15
Mar
10

Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 3

Welcome to the next chapter of The Apocalypse Shift Book 2.  If you’ve missed any of it so far, here’s a link to go back and start from the beginning.  If you haven’t read the first book, then it’s available for purchase here (I’ve got some cool news I’m sitting on about TAS, but I’m not at liberty to reveal it yet.  I’ll post information here when I can).  Also, don’t forget that my non-AS universe collection Machina will be released at the beginning of April and is now available for pre-order.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

Derek J. Goodman

Old Clerks Don’t Die, They Slay Away

Chapter 3

“You think I should get one?”

Caleb finished ringing up a customer and turned to look at Phil.  He was looking at the new prepaid cells lined up on the rack just over the cartons of cigarettes.

“The one you have now is basically the same as all those,” Caleb said.  “They’re even from the same company.”

“I’m not talking about one for me.  I was thinking about getting one for Sue.”

“What, so you can call her while she’s in her grave?” Caleb said.  “I’m sure the dirt makes it hard to talk no matter how good the phone is.”

Phil took one of the phones down and looked at it.  The bright Qwark Telecommunications logo on the package was almost as obnoxious as the ever-lit sign at the top of the Qwark building downtown.  “I just worry about her sometimes,” Phil said.  “I’d like to make sure she’s okay once in a while when she’s not here.”

“Except she’s always hanging around, so you shouldn’t have to worry,” Caleb said.  He didn’t understand why the OneStop needed to start carrying the prepaid cells in the first place.  The only people who would try to buy them from a place like this were drug dealers and cultists looking for the next creative way to place the call of Cthulhu.  But Big Maggie had been ordered to start stocking them by the higher ups, so whatever.

It was about midnight on a Thursday, so although there was a steady stream of customers, it at least wasn’t too busy.  Caleb was glad for that.  He’d found it harder lately to fake being polite to some of the people that came in.  He’d think about all the things he would rather be doing than working at a convenience store, bizarre and unpredictable or not, but then realize he didn’t have anything else to do.  The store, after so damned long here, had pretty much become his life.

Something knocked at the glass front door, and Caleb looked up to see a black bird on the front walk, its beak tapping incessantly at the glass.  He went around the counter and opened the door.  “What do you want?”

The bird looked up at him, cawed, and the hopped one hundred and eighty degrees to caw back at the parking lot.  It took wing, vanishing momentarily into the night.  Caleb was about to close the door when he heard the flutter of many more wings.  He continued holding the door as twenty or thirty black birds struggled through, carrying a dead body with their feet.  They dropped it just inside the door then flew off, leaving only one bird behind.  Caleb wasn’t sure if it was even possible, but the bird looked like it panted from exertion.

“Hey!” Caleb said to the bird.  The body belonged to a skinny, pale man with stringy black hair.  He appeared to have a gunshot wound to his chest.  “You can’t leave that in here!”

The bird gave Caleb a scolding caw, then pecked the dead body.  The body immediately gasped and sat up.

“Oh God,” the not-so-dead body said.  “They killed her!  They killed me!”

“You okay there, buddy?” Phil said from behind the counter.

“No,” the guy said.  “I’ve got to get my revenge for my wrongful death.”

“Yeah, but why would your damned birds need to bring you in here to do it?”

“Um…”

“You gonna buy something?” Caleb asked.

“Wha?  Um, no, I wasn’t planning on it.”

“This is a place of business,” Caleb said.  “If you aren’t going to buy something then you have no business coming back to life here.  That’s loitering.”

“But there’s nothing I need… Wait.  Do you have any eyeliner?”

“Er, no.  Most convenience stores don’t carry eyeliner.  Sorry.”

“But how am I supposed to avenge my wrongful death without black eyeliner?”

“Hey,” Phil said.  “Why don’t you try the Florblue Pharmacy east of here on 15th?  If you hurry you might be able to catch them before they close.”

The dead guy ran out the door without another word.  The door slammed as the bird took wing to follow, causing it to crash into the window.  It cawed mournfully until Caleb finally let it out to follow the dead guy.

“Deadbeat,” Caleb muttered.

“What is with you?” Phil asked.  “You’re in an even worse mood than normal.  Things not going right with you and Gloria?”

Caleb finally smiled, probably for the first time that night.  “Oh, no, nothing like that.  In fact, things with us are so good.  Although, yesterday while we were in bed…”

“Hold it.  I really don’t want to know about you two’s sex life.  How would you like it if I started talking about sex with Sue?”

“No, just listen.  We were in bed, and all of a sudden she…”

“Okay, that’s it,” Phil said.  “Let me tell you something about being in a relationship with a zombie.  You see, they have these extra holes…”

“Ew, stop!  Okay, I get it.  Look, doesn’t matter.  My point is, there may be little tiny problems sometimes with our relationship, but everything else is great.  Really great.”

“Yeah?  You been thinking about taking the relationship further?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe,” Caleb said.  That was something he wasn’t ready to talk about yet.  The idea had occurred to him that maybe, at some point in the future, he might want to think about ring shopping, but for now there were just other things on his mind.  He had just felt restless lately, and it had nothing to do with Gloria.  He couldn’t pinpoint the reason, but it was there, somewhere inside him.

A few customers came in, and Caleb and Phil were busy for the next few minutes taking care of them.  They got busy enough that Caleb didn’t even notice Gloria had come in until she stood directly in front of the register, butting in ahead of a man with a top hat and a skull painted over his face.

“Hey!” the man said.  “Gloria, wait your turn!”

“Sorry Baron,” she said.  “But I’ve got to borrow Caleb for a minute.”

“What’s wrong?” Caleb asked.  “Why aren’t you at work?”

“Because there is no work anymore.  You could say I’m fired.”

“What?”

“Hey, can this wait?” the Baron asked.  “All I want is to get my smokes.”

Gloria stepped aside and let Caleb ring the Baron up.  She continued talking as he worked.  “I really think we should have this conversation in private,” Gloria said.  “There might be some things we don’t want get out into the gossip mill.”

“Everything always becomes gossip around here eventually,” Caleb said.  “If you were fired, then there’s probably a lot of people out there who would want to know that.  Better they know the whole thing than just random half-truths, right?”

“Fine.  Whatever.”

“So how the fuck could you possibly get fired?” Caleb asked.  “I thought Hancock loved you.”

“Sure, except Hancock no longer owns the Sin Depot.  Mary McPhisto does.”

“Mary… Mary McPhisto?  You mean scary-ass demon bitch Mary McPhisto?”

“Yep.”

“Okay,” Caleb said to the other customers in front of his register.  “This register’s closed.  Phil can take care of everyone.”  Phil gave him a dirty look, but that was too bad.  Gloria had been right.  If they were going to discuss one of the biggest power players on the Hill, one whose enemies routinely had a way of disappearing, then they should really move the conversation somewhere that other people wouldn’t hear.

They both went into the back room.  Gloria took a seat cross-legged on the desk while Caleb stood over by the crack in the floor at the mop sink.  It wasn’t quite big enough to fall through, which was good because that meant nothing could come up from it, either.  He could sometimes hear things speaking from down there, and Caleb didn’t have any desire to meet them.

“Okay,” Caleb said.  “So tell me what exactly is going on.”

Caleb listened as Gloria talked about Hannah and the uncomfortable meeting with McPhisto in the dressing room.  When she got to the part about the papers McPhisto had shown to Hancock, Caleb interrupted.

“Hold on.  I thought Hancock had full ownership of the place.  No co-owners, no loans out on it, nothing.  Am I right?  So how the hell could she possibly suddenly become the owner without his permission?”

“She said it’s a zoning thing.  I didn’t really understand it myself.  It all sounded like legalese gobbledygook to me.  Something called the Historic Hill Beautification Project.  Somehow she got a whole bunch of local politicians to declare the Sin Depot a blight on the community, and now it belongs to her so she can close it down.”

“That still can’t work,” Caleb said.  “There’s no way something like that would stand up in a court.”

“I don’t think it needs to, if she works quickly enough.  She probably just needed to get pictures of the right people with their dicks in something’s tentacles, just to get control of it for now.  She’s already announced plans to knock the building down.  By the time anyone figures out how to legally challenge a demon with all the right connections, the Sin Depot will already be gone.”

“That’s total bullshit,” Caleb said.  Phil stepped in, listening to them both from the door while keeping an eye on the front.  “We’ve got to do something.”

“I don’t know if you really could,” Phil said.  “Unless you’ve got super-secret lawyery powers we don’t know about.”

“what about that one guy we used to see come in here a while back?” Caleb asked.  “You know, the Green Lawyer?”

Gloria shook her head.  “He got corrupted by the yellow impurity in his bar exam and turned into the villainous Paralegal.  Not gonna help us.  And besides, when you’re talking about someone like Mary McPhisto, you’re not just dealing with human laws.  We’re talking about metaphysical rules and regulations too.  Trying to navigate through messes like that is a good way to lose your soul.”  Gloria looked down at her hands in her lap, and her voice went quiet.  “Just ask Hannah about that one, I guess.”

Phil and Gloria both went silent.  Caleb thought for a second.  “Well, wait.  Why don’t we?”

“Why don’t we what?” Phil asked.

“Ask Hannah.  She had to have been one of the last people Mary McPhisto talked to before she went to the Sin Depot, right?  Maybe McPhisto said something about what is going on.  Maybe Hannah could at least give us some clue what she’s up to.”

“Um, yeah, sure,” Gloria said.  “Except for that one teeny problem where she’s dead.”

“Hello?  Don’t you remember where you are?  The store has a ghost that haunts the security camera and Phil’s girlfriend is a zombie.  Around here death is just an inconvenience.”  Caleb felt bad when he saw Gloria wince.  Her mother had passed away recently, and he knew she still had some issues when it came to that.  She didn’t need to be reminded of those kind of things, but that didn’t make his point less valid.

“So what are you suggesting?” Phil asked.  “That we call her up on a Ouija board or something?”

“Those things don’t work,” Gloria said.  “I tried using one right after my mom died.”

“I’ve gotten one to work right here in the back room,” Caleb said.  “But I don’t think they’re very reliable.  As soon as I tried it, the first thing the little indicator doohickey spelled out was if this was going to be carry out or delivery.  But there are other ways.  I know a spell that can summon spirits.”

“I’ve tried those too,” Gloria said.  “How the hell are you getting results with this shit when I can’t?”

“I really don’t know.  Guess I’ve just got the magic touch and you don’t.”  The look on Gloria’s face at that told him that he definitely wasn’t going to be getting any after work tonight.

“Well, I’m not sure that any of that matters anyway,” Gloria said.  “If we really want to know what Mary McPhisto’s intentions are for the Sin Depot land, we could just ask her in two hours.  She might even give us an honest answer, but I doubt it.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Caleb said.  “What do you mean?”

“You and I have a meeting with her at the Club McPhisto at 2:30,” Gloria said.

“Holy hell, are you fucking crazy?” Caleb asked.  “You want us to meet with one of the meanest, nastiest things on the Hill on her home turf?  I can’t do that, I’ve got to work!”

“We could call Courtney, see if she’ll come in to cover the rest of your shift,” Phil said.  “That is, if she actually answers her phone for a change.”

“Which just leaves us once again with the point about the home turf of the crazy, skin-stealing bitch,” Caleb said.

“I kind of thought we had to,” Gloria said.  “She said she wants to see us both, and it’s not about the Sin Depot.  It’s about the Osterhaggis Key.”

Caleb forced himself to take a deep breath.  The key had been just one of the many things that had been making him feel on edge lately.  Life at the OneStop had a way of being about either trivial little things that drove you nuts or giant, world-shattering things.  There was nothing in between.  Not only had he started to think he should have more in his life than just the OneStop, but he had also begun to wonder about his mistakes at the store.  The incident with the stolen artifacts had driven that home for him.  He’d kept things he shouldn’t have and the consequences hadn’t been happy.  Although they had recovered most of the stolen artifacts (still hidden in Gloria’s apartment until they could figure out a safe way of getting rid of them), a few had been lost, including the Osterhaggis Key.

Or maybe lost wasn’t the right word for it.  They’d known exactly who had it over these last few months: none other than Mary McPhisto.  Getting the key back from her would have been a higher priority, except that, to anyone around here, the key was useless.  It could theoretically be used to rip the planet apart, but only when taken to one of three places: Ayer’s Rock in Australia, a hidden temple in the Congo, and Disneyland Paris.  There had always been the possibility that Mary would sell it or give it to someone who could take it away from the Hill, but all reports said she wasn’t the kind to give up power or bargaining chips if it wasn’t necessary.

“Okay, so… what?” Caleb asked.  “Is she going to try striking up some kind of deal with us?  We give her something, and she gives us the key?”

“I kind of figured that would be how it works,” Gloria said.  “Quid pro quo, or something like that.”

“I think I like the idea of giving her something about as much as I like the idea of having a Great Old One conjured up my nose,” Caleb said.

Both Gloria and Phil responded at once.  “It’s not as bad as you would think.”  They looked at each other with surprise, but thankfully neither of them elaborated.  Really, Caleb didn’t want to know.

“I don’t think it’s gonna hurt just to see what she has in mind,” Gloria said.

“Oh, right, I’m sure that having the fricking skin pealed from my body isn’t going to hurt at all.”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Gloria said.  “She never takes the skin of a guy.”

“Then that’s even worse, because that only leaves her taking the skin of the woman I… well, you.”

Gloria raised her eyebrows at that.

“I really don’t think Gloria has to worry about that,” Phil said.  “From what I’ve heard, she only takes new skin when the old one has worn out.  And if she just switched into this Hannah girl’s skin, she won’t need anything new just yet.”

“Yeah,” Gloria said.  “And she was all hung up on the paperwork thing for Hannah.  I don’t think I’m in any real danger as long as I take a really long and hard look at anything she tries to get us to sign.”

“I’m still not sure about this,” he said, but maybe this would be a good thing.  There might be some way for him to get the key back.  After that he could work on getting his mind straight and figuring out what exactly had been bothering him lately.

“Come on, Butcher,” Gloria said with a smile.  “It’s a meeting and we both know what we’re doing.  What’s the worse that could happen?”

All three of them went silent as they thought about that.  Phil finally broke the silence.

“That was a really stupid thing to say, Gloria.”

They all agreed it was.

(c) 2010 Derek Goodman

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2 Responses to “Old Clerks Don’t Die – Chapter 3”


  1. 1 JackieH.
    March 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Aah!! Beware of the guy with eyeliner!

    • March 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm

      Speaking of which: Did you know that the finnish word ’emo’ means ‘mother animal’? ^^

      Also: “What’s the worst that could happen?” = Famous last words (Doesn’t that girl watch any movies? =P)


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