Squid Pro Quo 2

Bailey hadn’t been able to do much for him over the phone. He’d told him to go lie down and if it got worse to ring him back. No one knew what the hell kind of bacteria something like that would have on it so the fact that he had a dodgy stomach wasn’t exactly the biggest surprise ever. It may have been the stupidest thing that he had ever done. Not the stupidest thing he would ever do, but up to this moment

It could of course just be the worst case of upset stomach that he had ever had – what kind of remedy could you take for this sort of thing though? Damn, whatever was happening to him it was happening at a pretty rapid rate. His vision was flickering, blind spots firing up and dying down like fireflies in negative. His hearing also seemed to be dialing through the spectrum of audible sounds. Wow, was he going to actually benefit from this in the end. The pain shot through him and he jack-knifed – goddamn, he needed to do something and do it quickly.

He once again reached for the phone and hit the number one.

‘Worse?’

‘Uh, yeah. Something is happening to me.’

‘Dumb, Deek. Fucken dumb. I’m coming over and I’m bringing Coltard.’

‘Ah, shit.’

‘What? Yule ‘ave to get over yer rivalry with him. ‘E’s saved ar bacon more than once.’

Deek let out a strangled noise and dropped the phone. The pigment of his skin had changed, or rather it was changing – cycling through various shades of green. Damn, Bailey was right – he had been fucking stupid. What kind of moron chows down on a creature from some other dimension before carrying out tests on it? Was he really that hungry? Had he ever been that hungry? No – shit, he had a full larder. It was all so unnecessary. Thank God, Bailey didn’t live too far away – that had to be him at the door now. He never locked it and Bailey never knocked so he didn’t have to worry about dragging himself down there to answer. Nope – Bailey came lumping up the stairs.

‘Oh shit.’

‘Wh-a-urrgh-t?!’

‘Jeez-us, man you look rough.’

Coltard so wanted to snicker. He looked at Deek and he saw something and he wasn’t exactly sure how to describe it and he had seen some weird fucked up shit in his time. Seeing someone who professed to being a professional hunter of the monstrous sporting squid tentacles and developing a beak was not something you came across everyday. He would have laughed if it were not for some of the psychic emanations that he was picking up, suggesting that something were coming through from a higher dimension.

‘Goddamn it, Bailey, can you sense the broadcast that he is kicking out? There’s never anything that makes that much racket on those frequencies – all those artifacts we find tend to have a slightly dulled action even when they’re drenched in blood. He’s become some kind of superbeacon. Has this happened to him before?’

‘Well, ‘e’s been complainin’ that there’s been a rash of invasions of his bedroom.’

‘One of them did this to him – it infected him and I sure as hell don’t know how to burn it out.’

‘Crap. ‘S why I brought you here.’

‘Oh, you’ll need me to fight the fuckers. Let’s get him down into the van – the lead shield should dampen his signal a bit hopefully.’s

Squid Pro Quo 1

It was purely an evolutionary quirk that had made the thing, which appeared to be pulling itself through a tear in the very fabric of reality, resemble a giant squid. Apparently reality was akin to a crystalline structure suspended in some liquid hyperreality that the varying membranes separating different multiverses hung in like ice in cold water. This thing was born out there in the intense pressure regions of ultimate truth and this form was the one most suited to navigation. Others might have considered it a god but he considered it a damned nuisance.

The belief gun, charged up with oneiric energy from the dreamcatcher, barely made a dent in its cohesion matrix. This one seemed a lot more robust than the last one. It was ironic that the fact he had experience with these things may actually be the determining factor in their increased strength. If belief was a key sequence that unlocked the upper dimensions, if it was indeed a beacon which drew these creatures in, then every time that he encountered one he was going to become a stronger draw for them.

He had been sleeping so he supposed that he must have been dreaming. Becoming an anchor for the bloody things was kind of antithetical to someone who spent most of his life dealing with supernatural infestations. He wasn’t sure what this bugger was called because he rarely stopped to note their names down in his little black book before he shot them point blank between the eyes.

He reached into his backpack by the bed and produced a null-bomb. The tentacle slapped wetly against the wall leaving a trail of gelatinous goop hanging. Shit – he’d only just decorated. The bomb hit the thing in the eye and blew up – the blast wave was a strange phenomenon: the null-bomb healed reality by planting disbelief in the wielder and detuning the immediate area so that any intruders lost their purchase. What could you say it was? A reality enema? The existential equivalent of an electromagnetic pulse generator?

He wondered whether or not the thing might actually taste like what it resembled – he liked calamari so if it proved to have a nice flavour then he would be well in. It did not bother him that he may be eating one of the elder gods. He picked up his cellphone and hit number 1 on the speed-dial.

‘Bailey?’

‘Yup? Wass cookun, Deek?’

‘This Cthulu-type thing that manifested in my bedroom, can I eat it?’

‘Maybeso, not sure as I’d chance it, mate, but maybeso.’

‘You have any recipes?’

‘I’ll text it over ta ya. Do us a favour though, eh? Be careful – never know what eating that shit might do ta ya.’

He picked up the huge snake-like limb and made his way to the kitchen. It was going to involve some chopping to get this down to the right size for frying. It was still wriggling slightly and he was praying to whatever agnostics prayed to that it possessed no sentience. He put the oil in the pan and got it so hot that it was spitting – so hot that it would be a fight to stand to near it. The smaller, finely chopped pieces were then flung into jaws of this frying pan contained hell.

‘Nuke the fucker!’ he cried, having at the remains of the animal he had slain and intended to eat.

It tasted, even with lemon and some garlic salt on it, what you might call rum. Not entirely good in a slightly unnerving way.

He hit 1 on the speed-dial again.

‘Erm, Bailey.’

‘Yes, Deek?’

‘I think I may have made a mistake.’

Else City – Part 1: Scar Tissue

It wasn’t exactly sleep, more like throwing a switch and laying in a darkened room. Un-life – weirder than the fucking Bardo by anybody’s standards. His scars were itchy as fuck – damn, shouldn’t they stop itching once you had expired? He was not looking forward to work; part of him couldn’t believe he had died out of a nine to five routine to be forced into one yet again. The bummer was that he had been marked up as a suicide when someone had killed him and made it look like that. Thank christ they hadn’t forced him to take a residence on the top floor with the useless cases and their lemming impulses. It was only his place on the force that had got him some lenience on that score. Well, either that or the fact that despite him being called a suicide they knew well and good that he was a murder victim.

Most of the food was shit here. Didn’t seem anyone was bothered about doing anything nice for themselves anymore. You would have thought that a continued existence would have been some kind of motivator, but then you were expecting people who were bad at life to somehow get better. He wanted some small comforts and there had to be some way of securing them – you just had to know the right people.

The phone rang. Two rings and then it cut off. His mobile phone started to cheep – literally to cheep; and it seemed that one of the rules of his time here that it was going to be impossible to change that ring tone.

‘Yeah? Who is it?’

‘O’Halligan, nice phone manner. You need to get yourself here pronto. Your partner says she has a lead on the case you’ve been assigned.’

‘Oh.’

‘Oh, indeed. I understand you haven’t been here very long but you’ll settle in nicely. You don’t have much choice. Do you?’

‘I suppose not. I’ll be there asap.’

The place seemed to have a sense of humour – the taxi service was provided by hearses. They were fairly speedy and it took no time at all to get to the station. He booked in at the front desk and got directions to the morgue where he was told his partner was waiting for him.

The body was on the slab and it looked a right mess – a mess in the way that Jack The Ripper’s handiwork looked. Well, not exactly though – there was no finesse to this at all. He had to admit that he was slightly shocked to see a dead body here. A dead body? How exactly did you describe it?

‘I know what you’re thinking, O’Halligan, and the term we use for bodies in this realm is extinguished. We think of the life-force as an energy burning to run an engine.’

‘Seems a bit weird.’

‘Always does at first. You won’t feel like a rookie for long – you learn fast here; it’s unavoidable. ‘

‘So you’re my partner, Forbes?’

‘Yeah, nice to meet you.’

‘Nice to meet you. So how exactly does forensics work here?’

‘Energy fields, kirlian photographs, karmic fingerprints – a lot of esoteric bullshit is how it seems at first but it works.’

‘OK.’

‘So what have you discovered?’

‘That this wasn’t just something that has been going on for a short time. That this person was tortured for months. Their body, or rather their skin, is pretty much criss-crossed with scar tissue all over. I hate to think how long it took, how it felt; and I hate to think what kind of creature was capable of doing this to them.’

‘When you say creature, do you mean … creature?’

‘Maybe, you got to expect some weird shit out here. This isn’t Kansas after all, Dorothy.’

‘That’s for sure. So how long have you been here?’

‘Well, now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?’

‘Erm, yeah, that’s why I asked – so you’d tell.’

A spindly looking guy with big spectacles stepped into the room. He smelt the same way that all morticians smelt – like he had been preserved in aspic. O’Halligan always found them unnerving people to be around, and having no idea what in the hell passed for forensic science around here, especially given what Forbes had just talked of, this guy made him doubly wary.

‘So what are you going to do?’

‘Talk to the corpse.’

‘Talk to the corpse?’

‘Yes, talk to the corpse.

‘It has moved on from this realm but we can drag it back for the purpose of the investigation. Once you get to these levels death is a strange beast for sure.’

‘If it’s all a matter of perspective then how does it constitute a crime?’

‘Is that not obvious? If you force someone somewhere they don’t want to go then that is what makes it a crime. We’re here to police causality – if a cause is anything other than natural then it’s our business.’

‘Oh.’

‘Did you not get the handbook?’

‘Erm, people actually read that stuff?’

‘Yeah, it’s kind of a survival manual. Once the disbelief wears off and you actually realise where you are then having some kind of clue how to deal with the things that inhabit this place can come in handy. Not to say that they usually wait for you to become a believer before they’ll have a go at you.’

‘Forbes, is he on the level?’

‘Afraid so – you tend to find that everything here runs counter to expectations. The weirder someone is and the less likely it seems to be that they are telling the truth – it probably means they are as honest as the day is long. Days are longer here by the way.’

‘Yeah, and the nights.’

‘It doesn’t have anything to do with any sun either – that burning orb in the sky is the relic of some god that plucked out their eye because it offended them. It sleeps. It was fashionable – the moon belonged to his twin apparently.’

‘Oh-Kay.’

‘Anyway, to business …’

Grit 7

He walked past the bodies of the two men he had just killed, opened the front door and emptied both barrels of his sawn-off shotgun into the gut of the person that came charging at him. It stopped the guy dead in his tracks. He cracked off two head shots from the custom glock, buried the axe in the breastbone of another guy, left a flick knife protruding from the left testicle of a fourth guy and, standing before John, was pleased to note that he had in no way exhausted either his resources or his reserves of energy.

‘There’ll be more coming, Grit. You can bet on that.’

‘I doubt it. John – from what I’ve seen you don’t run a very tight ship. If this shower of cunts was supposed to impress me they didn’t do a very good job, did they?’

‘You got lucky, you shithead.’

‘Yeah, I did. Now where is the one that Grimoire wants dead?’

‘Stupid bastard’s lying over there with your knife hanging out of his ballsack.’

‘Know what this is about? Why does Grimoire want him dead?’

‘He never mentioned it?’

”He just said business but I am curious if there is something more to this.’

‘Sonny here stuck his cock in Grimoire’s daughter and the guy ain’t too happy about it, that’s right Frank, isn’t it?’

Through gritted teeth Frank offered up confirmation. Shit – a fucking domestic; Grimoire had got him involved in a fucking domestic. This bullshit would not stand. There was no way on God’s green earth that Grit was going to go through shit like this because some kid did what kids did. Takes two tango as they said. Bang! Grit shot John through his right eye – dead as a door nail, his head opened up and spread around the room. He walked over to Frank, slid the barrel of the gun in his mouth, whispered this is regrettable, and then pulled the trigger.

Grit was a professional. Grimoire had to be yanking his chain putting him on a job like this – this should have either been something he handled himself or something he threw to some worthless dickhead that wanted to make a name for themselves. Grit was pissed. Grimoire owed him.

Grit 6

He had a jackhammer pounding in his skull. He needed to get rid of it or it was going to fuck with his concentration. It wasn’t as if he could do this with anything other than close work. He had to get right up in the face of these bastards and he had to take them out one by one. People didn’t wait for you to get in position though – they didn’t line up in a nicely choreographed ballet of action; they fucked with your plans, awkward bastards that they were. He had knives, guns, whatever he could carry without weighing himself down too much. The head didn’t help – he’d taken some pills but they hadn’t kicked in yet. He didn’t need to get another beating in the near future and he didn’t intend on receiving one.

He had a good line of sight; and sitting there watching them, this damned headache sawing away behind his eyes he started to change his mind: he figured he might as well take a few out from here if he could do it without tipping anyone else off. They were bound to be on a heightened state of alert – he couldn’t believe that Slight’s men wouldn’t take the opportunity to tell John that they had saved him from a hitman and get him on side. They had bitten off more than they could chew with Grit and he was just one man – he hated to think what Grimoire represented in terms of committing their resources to dealing with any action he initiated, so a chance to gain an ally was something they couldn’t pass up.

One of the guards moved to the edge of the light, unzipped and started to take a piss. There was no one else around so Grit put a bullet in his head. He thankfully fell forwards and disappeared in shadow. His companion who had been checking out the other side of the house returned to the point where the first guard’s body was. He crouched and leaned over it. Pop! Another bullet and another guard in the shadow. Now if he was lucky he would have caught them a fair while before they were ready to change shifts and he would be able to get to the house without any alarms being sounded.

He approached carefully, adrenaline pushing through him. The headache was finally starting to ease off. He was in the zone – whoever he met was dead. He was a killing machine.

Grit 5

Strapped into a chair with duct tape – he had not been in a position like this for a long time. It irked him that someone so fucking stupid had managed to get the drop on him. The guy appeared intellectually subnormal as well. It looked as if he might benefit from a drool guard. But the fucker was light on his feet – you had to give him that. This guy would have made a decent ninja if he wasn’t so damned big. That kind of fucked with Grit too – the shadow that this ape cast should have tripped some inner alarm, but it hadn’t.

It was not a good thing to learn that you were getting old and slow by being smacked in the back of the head. To learn that your edge had become dulled in this way was somewhat humiliating. Still, he had the edge of patience and experience over this guy and that would win out – all he had to do was wait. It was hard not to laugh listening to the goon as he spoke on the phone – too many cellphone conversations had perhaps planted a great benign tumour in the lummock’s brainpan; still, that probably constituted more than he had had between his ears in the past.

The smaller guy that turned up quarter of an hour after the phone call had ended was an entirely different creature. He was the total opposite of the footsoldier. It struck him as almost surreally cartoon-like that they should be such stark opposites. The little guy looked like Slight. He smiled with the dead man’s grin – it was as if a downsized photocopy were staring at him.

‘Mr Grit, I presume?’

‘Auditioning as a Bond villain are we short-arse?’

‘Definitely Mr Grit then – no question about that. I’d heard you were an insufferably cocky cunt. All that confidence seems a tad misplaced when you are sitting taped to a chair. I mean, I know the ape is pretty nimble on his feet but still, bit embarrassing, no?’

‘Not as bad as being related to the fucker, I’m sure.’

‘Okay, Gordon, come and pull this stupid fucker’s tongue out – I don’t need to hear him yapping to have my revenge.’

Gordon stuck his fingers into Grit’s mouth. Grit bit down on them like he had just been given some spare ribs and he worked really hard to strip the meat off the bone. The ape stepped back, tears streaming down his face, obviously in absolute agony, and that was when Grit’s foot connected with his family jewels and he went down like a great big sack of spuds. And Grit was free and standing in front of Slight’s relative with a big grin on his face.

‘Kind of fitting don’t you think?’

‘What’s that?’

‘A cartoon escape when faced by two cartoon villains.’

‘I don’t get you.’

‘Don’t worry, I’m not surprised. Next time you send someone with the IQ of a brussel sprout out to deal with me you better make sure as fuck that they check me for blades. In the time it took him to get you here I was already well on my way to being free. This is why you bullshit artists don’t last two seconds in this game – you’re fucking sloppy.’

‘Er.’

‘Don’t worry, I don’t expect to be witness to any great profundity as you utter your last words.’

The blade went in just above the man’s dick and sliced upwards to just under his chin. It was a great knife – Grit used it for gutting the game that he went hunting on weekends. This was a tool of leisure but like all the things that he owned they had tobe functional as well as beautiful. He was covered in some shithead’s guts now and he was behind schedule yet again, and fuck did he have one bad motherfuckin’ headache.

The ape was still bellyaching about his fingers when Grit thrust the blade into his jugular. He needed to get out of here and not be bothered by anymore of Slight’s relatives. That wasn’t likely but you had think positively. Thus far they were a minor irritation but they were an irritation nonetheless. Time to get his groove on and go and kill the people he had been contracted to kill.