Goin’ Down South III
I don't know what that powder was Josette hit me with but I slept like the dead. That is if the dead dreamed. I had various dreams. Most had Maria in them, the woman I helped awhile ago. I dreamed I was leading a countless number of valkyries into battle. Other dreams I was leading other creatures into battle. Gumdrop and my guns always at my side. They were so real. I could touch. I could feel. Every hit I took felt like real life. It was like I was really there. My final dream was me opening my eyes. I was still in my room in Josette’s home. The lights were off but there was a white light to the side of my bed. I turn my head and see two figures. One big, one small. The smaller figure walks to my bed and whispers “Thank you.” In my ear before he kisses me on the forehead.
I know this little boy. His voice and speech pattern all seem familiar. I think he belongs to Moira but I'm not sure. It's hard to think right now. I hear the larger figure say.
“We should go. We have been here long enough.”
The smaller figure nods and they walk into the light and just like that, they are gone. That was the last dream. The rest was uninterrupted sleep.
I wake up to the light of a new day streaming in my window. Josette was right. I feel amazing. I'm completely recovered and there is a spring in my step.
There is a knock on my door and one of my caretakers walks in.
“Morning Madame Faust.”
“Morning. Where is Josette? I want to speak to her.”
“The mistress is not here. I'm sorry.”
“Where did she go?”
“She said she had to go on a small pilgrimage. She wished to to give thanks to the Loa.”
“When did she leave?”
“Two days ago.”
“Two days ago? I've been out for two days?”
“Yes. The mistress left the morning after the test.”
Son of a bitch. That powder had a kick to it. Out of two days. My mind is blown.
“When will she be back?”
“I do not know.”
“Ok. Where is Julian?”
The woman smiles. “He awoke thirty minutes ago. He went to Pops and left a message that you can meet him there when you wake up.”
“You are welcome. Is there anything you require before you leave?”
The woman nods and leaves.
Which is good. I have to pee like a racehorse. I run to the bathroom and take care of business. I also take a quick shower and get dressed. I check my backpack and am relieved everything is in it. As I walk out of Josette’s house, I take a look at it. I have the strangest feeling I will never see it again. I hop in Lily and head towards Pops dinner.
When I get there, I waltz in and see Julian sitting at the counter. He hears me walk in and smiles. “Good morning.”
“Morning.” I take the seat next to him.
“You just woke up too?”
“Yes. That powder kicked like a mule.”
“Yes it did.” Julian says chuckling.
Moria and my dreams come to my mind. “Hey. Have you translated that book yet?”
“I have. I finished it before we came here. I just want to look it over one more time and make sure my translation is correct. It's a fascinating book. Why do you ask?”
“I need to get it back to her. Soon.”
“Oh, I can give it to her myself when I go back.”
“You aren't coming back with me?”
Julian hesitates before he answers. “No. I need training as a new priest of Marinette. I will be back soon however.”
I never thought Julian wouldn't come back with me. I'm a little stunned. Pops thankfully interrupts this awkwardness by putting two plates in front of us. “Breakfast is served.”
I look down and see my plate has potatoes mixed with peppers and covered by egg. “What is this?”
Pops smiles. “Cajun hash. The best on this side of the Mississippi.”
I take a bite and it's a little more spicy than I would've thought but holy shit. It is so, so good. Julian and I eat in silence. Mostly from starvation, partly because our conversation ended on a weird note. When we get done, Pops takes our plates away. I end the awkwardness by starting the conversation again.
“So what are you going to do when you get back? I can't imagine a priest running a magic shop.”
“You would be wrong about that. Now I'm officially a priest and my name Papa Bones has a gravity to it, many will come to buy supplies, seek my council and ask me to preform rituals for them. Followers from all around will come to me.”
“Cool. So…using the Papa Bones name when you got to town was a hustle?"
“Yes. Very cool. Hustle? No. Perhaps a bit premature.” Julian says trying to hold back a laugh.
Julian looks down the counter at Pops for a quick second.
“So is he your dad?” I ask.
“No. He is close. My father died when I was young.”
“How did he pass?”
“Cancer. It hit him fast.”
“I'm sorry to hear that.”
“It's fine.. In the end the natural order of things is always served. Pops and my dad were best friends. I love my dad but I couldn't imagine a better father than Pops. He has taught me everything I know.”
On cue Pops puts three shot glasses in front of us. “One for the road.” He says pulling out the mason jar. Julian leans back and puts his hands up.
“I don't think so.”
“Don't be a pussy, boy.”
“Yeah. Don't be a pussy.” I chime in.
Julian unsure picks up his shot glass. We clink them together and throw them back. Pops handles it like he did the other day. As far as it goes, I do to. Julian handles it badly. He puts his head on the counter and starts to pound it with his fists. With a horse voice, I tease him.
“Damn. Butch up, buttercup.”
Pops throws his head back and let's out a huge laugh. Then he winks at me. “You are lucky I'm not any younger. We would be married by now.”
“Shit. If you feed me like this everyday. You can marry me now.”
Pops laughs again as I pull some money out. He turns serious and puts his hand on mine. “Your money isn't good here.”
“It's fine. I have….”
“Your money isn't good here.” He repeats.
“Ok. Thank you.”
Pops looks at the both of us. He takes my hand and kisses the back of it. “You need to return to your life Mon Cherie.”
He looks at Julian. “You need to start your studies before I drag your scrawny ass in the kitchen. I got dishes that need washed.”
“That's all the motivation I need.” Julian says getting up.
I hug Pops and follow Julian outside.
“Good luck with your studies.”
“Good luck with what chaos comes next in your life.”
We hug and I whisper in his ear. “Come back soon.”
I get in Lily and leave Ayizan . This time it takes me three days to get back. I stop at every tourist trap and mom and pop carnival. I kinda need the three days. It was nice not to fight for my life or dealing with the spooky and supernatural for awhile. In the end, real life must return. I pull into town and swing by Esmeralda's. The work on it is close to being done so I want to check it out before it opens. I stop in front and look at the food truck. It was gussied up first. It's wild just what a little landscaping will do. I bought the lot across the street and turned it into parking. I watch people cross the road back and Roth with a slight smile on my face. There is a knock on my passenger window. I am greeted with Maria waving at me. I wave back and get out.
“How are you ?” A happy Maria asks.
“Good. I see things are coming together quite nicely here.”
“Better than we could've imagined. I've never seen mom so happy. Come over and say hi. She would love to see you.”
“Nah. Your mom has a lot of customers right now. I don't want to be a bother. I'll see her tomorrow.”
“Wanna see what your money has done on the inside?”
“Hell yeah. Lead the way.”
We go inside the restaurant part of the complex. My restaurant is breathtaking. Two floors of authentic Mexican décor and wood. Ceiling fans whirl above and a lot of natural light fills the space. Maria gives me a tour. I am thrilled beyond words. On the second floor is split in two. Half vip seating. Which by the way is where my very own booth is. The other half is a stage and dance floor. Maria explains there will be live bands almost every night. The major surprise is when Maria hands over a menu. The restaurant is going to serve real high end Mexican food. This is a place where hopefully many people will want to eat at.
I scan the menu and stop. “Are you serious?”
Maria answers smiling ear to ear. “Yup. It was moms idea.”
On the menu is the Faust burrito. Half chicken, half steak, rice, black bean, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and hot salsa. It is my regular and it is being served at my restaurant.
I am thrilled beyond words.
I'm not shitting. I've always wanted a sandwich named after me and now I have one.
“Oh my God. Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me.”
“It's a small token of appreciation from our family to you.”
I hug Maria. I continue to flip out as we walk to the bar downstairs. She pours out a couple shots. We click glasses as she makes a toast. “To a long and beautiful relationship between our families.”
“Cheers to that.”
We talk for a few minutes. Mostly business stuff. Maria has concerns about security. Considering the towns history. She has a right to be concerned. I tell her I can take care of that. What I don't tell her I know some werewolf teenagers that are in need of a job. I leave Esmeralda’s with a light step and a song in my heart.
It is mid day when I pull up to my sweet bachelorette pad. The work here should be close to being done as well. I know Jayson gave the crews today off, so now is a good time to check out the progress. I pull Lily around the garage and shut her off and sigh.
“Home again, home again, jiggly, jig”
I grab my backpack and head inside.
My house is full of drop cloth and ladders. Even with the clutter and coverings, I can tell the work is beautiful. Jayson’s idea of doing a historically accurate restoration was a good one. Everything was stone and dark wood. This is going to be like living in my own castle. I poke my head in Betty's office and look around. One wall was lined with wooden file cabinets built into a floor to ceiling bookshelf.. Sitting in front of it was Betty's desk. Across from that was floor to ceiling windows. Most of them were stained glass, except the little Windows on top to let natural light in. The floors were wooden but had a large rug connecting the L shaped black leather couches in front of the windows to Betty's desk. Very old school cool and this place fits Betty's personality to a tee. I walk to the dining room and throw my backpack on the table and sit down. I pull out my phone and call Jayson. He didn't pick up so I leave a message for him to call me back. His truck is t here so I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say he and snowflake are at my parents house. It's probably safe to assume Snowflake has a play date with the wolf kids. I lean my head back and close my eyes. I jus wan to enjoy the quiet for a minute. As soon as everyone moves back, this place may never be quiet again. I had just started to doze off when the doorbell rang.
Who could that be?
It's not like my home is near the road, so I highly doubt it's someone asking for directions. I stand and put my hand on my backpack. Maybe I should take my guns, maybe not. What if it's a Girlscout troop selling cookies and they see me strapped? I mull over my options when the doorbell rings a second time. I pull my gun belt out and put it on.
If it is Girlscouts, maybe they will give me a discount when they see my guns. I feel the comforting weight on my hips as I walk to the front door. I open it and see four dudes wearing black suits. The one by the car had to be the driver. The old one directly in front of me with the slicked back grey hair had to be the one in charge. The two behind him with the sunglasses on had to be security.
The old man greets me back. “Hello, Ms. Faust. Can we talk?”
“I don't know what business we would have to talk about.”
“Let me explain. This is of dire consequences.”
That last part had some sinister rubbed on it. This old dude is slick and that maneuver was well practiced.
“Come in. I got about ten minutes to talk.”
The man smiles. “This won't take that long, I assure you.”
To a normal person that would sound normal. To me it sounds like a threat. I lead them to the dining room. I sit at the head chair and motion the old man to sit at one of the side chairs. It's a power play for sure. It says I'm the queen here. The man knows this but plays the game and sits down in one of the chairs.
“Thank you for your time. As I said this wouldn't take long.”
“It's fine. I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.”
The old man smiles again. It's. It a warm or comforting smile. It's more like a shark before it opens its mouth.
“My name isn't important. What is however is the fact you have made my life difficult and taken much from me.”
“And how did I do that?” I ask.
“Well…you see. You have killed many of my associates. The home office, if you will.”
“I don't know what you are talking about.”
The old man's eyes flare with anger. “I bet if I take your skinny ass to Slaughter Hill. You would know what I'm referring to.”
The man closes his eyes and collects himself. “Let's not be coy, Ms Faust. It insults the both of us. I came here to work something out. My outburst was rude and uncalled for. I apologize.”
Holy shit. I'm in deeper trouble than I thought.
“I'm sorry for your loss but I don't care. They were killing innocents. They got what they deserved as far as I'm concerned.”
“Why yes. Why yes, they did.”
What's this dudes angle?
“So why we you here?”
“You see. You created chaos and more importantly a vacuum. A vacuum, I'm more than ready to fill. Under the old management there was little room for promotion. You solved that problem for me with great expense but one can't make a omelet without breaking a few eggs.”
“How did I cause you a great loss of expense?”
“Slaughter Hill was the main distribution center for us. You have caused a temporary disruption. A massive one in fact. A temporary one, yes. But a disruption nevertheless.”
“I'm not giving you a dime.”
The old man puts his hands up.
“You don't understand, miss Faust. You've done far more good than harm to me. I had my money people to do a cost analysis . They have told me, I will make more money and have more power in the long run. They told me what happened at Slaughter Hill won't even be a blip after enough to time. They also told me it will be far cheaper to have you as a friend than an enemy.”
Fuck. I have made these assholes more powerful than ever. That last part however I'll take as a sign as respect. Guess I'm a bigger deal than what I thought.
“So what's peace between us look like?”
“The way I see it. The best way to do this is that we leave you alone. You leave us alone.”
“While you still kill innocent people? You know what I do, right?”
“We are very aware of what you do and your skill set. That's why I'm proposing a hundred and fifty mile buffer. The center of it will be this very house. Historically this area has been beneficial to us but for peace, I will gladly pay this price.”
I know I can't save everyone from these assholes but I can save many by this agreement. Let's see if I can save more.
“Two hundred miles.”
The old man thinks it over for a moment. “I believe we can live with that.”
He stands up and holds out a hand. “Pleasure doing business with you miss Faust.”
I stand and shake his hand. My skin crawls just touching him.
“Stupid girl.” The old man says smiling.
He tightens his grip as a demon comes out of his chest. Like at Slaughter Hill I see the faint outline of fangs and claws as it passes right thru me. As the demon goes thru my body, I see complete shock spread across the old man's face. With my left hand, I pull a gun out and shoot him in the head. His hand lets mine go as he falls. I go to pull out my second gun to shoot the security but they are already falling to the floor. Each with a hole in their foreheads.
My guns can't do that? Can they?
I spin around and come face to face with the demon as it floats face to face to me and screams in a rage before it dissipates.
“I see you listened to me.”
I know that drawl.
Jed Hanson walks out of the shadows in the other room. My front door opens and a voice calls out. “Sir? Sir!”
Jed puts a finger to his lips and steps back. I do the same and we both are both hidden to the driver running up the hallway. He runs past us and stops. “What the fuck happened?”
I put a gun to the back of his head. “I happened.”
“Where is the demon?”
“Gone back to hell, I suppose. It couldn't find a body in time. I'm sure you know what happened next.”
“Do you know what you have done?”
“Do you know why your boss came here? I took out Slaughter Hill. I know exactly what I've done.”
The man starts to speak but I hit him in the back of the bad and he hits the floor out cold.
I got plans of my own all of a sudden.
A couple hours later I'm standing next to Jed behind the tied up driver on his knees. All of us are in the conservatory. Petunia was finishing up eating the last of the bodies. If she was bigger than four feet high this wouldn't taken this long but she made good time with her meal all things considering. Caleb was against this before he found out they were satanists. He mood changed dramatically when he found out. He looked at the driver before Jed and I threw the first body in front of Petunia.
“You deserve worse. You godless heathen.” His Irish lit sharp when he screamed at the man.
The driver watches while he is gagged. I’m sure he has questions but now is the time for watching. Petunia finishes the last body, the old man’s in fact. Then I take the gag off and squat in front of him. The driver stays silent and looks at me with hate.
“Now, listen very carefully. The terms of our deal have changed. From here on out, your group will leave the whole state. It belongs to me now.”
“They will never go for it.”
“They will or every one of you in the state will die.”
“You are starting a war you cant win.”
“We will see. I already have two wars I can't win on my plate. What's a third? Look, I'm not going to kill you. I need you to send a message what happened here and that your cult has twenty four hours to leave my state and never to return”
“Fuck you. That will never happen.”
I punch the dude in the face and knock him on his back. These assholes have tried to put a demon in me twice now. I am not in a diplomatic mood right now. I grab the driver by the hair and pull him back up.
“Where is your headquarters?”
“Fuck me? Oh no. Fuck you.”
I motion to Jed. “Jed. If you don’t mind. I've had a long week. Would you help a lady out?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jed says as he grabs the driver by the arm and starts dragging him towards Petunia
“Feet first please.”
Jed shrugs and grabs the driver by the ankle and keeps dragging him to the man eating plant.
The driver starts to scream as Petunia opens her mouth.
“You can't do this! You need me to bring the message to my people!”
Jed stops dragging the man which allows me to walk up next to him. I place my hands behind my back and slightly lean over.
“That's correct. What you fail to realize is…I only need your mouth. Which is no where near your legs.”
Jed starts dragging him closer to Petunia, who is now reaching out with her vines. Her tongue waving back and forth. She didn't have that when I was swallowed by her. Nor the small, sharp fang teeth. Evolution can be a fast moving, scary thing.
“Ok! Stop! I'll tell you. Stop! Drag me back.”
Jed stops dragging him.
“You will tell me now. Then my friend will drag you back to safety. I'll ask again. Where is your headquarters?”
“It's in the capital city. A warehouse on the corner of Fourth and Cherry.”
“See? Was that so hard?”
I nod and Jed starts dragging him back towards me. I know this part of the conversation won't be included when he tells his new boss. His giving up the location will get him killed. Jed reaches in the driver's pocket and takes his wallet out. He grabs the license and puts the wallet back.
“Why you taking my license?” The driver asks.
“You know why. If you gave us bad info, we will find you and ask more questions. Maybe we will ask your loved ones first.”
The man's face turns white. He is definitely not a front lines type of guy. I look down at him and say.
“Twenty four hours. Starting tomorrow morning. Now go.”
I nod again and Jed takes out his huge buck knife and cuts the driver free. The man doesn't waste any time running out the conservatory door and around to the front where the car is.
“Well, well, well. Disposing of bodies. A little torture, some life threatening. My little girl is all grown up now. I'm so proud.”
“Shut up. It's not like that.” I say smiling as I give Jed hug.
“The plant was a nice touch. Pistol whipping him would've worked too.”
“You are such a traditionalist.”
Jed sighs. “I do like the classics. So this is your place? It's fucking impressive. You live here alone?”
“Hell no. There is me, Betty…”
“A ghost. Also my secretary and friend. There is Jayson. He lives in the guesthouse. He is the one that fixed this place up. He is best friends with Snowflake.”
“That a hippie chick?”
“No. A gremlin.”
Jed's face keeps getting twisted, like he is stepping in new dog shit with every step.
“Of course, there is Gumdrop.”
“What the hell is that?"
“A black dog. You know, a harbinger of death. He is my personal guard and pet. He farts a lot. Oh! I forgot. I made friends with Artemis’s personal werewolf pack.”
Jed leans his head back and squints his eyes. “I don't know if you are bullshitting me or not. To be fair, you've given me no reason to doubt you. The man eating plant helps erase any doubts.”
“You should come over for a barbecue sometime.”
“Yeah. Let me check my schedule. I'll get back to ya.”
We start walking outside.
“So what's the deal with the Irish dude? He a ghost?”
“No. He is very much alive and a pain in my ass.”
“So what's the deal with that plant?”
“The former owner put it here. It is believed the owner was eaten by the plant. I was eaten by it for a second. I set it in fire and escaped. That is a sampling that survived, it seems.”
“Not that I'm complaining but why you here?”
“Business. One of those security dudes fucked over his crew and took some money and ran. He threw off his former partners off of the trail but not me.”
“Glad you’re here. I have some questions for you.”
“How come you didn't tell me you were some sort of criminal boogyman?”
“You didn't ask.”
I tilt my head. “You are a dick.”
Jed smiles. “Guilty as charged. What else do you want to know?”
“Do you go after serial killers?”
“No. They have their own system. By nature they aren't criminals. Murder is a crime by modern standards. Back in the day, murder was just how shit got done. So serial killers aren't necessarily criminals, so they are outside my jurisdiction.”
“What do you know about Luna witches?”
“Do what now?”
Jed looks up. “You got gargoyles on your house? They your best friends or something?”
“No. Don't know what their deal is. That's a mystery for another day.”
Jed shakes his head. “I don't know how you do it. I'll take my run of the mill criminals over this madness any day. It gets boring sometimes but it's better than trying to navigate this insanity.”
“I make it work. I find things that center me. Working out, pot, even my daly shooting practice helps.”
“You shoot everyday?”
“Almost. About two hundred rounds each time. Your advice has saved my life.”
“Huh. Someone has really listened to me. It's a weird feeling.”
We walk around the patio silently. After a couple minutes Jed snaps his fingers. “Shit. Almost forgot.”
He reaches in his back pocket and pulls out a envelope and hands it over.
“This was on your front door. I wanted to make sure you got it.”
“Thanks. You big softy.”
“Tell anyone and I'll shoot you in the ass.”
I laugh as I look at the envelope. It has my name written in a pretty handwriting. Almost like old calligraphy. I open and read the letter.
I know you must have been disappointed that you were never called back home. You did a wonderful job for me and I wanted to give you a clean slate to start over. I don't think this will come as a surprise but I no longer require your services. I have heard you are still doing investigations and I want you to stop. Continuing these investigations will put you on a path that will cross mine. I can not tolerate any interference with my endeavors. I assure you that you are not prepared for what is to come if you persist. There are consequences to actions and you aren't strong enough to bear the weight of them. So stop what you are doing or I will consider you an enemy and act accordingly. I hope you head my advice and stop investigating and enjoy your long and happy life.
I put the letter back in the envelope. Jed looks at me.
“That doesn't look like a happy letter.”
I hand it over and he reads it. When he is done I ask him “Well?”
“This the dude you worked for?”
“Yup. He gave a nice explanation to why he left me in the desert but I think it'll bullshit.”
Jed hands back the letter and leans his head back for a second. “That letter was a thinly veiled threat. I think he will do something if you don't stop.”
“That's what I thought.”
“There is some good news in there if you read in between the lines.”
“What good news?”
“He is afraid of you. The way he wrote this is similar to the way pumps talk to their girls. The world is dangerous. Only I can protect you and only I. You aren't strong enough to be your own. He is trying to put doubt in your mind. He is trying to give you an out so he won't have to deal with you.”
“I guess that is good news. I guess.”
“A fake out is still an out. He does have a point. You have a sweet setup here. You could have a happy life here.”
“That's true but I can't let him do something horrible.”
“He has left a trail of destruction in his wake. There was someone before me and she disappeared and he didn't even look for her. He took my soul and imprisoned my friend Betty. Thats just the stuff I know about. Whatever he is planning, it is bad and dangerous. I think he will do whatever to accomplish his plans. Whatever they are."
“Yeah. Not giving you your soul back is fucked up. At the very least, a bad retirement plan. So you are going after him?”
“What would you do?”
“You know what I would do. Fuck him.”
I can't help but smile. “Then its settled. I'm taking him out.”
“How you going to do it?”
“Don't know. I got to figure out what he is doing. I can't plan an attack without knowing.”
“True. You better have a plan for his attack. That's what I would do. Attack before you are ready.”
“Already doing that. It helps my house is filled with dangerous predators and has my back. Artemis alone fell in love with Snowflake.”
“So she is real?”
“Oh yeah. She leaves an impression.”
“Huh. No shit.”
“No shit. If I can be completely honest. I'm the least dangerous person in my home.”
“So is that why you asked me about serial killers?”
“No. I have one on the payroll and wanted to know if that would be a problem with you.”
“Do what now?”
“It's a long story. I'll tell ya over some whiskey.”
We talked for a couple hours. I filled Jed in the rest of what happened to me since we last met. He told me about his former life when he was alive and gave me some advice and insight how the criminal satanic group will probably act and attack me. It was some much needed insight and invaluable. We eventually say our goodbyes and Jed leaves on his motorcycle. Like before his engine sound just disappears when he is out of sight. I walk around my home half drunk, mulling over my options and trying to figure out my next move. Things have accelerated greatly. Both with the cult and Mr. Lore. Add the witches and the mad god… well. My plate is very full at the moment. In the middle of my walk, I find myself in front of Petunia.
“Just so you know. Those were bad men. You can eat them. You can't eat whatever just walks in front of you.” I say, my speech slightly slurred.
The four foot plant just raises its “Head” and spreads its leaves.
“I'll take that as a yes.” I say as I turn and walk away.
I start walking again and find myself at the lake as it's calm water reflects the moon above. During this little drunken meditation I think I come up with a plan. I pull out my phone and hit the speed dial. After a few rings the other end picks up.
“You are on the clock.”
“They are in the capital city. In a warehouse on the corner of Fourth and Cherry. Be careful, they are a satanic criminal cult. The higher ups are possessed by demons. The demons have the ability to jump bodies, including yours. I gave them twenty four hours to leave the state. Starting the morning after tomorrow, you start hunting. Understood?”
“Understood. Is there a time frame?”
“Not really. I want them all gone. If it takes you awhile I can wait.”
“I'll call you before I attack and after it's done.”
“Good. Thank you.”
The voice hesitates. “You are welcome.”
I hang up. Let's see how the satanists handle Helsing.
I walk towards Lily. I'm going home. It's been a long day. It feels good to have hopefully one less thing on my plate.