Monday, February 20, 2012

"Updates and Holy Orders" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was sitting in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill finishing my customary bacon cheeseburger along with my second pint of Pyramid Hefeweizen, the most glorious beer in known existence, and watching in amusement as a pair of local community college studs in chinos and sweater-vests attempted to mate with two giggling debutantes in short skirts.

I felt sorry for the studs. Little did they realize those two young women were really vampires belonging to House Seven Betty Grables, which had a satellite office in the San Francisco East Bay. House Seven Betty Grables was, of course, one of the Great Vampire Houses of North America, along with House Pain, House Blues, and House Rising Sun (which, according to one of Zeke Azerov's white papers, was used ironically).

As the two collegiates pattered on and preened and flexed, oblivious to their doom, a tall, gangly man in black motorcycle boots, cargo pants, wool pea coat, and battered peaked cap came in, looked around, and loped toward my table.

It was Skinner. Skinner was one of my go-to guys, a man who had his ear in everything and his hand in various unspeakable places that later required CDC-grade disinfectant, often by white-hot flames. Rumor had it he'd been a Green Beret in Vietnam and later worked in secretive, hush-hush offices at Langley, no doubt for The Company. Then he "retired" and became a "security consultant." We'd met in Bolivia nearly ten years ago when I went down there to report on illicit pharmaceuticals coming to the U.S. from a small Bolivian village. It recently turned out that he was also one of Azerov's go-to guys, too.

He slid into the seat across from me and signaled to Marvin, the bartender, for a drink. Then he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a phone, and slid it across the table to me.

"Stopped by The Lair first," he said. "Anne told me you were here. Said to give that to you."

It was my new phone. My old one had met with an untimely demise caused by peanut butter a few weeks earlier.

"Excellent," I said. "I was waiting for this. They had to put it on backorder because of the custom options I'd wanted."

"That always takes time," Skinner agreed, nodding. "Unless you work for certain nameless organizations who have such things in nearby unmarked warehouses."

"Enough of trying to make me jealous of your cool tech," I said. "What news do you have for me? Anything on the Bublé front?"

Skinner leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Word on the streets is that they were using him as a cover story. The real Michael Bublé knows nothing about the Dark Elders. Of course, they asked him indirectly."

"Indirectly? How?"

"The William Hurt method."

"Altered states?"

"Yes."

"Gads!" I said.

Skinner nodded. "He wanted to sell them car insurance at a discount."

"Double gads!"

"And then it got pretty hairy, from what they told me. Something about primeval ooze. Luckily it didn't last too long and they were able to get him back to his normal self."

"And the Dark Elders?"

Skinner shook his head. "Nothing more about them. I'm in touch with people who'll tell me if news breaks."

"Keep us posted," I said. "Anything else?"

Louie the bartender came around with a bottle of Sam Adams and a chilled pint glass and set them in front of Skinner. "Heya, Skinner," he said in his gravelly voice. "You wanna eat?"

Skinner pointed to the remains of my burger. "What he had."

"Comin' up." Louie shuffled back toward the bar.

Skinner poured the beer into the glass then took a long pull. "Hits the spot, lemme tell you."

"A good beer always does," I said. "So what else you got for me?"

"How," he said.

"How what?"

Skinner shook his head. "No. How. H-O-W. Stands for Holy Order of Wendig."

"Wendig?" I said. "As in Chuck Wendig the writer?"

"Yep. That's him."

"Wouldn't it be 'ho-ow'? With the extra 'o' for 'of'?"

"Who really knows the inner workings of the crazed mind?"

"Crazed?"

"Yeah. Seems some folks have started up a society that's worshipping him like a god. Offerings, hymns, the works. I've brought one of the society members with me. He wants to talk to the press. I told him about you. He was sold."

I threw back the rest of my Hefeweizen and signaled to Louie for another. Then I pulled out my Moleskine notebook and got comfortable in my seat.

"Tell me more," I said.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

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