The Bornless - Book I by The Bornless | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 8

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The lieutenant put his foot against his desk and pushed back. His chair with the squeaky wheel shoved back against the grey filing cabinets. Top button undone and tie dragged to one side, jowls falling onto his chest. Strip lights buzzing and his green desk lamp pointed over piles of papers. Newspapers cascading to the floor at one side. A picture of him in uniform on the wall next to an empty space where another has fallen off, a white patch remains where it sat, the whole room is stained dirty yellow from his cigars.

“What to do? What to do?” he ponders. He’s weary. “Jefferson, hey! Get the damn switchboard to reroute all calls to you. I can’t think with this damn phone jangling at me all the time.” He pauses. With very little hope he says, “You got anything?”

“No, sir. All cars are out; nobody radioed in.”

On the edge of town the garage window reveals a small patch of light. The creature dangles down and moans intermittently, begging for something.

Smoking, Harry’s randomly poking at stuff on the shelves. He clocks a busted picture frame of Denzel’s family. Glue pot with a hardened old brush beside it. Harry turns the photo over. He pours some bourbon over his knuckles, stinging; he wipes them off. Swigs some more. It’s not doing what he wants it to. No warmth now, just hate.

The man looks like he might be dead so Harry kicks his foot; no, not unconscious either.

Harry is still prowling around Denzel’s stuff and finds what he’s mindlessly looking for. Pulls an old carpet rug out from the corner. Red pattern with a border, worn edges. Just in case.

He goes back to the guy and slaps his face. “Wake up; you got plenty of blood left.” The guy tries to shake his head. Harry pushes his thumbs into his eyes. Denzel felt a chasm open. It was time for him to join Harry in the void.

The garage doors open to the cold of the evening. Harry was staggering a bit. Not canned yet, but weaving. In the dirt was a half-ripped-up rabbit. Denzel walked over to the car and leaned on the hood.

“What next, Harry? He’s crazy.”

“Put yourself in his place; last chance to say fucking anything and all you can do is spew out your purpose. It’s gotta mean something, I feel it.”

Harry’s walking round in tight circles.

“There was nothing like a fucking cult at the service; that priest is running a dead-dog church for wastrels. This guy looks like one of the cockeyed fuckers who goes for the soup kitchen. He’s fucking nuts, Harry. I reckon we’re wasting our time.”

Harry looks at the outline of Denzel’s house in the dark. He pictures Mary’s car there a while back. The garage doors were open, a jerrican of petrol and the toolbox outside. She was always having trouble with the car lately. It was dead out the back of their place now. His mind wandered to his house. He couldn’t see all that beauty she’d made. He could only remember the way it looked after he’d fucked it up. He could see himself sitting on that bedroom floor. That thing under the bed.

When he’d found her he was gonna take her to the hotel for a night maybe and clean the house up before she saw it. He was sorry he’d messed up her beautiful house, sorry for her. She’d be hurt; he could see the hurt in her eyes. He stared at the garage door and wished he could see her eyes forever. He screwed his eyes tight shut and imagined, but her face wouldn’t come. He pictured the impression of her lips on the tissue in the bathroom. He wondered if she was cold too, cold and dead somewhere.

Out of nowhere a car was growling down the road. Not much came by this way. Denzel’s heckles went up. He ran to shut the garage door. The lights turned into the distant end of his track. They looked at each other. Harry unclipped his holster. They ducked behind the car. Nothing, the car spun round in his gateway, turned and headed off.

They came back to reality for a second.

Denzel looks at the deep-black sky above his trees. Denzel knew that Harry would never find his way back to his soul if they didn’t find her. Emptiness filled his young heart, what he’d got left of one.

Denzel’s hunted with Harry in the past. Mary doesn’t like it, but she still goes to the butcher after the hunt and lines up for meat. Chatting next to the tongue, lungs and kidneys behind the glass counter. The butcher likes Mary. He always wipes his hands down his apron in a sticky way with gobs of clots on it. His sausage finger hands, Raymond sausage hands, the enormous butcher. Likes to give Mary recipes for how to cook Harry liver, real cheap and nice with gravy. See his wife is ill-like, hasn’t been out for years. Got thyroid or something. She mainly sleeps in her chair as he takes his cocoa up to his huge, lonely bed every night. Their kid is sweet though, called “Bette” after Bette Davis. A jolly sort of kid. Mary asked him to mince a piece of steak once.

“I can’t turn it on for that, Mary. It’s huge,” he says, laughing. “I could get a ’uman being in that mincer!”

Harry was a skilled hunter. He had his wits about him, the body to run when he needed. He was tenacious. He could stand for hours just slowly casting and casting in a swirling river and watching for the rise of a single fish with those leaves floating downstream. He didn’t waste nothing. Proud of his catch, always, he’d bring it to the bank and club it quick, humane like. Mary couldn’t watch. Harry would sit quietly as a day passed and wait till he knew he’d got a deer in his sights, then sling it between him and Denzel to bring it back. He was the same on a stakeout, his piercing eyes watching. Then he’d pounce.

They ditched their cigarette butts and went back into the garage. Denzel took out the toolbox and put it outside, by the car, just in case.

“I’ve had blood on my hands for years,” thought Denzel.

They shut the garage doors behind them and put the transistor radio on as if Denzel’s doing some repairs. He picks it up by the red plastic and turns it to country. They aren’t listening; it’s any old bullshit noise.

The guy doesn’t even raise his head. But he’s still breathing. “What do we know Denzel?” as if saying it out loud will make more sense.

“The Bornless? He’s got some fucked-up vision of the future. A cult? Reminds me of that bunch of weirds down south in that coven, where they kidnapped that kid? You remember, couple of years ago. They all tried drowning themselves and messed it up. Gregory someone. Made a ton of money out of ’em and pissed off.”

“That’s what I’m thinking. He’s had that same fucked-up look in his eye. He’s learned those words; he can’t talk like that. Brainwashing? He believes it; you can see he believes it.”

“D’you think he was trying to recruit people from the church? Vulnerable folk? He could have been sent to draw people in to his unholy fucking cult. We don’t even know where he fucking comes from; nothing in his pockets.”

They stare at the jumble of arms and legs tied up.

“The priest wasn’t like that. He was a regular, boring, grey dude. Christian. His congregation may have been rough but they didn’t look like fucking cult types.” Denzel’s mind went back to the church, the cross, the plod-red prayer books. Not what they’d seen of cults before. He remembered back to when he was a kid and he and his brother had been altar boys. His mom was so proud of him, a good Catholic.

“We gonna make a move then. Get rid of this.” He gestures to the guy. Nothing in Harry’s face shows any humanity for the dude. Until he holds Mary again everyone else is expendable.

Attempting to think fast with nothing in the tank and no sleep they just glaze over for a time. Then the guy starts muttering. They instinctively move in.

Denzel says, almost kindly, “What is it, fella? You ready to finish up?” 

The guy can’t hold his head up but mutters, “You were so close.”

Harry freezes. He knows Denzel’s the good cop here. “Tell me, man. You know you can tell me,” says Denzel, getting down on his knees to hear what the guy says. He hates to look, but he must.

“Mary, now she’s sweet,” he says, drooling. Harry is crazed to hear her name but holds back. He doesn’t want to mess it up now. He’s stuck still like a marble statue, and just as pale. “Mary is with us, our blessed Mary. Her goodness nourishes us. Pretty eyes, soft hair, small. Yes, I know Mary proper well.” Harry is paralyzed. The guy continues. “She’s with us in the dark. She has seen the future. We’ve all seen the future together. He spoke it to us. We shall see another life. Until I joined the church, I was nothing. I was nobody. Not now, not with the ritual.”

Denzel holds fast.

The dribbling creature poured out more details about Mary. How she’d been a bit shy at first, then she understood the visions of the future too. She was ready to believe, ready to believe in this powerful being.

Denzel couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He’d heard bullshit half his life but now, the shite coming from this guy’s mouth. It wasn’t true. To mix Mary up in fucking cult just because he’d seen her at church. He must be soft in the head. He’s seen her and thinks he’s in with a chance, if she’s religious like.

“Good, man; tell me more and I’ll fix up your leg,” tries Denzel.

“Orobas.” The night gets darker somehow. “The Bornless Invocation. Invoke the Bornless Invocation. Mary knows. Our lord, Orobas.”

Harry is breathing real fast, his guile is up. His face is burning. He pulls Denzel back who staggers up, shocked.

The band of old soldiers on the radio are singing, “Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem rise …” No one notices.

Denzel looks at Harry’s wild eyes. He feels sick. He feels that close to finding Mary now but not right on it. He just needs the guy to say something else. Not bullshit, but a lead. Something they could hold on to. So Mary goes to church, this creep has met her, he believes in some weirdness, but surely she doesn’t. I mean she’s said stuff to Harry lately about the future, but it kind of went in one ear and out the other. Harry’s future was fishing, the cabin making babies, not suspicious religions.

Harry can hardly bear to hold back for even one more second. He can’t control himself and closes in. His steps pause. Not time just yet.

He summons up all of his experience and very, very slowly, deeply and quietly looks up at the guy’s drooping face and says, “Where?” The guy half smiles, or would if he had more of a face.

“Under the church, of course. Right under God’s silly little house.”

Denzel, mildly relieved that they’re moving on, heads to the house to get some things. Lights go on at the side of the house, the kitchen out of Harry’s view.

Denzel’s almost forgotten how to move around his house. There’s a pile of mail he got out of the box by his gate yesterday. Somehow an electricity bill and a card from young Jimmy, his nephew, were invisible now. Went for a slash; wished he hadn’t seen himself in the mirror.

Harry put his jacket on. He’d sweated hot and cold for hours and now his body was shivering with shock.

He tried to catch his breath. Was the guy gonna say anything more? Was it worth the wait?

He’d never felt hatred like it. Boiling with rage that this scum had even talked to her. His wife.

He wanted to kill more than he’d ever felt like killing anything before.

The radio played a tune that he’d heard Mary sing along to, Al Dexter’s “I’m losing my mind over you.”

Harry kneeled down and gripped the man’s throat. His hands tightened, each second further numbing his soul. The man’s face swelled as the pressure intensified.

Harry held on for much longer than was needed.

Denzel entered. He knew it. He knew it was going to end this way. He didn’t care. He fetched a spare gun. They already knew how to cheat this. They dumped the corpse in the back seat of the car. Denzel leaned over the body and took two shots at the dashboard, then he put the gun in the body’s hands. He used his own gun to empty a full clip of shots into the slumped corpse. The paperwork would write itself.

Sore hands and a blank gaze. Heading like the wind back to the church. An ill wind.

Harry’s leaning back into the seat. He slumps there. Denzel, foot down, knowing exactly where they’re headed and can’t make out why they hadn’t clocked anything at the fucking church earlier. Grey priest? Was he part of this “Orobas” cult? The Bornless, what in hell’s name was that?

The pair knew about cults but they were all different in weird kinds of ways. Black magic was a common thread, demon worship.

Harry sensed something very different here. As soon as they got to the church they’d have a better look around. That guy was crazed, but how many of them were there and what were they getting up to? He wanted answers and a lead. Mary had been kidnapped and he’d get to her before they scared the shit out of her, before she’d been brainwashed too.

Not that Mary was weak-minded. Maybe all those hours at work he hadn’t noticed something was missing in her life. He wished he’d taken the time, to talk to her more, ask her properly how she was. He hadn’t been good enough, he’d been living in his head and Mary had an empty spot in her heart that needed filling, he had doubts that she really did tell him everything. Maybe he just hadn’t been listening.

Harry drifted back to when he’d been in the bar with Denzel and Mary, some of the guys and their wives, down at the hotel bar. She’d looked real pretty that night. He’d come back with a tray of drinks and noticed the way Denzel was looking at her, she’d cast her eyes down and fussed in her handbag, but he’d seen her looking back at Denzel.

Darkness was enveloping the car as they headed back to the woods. Face set, teeth gritted. Darkness surrounded Harry like an unholy aura. Denzel could feel the dark cloud of Harry’s mind reaching out and touching him. Harry was getting in his head. He didn’t know this Harry so well.

Absentmindedly, Harry was staring at Denzel. Click, click, clicking his lighter.

The car was firing on all cylinders heading east. A heavy, charging lump of metal caging two men. They weren’t good inside, these two. Outdoor men, like dogs, didn’t like to be closed up. They ate big once a day, ran like animals. Then they’d set down by the fire, usually late, with one eye that opened at the slightest noise. Denzel never thought he ever really slept, only blacked out after half a bottle and his dinner.

Braking hard, Denzel thought he’d come to a wall. “What the fuck, Denzel?” shouted Harry, thrust onto the dashboard as Denzel braked. “Shit, man. I thought it was a wall. My mind’s playing tricks.”

He leans in and blinks his eyes hard; it’s just a bend but he’s so fucking tired, he saw a wall. He drives with his seat far back, long legs, elbows out and gets his head over the wheel. Rubber’s gone on gas pedal and his foot slips off every fucking day. There’s never time. There’s never time to do fuck all. No wonder his place is still a dump. His mind heads back to the body in the back.

The jolt jumps Harry’s body alive. He sits up. They have a lead now. Weird fuckers at the church. He’ll have them! Getting closer to Mary now. Not too many days. Percentages are looking better. He’ll get to her now. Chewing at his dry tongue he drinks some more, breathing out stale breath, coffee, cigarettes and spirits. His body’s got to run on something right?

Orobas. He thinks hard … has he heard that before, ever? If they’ve done any fucking funny shit to her. Ritual, he knows what that implies. She’d got tied up with the wrong crowd here. How could he have been such an idiot? Not to notice, to see that she’d got this other life going on that he really knew nothing about.

“When she said church, I thought she meant church, like something I would recognize.”

The church comes toward them out of the dark night, its small bell tower piercing the black. Now he came to think about it she’d started saying stuff about the future and shit since she’d been going to church. He dismissed this and reached for his gun.

Harry gestured to Denzel where to pull up. Raids were in their blood; they could do this bit on automatic.

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