March 26, 2010

Things just get weirder and weirder

((More flashbacks. Just an update, flashbacks will probably persist for another 6 weeks or so, so says our Exalted storyteller. Hope you guys are enjoying!))

I was sitting with my legs up in one corner of the church pew, absently rubbing my dog tags together, staring off. I ignored everyone in the room, and everyone obliged to ignore me. I was still a little shaken up by the revelations of the night before. I considered not coming back today, just pretending it had all been a dream.. but I kept hearing whispering in my empty apartment, and regardless, I knew I had to see it through out of sheer stubbornness and more than a little curiosity.

Jackie sat in his customary place, tapping away at his computer. None of us would be surprised if the thing turned out to be attached to him when he stood up, I think. He would occasionally grumble to himself in Korean when the generator lulled and his screen, along with the lights, dimmed slightly. I spared him a glance only when he expletives became unusually colorful. If he noticed, he would just smirk at me and keep typing. I'm not sure he realized that I could understand every word he said. No one else paid him any mind, but then, no one else could understand him.

I nearly jumped out of my seat when my cell phone rang. I recognized the number as Larry Solmes, my boss from the ambulance service I worked for. He didn't usually bother his people on their days off..
"O'shea. I was just calling to convey my, and everyone else's condolences. We heard about your sister."
It was fortunate the Larry couldn't see my face. It was a mask of total confusion. I was an only child. I was about to protest when I saw Jackie nodding urgently. Thankfully, Larry had not so much as paused.
"Your request for leave is of course granted. We'll see you in two weeks O'shea. Tell your family we all send our love."
"Th, thank you sir. It is much appreciated." Jackie winked at me as I hung up.
I scowled at him. "A heads up would've been nice." He just shrugged and went back to his typing. I closed my fist around the tags and sat lower in the pew. This was it.. I was really in it.. damn.

I was pulled from my brooding when the door opened, and I nodded a silent greeting to Karl as he walked in, followed by Danzig who trotted over to a corner and settled himself comfortably. The grizzled shrimper grunted at Jackie and glowered at me. I raised an eyebrow and shook my head, returning to my ruminations. The silence that followed was not awkward, but it was hardly amiable, punctuated by soft curses and softer keystrokes. I shifted restlessly, tucking the tags back into my shirt as the door opened again. The angry Italian, who I learned was called Giuseppe, stalked through the door and Tommy trudged in behind him. Jackie looked up between them.

"You guys look like shit."
Karl spoke at the same moment. "What the hell happened to you?"
Tommy looked up at the expectant faces, his eyes red rimmed from fatigue and other things. Giuseppe didn't even slow down. He strode to the rectory and slammed the door behind him. A few moments later the shower came on. I spared a glance at the door, a faint, familiar metallic scent had trailed past me as he walked by. Blood?...This should be an interesting story.

I turned my attention back to Tommy. He hesitated, looking from one expectant face to the other, heaved a large sigh and grabbed his tool box off the floor, making a beeline for the back bathroom. He shut the door quietly but firmly behind him.

Jackie shrugged, going back to his computer. Karl glared at the closed door. "Well Fuck you too." I just rolled my eyes and sat up straighter. These guys were just a fountain of information. The silence grew again until I turned suddenly in my pew to look at Karl, I opened my mouth to speak, then hesitated, my brow knit together in thought. Karl glared at me.
"What the hell do you want woman?" I narrowed my eyes briefly, then shrugged. Can't complain about them not being forthcoming if I'm not either.. something I'd overheard him say after I stormed off last night suddenly hit a chord.
"You mentioned a man with blue eyes last night. Who were you talking about?"
Karl shrugged. "How should I know? Brijet just said to watch out for a man with blue eyes."

I absently pulled the dog tags from my shirt. My skin was cold where they had laid against my chest. I pursed my lips in thought, tapping the dog tags against the hard wood of the pew.
"Hey Jackie, what kind of information you got on a guy named Trevian Williams?" "Trevian? Who the hell is that?" Jackie scowled.
I shook my head. "Will you just look?"
"Gimme a minute."

Karl stood and walked up the aisle to the front of the church. "Who the hell is Trevian?"
I ignored the demanding tone in the grizzled man's voice.
"Quite possibly the blue eyed man you were talking about. I met him while I was on shift when I first got into town. Guy got shot down in midtown. Had a talk with him about what happened. Seemed nice enough, but creepy as hell."
Karl grunted dissent. "Creepy to you maybe."
I frowned at him, but refrained from further comment. Sexist bastard.

"Looks like this Trevian guys got a record. Looks like gang related stuff. Assault charges, larceny, the usual. He got a long rap in Detroit before he came down here. Nothing special really. Though... rumor says that the guy's bulletproof." Jackie looked up to meet our skeptical looks. "Thas what it says, look for yourself."
In response, Karl and I both leaned in to look at the screen. Jackie continued to skim the information quickly.
"Looks like he goes by 'Third' on the street, not Trevian. That's about all there is on him. Looks like a typical gang-banger."

I sat back and shrugged. "Well I didn't get much out of him when I talked to him, except that he and his lady friend practice Vaudun."
Karl grinned sardonically and cracked his knuckles. "You just weren't askin' the right way. Where can we find this guy?"

I started to answer but paused mid-sentence as Jackie let loose with a string of curses, pressing his hands to his head. "Aw man! What the fuck!"
I frowned at the small man. "Whats wrong with you?"
Jackie didn't answer me, instead keeping up his colorful monologue. Tommy opened the door and stepped into the main auditorium, eyes glazed over, tourniquet still around his arm. He was also rubbing left side of his head, right above the eye. He spoke slowly with slightly slurred words.
"What's going on? My head hurts." Tommy looked between Karl and me, recognizing Jackie as a lost cause even in his drug haze. Karl wasn't looking at any of us, his jaw twitching in an obvious effort not to show any signs of the discomfort he was sharing with the others.

But I didn't feel a thing. I stood took a step back from the group.
"What the hell is going on?" I demanded
Tommy turned and disappeared back into the bathroom, only to return a few seconds later holding a small glass vial. He put a drop in each eye, just as he had last night, an action that took him significantly longer than it should have as his hands wavered unsteadily. He blinked away the excess liquid and looked at me again, and waved as he looked just over my shoulder.

The world went black and white, slightly fuzzy around the edges. Several ghosts sat in the church pews, occasionally standing or kneeling all at once. They were dressed nicely, perpetually going through the motions of Sunday morning mass. They paid no heed to the living who had taken refuge in the church. It was a sight fit to depress anyone, but Tommy was too high to care, and the figure standing behind Harper was of far more interest anyway. The man was rather short, about 5'5, and rather dead. The left side of his head was completely missing, the left eye covered with an opaque film. He had his fists clenched and was looking at the men in the room with outraged contempt.


I screwed my brow together as Tommy waved over my shoulder.
"What the fuck are you waving at?"
Tommy pointed. "Him, behind you. He looks maaad." At that, Tommy saw the man raised his fists, his face contorting with rage and he began to scream at the ceiling at what should have been the top of his lungs, but there was no sound. Jackie yelped as the pain in his head increased, Karl held a hand to his head involuntarily and scowled as blood dripped from his nose to the wood floor. Tommy seemed impervious to the pain, though he absently rubbed his head.

I whirled, and there was nothing. Frost crept around the edges of the metal dog tags and my eyes widened in fear and surprise. Surely not. Oh god. Please not that. Tommy turned and looked at Natalie (at least I think it was her.., she was almost constantly in attendance when Tommy was around according to him). "Why is he so mad?" He paused, probably for the response. "The guy behind her. He's all pissed." Then Tommy just shrugged like she hadn't given him any useful information.

The rectory door opened, Giuseppe framed within. He was barefoot and shirtless, towel draped across his shoulders and tattoos marching across his upper body. And by marching I mean covering in its entirety. He had the heel of his hand pressed against his temple, and spoke through gritted teeth.
"What the hell is going on?"
Tommy pointed past me again. "The guy there. He's all mad for some reason, and half is head is gone."
I visibly stiffened. My hand closing convulsively over the frosty tags. No no no..

Tommy shuffled forward, peering intently at the figure behind me. Tommy squinted, coming to a stop right in front of me, leaning over my shoulder. Normally such a breech of personal space would motivate me to move back, but I felt frozen in place.

"His shirt says 'Driscoll'" Tommy nodded definitively and took a step back. I felt my eyes get rounder, and all the blood drained from my face, it went white as a sheet and I looked at Tommy as though he'd sprouted a second head. Giuseppe raised a brow at my reaction.
"Friend of yours?"
I turned to look at him, my face probably so stricken that he just rolled his eyes at me.
"Wonderful." He turned and disappeared back into the rectory.
I was in too much shock to even be annoyed at him.

Tommy watched as the man seemed to tire. His fists unclenched, and he sagged, still screaming, but with much less force. The image wavered, growing fainter. As Driscoll faded away, so did the pain. Jackie sat up slowly from where he had curled up in the pew.
"Fuck. What the hell. I'm getting tired of all this ghost shit." He continued his ranting as he retrieved his laptop.
I sunk down into the pew. Later I realized that at that point, the dog tags weren't cold anymore, but right then, I was too freaked out to make note of it. I stared straight ahead and didn't utter a sound. Karl stalked into the bathroom to clean his nose and Tommy wandered through the pews, peering closely at figures only he could see.

About 15 minutes later, give or take, Giuseppe reappeared, fully clothed and wearing his usual frown. A moment later the church door was flung open as Jaleel ran in. He hadn't even taken the time to remove his helmet. All eyes where on him, save me, I was just staring off having a more than just mild freak out in the front pew.

"The Union is starting trouble. We need to go. C-love needs help."
Jackie snorted and bent over his computer. "Have fun."
Karl picked up his wrench and called Danzig to his side. "Sounds like fun."

Giuseppe nodded and started towards the door, pausing when I made no indication of having heard the summons. I hadn't even heard Jaleel come in at the time.
"Harper!" he barked my name harshly, with enough force to momentarily clear the dazed look from my face. I blinked at him.
"We're going. Come on." He strode out of the church without a backwards glance. I shook myself and stood, following him out. I was the queen of distracting myself with action. Work to forget, and this was no different. Thank god Jaleel needed us now.. because I didn't see my mental breakdown going to well if I'd been allowed to sit there all night...

Karl grabbed Tommy's shirt and pulled him outside, giving him a push towards his car grumbling about fucking druggies. The door swung shut as Jackie told us to be safe in his usual sarcastic tone.


Giuseppe rode in the Jeep with me (oh joy), silent in the passenger seat. He had simply looked at me when I took out my keys and climbed in the drivers seat, he didn't have to say anything to communicate his opinion of me driving in my current condition, but he slide into the SUV anyway, and I didn't care enough to reassure him. Jaleel led the way on his bike, Karl and Tommy following in Tommy's car. The vehicle veered across the white lines occasionally. I let him lead by a few dozen feet. The silence in the car was palpable but neither of cared. I was too focused on driving, blocking everything else from my mind. The feeling in the pit of my stomach betrayed to me my own awareness of the situation. But maybe if I ignored it long enough, it would go away. But then, that hadn't solved the problems I had with Driscoll when he was alive and was much less likely to work now that he was dead. But right now I was driving and working to keep out of Karl's way as he served Tommy's car across 4 lanes.

Jaleel parked his bike in an empty lot, motioning for the others to do the same. I turned off the car and heaved a sigh as I leaned back in the seat. I turned towards Giuseppe for some sort of reassurance and found the door open and the man gone. Figures. That's what I get from even considering it..It wouldn't surprise me if they're all looking forward to this.

With another sigh, I got out of the car, securing my gun in its holster and dragging the overly large first aid kit out of the backseat. I heaved it over my shoulder and followed the others as they crept quickly down the street. Tommy just drifted after everyone in a dazed sort of way. The gunshots echoed through the alleyways making it seem like there were more guns involved than there actually were. Or so I hoped.

Jaleel motioned everyone to stop and slid out of the alley and into the next street. C-love was hunkered down behind a pale blue sedan, gun at ready. Every few seconds he would pop up and take a few shots at the alley across and up the block. Jaleel motioned forward. They moved quickly in a crouching run, darting from the shadow to the car, taking cover next to C-love. Karl yanked Tommy down as bullets ricocheted off the metal roof. "Goddammit boy!"

"Fuck man, I didn't think you'd come." C-love pressed himself against the car door as another volley of bullets pinged off the vehicle. C-Love came up short as he saw the snake tattoo crawling out of Tommy's shirt. "What the fuck is this man?! You runnin' with them now?!"
Jaleel glanced at the tattoo and shook his head. "No way man, they're cool, its a cover."
"Whatever man, but we're totally fucked. I had to call him man. I didn't have any choice."
Jaleel leaned around the car and counted at least 5 shadows taking aim. "What? Who?"
C-Love's voice fell to a whisper and his eyes widened in reverenced fear. "Third, man."
I looked up sharply, glancing between C-Love and Jaleel. "Third?"

Further conversation was halted as bullets pinged off the hood of the car. Jaleel pulled out his guns, one in each hand, and took careful aim. He fired two shots in quick succession. His efforts were rewarded with a gurgling scream. One kid staggered against the wall of the alleyway, blood seeping down the front of his shirt. Another fell to the asphalt, dead before his face met the payment. The top of his head was missing. Jaleel cursed and ducked back down behind the car as a bullet pegged him in the arm. If there was any remnants of my daze, it evaporated as blood coursed down Jaleel's arm. Instinct took over. Just like I'd been hoping for.

I flipped open the catches on my kit and pulled out disinfectant, forceps and other various medical paraphernalia. I scooted over beside Jaleel without giving the shooters any target. I began to dig out the bullet as Giuseppe stood and let a knife fly from his fingers. None of us saw it transverse the distance between the car and the far alleyway. It was moving too fast for us to even see a blur. The knife simply disappeared from Giuseppe's hand and appeared in the Union member's chest. The kid screamed and Giuseppe grunted as a shot from another shadow took him in the upper arm.

I looked at him, but didn't move to help automatically. I figured he might be the type not to accept help. I always hated when I had guys like that in my platoon. Guys who wouldn't let me do my job. I just raised a brow at him in question. His words came out from between gritted teeth as he kept his eyes on the threat.
"Just dig the bullet out."
I grabbed his arm and took to it with the forceps, none too gently. As the bullet came free and I reached for another bandage, Giuseppe shoved me roughly away.

As my pride was recovering, and I fought the urge to clock him, Karl flexed his fingers around the handle of the cast iron wrench and moved quickly out from behind the car, circling around the area of combat on the right. The perceptive would also notice Danzig stalking across the street on the left. These kids weren't perceptive. Tommy had sunk down to his stomach and wedged himself under the car, his .38 special wavering as he tried to focus on the blurred figures. His shot veered high over everyone's head. He was too high to be of any use. C-Love's target found a bullet in his left arm and retaliated with two shots, one that ricocheted off the car, the other zinging past C-Love's ear. "Shit man! This is fucked up!"

No one answered, Jaleel fired again and two more bodies fell out of the alleyway, one with a hole between his eyes, and one with a hole where one of his eyes should have been. As I glanced over, Giuseppe was sliding out from behind the car and moving with unimaginable speed across the street. One could barely see him, let alone shoot him, he moved so fast. And I swear to god the bullet hole was gone.

I moved into a firing position right as Tommy, who had scooted out from under the car sometime during the fight, took a bullet to the shoulder. I cursed and holstered my weapon, pulling Tommy away from the open air and grabbing for my kit again. Tommy just looked blankly at my, arm limp at his side. He tried to raise his gun, but the arm wouldn't move. So he sat there and watched as I started to dig out the bullet. I managed to keep an eye on the fight at the same time.

By that time, Karl had made it to the other side of the street. He moved into place right as Jaleel's shots found their victims. By now, only two kids where still standing in the alleyway, one was propped up against the wall, bleeding out at a rapid rate from the wound in his lower chest. As one of them took aim, a large rottweiler lunged from the shadows, knocking the kid on his side and the gun from his hand. He screamed as the dogs massive jaws closed over his throat. As Danzig jumped, Karl acted as well. His wrench caught the other in the side of the head. The kid fell to the ground, unconscious but breathing. Karl kicked the gun away from his limp hand and grabbed him by the shirt collar, hauling him up.
"Danzig, stop." The dog froze, the other kids jugular still between his teeth. The kid whimpered as blood seeped down his neck from the small puncture wounds. Danzig growled low in his throat, and the kid went limp as he fainted.

Karl turned his attention back to the boy in his hands, and he watched as the kids neck seemed to open all on its own and blood flow freely down over Karl's hand and the kids shirt. Karl dropped him and stepped back. Giuseppe stood in front of him, using a piece of cloth, presumably torn from one of the bodies, to wipe his knife clean. He retrieved his other knife, still lodged in the chest of another union member.

I had finished patching up Tommy, and we stood. C-Love was babbling his thanks and Giuseppe and Karl walked back over, but it was short lived. An Escalade came careening down the street. The driver made a hard left and hit the brakes, causing the SUV to come sliding to a stop sideways across the road, and nearly rolling. We all took cover again as doors opened and more gang-bangers took cover behind the car, peeking out to pop off shots at us.

Jaleel just smirked and started aiming again. "Reinforcements? Seriously?"
I had my gun out and ready, wondering how many times reinforcements would come, and trying to judge just how many kids had been in that SUV. There were a lot of bullets pinging off the car and the pavement.

For a few minutes, no one could get any aimed shots off. These guys were better trained than the last ones. Never having more than one person reloading at any one time.

It was about then that C-love's reinforcements arrived. A car pulled up behind us, and two people stepped out. I recognized them both. The first was Trevian.. or "Third".. rather. The second... was D.J. Bullis. He was looking much deader than I remembering him being in the back of my ambulance. His skin was gray and waxy, his eyes glazed over with a white film started to creep across them. He held himself awkwardly, and he stared straight ahead slack jawed and completely mindless.

Being that close to him, there was no way to deny the fact that he was a walking corpse. I realized I was holding my breath and quickly sucked in air to keep from fainting. The sexist asshole would never let me hear the end of it if I did.
"Looks like you got yourself in a little bit of trouble there, C-Love." Third looked at the other man with a rather unsettling grin, completely ignoring the bullets whizzing by his head.
C-Love, for once, was speechless.
Third noticed my, crouched behind the car. "Hey! Medico!"
He chuckled when all I could do was give a very faint nod, my eyes fixated on Bullis.

Third looked at the dead man, then motioned to the SUV. The zombie shuffled slowly in the direction of the car. We all watched in rapt horror as the kids shot uselessly at the approaching attacker. Bullis ignored all the bullets and just kept coming. The kids weren't smart enough to run. The zombie disappeared behind the car, and what followed were screams punctuated with the sound of tearing flesh and snapping bones. I heard a sound reminiscent of someone crushing an overripe melon, and moments later, someone's lower jaw was thrown into the air and landed at our feet.

I lost it and vomited all over the asphalt. Everyone else looked a little green around the edges, even Giuseppe. Third just grinned at us. When the zombie returned, it was covered in blood and gore. It was shot up to hell, and badly beaten with something like a tire iron. But it didn't seem to notice.

Third nodded to all of us, and his gaze settled on C-Love. "You know what this means, my friend. You're mine now. Lets go."
C-Love stood slowly and started stammering. "Su..Sure man. I owe you one.. uh.."
He swallowed audibly as Third motioned to the open car door.
Third nodded to the rest of us and got in the car. C-Love got in the car and the look on his face was pure terror as they drove away.

I took a deep breath to steady myself and slowly stood. I looked around at everyone, they were all slowly recovering. The shock was turning into fear for me, and I don't do well with fear. I tend to channel it into anger instead.

I grabbed my kit and shoved implements inside with short, pissed off movements. I closed the case, picked it up off the asphalt and slammed it down on the trunk of the car.

"Okay.. so what the FUCK JUST HAPPENED?!"

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