Chapter 37: All Mad Here
Useless left the Personnel office without a job. He stood on the sidewalk, staring dejectedly into the gutter with both meaty hands in the pockets of his blue jacket. He felt the city around him, solid and boxed in, chilly like a freezer.
He sighed and made his way past the line of people trying to get into the club. Personnel was in the back room of one of the low key places that Mr. Jones owned. Useless couldn’t remember its name; it was one of the ones he didn’t like. Red lanterns hung outside like gaudy gems on a necklace that wrapped around the front of the run-down building.
Useless crossed the street to get away from it. This road was usually abandoned at this time of day – the occasional cab stopping several blocks away just to avoid the poor condition of the pavement in this part of town.
He didn’t know what had possessed him to go today – maybe because whenever he called or visited during open business hours, James in Personnel seemed irritable and short. Maybe he thought that going off-peak hours would find the man in a better mood – but that was not the case. In fact, Useless found that James was in an even worse mood.
Sighing, Useless began the long trudge homeward. His thoughts drifted in and out of his predicament, idly touching on memories and thoughts about where he could get work. It remained as wispy and noncommittal as a ghost until he stopped at a corner.
Down that road was Lenora’s house.
Useless looked down the street with a mix of fear and uncertainty. The darkness in Cellar City was even more intense on this corner at night – several street lights intermittently blown, leaving the street a patchwork of shadows. During the day it was almost as if the UV above was thinner in this part of town, leaving it in a perpetual twilight.
He wondered what Lenora was doing – what they were doing now. Were they planning on attacking Mr. Jones again? Had they already?
Useless fidgeted there for a moment longer before working his legs in the direction of home. A few blocks later he got to his house and slowly labored with his keys, throat constricted.
He couldn’t scrape by without a job. He wondered if he should ask James for a reference. Anyone else he would have asked for one is dead. He wouldn’t ask that woman for one, afraid she would ask for something in return.
Useless’s stomach turned uncomfortably at the idea of her mahogany hair and her snake-like grin.
A familiar voice carried over the empty space behind Useless, and his blood froze up, locking his hands mid-turn of his key.
Useless turned slowly to see the madman standing just behind him, a grin cocked on his face and hands deep in the pockets of his ruined black coat.
“I think we have unfinished business.”
Useless swallowed the fear and turned his back on the door, keys still in the lock.
They stood there for some moments in awkward silence.
“…Invite me upstairs.” The madman scowled, gesturing impatiently with his chin.
Useless shook his head. It was a reflex. He didn’t want this man in his home! He didn’t want anything else to do with him or the girl. They only brought him trouble. If he came inside, part of him felt like she would know, that evil woman would find out…
The madman rolled his eyes and shook his head violently, like he was shaking something off. “Listen I don’t have all day.”
Useless licked his lips, trying to bring moisture back to his mouth so he could speak. As he did so, he saw a car turn down his road. It was a black car.
The madman’s eyes followed his, and before Useless could react, the madman was at the door behind him turning his keys.
Useless felt his heart beating as one of Mr. Jones’ cars pulled around the corner. His sluggish body turned and reached out to try and stop the man, but all his fingers brushed was a wisp of black coat as he disappeared inside.
Without knowing what else to do, Useless followed the madman inside and closed the door behind him. When he turned, the madman’s chef knife was extended towards the delicate skin of Useless’s throat.
“Invite me upstairs.”
Useless’s eyes widened at the unnatural glow in the madman’s eyes. He must be a scab – that was the only way to explain it. He hadn’t noticed their color before. Swallowing, Useless nodded uneasily.
The madman smiled, dropping the knife hand to his side, and gesturing towards the stairs.
Useless led the way quickly as the car parked outside of his building, and in moments, Useless was inside his apartment with a madman, and answering the buzzer for the front door.
Useless pressed himself against the door, listening for the clicking of dangerous heels. The madman had the knife pricking his side with all the relaxed confidence of a cold blooded killer.
“Who is it?” The madman asked in a hiss.
Useless cleared his throat. “It’s… Giselle.”
“Who is Giselle?”
“She… she works for Mr. Jones.”
The madman cursed excitedly, and the prick of the knife disappeared from his side. Useless hazarded a look over his shoulder.
The madman was pacing in his tiny space, eyes frantically shifting from side to side, both hands in his hair. The knife was gone.
Useless turned around. “What …do you want?”
“Arrowhead.” The madman’s attention snapped back to him and he closed the distance between them in three quick steps. His bright blue eyes were boring into Useless’ face. “Tell me what you know about them.”
Useless shook his head, raising his hands to fend the man off. “I don’t… I don’t know anything.”
The madman hissed, shoving one hand into his large chest without an ounce of fear. Useless felt a static shock cross the distance between them at impact, and he remembered what had happened to Johnnie B. He swallowed.
“Think. Think think think, you have to know something, you have to know.”
Useless took a deep breath. “I… I only know a little. About anything. I know that Mr. Jones wasn’t feeling well after Crank…”
“Shit,” he thudded Useless’s chest again and paced away. A split second later he was back and hit his chest again. “Shit I don’t care about how he was feeling.”
Useless heard the heels clicking down the hall. “She’s coming.” Useless stood frozen and confused.
He was certain he would have been shot or stabbed by now, and it was starting to bewilder him. What was arrowhead?
“Fuck. Fine.” The madman peered around the apartment and his eyes lingered on the bathroom. “I’ll be listening. Don’t fuck up.”
Just as the madman climbed into his shower stall and closed the little plastic curtain, there was a sharp rap on his door.
Don’t fuck up.