This is the continuing story of the Succubi called Storm Clouds…
Edits only this week as Real Life has conspired to cause the Queen of the Succubi to have to study for a pitchforking exam… Well, not really, but it does bring up interesting thoughts doesn’t it?
Storm Clouds 95
After Camilla left, Tom spent the next thirty minutes grilling Bill over what he had done, what he was doing, and whether anyone in his company might have taken it upon themselves to attack Brent and his wife. He came to the conclusion that, while Bill wasn’t directly involved in what happened, Tom could not dismiss the possibility that someone who worked for Bill had done the deed … or that Bill was hiding something from him.
That bothered him.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe what Bill had said; it was the sheer stupidity of Bill blowing up and going off on a tirade over the injustice that he perceived had been done to him.
Tom didn’t enjoy pushing his old friend that way. Worse was trying to break all of his explanations and reasons why he wasn’t responsible for what had happened. Most of the reasons made sense—most of them—but one exchange just about pushed Bill over the edge, and that worried him.
Tom sighed and paced in front of the offices again. He was sure that the workers inside were looking at him oddly, but he didn’t care: Bill was not quite cleared; that one piece of evidence would damn him in court if it came to that.
Tom hoped that it wouldn’t.
It wasn’t much evidence, but it was enough that fingers could be pointed, witnesses found, and, in the end, Bill could be sent to jail for a long time. But when you are seen threatening someone with death, and promising to harm his family … that is too much to ignore.
Bill had explained that he was madder than hell. That something had snapped inside of him when Brent was nearby. “Something ’bout that guy rubs me the wrong way. He’s just so damn smug, knows all of the secrets, stuff that you don’t want out. I dunno how he does it, but he knows where to be and what to look for. Damn frustratin’. He’d be a great spy. Wonder if he is one.”
Tom continued to pace around for a while. He didn’t know where Camilla had gone; he assumed she would return to the office when she was done talking to Billy. He assumed that she would, at least. She seemed like a responsible woman, if a bit irritating. It hit him, then, why Bill would be driven crazy by Brent.
Tom wondered if that was part of those people’s nature.
He watched Bill’s staff run their errands in and out of the office, most of them ignoring his pacing as he waited for Camilla to return. In his mind, Tom was putting together the questions that needed to be put to Bill next. He was, after all, and by his own admission, someone Tom needed to grill for information.
Coming to the end of one of his walks down the corridor, he turned without looking and walked head-on into someone: a short, blonde, Asian someone. She stood in front of him, a pile of files and papers surrounding her scattered on the floor. For a moment, her dark brown eyes regarded him, and then a flush of embarrassment passed over her and she knelt to the floor, beginning to gather what she had dropped moments before.
Tom knelt with her: “I’m sorry, please, let me help you.”
She didn’t reply, save for a slight nod, her focus for the moment on the mess around her rather than Tom beside her.
After a few minutes, Tom handed her the last file and, as she finally looked at him again, said, “I’m Tom.”
The blush was still there as she replied, “Tenshi. Please forgive my clumsiness.”
“It was my fault; should have been paying attention instead of being a hazard to women.”
That made her smile just slightly, “I … thank you for the help.”
“You’re welcome. Have you been with Bill long?”
Clutching the files to her chest as she stood she managed, “A year now. Please excuse me. I must attend to my duties …”
She then rushed off again on whatever errand she was on, leaving Tom standing there alone again, pondering what she had said to him, and, more importantly, why she was so shook up over what had happened.
Camilla came into view soon after, her heels clicking on the concrete floor of the warehouse. Tom noticed that Billy wasn’t there, and he wasn’t too pleased about that. He had been intending to grill Billy next, thanks to his father’s admission, but would now have to hunt him down and corner him. Filing away the thoughts on his old friend, he called out to Camilla, “Where’s Billy? Have to talk to him.”
“No, you don’t. He’s not to blame for this: he nor his father.”
Tom rubbed his chin a moment, then said, “You got a feeling or something?”
She looked around, then nodded and explained, “Let’s just say that my … ‘feelings’ … are pretty accurate.”
Turning away, he replied, “You’ll have to explain that to me sometime. Soon would be great. You know, before I have to toss them both in jail.”
Camilla looked at him curiously, then followed behind. Tom seemed to be in a rush to get out of the warehouse, and she found herself running a bit to keep up with him. Then she asked, “Do you have something to charge them with?”
“Enough to charge Bill: making threats. He was foolish in front of a lot of people. That’s a big no-no in things like this.”
“Passions of the heart can make us all say silly things we don’t mean at the moment they are said.”
“Passions can and have killed in the past, you know.”
Camilla had finally caught up to him, and, as she walked beside, started to lecture Tom a bit, “Those are not passions. Those are misguided beliefs and desires that pull one away from what is important, pull one inward, toward oneself. It is easier to fall to darker desires and temptations than it is to hold onto the more important things within.”
“You know, I don’t understand all of that stuff. I’m just a simple man. I haven’t got the time to deal with theories and wishes. I deal with facts. Give me some of those and I’ll be able to deal with ‘em.”
“All right, then. Fact: Bill said that he would never harm a lady. Fact: you agree that he would not either. Therefore, he cannot be the one to have done the deed nor order it done.”
“Okay; see, that’s not a fact. That is conjecture.”
“Is it? I don’t think so. I have …”
“A feeling? You said that before. What does that mean?”
The pair exited the warehouse, but Camilla did not speak until she was quite sure that no one else would hear them talk.
“I … We … know people by their souls, Thomas. When I touched your hand, I knew that you were a good man. I also knew that you have a troubled past and that you have lost someone close to you.”
Tom’s look was a mix of shock and concern, but, before he could say anything, she continued: “I did not look deeply into you. I did not look into your memories; I could have, but, because I respect you, and you did not give me permission, I did not. All I knew was that you cared about what happened to Patricia, for whatever reason you had, and so …”
“And so that was your lure to get me involved in this …”
“You did not have to.”
He stopped walking: “You know, I feel like I was pushed into this. That you and Tera conspired to get me involved and make me stay in it.”
“No. We did not. I gave you the card. I gave you the chance to walk away. You decided that you needed to find out more and you came into our world. Do not confuse the sight of an open door with walking through it. You had the choice. You made it.”
Tom wanted to rant at her, but her logic was sound. He did poke his nose in, and he was deep in it now. With a sigh, he asked, “How much do you know about Bill and his son?”
“Enough to know that Bill has not killed anyone, ever. I can say the same for Billy, as well.”
“Okay, explain that … in simple words so that my mind doesn’t break.”
Camilla laced her hands together and explained, “If you are dark, or have been touched by the dark, if you have killed or done something that serves the dark and makes it gain power, you are marked, in your soul. If I touch someone like that, I’ll know. The same is true of someone who has been touched by the light, but it is different.”
“Weird. Sort of sounds like you are a divining rod.”
She giggled a bit and pointed at her forehead: “Divine I am not. Or at least I do not appear to be.”
Tom couldn’t help the smile, “Right. I forgot about that.’
“What most people are, generally, are shades of grey. That’s normal, and what we expect. But there are always exceptions to that rule. If either of them had killed, they would not be grey; they would be dark. I don’t sense that in either of them.”
“So, you give them a pass?”
“I give them more than a pass: there is nothing in them that even hints they are involved. But …”
“I asked Billy for a favor.”
That stopped Tom in his tracks. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he asked, “What kind of favor?”
“I can’t say.”
“Oh come on. He’s a suspect in spite of your feelings about him. You can’t just go and trust someone because …”
“I can and I did. In the end I gave him some comfort and, in response to that, he agreed to do something for me. He will. He’s as honourable as his father.”
“Did you tell him anything more than what Bill knows?”
“No. We did talk about his mother a while. He misses her. He does not want to lose his father as well.”
Tom stared off into space for a time before ending the conversation with, “We don’t have the evidence to clear Bill. Right now, he’s the only suspect we’ve got.”
“Then we should find more.”
Tom smiled again, “Right. Look Camilla, I know that you … work … differently then we do. I get that. But you have to see that we have rules and laws here and I have to enforce them. That means that without a piece of paper, a videotape, a confession … hell, anything at all that points me away from Bill, I’m going to arrest him real soon.”
“You will be wrong then.”
“I’ll have to live with that.”
“You will not be able to. I can see that.”
“I know. But that’s part of the job. Sometimes, I think that I sold my soul for the job.”
With that confession, Tom whistled for a cab. It didn’t take long for one to pull up to the curb. He opened the door and let her go in first. As she did so, Camilla told him, with a serious tone in her voice, “You cannot sell that which is held by another, Thomas.”
He climbed into the cab, gave their destination and, as the taxi drove them away, Tom’s memories came back to haunt him again … as they always did.
As they departed, Billy watched from one of the windows in the upper floor of the warehouse. He liked Camilla, liked her a lot. After they had left, he stood there by the window, watching the traffic pass by, and thought about what Camilla had asked him to do. He didn’t know why exactly he had agreed to it, maybe it was just wanting to do something when, so far, there was nothing he could do for his father.
With a sigh he rummaged in his pockets until he found his phone, opened it, and made a call.
“It’s me. Yah. No, no they didn’t arrest Dad. I … trust them. Have to trust someone, don’t I? Anyway, I need somethin’ done … today.”
Billy turned away from the window and walked off into the gloom around him, doing what he hoped would help his father in the end …
Jane awoke to hissing. For a moment she thought it was a snake or something similar; she startled and tried to move, but then heard a voice.
“No, don’t move. Just lay there a minute, whoever you are.”
It took another moment for her memories to come rushing back to her; then she recognized the voice. It was John, that guy that she had talked to before … before everything went black. From the sound of his voice, Jane assumed that she didn’t look like that girl who was on his mind when she first met him.
In the next moment, she tried to move her hands towards her face and the source of that hissing sound, which she now realized was an oxygen mask. A firm hand pushed her hands back down, and she opened her eyes to see John standing above her: “Look. Just stay there and don’t move.”
He looked around for a moment and then, to Jane’s surprise, flicked one of her horns with a finger, the “thunk” of that echoing in her mind for a moment. Jane started to panic; if someone could see her horns … His next words to her didn’t help a lot, either.
“I know you’re not who you look like. I called Jenni. She’s at her office. You aren’t her. You look like her, but you aren’t her. Now, listen carefully to me: if you try to run, people will see you. Jenni is on her way down here right now. If someone sees you, there will be questions that you probably don’t want to answer. Besides, you have smoke inhalation, you’re weak, and you aren’t going to get very far. Now, nod if you understand me.”
Jane did so.
“Okay. You’re in the back seat of my car. You have an oxygen mask on, and you are under a blanket so no one can see you right now. Just stay there and I’ll get you out of here, all right?”
Another nod, then Jane closed her eyes again.
The next time she opened them, the oxygen mask was gone, but the blanket was still there, and she was still moving. Sitting up gingerly, she held her head in her hands while she managed a question: “Where am I?”
“Still in my car; I’m trying to decide what to do with you.”
Jane then looked up and found herself looking at … Jenni; with horns … green horns. The only thing she managed was a soft, “Damn” before she fell back into the seat with a thud.
“So tell me: What’s your name, anyway? You know mine already, so I’ll skip the introduction.”
“Jane … Jenni … I can see how I could be confused. No, wait, you were Jenni when we first met. Now, you are Jenni with horns.” He looked in the mirror at her, “So. Are they real? The horns, I mean. And is that what you look like or is it all makeup or something?”
Jane’s first instinct was to lie and tell him that was all it was. But then she recognized the problem with that lie: he’d ask to see the horns come off or the makeup be pulled away. Then another thing came to her: she had been out cold for a while. He could have checked and seen that it was all real. Lying to him would be a mistake.
So she said the only thing she could say at that moment: “You’d never believe me even if I tried to explain it to you.” Gaining a little bit of confidence, she added, “So. What are you going to do, then; police or something?”
John smiled thinly, replying with a flat, “Or something,” as he continued to drive, leaving them both with their own thoughts …
Jane’s were spinning around one thing: it would be disastrous if beings like her, the ones that were thought of as being legends, were discovered to be quite real. Her next thought was that Tera was going to kill her … or, even worse, be disappointed in her, and that thought was much worse than the first one she’d found. But the one that she held onto was: how she could get out of this mess she found herself in?
She looked out the window of the car and watched the city passing by while not saying anything else for the moment, in part because she wasn’t sure that John wouldn’t hurt her, but mainly because she needed to get focused again and try to make herself not look like Jenni any longer.
John’s thoughts, on the other hand, were slightly more focused. He wanted to know exactly what the hell was going on. The shock he felt when he touched those … horns? … on Jenni’s … no, Jane’s … head told him that something was seriously wrong here. He didn’t believe in legends or tales of the beyond. No, what he believed in was logic and proof. Thing was that here he had proof that there were–and he found this still impossible to believe–demons in his world. That still didn’t sit right with him.
Then he made a decision and turned the car to follow it. He needed a doctor: someone to tell him if Jane really was what she seemed to be or if it was just a fluke or some cosmetic surgery or something like that. He found himself liking that possibility, as that idea would fit into his world a hell of a lot better than the other one, which kept prodding him as being the truth. Looking once more in the mirror, he said, “Better put your seatbelt on. You’re going to be there for a while.” John made a hard right and continued to drive, occasionally looking in the mirror at Jane.
Jane did so, not so much out of caution, but to try and lull him into a false sense of security. The pair didn’t say another word for the rest of the drive to each other. But Jane was curious about where they were going and what John was planning.
The place was obvious when he made a left and drove down a ramp into an underground garage. They dropped down four floors and then came to a stop in front of a garage door.
John pressed a button on an intercom and just said his name to it. The door rolled up, they entered, and Jane looked behind to see the door close again.
After parking in one of several spaces there, John helped Jane out of the car.
“Don’t try to run. You can’t get out, and there are cameras watching us. Just stay calm, all right?”
Jane didn’t feel calm, but she nodded her head in understanding when he took a hold of her arm and guided her away from the car.
Two sets of double doors, one short elevator ride, and Jane found herself in an examination room. After she was offered a chair there, John left the room and Jane heard the door lock behind him as he left.
Jane tried to figure out a way to escape before he came back, but there were no windows, no exits but the one they had come through. She tried to teleport from the room … but nothing happened.
With a sigh she walked over to a small mirror that hung on one wall and looked herself over. The horns she recognized as her own, but everything else wasn’t her. She found herself missing the familiar eyes, face, and body that she had known for centuries … and wondering if she would ever see them again.
John hadn’t returned and she found herself trying to figure out what trap she had sprung back in that house. It was a magic trap, obviously, a powerful one if it had locked her into this form and taken away her powers …
She couldn’t change her appearance, couldn’t teleport, couldn’t cast a spell or use her powers of seduction … or could she? Running a finger over her lips, she considered whether or not she should try to seduce John, try to confuse him long enough to make her escape. It seemed like an option.
Then the door opened and John walked in with someone else …
“Well there she is, Doc. What do you think?”
Jane turned to see him standing there with another man, who was obviously “Doc.” This older man with thick glasses and a gruff voice answered, “Well, she’s alive, John; something I don’t see a lot of anymore.” Then he walked over to her, looked her over for a minute, and then said, “So, you want to tell us who you are and why you look like someone he knows? Oh, and, if you want, tell us how it is that you have horns on your head?”
Jane shrugged, “He knows my name.”
Doc nodded, “Right. Jane. You have a last name?”
She shrugged again, “Call me Jane Doe.” She paused and then, remembering the description of the person that Camilla had met when claiming Patricia, bit her lip. For a moment, she considered thanking him for looking after her sister, but decided that would be too much information to give them. Then she said, “You’ve seen enough of us, haven’t you?”
Doc pulled back a bit from that comment and softened his approach slightly, “Look, just because I work in a morgue doesn’t mean that I’m not a doctor, okay?”
She rubbed her hands together a moment and then said, “I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”
Doc then turned around and pushed John out the door. Then he tossed a gown to her. “Get dressed in that. I’ll have a nurse in here to examine you in a few minutes.”
Jane watched him leave, the door close, and heard it lock again, and then she smiled.
Outside the room, Doc and John waited patiently for a nurse to arrive to actually perform the physical. Regulations were that such things had to be done by a woman–for various legal reasons nether of them cared to try to figure out. It was a lot less stress to just do it and avoid the investigations, should they come.
The sound of footsteps on tile made them both look to see a redhead in a nurse’s uniform come around the corner. Doc nodded at her, “Good day Patti. Sorry to keep you here at work, but I need you to do something for me.”
She gave a nod, “Sure, Doc. What’s going on?”
He pointed a finger in the direction of the room that Jane was in, “Do a physical on the woman in there, please. Her name’s Jane Doe.”
She looked at Doc oddly, but nodded and walked away from the pair, who turned to the other side of the corridor and entered Doc’s office. Doc opened a drawer of one of the filing cabinets and pulled out a bottle of whisky. When he offered it to John, the reply was a shake of his head.
Doc, nonetheless, opened the bottle and poured some into a coffee cup, “So, you got a mystery, don’t you? She tell you anything yet? I mean, other than a name that can’t possibly be her name?”
“Nothing much. I mean, she looks like Jenny, but it’s not her. I know that for certain, because Jenny is at headquarters. Otherwise, I don’t have a damn clue what is going on here, Doc.”
There were two quick knocks, and Doc didn’t even look up as a muffled voice came through the door, “All ready for you, Doctor; report is in your inbox, the door is locked, and she’s safe there. If you don’t need me, I’m running late and want to take off.”
Doc called out, “Go home, Patti. Thanks.”
They both heard the sound of her walking away. Doc finished his drink, and then the two of them left the office, Doc grabbing the report as he lead the way. Opening the folder he mumbled to himself about height, weight, and other various things. Then John asked, “What about the horns?”
Doc stopped in mid stride, “There’s nothing here about horns.” He looked at the edge of the folder, cursed, and ran down the hallway.
They opened the door to the examining room to find Jane lying on the table, a sheet over her body, face turned towards the wall. Doc walked over and touched her on the shoulder. She rolled back towards them …
… and it wasn’t Jane.
It was Patti, a blissed out expression on her face as she sighed, softly…
Doc took hold of her shoulders, shook her and yelled, “What happened, Patti?”
What happened was Jane.
As Doc and John realized that she was gone, Jane was exiting the building wearing Patti’s nursing uniform. Quickly walking to the curb she hailed a cab and drove away, a satisfied smile on her lips as she recalled what had happened with the nurse moments before…