Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Seventh Interlude



THE COLD INSIDE
Seventh Interlude
by AL BRUNO III


Friday April 12, 1985


Despite weather reports to the contrary it had begun to rain after midnight. Just like the intruder had promised.

The intruder had been full of shifty glances and smug remarks. Reginald Hayter might have confronted him if not for the blank faced man the intruder kept for a bodyguard. What little Reginald knew of killing told him there was murder in that man's eyes. They had shown up for the wake without an invitation, 'to pay their respects'. No one knew who they were and when asked, the intruder had introduced himself as Phil and told them he had served with Reginald's father during the war.

Which of course was patently ridiculous. Reginald knew his father had never been inducted into the armed forces and he had certainly never enlisted. That kind of thing had never been Kerwin Hayter's style at all.

But then again, in light of everything else, Reginald had to wonder; a twinge of doubt niggled at him.

Soaked through to the skin and shivering, Reginald pulled his coat in tight around himself and tried to look like someone waiting for a bus. When all the traffic had passed and he was alone on the street he hopped the cemetery fence and made his way through the maze of headstones to his father's grave.

All during the wake, while Reginald was busy trying to balance being a good host with being a grieving son, Phil had kept pulling him aside and asking questions. Questions about everything, about Kerwin Hayter’s sudden death and the police and how much the wake and funeral were going to cost. Then he asked Reginald if his father had left behind any journals or strange mementoes.

That of course was when Reginald realized who the intruder and his stone-faced thug were. They were Pharos Agents. His father had worked for the Pharos Project for the better part of the Fifties. According to the public records he had been a consultant for the National Security Agency but in reality he had been part of a nebulous special project that seemed to answer to no one.

The grave of Kerwin Hayter was just up ahead. Reginald could see a shadowy figure crouched before it, kneeling in the freshly turned earth; of all the damned luck, one of his father's old allies showing up now. Reginald swept his wet hair from his eyes. Was this Phil after the infamous Hayter secrets? The devices that could never be patented or sold for fear of changing the world?

Reginald knew from his father's journals that he had left the Pharos Project in anger over the organization's insular attitudes and the lack of clear goals. Too many fact-finding missions had ended up being battles for survival, too many outright raids had left them empty handed. Of course, as long as the Pharos Project was willing to fund Kerwin Hayter's research into psychotronics he was willing to put up with the organization’s failings. Once the budget cuts began his father quit, taking all his research with him- along with as much equipment and untraceable cash as he thought he could get away with.

The heavy downpour made it hard to make out exactly what the figure at his father's grave was saying. It sounded to Reginald like chanting, some of the words sounded like Latin.

Reginald had come of age in the Seventies and soon found himself acting as his father's errand boy. When your father is privately researching the field of psychotronics, your errands inevitably ended up being more than simple trips to the hardware store. Over the years Reginald had become well aquatinted with bribery and theft, he had learned to move on the shadowy fringes of the pseudo-mystical underground the rest of the world tried not to notice. Whatever his father needed, he procured- when a rival appeared he was eliminated. Reginald did whatever Kerwin Hayter asked of him.

The weight of the gun in his jacket pocket was reassuring, the handle was taped, the serial number was filed off. Pharos Agent or not, ‘Phil' wasn't going to get in the way now.

Leaning against a headstone he drew the gun and took careful aim. No one would hear, not in the middle of the city's largest cemetery. One shot. Reginald thought. One shot and I've gotten away with it all.

By the time Reginald sensed the presence behind him it was too late.

One cold hand had him by the back of the neck, lifting him off his feet. The other hand grabbed his gun hand and snapped it at the wrist.

Screaming and kicking, his vision blurred with raindrops and agony Reginald Hayter was dragged to his father's gravesite. Phil was crouched there, an old winebottle half-buried in the dirt before him.

The thug dropped him, Reginald landed on his wrist and sobbed. “It's not Victor.” The thug's voice was deep and ragged from disuse.

Phil laughed, “Fuck John. You think I don't know that? All this little pissant is- is too ambitious.”

“Then why are we here?”

“Because we had to be sure and besides, I think I owe poor old Kerwin this.”

Reginald raised himself to a sitting position, “Look, if its about the money, I'll split it with you two- no three ways.”

Phil sneered, “Kid, we're rich. If you're going to beg for your life at least show a little creativity.”

John retrieved Reginald’s handgun and slipped it into his pocket, “I'm not going to stand here and watch while you torment this moron.”

This isn't happening. Reginald told himself, This isn't happening. Why hadn't he just gotten on the plane tonight like he'd planned? Why had he let himself be lead into a trap?

“This is happening.” Phil smiled as he drew a pistol of his own from his jacket pocket, “And it was easy to get you here. All I had to do was hint that I knew something about treasures left over from your Dad's shady past.”

John shrugged, “I think it was the rain that clinched it.”

Phil said, “The rain always clinches it.”

Reginald couldn't believe his ears, these were madmen, “Just like you said you would... How did you... How did you make it rain?”

“Not bad eh?” Phil made his prisoner sit on the freshly turned earth of the gravesite, his feet on either side of the slowly filling winebottle, “Not a cloud in the sky. The weathermen predicted sunny days all weekend and then all of a sudden out of the blue- I'm singing in the rain, just-”

“No...” John growled, “...singing.”

“Just let me go and I'll give you whatever you want.” Reginald said. His father's tombstone was cold against his back, water soaked through his pants, mud clung to the fabric.

“Can we please get this over with?”

Phil's expression went from gloating to glaring, “John could you please let me enjoy this moment? If not for me then for poor old Kerwin.”

“You hated Kerwin.”

“No I didn't.”

“You used to call him 'Fuck-Face' behind his back.”

“You should hear what I call you.”

“I do hear you Phil. I do.” John retreated into the shadows.

“You'll have to pardon John.” Phil crouched down so he could look Reginald in the eye, “He's not the man he used to be.”

Reginald stared sullenly at the pistol and wondered if he could wrestle it from Phil’s grip. He figured he might be able to risk it, the guy looked old enough. He could still get out of this, he still had the money. All he had to do was grab that bottle with his good hand and use it as a weapon.

“I'm still young enough to kick your ass!” His captor moved with sudden savagery, smashing he nozzle of the pistol into the side of Reginald's face.

Lights flashed before Reginald’s eyes, he’d bitten his tongue and his mouth was filling with blood. He felt his chest starting to heave with sobs, he’d been so close. How could he have been so stupid?

“Oh my God. Don't tell me you're crying now? You kill your old man and now you're crying?”

“He deserved it!” Reginald sat up, his lower jaw dripping with wet earth, blood and rain, “He made us live like we were nobodies when he had all that money!”

“How did you find out?”

“Why do you care?”

“Look I need to know this and if you tell me what I want to know and give me what I want I'll let you live. That's more than a father killer like you deserves anyway.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.” 

“He was sick. I was going bankrupt trying to pay his medical bills and take care of myself at the same time. The day after the car was repossessed he told me. He had these briefcases full of cash stored in the crawlspace. They'd been there for years. We were millionaires and he'd never told me.”

“Those were ill-gotten gains, he was trying to keep a low profile. Did you expect a fugitive living under an assumed name to live in a fucking mansion?” Phil straightened up to shout, “Hey John! All this bullshit because his Daddy didn't buy him a new bicycle for his birthday!”

An irritated voice called from the murk “I'm going to the car.”

Reginald couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “...an assumed name?”

“Yeah. Your last name is really Bell. How about that?” Phil rested the end of the revolver against Reginald's temple. “Now one last thing and we can all get out of the rain.”

“Please...”

“Where did you hide the money?”

Some part of Reginald wanted to rear up, wanted to fight for what was his, but he had been a coward for too long. He had killed his father by poisoning because he couldn't bear to look him in the eye.

“Poison eh?” Phil hissed, “Not a very manly way to commit murder.”

“If you can read my mind then why do you need me to tell you where the money is?”

“Because I’m lazy.” Phil jabbed him with the business end of the revolver for emphasis. “Now the money… Where can we find it?”

“Half.” Reginald pleaded, “Leave me half. Please. You said you were rich.”

“You can never be too rich or too thin. Besides it was our money to start with. Your Dad stole it from us.”

“I thought-”

“Look unless you want your brains smeared across this nice new headstone you better tell me where the money is.”

“In the trunk of my car.”

“All of it?”

“All of it.”

“There, was that so hard?”

Reginald sniffled rainwater, “Can I go now?”

“Well,” Phil smirked, “I'm afraid I can't let you go. See the problem is that our little encounter tonight might raise questions among certain concerned individuals.”

“I don't know anything.”

“You know enough. See I need these people to think me and old John are dead. If you walk out of here and start talking…”

“I won’t say anything! I swear!”

“Am I supposed to take the word of some little rat that poisoned his father?”

“You promised. You promised you wouldn't hurt me!”

“So I did…”

The next words that came from Phil's mouth were harsh and strange sounding. Reginald knew an incantation when he heard one but he didn’t dare try to derail it. Not while there was still a gun to his head.

Everything seemed to pitch and heave around Reginald. He felt like he was losing his balance but how could he be losing his balance when he was sitting down? Phil stood over him chanting in a long forgotten language, Reginald felt something hard and cold pressing against his face. Mewling, he closed his eyes.

Then opened them again.

It wasn’t the gun he felt against his cheek, it was the winebottle. It was just glass that Reginald felt pressing cold against his skin, not metal. The rainwater spilled out over his face, flooding his nostrils, leaving him coughing.


What is he doing? Reginald wondered.

The strange vertigo that gripped him grew worse, leaving him unable to stand, unable to speak. With every syllable Phil spoke the lethargy and lightheadedness grew worse. Reginald thought of his father’s lessons and understood.

Frozen and paralyzed Reginald stared into the mouth of the old winebottle, it filled his vision with darkness and drew him deep inside.


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