(images courtesy of http://jpgmag.com/stories/6034)
After a moment, the front door to the office opened, and in walked Mrs. Wright. If Dru had not known better, he would have thought that being a member of the undead was hereditary. The woman who entered the office looked as if she’d passed on long ago and only the sheer power of her will, or the sheer oddness of her clothing, was the only thing keeping her animated.
The skin on her face was both wrinkled and drawn, surrounded by a corona of white—almost blue-- hair which was arranged in a pattern that evinced no form of organization that Dru had ever encountered before. The paleness of her visage indicated that she was likely a skinny skeleton of a woman, but that was impossible to tell as her body was swathed in layer after layer of fabric: a great coat, a huge wool sweater, layers of shirts and scarves and an enormous patchwork skirt that covered her legs like a bell and swept the dust bunnies from the floor of Misty’s sitting room (The issue of cleaning the office had been somewhat of a power-struggle between Dru and Teri, trying to come to terms with a division of labor in the duties of the two junior members of the staff. The uncertainty had resulted in gross hygienic inactivity, which caused the office to be in such an advanced (even more so than usual) state of dismay. Neither one, it seemed, felt ownership of the cleaning duties, so the place hadn’t been tidied in a month. Misty, of course, would never think of doing that sort of thing herself).
What was in sight, though, was a woman with long, curly red hair, standing casually next to a hunk of moon rock, trying to avoid idle chatter with one of the wealthiest computer moguls in Washington, DC. If Dru had learned anything in the past few months it was that chatter-- idle or otherwise-- was not a favorite pastime of this woman. The grey-haired businessman’s navy blue, pin-striped suit and power tie contrasted sharply with his reluctant companion’s attire. She was clad, rather inappropriately for the occasion, of course, in black boots, blue jeans, a white blouse and a silver and black polka-dotted vest. Though she stuck out like an Elvis impersonator at a Star Trek convention, Misty Johnson, Supernatural Dick, had apparently ingratiated herself into the high-society affair far easier than one would expect, especially for someone with the social skills of a surly cockroach.
It was in this brief pause for observation and introspection, this small respite in the hectic night of catering and investigating, this one tiny rest amidst the chaos, that everything suddenly and inevitably went haywire. That was the nature of the work. Take a moment to look around and soak in the surroundings, and matters inevitably went from worse to unbelievably worse.
This time, though, it caught Dru Chance, investigator turned waiter, completely by surprise. It all started with the tearing of cloth and a braying at the moon, and it gathered sinister momentum from there…
This adversary was faster and stronger than most creatures I had encountered over the centuries. He was a whirl of motion, using twin swords as a wall of razor-sharp metal, slowly drawing near. It was time to make my move.
I backed up. And backed up. Then I backed up some more. The Hunter moved slowly but surely toward me, his blades whirring faster and faster. My booted heels reached the edge of the cliff. I could back up no farther.
The Hunter was taciturn, not uttering a single word. He had destroyed several of my colleagues with little effort and less fanfare, taking care of his business with alacrity and ruthless efficiency. Now he was moving in on me.
I’m no slouch when it comes to combat reflexes. My body has gone through many changes through the centuries, but my instincts and muscle memory had been infused with reflexes that would allow me to react with nary a thought. Those reflexes kicked in. My eyes interpreted the speed and pattern of the whirring blades and, outside of conscious thought, my hand shot out and grabbed one of the swords in mid-path.It hurt, I can tell you that much.
The slowness of business was, in that line of work, both a blessing and a curse. As much as I hate the conventions of society, when I choose to live within them, I do follow the rules, so no I would not simply conjure money. I needed to earn it in a more conventional fashion.
I had everything: a dimly lit office in the slightly shady part of town, a shingle hanging outside the second story window, slightly askew, advertising my services as a Supernatural Dick. The only missing touch was a throaty-voiced assistant manning a second-hand desk in the cramped waiting room, acting as liaison between the outside world and my own downtrodden self. But I worked alone. Period. I certainly did not work with normal humans. They were fragile and clueless and only got in the way. Of course, I’d discovered that many in the supernatural realm were unable to keep pace with me and the dangers that seemed attracted to me as if by some sort of magnetic force.
So I was alone in my office when She came in, every inch the cliché of the femme fatale. Ruby red lips peeked from under the black veil that hung below a black pillbox hat. Her black dress clung to her shapely figure, silk-sheathed legs stretching for miles. Perhaps she’d expected a male dick behind the desk, and had primped for the occasion, hoping to use whatever charms she felt she possessed to bend him to her will. Instead, of course, she found me, and lot more than she bargained for.
“Is the detective in?” she asked, her voice halting and quavering, with more than a dash of practiced paranoia, I suspected.
“You’re looking at one,” I replied, in the cool, clipped manner to which I had grown accustomed after two years in virtual solitude.
She looked me over with critical eyes, obscured as they were by the veil. Perhaps I didn’t fit her preconceptions of a private dick. My feet were up on my desk, clad in a pair of moccasins I had crafted myself during my time on the island. They were unconventional as far as contemporary footwear went, but were ever so comfortable. When you have lived as long as I have, you come to value comfort in footwear above almost anything else. My desk was cluttered, mostly with newspapers, as I had been trying to catch up on world events as best I could. I read of little more than economic collapse, both here and abroad, and, perhaps, the occasional baseball score. The St. Louis Browns, a team I had taken a liking to, were not having a good run of things, it seemed.
I saw that her gaze followed the length of my legs, which were clad in an ill-fitting men’s suit, to my torso, sheathed in a long, gray trench coat. It was a useful garment, as it had copious pockets and was roomy enough to allow for convenient obfuscation, both of my own body as well as other useful items. It was, though, a garment not commonly worn inside one’s own office. I was never much affected by temperature, and certainly never influenced by fashion trends, so I wore it day and night. It was much simpler that way.
Her examination of me ceased as her gaze reached my head. I wore a snappy gray fedora, and my long, curly red hair cascaded from it, a waterfall of copper. It framed my face, perhaps a bit paler and more delicate than she expected. Had she looked closely at my green eyes, though, she would certainly have seen a startling depth of experience and history glaring back at her.
But, to her credit, the red-lipped woman hesitated only briefly before catching herself and continuing. “You are…”
“The Supernatural Dick. Yes.” I completed her sentence for her. It seemed the least I could do. “And you are looking to hire me.”
“What do we do now, Misty?” He asked, roughly tossing the skinny young man in the back of the vehicle next to Dru and hopping into the driver’s seat. Misty was already settled into shotgun and was buckling her seat belt. Thomas turned the ignition and spun the vehicle around on the gravel, knowing only that he wished to be somewhere other than in the presence of the flaming monster. He tried to keep the jeep as steady as he possibly could on the rough terrain. Thomas was well acquainted enough with Misty to know that she had no love for cars under normal circumstances, never mind a life-or-death chase with a—
He whipped his head toward Misty. “What is that thing, anyway?”
“Head for the bridge,” came the response from Jonas. “Those things are always exactly like they are in the book.”
Dru filled in the rest. “And all Ichabod had to do to get away from the Headless Horseman was to cross the bridge.”
“But that’s just a—”
“It’s why they call him the Author, Dom. Now go! Closest bridge.”
By now, Dom had enough experience with the world of the supernatural to have learned a thing or two. He’d witnessed vampires mauling unsuspecting tourists who wandered too deep into the wilds of Southeast Washington. He’d encountered criminals who turned into clay men when smashed on the back of the head. And he knew a mystically-connected detective who must have somehow cast a protection spell upon herself to thus far elude his romantic charms. But even the murders of Reiser and Byrd had not prepared him for this—a being who could summon monsters from literature itself. Thomas suddenly wished he’d paid more attention in his one lit class in college, rather than staring at the curvy brunette in the front row. He had paid attention in Driver’s Ed., though, and demonstrated those skills as he whipped the car into a sharp turn toward Boulder Bridge…
…which they were within shouting distance of, as a fiery explosion erupted a few feet away in their tire tracks.
“Did he throw his head at us? Or was that a pumpkin bomb? Is he the Headless Horseman or the Green Goblin?” Dru was straining to see out the back of the vehicle, cursing Thomas for putting the top up and obscuring their line of sight. In a panic, he was tossing off rapid-fire questions to anyone who would listen.
“A little of both, I think.” The tired voice came from the passenger strapped in next to Dru. “The Author cannot create, but he can combine. And he had Jonny’s comic book collection in his possession for a while. It really fascinated him.”
Now it was Thomas’ turn to be concerned as he looked in the rearview mirror and saw that the galloping ghoul was gaining on them. “So he’s got a Goblin Glider engine in there, too?” At this, Misty shot him a dirty look. “What? I can’t go to the movies?”
“No,” replied Jonas. “That’s in the original story. That monster would be catching up with us as we approach the bridge no matter how fast we were travelling.”
“But in the original story, he didn’t have unlimited—look out!” Dru’s warning came too late, as the glowing pumpkin arced over the top of the vehicle and landed square in their path. The flaming fruit exploded just as the car passed over it, flinging the vehicle up into the air, where it made one full rotation with a twist and landed on its side. Fortunately, all passengers were wearing their seat belts.
Last week I posted some pics from the Misty Johnson Reality Tour that lined up with Chapter 44, "The Solitude".
Here, then, is an excerpt from that chapter. All week, I'll post excerpts from book one, Capitol Hell. Book 2, National Maul, will be available soon. And, if things work out, there should be another Misty short story out in the meantime, too!
But the world around him, at least at this moment, was…what was that term that Lenny had invented? Ah, yes. ‘Baby Bear.’ When something is just right, neither too much of one thing, nor too much of another. The landlord used the expression constantly—assuming that everyone knew the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”—but the nascent slang term usually netted him nothing but blank stares. Either way, Dru admired the man for trying to make his mark on the English language, futile as it was. He also wondered idly if the Author knew the story of the three bears, and if he should convince Misty to pack instant oatmeal and inflatable furniture in her vest of tricks.
Dru turned south on 23rd street, guided by the brightly shining beacon of the Lincoln Memorial, one of most beloved, beautiful and best-known landmarks in all of Washington DC. Walking through the Foggy Bottom neighborhood at this time of day was one of the best perks of living in the nation’s capital, which was far more interesting than most residents acknowledged. He thought of the District as home even before thinking of his childhood dwelling in Connecticut. After spending most of his life in the bustling suburbs of the Nutmeg State, he’d taken to Washington like he was born here. He briefly turned his head to look back at GW hospital, which was housed in a new building, one block away from where it had stood when President Reagan had been treated for his gunshot wound. He turned back to his walk, inwardly smiling at his ability to recall such inane trivia on command. At least it was good at parties (or would be, he presumed, if he ever got invited to one).
He continued down the street, which at this hour was virtually deserted except for the occasional taxi or indigent college student. Washington was a city of commuters, and most neighborhoods shut down after the 5 pm exodus, making much of the city a ghost town until the 6am rush started bringing the streets back to life. Being alone in the city so early in the morning should have given him pause but here, outside the State Department, he always felt safe from would-be muggers or murderers. He passed that building now, noting the lights still blazing in many offices, headed toward honest Abe, and once again he wondered just how much the government knew. How much of this supernatural nonsense were the politicians and the grunts aware of? And did they have containment policies, or contingency plans or… was Area 51 really all about vampires instead of aliens?
He shrugged those thoughts off as he knew he must for sanity’s sake and continued down the block. He needed to clear his mind, and perseverating on any supernatural topic would be counterproductive. Dru wasn’t even sure that the sting operation at the Capitol would be worthwhile. Misty wanted to get a few minutes alone with Caitlin Briggs, but Dru felt that isolating herself with their enemy would put Misty in danger and jeopardize the entire operation. But he knew better than to argue with her about such matters, and could only wait until the cards were on the table to see if his concerns were warranted.
For now, though, he was fervent in his mission to visit the statue of a man that he found just as fascinating and as important as Lincoln, a man whose memorial did not reside in an enormous marble temple, but rather a modest grove set off from the street. He was here to see Einstein.
In front of the National Academy of Sciences on the corner of 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue was a small but elegant tribute to one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century in the realms of science, wisdom, and humor. Nestled inside a grove of trees was a granite platform on which sat an enormous bronze statue of the man himself just… hanging out, reading. The floor of the dais showed the positions of the stars in the sky the day he was born, and Dru now approached the exact center of that star field to gaze upon ‘Uncle Al.’
“Hello, Doctor. It’s me again, Dru Chance—well, Druid Chance, formally, but I don’t like my full first name all that much, truth be told. I hope you’re well.” Standing on this exact spot caused Dru’s voice to echo directly back into his ears—an interesting and enjoyable Easter Egg feature of the memorial. Most people didn’t bother to learn about this little trick, they just wanted to sit on Al’s lap and get a picture. The echo almost made him feel as if the man himself was speaking to Dru from beyond—almost. “I know you’re quite a busy man, sir, even now, but I wanted to talk to you about what’s been happening, and to ask your advice. If you have the time, sir, I’d like to tell you the whole story.”
And he did have time, and the story was told. And afterward, as Dru headed back up 23rd Street, still in the grip of insomnia but lighter of the mind, it began to rain.
Without a doubt the coolest gift I've ever received! Plus, the doorway charm GLOWS IN THE DARK.
There have been a lot of instances in movie history where similar-themed flicks have come out around the
same time: two animated bug movies, two volcano or asteroid movies, or two Snow White flicks. And there are certainly movies that have similar titles that could be confusing to the average moviegoer (like Howard the Duck and Howard’s End or Angels in the Outfield and Angels in America). Heck, we won’t even get into the problems with porno parodies (you want Forrest Gump but got Forrest Hump. You were looking for Pulp Fiction but got a little Pulp Friction). But it’s even worse when there are movies out there with the EXACT SAME titles that are very different from one another. These are the movies that make us check the cover images VERY carefully when we’re making our selections from our on-demand vendor of choice. And be warned, these are not even crappy remakes of old flicks (I am looking at you Stepford Wives!). They are just traps on the road to movie enjoyment.
7) Jack Frost/Jack Frost
You want a cute (if slightly creepy) story about a loving dad who dies and comes back to life as a snowman to make his son's life happy? Too bad. You got a creepy (intentionally, this time) story of a serial killer who dies and comes back to life as a snowman. To kill people and stuff.
A father, who can't keep his promises, dies in a car accident. One year later, he returns as a snowman, who has the final chance to put things right with his son before he is gone forever.
A serial killer dies, comes back as a snowman, and wreaks havoc.
6) Fair Game/Fair Game
You want a gripping, ripped-from-the-headlines tale of real-life spycraft and betrayal starring Oscar Winner Sean Penn and Oscar nominee Na
omi Watts. You get a crappy flick starring one of the “Other” Baldwin brothers (though thankfully not Stephen) best known for its nipple shots of th
at chick with the mole who used to host House of Style. Oh, and it was nominated for several prestigious Razzie awards.
“CIA operative Valerie Plame discovers her identity is allegedly leaked by the government as payback for an op-ed article her husband wrote criticizing the Bush administration.”
“Supermodel and sex symbol Cindy Crawford made her acting debut in this high-decibel thriller.”
You and your SO are in the mood for a musical starrin
g sexy Oscar winner Daniel Day Lewis and sexy Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren and Judi Dench (rawr). Instead, you end up with a post-apocalyptic rag doll cartoon. Really. How romantic.
“The new film Nine is a tricky thing to describe: It's a big-screen adaptation of a Tony Award-winning stage show, which was inspired by Federico Fellini's '60s movie 8 1/2 — which itself is based on a particular period in the iconic filmmaker's life.”
You are on an Alfred Hitchcock kick. You want a taut psychological thriller about betrayal and nuclear secrets with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Oops! Sorry, you’ve ended up with a tale of rap and an unraveling of the mystery of exactl
y what the B the I and the G stand for.
“The life and death story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), who came straight out of Brooklyn to take the world of rap music by storm.”
“A bored married couple is surprised to learn that they are both assassins hired by competing agencies to kill each other.”
“Further, the project provided cinema's Maste
r of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, with his one and only career opportunity to direct a light romantic comedy.”
“The S.H.I.E.L.D. agency brings together a team of superhumans to help save the Earth from annihilation by extraterrestrial invaders.”
“Unfortunately, this motion picture has been so badly mismanaged that it's hard to imagine anyone actually enjoying it (or, for that matter, understanding it).”
What you want:
Finally, it’s time for family movie night. You want a film that everyone can enjoy, from junior to grandpa. You are looking for a movie that has everything: critical acclaim, an Oscar, a giant hyperintelligent bird creature and talking dogs. Impossible to find, you say? Well I say thee nay!
You want Up, the whimsical tale of a squished old dude and a chubby kid who travel to, um, somewhere, and get into all kinds of whacky adventures. It’s hard for us to remember most of it, since we spent the better part of an hour wiping our eyes after the opening, silent montage made us cry like we were little fat kids who were made fun of for walking around in our scout uniforms all day.
What you got instead:
Also, there is a man in a gimp mask. And lots and lots of sex. And nudity. There may not be a flying house, but there are plenty of balloons, if you know what we mean (and if you don’t , look at the poster again for crying out loud. Heck, who are we kidding, you probably took one look at that poster and immediately tried to rent the darn thing yourself. We know your type).
We know what you’re thinking: “Does it, at least, have a gripping and thematically poignant plot which makes it artistic and worthwhile?” Wait, did you see the poster? Did you read the part where it has a gimp and a whole lotta sex?
Did we mention the part where an Adolph Hitler lookalike is killed by man-eating fish in a bathtub? No? Not exactly cutesy birds and talking dogs, but it’ll do for animal lovers.It does live up to its title. If it doesn’t get you Up it’ll get you Up in arms. Now, if our flying houses would only take us to where that lady is hanging out…
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