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Continuation of City of Souls I. The rules still apply.


Under the Weather

"...and it's going to be a doozy today! The low today will be somewhere in the mid-teens, and the high is in the upper twenties. I recommend that everyone stay inside and off the road, because there's gonna be about eight or nine inches of snow accumulating between today and tommorow.

Back to you John and Mary."

(cameras switch to John and Mary)

"Thank you, Don. In later news, today marks the 6 month anniversary of the death of Anna Marie Holly, who was killed in a hit and run accident. Police are still hoping to find the perp..."

Don Larsen was the best weatherman in town. Everybody knew it. The only problem was -so did he.

Everyone in the studio looked at Don as he stepped onto the studio floor. His face was wrought with anger. He was always angry.

"Dorothy! My coffee tastes like donkey puke! What did you do to it!" Don spat out through his pearly white teeth, "I said, half and half with THREE teaspoons of sugar! THREE! Not TWO, THREE! Are you so incompetent, you can't even make a lousy cup of coffee?"

"Sorry, sir. I will get you some more." Dorothy meekly replied.

"Don't bother. I bet a retarded baboon could make better coffee then you. I'm going to my office."

Don slammed the door behind him as he marched into his office. He sat down in his big, comfy office chair. He took a deep breathe and started looking up weather stats on his computer.

He knew it was there though. It was always there. In the corner of his room she sat, playing with her doll. Her black frilled dress covering her legs as she sat indian style on the floor. She looked up at him with her cold dark circled eyes. Fear struck over him. His body went numb and his mouth dry.

"You're not real! Get out! Leave me alone!" Don cried.

The little girl just smiled under black, stringy strands of hair.

"Why don't you just go away and let me live my life? Huh!?"

She disappeared. The office door opened. Dorothy looked in, "Mike needs you in the board room in five minutes."
"Tell Mike, I'll be there in six." Don said with confidence trying to keep his composure.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine! NOW GO!"
"Ok, ok!"

Don stumbled out of his chair. She was gone, but his face was still as white as a sheet. He found his footing and headed out the door.

As he entered the board room, he saw the faces of his colleagues; Gerald the fat cameraman, Mary the beautiful, chainsmoking lead newsanchor, producer Mike and many others who hated him for his egotistical tyranny. All staring at him. Staring at the yellow in his eyes and his sweaty hands.

Don swatted the air, "What do you want?! I'm tired and pissed off!"
"What the hell is wrong with you Don?" Mike exclaimed, "You're acting like a schizo! Dorothy told me you were screaming at something before she entered your office a while ago!"

"LEAVE ME ALONE!!! I don't need you! I don't need any of you! I'm the.....I'm the-"

Then she appeared again. In the corner of the room. Her eyes looked straight at him in fury and distain. She then smiled at him, showing all her black and yellow teeth.

"No, NO!!! Go away!! It was an accident!! I was drunk!" Don then ran to the corner of the room and started kicking the air. His co-workers stared in awe and the pure insanity of their lead meteorologist.

"Don!! Snap out of it!" Mike screamed, "You need help. We can help you!"

Don look at Mike in agony, "No one can help me. She will never leave me alone." Don then opened a window and hurled himself out. His body hit a taxi ten stories below.


The police came in for questioning. Detective Lutz asked Mike how it happened. Mike told him. "I just don't understand why. He kept screaming at something invisible saying, 'Go away! Go away! I was drunk' and 'It was an accident' and then he jumped out the window.

Another officer came up to Lutz , "Sir we just found this in Mr. Larsen's car sir." It was red gift box. The detective opened it up. Inside was a tattered rag doll.

"Oh my God!" Lutz exclaimed, "It can't be!"
Lutz checked the back of the doll to be sure. "It is."
"What is it?" Mike said.

Lutz sighed. "About six months ago a five year old girl was killed in a hit and run accident. Their were no witnesses and the perpatrator was never caught. All we knew was that this...rag doll, was taken from the scene. Now we know...now we know."

<--back

Winter, Sex, Spring
After a cold night in a motel she was ready. She called him at work, the only number she had to go on. He seemed surprised and a little timid. He suggested a walk.

They met in a park by the riverside, walked along the quay overlooking the small boat harbour, talked only safe stuff, memories, easy laughs. When she slipped a bit on some ice he took her arm, didn’t let go. She liked that.

He took her to a café, was going to take her to Sam’s but remembered it was no more. He was going to miss Sam. This was a latte and such place, not his usual choice. Valerie seemed to like it. She sipped a large latte and smiled at him.

-You know why I am here, don’t you? I haven’t given up hope for us.

He tried to think of something to say but only silence came.

-Show me where you live.

As they got to his apartment he felt nervous of letting anyone, especially her, into his private haven. He wondered if it was messy, not having given that much thought lately.

When she walked in, the whole place rang at her of male self-sufficiency. She almost felt pushed out, had to struggle with herself not to leave immediately.

-It’s nice here.

He could hear that ring false, wondered what was really going through her head.

-Heh, I like it.

They made love, and it was bad. They both had huge amounts of thought with them in bed. Valerie was full of wishes and hopes, trying to make it special so he would want her to stay with him, trying to be his dream girl again. Michael was fending her off, not being pulled back into that dream, but at the same time trying to be “nice”. He couldn’t just fuck her madly and throw her out, even though part of him wanted to.

And then he didn’t get up. And then he stayed with her, his arm around her.

-It will be spring soon. Spring is great here.

Dorothy closed the door of her studio apartment and sighed. It had been a long, long day, but the results had been...satisfying.

Dorothy crossed to the folding chair in the kitchenette to begin the long arduous process of prying her snow boots off. Her heavy coat, gloves, hat and scarf were lumped together on the table, covering her canvas bag containing her Tupperware lunch bowl, purse, and a dog-eared copy of The Thornbirds that she had picked up at the used book store. She began to tug at her left boot as her mind wandered to through the events of the day.

She could tell that her odious boss Don was beginning to crack yesterday, but was surprised when she saw him today. She had been lead to believe that things would have progressed much faster, but obviously despite his glaring character flaws, he was made of sterner stuff than she imagined.

Dorothy continued to pull on her boot as she visualized in her mind again how he had scrambled for the window, the haunted look in his eyes. She would never have imagined that he was responsible for the death of that little girl, but Mrs. Kortchek had said that the draught would make real his greatest fear, his greatest secret.

"Men, all men, have secrets, girl. But to have those secrets come to light, to see all that haunts you appear before your eyes, that is true hell," the old woman had said a week ago, when Dorothy had spoken to her in the backroom of the Suds and Spin down the block.

Her left boot finally came free in her hand, and Dorothy sat back for a moment to rest, holding the boot in her hand. She listened to the eerie silence of her little apartment, made all the more silent by the lack of ticking of the old grandfather clock that once had stood near the door.

Dorothy knew that the clock had been in her family for nearly four generations and had been considered priceless to her parents, but it had been the only thing she possessed that could possibly have brought the $5,000 that Mrs. Kortchek had demanded to give her the concoction. Dorothy had left Mrs. Kortchek and went straight to Olsen and Sons, a clock dealer down on Ambergast Street that Dorothy had visited on one of her seemingly endless errands for Don.

The errands were at an end now, Dorothy thought as she giggled to herself. She set down the left boot and began working on the right, thinking how eagerly Derek Olsen the shop keeper had been to buy the clock, when he learned its history. The men had arrived the next morning and the deal transacted: $7,500 for the clock and they carted it off. Dorothy had to wait until 2:30 when Mrs. Kortcheck arrived for her shift at the laundry to get the potion (because let's be honest, she thought, that is what it was). This made her late and got her chewed out by Don, who had called her a moron and told her that he guessed it was too much to expect her to be able to tell time. But she had put up with it, because she knew her revenge was at hand.

"Get him to drink this. Slip it into something he drinks and soon his worst fears will be a reality. No matter what it is. It will be Hell for him and he will welcome death." The old woman slipped the bottle into Dorothy's hands and smiled the smile of one who could empathize with the abuse that Dorothy had to endure at the hands of that pig.

Dorothy pulled her other boot free and laid it down beside its mate. She enjoyed the next couple of days as Don began to break down, as she saw the fear of a hunted man overtake him. She almost felt sorry for him earlier that day, but then he had lashed out at her and she had laced his coffee for what turned out to be the last time with the potion.

She had acted shocked and talked with the police. She had spoken with her co-workers and even managed tears at one point. But all the while she had been joyous, knowing that she would never have to listen to him beat her down and treat her like dirt again.

Dorothy dug under the pile of clothes and pulled out her canvas bag. Reaching into her bag and pulling out her purse, Dorothy rummaged around for a moment and found what she was looking for: a small glass vial.

Dorothy held it up to the light and a small smile played across her face as she looked at the remaining liquid in the vial. And a single thought played through her head:

Who needs the rest?

A Time of Discovery

Derek Olsen was concerned with time.

Obsessed was a better word. For 36 years, every part of Derek's life had revolved around the clock.

At 6:00 AM every morning, Derek's alarm clock went off. He took a shower at 6:05 which lasted for exactly five minutes. The toaster in Derek's apartment took precisely one minute and 17 seconds to make his breakfast, and the elevator ride to the ground floor, which lasted 45 seconds, allowed Derek to head to work at 6:23 sharp.

Depending on traffic, the commute to the Olsen and Sons Clock and Watch Shop took between 22 and 33 minutes. Derek hated the traffic. The unpredictability of his drive upset him very much. However, he was always able to open the shop at 7:30 every single morning.

On this particular day, Derek had to repair an antique Swiss cuckoo clock. In Derek's opinion, repairing clocks was preferable to selling them. Derek had discovered in high school that he had a special talent at making and repairing clocks, and it gave Derek great pleasure to enable others to keep track of time in their lives. The particular clock he was repairing had been left by one of his regular clients, Edith Carlisle. Edith was an elderly woman living alone in the north of the city. Like Derek, Edith owned a lot of clocks. It seemed to Derek that she was always coming in with "an adorable little clock" that she had purchased at a yard sale or some other such place. Derek looked forward to these visits; it gave him great joy to see another person take such an interest in time.

Today the problem was easy. Several of the gears inside had slipped out of line, preventing the hands from turning on their own. After fifteen minutes and 52 seconds of work, Derek found himself with nothing to do. No other clocks were waiting to be repaired, and with the weather as bad as it was, it was unlikely that any customers would arrive. Perhaps somebody might come in hoping to sell a clock. Derek loved buying clocks. He had picked up a lovely grandfather clockfrom a young woman desperate for cash just three days before. The age of the clock was remarkable to Derek. It seemed almost divine that an object so old could still keep near-perfect time.

Derek knew that he could easily close up and go home, and nobody would blame him for it. However, Derek was scheduled to close at 5:00 PM, and the idea of breaking his routine was abhorrent. He decided to clean up the shop. This job had been neglected for quite some time. Gears and cogs were everywhere, and spare tools could be found lying around. Not wanting to waste any time, Derek started in immediately. After he finished, he checked his pocket watch. It read 12:39. In only six minutes, Derek would be able to go to lunch.

The pocket watch was silver, with the exception of the gold fob chain. The watch had been a gift from his grandfather, and over the years, it became the clock that Derek used as his reference. All clocks and watches entering his shop were set to whatever time was on the watch. Derek kept it wound, and it was never far from his person.

Lunchtime arrived, and Derek Olsen stepped outside. The roads were getting very icy. However, Derek's Jeep Grand Cherokee was the most efficient way to travel, so Derek started up the engine, turned on the defroster, and headed towards the Gleick Bridge, the smallest but most aesthetically-pleasing bridge in town. The Gleick was also the newest, having been constructed only three years ago. The ballot measure to construct a new bridge had started fierce debates before construction began. Many people, particularly Mayor Randall Birdseye, questioned the necessity for allocating funds to build yet another bridge in the city. Derek had voted for the bridge, figuring that more bridges would lead to less unpredictable traffic on his morning commute.

Derek drove over the Gleick, and after seven more minutes of driving, Derek arrived at Pablo's Restaurant. Pablo's was a very small Mexican restaurant, but the food was excellent, the waitresses were friendly, and the service was fast. The waitress, a young high-schooler named Rebecca, came over to Derek's table.

"What will it be, sir?" she asked him.

Derek replied, "Two tacos and an enchilada, please." He then looked at his pocket watch. Apparently the icy roads had slowed Derek down more than he had expected. "I suppose you better make that to go," Derek told Rebecca.

Rebecca was familiar with Derek's obsession with punctuality. "No problem, Mr. Olsen," she said. She rolled her eyes as she left, but Derek didn't catch it.

The food arrived on time, and Derek left Pablo's. He got into his car and turned the key. To Derek's horror, the Jeep did not start. The car was getting old, but this was the first time Derek could remember where it had just flat-out refused to work.

Derek got out of his car and lifted the hood. He had no idea what was wrong with the Jeep. Consulting his pocket watch, Derek unhappily resigned himself to the fact that he would be very late returning to the Clock and Watch Shop.

The squeal of brakes in the distance caused Derek to look up from his watch. A few streets down, in the direction of the Gleick, a large truck had lost its traction on the ice. It plowed into a green car in the other lane. Instantly the green car was crushed. Derek did some mental calculations and realized that if he had been on time, HIS car would have been hit.

Lateness had saved his life.

Derek Olsen, sickened by this realization, dropped his silver pocket watch. It shattered on the pavement below.

Derek didn't notice.

Suddenly, time didn't seem important anymore.

Escape

Michael's fury was so white hot, that he did not even feel the brick-oven heat of the pavement as he stormed out of the apartment. Another fight with Valerie, and more words thrown out than could ever be retrieved. "Thrown out", that's exactly what she warned she would do. He was thinking hard on what a bad idea: moving out of his own place and shacking up with this small town wannabe. He had been stressed enough over the catastrophe at the deli. When he felt so much rage that murder became an ally, then he knew it was time to book.

Valerie had become a sanctuary and a refuge just when his big plans to move up were ground to worm food during the 'downsizing' at his job. More than likely it was that sanctimonious secretary that had ratted him out. He was caught reading material that he was not supposed to be privy to; but he had naively thought his excuse of looking for one of the reports for someone else had worked its charm. He knew everybody else was making it on 'insider' info, why shouldn't he get some of the 'bennies' from a little 'industrial espionage.' Maybe he should go back and teach someone a lesson in corporate special ops warfare. But, Michael had always been aware of how unpleasant the legal system could be as recalcitrant, and this only internalized his vengeance.

As he approached his parked LeBaron convertible, the previous month's joy at zipping around town in his Ray-Bans and Valerie with her Thelma 'n Louise scarf became a despondent pit, whose abyss started right in the middle of his gut. Not having enough energy to do the hop-over into the seats, he slowly opened the doors, and slid into the leather like a wearied defeated man of forty years older, with thoughts turning to when he would have to sell his royal wheels. Desire had turned to despair, and he just wanted to go.....just go anywhere.....now.

Feeling like a thief and a cheat, though technically he was the auto's owner in lien with the bank, and officially he was not yet married, it propelled his being to reach escape velocity, and his special edition V-10 hemi could almost provide that. He stomped mercilessly on the pedal, causing the car to just chirp and fishtail causing trash to fly up into his back seat. It sounded more like a stomped chicken and looked like goat vomit, instead of a Hendrix-like wildcat cry and a blue-black plume of rubber incense that would have been the dramatic exit instead of contributing more to a pathetic and ludicrous laden tragedy.

Michael was fortunate enough to be one of those people when angry to not want to do anything fatally to himself that would cause others to gloat. So even if he was flying along the interstate well in excess of the posted speed limit, he had no intentions of crossing the yellow line, or playing stunt driver flipping over the guard rail, and then watching the world kaleidoscope until he woke up bleeding in a creek bed, or in an ER. He used to wonder what do you feel when a Mack truck head-ons you. Do you pass out immediately, or is there some horrible flash of intense pain for one's last moment of mortality? He wondered what it was like for Sam's last second of breath, too.

The hot wind kept all but his sweaty ass cool, and in habit, he reached for the radio controls, and after hearing a weather report that could have been a recording for nearly every early summer's day, 'Hot and humid with thirty percent chance of thunderstorms', except for the fact that Venus was gonna try to block the Sun, the news came on:

Today around 9:00 AM - Q'uarani time, a C-140 transport plane carrying Missionary, UN and Red Cross workers and some military units was shot down over the Al Aribe straits. No word on casualties, but it is believed not many if all could have survived this attack. More word on this will be brought to you as soon as it is available. Meanwhile in other news, the Typhoon Annie has killed over 2500 people on the island nation of Burundai, and aid has been promised.

Sentencing has begun in the case of Sergeant Williams, accused in the last incident of detainee abuse in the other compound at Ku'row. The Pentagon hopes that is has settled the last of the most devastating revelations to come its way since the War in Viet Nam.

European leaders have met today and have elected a new President of the Euro Union. Their first round of business was the passing of a stiff tariff on American goods. The president has promised to go to Congress to propose retaliatory legislation, though experts say it will jettison the country into an inflationary recession or worse in an economy that is still reeling from the Republic of China's drop in imports.

"Crap!" Michael yelled out loud while taking the northbound ramp. "I can't even have some good news to cheer me up. I'm sick of hearing about our guys over there getting killed -- talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Blow up every friggin' body, that's the answer, over there and including those idiots in Washington. And oh boy! now I might be able to look forward to working at Ricky Rat's Cheeseburger Drive-in -- if I'm lucky and first in line." He punctuated his soliloquy by pounding his fists on the steering wheel

Who are you talking to, Mike?

"Who the Hell was that?"

Hell might have everything to do with it.

Michael immediately turned around, and saw nobody in the rear seats, just as his rear view mirror had corroborated. He turned the radio off, and with no small amount of bewilderment kept driving to a place that could best be called nowhere.

Oh, sinner-man,
where you gonna run too?
Oh, on that Day.

When he heard singing with the radio off, and nobody with him, he then realized it was in his head. His thoughts had somehow split into two distinct personalities. His solo flight now included a navigator, or should it be called a tormentor.

Torment? You as captain of your own ship in this sea of troubles provides your own cruel slave-master. A voice of truth, reason, kindness, sympathy, grace, hope and love is what can bring you more than just balance, but rescue, wholeness and life.

"Nobody asked you. Why don't you think people can handle their own misery? And what about those people killed in the Tropics?"

Life is a tenuous thing, a gift; the world is in entropy. Why don't infants raise themselves?

Michael had to stop and think a minute before he blurted out to the open air that also slapped his hair about his forehead, "But, I'm an adult. I didn't ask to be put on this planet. I didn't cause any of these sad and horrific events!"

Yes, but what did you do in the place where you've found yourself to cast back the gloom of ignorance and selfishness? Go back now, and marry and love and stay with Valerie. Push back the darkness one candle of compassion at a time. Worry only hurts you and others. Leave vengeance to the Father in Heaven. Forgiveness covers it all. The Son of Man forgave all with innocent blood spilled one time for all time, now you go and take that, starting with the woman who loves you, needs you --and do your part with faith.

Michael, as he prepared to take the next exit to do a turnabout, felt the tears in his eyes, but they weren't of rage, or of sadness, but of joy. An inexplicable peace coming from deep within washed his soul. He didn't even care to put the top up as the first drops of the coming thunder-boomer let loose to cool the inferno. His father had taught him more than just how to have earthly survival skills, but planted far more important seeds, though small when first sown, have sprouted with the rains in the storms of existence.


"Men, all men, have secrets, girl. But to have those secrets come to light, to see all that haunts you appear before your eyes, that is true hell."

She'd made a career of knowing secrets.

Years ago, she had dodged bullets between worn plaster and ancient cobblestones, running the city's back byways like another hide-and-seek game with friends, only instead of Ricco and Marja there were angry curses and heavy boots, and papers stamped with a two-headed eagle grew damp with sweat and snow inside her shirt, while far behind a flannel-suited man slumped to the wall and breathed, once.

Seven years later - there is a painting of Artemis and Actaeon on the south wall of the upstairs room at Mme. Dominique's, and behind that are three holes - shoulder, ear, forehead - and the bed today is still the same wrought iron and white lace on which she had dropped the gun and sat, dazed, in borrowed ill-fitting lingerie, holding more stamped (and now) red-spattered papers, watching sunrise over the seven bridges and the river turning to gold.

When her grandmother died, she found left to her a heavy morocco-covered book, and the knowledge that other truths exist. She read and decided she'd had enough of histories and intrigues and traditions; she took a train oceanward and tried not to look back.

Running the laundry is quiet and stable. There are no rough-cobbled pavements, no knockings at night, no weeks of living off ever-more watered soup. Alvarez drops off a spare uniform, smiling thanks, and she sees faint greasy red traces on the collar.

The door opens, and a young woman with mouse-brown hair walks in and straight to the counter, eyes angry.

This is no longer the age of her grandmother's superstitions, but so long as words exist to name them the old kobolds and demons and erinnyes may still wreak Jungian havoc on the human mind. Belief is a stronger power than most people acknowledge.

Her price is not money, but the sacrifice one is willing to make. Down the street two days later Dorothy stumbles out from Olsen's clutching a stack of bills in one hand and wiping at her eyes with the other, and Sonia Kortchek hurries away from the display window and adds a final ingredient to the beaker in the back room.

Secrets to be kept. Secrets to be sold. The truth is now a weapon, no longer an end in itself.

She sits in the back room of the Suds and Spin watching Dorothy's back disappear through the rectangle of light in the doorway, knowing what she has unleashed. This is my legacy, she thinks, and the year's last blizzard begins to fall.

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