EXCERPT FROM "The Abominable Myra Linsky Rises Again," a Doctor Unknown Junior adventure.
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Also includes "Kelly's Beast" by David Blalock and "The Unwrapping Party" by Joshua Reynolds.
(Note: The Piecework Horror is a supernatural entity summoned by Dana Unknown's old school chum, the eponymous Myra Linsky. It is constructing a body for itself out of odds and ends from dead serial killers.)
The following afternoon, just for the hell of it, I was doing some actual work. I had catalogued all of the magical objects and fetishes Dana had on hand at the brownstone, and was now busy updating files pertaining to new occult spells and procedures. Dana needed to keep up with all this stuff for when and if she ever got herself back up to full strength. I wanted to have the administrative stuff in good shape before I left.
Dana, looking as glum as I had ever seen her, entered the office and went straight to her desk. She flopped down into her chair and busied herself with the vital work of staring at the wall. I continued with what I was doing, not wanting to embarrass her with inquires about her well-being.
Suddenly, the boards I had nailed over the broken window burst apart and flew across the room in a shower of splinters.
"Dammit!" I shouted, "that took me two hours!"
It was, of course, that goddamn stupid Piecework Horror again.
"I'm back," it said. This time it had two distinct voices, both of them speaking German-accented English. "Once I get some arms and legs, I'm going on a spree!"
Dana said a bad word, and so did I. The situation called for it. Who the hell wants to look at a thing like that? It hung there in the air, a few feet off the ground, Peter Kurten's nasty head, now welded onto the neck of a limbless torso. It was enough to give a person bad dreams.
I was startled, I'll admit, and my first move didn't amount to much. I stood and picked up the closest object at hand, a magic marker, and threw it. It bounced off the Horror's head, landed on the carpet, and rolled under the sofa.
"Bravo," Dana said sourly.
"Well, if you can do any better, go ahead!"
The Horror had not reacted at all to my withering barrage. It just drifted there, bobbing gently up and down. I wasn't sure what it was trying to accomplish. Keeping my eyes on the creature, I slowly and carefully opened one of my desk drawers and removed from it two objects. Meanwhile, Dana had gone into action of a sort. She had started up some kind of weird chant, and was moving her hands in intricate, sinuous patterns.
Though she had never explained it, I gathered that Dana's magical abilities were part genetic, part learned. She came from a family of powerful sorcerers of various stripes. Her father, Doctor Raul Deveraux Unknown, had been a crimefighter for years and years; her mysterious, never-mentioned mother had been some kind of a Voodoo bigwig down in New Orleans. Dana's slightly dusky complexion and dark hair hinted at some Creole in the woodpile. She never spoke of that side of her family, and I figured there was a story there that would one day manifest itself in some catastrophic way.
I did not know exactly what had been damaged in her or how she was going about fixing it. She kept that information a closely-guarded secret. It looked as though she was now trying to cast a spell, and I hoped she'd made progress since the last time she'd had a go at something magical.
It seemed that my hope was not in vain, because a small ball of light took shape in the air in front of her. Her hand movements speeded up and the chant rose in pitch. She seemed to be straining herself; she was sweating profusely and chanting through gritted teeth. The ball of light grew larger. The Piecework Horror just floated in place, as though it hadn't a care in the world. I was fiddling with the objects I had taken from my drawer, making sure one was charged and activated, and the other fully loaded.
Dana's ball of light swelled until it was a bit larger than a basketball. This seemed to satisfy her; her face and body relaxed and she took a deep breath. Shouting something that sounded "Alakazam," (though she later denied that) she made a shoving motion with her hands, and the ball sped toward the Horror.
Almost. A valiant try, but Dana had rolled a gutter ball. The globe of whatever it was missed the floating monster by a good two feet and slammed into the wall, shattering the glass over a framed portrait of Harry Houdini. Dana cursed and ducked as the ball bounced back in her direction, whizzing over her head and hitting a bookcase, scattering volumes of sorcerous lore all over the place. Dana lost her footing and fell to the floor. The ball shuddered for a couple of seconds, then winked out.
"Nice," I said, aiming an ordinary automatic pistol at the Horror. "At least my magic marker didn't wreck the whole house, practically."
I fired five quick shots at the Horror's head. I didn't expect that to do anything but distract it, which was all I wanted. It rocked back a little and seemed to be in some mild distress. I sprang forward and tackled it around the waist, a very unpleasant experience. The thing was clammy and smelled of mold. It shook me off easily, which I had also expected.
I stepped back and fired my remaining two shots at the limbless ghoul. It bobbed and weaved and evidently decided it had had enough of me. It zoomed toward a window, crashed through it, and was gone.
I walked over to Dana, who was sprawled out on the floor among the scattered books. "Here, Annie Oakley," I said, holding my hand out. "On your feet."
She glared at me and took my hand. I hauled her upright.
"I don't want to hear anything else from you about this," she said. "Not ever."
"I'm sure you don't, but something tells me you're doomed to be disappointed."
She stomped over to her desk and sat down, scowling blackly at the scattered books.
I sat down at my own desk in a calm, self-possessed way, turned on my computer, and plugged a little gadget into one of the USB ports.
Dana got up and started picking up books and slamming them back onto the shelves. The occasional muttered curse word reached my ears.
I went online and typed in a URL that was known to very few people. I logged in, using a 75-character, case-sensitive password that I had committed to memory. I found the page I wanted, typed in an activation code, and sat back while a map of the United States loaded and the server on the other end of the connection opened a channel to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.
"If you're looking at that Wet Hooters site again, Jack, I swear I'm going to put a parental control on that thing. Why don't you help me clean this stuff up?"
"Because, one, I didn't make the mess, and, two, I'm busy."
I zoomed in on the map, enlarging the area in which a small red light was blinking. I took note of the direction and speed and made a few quick calculations in my head. Then I used my cursor to draw a straight line on the map. I smiled as I saw that the line passed right through a very interesting spot.
"Well, if you're too lazy to help pick up, you could at least do something vaguely productive," Dana groused.
"I don't know, but we need to try to find out where the Horror is going next."
"Oh, I know where it's going," I said.
"What? How could you possibly know that?"
"I know because while you were shooting off fireworks, I stuck a GPS tracker on the Horror."
That took the wind out of her sails.
"You did?" she asked, apparently astonished by my competence.
"Yes, I did," I said, studying the display on my monitor. "I'm on the Outrenet right now, tracking it. This is very interesting. If the Horror is traveling in a straight line, which it appears to be, and if it continues on its present course, it will be in Plainfield, Wisconsin, in a few hours."
If you don't know about the Outrenet, don't worry. You aren't supposed to. It exists alongside the Internet, and is used by people you've never heard of, to do things you know nothing about, for reasons you wouldn't understand.
"Is that significant?" Dana asked.
I laughed. "Yeah, kind of. Do you know who is buried in the Plainfield Cemetery?"
"Quite a few people, I would imagine."
"There's one in particular. I'll bet you anything that's where the Horror is headed. And if we hurry, we can get there before it does." Dana wanted to ask about fifty different questions, but I just gave her a nasty smirk and said, "Zip it, sister, and get your hat. We have miles to go before we put this baby to sleep."
I was enjoying knowing more than she did.
Before we left, Dana said, "I may be running on fumes, but I can at least keep that crazy bastard from getting into the house again." She performed some sort of a ritual that would seal the premises tight against further incursions by the Horror. This, evidently, did not constitute doing something to the creature, so it wasn't prohibited by the crazy rules.
"How do we know it worked?" I asked, reasonably enough.
"Well," she said, "we don't. But if the Horror does come back in, we'll know it didn't work."
I didn't find that reassuring at all. Maybe that was her revenge.