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She was long gone - he was peripherally aware of when she left, as he was keeping an ear out, on the off chance she was after his money ( stranger things had happened ). But if she had been, she didn't look for it very hard, and left without incident or trying to take it. He was almost sorry he didn't get her number so he could look her up if he ended up near this shitty burg again. She was a hell of a lot of fun. He liked women who really got into it, who dug their fingernails into his back and bit his ear so hard they nearly broke the skin. It probably made him kinky, but damn that was good.
At least he had nothing to pack. After a quick shower, he just changed the clothes he wore yesterday for the clothes shoved in his backpack - they looked very much the same, only the flannel shirt was blue plaid as opposed to red, and the t-shirt white as opposed to black. The only difference in the jeans were that these didn't have fresh bloodstains on them.
He headed out into the icy morning, wondering if spring was ever going to show up. The sky was grey with leaden clouds, the sun nothing more than a sickly glow behind the grey veil, and while new snow had fallen during the night, the foot still on the ground had frozen to concrete consistency - he barely broke through the crust, and he knew damn well how heavy he was. The streets were clear, but every now and again you could see a gleam that indicated ice on the roadway, waiting to cause a spin out for some unlucky son of a bitch.
It was actually a long walk from here to the "downtown" area, but he didn't care - physical exertion was good for him. Bizarrely, beating the shit out of rednecks in cage fights was actually positive, as it allowed him to burn up some of the free floating aggression that seemed to fill him. He took it out in an "approved" way, and it meant that not only did he get a bit more sleep at night, but less motel beds were turned into shredded wheat. Walking a mile and a half into the town proper, through snow covered fields and down icy slick sidewalks, was almost as good for him, as physical activity of any sort seemed to keep his demons at bay - but the rougher it was, the better, and this wasn't nearly rough enough.
It didn't matter that it was almost noon - there were virtually no cars on the road, and no one out. Whitewater was probably a ghost town under the best of circumstances, but when sealed off by avalanches and frigid weather, it was like a graveyard. He felt like the only living man on Earth ... and it wasn't a bad feeling. It felt oddly good, in fact.
The zero degree wind kicked up often, making the warmth on his cheeks and nose almost constant, as the skin was windburned, nearly frostbitten, and his healing abilities kicked in to fix the problem. He sometimes wondered what he'd do without them, but at the same time he wondered if they were more of a curse than anything else. After all, would he have been vivisected if he couldn't have survived it?
What if they would have anyways? What if it was only perverse happenstance that he survived?
Down a steep and icy hill, Whitewater looked like an overgrown strip mall gone to seed, full of brick and mortar buildings abused by time, economics, and harsh weather. Half the shops were abandoned, their front windows covered with plywood sheets, half of them marred by "For Sale" signs and anti-Quebecer graffiti. The only places that were open for business was a corner drug store, a grocery store, a cruddy looking diner, a liquor store, a sad bar, and a charity thrift shop - that probably told you everything you needed to know about Whitewater.
He cut through an alley between a long shut store and the bar, and over the usual smells of piss, vomit, and congealing garbage, he smelled something else as he came out onto the sidewalk. Blood, shit ... death.
Logan looked around but didn't see the dead body he was expecting. It could have been roadkill, except it didn't smell like an animal - it smelled Human. As he scanned the street, looking for any sign of gore, he heard bells from the drugstore as its glass door opened, disgorging an old woman, wrapped up so tight against the chill that she had a vague resemblance to the Michelin Man. But she headed down the street and around the corner in the opposite direction, never once looking his way.
He continued, following the scent in the now still air, and found it two alleys down, between two shut buildings. It had a particularly noisome dumpster that hadn't been emptied since last fall and had been used several times as a toilet, but it was sitting askew, one end against the wall and the other partially blocking the alley.
The blood had frozen into puddles that could have been rusty water if you didn't know better, but there was something else that had oozed from beneath the dumpster that didn't look like Human bits at all. It looked like unbaked dough had been thrown on the pavement, and he crouched down for a better look.
It smelled even more like Human carnage and waste than before, and before he touched it, he saw the crystallized blood beneath it, the striations that could only be fat and muscle, and realized it was Human skin, with a familiar smell ....
Fidget. Fidget with the loose and doughy skin. Holy shit.
He lurched backwards awkwardly before he could touch it, landing on the cold sidewalk with his hands. Glad that there was no one to witness his herky jerky movements, he got up and pretended everything was cool.
It wasn't, though. Most of Fidget was probably wedged between the brick wall and the dumpster, it was just that some of him oozed out underneath. He wondered what his mutant power was - did his bones turn to jelly or something? Either way, it wasn't enough to save him from this.
Logan analyzed the smells in the alley, and realized a couple of things. For the blood to be frozen over, he must have been dead for hours, but the cold had also slowed the process of decay, so his death smelled fresher than it actually was. He could smell a lingering taint of fear - and several other men, including one who had been wearing a rather rancid hair product and one whose deodorant just wasn't cutting it, but no cordite, no gunpowder - not shot. Knifed? It would make a great deal of sense, considering the puddles of blood.
There was a lingering smell of fresh paint too, fresh spray paint, and it wasn't hard to find why - on the opposite wall was a circle within a circle, a sort of basic cartoon eye in black paint, and underneath was the hastily written word "Purity".
Obviously a connection. Some guys calling themselves "Purity" had murdered Fidget - or some guys murdered Fidget and then decided to make it look like a group or a cult was responsible.
He heard the brass bells over the drugstore door sound again, but he didn't bother to look and see who was going in or coming out. Sound traveled well down this block; the brick buildings and narrow street funneled sound towards the end of the block. The bar just a few meters down was open until two in the morning, but with the lax law enforcement and lack of better things to do around here, probably later than that. It was possible Fidget was murdered so quickly he never made a noise, but he doubted it.
He knew about deaths by stabbing. Using a single knife, it was hard to get an instant killing, silencing blow, unless you were a professional, or unless you cut the throat cleanly. There would have been arterial spray on the walls if his throat had been cut,but there wasn't - the blood was on the ground, mostly pooled where there were low spots and cracks in the pavement. And for some reason, he doubted these guys were professionals - the "Purity" crap, the hastily arranged dumpster to unsuccessfully conceal the body.
Logan didn't want to think of himself as a professional killer - he wasn't, and even with all he knew, he refused to entertain the idea for even a second; he would not think of himself as an assassin. But ...
He forced himself to walk away, back towards the bar, where Laurent and the truck he was trying to unload were waiting. He would buy the auto and get the fuck out of here, assuming the roads were open. It was fucking shitty for Fidget, but hey, that was life.
( Something was bothering him about how he died. Something was very wrong ... )
He could still smell death, and checked to make sure he hadn't gotten any of Fidget on his hands or clothes. No, he was clean.
( ...he was killed this close from a place open virtually all night ... )
It was psychosomatic then, or his mind was just focusing on a smell slightly less toxic than the rotting garbage.
( ... people heard him getting killed. Someone had to have heard him getting killed, and they did nothing. They let it happen, and no one had even reported the body yet ... )
Logan paused in front of Delroy's Bar and found himself taking a deep breath, not to clear his nose but to get a grip on a sudden, inexplicable surge of rage that threatened to overwhelm his common sense.
( ... because he was a dirty mutant freak, and who cared what happened to them. )
This was not his problem. He had a hard enough time as it was, running from phantoms and searching for memories that probably didn't exist. It was too bad for Fidget, but shit happened to them all. At least he hadn't been tortured and mutilated.
( No, he'd been mutilated, all right. Couldn't have been an easy death. He smelled the fear still, didn't he? )
He shoved open the door of the bar and walked inside, and was assaulted by the smells of beer, body odor, and cigarette smoke so thick it almost shoved him back out the door. It was perpetual night in here, the windows caked inside with years of smoke and outside with frost, and it was probably for the best that it was hard to see.
Logan had been hoping the place was bursting with noise, but of course it wasn't - there was a tiny television over the bar, and it was so old and ill used the sound was tinny, and even turned up the noise outside was clearly audible through the thin walls. Maybe it was just his hearing - he did have better hearing than most people.
( No, they could hear. If something was going on down the street, they could hear. )
Despite the early time of day, there were men in here, about a half dozen. They were what he mentally dubbed the "sad grey men", the older career drinkers, and they usually smelled of the secret illnesses that were silently killing them, cancer and emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver. He didn't want to know the smells, he didn't want to know these men were dying of their habits and diseases; he didn't want to feel their instant distrust of a younger stranger in their midst. He just wanted to get the truck and get the fuck out of this town.
( He should report the body. )
"Hey Logan," Laurent said, from his place behind the bar. He was sitting on a stool and reading a newspaper, as all the dedicated early drinkers had their drinks and were watching some talk show on the shitty set.
"Got the money?"
"Why else would I be here?"
Laurent scoffed. "Yeah, true." He was a young kid, mid-twenties at most, with short but thick reddish-brown hair, and a relatively handsome face. Kind of a professional drifter himself, he had lost most of his Montreal accent by now, but it occasionally surfaced in vowel sounds. "It's around back, the title and other relevant papers in the glove box."
Logan nodded, and temporarily perched on one of the empty bar stools as he waited for Laurent to wander down his way. He took out his wallet and started counting out the three hundred dollars, stacking it in a neat pile on the bar.
( He couldn't report Fidget's body. The cops would question him, and might ask for his i.d. which he didn't have. They might think he was being a smart ass when he couldn't even tell them his full name. And what was his alibi for last night? He was fucking a brunette that he only knew as Callie. They might take him in ... and how did he know he wasn't running from them? A regular Human was going to have to find the body - and give a damn. )
"Beating the shit out of guys pays well, don't it?" Laurent said, with a wry smile.
"Better than you might think," he agreed. Even though everything in him was screaming at him to keep his fucking fool mouth shut, he still found himself asking, "Did a weird white haired kid ever come in here?"
Laurent glanced up at him curiously, looking slightly annoyed at being pulled away from the wondrous sight of the cash. "You mean Gordo? Yeah, sometimes, but he didn't like this place."
"Who could blame him?"
"Yeah. Why, did he come by the stop?"
"The stop" was the imaginative nickname for McQuarrie's, which was what the bar/truck stop/cesspool was actually called. "Last night, yeah. Pat kicked him out."
"Really? Why?" The question was genuine; he wasn't lying. The pupils of his hazel eyes didn't react, and he smelled no spike of any sort of recognizable emotion.
Logan shook his head, and slid the pile of money towards Laurent. "Don't really know. He wasn't causin' trouble, so I thought maybe he had a personal thing against him." Mentally, Logan was screaming at himself: "Shut the fuck up! This isn't your business, you didn't even like the fucking kid! Walk away!"
Laurent frowned, puzzled, before he scooped up the money, not even bothering to hide the avarice in his eyes. But even as he counted the money he got back to the topic at hand. "I don't know. I've only been in this town a few weeks, so I don't know all the stories, but I thought Pat would take money from just about anyone."
"Gordo live around here?" ( "Shut the fuck up!" )
Satisfied, he quickly pocketed the cash, and said, "No - he came in about three days ago, I think, a hitcher on one of the last trucks through. I figured him for a runaway, and maybe a huffer. What accent did he have - sounded Nova Scotian to me."
"I've heard something like it in Calgary before," he admitted, immediately wishing he hadn't. But he pressed on regardless. "A huffer?"
"Or some kind of druggie. He always seemed wired, didn't he? I figured maybe he was on meth or some kind of speed."
But if he had been, Logan knew he'd have been able to smell it. There were biochemical changes to the sweat of a user - he could tell you everyone's addictions simply by smelling them. Such as the sad sack at the end of the bar, casting furtive glances at them - he wasn't just drinking scotch, he'd been hitting the codeine pretty hard. He was asking to die combining depressants and narcotics like that, but hey, who was he to interfere with someone's suicide? God knew he'd tried to kill himself several times already ... "Where'd he get drugs in this town?"
That made Laurent genuinely chuckle. "Are you nuts? You're staying at the stop, right?"
"Yeah, but that's typical trucker shit - minor uppers."
Laurent nodded reluctantly, producing a damp rag he perfunctorily wiped down this end of the bar with. Well, he had to look busy on the off chance someone who mattered came in. "Guess so. I kinda felt bad for him. I told him he could hitch a ride with me once I left, but when he found out I wasn't leavin' for a couple of weeks, he thanked me and turned it down. He was in a blasted hurry to get the fuck outta here, and no, I don't blame him there either."
"Hey Larry," the sad sack at the end of the bar piped up. "Need a refill."
"Right there, Chuck," he said, and then, facing Logan so "Chuck" couldn't see, he rolled his eyes and made a disgusted face, mouthing the word "Alchie."
As he went to top off his Cutty Sark, Logan analyzed what little he knew of Fidget. Desperate to escape, fidgety, so much so that Laurent just assumed he was a speed freak; afraid.
( "I wish I could fight like you." He had said, smelling of fear. )
Oh fuck. Someone was after the kid, and he knew it. He wanted to escape before they caught up to him, but in the end time ran down on him. Purity - Purity caught up with him. What the fuck did that mean? And why didn't he try and get some help?
Oh, what a stupid question that was. He was a mutant - and maybe some of his obvious anxiousness was just a metabolism problem, part of his mutation ( whatever it was ) that he couldn't quite successfully hide - and who the fuck was going to help him? Mutants were pretty much on their own; your only hope was your mutation could help protect you. Such as make you virtually invulnerable to any injury someone wanted to give you ( ... and have someone equip you with metal claws ... ); whatever Fidget's mutation had been, it hadn't been enough.
"Can I get you a beer?" Laurent asked, coming back down to his end of the bar.
Logan shook his head, and slid off the stool. He shouldn't be thinking about this shit; he should be trying to find a way out of town now. There was nothing he could do for Fidget; it was too late. "Nah, just the keys. I gotta get movin'."
"I hear that." Laurent dug the keys out of the front pocket of his jeans and tossed them to him; Logan easily snatched them out of the air.
"Thanks. Good luck gettin' out of here."
"Thanks. You too man. Be cool."
"Je suis aussi froid que les boules du snowman," he replied, and Laurent burst out laughing. Only when he was halfway out the door did Logan realize he had spoken in French. Whoa. He knew he knew the language but ... shit, how did he slip into it without realizing it?
There were many things about himself he found creepy - that was one of the top ones. Still, it wasn't as bad as that time he picked up the BBC world news on a radio, and in a speech the Croatian minister was giving to the U.N., he knew what the man was saying before the translator came over the feed and repeated it in English. Up until that point, he thought it was the translator speaking, never realizing he was hearing and understanding Croatian. He would still swear he didn't know the language at all, but he knew that was probably just wishful thinking on his part. He didn't want to know it - he didn't want to know how to fluently speak French, Croatian, German, Spanish, and Cantonese ( all the languages he now knew he spoke, along with English ) any more than he wanted to know how to instantly kill someone. He didn't like the implications.
He walked around the back of Delroy's, still smelling death in the frigid, dry air, and found Laurent's beaten up white truck easily in the back lot, even though the eight vehicles there were mostly beaten trucks as well. He let himself in the driver's side door and once inside jammed the keys in his pocket, but it was then that he felt another key in his coat pocket.
He pulled it out, confused, and found himself staring at the fob of the motel key he had picked up last night.
Oh shit, Fidget had dropped this, hadn't he? It still had his smell on it - he must have. He had completely forgotten he had picked it up.
He stared at it a moment, wondering what he should do with it. He could toss it out in this lot, throw it into the snow that frosted the edges of the cracked parking lot, let someone else turn it in. That would be the smart thing to do. Of course, the Night Owl Motel was just around the corner ...
No, no! He couldn't fucking believe he was even thinking about this! Okay, Fidget got himself iced by some assholes, but life was hard and then you got stabbed to death in alley - shit happened! Look at all the shit that had happened to him! And had anyone ever come for him? Had anyone ever even bothered to look for him? As far as Logan could tell, no one had ever missed him - no one even knew he existed.
( No one was looking for Fidget either ... except of course for the men who killed him ... )
Logan slammed the driver's side door and lightly pounded his forehead on the steering wheel so he didn't snap it in half. "Fuck fuck fuck!" He shouted, feeling like punching the door off its hinges. But he just bought the damn thing - he couldn't break it yet. Not until he got out of this shitty little nowhere mountain town. "I am not going to do this," he told himself sternly. "I am not!"
As soon as he felt he had a handle on his anger, he slammed the keys into the ignition and started the truck. The engine turned over with a reluctant cough that he eventually coaxed into a low but steady growl, and the frost of his breath seemed to add to the white sheet of rime and fog coating the windshield. He would try and find some way out of this goddamn place, even if he had to double back towards Edmonton and find a longer alternate route that would take him into B.C. and the Yukon.
But the Night Owl was on the way ...
"Oh, fuck me," he cursed, giving up. Maybe he could salve his sudden conscience and be able to move on without this nagging at him anymore.
He had enough nightmares as it was.
The room smelled very much of Fidget, meaning the maids hadn't hit this room yet ( thank god - that rose air freshener they used could incapacitate him at thirty paces ) and the manager didn't realize he hadn't checked out yet. Once inside, Logan locked the door behind him, and decided to see if Fidget left behind any clues about the men chasing him. It was too much to hope that they were somehow related to the men that had tortured him, but he had to look.
The bed was unmade, the coverlet thrown back, the sheets still wrinkled, and his beaten knapsack sat on the threadbare armchair beside the blind covered window. Logan felt funny about looking through someone else's things, but what the fuck had he done for those first few months? He scavenged from other people's things for clothes, for food, for shelter. He read their books and criticized the lack of same, and wondered why finding clothes in his size was such a problem - the men were either too slender or too short ( he had decided he had longer legs than most-he didn't know why, and a broader chest, because that's where the shirts tore first ), too fat or too tall. Apparently he was a mutant in more ways than one. Er, no ... three? Oh fuck, who knew? He wasn't about to count his mutations.
Logan opened the bag and tipped it upside down, letting the contents spill out on the chair. It was mainly clothes - jeans, t-shirts, sweats - and the normal ancillary things: toiletries, a strand of foil wrapped condoms, a paperback horror novel ( "Misery" - how ironic ) with a dog eared business card as a bookmark, a half empty pack of watermelon bubble gum ( ick! ), and ... a chrome plated knife that seemed to almost get stuck on the bottom of the bag.
He picked it up, examined it, and flipped it open with an easy flick of the wrist, as if he did this all the time. It was a butterfly knife, and that brought up an interesting question about Fidget.
Butterfly knives were meant to be opened one handed and in a hurry;
they were close quarters fighting knives, but only in the most desperate
of situations. The blade folded into the "split" ( butterfly wing style
- ergo butterfly knife ) handle, making it easy to carry and conceal, but
that made the blade itself as weak as a standard switchblade; it was more
for slashing than stabbing, because the blade could easily break off inside
a person if you weren't careful. Holding the knife
There was a trick to butterfly knives too - if you didn't know the right way to open them and hold them, you'd cut the fuck out of your hand, and maybe lose a finger. So Fidget must have known enough about them to open it if not use it, but since it was a low quality blade that must have been where Fidget's knowledge of it ended.
( And how did he know so much about knives? Just because he had a set in each hand didn't make him an expert. )
Fidget probably bought it hot somewhere and learned how to use it, but he never did - the blade was so clean he could have used it to eat with. Logan shoved it in his coat pocket - not that he needed it - because if it was found with Fidget's things someone might think he deserved to get himself killed. And maybe he did, how the fuck did he know? Being a mutant - or a murder victim - didn't make him innocent.
He crammed everything back into the knapsack, sans knife, and the bookmark fell out as he was shoving the paperback back in. He picked up the card, and saw it was not a standard business one.
Printed in blood red gothic font on the ivory card was simply the words "Carnivale Outré" and a Calgary area phone number, nothing more. What the hell was this? He shoved it in his jeans pocket, mainly because he didn't know what else to do with it.
Logan scanned the room, but wasn't sure what he was looking for. What was he, a fucking detective? He should just leave before he was discovered.
There was a wastepaper basket in the far corner, near the bathroom, so he went over and had a look, although again he had no idea what the fuck for. There were crumpled pieces of paper from the notepad on the nightstand ( there was no telephone in the room ), and a crumpled up envelope, along with gum wrappers, an empty pop can, and a Snickers wrapper. He pulled out the paper and the envelopes, and laid them on the bed, smoothing them out until they were legible.
Again, what the fuck was he looking for? A list saying "People who want to kill me"? What he had were aborted letters to parents - he could even put them in order. The first read "Dear Mom and Dad"; the second read "Mom and Dad"; the third read simply "Mom", as he had obviously decided only his mother would read it. That was the only letter with more than an opening line as well. It read, in its entirety : "Mom, This is hard for me to write. I wanted to tell you " and that was it. Tell her what? He was a mutant? He was gay? He was on a hit list and marked for death? Why couldn't he have spit it out before he gave up?
The envelope was fully addressed to a Deborah Kean, with a Calgary address. Gordon Kean? Was that Fidget's real name?
He returned the aborted letters to the wastebasket, crumpling them up and tossing them inside. He kept the envelope, though, folding it up and sticking it in his back pocket. He had no idea why - there was no way in fucking hell he was going to tell this woman her son was dead. That was what cops were for.
There wasn't really anything here. It was just the cheap motel room of a drifter, a person on the run who didn't leave much behind, even when his past caught up to him. And standing there, Logan wondered if this had happened to him.
Could you just slip through the cracks of life so completely? Could you just disappear one day, like you no longer existed, and have absolutely no one notice? Have no one come looking for you? Could you walk through crowds of people who used to know you, and have none of them recognize you?
He shook his head, and left Fidget's room, mentally cursing himself. He was not Fidget. Sure, shit happened to him - real bad shit - but again, that was life. And surely someone would care about Fidget, even if it was just his mother. Somebody would notice he was missing; someone would care.
( But what if they don't? )
Logan used his shirt to wipe his prints off the key, and dropped it on the pavement walkway outside his room before heading into the parking lot. The snow was starting to salt down now from the grey sky, tiny white flakes that were more like ash than true snow, and he jammed his hands into his coat pocket to keep them warm as he went to his truck. He felt the cold metal of the knife, and wondered why Fidget didn't have it on him when he was attacked. If he was so afraid, he should have been armed.
Maybe he was. Maybe he had something else, and the butterfly knife was a back up, a last resort. But whatever it was, it still wasn't good enough to fight the Purity.
What he fuck was wrong with him? Why did his mind keep fixating on that name .... like he'd heard it before; like it meant something to him. Did it?
Logan sat in his truck for a long time, trying to decide where recall began, and false hopes ended.