Chapter 9: Looking for Brooke King
On the one hand, the beds appear to be decontaminated with cleaning spray. But unfortunately for Johnny, the room looks as if Jeffery Dahmer lived here for over a decade. All that remains is a sliced head or rotting corpse hiding in the fridge.
Johnny sets his bags down on the dark green carpet. His eyes are still weary from the long flight he and his baby sister had endured. By the time the plane took off, Johnny and Nessa tried to sit through a movie while being shaken by the hostile atmosphere.
The good news is that the Phoenix siblings made it to Hollyoaks alive, but despite this, they vowed to never set foot on a plane ever again.
Yawning for the twentieth time, Johnny decides to take a shower while Nessa watched The Ren & Stimpy Show on the bedroom television.
Her hazel-colored eyes examine the TV as Nessa rests her head on top of her bulky backpack. Exposed toes glide across the mattress. A dark green quilt covered her bottom, ignoring her feet.
Chewing on a hangnail sticking out of her left thumb, Nessa notices a bold yellow light peeping through the bathroom door.
Sprinkles of steamy water increase into a distinct symphony until Johnny got out of the bathroom. Though his hair is soaking wet, he manages to put on a gray tank top and red, woolen plaid pants that reach down to his ankles.
Soon after the boy leaps onto the second mattress, Johnny takes out his sword from his suitcase and begins polishing it with a wet cloth he retrieved from the bathroom.
Nessa did a yawn. "I don't feel like taking a hot shower, tonight."
Her brother lowers his blade. The strong light from the TV reflects on the cool metal resting like it was a huge piece of glass.
"Okay," he said. "But did you take a shower before we left?"
Nessa nods. She changes into a black oversized Velvet Underground tee and shorts, then crawls underneath the bed covers.
"Hey Johnny," she began.
"Do you still love Brooke?"
Johnny cautiously slides his sword back in his black sheath.
"I have mixed feelings about it," he admits.
"Brooke is an amazing girl," Johnny drops his sword into his backpack, then brushes his hair out of his face. "And I love her very much, but at the same time, she deserves to be with someone who doesn't bore her to tears."
Nessa shuts off the television, then lies her head on her pillow.
She couldn't help but swivel her eyes and scoff: "What? Did Brooke finally realize that you're some kind of bad boy or whatever?"
"Oh please, I was never a bad boy." Johnny snorts.
Johnny Phoenix may be a serious student, but he was never perfect.
Like his baby sister, Johnny did a lot of petty crimes in the past. He once stole a motorcycle when he was thirteen until he was caught by the police. He regularly shoplifts, smoke cigarettes, and sneak into concerts without even paying for a ticket.
As Johnny adjusts his weight on the bed, the darkness emits a powerful stillness that entices crickets to sing their song.
His discarded bed creaked like a discarded house, springing back to life. The rain beat against the slippery glass, forcing Johnny to teleport himself to the windows and pull the brown curtains over the glass.
"Have a good night, Nessa," he mumbles, caressing her warm face.
"You too." she plants her lips on his nose.
After throwing the covers over his little sister's body, Johnny kisses her forehead, teleports himself onto his bed, then slept through the heavy rain.
But as soon as the morning sun reached its highest peak, Johnny brushed his teeth, got dressed, disappeared from the motel, and returned carrying a large box filled with an assortment of donuts. Elated, Nessa slides out of bed, waddle towards the desk table, and open it.
Glaze, Boston Creme, chocolate, lemon, buttercream, colorful sprinkles, and other tasty flavors entice Nessa as she went up to get one.
"Wait." Johnny gently tugs Nessa by the back of her shirt collar. "Have you brushed your teeth?"
An irritated Nessa frown, backing away from the table. "Yeah."
"Are you sure?"
"No, I drank a big bottle of mouthwash today," she says sarcastically.
"Much obliged," she replied. "Now, can I eat some donuts?"
A reluctant Johnny releases her shirt. She rushes towards the box, picks up a glazed doughnut, and devours it hungrily.
"Mm," she grinned, licking the milky-white frosting from her dainty fingertips. "This is the best! Where did you get these?"
"Dunkin' Doughnuts." Johnny picks up a Boston Creme donut and eats it in two bites. "So, what do you want to do today?"
"We find someone who knows Brooke like the back of his hand," began Nessa.
"I have a picture of her in my bag. So after we're finished eating our donuts, let's ask these depressing citizens if they saw our girl lurking around these parts."
"This is fucking crazy."
Johnny licks the sweet custard off his lips.
"I doubt it'll work."
"What?" Nessa scowls in irritation. "Why?"
"Because Brooke is a psychic with an IQ of a stubborn ogre," he grunted. "Once she notices us, it will take days for us to find her."
After finishing her glazed doughnut, Nessa collects three more until Johnny tells her to stop.
"What?" she asks in a muffled voice. Baby pink sprinkles and chunks of donut flew out of her mouth and onto the living room floor.
Johnny deliberately pulls the box away from her. "Mom doesn't want you eating too much sugar."
Swallowing her doughnut, his baby sister bows her head in dismay.
"Can't I have one more?" she whined.
And let their parents keep Stevie Vaughn's signed guitar away from him?
Johnny retrieves his ancient backpack, weapons, and sword off the floor, then got ready to go outside. "Eat the ones you already have."
"Fine." A defeated Nessa finishes eating her donut with sprinkles, then cautiously devours a small chocolate doughnut, not leaving one crumb on the bed.
Her older brother eats two Boston Cremes before closing the donut box and putting it in the refrigerator.
"When you're finished gorging on donuts, bring that photo with you." Johnny unloads the ammo from his gun, checks to see how many bullets there are, slams it back in the chamber, and cocks his firearm.
Sword in his right hand, Johnny walks to the window, then pulls back the curtains.
Supernatural creatures and humans evade each other like water and cooking oil. And yet they walked down old neighborhoods, plazas, and businesses like clockwork.
"Brooke might not be around this shitty neighborhood," he continued, "but we can squeeze some information out of those guys."
Nessa wipes the sprinkles from the corner of her mouth. "Okay. Since we have this place to ourselves for two days, let's make the most of it."
And so, they gathered their belongings and left the motel. Nessa and Johnny spent their morning asking the townsfolk if they have seen their dear friend.
They queried old ladies, vagabonds, street kids, store clerks, drug dealers, addicts, prostitutes, and businessmen. But none of them knew where Brooke is.
"Excuse me, sir, but have you seen this girl?" Johnny asks a twenty-year-old hustler.
They stood near a small sex shop - hours away from the grimy motel. Tilting his black fedora, the hustler glances at the photo of Brooke then asks who she is.
"Well, she's a friend of ours," answered Nessa. "And we need to bring her home before something bad happens to her."
Nessa shows him an old picture of Brooke smiling. She has brown hair and bright brown eyes. In the photo, she wears a dark green sweater with a white shirt collar sticking out of it.
"Damn," the hustler whistled. "Does this hottie have a boyfriend?"
Nessa tucks the photo in her pocket. "Do you know where they are?"
Johnny responds by socking the hustler in the face. Blood and warm mucus ran down his birdlike nose. Green eyes spewed with rage as the hustler covers his broken nose with his right hand.
"Ow! he screamed. "What the fuck was that for?"
"She's fifteen, you dumb fuck," Johnny snarls. "Come on, Nessa."
The angered Nessa swings her left foot in the hustler's crotch, then scampers after her fuming older brother.
"What an asshole." Nessa scowls. "The fuck was wrong with that creep?"
Johnny clenched his fists. "I should have shot that guy back there."
Astonished, the teenage girl hinders her footsteps.
"Are you serious?" Nessa frowned. "He's a creep and all, but I don't want you to go to jail."
Johnny shakes his head. "I need is to find Brooke before the cops find out that she got involved in something stupid."
Nessa sighed, maneuvering around two tabby cats complaining about the lack of rats in this neighborhood.
"I miss Brooke as much as you do," she begins to say. "But let's not kill anyone, unless we need to."
His little sister grips Johnny's freezing wrist. Nessa glances up to get a good look at her brother's eyes, but his intense glare made her feel spooked.
"Calm down, okay?" sighed Nessa. "We will find Brooke—"
"Brooke?" a hoarse voice came from a tall, shivering old man standing near a large, oil bucket resting his hands over a fire. "As in, Brooke King?"
The Phoenix siblings stop walking, then turn their attention to the homeless man gaping at them.
"Yeah!" Nessa hurries up to the old vagrant with a happy smile on her lips. "Do you see her before?"
The aged traveler bobs his head before stretching his lips, revealing a set of broken teeth to the siblings.
"Okay, do you know where she is?"
"No." the vagrant answered. "I have no idea where she is."
Johnny circles his eyes. "Seriously?"
"I heard that girl has been working for the Maroni family for quite some time. If I were you, I would check out their mansion."
"Why?" asked Johnny. "Did you see her entering that place?"
"A couple of times."
Nessa lifts one of her eyebrows. "And how did you know about this?"
"I used to work for the Maroni family until they laid me off." The old drifter paused to spit a stream of tobacco juice on the floor.
The vagrant's red beanie is drizzled with rain. Dark gray dreadlocks brushed his shoulders. Almond brown eyes studied the kids' winter clothes, then asked Johnny if he can have his black leather jacket.
"Sure." Johnny sheds his black leather jacket, then surrenders it to the elderly vagabond.
"Now can you tell us where the Maroni family lives?" asked an impatient Nessa.
Slipping his bony arms through Johnny's black jacket, the vagabond spits tobacco juice once more then whispers the address in the siblings' ears.
Youthful eyes sparkled with excitement.
Ideas developed inside their heads as the siblings thanked the old man and hurried out of the sex shop plaza.
"Wait," the old man abandons his posture against the glass, then shouts, "why are you kids looking for Brooke, again?"
He tries to sprint after the two kids, but like ghosts, the siblings vanish without a trace.
"Holy shit." thought the old man. "Where did they go?"
Was he talking to ghosts just now? The old man runs his filthy thumbs along the thick black fabric and shakes his head in frustration.
"Of course, I wasn't talking to a bunch of fucking ghosts." the aging nomad told himself. "I have this strange boy's jacket with me."
Looking at the flame inside the oil barrel, the old man walks towards it like an intoxicated moth. His hands once again hover over the flames.
Regardless, as the temperature declined, so did the old man's regret of giving the siblings the address to complete their quest. He hopes Johnny and Nessa will locate their friend and bring her home.
But once the siblings leave to complete their task, the old man couldn't help but feel a cold chill running down his spine.