“You think I sound ‘perturbed’?” J.J. yelled into the phone. “Well I sure as hell didn’t break your truck down, but now I’ve gotta call my client, and she’s gonna sound a different word. Asshole!” she yelled the last to a dial tone before slamming the phone down in its cradle.
“Problems, boss?” Jason asked from the door to her office.
“Tires are gonna be late,” she answered without looking up from the stack of papers on her desk. “Something about a blown head gasket on the delivery truck.”
“Yeah, well, sorry to pile on but . . .”
“What fresh hell.” J.J. then looked up to Jason. “Well, spit it out.”
“It seems James’ lunch break is finally over.”
J.J.’s morning had started poorly and had gotten worse as it went. She’d had to reprimand James twice about coming into the shop under the influence. He was a good mechanic – maybe not as good as Jason, but beggars can’t be choosy – and those were tough to come by lately, which is why he’d gotten a third chance to clean up his act. An unheard of occurrence in J.J.’s worldview, yet here she was.
J.J. decided that there wouldn’t be a fourth chance.
The cling-cling sound from out in the garage meant that momentarily, at any rate, James was being saved by the proverbial bell.
“Thanks for the heads up,” J.J. told Jason. “Go back to your bay. I’ll handle James after seeing who this is. Might be someone stopping by to let us know the building’s on fire.”
“Boss.” Jason nodded.
Squad Unit 217
“Rory’s a prick, that’s all I’m sayin’,” Irvin said, taking a sip of coffee to punctuate his point. “He got no business getting Sheriff’s Deputy.”
Irvin’s partner, Anita, didn’t necessarily disagree with Irvin’s take on things, but she’d made her peace with Rory’s promotion and so drove the squad car while her partner vented. Again.
“You think maybe he’s got dirt on someone in the department?” Irvin asked, getting excited. “Like maybe –”
“Unit 217, do you copy?” the radio crackled to life on the dash.
Happy for the interruption, Anita grabbed the radio. “Dispatch, we copy. Go ahead, Sherie.”
“You two better get over to J.J.’s” came Sherie’s voice again. “A call came through but got disconnected. There’s some kind of trouble over there.”
“We’re on it,” Anita said and lit up the lights and siren.
Blake & Summers Building
Marcus’ fingers flicked across his keyboard with a Master’s speed, his eyes flitting around the screen as he typed in command after command. Only he and the new guy were in the small office.
“Look, Chris – can I call you Chris?” he asked of the younger man seated next to him.
“Well, I prefer Christopher,” the younger man started.
“It’s all about the attitude, Chris.” Marcus continued. “You take what you’re given, and you smash it back at these people. Callers should be fuel for the fire of whatever topic you’re on that episode.”
“Uh-huh,” Christopher rolled his eyes. He noticed the elevator doors opening then, through the glass walls of the office; watched as a couple exited. The woman was agitated about something; maybe by the man with her. Her boyfriend? Christopher wasn’t sure but thought so. He’d seen them around the station before.
“And the FCC is just going to have to get over themselves when I’m King of the Airwaves,” Marcus continued, unaware and uncaring that his audience was inattentive.
Blake & Summers Building
Eric had listened attentively to everything Tiffany had said, only momentarily distracted by their having to navigate the police tape and crowd of onlookers outside to get into the building, toting her binders and books for her all the while.
It had been a long morning.
“I don’t like it, Eric,” Tiffany said. “Ayasha never misses a deadline for Veritas.”
“I know, Tiff,” Eric repeated. “Are you sure we should interrupt her with all of this, though?” He’d asked that already, too.
Their elevator door opened onto the fourth floor. Ayasha didn’t go on until two in the morning but had come in for a business meeting with some ad reps. Eric was pretty sure things were not going to go well with the binders and books.
“Look, we’re doing a live podcast at the Hemmingford barn tomorrow,” Tiffany huffed as they made their way down the hall. “And Ayasha hasn’t even looked over any of this research you did yet. She doesn’t know that Mr. Hemmingford has forbidden us to ask about Mrs. Hemmingford, but that I think we should. And where are we gonna put the cameras to try and catch the unknown little boy that’s said to reside in the upper loft?”
Jaedyn held the leash wrapped around her left wrist, fairly expertly she thought, while Pickles, the bane of her dog-walking-to-help-buy-her-new-car existence Shar-Pei handled his business right there on the sidewalk. Her right hand was contending with Pickles’ owner over the phone.
“Yes, Father John,” she said. “I’ll be in front of my mom’s garage in fifteen. No, it’s the one connected to the B&S building. Blake and Summers, right.”
Jaedyn wondered if priests were even supposed to have pets, let alone devil dogs, while Pickles, his load lightened, doubled back to begin wrapping his leash around her legs.
“Pickles?” she sighed into the phone. “Oh, he’s his regular sweet puppy self.”
Blake & Summers Building
Inside The Walls
The formless void leaped from its host, landing in another lowly cockroach just as its brother exploded into pulp. These walls were full of the next ride.
The dark vapor leaped again. Insects lasted mere seconds, but a cockroach was all that had been nearby. It had needed to abandon its feeding of the manform before he felt the full measure of its bite, though it had left instructions for him to hide should it need him later.
The creature, in its roach body, skittered along wrapped inside darkness that held no sway.
It didn’t know fear. Not like the manforms did, in their squalid meat. But it knew exhaustion.
It knew that it couldn’t continue this course much longer. What strength it had regained from supping on the manform was being squandered on the roaches.
It needed a larger host. Something warm-blooded could withstand the feeding longer.
Ahead in the dark was a mouse. A plump mouse, well-fed within these walls. The creature could hear its heart racing. The mouse sensed the monster, though it did not recognize the sensation precisely.
Only that it felt like death was near.