TGIFBF! This week I offer “Something’s Always Wrong”, the second installment in the Jason Of The Valley series.
Sadly, this will be the last entry for this book this week, as there are only four parts. But take heart, loyal readers (few that you may be) tomorrow is Free Book Friday, and a new book shall be offered. Stay tuned! And if you want to full story, just follow this link and enjoy!
He’s been staring at me since the last stop. I admit he’s a cut above the others. At least he’s not some bug-eyed freak with no hair and bad skin. I just don’t know how they can even pick me out of a crowd. It’s not like I have some big tattoo on my forehead declaring I’m the daughter of the so-called Savior. I’m just plain old Larissa Corba, wage slave by day and woman of mystery by night. It’s not my fault my old man founded some crazy church and it’s really not my fault anyone with less than half a brain believes him. I heard the story from my mom so many times before. She just didn’t want me to forget about him. Kind of hard since he stepped out on us before I was even ten. I have to admit, what I do remember of him is good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that he chose his church over his family. How long before we get to East Fifth Street? This train is taking forever.
He’s still staring too. He’s kind of cute actually. Nice face. Good hair. Hard to believe someone that well put together would fall in with the cult crowd, but then you can never really tell how dumb people are by just looking at them. It would be such a nicer world if you could, though. I could take him out. Maybe even have some fun. No. Stop. No way. I’m not going through that again. Once, a year ago, I let my guard down and it just turned into a big bloody mess. I still don’t know what I was thinking. You see a stalker so, of course, you invite him in for coffee and before you know it, you’re lashed to your bed with dried pig intestines and surrounded by a bunch of Goth priests waiting for him to come and make you a vessel for the next Savior. I was so lucky the intestines broke and I had that knife under my pillow. These days, you can’t be too careful. Another lesson from dear old mom.
I can feel the train slowing to its stop and finally the doors slide open. I push through the people in front of me. Not that I’m scared, but experience tells me to put as much distance between this freak and me as I can. I zigzag along the platform toward the stairs. There are too many people to stop and look around to see if I did lose him, but I’m pretty sure I have.
I walk out onto East Fifth Street and the cool air hits me hard. The sky is as dark as ever. A thick, billowy cover of gray and black clouds has floated over New York and apparently likes it so much it won’t leave. I’m just glad the rain has stopped. It was raining since I got up this morning. It’s actually been raining for several weeks now. Days and days of solid rain with a few breaks in-between. I noticed a couple weeks ago how it’s affecting people. Normally Herb, the guy I get my paper from, always has a smile for me, but three Mondays back, he was as sour and angry as most everyone I know. It was too bad. I myself skew a bit on the dark side and it’s always comforting to have a few smiling faces around. Takes the pressure off me to be happy.
I feel a drop of chilled liquid hit my cheek and soon it’s followed by all his friends. I whip out my umbrella quickly just as the icy water crashes down on everyone. A few slowpokes are still struggling with their umbrellas as I walk by. Must be tourists. Only someone who’s just visiting would let their guard down that easily. I turn my head a bit to get a better look at how bad the poor sucker gets soaked, but instead, I see my train buddy a few yards behind. I turn back quickly and focus on getting through the crowd. My building’s just a few blocks away. This guy isn’t good enough to keep up with me that long. I disappear into a flock of commuters. I purposely cut through the middle to ensure my friend has as difficult a time as he can possibly have in tracking me. I’m tempted to run, but if I run, he runs. I can get more distance between us if I just keep cool.
I’m just a few steps from my building and I feel a wave of relief. I quickly brush past my doorman, Will. He tips his hat to me as I walk by, as he always does, and I blurt out a ‘thanks’ out the side of my mouth, as I always do. I make a snap decision to take the stairs. I’m only on the third floor and I don’t have any heavy luggage. I can make it. I veer a sharp right just before the elevators and find the entrance to the stairwell. I start up, feeling a wave of comfort as I think about my stalker, stuck out in the miserable rain while I am safe and dry. I get to the third floor and open the door. The coast is clear. Not a soul in sight. I start down the hall to my door. I pass the elevator and as I do, it opens. There he is! I feel my spine stiffen. I curse myself just a little bit. I thought I was playing it safe with the stairs. Either I’m losing my skill at avoiding psychos, or this guy is one of the best. He’s closer behind me. I can hear his footsteps. I think I can even smell his aftershave. There’s my door at the end of the hall. It’s so close. Don’t run. Just keep walking. Eyes forward. Pretend you’re a laser burning through a wall of butter. Just cut through. He’s getting closer. I can hear the rustle of his pants as he steps. Okay. There’s no more time for running.
I stop suddenly and pivot fast. I barely recognize the look of surprise on this nutjob’s face. I grab his arm, spin him around and slam him into the wall. He tries to speak, so I shove his face hard in order to impede speech. I don’t really want to hear how I don’t understand and he didn’t mean anything by following me all the way from the subway. He bucks a bit under my grip. Pretty cheeky, if I do say so myself. I throw him to the floor and grind my knee into his spine.
“I live here!” He screams out.
“Three twenty three! Over there! I’m Mike Barnes!” He barks, looking over to the door a few away from mine. I feel sudden coolness erupt in my heart. I jump up from him quickly. I see he’s got his keys in his hand.
“Oh my god. I am so sorry! I didn’t know!”
“It’s okay.” He picks himself up and smoothes himself out nicely. He looks at me and smiles a bit. He seems to be a better sport than I would be if the tables were turned. “I’ve got a couple younger sisters. I know what kind of world it is.”
“I just thought you were following me. In my defense, that happens a lot.”
“I’m sure. Considering who you are.”
“What do you mean by that?” My guard goes back up quickly.
“Well, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t know about your father. I saw you on that bit on the news a few months back.”
“Oh. Right. I was hoping that would have put an end to all of this. Just because my father is the founder of the Great Church of Corba doesn’t mean I’m any closer to God’s ear. Their editor chopped the whole piece up so badly though, now I’ve got more people coming up to me, hoping I can deliver them to The Savior.”
“It’s not your fault. I just got dealt a lousy father and now I’m paying for it.”
“That’s a little harsh.”
“What do you call a father who would rather run off and start some crazy church than be with his family? I don’t think I ever spent any time alone with him after they started filling his head with crazy ideas. He always had that creepy advisor with him. Couldn’t make a move without him. Mom couldn’t take it anymore and asked for a divorce, which he gave her just like that. No arguments. No fights. He just bolted out the door and never thought of us again.”
“Okay. Maybe it wasn’t harsh.”
“So, you live over there? I can’t believe I’ve never seen you in the building before.”
“You may not have seen me, but I’ve seen you a couple times. You always seem so focused and in your mind. I’d say hi, but you never replied.”
“I understand. If my life were like yours, I’d be exactly the same way.” He smiles again. Seeing him closer up, I can see how good looking he really is. His eyes are deep and a crisp shade of blue and his hair looks soft.
“I still feel bad about this. Maybe, if you want, you could come over for a drink sometime? We could get to know each other. I don’t really know any of my neighbors.”
“I’d be honored to be the first. Would tonight be okay?”
“Tonight? Uh, sure. Yeah. Why don’t you come by around eight?”
“Perfect. I’ll see you then.” He smiles again and trots off to his door. I watch him closely as he puts the key in and pushes the door open. Just had to be sure he really did live there. As his door closes, I feel satisfied and I go on to my home.
It’s a great day for someone today. The Supreme Court not only eliminated campaign contribution limits, but they also have declined challenges to gun control laws. I’m starting to think these guys in the robes are the real problem. They are really trying to stack the deck for their own party. I thought they were supposed to be impartial. BTW, I love this quote:
“With the ruling, we continue to chip away at the long entrenched status quo from the grassroots — a status quo that has kept challengers, better ideas, and new entrants to the political arena mostly locked out,” McCutcheon said in a statement. “Ensuring that citizens are able to contribute to multiple candidates or causes who share their views only provides further support to a system in which ‘We the People’ hold the ultimate reins of power.”
He’s actually trying to say the rich and privileged are the victims in this. Are you kidding me!? If your party is losing, maybe it’s because their ideas and policies are out of step with the rest of the nation. Maybe you should attend to that first. And once more, the Supreme Court makes a ruling that completely flies in the face of all sense and justice. I mean, they aren’t even trying to be subtle about it. They’re the ones responsible for this Citizens United nonsense in the first place. I really hate that thing. The name makes it sound noble, but all it does is give corporate America a blank check to buy the government and now they’ve opened that up even wider.
Get ready for the future people. A government that’s up for sale and guns for the mentally unstable. Woo hoo!
First chapter of Part 3 of Demon Hunters.
I walked into the building that housed my office on Sunset Boulevard on an unseasonably cool June morning. It had been almost three months since my office was rebuilt after nearly being brought down by a monstrous zombie. The whole building still smelled new as I walked through the doors. The scent of fresh paint and cut wood lingered in the air like a faint ghost and the walls and floors gleamed with sharp brilliance. It was like stepping into a brand new world.
Since all the madness with the Morgan Sanguine case, my life had settled back into normal mode. Of course, normal for me was still more chaotic than most other peoples’ lives. My caseload remained steady, but despite that, and an unpleasant encounter with a rare Were-tiger, I felt rather good about my life.
My demon was still rattling around in my head and I was still a lightning rod for all manner of horror and atrocity you could think of. The one thing that made me happy above all that mess was the fact that Gwen had sold her home in Blue Haven and moved to Los Angeles to live, which put an automatic spring in all my steps.
She found a nice condo in Studio City, which was actually quite nice. I helped her get used to the area. Showed her all the points of interest, for both the tourist and native. I showed her where to get the best produce and the best places to go for a late night fast food binge. We were inseparable for weeks, but I couldn’t play momma bird forever. I had to get back to work and Gwen was set to find a career of her own. Due to the conflicting schedules of both goals, we found we had less face time to enjoy, but we did enjoy what time we had. She had said she was close to finally landing a job but she didn’t go into much more detail than that.
As I walked up the stairs to my office, I was quite impressed with the work done on the building. My landlord wasn’t burdened with a reputation for being very generous and I was sure he was going to lowball the whole job, but it looked as though he had spent real money. He not only had my office rebuilt but he gave the whole dump a makeover, inside and out. There was new molding along the walls along with brand new paint. I walked up the stairs to my office and noticed the fresh new carpeting he had installed. I also noticed how quiet it was. I felt like I was the only one in, but as I stepped inside, I saw Ivar at his desk poring over a pile of books.
“Morning.” Ivar looked up.
“Good Morning, Jake. You’re in early.”
“Yeah, I tried to sleep in, but I just couldn’t do it.”
“That is a sign of a healthy sleep pattern.”
“If you say so.”
“How is Gwen? I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“We’re good. She’s been busy looking for a new job.”
“She’s having trouble?”
“It’s tough going from a small fish bowl like Blue Haven and into an ocean like L.A.”
“I’m sure she’ll find something. She seems very bright.”
“She is. What are you up to?”
“Nothing. Just my usual referencing exercises. We had a couple of visitors.”
“Already? What did they want?”
“One wanted to hire you for a background check. It didn’t seem he understood the nature of our business. The other wanted you to gather evidence for some lawsuit he’s preparing. They both left numbers.” I walked over to my desk. It was oddly clear of clutter and papers. Gwen had taken to stopping by periodically and straightening up for me. I looked over at my phone and saw a slip of paper with two numbers and two names. One name had background check next to it and the other one had lawsuit. I picked the phone up and started dialing the background check number first.
“You’re actually calling?” Ivar asked with some level of surprise.
“We gotta pay the bills somehow. The little demons and imps of the city have been annoyingly quiet lately. I can do a quick background check. Pick up an extra check. It might just cover the electric bill this month.”
I sat down with the phone to my ear. A voice came on suddenly. It was thick and low.
“Hi. Jake Corba here. Is this William Bertram?
“Yes. Thank you for getting back to me.”
“My pleasure. You came by my office this morning?”
“Yes. I spoke with your assistant. I need you to run a background check on someone I’m thinking about hiring.”
“Are we looking for anything in particular?”
“Just a general check. Prison record, whatnot.”
“Okay. I can do that. Would you be able to come in and sign some papers?”
“Of course. I could come by this afternoon.”
“Great. Any time after two will be fine.”
“I will see you then.” It sounded like he was about to hang up, and a curiosity came over me.
“Mr. Bertram? Before you go, I’d like to ask you something.”
“Why me? There are lots of companies that do this kind of work. I’m just some no-name private investigator. How did you even find me?”
“It’s actually the oddest thing. I told the applicant I needed to run a background check, and they actually referred me to you.”
“They did? Who is this applicant?”
“Gwen Thorne. Do you know her?” I smiled a little to myself.
“The name sounds familiar. I’ll have to check. Come by around two and we’ll get you taken care of.”
“Okay. Thank you.” He said and hung up. I leaned back in my chair and just as I was about to open my mouth, the door swung open and Gwen came in.
“Good morning you two.” She softly patted Ivar’s shoulder as she made her way over to me. She was wearing a blue dress that danced gracefully with every step she took. I could sense the faint aroma of perfumed flowers in the air as she got closer. I got up quickly and wrapped her up in my arms and hugged her tightly.
“Jake. I have a favor to ask.”
“I already talked to him.”
“Him? Who him?”
“William Bertram. About your background check.”
“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t act so innocent.”
“Fine. I might have encouraged him to call you.”
“It’s fine, really. I just don’t get why.”
“I was hoping you might be able to creatively edit some of the things you find in my background check.”
“Like what? What could you have done that would raise any red flags? A nice girl from Blue Haven, like yourself.” Gwen turned away from me slowly.
“There’s a lot about me you don’t know. Not that any of it is relevant now. I was a different person then.” My interest was rising.
“Okay. You’re scaring me now. What am I going to find?”
“Nothing. Some youthful transgressions. A few black marks. A little federal conviction.”
“It was nothing. In college, I got kind of swept up in activism and some friends and I went out on a boat and intercepted some fishing boats that were known to kill dolphins.”
“We kind of hijacked it.”
“You hijacked a boat?”
“And then ran it aground,” Gwen looked up and caught me staring at her. “It was a small one. No one told me it was a felony. I got a year of probation. I didn’t serve hard time, but it’s still on my record.”
“That doesn’t sound, too bad.” I said with some reservation.
“I know that, but it doesn’t look so sterling to prospective employers,” Gwen said. “I just need you to kind of water it down a little.”
“Water down. As in erase?”
“If you could?”
“Gwen. That’s illegal. Incredibly illegal,” Gwen looked down darkly. I quickly put my finger to her chin and lifted her head back up. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thanks,” Gwen said with a broad smile. “Will you stop looking at me like that?”
“I’m sorry. It’s hard to digest. I can’t really picture you taking part in anything illegal.”
“You believe in ghosts, demons, trolls, werewolves, and all other sorts of things that go bump in the night, but me breaking the law is so out of reach?”
“All those other things I’ve seen. I just can’t see you hijacking a boat. It’s kind of bad ass.”
“I have a wild side.”
“That is becoming exceedingly clear.” I pulled Gwen in for a kiss.
“Before I met you I had a very interesting life.
“No doubt. So, what job is so important to get that I’m risking jail time?”
“Real estate agent.”
“Yes. I got my license a long time ago, but I got kind of sidetracked after I got married. I thought I’d pick it back up. I renewed my license last week and interviewed with Mr. Bertram a couple days ago.”
“And this would be a big career move?”
“Big enough. Bertram Real Estate is a huge company, at least from what I’ve learned. The important thing is he’s willing to take a chance on me. That is as long as my background check comes back clean and felony free.”
“Yes, don’t worry. I think it should be easy to bury a boat hijacking. Not much chance of you doing it again, is there?” I thought it came out rather cute, but Gwen’s expression soured and she stepped away.
“It’s not a joke.”
“I didn’t say it was.”
“This is important to me. When I was married, Henry didn’t like me working. He was always so backward about that. I got my real estate license for a reason. What better job is there than to help people find homes to raise their family?”
“Okay. I’m sold. You want this? We’ll make it happen.” Gwen beamed up at me and gently kissed my lips.
“Settled? We good?”
“Great. Now get out of here. I’ve got a business to run.”
“All right. I’ll see you tonight, right? Dinner?” Gwen asked as she headed for the door.
“Absolutely.” She blew me a final kiss and disappeared around the corner. I looked back down at the phone and picked up the little slip of paper next to it. The last number was for a guy named Felix Lesidous. I quickly dialed but instead of ringing, I got an earful of a loud beep and a message stating that the number had been disconnected.
“This guy came in today, right?”
“That’s gotta be a record. His phone’s been disconnected.” I said. Suddenly the door flew open and a scrawny looking guy stood in the frame. He was wearing a suit of questionable taste. It was poorly cut and seemed to be two sizes too large. His face was angular and pale with dark lines running up around his mouth. His thick brows were furrowed over his angry eyes as he marched up to my desk and pounded his fist down.
“You Jake Corba?” He asked.
“I’m Felix Lesidous.”
“I was just trying to call you. Your phone’s been cut off. You know about that?”
“That’s not important right now. I need your help.”
“Fine,” I sat down. “I understand you need me to help you with a lawsuit. Is that right?”
“Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Have a seat and let’s get to work,” Felix sat down in the chair across from me and settled in. I pulled out a piece of paper and found a pen. It had been a long time since I worked on a, as some would say, normal case, but I remembered getting as much information as was available was a good thing. “So, Mr. Lesidous, what is the nature of your lawsuit? What are we looking for?”
“I am suing on the grounds of wrongful damnation!”
Seems crazy? Well, it makes sense if you read the whole thing. Check it out.
Below is the first chapter of the second part of ‘Demon Hunters’. If you feel you’re missing something, you can always buy the book. Just sayin’.
I looked up at the clock on the wall. It was half past two in the morning. I was sitting at the table in the briefing room. That’s what the arresting officer called it. I had been left there nearly a half hour earlier and still I waited. I looked across the table at the mirror on the wall. I checked my hair. It was a little messy, but I liked it like that. A few scars on my face here and there, but I liked having a face with character. It was hard to stifle a little laugh, though. Did the cops really think that fooled anyone anymore? Anyone who’s seen Law & Order knows the deal.
The door suddenly opened and someone came in. The suit registered as a man, but I looked at the face and saw it was a woman. She had very short, black hair and she sat down across from me and slapped down a large folder onto the table.
”Hello.” She said.
“I’m Detective Samantha Reynolds. I believe we have things to discuss,” Her demeanor was difficult to read. I knew she wanted to bust my ass, but she seemed to be holding back. Her glare kept on me as if I was a small child and she was a Rottweiler who hadn’t been fed in three weeks. “Well?”
“It’s late. I’m tired. I don’t think I have to tell you exactly how much trouble you’re in right now,” I looked down at the stained floor and the events that have transpired recently dashed across my brain.
“You might have to,” I said. “I was already in some before this,” She leaned back in her chair. Her face became easier to read. Angry. Definitely angry. “You mind if I smoke?” I reached into my coat pocket for my last cigarette.
“This is a non-smoking facility. There’s a hundred dollar fine.” I pulled out my wallet along with my cigarette.
“Here,” I dropped the money down. “Two hundred. I had an extra one.” I then proceeded to light up.
“I’m sure you think you’re being very clever and funny, but that is not the case. We have your accomplices. We’ll get the information out of them if we have to.” I let out a breath, unleashing a faint cloud of smoke.
“Your hair is short.”
“I like it short.”
“You a lesbian?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“In other words, yes.”
“No. As a matter of fact, I’m not.” She said and then wiggled her ring finger at me. “Married two years.”
“Great. Congrats.” I took another drag.
“The only time you’re wasting is yours.”
“I beg to differ. I’m sure you have a lot of better things to do than sit here with me.”
“I do, but I’m getting paid for this. Are you going to talk?”
“I really don’t even know what you want to hear.”
“Fine. I’ll talk,” She opened up the envelope and pulled out some papers. She held them up in front of her face and began reading. “Jake Corba. Correct?”
“It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.”
“Age thirty five. It says here you run a paranormal investigation firm. Interesting work?”
“It can be.”
“Now what leads a man such as yourself to such a unique career path?” I knew the tone. The same pandering attitude I always got from people when I told them what I did for a living. Ninety nine percent of the world seems to refuse to believe in the existence of anything that can’t be found in either the Bible or an encyclopedia.
“I have a demon in me.”
“Do you drink a lot? Take any drugs?” The usual follow up.
“No. Just possessed. It’s been swimming around in my soul since I was born.”
“Could you elaborate on that?” She kept up her game face, but I could see through it as clear as glass.
“I was only a few months old when it happened. My parents took me to church to have me baptized. They brought me up and the pastor said his words and as he dabbed me with holy water, that’s when it happened.”
“When what happened?”
“The creature entered me. My soul was taken over by a demon. The church burst into flames, killing my parents and the rest of the congregation. It was all pretty much downhill from there.”
“And you believe this?”
“I didn’t at first. I knew I had a demon inside of me but a lot of that night was something I didn’t care to remember. I remember the screams. I remember seeing my mother being pinned under a large beam from above. I remember her face. She was so beautiful. Her face was so serene and peaceful, despite the situation. She looked into my eyes and I looked back into hers. That’s the last thing I can recall clearly.”
“And because you were possessed?”
“It’s as good an explanation as any. I was young. I couldn’t control the thing. Are you trying to pin a thirty five year old arson case on me now?”
“No. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on now and you are not helping me. What about your partner?”
“Ivar? What about him?”
“What do you know about him?”
“Plenty. He’s kind of weird, but he’s a good guy. Smart. He knows just about everything. He’s also very spiritual. I think in some parts of the world, he’s a shaman. He told me that.”
“Does he have an address? A phone number?”
“I don’t know.”
“He works for you.”
“I know, but I’ve never had to call him or mail him anything. He just kind of shows up.”
“Is he a citizen of this country?”
“That, I admit, is embarrassing that I don’t know. It’s never really come up.”
“Tell me about the case you’ve been working on.”
“Is that what you want to know?”
“It would be a start.” I plunged my cigarette into the palm of my hand to put it out. It sizzled upon contact with my skin but I didn’t feel a thing. I could see the look on Reynold’s face. I casually dusted my palms clean and lit my last stick up.
“The last case. Fine. I’ll tell you all about this last case. Get comfy.”
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