One of the down sides of being employed by the dark forces of the Celestial Republic was that the modern age of pagers and cell phones had not impacted the Heaven’s society as it had the mortal realm. If Club’s mind had been less damaged by years of hedonistic indulgences, he may had been able to have the option of being given the power of telepathy for conversing with the bureaucracy, but as it was, he had to do it old school: blood sacrifice. The existence of the Celestial Republic was based on the mortal schemata of faith. Faith is formed by synaptic electrical impulses in the brain. A percentage of that charge is imbued into the blood that circulates in the brain, which then makes its way back to the heart to be discharged throughout other parts of the body. All beings have faith, though man only attributes their ‘higher’ functioning to call it that; for all other beasts on the Earth, scientists have termed it “survival instincts”, but is not taking a specific action in hopes of living to see the moment after the next the very essence of faith? In the case of blood sacrifices, the naturally created faith that flows throughout a creature’s body is circumvented by a mystical instrument that creates a bypass for the wielder of the mystical instrument to exert their faith in connecting to the Heavens with the already open line that the sacrifice unconsciously always has on line. The wielder of the mystical instrument then can communicate with the being of his or her choosing, and depending if that being is not screening their calls, for as long as the blood flows from the beating heart of the sacrifice; once the heart stops, the flow of faith from the synaptic nerve cells stops and the call ends.
Club, with no other options available, drove the dagger into his leg. He bit his bottom lip to stop himself from screaming and waited for his blood to begin to well and flow around the hilt of the dagger. It did not take long, he had sank it deep enough into the side of his calf that he had cut through several veins; less than five seconds had passed when the hilt began to glow: a connection had been made. Through gritted teeth he summoned the information spirits to send him a vision of the location of the errant Takitawah. Once he saw the Takitawah sitting on the chest of a black haired young man, the image pulled back to show the apartment complex, then farther back and zoomed around until it came to a large sign with “Welcome to Canmore” on it.
Gotcha, Club thought as he smiled and then he pulled the dagger out of his leg, severing the connections with the Heavens. He quickly took out a roll of electrical tape he had in his grey duster and wrapped it around the entry point and put away his dagger. If he had felt happy about locating the Takitawah, it quickly left him. How the hell was he supposed to get from Red Deer to Canmore quick enough? In a car it would take a good two hours, more than enough time for the Takitawah to change location and be lost once more and perhaps to gain even more power than what Club estimated he already had. Then he remembered: when the fairy had shot off in a huff, she had sprayed a good portion of pixie dust over him: he could fly there! Problem solved…with a new problem presenting itself, how did he get the pixie dust to work? He tried to recall the only time he had seen any information on the usage of pixie dust, a movie based on the actual events of the fairy that that delivered the message – the early years, of course.
Happy thoughts! Club patted himself on the back for the recall. All he had to do was think happy thoughts and off into the wild blue yonder he would go. He closed his eyes and began to visualize what would make him happy.
“Come on Jann, oh yeah, Jann, come to me, baby,” Jared mumbled as he imagined Jann Arden in fishnet stockings, black leather crotch-less panties, and a bra made of peanut butter holding in one hand a bottle of scotch and the other a pack of cigarettes as she blew kisses at him. He opened one eye slightly, trying to displace his happy vision as little as possible, and then frowned. While it appeared that one part of his body had risen, his feet were still quite firmly on the ground. It wasn’t working; he needed to think of something else. Club rolled his eyes as his mind kept up coming up with a single option. He took a deep breath and flicked his left wrist back sharply. He drove the dagger deep into his other leg.
“Jared Club requesting an emergency teleportation,” Club cried up to the swirling dark clouds above.
There was a twinkle in the cloud directly above him that turned into a shaft of light that rushed down upon the bounty hunter. Ten seconds later a cloud formed over the apartment complex that Nikki Colter lived in though she didn’t see it, nor did she see a shaft of light fire down from the middle of the cloud and deposit a man in a fedora and duster with a dagger sticking out of his leg right outside her screen door though if she had been looking up instead at Tacky and the dead teen she would have thought that the sight was downright odd.
Club did not bother to sheath the dagger when he pulled it out but ran directly to the shut glass door, punching the dagger’s blade where he estimated the lock mechanism was. There was a click, and Club was in the living room of Nikki Colter’s apartment five seconds after he had been brought. He did a quick visual of the layout of the room; he couldn’t identify the sound he heard that was quickly rising in volume but he sensed it was not the cast of “Glee” doing an ode to African tribal song. He did see a woman, who he assumed was the Takitawah’s unknowing owner, sitting against the wide part of a dividing wall looking into another room cut off from Club’s view.
“T-tacky?” the woman, with large gashes on her forearms, forehead and breasts said with uncertainty.
Tacky? Close enough to Takitawah. Club sped past the woman into the kitchen – he’d check on her in a moment, but right now his main concern was getting the Takitawah to cease its sonic howl before it did some serious damage. He was too late.
Club spotted a small lap dog atop a teen, a thin crescent of cold blue two inches wide protruding from the dog’s lips but before he could take two steps away from the woman, the dog released the crescent shaped disk as if it was a slingshot. There was a series of loud cracking sounds as the semi-disc sliced through the boy’s face just under his nostrils, and then the sound of dead weight hitting the floor as the boy’s body convulsed once then laid still.
“Shit!” Club growled, which as soon as he had said it, rued his instinct to swear.
The dog swiveled, a second crescent shape d plate of ice was forming rapidly along the bottom ridge of its mouth, the tumultuous storm of quicksilver in the dog’s eyes adding a sharper glint to the expanding edges. Club turned his back to the beast, crouching in front of the woman to shield her sight from witnessing the feral-ness unleashed. He grabbed the top of his fedora, swung it off and held it behind him, the head hole outwards covering his actions by asking the woman if she was alright.
As the woman stuttered and stammered an answer, Club could feel the bottom of the fedora expanding, keeping its almost ovular shape until it was almost the same height as Club. He hoped the hat woven by Arachne with materials forged into fabric by Hephaestus would do as the god had promised. When Hephaestus had presented the fedora that was an exact copy of the one the bounty hunter had lost during a case, or more to the point, had been subjected to the action meant for Club’s head: being severed in two and torn apart by the Hounds of Hell. Hephaestus told Club that not only were the fibres almost indestructible but infused with various charms that in combination when called upon would open a gate to a deep dark hole that Club could then use against the danger which would be swallowed deep within. The God of the Forge however cautioned that Club himself should never enter the hole, for it was a place no man should go lest he be forever lost within. Club tried to push for a specific answer, but Hephaestus would not tell him what the charm opened up to. Considering Club knew how the god felt about his ex wife, Aphrodite, he wouldn’t be surprised if the next time he saw the goddess she would be walking sort of bow legged.
Wave after wave of frigid air washed around him as the power within the dog built up. There was the tsunami of sound when the dog released the ice blade from its jaws. Club’s hand felt the impact as the ice pushed against the fabric of the fedora, but he was whole. The chill in the air faded, Club heard the sound of fleshy thump, and the dog had tired itself out. The fedora’s charmed engorgement disengaged and returned the hat to its normal size just as the woman had weakly asked where her dog was, was he okay?
The bounty hunter put the fedora back on his head, taking a quick peek from the corner of his eye; the dog was staggering slightly as it left the chest of the corpse, its eyes no longer shone as they were chromed hub caps, though he could only see bits and pieces of the dog’s brown pupils through the thick bangs that hung over like ivied walls. His body tensed as the dog weakly limped towards the woman and him, but relaxed when the dog ignored him and gently put its paws on the woman’s stomach. Club watched as the dog’s tongue flicked quickly in and out all over Nikki’s face. She playfully told the dog to settle down, but he noticed she did nothing to discourage the behaviour. Tacky rolled over onto his back and spread out his legs. Club stood up and backed over to the boy’s body.
He surveyed what the dog had done: the crescent had sliced cleanly through the boy’s skull, its intense cold freezing the gore on contact; once it thawed, there would be mucus, saliva, and blood, but it would drip like an icicle into a pool – a far easier cleaning job than if it had splattered everywhere. He could see the disc lodged in the laminate flooring; the force was strong enough to go through flesh and bone but the resistance it met had slowed its velocity significantly to not cause any…difficulties…with the basement apartment residents aside from a leaky roof and perhaps a small shower of plaster. He looked over at Nikki, her eyes still unfocused, had her attention on the dog.
Club willed his broadsword, quickly making a cut across the glass umbrella shaped shade that hung just slightly over the corpse at a slight angle so that the blade’s tip would put an equally as sharp edge on the crescent shaped piece of glass. The sword disappeared just as the glass piece began to fell, Club caught the glass and slid the piece, the newly created sharp end downward into the trail the dog’s ice scythe had made. He hoped that the local police would concentrate on the assault of the woman rather than the actual death of the teenager, chalking it up to a chain of unfortunate events.
“Who’s a good doggy? Who’s a good doggy?”Nikki cooed as she rubbed his stomach. “Who loves their mommy?”
Tacky rolled his head and peered intently at the bounty hunter who hadn’t moved from beside the body of the partially headless teen. Club stared back at the dog with likewise interest, not so much the dog’s tongue lolling out of its mock smiling mouth but what had caught his attention in the first place, Tacky’s eyes. To be more precise, the colouration of the pupils held a certain fascination for the hunter. If a person were just walking by and were to take a quick peek, they would see nothing but a dog being overly praised with big brown eyes partially hidden by a thick mop of white and black fur akin to a grown out Beatles mop top. What Club saw though was of deep concern; within the depths of the brownness were several streams of quicksilver slicing minute trails throughout. Club channeled his thoughts towards the dog, muting out the woman’s constant stream of “who loves their mommy”.
He broke off the connection just as he had seen what was mucking about the top layer of the dog’s consciousness; Tacky had recognized what the bounty hunter was doing and wasn’t too happy about though it never changed its facial expressions or body language that Nikki would have noticed – only Club saw the tiny streams of quicksilver that began to widen. Once Tacky didn’t sense Club prodding, the brownness that surrounded the much lighter hue swallowed some of its thickness.
Club thought that maybe the best course of action would be to leave things as they were and simply walk away. What did he have to justify any other action? All he had were the random images from a spoilt puppy…a powerful and lethal spoilt puppy…powerful…without the onus of the tradition and custom of what the power signified…damn, Club thought to himself, he had just talked himself out of walking away.
Images of practice flashed to Club’s mind from Tacky’s: guilty accidental releases when he had been mad one time against the furniture, timid minute releases of power against men who had gotten to close, and then the revelation of the meaning of the power based on its own selfishness. The boy’s death had not been a mistake, an accident of a simplistic mutt that didn’t know any better about the power it contained within; the dog had known what it was doing, it knew of the power that had been its birthright. Club had seen that much as well as one more of the canine’s sentiments: While the woman cooed “Mommy”, the dog thought of the woman much differently; she was his bitch and he would kill anyone who tried to get close to her. Club broke the dog and his owner’s celebration of survival.
“Well, that was certainly a close one for you two,” he said through a forced smile.
Nikki was startled from the sound of the man’s voice; she had forgotten about the stranger that had burst into her room. She stood up, Tacky rolled back to his stomach reluctantly.
“Thank you for coming to the rescue,” Nikki said, extending her blood splotched hand to Club. She looked at the unmoving body of the teenager, Club moved slightly over to block Nikki from seeing the boy’s head resembling a freshly cut cantaloupe. For the moment she thought the boy had been knocked unconscious.
“I was just passing by and thought it looked like you were in a bit of a pickle,” Club said, taking her hand in his lightly. He let Nikki follow his gaze and smile down to Tacky who had gotten to his feet and stood at Nikki’s side, looking darkly back up at the man who knew who it could do. “Good thing you had such a good protector, though.”
Nikki smiled down at Tacky. “He’s my best friend.”
Tacky’s eyes began to lighten. Club could see the edges of the dog’s fur lined lips frosting up. He bent down on one knee and made it look as if he was about to give Tacky a good hearty pat on the head. Tacky growled a warning.
“Tacky!” Nikki said in mock sternness but a hint of surprised wonder that the dog could even growl, she had thought that maybe Tacky had been born with no voice box. “Be nice to the man, he just wants to pet such a good little doggy like you!”
“You know,” Club commented, “They say once an animal gets a taste for human blood, it thirsts for it.”
“Why would you say something like that?” Nikki asked, her voice shaking with uncertainty.
Tacky’s eyes flickered from Club’s hand to Nikki for the slightest of moments,confused by the sudden change in Nikki’s voice, but that was enough time for what Club meant to do.
Club’s hand went from flat to fist. He drove his hand down with as much force as his body could channel into his arm muscles.
The blood that circulated in Nikki’s cheeks fled from her face; for the second time that night fate would decree that she hear a sound least expected: the dull crackle of a skull being shattered. She had no will to contain the bile that filled her throat and nasal passages; they sprayed out, covering anything in their large arc as they obeyed the laws of gravity. She went to hold Tacky close to her, to tell him what a good dog he was, but the moment her fingers grazed the top of his lifeless body she found her arms passing through a cascade of salt grains that scattered around her.
“You fucking bastard!” Nikki screamed as the pain of loss quickly changed to rage as the palms that had intended to hold her saviour in his last breaths balled into fists and bashed into the chest of Tacky’s murderer, “He was only protecting me!”
Club winced slightly as the woman’s fists pelted his chest. He was positive that by the morning the welts that were sure to develop would require him to wear a ‘b’ cup, but he made no move to stop Nikki from lashing out. She kicked, punched without mercy; Club did nothing to defend himself from the onslaught, even when he heard the cartilidge in his nose cracking. Minute after minute passed, Nikki’s anger seemed to have no cap, it just kept on building, the lack of resistance from the dog killer doubled the intensity of the feeling of hatred for him. He could defend himself, say sorry, or be angry right back at her, but the bastard wasn’t happy, he wasn’t sad, he was indifferent, like killing her dog was insignificant.
She threw everything she had within her at the bounty hunter until her knuckles were skinned to raw. Nikki sank to the floor, sobbing through the thick mucus that had run down her throat from her nasal passages, all her energy drained, the granules of salt nipping as her sweat began to dissolve them underneath.
Club grabbed the tip of his fedora, gave the unseeing woman a nod, took Ty’s cell phone from the counter, and then walked silently to and out the screen door without turning back to see if the Colter woman even noticed his departure. When he reached the grass edge of the apartment complex’s property, he dug into his pocket and pulled out a massacred pack of cigarettes. He opened it up, looked for one that wasn’t crushed and lit the bent tobacco filled tube. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes to envision the smoke curling down his throat and strangling his lungs. In time the Colter woman would see that what was done was the right thing – that if he hadn’t ended it then and there, the body count would have only gone up. She would get close to someone only that have to feel that loss over and over again because that dog would never let itself be upstaged as the woman’s ‘mate’. In time she would be thanking him for eliminating the long term emotional trauma for a short term hurting.
In time, it always looks better in time.
Club was caught off guard when he felt a bead of moisture travel down from the corner of his eye to the side of his jaw line. Did he actually regret the Takitawah’s death, the pain he had caused for the Colter woman, even if it was for the greater good? To be sure, he patted himself down, his knees almost buckled when his hand reached the last rib on his left side – he could feel the sharpness of it as it almost protruded out of his side. The tear was in response to the physical pain, not any emotional triggers. He allowed a bitter chuckle to escape: perhaps he was still more human than not after all.
In which Jared Club finalizes his assignment and learns a bit about his own nature, which we assume he will forget as soon as he reaches the next bar.