Chapter 4: Hellspeak pt 1
The shelter I was staying at smelled of old wet socks. The beds were lice infested, and if I had known before, I would have stayed on the streets. But it was getting colder, and stealing from street merchants and stores were getting tougher as the proprietors got to know my face…or my smell I should say.
I had been living on the streets for the better part of the year. Owning nothing else but the clothes on my back and a beat up paperback copy of Stories of Richard Matheson. I walked away from my previous life, regular place to stay, a girl, money…and protection from a Demon.
Success ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I was tired. Tired of people knowing my name, Pete Chambers. Tired of the weird in my life. The double-cross. The cops too stupid or scared to believe in oddball shit that happens in this Godforsaken town. I wanted to go back to being a small time hustler and grifter.
So I disappeared. Or so I thought I had.
It seemed everyone in the shelter had went to bed except me and this vagrant they call Dim. Dim was small, sixty years of age, or so he looked it. He wore clothing he’d made from several different items. One noticeable piece was a plastic bag for the sleeves of his shirt. He always wore a deer hunter cap. To look at him, a person would think he was crazier than the street people in popular culture. Dim couldn’t be further from that. He said he used to be a University Professor and at times he exposed his huge brain to me.
“Hey Chambers, did you hear what happened to the mayor?” Dim said over a giant bowl of white rice. I told him I hadn’t heard, and frankly, I wasn’t interested. “Oh, boy-o. You’ll be interested. While the mayor was throwing a party for Senator Grimes, he fell over dead, right on his face.”
“Why would I be interested in that, Dim?”
“First the whole room heard a voice…a thunderous voice….the walls shook,” Dim said.
“Just as his Swan song was sung, twenty black flies exited his open cake hole and stung Senator Grimes to death.”
Dim was right. I was interested. “You wanna know more, don’t you?”
I stopped eating my rice, pushed my bowl forward. I stared at him a moment. “You know who I am, don’t you?” I lit a cigarette.
“Of course I do,” He laughed, drank down the rest of his broth. “My boss sent me out here to find you.”
“You gonna tell me who that might be?” I blew smoke in his face.
Dim coughed, waved a hand. “Look…it ain’t nobody you think it is. No human, anyway.”
“You really a human? A college —”
“Yeah, yeah. Professor of Human studies. For real.” Dim smiled, all his teeth black and his gums had turned sick purple.
I sighed, stubbed out my cigarette in my bowl. “Well tell me who he is, will ya!”
“Naw….I’m just supposed to escort you around and make sure you clean this mess up. That’s all.” Dim said.
“What’s in it for me?”
He laughed, waved a hand. “You kill me, Chambers. Okay. Let’s talk turkey.” He leaned in.
I leaned in, said, “Yes. Let’s talk turkey.”
“It seems an old friend of yours soul is at stake. You two were an item not long ago. My boss holds the marker on her soul.”
“Ah. I see.” I stood. “And I’m the caretaker of this person. Is that it?”
“Hey…You care for this…for her. I feel it from your heartbeat. It’s a special gift I have. Feeling people out, reading their emotions. Even feeling great joy. Great pain.” Dim stood, he cut me off from going out the door.
“Maybe you should take the act to Barnum and Bailey Circus,” I told him.
“Hey,” Dim begged. “Don’t be a smart ass…okay? This is something the boss cooked up. Yeah. You get the marker on the girl’s soul if you do the job right. In the meantime…maybe you help us get who is doing this. Understand?”
I thought a minute. Shit. I was back in the game whether I liked it or not. Dim was smiling. He knew I accepted the offer before I said anything. I guess he did have the gift.
“C’mon,” Dim said. “Let’s get out of these rags.”
Dim had taken me to twenty-third and Low where a storage place sat between two bars. He didn’t use a key and I was sure the door was locked. He just turned the latch and we were inside a dank smelling brick building with hundreds of racks of clothing. Dim looked at me, laughed.
“You have that look of astonishment.” He said. “Yet I feel you still don’t trust me. Don’t worry. I ain’t gonna whack you.”
“I see your people are up on modern styles,” I told him.
“Sure,” Dim peeled off that patchwork shirt he was wearing. He replaced it with a checkered jacket, gray silk shirt, and a red bow tie. He kept the deer hunter cap.
I slipped into my usual jacket, dress shirt.
When we left the storage building. I looked back. The storage building was gone. It was just the brick building both bars shared. I should have known.
“What’s next?” I asked Dim.
“I don’t know,” He shrugged. “This is you’re show, Mr. fancy pants.”
“Okay,” I said. I turned completely around, hailed a cab. A blue Ford Focus pulled up. The Taxi sign was barely attached to the car’s roof. I looked over, saw Dim was muttering to himself. “Hey!” I yelled to him. “You gonna follow me, or what?”
He sighed. “Yeah, yeah.” Dim climbed in the backseat after I was in. The Taxi sped off.
A Latin man was driving, speaking Spanish about the weather. I yawned and nodded to him. Dim was not happy having to take a taxi.
“You know,” Dim said. “I could have just snapped my fingers and we’d end up on your home turf.”
“Call me old fashioned.”
“Like you don’t take advantage of some powers your Protector gave you?”
“Nope,” I told Dim. “That’s a ball game I don’t play.”
“So what’s the point of being a Demon’s henchman?” Dim said, using a dismissive hand.
“I’m not a Demon’s henchman.”
Dim laughed. “Oh yes, you are. You might not know it, or you’re in denial. But you certainly are a delivery boy for a Hades occupant.”
It just dawned on me that that old silly fool was right.
Next Tuesday, Chapter 4: Hellspeak pt 2
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