I know I’ve been a little absentee lately but i have had good reason. I’ve been pretty busy. Trying to keep up with life and trying to produce new content at a rate that keeps my editor happy. Plus fixing all those pesky errors and minor details that were running loose. lol. Well here is another sneak peak of Pandemonium Justified. Enjoy.
We ended up at a nice Mexican restaurant a couple miles away from the school. Dinner was much more subdued than a normal Barter family dinner. I think Jay was trying to avoid being alone with Vincenzo. Jayson seemed to have decided the only person he would talk to was Aria. Brian was happily in his own personal bubble enjoying one of his last high school victories, and Lee was smiling and playful, but he would just stop and stare at Jayson until Jayson made eye contact then smile and go back to what he was doing. He would only ever hold contact long enough for Jayson to acknowledge it. The only one who really noticed the exchange, Tommy, would chuckle ever time Lee did it. Jay paid for everyone and we left to go back to the school. Lee almost demanded that the ‘kids’ get to ride back together. Jay and Steve both looked apprehensively at Lee.
“Why does it matter Johnny?” Steve asked, “We are all going the same place.” Lee looked at Jayson and smiled as he answered.
“I just want to spend some time with these guys. We have all never gotten to chill. Brian is going to be gone in a few months and you already told Jayson that he has to start learning to control some of the Cupid abilities he has. The four of us will need each other for support,” Lee said, finally looking over at his father. “Do you guys not want to ride in a car with each other? Are you fighting over some new woman?”
“Yes father?” he asked sweetly, never losing his smile.
“Johnny, what are you doing?” Steve asked pleadingly.
“It doesn’t matter what he is doing. Tommy, get your trouble-making ass in the car. We have an early flight tomorrow and the airport is the opposite direction from the school; I am not driving all the way out there to pick you up to turn around and go to the airport at six in the morning. So say goodnight to these guys and you will see them all in June when school is out,” Paolo said coming up between Jay and Steve.
“Dad!” Tommy whined but walked over to the rental car his mother was waiting at. Nicky and Brian started walking towards Brian’s car.
“Why are you still standing here? Go get in the car.” Lee made a face like he was about to say something. “Save that thought, Johnny, and text it to me when you get in the car.” Paolo waited until both boys started walking to Brian’s car before rounding on Jay and Steve. “And you two idiots,” he barked at Jay and his brother, “this shit is only going to get worse. Whatever went down between you happened, you’re grown men, move on.”
“Johnny is a performer. That apparently includes when he dispenses justice. Stefan, figure out why your son is pissed at you and fix it. Jay, the fact that you have been avoiding having a conversation with my father lets me know you know why he is mad at you. Fix it. But for future reference boys, if you take away the damn audience the performer will leave. If you ever see him and Tommy standing around smiling like fat kids at a cake shop, separate them. I really hope the pair of you do not fuck up my boys in the process of letting yours fight your battles.”
Just then the text message alarm sounded on his cell phone. He pulled it out of his pocket, read the message shook his head, pushed a couple buttons on his phone and then put it back into his pocket. Mine, Jay’s and Steve’s phones all sounded almost simultaneously. I opened my phone and saw that Paolo had forwarded the message to me.
‘FWD: Johnny: Uncle P, I perform just as well digitally. And justice doesn’t need a witness, just someone to dispense it. And I’ve got a couple back order cans of whoop ass that I need to deliver.’
“They can hear us?” Jay asked as he finished reading the text. He started to put his phone away when he got another message.
‘Robin JLB: YELLING in empty parking lots tends to carry. + 4 telepaths in a car with an Empath equals Bose level speakers.’
“They heard us out loud and he read your mind,” Jay said gesturing at Paolo. Then there were two more text messages, both to Paolo’s phone.
‘Cake: Paolo you have the damn car keys. And it’s freezing. Call them on the phone when we get to the hotel. Let’s go.’
‘Johnny: No I didn’t read his mind. I made two of the most powerful men in the world dance tonight. I’m still riding that wave. But it’s almost curfew time for us so thanks for coming Uncle P.’
Paolo looked up from his phone, gave them wide eyes and just walked away. Brian started the car and drove off.
I got a message at five-something the next morning from Paolo.
‘Paolo: 1of2 James, I didn’t sleep much tonight thinking about what happened. My brother tried to call me twice but I’m not ready to talk to him about it yet. I learned a lot about my nephew last night and I am not happy with any of it. One of my abilities is to be able to assess relationships. Johnny is mad at my brother for something old that is new again. If you know what it is, help them please. I don’t want to say this because they are brothers but, I fear Johnny and Jayson’s bond is broken. Jayson is hurt deep down. He almost has to hate Johnny to feel good about himself. But Johnny wants to love him so bad that it hurts him not to be able to. When Johnny gets hurt, he doesn’t like to hurt alone.’
‘Paolo: 2 of2 He is going to lash out very soon. Be mindful of him in the next few days. He is power drunk right now. His decisions might not be the best right now, especially concerning enemies. I know he was getting bullied earlier in the year. I know you guys have that challenge thing from the brochure, make him do that. Make him make it formal. Those kids may not live if there is no ref. I am going to forward what he sent me last night before they left so you can see what I mean.’
As I went to open up the text, I felt that now familiar pull of a Jump. I tried to fight this one but it was as if someone were pulling me.
“They said someone saw him last night,” the man said frantically as he ran into his bedroom to start packing.
“What? Who? Why are you packing?” his roommate said as he came into the room to question his friend. “Stop! Randy, stop. What the hell are you talking about? Who saw who last night?”
“The patrol Luka set up. They saw Him last night. God, I wish they had put out the alert right away. We could have gotten a decent head start,” Randy said, throwing clothes into his duffel.
“Who’s him?” Randy looked up at him skeptically.
“What do you mean, ‘who’s him?’ Him Him, stupid. Who is everyone afraid of?”
“You mean Wr-”
“Don’t say his name. I heard that he ca-”
“He’s not fucking Voldemort. He is not the goddamned Candyman or Bloody Mary. Saying his name does not summon him to you. I knew him and-”
Randy froze, eyes locked on a point behind his roommate’s shoulder.
“Hey Randy. How ya doing? That good huh?” The new speaker walked up and touched Randy’s roommate on the shoulder. “Hey Hootie. Long time, no see. I’m sure you’ve got tons of questions for me. And I plan to answer a few of them right now. Okay. How did I find you? The Yellow Pages; you are the only idiots trying to hide from someone who registers their phone number and address. No, I am not Voldemort. He needed Horcruxes to stay alive. What a pussy.” The man laughed at his own joke.
“Why didn’t Luka warn you earlier? I told him I came for you, Randy. And that everyone else could live if he told you with enough time for you pack a bag so we could go when we are finished here. Umm… other questions, what about your roommate? He is going to die today. Either I am going to kill him or you are.” He held up a hand before Randy could protest. “I came to collect you alive. I don’t need or want him alive. But I also don’t need you whole. I can turn you into little more than a battery. So, before you say ‘no I won’t kill my friend’, just remember he is going to die anyway. It doesn’t help you to cut off your nose to spite your face.”
“Please sir-” Randy started.
“Don’t call him si-” Hootie gagged as Wrath cut off his air supply.
“See, everyone always compares me to Voldemort and Bloody Mary but I honestly prefer Apollo. He and I have a lot more in common,” Wrath stated simply.
“Sir, why are you making me choose? Why do you want me to do it?”
“Short answer: because I can. Medium answer: I’m shopping for a new head henchman and your name came up. Long answer: my fatal flaw is that I hold grudges. The person who gave him that scar,” Wrath said pointing at the burn scar that nearly bisected the right side of Hootie’s face, “…he was very important to me and this man, your friend, caused the death of that man and a lot of other people I care about.” Hootie struggled, shaking his head and trying to communicate with his friend.
“Who gave you my name? Why would you want me?”
“Are you accepting the job offer?” Wrath countered. Randy walked into the kitchen and came back holding a long serrated knife. He walked straight up to Hootie and drove the knife into his chest.
“When do I start?” Wrath gave a small chuckle.
“Better to reign in hell, huh? Take your bag to the car downstairs, the driver will give you your first assignment and the answers to a few more questions. Now go, I have a few things I need to do here.” Randy rubbed his bloody hands on Hootie’s shirt, picked up his bag and walked out the door.
Wrath turned back to Hootie’s slowly dying form. “You poor idiot, did you really think you would live after pissing off a guy named Wrath? Really?” Wrath stared at him, waiting for the idiocy of that thought blossom on his face.
“But I must say thank you for Randy. I wanted you to find him for me. I figured if anyone could find him, it would be a traitorous son of a bitch like you. Did you know I’ve had a signature lock on you since high school? I could have found you anywhere in the world any time I wanted. I’m not even sure dying will cure you of the lock, but I guess we will find out soon enough.” Wrath chuckled slightly and shook his head. “I know I’m monologuing at you right now but damn, I’ve waited so long for this. But again, thanks for giving him to me, they were shielding him. But he is mine now. I might give Luka to Lust, she’s been asking for a new toy. And as for you…” He turned to the corner of the room where I thought I stood invisibly. “Are you going to keep following me around? Because it’s annoyingly tedious to have to keep erasing your memory. They were afraid of a king, instead they created a god. And vengeance is most definitely mine. Now go back, James. I think I’ll let you remember the scar.”
“Ahh, he speaks. You’re learning how to drive this bus, finally. What am I waiting for James?”
“Who are you? Why do you know me? Why do I keep following you?” Wrath smiled.
“You really can’t see the details of my face can you? I didn’t think I could affect someone as powerful as you without trying. I’ll have to remember that. But I am Wrath, James. That is not the name I was given but the name I chose because that is all they left me to show the world. The man I was died a long time ago. This asshole helped kill him. He helped kill people he knew for money and a clean passport. That is why he isn’t dead yet.” I looked back over to Hootie and saw he was in fact still alive with the knife sticking out of chest. “I can keep him like this for as long as I want. Or I can heal him up a bit and erase his memory of us and do this all over again every day for the next two months. Oh wait, I did that; two months ago.”
Wrath giggled to himself. His drastic swings in mood were getting scary to witness. “I call him ‘Hootie’ because of the way he screams right before I pull the knife out. It’s a hoot,” Wrath said laughing at his own joke, until his face sobered into a sneer. “Should we tell him your real name? Or do we let him go back to his time still thinking Hootie was the sad little man that didn’t know when he should just stop breathing?” Hootie struggled against his bindings. Wrath cracked a small smile. “No names you say? Just ‘sad little man with the hand of a god burned into his cheek’; you don’t deserve to have breathed his air.” The very air around Wrath began to ripple with energy. “James, go before I do something unpleasant. And remember the man with the hand shaped scar.”