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Perez called on the way back. Jasper’s reunion had become an eviction party by the time the cab parked outside the warehouse. He watched Ezra and Josh wheel the roadie cases into the back of a waiting truck. Ezra scowled at him as they walked past, into the warehouse.
‘If he’d seen what I had, mate’ Jasper said.
Perez was still struggling with the news. He walked as though every step caused him pain, hands in his pockets as he led Jasper to the office at the back.
‘Ezra’s pissed about the job going south. We all are, but with what you’ve told me, it changes things.’ he said.
Jasper lit a cigarette and glanced at Perez.
‘I’m sorry, I had no fucking idea.’ Jasper said.
Perez blinked and tilted his head to one side.
‘If he’s not human, then he’s smart enough not to fuck with. Either that or you lost your fucking mind.’ he said.
Jasper shut his eyes and shook his head.
‘I wish I was crazy.’ he said.
Perez gestured a thumb to the office at the back and smiled at him.
‘Tell it to the boss.’ he said.
Jasper gritted his teeth, hissed out smoke between the gaps in his teeth. A fresh crop of sweat beaded along his hairline as he walked towards the office.
They heard a voice telling them to come in.
Jasper and Perez looked at one another.
‘I’ll back you all the way.’ he said.
Jasper looked at Perez, and there’s something detached in his eyes which makes Jasper take in a sharp intake of breath. He opened the door and stepped inside. The brittle crunch of plastic sheeting made him chuckle as he looked up.
Jasper had seen the man at the house. He had been one assistant, but he smiled with a bright amusement as he gestured behind Jasper.
‘Hey Jasper.’ Miller said.
Jasper looked as a man closed the door before he gestured to the chair with his gun.
‘Fucking do it, then.’ he said.
Miller shook his head.
‘Oh well, if you insist.’ he said.
The man lifted the pistol and shot Jasper in the head. Miller shook his head, disappointed at Jasper’s refusal to allow him a chance to gloat at how transparent his ambitions had been. They had found the crew, doubled their take and told them to wait for Jasper to check in. His ears rung from the shot, and he wiped away a fine mist of blood from his face.
Miller told the men to clean it up as he left the office. Perez was stood with his arms folded, looking out at nothing. When he saw Miller, he stood up and glared at Miller.
‘Tell Mary we’ll be in touch. Sorry about your friend.’ he said.
Miller willed a flicker of recrimination to appear in the other man’s face, but none came. Everyone had their price, and this crew had come in under budget. Perhaps they had heard about what happened to the last crew, but Miller had lost the taste for tradecraft and just wanted to get back to the house. Mr Felipe had asked him to take care of the matter, whilst he assisted Olivia with her transition and it was as depressing as having a team meet at the warehouse, tell them to clear out, pay the crew off in cash and wait. Perez was hanging around for an extra piece, seeing as he had brought Jasper back in.
Perez opened his mouth to speak but Miller shook his head.
‘No, I’ve said what I needed to. Fuck off, spic.’ he said.
Perez curled his upper lip and squared his shoulders but Miller held his ground with a varnished, smug grin on his face. He turned and walked away from Perez, who heard the sounds of plastic sheeting being gathered inside the office. Perez swallowed and it tasted like hot gravel pouring down the back of his throat as he turned and walked away.
The money was too good, he told himself. Whoever Jasper’s boss was, it was better to take the money and run.
Miller got into a car and made a call.
‘It’s done. Clean up is underway, sir.’ he said.
Mr Felipe thanked him and ended the call. Miller sat back in the seat and exhaled with satisfaction as he closed his eyes. His work kept him active, and although he had sacrificed a normal life for it, his needs were met. In time, he hoped, so would his ambitions. Jasper had come into the business under false pretences, and when he committed to those over his current employer, Mr Felipe had seen fit to deal with the matter.
He had been privilege to the secret of the man and took it as a measure of trust. Miller never acted against Mr Felipe, and it had been rewarding beyond his imagination over the years. He did not ask about being altered because he knew his use was in his appearance and manner. Olivia might have been capable of anything but she was bound to him forever. Miller saw the long term appeal of service but at an age and station where he would enjoy it.
Miller played out his subtle dreams of power behind his closed eyelids.
The Editor looked at the cardboard sign and winced at the spelling of her surname.
She sighed as she walked towards the man, looming over her with a protruding forehead and acromegalic jaw.
‘You must be the Golem?’ she said.
He shook his head and lowered the sign.
‘No, he’s waiting for you.’
She sighed and checked her handheld device. He had sent her a message telling her he was thinking of her. A single x. A stolen ache slipped from her control but she grimaced and put the device back in her jacket pocket.
She followed the man out to a waiting car. He opened the door for her and she got inside. Her nose wrinkled at the bitter tang of burned flesh, like an oil on her tongue as she got in and closed the door.
He took up most of the back. Each breath was the soft roar of something large and mechanical as he sat with his knees close to his chest.
‘I dislike this place, Ms Slater. I am here because I am instructed to do so. Your skills as an editor are spoken of with warmth and respect but I am the Golem. You know of my reputation?’
She lowered her eyes and nodded.
‘It means you know mine, doesn’t it?’
He gave a slow nod. What light there was in the back of the car revealed pink skin which had healed into tight bands of scar tissue. She saw the wet glint of his teeth when he smiled.
‘We have two signatures to track. Evidence of a third, not including us.’ he said.
She had the lenses in her jacket pocket but the time on the plane had allowed her to read.
‘I will need information if we run a line edit on this.’ she said.
He grunted and the car started up.
‘I have a house we will use. There is internet there, and I have room for a sky tank, if you need it.’ he said.
His voice was the rasp lava made when it tongued its way down the mountainside and it unnerved her to be so close to it. He had worked with Special Lexicon, working with religious texts and had discovered an unknown word of power. His pronunciation of the second syllable burned most of his body but the change had been in his mind. The surgeries and editing had transformed him and now he was a specialist, called in on serious matters.
She shook her head.
‘I’ve got what I need. We can talk along the way. What’s your story?’ she said.
He chuckled and rolled his shoulders.
‘In the beginning was The Word.’
She made notes in her head as she listened.
Kelly watched John play with his dog on the lawn, squatting over it as he tugged the length of rope between its jaws. He looked up and she smiled at him, his eyes widened before he returned his attention to Duke.
Her thoughts gathered thunder, drawing information into her head where it waited for her interpretation. The pallet of scent signatures was intense, and she shuddered when she inhaled the perfume of coffee or the slow, narcotic pulse of nicotine but it was all overwhelming. He was teaching her meditation practices, a discovery he arrived at through need and taught to her as a way of managing the pressure.
She felt no urge to transform but there was an unsettling tension to her thoughts and reflexes which made everything a potential vector of concern. Kelly walked out onto the lawn and joined them both.
Later, when things turned bad, it was a happy memory for her, the decision to step out and join him in his space, but then she was driven by a desire for the silent comfort he offered without expectation of reward. It was enough for her then, to acknowledge it as he looked up and gazed into her eyes.
John’s phone rang and he answered it.
His face tightened and he asked them to contact the legal department. He ended the call and put the phone away.
‘They’ve asked about me and the cabin.’ he said.