The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
Route d’abbaye was gone. Route d’abbaye had never been. The pieces of the game had been returned to their proper places. The Sallow Sultan was back on the corner of Cailleach Road, Jack Diamond was standing in the late evening traffic of Shartok’s Circle clad only in his shirt and boxer shorts, the streetlights slipped back into their proper arrangement with the speed of a passing thought.
Judy Bauer found herself in the broken furniture and slimy walls of the long, squat building on Dannigers Verde. The effects of the sushi and the unexpected translocation made her suddenly and violently ill. By the time the heaving was over she found herself wearing her last two meals.
“Son of a bitch,” she choked and spat.
“We met again.” Dr. Flesh was sitting cross-legged on the floor, “third times a charm.”
Judy brushed at the chunks of goo clinging to her blouse, “Where are we?”
In the far corner of the room a rafter shifted and fell onto a metal table. The sound was like a single toll from a broken bell. The floor was sticky under her feet, sticky with something far more disgusting that her own sick, “What happened?”
“Jason Magwier,” Dr. Flesh said knowing it was the only answer she would need.
“Son of a bitch!”
“That’s what you get for being underfoot. I told you to go back home.”
“I couldn’t. I couldn’t stay home. I had to go to that damn chapel. Something made me.”
He smirked, “There was a lot of that going on tonight.”
She spat again, “More of Magwier's doing I suppose?”
“He works in mysterious ways.” Dr. Flesh pulled a baggie and some rolling papers from his long coat. He worked in silence as Judy took off her blouse and tried to shake out the chunkiest of the mess it had caught. Her bra was the color of smoke and had a jeweled clasp in the front.
It always came down to Magwier didn't it? Judy wondered to herself what the man had gotten out of his mischief this time. Probably nothing that would make sense until it was too late. She had warned her roommates to stay away from the man. Why couldn't they understand he was no hero? He was just an ageless trickster leaving a trail of dead lovers and wounded friends in his wake.
She shot him a glance, “What?”
Dr. Flesh held a a joint up to her, “I said would her majesty like a toke?”
A sneering comment came to mind but she decided against it. Instead she crouched down beside him took a hit then passed it back. “What was our final score?” she exhaled.
“Thirteen,” Dr. Flesh paused long enough to take another draw off the joint, “no luck on Jack Diamond though.”
She frowned, “I suppose that was too much to hope for.” Judy Bauer straightened up and pulled her clammy blouse back on, “I have half a mind to send Magwier my dry cleaning bill.”
“That would go over well,” Dr. Flesh stubbed the remains of the joint out and got to his feet, “or do you think he already knows?”
“I couldn’t care less,” Judy said but that wasn’t entirely true. She wouldn’t want Magwier to snitch on her to Lorelei, after all good roommates were hard to come by.
Somewhere outside there was a siren and a muffled explosion. It sounded like more rioting was breaking out. She wondered what the cause was this time; politics or fallout from what she had done?
“It goes without saying that regardless of Jack Diamond I expect to be paid in full,” Dr. Flesh smiled.
“But you did say it,” Judy’s expression became imperious, “but don’t you worry. The bank notes are ready and waiting for you.”
“Perfect,” he pulled a handful of random pills from his coat pocket and swallowed them dry, “the sooner I’m out of this fucking city the better.”
Judy said, “Don’t let me keep you,” then watched him leave. Part of her couldn’t believe she’d shared a joint with Dr. Flesh. It was the kind of story she’d be telling in her dotage, assuming she lived that long.
Thirteen. She mused, a number of cosmic mystery, a number that represented an unknown future. It wasn’t necessarily an lucky number but it didn’t bode well for the immediate future. The Lunts, Constabulary and who knows else were going to be looking for the cause of tonight’s mayhem. She was going to have to watch her back, and make sure sweet, silent Isaac helped as well.
Enough was enough, it was time to head home and help Lorelei count her bruises. The gummy floor seemed to claw at her shoes as she walked; a sensation she somehow equated with the low born and the poor.
Something clinked against her toe. Expecting the worst Judy steeled herself before she looked down.
But it wasn’t something disgusting or dreadful, it was a red phial.
She remembered Dr. Flesh saying,“This is a jultomten. Haven’t you heard of them?”
The realization the deadliest of assassins had unknowingly left behind his Demon of If amused Judy to no end. His loss was her gain. She pocketed the red phial and headed out onto the crooked sidewalks of Dannigers Verde.
For a confused moment she thought the landmarks were all wrong. Hadn’t there been a crosswalk here? Hadn’t there been trees and a white Volkswagen parked nearby?
She shook her head, then moved on, navigating the familiar streets of Olathoe with ease.