Franky said, “It was like you were a regular fuckin Houdini. I almost forgot about it, too. It was the damnedest thing. You would think a switch-a-roo like that would stick in your mind a bit longer. The other guys they’ve already forgotten. And Stacy, she knows something happened maybe because I keep telling her it did, and maybe because of that trinket of yours Raul.”
Allen said, “My name is…”
Franky said, “Shut up Raul! Your name doesn’t matter. In fact, I don’t think you matter one bit. ‘My name is Allen Parkins.’ I heard you back then. A year may be a long time, but I got a good memory.
“I bet you think that just because we’re big and mean that guys like us and gals like Stacy is dumb but we’re not. We’re not dumb because we’re dumb. We’re dumb because we are paid to be dumb. The dumb ones get caught. No, we ain’t dumb. That ain’t why we forgot. We forgot because something wanted us to forget. And what ever it is has gotten a hold of Stacy real good.
“I think she was the smartest among us being able to get along in a man’s world. At first, us guys only tolerated her because she kept bringing us money, but I was listening to her. She would talk about you Mrs. Carla. She said you knew things.” He looked directly at Linda.
She knew people like this. Not the criminal sort, but the ones who thought about things just a little too much. The dumb ones they made bad clients. They thought that what they already knew was the only truth there was. The really smart people were bad clients too. But the creative ones like Franky. The ones who could be made to think differently. They made good clients. You could talk them into just about anything. She wasn’t out to trick people, but she knew what she knew.
Linda put her free hand to her temple, and she coppied her mother’s mysterious voice. She said, “Let Mrs. Carla reveal to you the ways of the spirit world.”
Franky said, “Save it, Mrs. Carla. Stacy could tell when you were making shit up. She told me. She said it was when you was looking in the coffee that you really knew things. You knew weird shit that didn’t make sense. Weird shit that didn’t help anything. But it would happen. Like the young man in the nice suit and the toy boat. And the old man coming from nowhere.”
He stopped and looked at Linda. Then, he cracked a smile. “So you don’t remember telling her any of that, do you?” He leaned back and let them think a little bit. Then, he said, “Those guys, they think I’m on the phone with Stacy telling her know where you are right now. No. I’ll call her, but not until after you’ve had your coffee. I want to know about me, Mrs. Carla. I want my little trinket that gives me power just like Stacy with her nonsense words.”
She said, “I didn’t give her anything. I don’t give trinkets. I do readings.”
Franky said “You say that, but I think you do. You gave her a reading and it came true.” He let her reflect on that for a while. Then he put his elbows on the desk and said, “What does my future hold, Mrs. Carla? You’re going to make it for me.”
Allen said, “You must be crazy, Franky. Linda… I mean Mrs. Carla can’t do any of that.”
Franky said, “You don’t get to call me by my name, Raul, you fuck. And you don’t believe those words, do you?” He looked at Allen and saw the bluff on his face and something else. He said, “I tell you what, Raul. You’re dead. Did you know that?”
Allen said, “Fuck you, Franky!” He jumped forward yanking Linda’s arm into the bar holding them to the wall. Linda yelped in pain. Allen stumbled to his knees and his shoulder felt like it would rip from its socket.
Franky said, “I seen your brains splatter with that last hit with my stick right before you traded places with the old man. Or after. Or at the same time. I don’t know. I don’t think the order of things matter. I think it’s all bullshit and happening all at once.”
Allen said, “What the fuck are you even talking about?” Linda was now paying attention. There was something about Franky that she hadn’t noticed before. He was strange and out of place. She didn’t know what it was, but she was starting to have that feeling like when she watched Judy, like when she saw Allen for the first time. She could see that Franky was lost and broken but in a wholly different sort of way. She felt almost like she was watching from far away.
Franky said, “Yeah, I split your head right open, Raul. Skull, brains, eyeball. Busted it all open splashed it across the bed. But I knew you’d be back. The others had forgotten, and I almost did.” He rubbed his hand against his temple. “I don’t know, you know. Sometimes it fucks with my head. I knew he knew you Mrs. Linda-Carla-Francisco-Ellie-Raul-William-Allen…”
Linda and Allen sat there and looked at Franky stunned. Frank put his head down against the desk. He was rubbing tears from his eyes, and he was trying not to sob out loud. There was a quiver and a whimper to his breathing. He was crying in a way unsuited to such a large man.
He got out of his chair and dropped to his knees at Linda’s feet and held his hands up in the air and wrung them together. He had tears running down his face and was now sobbing loudly. He said, “Mrs. Carla, be merciful. You have something to give me.” He put his face down at her feet. He said, “Grant me this gift and I will pledge my life to your service.”
Franky had been acting so strangely that neither Linda or Allen had heard the van arrive, the door open and shut, or the creaking of the man coming up the stairs. But there was Red standing in the doorway holding a recycled paper pulp tray with four large white to-go cups of coffee fully equipped with black travel lids. He placed them on the desk careful to hold them upright as they tried to topple from their tray. He reached under his shirt for his gun, turned his head over his shoulder to speak out the door. He spoke loudly but measured and carefully so as not to upset anything. He said, “You guys better get in here. The witch has Franky under her power.”
Red pushed past Franky and put his gun to Linda’s head. He said in the same calm yet assertive voice, “Let him go, Mrs. Carla, or I’ll blow your brains out.”
Now the tears were coming from Linda’s eyes, too. “I’m not doing anything.”
Allen grabbed Red’s arm trying to get the gun. Red turned the gun on Allen and pressed it hard against his temple. He said, “You wanna die first. I blow your brains all over this comforter…” He froze in surprise for a split second then he pressed the gun harder against Allen’s temple. “The fuckin wall. I’ll blow your brains all over this wall.” Allen let out a yelp and let go of Red’s arm. Linda saw something in Red just then but only for a split second.
The other two men came into the room and helped Franky off the floor. The room was not big enough for that many people all at once and the desk got bumped and moved with a screech. Johnny reached over and grabbed the coffee cups as they started to tilt over in their tray. He said, “Thank God. We almost had to go back to the store. That gas station is too damn far away. Do you even know how much trouble we had finding a carrier for the cups? We had to beg one from a goddamn McDonalds. We should have just gone there for the coffee in the first place.”
Pete looked around at Red with the gun and Franky standing there still red-faced. He said, “What the hell is going on in here Frank?” He looked at Franky a bit harder. “What’s the matter Frank? You got allergies or something?” Linda hadn’t noticed anything in the other two men to make them forget. It must have all happened at the same time as Red.
Frank put his hand to his face felt his puffy wet eyes. He said, “I don’t know, Pete. I must.” He saw Red standing there with his gun against Allen’s head. “What the fuck are you doing, Red? Stacy wants him alive.” Linda saw the whatever had been burning in Franky had gone cold, too.
Red started to blush, and he put his gun back in his holster. “I’m sorry, Frank. I don’t really remember why I got it out.”
Franky shook his head. “You know Raul is the only one with the password. How the hell are we supposed to get at that money if you kill him?”
Johnny said, “Jesus, Red. Don’t you want to get your cut. It’s a lot of money.”
Red said to Johnny, “Don’t be an asshole. You let my coffee spill in the car. I’m drinking yours. You don’t even like coffee anyway all that milk and sugar and you’d think you were drinking chocolate milk.”
Johnny said, “Well, I guess that means you won’t be drinking mine, doesn’t it?”
Red stepped back from Linda and Allen trying not to bump anyone with his shoulders. “Johnny, Pete, why don’t the both of you go wait in the warehouse until Stacy gets here. Don’t forget your chocolate milk, Johnny.”
Pete said, “Ain’t you coming, too. I want to make jokes about your mamma.”
Red said, “No, I’m going to stay in here with Franky. Something doesn’t feel quite right about all this.” Linda didn’t see anything in Red this time. She started to think that she may have been imagining things.
Johnny said, “Are you sure you’re all right? You didn’t get mad when he mentioned your mamma.” Red just waved them off and they went down the stairs into the warehouse.
Allen was astonished that they could have forgotten what had just happened so quickly. He didn’t realize yet, but he was even beginning to forget why the side of his head had just started to hurt so much more than it had just minutes before. But Linda hadn’t forgotten. She just didn’t know quite what to make of it. She knew that these men were dangerous, and Franky might be the most dangerous of all. She hadn’t brought him through, but he had been touched just the same.
Red said, “How about it, Raul? You going to tell us the password, or do I have to waste the girl in front of you first?”
Allen said, “Are you going to let him threaten your Mrs. Carla?”
Linda said, “Not now.”
Red said, “What’s he talking about, Frank?”
Franky said, “I’m sure I don’t know.” He put his hand on Red’s shoulder and squeezed not hard but enough. “We’re waiting for Stacy.”
Red looked at him. “You’re just going to let her come in here and take all that money?”
Franky said, “If she wants it all, it’s hers. If she wants you give you some, she will.”
Red said, “You think your tight with her. Just you wait.”
Franky said, “You’ll get what you get.”
Red said, “Fine.” He went and sat down behind the desk where Franky had been earlier. “But I’m drinking one of these coffees. One of the prisoners can go without.” He motioned at them with his head and reached out for one of the cups of coffee.
Allen said, “That’s for Mrs. Carla.”
Linda said, “Not now, Allen. Stop.”
Franky turned to look at Linda. He put a hand over his eye and shook his head. Then looked back at the other man. “You sure do make a lot of presumptions, Red.”
Red put the cup down on the before he could take a sip. He sat there for a second and said, “Frank, if you’re the one in charge why am I the one who brought a gun?” He started to pull his hand beck to his waist.
Allen opened his mouth to say something, but Linda gave him a look that made him stop.
Franky said, “Can you get it?” Red seemed thrown off by this question, and he froze for a second. Franky said, “Can you get it while you are sitting down? Before I get over there and slam your face into that desk and throw you through that window?”
Red just sat there and his face went white. He stammered for a second. “Look, Franky, I was just…”
Franky stepped over to him. He said, “Stand up.” Red stood up. “Give me that fuckin gun.” Red started to move his hand. Franky said, “Bullshit. You’re not touching that gun.” Franky reached into the man’s waistband and pulled out the gun and put it in his face. He said, “You think you are such a big fucking man with this gun.” He hit him in the face with it. Not hard enough to knock him down, but hard enough to make him flinch, and hard enough to draw blood. He pointed the gun at the side of his head. He said, “I bet you weren’t even man enough to load it. You want we should find out?”
Red said, “No, Franky. No.” Franky turned it to the side and pulled the trigger and shot off half of Red’s ear.
Pete and Johnny came running for the stairs and yelling over each other. They were yelling more or less the same thing trying to find out what had happened.
Franky called down. “Nothing serious. Red just shot off his own ear. We’re going to need the first aid kit.”
Johnny yelled, “We got to get out of here before the cops come.”
Franky said, “No, no. The cops ain’t coming here. But Red is coming down there with you two. You can stop his bleeding. If he stays up here, I’m going to put a torniquet around his neck. It might not stop his bleeding, but it would make me happy.”
Franky put both hands on his head like he had a migraine. He still had the gun in one hand, but he still looked cold to Linda. Allen said, “Aren’t you going to obey Mrs.…”
Linda shouted, “Allen, stop. He doesn’t remember.”
Franky jumped forward and smashed Allen’s head against the wall with the barrel of the gun. He swung the gun to point at Linda and then back at Allen. Linda thought she started to see another glimmer in Franky. He put his empty hand on the side of Allen’s face, and then Linda began to see the glow in Allen too. Now it was burning bright in both of them. Either Johnny or Pete called up from downstairs. “Is everything all right up there?”
Franky swung the gun behind him and fired twice without taking his eyes off Allen. He yelled over his shoulder, “The next person that speaks dies.”
The man yelled up, “Ok, Frank, we’ll shut up.” Franky ran to the door and aimed the gun down the stairs swinging it back and forth looking for a good target. The men in the warehouse ran for cover.
He came back to them in the corner of the room. He looked at Allen. “That’s right, Raul. Your name ain’t Raul.” He stuck the gun in the back of his waistband and went over to the desk and pulled the black lid off the top of the coffee cup. A little of the steaming coffee spilled out onto his hands. Linda concentrated hard on the coffee gleaming off his hand but all she was getting was static.
Allen was staring at Franky. Linda thought he might even see more coming from the man than she could. He said, “Don’t tell him anything Linda. When you give him what he wants, he is going to kill us both.”
Franky looked at Allen and said, “I will be happy to splatter your brains one more time. I’ll keep killing you till you don’t come back.”
Allen said, “Close your eyes, Linda. Don’t look.” Linda closed her eyes tight, and Allen reached out with his free hand to knock the coffee out of Franky’s hand.
Franky said, “You know I have two more cups.” He poured the steaming coffee over the top of Allen’s head. Allen yelled out from the pain. Franky grabbed two handfuls of his hair and began beating Allen’s head against the wall.
The man yelled up from the warehouse, “Are you sure you’re ok, Frank.”
Franky continued to beat Allen’s head into the wall. He yelled, “Don’t you come up here.”
The man yelled back, “Ok, Frank. We’ll leave you alone.”
When Allen went limp and began to snore loudly, Franky let him go. He got another cup of coffee and popped the lid off. Franky held the cup in front of Linda’s face. He said, “Look.”
Linda said, “No.” And she shut her eyes so tight they hurt.
Franky said, “Fine, Mrs. Carla. If you don’t look, you’re going to drink.” He grabbed her chin with one hand and squeezed his fingers against her jaw until she let out a groaning yell and her mouth came open. He poured the steaming coffee into her mouth in a long steady stream. She coughed and gagged and spit as best as she could, but she swallowed a lot. He got the other cup of coffee and stood in front of her to let her catch her breath and get the liquid out of her lungs. He didn’t want her to die before he got what he wanted.
Linda choked and gagged and wheezed and her eyes popped open wide. The one time that she tried to drink coffee it had only been a sip. Now, she had taken several hard swallows, and the visions were streaming in from all over. He said, “Oh, now you want to take a look? Now that you made me do all the work? No, you are going to drink some more. You are lucky if I don’t pour it in your eyes. He held her mouth open and poured again. This time she drank as much as she could.
She was still gagging and choking and screaming from the pain, but she had never seen this much of the universe all at once. It was all coming at once and in more detail than she had ever seen. Only she couldn’t focus on anything long enough to find the stream she wanted. She had seen the dead man so many times. The man that saved his son from that thing. She knew he was strong. She knew he could save her. And there he was finally. She tried to bring him through, but he wouldn’t come. He wouldn’t leave his son to be killed by that thing. She started to beg him. Her voice was week and raspy. She said, “Please, I need you right now. He’s going to kill me. I’ll take your son with you.”
Frank said, “What the hell are you talking about, Mrs. Carla? This isn’t what I wanted.” He slapped her across the face. “Tell me my future.” He slapped her again then slammed her head into the wall. “Goddamn you. Tell me my future.”
She begged, “Please, please.” And she yanked with all he power. He wouldn’t come. But something else did. She screamed, “No. No. God no.”
Franky thought she was talking to him. He let go of her head and took a step back and stood directly under the swinging light. “Ok, then. Mrs. Carla, tell me my future.” He put his arms out and tilted his head back ready to receive his gift. A stink started to fill the room and the light began to flicker. Franky looked over at the Allen still flopped over unconscious. He said, “Jesus Christ Raul, did you just shit yourself.
Then, sparks shot from the wire in the ceiling and the light fell on top of Franky’s head. Something dripped on his arm. He said, “What the… Ouch! That burns.” A black tentacle reached down from the hole in the ceiling and grabbed him around the neck. Franky grabbed the gun from his waistband aimed up at the ceiling and fired until the gun clicked empty. The tentacle loosened its grip and Franky ran for the doorway. A black slimy mass of goo fell through the weakened ceiling tiles.
It chased him as he ran for the door. It reached out two tentacles and wrapped around his legs. Freddy and the slime creature both tumbled down the stairs. Linda heard the screams from one man then the other as the creature stalked and devoured one man then the next. During that time Allen began to regain consciousness.