farther in the alley startled the men.  Dee Dee appeared from the shadows, dirty but seemingly alive.

“Hey Lady!  You OK?  We thought…”

“Well you thought wrong,” she snapped.  “Look, we need the Police or the army or something here.  Some kind of monster.  Can you call for help?”

Sal looked at his phone.  “Strange, no.  My cell phone is dead.”

Dee Dee walked up to Mitch and put a hand on his shoulder.  “Why don’t you find a pay phone or something and call the cops?”  Her words dripped with fake sweetness.

“Why me?” he shrieked.

“Because Sal’s old, I’m a frightened little girl, and it’s your bar that’s on fire.  Now go!”  She pushed him into the street and he sprinted off into the night.  She smiled a smile that was uncomfortably wide and said softly, “Besides, Sal and I need to have a little chat.”

She turned around and faced Sal.  Her hand went to her hip and she tapped her foot.  The light from the street poured over her shoulder into the dark alley. All Sal could see was her clearly annoyed outline.

“Do you know how hot it is in hell?  I mean really?  You people think that this summer heat wave is hot, but where I used to work, now that was hot!”

Sal looked at her outline and couldn’t comprehend what he was hearing.  “Wha… HUH?”

“Oh, come on, Sal.”  She spoke sweetly but he could now see her spark-filled eyes in the dark, recessed shadow of her head. “You don’t think I’d go through all of this trouble just for a commission, do you?  You see, you are my ticket to a job working on the earth.  There are certain… fringe benefits… that I really like about working here.  The weather is just the beginning.”

She began to walk slowly towards Sal.  He could see the outline of her legs beneath her skirt suit.  They walked toward him in a smooth, sexy fashion, one leg slightly crossing the other.  But when her feet hit the pavement there was a crunching sound.  It was as if the pavement was complaining about having to support her.  Her smile, which was always a little freaky, now stretched to the very bottoms of her ears and her teeth shot sparks at each other.

“You!  You are the monster from the bar!” Sal started to back away from the woman who seemed to grow taller and less human with each passing step.

“Duh!”  Her voice now had a hint of the feedback-scream. “You really aren’t that smart, Sal. But since you brilliantly figured that out, I’m going to give you one last chance.”

Dee Dee’s right hand stretched out, becoming huge and metallic with sparks arcing between the fingers.  Her thin arms became long flexible.  The hand grew as it came toward him, fingers stretching out like knives. It snatched him up off the ground. “Take the job.  Any job. I really don’t care.” The hand made a cage around him and dragged him close.  “I’ll pay you a ridiculous amount of money.  I’ll send your kids to college.  Hell, I’ll even suck your putrid dick. Just take the job.  It really does mean quite a lot to me, Sal.”

His thin hair stood on end and he cried out in terror. “Ah!  Ah!  So, what if I still don’t take the job?”

“Well, that’s easy.”  Her huge mouth curled at the ends in a perversion of a smile. “Do that and I go back to plan ‘A’ and kill you.  Not as advantageous, I’ll admit, but it will make me feel better about going back home.”

Her spark-filled eyes gleamed as she held him above the ground in a strong, vice-like grasp.  She opened her mouth wide and he screamed “Oh God!”

“Not quite.  The boy-scouts stay out of our little game.”  It was a new voice, a man with the hint of a smile under his voice.  Dark red smoke filled the alley.  One rope of smoke formed around the arm that held Sal.  As he watched, it became a pair of sheers which closed and severed the hand that held him.  An inhuman scream erupted from Dee Dee as she turned around to try to find the source of this attack.

Sal dropped to the ground, still in the hand’s unyielding grasp. He kicked at the metallic fingers. They wouldn’t budge, but they no longer squeezed or sparked.  Whatever happened next, he was helpless to do anything but watch.

Dee Dee twirled around as the smoke quickly gathered in one place.  She shrank down to her human form as sparks re-grew her missing hand.  Clutching her wounded forearm, she looked at the man who formed from the billow of red smoke.  His suit was impeccable, and though it was a dark night, he wore yellow-reflective sunglasses.  With his blood red suit, black shit and black tie, he looked like a pimp or a rock star.

The wounded woman looked at him.  “Fuck!  You know how much that hurts, you dick?”

“Dee Dee!  Is that any way to talk to your Boss?  And here I thought we were becoming friends!”

“Friends, my ass!  You stuck me with a self-righteous loser that doesn’t want to work for shit.”

“So, you attack him?” He clasped his hands in front and looked at the ground.  “I suppose you might call that a bargaining technique, but I had asked you not to abuse the clients.  In fact, it’s a dismissible offense.”

Dee Dee snarled. “You won’t do that!  I’ve got the man himself backing me and that trumps your bullshit rules any day.”

He moved around and talked to the air, gesturing with his hands.  “You know, you’re right.  The Big D likes you and he really wants you to fit in and learn the ropes here.  Quite frankly, that is enough to overcome some infractions of the code of conduct.”

Dee Dee’s grin was spark-filled, wild and six inches too long for her face.  “Good, so fuck off!”

The man in the suit walked calmly with his hands clasped behind his back. “On the other hand, your employment was contingent on the successful placement of a certain ‘self-righteous loser’ for a period of five weeks.  And it seems to me that our little test is not exactly going well.”

Her crazy smile started to droop at the corners.  “We were dealing with that when you showed up and fucked it up.  Go back to playing your little games, doomed man.”

“Well, you see, it’s my duty to follow up with our clients and placement employees to gauge their satisfaction.  So, excuse me while I talk to our friend here.”

“What? Wait!”

He quickly became a cloud of smoke and swarmed around Dee Dee.  Re-forming on the other side, he walked over to Sal, still trapped in Dee Dee’s severed hand “Hi!  I’m here to enquire about your satisfaction with our placement services.  Do you have a second, or is this not a good time?”  He smiled a genuine smile which confused Sal all the more.

“What?”  The prone man was wide-eyed in disbelief.

“I’d like to know if you are happy with our placement services.  So, tell me, do you feel that you are in a position where all the elements are in place for you to succeed?”

“Huh?  No!  The job’s a nightmare.” Sal saw Dee Dee approach the man from behind, growing in height, strength and power as she did. He struggled furiously against the constraining, severed metal hand.  “Get me out of here!”

“This is stupid.  I’m being railroaded.” Dee Dee powered up her right hand to swipe at both the struggling Sal and his interrogator.  Her hand came across like a crane boom with talons, but smoke quickly formed around both men and hardened into a curved wall.  Her blow glanced off the wall, throwing her off balance.

The structure dissipated into smoke as quickly as it had formed.  From that smoke, the man in his sharp dark-red suit and tie emerged and walked towards Dee Dee.  She was quickly regaining her composure and was readying for another strike.  He raised his hand.  “That’s enough.”  The smoke rushed at Dee Dee.  She swiped at it with both spark-filled hands but to no avail.  A brick-red crust started to form around her wrists. Once it was thick enough to hold her, it pulled her arms behind her back.

“What the hell do you think you are doing!” She shouted.  Her mouth grew bigger and the sparks that made up her teeth arced out like crazy lightning.  Her voice boomed like thunder.  “LET ME GO!”

With his hand still raised, the man in the suit now pointed a finger and a large, constrictive gag went over her mouth.  He materialized a binder with the Idle Hands logo on the cover and calmly flipped through it as he strolled up to her.  “You see?”  He showed her a page in the book.  “Paragraph 4 of the agreement you signed.  ‘Third party satisfaction surveys are routinely conducted two weeks after an initial placement and every month after.’  You aren’t being railroaded.  It’s in your contract.  Plus, check out paragraph 7.  I can use whatever means necessary to carry out my survey.  You really should have read through the employee handbook instead of just blazing through to the signature page.  Your loss.  So, I’m not going to let you go.  You are interfering with my evaluation.” He snapped the binder closed and it instantly turned into red smoke.  “So, hang out while I finish this satisfaction survey.  Who needs a spell book when you can have an employee handbook?”

Dee Dee glared at him with sparking eyes and fought against her bonds as soon as he turned back to Sal.  “Sorry for the interruption.  So, where were we?  Ah yes. You had problems with your current placement.  Did you bring them up with your Idle Hands representative?”

“Yeah, I called.”  Sal looked down at the now disembodied and immobile, giant, metal hand that held him.  “Hey, can you do something about this?  It’s really uncomfortable.”

“Oh, of course.  How rude of me.”  Smoke swirled around the confining metal cocoon and it slowly relaxed its grip on the middle-aged accountant.  “So, what happened next?”

“What happened next is she tried to kill me.”  Sal dusted himself off and looked at the man.  Fire from the bar lit him from the side, the flams making jumpy patterns on the brick wall behind him.  And those mirrored shades held the flame. “I looked over the jobs she had and I didn’t want any of them.  She lured us out here, got me alone, and threatened to kill me if I didn’t take a job.”

“You know, we have strict rules about that sort of thing.”

Sal shot an angry look at Dee Dee.  The fire dancing off of the shining metal facets of her demonic form.  “I’d hope so.  And why am I not scared?  I should be terrified of you two, but I’m not.”

“Oh, I find I have a calming influence when I get involved in HR matters.  And on that point, are you sure I can’t place you anywhere?  Based upon your experience here at Idle Hands, with Ms. Dee Dee, you are sure you want to sever your relationship here?”

Sal nodded and said, “Absolutely.”  The word carried forever, as if it had broken some sort of spell.

Dee Dee fought wildly against her restraints and finally managed to slip free.  She used this free hand to tear free the gag that held her mouth shut.  “This guy is full of shit.  You set me up!”

“You can think what you want Dee Dee, but he just quit, your contingency came up and now…”  He grinned an evil grin that seemed right at home on his face. “I believe that you are dismissed.”

Dee Dee screamed a feedback scream of utter contempt as she lunged at the two men.  As she attacked, a great burst of hellfire surrounded her.  She continued to reach for Sal even as she burned.  The hellfire yanked her back down to the pit just in time as her lunge stopped just short.   Screaming an awful metallic scream, she was sucked back into hell.

The fire went out in seconds, leaving no trace of ever having been in the alley.  Sal looked at the mysterious man who had saved him and tried to think of something to say.  He finally settled on “Thanks … I think.”

“Don’t mention it.  I’m just doing my job.”

“And what exactly is that?  I have a strong suspicion that I’m not going to remember any of this so you may as well tell me the truth.”  He tried to look the man in the eye but was blocked by his sunglasses.  “I’m right about that, aren’t I?  People don’t just have this kind of thing happen to them and get to tell about it.  You’d have heard.”

“Yeah, Sal, you aren’t going to remember anything odd about me or Dee Dee.  You’ll get paid well … extremely well … for your hours and I’ll make sure there is a bonus in there for you, because…”  He paused and faced Sal.  The man was middle aged, rumpled, and defeated by life, yet he had an air of dignity. He’d never given in to the struggle.  “Because I like you, Sal.  I deal with people all day … and they are assholes.  They just suck, but you … you have done me a favor by just giving a damn and being a good guy.  If I have one true gift of my own it’s to be able to size a guy up and know what he’s good for.  I saw you and knew you’d be able to do this for me because you are fundamentally decent.  And while you were doing that, I have done you an insulting disservice.  Think of the bonus as my way of saying sorry, you deserve better.”

“Well, that’s kind of you.  Thanks again. Money isn’t everything, but it does buy some nice stuff.”

The man chuckled behind his glasses.  “Yes, it does.”

“But I’m troubled.  You seem nice and all to me, but the things you are doing… you and that… whatever that was … They aren’t very nice, are they?” They walked out of the alley and into the stuffy night.  Mitch’s bar was now fully on fire and the two could see him wandering around outside.

“I’d like to say you don’t have the right of it.  But, you see, we didn’t come up with the postings.”

Sal stopped walking, which made the man stop as well.  “But you fill them.”

The fire from the bar lit the man’s face and glinted in his yellow-mirrored sunglasses.  “Sal, the world is a place that is filled with horrible consequences and even worse random shit-storms.  You didn’t deserve unemployment.  That Barron shit kid doesn’t deserve to fuck supermodels.  And no one deserves to be on the receiving end of a screwing, but life is risk.  That foreclosure job?  How do you know those people reached for the ring and came up short?  Actions, consequences, free will.  For instance, no one is forced to work at Idle Hands, not even me.”

“Or me.  This… I’m probably still in shock, to be this calm …”  A throaty woosh came from the bar as something inside of it gave way.  “… but really, I just want to forget all of this.”

“Yeah.  I can do that for you.  Kinda have to.”  The man avoided Sal’s gaze. “Hope you don’t mind.”

“But how do I know that I’m now done, that you won’t test me again or use me as a pawn?  Can I get your assurance that I’ll never be messed with by you or your people again?  Can you give me that?”

The man smiled.  “I give you my word and my promise.”  He raised his hand and said “We are done.”  A small puff of smoke blew out of both of Sal’s ears.  He stared blankly for a while and turned to help Mitch, having forgotten all about his dealings with Idle Hands.

“And Heaven forbid, Sal, that I would ever tell a lie!”  He chuckled, and in the street the echo of his laughter lingered.  The haunting sound stewed in the sweltering heat of the summer night, becoming one with the sound of the burning bar and the approaching sirens.  Real flames now poured out of the broken windows. And the man in the red suit, slowly turning to smoke, joined with them and drifted away.

[Author’s final note:  Sorry for leaving you hanging over the weekend.  I’m still not sure about the final edit on the last bit, but either I left it alone for a week or shoved it out on stage now with cue cards.  Hope it’s not too hackneyed.

And here again I’ll ask you for likes, to tell your friends and random people on the street about the story and the site.  Also, if you like Idle Hands, Maybe you’d like my main ongoing, “The Strange” which has a much slower burn than this, but is starting to tighten the screws.  I’m not advertizing and my social media ability is kinda crap, so word of mouth would be absolutely huge for me and help me justify continuing to write stories for you all.  I love to do it, but it is a bunch of work.  Please help me out if you can.  More than enough said.

Stay Weird.  More Strange coming this week.

-SC]

 

 

 

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 2

[Author’s note: This is part 2 of 3 and will make not a whole lot of sense without part 1 which is here.]

The next morning Dee Dee slipped from behind a street lamppost in the middle of the town’s central park.  The grass was well watered but suffering under the summer’s heat.  The gray paving stones of the park’s walkways radiated heat back at the demon woman as she walked.  To her it seemed like a fine spring day but the people in the park were wilting under the heat and humidity.  In her pinstriped skirt-suit she stalked seductively through the park looking for her new boss.

“You are late.”  From the bench she just passed, the man in a sharp, red suit took a drink of coffee from a red ceramic mug.  The logo for Idle Hands, Inc. smiled from the side as he took a drink.

She smiled as sweet as she could, through the rough lines on her youthful looking face.  “Good morning to you too.  I was, um…”

“Sun glasses.  You should wear sun glasses, especially on the surface.”  He produced a pair of Ray Bans from a cloud of red smoke and tossed them to her. “Makes you look cool.  People like that.”

“I’m sorry,” She flipped the sunglasses back. “I already look cool, thanks.”

“No you don’t.  You look bitchy.  There’s a difference.  There’s cool, and then there’s frigid.”

“Excuse me?”

He put up his hands as an illustration.  “You are giving off two different vibes here.  One of them is ‘fuck me’ and the other is ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’  Combined, it comes out to looking bitchy.”

He stood up and his mug disappeared in another puff of red smoke.  “Let me help you out with something.  You may have been the big D’s pick for this position, but you are still my employee, and that makes me your boss.  You think that D gave you the run of the place, but you are wrong.  Use the glasses.”  She looked surprised that he was talking to her that way.  “Besides, you say way too much with your eyes.  You want to keep that you’re going to tell the big man that I’m mean to you a secret?  Use the glasses.”

She snatched back the sunglasses, put them on and said, “Yes sir!”

He looked at her and smirked “And don’t be smart.  Take a good look around.  The downtown’s screwed from unemployment.  A veritable playground.  See anyone you like?”

She looked at the men with newspapers and pens, some with briefcases in suits.  Pointing at a particularly rough looking young man, drinking from a tall boy beer, she said, “How about that guy?”

“Nah, He’s given up already.”

“Yeah, you’re right.  Taking that guy is a waste of time.  He’s already on his way to hell.”

He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.  “You still don’t understand the plan, do you?”

“I understand fine, I just think the plan is a little ‘pussy’ is all.  I mean, look at these fuckers.  You telling me any of them are good for shit?”

The man stroked his goatee, raised a finger, and pointed at the sour looking young woman.  “Hmm, well understand this.  We need workers, not slackers.  No matter how inherently evil, a slacker makes no impression on the world.  We want people to work to further the cause of misery, because through human suffering, comes human temptation.  It all has to fall out of free will.  People choose to give each other a hard time, leading to more and more desperate circumstances.  Eventually even good people turn to evil of their own free will.  It’s a domino effect, with each domino getting bigger.  And it’s working.  The big D must think so or else you wouldn’t be here.”

“Fine, we play it your way,” she added a snide, “Sir!  But I’d much rather be making some of these bastards’ nightmares come true.”

He quietly said, “This is a placement agency, not a dating service.  You can work on your love life in your own time.”

“What?”

“You heard me.  So, you got anyone you like?”

“No, they all look like desperate losers.”

“Well maybe we can take a break and see if you can score some dates instead.”

She turned on her heel and put a hand on her hip.

Ignoring her poisonous stare, he said, “Come on, I think I have your challenge.”

🙂 😦 😉

 

“God, it’s hot.”  Sal slumped into the shady park bench.  The humid breeze reminded Sal of an open oven from which there was no relief.

The truth was he had seen many of the places that were hiring already.  Every one of them had said that they would keep his resume on file, in case something showed up.

He looked around at the buildings that ringed the park and imagined his resume residing in dozens of offices, just waiting to be hooked up with a job.  “Something is bound to happen,” he mumbled.

From a place beyond the vision of mortal eyes, Dee Dee and her new boss looked at Sal.  “Him?  That old fart is my test? And what is he, like, Fifty-two?  And he’s going to heaven, so far.”

He nodded.  “Yeah, and he still might, even if he keeps one of our jobs.  It’s a strange system, getting into heaven and it’s not even our concern.  We’re spreading woe through the abstract layer of the system, not singling out our workers for damnation.”

“Yeah, but…”

He cut her off.  “Look, I thought you were the people person and the crafty manipulator.  You think this guy can beat you?  I need to give you a challenge, not just a hall-pass to torment the living.”  He waived off the thought. “You get this guy one of our jobs and keep him there? You’re in.  If not, well…”

“How long?” Dee Dee looked at her hand.  It dissolved in a shower of sparks and twisting metal until it became a cell phone attached to her wrist.

“Month.  Five weeks to be exact.”

She snarled with more venom than should be possible with her girlish human face and tiny frame.  “Fine!  Save your reverse psychology bullshit.  Not only am I going to get this guy working for us, I’ll damn his soul too.”  She pressed a button and Sal’s cell phone beeped.

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Dee Dee from the Idle Hands employment agency.  We ran across your resume and would like to speak to you about a position we have opening up at Barron Brothers Holdings.  Do you have a moment?”

Sal looked around the park, cupping his hand to the phone.  Dee Dee watched him from her invisible vantage point.

“I guess I can take a moment.  One thing though.  What’s the pay rate?”

The small woman smiled a smile that was too wide for her face and she said, “I’m sure something can be arranged.”

🙂 😦 😉

 

Shelly came through the still un-repaired hole in the office wall and sat in a chair.  “She’s a total nightmare.”

Without taking his sunglasses up from the paper he was reading, the man behind the desk nodded. “I know”

“She’s totally botched my filing system and is an utter bitch!”

“I know”

“Did you know that she has been dating topsiders to death for sport?  Not to mention that she keeps leaving us with the bill at happy hour.”

The man looked up.  “That’s actually kind of funny.”

“Not on what you pay us it’s not.  She’s prancing around here like she runs the place.”

“I run the place.”

“Not for long and at this rate there won’t be anything left to run.  You’ve got to wonder what the Big D was thinking, sending her here.”

At that, he stopped and put down the paper.  “Ah yes, the Duke of Deceit.  I tell him we’re growing and need some help and he sends me someone to help force me out and no doubt send me back to eternal torment.”

He kicked back in his desk chair and laced his fingers.  “One thing I learned while wandering in hell’s endless desert is that a fervent devotion to deception, lying and chaos tends to make a being predictable, if you are organized and observant of its behavior.”

Shelly flipped her hand and a bit of blood oozed over her palm.  She mentally pulled it back in. “Moot point if you are sent down.  My afterlife is going to suck.”

Leaning forward, the man smiled under his sunglasses.  “Now shelly, would I make your hereafter a living hell?”

Her face brightened. “You have a plan?”

“I have better than a plan.  I have a man.”

🙂 😦 😉

 

Papers shuffled in nervous hands as Sal prepared for his first meeting at Barron Brothers Holdings.  It had taken three weeks to draw up detailed prospectus sheets on the two companies the firm was looking into and he was happy to find two solid companies.

He walked into the meeting room five minutes early to find people he didn’t know joking and talking.  “I’m sorry, I’m here for the ten o’clock meeting for Foster Inc. and Stewart Manufacturing.  Is this it?”

“Yes!  You must be Sal.”  The young man in a well pressed shirt offered his hand, but did not stand.  “I’m Duncan Barron.  Bill told me you have been going over the Foster and Stewart records with a microscope.  I appreciate the attention to detail.  But can you nutshell it for me?”

“Well, they both are medium manufacturing outfits with reasonable profit margins.  They are solid corporate citizens and both are in reasonable shape with no hidden bombs on the books…”

The smirking young man put up his hand.  “Just tell me, where’s the fat?”

“Excuse me?”  Sal still hadn’t sat down and everyone who had been in the meeting room were now looking at him with half smiles.

“Is there anything in these companies that is doing worse than other pieces?  Less profitable?”

“Well, the Medical Products Division of Foster has operated at a loss for the last two years, weighed down by R&D spending, but is working on a promising new material.  And Stewart’s Auto Parts Section has been hit hard by changes in the auto industry.”

“Ah, well, there you go.  We buy these companies, close down the crappy divisions and sell them off when their stock prices jump up.  Three years, max, make our money back tenfold and wash our hands of the whole thing.”

“But the R&D is what gave Foster the growth in the other sectors, and Stewart has a very good plan to modernize …”

“That’s great and all, but in the now, the companies are weak and our plan is a solid win for our shareholders.”

“But there are four thousand people working in those divisions!”

The room went quiet.  Everyone looked nervously at the seated young man in the crisp shirt and the standing older man in his rumpled brown suit.

The young man smiled. “Well they weren’t working hard enough to be profitable, now were they?  Maybe we can find someone who will want to buy them, but that’s not my concern.”

“Not our concern?  What do those four thousand people do?”

“Look for jobs.”  The room erupted in laughter.  “You are new, so here’s the deal.  It’s all about the quick flip here.  My only concern is to put lipstick on these pigs, make them all sexy looking and sell them to the highest bidder.  If I lop off a few limbs from them, fine.  Thanks for the reports, Sal.  I appreciate the quick turn around.”

The tall blonde man took the two binders from Sal and left him standing in the conference room.  He had the rude impression that he was being dismissed in all possible ways.

Sal looked around the room for a moment and couldn’t believe the apathy of the collected executives.  He turned on his heel and walked out of the meeting room.  As he walked, he could hear the room once again erupt in laughter and understood that he was probably the butt of the joke.

🙂 😦 😉

 

The rhythmic pumping under the railroad overpass came to a climactic stop.  In the pale blue light of an almost full moon, a large man rolled over and revealed a much smaller woman pulling down her miniskirt.  They laid side by side on the railroad tracks, using the hard steel as a pillow.  The smell of cheap happy hour drinks and sweat floated around the pair.

“Wow, you sure are a special kind of woman!”

“You know it, babe.”  She lit a cigarette with a spark from the tip of her finger and straightened her blonde bob cut wig.  “They don’t make them like you every day, either.”  Though there was a bit of sarcasm in her voice, he was much too drunk to hear it.  “It’s been so long for me, Stud.”

He had a goofy grin on his face, which increased the magnitude of his dough-like double chin. “I tell you what, this is the wildest thing I’ve done in … forever.”  He looked over at her, still grinning. “I mean it.  You really are something special.  I’ve got to get your number.”

She smiled a grin that was just ever so slightly wider than it should be.  “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to stop by so we can relive this night forever.”

“You mean it?”

“Sure I do.  Now lean over here.  I’ve got something to tell you.”  He leaned over onto his elbow and she cuddled up close to his ear.  She sweetly breathed into his ear, “train” and dissolved into a shocking mass of writhing metal that escaped under the oncoming locomotive.

The train passed in a loud, hot rush.  Squealing wheels trampled and crushed the lecherous drunk into man-cobbler.  Minutes passed as the train spread the gore for the better part of a mile before obliviously sliding around the bend and back into the night.

A shower of blue sparks and silver wire coalesced into the form of the woman wearing the blonde wig.  She stood looking at the tracks and watched the last remains of the lecher’s soul slip slowly down into the earth.

Her smile was just slightly too wide, as she said “Oh, we definitely will have to do this again.  But next time, I’ll be on top.”

A few Yards away, a door opened in a solid concrete wall, revealing a bland office corridor.  A man in a dark suit, colored black by the pale blue of the moonlight, came through the door.  She only barely acknowledged the man as she took off the blonde wig.  Her straight black hair, now free, fell to the middle of her back.

“Do you think this wig makes me look bitchy?”

“Uh, No.  It’s not the wig that makes you look bitchy.”

She looked over her shoulder with her hand on her hip.  “I suppose you are here to chastise my choice of dating activities.”

He put his hands up in the air as if in mock surrender.  “Hey, what you do on your own time is none of my business.  Just don’t drag it into the office.  Actually you have someone on hold, waiting for you at your desk.”

“Oh really?”  She smirked.  “They must be important for you to make a new door.  So who is it?”

He smiled. “It’s Sal.”

Her face went white and her smile disappeared as she ran through the door in the concrete slab.  The limbo workers were knocked off their feet by Dee Dee as she passed at a full sprint.  She threw herself into her office.  Straightening her skirt and putting her headset in her ear, she slammed at the phone to get Sal’s call.

“Hi Sal!”  She greeted him with a fake smile and saccharine sweetness in her voice.  “What can I do for you?”

Her face became white, then angry and finally started to crack while listening to the man ramble.  “So, Barron Brothers isn’t what you expected?”  She listened. “It’s really so bad you can’t work it out?  I mean…”  White hot sparks came from the small fissures, metal wires started to snake from the cracks and wind around her face, both binding and breaking.  “Sure, sure.  I understand.  Listen, um, can I possibly meet you somewhere where we can talk about this?  You know, I’d like to be your friend in this.  Maybe you just had a bad day or…”

She continued to nod and reveal more of her monstrous true appearance as a blank-eyed, limbo-bound soul came in carrying some paperwork.  “Sure, Sal, that sounds great.  I know that bar.  It really means a lot to me to see an – uh – upstanding man like yourself up and working.  So, let’s see if we can’t work this out.”  Her face was twisted in a demonic mask of metal wires, spikes and sparks as the last remains of her perky voice chirped “Ok!  See you there!  Bye!”

The man carrying the paperwork said in a limp voice, “Shelly wanted to make sure you filled out all the proper forms for Sal’s change in job status.  She’s a real stickler for that kind of thing.”

Dee Dee suddenly grew a mouth larger across than her desk and lunged at the man.  His eyes bolted wide with panic as she bit his head off with one sadistic “Chomp!”

🙂 😦 😉

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 3

[Another Author’s Note: This is part 2.  Things get a touch nastier here, so … uh … hi mom! 🙂  Part 3 is coming up soon.

I’m still trying to figure out if I’m going Crabtree, Idle Hands or something else after I’m done with “The Strange” so if you like this, please hit the like button or if you have a comment, I’m up for those too.  By the way, “The Strange” is about to get a lot nastier too, so maybe, check that out?  Thanks.

And please spread the word!  I’m trying not to be a self-aggrandizing and pushy bore to people, but it’s tough to let potential readers know that any of this stuff is here.  I’m not advertising so any word of mouth is extremely helpful to me.

Thanks for reading and Stay Weird

-SC]