6:13 pm . . .
I look across the office at my team. Billtruck, in his white lab coat, with his bulging arms and barrel chest—he’s contemplative, considering our mission. Probably pondering the nuances of Dracula’s historical underpinnings.
Ricky, the unassuming genius, future medicine man, and the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever known—he’s biting on his bottom lip as he makes plans.
Ms. Josephine, with the eyes of the blind, a heart so big and full of empathy that it’s hard to even imagine the things she hears—she’s sitting in a rolling chair by the red phone waiting for somebody to call her in need.
And then there’s me, dressed for a funeral that I saw way before it actually happened. I’m pacing slowly between them all. Thinking of what to say next. Although none of them put it into words, they’re all waiting for me to make a decision. Ricky, Billtruck, Ms. Josephine, and even our computer, they’re all leaps and bounds smarter than me. But I’m the one who talks to angels.
We’re all regular people trying to solve impossible, unnatural problems for other regular people. A bunch of blind kids at a birthday party swinging golf clubs at a piñata. No matter how hard we try, somebody just has to get hurt in the process.
I’m the guy who can die and walk among the dead.
The idiot I see in the mirror, it’s the moron who let caged evil pour back onto the earth.
So, I guess I’m the goto guy on decisions like this.
“Ricky,” I say, “how long would it take to prep for a trip to Ecuador?”
His cheeks puff out as he does calculations in his mind, “A day, give or take. I’ll file a flight plan, get the plane ready, assemble our gear. Two days, tops.”
I nod, turning to Billtruck, “What do we need to hunt these blood-sucking bastards?”
He taps his fingers on the side of the keyboard in front of him, “Full surveillance kit, night vision, thermal imager. I’ll need to find a satellite that I can get space on. Need real-time strip mapping and overwatch capability.” And then he turns and looks over at Ms. Josephine, “ . . . and you’ll need her, of course.”
I look into her honey brown eyes full of mystery and secrets that only the jungles will ever know. Her strange eyes, with the glittering remnants of a girl who couldn’t even see until she was 10. “You feel like another vacation, Ms. Josephine?”
“I ’aven’t been to South America in years,” she said with a smile.
You can be easily fooled by this short, kind looking woman, with her round face and soft disposition. At a glance you’d just see the most caring, thoughtful woman in the world. But there’s another side to her. The one that takes over when her eyes close. When the lost souls cross the darkness to plead for her help. And there is a very powerful sorceress in there, behind that wonderful smile and delicate voice.
She knows things.
Dangerous and scary things.
“I’ll get Hal up to speed on what kind of data tracking and peripheral assistance we’ll be providing,” Billtruck says. And then his shoulders drop a few inches as he sighs to himself, “ . . . almost wish I was coming with you guys.”
You’re our secret weapon, I tell him. Besides, you’ll be in our ears the entire time.
Ricky claps suddenly, one loud time, “Alright, then!” He walks over to me, taking Ms. Josephine by the hand. “We all know what needs to be done. So let’s rock and roll.”
We all gather in the center of the office, like a huddle, information streaming by on screens all around us. I say to them, “Look, if there’s any personal stuff you need to take care of, I think we need to get it resolved by tonight. We’re kind of on a tight schedule.”
We all nod, then slowly everyone goes in their separate directions. I finish up some things I was working on at one of the workstations and then head over to where Ms. Josephine is shuffling through some papers. She’s at the corner of the office where she can look down into the interior of the building, at the little food court where people are chatting each other up.
She doesn’t even turn around, she just says, “What’s on your mind, Jack?”
You freak me out when you do that.
She laughs quietly to herself. “After all da crazy tings you’ve seen, ’ow come Ms. Josephine scares you?” But she’s asking another one of her rhetorical questions. She’s thought provoking, I’ll give her that.
She turns and looks at me, grabbing my wrists as she pulls them towards her. “You got dat girl on your mind.”
How do you do that? I ask with a grin.
She shrugs, placing my palms together, “Don’t take no psychic to see dat, child. You really like dis girl. It’s written all over you.”
I shuffle my feet a bit, “I have a favor to ask.”
“Is it about dat girl of yours?”
It is about her, I say . . . but not exactly. I have to do something.
“I’m listenin’ . . . ”