The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Thirty-Two part three
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Tuesday January 17 1995
“You are pushing your luck kid.”
Their regular practice sessions had thinned out the pickings at the cemetery so they had moved to other locations, searching for lost souls lingering wherever they had died. They had found the bloated old ghost in an alleyway; it was twice the size of anything Tristam had ever seen before. He circled it warily, flying low, his spirit form passing through a broken fire escape with every pass. Phil hovered some distance away; his astral form was discolored with exhaustion and tension.
Tristam made another pass. “How do you suppose this one died?”
“Considering the size they either died bad or died young.” Phil silently said, “Now lets get fucking moving.”
This was the last exercise before the main event. One more week and it would be over, assuming he could keep the kid focused. The spirit world of Albany was tinged with something odd tonight; there was a strange bleakness to it all. It was almost like the world knew what they were up to.
Tristam launched himself straight up, arcing into the sky like a Roman candle. He hung there for a moment, twinkling to himself. The ghost in the alley went about its business oblivious to the threat, its thick feelers tracing patterns.
Seconds crawled by and Phil felt his patience slipping away. What the Hell was he doing up there? He liked it better when the kid had been quiet and eager. Now he thought he was hot shit.
Considering how strong he was, maybe he was hot shit, but Phil had to wonder how long it would be before the kid went too damn far. Just because you could reduce someone's life and sanity to a ruin didn't mean they couldn't come back at you. All they needed was a gun and a lucky shot.
Victor had known that all along, that was why he always took precautions.
His patience at an end Phil called up “What the Hell is taking you so long?”
The ghost trembled with surprise, suddenly aware of its surroundings for what might have been the first time in years.
Tristam dove, falling fast.
“Finally.” Phil spat.
But there was something wrong with the angle of Tristam's descent and when Phil shifted to get clear Tristam altered his course as well. “He's moving for me!” Phil realized. “Hey what's the big idea? Hey! Answer me you little fucker!”
Tristam's only reply was to increase velocity.
This was bad, Phil knew that even on his best day he couldn't outrun the kid. His only choice was to fight. Phil readied himself, calling upon the old incantations, anchoring his spirit to an object in the physical world.
Before he could finish Tristam was inches from him. Before Phil could react Tristam pivoted away at an impossible angle and speed- towards the ghost.
The force of the impact sent both Tristam and ghost through one side of the apartment that bordered the alley and out the other. They breached the barrier to the Realm of Dreams; the force of their passing sent tremors through the spirit world.
“Little… bastard.” Phil set after him.
They were moving with such speed that he didn't catch up to them until they were halfway through the Realm of Energy. The ghost was in a rage; it flailed at Tristam, its tendrils ripping through his spirit form.
Phil knew from experience how much that could hurt. It felt like frostbite inside your head, there was no other way to describe it. “How you doin' there kid? He's got some bite to him doesn't he?”
“It tickles.” They raced past the first of the Husk worlds. “So what did you think of my flying?”
“It's been done.”
Mocking laughter echoed through Tristam’s thoughts, “So that wasn't panic I saw back there?”
“Always gotta push your luck don't you?”
“Mom says that's the only thing I ever got from my Dad.”
When Tristam thought of his father a momentary flare of memory marked his thoughts. Love and anger made 'Dad' so much more than just a word. It injected an image of Tristam's father right into Phil's mind.
And Phil knew that face, he'd just had a visit from the bastard four days ago. He stopped dead at the realization. Near him was a Husk world of decrepit temples and sprawling wildlife, it seemed to reverberate with chanting. Tristam and his unwilling passenger rocketed headlong for the Maelstrom.
Gawain Wight. His father is Gawain Wight? Phil thought as quietly he could. Carol's no good husband is the head of the Project Pharos?
God damn it Phil. Who's playing who here?
Naturally his first thought was to destroy the little punk, not here of course, there was no way he could match Tristam in a fair fight. He would have to play it cool, keeping his thoughts calm until the time was then right shoot the dog-killing bastard in the back.
What if I miss? What then? Phil knew he wasn't that good a shot anymore and he couldn't risk getting close and personal with a knife. Not when the kid might have already figured out there was more than one way to hurt someone from a distance.
Besides, it was too late to turn back now. This was the last part of a drama that had gone on for too damn long.
One way or another. Phil headed after Tristam, One way or another we finish this.