On the Trail of an Untouchable Rat (3)
Wherein Clifford discovers nightclub owner and part-time god, Elaine, is in over her head; his current investigation is sidelined…
Say what you wanted about Elaine, and many folks did, she was always a classy act. You never knew who she was going to wear but it was always someone fabulous. Her clothes were impeccable, too.
Today, I think she was wearing Marilyn Monroe in a modern Versace long tight black number, with a Palazzo Empire grey and black leather purse.
Marilyn’s fine, wide ass was too much for that Versace. And Elaine knew it. Every eye in the place turned to watch her come and go. In some cases, depending on their drugs of choice were coming and going themselves…
As she strolled up to me, I could feel the centuries of experience wearing a woman’s body, how to move it, how to mesmerize a man as he enjoys the sway of her hips, her wide child-bearing hips. Her body called out to me. Just me. See me, it said. Want me. Touch me. Her body was a house on fire, just waiting for me to ravish her to put it out.
But it was her eyes which cooled my ardor. Her eyes were a glacier of the darkest, coldest place you could imagine. I could imagine a lot. The darting flashes in the ice blue ribbons was a darkness sucking heat from you, chilling you in places you didn’t remember owning; the kind of cold which made every orifice in your body tighten up in anticipation of a dip in the frozen North Atlantic.
I could feel my breath catch in my throat, as much from lust as from fear. It was an awkward feeling.
She closed the distance between us, gave me the dual French air kisses and when she opened her eyes again, she was just Elaine; business associate, old friend, sometimes mentor.
Thank god. It’s hard to think about danger with a terrified hard-on.
“Darling, you look simply divine, as always,” her contralto purr whispered to me as she assessed my wardrobe. She taught me how to dress all those years ago. “My compliments to your tailor. Keep it up and I might have to start wearing you to work…”
Get your mind out of the gutter. She meant wearing my appearance for her day to day operations. She won’t wear just anyone. It’s was a high complement.
“I haven’t seen your Marilyn in ages, Elaine, you make her look so damn good. It’s good to see you, too. The place looks as decadent as ever, I’m afraid. You know I smell at least six different spices here and more than one of them is on the proscribed list.” I smiled when I said it so she knew I wouldn’t remember anything when I leave.
“Whatever do you mean sir, I run a clean establishment,” she mocked.
“The cleanest, I’m sure. Listen, I know it’s short notice but I need a favor while I’m in town.”
She frowned, leaned into me and her bodyguards twitched. Nothing major, but they were internally out of balance for a moment. I could feel their chi pulsing, surging in a configuration for conflict. Then they became still ponds again. “You and your job. All you ever do is come here and lay some work trip on me and suddenly you forget your manners. If you’re going to come here, not take me to dinner before asking for something, the very least you can do is dance with me. Something slow and close.”
The lights dimmed, the music slowed, something from the 1940s, big band, blues sound, I slid out of my coat and hat, leaving them at the bar. She sidled alongside like a cat trying to negotiate a place in my arms. I felt that surge again as she got some distance from her guards. Not only did their chi surge but they showed visible signs of dimension-flickering. Nothing serious, just enough for me to know they were no longer resting statues, they meant business.
“Elaine, is there something you want to tell me?”
“I still love you.”
“Besides that. What’s with your new security detail. What happened to the old guys?” Don’t confuse my question with concern for them. They were both bastards who caused me more grief than I care to remember, but they were very good at their jobs.
Both had lived long enough to turn grey-haired. I distinctly remember Dominic being one of the best hand to hand fighters I ever knew. Being blind didn’t mean as much to him as you might think. You certainly wouldn’t know he was blind to meet him. Making him even more scary was the fact he kept throwing knives and metal darts in his long coat.
Yes, the blind man threw darts and knives and was not known to miss.
I didn’t see Torque either. It was rumored he was born on a Colombia battlefield during a government raid of the coca farms. It was said the first thing his mother did after he was born was hand him a gun and helped shoot their way to freedom. Yes, it’s supposedly just a story, presumably an allegorical one, but I have seen Torque shoot.
His ability to pick up a gun from anywhere, heft it, shoot with it and not miss, to the range limit of the firearm was something I had never seen. He could shoot the wings off a gnat at any distance. If I thought about a gnat somewhere, its wings flew off. And Torque could take the credit.
Not seeing the two of them for the first time in thirty years made me cautious. Elaine never went anywhere without them. Her professions of love meant we were in over our heads.
It was our coded message. She would tell me she loved me, and soon after someone would be trying to kill us. She could never tell me at any other time. Our relationship at the time was complex. I later learned this was simply her way. She loved fleetingly. To her, people were ephemeral. Like a painting or a piece of pottery. Sooner or later, we broke and she’d be sad. It was easier to treat us casually, as if we didn’t matter. It was easier when we broke. More often than not she was the cause.
Elaine was an old god. One who accepted the Compact which sealed the world from the Shards who still connected to our world in special places. She agreed to limit her abilities rather than be banished from the world. There was something about souls gods needed to live. Baring souls, worship was a palatable substitute.
Consuming a soul was, as I was to understand, the equivalent of an epic ribeye steak, seared to perfection, rested and pink in the center. It was said a god would dine nine days on the perfect soul. Hence the reason sacrifice was all the rage in the Old World. Such a soul would allow a god to renew itself to the peak of its powers.
I would find out later, worship was the accepted alternative for gods who accepted the Compact. They would no longer feed upon Human souls in exchange for the energy of worship by Humans. Worship wasn’t nearly the same for these broken gods. It’s described to me as the equivalent of fast food at that truckstop on I-80 where the stove is cleaned seasonally and the meat is just above that standard where its considered legally safe to eat.
Many gods go mad on such a diet. We’ll talk about that another day.
When I met Elaine, I had just been Sealed with Fenris. As his prison, he would keep me from aging or dying until he could permanently escape or he consumed me, whichever came first. He was the source of my superhuman vitality and strength which kept me alive in those most dire of circumstances.
Like becoming a plaything to a god.
I became her prized possession; an immortal chew toy that could take a beating. Taking advantage of my inexperience, I was struck by her otherworldly beauty. Her ability to change shape meant I could enjoy her in as many different ways as she would allow. It was only after my father pointed this out to me, that I decided to break with her. Being a chew toy wasn’t what he trained me for. I hated him for it but in my heart, I knew he was right. I could feel it, even then. No good would come of our being together.
But I couldn’t stay away. No matter how long I was gone, I kept coming back. Our relationship was explosive. When we were together, Elaine came alive, and this node underneath her building in the middle of this city, came alive as well. Attracting powerful things who wanted to claim it and this power as their own. These were the worst the Hidden world had to offer; creatures from every shard realm around us.
But as long as we were together, Elaine couldn’t be touched on her home turf. For a moment, she was a new god again, and I was her consort-chew rope. Her divine energy and Fenris’ infernal strength synchronized in a deadly way, increasing her abilities a thousand-fold.
It came to a head in the sixties and much of the conflict was hidden in Vietnam. January, 1968, this area was ablaze reflecting the war in Vietnam, different cultures meeting on the field of battle. My father was on duty then. The Agency was stricter then but he was also stretched a lot further. Too many problems, not enough agents.
Elaine had come under assault and by the time he intervened, everyone had died. The building which had survived the Earthquake and every other disaster in the Bay, exploded into mystic flames, destroying her enemies, her staff, her patrons, burned on an epic altar of sacrifice. Using me as the accelerant. When it was over, my father pulled my burned body from the rubble of the building, leaving Elaine behind to clean up her own mess.
As far as I knew, the two never spoke again.
I wasn’t allowed to spend any more time with Elaine. Yes, I was a grown man but it was considered a threat to national security. Given the synergy of Fenris with Elaine, my seals were reinforced and I was assigned to somewhere in Indochina.
The next time I saw her was twenty years ago. We had both mellowed. With the seals reinforced, there was less activity on the node if I didn’t stay too long. Dancing in her club with her in my arms didn’t qualify but it worried me that she even wanted to consider it, given our history. Her telling me she loved me, meant someone was here, with her.
And they were listening. Trouble couldn’t be far behind.
Clifford continues his reunion with the former goddess who goes by the name of Elaine, who seems to be in trouble but unable to say much about it in Chapter 4.
Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. Since they insist on constant entertainment and can’t subscribe to cable, Thaddeus writes a variety of forms of speculative fiction to appease their hunger for new entertainment.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies:Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short(2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (UK, 2012), and Possibilities (2012).