Friday, March 25
It had not been a good week for Sully, attacked by a black hole, nearly digested by a shadow, and now the police wanted to question him about the theft and subsequent scuttling of Qwackers. He blamed it all on Harry Wry.
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Harry said after Sully cornered him at the Eagle Café. “It’s routine. They’re just fishing for answers.”
“They may be fishing,” Sully said, “but I’m on the hook. I told you I can’t do hard time in the slammer.”
“Jesus, Sully. You sound like a Raymond Chandler novel. How do they even know you’re a person of interest?”
“They called the Parks Department. My boss gave me up. I can’t stand up to enhanced interrogation. Sleep deprivation, blaring metal bands, waterboarding. I’ll crack.”
“It isn’t a rendition, Sully,” Harry said. “They just want to know if you saw something last night. You didn’t. Quiet as a graveyard. That’s the end of it.”
“They know,” Sully said and looked aside to see if anyone was watching. “Someone must have spilled their guts. They’ll catch me in a lie.”
“All the cops know is someone took that truck for a joy ride,” Harry said, “and left it on the bottom of the bay. Nothing leads back to you. Quit pissing your pants.” He doused his scrambled eggs with Louisiana Hot Sauce. “In a day or two, you’ll have more money than you know how to spend. A couple of months more and it’ll be warm water, cold beer, and coconuts. Just keep your mouth shut and don’t answer any questions you’re not asked.”
Sully wasn’t entirely convinced. He had a native distrust of the police characteristic of people who lived on the margins. Safety was hiding in plain sight. Visibility was a risk.
Sprout buttonholed Sully on the docks while he was walking home.
“You see what happened?” Sprout seemed excited. He rapidly shifted his weight between feet, almost hopping in place.
“What are you talking about?” Sully said.
“Qwackers. Someone sank Qwackers. And Sandy Crab tried to strangle me. What an ass hat.”
“I didn’t see anything,” Sully said.
Sprout’s words rushed with excitement. “I cartwheeled that sucker with a Japanese arm grab, then put him down with a shoulder pinch. Sweet.” He slowed. “Really? Nothing? How could you not? It happened on your doorstep. I thought you were a watchman.”
“Nothing. I saw nothing,” Sully said, sounding vaguely like Sergeant Schultz.
“Nothing? You’d have to be deaf, dumb, and blind,” Sprout said. “You know, the police want to talk to you.”
“Yeah, I heard. Listen, I’ve got to get some sleep.” Sully began walking away.
“Something else,” Sprout shouted at his back. “Umber wants to do a séance tonight at Tse-whit-zen.”
Sully pivoted. “What? Is she crazy?”
“I can’t vouch for her sanity,” Sprout said. “Something to do with RAT and the City Council.”
“What the fuck do 300-year-old Klallam ghosts have to do with the City Council?” Sully said, surprised by his own vehemence.
Sprout raised his hands in self-defense. “Hey, I’m just the piano player. Umber thinks Tse-whit-zen is a psychic supercharger. Thinks she can use it to slingshot herself to the etheric plane and read the Akashic records of the Council members. Dig up dirt, I guess.”
“Umber is an idiot,” Sully said. “She’s likely to step in something she can’t get off her shoes.”
“You’ll get no argument from me,” Sprout said, “but the request comes from HP. If you want back on her good side…” Sprout shrugged.
Sully considered. Visions of the consuming void hadn’t returned since that first night at Tse-whit-zen but it might be shrewd to offer it another target as a distraction. He shook his head side-to-side but said “OK, but I’m not taking any responsibility if this shit goes sideways.”
“Oh, and it has to be at midnight,” Sprout said, cringing.
“Of course it does. Are we also expected to sing “Stairway to Heaven” backward?” Sully said.
“She didn’t request a chorus,” Sprout said.
Sully slept for several hours. When he woke, he couldn’t remember his dreams but his bedsheets were wet with sweat. He took a cold shower from rainwater collected in a cistern on the roof, too impatient to heat water on the stove, and caught a bus to the Port Angeles Police Department on 5th Street. He wasn’t risking the Dodge Tradesman anywhere near the place.
He waited in a room with linoleum tile, a man with a hacking cough, and a woman who kept drumming on her purse with fingers stained yellow. A tall man with a face sharp as a hatchet came to claim him.
“Sully Marlybone? My name is Detective Vanoy. Would you follow me?”
Vanoy led him into a large room full of metal desks and noise. People in suits and uniforms were talking on phones, talking to each other, talking to people seated on the opposite side of desks. Some were handcuffed.
Vanoy pointed to an empty chair beside a desk and sat. He deliberately opened a thin folder and read a printed form. Sully suspected the silence was intended to intimidate. It was working.
“What’s this all about, Detective?” Sully said.
“You live on Marine Drive, Mr. Marlybone?” Vanoy said.
“I live on a houseboat at Slee’s Bay Marina,” Sully said. “We don’t have postal service so the mail is delivered to an empty house on Marine Drive. Everyone’s mail.”
Vanoy made a note in the file. “And no phone number?” he said, head down.
“No electricity, no phone,” Sully said.
Vanoy made another note. “Would you like some water, Mr. Marlybone?” Detective Vanoy offered him a bottle of water. “You’re employed by the Parks and Recreation Department as the night watchman at Tse-whit-zen?”
“Yes,” Sully said.
“And you were working the night of Thursday, March 24?” Vanoy asked.
“You mean last night?” Sully said. “Yeah, I was.”
Vanoy laid the file on the desk. For the first time, he looked directly at Sully. “Did you see anything unusual while you were on watch?”
The man’s expression was accusing as if he knew something. Sully drank some of Vanoy’s water. “Besides a couple humping in the back seat of a Ford in the parking lot?” Sully said. “It’s not that unusual.”
“Besides that. Anything between 2 a.m. and dawn?” Vanoy said, leaning into the question.
Sully squirmed. The chair wobbled beneath him as if one leg was shorter than the others. “Nothing much happens at Tse-whit-zen late at night.”
“Last night,” Vanoy said. “Specifically, last night. Nothing happened last night?”
Sully shook his head and grimaced as if the effort to remember was painful. “Nothing.”
Vanoy leaned into Sully’s space. “You saw nothing, heard nothing along the shore last night?” Vanoy said.
“Nothing,” Sully said. His chair wobbled.
Vanoy leaned back and returned his attention to the file. “Mr. Marlybone, do you know a man named Sandy Crab?”
Sully smirked. “The guy that owns Qwackers? I don’t know him. I’ve seen him around. He hauls boatloads of tourists around Shantytown, shows them the freaks.”
“Sounds like you resent him.” Vanoy was leaning forward again.
Sully shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t feel much about him, one way or the other. He’s just another dude trying to make a living.”
“And you didn’t see his boat…his…” Vanoy looked again at the file, “his truck…Qwackers last night?”
“No,” Sully said, rocking his chair.
“Thank you, Sully,” Vanoy said. “May I call you Sully?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Thank you for your cooperation, Sully. That’s all I have.”
Sully was half out of the chair when Vanoy, looking again at the file, said, “One last thing, Sully,” as if a casual afterthought and not a sock full of nickels aimed at Sully’s head. “You have a remarkably clean record. No priors, not even a parking ticket.” He looked up from the file. “In fact, no record at all before last year when you applied for a driver’s license.”
“My family were Mennonites,” Sully tossed over his shoulder, as if that explained everything, and kept moving.
The séance that evening was unimpressive. Sully sat on the picnic table watching Umber and a few unstable supporters huddled around a small fire. He had eaten several magic mushrooms to ease his anxiety and enjoy the show. The firelight was pulsing. It seemed a coherent message, like Morse code, a message from the universe. He regretted never learning Morse code. How often does the universe attempt to communicate in a code no one understood?
Umber was standing over the fire, vibrating. Sully realized she was singing herself onto the etheric plane. He couldn’t identify the tune. At least it wasn’t “Stairway to Heaven.”
A man sat next to him on the picnic table. Sully hadn’t seen him approach. He was simply there. Sully wondered where he had been when he wasn’t there. He dismissed it as another signal he couldn’t decode.
The man seemed overdressed for a séance. He wore a black coat with tails, black slacks, and white, button-down Spats over dress shoes. Sully thought he had come from a masquerade party. The illogic of a masquerade ball in Port Angeles didn’t trouble him.
The man removed a John Bull top hat and sat it on the table between them. His black hair was short and tightly curled, like a black man, but his face was pale, the skin tautly drawn over the bones of his face, lending a skeletal appearance. Sully couldn’t see his eyes behind dark glasses.
The man removed a huge cigar from his mouth and took a swig from a bottle of Barbancourt. He offered the bottle to Sully and grinned.
“Dude!” Sully said. The rum had highlights of smoke and prayers and blood.
“What is she doing?” the Dude asked, pointing toward Umber with his cigar.
“Psychotic espionage,” Sully said. He had meant to say psychic.
“She dances with the dead. I can show her a dance she will wemember.” The man spoke with a lisp or a soft accent. He grinned, thrust his cigar back and forth, and pivoted his hips suggestively.
Sully screwed his face in disgust. “Dude, she’s ancient.”
“You think I can’t make wata flow from the desert?” the Dude said.
“Is that a metaphor?” Sully held his hand up. “Never mind. Dude, who are you?”
“My name is Samdi. You can call me Bawon.”
Even stoned, Sully didn’t feel comfortable giving his name to a man wearing spats to a mass grave. “Bawon? You don’t sound local. What are you doing here?”
“I come where I’m called,” Bawon said. He opened his arms in an embracing gesture. “These are my people.”
Sully didn’t think he was referring to Umber and her helpers.
“I can’t stay,” Bawon said. “I have other engagements tonight. The man in the cave asked me to give you a message. You need to return. You don’t have much time.”
Sully knew only one man who lived in a cave. “Winsome Clapanhoo?”
Bawon stood to leave. “We will meet again,” Bawon said. He began to walk away, then turned. “And Sully, stop hunting wats. They are under my protection.”
Sully didn’t see him leave any more clearly than he saw him arrive.
In mythology, the hero descends to the underworld. What happens when the underworld ascends? Whistlepig, a serialized fiction. Table of contents.
@ Copyright 2018 Charles Thrasher All rights reserved.