Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Page 18


"The dead boy's father? Why?"

"His name was on a notepad on Thursday's desk."

Albie shrugged. "You're the boss. Try not to scare anyone to death."

"There's been enough of that already," I said.

After the Bayless-mobile rolled away, I walked up the long, overgrown driveway toward Gentle's place, but stopped and stepped into the trees before I reached the house. I stood there for only a short time before Grayson Thursday rolled up the driveway past me in his spanking-new Mercedes. I waited a couple of minutes, then followed, but the yard around the ramshackle house was covered with dry grass that hadn't been mowed in months, not to mention all kinds of other trash, and it was hard to get close without making a noise. Thursday didn't stay very long, anyway. I had to duck back into the trees again as he came out, got into his beautiful car and bumped off down the driveway.

When he was gone I knocked on the peeling paint of the front door.

"Jesus Christ!" said Bobby Gentle when he saw me, and jumped back into his shabby living room, then darted out of sight. That was the kind of reaction I was used to. I felt better already.

"Don't bother getting out a gun," I called after him. "I don't mean you any harm, but I am armed and I'm probably a better shot than you are. I just want to talk." I looked around the living room. The place was a mess, cigarette butts and beer bottles everywhere, along with greasy fast-food wrappers, months' worth. A couple of not-very-good seascapes hung on the nicotine-stained walls. If they were

Gentle's, I knew why he wasn't selling much.

He came out of the back room slowly, his hands open wide. He hadn't been able to find the gun, anyway.

"Swear you ain't gonna hurt me?"

"I promise. Sit down."

He squinted. "I saw you in the papers, didn't I?"

"Could be."

Gentle Sr. truly was a piece of work, no doubt about it. He stank of booze and it wasn't even noon yet, so I figured he must be sweating it out of every pore. He was as pale as his son, but without the excuse of having had all the blood pumped out of him. I kind of doubted he'd been outside more than a couple of times in the last six months. His hair was long in the back, thin on the top, and stringy and greasy all over. He wasn't killing himself keeping up with his shaving, either. Still, the last week couldn't have been easy on anyone. "Sorry about your son," I said. "Rufino, that was his name, right?"

"Yeah. His mama named him after some famous spic painter. Before she took off and left me. But I got the boy back off her. Went to court for it." For a moment his angry little red eyes lost what focus they'd had. "Bitch wasn't taking my boy to live in some commune full of tofu-eatin' losers."

Tempting as it was, I didn't really want to spend the whole day with this charmer. "I'll cut to the chase, Mr. Gentle. You've just had a visit from Grayson Thursday. I suspect it had something to do with your son's death. Would you mind telling me what he saw you about?"

He looked at me in surprise and confusion, then his pale skin turned almost as red as mine. Before I could react he bolted out of the living room and down the hall. He pulled a door shut behind him and locked it. I was patting my pockets for a lockpick when I looked again at the state of the rest of the place, then I just broke off the knob.

The bathroom was empty except for a stack of Hustler magazines beside the toilet and an ancient no-pest strip dangling from the light bulb. The window was open, the screen kicked out.

I caught him in the woods a hundred yards away. He was pretty fast for a rummy, but for some reason he was carrying a suitcase, and I can get this bulk of mine moving pretty quick when I want to.

"No!" he screamed when he saw me, and threw the suitcase end over end into the deep undergrowth. "You can't have it! I never got anything else for him! All that boy ever did was cost me! You can't take it away!"

I picked him up by one arm and let him sway in the wind a little bit until he stopped yelling and started whimpering. "What are you talking about?" I asked him. "Why did you run away? What did you just throw?"

He stared at me, or did his best to focus in my direction, anyway. "You don't want to take it away from me? You're not going to steal it?" He grimaced. "Damn! I shoulda kept my big mouth shut!"

"I'm sure that's not the first time you've said those words — and I'll bet it won't be the last." I put my face really close to his, doing my best not to breathe in. "Now, if you don't want me to swing you around in a circle until this arm of yours comes off, you'd better tell me what you're babbling about."

"The money Mr. Thursday gave me. It was 'cause my boy died! He said so! There's no crime in me having it!"

I shook my head. "He gave you money? How much?" Now his eyes got shifty. "I don't know. A couple of thousand ..." I lifted him higher. I heard something pop in his shoulder and he shrieked. "Don't lie to me, Gentle."

"A hundred thousand! He said it was a hundred thousand!" I set him down. A hundred thousand? That was crazy. "Go get it." He came back with the suitcase cradled in his arms. I swear he was getting tearful at the thought I was going to take it off him. I couldn't help wondering if he'd ever expressed that much care and concern for his son. "Open it," I told him. He did. If it wasn't a hundred thousand dollars, you could have fooled me. Stacks of new bills, side by side. I made a face and turned around, heading back toward the road. This whole thing was pissing me off. "So ... I can keep it?" he called.

"Far as I'm concerned. But you'd better keep your mouth shut about it or someone less polite than me will come out here and take it away from you."

Last I saw of him he was scurrying back toward his falling-down house, suitcase once more gripped tight against his chest.

It was well into the afternoon by the time I had hiked back to Albie's mobile home. He met me at the front door. "Guess what I found out," he said. "Oh, and do you want some chili? I was just going to heat some up."

"Later," I said. "And you can tell me what you found out while you're driving me back into town. We're going to talk with that lying son of a bitch Thursday before he takes off again."

"Why's he a liar?" Albie asked as he maneuvered his car out onto the main road.

"You remember him saying the murder was nothing to do with him, right? Well, he was just over at Bobby Gentle's place and gave the guy a hundred thousand dollars. Does that sound like nothing-to-do-with-me money? Or like some kind of payoff instead?"

Albie whistled. "I never knew my little town was so exciting."

I scowled. "In my business, there's a thin line between exciting and multiple fatalities. I hope we stay on one side of it."

Nobody was in at the office so I sent Albie to the coffee shop to buy me a couple of burgers and we sat in the car and ate while we kept a watch on the place. "What did you find out?" I asked him.

He handed me a stack of green printout pages about the width of my thumb. My bigger thumb. "I pulled every story I could on weird stuff happening near that house, going back to the monastery days. There are lots of Indian legends, but they didn't have what we're looking for, of course ..."

"And?"

"And guess what I found. Almost every single murder, UFO sighting, public panic, you name it, for the last hundred and forty years, happened on , .."

"Thursday," I said.

"Well, no."

I was stunned — my theory had just been shot to hell. "I don't get it ..."

"But you were half right. Look — a few did happen on Thursday, or at least that's when they were reported. And a few seemed to have happened on Tuesdays. But almost every other freaky thing — dozens of them — happened on a Wednesday, between midnight and midnight. Which, if you remember, was also when the Gentle kid must have died."

So it wasn't back to square one, after all. I felt mighty relieved. But it probably meant I was going to be spending at least another week on this one, so I was a bit disappointed, too. "Wednesday, huh?"

"Thursday."

Now I was losing my temper. "But you just said ... !"

"No, I mean that's Thursday — over there." He pointed to where a silky black Mercedes was just pulling into the reserved parking space in front of the office.

"He's back."

We waited until our guy had gone in before following. I didn't want to spook him. I'd chased enough weirdos for one day.

The inner office door was locked, but I leaned on it and it popped open. Grayson Thursday didn't look as surprised as he should have, but I don't think it's because he was expecting us. He just wasn't very good at showing human emotions.

"Okay," I growled. "Sit down. You aren't going anywhere until we have some answers."

He did manage puzzled pretty well. "Didn't we finish our conversation earlier?"

"Can that crap. Tell us the truth about Monks Point." I flopped the stack of printouts down on his desk. "Tell us why stuff's been happening there for a hundred years, and probably more. And why it always seems to happen on the same damn day of the week."

His mouth worked for a moment. He really didn't look right and it was starting to bug me. If you're going to wear a disguise, at least try to be convincing. I yanked out my gun and stuck it in his face. "I'm losing my temper here. You're a lousy fake, you know? Your watch is upside down, your shoes are on the wrong feet, and your pupils don't contract when the light changes. Now talk to us or I'll blow your head into little bits. That may not bother you personally, but I'm betting that at the least it'll be an inconvenience." I was also betting on the fact that he wouldn't know and couldn't guess that I'm not the kind of guy to shoot except in self-defense. Sometimes when you're huge and red and scary looking like me, a bluff is your best move.

He waved his hands frantically. "No! Don't! We have no right!"

Now he'd confused me again. "No right to what?"

"We have no right to damage this body." He patted himself gingerly, as if it was a rented tux and he was afraid he might wrinkle it. "It is only borrowed. Its owner is in a comatose state, but he may recover someday. Please do not ignite your weapon."

I turned to Albie Bayless, who looked pretty confused. I felt sorry for him. Even I'm not completely used to this stuff, even though I do it for a living. "Sit down, Albie," I said. "I think we're finally going to get some answers."

"As you've guessed," Grayson Thursday said, "my people are not natives of your earth. Or, to be more exact, we are native only to a small part of your world — the portion that happens on the day you call Thursday."

"I'm lost already," said Albie cheerfully. "Or I've finally gone crazy."

"Our dimension intersects with yours, but at an angle, so to speak — our lives only touch yours once every seven of your days. We have explored your dimension, but we have no physical existence here and normally cannot interact with the inhabitants, so our visits had only ever been for the furtherance of science ... until things went wrong. You are so far from us, so different, that other than these few scientific expeditions we might as well be in different universes."

"Thursday's child has far to go," I said.

"What's that?" Thursday asked.

"A nursery rhyme. Bayless, you must know it. Monday's child is fair of face, Tuesday's child is full of grace, Wednesday's child is full of woe, Thursdays child has far to go ... And so Grayson's people are Thursday's children, I guess."

Grayson Thursday nodded. "Very appropriate — disturbingly so. Because it is not us but Wednesday's children who are the problem. They are indeed full of woe, and it is our fault. We bred them too well. We gave them enough life to be aware of their own condition, their own ... shortcomings."

"Okay, now you lost me," I said. "Try again."

"We are an old race." He shook his head. "We were tired of striving, of struggling. We wanted rest. So we created a race of servants for ourselves. Not like us — we made them primitive, without emotions ... or so we thought. Creatures that would not object to servitude."

"To slavery, you mean." I scowled. "Let me guess. They didn't feel the same way about it as you expected them to."

"After many thousands of years, yes, they did become restless." It was hard to tell, but the stiff face looked a little ashamed. "There was an ... uprising. We realized that we had created a permanent problem. Our servants were more numerous than us. We could not destroy them — we are not that kind of race."

"In other words, you could make and keep slaves but you couldn't kill them."

"You mock the complexity of our problem," Thursday said sadly. "But it is more or less true. So our greatest thinkers devised a way to solve the problem. We found a parallel dimension, one that had no outlet back into our world. We transported our unruly servants there and left them to make their own lives. We even apologized, but they were too savage, too discontented to feel anything but hatred toward us."

"Imagine that." I sat up and tucked my gun back in its holster. "Let me guess. The place you dumped your slaves leaks into our dimension. Right here at Monks Point."

He sighed. It was the closest to human he'd seemed so far. "Yes. We did not know that at the time, of course, or we would have sent them somewhere else. Apparently all our parallel dimensions intersect your timeline here in this dimension. Thus, the Wednesday Men, as you might term them, imprisoned one dimension over from us, full of woe — and anger. And once a week, if conditions are right, their prison touches on this world."

"So why are you here? And what are you doing about Monk's Point?"

Thursday grimaced. "We have done the best we could to keep them there. We have filled the place with attractive host bodies — you see, like my people and I, they have no physical forms of their own here, and must find things to occupy. Thus, we have filled the house with once-living shells and other objects to attract them — the things you supposed to be museum pieces, the preserved animals and such. And the house is warded with various other defenses designed to hold our former servants inside. The combination of these two is generally effective, but not perfect, I'm sad to say. Sometimes the flow from what you would call the Wednesday dimension is very strong and they spill out even past these restraints. That is when ... unfortunate things happen."

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