Demon Hunters Chpt 1

I’m changing things up this week. As I said, I would post the first few chapters of the book I offered for free the previous Friday for #freebookfriday but since I’ve offered this book so many times before, I think it may have become over saturated, so what I’m doing this week is putting up the first chapter of each part of the book. Just  trying this out. Enjoy!

Part 1
Chapter 1

 

My name is Jake Corba and I spent my twenty-fifth birthday baking away along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California. I wasn’t homeless, as such, but it was a lot more pleasant for me to camp out along the street than be at home, which was nothing more than a glamorized roach motel which enjoyed frequent visits from bill collectors and repo men. My creditors had become aggressive in their attempts to squeeze the last bit of blood from my veins and I didn’t want to make their job easier by being a stationary target.

I sat along the street and begged for change when the mood struck me, but mostly I just sat there and thought. I tried to keep my thoughts away from the past. I realize many people reflect fondly on their histories, but I’ve never found any comfort in mine. I never could see any point in dredging up a painful life in order to figure out exactly where it all went wrong, when I already knew. I could pinpoint my first and biggest mistake to the day I was born.

I didn’t remember much about my parents, as they didn’t last very long. There was a fire in the church on the night of my baptism. A fire, I have come to understand, that I started after I was possessed by some otherworldly force. A demon to be exact.

 A demon had infiltrated my small, fragile body and I was filled with its power. I didn’t know what I was doing and I don’t recall much of the experience, but apparently I caused the death of my parents and nearly every single soul in that church. That’s about all I can remember from my childhood. I have flashes of growing up, being tossed from one foster home to another.  I didn’t have many good memories to hold onto so I never tried.

Over time, I learned to control the demon on my own. It became a part of me and I learned that I was a lot better off on my own than with any family. No one could possibly understand who I was or what I had become. The demon inside me gave me strength. It helped me to survive on the street.

I saw a wealthy looking woman approaching me on her way to one of the boutiques along the boulevard. I looked up and mumbled a request for some spare coins. I expected her to just walk by but to my surprise she stopped and dug out some coins from her purse. She dropped them into my backpack and hurried on her way. When I was sure she was out of earshot, I rifled through my bag and found the money; a couple quarters and a penny. I shoved the coins into my pocket to join the others I had collected that morning. I almost had enough for a small cup of coffee. Happy birthday to me.

The day dragged on. I sat and watched the usual parade of life pass by. I walked along the block and mingled with my fellow street people. Once you get past the crazy, they have some real interesting stories to share. As I was heading back to my usual spot, I stopped in my tracks. I could see him across the street.

There was a very weird looking dude who seemed to have gotten into the habit of stalking me. He was a big guy too. Built like a brick wall. I had seen him staring at me a couple times over the past few months. At first, I just thought he was a local. I’ve seen a lot of people more than once around here. It wasn’t that unusual, but when I realized every time I saw him, he was looking at me, I began to worry. His gaze was penetrating. It was as though he were expecting me to do a trick or something. I turned away from him. When I looked up, he was gone. I was rather surprised by my reaction. I’m not the kind of guy to scare easy. I wasn’t sure why this freak was making me feel so uneasy.

I decided then was as good a time to pack it in. I could feel my skin burning, but I didn’t mind. The demon inside of me helped to keep me healthy and well. Any wounds I suffered, it would heal. Any ailments I had, it would cure. The voices in my head were a small price to pay for that kind of coverage.

I could tell it was getting late. Nearly time to eat but I didn’t have enough to get anything. I went over to a nearby trashcan and did a quick scan of its contents in case someone had tossed some leftovers or a half full soda cup. Nothing, but I had a theory that I did have some stale potato chips in my pantry back at my dump. I grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder and headed down the street.

The next day I came out at my usual time and camped out as always. It was a bit cooler and I was able to stake a claim on some sidewalk that had some good shadow coverage. I sat just watching for a few minutes, but I got bored. I went to my bag and pulled out a pen and paper. I started to write. Nothing deep or profound. I would sometimes just write down what came into my head. I wasn’t always sure if it was coming from my head, of course, but that wasn’t the point.  It also helped to have something to focus on other than myself. It really helped pass the time.

I was tearing through the pages for what seemed like only a few minutes, but when I finally came up for air, I saw three hours had passed. I felt my stomach begin to rumble loudly. The potato chips from last night weren’t quite as filling as I had hoped they’d be. I set the paper down and considered my options. It wasn’t even noon yet, and the foot traffic was unbearably light, so I didn’t have much more than the money I had collected yesterday. I double-checked my bag in case I missed something. I then decided to drown my hunger in my writing. I grabbed the paper and went back to my words.

The shade I had been luxuriating in for most of the morning was fading and I could feel the heat spreading. My forehead was moist with sweat. As I was starting a new line on the paper, I thought about taking a break to find a new spot when suddenly, the shade returned. I looked up and the brick wall freak was standing right over me. He had never gotten so close before. I could smell something coming off of him. Either his cologne or soap. It was subtle at first but soon it was all I could smell. Some sort of mix of animal musk and Old Spice.

“Hello.” His voice was like thunder. I snagged my bag and tried to slide away as slowly as possible.

“Hi.” I said.

“Jake Corba?” I felt a shock come over me. It had been so long since I had heard someone say my name. It almost seemed like hearing a foreign language. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had made ducking creditors into an art form, but I wasn’t getting that kind of vibe from the guy.

“Yeah.” I said as I got to my feet. I began inching away, just in case.

“It is you, isn’t it?” He sounded relieved somehow. A smile, or what I thought was a smile, began to form on his lips.

“It’s me all right. Do I know you?”

“My name is Ivar.”

“Ivar? Ivar what?”

“For now, just Ivar. I have come a long way to meet you, sir.”

“Sir?”

“I am what some might call a student of the universe. I have traveled the world studying from the greatest religious and Philosophical minds on Earth. Holy men from every corner of the globe.”

“Okay, that’s great. Your passport’s full. Congrats. Can I go?”

“I’ve come here to study from you.” His tone was so sincere, I nearly believed him.

“From me? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a holy man. I don’t even go to church.”

“But you are a Corba.”

“Guilty.”

“The day you were to be baptized, you were taken by a demon that still dwells in your soul to this day.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have insight.”

“That’s great,” I had thought he was creepy when he was just looking at me, but hearing what he had to say raised his creep factor by a million. By the look in his eyes, I could tell he really believed it all. I knew I had to get out of there and fast. “This has been interesting, but I think I need to get home now. Bye.” I said and turned away.

I took the long way home but as I was walking, I could sense someone behind me. I turned and saw that Ivar was following me. He wasn’t chasing me, but keeping pace with me. Clearly asking him to leave me alone wasn’t going to work. I turned a corner onto a small street a few blocks from my apartment and spun around to face Ivar as he approached.

“What is your problem, man? I don’t want to talk to you! I don’t know how you know so much about my life, but it doesn’t impress me. Just leave me alone! I’ll go to the cops if I have to.”

“I realize how strange this may seem to you. I have come to learn from you because I feel my teachings have become limited. It doesn’t matter how many religious leaders and figures I speak with. They are just devices chosen to deliver a message, but you are as close to the very essence of the living energy of this universe as any living thing can get. You are not a representative of a higher spirituality. You are a part of it. You have experienced a higher plane of existence and became one with it. You have knowledge that I could never hope to attain. I want to know all I can learn from you. I want to know how you came to be and why and…”

“Hold on there, dude. You want to learn about me from when? When I was born?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, you know about as much as I do. After that church thing, it’s all a blank until my first day at my first foster family.”

“Surely, you have more information than that. Your soul is bonded to a demon. Your family has been hunted and persecuted by demons for centuries. You are a perfect example of the functionally cursed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you know about your family?”

“No, I don’t. I never really cared to look into the whole family tree. Being stuck with the demon has been bad enough.”

“You don’t know the story?”

“Don’t know it. Don’t care to.”

“Come with me then. I will share with you what I have learned.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I never knew my family, and that’s been a fine arrangement so far. They seem to be too much trouble. Especially if they’re cursed. This has been freaky and disturbing and I think you need to go. Now.” I said and turned away from Ivar and continued on my way home.

“Don’t you even want to know why you live under this curse?” He barked at me as I got further from him.

“Not interested!”

“Even if I can help you cure yourself.” I stopped. The world stopped. His words echoed in my head. I had heard the word cure thrown around carelessly. Before I learned to control the demon, I tried to expel it. I talked to everyone I could about it. A few offered hope and promised they could save me, but they were all wrong. I decided it was better to just live with the damn thing and close the door on any hope of being cured. I wanted to turn back to Ivar and agree. I wanted him to show me some miraculous procedure or remedy that all the others had overlooked. The one silver bullet that would finally free me forever, but before I could utter a word, I remembered the disappointment I felt each time one of those saviors had let me down. I couldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t. I braced myself and continued on down the street without a word. I could hear Ivar behind me, begging me to come back, but I kept forward.

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HOSL Chapter 4

Chapter 4

 

Carson was awoken by a loud knocking at his door. His eyes opened and he tried to focus. It was still dark. He looked over and saw that it was four in the morning. He struggled out from his sheets and trudged out to the living room and opened the front door. There was a well-dressed young man standing before him with a bright, gleaming smile on his face. His hair was slicked back but way too much hair gel. He was wearing what looked to be a cheap suit as a uniform. A name tag was perched on his lapel that read ‘Chip’.

“Good morning, Mr. Barnes.” Chip said.

“Uh, good morning, Chip.” Carson said as he noticed the tag on the young man’s shirt.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I suppose no one told you I was coming.”

“As a matter of fact, no. Who are you?”

“I’m here to drive you to the airport.”

“Airport?”

“For your flight to Graveston.”

Carson’s face contorted in complete confusion.

“I just talked to Venris last night.” Carson began.

“Right, and he secured your ticket. Your flight leaves in two hours,” Chip said. “Don’t worry, we have time for you to pack if you need to.”

“Hold on.” Carson shut the door and ran back to his room. He searched around and plucked up the letter he received from the lawyers. He scanned the letterhead and found their numbers. He dialed up Archibald Venris. It only rang twice before his warm, accommodating voice came across, much to Carson’s surprise.

“Yes?”

“Uh, Mr. Venris? This is Carson Barnes…”

“Ah! Yes. Mr. Barnes. I trust Chip has arrived.”

“Uh, yes. He’s here. Look, I appreciate all the trouble you went to here, but you could have told me.”

“I believe I did.”

“Not really. You didn’t tell me you were going to be sending anyone to pick me up this fast. I was still kind of thinking about it.”

“What’s to think about? Trust me, Mr. Barnes. You will not be sorry you came.” Archibald said, sounding more persuasive than ever. Carson held the phone to his ear tightly. He could feel the thoughts racing through his mind. He felt as though he were at a crossroad. He was really in no position to take a trip to a town he had never heard of to accept an inheritance from an Uncle he had never heard of either, but he also knew that if any part of this was real, Archibald might be right and this could save him.

“I’ll see you this afternoon.”

The trip to the airport was quiet. Chip wasn’t much of a chatter which suited Carson just fine as he was in no mood to talk. His eyes kept falling but he couldn’t manage to fall asleep, so he spent his time in the car just staring out the window listlessly. The sun was starting to peek out from the early morning clouds. A burst of orange and red was looming on the horizon as they zipped down the empty freeway. Carson was taken by how quiet it all was. He was rarely ever up that early. He had never seen the city so quiet and rested.

“The blue hour.” Chip said suddenly. Carson turned to him.

“What?”

“I’m usually on the road between three and six in the morning every day and this is what I call the Blue Hour. The sun’s not up, but it’s not down and everything is kind of washed in a shade of blue. It’s like the hinge between night and day. One moment of peace before the chaos begins again. Look.” Chip said as he pointed to a swarm of cars loading up onto the freeway beside them. “It’s just about over. People are waking up and getting on with their day. It’s kind of like a flower blooming. Slow at first and then it bursts open, fully exposed to the world. It’s weird how we can’t seem to escape nature isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, This is all man made, but it still obeys the basic rules of nature. It’s not alive, but acts like it is. Like it wants to be.”

Carson looked over at Chip.

“You think a lot about this?”

“Not much else to do when you’re chauffeuring people back and forth. People don’t talk and I’m not allowed to play the radio stations I like. They force us to put on this crap,” Chip said, pointing to the radio. Carson suddenly noticed the music playing. It was some kind of new age instrumental dirge. Carson noticed that Chip had the volume down to barely audible. “Not much else to do but think about things like that, but it’s true. It’s amazing how sometimes you can just open your eyes and see something amazing in something that’s been sitting in front of you all along.”

“I guess.” Carson turned back to the window and saw the sun was now more prominent and everything was growing brighter. Suddenly they were driving amongst a large school of cars that seemed to  have come from nowhere. Carson looked forward and could see they were getting closer to the airport. He reached down to the radio and switched the channel to the classic rock station and turned up the volume. It turned on in the middle of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Carson looked over to Chip who looked back to him and smiled as they cruised the rest of the way to the airport.

When Chip turned into the airport, he took an alternate route away from the main terminal. Carson looked back with bewilderment.

“Uh, Isn’t that the airport back there?”

“Yes, but that’s not where you’re going.” Chip said as he drove on. He began driving down a small route to a small air field down from the main runway. Carson saw a small twin engine plane on the landing.

“What is this?”

“The fastest way to get to Graveston is by private charter.” Chip got out and started unloading Carson’s luggage. Carson opened his door and slowly pulled himself out.

“Where is this place?”

“Over here!” A voice called out. Carson looked over and saw someone who looked like the pilot of the plane. He was a thin, black man with a perfectly shaved head. He jogged out towards Carson. “You Carson Barnes?” He asked trying to be heard over the propellers.

“Yes!”

“Okay, just get in and buckle up. We need to get out of here.” The pilot said and then returned to the plane. Carson saw Chip also running from the plane after he had finished loading the bags.

“Have a safe trip!” Chip called out to Carson.

Carson pulled himself into the plane, nearly knocking his head on the ceiling. He belted himself in and almost immediately after, the plane began to slowly roll forward. Carson began to feel a surge of panic. He looked over and saw the wings wobbling violently and the surge turned into a torrent. He clutched the seat at the sides and gritted his teeth. He could see the pilot’s bald head staring back at him and beyond that, he could see the ground they were driving on, and then suddenly, the ground began to disappear. Carson could feel the pressure on his body. The horizon line began to move before them and Carson’s stomach felt weightless. The whole plane began to shudder and rattle as they climbed further into the sky. Just as Carson was certain the whole vessel was about to explode into a million pieces, everything just stopped and they began to level off. Carson’s hands relaxed. The pilot turned around in his seat to face Carson.

“You okay?” Carson nodded. “Sorry. This sucker gets to a rough start. By the way, I’m Jared Welbourne.” He said as he offered Carson his hand.

“Uh, yeah, nice to meet you, but shouldn’t you be, you know, driving?”

“Oh. It’s cool. We’re level and we’re set in. Sorry for the rush, but they keep us hoppers on a tight schedule.”

“It’s fine. So, how long is this flight?”

“Not long. You ever been to Graveston before?”

“No. You?”

“I live there, my man. Part time anyway. This job kind of forces me to split my time.”

“What’s it like?”

“It’s nice. Quiet. What brings you up this way?”

“Family business.”

“I see. You have family up there?”

“I used to. Collecting an inheritance.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t even know the guy.” Suddenly the plane jostled and Carson was taken by a look of panic on Jared’s face. Jared spun around in his seat and consulted the instruments. Carson looked around but couldn’t see that anything was wrong. There was nothing but blue sky from the front and he saw that the wings, while still shaking, were still attached. Soon the plane settled and Jared turned back around with a gleaming smile on his face.

“Nothing to worry about. Just a jet stream.”

Jared kept his mind on his work for the rest of the trip as Carson was plainly in no mood to talk. Carson felt badly about seeming so antisocial, but he had never been a good flyer.

“Hey, bud,” Jared called out. “You may want to look out the window. We’re here.”

Carson peeked out the window slowly and all he could see below them was acres of green tree tops. He scanned around curiously. He suddenly saw a large white steeple. The plane tipped over further and Carson could more clearly see the church located near the center of town. It was large and white, but the paint was worn. He could see smears of dark along the outer walls and the steps looked a bit broken from even their altitude. Carson could see the main road that ran through the entire expanse of Graveston. There were a few shopping centers along either side and then there were pockets of houses here and there. Big, old looking homes that looked a bit weather beaten but sturdy.

“That’s my house!” Jared called as they passed over a few homes. “The one in the middle there!” Jared further pointed out. Carson looked down and saw it. It was the smaller house in the grouping. It looked to be a seafoam green with white trim. Carson was beginning to feel a growing interest in Graveston until the road just ended and disappeared into the thick surrounding forest.

“Where do we land?”

“Further up!” Jared responded as he tipped the nose of the plane down. Carson could soon see a large flat clearing of land. There was a small black car parked off to the side. The plane hit the ground roughly. The whole cabin began to rattle violently and Carson grabbed his belt and clutched it tightly.

“Landings are a little rough!” Carson paid no attention. All he could hear was the rumbling of the wheels. His eyes were shut tight. Suddenly, it all stopped. Carson slowly opened his eyes and to his relief, the plane was stopped and calm. His hands relaxed and Jared turned around, still smiling.

“We’re here.” Jared then got up and opened the door. Carson managed his way out and looked over to where he saw the car. It was still there, then it suddenly came to life and slowly cruised over to them. It stopped and the driver side door opened and a tall, lean, older man with silver hair emerged. He was wearing a dark suit and walked towards him with long, deliberate strides. As he got closer, a smile stretched across his thin lips and he extended his hand. Carson looked at it. The fingers seemed more like claws than fingers. They were skinny and boney. The man got closer and Carson, in order to appear civil, took his hand. The grip was stronger than Carson had anticipated. He nearly yelled out but he caught himself.

“I trust the trip was a good one.” The man said in a familiar voice.

“Mr. Venris?”

“Yes,” He said with an even wider grin, exposing his yellowing teeth. “Welcome to Graveston.”

HOSL Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

Errol dropped Carson off at his building a little past eight. Carson looked up as he pulled his bag out of the backseat. The building hadn’t changed but it looked different to him. He noticed the thinning paint and worn screens on the windows of the front units. The grass on the small patch that passed for a front yard was overgrown and had many brown patches.

“I’ll call you later, Carson.” Errol called as the door closed. Carson nodded in confirmation and began walking home.

He walked up the steps to the security door and unlocked the glass door. A quick gust of air blew past him as he stepped into the courtyard. After the palaces of Vegas, the splendor of Emerald Gardens began to seem a bit small.

He walked down the path to the back where his unit was. He could hear the echoes of the evening news on several televisions coming from the other apartments.

He went to the back and stopped at the last door. Door number 9. He tried the knob, just in case Bean was in. His roommate’s name was actually Ben, but for some reason he liked to be called Bean. Carson gave the knob a quick turn but it stopped short. Locked. Carson breathed a sigh of slight relief. He’d have the place to himself.

He whipped out his keys and opened up the door. It was dark inside. It looked as if no one had been living there for some time. Carson shut the door behind him and locked it tight. He strode back to his room and shut the door behind him. He tossed his bag off to the side onto a pile of old clothes that had been waiting for laundry day. His room was still and untouched, as it should have been. He looked over to his desk and next to his computer which hadn’t been operational for several months was his digital answering machine. It was a small, sleek little thing. Its message light was still and the message count was still at zero. A whole week and not even a wrong number.

Carson turned his head from that and over to his bed which was still in the condition he had left it in. With the sheets and bedspread tossed around and ready to receive his body. It was a small twin bed he had gotten nearly ten years earlier. The mattress was even older. He was slightly embarrassed to be nearly thirty and still sleeping in a twin. It certainly presented a challenge on the rare occasions he had intimate company.

He noticed a small pile of mail on the pillow. He scooped up the envelopes and flopped down on the bed. The springs squealed out as he moved into a comfortable posture. His head sank into the pillows and he held the mail over him. He shuffled through the envelopes. First a credit card application promising he couldn’t be turned down then a few subscription offers for magazines he didn’t even read and a rather thick envelope that piqued his interest until he saw, in small print, ‘sexually oriented material’. He tossed that one aside for later viewing.

Just as he was about to give up hope of anything interesting, he came upon the last envelope. It was white and there were no distinguishing marks. He checked the postage and it wasn’t bulk rate. He turned it over and slid his finger under the glued flap and stripped it open. He pulled out a thickly folded form. It looked more official than anything he had ever seen.

The letter head was from the law house of McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris. Carson scanned the first page and he didn’t see anything about a lawsuit or charges. He began reading through more carefully. The letter had been sent due to the death of Carson’s Uncle Victor. Carson wasn’t even aware he had an uncle at all. Carson took another look at the envelope and noticed the post mark was a week old. It must have arrived the day after he left with Errol. He returned to the letter. It continued on with endless legalese that was beginning to give Carson a headache. Line after line of party of the first part and so on. A sudden inspiration dawned on him and he put the letter down and picked up the phone. He dialed. A few rings it picked up on the other end.

“Hello?” A gentle voice asked.

“Mom, it’s me. Carson.”

“Hello sweety. Did you have a nice trip?”

“Yeah, it was great.”

“Find a job yet?” She asked in a slightly stern tone. Carson knew all too well that was her best attempt at restraining her need to nag.

“No, mom, but I did get something interesting in the mail. Who’s Uncle Victor?” The other side of the line went silent. “Mom? You still there?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m here. I’m just a little surprised. No one’s asked about him in a long time.”

“I just got a letter from some lawyers about him. I think he died.”

“Well, if he did, it’s news to me. Victor never was good at keeping in touch with the family.”

“So, what’s his story? Was he your brother?”

“Actually, he’s your father’s brother. We didn’t talk about him much because he was something of the black sheep. A loner really. He came to visit a few times when you were a baby but I always found him quite unsettling. After a while he stopped coming by and that was fine with your father and I. We figured you were too young to remember him. We thought it was for the best.”

“Well, what was so wrong with him?”

“It was just a feeling I always got from him. His eyes were a bit crazy. It was like he could just see through you sometimes. I remember one time he came over the day after we brought you home from the hospital. We were in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking about this and that. I excused myself to go to the bathroom for a moment and when I came out, your father and Victor had gone to see you. I walked into the nursery and I saw your father standing by your crib and your uncle was holding you up. The sun was shining in from the window so I couldn’t see too clearly, but I saw his eyes. I’ll never forget it. His eyes seemed to be fixed on you, but not like an uncle looking down at his nephew, but like a wolf smelling raw meat. I felt my stomach just churn at the sight. Maternal instinct I suppose. I saw his hands tightening around your little body and I ran up to him and snatched you away and then he looked back at me with some kind of mix of hate and disappointment. Like you were a prize I just stole out from under him. After that I told your father that Victor was to be kept from you at all times. A few months after that, he just disappeared and frankly, I think we’re all better off for it. I’d advise you to just throw whatever that thing is you got into the trash and be done with it.”

“I’ve been reading through it a little and it sounds like a will or something. Was he rich?”

“Not when I knew him. Although, I suppose anything is possible. What he got rich doing, I hesitate to guess.”

“Money is money.”

“Just take my advice and throw that letter away. Trust your mother.”

“I’ll think about it.” Carson held his gaze on the letter. Studying each letter carefully. His imagination had already kicked in and he was seeing the buffet of riches that awaited him from the recluse relative no one knew anything about.

“Anything for an easy buck, right?”

“Hey! Who cares if the guy was a little off center? I’m an adult now and I can take care of myself. Contrary to your opinion.”

“I just wish you would get your head out of the clouds and get serious! You dropped out of college and now look at yourself! Unemployed.”

“So what do you propose I do?”

“Our door is always open. You could come back home and give school another try. It’s not too late. A lot of people go back to school later in life.”

“I’m twenty nine!”

“You know what I mean.”

“Look, mom, thank you for the offer, but I’ll be fine. I made a good living at my old job, and once I find more work, I’ll be okay.”

“Your old job. You mean that car thing you were doing? Manual labor.” She said with a twinge of disgust.

“I’m sorry if that’s not up to your standards, but I liked it and I made good money.”

“But you could do so much more with your life. You always had so much potential. You were always so smart. You just never applied yourself.”

“Okay! You said the magic words. This is where our conversation ends. I’ll call you later.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.” Carson said as he hung up the phone. He turned back over and returned to the letter. He poured over it again and again, trying to extract something logical from all the legal double talk. One word ran up to him on the second page though: deceased. It was a will. Carson scanned through the pages. It was like a jigsaw puzzle of words. He just kept looking for a dollar amount or a phone number to call but there was nothing. He flipped to the last page and at the bottom in italic letters there was a friendly little message.

‘If you have any inquiries concerning this communication, please don’t hesitate to call the law offices of McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Sincerely, Archibald Venris.’

Carson folded the letter and put it down on the table next to his bed. It then dawned on him that he must have been the only one to receive the letter. His mother had seemed to be totally in the dark about it. It seemed that they had not even been made aware of Uncle Victor’s death at all. Carson looked back down at the letter and below the friendly message was a toll free number. Carson’s mind began to bubble over with trepidation. It all seemed too good to be true. A dead relative just in time to make rent. Carson had learned a long time ago to be wary of such coincidences.

It could be a scam.’ Carson thought. ‘Some sleazy con guy who just did his homework. A simple con. Find an obscure relative no one’s heard from in years, claim he’s died and then for a modest fee they could help secure the inheritance.’

Carson had heard of such things. They mostly operated through email though. Few would go to the trouble of sending first class mail, although there really was an Uncle Victor and if it was a scam, they had somehow gotten to Carson’s mother and gotten her to play along, which she would never do. As weird and unreal as the whole scenario began to feel, it also felt sincere and genuine. Carson began to believe it, despite himself. He turned to the phone and as he was about to pick up the receiver, he stopped himself.

“No,” He said to himself. “I’ll call in the morning. Clear my head.” Just then, the phone began to ring.

“Hello?” Carson asked as he held up the phone.

“Carson Barnes?” An older man’s voice asked.

“Yes.”

“Very good. This is Archibald Venris.”

“As in McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris?”

“The very same. I assume then you received our correspondence?”

“Uh, yeah. I did.”

“Excellent. I’m, of course, sorry for the loss of your dear Uncle Victor.”

“I really didn’t know him.”

“You didn’t? How odd.”

“How is that odd?”

“It just strikes me odd as you were the sole heir in his will.”

“What?”

“You were the only one named. By that, I had thought you were close.”

“Sorry to disappoint you. I never even heard of him until today.”

“Oh, no matter. Must have been something special about you then.”

“I guess. Not to sound too money grubbing, but what exactly did I inherit?”

“Uh, that I am not at liberty to speak of on the phone. We were hoping you would be able to come and see us.”

“Come to you? Where are you?”

“Graveston.”

“Graveston? Never heard of it.”

“Few have. We’re a humble little town. It’s lovely this time of year. There are lush forests and green hills and just about the friendliest people you’ll ever hope to meet. It’s just a slab of heaven on Earth. You’ll love it!”

“Oh, gee. I’d love to do that, but I really just kind of got back from a trip. I can’t really afford..”

“Don’t even think about it! As executor of your Uncle’s will, I am duly obligated to extend this invitation to you at any cost. I will messenger tickets on the earliest possible flight that I can find and reservations will be made at Graveston’s finest hotel all courtesy of McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris.”

“On you?”

“I insist.”

Carson was stumped at Venris’ offer.

“Okay. A free trip’s a free trip, I guess.” Carson said.

“Wonderful! You should receive the ticket tomorrow. I look forward to meeting you, Mr. Barnes, sir.”

“Yeah. It’s going to be fun.” Carson said. He hung up the phone and lied back down on the bed trying to mentally plan what he was going to pack. This trip he felt he needed to pack and then suddenly he looked over to the now silent phone. He began to wonder how exactly Archibald had gotten his phone number.

HOSL Chpt 2

 

Ben Turlok was standing on the edge of the Maple Vine Bridge just outside of the small town of Graveston. He clutched the latest rejection letter he had received in response to the manuscript he had sent out. Ben had spent the past three years fine tuning and composing it. He was finally pleased with it and viewed it as his ultimate life’s work.

He had all his friends and family read it and all reviews were positive. He was so sure someone would be interested in publishing it. He was as sure of that as he had ever been of anything, and for a man like Ben to put that much faith in something speaks volumes in and of itself. He was not a man who often gave into thoughts of fantasy and whimsy, but his devotion to his book was different. He saw it as a part of his soul.

He was able to stomach the first few rejections, but his faith never wavered. It strengthened in fact. He had quit his job at the mill in anticipation of his success. With every rejection he received he was that much more certain the next one would be an acceptance.

He looked down to the letter crumpled in his shaking fist. Tears were streaming down his cheek. He looked down to the river raging below. He could see the white foam on top of the water between his feet.

“I’m ready, God! I’m tired and I’m ready to fall. Just let me fall.” He cried out. There was no traffic along the old road. The sky was patchy above with large puffs of white clouds slowly floating along across the bright sun. Ben’s legs began to shake beneath him. His tears began to rain down feverishly and his thoughts ran back to his wife Audrey and his children, Tracey and Ben Jr. His heart began to ache. He loved them all so much, but he just didn’t have the strength to face any more disappointment. His life insurance would see them through the storm. He reasoned he was far more valuable dead than alive. With a large breath in, he steadied his legs and was ready to leap.

“Hi!” A sweet voice came from behind. Ben caught himself and nearly fell over the wrong way which would have been a disaster. If he fell and just injured himself, the doctor’s bills would surely bankrupt the family. He spun his head around with a fiery glare. He saw a pretty young woman standing not too far from him. She was dressed in a charcoal gray business suit. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail. She stared up at Ben with a bright, innocent smile. “Now, what are you doing up there, silly?” She asked brightly.

“None of your business. Now I’d thank you to just move on and not tell anyone you saw me. For your own good.”

“I know you. I mean, I don’t know know you, but I’ve seen you around town. Don’t I look familiar?” She asked.

“I’m sorry, but no. I’ve been going through some things lately. Don’t take it personally.”

“That’s okay.” She said as she reached into her pocket and produced a small business card. She held it out to him. He bent down and took it slowly. He looked down and read it. He couldn’t help but notice the unique use of flowers and butterflies decorating the borders of the card. Between two small flowered vines, was the only type on the card.

‘Samantha Sugar- attorney at law’.

“A lawyer huh? Shouldn’t you be gearing up to sue someone after I jump?”

“I’m not that kind of lawyer. I usually handle estate planning.”

“Well, I’m afraid I’ve no use for you. Now, I guess you’ll be on your way.”

“Not until you get down from there.” Ben looked down at her and she looked back up at him with just as sweet a smile as ever but now there was a hint of aggressive stubbornness lurking behind her eyes.

“I’m Ben Turlock, by the way. Nice to meet you, Samantha.”

“Likewise, and please, just call me Sam. So, are you coming down or not?”

“Look, the only way I’m getting down from here is by jumping, so you might as well just be on your way. I just want to kill myself.” Ben’s brain kind of buzzed. He never said it out loud before. He hadn’t heard those words come from his mouth. Samantha looked up at Ben with a broken expression. It was almost as if she looked heartbroken. Ben looked back at her with curiosity. He had never seen the girl before but the news of him killing himself seemed to hurt her so much more than it should have.

“Why?” Samantha asked with an uneven voice.

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Certainly anything bad enough to kill yourself over should be worth talking about as well.”

Ben looked down to the river and then back to Samantha. He let out an audible breath and pivoted to Samantha. He bent down and handed his letter to her. She took it and read through it.

“Is this it?”

“Is that it? That’s the seventh one I’ve gotten in the last two months.”

“You’re a writer.”

“Not by trade. I just wrote something. I thought it was good, but I guess it just goes to show you what I know.”

“You can’t throw away everything because of this. What about your wife? Your children?”

“They’re better off. My life insurance will pay them more than my old job would have, if I still had it. I gave my soul to this thing and it’s nothing. My whole life is nothing! I’m done! I am just done!”

“What about your faith?”

“Faith in what?”

“In God.”

“God?”

“Yes. I know you believe.”

“Maybe once. I don’t know anymore. Things have just been getting worse. Where has he been?”

“Where have you been?” Samantha returned. Ben looked at her.

“So, that’s how it works? As long as I do what he wants, I get what I want?”

“Well, it’s not quite as black and white as that, but…”

“Look, I’m sorry, but you won’t be convincing anyone about anything today, Sam. Good bye.” Ben closed his eyes, turned away from Samantha and just leapt up over the rail. His eyes were shut tight as he fell over. He could feel the air as he dropped into nothing. He had run the moment over in his head again and again, but it was no preparation for the real sensation. It was as if he were weightless, almost floating through the air. He would have almost sworn he felt happy.

He suddenly felt a tight jerking behind him and his descent came to an abrupt halt. He opened his eyes and saw he was still above the river, but off the bridge, dangling. His shirt was pulled up against his neck. He looked up and saw Samantha leaning over the bridge with her arm outstretched downward. Her fist holding tightly to the back of his shirt, and a few small hairs on the back of his neck. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Samantha was such a small looking woman with thin, narrow arms yet she was holding Ben’s entire weight with little to no strain, or at least so it seemed.

“I know you feel abandoned and alone. We all feel that way sometimes, but think about the people you’re leaving behind. Things have gotten tough for you. I’m sorry for that, but you’re stronger than you think. If you check out now, you can’t change your mind tomorrow. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is simply holding on. Holding on during the tough times and having faith that what you want, will come.” Sam said. She pulled Ben back up to the bridge. As soon as she let go of his shirt, he fell to the ground flat on his ass. He looked up at Samantha, who was still smiling.

“It’s just gotten so bad for me. For everyone! This whole town has just been getting worse and worse. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” Ben said as tears began to pool under his eyes. Samantha placed her delicate hand on his shoulder and he looked up at her.

“I know. It’s been a tough time for Graveston and I’m sorry for that, but we’re all just doing the best we can. We can’t lose hope now. I think things are going to get better real soon.”

“You do?” Ben asked.

“I absolutely do. Do you agree with me?” Ben looked down. He had the appearance of a child lost in the middle of a department store. He looked back up at Sam and nodded. “Now, are you going to be trying that again?” Ben stared up at her blankly and slowly shook his head. “Good. Now, get home to your family and don’t tell them about this. I think we can both agree they’d be better off not knowing, wouldn’t you?”

Ben slowly began to nod his head to her. She gave him a little wink and spun around and began to walk down the road back towards town. He got up and watched as she strutted down the lonely road. It looked as if she were listening to some kind of music in her own head as she sauntered away.

He looked back over the bridge down to the river below. A quick thought to try jumping again danced across his head, but he dismissed it. He did feel happiness during his previous attempt, but he also had felt fear. A disturbing sense that he would miss something important. He looked down at the crumpled up rejection letter laying upon the ground. He bent down to pick it up but stopped himself. He could still make out the printing through the creases and folds. A cold breeze shot out and caught the letter, sending it flying up into the air. It flew up high over his head and swirled in the invisible force. Ben made no attempt to catch it, but instead allowed it to slowly float down to the river. He watched as it landed on the water. It was swept under and disappeared under the foam of the current. He slowly turned away and walked back to his pick-up truck which was parked a few yards back.

He was beginning to feel better about what had happened and was hoping to come upon Samantha on the road back to Graveston, so he could thank her properly or at least offer her a ride into town. He kept an eye out along the side of the road as he drove.

He soon found himself driving past the Red Moon Inn which was the first sign of entering Graveston. He stopped and looked back. He hadn’t seen sign of her as he drove and there was no way she could have gotten back ahead of him if she had been walking. He looked back again but nothing. He shrugged his shoulders and decided that she must have had her car parked out of sight for some reason. He figured he’d just keep an eye out for her around town. The odds were good that they would cross paths again before too long in a town the size of Graveston.

The House Of Stolen Light #freebookfriday

Another week gone by and another free book Friday. I have decided that I will post the first 5 chapters of the book I gave away the previous week, if only to give those who failed to get a copy a little taste of what they missed out on. This past week’s offering was a tale of mystery and mysticism in a small Northern California town. I wrote this one years ago and rediscovered it recently. I dusted it off and have since put it out for the world to read. As I went through the manuscript, I began to see how the story and characters nearly reflected current situations in the world today in concern with the economy and employment. I think it gives clear voice to my own personal struggles with unemployment, and maybe someone out there may see this as well. At any rate, enjoy.

Chapter 1

Carson was alone in the elevator. He could feel a slight, chilled jet of air coming down from above. He felt the lift of the car beneath his feet as it began rising through the shaft up to the twenty-fifth floor. As it approached the twentieth floor, it began to slow and his stomach began to lurch up. As the elevator eased itself to a stop, he had the same roller coaster feeling he got before the first big drop.

The doors opened slowly and he stepped out into the hall. It seemed endless, stretching out to infinity. Bright, white lights lined the walls and created a ghostly glow. He slid on his sunglasses and began to walk. The only sound he could hear was a dull thud with every step he took. He looked down at his watch. It wasn’t even noon, but it felt to him like it was the dead of night. As he passed by each door, he tried to listen for any sounds behind them but they were all silent, although he could hear the television in a few of them. He finally stopped at suite 2576. He slid his card key through the lock and opened the door. The cool air of his room shot out at him like a gust of new life. The unmistakable smell of nothing filled his senses. The beds had been made and all the little niceties had been returned to their original state as if by magic. Even the pens on the nightstand were positioned exactly as they had been when he first checked in at the beginning of the week. The pen caps were turned to face the north end of the room and the name of the hotel printed on the body of the pen was clearly visible.

He laid down on the bed and his head fell down upon the firm, freshly dressed pillow. He reached for the remote but as he was about to turn on the power, he suddenly was overtaken with his own fatigue. His eyes became heavy and the previous night’s events began to catch up with him. He dropped the controller and soon was adrift in his eyes.

The phone’s ringing shocked him back to life. He bolted up and soon got his bearings. He looked down to his watch and saw that nearly two and a half hours had passed. He was still tired beyond all reason, despite that.

“Hello?” Carson asked as he picked up the phone.

“Are you still asleep? Check out is in fifteen minutes!” Errol whined over the connection. Carson fell back upon the pillow.

“Don’t remind me.”

“I’m sorry, bud, but the real world beckons. The sad reality is vacations do end.”

“I know. Just one more day?”

“No. We were stretching it by staying the week.”

“I got lucky last night. I won almost a thousand dollars in Blackjack.”

“I drove and I need to get back to my life.”

“You don’t have a life! You’ve got an aquarium full of fish you got at Wal-Mart!”

“Hey! They are still quality pets. I need to get back to them. I don’t like leaving them to Trish’s mercy.”

“She’s taking great care of them. One more day.”

“No, I just would feel better if I was back with them. Besides, I have to be back at work Monday.”

“It’s Saturday! We could leave tomorrow morning.”

“No! I need at least a solid twenty four hours to decompress before I go back to work.”

Carson threw his head about in a fit as he realized he was fighting a losing battle. He had been surprised Errol hadn’t petitioned to leave earlier.

“Fine. I’ll meet you in the lobby.” Carson said through gritted teeth.

A few minutes later, Carson trudged down to the lobby. He carried only a small leather bag that contained a few shirts, his toothbrush and toothpaste and a few select thongs he had liberated from some exotic dancers earlier that week. He saw Errol standing amidst a sea of people. He stuck out quite plainly as he stood among his large, bulky suitcases wearing a rather gaudy Las Vegas t-shirt with his clunky camera slung over his neck. Carson walked over to him; half hoping he would just become invisible before anyone drew the connection between them.

“Ready?” Errol asked.

“Barely.” Carson adjusted his sunglasses. Errol grabbed his bags and began to lead the way to the exit. Carson followed along at least two full yards behind him. He was beginning to actually look forward to the trip home. It was dawning on him as they weaved and bobbed through wave after wave of people that he couldn’t spend the rest of his life in Vegas, as much as he wished he could. Reality was calling and it had to be heeded.

The crowd became less an obstacle when they reached the parking structure. Errol zeroed in on the car almost instantly. Carson stood by as he watched Errol carefully load his bags into the trunk. He had barely been able to fit them all in when they left and somehow it seemed as though the trunk had shrunk. There didn’t look to be enough room for even a rag much less Carson’s modest bag. Errol examined his configuration carefully and his brain began to pulsate.

“It’s okay,” Carson said, knowing full well how long it would take Errol to figure out a perfect arrangement. “I’ll just toss it in the back seat.” Errol agreed with a shrug and walked over to the driver’s side and opened up the car. Carson threw his bag into the empty back seat and then settled into the passenger side seat. Errol had his seatbelt adjusted and was sifting through his CD collection in the arm rest compartment between them. Carson would have suggested something to play but Errol only had classical and new age CDs. He needed to put himself in a Zen-like state when he drove long distances. He soon settled upon a disc and popped it in. He twisted the key in the ignition and the car hummed to life. Carson’s eyes had closed before they even hit the street outside. He could hear some piece of classical music that he thought any self-respecting college graduate would be able to identify by composer and year, along with Errol’s humming to accompany it.

Carson’s eyes opened. The music didn’t sound like it had changed, although he knew it was a different song. Errol had stopped humming though. Carson looked down to his watch. It was nearly six and it seemed they were driving through a large stretch of desert. He looked out the window at the passing scenery. Cacti and brush whizzing past his tired eyes in a blur before a perfect blue sky that stretched out as far as the eyes could see. He kept trying to get back to sleep but his eyes wouldn’t cooperate.

“You okay?” Errol asked. Carson sat up and looked over to him. His glasses were steadied on the tip of his nose as he looked intensely through the windshield to the horizon before them.

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You’re kind of quiet.”

“Sorry. Just tired.”

“Look, I understand why you aren’t exactly happy to be going back. It’s not easy I know. Unemployment never is.”

“It’s been a month. I’ve already burned through my severance pay. I don’t even know what I’m going to do about rent.”

“You said you won a thousand dollars.”

“I did, but I’ve got bills to pay. It won’t take the whole thousand, but it’s not going to leave much.”

“Well, you know if you need any money, I….” Errol began.

“No. I’m not borrowing any money. I learned a long time ago; never let money enter into a personal relationship.”

“It’s not a problem. I’ll give you the money. Don’t even worry about paying it back.”

“You say that now, but what about later? No. I can’t do it.”

“Fine, but if you change your mind…”

“I won’t. I’m no one’s charity case.” Carson said in a rare glint of self-righteousness. He slumped back over to his window. The scenery hadn’t changed much. Still miles of desert and lots of dried out dead plants. He looked down and saw the asphalt below.

“What is with you?” Carson sat back up and shot a hard glare at Errol that nearly bore a hole into his head.

“When we get back home, you go back to your job and your nice condo. I go back to unemployment and my crappy apartment complete with annoying roommate,” Carson barked. “Not much to look forward to.” Carson settled back into his slump.

“I’m sorry.” Errol’s tone was timid.

“No. I’m sorry. I’m being an ass and I’m sorry. I appreciate you taking me on this trip. I really do. I’m just not in a good state of mind right now.”

“It’s okay. I realize this isn’t a good time for you. I just thought this trip would kind of get your mind off everything.”

“It did. Going home is kind of ruining it though.”

Carson heard a small chuckle escape Errol’s lips.

“This is one of those bumps in life that turns into a good memory eventually.”

“You’re a good guy, Errol,” Carson said. “You’re full of shit, but you’re a good guy.”

Link

Chapter 5

Okay. Last one you get for free. If you’ve been liking, just click the link and get your own copy.

http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Of-The-Valley-Melby/dp/147822830X/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1395602605&sr=8-11&keywords=jason+k+melby

Chapter 5

Waiters & Stars

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

VAN NUYS, CA 2:45 P.M.

Jason got home from his lunch with Bill. The apartment was empty, just the way he liked it. He went into his room and checked his machine, no messages, as usual. He saw his laptop on his bed and since he didn’t notice Cynthia’s car in the garage, he decided maybe it was time to check his E-mail. He logged on. His mailbox was full. He scrolled down the message list. The usual junk mail. He deleted it all and signed off. He sat down on his bed then remembered the waiter’s number. He turned to the cordless phone on the floor which began to ring just as he picked it up.

“Hello?”

“Well, hello there yourself! Where the Hell were you last night?” It was Ken Jenkins, one of Jason’s closest friends. His family.

“Sorry. I got home late and I wasn’t in any shape to do the bar. I just had a few drinks here with Cynthia.”

“Oh, well. At least you drank for a change. We missed you, though.”

“How was the crowd?”

“It was dead, as usual. Mike, Matt, and Elliot left before one.”

“Yikes. That is dead.” Jason said as he tried to fish the waiter’s number out from his front pocket.

“I trust we’ll be seeing you there tonight? Saturdays are always better anyway.”

“I don’t know. I actually might have a date.”

“A date? You remember what that even is?”

“Look, I don’t know for sure yet. I have to call this guy and see if this is for real.”

“Where did you meet him?”

“Actually, I met him at The Garden during my lunch with Bill. He was the most gorgeous thing on Earth, or at least in that general vicinity. He kissed me before I left and he slipped me his number.”

“Gorgeous, huh?” Ken asked with a distinct tone.

“What? Can’t I get a gorgeous guy?”

“Well, aren’t you the one who’s complaining that men are so vain and superficial? Here you are talking about how gorgeous and perfect this guy you met is, and you don’t even know his name.”

“That’s not true.”

“Then what is it?”

“Okay, fine. I don’t know it. I’m not made of stone. A hot guy is a hot guy. Besides, I never finished the paperwork on my sainthood.”

“Translation: You’re ditching us again.”

“I’m not ditching anyone. I’m just living my damn life! Okay? Maybe you guys should try it once in a while!” Jason exploded. He heard only silence on the other end. Then Ken spoke up.

“Sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. I’m just a little frustrated. Between my personal and professional life, there seems to be no peace. I hate my job; my writing career is nowhere and so far the best relationship I’ve been in is with a woman. I have a life on the zero scale. If this guy goes out with me, it will be my first date in a little over a year, and pretty much the highlight of my life to date. A year! Can you believe that? There are people who’ve gone insane over less stress than that!”

“You put way too much importance on dating. You neglect your friends. You need to learn to balance better. You’ve got to learn that your friends are all you’ve really got. We’re the ones who pick you up when those you date drop you.”

“Excuse me, but when Chris and I broke up, I don’t recall anyone picking me up, but only because I was not dropped. I didn’t need counseling, besides, I’m my best therapist. Always have been. Although, I remember a few times I’ve had to talk you down from the ledge.”

“You and that damn memory.”

“Look, I’ll call you later to let you know what’s up. If I’m not there tonight, we can all get together tomorrow for lunch, okay?”

“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Later. Bye.” Jason clicked off the phone. He finally discovered the crumpled up paper in his pocket and dialed. There were a few rings and then a familiar voice purred on the line.

“Hello?” Jason was shell shocked. He had little experience in talking to people on the phone. He usually got the voice mail. He soon remembered the first rule of phone etiquette: Respond.

“Hi! I don’t know if you remember me, but I was at The Garden earlier today, you kissed me before I left.” Silence on the other end. Apparently being kissed by the waiter didn’t get you membership in an exclusive club with him.

“Okay, before you get too scared, I do remember you. I’m just messing with you.” The waiter said. A feeling of relief washed over Jason. “My name is Clark.”

“Nice to have met you Clark. I’m Jason.” He said with relief. “This is kind of weird. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Talk on the phone?”

“No. I mean take a number from someone I just met by chance. Especially someone as hot as you. I have to admit, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” Clark said with a little laugh.

“So, your little note mentioned dinner. How about tonight?” Jason began wringing his sheets waiting for the response. Clark finally broke the silence.

“Sounds good. I’m free,” Jason could see the parade in his mind. Trumpets blaring, confetti flying down from the heavens. A date! A date! He had finally managed to get a date. “I don’t have a car though, so maybe you could come over here? I know some nice places to eat. We could catch a movie or something after.”

“Yes. Absolutely. What’s your address?”

“I’m at 766 Hitchcock Avenue, number 13.”

“Okay, I’ll be there about eight?”

“Perfect. I’ll see you tonight.”

Jason spent the remainder of the afternoon going through his closet trying to find something to wear. He poured through shirt after shirt after shirt. He pulled out all sorts of colors, styles, and fabrics. He was stuck over what kind of mood he wanted to encourage. He finally decided on a black over shirt and a red shirt beneath with black pants. He never went by the labels, just colors. By the time he had come to this conclusion, it was already six. He jumped in the shower and washed all over. Just in case. He got out, dried and combed himself. Once he put on his ensemble, he cologned himself. He had a very musky scent complete with pheromones that would make him irresistible, or so the perfume girl had promised him.

 

A few minutes after eight, Jason finally rolled onto Hitchcock, a little side street not too far from the heart of Hollywood. The neighborhood looked a little on the questionable side. The usual homeless and odd balls were strolling along the streets. Run down houses were accented with overgrown lawns and fading paint. There was one apartment building that looked somewhat new at 766. He parked as close as he could to the building. He stepped out and heard sirens in the distance. He didn’t see anything moving, but he could swear there was something skulking around the shadows near the trees. He sprinted to the front door of the apartment building and buzzed number thirteen. He anxiously waited for an answer, for more reasons than just to see Clark. Jason looked over at a list of names taped over the buzzer. Across from unit number 13 was the name Clark Mikels. Suddenly, Clark’s voice came on from the speaker.

“Hello?”

“It’s me”

“Okay, hold on.” The buzzer rang and Jason lunged for the door. He relaxed as it shut and locked behind him. Although the main thought on Jason’s mind at that moment was what would happen on the way back out. Jason walked down the first hall he came to down to number thirteen. He knocked on the door but heard no activity within. He waited a few moments more. Suddenly there was a loud rumble and the door swung open violently. A pretty woman with dark hair stood before Jason. She seemed to be in a bad mood. Her eyes were seething and her mouth was turned down in an almost angry way. He could hear the sound of a baby crying further inside the apartment.

“Come in.” She said sternly. Jason stepped in. She shut the door behind him and retreated into the kitchen. “Clark!”

“What!?” He responded from a room in the back. He even had a beautiful voice when he yelled, Jason thought.

“Your date’s here!”

Jason sat down on the couch in the living room. He looked around. The apartment was pretty well kept. The carpet looked clean. Ugly, but clean. There were a few piles of books on the floor. The TV was set upon a cheap looking little entertainment center that looked like a reject from Ikea. Jason was nearly comfortable when Clark burst out into the room wearing only a towel around his waist. A small towel.

“Hey, sorry, man! I’m running a little late. I just got out of the shower. I’ll just be a few more minutes. You met Nicole?” He said pointing to the woman in the kitchen.

“Uh, yeah. Briefly.”

“My sister,” The baby’s crying continued. “The baby is hers too. Nicky! Could you do something about the kid?” He asked.

“Keep your pants on. Oh, never mind.” She said as she walked through the living room into one of the back bedrooms. Clark followed her. A few moments later the crying stopped and Nicole returned to the kitchen.

“You met Clark at the restaurant?” Her question startled Jason.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah, today after lunch.”

“So, you just like guys?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know if Clark told you yet, but he’s Bi.”

“Well, I don’t really know him well enough for it to matter that much just yet.”

“Where are you going to go?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. I guess we’re going to get something to eat first.”

“You could eat here. I’m cooking some pasta. There’s plenty to go around.” Jason turned around in his seat and saw her at the stove stirring a large pot.

“Uh, thanks, but I think it’d be better if we just went out. I don’t want to bother you.”

“It’s no bother. In fact you’d be doing me a favor. I hate leftovers.” Jason looked down, thinking of a polite way to say no. Clark emerged back into the room before Jason could think of anything.

“You ready?” He asked Jason. Nicole stepped out of the kitchen.

“I was talking to Jason about you guys eating here. What do you think?”

“No. We are not eating here. We’re going out. I don’t think Jason wants to sit in this little kitchen eating your skunky Linguini. And even if he does, I don’t.”

“Skunky? What the hell would you know about my cooking? You hardly ever eat here as it is!” Jason was growing more uncomfortable. He wasn’t normally religious, but he found himself praying for something, anything, to save him from the ensuing domestic tragedy. A meteor; a mutant invasion; nuclear winter. Anything.

“Look, we are going out. I’ll be home later. Maybe.” Clark looked over to Jason. “Come on.” He said gently. Jason bolted up and followed him out of the apartment as fast as he could.

“It was nice meeting you, Jason.” She said pleasantly. “Burn in hell, Clark!” The loud sound of the door slamming echoed around them as they walked down the hall.

They stepped out of the building. Jason kept an eagle eye out for any suspicious activity. He felt a little safer being with Clark. A native of the land. He would know how to guide them safely.

“I hope that didn’t freak you out or anything. With Nicky, I mean.” Jason had been totally freaked out.

“No. It was fine. I’m fine.” Jason said. “Where do you want to go to eat?”

“Let’s see. There’s that fifties style diner on Highland.”

“Mel’s. Yeah. Works for me.” Jason agreed and they packed into his car and sped off into the night.

At Mel’s Diner on Highland, Jason and Clark sat down for dinner at a booth way in the back.

“I’ve never been here before.” Clark said. “I’ve always wanted to though. I’m totally into the retro thing.”

“Yeah. It’s nice. There’s another one close to where I live in the valley.” Jason said as he picked up his menu and began studying it. The strains of The Supremes singing ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ mingled with the loud conversations of the other tables. “How long have you lived with Nicole?”

“A few years now. I’m not sure. I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” He said. “But she and Jared should be moving out by the end of the month. Jared was the noisy baby.”

“That’s too bad. At least you come home to a full house though. I like my privacy, but sometimes I think it’s nice to have people around. I can even stand the company of babies every now and then.”

“Yeah, it’s nice having them with me, sometimes. Although there are times I want to cram her down the garbage disposal. It makes dating harder. I think sometimes she tries to scare my dates off on purpose, but she’s family. She got knocked up by some son of a bitch when she moved out here. He just ran out on her when he found out. I was all she had and I wasn’t going to let her end up on the streets with a kid.” Jason put down his menu.

“How about you? Tell me about your life.”

“Oh, okay.” Clark said. “I’m from Boston originally. I came out here for school, but I flunked out. By then though, I couldn’t leave. I loved it here too much. I started doing odd jobs to make ends meet, then one night I was offered a job dancing. I loved it and I started doing it full time. I worked most of the bars and clubs all around Hollywood. I even tended bar a little. I do that mostly at The Garden now. I’m getting kind of sick of dancing now though, besides, the tips are better behind the bar. I’m also trying to get an acting career off the ground right now. How about you?”

“Fair enough. I have a boring day job at a valley newspaper in the pre-press department and I write on the side.”

“Really? Cool.” Clark seemed oddly impressed with Jason’s account of his life.

“Cool? Did you hear me?”

“Yes. I’ve had a few boring jobs back in the day. It’s cool. What do you write?”

“Screenplays mostly. I haven’t sold anything yet, but I know some people in the biz and I’m optimistic.”

“That’s cool.” At that point, conversation ran dry. They sat in a void of silence. Jason looked around, searching through his brain for something to say or ask. Anything to break the silence. Just as Jason was about to say something, the waitress came up to their table. She had a head of black hair with streaks of purple on the sides. Her name tag on her chest had the name ‘Jinx’ on it.

“Hi guys. What can I get for you?” She asked in a peppy tone.

“Double cheeseburger and a vanilla Coke.” Clark said. Jason looked up at the waitress.

“I’ll have the chef salad and an iced tea.”  Jinx happily jotted down their orders and skipped away with a smile. They waited in silence for their food. It seemed to take forever. As hard as he tried, Jason simply couldn’t find anything to say. Clark began playing around with the napkins. Suddenly, Jinx returned with a tray full of food and set down their dinners in front of them. They ate quickly and silently. Jason had the feeling of being a passenger on the Titanic. He couldn’t think of a date that went any worse, even the ones that ended in gun fire. There was just nothing to talk about. As hard as he scanned his brain for a new topic, nothing registered.

After dinner, Jason and Clark walked out to the parking lot and stopped at the car to plot their next move.

“So, what do you want to do now?” Clark asked. Jason looked over and saw the shopping center at Hollywood and Highland. Just as he was about to suggest going, Clark chimed in with an idea of his own. “I know a place. I nearly forgot. It’s a great little place called The Nook. How about it?” Jason thought for a moment. He didn’t feel comfortable saying no, so he agreed. He figured perhaps going somewhere Clark wanted to go would loosen up the mood.

They got in Jason’s car and drove over to Sunset. Clark directed Jason to drive down a dark side street for a little while. He suddenly asked him to turn right at an even darker, smaller street. Jason wasn’t able to see the name on the street sign as they passed. He cruised down the street until they came to a small building with a blue neon sign outside that read ‘The Nook’. After an hour of circling the block for a parking spot, Jason finally found one a few blocks down from the club. It was a tight squeeze between a black and red Miata. They walked down the dark street closely together.

“So what’s this place like?”

“You’ve never been here?” Clark asked, looking at Jason as though he were some kind of alien.

“No. I’ve never even heard of it.”

“It’s great! Great music. Great drinks. Hot boys!”

As they got closer, Jason could hear music coming from within the building. It was pulsating and energized. As soon as the blue sign above the door was visible, they saw a large crowd of people waiting out front. There were a lot of beautiful people with pierced parts and tight clothes anxiously waiting to be let in. They were all standing around smoking and discussing the famous and powerful people they all know or work for. They all seemed a bit low energy, but the sounds inside seemed to indicate a high energy atmosphere. Jason and Clark took their places in the back. After a while of waiting, Clark finally turned to Jason and asked him a question.

“You live alone?” Jason wasn’t impressed by the originality of the question but relieved there was a new topic to fill the time.

“No, I have a roommate.”

“Is he gay too?”

“No. He’s bi, actually, but he leans more towards gay. It’s what he’s famous for.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, my roommate is Ben Kollins.” Clark lit up like the Sun.

“You are fuckin’ shitting me! Ben Kollins? The porn star!?”

“I shit you not. The one and only.” Since the day Jason moved in with Ben, He found his social status had elevated in certain circles. Jason had harbored a crush on Ben long before they moved in and most everyone thought it was a strange match up that was destined for disaster, but surprisingly the two proved to be rather suited to each other, as far as roommates went, and Jason’s crush evolved into an honest friendship.

“I’ve got all his videos! I even met him once at Rage. I think he was dancing. God, he’s hot!” Clark went on. From that point on, everything Clark said had to do with Ben. He summarized all of Ben’s videos for Jason, as Jason had never seen any himself.

By the time Clark was finishing describing the final orgy scene of ‘A Knight’s Tail’ they had reached the front of the line. The door man was a large wall of a man with a yard wide neck and thick meaty arms. A chill ran down Jason’s spine. Of course, most people had that effect on him at first. He began to worry if there was a cover charge. Suddenly Clark walked up to the doorman, climbed up his arm and whispered something into his ear. The doorman’s thick face contorted into something of a smile and he allowed them both in.

They walked in past the scary doorman who gave Jason a slight wink and out onto the main floor. Jason was amazed by the size of the club. It seemed to go on forever. An endless sea of men, mostly shirtless, dancing and bumping into each other. Bright, multicolored lights were flashing and strobing all around, and behind the bar were more shirtless men serving drinks. The special of the house seemed to be a pill and a glass of water as that seemed to be all people could get at the bar. Jason had hoped The Nook would have been a good place for him and Clark to sit and talk quietly, but since Clark’s new favorite subject was Ben Kollins, Jason found it better to limit Clark’s opportunities to speak. He looked over at Clark and saw that talking would not be an issue as he was already shifting into club mode. He had thrown off his shirt, displaying his flawless torso and was flirting and talking with everyone in sight. It appeared Clark was a very popular regular there. The music playing was unknown to Jason but Clark was digging it big time. In fact, nothing looked, or felt, familiar to Jason. It was the first time he actually missed Coconutz, but Clark was right at home, dancing and drinking as if he were being shipped off to Iraq the next day.

Jason was settled at the bar sipping a glass of water, wondering if the problem was his. Everyone was happy, the music was high energy, but despite it all, Jason just didn’t feel what everyone else was feeling. He couldn’t relax enough to enjoy himself, but really saw nothing to enjoy. The men were too hot and snobby for him to approach, besides, he was on a date. Jason believed whole heartily it was impolite to flirt with other men while on a date. Suddenly Clark came out of the crowd and sat next to Jason. His chest shiny with sweat.

“Having fun?” Clark obviously was. Before Jason could say anything, a familiar voice rang out over the music. Jason looked over. It was Ben. He came striding through the crowd; the men seemed to move out of the way to clear a path for him.

“Hey, baby!” Ben said. He was tall and handsome, as most gay porn stars were. A smooth tan body, long, dark hair and wearing only the smallest of thong underwear. He wrapped his arm around Jason and kissed him on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I’m here with..” Jason started but before he could even finish his sentence, Clark jumped up from his stool and presented himself like an eager puppy trying to get adopted on gas day at the pound.

“Hi! I’m Clark Mikels!” He announced. Ben looked him up and down carefully.

“Hello there.” Ben said, obviously impressed with Clark.

“Ben? Clark here is my date. Clark, I believe you know who this is.”

“Yeah! I’ve got all your movies! I think you are like the hottest guy on the scene!”

Ben had Clark’s attention for the next hour. Jason had only to sit and watch the two of them act out a clumsy and tasteless mating ritual. Jason checked his watch. It was a little after eleven. He saw Ben and Clark deep in a discussion about body oils so he just got up and left. As Jason walked down the street back to the car, he half expected to hear Clark running up to him to apologize. He made it to his car with no interruptions.