Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Perpendiculars, Pt 3

Continuing for your delectation a work in progress. Part one is here, part two is here.

Adastra Morales is beautiful when she’s sleeping. I mean, she’s pretty cute when she’s awake, but when sleep hides the trouble in her eyes, when her mouth goes slack and those tight lines fade, when her dark curls frame her baby-doll face… yeah. I saw her mind moving behind her flickering eyelids, moving through dreams. She was beautiful in there, too. Too beautiful.

I could have stood a long time watching her through the dirty window of the Bunny, drooling gently onto her Bay blanket, driver’s seat reclined as far back as it could go and still be counted on to return to an upright position, but I really wanted to get as far away from that farm as I could, as fast as four German cylinders could carry me. Plenty of time to moon over sleepy sorta-ex-girlfriends back in town, away from angry mummies and their primordial punishments. One of the boons Sekhemkhet had granted me in gratitude for winning his arm race was that he would deign to delay his vengeance for “one solar hour,” just long enough to hustle fragile Addy out of the psychic blast radius. Plus, you know, I needed a drink. This action-adventure shit is thirsty work.

Addy started awake at my knock, brown eyes shedding panicky sparks. I had a brief vision of her as a tough-as-nails, pistol-packin’ mama, pulling a piece from under that drool-damp wool wrap and me flinching back, hands quick into the air, and she sighs out a big breath, letting in the hammer with her thumb and saying something like “Don’t ever sneak up on me like that again!”

Where did that come from? Addy hates guns. In every personal interaction I’d seen her have with a firearm, she’d picked the gun up between thumb and forefinger, like garbage, dangling it at arm’s length only long enough to pass it to me. Instead of a six-gun popping up from under the blanket, I got a sleepy scowl and a fuzzy-mittened hand popping the broken passenger-side door open from the inside. I slid onto the chilly seat.

“What took so long?” She scrubbed at her face, blinking to clear the nap from her head. “I was getting worried.”

“Oh, well, you know… infiltrating the underground lair of an evil sex cult and all. I guess I probably should have been faster. Sorry.”

“Jesus! I was just worried, OK? You don’t have to be sarcastic.”

“I’m sorry, Addy. I’m sorry.” I really was. “It was just a fuckin’ ugly scene, you know? Another pathetic bunch of cheap, shitty assholes smearing the cosmos with their filth. I mean, that’s why I got out of the game. Too much dirt.”

“For someone who’s supposedly out of the game, you sure run a lot of risky errands for mummies.”

“Come on, babe… you know I’ve got no choice but to pay this shit off. I get the call, I do the job, and that’s one less old favor hanging over my head. Now, please… I’m tired and I need a shower, a smudge and, like… a gin and tonic. Some kind of clean drink. A wine spritzer, even. Can we just go?”

She leaned toward me, nose twitching in a tentative little sniff, crunchy-granola yak’s-wool V-neck giving a nice view of plump, cuddly cleavage. Too bad it’d probably be three days before I could get a useful boner. Between the expenditure of orgone that’d gone into slapping together that masking spell and the residual ick of Shafiq’s twisted orgy party, my libido was pretty pooched.

“God, you reek. It really was bad. How’s the pharaoh?”

“Mythically pissed off.” I glanced nervously out the window toward the farmhouse. “Seriously, could you please start the car and get us out of here? In about three-quarters of an hour the August Hand of Amun is going to be delivering some pretty nasty spankings. There’ll be migraines and nightmares as far as Wetaskiwin.”

Addy began the intricate and mysterious ritual of starting the Brave Bunny. “So,” she began, fiddling esoterically with the starter button; “any good news?”

“What, you mean besides retiring one more piece of soul-owning debt? Sure. Check this out.” I reached into the bag that had lately transported the pharaoh’s not-so-long-lost limb and pulled out an unglazed earthenware jar: “Homebrew!”

“Ugh. That stuff gives me the shits.” The Brave Bunny’s 22-year-old cylinders fired and caught. Addy threw her into gear and lurched onto the highway. “Anything else?”

“Not much. Only this.”

I unfolded my hand and held the pendant out to her, black opal shining dark on my palm. I could feel its heat sinking into me, knew it for more than just a pretty rock. From around his own neck the pharaoh had taken this charm, mumbling over it words older than time. It was, An object of power. The power to make problems disappear. I didn’t dare check it myself, but I knew.

Addy had slowed right down, senses absorbed. “What…what is it, Jason?”

“You tell me. After all the hocus-pocus I got up to today, I’m keeping eyes and ears shut until I know I’m in the clear. So, tell me.”

Her right hand came off the gearshift to hover over mine, her head turned to sniff, left eye on the road. The Bunny was crawling along. She concentrated.

“A lot of clear power... nothing spectacular, enough to be useful. Very nicely tied… elegant. I love this old style. The matrix seems open, but… um... oh. No.”

Addy glanced at me with a full dose of that worry, those lines. She dropped her hand back down to the shift knob, turned back to the road, gunned the Bunny up to highway speed.

“No. No? No what?”

“No to your next question. No, you can’t sell it. It’s yours. I almost unraveled it by looking too closely.”

“Oh. Well.” Road unrolled before us. Miles of asphalt through an infinity of sacred space, bearing us home. I looked down at the trinket in my hand, feeling its weight, feeling its heat wanting to work into my bones. I slipped it into the outside breast pocket of my action jacket, leaned back into the beaded seat-cover, closed my eyes against the midmorning.

“I guess it never hurts to have batteries around the house.”

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