The Nick Of Time (and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
The three of them moved down the pockmarked sidewalks of Erichtho Terrace alternately arguing and making snide remarks. A girl of no more than nineteen led the way and she wasn’t looking where she was going...
“Something...” Jason Magwier hurried after the girl. His hair was curly and close cropped, his eyes were so dark that they almost seemed like pools of shadow. He wore faded slacks and a garishly colored sweater, “...something tells me she's a little upset.”
“It’s called stomping and cursing,” the imposing black man with graying dreadlocks said. He was called Zeth and wore loose-fitting beige clothes, his eyes never stayed in one place for long. “She's quite good at it really.”
The girl was named Lorelei and her cherubic features were offset by a glowering expression and and a ragged shock of burgundy-dyed hair. Her clothes were cutoff shorts, dark leggings, a frayed t-shirt and a pair of clunky boots. Magwier's battered leather jacket was draped over her shoulders to shield her from the December cold. “This is my weekend and so far I've spent half of it sitting around Magwier's apartment watching him get wasted on black sunshine and listen to the same Beatles album over and over.”
They stepped off the sidewalk and jaywalked through the intersection. “Have faith my dear,” Magwier tried to touch her shoulder only to have her pull away, “important things are afoot today. Disaster looms.”
Zeth asked warily, “Another disaster? What kind?”
“An assassin is preying upon one of the most important families in Olathoe,” Magwier explained. “This is the kind of instability the followers of the Cause don’t need.”
Lorelei paused in the street so a carriage being drawn by a pair of albino Clydesdales could pass, “I think you need to learn the difference between followers and draftees.”
There was a newstand on the corner that sold blasphemous tracts and penny dreadfuls. A crowd had gathered there. “And what does this assassin have to do with my having to listen to Abbey Road fifty times?” Zeth asked.
Magwier sprinted towards the commotion, “What better way to summon a spirit of serendipity to watch over us?”
“Serendipity spirit? That’s a new one...” Lorelei’s pace slowed. She was an Apprentice of the Greater Eastern Council Of Mystagogues, and a well read one at that, but she had never heard of such a thing as a serenity spirit. She was about to ask another question when she realized she was standing alone, “Hey! Wait up!”
The crowd was thick enough that Lorelei might not have gotten through to see what they were gawking at but several of the gawkers had to flee the scene so they could be sick or pray or both. Zeth stared at the shape on the sidewalk with grim fascination, Magwier narrowed his eyes thoughtfully.
For a moment Lorelei couldn’t focus on the shape, her mind refused to accept the pitiful thing before her. It breathed and gurgled. It was human- or at least it had been human once. Now it was just something terrible and impossible.
A gaping, bloodless wound had been opened in its gut and the entrails pulled out and had, for lack of a better word, been rewired so that the thick tangle of intestines ran up the figure’s body and fused with its mouth.
But the mutilations didn’t end there, the elbows and knees of the figure had been turned inside-out leaving unprotected nubs of bone and cartilage to scrape along the sidewalk as it struggled and choked.
Not just choked, Lorelei realized as she watched the thick ropey entrails pulse mindlessly, Its drowning in it's own filth! Oh Goddess!
“Who did this?” she asked.
Jason Magwier put his arm around her and pointed to the figure walking calmly away, a tall shape with a mane of white-blonde hair.
“Oh no,” Zeth said.
The audience of onlookers was growing, many of them demanded the pitiful creature be put out of its misery but no one did anything. Magwier, Lorelei and Zeth left the newsstand behind and ran after the retreating figure in the inverness coat.
“Is it Dr. Flesh?” Lorelei panted, “I mean is it really him?”
“Yes,” Magwier replied, “oh yes.”
“I don’t know if I should be terrified or hoping for an autograph.”
Zeth caught Lorelei and spun her around so fast that she almost fell. He put his face close to hers, close enough that to a passer by it might look like they were about to kiss. Zeth said, “Now you listen to me. That man is worse than dangerous. You do not talk to him, you do not approach him, you do not let him touch you and do not let him find out who your mother is.”
“I didn’t think you cared,” she half-joked.
“I don’t,” he growled, “but my best friend loves you and that’s enough.”
Magwier was a yard ahead of them, his hands were cupped over his mouth and he had drawn in his breath to yell.
“Oh bloody Hell,” Zeth groaned.
Magwier’s shout was loud and deep, “Comprachico!”
“Who-” the man with the white blonde hair spun around, his face a murderous glare. That glare was quickly replaced with a look that was book recognition and resignation.
“Now that I have your attention,” Magwier put his hands on his hips.
Dr. Flesh’s only reply was to crack a grin and start running. In moments he had disappeared down an alleyway.
“Where’s he going?” Zeth caught up to Magwier.
“Route d'abbaye,” he said, “it has to be.”
Lorelei took her place beside them, “Wait till the girls at school hear about this.”
“Come on,” Jason Magwier waved them along, “he can’t get far. Not tonight. I’ve seen to that.”