May 11, 2014 – The City of Roses
__Somethin’ filled up
my heart with nothin’,
someone told me not to cry.
But now that I’m older,
my heart’s colder,
and I can see that it’s a lie.
Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.__
— “Wake Up”, Arcade Fire
Voicemail for Shelley Pollack
Current Cell Tower: Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
1. Play Message?
“Hey Shell, Sry about being so AFK lately. (Did I put that right? I’ve been practicing.) I know I said I’d call Saturday night to rehash the party but there was this horrible…thing, Shelley. This thing, like us but not like us. That is..well, one of the Keepers. Well, probably not a Keeper. I don’t think he has a mind to keep anything. Too…hungry. So empty.
You know that urban legend about the couple making out in Lover’s Lane? The girl hears a noise and begs him to investigate. He laughs at her, knows somehow she wants him away. And just as the girl feels safe, when he’s headed towards the bushes, a hook handed man kills him, sometimes silently, sometimes after a single scream. The girl cries, her unease growing as the silence eats her up. And just as she’s sure she can’t handle it any more, the sound of breaking glass…
Anyway, that, THAT decided to visit Portland in the middle of one our most important parties. We rode out to the woods like warriors and so many ran screaming. I saw my drill instructor take a hook through the chest. And Molly. I’ve never seen Molly like that. Sweetness gone, just an animal below the knife. Feral and strong and so…not what I’m used to. I’m going to listen to her more.
And Jack…I’ve never seen Jack scared before, slight tension in his voice, not from tiredness but from staring into the darkness. The worse part was recognizing that voice. It’s how he talks to me sometimes.
So we’re running through the woods, sprinting. And it’s like he’s everywhere. He wounds Jack and I can’t stop running. I run off a cliff, land below, in that weird “Buster Keaton way” like you say. And I look up and the thing’s gone, then behind me, then gone again. We barely manage to get Jack down the cliff, get saved by Celine (yes THAT Celine. She can be useful at times.) “RUN.” she says, an order. “Just RUN!” We pile into Molly’s car. (The Doom Buggy. A yellow AMC Pacer with a kind of broken smile thanks to its headlights. I love that car. I want you to remember that bit because if you do not remember I love that car nothing that follows will seem wondrous or epic or whatever you like to say.)
I reach the car first so I’m driving and we’re trying to heal Jack in the backseat. (He was excessively juicy.) And we head down the mountain and I just…well, I can’t. But it’s not my car. I turn to Molly. “I have an idea.”
“What?” she says, checking on Jack.
“How much do you like this car?”
“Do it.” She says. I love it when I don’t have to explain.
We turn around on the mountain road, dust kicking up and head back towards the parking lot where Celine is doing her best to hold off the Hook. He has her on her back when the headlights hit him. Despite the glow, he’s a walking black abyss of coat and hat, with a glinting metal hook where his hand should be. “HEY!” I yell as I floor it, begging, hoping, trusting Celine to get out of the way.
The car hits him like a freight train and he’s pinned against the cliff face. Or I suppose I should say I was told he was pinned against the cliff face. My head was on the steering wheel and things were getting fuzzy.
I threw open the driver’s side door, knife in hand. I don’t like being scared. It makes me really angry. I marched forward, but as I steadied myself on the hood, he opened up a door to the Hedge and disappeared. “Sorry about the car, Molly.” I said, hitting the hood as I felt an overpowering urge to sit down.
Duchess Aurora and Celine took us home…well, to the field hospital. This creepy looking alien thing that was NOT AT ALL HELPFUL when we asked about Fetch gynecology. I guess it doesn’t come up much. Anyway, before that though we’re sitting in the backseat with bloody Jack while Summer Court royalty sits up front. And I’m sure Celine is going to throttle me for dishonoring her or disobeying her or nearly running her over with a car. But she just lets us go, and she grabs my arm as I leave. “I’m not interested in people who take orders without question. I know you don’t like me. I don’t care. Keep thinking and you’ll figure it out.”
So that was…ummm Saturday? Yes. So around 4 AM on Sunday I get to do what I actually wanted to do. I woke up the Master of Whispers to find out why the FUCK his obnoxious little spooks are stalking my…uh…Simon. Why they’re stalking Simon.
Miguel is not awake which is bullshit because we all just saved his ass and he was sleeping? BULLSHIT. So I bang on the door and he opens it and looks at me and closes it. And I bang on it again and he asks me what I want and I say a drink and he closes it again. And we do the whole dance again and I say I have a very important question that I need answered or I’m telling everyone what Web told us to do. He opens the door, as if he’s just finished a Hundred Years War. “Come downstairs.”
Long story short (I’m kind of bad at intimidating Winter Court people okay?) he says that Simon can “see” us. The Changelings. It’s got to be bullshit, right? It’s got to be bullshit. He’s schizophrenic. He probably used some details from what I told him and got lucky faking it. That’s gotta be it. Right?
He’s going to the University of Portland now. I got money from Jeremy to enroll and check on him. Jeremy’s been a real asshole lately. I know you don’t like him, Shell. I get it. I don’t like him, really. Not when he won’t smile at me or relax or he says he doesn’t want to talk to me or that I’m wasting his time. We just keep…doing stuff. We’re fighting and then…whoops. You know? You probably don’t. You’re smarter than me after all.
ANYWAY, Jack meets up with his daughter…Storm’s daughter. She’s a DA, I think, some really impressive shit but the relationship is kind of strained because of Jack’s divorce and also she likes girls. I wonder if she’s pretty. I bet she is. Got sidetracked. Okay. Umm so Molly and Jack tried to get her to help them fight the Bratva and we got the location of a chopshop they use so it was time to find those stripper heels and that dress that got me kicked out of Utah. It was in a shady part of town is what I’m saying. Though I did just want to wear the dress too.
So Molly gets ready to do her sneaky thing and Jack puts on this Russian mob guy’s face and I’m standing out on the street with my ass hanging out (like I do), but for a reason this time Shell. For a reason. So Jack knocks on the door to the shop and this guy comes out and Jack says he wants a job. And this Bratva guy is immediately not happy. He’s like “where did you hear you could get a job?” and Jack says his brother told him he could find a job here, and all the while Molly’s breaking into the actual garage and looking around for clues. Also I am getting cold because it’s Portland and it’s totally going to rain. The guy takes him into the garage.
And of course Molly’s in the garage. She manages to hide in time as I yell in her ear. And just as I’m getting comfortable listening in, this guy shows up in his white Lincoln, cruising slowly.
He rolls down the window, waves a pile of twenties. “Get in,” he says, in this Boris and Natasha accent.
“You can’t afford me.” I say, trying my best Eastern European accent, somewhere between Bulgaria and Australia.
Jack starts telling this guy about his brother, her terrifying brother, “the Wolf”, Volk in Russian I guess. A little bit of Autumn magic and the guy is beginning to speak Jack’s language. He tells Jack to wait there while he makes a call and he goes back to the office. Jack and Molly look for something askew, any clue as to the Bratva’s ties to the Night Court.
The douchebag pushes the bills at me. “I can afford any whore on this street, c*nt. Now get in the car.”
“I have an appointment,” I say. And then before I can stop myself “with a better man than you.” The guy gets out of his car.
Molly finds these strange marks on the floor, tells me they’re definitely non-Mortal, and I see the light turn off in the garage’s office. My new friend is still coming at me but that’s not important.
“My boyfriend’s coming back!” I yell.
“You think I’m scared?” Douchebag replies. I save the effort of explaining to him that I don’t need a boyfriend to tell him to leave me the fuck alone because mob guy is telling Jack his boss is on his way to meet him, and the asshole tries to put his hands on me.
I grab him, yank his arm behind his back in a lock, slam him on the hood of his car. I lean in to him, enjoying the accent more than I should. "Here’s a tip, honey. Never touch a girl without asking. And never say the word “cunt” again and you won’t need prostitutes anymore."
I can hear Jack being interrogated. They needed more time. No one knows more than me that the longer you talk, the more holes appear. I run across the street and bang on the door to the office, hoping I’ll think of a good story before Jack’s mob guy appears.
He opens the door and he’s much bigger than I expect. His eyes are like these two black beetles. “Vat do you vant?” He says and I realize nothing has come.
“Are you Vladimir?” I ask. (He had told Jack his name, albeit reluctantly.)
“Why?” He says, murder in his eyes.
“Because…” I’ve still got nothing. He closes the door. Then…“MY SISTER IS PREGNANT YOU ASSHOLE.”
The door springs open. “Who is your sister?”
I take a stab in the dark. “Nadia.”
His face falls. “Nadia is pregnant?”
“Yes you bastard. And you’re going to do the right thing.”
Meanwhile, inside the garage, Molly follows the marks to a trapdoor, opens it. It’s earthy smelling and dark. Old. Children’s toys and human remains sit in the vines that line the walls. Our commas go put as they move underground.
Up top I’m still dancing as fast as I can when a huge man appears behind me. He’s scarred like a fighter and built like a bear. And while a bear in a striped suit might be funny to you, this guy is decidedly not. It’s the Butcher.
“What is the problem here Didi?”
“He knocked up my sister!” I attempt, my accent slipping. I know as can’t let him go to the garage but I don’t know what to do.
“Vladimir will take care of your sister, girl. Go home.”
“Go home.” And he’s already walking into the garage.
“Wait!” I cry, following, but there’s Jack, halfway out of the trapdoor. Grekov’s gun is out in an instant. I reach for Grekov but he throws me aside. Jack drops and the door shuts on him.
Grekov’s shots hit the wall where he used to be. I breathe for the first time in minutes.
Now you know me, Shell. I don’t run. But I also survived on the road for two years by knowing when I needed to go get a bigger weapon. I ran, and Molly and Jack ran, escaping their strange pursues just as I escaped my terrifying mortal ones. So at some point we’re going to have to go into the Shanghai Tunnels. Yay.
So I’m going to head over to the restaurant/apartment, help with close, and crash, because this is ridiculous.The dress is okay, if you wondered. Did you like the pic I sent of the vest? The briarwolf pelt drives him nuts I know but it attacked after all. I’m not a fur trapper. This isn’t Canada.
Oh and I wanted to tell you about this letter Lance wrote me. Your nagging must have gotten to him. I swear he’s so —"
Out of audio memory. Save message to free space?
[Meta narrative note: Simon was at the restaurant at the end of session.]