Monday, July 25, 2011

A Murder of Mosquitoes Moths and Gnats

              It's another night where I can't sleep and this time we're blaming you, Nick. Apparently you don't remember that we have toned down our act, vato. Or do you remember what happened in the Desert? Do you remember why you couldn't find the bodies?
            Someone's creeping around the forest outside and it sounds like the steps are too light for there to be anyone around, and Naomi's not talking to me again. And by not talking to me I mean every so often she takes a book off the shelf in the living room and lobs it in here. Last time, she almost smashed the monitor, which would mean these happy little missives wouldn't reach your ears at all. All three of you. Naoms has graduated from a very slim copy of Fables and Reflections and is now throwing a copy of The Stand at me.
            "Okay, talk."
            "No more rampaging."
            And right then is where I shut off. "It was supposed to happen."
            "No, no it fucking wasn't. You have no idea what you're doing."
           "So tell me what I'm doing. It's not that hard. You even like it."
           I am blindsided by a book to the side of my head. It. Stephen King. Hardcover. Kind of appropriate. We're trying to fight a child-snatching monster and the first thing she brains me with is a copy of It.
           "Shut the fuck up." Naomi snaps. "If you ever do anything like that again, it's over. You brought us together, and I'm glad you did that, but don't you fucking dare kill any more people you don't have to. I will hamstring you and let someone else do it if I have to."
            Adam's sitting in the living room and I can see him mouthing along to choicey bits in the conversation like it's his favorite song or something. The footsteps are coming closer to the house, but I can't see anything yet. Naomi's going on and on.
             "There will be more if you do that. You're familiar with the concept, right? You--" she realizes that 'fuck a hornet's nest', her usual standby is not the right phrase to use with me. Particularly not when I rush my enemies naked. She awkwardly changes words, "kick a beehive, and no matter how many angry bees you kill, they're going to overrun you."
               "So what do you suggest we do?"
               "You say you're a master of something. Masters happen to knock their opponents out with no difficulty. What they don't do is kill people as a matter of course. If you're defeating them and leaving them alive, they'll either go full abomination so we can sic Constance on them, or they'll go running back to their masters. Just don't..."
               The sound of a thump makes us both leave the diminished safety of the window. Something's walking around on the stones outside, and a circle of light shines through the window. I forgot to turn the overhead light on in the room. Oh, fuck.
               We freeze and the light stays by the window. It's a perfect circle, not a flashlight, and it stays there before moving towards the backyard. I flick on the light, but it's gone by the time I get up, and no one else has seen a damn thing. The light footsteps continue, and for a moment I think I can see something peeking in through the top of the turret, but whatever it is, it's gone when I look over there. Fuck, this thing scares me. I know what it isn't but I don't know what it is. I take another swig of rum (the rum is important) and get back to figuring out what the hell I'm supposed to do.
               "Just don't keep killing them." Naomi finishes. "Or it will only make it worse. You don't pick at a cut, you treat it and leave it alone."
               God help me I can't believe her, but I can at least nod and try.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rats in Paradise

           First night we all spent indoors. I took the bed, Stormbringer wrapped in my arms like a weaponized teddy bear, Naomi in the loft above my head with Adam. Colin on top of the covers, Lila and Constance in the back bedroom. We actually wanted to rest (we never go to sleep. Going to sleep is our word for death), so we didn't hole up in the ass end of the house. Lila had the feeling the door to those creepy back rooms were gonna fly open any moment and something was going to be there shrieking at us. I told her if there was, we'd have some fun with it, but for now to just turn off the lights and go to bed. She hated that.
           So now I was in bed and Colin's sleeping just as soundly as he is awake. And the god damn rats start scrabbling. So just as soon as I go to sleep, I'm up and away for a piss, check behind the shower curtains to make damn sure that there isn't anyone hiding behind there. There are rats in my walls. I would say they're the lovecraftian kind, but the ones dropping out of the ceiling on Constance are suspiciously without human faces. I can see the lights and hear things trying to get in, but they can't, of course. They are Outside. I am Inside. And the system works. There are also a few of the usual groupies trying to take a shot at the big brass ring. But they are Outside. I am Inside. Also, they tend to die around me. From golf-club related injuries. Because they are shrieking morons.
          The Lights go away, so I go to the kitchen and pop open a year-old pumpkin ale, down the whole thing, and then finish it off with two glasses of wine and a stiff bracing shot of rum (the rum is important). By this point, Adam's standing there in his nightshirt and shakes his head. I nod mine. He shakes his more. I nod, harder. He rolls his eyes, but he knew it was a losing battle from the start. "They'll be back in stronger numbers, you know."
          By this point, I've already stripped down to nothing and grabbed Stormbringer. "They are Outside. I will be Outside. They can't get Inside. I was getting bored anyway." Groupies, as any good monster-hunter knows, are chow. They are what happens when the squishy human ones like us think a little too big in the wrong direction. They think they have powers or something, they think the big high-stepping blank-faced daddy will protect them, and they all have the same astonished look on their face when Stormbringer comes between their eyes and their head cleaves in half.
         "Key." I hold out my hand. Adam holds on to it. "I'll get the door. I don't want to know where you put this, and you'll lose it otherwise."
         "You know exactly where I'll put it." I grin widely, and Adam looks perturbed. He sighs and opens the door. "I'm locking it until they're all dead. And you're not preparing them in here."
          "I'll use outside again...this isn't the first time..." I hear one of the groupies shout something. "And a one, and a two, and..."
          Out the door and down the crumbling wooden stoop and it's dark. The lock clicks behind me, and the bass in my head starts: ba-da-da-da-da-da-DA over and over again. I shriek to let them know I'm here, in case they don't see the white fishbelly skin and wild eyes. "Well, I jumped..." I mutter to myself, the first line coming to me easily, a swing and a near miss as I break the stunned silence with a stroke. They're used to clothed opponents, I'm guessing. And sober. I stumble to compensate for the balance and one of them tries to grab me and then they're upon me. Oops. Their funeral, I guess. And my trial.
           It's not burning this time because that doesn't matter, and one of them gets too close, Stormbringer smashing into his ear. I laugh wildly. "PunishMENT!" Another one grabs for me, they're trying to pin me down, good, if they do that it makes this easier, because they won't attack me one on one. The one I boxed in the ear gets too close again. "REWAAAAAAAAARD!" Something crunches beneath the club and I swing in a wide circle, tripping someone up. "PUNISHMENT!" Whack. "REWAAAAARD!" Crunch.
          They start to get wise to this after two of them go down and drop back. I assume a defensive stance, club out in front of me, almost yardstick-straight, other hand going down for a brief fondle, give them something to look at. Soon that's yardstick-straight and two of them come at me, one on either side. I move my hand back to the club handle and fend off a groin hit, pirouette, and hear it connect with the other one's leg. I cry at him, but the "Reward!" goes to the other bitch, who tried to move up while I was occupied. It's then that I decide that perhaps focusing on one would be better.
           Since Mr. Reward got caught in the chest, I stand over him, my dong at eye-level, and smash the club into his head. I've gone off-script and off-music here, so I just bash his little head in until it resembles a butcher's shop pinata and then when his friend has limped over, along with the other two members of their sad little clique, I shift-pivot and the club slams into all three of them. I'm yelling something else, they seem horrified, but I don't know what it is.
          They try a last desperate charge, thinking this tubby motherfucker is going to go down easy. I bonk, spin, whack, and then full-bore tackle the last three, and proceed to beat them into the ground until all my energy leaves and I know I'm gonna be sore in the morning. Then I drag em in back so we can dispose of the bodies and go back to bed. "All clear..." I wheeze, "and tomorrow we get to burn a whole bunch of shit in rum." (the rum is important) This gets a smattering of applause, and then some grumbles. I could be arsed. Instead, I fuck off to bed and pass out, leaving Stormbringer in the fireplace poker-holder.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

And he put him away in round number one

            I think what I said about 20th Century Boys was a little too close last week, because here I am staring down the barrel of a big creature and it feels to me like the Kenji Group picture you keep seeing in that book. Turns out, I had to go to things instead of them coming to me. Sage is away on another one of his little trips and left his home city a little neglected. Normally, I don't mind as much, but there's some kind of unspoken rivalry between where he is and where I am. Something about they got all the lawyers and we got all the hellmouths because we got first pick, maybe. Also, there's the tourist thing. I hate the tourist thing. If you're a tourist, it's like  you're a leper, except if lepers actually lived where you are, people would help them out and be nice to them.
           Naomi hands me a jug (the rum is important) and I spill it all down the golf club and light it off with a chrome-plated old-style Zippo lighter.
           Perhaps I should explain. In the large under-bridge area in front of us is a very, very annoying problem. Trolls are large, smelly, unhygenic, and offend my delicate sensibilities. So obviously, this thing will go, and it will go BY MY HAND. Oh, also, they kill people, but fuck that, even if they didn't I'd be doing this and the fire's almost reached my hand. Oh, fuckerrang. I'm worried about a rum fire burning my hand right now and that's the last thing I want. The other thing I don't want is happening right as I'm worried about my hand burning. Two big eyes, like lights, like something from Shadow of the Colossus or a Mars Volta video are staring right at me. It's up, and it's angry.
            I'm not about to engage it straight on, so I look to the other five. "Colin." I say. Colin raises his gun and gets a shot off, but it doesn't even stall the thing. Which is weird, considering Colin's totem of choice is a large-caliber revolver with a big black barrel that makes great big holes in things. But I take advantage of the confusion and swing for the fences with Stormbringer. The troll doesn't really know how to handle that right now...crazy guy, long black coat, burning weapon, Tevas. I work a little differently than the others. Colin is quiet. Naomi is quick. Lila is ferocious. Constance is downright frightening. And I...I overwhelm any rational instincts. You see, everything has a logic, and logic can be subverted.
            So when I attack something, it has no idea what the hell is going on. Usually, since it's alien, that makes it all the worse-- they're already adjusting to a strange environment, and now they have to deal with something outside their own busts them through the ass. Problem being, this is a troll. These fuckers recover fast. And they've been here long enough to adapt. I take one to the chest and that isn't supposed to happen, but while I'm low, Constance has stepped forward and the troll's hair is curling back and away from its body. I grab my firebrand again and pile on it, getting two good hits in before I'm low again. I can't keep doing this, but then Lila drops in with her knives and starts carving out chunks of it. And then comes Adam.
              Adam doesn't fight, usually. He doesn't need to. He's already seen that he doesn't need to get involved. But every now and then, that invisible hand of his just reaches into the flow of events and brings them up short. Because what use is it being Muad'Dib if you never get to use it? He leisurely walks up to the troll and taps it on the nose. And just like that, suddenly everything resolves into position and I'm back in the fight.
          I light one off again and finally it works, though I don't know how. I was out of my groove for a moment there, but suddenly it's back and smack the thing around. And then the singing starts. This time it's a classic, that song I can never remember the title of but that goes

"Alive, alive-O!
Alive, alive-O!
Crying cockles and mussels, alive, alive O!"

I'm not sure if it's me or Lila who starts, but soon she's got a nice chunk carved out its skin and I've burned the rest, and those luminous eyes are staring at me as if to say "Why? Why did you do this?" and I smash and I smash until there's nothing left, all
        "Rum!" I snap, and Naomi hands me the jug (the rum is important). I douse the stunned and beaten thing with it and then with a flick of my lovely windproof lighter, it suddenly gets very warm under the bridge. We disappear, as we always do, and I send a little verification to my favorite employer for when he de-lubes his hands.

"Let this be our calling card. A burning troll and a message that thou dost not fuck with us." I tell the night.

 We walk off, out into the night, and we are swallowed by it, and then it's the train and back up to our little single-story lodge. Things do not work the way they say they do. They work the way we say they do. And that is all that matters.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

even now there is hope

           When I finally get inside, I'm hugged by a gothy Polaris missile in a black lace-edged dress who asks me what the fuck took me so long and hits me in the shoulder.
            "I got sidetracked. You know how hard to find some of our friends are?"
            "Not as hard as you always make it out to be, you fucking baby. God, I know how to look for them and I can't even bring myself to give a shit."
            I smirk. "That's only two. You losing touch, Naoms?"
            She hits me again. "Stop being such a smartass or I'll bend you backwards and make you blow yourself." But she's smiling when she says it, which is a good sign. "What do you think of the house?"
            "A little creepy, but thankfully we won't have to deal with anything too stupid?"
            "Save your celebrations. I think something's been creeping around a little here and there."
             She smirks. "Big, yes. Shadows, mainly. And some banging noises." She stops and breaks into a grin. "Hey, remember--"
            "You better hope I don't before you finish that sentence." She slugs me again and God help me I think she means it this time.
            "Let's get down to work." I say finally after a long silence. "Where's Colin?"
            "Outside running off one of those creepy people who follow us around." Naomi tells me. "I think he got him in the leg from the window, but you know how thorough Colin has to be."
            Colin is a very quiet man who does very quiet work. Out of all the people I know, Colin is the scariest person I have ever encountered. You will never see him get angry, you will never see him get upset, all you will see is a small sigh. I pity you if you get him mad enough to actually do something. He's not the kind to pull off halfway through.
            Naomi, on the other hand, is the opposite. She loves to talk. Whenever she stops talking is when you know it's time to back away slowly. " something's been scratching outside and we see these weird lights, but there's nothing other than that..." she's saying as I shift uncomfortably. There's a sound from the woods, something I know but don't want to.
            "Right, right, but have there been any real sightings of him?"
            "Who? The high-stepping idiot with the waggly arms?"
            I burst out laughing. "If you really want to call him that, then yes, him."
            "Ehh. Not really." She shrugs. "Is that who we're after?"
            "All things in good time. Anything weird?"
            "The meadow across the way is filled with fireflies every night. They look a little...smarter than average."
            "So nothing hairspray and a zippo couldn't fix. Dammit, do we have anything real?"
            "I told you when I found the place. Disappearances happen and then creepy whackjobs who taunt us show up. How much realer do you want?"
            "Okay, okay, fine." I hug her again and she squirms uncomfortably. She may be friends with me, but she isn't mine. None of them are, really.
            "Oh, one other order of business. If we're hunting that thin freak, you're probably going to need this." She turns around and gets something off of the mantle. It's old, battered, and scratched up in places. The handle is triangular rubber, then that leads into a long thin metal tube and ends in a dense, curved head. No way, I think. I lost that ages ago. "I found it when I cleaned out the wreckage of the old place. Did you have to throw an entire liquor cabinet into there?"
           "It tried to eat us. There are two things I hate, plants and getting eaten. Yes. It was necessary."
           "Shit..." Naomi looks uneasy. "And when you stripped naked and ran screaming at the shadow thing?"
           " That wasn't necessary. I was just drunk. And I might have been high." I think back to the incident and suddenly remember that I'd been caught with Adam and my-- "YES. Definitely high."
           "Oh, wait, was it that time?" Naomi asked. "Sorry."
           "Anyway." I glare at her, getting back on topic. "You found it."
           "Your weapon of choice. The others were all charred beyond recognition, but this baby..." she tosses it to me and I catch it one-handed. Along the side of the five-iron someone scratched the word "Stormbringer" in with a key. A bad joke from someone who knows their fantasy literature, but it was like a piece of me coming back, making me whole.
            I smile. "You remembered."
            "You're my oldest friend. Why the fuck would I forget something like this?" she laughed. "It's the stupidest fucking weapon I've ever seen, but if you like it, I'll keep it handy for you when we run off into danger like this."
            I give it a few practice swings, holding it like a samurai. "And running off we are." I look out the window into the creepy wooded back yards. "Let's hope something takes the bait."


Friday, May 20, 2011

I love the sound of breaking glass

                  The problem with finding her isn't so much knowing where to look as knowing where she'll show up. It's a science only Adam's really adept at, and that's because the cheeky bastard already knows where she is exactly. He still makes me look for her. I do have one edge, though. I look for an apartment, an old one with brightly-colored lights and what could be a loft, but I don't find one, so I start hitting the bars. She likes bars as much as she likes squatting in archetypical lofts, or hitting up those freaky weapon shops you sometimes find near Chinatown or something.
                Six beers later and two slants in progress and I finally find her in the usual place a few blocks off of Redactedth Street and of course that big street, Undisclosed, with all the pedestrian traffic. I hear those tiny hints of Southern accent and the sound of wood on skull and my pace quickens a little. And then there's something that makes my blood run cold. Show tunes.
                I suppose some background is necessary, considering that you're all new to our operations here. Many people have their little rituals and coping mechanisms. Many do things unconsciously when they're in a good mood. For example, I find myself singing to myself at many parts of the day, or reciting onomatopoeias. But out of all of us, only one of us sings when she's working working, and happy about it. Li picked up the habit god-knows where, and now whenever I hear Sondheim, my hands start to shake and my breath gets short.
               Li hums show tunes when someone's shit is ending.  It's when she's bored of the fight and the person's already on the floor but she feels like she's been cheated and keeps going. Because if there's one thing she hates the most, one thing that makes her go above and beyond, it's boredom. Leave her alone with nothing to do, and someone winds up in an ambulance. Give her a fight she can definitely win, same thing happens. I bolt towards the bar, throw open the doors, and find the patrons standing around in stunned silence while a little slip of a brunette hipster with ice-blue eyes whacks a guy with a pool cue.
               "LILA!" I snap. "Stop. Now."
               Her entire face breaks into possibly the most choreographed smile I've ever seen. "Tao! Heeeey, darlin'! Wanna few cracks?"
               "Put the pool cue down, sweetie." I hate using the Dad Voice on her, but I might as well.
               "Stop." She says it now, but a little sweeter. "Don't do that to me. We're almost the same age, for Christ's sake."
              I look around at the concussed douchebags. I'm suddenly aware that there's an entire group of them and she was finishing up. That scares me worse, but at least she's nonlethal. "So which one spat in your beer?"
              "Oh...this one told me to stop rejecting him, and he was kind of rough about it." She replied. "So I saved him for last. They're all so's not like in the old days, where you had a gang of guys with character. It's not even like the days when a bunch of guys would charge into a fray for you for money. I miss the eighties."
              "You were a baby in the eighties, so you can't miss them. Now come on. Bigger things. I'd have sent Adam, but then I'd be pulling you both out of a bar full of concussed people and we'd still be having this conversation. Time to go home."
              "I miss the movies, darlin'. Reagan always sucked." She pouts.
              "Yeah, yeah, I'm a buzzkill. Now let's shift it. I don't want to be here when the cops show up. Oh, hey, that reminds me." I turn to the bar. "She's a tall brown-eyed redhead, I'm a twat with floppy hair and a bowtie." I fix them with a hard stare. No one wants us to come back, so I'm sure they'll pick up the story.
              "So, where to now?" she asks, "Not that I'm partial long as there's things to hit and no one asks questions."
            "Sweetie," I tell her, "you'll have more idiots than you can shake a stick at, and all of them will be itching to take a shot at us."
             "Don't call me sweetie, Tao. You know I don't see you like that."
              I'm not about to say anything on that score. "Fine."
             "And tell me where we're going."
             "We're visiting some family. It's secluded, and Naoms picked it out. Everyone you know is probably already there."
             We're heading towards the train station. You know the one, but I'm not saying it here. That'd just be stupid. Then you'd know where we were, and chances are you'd only bore us.
            "Oh, ick. Everyone?"
            "Yeah, her too. We need her." I roll my eyes. "Besides, I thought we were past that."
            "We were. That doesn't mean we are now."
            "We need them. All of them. I've been getting a hunch right away, and then Naomi went and bought some single-story house and just confirmed it."
            "This house won't be like the last house, will it?"
            "Single-story with a tower. We can see everything and there's no baking cookies smell." I assure her. "Don't remind me of our old house. Now let's go."
             We disappear on the train, heading like a bullet to the small town of None Of Your Damn Business, located in the isolated high-income part of central Jersey. I read a book I stole from the huge comic book store at the intersection of Undisclosed and Deletedth, she looks out the window and taps her foot in time to music only she can hear. When I get back to NOYDB (pronounce it "Noid", with a silent B), there's a car waiting for us and Adam passes me a laptop.
              "Hello, Lila. It's always nice to see you in person. Tao, do what I ask you to. I don't ask for a lot in this arrangement, so drop him a line. He's running a blog! A blog of all things!" He chuckles, already aware that I'm writing this entry in another tab as we head up the winding roads to the house up in the woods.
              So I do. I toss off a few comments, playing the coy little bugger with Sage while we drive, and when we get there, I let everyone else get out and stretch. Time for us to earn our keep.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Big Black Nemesis

           I'm thankful I don't have to go into alleys for her, though this is somehow worse. She inhabits the dark, squalid underbelly of things, below the alleys, below the streets where people walk unsuspecting...a motel here, a subway station as a homeless person there...she never settles down and she never stays in the same place twice. But if you know where to look, you can find a trail here and there. She never really liked the desert. Too few people, too little to do, and before you knew it she was bored. I never liked when she got bored. It was a terrible sight. If anyone knew what she did when she got bored...
         I found her this time in a fleabag joint, sitting behind a counter and reading a copy of Consider Phlebas,  wearing the same white dress she always wore. "So how was Long Island? I hear now that the weather's warming up. You must be thinking of the next place to go." She glares at me with those weirdly colored eyes and slams her book. "You bore me too, you know..." 
       "I know. But there's something that won't. We're getting everyone back together." 
       "Which means that you need me."
      "I'd like to think I want you, not need you, but okay. I need you." I sigh. "And your talents."
     "I need to know something, myself. Will I get bored?" She asked it simply, and without a hint of anything behind it.
    "If I have my way, you never will. Chances are when we stick our heads out, everything from your favorite punching bag to that thing I make new holes in when it shows up are gonna run right towards us. Next question."
   "If you expect me to--"
   "If I expect you to work with your sisters, you'll fucking work with them." I cut her off. I feel myself get a little tired and smack the glass in front of her to break her concentration. "We need at least one of them, if not both of them. Now, are you in, or am I wasting my time?" I stop, pause, put a finger in the air. "Oh, and remember. Those cops are probably closing in. It's not like the Midwest, where you can dump six bodies and no one bats an eyelash."
    "Fine." She appraises me. "You're still the same sad bitch you always were, Tao. No spine, needing us to help out with things, always worried about what others would think of you and always, always trying to act like it doesn't matter. Please...if I'm going to do this, at least conduct yourself with a little dignity." She gets out from behind the desk and walks over to me. Never touches me...some things never change. She hates people like me. Disgusted by us, can't touch us...whatever it is, she hates people like me.
     I shrug and light up an herbal cigarette only for her to yank it out of my mouth and fling it into the nearest trash can. "And none of that. That stupid tattooed trash might put up with it, but you're dealing with someone important here." Her eyes blaze for a moment and I remember that they're colored all weird...purple or something like that. She tried to kill me the last time I asked her if they were contacts.
     "Constance..." I tell her. She hates the name, but she'll take it. She'll take it because she knows she has no choice in the matter. She glares at me. "Just play nice with us and rough with them." I tell her. "Do that for me, will you, Constance?"
     As I get to the curb, Adam's waiting with a car and holds the door for her. He waves to me and points down the street. "She's that way, old boy. Go. We'll be here. Oh, and call that dear friend of yours when you're done. I don't need him worrying we're going to turn up dead. Even though he knows better." He laughed. "He should by now."

I continue onward, into the twisting streets of the city, looking for an abandoned loft, the kind some tortured artist would squat in. I can only hope I'll find the right one.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The First

            I found the first one in the usual way. I just wandered the back alleys of the city after dark on a Friday and listened for the music. Stretches of free jazz don't usually play in the alleyways, not any more. And those where they are aren't usually the place where you hear muffled cries. He'd gone back to his old ways. He'd always said this was how he'd spent his Friday nights, but I never believed him until I had to look for him. 
     He doesn't see me in his black suit and unusually kempt hair, but I see him. I see him and step over the boombox he's using to play what was Coleman and what's now Miles Davis...Birth of the Cool era Miles Davis as he sits down next to what looks like a body and takes a package of green stuff out of his jacket pocket. Within moments, he's laid it out in nice lines on the body-thing --She's decked out in a short dress and a big fur coat and cheap but sexy heels, the kind I woulda wore back in my golden days when I dressed like a--...Oh my god, I think to myself, That's a hooker...and rips a line right up his nose. I have to cover my ears when the girlish scream pierces the air...people scream all the time in alleys. It's kind of a part of this life to ignore them straight. But Sage is better at it than I am, so it still bothers me to see this green-eyed bastard hammering rails of god-knows-what up his nose.
     I don't think he sees me as he bumps the second rail of green stuff through his nasal passages, weeping "Great scott, that hurts..." As he rummages through his jacket, I put my hand on his shoulder and get a brick to my hip for my trouble. As I fall over, he notices me. "Why, Tao! How nice of you to join me!" He casually moves the hooker out of the way and I look horrified. He shakes his head. "Oh, gods, no, I didn't kill her, dear boy. I haven't gone completely off the reservation." He waves the brick. "I paid her all my remaining funds to knock her out and have a typical Friday evening." He smiled. "Though the drugs are not making an appearance again." He hands me his little nose-straw and I wave it away. "Enjoy yourself, Adam." I say weakly.
     Adam laughs. "It's sooner than you think, dear boy. And you're here to offer me a job I'll accept. Things are getting bleaker, and we all have to get back together like the old days. Like the desert, hmm? Tell me, has that dear, lovely girl we know gotten the house yet?" Adam and Naoms. They've known each other the longest, so they're the closest. He refers to her with extra adjectives for some reason. I can't quite get my head around the bond. Maybe it's that they both come from around the same area. Naomi lives with me, but she ran off for a little to "get some things together". ", of course you haven't. A pity you won't join me for some wasabi." He sighs. I sigh too. This little "I know all. I see all." act is really getting on my nerves, even more than it used to, and he knows that, too. 
     I pull out a cigarette and he looks shocked and then annoyed at me. I put it back. "Let's go, since you've pre-accepted." I say. "Oh, Tao..." Adam shakes his shaggy head. "It doesn't work like that." He cuts the line in half, takes out another straw, and dual-bumps his nostrils, almost suffocating on the overly-spicy condiment before he chokes it down and whips his head around to kill the feeling. "Now I'm ready to go. But I shan't come with you just yet. Have her get the house, and when that's done, I'll be right there with you." 
      He gets up and ruffles my hair before walking off, those long strides putting mine to shame, his suit now looking ruined, his boombox in one hand like a briefcase, half-shuffling half-dancing off into the night. "Don't worry about me, Tao. I'm not going to be receding into my old ways. Just take care of business and I'll show up."

So now not only do I have to figure out what half the stuff meant, I have to find a house and meet up with Naomi again. When I get home, I shoot Sage off an email. "One down, four to go. This used to be easier." and start looking for more leads.