Monday, January 2, 2017

Sanguine Redundare

     Being in the middle of the Inquisitor’s workroom was like walking into a Heart of the Seven Faeries carnival – so many varieties of red splattered everywhere that it seemed no other colors existed. Knowing the sticky, brick colored drippings to be that miraculous fluid that somehow kept the body functioning was one thing; using a squeegee, an ice scrapper, and tons of alcohol to remove it from the floors, walls, and ceiling was a wholly different thing. Mr. Vorant stood in the basement stairwell staring at the crumpled carcass of the ancient justice, Levi Bayleaf. “What were you even doing there, eh, old man?” Vorant grumbled. Rolling his shoulders, one by one, Vorant prepared himself, thinking, always get the good jobs, don’t ya? He laughed, “o’course, ‘cause they’re a bunch o’silly bitches.” He set the cleaning supplies down next to the door, slipped on a pair of shoe covers, and entered the torture chamber. Quickly surveying the extent of the spatter, Vorant wondered, what does he do? Play in it? Vorant’s entire afternoon was blown. Not that he’d had other plans, just that he hadn’t woken with ‘clean up the Inquisitor’s mess’ on his agenda for the day. He lifted the dead man’s head by the chin, gave it a squeeze and a shake, and then, grabbed the forehead to make the man talk, “too bad for you,” Vorant mocked himself with a nasally West Donian accent. “Too bad for you,” he repeated in his own voice as he dropped the head.
     Everyone develops private rituals. Picking up the justice, Vorant carefully carried and set the corpse on the solid steel autopsy table that the Inquisitor had long ago stolen from Ambrosia General Hospital’s morgue—a feat Vorant didn’t bother wondering about. After laying out the body, Vorant returned to the cleaning supplies he’d left outside the door. He bent down to dig through the box, occasionally dropping his desired tools onto the ground. Slamming the roll of paper towels back into the box, he looked up the stairs, rolled his eyes, and grunted, “figures.” He yanked his pile of tools off the ground, carried them to the autopsy table, and then dropped them between the corpse’s legs. He put a hand on the former justice’s shoulder and said, “be right back, Shiny. Left my favorite saw upstairs.”

     Paranoia was swiftly becoming Clara’s best friend—her only friend. She’d somehow stumbled into a slaver’s circle. And, her ex-asshole was involved. This was a trap, Clara ground her teeth, I don’t even think so, bitch. Squeezing Kate’s arm even harder, Clara ordered, “explain the layout,” she indicated the false wall with a flick of her chin.
     “Uh,” Kate didn’t answer, her eyes darted all around the bazaar.
     “Answer me,” Clara ordered as she shook Kate by the arm. Neither woman noticed the slow trickle of blood that dripped off Kate’s elbow. “You want to help him, you answer me, now!”
     “It’s a big room set up like a warehouse. The back wall hides the passage down. That’s where the runaways are kept,” Kate sighed, “until we can get them out.”
     “Runaways?” Clara asked suspiciously.
     “Runaways,” Kate met Clara’s glare with anger, “need help. That’s what we do. We help.”
     “We can talk about it later,” Kate said as she ripped her arm out of Clara’s grip. “Right now, those fucks have my son and half a dozen runaways are relying on me to protect them.” Without discussing it further, Kate slipped around Clara and made her way to the aisle full of kitchen goods.  
     Quietly following, Clara couldn’t help but smile when she saw Kate slide a thin broiler plate up the front of her shirt. “Really?” Clara whispered.
     Kate answered by handing Clara one. After fiddling with her clothing to get the damn thing to sit naturally, Kate searched the aisle for anything else she could use. She settled on a meat cleaver and the giant lid to an equally giant gumbo pot. Taking a few whacks at the air in front of her while blocking with the lid, Kate approvingly nodded to herself. “Well?” she asked Clara who stood a few feet back watching.
     “Soon as you’re through,” Clara muttered as she grabbed a long handled skillet and a meat tenderizer.
     “Double fisting it?”
     “Seemed reasonable,” Clara shrugged.
     All business, Kate began, “we’ll be exposed going in and on the stairs.” She lifted the lid, “I’d prefer something larger for us to hide behind, but this’ll have to do.” Clara opened her mouth to say something, but Kate continued, “they aren’t expecting us, so if we’re careful we can get my Gab out of the way before anything happens to him.”
     “He’s always expecting us,” Clara mumbled.
     “What?” Kate hissed.
     “The tall guy…” Clara let those three words hang.
     “What about him?” Kate asked as she stepped toward Clara, the meat cleaver raised out from her side.
     “I know him.”
     Part of her longed to deny the words as they flew out of her mouth, “we dated years ago. Big mistake. Almost died,” she shuddered under the weight of her memories. “He’s…he’s bad news.”
     Something in Clara’s tone caused Kate to bounce her stare back and forth from the false wall to the skillet wielding woman next to her. “You dated him?”
     “I use the word loosely,” she closed her eyes a moment, adding, “we make it out alive, I’ll tell you abou…” The skillet and meat tenderizer clattered to the floor. Her eyes bulged and “ooohh,” escaped Clara’s lips as she uselessly back-pedaled.
     Spinning around, Kate came face-to-barrel with the gun in Sparks’ hand. He smiled at her. Without pausing to think, she swung the lid up into his gun arm and followed it with the meat cleaver which she sank into his bicep. The gun exploded next to her ear, the man screamed in horror as she screamed in anger. She yanked the cleaver out of his arm and swung it at his chest over and over again. When she couldn’t lift her arm, much less remove the cleaver from his sternum, Kate stopped. She pushed herself off the body and the slick linoleum where they’d fallen. Weaving over the mess, she couldn’t get her thoughts together. Something…what…what’s going on? she wondered while panting over the butchered man. Her left ear rang. Her whole body hurt. And, she was supposed to be… GABRIEL! They’d taken her son. An afternoon of memories flooded her. That woman! She coughed and fought back the urge to freak out. She had to get her son.
     During the fight between Kate and Sparks, Clara had attempted to vacate the aisle, but in the heat of the moment, she’d frozen where she’d fallen. She’d been unable to take her eyes from the brutal scene unfolding before her. Though she’d never doubted that things would get bloody, she hadn’t counted on the sheer intensity with which Kate had defended herself. She knew that the gun blast had undoubtedly been more than enough to draw Tages’ attention, but, she couldn’t get her limbs or vocal cords to function. When she saw the expression on Kate’s face, her heart sunk. Something’s wrong with me! Damn it! Get up, Clara. Come on, girl. Just get up. While Clara focused on getting up, Kate mouthed, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then disappeared from the aisle.

     The Public Works archives sat on the bottom floor of a mid-sized government building with an obnoxiously large, practically empty parking lot. No signs informed the public of the building’s purpose. Aside from the 150+ employees who regularly worked there, only a handful of people even knew that the building was integral to the continued functioning of Ambrosia City.
     Smacking Jougs on the arm, the Inquisitor pointed to the sky behind the Public Works building, excitedly he asking, “you see that, Mr. Jougs?”
     Looking in the direction the Inquisitor pointed, Jougs squinted, “I don’t know. No. What?”
     He exhaled sharply, growling, “the sky.”
     Jougs just didn’t know what the crazy fuck was on, he snapped, “so? What about it?” The Inquisitor grinned. If Jougs had been someone else it might have been unsettling, as it stood, Jougs was too bull-headed to be put off by anyone’s smile. Instead, he was irritated. Ever since they’d gotten mixed up with this job… he grunted, “so?”
     “Mr. Jougs, that is a sign from dear Iphi,” he pointed at the line of fog that covered the tops of the distant mountains.
     “A sign?”
     “Oh, yes,” the Inquisitor’s eyes widened as his grin grew, “a sign. We have to move fast if we want to take advantage of the fog.”
     Jougs looked up and down the street. He saw a black and white cat climb up a tree, but he didn’t see any fog. “Fog?”
     “Fog,” the Inquisitor repeated.
     “What fog?”
     “Oh, Jougs,” the Inquisitor sighed, “trust me. The fog is coming. Maybe an hour. Maybe two. Get back to the house and let Vorant know that I’ve moved up the timetable.”
     “If you say so,” Jougs shrugged. He’d never been into weather forecasts. Hell, he’d grown up with a weather rock outside. He chuckled at the thought of that old rock and it’s sign: ‘If the rock is wet, it’s raining…’ No one has a sense of humor anymore. He shook his head to himself, watching the black and white cat climb back down the tree before darting into some bushes. Jougs had the distinct feeling of déjà vu. Though he briefly contemplated saying something to the Inquisitor, he held his tongue and followed the giddy assassin back to the car.
     While digging around inside the glove box, the Inquisitor asked, “see anything unusual?”
     Without missing a beat, Jougs asked, “you mean besides us?”
     The Inquisitor shot Jougs a dirty look.
     “Not a thing,” Jougs answered as he settled into the driver’s seat.
     “Ah, there it is,” the Inquisitor said as he removed a blue yo-yo. He tossed it into the air, caught it, and glanced at Jougs. “I’ve got some things to do. You two to handle the…erhm…guest. Soon as you finish, pack up the house, load the car, and meet me…” he paused, thought about it, and then said, “meet me at the Heart of the Seven Faeries.”
     Jougs nearly choked, “you can’t be serious.”
     “I’m absolutely serious.”
     “But, that’s where…”
     “Yes. Yes. I know what happened,” the Inquisitor leaned into the car, “I was there, if you’d be so kind as to remember.”
     “No. That’s what I mean…you were…we were…”
     “Precisely. More important than the past, is what we’ll be doing in the future. Now, hurry. The clock is ticking. The fog is rolling. And, we’re on a tight schedule,” the Inquisitor shut the passenger door, beat the roof, and took a step back. He had a shit-eating grin on his face as he watched the thick-headed member of the duumviri drive away. As the car turned the corner, the Inquisitor flicked his wrist, and the yo-yo spun down his middle finger, with a second flick, the yo-yo rolled up the string to settle firmly in his hand. The second the car was out of sight, he dropped the yo-yo into his jacket pocket, and the grin fell from his face. He scanned the street for any sign that he was being watched. It was an unmistakable feeling that he hadn’t shaken since the day he promised to meet Clara in Merced. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and groaned, “she’s gonna kill me for making her wait.”

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