“I was looking at him. Then it was me. I wasn’t me. It was him.”
Kane watched a young woman pushing an old-fashioned large-wheeled pram past the window. Looking left and right, she made her way across the empty road and walked towards a thin, white-haired woman sitting on a park bench knitting something blue. They greeted each other with obvious delight. The woman parked the pram and they sat on the bench with their heads together, chatting as the old woman knitted away with deft fingers. A car swerved into the parking spot alongside the liquor store, a young man got out, went up to the couple and joined in the conversation.
‘Do you know them?” Arika asked as he stared blankly at them.
“Uh – yeah,” he grunted, raising his eyebrows. “Not know them; just know about them. The one with the pram was in my year nine class – Sybil Trudehope; she dropped out the first time she got pregnant, never came back. That’s her third, from three different fathers. The old woman used to run the nursery and now she’s having an affair with Vicar Jim at All Saints – he’s got chilblains, so it’s his socks she’s knitting.”
She seemed impressed by his knowledge of the local fauna. “The young man?”
“The uncle of one of her kids – I forget which. He’s married to the woman who runs the dog grooming salon. He’s into comics trading.”
All perfectly normal and boring, thought Kane as he watched the man pick up the baby from its pram and rub his nose in its belly. If only they knew how much danger they were in – how much danger everyone they knew and loved was in, if what Arika was telling him was true. Watching them chatting away as if they hadn’t a care in the world, the cafe window might have been a portal to another dimension.
He picked up his cup, and was just taking a sip when Dylan’s car drove past. “Hey!” he cried, spilling coffee all over the table. “There’s Dylan!”
Dropping the cup, he jumped to his feet and watched as the white Honda Civic parked a few bays down. Dylan got out and with head down made his way towards the cafe. He continued walking past the window without seeing him.
“Blind git,” Kane mumbled, and took off after him.
Outside, speed-walking down the footpath, he glanced over his shoulder and saw Arika in the window staring at them.
“Dylan!” he called out. “I’ve been ringing. What’s up with you?”
Dylan was bent over, a little unsteady on his feet, like he had a stomach ache. He didn’t seem to hear him.
He half turned his head, but kept on walking.
Kane caught up and placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder. Dylan jerked away and spun round to face him.
“What’s wrong?” asked Kane.
Dylan glared at him. “Nothing,” he said testily. “Nothing’s wrong.” Then: “I’m not used to people creeping up on me in the street, is all.”
“I wasn’t creeping. I called you. You ignored me … as usual.”
Dylan sneered at him.
“You okay? You don’t look well.”
He raised his chin. “I’m well. Never better, if you must know.”
“You were out at Waite’s farm.”
Dylan smiled. “Nosy bastard. Have you been following me?”
“I’ve been ringing.”
“Yes, well, I’ve been busy.”
“Bringing more dead bodies to life?”
“How did you guess?”
“Well, come on home. We need to sort a few things out.”
His brother looked perplexed for a moment. Then his eyes lit up and he said, “Home? Which home might that be? My home is out at the farm. With Mr Waite. I’m his assistant and he’s providing me with employment, and money, and a future. What did you ever give me, besides a headache from all your whining? Well, listen here: this is where it ends. You need to stop interfering in my life and telling me what to do and move on with your own life. Stay away from me, if you know what’s good for you. Is that clear?”
With a curl of his lip, he turned away, stepped to the antiques store and inserted a key in the lock. A moment later and he was inside, slamming the door behind him. The lock clicked and Kane was alone.
Arika came up behind him. “Why did you let him go? Did you tell him I needed to talk to him?”
“I’ve had it!” Kane bellowed in her face. “Up to here!” he added, touching his chin with the back of his hand.
Realising that shouting at Arika was rude and unproductive, he lowered his voice. “He’s lost it. He’s a … a freak. He’s moved in with that – that freak. They deserve each other. I can’t deal with him anymore. There’s just … He can do whatever he wants from now on.”
Throwing an angry glance at the antiques store, he started back to the cafe.
“Kane,” cried Arika, running after him, “what happened?”
“If that moron wants to get mixed up in weird shit, he’s welcome to it. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and … I don’t care what Dad would say. He’s a lost cause. There’s nothing more I can do. Nothing. Sorry, Dad – nothing!”
“Kane, come back inside and let’s talk about it.”
He turned to her, no longer interested in chatting her up or finding out more about gods and aliens. She was a part of this warped world Dylan had gotten himself involved in, and he needed to get as far away from it and him and her as possible. “Listen, I told you everything I know. Why don’t you go on back to your university? There’s nothing here to see, no monsters hiding in the bushes. I told you everything I know. It’s over. I’m done with this crap.”
He felt bad as he jumped in his truck and reversed, even worse when he glanced up and saw Frankie storming out of the cafe, throwing up his arms and abusing Arika for walking out without paying for their drinks. But Kane was too enraged and confused to go back. Staring at the speedo, he tried to calm himself by plotting his escape from sleepy, depressing, freak-infested Quorn.
Arriving home with a six pack of beer, trying hard to keep his mind off Dylan and Waite and Quorn by planning a long ride up the coast, he didn’t notice Arika’s car parked on the road. But there she was, back on the porch, just like before.
She didn’t say anything, just stood there watching him. He took a seat, pulled out a beer and handed it to her.
Arika sat next to him, accepted the bottle and tried to twist off the cap. It wasn’t that type of bottle.
“Here,” offered Kane, holding out a hand.
“I’ll do it,” she said, and to his horror, placed the bottle cap against her eye socket like he’d seen some drunk do on YouTube.
“Holy shit,” he cried, but then she laughed and handed the bottle to him.
Kane held it against the edge of the seat and hit the bottle with his palm. The top went spinning away. He gave the bottle back to her, then did the same with his.
They both took a swig.
“This is some weird shit,” Kane breathed, shaking his head.
She nodded. “Not everyday weird shit. Fanatics trying to raise hell on Earth.”
“He spends all his time with that creep. How could he, when he knows what Waite might have done to our folks?”
“If Waite does have the Necromonicon, he could be holding a power over your brother.”
Kane looked at her. “What kind of power?”
“What was that about your folks?”
He didn’t feel inclined to tell her the story right now. “Tell me more about the book.”
“The Necromonicon isn’t just a book,” Arika explained, “it’s an energy source, a … key to some not very pleasant dimensions. And a magnet for all sorts of crazies.”
“What did you mean by a power?” he asked her. “Do you think it’s the book that’s making Dylan act strange?”
“If Waite wants to control him, the Necromonicon would have the kinds of spells he needs to do it.”
“But why Dylan? He’s a skinny adolescent. Lazy as all hell. Bad tempered, unreliable. He could have chosen someone like …” He glanced at Arika and saw from the look on her face that she knew what he’d stopped short of saying.
Now he was vulnerable and confused, she seemed to be warming to him. “It could be like hypnotism. The subject needs to be open to suggestion. Not everyone can be hypnotised.”
“I need to work out how to break the spell.”
Arika took another swallow of beer. “I’m not an expert at things like this, but I’d say a good start would be to get your brother away from the mad sorcerer.”
“Or steal the book.” Kane tapped his bottle on the arm of the seat. “I need to get back out to the farm.”
Then he turned to Arika and told her everything.
When he got to the part about the dogs, she said, “What will you do about them?”
“Worried about their welfare?”
“I’m worried about your welfare.”
Kane felt his face go red. To curb his hormones, he stood up and said, “I’m a fireman. Trained in search and rescue.”
“So if the dogs are stuck up a tree,” she smirked, “we’ll have it covered.”
He put his empty bottle on the floor, smiling at her little joke. His head jerked up. “Did you say we?”
She placed her empty bottle next to his. “I can help.”
He shook his head. He should have seen that coming. It was clear Arika was the type of person who never took no for an answer. She came all the way out here for a story and she wasn’t going home without one. But her involvement was out of the question. This was a family affair. And what he was intending to do was dangerous, possibly deadly, probably illegal.
He was explaining this to her when he was interrupted by the sound of an approaching car. It was the Honda. Kane watched as the car turned into the driveway, drove up and ran into the back of his truck.
“What the hell!” he cried. Taking off, he leapt from the top of the steps and raced towards the car.
Dylan was slumped over the steering wheel. He had barely enough strength to lift his head. “Kane,” he croaked, pushing open the door. “Help me.”
“What? What’s wrong?” He glanced around for bruises or blood, before realising Dylan hadn’t been driving fast enough to get hurt. “What’s wrong?”
Arika came up behind him, phone in hand. “I’m calling an ambulance.”
Kane pulled Dylan off the steering wheel, reached down and unfastened the seat belt. His brother lolled in the seat, staring at him with heavily-lidded eyes.
“I was looking at him,” he murmured. “Then it was me. I wasn’t me. It was him.”
“Wha?” grunted Kane. “You’re not making any sense.” He turned to Arika. “He’s not making any sense.”
“He locked himself in the basement … so I couldn’t get out. But he wasn’t strong enough. He went to the shop. I was there.”
“Hey, man, hold on. You’re babbling.”
“You don’t understand.”
“Cos you’re not making any sense.”
“I can feel him … still there … inside my head. He’s trying to get back in … pushing me out.”
“What are you talking about?”
Dylan grabbed his sleeve, pulling him down. “Wilfred Waite. His body is failing. So he wants mine.”