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by P L Nunn


Chapter 7


Atticus was hung over. The shot of whiskey in his tea had turned into half a bottle from his father's stash of aged, double malt scotch. He'd never broken into the stuff before, his father's stern voice a constant reminder that there were things and places in the Murphy family house that were strictly off limits to nosey, disappointing children. Atticus had been thirty-two the last time that particular warning, with those particular descriptive adjectives had been given and his father newly settled in the Crowley Heights retirement home. The following decade had not changed his father's view on the subject, nor Atticus' desire to somehow, though miracle or twist of fate or Satan forbid some triumph of his own, prove to his father that he was no disappointment at all, but a worthy successor to his father's legacy.

He never had managed to impress the old bastard. Even when he'd taken the initiative and killed him, the psoriasis ridden old fuck had still plagued him, a constant scornful voice from beyond the grave. Even when he'd been writhing in the depths of the hell beyond the pages of the Book, that cancerous voice in head had chided 'I told you so. You never could do anything right. This is only just dessert for your failure. The Book wouldn't even choose you over an obnoxious, teenage stoner.'

It had been rather disappointing that the scotch hadn't helped block out the voice - - what was the point in getting drunk really, if it didn't dull the annoying presence inside his head? What it did do was make the voice a little more mellow, a little more understanding. ''It's not your fault, Atticus, you were led astray.

"That's right, they lied to me, father. They used me. They played us all for fools."

The voice was conspicuously silent for a while after that, and the absence in his head was curiously disturbing. But then, his father never had been able to admit to fault. In anything. And if his father had been dealing with those three delinquents who'd convinced Atticus that he was the prophesized one, and not Todd Smith - - well, he'd been taken in as well. Although what tempting promises they'd made to him, decades before, Atticus had no idea. Nor the deeper meaning of the all-important Prophesy that had driven his father for all those years. All Atticus knew were bits and pieces, that the Book would chose a Master and that that Master would be able to control its limitless power and bring a Satanic version of paradise to earth - - but there had to be more. Had to be something beyond that simple fairy tale, because if his father had had an inkling of what really resided beyond the earthly plane that the book seemed to be a gateway to, would he really have sought it out without some greater goal or gain in mind?

There are some things that you don't need to know, fool, the voice crept up again, whispering. Things above your pay grade.

"I'm the Hooded Leader, father," Atticus replied testily. "I don't have a pay grade. Or," he added, rethinking. "If I do, its top tier pay, befitting a satanic leader."

Leader of whom? You've either killed or lost your flock, idiot. Who's going to follow a failure like you? Scathing laughter followed that, and Atticus had thrown the empty glass against the wall. Disappointingly enough, it failed to shatter. So he sat there, scowling at nothing in particular on a couch with white lace armrests that his mother had crocheted twenty-five years before, trying to figure out a way around that disturbingly accurate question.

Who would follow him indeed? His only loyal minion was presently residing within the Book of Pure Evil. The rest of the fickle teenagers that Atticus had hoped would make up a revitalized satanic society had deserted him at the drop of a few words. And sure, there were plenty of closet Satanists scattered around town, but most of them were no more interested in seriously pursuing the dark paths than most people who professed to a belief in Christianity were in actually motivated enough to go out and make the effort to spread the word of their god. There were just too many everyday life things that took precedence.

There were always the old geezers at the retirement home, members all of the Satanic society. Granted he'd already skimmed the cream of the geriatric crop, and those that were left weren't much use, but, on the bright side, they didn't have much to do other than twiddle their thumbs waiting to die and they were lifelong followers of the dark path. Beggars could hardly be choosers.

And even though he'd been burned and burned badly by the Book, it was still a relic of immense power and there was bound to be some advantage he could gain from having it in his clutches. After all his father had lusted after it all those years and his father before him - - and neither one of them had had an inkling of when the Pure Evil One might appear, so possessing the book itself had to mean something. At the very least it would keep it out of the hands of his enemies - - Todd Smith. He glowered a little envisioning a satisfying revenge for his suffering. A clever man just might figure out how to use the book to his advantage from the mere possession of it.

"And a clever man is what I am," Atticus assured himself, head happily slurred from his father's very good single malt.

No voice in his head debated that claim, so he smiled, already making plans of recruiting a new batch of creeping grey haired minions bright and early tomorrow.

Then he passed out and dreamed of absolutely nothing.


Whatever Jenny had talked about with her mom, she wasn't sharing. Todd imagined the worst. Had visions of her going back to the city and never coming back, and he wasn't sure living without her was an option. This last month had sucked balls with her gone even when he'd thought she'd be back at the end of the summer. The alternative was more chilling than facing down bloodthirsty monsters or masochistic Satanists.

It put him in a particularly crappy mood. The sort of mood that generally boded ill for whatever happened to get in his way. He'd been sexually frustrated and rejected by Jenny a lot last year, so a lot of Book generated trouble had gotten an up close and personal experience with him when he'd been feeling particularly sulky.

"Dude, remember, we're not here to kick old people ass," Curtis reminded him after they'd piled out of Jenny's car and tromped across the yellowed grass out front the Crowley Heights retirement home. Curtis had Hannah's hand in his good one, and despite Todd's urging hadn't brought the shotgun.

"My Granny lives there," Curtis had said. "I'm not going in there with a gun."

"Your granny tried to eat us, last time we showed up," Todd grumbled, holding the 9 iron like a bat as they swung through the doors.

"He's got a point," Jenny said.

"Its highly unlikely that same phenomenon will happen again," Hannah pointed out and Curtis beamed at her, like every word out of her mouth was gospel.

Todd just narrowed his eyes, still not trusting her one hundred percent. Then he wrinkled his nose a little, because the smell was sort of terrible. Not as bad as the last time he'd been here - - God, nothing he ever smelled again would top the repulsiveness of that - - but like antiseptic and cleaning agents trying to mask the smell of old people and failing.

"Up there," Hannah pointed, eyes bright and little desperate, pulling Curtis along behind her. A few of the residents creaking along the hall paused to give them looks, but no one said anything or tried to stop four teenagers from marching down the hall with a purpose.

Back after Hannah had died - - well, sort of died - - Curtis had mentioned some lab under the home, but hadn't been feeling sharey enough to go into detail. And it hadn't really seemed to matter, what with the book gone, and Hannah gone and school wrapping up for the year on a majorly depressing note. Even if everything hadn't sort of gone to hell after Semi-formal, Todd doubted he'd have given much of a fuck about some dusty lab buried under the old folks home. The Book was magic not science and he doubted if the things he needed to know regarding it would be found in the lab of a pair of dead egg heads.

"This place creeps me out," Jenny confided, falling back to pace beside him.

"Yeah." That was an understatement.

The door Hannah was headed towards was open, and she and Curtis had barely gotten inside before they stopped dead. Todd came in on their heels and stopped flat himself, staring at maybe one of the last people he'd expected to see in the flesh, staring back at him from across a big round table with a wax pentagram melted into its surface.

"What the fuck are you doing here, Atticus?"

Atticus Murphy, looking very much human again, no goat horns, no cloven hooves, not even a hooded cape, just a dorky sweater vest, an unshaven chin under his mustache and slightly bloodshot eyes. He gaped back for a second, before he gathered his wits and sputtered in offended dignity.

"Me? What the fuck are you doing here? I am the Hooded Leader. This is my sanctum. And the lot of you are trespassing. Go away!"

"You go away, " Todd stabbed the 9 iron towards him and Atticus flinched a little, circling the table to put more of it between him and them.

"You were trapped in the book. How did you get out?" Jenny demanded.

Curtis had an arm in front of Hannah, like she needed his protection from Atticus, who as far as Todd was concerned, sans Book, wasn't much of a threat at all, unless you counted being a dick a communicable disease.

"That is none of your concern," Atticus spared Jenny half a glare, before swinging his accusing stare on Todd. "All you need to know is that you're treading on the domain of the satanic society of Crowley Heights, a revered and feared orgni - -"

"What the fuck ever," Todd cut him off with a wave of the 9 iron. "And as far as Satanists go, you and your old geezers aren't dick squat compared to the new guys."

"New guys?" Atticus waved a hand, dismissing that as nonsense and sneered. "You think you're special because the Book chose you, Todd Smith - - well, where's the hellfire and the chaos and the eternal night you were supposed to bring us?"

"You can fuck off and the Book can fuck off. There's nothing special about getting chosen by it - -"

"And Todd chose not to bring down hell on earth," Curtis said. "Which is more than you would have done, you shit rooster."

Atticus opened his mouth, whatever he'd been about to say dried up - - face going pale under the stubble - - like something terrible had flashed across his mind.

"You," he stabbed a finger at Todd accusingly. "You don't know what the meaning of hell is - - but I do. You sent me there, you obnoxious little prick."

The haunted look in the depths of Atticus' eyes stopped Todd mid-retort. He'd been drawn into the depths of the Book too, but he'd been there as its master, not an inmate suffering in the claws of its fiery grasp. When he'd set the book to consume Atticus he'd been seduced by its power, by the lure of ultimate darkness and he hadn't cared who he was sentencing to what - - hell a few minutes more and he'd have sentenced the world to the same nightmare - - if not for Jenny breaking him out of the spell.

"You attacked us," Jenny stormed around the table, eyes flashing, getting right up in Atticus' face. "You forced it on him and you've got the nerve to complain that it didn't go down how you wanted? Well boo - fucking - hoo, asshole."

"Could we please do what we came here to do?" Hannah stopped them all with the plea. "I just want to go down to the lab and get the notes."

"Lab?" Atticus looked at her like she'd just asked when the Martians would be landing and should they dress for the occasion. "What lab?"

"You don't know?" Jenny arched a brow. "You are out of the loop, aren't you, Atticus?"

Hannah was heading back behind a shelf-lined partition sporting lots of candles and satanic knick-knacks. There was nothing but a wall back there with a bunch of hooks where robes were hung.

"There's nothing back there," Atticus said airily, trailing warily behind.

Hannah ignored him, reached up and twisted one of the hooks, and with a click, a panel behind the cloaks swung inward.

"Oh, well, except for that. I knew about that," Atticus assured them.

Todd cast a dubious glance his way, hefting the 9 iron and shifting past Jenny and Hannah to get up front with Curtis, just in case the dark they were walking down into contained more than dusty notes and spider webs.

The steps leading down were metal and there was a sort of acrid, rusty smell to the place. There was a dangly light switch that Curtis pulled when they reached the bottom and it dimly lit up a room cluttered with papers and tubes and sciencey stuff. Hannah went straight for the bench against the wall, where there were stacks of cassette tapes and notebooks.

Curtis nudged his arm and jerked his head towards a big metal door with a weird pentagram symbol stenciled on it.

"How long has this place been here?" Jenny edged past them into the room. Atticus crept down behind them, muttering to himself, like he was carrying on a one sided conversation.

"A long time," Hannah said, distracted by gathering tapes and journals, stuffing them into a backpack brought from Jenny's house. "Maybe before the retirement home."

"That's ridiculous. I would have known," Atticus said.

"I thought you knew it was here?"

Atticus threw Todd an unappreciative look and amended. "Do you take me for a fool? Of course I knew - - I just didn't know how long - - or - - what the hell is that?"

Curtis had triggered open the big door with the symbol and beyond it lay a long narrow chamber, lined with metal tanks that looked like something out of Aliens. There must have been a dozen of them, all hooked up to cables and tubes, some of them dark and dead, some glowing with an odd, creepy phosphorous light. Todd stepped out onto the metal grid walkway, staring into the glass plated observation port of the first chamber. He hissed in surprise at the pale, malformed thing floating inside.

"Holy shit," he whispered and Curtis nodded knowingly beside him.

"What the hell are they?"

"Clones," Hannah said in a tiny, strained voice. She was standing at the portal, staring with wide, horrified eyes at the row of tanks. "Test subjects they had fused with cells from the Book and were - - incubating - - hoping to create - - they're me - - my sisters - - my brothers - - " she choked, staring at the same malformed thing Todd had. There were others, all of them half made or twisted or just dead bloated things. Some of them - - the least terrible - - reminded him of Hannah.

He turned away from wide eyed stare of something dead that had Hannah's mouth and her eyes but lacked a nose, to look at the real girl, who was standing there, tears streaming down her face at her - - God, brothers and sisters. And it hit him suddenly, what they'd done to her, the cold-hearted bastards that she'd thought of as her parents.

It was a hideous place. A dungeon filled with things worse than any the Book had dredged up and plagued them with last year. He rotated a shoulder, hefted the 9 iron and slammed it with enough force to crack the glass plate over the incubation chamber. A second blow and the glass shattered, spilling fluid onto the floor. He didn't stop there and it felt good, letting the rage loose. After things spinning so badly out of his control lately, taking the initiative back and creating a little chaos all of his own accord was therapeutic.

There was the solid clang of impact behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Curtis gripping a pipe and following his lead. He grinned, and Curtis nodded back, grim and pissed, while Hannah and Jenny stood there, staring at their spree of destruction with wide eyes. Atticus was edging back up the stairs, going to do who knew what and Todd didn't care. Fucking this place up - - this terrible place where people without souls played with innocent lives to try and find a way to manipulate the Book - - was all that mattered.

The anger loomed, dark and giddy and there was the curious awareness of - - power - - not a vast, bottomless pit of it but more like a hundred tiny dust motes flickering in the lazy light of afternoon.

Something sparked down the aisle, a stray burst of electricity that sizzled in the leaking fluid, then popped exploding the door off one of the far chambers. It spread, traveling down the row in a chain reaction of destruction. He heard Curtis yelp behind him, and the girls screaming for them to get out. He stood there, club in hand, the sparks dancing in the air and felt the curl of power at the center of him, without even the Book to feed it. Only maybe there were traces of the Book here - - a dozen mutated, dead or dying things with whispers of the Book's essence inside them. The whole far end of the chamber went up with a deafening boom of explosion, metal and wire and fluid roaring outward. Sudden burning pain flared in his chest.

Todd dropped the 9-iron, staggering, the air sucked right out of him as something plunged what felt like a burning brand into the center of him. He almost went down, but for Curtis shoring him up from behind, dragging him backwards as the incubation chamber was tearing itself apart.

Jenny was screaming for Hannah to 'leave it. Take what you've got,' pulling Hannah away from the bench and its stacks of books.

"We've got to get everybody upstairs out," Curtis was yelling. The girls ran up the stairs ahead, Hannah clutching the backpack and Todd doubted he could have made it himself without Curtis. The pain was this rhythmic, throbbing acid though his veins, and all of it centered around the place on his chest where they'd cut into him.

"Todd, are you okay?" Curtis shoved him back against the wall once they were upstairs and out into the hallway. There were staff and old people scrambling as fast as they could, responding to the girls screaming 'fire' and the monotonous blare of a fire alarm triggered by the smoke threading its way out into the hall from the room with the secret door.

He nodded shakily, the pain slowly receding, edging back to the point where he could breathe again. Curtis nodded back. "I gotta find my granny and help get everybody out."

Curtis took off, weaving through the chaos Todd had caused. The pain was still there, an echoing ache, but that wasn't the worst of it. He could feel tiny little pieces of the Book shriveling up and ceasing to be. Slivers of it dying. He shut his eyes, leaning hard against the wall as the floor tilted out from under him. He'd grasped after those itty bitty shreds of book power without even knowing he was doing it and the thing they'd sliced into his chest had reared up and slapped him down hard because of it. It was the only thing that made sense. The only explanation for the fact that he could feel it throbbing under his shirt, almost like it was laughing at him. He pressed a hand to his chest, expecting the cloth to be blood soaked, but it wasn't. There was just a raw feeling, a throbbing heat like his skin was swelling from multiple bee stings.

The floor shook and this time, it wasn't just in his head. A cloud of smoke that smelled like electrical fire wafted out from the doorway, and he pushed himself off the wall, stumbling through the now hazy aired hall. People were still scrambling - - well as fast as old people could scramble - - but they were pretty motivated and the staff was doing a good job of evacuating the place.

He made his way outside as the last of the residents were being pushed out in a wheelchairs and scanned the crowd gathered at the edge of the parking lot for his friends. He could hear the sound of sirens approaching in the distance. Curtis was standing next to his granny, patting her arm, assuring her things that Todd couldn't hear through the ringing in his ears. Jenny was pacing, staring towards the building, Hannah a little off to the side clutching the backpack of rescued notes.

Atticus stood a little apart from the crowd of gawking seniors, staring at the smoke beginning to seep out from the windows.

"Todd," Jenny waved him over, but he needed a little distance - -just a little breathing room, and moved to sit on the curb further down.

"Are you okay?" Jenny was blocking out the sunlight in front of him, hands on her hips. Hannah trailed her, and Curtis left his Granny to join them, sitting down next to Todd on the curb.

"Holy shit, man. We burned the place down," he whispered.

Not we, he thought. Me.

"Did you get hit by something when it went up?" Curtis asked. "It looked like you did - -?"

That was a good excuse. He ought to use that excuse so they wouldn't know what had really happened. But the part of him that wanted to hide it was also the part of him that was weakest when it came to dealing with the power the Book offered. He needed them to know when he was wavering, so they could smack sense into him when he was feeling short on it.

"It was me - - I think I set off the explosions."

"What? How?" Jenny sat down on his other side and Hannah settled next to Curtis. The first of the police cars had arrived, and there was a fire engine not far behind. A window broke down towards the end of the building and flames rippled out.

"I dunno. I got really angry and I felt it - - little pieces of the Book - -" He felt a little numb no w, but before - - before he had been anything but - that feeling of power rushing in like smoke filling his lungs, only the high hadn't been euphoric, it had been dark and destructive.

"Oh, God," Hannah whispered. "The clones - - the Book cells they'd fused with the clones. They responded to you."

He looked across Curtis at her, miserably. "Yeah - - maybe. I didn't mean to - -"

"That place needed to be destroyed," Jenny said with conviction. She leaned in, pressing her arm up against his. "And so you lost it a little and lit the place up - - but you didn't go Pure Evil and that's what matters."

"Yeah - - maybe, but - - I don't know if I stopped myself or something stopped me." He rubbed his chest and felt the faintly raised edges of welts. "When I first started really feeling the power, the place those heavy metal Satanist douches cut me just sort of got crazy painful. That's what hit me, dude."

He gave Curtis a sort of shamefaced wince. Curtis just draped an arm across his shoulder and squeezed.

"Let me see," Jenny demanded.

And since he sort of wanted to see for himself if the thing had come back, he lifted his shirt. And it was sort of there, in the center of his chest, a faintly pink, faintly raised mark in the shape of the occult symbol he'd had carved into his flesh.

"Fucking assholes - -" Curtis growled, lifting his good hand to touch it, even as Jenny was doing the same from the other side. Todd wasn't particularly squeamish about personal boundaries, but this thing he was marked with was freaking him out.

"Oh - - my," Hannah was saying, wide eyed and thankfully not making a go for him the way Curtis and Jenny were. "We need a picture of that, before it fades." Okay, that was worse than trying to touch the thing.

"Really?" Todd complained as Jenny was digging out her phone and edging around in front of him to snap a shot of it.

"I don't recognize that symbol - - we need to find out what it means."

"It means the new Satanists in town are sick fucks," Jenny said.

He let his shirt drop and sat there, staring at the firemen rushing around, dragging hoses off their trucks. The old folks were just sort of mulling in exhaustion, sitting in their wheel chairs or the benches in the shade of trees beyond the parking lot. Even if they were all Satanists, he felt sort of bad for them, burned out of their home. He hadn't meant for that to happen. Shit just seemed to go to hell, when he got anywhere near it.



Atticus edged away, melting into a group of seniors and away from the four teenagers sprawled on the curb, watching the retirement home burn like everyone else. He half considered finding a policeman and reporting that the arsonist was sitting right there, watching the fire, but the Crowley Heights sheriff's department were notoriously lax in doing their jobs and as satisfying as having Todd thrown into jail on arson charges might be, it would involve Atticus himself having to give a statement and explaining what business he'd had in the retirement home, months after his father had ceased to exist there. Inconveniencing himself wasn't quite worth giving Todd a little well-earned grief.

Besides, there was something new and curious to spark his interest. He'd only been half paying attention when they'd mentioned 'new Satanists' before, but the conversation he'd just eavesdropped on was very, very interesting.

If there was a new sect of the satanic society in Crowley Heights, no one had cleared it with him. Granted, he had been immersed in a fiery hell for the last month, but the Murphy men had ruled this town and all its satanic dealings for the eighty years and it was just poor manners for some new group to move in and think they could have the run of the town without his approval. In fact, a new sect might be just what he needed, fresh blood and from what he'd overheard from the kids, a highly enthusiastic bunch to boot.

A pair of old biddies that had been in tight with his father were sitting on a bench, watching the firemen fighting their losing battle. If anyone was up on their gossip, it would be this pair of grey haired old bats.

"Mildred. Betty. What's this rumor I'm hearing about out of town Satanists in Crowley Heights?"

They both looked up at him with small, rheumy eyes. They'd managed to save their knitting needles and a basket of yarn and they were busy making what looked like a set of denture cozies.

"We thought you were dead, Jr."

He scowled, standing straighter. "That's Your Evilness, to you, gray hairs."

The one waved a needle at him in a motion that looked suspiciously like dismissal. "Oh, its no rumor. A few of them stopped by a few weeks back, didn't they Betty?"

"Oh, gracious yes. And that one - - now that was a man. A real man. I don't think I've ever seen such muscles outside of a magazine - -"

The other one cackled. "If I was twenty years younger, I'd have let him bend me over and - -"

"Don't - -" Atticus slashed an urgent hand and snapped. "Finish that sentence."

His mind was already trying to shrink up and hide from the images she'd brought to mind. Twenty years his ass, more like forty if she wanted to offer anything not dried up and shriveled beyond recognition.

"Just - - tell me who they are and where I can find them."



They sat on the curb and watched the fire for another hour - - because, well, it was a fire and despite having started a few minor ones in barrels or with the injudicious use of fireworks - - Curtis and Todd had never been this up close and personal to a real, raging fire. It was pretty awesome. And Todd, who had the curse, or the blessing, depending on how you looked at it, of a lamentably short attention span, shuffled aside the depressing thoughts of outbreaks of Pure Evil and Jenny's possible deportation back to the city in favor of ogling the pretty flames.

Both he and Curtis lamented the lack of a joint with which to get just a little baked, because 'how wicked would it be to watch this show if we were stoned?'

'Pretty fucking wicked.'

They were both agreed on that. Jenny seemed to think they were idiots and rolled her eyes repeatedly and wasn't shy saying it, while they were debating the merits of the mind broadening effects of weed.

Hannah didn't have an opinion one way or another, too wrapped up on flipping through the notebooks that she'd saved, to pay them or the fire much attention.

After about an hour in Jenny started to complain that her butt was sore from sitting on the concrete and that the smoke was burning her eyes and that she was hungry and if they didn't finish jerking off to the burning building soon, they could all walk home because she was leaving without them. As much as he loved Jenny, she could be a sort of a bitch when she put her mind to it. She was lucky she was so hot.

Most of the residents had already been picked up either by the family that had deposited them in the home in the first place, or taken to nearby hospitals or other facilities, so it was just firemen and police and the local news station covering the story, by the time they left. He'd sort of forgotten about Atticus, but he was long gone, too.

They stopped for fast food on the way back to Jenny's, which was about all Todd could afford with exactly four dollars left in his pocket. Which was four dollars more than Hannah, and Curtis wasn't rolling in it, but Jenny pulled out a credit card and slid it across the counter under the wide-eyed gazes and him and Curtis.

"You've got plastic?" Todd asked almost accusingly. It was an amazing and envious thing to possess, though he doubted most of the guys he bought his weed off of accepted anything but cash.

Jenny shrugged a little evasively, slipping the card into her back pocket once she'd gotten it back.

"Did you steal that from your mom, too?"

She gave him a glare for that accusation, then rolled her eyes and waved a dismissive hand. "What if I did? I guess I'm like a trust fund kid now. She's supposed to stipend it out for food, board, whatever - - so I'm due."

"Whatever you say," he got the food-laden tray and followed her to the table Curtis and Hannah had claimed. "If the cops come and take you away to prison - - I'll wait for you."

"Shut up," she muttered, but she gave him a sort of quick, curious look from under her lashes, before she scooted onto the bench across from Hannah and Curtis. Hannah was still reading one of the notebooks, trying to explain something to Curtis who had a sort of glazed expression in his eyes.

"You'll make him blow a circuit," Jenny predicted.

Hannah looked up, eyes unfocusing from the book and focusing in on Curtis. It took a second for her to realize that she'd lost him probably from sentence one, and she blew out a little resigned breath.

"Anything interesting?" Jenny asked. "The cliff notes version?"

"They were meticulous in their note keeping," Hannah said a little wistfully. "There's a lot of pure science here - - a lot of pure engineering - - which would be very helpful if I were going to recreate a cloning incubation chamber - -"

"You probably ought not do that," Todd suggested, dredging a fry in Ketchup.

"Yeah, unless you made like those two headed dog things - - " Curtis suggested. "Because that would be awesome."

"Fuck yeah, " Todd chimed in, vaguely recalling the picture he and Curtis had seen on some website that specialized in the weird and grotesque. "And it would like have two names -- "

"- - and two asses."

"No. Just the one ass. You'd need two collars, though. Spiked collars."

"That's not the same sort of cloning," Hannah sighed, propping her chin on her palm.

"And its just wrong," Jenny added.

Hannah closed the book she'd been looking at and sipped at her coke. "I wish I could have saved more. I'll need a cassette deck to listen to the taped notes."

"I've got one at home you can use. My dad's."

"Where are you gonna stay, sweetie? Since your aunt moved away and all?" Curtis asked.

Hannah looked up, uncertain.

"She can stay with me," Jenny said. "A better question is, how are we going to explain how she's back from the dead?"

"Yeah, that is a pretty good question." Todd seconded.

"Well, this is Crowley heights," Curtis shrugged, taking a huge bite out of his triple-decker cheeseburger. "People generally don't pay a whole lot of attention to the weird and the weirder. If she just shows back up once school starts, chances are nobody'll call her on it."

Curtis had a pretty good point there. Enough crazy shit happened and people tended - - as long as it wasn't happening to them - - to get numb to it.




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