The railroad train creaked down the tracks. Harry stopped dead for a second, then hunted some more.
The dim light doesn’t make it easy but Harry hears him, hears the branches, can smell the incense on the man. He’s going down thin tracks. This lowlife knows these tracks. Harry leaps and pushes hard, he can make him out.
The dude makes headway, stronger than he looks, or fucking scared. He should be scared; Harry’s gonna rip his fucking face off. The shit trips. Scrabbles like a baby, looks over his shoulder and sets off hard. Pulse thumping in his ears and sweat pouring into his eyes Harry knows this guy knows about Mary. They don’t run for nothing.
Out of his mind. Harry ceases to think. Hunting, hunting, man on man. Back into his dog-self. Bounding and dashing, on the scent. His body bent on collateral damage and opening that man’s mouth real wide to get some words out of him. Words about Her.
He senses himself catching him, his body catching up with his determination. He feels his hands upon his neck; his body rushes to catch up with his feelings. He’s a running hound, a hunting hound. Shaking his head violently to throw off the sweat, he can smell him, just in front.
Out of this stretch of the forest the dude crosses a street; he knows right where he’s heading. That forest track means something; there’s folk who know that track back to town. Harry sees nothing, cheap cars, teatime workers wearily heading home; they don’t exist in his line of sight. Mad dog Harry only sees the man, like through a tunnel. The prey, the quarry losing pace, Harry’s making up ground. The man’s muscles have gone to shit, nothing left in his legs. He knows where he’s headed but fear sucks him backward. He’s fading backward toward Harry; he staggers, slower but insane to get out of Harry’s way.
This excuse for a man has fought for the wrong side all his life. He’s lurked in the shadows of misery and dirty money with delight, making bucks any which way. The world owes him and he has never even considered getting a conscience. He has a future now. Now he has got hope.
He jumps a fence and speeds right across a garden; he’s done this route before, quiet like in the night. Harry’s got eyes on him; he’s running through his tunnel. His body doesn’t exist anymore; he’s only willpower and intent.
A wall comes up to block the prey; he struggles to scale it. Harry is closing on him. Harry’s boots, covered in mud; he slips back the first time then makes it the second. A car backfires in the street.
Out in the street, a bus blocks Harry’s view for a short minute.
In a flash, Denzel is on the man like a six-foot beast beating the teeth out of him. Denzel’s face screwed into raging anger with every hard, crunching punch.
Harry pins the guy down hard, they cuff him.
Harry looks close at Denzel’s face.
Louder and louder Harry’s shouting right onto the dude’s smutty ear. His screaming, spitting mouth is close to this man’s sweated-up face.
“You dirty little vermin, where’s Mary? What do you know? You are going to tell me, so start.”
He smacks his head onto the sidewalk.
“You can’t do this; I got my rights,” he whines.
“I’m not a cop today. Where is she?”
Denzel kicks him sharp in the side. Groans. Doubles up.
“You can’t hurt me; in the end we all shall rise.” Laughing words slithering out of his mouth, gibberish.
“That’s a motherfucking shame.”
Harry’s big hands pressing hard on the man’s neck, pressing his neck into the ground. He can’t breathe. A few more seconds and he’d be dead. Denzel pulls Harry off and heaves at the guy sitting him up.
“You talk to me fella and I may not cut your balls off see? Talk to me, man, ’cause you don’t want to see what this guy can do.”
Denzel’s huge over the guy. Silhouette of a giant, shoulders like a fucking bull and big thighs. The creature is a toy in his hands. Denzel pushes the dude against a wall. He’s trying to suck up all his anxious rage and desperation to find Mary. He’s sucking it right back into his burning belly. If this cretin has messed with Mary he’s gonna kill him. Real slow and ugly.
A boy on a bike comes by, skids to a halt. Feet down, he’s struggling to get going again like a terrified baby.
“Beat it!” snarls Harry. The boy pulls his cap down. He’s never seen eyes like that before. He runs along the street shoving the bike. Stuff falling off the back, he can’t look back, he just can’t. “Where is she?” Harry presses his gun into the guy’s side. The dirty, breathless man is whiney but he’s gone through all this before. He never made money by squealing. He reckons he’s set to get some big bucks sometime soon. If he opens his sunken green eyes for long enough he gets leverage see.
Denzel’s holding his wrists with one big hand and Harry frisks him, gets a thin blade wrapped in newspaper from his pocket.
The guy has mended from bust ribs and fingers all his life. He wasn’t scared of a certain amount of pain; it didn’t last. He’d get strapped up, heave himself into a boxcar and go on to the next town. His lord would preserve him now.
In truth he wasn’t clever enough to think deep. But his lord would smile on his sorry carcass and give him an opportunity. His little green eyes would see something and that gave him a chance. He deserved a chance now and then. He deserved payback for keeping his thin mouth shut. He was a changed man. He had an important future.
A trail of blood slides down from the guy’s ear. His eyes have gone to a faraway place. Disassociated into a realm where they couldn’t reach him.
Denzel quickly gets a car and they bundle him in roughly. From a nearby house a net curtain moves at the upstairs window. Meaningless. He’d stick it to anyone who stopped him from getting Mary back.
Harry gets in the back with the guy and looks him over. The guy continues to stare with a blind gaze. He’s not there anymore. Harry keeps boring his eyes into him and logging his face. It bugs him that the guy is lost in thought so he hits him real hard with a big flat hand. His nose bleeds.
Going through his pockets there’s nothing of any good. He can feel his skinny shape under his shirt. Ribs, not much flesh. Harry lights up and keeps staring at the guy’s face. He takes the half bottle out of his pocket and downs most of it. The heat fulfills his desire. Better than food, he craves it, he feeds off it.
Handing the bottle forward, Denzel swigs and hands it back. Harry wanted that last swallow, he’d have felt cheated if he hadn’t had it. It was his gold; he needed it now. He needed it as bad as a blood transfusion. If it had spilled he’d have sucked it off the leather seat. There was no warmth in him except for the whiskey. All the warmth had gone. All the love was fading further and further away from him. He’d got something though hadn’t he. He’d got this guy and he was going to get an answer.
The knob of the radio chipped. The day was done and light was fading.
Denzel was at the driver’s seat willing the fucking motor to go faster. Leaning forward as if to propel it, his face was stark and grim. Harry caught the look of his eyes in the rearview mirror. He was a true friend. He was pushing himself hard to help Harry. They’d ground into another gear in their minds, all that they were amounted to this moment, this moment in hell looking for her. Every homicide, every missing persons ended at this point. All the cynical and violent times had led him right here with one purpose in mind.
Harry hit the creep again.
The car turns down Denzel’s track. Big trees, all bare. Kind of out of the way. Denzel likes living away from the punters.
Neighbors have been tense since Mary disappeared. Annie doesn’t want to go out. They’re all mad to hear some news but they don’t want to bug Harry. It must be real tough for him. They eat plain food and put the radio on but don’t really hear it. Except for the news, they all go quiet and stand by the radio when the news is on. Annie dries her hands on the tea towel and wants the newscaster to say Mary’s fine, in hospital maybe, but safe and sound. He doesn’t say that. Annie doesn’t speak to George. He pokes the fire and fills his pipe; she walks slowly back into the kitchen and dries the dishes.
Denzel’s eyes are on the bumpy track. Harry watches him some more.
A while back, they’d have been driving home griping about a case or two. Slating the lieutenant. Homeward bound. Denzel’s home was kind of different. A man’s place. Across town. Denzel hadn’t changed it since he moved in; he was always busy with work. He never got his light fixed and had dim old lamps all over the place. It didn’t matter ’cause he was always dog-tired and fell asleep on the couch most nights after he’d chowed down some sort of dinner. Oftentimes he’d eat at the diner on the way home. He heard stuff there too; he’d sit at the back and chew and watch people, passive looking, just eating but taking it all in.
On a good day, a very good day, Mary would have cooked extra, invited him in. He liked that, a lot. In his downtime he’d just kick back and drink a few beers. He did stuff outside if he had to, and could do stuff in his big garage, if he had to. He could please himself. No one had ever quite said “Yes,” so there was no woman’s touch around the house. Four walls mostly, not so much a home. He’d been there ever since Harry and he had got to the town. He wasn’t in a rush to change anything; it would do for now.
Harry always saw how dependable Denzel was. Real dependable. Always got his back.
Harry’s eyes cast down to an old bottle in the back, rolling back and forth under the passenger seat. He could drink a crate right now, but he’d made a note to stick to whiskey, while he was on the move, give him an edge. The bottle rolled under and out, under and out. Harry’s mind drifted to that time a while back when Harry had drawn up in his Dodge at Denzel’s house and it struck him, it struck him odd, Mary’s car was there. He didn’t like thinking about that, so he stopped.
Harry claws at the guy and drags him to the garage.
Denzel unlocks the heavy, grey doors and goes in, scraping on the gravel. In the middle of the ceiling a lamp dangles with a string-pull hanging down. Pulling the cord the light flickers on, off, and on again. The bulb sways back and forth. He goes to the small high window and jams a piece of plywood in front of it.
Shelves laden with years of shit border the garage. At one side is a bolted door. Nibbled by rodents in the corner. Bags of wood in front of it. A big wheelbarrow leaning on them. At the far end is a raised platform up a flight of makeshift steps with a wooden banister and balustrade. Underneath, all his tools are hung on a chipboard wall fitting. The shovels and forks and like are held in place by two rows of planking. On the platform there’s a long, deep shelf with old projects on. The place reeks of varnish, paraffin, gasoline and turpentine. Down below along one side, pots are oozing with things trying to escape their misfitting lids.
The floor is stony concrete with patches of oil from one dead car or another. A toolbox and jerrican lying to the side. On the other side against a bit of bare wall is the old paraffin stove. Black smoke marks working upward around its dented chimney.
A couple of bentwood chairs without much wicker left are by the concrete wall slabs. Two mugs. Ashtray on the ground, stuffed with butts, cascading onto the floor. A crate of bourbon. A transistor radio there too, with red plastic down one side.
Harry throws the guy on the concrete in the dirt. Kicks him. He tries to crawl to one side, Harry claws him back, throws in another boot. Now he stays put with mad eyes looking up at his captors.
Harry scans the place for a rope, looks at it, looks at Denzel who takes the clue and reaches high to pull it down. Pulling out some slack he eyes up the banister.
The guy is twisting his thin fingers. Trying to press his cuffed hands together. Harry notices like a sparrow hawk.
“You praying, you pathetic piece of shit?” He glares with utter darkness in his eyes, which seem to change color with his mood.
“You can’t touch me. My lord is present.”
“That so?” says Harry. Harry gestures toward the banister. “Over there.”
Denzel heaves at the guy’s jacket and drags him over to it.
For a second Denzel sees Harry’s eyes have gone black. Not those soft brown eyes he looks at Mary with. Denzel wipes his forehead. They gotta be quick, but they haven’t walked down this road before.
“Who gives a shit,” thinks Denzel. “Mary’s all that matters now and this thing is in our way.”
The guy is tied up, Harry steps back to look around. Denzel’s watching. Harry grabs a bottle and chugs down a ton of warmth. Too much. Denzel does the same.
He stares at the pathetic creature; pity is lost. The creature looks up, with that fucked-up rapture look about him. Not for long, fella. Skinny bones, one shoe off. Not messed up enough yet. Harry’s wrapped his fist, rough cloth from the shelf.
Denzel’s not sure what Harry’s got in mind but he’s got a good idea.
Suddenly Harry strikes. He lunges to beat him. The guy stares back at Harry’s blood-lusty eye. Harry smells the earthy, forest stench on his coat. It riles him more.
He’s lashing, punching, kicking. The guy’s feeble body recoiling from each blow, coming at him like a hurricane. Blood pissing all over the place. Blooded by Harry’s speeding, snarling punches. Still the worm stares back into Harry’s eye.
Denzel’s expressionless face, just set serious, watching. He’s not sure. The guy’s gotta be able to speak for fuck sake, his jaw nearly dislocated.
Harry’s right into it now. Knuckles bleeding, in a frenzy his emotions are bursting through his body in a wave of animal savagery.
He needed a man to beat today and this one is as good as any. He kind of wants to stop but hasn’t let it all run through his fists yet.
He detests the guy’s glassy eyes; he’s half gone. Harry rips nails deep into his skin, spitting back his blood into his face. Punching those watery eyes and kicking his soft, weak groin, the cries of the man mean nothing.
Denzel moves nearer. Harry repeats.
“You gonna die now, you hear? We’re not cops today.” His black eyes crazy and his shirt sticking to him with days of dirty sweat. His vile hatred causes him to growl right up to the man’s bulging, bleeding eyes.
He steps back to suck in air and goes at it again. The dude is hanging limp now. Puke dripping out the corner of his twisted mouth.
Denzel turns around, he drinks. His mind is back at the station. The lieutenant? He pictures the fat man at his desk, cigar burning in the glass ashtray. He had sat up and smoothed his greasy hair last time Mary popped by the station. That day was a grind. A soulless day, grinding on when he’d noticed a gently bare shoulder, he’d hesitated when he spoke to her. He speculated.
Denzel goes back a long way with Harry. He’d shown Denzel the ropes when he was a rookie. Scrapbooks of the years go through his head. It had been OK, hadn’t it? Doing what they do. Not now. The gnarled and bare trees were rustling on the asbestos roof of the garage. Catalogs of leaves, moments with Harry and Mary blistering on his skin. They’d talk serious and laugh. Have good times.
A dog is barking in the woods far down at the end of Denzel’s land. It’s barking at something out there in the dark evening. No moonlight tonight. The dog keeps barking. That’ll scare the deer.
Breathing hard, Harry staggers back. He grabs the bottle, wipes the back of his hand across his face and swigs. Denzel steps nearer to the guy.
Harry paces back to the end of the garage. He’s done for now. He lights up.
Denzel brings a chair beside the man and sits. Holds the dude’s head up by the hair to get his swollen eyes to see him.
“Where’s Mary? Tell me before he kills you.”
The guy wants to dribble out something, but it’s not about Mary. He’s talking about the future.
“The power between my Lord and me, I will rise forever free.” Denzel doesn’t get it but lets the man speak. Harry’s looking and listening intently. “Every day anew,” he burbles from the side of his drooping mouth. He speaks so slow, he’s dry, Denzel grabs water from a pail and throws it over the guy. The man’s pointed yellow tongue extends out; he tries to get some moisture in his mouth. “The Bornless … My lord,” he slurs. “We will see the widespread glorious heavens.”
“Where’d you learn words like that?” says Denzel, pouring some water down his face, seeping into his mouth.
“From ancient wisdom, The Bornless shall save me. I bargain and I receive. I surrender and I receive.” Harry’s interested and comes closer. Denzel’s getting somewhere, so let him get to it. “Life ever after, in The Bornless.”
“Evangelical weirdo,” thinks Harry coming back into his mind. He’d seen it all before, miscreants finding God and repenting. He’d seen jails stuffed with violent lunatics who’d found God and their chaplains requesting parole. God had cracked and broken for Harry when his mom passed away. His life and body had been joined to her and she’d been taken away.
Denzel was listening hard.
“What is The Bornless?”
Spiders were scuttling away to the corners of the garage, big black ones.
The guy was meandering around in his mind, spewing out words of something big and powerful.
“Talk back to dominance; say no to control. We act of our own free will; we hold up our swords and make fervent statements …” He trailed off, his head lolling back.
“He’s lost it man,” Harry stamps, drinking some more. “We’re getting nothing.”
“You cannot listen and you cannot see, blindness is no chain to me. My lord has given me life. Life after death, Bornless and free.”
Harry was fucked off; not a word from this lunatic about Mary. He was spouting shit.
Denzel got up, towering above what was left of the guy. Debating if he was ever going to give them anything useful.
Harry picked up an ax.
Thor had nothing on Harry when that weapon came down. The urgency was incomparable.
The heap of metal buries deep into his leg. The man is in shock. That kind of raw animal experience. A sheep caught by a wolf.
Barely enough breath in his body the guy hardly makes a sound.
Mary wouldn’t have recognized her Harry. She liked to hold his hand; she liked to help him understand how much she adored him. How his breath on her made her the most beautiful woman in the world. Those strong arms that tightly held her, wrapped her up as close as can be. He comforted her and his laughter ran around her head when times were tough, when she was sad. He was tender and true. He gave her everything. He dissolved her tears with kiss upon kiss. She dissolved in his loving embrace.
Harry heaves the ax out of the flesh.
The old garage was filled with terrible screeching noises now. Harry is gone. Denzel pours some bourbon into the guy’s mouth. “When the east wind shall blow,” he murmurs. Denzel leans down to hear his words. “It’s the truth, the unholy truth. The lord has spoken to me. I have heard my lord.” He carries on mumbling. “When the darkness is rent by a pillar of red light. The world shall be seen lit up and the stars in the heavens shine red.” His head fell to one side but he still drawled on. “The dark pillars shall march upon the light and the ritual of The Bornless will cause terror in the hearts of the weak. We shall be received; the fallen angels shall rejoice within our corpses.”
Denzel got a bad feeling from this; his mind was clearer than Harry’s. He’d heard cult freaks before but this shit was extreme. The man no longer talked from his own mind; he was paraphrasing some kind of scripture. It was all nonsense to the ears but the guy was obsessed, brainwashed.
“Did you see Mary? You’d know Mary, real kind. Do you know Mary?” he said more softly.
“This town, burning in the ritual, believers safe from the sulfur and the oil, safe from the labor and the toil. We shall see the might and the burning shall cast out the weak and The Bornless shall rise again. Like the old times.”
Denzel was sickened by the man now. The board fell from the dark window in a gust getting through a hole. The bang jarred both of them.
The bleeder pissed himself. Denzel let him dangle and paced back to Harry with the twist of another bottle cap. No eye contact left in them. They’d never been this deep into hell before.