"The Prodigal returns." The lady in the grey suit raised a glass to the man who entered the main room of the Hunter Club. "Welcome back, Rose."
Ben Rose barely acknowledged her and went to the sideboard where he picked up the crystal decanter and poured three fingers of scotch into a highball glass. He clinked his glass against hers and took a deep sip, coughing when he was done. The lady in the grey suit sipped her own drink and smiled over her glass at him. "That bad?"
"Kinda," Rose said. "Dunwich Horror bad." He finished his drink with a second draught and turned back to the sideboard, pouring another three fingers of scotch. "Only the End of the World Again bad, Eyre. I dunno where those things came from, but I hate fighting the Lovecraftian beasts. They give me fucking nightmares."
Eyre, the lady in the grey suit, put her hand on his drinking arm and took the glass with her other hand. "Sit down," she said. "Tell me about it. That's what the club is for. Morrell is here somewhere, and so is Nash. They'll want to know." She indicated the bank of half a dozen wingback chairs in the center of the room. "Go on, sit. I'll get the others." She set his drink on the sideboard next to hers, looked at him over her shoulder and watched him slowly sit down after deciding which chair would give him the best view of the door, the window and the rest of the room. Frowning, she picked up the phone and waited for a response.
Ben Rose sat back and closed his eyes then put his hands over his face. Nash, the Georgian, was intent on his own thoughts now and Morrell scribbled in a notebook, her wine glass empty of chardonnay on the table at her side. Eyre leaned over and put a hand on Rose's shoulder. "Sounds like you did a good job, Ben. I don't think anyone could've done better."
Nash shifted in the leather wingback chair and sat up. "I've been hearing a lot of reports about these invisible invasions. The problem is that we don't know where they’re coming from. The Chondria have been no help at all."
Morrell kept scribbling in her notebook. "I'm gonna get the logbook and get it in right away," she said looking up. "Anything else you want in there, Ben?"
"I'm just tired," he said. "I want to rest for a while here, see my brother and relax. I need a vacation."
"Don't we all?" Eyre stood up and offered her hand to Ben Rose. "Come on, then. Let's leave this to them now and get you cleaned up. I've had Hodgkins get your apartment ready." She waggled her fingers at him and he pulled his hands down his cheeks. They could all see his bloodshot eyes and the intense weariness behind them. He sighed.
"All right," Ben Rose said. He put his hands on the arms of the chair and pushed himself to his feet. Unsteady, he allowed Eyre to put her arm around him and help him walk out of the room. Nash and Morrell watched them leave.
In the hall, Eyre kept Ben upright and walked him to the elevator. "You did good, Ben. Nash was impressed."
"He's the expert," Ben said. "I tried to remember what he taught me in Louisville. That job was what got me this one."
"City fathers don’t often get what we do."
"Tell me about it." They got on the elegantly panelled elevator and Ben looked up at the chandelier. "How did the Hunter Club get this place, anyway?"
"Former hotel, a Ritz." Eyre shifted his arm across her shoulders and when the door opened to the third floor she was pulling him more than helping. "Come on, big boy, let mama get you to your room."
"Nice place," Ben said as if he were dreaming. "Tired, Eyre. Goddamn tired." His feet were dragging across the carpet and the lady in the grey suit was almost struggling to keep him on his feet.
Ben's door was slightly ajar and Eyre pushed through it, taking him past the bathroom and into the suite of rooms that was his apartment. Not much had changed in his rooms since she'd been in here last. But then he'd only been back to the Club once in the last six months.
Eyre eased him onto the bed and he lay down slowly. She pulled his shoes off and pushed his legs up. Ben Rose rolled away from her and pulled his knees up into a fetal position. She kissed him on the cheek, put a hand to his forehead and nodded. "Sleep well," she said in a whisper and closed the door behind her. Ben Rose didn't move.
The little blockhouse near the railroad tracks was dark and shut tight. It sat about twenty feet from the gravel road and was only noticeable when a driver looked both ways to ensure the tracks were clear. In the night, with no moon, it was a black square against the indigo sky and the light pollution beyond. Used only by railroad workers for a break room and to keep copies of maintenance logs and porn magazines, it was a good place for something interesting to happen.
There was a small flash of light that barely illuminated the little dirty window and a short, sharp crack of sound that could have been a fraction of a piece of dynamite. "Jesus, the smell," the man who appeared in the blockhouse said. "Ugh." He vomited onto the little table there, across three months of Playboys and Hustlers.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he tried to stand up straight and was rewarded with a bout of vertigo that made him vomit again. "Shit," he said, drawing out the vowel sound weakly. The man crawled to the door and pulled himself up by the doorknob, reaching further up to the thumb lock open. Three tries finally allowed him to turn it and he pulled the door wide, crawled through it to the fresh night air.
"God," he said and rolled over on to his back, looking for stars. "There you are, Hunter." Orion was high in the sky in the south. "Good to see you again." Deep breaths and closed eyes got him through the vertigo and he finally felt good enough to sit up.
The gravel road ran north/south and he looked both ways, then to his left and right. "James, old boy," he said, "at least you're home."
He got slowly to his feet, squatting a long time to ensure that he was done with vomiting, then wiped his hands on his chef's togs. His t-shirt was dirty with dust and blood and his arms were angry with cuts. He cracked his neck and his knuckles. "Best get to it, then," he said and started walking along the track toward the light of the city to the east.
As he disappeared into the darkness, there was a small flash of light that escaped through the still-open door of the blockhouse and a short, sharp crack of sound.
Ben Rose woke a day and a half later. Eyre was waiting for him in the main room.
"You're still here?"
"Some things have happened while you were sleeping," the lady said. Her pinstripe suit was accented with a splash of vermillion. "Bad things. 'Only the End of the World Again' things, as you said."
"I'm tired,” Ben said. "Just tired and I want to see my brother. Can't you guys handle it?"
Eyre arched an eyebrow and frowned. "Yeees," she said. "It would be easier if you could help. Your power added with Nash is considerable, as you proved in Louisville. Add in Morrell and me and there's nothing we can't do. As it is, Regan is trying to help, but he's nearly useless after the Anchorage Attack. Something happened to him there."
"I'm sure," Ben said.
"What happened to you, Ben? What's wrong?"
Ben Rose waved her off and went to the sideboard to pour whiskey into a glass. "Nothing," he said. "Nothing that a week's rest and some quiet won't fix."
"Bullshit." Eyre was at his side, taking the glass from his hand and moving the decanter away from him. "Tell me. We can find someone to help."
"I need to see Gary."
"What's your brother got to do with this?"
Ben stared at her.
"Don't give me the crazy eye, Ben. You're not crazy. Tell me."
He turned from her and walked across the room to the largish window that looked out over the city. "I don't know how to tell you, Eyre."
"Yes you do," Eyre said. "Just tell me."
"I know," he said. "I know where the monsters come from and how to beat them."
Thanks for reading A Monster In Repose.
©2010 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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