Saturday, February 23, 2019

Enjoy Chapter Three of The Cheapery St. Heroes: Book Two!


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Fresh Feline Feces and Nose Hairs
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“I DEMAND to know what is going on! Ajax! AJAX!”

   “Who ... Josh? ... Who the hell is ... Josh honey? What’s up with your accent? Who is Ajax?

   He got a hold of his larynx. “I ... what the hell?

   For Esmeralda had just passed out.

   She crumpled to the floor like a pretty leather whip, coiling in about herself in an almost practiced fashion.

   He frantically pulled himself to her with one arm, clutching his throbbing chest with the other. “Baby? Baby? Ez, sweetie?”

   That same haughty voice tried to use his vocal cords again. With convulsive effort he swallowed it back. It roared in his brain instead:

   You will tell me what I am doing RIGHT NOW, or I shall

   He yelled, “Who the f—?”

   What the hell? Was he going schizo?

   The foreign voice tried using his again. He coughed it back. It bellowed in his brain:

   I WANT ANSWERS THIS INSTANT!

   “Blow me,” he muttered. “Ez? C’mon, baby, wake up, wake up ... it’s Josh. Ez?

   “IT IS I WHO SHALL PERSONALLY BLOW ON THE PYRE YOU ARE TIED TO WHEN MY MINIONS SET IT AFLAME!”

   He spat to the side and fitfully shook his head. Panic clutched his chest where unendurable pain did just a moment ago.

   What the hell was happening? His entire upper torso felt like an elephant just sat on it, and now he had some snotty-sounding dude in his mouth and in his head ... and Ez! She was out cold!

   He shouted, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” and got an immediate response, which he swallowed mid-stream:

   “Your involvement in this—”—spell is plain. Denying it will not save you!

   “What ‘spell’?”

   Yes. Good. Good. Ez was still breathing. She was unconscious but breathing.

   “You are obviously—”—a Spellmaker! Do not deny it!

   “ ‘Spellmaker?’ What the hell is that? Why do you sound like Vincent Price on steroids? Who the hell are you? How’d you get in my head? STOP USING MY VOICE!

   “Who is—”—this female? Who is Vincent Price? And why is this female clad in such scandalous garb? Is she your cohort, Spellmaker?

   “You call me a Spellmaker again, schizo-boy, and I swear to God I’ll get a butter knife and cut you out of my brain!”

   The invader tried using his voice again, but this time Josh was ready and growled against it. The invader gave up. Instead:

   You DARE insult Lord Krirankos Zannix?

   Josh, taking it as slowly as he dared, stood. The rush of blood made him woozy, so he bent over at the waist, breathing deeply. When he was sure he wasn’t going to pass out, puke, or both, he gathered Esmeralda in his arms and lifted her. It was then he noticed the bruise on her right temple. She must have struck the corner of the dresser on the way down.

   “Shit! Shit!

   He laid her on his bed and covered her with the quilt that lay in a pile on the floor.

   He stood straight (and slowly again) after giving her forehead a kiss and examining the bruise more carefully.

   The female is wounded, but will be all right. She will recover.

   “And you know this how, exactly?”

   It would have felt more reassuring knowing he was simply going nuts. But this wasn’t insanity. There was someone in his frickin’ head(!), and now he was sure that the heart attack, or whatever the hell it was, was responsible. It was also responsible for Esmeralda’s current state. No damn doubt about it.

   You will address me as Lord Krirankos Zannix!

   “Well, Lord Kree,” he grumbled low, the volume steadily rising, “you can address me as The Guy Who’s Gonna Kick Your Disembodied Ass Six Ways to Sunday if you don’t SHUT THE HELL UP!

   He struck the wall for each word at the end of his declaration. The apartment shuddered.

   The phone rang.

   What is that infernal device?

   It was on the floor near the dresser. He went to it, picked it up, righted himself cautiously, and pressed the TALK icon after bringing it to his ear. “Sorry, A.J. I just got held up. My ... girlfriend passed out.”

   The voice on the other end of the line hesitated. “Wha—? She okay? Wait a minute. You don’t have a girlfriend!”

   You ARE a Spellmaker! That device can work in no other fashion! I will see you flayed alive, your charred corpse ...

   “SHUT THE HELL UP!”

   “Take it easy, Josh! Damn! I was just kiddin’!”

   Josh took a shaky breath. “Sorry, A.J. I wasn’t talkin’ to you.”

   “I certainly hope not! I might be deaf in my right ear now! Look, we can get Martinelli if you ...”

   You shall put that enchanted device down at once, Spellmaker, or I shall

   “Yeah. Martinelli’s great. I need to look after my ... well, hell, just do it, A.J.”

   He hung up and tossed the phone on the dresser.

   He wasn’t going crazy, was he? Was he?

   I would not know. And I certainly do not care. Now return me to my own body, or I shall

   “If you utter another word without askin’ me first, I promise you, Krispy Kreme, I will do everything I can not only to keep you from gettin’ back to whatever body you have, I WILL SEE TO IT THAT YOU END UP A BLOODY MASS OF GRAY MATTER IN A SURGEON’S TRAY! I DON’T CARE IF I HAVE TO LOBOTOMIZE MYSELF WITH THE STRAIGHT EDGE IN MY BATHROOM, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

   The unwelcome voice that had identified itself as “Lord Krirankos Zannix” fell silent.

   He stumbled back to Esmeralda. She was still out. The bruise on her head was spreading.

   When she woke, she would have one hell of a headache. Probably a concussion.

   He hurried to the fridge, grabbed a blue pack out of the freezer, and came back. He sat at the edge of the bed and gently pushed it against her head while fingering her hair away from her face.

   The mind-invader found the pack and the refrigerator fascinating. Josh could feel those emotions and knew they weren’t his.

   I would like to make a helpful observation about the female. That is, if I may, said Lord Kree sneeringly.

   Josh growled. “I thought I just told you ...”

   You talk a good game, young man, and I am certain that your associates believe you when you speak to them, or, in my case, rage incoherently, but you forget: I am in your head and I can tell that you are, as it is said, attempting to ‘pull the wool’ over my eyes. It will not work. My eyes are now your eyes. Now: may I continue?

   “Make it short,” he replied between gritted teeth. It seemed as though Vincent Price (Lord Vincent Price) had given up trying to appropriate his voice. The extremely odd urge to bellow without knowing what wanted to come out had passed.

   Thank you. The female’s pallor suggests that something else may be occurring with her. She most certainly has a concussion, as you call it, yes, but the underlying cause for her abrupt loss of consciousness is not being addressed.

   “What, are you some sorta doctor or somethin’, is that it?”

   I am a physician, yes.

   “I should get her to a hospital.”

   That would be wise, and I would truly enjoy seeing such a facility, judging by what I can already see in your mind, but I believe I can bring this “Ez” back to full and robust health instantly, if you would be so kind as to allow me to help.

   Josh didn’t miss the sarcasm and contempt in Lord Kree’s voice drip through after ‘instantly.’

   “I’ll just call the ambulance,” he said, standing up to retrieve his phone.

   Wait. Wait! If I can help, will you believe that I am real and not a consequence of your so-called “heart attack”?

   He held up.

   It was too tempting an offer. He was close to flailing panic with this goddamned voice. (Again, thankfully, it had stopped trying to appropriate his larynx.) Regardless, he felt almost incapacitated.

   “What do you want me to do?”

   I require red berries—the redder the better, any variety—strong alcohol of any kind, any edible fatty substance, a small handful of dry soil, and a lump of fresh feline feces, preferably from a feral species. Also, I shall require at least one of the female’s nose hairs. Immediately, if you would.

   “What the f—?”

   What does that mean, the word you refuse to finish, but the same one I can hear plainly inside your skull?

   “You want ... cat shit? nose hairs? dirt? What—the—”

   NOW, please, young man! Stop wasting my time, and stop wasting yours!

   “Just where the hell am I going to get cat shit?”

   You already know the answer to that. My goodness, you are worse than Ajax!

   Josh was about to ask who the f— Ajax was, but suddenly knew. He could “see” who it was in his—no, Lord Kree’s—mind! It kept him from moving, because he could “see” the rest of it, too.

   “What the major f—?”

   Why do you keep cutting off that word? I can see now what it means! It is a natural function of all living beings to copulate! Why are you wasting both your time and your companion’s, not to mention MINE? She is in immediate need of help! Why do you just stand there like a useless pile of useless servant dung?

   “You said you were a physician! And you just said a minute ago that she’ll be all right, that she’ll recover! You said that!”

   I AM a physician! As one, I amend my diagnosis. The female needs urgent care.

   “Right, right. You’re a physician who raises ... zombies?

   Would it not be better to get the ingredients I requested instead of simply standing stupidly in place trying to see who and what I am in my world, wherever it may now be?

   “Cat shit?”

   Young man, MOVE YOUR ASS!

   “Fine! Fine!”

   Josh barreled into the kitchen. He grabbed a pair of latex gloves from under the sink while Lord Kree marveled at the indoor plumbing technology he spied, thinking aloud about how such technology, along with the refrigerator, could have —saved me years of trouble. The latex, too, impressed him. Josh snapped the gloves on, grabbed his lock pick pack, and threw open the door to his apartment, moving down the corridor at a jog.

   “There’s an old lady down in 1021 at the end. Name’s Macy. She’s out of town. She has a cat. It ain’t feral. Will that still work?”

   We will see, said Lord Kree imperiously, as though failure to impress him would be met with certain and horrific doom.

   He got to the door. Bending, he inserted the picks and frantically started working them. A moment later the door opened. It was Macy. She glared down at him.

   “Josh? What in blazes do you want? Why are you trying to break into my apartment?”

   He heard Lord Kree chuckle in his mind. It sounded like the overdone laugh of the villain in a horror flic.

   He stood. “Damnit, Mace, I thought you were ... I mean ... I need ...”

   He pushed past her, then spun about. Macy was a very sweet ninety-year-old woman he had kept an eye on since she moved into the building two years ago. He often fed her and checked on her, and last year spent Christmas Eve with her. She was very intelligent—an ex-college English professor—with an acidic sense of humor. Despite their age difference, he considered her a close friend.

   “Your cat ... Stripes, is it? ... I need some of Stripes’ ...”

   He couldn’t finish. “Aw, the hell with this ...”

   He went to leave as Macy gawked.

   Young man, STOP! Do as I say! Now!

   He stopped.

   “Josh, what the holy hell is wrong?” demanded Macy, who grabbed his forearm. “What’s going on? What do you need from Stripes? Why ...” she stared at his latex gloves “... why are you wearing those?”

   He gaped at her blankly. “Mace ... I think I’m losin’ my damn mind ...”

   You HAVE lost your mind—to ME! I will make you one of my undead! That is, IF YOU DO NOT IMMEDIATELY RETRIEVE THE CAT FECES I NEED TO SAVE YOUR SCANTILY CLAD MATE!

   “All right, Vincent! ALL RIGHT!

   As Macy gaped, he turned and marched into the kitchen. He knew where Stripes’ litter box was. He had taken care of him while Macy visited relatives back in April.

   He flung open the closet.

   There it was. It looked like Macy had changed it out. The cat litter looked fresh.

   “Son of a ...”

   It would help if you learned to complete your sentences, young man.

   Macy came up behind him.

   “Josh, who is Vincent? You look very pale. You need to sit a minute. Shall I call a doctor?”

   I AM a doctor, peasant woman!

   She grabbed his arm at the same instant that Stripes meandered into the closet, stepped into the box, and squatted, glaring resentfully up at him.

   The damn cat started pooping! Yes!

   It pawed over its efforts when it finished, then hopped out and ran and hid in Macy’s bedroom. Josh bent and scooped the crap up. The warmth of it radiated through the thin rubber of the glove.

   Excellent, declared Lord Kree. Return at once to your hovel and place the feces in a mixing container. We need dry soil; this gray matter called “litter,” whatever it is, will not do ...

   Josh was already hurrying to one of Macy’s ferns. He got to it and with his free hand began digging around. He pulled up a clod of rooty soil that appeared too moist.

   “Does it need to be totally dry?”

   This should do.

   Macy hadn’t stopped gawking.

   He had to have appeared ridiculous, what with one latexed fist holding cat shit and the other holding a clump of semi-dry dirt. To her credit, she hadn’t phoned the police to come and throw him in a rubber wagon. Yet.

   “Josh? Honey? I am genuinely concerned for your state of mind. Please talk to me. What can I do to help?”

   Red berries! Ask her about

   “Ya got any berries, Mace?”

   Red! Red, you brainless oaf!

   “Ya got any RED berries, Mace? Any at all?”

   “Sure, sure,” she croaked. “Will ... cranberries do? Dried?”

   What are ‘cranberries’?

   “They should,” he grumbled, ignoring Kree. “Can ya get me a handful, put ‘em in a baggie or somethin’? Do it quick?”

   “Sure, hon, sure. You just wait right here. I’ll be right back.”

   She left the room shaking her head.

   “Great,” he murmured. “She thinks I’m nuts.”

   What does that mean, “nuts”?

   “She thinks I’m insane, all right?”

   She is a woman, and a peasant at that. What does her opinion matter in the slightest?

   “You should be real glad you don’t have your own body, Kree, because I’d kick the living shit out of you if you did.”

   Your threats are facile and impotent. I create zombies; you chase hoodlums. My occupation, it should be obvious, is the one that demands fear and respect, and speaks to my superior intelligence, despite the technology you and your people appear to possess.

   “The asskicking is gonna happen, you snotty jackoff,” he snarled under his breath. “I don’t know how or when, but I promise—”

   Macy came back into the room. In her grip was a baggie half-full of dried cranberries.

   Those are sufficient, Lord Kree announced. Take them and return to your mate at once. We still require ...

   Josh ignored whatever Kree said next. He took the berries and grumbled, “I’ll explain all of this to you, Mace ... someday ... maybe.... Thanks.”

   He bent and gave her a quick peck, then ran out of her apartment.






Back in his “hovel,” he snatched an infrequently-used mixing bowl from the cabinet and put the cat shit, soil, and berries in it under Kree’s instruction, then yanked off the gloves and threw them with a disgusted scowl into the trash.

   “What now? Is the cat litter going to be a problem?”

   It shouldn’t. Nor should those roots. They may actually help. I still require strong alcohol and an edible fatty substance. I also require one of the girl’s nose hairs. Now!

   “Oh, I’ll get right on it.”

   He turned and opened the fridge and snatched the butter. “Will this do?”

   What is it?

   “It’s butter! What the hell do you think it is?”

   Butter is excellent. Lop off your thumb’s thickness into the bowl, and then get some strong alcohol. Do you have strong alcohol?

   “I’m a crappily paid detective with no love life. What do you think?”

   I have no idea what any of that means.

   “Of course you don’t. Will this do?”

   He opened another cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniels.

   I can see into your memories somewhat. Many nights you spent drinking this poison. Yes. It will do. Pour three capfuls of it into the mixture.

   Josh did as told.

   The mixture looked heinous—and smelled worse.

   Return to your sleeping chamber and extract one of the girl’s nose hairs.

   “Freak.”

   I shall relish letting my zombies gnaw on the still-warm bones of your shattered corpse.

   “It’s a date, bitch.”

   I AM NOT A WOMAN!

   Josh grabbed tweezers from his bathroom cabinet and was quickly back at Esmeralda’s side. He looked up her nose.

   “She doesn’t have any nose hairs!”

   All humans have them, declared Lord Kree. Insert the forceps and pull. You must be quick; observe her head!

   “I’m observing!”

   Esmeralda’s temple looked truly gruesome. The bruise had spread and was an ominous black and blue. She seemed to be having trouble breathing.

   Josh gently put the tweezers up her right nostril, pinched, and gave a short tug.

   Sitting on the metal was a single tiny hair.

   “Is that going to be enough?”

   Yes. “Tweezers”? What a curious name. Take the “tweezers” to the rest of the ingredients and place the hair in the mixture, then mix it thoroughly.

   “I was afraid you were going to tell me to do that.”

   He went back to the kitchen, located an old wooden spoon, and began quickly mixing the batch of butter, cat shit, dried cranberries, soil, alcohol, and the tiny nose hair, which disappeared instantly in the grotesque puddle.

   The smell made him nauseous. When it was little more than a brown, lumpy mixture a minute later, Kree told him to stop.

   I require the use of your vocal chords, the unwelcome imperious spirit announced. I also require that you stop thinking for a moment or two. Your thoughts will truncate my will.

   “What—?”

   JUST DO AS I SAY!

   “Fine! Fine!”

   Stare without blinking into the mixture. You need to put your face right over it.

   “Jesus on a soap rope! Is this all right with your uppity eminence?”

   Shut off that useless organ you call a brain for a moment! Lower! LOWER!

   “I swear to God I’m going to kick that Vincent Price ass of yours so hard when we meet face-to-face ...”

   Before Lord Kree could retort, which Josh could feel was coming, he closed his eyes for a few seconds and tried calming his jumbled, racing, invaded mind. He opened them when he achieved a minimal measure of success and stared as hard as he could into the nasty mixture beneath his chin, holding his breath.

   Lord Kree said something in a foreign language that sounded vaguely like it came from a drunken Frenchman. It came out of Josh’s throat as though his larynx knew it and hadn’t bothered teaching him.

   Like magic, a spark formed just above the mixture and dropped like a feather into it.

   FLASH!

   He fell backwards, losing his balance and landing on his butt, his back slamming against the dishwasher.

   “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” he roared through his hands, fighting to blink away the afterimage.

   Hurry, said Lord Kree. Pick up the pill and take it to your prostitute and give it to her!

   He struggled to his feet. Blinking and squinting, he grabbed the kitchen counter and pulled himself up. When he was able, he glanced into the mixing bowl.

   “Son of a ...”

   The mixture had transformed into a small brown pill! He picked it up and tried inspecting it.

   You haven’t time to dawdle, young man. Into your sleeping chamber!

   Pill in hand, he stumbled into his bedroom. Esmeralda was still unconscious.

   Open her mouth and place the pill inside. It will dissolve instantly once it touches her saliva.

   “She’s gonna have one serious case of bad breath afterward,” he grumbled. “I ain’t ever kissin’ that mouth again. Damn shame. She was a really good kisser.”

   Yes, said Lord Kree with an odd hitch in his voice. I can sense those memories. Very pleasant use of her tongue.

   “Stay outta my memories, Lord Pervert!”

   I will truly enjoy making you one of my undead, sniffed Lord Kree, coming back to himself with effort that Josh could plainly feel. Now give this woman my pill!

   He opened Esmeralda’s mouth and inserted the pill, grimacing at her temple. The bruise had spread down to her cheek. Her breathing was shallow and sippy, her skin colorless and clammy.

   “This better work ... Damnit, this better work! ... C’mon, Ez, baby ... c’mon ...c’mon!

   As if by magic, the pill, which was sitting on the tip of her tongue, suddenly dissolved. When it did, that nasty bruise started receding before his eyes, warmth returned to her cheeks, and she took in a long, deep breath of air. A moment later her eyes opened.

   “Ez,” he sighed with relief. “Ez, baby ... How are you doing?

   The female should rest

   Esmeralda grabbed him and pulled his head down to hers and kissed him like she was starving for the need of one.

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