Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Six

Raine lurched up in bed. Long slits of light blurred his vision, smeared it, but a dark shape leaned against the wall.

“Morning, sunshine.” Keir’s rumbling voice quaked through Raine’s temples.

But that didn’t make sense.

He shook his head. Shielding his eyes, he watched the figure straighten, walk over to his vanity. Keir sifted through empty liquor bottles, crushed cigarette packs, dirty plates, old bills. Not bothering to mask his disgust, he turned. “I’ve been waiting.”

“So nice to see you.”

Keir’s gaze remained unrelenting, staring straight into Raine’s eyes. Voice heavy and seething, he asked, “What happened last night?”

“I fucked up.”

Aon cac. I know. I’m asking you what happened.”

Raine took a deep breath. “They recognized me and lashed out before I could get a word in edgewise.”

“You do realize we don’t send you out there for your communication skills.”

“No shit.”

Mac an donais.

Raine flinched.

When Keir spoke again, his voice came smooth and measured, “Now what are we going to do about this problem?”

Raine let out a pent up breath. “Well, they know we’re looking for them.” He paused, then ventured, “Do you think it’s wise to put me on this? Everyone knows me. I can’t pass a beggar or a five year old without being recognized.”

Keir shrugged, his face betraying no emotion. “It’s a problem, but you’ve managed before.” He tilted his head. “Tell me how you’ll do it now.”

Raine hadn’t considered how he’d continue. He’d hoped Keir would see reason and take him off it. He found himself speaking with confidence.

“I got some information from the bartender. They seem to be on a nightly rotation of bars but spend most of their time at the Carnivorous Flamingo.”

“Then what?” Keir pushed.

“Grab one of them, maybe both. Bring ‘em to you. Then my hands are clean.” A grin played at the corners of his torn lips.

Keir smirked without amusement. “Interesting plan.” He nodded, then said, “Here’s what you’re going to do: get cleaned up. You’ll be at the docks tonight. Make sure you’re presentable. We want you to be known. They’ll show up.”

“But what about—”

“You’re really going to take the word of some floozy you chatted up? You don’t get people like us sniffing around and let your stuff sit there. You get rid of it as quickly as possible.”

“Yes, sir.”

Keir walked toward the bedroom door. He flicked a button. Light flooded the room as the window slats opened all at once. “Clean this place up, boy. You’re better than this.”

Then Keir left.

Raine stared at the doorway. He listened for the slam of the front door, but Keir didn’t give him the satisfaction. His boss slipped out as quietly as he appeared. He couldn’t help but hope Keir had to deal with Feond, but he doubted Keir would suffer her oddities gladly. He shifted his legs off the edge of the bed, fought the screaming of his muscles, and tried to stand.

Raine stumbled forward, collapsing into his nightstand. It jerked, its contents shifting. A lamp crashed to the floor while a dirty glass sloshed, pitching off the edge.

He caught the glass. Watered down and useless whiskey splashed his hand then came to rest. His stomach lurched at the thought of drinking again. He swallowed hard, the tainted liquor plummeting down to his empty stomach. He breathed in twice, sharp, labored breaths, then plucked a crooked cigarette from an ashtray. He straightened, bones cracking.

Slipping into the bathroom, he flipped on the row of lights. A pop hit his ears, another light dead. Only two of the seven lights remained. He stared at his reflection, exhaling a puff of smoke. Though he’d spent half the evening drinking and nursing his wounds, it hadn’t helped much.

Reaching up, Raine tapped a finger along the reflection. Nothing. He banged his fist against its side.

The mirror flickered to life. After an agonizing minute, a collection of three silent displays loaded up. He swiped across and news reports flitted by, dissolved, transitioned to a blank screen, words filing onto the space. He made three more gestures, then music started to play through the speakers. The bittersweet strings of a cello filled the room.

Raine peeled the bandages from his fist. He grimaced, threw the wrappings away. He examined the beet red flesh, finding it complimented the rest of his wounds quite well.

He crossed to the shower as the music shifted to a high pitched squeal of twisted metal.

Spinning round, he smacked the glass once more.

The image flashed, the melancholy strings resumed.

“Piece of shit,” he muttered.

He turned the shower on, stripped down. The scalding water assaulted his body and found its way into cuts he hadn’t realized he’d had. His scalp hissed in agony as little bits of glass pelted the shower tile. He sucked in a sharp rush of smoke with the pain. He tapped the ash against the wall, careful to keep the cigarette from the water, as he rattled off excuses for his failure to the unresponsive tile.

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.