No Good Comes: scene nine

 

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No Good Comes is a spin-off of the not*the*same*river series, set five years after the events of the last book. It centres around Cascade, an organisation that, among other things, helps new vampires settle into their new lives.

What follows is the first draft of what is currently scene nine.

Context: The new vampire has chosen a new name. Stephen King is no more. But he is hungry; he just doesn’t recognise the signs yet.

POV: first person, Theo’s POV.

***

“You hungry?” said Erin.

Was I? My stomach didn’t feel empty at all. I should’ve been hungry after lying in a grave for forty nights, but all I really felt like was some Tixylix. I felt like I’d swallowed a candy floss cloud of fibreglass.

“Not really. My throat hurts. Can I have ice cream?”

“Not yet,” said Erin. “No cold food or drink for at least seventy-two hours.”

I made a growly ugh noise, then flopped onto the bed. “My throat is literally closing up.”

“Yeah, I can tell by the way you’re completely incapable of speech,” she said. “I can get you some warm milk.”

“Milk is gross, warm or otherwise,” I said.

She checked her watch, seemingly surprised at the time. She rooted around in the wardrobe, pulled out a pair of snow boots, then threw them at me. They bounced off me like they were ping pong balls.

“Put them on,” she said.

“Is it snowing outside,” I said, pulling them onto my feet.

“We’re not going outside.” She sighed. “And haven’t I just finished telling you that we need to keep you in the warm? Why would I be taking you into the snow?”

She had a point.

I’d tried some things in the bathroom. I unravelled a whole loo roll with one spin, but that was probably just momentum rather than super-strength. I wish I’d tried it in real life to give myself something to compare to. I tried to fly. I don’t know why I believed her when she told me I’d be able to fly. That had always sounded like bullshit, but I was still disappointed. I did manage to crank the heat up in the shower, bit by bit, until it was eight degrees higher than I could usually stand it. And I did almost break the door handle on my way out, but that was just because it was already a bit broken. It must’ve been.

“So where are we going?” I said.

“Just waiting on a text from Callie,” she said. “War’s niece.”

“Is this a family business or something?”

“You could say that.”

“It’s just that … I mean, can you do that? Are you allowed to … make your family vampires so you never have to leave each other?”

“No, we’re not allowed to do that,” she said, her voice cracking a little, making me wonder who she missed, who she wasn’t allowed to make a vampire.

“But what about War?”

“War’s not a vampire,” she said. “He’s an angel.” Her phone pinged. “Come on, Callie’s waiting.”

“An angel? What, so why are we going to see Callie?”

“To deal with your throat.”

“Can’t someone just bring me some cough syrup or something.”

She laughed, pulling me to my feet. “For god’s sake, Teddy. You don’t need cough syrup, you need blood. And a surname.”

It disturbed me that choosing a surname was a bigger problem than the prospect of drinking blood. I followed her to the door, and she pushed me into the hallway, closing the door behind us. It all looked different after a shower and a bit of perspective. The walls had just looked blue earlier, now I saw the subtle stripes and textural details of the Tardis blue wallpaper. The carpet had looked like a squiggly mess, now I saw the pattern was full of lines and junctions, like the tube map, in Bauhaus colours. I felt like Arthur Dent, wandering around in my pyjamas.

“You’re my Ford Prefect,” I said, following her into a lift.

She hit B1, and the doors closed. “You might want to get all the stupid things out of your mouth right now,” she said, leaning against the lift wall with her arms folded. “These people will take literally anything from your mouth and turn it into a nickname to plague you with for the rest of your life.”

“Maybe you should’ve let me get dressed properly then,” I said, staring at my lush beard in the mirrored doors.

“All the guests wear peejays, don’t worry about it.”

“Choudhury,” I said. “I like the way it’s spelt.”

“I’m not sure you can pull that off,” she said, giving me the what’s-the-matter-with-you side-eye.

“I could have a Bangladeshi dad or something. I mean, nobody would know, would they? But yeah, that’s a bit too appropriationy. What about Theo Doppleganger? Because I look like someone else. Someone who I used to be. Yeah, that’s a bit … no. How did you choose yours? What even is it?”

“Nixon,” she said.

“And what was it before?”

B1 was black and glossy with strips of stained glass light. It was like the Catholic wing of the Death Star.

“Johnson,” she said.

I laughed and the shards in my throat revolted. “Really?”

“Yeah, I was really into international politics when I was at uni. Nixon was president the year I was born and he did come after Johnson, so ….”

“As good a reason as any,” I said. “But what comes after a King?”

“A spy? An assassin. The ghost of a king. A better king.” She laughed, wiggled her eyebrows, then said, “A queen?”

“Eidolon,” I said, turning back to Erin. I was about to explain, when she beat me to it.

“A phantom you. A re-realised, idealised you. I like it.”

Erin opened a door by sticking her arm in a hole again. There was a lab on the other side with two people eating Pot Noodles at a table covered in cereal bars and rice cakes.
The woman didn’t look like she could be related to War. I looked more like I could be related to War than she did. I even had his bushy hair. Callie had sleek, black hair and light brown skin. The man had blonde hipster hair and a pink face.

Callie waved us over with a smile. “Sorry, the munchies grabbed me.”

“No worries,” said Erin. “This is Callie Hazard and Tintin Blaine. Guys, this is Theodore Eidolon.”

Tintin stood and reached across the table, “Jim Blaine.”

I shook his hand. “Why do they call you Tintin?”

“Because I had a quiff for ten minutes in 1987.”

“See?” said Erin.

I nodded, then looked back at Jim, then Callie. “You can call me Theo.”

Callie stood and shook my hand. “So, how are you feeling, Theo?”

“Sore throat,” I said. “Still a bit cold, kind of achy all over, but mostly I feel like I slept for six weeks.”

I stared at the snacks on the table, trying to remember if I would like any of them now that I was a vampire. Would my taste buds change? I still wasn’t really hungry. I focused on my stomach, wondering why I wasn’t rampaging for food like a yeti coming out of hibernation.

“You have something against rice cakes?” said Callie.

“They’re not food,” I said automatically. “They’re polystyrene coasters.”

Callie’s mouth fell open.

Erin laughed. “I’m always telling her that.” She held up a cereal bar and looked at me. “What about these?”

“Polystyrene and gravel glued together with sugar,” I said. “Grim.”

“Callie’s a nutritionist,” said Erin, barely stopping herself from laughing, and unable to keep the smirk off her face.

Callie rolled her eyes then got up to rinse out and recycle her pot. “Has Erin told you why you’re down here?”

“Yeah, for blood.”

“Come on then,” she said, leading me to an examination chair and patting the dark vinyl. “We’re not sure what the effects of your bite will be so we need to be cautious at first. No live donors.”

I grimaced. “God, will I need to suck blood out of actual people?”

“Not if you don’t want to, but you’ll need to find somewhere that can accommodate you. Most of the blood clubs are only set up for medical emergencies, not for medical feeding.”

“Is a blood club what it sounds like?”

“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” said Callie.

“Can’t I just come back here when I need blood?”

“Only for the first couple of months,” said Callie. “Jumper off.”

I pulled my jumper over my head, inciting a static riot, and handed it to Erin.

“You want to start with two?” said Jim, holding up a scrubs-blue pouch.

Callie’s fingers were cold on my chest as she undid the buttons of my pyjama top, exposing the least manly chest ever. It was actually concave. Thankfully, the bottoms were a little bit big, so I’d tied them up over my belly, which made me look a bit Simon Cowell but covered my soft belly which was the only part of me with any fat on it.

“Yeah, if we need a third, get a forty-two,” she said, taking the first pouch. “This is a forty?”

“Yeah, I won’t put a third in until we see how the second goes down,” said Jim. “Don’t want to waste any.”

Behind me, something whined.

“Get him some chocolate, Erin,” said Callie.

She and Jim snorted when Erin snapped off a chunk of chocolate and fed me. I laughed and tried not to dribble when it melted twice as quickly on my tongue as it should. Erin blushed when she realised what she’d done.

“Fuck, have you ever seen her blush?” said Jim.

“Fuck off, Tintin.”

“Right, I’m just putting a collar on you. It’ll give you a teeny tiny shock, but it’ll make you feel good. Keep your mouth closed, and try not to grind your teeth or bite your tongue.”

The collar was warm and leathery, with a little patch of thistle-like needles at the back. I gripped the arm rests when the jolt hit me in the neck. I moaned through closed lips, as electricity swept along my skin, raising every hair, and fired through my veins.

Callie slapped something onto my chest and when I looked down at it, I saw a pouch of blood. It deflated as my body sucked on it. I didn’t have time to be grossed out because I was too busy swallowing a vat of my own saliva. I panted and groaned, trying to catch my breath, but none of it was bad. It was exhilarating, like rollercoasters were exhilarating, but only when I went with Margo because she always screamed like she was gonna die. It was like the explosion of feelings you get when you meet the people who really get you. It was, fuck, it was like an orgasm.

“Oh god,” I blurted, gripping the arm rests harder, fighting the rising feeling in my pyjama bottoms. The last thing I needed was an erection.

Erin handed me a cup of warm water with a straw in. “You need to drink it all slowly while you’re absorbing the next pouch.”

The sight of a second pouch replacing the first flooded my brain with images of bloodied grass, of a bloody halo reflecting the clouds, of blank eyes looking straight through the back of my head, my grandad’s hands gripping my shoulders, pulling me away. Come on, Stephen. We need to get to a phone. There’s no signal out here.

The hands on my shoulders shook me. “Teddy? Teddy?”

My eyes found Erin’s. “Huh?”

“Where did you go?”

“2005,” I said. “Amelia Genevieve Martin. She was murdered, dumped on a wildlife reserve. I found her body.”

***

The source image above is from qimono on Pixabay.

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No Good Comes: scene four

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What follows is the first draft of what is currently scene four of No Good Comes. Stephen King (totally different guy) is in the painful throes of becoming a bloodborn vampire, a process which takes forty nights. His mentor has been through it herself and is talking him through the pain.

POV: first person, Erin’s POV.

***

“It hurts,” he whispered.

“I know.”

This was the worst part. The days were nothing. Counting and more counting. Beneath the ground, eyes open wide, unseeing but not, galaxies of stars popping and fading, popping and fading. Lying beneath them, there was no pain, there was no before, there was no life. There was calm, there was peace, there was counting.

Coming up at night was like being torn from your own flesh. It was like someone reaching inside you with acid-soaked fingers and pulling out your bones. It was a mirror that reflected the pain of your life back at you in the form of shards of glass. It was claws and flames and razor blades.

It was only the twenty-fourth night.

“I can’t do this,” he said.

“You can. I did it. You can do it.”

I could end it, if he really wanted me to, but I didn’t want him to want me to. I wanted to see him rise. He told me two night ago that his life wasn’t meaningful. That he hadn’t done anything worthwhile. I told him he could be more. I wanted to watch him be more.

“Tell me about the flashes tonight,” I said.

For days he’d been telling me about the flashes of memory that speared through him like knives.

“Why don’t the good memories feel good?” he said. “Why does all of it hurt?”

“Because even the good things you experienced are tinged with loss now, whether it’s because those people are dead, or because you are.”

“I can see the concussion. It’s like a fuzzy black spot, but there is yellow and blue, like it’s fungal, and sometimes red, like blood.”

“Where do you see it?”

I’d grown used to his voice, his unobservable mannerisms, the hitching of metaphoric breath.

I felt his frown when he said, “Behind my eyes, in my brain. Where else would it be?”

“Trauma can manifest anywhere,” I said. “But it’s not unusual for it to be where it should. Have you remembered anything else?”

“About the night … no.”

“You’ll be interviewed when you’re brought up. May as well get used to hearing it, and saying it.”

“The night I died? The night I was murdered? The night I was … I saw something, but I lost it.”

“Just now?”

“Yeah, blue writing.”

I’d seen the blue writing, all down the wall at the crime scene, but I couldn’t tell him that. I couldn’t tell him anything. I couldn’t tell him that a new scene had been staged for the discovery of his body.

“Do you remember where the writing was?”

“No. Can we … can we talk about something else? What about … what about Ophelia, are you still playing scrabble? Maybe I could help.”

“She’s given up on me,” I said. “She thinks I cheat.”

“Well, you do, so she wouldn’t be wrong, would she?”

“How about we decide on your name?” I said.

“How about I-Spy?”

“We exhausted that, remember?”

“Why is the moon almost full every night?”

“When did you first notice?”

“The night I first spoke to you.”

“It’s there for you to notice.”

“It’s a test?”

“Everything’s a test.”

“You, Erin? Are you a test?”

“Maybe.”

“Do you sit here for all the others … there are no others. What is this place? Why are there so many graves?”

“Sometimes there are more of you. But you’re right, there’s nobody else right now. You’d have seen them if there were. You’d have felt them.”

“Are there other places like this? Other graveyards.”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“And others like us?”

“Yes.”

“Can I change my mind about doing this?” he said. “Can I stop whatever this is from happening?”

“What are you asking me?”

“Can I die instead?” he said. “If I want the pain to just stop, can I choose to die?”

I could lie, but … “Yes.”

We didn’t speak for a while. I watched him pace, and fall to his knees, and writhe, and crawl. I watched him roll onto his back and wondered if he felt the pain in the back of his head still, or whether it was overwhelmed with bigger, brighter, sharper pain.

“Cassiopeia is backwards,” he said.

“She speaks so highly of you.”

He laughed, then cried. “I miss them. And it’s not even like I really believed in heaven, you know. It’s not like I thought we’d all be reunited one day or anything, but this … why does this hurt so much?”

“I’m sorry it hurts. I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“You can kill me. You can do that, right?”

“It won’t be me,” I said. “You can be killed, but it won’t be me. Do you want that?”

“I don’t know. Yes. No.”

“Is that why you haven’t chosen a name? Because you don’t want to think of yourself as a new person? You don’t want to think about your new life, if you’re not strong enough to reach for it?”

“Erin … Erin … why did you choose it?”

“Because I started a war but the pretty girl got all the credit,” I said. “Never mind.”

“You’re a pretty girl.”

“Never mind. I mean, thank you. I think you should be called Teddy.”

He laughed. “Teddy? Why?”

“Because it suits you.”

“Is it my fuzzy brown fur? My soft, squidgy body? My glassy eyes?”

“Yeah, all those things.”

What was I supposed to say? Soft, sweet, lovable? Was I supposed to tell him that every night, I’ve felt like a child talking to an imaginary friend, somebody that was only mine? That every night his presence has been comforting, and I’ve wanted to hug him, to comfort him back? I couldn’t tell Stephen the real reasons Teddy suited him so much. He’d think I was soft. He’d think I fancied him, and I didn’t want to touch that pile of awkwardness. And to be clear, I was talking about my aversion to romance and relationships. I wasn’t calling him a pile of awkwardness. That would just be rude.
Every night I’ve been here has been a night I didn’t have to spend alone in my dead parents’ caravan or one of Cascade’s guest rooms. Yeah, that wasn’t an ordinary church over there. I wasn’t going to tell him that either.

Instead, the next time I had to talk him through the pain, I told him something I shouldn’t have. “You’ll be stronger than anyone you’ve ever met.”

***

The source image above is from Mysticsartdesign on Pixabay.

DeMobbed: Raven Tricks

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What follows is the first draft of what is currently scene 31 of DeMobbed.

Context: Raven Albright has been sent by the head of DeMob to find his runaway daughter and the other casino escapees. Raven has his own agenda and a serious loathing of his father.

POV: third person, Raven’s perspective.

***

Raven scanned the terminal building for Maury and his father. Russet maple leaves decorated every storefront, just in case anybody forgot they were in Canada. Raven had been accosted outside Wendy’s by a fan of rock star, Damon Avery. It wasn’t the first time. It didn’t matter how many times he denied it, nobody ever believed he wasn’t Damon until the guy tweeted that he was elsewhere. Apparently, Raven’s frosty demeanour didn’t go over well with the fans. One of these days, he was going to give the fans something to gossip about as payback for Damon stealing his face. Still, it wasn’t as bad in Canada as it was in the US, or in the UK, where Raven had lived until he reached adulthood. Raven had a mishmash of an accent, but it was mostly posh London, unlike Damon Avery’s fake English accent. Everyone knew the guy was from Ohio.

Raven liked Vancouver Airport with its cedar statues, and its glass ocean, and its aquarium. His favourite piece of art was the Raven Transformation Mask, which he’d always thought was a perfect metaphor for his own transformation. Unlike the Raven of legend, he had not brought light to the world, nor cared that humans lived without shadows. There was much to be said for the dark. Nor had his voice been ruined by smoke when he brought fire to humans. Raven hadn’t had a voice at all until his transformation began. Now he sang more beautifully than the man who stole his face, and people listened when he spoke. Raven had always been dark. He was deceitful, selfish, hungry, and he knew how to prey on the fears and failings of others. He knew how to feed greed. Raven always did appreciate a trickster.

Raven’s phone chirped. It was his father. Terrence Albright never much cared for efficiency. He was happy resting on Dom’s dime. What did he care if the search for Sunny Wyatt was delayed? He’d get paid either way. Raven was already annoyed that he had to detour to Canada when he could’ve simply flown directly from McCarran to his final destination.

The cloudy sky was bright with solar flare, hanging above the indifferent, hazy blue mountains. The angular architecture of the hotel, with its white tubes and blue glass, seemed too tall for the sprawling landscape and its squat, maze-like airport.

Raven tucked his sunglasses into his pocket as he entered the building. If his father was playing games, sending him on wild goose chases, Raven would send him home with Maury. The man at the glossy black piano watched Raven pass, his notes faltering. Raven threaded his way through caramel velvet chairs, and skirted around a huge stone block fireplace. He found his father and Maury seated in blocky, white chairs at a square, black table beneath a cobalt chandelier and surrounded by tiger-striped plants. They were sipping coffee on Dom’s dime.

Maury stood as Raven approached, leaning forward to shake his hand.

Terrence sprawled in his chair and scratched his nuts. “Nice of you to show.”

“Nice of you to switch venues when I’d already been waiting at our agreed rendezvous point for forty minutes,” said Raven.

Maury eyed his companions, and looked fitfully around the room. Terrence flicked his head at the empty chair and kicked it towards Raven, causing it to shriek across the floor. Raven wanted to remind his father that he wasn’t a pre-schooler, but unlike his father, he was prone to efficiency. An argument would cause unforgivable delays.

“Father, do you have your luggage with you?”

“Now, why would I need my luggage with me?” said Terrence, leaning back in his chair. “It’s in the car.”

“Well, get it,” said Raven. “You and I are flying to Denver.”

Terrence laughed. “I’m calling in.”

“Do that,” said Raven. “I’m sure he’ll appreciate you wasting his time.” Raven eyed the empty coffee cups littering the table. “Wasting his time even more than usual, I mean.”

“You’re getting mouthy, boy, you know that?” said Terrence.

“I take orders from Dom. If I tell you we’re going somewhere, it means Dom has ordered it. Take my word, don’t take my word, but the flight is in forty minutes. You can explain to the boss why you’re not on it.”

Terrence glared at Raven for too many seconds, then he held his hand out for the car keys. Maury wrestled them from his pocket. Terrence sauntered away, jangling the keys. He was an obnoxious son of a bitch.

“Sorry about him,” said Raven.

Maury shrugged. “He’s different lately. Ever since New York.”

“Since I got promoted,” said Raven, arching an eyebrow.

“You’re a good kid,” said Maury.

Why did he have to say something like that? Raven already felt guilty enough over what he was about to do.

“Aisling MacFarlane will be coming for her spy soon,” said Raven. “Tell me it’s not you.”

“What? Why would you think it was me?”

“I don’t think it,” said Raven. “It’s not me calling you back to Vegas.”

“The boss thinks I’m a spy?”

“You’d have to ask him,” said Raven. “I’d advise you to take a gun, but that would be pointless against him.”

Maury leant forward, lowering his voice to a hiss. “For fuck’s sake, Raven. I’m not going to kill the boss.”

Raven shrugged. “You heard what happened to Red?”

“Yeah, he killed himself.”

Raven shook his head. “I thought the boss would ask him what happened that night, the night everyone fell asleep on his watch. I thought he’d be given a chance to explain himself. He wasn’t.”

“Shit!” said Maury.

“You remember before she went to San Fran, Aisling crashed the magic act, and you talked her down? And you remember when she lost her footing on the stairs, and you helped her to the bar to put some ice on her ankle?”

Maury frowned. “I don’t … ah, fuck, I remember.”

“The boss has had Burgess going through every last scrap of footage,” said Raven. “Those tapes are mounting up, Maury.”

He nodded, his eyes wild. “Fuck it, I’m screwed.”

Raven bit his lip. “I like you, Maury.” He laughed at Maury’s horrified face. “Not like that. I like them young and pretty.”

Maury laughed nervously. “Well, thank fuck for that.”

Raven pulled a silver stake from his pocket, and pushed it across the table to Maury. “This will do it. Just in case. Put it away, my father’s coming back.”

Maury reluctantly pocketed the bullet, and was sweaty and red by the time Terrence threw the keys back on the table.

“Ready?” he said.

Raven stood, and shook Maury’s hand again. It was clammy. “Good luck,” he whispered.

“So why are we going to Denver?” said Terrence, following Raven to the exit.

“Connecting flight,” said Raven. “We’re visiting Dorothy.”

“Huh?”

Uncultured swine. “Kansas. Jesus, we’re going to Kansas.”

***

The source image above is from Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay.

DeMobbed: a scene

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This is a first draft of what is currently scene 22.

Context: the runaways have just spent their first night on the run in a motel room. They wake to find a man where there should be a dog.

Note: a springer is someone who can boost locks just by running their hands over them. The kiss alluded to sounds like Vlad kissed a dog. He didn’t. He was kissed by someone unexpected to distract him from river lust (the overwhelming urge to throw himself into a river – a vampire thing).

POV: third person, Jay’s perspective.

***

As soon as Jay Looper rolled onto his back, the kid scrambled away and jumped out of the bed, flinging the covers at him. A blonde girl he hadn’t seen before was peering over the dark-haired girl’s shoulder, a wary look on her wide-eyed face. The vampire was watching Sunny with amusement.

“Whoa! Who the fuck are you?” Sunny shouted. “What have you done to my dog?”

“Do I look like I’m in any position to do anything to anyone?”

“I dunno, man,” said the blonde girl, her voice husky with sleep. “You looked like you were in a position to bang Sunny good and hard.”

Jay grinned as he raised his arm above his head and stretched his body beneath the covers. “Get attached to the dog did you?”

“Where is he?” Sunny whistled. “Tripod?”

Jay groaned. “How can we be related?”

“Related what? Who are you?”

“Jay Looper,” said the blonde girl. “That’s right, isn’t it? The cherry guy.”

“The cherry guy?” said Jay, pushing himself upright against the headboard.

“I served you at Lucky D’s a couple of days ago,” she said.

“Nah, that was a guy,” said Jay. “Where’s my arm?”

Everyone seemed to notice Jay’s missing arm at once, a collective gasp rising, and all eyes momentarily on his shoulder before flicking to his face.

“That was me,” said the girl, turning into the blonde guy from the bar. His voice deepened. “And your arm is still in the van.”

“Can you get it for me, Sunny,” said Jay, looking up at the mussed-up kid still standing there, hands on hips. “And my clothes. They were behind the passenger seat.”

“How do you know my name?” said Sunny, pulling on his shorts.

“Even if he hadn’t already said your name just now,” said Jay, running his hand lazily down his chest, “I’ve heard it enough times in the last thirty-six hours. Besides, I came back to Vegas to find you. Or Jenna did. Fuck, I’m starving.” He threw the covers back and dropped his feet to the floor. “You got anything to eat in here?”

Jay had never been shy about his body, which was just as well, because everyone was looking at it while he paced around the room looking for food.

“You mind covering up your ass?” said Freya.

“You don’t like it?” he said, flexing his cheeks.

“It’s not as good as Indy’s,” said Freya.

Indy blushed, and Jay smirked. “Hurry up and get my clothes, kid. This lady is offended by my arse.”

“I’ll go,” said Indy, sliding out of the bed so he didn’t let any heat escape. He pulled on a pair of jeans from his suitcase, then looked up at the vampire. “What? I was too hot to keep the shirt on.”

“Vlad, right?” said Jay, a wicked grin on his face. Vlad nodded. “That was one hell of a kiss yesterday.”

Vlad scowled at Jay.

“Key?” said Indy, holding out his hand.

“You won’t need it,” said Jay. “Jenna trusts you by now.”

“Who the fuck is Jenna?”

“The van,” said Jay.

“Speaking of,” said Indy, “Astaroth said we need to change it. Any idea what that means?”

“When you get my stuff, tell her I said she needs a paint job.”

Indy put on a different face, and trotted outside barefoot in just his jeans. Freya snuggled further under the covers when the vampire looked at her. Jay wasn’t sure whether she was hiding from his body or hiding her own.

“I need food,” said Jay. “But not more than I need a piss.”

“Jesus, do you just say everything that comes into your mind?” said Freya.

“Usually,” said Jay, heading for the bathroom.

He slammed the door shut behind him, but he could still hear them talking. He stared at his reflection in the mirror above the toilet. Who the fuck puts a mirror above a toilet? Do normal people like to watch themselves pissing? He still looked like a dog. He needed a hairbrush and a shave. It didn’t look like he had any new scars, though there was a bruise on his ribs where the pain had hit. He had no idea what kind of curse would’ve turned him into a dog.

He flushed, washed his hands then threw water on his face. Someone banged on the door.

“What do you mean we’re related?” Sunny yelled.

Jay opened the cupboard beneath the sink, where there was a bundle of new toothbrushes. He chose a red one.

“Are you a fucking dog? Damn, that’s a bad trick to play on a guy. Were you my dog?”

“Of course he was your fucking dog, you moron,” Vlad mumbled.

Jay snorted a laugh, then brushed his teeth.

“Hey, are you listening to me?” Sunny banged on the door again. “I liked that dog. You suck.”

“What are you, four?” said Vlad.

“Shut up, Dracula. And how did you know I was in Vegas?”

Jay opened the door, and Sunny fell into him, straightening quickly.

“Don’t make any one-armed bandit jokes,” said Jay, narrowing his eyes as he looked down at Sunny. “I see how your mind works.”

Sunny scowled. “I wasn’t going to.”

“Good. Because even with one arm, I could knock the living shit out of you. I’d use my prosthesis as a club. How about that?”

“I’m sorry I called you Tripod,” said Sunny, looking contrite.

Jay thought he was adorable. “I’m just kidding.” He slapped Sunny’s shoulder. “Hey, lighten up. I was kidding.”

“He doesn’t like being touched,” said Vlad.

Sunny spun around to look at Vlad, then back at Jay.

“You’ve been snuggling up to me for thirty-six hours straight, dude,” said Jay.

“British guys shouldn’t say dude,” said Sunny, a sulky pout overtaking his mouth. “Y’all sound stupid saying dude.”

“One’s criticism is duly noted,” said Jay, in his best imitation of the Queen. In his normal voice, he said, “No comment on the snuggling?”

Sunny shrugged. “You were a cute dog. So … we’re related?”

Jay nodded. “Brothers,” he said, as Indy came back in with his arm and caught an eyeful of genitalia.

“Still naked?” said Indy, throwing the clothes on the bed, and handing Jay his arm. “You couldn’t wrap it in a towel or something?”

Jay sat on the bed. “What took you so long?”

“You didn’t tell me I’d have to coax the door open. I damn near had to seduce your van to get it to let me in.”

“Did you call her an it?” said Jay, turning away from everyone as he set about attaching his arm. “She doesn’t like being misgendered.”

“Man, that ain’t funny,” said Indy.

“And I ain’t laughing. She doesn’t like being called it. Vans can have feelings too, you know.”

“Shut up! Shut up!” Sunny’s hands were up in the air, and his head was down. He looked like a preach meme. “How can I be your brother?”

“Willow Wyatt is my mother,” said Jay.

“But you’re British.”

“English, yeah. So?”

“So how can we be brothers?”

“You’ve heard of travel, yes?” said Jay, raising an eyebrow. “I guess our mother got around. I don’t know. I never knew her.”

“You don’t look like her,” said Sunny.

“I look like my dad,” said Jay, a thunderous feeling starting to build in his head. He pulled on his jeans, then his t-shirt.

“I look like my mom.”

“I know. I’ve seen pictures of her. She’s very beautiful.”

“Are you saying I’m beautiful?” said Sunny.

“Dude, you’re my brother.”

“Dude, no dude.”

“I can’t help it. I had an Americanised childhood. It was traumatic and left me with linguistic throwbacks and cultural scars.”

For a moment, Jay thought Indy and Freya were shagging in the other bed, then he realised that Indy was sitting on the floor by Vlad, who was still huddled beneath the blankets on the tiny sofa.

“What are you doing?” said Jay. “You look like Houdini trying to get out of a sack.”

“I’m getting dressed,” Freya hissed.

Jay laughed. It earned him twin glares from her lover boys.

“So Indy? You can flip between the D and the V?”

“You’re a gross little man, you know that?” said Indy. “I liked you better when you were a dog. Speaking of, it’s a bit rich dragging me for flipping when you can turn into a dog.”

Vlad sat up, which tugged at the covers behind Indy. He leant forward and turned as the covers slipped off Vlad’s chest. He might’ve had more scars than Jay. He watched the two men look at each other, and a wave of shame washed over him.

“First,” said Jay, “I wasn’t dragging you because you can flip. I was, as you say, being a gross little man. I forget sometimes that other people are … people. I’m not fabulous at being around others, so sorry for being offensive. And second, I can’t turn into a dog. I don’t know how that happened. I was cursed or something, and it somehow wore off.”

“It didn’t somehow wear off,” said Indy. “Whoever cursed you is dead. That’s how this shit works.”

“He was fine when I left him,” said Jay. “Well, not fine exactly. Maybe he was eaten by wolves.”

“Some guys came into the casino looking for you,” said Indy. “The day after I served you at the bar.”

Jay had heard them discussing it in the van, but he really wasn’t ready to talk about any of that. “What guys?”

“Angels,” said Freya, emerging from her cocoon fully-dressed. “There’s a photo of one of them in your van.”

“I doubt it,” he said. “I don’t know any angels.”

“They know you,” said Freya. “The one in the photo has blue hair now though.”

Jay’s grin was so instant that he knew he’d given himself away. “I told you—”

Freya rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, you don’t know any angels.”

“She says I’m an angel,” said Sunny. “That my real father is an angel.”

“I know one angel,” Jay amended.

“So, it’s true?”

“Yeah. You’re a springer, so it’ll be Sandalphon. His whole line would make a fine organisation of burglars if they weren’t so angelic.” Jay snorted as he remembered the not-so-angelic branch of Sandalphon’s tree.

“The angels were from Cascade,” said Freya. “That makes you as wanted as we are. Isn’t that fun?”

***

The source image above is from Activedia on Pixabay.