Wait And See Part 7.1

Wait and See - pt. 7.1

Chicago, July 29th, 4:37 am


Sharon W. Beaumont's body hadn't even assumed room temperature before the city's news-machine started to chew her up.

Hordes of photographers, camera operators and reporters descended on the scene within minutes of her death. They encircled the crime scene, the police station and City Hall before anyone knew they were there. They looked like impoverished children around a tourist bus, all holding out their hands and pleading for something more than a silent stare.

The hordes didn't get all they wanted, of course. All they ever asked for was everything. But they got enough to make their editors happy, which was enough to satisfy the public, yet leave them hungry for even more.

It went without saying that the information was selectively sifted and presented according to taste. Some took the meaty ribs, others the lights. Parts were sliced smoking from the bones, stirred together and presented in any number of combinations - all to please the choosy palates of specific editorial boards, stockholders and audiences.


In the morning, the city's menus read:

  • Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Applauds "Excellent Work" By Police
Herb Garden, aide to Mayor, last victim

  • Chicago Tribune

Mayor "Cautious," But Praises "Excellent Work"
Last victims: aide to Mayor, mother of two

  • Daily Herald

Tactical Squad "Ordered"- "Shoot To Kill"
Citizens complain - 34 counts of police brutality in one day

  • Chicago Tribunal

Identity "Uncertain" Says Morgue Attendant
Communist mind-control, Fluoride to blame - Expert

  • Illinois Aryan

Jewish Mayor, City Council And Race Traitor Police "Sought Scapegoat"
Sharon Beaumont to be mourned, and then avenged!

And so was Chicago fed.


Of course, as with any meal with many courses, there are some bits that are considered inedible, indigestible, or just too strange to put into your mouth. They are rarely advertised, much less spoken of: just left at the other end of the table, waiting for the soul brave enough to try a spoonful or two. And, more often than not, they sit there all night, untouched by any and spoken of by none.

No one mentioned anything about the face of Martha M. Miller, found by the scene of the crime. The cryptic order given by Lt. Meyer - "The Victim Is Now The Suspect" - was told by no one at all. And no one spoke of the high levels of cocaine found in Herb Garden's nose and bloodstream, either.

And though it probably would have made for good copy, no one - not even the Daily Herald - took any pictures of: a rather haggard detective's terrible screaming match with the Sgt. of the Tactical Squad; the subsequent fist-fight that took place; the detective losing said fight - badly; the gorgeous black lady being restrained from interfering, and then placed in the back of a paddywagon; the unconscious detective being stripped of his gun and badge, and then put in there along with her.

That whole course - possibly one of the more intricate preparations to be found at the table, if it were duly explored - went unseen and unappreciated, languishing at the wrong end of the buffet.

New York, July 29th, 8:45 am

Tiamat frowned, feeling last night's dinner swim angrily in his stomach.

The morning feeds - all focused on Chicago - had told him everything he needed to know about what the mundane world needed to know. But he couldn't reach Tiana or Trebuchet on their cellular phones to tell him what he needed to know. He kept trying, but neither one was picking up.

Off in the other room, a phone rang - odd and atonal from around the corner and down the hall, like a gong sounding in reverse.


He got up from his desk and headed in there, wrapping his bathrobe around his skinny, old waist as he did.


There were a number of phones in this room, of course: one for every occasion. He wondered who he was going to have to be now, or what, or which lie he'd have to maintain this morning.

Another ring called out


and he stopped in his tracks.

It was that phone.


It was a sleek little thing, that phone. Its color was some odd shade that could have been either dark grey or muddy green. The uneven, silver buttons had no numbers or markings on them.

And it needed no caller ID.


It reminded him of an alien insect. Sometimes, in his all-too-frequent nightmares, he imagined waking up to find it perched on his chest, chitinous legs all aflutter, drinking his blood from a smooth, glass proboscis…


Tiamat regarded it much as a condemned man resigned to his fate might regard the noose before his neck. It rang once more -


- but he made no move to answer it, instead walking over to a large bureau on the other side of the room.


The bureau was shut tight with a very sturdy, electronic lock. The old man steadied himself, knowing that pressing the wrong button would result in a very nasty, outward-focused explosion.


He tacked in the seven-digit combination, trying not to think about the limpet mine staring him in the face and trying to ignore the ringing of that damned phone…


There was a terrible moment of silence, when he was finished. Had he done it wrong…?


No: the sound had just been masked by the ringing.


He opened the doors, and looked down.


There, right about waist height, was an antique chessboard caught in mid-game.


It was a good quality board made of ivory and ebony, with pieces carved from the same material. Good, sturdy Russian workmanship.


He frowned, looking at the board. The landscape had changed since the last time he'd looked at it.


Key pieces of his side (ivory, of course) had been taken out, and the opposing sides were maybe one or two moves away from Checkmate.


He turned and looked at the phone, which had just fallen silent.

He felt like picking it up and flinging it across the room. Of course, that wouldn't have accomplished anything. He'd done that once, and the next day the sloppy, acidic mess had remained, but the phone was back in one piece. Trying to throw it away had proven useless as well: it always came back to him, just like the bad penny…

So he just set his jaw, leaned back on his heels and looked around the room. It contained a lot of junk from one lifetime: too much junk to bring with him where he was going to have to go. But he'd known that, a long time ago, when he'd made the other plans…

With that, he nodded to himself and closed the door on the chess game. Then he went to go take a shower, as though there were nothing wrong at all.

And there really wasn't. Everything was going according to plan. All was in order.

And it was a very good day to die.

Chicago, July 29th, 8:30 am


"You okay in there?" the pounder was asking from Tiana's door.

He pounded on it yet again, whoever he was


(Who was he? Tiana had no idea who she lived next door to, anymore)


And then he sighed: "Look, could you just say something?"

Tiana tried to ignore it. Her hands were over her eyes, and her face was streaked with tears.



She was naked. Her clothing was torn to shreds, hanging off of her in rips and tears. Her hands, arms, legs… her whole body was covered in small cuts and scratches.

And her room was an utter shambles. The bed was cracked in half, her tables had been flung across the room and smashed, and her dresser had been picked up and smashed against the ceiling. It was a wonder nothing had been tossed out the window.


"I will call the cops," the voice threatened: "I mean it."


"I do."

Tiana leaned back on the pile of broken wood and torn mattress that used to be her bed and took her hands from her eyes. She didn't dare open them, though. She didn't want to see what she had seen, again. The thing that had sent her into a blinding, terrible rage worse than any flashback ever could.

On the ground, by her feet, was an imitation leather bag, dyed black and covered in off-white, ersatz "Viking" knotwork. It was open.


And scattered throughout the room - tossed this way and that in utter horror and fear, just before she started to lose it and throw the furniture instead - were about two dozen small, dark grey, hard plastic "stones."



Each one of those stones was lying face-up, somewhere in the ruins of the room, a single rune facing the ceiling and telling its truth for all to see. And in spite of each stone bearing a different rune, every single stone had given her the exact same one.






Tears poured out from behind her closed eyes.


Nantucket, July 29th, 9:02 am

"So how much more of the landscape do we have to stomp over today?" the driver asked.

"We have one more person to interview," FBI Agent Snopes intoned, looking over his prized notepad. They looked a lot like one another: well-worn, dinged-up and slightly yellowed around the edges. But he, unlike it, had the flu, and it was making his crisp, terribly-correct grammar sound even more comical than usual.

"Who's that?" his partner asked, looking out the driver's side window as they drove past the landscape. He really should have been keeping his eyes on the road, but it was just too amazing, out here. He could see why the rich and gentrified insisted on maintaining their summer homes on the island.

"Her brother," Snopes announced, flipping over yet another page: "If you continue along this road we shall encounter him in about an hour… so long as your usual driving skills do not impede us."

"Why didn't we talk to him before?" his partner said, ignoring the joke.

"He was not there."

"You don't say," his partner chuckled.

"Laugh if you like," the other man said: "He was not there. And I think that is significant."

"Why? Isn't he the one in college? Maybe he-"

"If your sister would happen to be kidnapped, I think you would rearrange your schedule a bit?"

"Possibly, but we can't overlook the fact that he couldn't."

"Or would not."

"Where's your trail leading, Tonto?"

Snopes winced; He hated that name. He'd made the mistake of bringing his ancestry up back at Quantico and some of the less-kind trainees had started calling him Tonto. Most of those schmucks hadn't made it through the program, but the name had.

"All I am saying is that there is a possibility that her brother is something of a black sheep."

"Alright," Snopes' partner said, slowing down as they came to a fork in the road: "That is significant. But what gives you that idea?"

"The rest of the family made excuses for him not being at the preliminary interview, but when they did it they spoke of him in hushed tones. And they were very careful to avert their eyes from those of his parents."

"And his parents didn't talk about him at all," the man replied, nodding: "And he wasn't in any of the family photos that I saw."

"Presumably, they are all at his summer home."

Snopes' partner shook his head: still staggered by the level of opulence he'd seen since being assigned to this case. The family were rich, even by Boston's standards. They not only had three mansions on the mainland, but three summer homes in Nantucket, and who knows what else. You couldn't have found a better family to demand ransom money from if you'd tried…

*jst wntd y t knw tht stll lv y *

He cocked his ear: "Did you hear something?"

"No," Snopes said: "I did not."

"Weird…" his partner said, going back to the case: "So he's the black sheep of the family, and yet he's in college, and he's got his own summer home. How did he pull that off?"

"I do not know. But I suspect this family, like many such New England families, has many old, buried secrets."

"Shades of the Kennedys?"

"Precisely, dear partner. He might care to speak of them in public to make money if he has no other means with which to support himself. So perhaps he was given a stipend, certain properties and the like, and then told to exclude himself from the bosom of his loving family."

"That sounds pretty shitty," the man said, looking off in the distance: "I hope you're wrong about that."

"If I am correct, it would make him a prime suspect."

"Yeah, but I still hope you're wrong," he replied: "I couldn't imagine having my family toss me out on my ass."

Chicago, July 29th, 9:35 am

Frank Meyer walked down the stairway of the Precinct, his face bruised and scuffed up from the night before. In his arms was a cardboard box, full of stuff from what was once his office.

And he was smiling like a motherfucker.

He hadn't changed, showered or shaved. He hadn't had the time or opportunity, really. He'd only been up for an hour and a half, and most of that had been spent having Chief Hardesty tell him the score, and then vacating the premises.

No one made eye contact with him. No one said anything to him. No one told him they were sorry, or happy, or were going to miss him. It was almost as though he just wasn't there at all.

Well… Anders had made his feelings on the matter known. But he could go fuck himself. He had a little surprise coming his way - one Hardesty had been kind enough to let Meyer in on before turning him loose.

On the way down, Meyer saw a familiar face going up. He was a younger man of Chinese descent, also carrying a cardboard box full of office stuff.

"Hey Frank," the newcomer said.

"Hey Henry," he replied, smiling a little wider, just to be spoken to.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," Meyer lied: "Rough night."

"I bet. Congrats on catching the killer."

"Thanks. Congrats on making Lieutenant."

"Awww… thanks, man," the guy replied, smiling: "You know which office is mine?"

Meyer nodded, trying not to let the smile drop: "It's up the stairs and to the left. It gets hot in the afternoon. You might want to have someone try and fix that. I never could."

"Oh, it was your office?"

"Yeah. Was." He chuckled.

"Well, I bet you'll get a better office, now that you're getting promoted, right?"

Meyer just nodded: "You could say that. Take care, man."

He smiled and kept walking down the stairs, past the Desk Sgt. and out the front door. No one else cared to say boo to him. Even the Desk Sgt pretended he wasn't there…

Fine. Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em all.

When he got outside, he let the smile drop. He looked one way and then another, hoping to see someone there. But when he didn't, he just sighed and shook his head. He was getting used to being shit on.

So he huffed over to his car and piled the shit into the back seat. And then he got in, started the motor, and drove out of the parking lot.

"You didn't have to take me up on it, you know," he said to God, looking up at the sky as he came to a red light: "A lightning bolt would have been just fine. Just enough to let me know I was headed underground…?"

Baltimore, July 29th, 10:45 am

Rachel Logan's footsteps echoed off the wet, brick walls of Hell's basement corridor. Every so often she imagined she could hear screaming behind those walls, but she was sure it had to be the creaking and groaning of old pipes.

She hoped so, anyway…

The two burly men with her - both wearing some sort of off-white, industrial sandal the same "color" as their orderly uniforms - didn't make much noise alongside. The facility's Director had said something about silence being highly therapeutic; She wondered what they had to do when someone went apeshit, down here.

They came up to yet another checkpoint: a plexiglass cubicle with a heavy, rolling steel door next to it. An armed guard dressed in the livery of the facility sat in the cubicle. As they approached, he turned off his portable TV - "Hee-Haw" reruns, she guessed based on the noise - and looked out of a Judas hole they'd cut into the plexiglass.

"State your business, please."

"Rachel Logan, Library of Congress," she said, flashing ID: "I'm here to ask Patient 437 some questions."

"Can I see the permission forms, please?"

She nodded and handed them over. They were all legit, of course. Alphonse said that the facility's Director owed him a few favors, and this was just another way of calling them in. Anywhere, anytime, the guy could just call someone up and have the impossible done at a few moments' notice.

He was scary that way.

***"So you want me to go play Clarice Starling?" She asked, looking at the notes he'd handed over.

Dr. Camp nodded, leaning back in his chair. His desk was stacked of various books he'd pulled out to pour over since he'd gotten that one email, a day ago. He didn't look like he'd had much sleep, since: a secondary growth of beard was pooling around his goatee.

"It's nothing you can't handle, I don't think," he said.

"Of course not," she said: "I'm just a little confused about how I can just walk into that place."

"You mean as a member of the LOC?"

"Yeah. I wouldn't think-"

"Let me put it this way, Rachel, " the man interrupted politely, holding up a hand: "If the Library of Congress is looking for information on one of its holdings, whether it's for authentification purposes, or conservation, or anything of the sort, we've got a high level of latitude… as long as it isn't classified information we're after."

"Which means I can walk into Hell and ask to talk to the book's former owner?"

"Absolutely," he smiled: "And I want you to do it because you've got extensive experience talking with people that no one should be talking to at all."

He smiled. She understood the implication, but bit her lip.***

The guard handed her back the papers and nodded.

"The Director went over the protocol with you?" he asked, maybe just to be sure and maybe just to cover his own ass.

"Yeah," she said, taking them back and stuffing them in her handbag.

"I sure hope you paid attention," the guy replied: "We house the people other institutions won't take because someone's gotta put them somewhere. But if it were up to me, I'd put most of them down."

"Nice attitude, there," she said: "They hire you for your looks?"

The guard sighed: "Look, I'm just trying to impress the situation on you-"

"I'm impressed," she said: "Now open the fucking door."

He sighed again: "Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you. It can get pretty bad in there."

She desperately wanted to tell the little prick what her own, personal definition of the word "bad" entailed, but she didn't have the time for that and he probably couldn't have handled it, either. Instead she just smiled.

"I saw Silence of the Lambs, pal," she grinned: "I can handle some spooge in my hair."

"It's not what comes out of their dick I'm worried about," the guard said: "It's what comes out of their mouth."

With that he operated some switch, and the heavy, rolling steel door beside him started to move away. There was another door beyond that. And after that - Rachel suspected - there was just a short corridor, stretching all the way from room 401 to 450.

She stepped in. The orderlies came alongside her. The door groaned shut behind them, and then the door before them groaned open.

And they were all in Hell.

Chicago, July 29th, 10:43 am

It took Tiana a long time to get moving. She wasn't sure what time it was when she did, as she'd busted all of her clocks and stepped on her watch during the whole episode. All she knew was that it felt like a long, damn time, and that was too damn long for her.

She showered, dressed

*Black, loose Front 242 shirt ("06:21:03:11 Up Evil") under a long, dark blue overcoat. Black hip-huggers. 13-hole Doc Martens. Guns strapped in harnesses under coat. Hammer of Thor on leather strip, worn over the shirt. Mirror shades.*

and got ready to go, hoping she wouldn't take too long to heal the scratches. Especially now…

She'd come back later on and see about fixing the damage. Right now she had to find Johnathan and Willers. Right now she had to save Johnathan. She wasn't sure from what, or from whom, but the stones had been clear as fucking day that death was putting in an appearance.

While getting dressed, she'd looked for both the cellphones. Trebuchet's had been crushed under an end table, but hers had escaped the mash, somehow. She saw what time it was and cursed, and then saw she had a few messages from early this morning: each one from Tiamat, and each one crisp and to the point - "Call me."

"I don't have time," she muttered, pocketing hers: "You fucking call me, old man."

And then she went to go find the most important thing of all. She went to her bedside, where she kept her drugs, and rooted around in the busted mess for the small, wooden box she kept them in.

They were mashed to powder, each and every one: mixed in with sawdust and Goddess knows what else…

Tiana let out a small cry of despair, and then stifled another one. She gritted her teeth and scooped up as much of the powder as she could. It stung her hands - just as she'd thought it would - and she quickly tossed it into a small, plastic container with a screw-on lid.

"Dear Goddess, please let this be enough," she prayed, and then headed out, nearly breaking the door down on the way.

"Oh, there you are…" some guy said from the doorway across from hers as she locked up: ""I knew you were in there."

"Fuck off," she muttered, turning to go.

"You know, it's illegal to have pets in these apartments. I should report you to-"

"FUCK. OFF." She growled at him, her shades sliding down her nose ever so slightly as she did.

He backed off, quickly, and just watched her stomp off.

"Damn…" he said: "Why can't I just have normal neighbors? People who talk to themselves or beat their wives… something normal?"

New York, July 29th, 11:37 am

Leon sang "I love New York in June" - a month late, admittedly - as he looked at his naked, rather ample stomach in the mirror.

He was completely naked and beaded with fresh, post-sex perspiration. The nice, Russian lady he'd brought back here had given him quite a ride for his money. And now he was ready to go back out and face the day ahead.

The lady'd left by now, of course: through the closed, bathroom door he'd heard the rustle of money being picked up, the sliding back on of clothing and the opening and closing of the apartment's outside door. He always left a little more than he'd promised on the table, by the bed, which guaranteed both good service in the future and a speedy exit with no awkward, "after" conversation.

Back in the USSR, they'd have put him in jail by now for frequenting prostitutes as often as he did. Here, the former Mayor was living in sin and the cops were known to take bribes in the form of back-alley blowjobs. As long as he was just a little careful - he could pick out the vice cops any day, given his long experience with the KGB - he had nothing to fear.

Of course, he could have gone back "home" any time he wanted, if it was just paid sex he was after. Now that it was Russia, once more, it had turned into fuck central: ages of Soviet social repression being broken in a great deluge of heavy metal orgies, western pornography and teenage lesbian pop singers. He might not even have to pay for it, if what his contacts back home were telling him was even slightly true.

But he had his reasons for not returning. And even thinking about the least of them was enough to make the glory and wonder of what he'd just been doing go right away, just like someone turning off a light. So he didn't think of all that at all, and just remembered the joy of Russian love noises.

He left the bathroom and walked back into the bedroom of his one-room apartment, smiling widely, and imagining the whole thing in quicktime.

Then the smile left his face, and his dick shrank like plastic in a microwave. He stopped in his tracks, and raised his hands up slightly - not quite believing what he was seeing, but not entirely surprised, either.

Tiamat was sitting on his bed, his face as expressionless as it usually was. The old man was dressed for business and wrapped up in an overcoat. A small briefcase sat next to him.

And he had a gun - with a silencer, of course - pointed right at Leon's forehead.

"So you have come to finish the job," Leon said in Russian, sighing as he did: "You could have waited until I was dressed, my friend."

"I am not here to kill you," the old man said: "I am just here to talk, as we agreed."

"You could have called, as we agreed?"

"You said you did not want to talk about it without a place and a time," Tiamat replied: "I do not have the time, anymore. So I have chosen your place."

Leon blanched: "You do want to talk about… that."


"It is a bad thing, my friend."

"I know. But I want to talk about it."

"I do not want to-"

The gun fired. A sound like a reed THIIIPing through the air sounded out, passing right by Leon's left ear. A chunk of the back wall of Leon's bathroom was impacted by a slug. Plaster rained down into the tub.

"You have no choice in the matter," Tiamat replied, patting the briefcase with his free hand: "I brought you a copy, as you asked. And after this, we are finished.

"But I want to know what you know, Leon." the old man continued, leaning forward and drilling the Russian's eyes with his own: "And I will not be taking no for an answer, today."

"You would make me tell you these things… things that have haunted my mind for years. Things that made me flee my home."

"Yes," the old man said, simply.

"Then damn your soul to hell," Leon said.

"My soul can handle a few more damnations," the old man said, keeping the gun trained on Leon's forehead as he opened the briefcase: "Can your skull handle another bullet?"

Leon glowered.

"I thought not," Tiamat replied, pulling out the promised copy of the file: "So… shall we begin?"

Nantucket, July 29th, 11:47 am

The summer home Snopes and his partner pulled up to was a small, cozy little thing: maybe four rooms on the first floor and three up top, all screened in and whitewashed to an inch of their life. A jet-black Porsche with Boston plates was parked at the end of the gravel driveway, and a small catamaran in excellent condition was tied down to a small dock out back.

"How you want to handle this?" Snopes' partner asked.

"Well, you are the expert," Snopes replied, smirking just a little. Perhaps you should talk to the fellow while I look for old horse trails outside?"

His partner winced at the counter-ribbing, and nodded, heading for the front porch. If there was anything to find, Snopes would find it. He could just deal with the interview.

He knocked on the door, it was slightly ajar.

"Come in," a very expectant voice echoed from inside.

He did so, and found himself in a cavernous, whitewashed, wood paneled room full of tasteful furniture and family photos. Something about the way the light reflected off things in here bothered his eyes, making it hard to focus on anything. The light was hard to look at, and the darkness inbetween and beyond was absolute.

He recognized a lot of the photos from the other interview. In fact, they were they exact same photos, only the ones he'd seen before hadn't had a certain young man with dark hair and eyes in them…

Airbrushed. His parents had airbrushed their own son out of the family photos. What could he have done-

"You're with the FBI?" the same voice asked.

"Yes," he said, turning to try and find where the voice was coming from. Why couldn't he see? "We're… um… we're looking into your sister's disappearance."

"I thought she was kidnapped."

"Well, yes… at least so far as the ransom note would claim," he replied, still not able to see where the voice was coming from.

"You think she wasn't?"

"Someone may have… um… read the papers. Tried to take advantage of your family."

"That's a pretty slim chance, there."

"Yes… but that's not a possibility we can overlook."

"Yeah," the voice said after a moment, somewhat pleased: "That's good. I like a person with an open mind."

"Well, I try," he replied, really worried, now. It was as if the spots of darkness in the room were tangible. Plastic, almost. Playing games with him…

And then he could see movement, on the other side of the room. It wasn't threatening. It was almost languid.

'I'm Brian,' the voice's owner said, still warm and expectant.

Across the room, lounging by an open doorway, was a young man. He was perched right at the moment when childhood left and adulthood began. Loose shirt and tight jeans. Hair tousled like a little boy's. His hips and jawline set just so.

He had the look of a gay man on the make, and his eyes…

"Are you Agent Froud?" the manboy asked, eyes flashing.

"Yes," Johnathan replied, looking the kid over.

"I'm her brother," the boy said, walking closer: "I heard you wanted to talk to me."

"Where… um…" he said, feeling a stiffening he really shouldn't: "Excuse me. It must be the flu."

"Yeah. Something's going around." The eyes flashed.

"I need to know where you were that night," he said, shifting his legs a little to hide the erection that had just sprouted in his pants. What the hell was going on…?

"I was out…" the manboy said, getting a little closer. The smell of him was comforting, like a grandfather's aftershave. "There was a mixer out at the frathouse. I was there until four. Maybe five."

"You've got… witnesses?"

"Am I a suspect?" the manboy asked, looking somewhat bemused.

"Well… um…*cough*" Johnathan replied: "At this point… um… what I mean to say, is… well… I'm sorry, it really must be the flu-"

"Here," the manboy said, handing him a can of Sprite: "I know just what you need."

"Ah, thanks," he said, reaching out and taking it: "It's my favorite, actually."

"I know."

The manboy's eyes flashed again. Their fingertips touched as his hand took the can.

And in that moment, Johnathan felt something in his head go off to one side. Standing there, staring at the boy before him, he felt -

*The same thing that he'd felt when he'd first met his fiance. The same thing he'd felt when he'd met his first girlfriend, all those years ago. The same thing he'd felt the first time he'd consciously masturbated, straddling a Playboy he'd snuck away from his father's workbench. The same thing he'd felt the first time he'd really looked at a girl as something other than someone else's crybaby sister.*

- strange.

Very strange. Maybe he did have the flu, after all. He felt light-headed and a little dizzy.

"I'm sorry…" he said, shaking his head to one side and then the other, trying to loosen the feeling: "I'm…"

"Maybe you should sit down," Brian told him, and Johnathan did, almost without thinking. The couch was very comfortable all of a sudden. He just sat there with his Sprite in his hand, trying to think about what had just happened to him.

"You'll be alright," the boy told him, sitting down next to him and putting a warm hand on his shoulder. Leaning in close, too. Maybe a little too close, but Johnathan didn't mind. Not at all.

"I just feel…" Johnathan tried to say, but Brian shushed him gently.

"It's the salt air," he explained, his mouth coming closer and closer to Johnathan's ear: "They say when it comes over the land like that it can make you dizzy… if it's your first time…"

Johnathan turned

***around to look at Willers, but Willers isn't looking at him. He's staring right at Sharon, who's staring right back at him. He just nods at her, smiling.

Actually smiling for once, as though something has been turned back on in his brain.

Trebuchet's cell phone rings, just then, and he reaches down to look at the number. It isn't anyone he knows. In fact, it's a call from out of state. Where has he seen that area code before…?

"Hello?" he asks, and hears an intake of familiar air.

"Hello, lover," a sickly sweet voice says on the other end: "How are you doing?"

Brian. It's Brian.

Trebuchet tries to hang up, but he can't. Nor can he answer. He's transfixed, like a beetle stuck with a pin.

He stares in space, across the room. Willers and Sharon are kissing each other, deeply. She has her arms draped around his neck, tears running down her face.

There's a knife in her hand. It's a long, large one with strange swirls written along the edge. They make his head spin when he looks at them…

"I just wanted you to know that I still love you," the Man-Boy says: "You never understood that. I really did love you. That's why I chose you. That's why I did everything that I did, and everything that I'm going to do…"

It's like being in a vice, holding that phone. Trebuchet can't even breathe. There's only the phone and the voice, and what his eyes were transfixed upon, just across the room.

thuHD-THUHD-thuHD - what's that noise? - thuHD-THUHD-thuHD.

"Remember that this was all meant to happen,": the voice goes on, its voice slowly being overtaken by that other sound. The sound of a crystal the size of the universe growing… pulsing larger and larger to the beat of a hideous, alien heart. thuHD-THUHD-thuHD. thuHD-THUHD-thuHD.

"Don't worry, Johnathan," Willers says as Sharon starts to run her knife along her tongue: "You won't remember this until it's time. You won't. It's all part of the plan"

Trebuchet screams, hands over his eyes as he falls to the floor, dropping his phone as he does. He's barely aware of being picked up and dragged out the door, screaming all the way as***

his head was taken in Brian's hands, and the manboy lurched forward as if to plant a kiss right in the center of his ear.

"…eta geht taec aep on sie reht" the Manboy said, a gobbet of bloody, flesh-flecked drool dripping down from his pale mouth.

Johnathan screamed through duct-tape, then, looking right at the dead, black eyes of the man he'd shot in Nantucket, so long ago.

Trebuchet was hanging naked from the ceiling in the upstairs room of the Full Moon Killer's house - suspended by joystraps right in front of the huge window overlooking the woods. There were strong curtains pulled over those windows, now, so no one could see inside. The room was flecked with patches of gloom as a result.

The pale figure laughed, stepping backwards into one of those dark spots. It seemed to swallow him like a fish would a worm.

Off in another corner of that darkness, a figure dressed in a black bodystocking was dancing a strange, arhythmic jig. From the sound of the breathing it was Bob Willers.

The Full Moon Killer.

Johnathan screamed again, but hardly any noise came out through the duct-tape gag. He tried to break free of the joystraps they'd shackled him to the ceiling with, but he couldn't get any leverage: his ankles had been handcuffed together. Further attempts to break free only wound up jerking his left shoulder even further out of its socket than it'd been before.

Willers slid over to where Johnathan was, staring at him from under the stocking mask he wore, and returned the scream. Johnathan screamed again, and Willers matched him again. They sounded like human wolves returning one anothers cries.

The Manboy smiled, there in the plastic darkness.

And he was not alone.

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