A Slayer’s Work: Part One

I’m a city boy and proud of it. Nothing wrong with the country or the South – I’ve got a girlfriend that comes from both – but I do best around concrete and noisy people. I can in fact sleep on the subway – although I don’t so that my younger siblings don’t learn the habit from me. I can negotiate all five boroughs of New York with ease.

I’m not afraid of the country. I like trees. I can even mow grass – that skill having been acquired years earlier when my brothers and I were trying to earn extra money while staying with my Aunt and Uncle for a month. I don’t have anything against country – other than I stink at it.

I get lost in Central Park if I get too far off the paths, okay? Trees are nice – but they all look the same. I hated camping as a Boy Scout – oh, loved the hiking and fishing and goofing off – just not the danged Map Reading, Using a Compass or any of the other ‘get there from here’ type badges I had to earn. Give me a street map and I can get anywhere – marking a trial and you might as well just go ahead and call Search and Rescue ’cause I’m going to get lost.

I know this had come up in conversation – although I admit, I doubt Crystal realized just how bad I am at this. Still, you would have thought at least she’d have tried to convince her parents that a weekend with both our families in the Adirondacks was a bad idea for my sake. But no, she was looking forward to it.

I am one of nine kids. She has three cousins visiting. Counting parents, that’s seventeen people – how can camping possibly be a good idea?

I was wondering that for the millionth time as my brothers and I finished packing the rental bus. Tim has a CDL so we didn’t have to pay for a driver at least. I didn’t know the details – my Momma  had told me to fork over $75 and I’d done so dutifully. Coming from a large family does prepare you well for knowing what battles to pick – there were sixteen of them versus one of me. Not a hard choice, really.

I suppose I was softening up a bit on the trip up there. Country is beautiful, I have to admit and the gorgeous girl seated beside me certainly sweetened the deal. I never get tired of looking at Crystal. Even when she’s ready to take my head off – which only happened the once – she’s still a show stopper.

I softened up a little more when we checked in at the lodge. This was fairly nice – rustic in appearance but not reality. I’d known we were supposed to have cabins – Momma had told me that much – but ‘camping’ still meant ‘pup tents’ to me so I’d envisioned ramshackle shacks and outhouses. Actually, I was hoping for outhouses – we hadn’t packed any spades.

I softened to butter when we got to the cabins. AC, electricity, running water and kitchenettes – this was the best version of ‘camping’ I’d ever seen. Sure, I was sharing a cabin with my four brothers and Crystal’s cousin but two bedrooms and seven bunks? I could live with this!

Unpacking wasn’t much of a chore – I had visions of lazing under a shady tree by the lake and quiet, star lit evenings with my best girl running through my head. Oh sure, my day dreams were punctuated by shrill yells as the girls discovered a frog by their cabin door and lots of questions and comments from my younger siblings – but that was my normal life. This could work.

Crystal and her cousin Terri rescued my two youngest sisters from the frog. I finally convinced my brother Mike that sleeping in the other bedroom with Marty and Crystal’s cousin was not the same thing as eating at the little kid’s table since Crystal’s cousin was older than me. I was stuck with Tim, who cannot sleep without tossing and Kevin, who keeps defying medical science with his freight train snore and perfect sleep test findings.

In hindsight, I should have just let Mike sleep with them.

The five cabins – one spare had no beds – ringed a communal lodge with a full kitchen. We’d finished unpacking, saving my sisters from wildlife, corralling everyone and the general chaos of large group arrivals so we decided to head for the lodge to check it out. Opening the door, I realized it was official – we were in Heaven. Momma and Mrs Abernathy had already found the kitchen and begun the process of transporting us to culinary bliss.

Southern cuisine and Italian cuisine are both wonderful in their own rights – although being my Momma’s boy, I do lean partially toward Italian – but together, they are something else again. If I’d had known this was what a kitchen would smell like with the two of them cooking at the same time, I’d have built them a joint kitchen somehow.

Sitting in the lodge, holding Crystal’s hand, listening to the happy blather and reveling in the ambrosial scents wafting from the kitchen, I was the happiest camper in the place.

But I’m also a slayer – of course, it couldn’t last.

 

The Dogman Chronicles: Dogboy and Rover, Part Four

It’s two weeks later. Bartlett has had his fill of pretending to be trying to get anything more out of me and his superiors have finally gotten over the idea that he can. It’s been two days since he last bothered to call and four since the last front page story about the ‘incredible’ rescue raid.

I don’t care about any of that as I awake violently from that same &%*^$ nightmare. I actually use the words I won’t type as I get up to go get something strong enough to make me sleep whether my subconscious likes it or not.

The house phone buzzes as I get to the kitchen. Yes, I still have a land line. No, you can’t have the number. It’s main purpose is to keep prying wifi from wondering why I get calls from my own basement from a guy named Rover. Yeah, I’m the cautious type – it’s kept me more alive than not so far so I’m sticking with it.

“Me.” I say into the handset. Sure, there are fancier codes – but voice recognition works perfectly well on a hard wire. I listen to a few beeps and chirps and hang up.

I grab a coke from the fridge before heading downstairs. I won’t be able to take the meds I’d intended but at least I don’t have to be thirsty.

When I arrive, the control room is brightly lit and all sorts of completely useless but cool looking lights are flashing everywhere. I went for a ‘Star Trek’ meets ‘Tron’ decor when I built the place. My temperament and beginning headache at the moment are making me regret that design choice.

I put my behind in the seat and take a long swig before beginning to work, “Rover?”

“Yes sir. Hacking attempt on 157.658.36958 at 2:34. Blocking successful. Notification as per Protocol 7.”

So you know, ‘Protocol 7’ simply sounds better than ‘you told me to wake you up so I did’.  I groan inwardly and have Rover pull up the case related to that account.

I’d expected it to be someone trying to track down my gas company shenanigans from the recent case but instead I got a case nearly a year old. Rover normally handles attacks without notifying me even on current cases, unless they fit into a few key specification. This one fell into ‘too old for anyone to be caring or should be’ and the attempt hadn’t been a spider or bot.

Great, just what I need at now three am. I pulled up the attack – pretty hamfisted and definitely human. I set Rover on the electronic trail and settle down to a lovely morning of cola and case review.

By five, Rover has all the particulars on Mr. Steven Gomez McClain. Mother Maria Lucia Gomez is from Spain, not just an Addams Family fan, according to Rover’s excruciatingly detailed research. By five, I’ve reviewed the case, read Rover’s report and finished off the last of three cokes.

Now my head really hurts despite four aspirin and shutting down the more colorful lights. It’s not the lack of sleep – it’s that I’ve got to get to the bottom of this today or call her tonight – and I’d rather have teeth pulled than call her.

Back upstairs, having pooped two more aspirin and downed another coke, I throw the covers over my head and will myself into slumber. Ten am will come much too soon…