Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nine Tenths: A Horror Novel - 2nd Installment

Garrret laid a small satchel at his feet and replaced a blade to his belt along with the small silver tin that held the coiled cord, it’s hook gleaming sickly with a putrescent yellow liquid. He took a small, embroidered handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the hook clean, then secured it into place on his belt with a small leather snap. He glanced at his watch and turned his eyes toward the younger man to his right who was frantically searching the room, muttering to himself. Garret stiffened and walked toward the man, “how ya doin, Joe?”

“Just trying to get myself together, friend,” the thick Scottish brogue nearly breaking as he winced in pain.

“Alright. Chris, how about you?”

“I’m sorry, I…,” the boy muttered. He was keeping his voice low although it wouldn’t have mattered much in the present situation.

Garrett, held up a hand to silence him as he looked through the knapsack, laying clips and bullets into piles before him. Other instruments were placed neatly to the side, most of which appeared antiquated and many homemade. Shaking his head, he lifted the torn flap of fabric below his knee and grabbed a bottle of water from within the knapsack. The water splashed against the wound and rivulets of blood raced down his calf. Splinters still jutted from his leg and he pulled as many out as quickly as he could before padding the larger cuts with antiseptic also culled from the knapsack. He folded his legs and slowed his breathing. It was a routine the others had seen before, yet each held their breath. Garret’s eyelids fluttered and his left hand jerked spasmodically against his leg. “Chris,” he whispered while simultaneously opening his eyes and flexing his hand, “ eight to ten, in a makeshift basement…closet…green, maybe blue door. They have a Watcher with them. They’re cloaked…unarmed, but there’s something else… Joe, help Chris if he needs it and ask them for some rags and whiskey, if they have it. We’ll need to reset your arm.”

Joe shuddered and made a commitment to press about the whiskey. “C’mon, Chris. I’ll be right behind you.”

“Joe,” Garret called after them, “ We have twenty minutes. No time for an impromptu recruitment.”

Joe nodded as Chris made his way down the hallway turned right at the end. Ten paces down was a blue door with a sign that read “utility closet”. It was unexceptional and had probably been chosen exactly for that reason. He tried the knob only to find it was locked from the inside. The boy lifted a gloved hand and reached inside an inner coat pocket. He brought out two long pins, both worn with various bends and gouges dotting their length. Blowing on the key hole and jerking back when a plume of dust rushed toward him, he brought the pins up and slipped one inside the lock. This was a skill he acquired along his trek with the men. It proved to be as valuable now as the first time and he felt proud of his contribution. That pride turned the corners of his mouth upward into a sly smile as the first tumbler clicked. Another two turns and the knob gave up.

Another click sounded, almost inaudibly, and it was Joe’s face that flashed with recognition, but he did not smile. He shot out with his good arm and grabbed a handful of jacket spinning himself and the boy around, shielding him and forcing them both against the opposite wall. A gust of air raced down the back of his neck and a hard metal clang echoed through the hall. Instinctively, he twisted his other arm around and let out a cry as it popped from the movement. Falling to his knees, pain racked his body and he vomited as the boy looked on in disbelief.

A bed frame with box springs had been turned into an instrument of torture worthy of the Inquisition. Blades, crudely welded to the frame, juxtaposed in a million angles, now dug into the floor inches from where they had once stood. A clump of hair clung to a long jagged spike letting the pair know of its prior successes. Joe wiped his mouth with his sleeve and pulled the boy behind him pushing a panel on the rear of the closet. It opened, and as it did, the smell of stale sweat and rotten food rose to meet them.

Garrett kneeled before the pulpit. It had been spray painted and it looked as though someone had tried to take an ax to it. He ran his fingers along the deep gashes in the wood. Each grain that wound its way through the texture of the stained oak sent a memory up through the tips of his fingers, flinging his mind back to the house on Hoover Avenue with the purple door; the purple door, the gun, and all the blood. Blood. He was bleeding. The splintered wood had lodged itself in his hand and the blood was pooling at the base of the pulpit making it look more like a pagan alter than a testament to the Christian God. Garrett wheeled around to the sound of footsteps as a drop of blood spilled from is index finger and splashed on the toe of his boot.

Three figures stumbled into the cathedral hall and Garrett’s eyes fell on the new addition. A young boy stood in the middle tapping his foot anxiously and scanning the room with such nervous energy that he looked as if he might explode where he stood. His eyes bulged from his sockets and the other men wandered how long it had been since the gaunt face had seen a decent meal. His fingers twitched and he wiped his nose and coughed into his hand. Garrret motioned towards Joe, who was standing behind the Youngman, and he tapped Chris on the arm and pointed to an overturned pew a few feet way. The boy, if the walking skeleton actually resembled that anymore, felt the upturned pew touch the back of his legs and Garret took a step towards him slowly, considerate of the boy’s distrustful looks. “I’m asking you to sit, but it won’t be for long.” At this, Garrett withdrew one of the Glock’s from his belt and handed it to the youth. “This evens up the odds a little, don’t you think?”

Joe, poised to draw his own gun if necessary, waited for the boy’s reaction, and fell at ease as he picked up the piece, but held it in both hands, never bringing his fingers close to the trigger. The boy looked up, his demeanor had changed slightly, but the look of distrust was still there, and neither the men, nor Chris could blame him. “We don’t have anything to take.” There was no inflection, just a tired resignation.

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