If you’d care to start our story at the beginning:
Part One: Desert Stray
Part Two: Fragile Hosts
Part Three: The Final Ride Of Joe Pesci
* * * * *
Samantha’s husband took a “there are no dummy lights on, so everything’s running smoothly” approach to car maintenance, which was to say he knew nothing about cars. She knew the ticking she heard meant trouble, though, so whether they could afford it or not, a trip to J.J.’s was in order.
As Samantha pulled her car into the garage and over a tell-tale hose, the cling-cling sound made her smile.
“What can I do ya for, pretty lady?” a mechanic who’d appeared at her car door asked. The waft of his alcohol-infused breath accosted Samantha’s nose like a boxer on a speed bag, causing her smile to fade.
“Uh,” she coughed. “Is J.J. here?”
“James!” J.J. yelled, coming down the stairs from the upper office with Jason following behind. “Get upstairs. Now.”
Nobody else said anything. Samantha wondered, growing nervous in the tension of the garage if maybe she should trust the lack of dummy lights and just drive a car that ticks.
“Well,” James said finally, staring at J.J. and Jason. “It seems my services are needed elsewhere.”
Blessed Unity Church
Father John was running late to meet Jaedyn, which left him feeling rushed and caused him to all but run down the steps in front of the church.
It was not a feeling he enjoyed.
Someone was stealing the sacrament wine, though, and this he really could not abide.
Father John crossed the street double-time as though he might make amends for his committing a traffic infraction if he did so quickly. His collar was wet with sweat as he came upon Jaedyn in front of her mother’s garage.
Pickles was yipping and tugging at his leash, trying desperately to escape from the young girl as she, for her part, tried to comfort him.
“Pickles, come now,” Father John tried to intercede.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into him!” Jaedyn explained. “He was fine on the walk over, but now he’s lost his mind.”
Father John knelt to his dog, stroking Pickles’ head as he tried to comfort him. Pickles jumped into his arms. Father John could feel the poor animal’s heart racing, its eyes bulging, staring back toward J.J.’s Garage.
A sensation went through Father John then; a cold wave that ran from the base of his skull to the small of his back. Prickling, pins-and-needles with no motivation save one.
Blake & Summers Building
Dusty jerked the truck to a stop, causing an impatient man behind him to blare a horn and loose a hand gesture.
There was the building they were looking for. The police on the scene were all the indication Dusty needed. This was the creature’s new den, where it would build its strength back. Dusty nudged Lauren’s shoulder, shaking her from her trance state.
“No need,” Dusty said, pointing. He pulled the truck out of traffic, turning down a quiet side street.
“That was fast,” Lauren said, peering through her window and trying to make out what had happened as they drove slowly around the building to the back. “It doesn’t feel like fast is good this time.” She added, looking to Dusty as if she’d posed a question.
“It’s not.” Dusty agreed. “Grab your gear.”
The duo each carried a backpack, and Dusty held the shotgun hidden under his duster. Police on the scene made this problematic. Hell, if he was being honest, the creature being in a city of this size was a nightmare. They’d have to work fast if they had any chance of finishing this.
A loading bay at the rear of the building wasn’t crawling with police yet. Whatever had happened inside seemed to be centered toward the front, but that wouldn’t last, Dusty knew.
“We’re clear there,” Lauren pointed to the loading bay, telling Dusty what he already knew. “The police are focused on the garage next door, mostly. There was,” Lauren shuddered. “It was awful in the garage.”
That Dusty hadn’t known.
As the two entered the building through the bay door, Dusty took a position in front of Lauren, like he always did. And, like always, it made Lauren feel safe. Special.
If she were able to read Dusty’s mind like she could other people, though, she’d realize that it was merely a strategy to Dusty.
You don’t leave your strongest weapon unguarded.