A Friend in Need
The autopsy results weren’t ready yet, so Thom took Thurston and Debtra to their hotel. Thurston made sure his student had been settled in, and then he caught a cab back to downtown. He didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep until he started dreaming.
She traced her thumbnail under her fingernails to stop the itching impulse to grab it and run — if she wanted it, she couldn’t be obvious. The dark blue faceted crystal on a square silver base was so clear she could see the little gears clicking and working underneath to gather more power. So she wiped the table, careful to give it a big berth while the big guy reading the paper watched her with deep-set black eyes.
“You like sparkles, young lady?” He smiled, and she saw his stained, crooked, pointed teeth. That would be the game, then. He wanted to lure her to his lair with the thing and then eat her sexually and physically.
She grinned. “It’s so pretty!” Two could play that game, and she could rid the world of one more stupid bad guy who would use such a powerful device as a trinket to lure female prey. He probably didn’t even know that it was charging after a recent detonation and wouldn’t be usable again for a while.
“We’re here, man.”
Thurston jolted awake. How had he fallen asleep in the back of a taxi, especially one as rough as this one? His lower back promised to replay every bump and rattle for him later. But that dream… He had been a woman. Or had been seeing things as one. He could guess which one, too. She invaded his dreams at the oddest moments, usually inopportune times when he needed to focus on something else.
Thurston paid the cabbie, made sure he had everything, and stepped on to the sidewalk. He climbed the narrow stairs to Forsyth’s office, housed above a Chinese restaurant in the Five Points district. The building had a view of the storyteller fountain, but was shielded so that Thurston couldn’t hear the wails of the soul trapped inside the Storyteller statue. That one had been convicted of serial murder of children and goats, so this fate would be particularly repugnant.
But he could hear them as well as all the noise of the street through the cracked door at the top of the staircase. The door swayed open, then almost shut, with the breeze, and he quickened his steps. He pushed the door open and saw that Forsyth’s office looked like it had been blown apart by a whirlwind with papers everywhere.
His breath caught, and he raised a hand to his mouth to stifle the vomiting reflex when he saw that Forsyth had been, too.
As an Old Soul, Forsyth’s manifestation had been complex, a somewhat overweight man with short salt-and-pepper hair, the beginnings of a double chin, and blue eyes that could be the color of ice chips or a warm ocean. His bottom half still sat in the chair, and his top half lay scattered about over and under the papers. The energy that held the manifestation together leaked and bubbled out from the various parts. Humans would perceive it as blood. Thurston saw it as golden liquid that reflected the light like viscous crystal.
He followed the whispered calls to Forsyth’s head, which lay underneath the open diamond pane window. He picked it up, careful to keep his back to the street outside so no one would see him carry it across the room.
“Forsyth! What in the Name of the Fifth happened here!” He found Forsyth’s torso, missing its arms, but mostly intact, and placed the head atop it. The two parts fused together, a neat trick, Thurston thought. It showed how long Forsyth had been around, even longer than Debtra, but with infinitely more lives. He’d died before but had “gotten out of the habit,” as he liked to say.
Thurston found the limbs and reassembled his friend as quickly as he could. After a few deep breaths, Forsyth wiggled his fingers and kicked his feet.
“Much better, thank you,” he said with a bow from the waist. “I apologize for not getting up to greet you, but…” He gestured to the mess.
“Do you think you could walk downstairs for a meal?” Thurston asked, mindful of Debtra’s difficulty earlier that day. Hopefully she hadn’t noticed that he was fine without eating. At least he liked pancakes enough to consume them without the necessity of hunger.
“Give me a moment, old friend.” Forsyth looked around the office and raised his eyebrows. “This is a mess, then, eh? Beatrice is going to have my hide.”
“What happened?” Thurston brushed a few pages off the torture instrument that Forsyth called a consultation chair.
“I had just come up the stairs this morning to…” Forsyth’s jaw fell open, and he moved faster than Thurston thought would be possible considering he’d just been put back together. The large man moved to the wall by the door, murmured a verbal key, and a safe appeared. Continued whispering of code, and the door fell open to reveal… Nothing.
Thurston’s heart sank as the denial he’d cherished all day shrank into oblivion. Sure, he knew that the only device that could theoretically vaporize a statue and release the soul trapped within was a Splitter and that Forsyth guarded the only one, Sorvan’s invention, in his thrice-spelled safe.
Forsyth sank back into his chair and put his head in his hands. “They’ve blocked my memory, Thurston. I know there was more than one, and that He had sent them, but I cannot remember the exact sequence of events or even how they discovered and robbed my safe. It’s not even in this dimension! How did they find it?”
I might have posted this one before, but it’s appropriate considering it’s called the Chocolate Volcano, and Forsyth seems to have been blown to bits. Luckily Thurston arrived just in time to put him back together.
Office Migration 2010 (yes, I decided it needed a spiffy name) is progressing nicely. My new lease starts October 1, so there are just a few more days to pack! Every time I start to feel comfortable, I realize there’s another detail that needs attention. I’m looking forward to getting everything done and being settled in so I can give more attention to writing and catching up on some of my favorite serials. Just a couple more weeks… Oh, and did I mention I have jury duty on Thursday? I’m going to need a chocolate volcano and several glasses of wine after this process is over!