previous: Charmanderchar1692 ch9
After a few episodes of a local news/infomercial channel, the pizza arrived. It was then I realized I had no money and Henry had still not come out of the bathroom. “Henry?” I knocked on the door, there was no answer. “Henry, it’s Charli, are you ok?” Why did I assume he was in there?
I did the next best thing and tried to turn the knob. If the door was locked, our situation was possibly much worst than anticipated. Thankfully the knob did turn. I opened the door to reveal a care package; cash, the credit card, and a pack of cigarettes. On the mirror was a message written in Chapstick. ‘Have fun, but be ready.’ I touched the sticky waxy letters. What did that even mean?
After paying for the food, Claire and I settled in for the night. We shared a shower, drying off with towels before going to bed. (All without ever seeing Henry again.) The bed felt so nice, I almost forgot about the fact I was sleeping next to a con-artist.
I awoke the next morning to the television turning on all on its own. “Hello?” I asked, through hazy eyes, assuming it must have been Henry.
My question was met by the sound of rushing water. On the screen was a live feed from one of the viewing platforms at the falls. I expected it was an automated alarm clock of some kind. I turned to the side, convincing myself that my new friend must have set the alarm. “Claire?”
My doppelganger was asleep on top of the blankets wearing just her sweat-stained bra and underwear. “What? I’m freaking tired, just let me sleep.”
“Look at the tv.”
“So?” she asked with a groan.
“I think that’s where we need to be.”
“We already are in Niagara Falls,” Claire said, whipping a towel in my direction.
“We’re in the city, not at the cliff face,” I added, pointing to the tv. Something told me, this was not a normal view of the falls.
Suddenly the building started to shake. Before either of us could speak, there was a massive explosion beneath us, this was followed by a series of metallic hands reaching through. I pulled my legs to my chest but Claire was not as quick. She screamed more out of pain than fear, as the arms gripped her feet, pulling her downward through the newly made passage. And then they disappeared. Were they after Claire? Or were they just aiming for whoever was on that side of the bed?
I knew we were on the second floor, just above the parking garage. Someone was down there and I needed to find out who. I grabbed the credit card and was about to flee the room, when something caught my eye.
On the damaged tv screen, I could see a shot of the falls filled with reporters. They were all focused on a figure standing on the ledge. “Sir! Sir! Why are you doing this?” shouted several voices. The camera zoomed in closer, revealing the figure’s identity; Vice Paul, wearing black sweatpants and a grey hoodie.
He turned to the camera his face a portrait of both physical and emotional pain. “It’s time.” The actual sound of Vice’s voice was inaudible over the roar of the falls, so I did my best to read his lips. “Time for the angels to rise.” What the hell did that mean?
The tv cut out, as a chunk of ceiling collapsed. ‘Oh yeah, probably should be running.’ Unfortunately, I was still dressed like a superhero-pageant-space-hooker, but without my shoes, I made it out of the building, and begam to walk in the direction of the falls. With any luck I could catch a ride.
I was walking for about ten minutes when a car pulled up behind me. The green Honda was not one I recognized, but I quickly noticed the sun shimmering off the pair of iconic stickers; Uber, and Lyft. The door flew open and a familiar voice shouted in my direction. “Charli, get in!”
I recognized the voice as Alicia. For a moment I wondered why she wasn’t sticking her head out of the doorway. Was she being held hostage? Then I got a better look; the expression on the driver’s face told me everything I needed to know, and it likely involved a weapon being pressed to the driver’s neck.) Behind the wheel was an elderly woman with short hair dyed an unnatural color of red. Clearly, this was someone’s retired grandma just trying to make a few extra dollars.
I made sure to lock eyes with her, hopeful that she knew I meant her no harm.
She nodded in response, motioning with her eyes for me to enter the car.
I calmly got in, brushing myself off as I sat on the white leather seats. “Hi, Alicia,” I muttered, crossing my arms over my chest. I could see she was holding a large decorative gun to the driver’s head. That was fine by me since, in all honesty it looked fake. “Are we headed to the falls?”
“Of course,” Alicia replied cheerfully. She turned to the old woman, “Right?” When the driver took a few seconds too long, Alicia smacked her with the gun. “Isn’t that right Janet?”
“Yes,” she said as she pulled back onto the road. “Of course.”
When we were comfortably on the highway, Alicia leaned back, holding the gun in a slightly relaxed position. “After the loss of Vice’s mother, his father went a little Munchausen by proxy. He force fed his son a combination of drugs that left him bedridden until he was ten.”
How did she know? Was this information he told her in confidence? “What happened when he was ten?”
“Someone actually woke the fuck up and reported it to child welfare. Soon, the county wanted to know why the local pastor was keeping his chronically ill son out of school, but at the same time not sending him to a hospital. Long story short Vice got sent to foster care, but his poor underdeveloped mind was all kinds of fucked up.”
“You ladies talking about the crazy guy on the falls?” the driver asked. No sooner did the words leave her mouth when the air filled with what appeared to be human figures with metal angel wings.
The figures started to rain down like a pack of dive-bombing seagulls. They were spaced out like well-timed missiles, strategically punching holes in the surrounding area. “Are those things human?” I asked Alicia over the roar of the carnage.
She was looking out the window, mesmerized. “Cast one kept as pets, cast two steers the flock.” The lines seemed a bit too familiar, especially the sing-song tone she used to recite them.
“Alicia, what are you talking about?”
“Cast three plumes and pelts, cast four birds of song,” her words became slower, like a windup music box. “Cast five watching dogs, cast six preying beasts.” There was a long pause before she said the last line. “Cast seven: working horses.”
“That didn’t answer the question,” I muttered still focused on the reign of terror. Now was not the time to hold a conversation.
Alicia lowered her weapon. “We need to run.”
I didn’t notice what direction Alicia ran, but I already knew I was planning on running in the direction of the attack (on my bare feet), and just hope to God, I would make it. I was surviving on adrenaline alone, running, ducking, until I locked eyes with one of the angels. These were cast seven, creatures who only existed for one purpose.
The doll-like figure dived straight at me, grabbing me by one arm. I screamed in pain, since it felt like my shoulder was being ripped apart. Thankfully, instead of dropping me or otherwise punishing me for my weakness, the creature grabbed my other arm, adjusting its grasp.
In this slightly more comfortable position, we flew over a wall of fire, landing in an area just beyond the parking lot of the viewing platform where Vice was sitting cross-legged on a ledge. He actually seemed at peace.
The angel dropped me from about six feet up before flying off to rejoin its fellow suicide bombers. I landed hard on my arm. ‘That’s going to leave a mark.’ I dusted gravel off my arm as I struggled to my feet. “Vice?”
He stood up at almost the same speed as I did, except instead of limping in pain he was carefully moving his hand in a semicircle. A single helicopter flew overhead. It was clearly a news vehicle not a police attack. This was likely why VP was holding it at bay but not allowing it to be destroyed. He wanted his moment to be documented.
“Hi, Vice,” I said in my best customer service voice; anger, and depression under a candy coating of fake confidence. I swallowed hard, blinking tears from my eyes. I knew I needed to speak loudly and clearly, but it was all I could do not to vomit. “Lovely day today, how are you?”
“How am I?” he repeated with a chuckle.
“Are you doing, okay?”
Vice looked at me with a coy smile. “Soda kills you and Jesus saves, on the bathroom door where I saw your name.”
“I don’t think that’s the correct lyric.”
“You’re a Gavin Degraw fan?” Vice asked, speaking as if we were friends chatting at the local bar.
“What are you doing?”
Vice sighed, shaking his head as he closed his eyes for a long contemplative blink. “Where is he? I just want to talk to him.”
“Gavin Degraw?” No, of course not, you idiot. “You mean, Henry.”
“Yes, Henry,” he said with a chuckle. Vice leaned his head back, comically slapping his forehead. “I never realized that son-of-a-bitch, first nation junkie had the ability to escape his digital prison!” Vince turned his head, screaming into the falls.
“I can’t really understand you when you’re not facing me,” I shouted back. It was partially the truth. I could clearly hear him, but I assumed that was him using some kind of audio shield. I was hopeful that if I was able to occupy his attention, I could prevent any further attacks from his seven-layer army.
Vice turned to face me. There were tears in his eyes, and he was struggling to stay upright. “You know, I was forced by the local police to have my daughter cremated.”
“The police in California?”
He nodded. “I had to agree to their terms otherwise, they wouldn’t release the body back to me.” His lips trembled as he spoke. “They gave all sorts of bullshit reasons, even accusing me of wanting to start my own investigation outside of their jurisdiction.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Vice started to laugh cupping his hand over his mouth. “I was a fool, the very definition of a gullible idiot. I played right into her hands.”
Was he talking about Claire? Did Claire steal Annaleigh’s body? Or did she fake her daughter’s death? “No, you’re not an idiot, you’re just a father who wanted to bring his little girl home.” My heart was breaking. Vice was just another victim. Even if he had a massive deadly army who was still blowing up the surrounding area.
“Aww, Charli, you’re too kind.”
Vice leaned forward cupping his hand over his left eye. “I want you to have this.”
“Have what?” I asked innocently, as if I couldn’t see what he was about to do.
I choked back the bile in my throat, as Vice sank his nails into his head. I had read about people tearing out their own eyes, (usually while on meth) but to see someone do it so easily was emotionally jarring. Perhaps Vice was on meth? I had no idea where he managed to sleep last night. Maybe he was high on every drug available in New Jersey.
The sound was a very audible crunch, followed by a squish. “Here.” Vice turned to me with a half-smile, and a handful of gore.
I did not want to touch him but I was sure that would result in irrational, possibly psychotic anger on his end. “I’m pretty sure I can’t reach you from here. You’re going to need to come back to this side of the fence. Please?”
“No,” he said with a disturbing level of calmness. “I’m waiting for her.”
“For Claire,” I said with a nod. She was the mentor, the actual face of God.
“When they find her, they’ll bring her to me.”
I had no doubt of that, but unfortunately it would not be quickly enough. I needed an actual plan. Instead, I managed to blurt out the first thing that came to my head. “How do you know I’m not Claire?” If I had an angel on my shoulder she’d be screaming, ‘What the fuck!’
“I know you’re not her,” he replied in a monotone.
This gave me a sliver of hope; part of him doubted his own perception, or perhaps even his sanity. So, I decided to roll the dice. “When you were a kid, you had pneumonia. That’s what your father told you while he was force feeding your drugs.”
Vice’s eyes became slits. “What did you say?”
I took a step closer, resting my leg against the safety barrier as I attempted to lean forward. Taking his hand in mine, I gripped the eyeball, it felt as if the blood covered mass held us together with a supernatural magnetic force. If he was to release his hold on the eyeball, I would likely send it flying down the cliff, at the sight of the blood. Plus, what the fuck was I supposed to do with an eyeball, cast it in resin and make a keychain? I was becoming more upset with each passing moment. “Are you going to give Alicia your legs?” I muttered. I didn’t intend for him to hear me, but judging by the look on his face, it was clear that he did.
“What good would that do?” the question seemed more then rhetorical.
“I don’t know, you’re the one offering me your eye. I mean I assume this is some kind of apology, right?”
There was a moment of awkward silence. It’s difficult to describe the pain of his innocent expression. He bit the inside of his mouth, contemplating the value and impact of his next words. “I’m nothing but a broken soul. That’s all I’ve ever been.”
I didn’t know if I was alone, or if help was arriving in the form of Henry, Claire or even maybe, the military. This was my choice, and mine alone.
With a burst of strength, I pulled him towards me, holding his limp body in my arms. Vice fell on top of me, pinning me to the ground under his weight. He appeared to have lost consciousness.
I started to scream, crying out in pain; my legs, my shoulder, even my chest felt tight, as I was truly about to die. My head was pounding, as my vision flicked with glowing colors; green, yellow, red, blue, red, blue. And then I heard the sirens.
A pair of police officers grabbed Vice’s body pulling him off of me by his arms. This is how I knew he wasn’t unconscious; his body refused to go limp, even in the face of the bright yellow Taser worn by the larger officer. They applied handcuffs, leg cuffs and an anti-spit restraining mask.
Looking up I could see dozens of angels falling from the sky like a flock of birds that just flew through a cloud of poison.
This included the two that had been carrying Claire’s nearly naked body. The first one fell forward pulling her towards the cliff, while the other aimed its body at the nearest parked car. The action resulted in Claire falling only a few feet, landing comfortably on the roof of a mini-van. She easily got down from the ledge, by rolling to one side. The car wasn’t even dented. That was just how much of an ethereal being she was. “Great job,” she said as she cheerfully came to my side. “That freak will finally pay for his crimes.”
“You’re going to let Vice take the fall for everything?”
“Why wouldn’t I? None of this is my doing,” she said as she helped me to my feet.
“Actually, this is all your fault,” I muttered. “You’re not even going to talk to him?”
“No.” Instead she put her arm around my shoulder. “He took your eye, because he wanted to give you a replacement.
She turned her head, whispering the next part in my ear, “But pray tell, why did he cut out your sexual organs? Is it because he wanted to give you something? Or because he wanted you to be a living fuck doll for the rest of your life?”
That was when I punched her in the face. There was only one way she could have known that; Claire was his mentor, she taught him how to perform surgeries. I hit her again and again, until cops descended on me, putting me in cuffs and before I knew it, I was in the back of a squad car, watching from a tinted window as Claire disappeared into the crowd. ‘Great, just great.’ And now I was on my way to jail.
I closed my eyes, leaning my head against the window. The cops could think of me as a drug addict for all I cared. After a nice, calm ride, I awoke to the feeling of multiple hands grabbing me. I was forcibly walked into the station where I had to go through the process; fingerprints, photos in front of the height chart, etc. That was when I saw Vice. He was in a room by himself. Sitting on the floor with his legs pulled to his chest, he appeared to be asleep.
I turned to the officer since the individual was a tall, imposing male tasked with ushering me from space to space, I thought I’d attempt a sympathy-insanity plea. “Can I speak to my husband?”
“Your husband?” he asked since he had not been the officer who’d processed me.
‘Make yourself cry; you can do this, it’s just acting.’ I allowed my knees to go limp, causing me to fall to the floor. I knew I had to commit one hundred percent even if that meant hitting my head. Allowing myself to fall naturally, I slammed headfirst into a row of chairs. I screamed for Vice, Vincent, the love of my life. Soon it was enough to get put in the same room as him, this required me to be cuffed to the floor, the same as Vice was.
He looked up at me. Vice’s empty eye socket had been packed with gauze and he appeared to be high on pain medication. “Do you want to know the story of the seven?”
“There’s a story?”
“Did you think I made it up?”
“I guess not,” I said with a sigh. “I’m just not an uber-Christian.”
Vice chuckled, hiding his smile behind his crossed arms.
“What’s so funny?”
“Uber-Christian; sounds like a church sponsored ride-share service.” He rolled his neck, stretching his back. “What were we talking about?”
“You were going to tell me about the seven castes.”
Vice nodded, taking soft breaths as he spoke. “My papa had a bullet in his neck. It went straight through. I can remember the blood, the chunks, I even saw the remains of his blue eyes, just hanging there.”
“You killed your father?”
“No, he killed himself, with his special gun. It was a handcrafted piece of shit, with gold inlay.” He blinked back bloody tears from his good eye, “but I didn’t cry. This was what had to be done. Cast one kept as pets, cast two steers the flock; this is why lovers will murder their children before leaving an abusive ex.”
“And what are you?”
“To my father I was nothing more than a fifth cast.
“Working dogs?” Needless to say, that wasn’t my first guess.
“That’s what he always told me; I was his soldier, his warrior. I ran errands for him, ever since I was a kid, otherwise my sorry ass would be damned to Hell.”
“That’s why you left home, to find what God had planned for you.” I knew we were being recorded.
“When I went to bed, he had a fever. he was crying, screaming, but papa told me, no matter what I heard to never go in his room. There was a monster in there, an evil man who made papa do bad things. I always assumed he just wanted to be alone with my mother’s personal belongings and such.” His voice slipped into a southern accent.
“You mean the ring?” Vice had killed his father to take possession of his mother’s ring. And that same ring got stolen by the red-haired con-woman who became his wife.
“I knew I’d find the woman worthy of that ring. The rest I just sold for spending money.”
“What are you to Claire? Cast one, kept as pets?”
“When she wanted me to be. I’d consider myself more of a third cast.”
“Plumes and pelts?”
“The kind of creature you keep around just to mess with them.”
“I would think a merciful God would keep those people around for their beauty.”
Vice shook his head, looking at me as if I had said the dumbest thing he’s ever heard. “You know what a pelt is, right?”
“Yes, I see your point.” Claire loved him the way a hunter loved a bear skin rug or a taxidermy bird.
“Do you need anything?”
“I need you to find Henry, maybe if you have time, you can get me my mother’s ring.”
“I guess that’s if I get a bond hearing.”
“You’re more likely to then I am.”
“Are they sending you to a hospital?”
“As far as I know.” There was a moment of silence.
The door flew open and the officer who had actually spoken to me entered with two larger men. “I don’t know who put you in here, but you’re going into lock-up to await your bail hearing.”
I was unlocked from the floor and then taken to a place full of bunk beds. They took my pretty space dress along with the rest of my personal items. I was issued an orange jumpsuit, pillow and blanket. The next day would be my virtual appointment with the judge to hopefully set bail. Not that I had anyone to call. I just had to hope that Henry was coming to my rescue.
“Inmate 06456!” the call went out over the PA system. It was after midnight and most people were trying to sleep. “Inmate 06456 please report to the main desk!”
‘What the fuck was she even talking about?’ I rolled onto my side, catching sight of my nametag. “Crap.” How was I supposed to know my inmate number?
I got out of bed, leaving my pillow and blanket behind. In the distance I could see a light, there was a female officer sitting behind a desk. She motioned her hand. as I got closer, I could see the annoyance in her eyes. “How about I just tell your cousin to come back tomorrow?”
“Just sign here.”
I sighed and received my bag of belongings. “Can I go change?”
“No, you can keep the uniform or send it back at your leisure. Your cousin already knows that if you do not you will receive a bill from the county in thirty days.”
“Okay thanks, I guess.” Waiting in the hallway was Claire. She was wearing a suit dress, looking like a high school principal who never left her house without a full face of makeup.
“Hello, my dear Charlotte.”
“What do you want?”
“To give you a ride home. I’m sure you miss your apartment in Canada; sleeping in your own bed, looking out your own windows or any windows at all?” She was holding my hand as we walked to the parking lot.
“You want me to just forget about everything that happened?”
“I can’t force you to do anything, but you can do more from the opposite side of the border than from inside a jail.”
I hated to admit it, but she was right.
next: Charmanderchar ch11