|The Unofficial Tex Murphy Message Board
|Tex 2 Part Fan Fiction PART 2: The Eternal Rose
|Page 1 of 1|
|Author:||Jen [ Feb 05, 2008 7:00 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Tex 2 Part Fan Fiction PART 2: The Eternal Rose|
(Story takes place post Pandora Directive Path C, Clown Ending)
Tex slouched over the dressing room table, the clown makeup around his mouth smeared from the almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels, and decided maybe this was the day to put that gun to good use and blow the top of his head off...
His eyes were bleary and red, about the same color of the ridiculous clown nose he had yet to take off after tonight’s less than stellar performance. The tent that he had called ‘home shack home’ for the last 3 months was on it’s last legs. A good portion was covered in dirty silver duct tape, the ramshackle sparse furnishings, one of two old wooden folding chairs, a moldering cot with an ever more repulsive smelling pillow, and a discarded horse blanket was the ‘bedroom’ side of tent.
The dressing room side was a broken footlocker that didn’t latch, an army surplus duffle bag, and a small card table with an old lady’s makeup mirror with lights. Of course the bulbs had long burnt out, save one, and it was this meager light Tex looked at himself by, wondering how everything had gone so wrong.
He cursed at himself in the mirror. “I didn’t even get to bang Regan for God’s sake…why in the hell did you pass that up?”
A little voice inside the back of his head told him that he would have never made it out alive if he hadn’t-- that his moment of redemption would never have happened.
“Redemption….” He let the words trail off in the dark, bitterly. “Right.”
He put his face in his hands and thought again about the gun buried in the duffle bag. It had been a long time since he had held it; it was about the only thing of value he still had to his name. He had long term pawned the speeder to Rook, and he was sure the cheap bastard had sold it out from underneath him the morning he left town.
He grabbed the bottle and drained the last few swallows, and stared at it forlornly. Payday was 3 days away, and that was the last bottle. The chow tent kept his meager need for food filled, but there was going to be no getting around the night sweats and trembling that awaited him till Friday. Still, he might be able to get an advance.
The flap of his tent flew open and his foul smelling boss strode in.
“Christ Murphy…use the employee trench like everyone else…it’s smells like a $#it heap in here.”
“You know, that’s true. But there was no trace of it until you walked in.”
Wedge Cooper, the owner of the seedy sideshow and circus, could have been a first cousin to the species of sub human he liked to call Nilo-erecuts. His wife beater T-shirt was soiled and smelly, it was the only thing he wore under his Master of Ceremonies costume every night, and it looked like it hadn’t been changed in a week. He had short man-itis, swelling of the ego, and undeservedly so, the show since he had joined up always seemed on the verge of bankruptcy.
Still, there was a good chance Tex didn’t know everything that was going on behind the scenes, and at this point, he didn’t really care. He had a hard enough time just taking care of number one, and he didn’t eat enough for number two.
Tex also realized quickly that he shouldn’t have insulted the man that he was going to have to grovel to for an advance. So he sheepishly shut his mouth, for the moment.
“Funny…you’re a funny guy Murphy. So why the hell do I have more complaints about you freaking out the kids?”
“Why do I have to be the bad guy? I’m just telling them the truth about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Vice President.”
“Well, yuk this up. This is your last night as a clown. You’re fired.”
“What?” Tex’s mouth went dry. “You’re firing me?”
“Did you wedge those extra noses I gave you in your ears. Yeah you’re fired. Jeanne made the decision tonight.”
Tex decided to play an angle.
“You let your wife decide what happens in your show?”
“Shut your yap. Course I do! You think I want to sleep out with you pukes?”
He nervously scratched his black and grey overgrowth on his pockmarked cheeks.
“Besides, I got an offer for you. Off the books.”
Tex leaned back in his chair…and it almost crumpled beneath him. He quickly righted himself, but his composure was lost.
“What’s your offer?”
“I think my wife’s having an affair. I want you to find out. We got a pre-nup with some conditions. I need proof. ”
Tex beamed, the first offer of his PI skills in months. He cracked his knuckles and looked up at him.
“My services are $400 a day plus expenses.”
Wedge broke out into raucous laughter that quickly tapered into a long, lung tearing coughing fit.
“You really are a clown. $200 a day, no expenses. You get to keep your stuff here and stay for the next few days. I want to know fast. You’ve got 5 days, and if I think you’re jerking me around--I take a couple of teeth from your smart ass mouth.”
He tossed 3 c notes to the ground. “Here’s you’re freaking advance. Whadda you say?”
Tex quickly snatched the money like a drowning man to a life vest, the DT’s safely avoided for a good long while.
“Well I’ll do a little preliminary work. I should have a final answer to you by tomorrow night. I do believe though, that we’ll be doing business.”
“That’s the most namby pamby way of saying yes I’ve ever heard, but I’ll take it Murphy. I don’t want word of this getting out, she’s got friends here. I have no idea who’s she’s boinking; whether it’s one of the carnies or a mark. But I want pictures…in flagentre, if you know what I mean. “ He tossed him a digital camera, Electronic Shack blue light special.
He paused again, and looked at Tex with a wink. “Unless she’s doing another chick….then I want video of it”
Tex went to stand.
“Nah, don’t get up. It doesn’t look like you’d make it two dozen steps. Sleep it off, and I’ll see you tomorrow.
He left the tent, and Tex went to wondering how he could turn the cash into liquid treasure. His mind was racing, and didn’t notice that someone was knocking at his tent flap. Wiggling the fabric was more like it.
“Hey…hey….you in there?”
Tex stopped. Now dead cold sober. He knew that voice. He hadn’t heard it in months. Tears immediately sprang to his eyes. He looked down at himself, ashamed, and pulled off his nose, grabbed a rag from the floor and wiped off his makeup as fast as he could, all while trying to keep his voice from cracking. He failed.
He was missing the paper hat and the apron, his hair was neatly combed, but the sight of his old friend made Tex’s throat catch.
“Is that you Moiph?”
“Sad to say…but yes.” Tex could barely meet his eyes.
“My goodness, they haven’t been feeding you right. You’re awfully scrawny there pal.”
Tex fought hard to keep from crying. He’d abandoned Louie, snuck out without even a good-bye and there he was, thinking about feeding him. He was a thousand miles from San Francisco, hadn’t told anyone where he was headed, but Louie had tracked him down.
“How in the heck did you find me?”
Louie shrugged non-committally. “You know, I put some feelers out. I had a few friends out east. It doesn’t really matter. Important thing is, that you’re ok.”
“If you can call this ok.” Tex revisited his earlier thoughts about the gun, and shuddered, thinking about how poor Louie would have felt to come across his sorry remains…just a little too late…and forced himself to banish the idea from his mind.
“Truth is Moiph, Chelsee is looking for you. She needs you. But don’t tell her I tracked you down, you know how hard it is for her to ask for help.”
Tex perked up.
“Don’t get any ideas. She told me about the blow up you guys had in the Fuschia Flamingo, and too be honest, I don’t blame her. You did her wrong. She deserved better than that.”
The thought of how he behaved that night made him flinch. The overwhelming need for Jack Daniels came rushing in--and the monkey that had climbed on his back hard these last few months started screeching in his ear.
“What does she need? My heart ground into smaller pieces?”
Louie looked taken aback. “Jeez…you don’t act like the old friend I know. Her friend in Phoenix is gone, Chelsee thinks something bad might have happened to her.”
“Why me? Why not the police department.?”
“She’s a mutant Murph, they don’t care about us. They took 10 minutes, filed a report, and nothing. She’s at her wits end. And more than that, her newsstand? They want to sell it back to her, for 3 times the price. She’s broke and desperate.”
Tex pondered it. How much had he changed since he hit the path of broken dreams? Part of him didn’t want to know. Going back to a life he left behind with no money and no prospects…
The 3 one hundred dollar bills looked at him, and his urge to drink away all the confusion in his mind overwhelmed him.
What would he decide?
“Louie….my brain is a little fried right now.”
Louie sensed the brush off and got up from the worn olive green army cot. He stood awkwardly, unsure how to talk to this semi-stranger that used to be one of his best friends. He didn’t know how to reach out and comfort him…didn’t know if that’s what Tex really needed.
“Well, I understand. I’m sure this was quite the surprise.”
“To say the least.” Tex exhaled with a sigh of relief, sensing Louie was backing away.
“Listen, I’m staying the night at a motel, a few miles from here. The blue lady.” He straightened the rust colored button down shirt, and kicked some non existent dust from his brown leather shoes. “I’m in room 17. Take some time to sleep on it, think it over. Checkout’s at noon. If I don’t hear from you by then, I’ll know what you’ve decided.”
“Thanks, you’re a real pal.”
Tex had yet to stand, and Louie noticed. There was a lot of strength behind the mutants kind eyes, and he hoped that there was still some left in his old friend. There was doubt in his mind though. Tex was taller than the owner of the Brew and Stew, but right now, Louie looked like the bigger man.
Louie extended his beefy hand, and his other well muscled arm came around to cuff Tex’s shoulder. As he shook it, he took the time to look into his friends eyes one last time.
“I sure hope to hear from you. But whatever happens, you take care of yourself ok?”
Tex could barely meet his friends steady gaze. ”Will do.”
And with that, Louie ducked at his head, exiting the tent, leaving Tex behind.
His shoulders dropped in a sodden heap as his exhale, part groan, rattled out. He threw the ridiculous rainbow clown wig aside over handed, with a fierceness he didn’t know he had. But there was no satisfying clunk against the wall, only the soft whisper of fabric. He looked at the empty bottle, but decided he really didn’t want to clean up the residual mess that would result.
The silence fell around him-- so disquieting that he had to drum his leg just to sense some sort of movement around him. He looked over what his life had become…aimless, lonely and found it wanting. Seriously wanting.
Still, there was the night to decide on what to do. He picked up the cheap silver plastic digital camera, and turned it on. The batteries were fully charged and there was plenty of room on the memory card, but there was a pitifully minimal zoom lens on it. He was going to have to be reasonably close to the action to get anything concrete. He only hoped that Jeanne like to play patty-cake with the lights on, cause if he had to use the flash, there would only be one shot before he ran.
He had been fired upon before in a similar situation. The heavily muscled and hairy man jumping off the naked woman; grabbing his sidearm, and making a beeline for Tex. The memory of that thing pointed at him, well…that and the gun, was burned painfully in his subconscious. It was something Tex never wanted to encounter again.
He stripped off the clown suit, tossing it in the footlocker. The whole idea of this case took him slightly by surprise. Jeanne had seemed like a quiet lady of quality. Most of the people he had come to know here wondered what she saw in the dirty little man.
Still, it wasn’t in him right now to figure out women, lord knows he’d had little to no success in that department in the past anyway. He decided to take a walk out to the midway and beyond, maybe to the owners RV, just to see what he could see.
The night broke into life around him as he walked away from his tent and onto the fairway. The marks had left for the night, but the carnies were still up and about, resetting for the next day, or drinking heavily, laughing and catcalls abounded.
Tex waved at familiar faces that gestured to him, and dodged the juggling master, who at the moment had six flaming torches in the air. The juggler’s long dreadlocks seemed to skirt disaster, barely missing a passing torch. A gold tooth flashed from the front of his wide smile, and his copper skin shone by the firelight as his hands deftly worked, tossing .
“How you doing clown man? Looks like you’re on a mission.” He spoke in a southern Louisianan drawl, more than a touch of Creole in his blood.
“Actually, I’m looking for Wedge. I have some questions for him.”
The Creole shook his head laughing. “Yea, I’ve seen him, over by the hooch tent. But he’s in no mood for the likes of you, I’m sure.”
Tex watched him distractedly as he extinguished his torches one by one.
“Would you like to hang out with us for a little while? My wife loves to hear your wild stories, plus she makes a much better stew than the gruel they serve here. We could crack out the bottle, maybe a little extra something….you know.”
He made a gesture with his hand up to his mouth pulling on the dregs of a joint, but Tex passed it up.
“Thanks for the offer, I hope you’ll give me a rain check on that.”
He nodded. “Go find your man. Later.” He gathered his torches, and pointed in the direction of where the boss was.
Tex walked past ‘sucker row’; the wheels of chance, shooting range and milk bottle games. In his time here he learned about uneven darts, weighted bottles, and electrical magnets that could be turned off and on by foot pedal allowing a 6 year old in front of a crowd to knock over and win, and suck the money from the men who wanted to show off to their girlfriends. The smell of sawdust and cotton candy permeated the air, but there was a deeper, underlying presence of desperation, like vomit that had been quickly covered, but not fully washed away.
He ducked into a small alley where there was almost no light, and made his way toward the less reputable section of the carnival. There were no true sideshow freak tents; after the radiation of WW3, mutations were rampant, and what was once novelty, walked on the streets everyday. But palm readers, tarot card shacks, and crystal balls abounded, along with women that for a little more money would do a little more than just dance.
As Tex approached the area, what he saw out of the corner of his eye disgusted him. Wedge had up in his arms a giggling and squirming girl that couldn’t have been more than 18. She was obviously drunk, her eyes dazed and unfocused. Wedge looked lecherously down at her, and was walking her toward a dark alley, where more than once Tex had come across people in the act….
He quickly grabbed the camera and shot a few pictures, cursing the poor light.
Fairly certain he had captured the moment, he wondered how best to deal with what he had. Should he show them to Jeanne, or blackmail Wedge for more money and his job back? It’s obvious Wedge had thought Tex was drunk and out of it for the night, or he wouldn’t have taken such a risk.
After pondering it for a few minutes, he decided to pay Jeanne a visit. Whether he showed her the pictures or not, he was hoping to get a little bearing, clear his head, maybe even a reason on why he was being canned.
He made his way over to the trailer that belonged to the owners, and knocked. Jeanne’s voice beckoned him inside, her leg was acting up tonight, could he please let himself in?
He ducked his head as he entered the cramped but tidy trailer. A hundred years or more of carnival memorabilia decorated the walls, magicians with piercing eyes, PT Barnum flyers, and a huge, striking picture of an full grown elephant that had been hung, dead, from a crane. Tex didn’t know what to take in first. After he looked all around, Jeanne offered him a seat in a rich hand carved wooden chair next to her own.
Tex fidgeted, not sure what to say or do. Jeanne level gaze, her calm green eyes with flecks of gold around the edge, held Tex’s for a moment.
“I know why you’re here.” She perched daintily or her soft floral chair, white with pink roses interwoven in the fabric. She seemed older than her years. Everyone had mentioned she was in her early 50’s, but the frailness in how she carried herself, the paper thin skin that draped in wrinkles, reminded him of his grandmother before she passed away at 85. But her eyes were very alert, and they smiled like a teenager. Her hair was pure white, pulled into a long braid that went all the way down her back. Jeanne was slender, and she dressed simply, pale button down shirt dressed in lace with tiny buttons that must have been murder on her arthritic, knobby fingers. Her skirt green and flowing, and simple tan sandals adorned her tiny feet. No one had any idea how or why she ever got married to such a slime ball.
“I know what’s on that camera, and I appreciate you wanting to share that information with me, but it doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t understand. Your husband paid me to find out who you were sleeping with, while he was doing that on the side….”
“Tex honey, there is no one that has more suspicions than someone who is hiding something themselves. Didn’t your years as a PI tell you that? Aren’t your instincts whispering in your ear?”
Her hand reached up to brush a small wisp of hair from her eyes.
“Don’t you think it was slightly odd that you were fired the very same night that your past moved back into your present? When I saw your friend in the audience tonight, I knew I had to force my hand. Cut your ties here, get you back to thinking like a PI. I planted a seed in Wedge’s mind. Draw him to you—knowing it would lead you here to me.”
“How much do you actually know about me?”
She smiled sadly, shaking her head slowly, as if talking to a wayward six year old child.
“Too much, I’m afraid. And now that your friend has come and gone, I’m certain the others will not be far behind. I hoped you would have moved on before they found you, but I guess such things are left to others higher up than myself.”
She leaned forward, taking Tex’s large hands in her fragile ones. He could see the delicate blue veins flowing into her wrists.
“You have to leave tonight. There are things, and people that cannot be found just yet. Not all the pieces have fallen into place, and many who play a part are still unaware of it.”
Tex looked flustered. “What the hell are you talking about? Why does it always seem like people won’t give me a straight answer?”
She sat back, releasing his hands, shoulders dropping as if a sandbag had fallen on them. “Listen to your dreams. Do you have waking dreams?”
His eyes closed, trying to remember. “My dreams... I don’t remember them. Only disjointed images and sounds that make no sense.”
She nodded her head, closing her eyes. “You drown them in the bottle you keep by your side every night. But that is your choice. And your choice is an albatross around your neck, and a veil over your eyes.” She leaned forward again.
“Are you a spiritual man?”
“Only in the 120 proof category.” His attempt at frivolity was poorly received.
“Then this may all be wasted. But I have to tell you, before you go, there are many lives that will be lost if you don’t lift the fog around you. There have been some already, yes?”
Tex’s chest sunk like a hammer wrapped in gauze struck him full on. He achingly remembered watching Emily’s life being choked out of her without a drop of mercy, while he watched on, acting too late to save her.
And poor geeky little Archie Ellis, who’s only crime was being a little too close to a dangerous truth. A simple vid-phone call or visit could have saved his life, but Tex didn’t think to act, wrapped up in other things, his focus misguided. And Thomas Malloy, he had brought his killer right to his door. He mashed his hands up to his temples, grinding them, willing his brain to shut down. He couldn’t let himself think anymore about any of it, or he just might act on the thought that hounded him.
“For both our sakes, and for the secrets I must hide for now, you have to go back. Someone in India you met not too long ago has a part to play here. And a woman who you were led to believe betrayed you. There are others that I don’t know about, and I’m thankful. The less I know the better. It seems to have worked for you quite well.”
Tex didn’t know if he’d just been insulted or not.
Jeanne reached her hand down to the small purse that lay on the floor by her chair. She grabbed the overflowing wallet, and unwrapped an gigantic wad of cash. Her eyes narrowed in focus, and she brought her fingertip to her tongue as she counted out the hundreds, in an alarming number. All Tex could do was sit back and watch amazed as she held more in her hands than he had since the Moon Child reward.
She gathered a few piles and handed them slowly to Tex, explaining each one.
“$8000 from the woman in your past you thought only used you. $1600 current and back pay. And $400 for tonight’s work. Add that to your advance, and it should be right. Don’t sell yourself short again. Pick your fee and stick with it. No matter what. Because, and trust me in this Tex, in spite of yourself, your results are worth much, much more. “
She sat back again, this time with a contented sigh.
“I guess I’ll drop the mysterious and cryptic talk now, and send you on your way.” Jeanne paused and smiled softly.
“I liked watching you, you know. When you weren’t drunk out there….you had a way to you that set folks at ease. Some people that I knew were scared of clowns, took right to you. You’ve got some gifts, that’s for sure. Let’s hope you unbury them in time to do some good. Whoops, there’s that cryptic talk again.”
She laughed and the years fell away, and she looked young again for the briefest of moments.
“I wish you well.” She smiled haltingly.
“I’m afraid I can’t offer you a ride, but I can tell you this. The road leads 3 miles south. At the fork, take the one on the left, and you’ll find the Blue Lady a stretch or two after that. ”
Tex was beside himself. All he could see was the huge mound of money sitting in his hands. Her words floated in his head, and he told himself to remember as much as he could.
He kneeled beside her, putting the money away, and quietly held her hand. “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“Quit making me blush, you charmer. Just get out of here and get back to what you were meant to do. Life is not a game Tex. We don’t get many second chances. Take this one. And…”
Her eyes locked with his for one strong moment.
“….put those thoughts you had earlier tonight right out of your mind. You’ll do no one any good by turning that gun on yourself. And with your luck, you’d miss anyway. “ She tapped his hands, gesturing for him to go.
There was no quip, no smartass comment in his head. He could only stand silently, dumbfounded, a few last thoughts running through his consciousness.
"Can I ask you a question before I go?"
"I have the answer to both of them. The 1st one, I stay with Wedge to prevent a disaster from happening, it's the only path that keeps a dangerous future safely averted. I won't have to endure for much longer....." She lost her smile for the moment.
She paused. "And how can I see what's in your mind? I can't explain it, but it's been a part of me since I was a child. We all have our own gifts." She laughed a bit sadly. "Keep the camera, I'm sure you'll need it again at some point. And good luck to you. "
Tex looked back at her one more time, and left, closing the door behind him.
The night had quieted, and the full white moon glowed on him reproachfully, lighting the path back to his meager tent.
In silence he gathered a few things, and changed his clothes. He held his gun in his hand for a brief moment before putting it back into the rucksack with the other items he decided to bring with him. He looked at the familiar bottle and sighed, turning away from it. He lifted the flap for the final time, and walked away, not glancing back, into the night.
The last forty minutes of walking had invigorated him, only the sounds of his footfalls crunching on the gravel road to keep him company, but it was pleasant. The duffle bag pulled at one shoulder, as he saw the neon light beckoning to him in the distance.
A purple silhouette of a very busty woman loomed ahead, and he picked up his pace a bit, knowing he was almost there. He saw Louie’s gas powered vintage Camaro in the parking lot and he shook his head, laughing a little, as he finally reached the motel.
The rusty air conditioner chugged loudly from outside the window, blowing hot air in his face as he approached the white painted door with the tarnished brass number 17 adorning the face.
The lamp above cast a sickly shadow over him, but it was ok--the first time he had felt ok in a long while. He worried at the hour, but he knew that Louie was a short sleeper like him, and a night owl too, so he rapped his knuckles on the door, and stepped back, dressed in jeans, shabby shoes, and his trench coat, slightly rumpled, was back on. It hung much more loosely than he expected, but the fedora, like a constant friend, was a spot on fit.
The door creaked opened, and the both of them stared at each other for a moment. The connections that they thought might be lost between them forever clicked back immediately. They both broke out into huge grins, and Louie grabbed him in a huge bear hug, clapping onto his back like a madman, pulling him into the room.
“I brewed a big pot of coffee, just in case. Let me pull it off the hotplate, and we’ll catch up.”
The door closed behind them, and something outside in the grander scheme of the universe, slipped into a cog that turned the world is the right direction. He had moved back onto the correct path, for the moment, in spite of himself.
|Author:||Jen [ Feb 05, 2008 7:01 pm ]|
Louie had managed to make a few calls while Tex slept in the passenger seat. They traveled through the heat of the day, and Louie was glad that he had invested in the self regulating UV glass in the old girl. The view inside the windshield was a muted grey and black, in stark contrast to the unforgiving brightness that really lay outside.
He held his bladder as much as he could, having to pull over only twice to gas up and use the bathroom. Tex lay fast asleep, not so much as a twitch when he got out and back in the car. He was secretly glad at the welcome home group he had gathered together. And, he was very happy that Tex got some money back in his pocket. They spent a good part of the night talking about what had been happening the last few months and Louie gave Tex all of the information he'd been able to drag from Chelsee. Tex was ready to help, but both of them entertained few hopes of a happy ending.
The afternoon deepened, and twilight was fast approaching when they reached Old San Francisco.
Tex had decided on what to do to help Chelsee, so there was one stop to make before they headed back to the Brew and Stew. When they arrived at the first destination Louie shook Tex, rousing him from his troubled dreams.
“We’re here.” Louie passed him a cold bottle of water, and Tex drained it, wincing at the stabbing pain in his head. “Do you want me to come in and help you, you know, haggle?”
“Nah, I got it. If I’m not back in two hours, you know my shrewd negotiating skills have failed me.”
Ninety minutes later a very flushed face Tex knocked on the driver's side of Louie’s car.
“Well, did you get it?”
Tex looked glum. “Yes, but it set me further back than I had expected.” He sighed, staring off into the distance. “I know it’s the right thing to do, but easy come, easy go.”
“I’m proud of you Murph. You know you always got a person to fall back on. You’ll never go hungry with me around.”
Tex’s head dropped back on the bucket seat resigned. “I’m going to need a little of your magic Columbian bean juice. Cause I am dragging.”
“No problem. We’re heading back to my place right now.”
They rode in silence, and parked in the back alley behind the Brew.
The lights were on, and they walked inside to see Rook and Clint seated at the bar.
“Well, well, well, the prodigal son returns.” Rook sneered in his nasal little voice.
“Good to see you too, you little weasel.” Tex punched Rook in the arm before grabbing a stool between the two of them.
“Guess you’ll be wanting your old speeder back.” His eyes peered over his reading glasses. “You do still have your pawn ticket?”
“I might have left it in my other pants.” He tapped his khaki’s pockets with a twisted grin. Tex was quietly thrilled, and a little touched that after all this time Rook had kept his speeder safe. He regretted his thoughts about the little miser, though he knew he’d never live it down if he told him so.
Clint chimed in. “Things are doing pretty well at the chocolate shack, after I started a franchise. The ninth store goes live in a few days, I only wished I’d asked more in fees. Or a percentage of the actual chocolate. Still, my Chocolate banana surprise got written up in Gourmet magazine as one of the best desserts of the year.”
Clint shrugged. “Enough about me. I heard Nilo hasn’t rented out your old apartment yet at the Ritz. I don’t even think the rat knows you’re gone. Are you usually more than 4 months behind in your rent? He was sniffing around here a few days ago looking for you. Rook and me, we didn’t say nothing.”
Louie broke in. “We figure if you got the past due rent, you can slip in no problem.”
Tex was surprised at how easily he settled back into chatter with his friends. Louie offered him a drink, and he took one shot of bourbon, no more. It wasn’t that he actually wanted it at this point, but he needed it to calm his nerves and keep withdrawal at bay. After that, it was Louie’s 'Nectar from the Gods' and a Lucky Strike to finish it off.
After a good hour or two of talk, in which Tex got more information about Chelsee’s friend from the newspaper and Rook, he begged off, calling it quits for the evening. There was still one more place to visit before he snuck back into the Ritz…and he wasn’t getting anymore courage as the night went on.
The rain beat down in heavy sheets as he crossed over the street to her apartment. The light post cast a black, wet sheen on the road. His heart was tied in knots, and his fedora dripped water down the back of his trench coat , making his already tense muscles, tighter with anxiety and cold. He hit the entryway, and trudged up the stairs, surprised that he didn’t have to stop to catch his breath.
“Less of you to tote around, Captain Obvious.” He muttered to himself quietly.
He wondered if he was really up to this yet. The last 36 hours had turned his world upside down. Was he ready to handle what could be a very messy confrontation? Would time make this any easier?
Tex stopped at Chelsee’s front door. There was part of him that couldn’t bring his hand up to knock. He raised it quietly, and paused again. He simply held his curled fist up against the door, leaning on it, his head pressed against the wood with a heavy heart. He had no idea if he could ever rebuild the bridge that he blew to pieces with his indifference and impatience. The keys in his pocket, won after a long fight and most of his money, weighed on him. Would she see it as an act of kindness, or atonement?
No other way to find out. It was time to face the demons in his own mind. He had already died a little so many times. The day he knew Chelsee had left because of him, the day he watched Emily die, and Regan too. The day he realized that being a selfish, arrogant bastard cost him everything, including his self respect. It was time to see if he could dig himself out of hell, one piece a time. He summoned up the deepest breath he could, and released it slowly, letting go of the nervous twitch in his stomach. He stood back, straightened as much as he could, and knocked on the door, wincing at the echoing sound it made down the hallway.
There was only silence for the longest time, and he wondered if all of this was for naught. But he heard the chain slide through the lock, and braced himself.
He didn’t prepare a smile, for he wasn’t sure what he was going to find.
Chelsee’s face was puffy from crying, her hair unwashed and fallen around her in disarray. She was wearing a green terrycloth robe, and in one hand was a water glass, filled halfway with something he didn’t think was just cranberry juice. She was the most amazing thing he had ever seen.
But her eyes held him, and what he saw worried him. She seemed to be a sad and beautiful reflection of himself, at least how he had been only a handful of hours ago. Her eyes were unwavering, but held only despair in them. He had hoped to see fire, anger, or surprise…not this emptiness.
“I’m so sorry, Chelsee.” He reached out to touch her free hand, and she held his woodenly.
“Come inside.” She walked into the apartment, beckoning him to join her. Dirty dishes were stacked precariously in the sink, the countertops littered with empty containers of ice cream and bags of chips. Clothing was strewn on the backs of chairs and the sofa. The TV looked like it had been going strong for a week without a break. The coffee table was full of papers, handwritten notes, and ghostly white circles where mugs upon mugs of coffee, and drinks had been forgotten.
She sat stiffly on the couch, seemingly unaware of her surroundings.
Tex hazarded to touch her sleeve, and her eyes dropped to watch him touch her. She made no move to stop him, but Tex felt incredibly uncomfortable, so after the briefest of contact, he brought his hand back in his lap. His other reached to remove the fedora, and he tossed it on the table in front of them. They both watched it without speaking.
After what seemed like the longest and most awkward stretch of time they had ever spent together, Tex grabbed the remote control and shut the TV off. He instantly regretted it. The silence between them felt like a living presence, a huge white elephant right in front of them. It had to be broken.
“It’s been a really hard time on you, Chelsee. I am so sorry for everything I did to cause this.”
She buried her face in her hands.
“The truth is, everything went wrong after I left.” She shook her head, fresh tears falling down her cheeks. “It’s like I lost faith in everything. Myself, you. And then Tracy disappeared. “
She grabbed a soiled tissue and wiped her eyes.
“I looked as hard as I could, posted fliers all over Phoenix. Talked to everyone I could. After a while, I just couldn’t hope anymore. I prayed nothing had happened to her, but I had only been there two weeks before she came up missing. I didn’t know what else to do.”
She blew her nose in the tissue, looking everywhere but at her friend beside her.
“So eventually, I came home. But it didn’t feel like home anymore. You were gone, I couldn’t get the news stand back, the money I saved slowly drained away. And I just can’t go out there Tex, I can’t. I don’t want to leave the house. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
She leaned into his chest and let loose her sobbing.
“I’m so scared that she’s dead. Part of me knows that she is. And I don’t know why. Would she have gone missing if I hadn’t moved down there? ”
He strained to hear her voice, muffled into his shirt and trench coat. He listened closely.
“And you were gone. The one friend I could turn to, someone that might be able to help, and no one had heard anything from you. It was like you disappeared too.”
She hiccoughed, her voice shaky and trembling.
“We left on such ugly terms. I couldn’t bear the fact that I might not ever see you again, and that our angry words were all we had to remember.”
Tex hugged her tightly to his chest, and held her.
“Never. You are the best thing that ever happened to this asinine PI, and it took me going to hell and back a few times before that sunk into my knobby skull.”
He held her silently while her crying tapered down, both thinking about the mistakes they had made.
When she quieted, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the keys. He handed them to her, questioning in his eyes.
“Look at all familiar?”
She paused, motionless. She jingled them, looking at one after the other. “The back stock cabinet, the front cases, Tex how did you get these?” She sat up ever so slightly, and it made Tex smile. Every penny spent well worth it, to get a little of his old friend back.
“I got a bit of a windfall, and I was looking to diversify.” The smart-aleck was hiding in the wings, but he pushed him back.
“No, hell, Chelsee, I’m not going to lie. Some one paid me for a case I thought was long abandoned. Someone showed me a great kindness, and I thought the best thing to do with it, was bring you back to the neighborhood, for good.”
He winked, and smiled, unable to resist a little quip.
“But this does mean I get the first issue of Playbub right off the rack each month, before Nilo starts pawing all over it .”
Chelsee laughed and swatted him. “You’re such a pervert.”
Tex laughed back with her, a little more life returning to him. “Tall, dark and perverted, coming up. You know it makes you crazy.”
He reached out to hold her again, and this time she accepted it warmly. She put her head back on his chest, feeling his heart accelerate with her touch on him.
A sense of tension, contained desire came between both of them, and they stayed connected, still, wondering how the rest of the evening would unfold.
Tex reached down and took her chin in his hand, brought her face up to his.
“I promise to find out what happened to your friend. No matter what. You have my word. I’ll leave in the morning.” She gently touched the scruff on his cheeks.
“So that gives us tonight.” Her eyes locked with Tex’s, and she stared at him, the thinly veiled invitation out in the open.
Never in his life did he want to kiss her more than he did right then. It wasn’t just desire, that was there, yes, but he felt a closeness to her that he had never felt with anyone else in his past.
He was torn on what to do.
Chelsee’s pale face was turned up towards him, open, wanting. Her tousled and tangled blonde hair fell into her forehead, and he brushed it away tenderly with his free hand.
She made the decision for him. Her arms came up and around, pushing him to the end of the couch, moving him, turning him so his back was against the armrest, his legs splayed across the cushions, slightly bent so his feet wouldn’t dangle over the other side.
Chelsee moved closer, facing him now, adjusting the robe up to her knees. She brought her left arm behind his head, burying her slender fingers in the thatch of hair at the nape of his neck. His skin jumped at the electricity in her touch. She could sense his paralysis, smiling, and gently took his hand and wrapped it around her waist. Tex’s eyes closed for an instance, sensing the warmth underneath the terrycloth, and she took that moment to lean into him, their lips meeting.
His heart hammered, and behind his closed eyes he could see white stars, lightheadedness took him. He didn’t dare move or breathe, or do anything to break the spell. But he returned her kiss, once and twice, and brought her closer so he could fully embrace her.
Her mouth next to his ear, she whispered quietly, sounds hushed by the rain beating outside against the window.
With those words spoken she pulled back and watched his face carefully. Her brow furrowed, careful to detect anything he might try to hide.
A simple smile crossed Tex’s face and he kissed her one more time before settling her down next to him, laying on her side. Her head rest against his button down shirt, arm and leg draped across him. She snuggled closer, and closed her eyes.
Tex kicked off his sneakers as quietly as he could, watching her slowly drift off into sleep. His arms wrapped warmly around her body, and he felt her slowly relax, breathing deep and regular. A slight twitch of her calf caught his attention, but she settled down, nuzzling deeper, falling still.
Occasionally his eye would wander to the window, the deep red glow from a blinking neon sign somewhere outside, reflecting the raindrops that were cutting tracks down the glass.
And after a while…he slept.
|Author:||Jen [ Feb 05, 2008 7:02 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: A version not butchered by the BB software: Jens Tex Fan|
The sound of bacon grease splattering on the stove top roused Chelsee from her dozing. Rubbing her closed fists against her eyes, clearing her head, she opened her sparkling blues to see the living room table in front of her free of clutter and spotless, and from the other side of the apartment, the subtle whooshing sounds of her washer and dryer.
“You know how to do laundry?” Her tone was incredulous. She stretched her arms up over her head, and then beside her, chasing away the fog from her brain.
Tex jumped slightly, surprised to see her awake, grin creeping from the corners of his lips. A tiny pale yellow apron, obviously Chelsee’s, adorned his white long sleeved button down and khaki’s.
“You wound me Ms. Bando.” He barely pulled off the crestfallen face. “Stuff it till you can’t put anything else in, and run it on cold.”
“I know you’re just kidding.” she teased, taking in his profile from her vantage point on the sofa.
“Actually, yes. Everyone knows that you really put it on hot.”
“Good lord, I’m scared to even think about it.”
Tex dismissed her scoffing, and piled three plates, heaping with breakfast on an ancient metal Alf TV tray. He managed to negotiate the glasses of orange juice, mugs of coffee, and plates piled high with scrambled eggs, crisp and savory bacon, triangles of wheat toast dripping with half melted squares of butter slowly soaking through, and fried potatoes, rich and redolent with peppers and onions.
“Hope you like scrambled. All my attempts at eggs, especially omelets, and over easy end up that way.”
“There’s enough here to feed a boy scout troop.” She smiled and grabbed a plate, steadying it on her lap, took her glinting silver fork, and heaped a large mouthful in. She chased it down with a swallow of coffee, prepared with sugar and cream, just how she liked it. That fact was not overlooked by her.
Tex shrugged self-deprecatingly. “It doesn’t hold a candle to Armageddon blend, but not too bad.”
She took a huge swallow before responding.
“I’ve eaten nothing but frozen or canned food for I don’t know how long. It’s tastes amazing.” She went right back, spearing a huge slice of crisped green pepper with her fork full of potatoes, chasing the puddle of butter to sweeten the deal.
Tex laughed ruefully, thinking of the days and days he went without anything but Jack Daniels.
“One of the few moments of revelations I ever had, is just knowing how much good food tastes when you’re hungry. The most simple pleasure in life.”
Chelsee nodded, and they ate in silence. The only sounds were the clinking of glasses, the metal rapping of utensils against each other, and the wisp of toast being smeared against
the plates, now almost empty. Both of their bellies full and warm for the first time in days.
Tex pushed back his plate happily, and reached into his pants pocket, grabbing his smooshed pack of Luckies.
He offered her the red and white box, she politely shook her head, and he tapped out a wilted cigarette. Pulling out his lighter from the other pocket, he lit and exhaled a happy cloud of smoke, grabbing the ashtray over to his side of the coffee table. Chelsee took in the whole room for the first time, and was shocked. The papers were organized, all the trash gathered and gone. No dishes in the sink, the counters absolutely sparkled. She felt ashamed for a moment, letting Tex see her so out of sorts, but she had pulled him drunk and almost unconscious from the gutter, so maybe they were about even.
“Tex….what did you do to my ‘kiss the cook’ apron??” she laughed and pulled at the tiny piece of masking tape, strategically placed.
“A guy can dream, can’t he?” He shrugged his shoulders with a sheepish grin, glad that she had taken his jibe in good spirits. He kissed her on the forehead before settling back, resisting the urge to loosen his belt, denying his full tummy any more room.
After he finished his smoke, he gathered up the feeble remains from their feast, and loaded them into the empty dishwasher.
“So what’s your plan?” The fact that her friend was still nowhere to be found was never far from her thoughts. Her brow furrowed as she thought about all the time spent walking down the isolated streets in the early evening, tacking up sign after sign, and all the passersbys she harangued, hoping desperately to find someone, anyone, who could help her.
Tex perked up, happy to have some sort of plan in the works. He coiffed up his fedora, placing it jauntily on his head, in his best Sam Spade impersonation, tipping the rim down into his eyes.
‘Well, I thought I’d go by and say hi to Mac. See if he’s got any little bits of information I can use. Rook, Louie, Clint and I had a powwow yesterday before I headed over here. I transferred my crime link computer program into my hand held, and should be good to go.”
“Can I give you any money?” Chelsee thought of the rapidly diminishing stockpile of her funds, but she would have handed it over all of it cheerfully to him, in a moment.
“Nah.” He waved his hand nonchalantly. “I’ve got enough to get me going. And with any luck, I’ll find her quickly. I could be back here in just a few days.”
She released a deep sigh, her head pointed to the ground. She pulled at her hair absentmindedly, chewing at the blonde frayed ends, distracted.
“I hope so. I hope everything’s ok.” She straightened up, and stood, tightening the sash around her robe, and ambled over closer to him. Standing tall, she didn’t even reach up midway to his chest, but she hugged him, the tapping of his heart in her ear comforting her.
“I really appreciate this Tex, honey.”
“A damsel in distress, a missing woman, and a place without rain where folks aren’t trying to constantly shoot me…sounds like a fun vacation.” He sobered up, and gave her another squeeze. “I’ll see what I can find out.”
He looked down at his wrist watch with a start, and made his way closer to the door.
“I’d better get going if I want to reach Mac before his last doughnut buzz burns off.” He gathered up his trench coat and kissed her chastely on the cheek before turning to the door.
“Let me know how things are going.” She combed her fingers down her robe, with a movement that pulled Tex’s attention away from the case and back to the curves of her body.
Calm down, Murphy boy, he thought to himself. With a wink and some resolve he chanced one last hug before twisting the knob, leaving her behind. This time their parting was on sweet terms, and the possibility of sweeter terms to come.
The trip to the San Francisco Police Department was fairly uneventful. His speeder needed a bit of a tune up, it chokingly lurched if it gained more than the smallest bit of altitude at one time. Still, it had been in hock for several months, not that he was up on his 3 month, 5 thousand mile checkup’s. The last time the speeder had seen a mechanic was before Tex pulled it off the lot, and as long as it still managed to get him from place to place, there were better things to spend his money on.
Like a quick dozen of Mac’s favorite crullers. The oily mess dripped through the paper sack rolled in his hand, making Tex slightly nauseous after the wonderful breakfast he had digesting in his stomach caught whiff of the flour and grease monstrosities. But he hadn’t seen Mac in awhile, and he’d come for the sole purpose of shaking him down for information and maybe some leads, so he figured he’d better have some culinary foreplay ready.
The sun was oppressively hot, the morning smog not yet burned away. It would be a humid scorcher by noon time. He wished the standard PI uniform had been short sleeve button downs and flip flops, but filed that away under, maybe some day, and tricked a little old lady out of the only parking spot next to the SFPD building, cutting her off after a feint to the right.
She flipped him the 1 finger salute, and he tsk tsk’d her, pulling on the heavy wooden doors of the building, letting the cool, but stale breeze flow over him.
The cop shop smelled like rancid coffee, 2000 year old stogie smoke, and the lingering aroma of the drunk tank below them in the basement. He waved off-handedly to a few officers that had tossed him in said tank, but that was ancient history. The desks were scuffed wood or standard metal issued finery. The halls were bustling with pale, scrawny hookers, furtive pushers, and the assorted rag tag sleaze found in any police department. He took the stairs up to Mac’s office, and was surprised to see a different name plate on the door. It wasn’t covered in dust or grime, so it must have been recent. The stenciled gold lettering read, Leslie Harold, detective.
Tex rapped his knuckles on the door quietly, prepared for no one to answer, but a brusque, yet feminine voice beckoned him in.
The office was neat and tidy. Green flowering plants, mum’s in white and yellow, were in the back corners, the blinds pulled open, letting in the bright daylight. The desk held a few silver digital photograph frames, cycling through scenes with kids, soccer teams and landscapes. The blotter and in/out box were organized, the only hint that a fastidious person didn’t occupy the space was the open spiral bound notebook, littered with doodles, idle questions written haphazardly in the margins, and scratching outs a plenty. The furniture was a fine dark cherry, obviously her own and brought to the station.
“Can I help you?” She gazed at Tex with a question in her eyes, the light flashing over her half moon reading glasses.
She was a looker. Long raven color hair fell down her back, pulled away from her heart shaped face. Her complexion was freckled, and tan, without makeup, her build slight but athletic. Her eyes were polished jade, and to the point. She didn’t look like a daydreamer, or someone that would doodle aimlessly. He couldn’t made out her lower body, but guessed that her legs were as shapely as everything else he could see.
He cleared his throat. “Umm, I was looking for Mac Malden. This is…or was his office.”
“Yes. Mac’s gone.”
Tex tilted his fedora back on the crown of his head, taking the available seat in front of her desk.
“Gone? How do you mean gone?” His cool exterior slipping a bit.
“I mean gone. I shouldn’t really be giving you any details, since you obviously don’t know.” She straightened up, business-like mannerisms falling into place.
He decided to play the old friend angle. “Mac and I go way back. Helped him get through a real messy divorce, we worked together on a few cases.”
She softened slightly, noting Tex’s distress, and his poor attempt at playing it nonchalant.
“Word is he got transferred to a plum assignment. Somewhere nice and remote. I think the phrase bantered about was ‘a tropical island with a tribe of beautiful young women.’”
“Not a bad place to be, all things considered.” she closed the notebook in front of her. “Sure beats this norm vs. mutant volcano that’s building here in San Fran.”
Tex saw his angle to wheedle in for information. He relayed as many details about the case in Phoenix as possible, playing heavily into the mutant angle, and the lack of help that the local police had given Chelsee.
“That’s a damn shame. “ She shook her head in disgust. “I got out of the beat with my last partner due to his constant “goyle” comments.”
She reopened her notebook to a fresh, and unspoiled page. She wrote down most of Tex’s comments from memory, and passed him one of her business cards, a simple crisp white card with navy lettering.
“I’ll get in touch with the person in charge of the case in Arizona, let them give you access to whatever they’ve got. Call me when you get in town.”
“Thanks for the help.” Tex was grateful to get as much help as he had to someone that was a total stranger to him. “If there’s anything I can offer you…” he held up the clunky bag of pastries, and she waved them away with a start.
“No. No thank you. I don’t think you’ve got anything I’m interested in.”
A finger rapped on the door, an obviously hurried aide poked his head in, and spoke to Leslie.
“Um…detective, your wife is on line one for you.”
“Case in point.” She shuffled some papers, and Tex took this as his sign to move on.
He got up and walked towards the door. With his back turned, her voice spoke out to him again.
He turned back, face impassive.
“Listen. Mac did tell me a few things about you before he left. How best to help you when he was gone.”
He let her continue. She twisted the gold necklace at her throat. She took another business card from her desk, and wrote a few words on the back in matching blue letters.
“He didn’t tell me his name, or how he could help you. But you’re going down to Phoenix anyway, right?’
“If you’ve got a speeder, it’s not that far out of your way.”
“How will I know when I find the right guy?” Tex wasn’t one to not follow up on a lead, but wasn’t sure it was promising.
“Mac told me that he’d know you.”
Tex palmed the card and positioned his fedora back on his head, nodding his thanks to her.
“Better get that phone call.” he spoke as he walked out of her office, and back to his speeder. A long drive awaited him.
It was dark before he reached the establishment scrawled on the back of the business card. It was a bar, but it was no Louie’s. It seemed to be 2 or 3 stories and had a huge bank of windows facing the street. Actually the entryway did look a lot like Louie’s, truth be told.
He paid the membership cover charge and began to explore the bar in greater detail. The downstairs had several pool tables and game machines. Sports memorabilia and neon lights decorated the warm wooden walls. There were plenty of nooks and crannies with tables and bar stools for people to gather together privately, but no one took any notice of him. He idly played at the empty foosball table, simulating a World Cup victory, without the head butting. He kept looking out his peripheral vision at the patrons, waiting for anyone to make eye contact. The bottom floor seemed to be a wash.
The main floor looked like the standard Irish pub, complete with carved pillars, and the good looking blonde cocktail servers dressed in black roamed around the tables, passing out drinks on small trays.
The upstairs took him by surprise. A glass enclosed patio had a majestic domed ceiling where you could gaze up to see the night stars. This part of the US had been spared the oppressive cloud of radiation, Tex was able to find several constellations in the skies. Glancing back down, his eyes swimming, he caught sight of someone staring at him from across the room.
He sauntered over to the table where the figure sat, a portable computer open and palely lit in front of him. Tex assumed he’d use his height as a “mano e mano” tactic to assert the pecking order. The gentleman stood up to greet him, and Tex realized that he had almost nothing in height on this guy, and that if in a fight, Tex would probably be used to mop up his own blood spilled on the floor.
But the gentleman, as startled as he first appeared, was friendly and invited Tex to grab a chair. He waved the waitress down and ordered 2 beers and two shots. One scotch one bourbon. He powered down his computer and looked at Tex with a raised eyebrow. Questioning, but interested. Tex studied the man across the table. He looked familiar, something in the back of his mind triggered a memory. But none of the images, one of a Frenchman or a certainly dead killer was a solid match. He had other things to worry about, so he put the thought aside.
Tex waited till the drinks arrived, and they both tossed down their shots, rapidly, slamming the tiny glasses back on the table. Both reached for the thin necked bottles and sipped the light amber liquid, wondering who would break the silence first.
It was Tex.
“Someone from the San Francisco police Department mentioned that you might be able to help me.”
He shifted back into his chair, and regarded Tex with amusement.
“Tell me about your case.”
After Tex spelled out the majority of the details, the stranger paused, taking it all in.
He fidgeted for a moment, not entirely sure how to proceed. How much to tell him.
He decided to take the straightforward, but secretive route.
“If this were any other case, honestly, I might be able to help you. Throw you a bone, or drop a clue maybe. Figure out how to rework an angle to get you on the right track.” He took a swig on his beer, dropping the level an inch or two, and spent a few moments studying the bottle in front of him.
“But this one…..it’s out of my hands. I hope it’s the only dead end you get. The police angle sounds promising, a spring board that might lead you deeper into the case. But I don’t know, and as I said, it’s out of my hands.”
He leaned over and winked at him.
“My guess is though, at some point, you’re going to get laid.”
He chuckled and rounded up the power cable on his laptop, tucking everything away in his soft sided briefcase. He tossed some bills on the table, and Tex stood, sensing that this conversation was just about over.
“Thanks for the drink. “
“Oh it was my pleasure. Good luck on the case.” He clapped Tex on the back of the shoulder.
Sensing that the only path was back to the speeder, and into Phoenix, he left the remainder of the beer on the table, hoping that with good time, he could make it to a hotel to get a decent nights sleep.
|Author:||Jen [ Feb 05, 2008 7:03 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: A version not butchered by the BB software: Jens Tex Fan Fic|
Tex worked the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, comfortably sprawled in a worn out avocado green chair while waiting for the detective assigned to the case to buzz him into the office. He’d been there for the last 45 minutes and was down to just a few blanks to fill in. Six letter word, 2015 director, music software 1990’s. Darned if he knew. Ended in E. No help there.
Instead of the normal drunks and lost souls he normally saw in the San Francisco police department, there seemed to be a disproportionate amount of mutants lingering. Either being booked, or in the lobby, waiting to speak to the counter person. He surreptitiously watched an argument, now turning heated, at the front desk. The matronly, but business like woman manning the front desk, didn’t even attempt to hide her distain for the mutant addressing her. His mutation was harsher than many he’d seen, he made Beek look like Maddox Pitt, but Tex was appalled at the unveiled contempt she emanated.
The mutants face burned fire engine red, then purple, and what looked to be a small size bladder on his face slowly inflated with an oozing pus that Tex quietly hoped would be reabsorbed instead of being splattered against the officer and the surrounding area. His hands flew in the hair, gestures more frantic. The only move the receptionist made was to become more still, shaking her head slowly, preparing to reach a button that would bring in back-up, most likely to tote the offending man away.
The mutant put two and two together, and stomped away, spouting profanities in his outside playground voice. Tex pulled the newspaper up, blocking his view, and let him storm out the door. There was simply nothing Tex could do to stem the bigoted nature of the “norms”. It dismayed him, but life moves on.
The receptionist, after taking a vid-phone call, buzzed Tex in and a burly, slightly greasy “Peter Principled” traffic cop, took him back to his office.
“You nosing into this disappearance? You family or sumthin?” The uniform strained uncomfortably at every button. The cops once muscled frame, was now heavy with fat, jowls hanging down enough to make more than a passing resemblance to English bulldog. His demeanor certainly was bullish.
“Friend of a friend actually.” Tex decided to shelve the sarcasm, and just play it straight. He figured his wit would be lost on the bully anyway.
“Well, since the detective in SFPD vouched for you, I guess I can give you the report.”
A painfully thin manila folder held a recent picture, one of Chelsee’s loose flyers, and about 3 paragraphs of information chicken scratched on the intake report, almost all of it useless.
“You got an address?” Tex ran his hand over the scruff coating his chin. Forgot the razor again.
“Sure, and a passkey. Right at the bottom of the file. I don’t mind ya casing the site, but keep me in the loop if you find anything of interest. Might be nice to solve a gargoyle case at this point. A little good press never hurt.”
Tex bit back his comments, and nodded. “I’ll drop everything back off after I’m done.”
The detective nodded, mind already on something else. Probably the upcoming Raider's game. Tex beat a hasty retreat and made his way to Tracy’s residence, hoping for some more promising leads.
The clap-trap townhouse was part of a prefabricated development that looked to be part of a never ending suburbia mouse maze. Instead of cheese at the center of the maze there was simply more houses, in a mobious strip that looped back on itself.
He slipped the pass key in and watched the light under the lock flash green three times in succession. The lock clicked, unlatching, and he was inside.
Thankfully the power was still on, so he flicked the switch by the door and took in the ordinary looking domicile.
He cased the mail by the door first. Aside from the Fredrick’s from Hollywood catalogue, nothing captured his interest. Electric bill, magazine subscription renewal for Russian History Quarterly, and then a glimpse of a letter caught his eye. She could very well be the next Publisher Clearing House Sweepstakes winner. He harrumphed, knowing that he had to be next on the list for that one, and moved on.
The kitchen cupboards and fridge were next. Not only was he looking for a clue, but he had a monster case of the munchies. He grabbed a diet soda and some cheese that still looked pretty good, and moved on into the bedroom.
He saw the queen sized bed, messy and unmade, and thought of Tracy and Chelsee sleeping together in it. Slapping his face quickly, he moved onto the bedside trash to see a pile of scrap and shredded paper. Bingo!
After about 15 minutes of sorting and taping he managed to make out most of the note. Meeting at the coffee house on Main, Thursday at their regular time for their weekly information exchange. Happy to have a lead, he canvassed the bedroom more carefully. Searching the pockets of the few pieces of clothing in the closet, he found little besides $28, and some gum. Under the bed gave him nothing but a face full of dust bunnies and a sneezing attack. In the bedside table there was a notebook. He sat down, thumbing through it.
The pages had been mostly torn out. He ran his finger along the paper gently, feeling for indentations. Damn, his correspondence continuing education courses paid off.
He fumbled around for a pencil, and carefully traced over the page. Words slowly came into view. Like Leslie notebook, it wasn’t a well thought out journal, but a place to articulate half formed thoughts in her head.
Alexei….still alive? 140 ++ ???
Inadvertent side effect of supposed hemophilia treatment?
Egg of rebirth or a symbol of a miraculous resurrection from the dead?
Mutations of non physical pathology. How are they finding them??
The surprise in the egg.
All of her thoughts scattered haphazardly on the page. But one word sprung out that caught his eye.
Tex had no idea what most of what her musings were about, but he guessed that, yet again, he was being pulled into more than he had bargained for.
The smell of dark beans roasted lovingly and ground before your eyes, washed over Tex as he pushed open the opaquely tinted glass door, bathing him in a comforting aroma, that both settled his nerves, and sharpened his senses. He knew his stomach could only handle two cups before the acid started churning, but hell…he knew how to spell relief.
He approached the register, the overhead menu overwhelming with custom blends, almost as if he was in microbrewery showcasing all their different wares.
The boy at the counter looked about 20 and no more than 95 pounds completely soaking wet. He was a norm, but his teenage acne was so bad, it was difficult to know for sure. He idly reached up and scratched at his sea of white heads, and Tex prayed that he would not be the one preparing his coffee.
He leaned over, elbow on the mahogany counter, lost in the sea of choices.
“Let’s see,” he weighed his options. “Can I get something in a full bodied dark roast, not too bitter, and fair traded is a bonus. Anything that could make Juan Valdez green with envy.”
“There’s a nice South American blend that I highly recommend. And I’ve tried them all.” The barista seemed reasonably proud of the fact.
“Easiest way to get your master thesis done, I’m guessing.”
The kid dropped his eyes. “Got it in one. Philosophy major.”
“So have you learned the meaning of life yet?”
“All I’ve learned is that I should have picked a more marketable field of study. Coffee shop philosophy major is clichéd more only by the waiter with the acting degree.”
They both had a quick laugh, and another slender youth, this time female, with heavy black eye liner, frizzy short brown hair, and probably 15 cats in her studio apartment, asked him the size.
“Anything resembling a 55 gallon drum would work nicely.”
Surprisingly, she pulled out a thick paper cup about the size of a 2 liter bottle, and filled it precariously to the top. Tex’s heart rate doubled in anticipation of the caffeine buzz that awaited him.
He decided to hit them both up for information. He pulled out one of Chelsee’s flyers with Tracy’s photo printed on it. He displayed it to the both of them, and they nodded at the same time.
“Grande, soy, decaf latte, with two pumps sugar free hazelnut.” The cat girl chimed in.
“Ah, but in October, she switches to cinnamon dolce, when we spot light it.” Mr. Whitehead interjected.
“Yeah, whatever.” Cat girl rolled her eyes. “She hasn’t been by lately. Has something happened to her?”
Tex was pleased to strike gold. “Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out. She usually met someone here on Thursday’s. I’m trying to find out who it is.”
Whitehead perked up. “That’s not hard. Tall Americano. Right over there in the corner.”
Tex could not believe his luck. Cat girl wanted his attention for a minute more. She tapped her short, perfectly square fingernails on the machine.
“So are you a PI or something? I noticed the getup. Very old school noir. The stuff that dreams are made of, right?” She snapped her gum.
“Something like that.” He was amazed that anyone under the age of 30 even knew what a Private Investigator was, much less quipping quotes from the master.
“I minored in film studies. Great GPA boost. I didn’t think they really existed anymore. Must be a cool gig though.”
“The pay’s not great, and the hours are worse, but it’s a living.”
Cat girl pondered it for a minute. “True, man, that’s true.” She then spoke the magic words that made his heart sing. “It’s on the house. No problem if you want a refill.”
“Well, thank you very much.” He tipped his hat gallantly, and the jar beside the register even more.
Blowing on the blessed jug of nirvana, he snaked his way through two dozen tables, narrowly avoiding laptop cords, towards the back, more secluded area of the coffee shop.
It looked like a self policing “quiet zone.” Where the front of the house was lively and full of chatter, the back was quiet, with single people at the tables, or whispered conversations. Tex had followed whiteheads pointed finger to a booth all the way in the rear, a lone gentleman facing the room, back to the wall. His head was buried in a book, he looked up infrequently, enough to grab a quick sip of his drink, before focusing back down on the page.
Tex paused by his booth, not wanting to startle him. He took the opportunity to size up the man in front of him.
He looked to be about 60. His gray hair was a little long, but combed back neatly. A comfortable amount of extra weight cushioned his frame. Tex noticed a slight double chin, and soft padded hands cradled the book lovingly. He was well dressed, not too stuffy. A simple white button down and a light-weight tan sport coat, tweed pants and polished leather shoes of tasteful design.
The gentleman looked up to observe Tex’s eyes on him.
“Hello.” His greeting was simple, and gave no aura of malevolence whatsoever.
“Are you a friend of Tracy’s?”
He closed the book and studied Tex himself. “Are you a friend of Tracy’s?”
“I’m trying to find her. A friend of mine from San Francisco was visiting her, when she disappeared.”
“Ah…that would be Chelsee Bando. She was quite the wonderful lady. Truly, if she is a friend of yours, I invite you to join me.” He outstretched his hand shaking Tex’s in a firm, warm, but non aggressive grip.
“The name’s James. My friends call me Jim.”
“Tex Murphy.” He pulled out the slightly too small for him chair, and sat, cupping his coffee in his hands, blowing idly on the lip.
A noise startled the both of them. Tex spun in his seat to watch a fight break out between a norm and mutant at the counter. The mutant looked stronger and more ready to pounce, but the norm waved to his table, and three more of them joined him. The mutant, non-plussed in the slightest, threw his iced latte full in the face of the norm. The norm threw a punch, and the mutant dodged it easily, grabbing onto the norm’s wrist, holding it in a vice like grip.
The norm dropped to his knees, blood slowly seeping out from the mutants clenched fist, the sounds of bone grinding together, then snapping.
The norm’s friends backed away, warily, and the mutant released the norm’s crushed and pathetic looking hand. He cradled it to his chest, like it was a newborn kitten, and took a few frightened steps back, false bravado failing, and finally turned and left. Not quite at a run, but close to it.
James shook his head.
“It’s getting worse. Ever since the Crusade for Genetic Purity opened up here for business, things have been incredibly tense.”
Tex reeled. “I thought that the group disbanded.”
Again, the wise old head shook, this time more slowly, with dismay.
“It’s like a hydra. You cut off one head, and two shoot back up in it’s place. It took some time after the Moon Child incident to get themselves back up to full strength, but there’s no shortage of people that feel wronged, and like to have a convenient scapegoat handy. It’s so easy to hate….” he let his words trail off sadly.
Tex confided to James what he thought he would never tell to another person. He slowly regaled the story of the Moon Child, leaving out as many names as he could, but sharing it all the same. James listened, enraptured, and an eerie calm flowed over his face. He asked few questions. When the tale was done, Tex sat back, almost exhausted from talking, his coffee tepid now, but still delicious.
James eyes locked somewhere off in the distance, and held. Tex could see his mind whirling. He figured the best way to handle it was just to let him unwind to his way of telling his own story.
“This changes things.” James held his chin in his hand, and tossed the book off the table to the bag underneath his feet. Thinking further, he pulled the bag up into his lap, and fingered something in a zippered pouch.
“Tracy had a link from inside the Crusade. A mutant sympathizer. I never learned who it was. But Tracy had been very nervous on our last visit. Her sympathizer learned something very big, something we’d hope they’d never find out. “ He looked bitter and sad. “But they did.”
“Most mutants can’t hide among the norms. It’s like a perverse prank played by a mean spirited God. But there was a small group of mutants that escaped detection, mainly because their mutations weren’t as plain as the nose on their face.”
Tex thought of Beek and winced. James continued.
“Rumors started spreading of low level psychic mutations. Pyrokenesis, psychokinetic powers, second sight.”
He paused, considering.
“Naturally, the norms scoffed at it, but soon the Crusade started investigating in earnest. We think they’ve got one held captive. One that can see…beyond.”
“The informant feared for her life, she was on her way out, and she wanted to pass along what she had learned, and something she had taken from the Crusade that might have been of some importance.”
Tex straightened up. His eyes watched James hand finger the item in the zipper pouch. He felt that this was a big clue.
“Tracy asked me to hold it for safe keeping. She was on her way to a mutant sympathizer organization. An ACLU of sorts.”
“Capricorn.” Tex finished the sentence.
James face set in resolve, his hand firmly grasping the object, now pulling it from the bag.
“Yes. She was going to the LA office to see a…..” His brow furrowed with concentration.”….A Wanda Peck, yes, that‘s who it was.”
His eyes studied Tex’s.
“You know that name also?”
“Well, then it’s settled. I don’t know if she ever made it there. I never spoke to her again. I’d hoped that she’d be safe, but I don’t think any of us are safe anymore.”
He gently rested the item from his hand on the table top. It was a small key, tarnished brass maybe, but it was sturdy and didn’t look like it was for a cheap lock. It also looked about 200 years old.
“I hope you find out what this was for, and more importantly, you find out what the Crusade is up to. Why it’s hunting down and killing those mutants. And of course, I hope you find Tracy.”
James closed his eyes and sat back in the booth.
“I’m sorry, I seem to feel a bit overwhelmed right now. If you’d excuse me, I think I’ll head home to rest. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
“Aren’t we all.” Tex agreed, pushing back his chair. The next step laid out for him. It was time to spend a little money tuning the speeder up, because traffic in LA was hell. He hoped he could get it done by end of day, so he could talk with Wanda tomorrow.
She was still a hottie.
Her honey gold hair was much longer, twisted into a messy bun, loose strands framing her face. Her body looked rock hard, tight black business suit clinging like a second skin. Her face was missing some of the roundness, and softness that he had remembered from their last meeting. Her brusque manner and impatience with him remained unchanged.
“I hope you have a good reason to be here, Mr. Murphy.”
“Now come on Wanda. After our torrid weekend of carnal depravity in Buenos Aries, I figured we’d still be on a first name basis. We didn’t spoon enough afterward for you? “
“If you have a point, please get to it. I’ve been incredibly taxed lately, and am in no mood for your jokes.”
Tex dropped the front. Small talk and witty repartee complete, he started asking her some pointed questions. And showed her the picture of Tracy.
“No. I never met her. We had made an appointment to talk and she never arrived. I get false leads and confessors with cold feet all the time. I had no contact information for her, so I let the manner drop.”
He showed her the key.
“Nope, I don’t know anything about it. It appears to be for an old lock box, but I could be mistaken.”
He had a quick flashback in his brain, almost a waking dream about a locked box under cold, blue water and shook it off, focusing back on Wanda.
He asked her about mutants with non-physical mutations.
Her head jerked up, and her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “That information should not be disclosed to anyone. Several of my operatives inside The Crusade have disappeared. I’ve not been in contact with them for weeks. Two of them were looking into just that. I fear that they’re dead.”
Tex thought it over. “Why would you think that?”
Wanda contemplated her words carefully, deciding her plan of action. “Give me your driver license. Maybe we can help each other.”
Tex fumbled out his wallet and tossed it over to Wanda. She fished his ID out, and gave it back after glancing at the rest of the contents offhandedly.
"You know Murphy, those things do have expiration dates. Looks like yours is well past that."
He let the snarky comment slide.
She walked behind her desk, gesturing him over.
She scanned his ID in her computer, and pulled up another program. Reaching into a drawer on her right, she pulled out a plastic rectangle and inserted it into the base of her printer. She tapped furiously on the keyboard, and stretched her hand out, using the mouse, her face set in concentration. He didn’t dare disturb her while she worked.
Looking finished, she rapidly double clicked, and he heard the whirring of the machine next to her. She took the object from the printer, slipped it into another small box, stamped it, and pulled it out, waving it idly, flicking her wrist. She passed it to Tex.
It was still warm in his hand. He looked down to see a ID card for the CFGP with his mug on the front. "Stephen Douglas??"
“It’s a low level badge. It won’t give you the run of the place, but it will get you in the door. This is the important part.”
She flipped the badge over. There was a tiny, almost unseen raised circle on the back.
“It’s a micro GPS locator on an isolated signal. Do not lose this badge. I only wish this wasn’t new to us. It would make things much easier.”
She focused her gaze on Tex.
“Most of the Phoenix office is new recruits, and since the Crusade thrives on secrecy, there’s a good chance they don’t know about you and your past exploits. I’m giving you a list of our operatives that are missing. See what you can find out about them. Are they alive? And if so, any message or information from them would be helpful. You have to remember it verbatim, even if it makes no sense to you. It will to us. Understand?”
“I wish you luck.” She pressed the paper with the names on it into his palm, and scrawled a number in the corner with bold red ink.
“If you find anything out, call me day or night.” She tugged at her sleeve absentmindedly.
“And Tex?…. Don’t get yourself killed ok?”
“You better watch that kind of talk. I might start thinking you’re getting all sweet on me.”
Her face hid a smile and tightened once again.
“You know the way out.”
Tex hit the alarm on his speeder, and forced each and every movement of his legs closer to the front of the Crusade for Genetic Purity building. He appraised the structure like a bull-shitter student eyed the SAT’s. Dread washed over him, and he wished he had taken the opportunity earlier to enjoy the typical PI lunch…a hit or so of the ‘blessed potation” before embarking on what was certainly a fool-hardy and maybe even a fatal quest.
All there needed to be was one of the wrong people to lay eyes on him, and he was certain that his sad bag of meat and bones would never be found. Not only had there been huge loss of life on the Moon Child, but millions- maybe even billions of dollars wasted.
The building was ornate, in the classical baroque style. Blinding white pillars reached several stories heavenward to the domed, highly polished roof. At the top of each pillar was carved a wretched little gargoyle, holding up the arched marble slab, eyes closed in suffering. High above them, at the apex of the building, a robed figure, a combination of Arch-Angel and Michelangelo’s David, beckoned to all below. It wasn’t exactly “Give me your tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to be free.”
His back story, thought up in the speeder on the way over, seemed ridiculous to him now. He took a deep breath, psyching himself up. “Pretend you belong there. Pretend you belong there. Blasé, blasé, blasé.” He hoped it worked.
He threw open the gold gilded door and strode in with a long, battered cardboard tube. It was empty on the inside, but no one ever had to know that.
The inside was lush. Deep burgundy pile carpeting swallowed the floor, muffling his footsteps to a whisper. A spiraling brass fountain, cherubs beckoning this time, decorated the center of the lobby. A bank of elevators was to the right, the main desk looming in front of him.
A lovely fresh faced girl greeted him. Tex was dismayed that someone who looked so innocent would be working with this group. She wore a crème blouse, with black pearls around her neck. Her hair was sandy and bobbed, a bit too dark of lipstick for his liking, but kids these days….
“May I help you?” she addressed him curiously.
His glance overpowered her, his best chance to get inside he guessed was haughty authority. She seemed young and impressionable, he hoped she would buy it. She dropped her eyes. Fantastic! He pressed on.
“I’m from the New England office, with the security plans to the eastern block expansion. I was told that head of security would be here to meet me. The contractors need the approval immediately.” Tex looked back and forth, and hurriedly at his watch, with thinly veiled impatience.
It worked. She folded like she was holding a busted flush.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Reynolds is in a meeting right now…if you could wait.”
Tex flashed her his badge. “Just sign me in, and I’ll meet her in her office. I was to hand these over to her personally.”
She paused for a moment, considering her options, and Tex rapped his knuckles on the desk in front of her in a rapid fire beat. It was enough to unnerve her.
“Yes, ok, yes.” She pulled out the sign in sheet and he filled it in rapidly, remembering just in time to write his nom de plume.
“She’s in 418.”
“Fine, thank you.” Tex dismissed her, trying hard not to exhale with relief. He was in. But where to go? He had only the most cursory planned worked out. There was no sign in the lobby giving him a big finger point “Go there”. So he was forced to wing it, approaching the bank of elevators with nervousness.
He hit the up and down button, covering all his bases. The brass door slid open silently, and he stepped in, thankfully alone. A row of shiny buttons presented themselves to him. Numbers 2-8, L, B, and M below that one.
Tex pondered it for a second. It could mean only one thing. His index finger stabbed the bottom button, and it lit perkily, as if questioning him. He took a deep breath, and descended down to the morgue.
|Author:||Jen [ Feb 05, 2008 7:06 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: A version not butchered by the BB software: Jens Tex Fan Fic|
‘Why in the hell was there a morgue in the building anyway?’ Tex thought to himself as he slid quietly away from the elevator, as surreptitiously as he could. It wasn’t as easy as he’d hoped. The thick pile carpeting was gone. The long corridor was blindingly lit by banks of fluorescent lights overhead. Hospital linoleum, in board white squares beneath his feet, betrayed him. Every step of his sneaker sent a squeak down the hallway. He cursed under his breath.
Tex peeked his head around a corner, where the hallway forked, once, then again and saw only one medical technician on duty in the slab room. A young man, short blonde hair, angular nose, in a white lab coat was looking through charts absent-mindedly.
There had to be a way to get rid of him. But how? He wracked his brain. Backing up, he retraced his steps to the first fork and took it in the other direction. There was a broom closet, a unisex restroom, and an office. Tex tried the office door. No luck. It was locked.
Not yet ready to give up, he went into the bathroom. He eyed the large ceiling tiles.
Climbing up on the toilet gave him the height he needed to push the tile up and away. He poked his head up into the ceiling. No laser beams or cameras. A lucky break. It’d been years since he did a pull-up, but the adrenaline gave him all the kick he needed to haul his lanky frame up and into the ceiling. He was careful to stay on the side railings, one misstep and he’d come crashing through to the floor.
He wasn’t prepared to cash it out just yet.
He judged the distance as best he could, worming his way foot by foot, and hazarded a peek, moving one of the tiles. Below him was a desk with a computer and chair, a few bookshelves, and a pile of papers littering the surface of the blotter.
He silently congratulated himself, and wiggled himself down, a bit at a time, till he dropped to the floor, flat footed.
“Damn it” he winced as his feet protested the sudden painful contact. He shook them out, canvassing the room.
Pulling the chair aside, he sat at the desk. Touching the mouse kicked off the screensaver, and the insert password screen flashed lazily at him.
Putting that aside for now, he rifled through the memos littering the top of the desk. Whoever’s office it was, they undoubtedly had a real organization problem.
Several of the memos were policy and procedure changes, company newsletter, assorted garbage. He was just about to give it up for worthless when he saw the envelope.
Opening it was a revelation. He scanned the contents.
….the subject is experiencing fewer and fewer breaks of lucidity. Names are increasingly more difficult to obtain. Subject may now be aware of our manipulations and is projecting warnings to targets. Jeanne Cooper was unobtainable. She committed suicide before our agents closed in.
Tex read on in distress.
We believe we have rounded up approximately 86% of level two or above psionics. The autopsies as of yet have given us no indication of cellular anomalies. More in-depth testing is advised, especially in prefrontal cortex. Of the subjects brought in pre-termination, none have found to have any knowledge of Alexis or our project. If the remainder of the psionics can be located before our subject succumbs, I count our mission a success.
Tex folded the paper and stuffed it in his trench coat pocket. The terrible letter has answered some questions, but raised others. The Crusade was eliminating anyone that might have the ability to gain unnatural insight into their plans. What were they trying to hide? Who was Alexis? He quickly thought back to Tracy’s musings. Alexis, hemophilia, and the secret inside the egg.
They were loose puzzle pieces in his head. It seemed like he was in possession of most of them, but was clueless on how they fit together. Instead of trying to force them, he just put them out of his mind for now, and tried to figure out how to get into that morgue.
He fiddled around with the computer, trying a few passwords, a reboot, just in case, the letter he had just read in the back of his mind.
A phrase jumped out at him….subjects brought in pre-termination. That was it. He took a deep breath and picked up the phone, and dialed 0, connecting him to the switch board.
He could hear the phone ring down the hallway, the tech grabbing it.
Tex laid in hard and fast. Whipping out his story with a huge sense of urgency.
“We’ve got a level 4 on the way. He’s gut-shot, and might not make it through a full interrogation.”
He heard Ottsen catch his breath.
“So that means you’ve got to meet me out back, now. Our ETA is less than five minutes. I figure he’s good for about another 15, and then there’s going to be nothing more to get from him.”
“I….I…”Ottsen stammered. “I’m the only one here. Dr. Bywater left for the golf course.”
“There’s no time to get hold of him. “ Tex pushed his bluff to the breaking point. “Get the kit, and beat feet NOW.”
Tex slammed down the phone, and prayed that he took the bait. He strained to hear footsteps, and was rewarded. He heard the door slam and the kid, smart one, took the stairs two at a time out and away.
Which left him almost no time at all.
He raced down the hall, shoved the door open, and flew to the first drawer.
The next one had a body. Tex read the toe tag. It was one of Wanda’s. He grabbed a pen and wrote down the name.
And proceeded to next one. And the next one.
While Tex was furiously writing down the names of the bodies held in the bowels of the building, a woman in a different section, four floors away, stood over a security guard who was watching a row of monitors.
“What the hell is that?” she bolted to the monitor.
“What?? Huh?” her co-worker jumped in his seat surprised, spilling his coffee in his lap.
“Camera 16, the slab room. What the….” she pushed his rolling chair aside and grabbed the joystick to remotely power the camera. She zoomed in, not yet able to see the face of the intruder. The angle of the fedora made identification impossible.
Tex, sensing he was getting low on time, kicked it into a higher gear. He barely let his mind interfere. His eyes grabbed the name, the hand wrote it down, in a flurry of activity, one after the other, till he came across….Boschert, Tracy.
He stopped with a lurch.
His eyes didn’t want to look, but they did so of their own accord. Her face was blackened and bloodied, defensive knife wounds were all over her hands. She looked half starved. She’d also been embalmed and autopsied. Inwardly he raged, staring at the ceiling in anger and frustration.
Which afforded the woman in security a dead on shot.
She inhaled with a gasp.
Her co-worker eyed her appraisingly. “Should I call it in? Sound the alarm?”
“NO!!” she shouted, almost frantic. “Keep an eye on him. Watch him, till he leaves the building. I’ll follow him.”
“You’re in charge.” He nodded.
Tex sensed that danger was getting close, that he was pressing his luck with every moment he remained. He gazed down at Tracy, and closed her sweet eyes.
“I’m so sorry kiddo.”
He closed the drawer gently, almost reverently, and made his way to the exit.
In the penthouse of the building, a man shrouded in shadow sat in the darkened room, a wisp of smoke from the cigar perched in the ashtray. He leaned back in his rich leather chair, and watched a bank of monitors. Two to be precise. One with the intruder in the morgue, and the other of the security chief in the office.
He pushed a button on the desk, buzzing quietly, and the intercom fed in.
“Yes?” a heavy, deep voice replied.
“Monitors 3 and 5. Watch and follow them.”
The response was immediate. “Yes, sir.
Tex spent the next few hours driving aimlessly, trying to shake off as much pursuit as he could. He hadn’t detected anyone following him, but thought it would be safer to take no chances. He ventured into the most run down part of town, mutant turf, to find a place to crash.
A flickering sign, half lit, dubiously named the Norman Bates Motel, looked nondescript and promising.
As he guessed, the counter help asked no questions, only took his 85 dollars cash, and handed him his key, attached to a red diamond shaped fob. He parked his speeder in a garage nearby, he wasn’t interested in sending out a written invitation to those that might be looking for him. He made his way over to his room, noticing offhandedly that the ice machine was broken. The bourbon would have to be neat tonight.
Swinging open his door, he surmised that a roach motel might be more spacious than his current digs. He wasn’t the type to get claustrophobic, but he still felt a slight pulling sensation in his chest.
To be fair, it had everything he needed. A full size bed, TV bolted to the wall, desk with chair, and even a vidphone. True, it looked pretty shabby, but it would do the job.
That bit of unpleasantness could wait till later.
He flounced on the bed, not bothering to undress, only loosening his tie, removing the flask of sleeping aid from his inside pocket, and took a huge swig. He kicked his shoes to the floor, wiggling his toes, wincing from the beating they took earlier in the day, and grabbed the remote, rapidly flipping channels.
He hit pay dirt at Foxy channel. Impossibly large chested women in negligees stretched to their very limit cavorted with each other across the screen. It was a pleasant enough image to doze off to. He set the timer to shut off in 30 minutes. He was asleep in 5.
The dreams were unrelenting.
* The collages of images were disorientating. Needles... clocks...an old-fashioned rotary dial telephone...a dead body on a boat...a girl screaming...eggs covered with diamonds and gems.
Tex heard dozens of voices. One was soft and low. It was telling him where to go. And there are other voices he couldn’t understand.
Snippets of broken voices rang in his head. “I’m with the O.S.S. We’re investigating the claims of Miss Anna Anderson.”
An angry masculine voice demands “Where is the egg?”
A woman on the edge of tears replies “Its somewhere in the North Atlantic, frozen in the ice.”
Another scene in his mind. He’s dragging a young woman along, running through snow, snapping tree branches, both of them panting in panic.
The woman cried out. “They know we’re here.”
He spoke with an urgent and angry voice. “C’mon, Princess!
“All they want is the key! Lets go back! If I give it to them, they’ll let us go!
He wasn’t buying into that. “It’s too late to go back. Now shut up and run.” *
And suddenly he’s surrounded in cold, under water. Only the sounds of his breathing in his ears. His limbs still and heavy, not wanting to move. Using his meager flashlight to find the box…there were her remains, cradling it in her bones.
A male voice repeated again and again. “Look, Donnelly, we know you killed your partner.”
He came awake with a start, in a sheen of nervous sweat. His whole body jerked as if he was falling, and then landed abruptly. His heart was hammering in his chest. The red tie, loosened earlier, now had him wrapped in a choke hold. Tex grabbed it, and pulled, freeing up more room to breathe with relief.
With the curtains drawn, he had no clue how much time had elapsed. The bedside clock read 8:15, but he couldn’t vouch for it’s accuracy. Wanda had said he should call day or night, so he took her up on it, albeit it collect.
“Nice to see you Murphy.”
He knew he looked like hell, and neither one of them was in the mood to flirt. So he kept it as short as he could.
“It doesn’t look good Wanda.”
She steadied herself.
Tex continued. “I spent most of the time in the morgue. Unfortunately, it looks like the place had seen a lot of action. Mutant and non. I managed to get most of the names.”
“Him too, Wanda, I’m sorry.”
She couldn’t look at the vidphone screen. Tex’s heart went out to her, as he saw her struggle to maintain composure. Her eyes blinked rapidly, holding back tears. She refused to let them fall while they talked.
Tex looked at the list. “I don’t see his name. Can you give me a description?”
“Slight build, short red hair, goatee.”
Tex’s hand mashed at the corner of his temples. “John Doe #2. Jesus.” His voiced trailed off, and they both stared at their respective floors in silence, looking for different answers, finding none. “Wanda, I’m sorry.”
One tear did fall, and she rubbed it away with the back of her hand violently. It was enough to shake her back into her resolve. She was obviously pained, but was slapping ten coats of ice over it to numb herself. When she spoke again, her voice no longer wavered.
“There isn’t a draft. They all knew what they were getting into.” She fiddled with her hands for the briefest of moments. “Still….it’s a sad day for Capricorn. And for me. I hand picked those volunteers. I feel responsible.”
Tex tried to comfort her, but she cut him off quickly.
“Stop, Murphy. There’s nothing you can say. I owe you my thanks. At least…there’s no mystery on where they are or what happened to them.” Her face contorted in anger. “You can be sure that I will nail the Crusade to the god damn wall for this.”
Sensing that her composure had slipped, she calmed herself down again with a deep breath before speaking.
“So what about you? Have your questions been answered?”
Tex thought about it. He knew his only obligation was to Chelsee. But the dreams were getting worse. He had a suspicion that they were connected to this case somehow. If he had any solid leads he’d dive in and figure out what he could, if only to muck up the plans of the Crusade. But he was looking at a dead end.
“I don’t know.” was his most honest answer.
“Capricorn is in your debt. If you need any help. Let me know. It’s the least I can do.”
Before they could sign off, there was a hard pounding at the door. Tex looked back at the screen.
“I’ve got to go.” He disconnected the call hurriedly, and fished out his gun, walking slowly towards the door, arms outstretched and safety unlatched. The pounding repeated, harder this time.
“Don’t make me break this down!”
He swung open the door, gun pointing in his face from the woman on the other side. He dropped his immediately.
The woman’s face drew a memory from his dreams. It made no sense at all. He didn’t know her, never met her, but on some level, he did.
“Keep it nice and still Murphy.”
He put his hands up, but he ceased to be fully there. His dreams came back in rapid fire flashes. The remains in the bottom of the ocean, the icy blackness, the box, the voice asking for the key.
“Do you have the key?”
He didn’t respond. Her free hand whipped out to strike him across the face. He jerked, slamming back into reality.
“Do you have the key?”
“Who wants to know?” he snapped back. It was an unwise move.
Although she was no taller than about 5’2, she managed a sucker punch that knocked the wind right out of him. He doubled over in pain, bending down to her level.
Her eyes were the grey tinge of steel that could be molded, but never broken.
“Get your things. I’ve found a charter. We’re on our way to Derbent.”
Tex’s head was swimming.
“Where the hell is that?”
She stopped and took hold of the situation, gave Tex a solid once over. She realized that he hadn’t discovered the truth to his memories.
“Russia.“ She paused in disbelief. “You really don’t know me? Do you???” She searched his eyes.
But suddenly, he did. And as he stared upon her face, the gravelly voice echoed back into his head mercilessly.
“Look, Donnelly, we know you killed your partner.”
There was time to talk once they were in the air. The pilot kept to himself in the front cockpit, leaving the both of them in back section alone. Tex thought about his speeder, a weeks parking paid for, and was glad they had taken the time to make a quick stop for a fresh toothbrush, deodorant, and change of clothes. A parka was a welcome addition, even though it had lightened his wallet substantially. She had an overnight bag already packed, so she humored him with his bare bones purchases, shaking her head.
The private charter’s rear alcove was setup like a stretch limousine with dark, soft fabrics and heavily tinted windows. The seating arrangements were long couches, facing each other, and a mini bar tucked away in a wood paneled section, next to him, of course. The selection was simple, but impressive, all top shelf. A center console separated them.
Raina lay stretched out on the sofa across from Tex, her shoes kicked off , face buried studiously in a small book of maps of the Russian coast. Her drink, impossibly green, and mostly forgotten, sat in the cup holder, condensation dripping down the glass.
Tex had no such loss of focus. Knowing that there was plenty of time to return to sobriety, he gratefully imbibed in the high quality alcohol, and made no attempt to disguise his attempts to size her up. Although he now had only the most cursory knowledge of her, he hoped to take a little time to fill in some gaps.
Feigning interest in her book of maps he broached conversation carefully.
“So, how are you connected to all of this?”
She took a deep breath, and set her book aside. Taking a long gulp of her drink, she thoughts things over for a bit before speaking. She closed her eyes, and pulled off the band that kept her auburn hair away from her face. Tex would never have called her beautiful, there were too many flaws. But the package equaled more than the sum of it’s parts, and he could definitely call her cute. She looked like a woman who could take a bullet or give birth without batting an eye. Someone who scoffed at you for whining about a flesh wound. Her arms were heavily muscled, and thick, he could see her choice of clothing attempted to hide that fact.
“A long time ago, I was entrusted with 2 very precious things.” She sat up, turning to face Tex.
“There had been a change of weather. Summer snows had been falling the last few days. It was the middle of July. But on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains, you could never predict….”
Tex watched her turn inward. Her eyes were distant, and her face pained.
“I was one of 3 Latvians who refused to take part in the executions. But I was not blameless. I watched Kabanov shoot Nicholas first. In his death, he showed more resolve than he did as a leader.”
She shook her head. “It was folly. Lenin knew it to be true, but he gave the Bolsheviks reign anyway. The fool.”
“It was political, I understood. I watched them shoot Maria, but she didn’t die right away. She had always been so friendly to her guards. Constantly flirting and with no haughty little airs. She kept telling us tales about playing checkers with the wounded soldiers in the war, and her silly crushes on the service men that visited the hospital. She was only a young foolish girl.”
She cleared her throat. “She didn’t die because she had hid as many valuables as she could. Smuggling out a few prized possessions. The bullet broke the gilded photo frame in her bodice. Diamonds and blood ran from her chest. My resolve was at it’s limit. But when they started bayoneting the children…..”
Her head hung, lost in the memories that haunted her.
“When they started bayoneting the children, I knew I had to act. We begged for the lives of the youngest, promised to smuggle them away, never to be found. My companion held his gun at the group, and they allowed us to go.”
“We each took one.”
The light began to dawn in Tex’s eyes.
“ He was so slender. Almost skin and bones. I remember the haunted look in his eyes. And his awful little haircut. He could have easily passed for a peasant boy. “
She wrung her hands.
“My compatriot took Anastasia. I never found out happened to her. I never met Ms. Anderson, so I don’t know if she was ever recaptured.”
“I fled with Alexis, but he demanded that we make way to a spot in the backyard. He unburied a small metal box, and pulled out the key, kept strung on a necklace, tucked into his shirt. He handed me both items, and we ran. He kept tripping over his own feet. Weak… but he held on. “
“We ran through the forests, hiding as best we could, and slowly made our way safely out of Yekaterinburg. My contacts in the white army helped me bring him to the coast, where we entrusted him to a religious group loyal to the monarchy. The Old Believers.”
“I thought it was over. I became an open member of the resistance to the Red Army, and when you came as liaison to the allied forces, we became partners.”
Her look took him down a notch. She drained her drink and quickly refilled it, downing it yet again in a attempt to banish the thoughts from her head. It didn’t work.
“Rumors circulated about Alexi, and word got out about my complicity. But there was something else. “
“Alexi struggled with the disease of the aristocrats. He had almost died years ago. The guards that held the family captive after the abdication, thought that Alexi would succumb. For most of his life, his mother Alexandra had consulted with the finest doctors about his condition. When they could offer him no cure, she delved deeper. She consulted with mystics, botanists, and holy men. No one who had solutions for Alexi’s malady was ever turned away.
She kept his problem a closely guarded secret, most of the people outside the palace never knew about his hemophilia. Rumor has it, that someone had made Alexi a serum that cured him. I believe he must have taken it shortly before he came to Yekaterinburg. He had injured himself before the rest of the family was brought to the Iptiev house. The fall should have killed him. I believe he was healing too rapidly, and he hid that fact from his captors. ”
Tex thought about Tracy’s scribbling.
“It slowed his aging, didn’t it? The serum did more than just cure him.”
She looked up, surprised that he knew the truth.
“When the brotherhood found out about it, they started looking for him. No one that was alive knew about the box but Alexi and I. He went into hiding, and I received possession of it.”
Her gaze met his, and Tex, for reasons he didn‘t understand, dropped his eyes guiltily. “But I made a mistake. I told you about it.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Why did you confide in me?”
This time it was her gaze that wandered. “It was pillow talk.”
He didn’t know how to respond. He cleared his throat nervously, and finished his drink.
He had no idea why Raina did what she did next. Maybe it was her way of relieving the tension she carried about what lay ahead, or that she remembered more about their shared past than he did. It might have also been that she simply wanted to prevent him from asking anymore questions that she didn’t want to answer.
She moved across the sofa quickly, and pressed herself up against him, hard.
He felt himself respond, and she pulled at his clothing rapidly, kissing him, not letting the feel of his skin out from under her hands.
When she spoke, and she used her body for that for the most part, and not her mouth, she used a name that no one else, save his family, knew.
|Author:||Jen [ Feb 05, 2008 7:07 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: A version not butchered by the BB software: Jens Tex Fan|
“Bullshit. This is complete and utter bullshit.” Raina whispered to Tex under her breath. “He’s screwing me.”
Tex grinned at her jibe, aware that she had no idea what he found so funny.
She argued in broken Russian, shaking her head, thrusting the money at him. They had spent the time after landing at the docks trying to find a boat and scuba gear. There were boats to be chartered for sure, with captain. But the fact that she wanted to take it out with only the two of them brought her countless rejections.
The old man could smell her desperation, and refused to budge. His ancient black rubber boots were planted firmly on the dock, body swaying slightly with the pitch of the water beneath them. The reek of fish was overpowering. He spoke again, rapid fire, and it was enough for Raina to give in.
“Son of a bitch.”
Grudgingly, she passed over to him a wad of money much larger than her first attempt.
The man, now all smiles, missing only about half his teeth, dragged out the scuba gear, checking the tanks and eyeballing the both of them. He then dug into a locker on the dock, and tossed them two wetsuits.
Tex eyed them nervously.
Raina gave him a withering impatient look. “Just go put on the wet suit and shut up. I planned on going in alone, but they still want to enforce the ‘buddy system.’”
She gestured to a bathroom up from the dock, dismissing him while she took a closer look at the equipment. Checking the tanks, the rebreathers, and she climbed aboard the boat, perusing the gauges.
When he returned, looking like a overstuffed grey sausage, with fedora, she took her turn.
“Do me a favor, and just don’t touch anything.” She gathered up the suit, apparently satisfied with the condition of the boat. As she climbed up over the side, her eyes softened.
“Listen, I’m sorry I’m being such a bitch. It’s just stress.”
Tex nodded. “Well do I understand. In fact, I’m going to see how much of a pack of refreshing Llama Lights I can go through while you change.”
Turned out, quite a bit more than he imagined.
The seas were rough, and Raina found it difficult to keep both her eye on the book and pilot the boat at the same time. So Tex became map holder, keeping it in her peripheral vision while she negotiated the controls. They hugged the coast, traveling for miles. The cold grey sea water whipping them both in the face. At one point she became uncertain, and she killed the engine, frustration in her face and mannerisms. They bobbed in the water, waiting.
“Is any of this familiar at all to you?” Her eyes scoured the coast, her confusion apparent.
At first Tex wanted to reply in the negative, but nagging doubts came to his mind. Way in the distance Tex saw an alcove that for some bizarre reason looked promising. He pointed it out to her, and she weighed her options, thinking.
“The alcove…but further out.”
The wind picked up a bit, whipping them with a cold breeze, the boat tossing them roughly. She sat down, and grabbed the map. Together, they stared out into the distance, and the book again.
“Do you hear something?” Tex thought he could make out sounds of an engine in the distance.
Raina bolted to her feet and looked towards the shore.
Coming fast in their direction was a speed boat. Much quicker, and more powerful than the one they were in. The boat seemed to chew up the distance between them, and Raina turned her back, quickly manning the controls.
She gunned the engine, black smoke spewing, and hit the throttle forward.
“No, son of a bitch !”
She fiddled with the controls, flipping a switch. The upcoming boat covered a huge chunk of the distance separating them. Tex started to panic.
“Come on…damn it.”
“Why don’t you jump out and give it a freaking push, ok?” Raina snapped at him. She made some fine adjustments, turned the key and prayed.
They raced to the alcove as quickly as they could. Tex couldn’t keep his eyes off the boat approaching them. He was freezing, not only from the wind and water, but from fear. As they sped closer, more detail came into view.
There were three men in the boat and none of them looked like locals. They were all dressed in black, and radiated menace. One of them was carrying a high powered rifle, and was training its sight on them.
“Raina, one of them has got a gun, for God’s sake get down.”
A shot rang out, and the windshield of their boat starred, and shattered.
She ducked her head.
Tex could see the gunman make a slight adjustment, and fired again.
He could hear the bullet strike home, and winced, preparing for the shock.
It wasn’t him.
Raina buckled but didn’t pull away from the controls.
Tex looked back out.
“There’s a boat, another one, gaining on them, gaining on us.”
It was still far behind, but it was churning up a huge wake, tailing them for sure.
It was the last thing Tex cared about at this point.
The alcove was closer, a half mile away. They pulled up on it, and she killed the engine.
“Quick, the tank. And your face mask and fins. Get it. NOW!!”
She was white with shock.
Tex went to her.
“How bad are you hit?”
She lied right through her teeth. “It grazed me on the hip. But I can’t go in. You‘re going to have to do it.”
“I’ve never been down there before, or used a scuba tank.” His eyes were frantic, trained on the huge amount of blood that was pooling under her.
“Yes you have. Damn it. Just try to remember.”
She coughed, and her teeth were stained red.
“Listen. The water’s not that deep. 20-30 feet tops. Just don’t surface faster than your bubbles rise. Take it slow, and stop if you need to. You’ll be fine.”
He shook his head rapidly, and Raina grabbed at him, ready to strike.
“If you don’t go down there and get it, they will. The last thing I’m going to do is see that damn thing fall into the wrong hands. I’ve done too much to protect it.”
She handed him an underwater flashlight, and put the tank on his back, wincing in pain.
Before he put the rebreather into his mouth, he ventured one last question, even though he thought he knew the answer.
“What’s down there?”
“Stupid…Tex, Donnelly, all the people you were and are. I'm like you, stuck until things are set to right.” She coughed again, and groaned a little bit. She sat with a plop, as if all the strength she had left was gone.
“I’m down there.”
She pushed him to the edge of the boat, and was getting ready to dump him over the side.
“And damn you for not remembering us.”
She adjusted his goggles, took out his mouthpiece, kissed him, and then replaced it. She gave him a shove, and he fell backwards into the water.
Even with the wetsuit, the bitterly cold water enveloped him, and caused him to gasp immediately. He could hear nothing but the pounding of his heart, at a speed that terrified him, and his breathing, hyperventilating to the point that he was afraid he’d pass out.
He forced himself to calm down, taking deep and deliberate breaths. He could do nothing to slow his racing pulse.
He had barely stilled when he felt a rush of something pass him, too closely. It left no trace. Deducing that someone was shooting down into the water at him, he sped up his decent, his breathing back to a dogs pant, the flashlight cutting a path down in the darkness. He felt exposed and terrified. He rapidly cleared his ears, evening out the pressure as he proceeded downward.
Five feet more, then ten and he felt a shake, and a wall of pressure pushed him to the side. Something big had just happened up above him. He had no idea what it might have been, but he hoped Raina was ok. His skin was covered in goose bumps, and not completely from the cold.
The time it took to reach the bottom felt like an eternity. Raina had been mistaken about the distance. He hovered over the sea floor, it’s surface covered with rocks, algae, and aquatic life. A heavy black fish eyed him suspiciously, but didn’t flee. With his fins on, he wasn’t able to walk, so he floated as close to the rocks and sea bed as he dared.
He was lost.
Not only was he shivering, but his legs seemed leaden, and heavy, unwilling to move him. Not wanting to die down here, he focused, doing everything he could to will the universe into guiding him to what he was searching for.
He went over one outcropping, and then another. Each one seemed to get further away. His brain was sending him signals he didn’t understand, and he was suddenly afraid of hallucinating. What if a sudden misfire sent him the idea that he should spit out his mouth piece?
Holding on to his rational mind, he made a decision. Time was ticking away. There was a final outcropping about 300 feet away. He didn’t believe in God, but he sent out his bargain.
‘I won’t go any further than that section of rock right there. If I haven’t found her by then, I go back up and count it lost. But if you want me to have it, it’s got to be there or before. Whatever it is, I don’t want to die for it.’
Almost resigned, he lazily swam towards the final few out-croppings. His heart rate and breathing had slowed considerably, and he wasn’t sure at all that it was a good thing. He started to feel confused, was that the last outcropping over there? Or was it further off?
The big PI in the sky decided that he wanted Tex around for a little longer. As he approached a huge formation of rocks, he saw a myriad of debris in the area. Personal items, a leather suitcase, and his heart catching in his throat, the awful sight of her remains.
He had read that cold water could preserve bodies. As long as there weren’t animals to pick the flesh away, a body could exist for a long time, almost mummified.
Evidently, they gave up at the pile of bones. A gold necklace hung from her shoulder, the body collapsed into a loose scattered pile of remains. But even in death, and hidden deep in the water, her arms covered the treasure.
He sadly pulled them away and took both the box, and the jewelry that tangled in in her skeleton.
His arms were full with the flashlight in one hand and the box in the other, but he was afraid to cast aside the meager light, fearing that he might lose his bearings and not remember which way was up.
Slowly, he watched the bubbles, and made his ascent to the surface. He sang a little song in his head to help keep him focused. He hoped it would work. Every time he finished a chorus of Frere Jacques, he stopped for a few seconds, the idea of the pain and suffering in the “bends” kept him together.
The water above him got progressively lighter, and it was hard to keep his ascent slow. He wanted to race to the surface. As he approached, he felt the rumblings of a boat engine, and thanked god that Raina had been circling, looking for him. There was the outboard engine, and he locked onto it, reaching the surface right next to it.
The first sensation he felt was a strong male hand, too strong to be Raina’s, grabbing him, and pulling him up towards the boat. He thrashed in panic, afraid that he had fallen into the hands of his pursuers, and all of this was for naught. His head banged up against the side of the boat dangerously hard and he slumped forward.
He was disoriented, bordering on hallucinations when he heard a familiar voice. He was sure then that he was delirious.
“Be still. It’s me Murphy. It’s Wanda.” Her comforting voice quieted him. He slipped into unconsciousness.
Pulling him to the deck, she noticed that his lips were indigo, almost purple. His skin tinged dusky blue also. She cursed. “Hypothermia. He’s got it pretty bad.”
She yanked off his fins and goggles. Her mind raced.
“We’ve got to get him warm. Let’s take him down below. I’ll keep an eye on him. Once I’ve got him tucked in, take us to the dock. Phone ahead for an ambulance to meet us there. He needs a hospital.”
Wanda’s burly companion hooked Tex around his arms and carried him down to the cabin, plopped him on a bunk and went back topside. She hurriedly unzipped a fluffy sleeping bag, and undressed Tex, wrapping it around him, tucking him in securely.
He started shivering uncontrollably. Wanda watched him, obviously suffering, and made a decision. She knew the best way to raise a persons body temperature.
“You’d better not remember this.”
She quickly undressed down to nothing, tossing all her clothing onto the floor. She opened the zipper and got into the sleeping bag with him. Her shared heat slowly stilled his shivering, and after a time, he lay quiet, breathing deep and regular, asleep.
Tex slowly awoke in an unfamiliar hospital bed, laying on his side, in little more than a flimsy hospital gown that fastened in the rear, leaving his backside embarrassingly exposed.
The bright fluorescent lights made him wince.
Wanda noticed his shifting, put down her book, and got up from the chair she had spent most of the last day in. She sat beside him on the bed, putting her hand gingerly on his forehead. He was so happy to see her smile.
“I’m glad you’re awake. That was quite a hit you took on your brain can. You’ve got a pretty moderate concussion, there was some bleeding in the brain, and a severe case of hypothermia. I know you’ve heard this before, but you’re lucky to be alive.”
“My parents told me that countless times.”
“Thankfully, you kept that badge close to you. You led us on a merry chase, that’s for sure. I knew you were getting yourself into trouble.”
“What happened? While I was underneath the water I felt like I was being pushed away.”
She clenched her fists till her knuckles were white and bloodless. “We blew that damn boat out of the water. Kurt got a lucky shot. There were 3 top level hunters chasing you. I’m glad they’re dead.”
A muted knock sounded on the door, and Wanda got up, patting Tex’s hand before she crossed the room. He heard her impatient voice, the person on the other side of the door was imperceptible.
“In a minute. Jesus, he just woke up.”
She paused, listening. “I don’t care how important you think it is, you can wait.”
The murmuring increased .
“I don’t give a rat’s ass. Give me a few more minutes. If it wasn’t for him, it would have never resurfaced. So bugger off for a little longer.”
She closed the door with obvious irritation, and returned to his bedside.
Tex saw his fedora on the bedside table, and his thoughts went to Raina, a question on his lips he didn’t want to ask.
“The woman in the boat with me?”
Wanda dropped her eyes, giving his hand a squeeze.
“I’m so sorry. We were able to get her in the boat, but she died just a few minutes after that. She said…..”
Wanda swallowed. “She wished you would have remembered how much had she loved you.”
Tex closed his eyes.
“Not sure you wanted to hear that, but I owed it to the both of you. Do you want to go down and take a look at her?”
He shook his head. “I’m not ready for that yet.”
They both sat in an awkward silence. Wanda’s hand tapped on the side railing of his bed.
“Well…how about opening this box of yours? I don’t know the story behind all this, but this Russian is damned insistent to talk to you.
She stood, turned to the pile of Tex’s belongings and carried over the box.
“The key is in the inside trench coat pocket, the one on the left. In the pack of Llamas.”
She fished out the tan pack of smokes, misshapen and soggy, and placed both items in his lap. Tex dug his fingers inside the pack and pulled out the key.
“Here goes nothing.”
Taking a deep breath, he fit the tiny brass key into the lock. It slipped in as if it were coated with melted butter. He turned it, and felt the tumblers let go, unlocking, and he slowly lifted the lid.
It was almost certainly one of the biggest Faberge eggs ever made.
Wanda gasped when she saw it.
“One of the unknown eggs.”
Tex lifted it out gently, standing it on the lid of the box, now closed.
The egg was colored a deep blue enamel. The base was heavy, rectangular and gold, set with hundreds of diamonds and sapphires. In the center of the base was a portrait of Alexis. The date underneath it, again set in rich gold and stones, was 1917.
The egg itself was a clock. The body of the clock was divided into twelve bands. The deepest blue was off set by long rows of gold and diamonds. The upper eggshell was a rotating clock base. Roman numerals in sapphires and diamonds were set in a wide shimmering gold band where an arrow from the bottom eggshell, unmoving, pointed out the hour.
It was crowned with what looked like it might be a cuckoo, hidden from view in the top of the eggshell.
Wanda gazed at it amazed.
“It’s incredible. There’s no documentation anywhere about this particular egg. Look at the date. Commissioned the last year of his reign. Normally Nicholas commissioned 2 eggs a year. But this isn‘t one of them. It must have been specially made.”
For Alexis, the future monarch, and the pride and joy of his whole family. Tex thought to himself.
Tex thought about the last phrase he’d seen on Tracy’s scribbling. The secret in the egg.
“Since you know so much about them, how to I get to the secret in the egg?”
Wanda shook her head.
“The clock eggs, I think there were 5 or 6 of them. I don’t remember a surprise in any of them.”
“Well, there’s always a first, I’m going to take a closer look.”
“Tex, just please be careful. This item is priceless.”
“What, I look like one of the 3 stooges?” He pretended to let the egg slip out of his hands. He barely held back a laugh as he watched Wanda’s eyes bulge from her sockets. She smacked him upside the head, hard enough to hurt.
“Hey, remember? Intracranial bleeding, watch it.”
He looked closer, turning the egg around in his hands. In the back there was a small knob to wind the clock. His huge fingers clumsily turned it. “Righty tighty, right? “ he spoke to no one in particular.
He gave it a few full turns, and listened to hear it begin to tick within. Satisfied that it still worked he puzzled over it for awhile. The egg was obviously a gift for his only son and heir. One day he knew that Alexis would take over and rule for him. Knowing one day his time would come.
It sparked an idea is Tex’s mind, and he carefully set the clock to two minutes before 12.
Sure enough, when the clock rotated to precisely midnight, or noon, a small panel opened at the top. He found that he could reach in and fish out a little object, rounded egg shaped. Tex took it in his hand.
It wasn’t adorned with any gems, but it was filigreed with the same blue enamel as the large egg, and gold.
It was a puzzle egg. Small, but unable to open until the bands, both vertical, horizontal and diagonal, were set in the right direction.
Tex spent the next ten minutes worrying it, till he figured out the pattern, and placed everything in its proper order. He could hear a small click and the top of the egg popped open.
To anyone else, they would have not understood what they saw. There was room for two small vials, brown bottles. There was only one nestled inside the egg. The other was missing. He knew where the other vial was…or had been. He carried it himself from a monastery in India sometime ago back to San Francisco.
Wanda furrowed her brow.
“Why would anyone hide that? There looks to be precious few drops in it anyway.”
Tex, for once, held his tongue, and palmed the vial. He tucked it back into the former hiding place of the key, and asked Wanda to hide it back in his trench coat.
“Payment for service rendered.”
Wanda simply nodded.
“Are you ready to go see her?”
“Go let him in…and we’ll head down after that. ” Tex sounded weary, and she decided not to press him. She wandered out the door.
His head fell back against his pillow with an exhausted thump. He felt like he’d been going non-stop for days. He would have gladly negotiated a piece of his soul for a huge cup of Louie’s coffee, and the companionship of his friends. Only a bit longer…..he thought to himself. He wasn’t sure how much he believed of what he’d heard earlier about Alexis condition and cure; he decided to just play it by ear.
There was a knock on the door before the two of them walked in. Wanda brought the young gentleman over to his bed.
"I'll leave the two of you alone." she spoke, exiting, quietly closing the door behind her.
It was all true.
The face of the man in front of him was unmistakably the same as the child’s portrait in the base that held the egg. He looked no more than 30. Not a speck of grey in his temples, or a wrinkle in his skin. His business suit was crisp and well tailored, his nails impeccably trimmed and filed. His haircut easily cost more than a week’s salary for most folks.
His English was smooth, and concise.
“Please, call me Alex.”
“I’ve heard so much about you.” Tex answered honestly. “I didn't know if I believed it till now. For the last 30 years they've said you were dead. That your body was found a short distance away from your family. Your's and your sister."
Alex nodded. "To resolve the mystery, and close the book on our past for good. I was promised safety and anonymity for the rest of my days provided I could give them the genetic materials they needed to prove that I was gone. Hair, blood, skin and nail samples, I offered them all that they needed. I'm surprised that they showed me the courtesy, corruption still runs deeply. But a little bit of evidence is what they wanted, and until this moment, I never got what I really wanted, and that was the gift that my father gave to me. Do you have it?"
“Yes. It’s yours. I’ll hand it over to you. No question about it.” Tex paused, trying to find the right words. “I guess I’m more curious about the gift that your mother gave you.”
Alex shook his head. “It was lost. There were two separate substances. I was told to never keep them together, in case someone else might learn about their power. I held one in my pocket, and the other in the egg. It doesn’t matter what happens to the secret in the egg, as I’m sure you’ve discovered it. You are extremely resourceful.”
“A long time ago, I learned about a insect that had a very special defense mechanism. In his head there were two separate glands that held a special fluid. Alone, the substances were inert, harmless. When he was threatened, he shot a stream of each out. In the act of spitting, they combined, and spurned a chemical reaction that super heated it enough to kill anything it touches. Not that this is a apt analogy, but each substance by itself, did nothing.”
Tex was still very inquisitive. “What happened to the other one? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“I do mind, I don’t enjoy talking about it in the slightest. But I do owe you a huge debt of gratitude.”
He cleared his throat.
“I gave the other bottle to my sister, passed it to her quietly at the moment of our separation and escape. I have never found proof that she made it out alive. It is surely gone.”
A wry thought strayed in Tex’s head, but he left it unspoken. ‘It might be gone, but don’t call him Shirley.’ What he spoke aloud was.
"Why did she entrust it to you? Why not in a vault somewhere?"
Alex nodded. "I insisted on it. I was a bit of a chore as a child, demanding. My sisters tried to keep me in line, but undoubtably, I was a handful."
He silenced, and Tex could tell by the look in his eyes that he was remembering the last time he saw them, their bodies bloody and still.
Alex had one more thing to say. “I can tell you honestly. My mother's gift has given me little pleasure. The most important thing in life to me is family. They are all gone, and I can never have another. In the long run I’m not sure that my father’s gift will bring me much pleasure, but it will bring back some memories. And a tie to my past.”
Tex handed over the box.
Alex bowed. “I thank you.
He shook Tex’s hand and turned to walk away , the box tucked safely under one arm, his fine Italian shoes tapping slightly as he left. Wanda entered, and took her previous seat by his bedside.
Tex’s sigh came all the way up from the base of his chest. “I’m ready to get dressed and go down.”
The orderly pulled back the sheet, and Tex’s eyes closed in pain.
“You next of kin?”
“Yes, he is.” Wanda chimed in. “The hospital has already authorized turning over of her personal effects to him. May we have them?”
Tex nodded, and the orderly brought the sheet back up, covering her face. The morgue worker dug a manila envelope from a small stack, and passed it over to Tex.
“There’s a waiting area outside if you’d like.”
Tex stood woodenly, it took Wanda pulling on his hand to snap him out of it, tugging him out of the room. Looking down at her body had triggered more memories of their time together, now too late for them both. He ground the heel of his hand into his forehead, driving the thoughts away. He let Wanda pull him over to a hard plastic chair, where he opened the envelope.
Her jewelry, personal items, and PDA held little interest to him until he saw the words ‘message received’ on the screen. He flipped it open and read the note.
It looked to be from Tracy’s source inside Genetic Purity. Raina, as head of security, must have known her. He read the short, abbreviated note.
The ’seer’ passed today. One last target, unknown psionics ability, but definitely a part of the grander objective. No positive id, just a partial and location. Chandler Ave. San Francisco. Blonde woman, aged 25-35. They are sending out operatives within 72 hours to interrogate pre-termination.
Panic hammered in his chest. The message was time stamped from the day before.
“Wanda…we’ve….I’ve got to go back now.”
She shook her head. “They’ve still got tests to run, you shouldn’t be going anywhere for the next 24 hours at least.”
“Help me or not, but I’m leaving. They’ve targeted my friend. As for why, I’ve got no idea, but I’ll be damned if I’m just going to sit on my hands.”
“Let’s call her and warn her. Maybe there’s someplace she can hide.”
Tex nodded. “We can do it from the air. Let’s go. NOW!”
“What the hell is going on?” Tex cursed in frustration. For the last two hours he had tried Chelsee’s vid phone over a dozen times. Each time he received a rapidly buzzing busy signal. After the first ten attempts, he called the phone company pleading to find out what was going on with her line. The operator enigmatically said that there was no voice or video signal being transmitted at this time. That was the extent she said that she could help him.
“Wanda, I want to call a friend. Louie at the Brew and Stew, or maybe even Rook. I want to see what’s going on.”
Wanda shook her head in desperation. “Don’t you dare. Not unless you want two more targets for the Crusade, and few more dead friends on your conscience.” She grabbed her cell and flipped it open. “Let me call the San Fran Capricorn office. I’ll make sure to place one of our operatives to watch her till we get there. They’ll linger out of sight, but keep an eye out. Will that make you feel better?”
Silently, he wished for Star Trek teleporters, worm holes, folding space, halting time, anything that could get him to Chandler Avenue as quickly as possible.
He nodded, but Wanda had already placed her call, and was waiting for confirmation on the other side.
“LeMosy. I need you to shadow someone. A woman in the mutant part of town.”
There was a moment of silence on Wanda’s end.
“Well, I’m sorry that you just pulled a double. But I can’t count on Crabtree, and Pronk’s taking care of his baby. You’re up to bat, my friend. Besides, she’s easy on the eyes. Trust me.”
She rolled her own eyes as she listened to the other end. “Oh..ok. Yes, I owe you one. Head out now, I’ll call you when we’ve arrived. Chandler Avenue. She’s in the files, I’m sure of it. Chelsee Bando. If you can get backup, go ahead and bring them in. Yes….I’ll sign for the OT. Ok. Bye.”
She sighed, and flipped her phone closed.
“Feel a little better?”
Tex had to admit that he did. He thought they might have a better chance getting Chelsee out of all of this safely with a few more professionals on the job. At the rate his friends and former love interests ended up vanished or dead, he didn’t trust himself to dog sit at this point.
“You know, you really should get some rest. That head wound is still pretty nasty.” Wanda looked at the goose egg on his temple carefully.
Tex drummed his legs, fidgeting. “I can’t relax. I’m too damn restless.”
Wanda poured him a glass of scotch, and while distracting him, slipped most of the powder of a pain pill inside it. She calculated the time still left in flight, and figured he’d be ok, knocked out for a few hours.
“Have a drink. Just to settle your nerves. I need you sharp out there, not on a short fuse.”
Without a fight, Tex drank the mickey, and before he could register that he’d been doped, he passed out, head lolling backward, a puddle of drool slowly forming on the lip of his trench coat.
“Come on Tex, wake up.” She shook his shoulder, jostling him into consciousness. “We’re here.”
Tex brushed the fog from his mind and sat up expectantly. “Where are we?”
Wanda loaded her weapon, locking the clip and checking the chamber, and handed another to Tex. “In the alley behind the Brew and Stew. The op hasn’t seen anything, but it’s been full dark for a few hours.” She shoved her gun in her waist band. “Let’s go…. and keep it quiet.”
They tiptoed silently out of the long range speeder, and down the alley. They stopped at the fence, and Tex could see the back of Chelsee at the news stand, straightening a row of new releases. They were just about to pull the loose board aside, and wriggle their way out to the street, when Wanda’s cell phone vibrated in her pocket.
The muffled sound was enough set off a cat perched onto one of Louie’s trashcans. The tabby jumped down, the lid banging to the ground, and a sudden gunshot from high in one of the buildings rang out. They bolted, slipping through the gate as fast as they could, all stealth aside. Another gunshot, and Tex watched the bullet hole blossom on her slender back, blonde hair flying forward, she falling.
Tex shouted at the top of his lungs, running to her, and Wanda focused on locating where the shot originated, her and her partner coordinating the chase.
“I’m calling the police, and medics.” Wanda was frantic. “Get over there and help her as best you can. They’ll be here in just a minute. We’re going after the shooter. I’d like to take him alive.”
Tex ran, Wanda’s voice a babble in his ears, uncomprehending. All he could think about was Chelsee, and that he didn’t want to imagine a world were she wasn’t there, constantly pulling at his chain. He was crying in shock, intensifying when he saw the immense pool of blood forming underneath her.
Not sure what to do, he crouched on the ground beside her, taking her in his arms. He slowly and with the up most care turned her over on her back, where his eyes gazed into her hazel ones.
“Hazel?” Tex flinched for a moment before recognition dawned on him.
“You like the new look?” Her jaw was slack, blood dripping out the corner of her lip. “My opinion, it's not bad, but I think the brunette is a better match for me.”
Tex had last seen her long ago over a glass of fine scotch. He had handed her the object she’d hired him to retrieve for her, the small brown vial, and she had disappeared out of his life. Until now. “Oh my God, I’ve got to help you. I’ve got to stop the bleeding.”
“Relax…” Lauren’s head lolled backward into Tex’s arms. “I can’t feel anything below my shoulder. He must have hit me in the spine.” She gasped, finding it hard to breathe. “ I saw the exit wound Tex, I’m done for.”
“No, you’re not, just hold on damn it. The medics will be right here.”
“Stop it. They need to think I’m dead, or they’ll never call off their dogs. Or, that’s she’s dead.”
Tex mind was reeling. “Where is Chelsee?”
Lauren coughed a little, and groaned. It was getting harder and harder for her to draw breath.
“I flew down when I learned that Raina was dead, and they had tracked down their final target. I told Chelsee as much as I dared. It was the only way I could get her out of here safely, and I could run the stand in her place. She might want to consider a name change, and at least a temporary dye job, in the short term.”
Her eyes blinked slowly. “I had to tell her about Tracy, but I kept the torture a secret. We can’t let her know Tex. It’ll kill her.”
“Why did they target her? What does she know?” Tex couldn’t fit the pieces together.
“I wish I knew. Only the head of the Crusade knew….or at least I think he did. Towards the end, the seer was getting pretty scattered. He might have been chasing straws. He wanted to get the other vial. But I don‘t see the connection.”
“The Crusade has one half of it?” Tex couldn’t believe that Lauren had sold it out, not now that she was here, dying in front of him.
She found it more difficult to focus, she was turning inward. She had more to tell. She shook her head, but it was pretty weakly now, and fear had settled deep and hard in her chest.
“No. I swapped it out with some of my family’s most important, secretive mixtures. Since the Crusade didn’t really know what the vials contained, and they knew the two had to work together, they didn’t suspect a double cross. It helped that I never met any of the higher ups. I befriended Tracy, and Raina, and a few others that worked towards the secret.”
She twisted her head in his arms, looking down at where her organs, no longer internal, puddled.
“Under the stack of GQ’s. Tex, hurry. I couldn’t trust it to anyone that had a motive to use it unwisely. Take it. There’s a slip of paper underneath it with Chelsee’s safe house address. I know you’ve got the other vial. I want you to have it. Do what you think is best with it. You decide.”
Her eyes closed, and her voice dropped to a whisper.
“I just want to know that it’s safe. And that I’ve atoned...”
It was the last words she ever spoke. It took her another few minutes to die, and Tex didn’t dare let go of her, rocking her in his arms gently, back and forth, as if he held his own newborn child. He watched her slip away, his warm salty tears falling on her face.
He stood in front of the floor to ceiling glass cooler. It was hard to compose a complete thought in his head. After the medics had arrived and taken Lauren’s body away, he wandered down the streets of Old San Francisco in a daze. He walked the miles towards where Chelsee was tucked away, and a corner gift shop, open 24 hours for all the sad sacks trying to get out of the doghouse, caught his eye.
He’d been standing at the case for a full ten minutes. The counter help saw the haunted look in his eyes, and his bloodstained coat, and left him alone.
He had it narrowed down to two choices. The same choices he was struggling with in his heart.
Would it be the roses, a half dozen in red and pink, meant to convey his love for her? Or would he choose the Lilies, the mum’s in the yellow and white mixed bouquet, meant to convey his grief, and offer of friendship to her in her time of loss, and nothing more. Both options weighed heavily. He knew that he had to make his choice now.
To open up his heart, never looking back, and spend his life trying to protect her and their life together. Or to deny her, keeping her at bay, another way in which to protect her from whatever menace seemed to follow in his footsteps.
He finally made up his mind, and before he took his purchase to the counter, he dug out both vials, dumping the contents into the clear water filling the vase. Tex rinsed the bottles, and tossed them in the trash. He hoped the blooms would last a long time now….
|Author:||Jen [ Apr 15, 2012 12:24 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Tex 2 Part Fan Fiction PART 2: The Eternal Rose|
Edited to cover information learned about the family of Nicholas II, and to correct the multiple misspellings of Chelsee. If you haven't taken the time to read it, I promise it doesn't suck, but it would probably be easier to read if you copied it to a word processing program.
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