April 16, 2007

The Crane (14 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Ms. Cancer handed the binoculars to Mr. Omega and he took a look for himself. ‘I see them,’ he said. ‘So definitely the same time every day?’

‘Not exactly the same time. They usually get to the bench around 3 o’clock, sometimes earlier. We doubt they’d be late, we think they’re supposed to meet Morgana at 3.15, possibly half past.’

Slumped forward over an ornate desk, Mr. Alpha rapped his fingers on its wooden surface, making a noise like chattering teeth. The room grated on him, being more ostentatious that the usual Clothman suite, but it was a stakeout. Needs must. Peculiar candelabras hung from the walls, scattering light in uncertain paths, casting mysterious shadows in a room that was cleverly sheltered from daylight. Lawn stripes fleshed out the walls.

Staring at random scratches on the desk, Mr. Alpha asked, ‘How long have they been coming here for?’

Ms. Capricorn leaned forward from the divan she sat on, her ghostly face emerging from shadow. Large eyes peered at him across the gloom. ‘We have seen them here every day since we tracked down their hotel. We know that they have stayed at the Seaward for a month.’

‘And they haven’t met Morgana in all that time?’

‘We believe not,’ said Ms. Cancer, a silhouette against the window, turning to face Mr. Alpha. ‘What are your plans?’

There was silence.

Phrases from the letter fragment they’d come across flashed through his mind. The Cloth believes God doesn’t exist and that Man has to fill this vacancy. That’s what they do, they manipulate belief, religion, to push the world towards their goal. But there were things in the letter that only a mature Clothman like Morgana would have been privy to, which were news to him. Right now they’re trying to unify religion by pitting Christianity against Islam. They don’t care who wins, as long as one of them eats and absorbs the other.

They’d only recovered one page; what the fuck did the rest of the letter contain? Had Morgana sent her parents every single Cloth secret she knew? The Eastbourne school hadn’t been happy with the sudden reassignments of practically every Clothman at their disposal, but quarantine was quarantine. It doesn’t get much worse than that. And so fifty Clothmen roamed the streets of Brighton, primed for action, all because of Morgana’s letter. Because of her arrogance.

‘Mr. Omega,’ Mr. Alpha said, tracing out one deep scratch with a finger. ‘We move now, right?’

Mr. Omega was still looking through the binoculars. ‘Yes. Morgana’s not going to show. I think she had problems getting here in time. Now it’s too late. She knows that we’d have the place under heavy surveillance by now. That just leaves us with one thing left to do.’

Mr. Alpha looked at Ms. Capricorn and asked, ‘You’ve got all the CCTV cameras covered? Don’t want to be recorded when we apprehend Mr. and Mrs. Bolt.’

‘We have taken care of the cameras, Mr. Alpha.’

‘You’ll have the area secure, in case Morgana does make an appearence?’ Although it would be a suicidal gamble on her part, she might try to make a scene. Any public participation would make the situation far more complicated to resolve.

‘We have the area secure.’

‘And you’ll be watching for police activity?’

‘We have taken care of police monitoring, Mr. Alpha.’

Ms. Capricorn’s apparent over-confidence irritated him. ‘Is there anything you’ve fucking forgotten?’

Mr. Omega twisted around and said, ‘Calm down.’ He returned to watching the Bolts.

Ms. Capricorn didn’t flinch at the barbed sarcasm. ‘We have forgotten nothing.’

‘Well, then,’ Mr. Alpha responded with a mocking smile, ‘I guess it’s all systems a go-go. No reason to stall any longer, eh, Mr. Omega? Hmm?’

Mr. Omega lowered the binoculars, but said nothing, continuing to stare out of the window towards the featureless grey sky.

‘There are no indications of any substantial leak yet. And Ms. Capricorn and Ms. Cancer, bless their fucking cotton socks, have got things locked up tighter than a nun’s arse. Why the hesitation, mate?’ Mr. Alpha was furious and wanted the old man to feel the same pangs of doubt. Come on, feel it.

More silence.

Mr. Alpha slammed his fist onto the desk. ‘Answer me, you fucker!’

But Mr. Omega did not answer, neither did he turn around.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2212

April 9, 2007

The Crane (13 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

By this point, most parents would have converted their children’s bedroom into a spare room for visitors, a study or perhaps even a games room where the father, worn down after years of toil at a job and a marriage he hated equally, could retreat to and pretend he still had an identity. Mr. Alpha observed that this was not the case in Morgana’s bedroom. Torchlight prodded the room into reality, piece by piece.

Mr. and Mrs. Bolt had preserved the bedroom the way their daughter had left it. A couple of pin-ups from long-fame-dead eighties celebrities adorned the walls, separated by images of simple, tranquil landscapes. A cheap stack of bookshelves near the window carried a profundity of titles; Mr. Alpha quickly glanced through them, several entries from The Hardy Boys Mysteries series, Picnic At Hanging Rock, Unreal!, an Edgar Allen Poe collection. A cupboard containing toys that Morgana had probably been growing out of, but couldn’t yet find the strength to consign to the tip. Mr. Alpha touched the bed and its brightly coloured blankets. All fresh.

If Morgana returned, Mr. And Mrs. Bolt would not recognise her as the girl who had made this room her home. Mr. Alpha felt another twinge of guilt at their presence here. They were intruding on deep loss, pain and suffering that had continued to fester over the years. He muttered to himself, ‘Just fucking wrong.’

As was his job, Mr. Alpha searched the entire room in case there was any evidence that Morgana been back. He opened the cupboard and removed each toy with care and respect. He unmade the bed, folding the sheets and blankets and piling them, smelling them individually. He removed the books from the shelves, flicking through the pages for notes or fresh handwriting. He even dug out the one-eyed beige teddy bear with a playful grin from beneath the bed. From the wardrobe, he removed every dress and blouse and pair of knickers and jacket and laid them on the bed.

There was no clue here to who Morgana was, only who Fay was. There were no hints as to why Morgana the Clothman would have turned bad, revelling in sin.

There was a small pocket notebook, a personal diary, hidden beneath the mattress. It was no larger than his hand and its shiny, emerald green cover was featureless although a bit scuffed. The police must have reviewed it, but handed it back to Mr. and Mrs. Bolt after finding nothing to explain their daughter’s disappearance, who then put it back under the mattress.

As he started reading the first entry, dated December 25, 1987, he felt a muscle spasm in his left arm. He rubbed it with his right hand, still gripping the diary. The foetus was kicking again, refusing to respond to his administrations. His entire arm became alive, shaking out of control.

‘Stop,’ he hissed. ‘Fucking stop.’ He had brought this upon himself. It was his fault. Was now sweating, anxious. Too many more shakes like this and Mr. Omega would notice. Mr. Omega would then make his own call to Supply about suspect Clothman behaviour and Mr. Alpha’s career would come to an untimely end.

He rammed his body against a wall, crushing the arm, but still the spasms rippled through it. Mr. Alpha whispered, ‘Please… please…’

He knew what it wanted. It wanted to be fed. He dropped the diary and started searching his jacket. He could hear footsteps coming up the stairs and became frantic. Not enough time. Not enough time!

Mr. Omega strode through the doorway, his face ashen. The foetus became still.

Mr. Alpha wiped sweat from his forehead and leant down to pick up the diary, affecting normality. Just another ordinary night sorting through someone’s personal possessions, someone’s life.

‘Mr. Alpha,’ said Mr. Omega. ‘Put it all back as it was. We’ve got to go.’ His tone was depressed, monotone.

‘What’s wrong?’ Mr. Alpha replied, scooping up the green diary.

‘I found this,’ said Mr. Omega, handing an opened envelope to him. Mr. Alpha took it and looked inside despite his left arm still throbbing with warmth. The envelope had contained a long letter, but Mr. and Mrs. Bolt had taken all of it with them except for one page. The small extract was enough.

‘Holy fucking shit,’ said Mr. Alpha. ‘I don’t believe this. She knows what has to happen now, right? She knows.’

Mr. Omega flipped open his mobile and dialled. ‘Supply, this is Mr. Omega, Wivenhoe Surround.’ Mr. Alpha watched his partner with restrained horror. It was like watching a car crash in slow motion unfolding before him, teeth smashing into a steering wheel, brains smearing across the windscreen.

Mr. Omega sighed and lowered the handset, unable to say the words. He leaned against the wall for support and shook his head in what Mr. Alpha assumed was disbelief. He raised the mobile to his lips and said, ‘We need a quarantine pack.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2059