From the darkness came a muffled, "What the–"
Jack spun around, facing the darkness, his snarl possessing a strange, reptilian quality. His hands had suddenly grown claws.
Aggie's finger tightened on the trigger. Jack's head exploded in a shower of gore and bullets.
Duane gasped, diving for cover. Jack's headless corpse, twitching uncontrollably, collapsed to the street, blood pouring onto the asphalt.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Duane screamed at Aggie. "Do you know how much noise you just made?"
"Look!" she said, pulling Katy-Ann's unconscious body away with her free hand. "Is blood supposed to be black?"
"Shit," he said, looking down at the twitching body. "And it's not supposed to be that acidic, either." He pointed at the smoke rising from the street where the blood was flowing. Jack's corpse was more gaunt, less human. His skin was a dark green.
"Doppelgänger," Duane said. "Okay, a pox off your family." He was pale.
"What is it?" Aggie asked.
"It's a Norse or Aryan demon," he replied. "It finds a human and mimics it, often after killing the person it's based itself on." He bit his lip. "This means Jack might be dead."
"But it wasn't perfect," Aggie protested, after a stunned silence. "Its hands weren't –"
"Is the shooting finished?" called a familiar voice from the opposite side of the street.
"Fucker!" Duane snarled, grabbing the other MP-4 and cocking it. "Get your ass out here. Now!"
Jack limped from the shadows. He was breathing heavily, but his eyes were clear. He was cradling his left hand.
"Show me your hand," Aggie called out.
"Good call," Duane said in a prison-yard whisper.
Jack raised his left hand. One of the fingers was missing. "What's going on?" he asked. "Why are you giving me the 3rd degree here?"
"Shut up and answer the questions," Aggie said, her dark eyes flat. "Did you just come from Rich's place?"
"Are you kidding me?" Jack protested. "He left town last Spring, took off with Penny. What's this all about?"
"It looks like him," Aggie whispered. "But how can we be sure?"
"I dunno," Duane said. "Why don't you come closer, where we can see you?" he called out, motioning with his machine pistol.
Jack limped closer. Duane and Aggie could see the scorch marks on his clothes. "Jeez," he said. "First Cassie's having sex with her husband in my head, and now the closest people I have to friends look like they're about to kill me. Could this night get any worse?"
Duane visibly came to a decision. "Sorry about that," he said. "You'd understand if you knew that this thing," he pointed to the rapidly dissolving creature lying on the asphalt, "was impersonating you."
Aggie nodded. "It was a doppel . . . deppel –"
"Doppelgänger," Duane said. "Very bad mojo."
"Jesus H. Christ," Jack said. "Has all Hell broken loose tonight?"
"Apparently so," Duane replied. "We have to get out of here before the cops show. They're going to be hunting for us now."
"Why?" Aggie protested. "Those weren't real cops we killed back there!"
"No difference," Duane said. "Whether they were real cops or not, the other cops think they were. That makes us cop killers. We have to find a place to hide."
"Agreed," Jack said. "How's Katy-Ann?" He limped towards her, brushing her red hair back from her face. It looked like some colour had reappeared in her cheeks, but she didn't stir.
Aggie found herself letting out a breath she didn't realize she was holding. She was so sure that Jack's touch would have woken the red-head from her strange coma. She looked up, saw a similar look in Duane's dark eyes.
"You too, huh?" he said softly. Aggie coloured.
"We need to get out of here," Duane said again. All three of them heard the sound of sirens. "Can you carry Katy-Ann?" Duane asked Jack.
"Sure," he said, lifting her in his arms. "Where do we go?"
"Why don't we take my car?" Aggie said. "We'll be less conspicuous that way."
"Good idea." They walked across to the silver Toyota Prius, Aggie opening the doors with the remote. Jack slid Katy-Ann into the rear seat, positioning himself so that her head rested on his lap. Aggie fought down an irrational surge of jealousy; she wished someone could hold her as tenderly as Jack held Katy-Ann.
"Dump the guns?" Aggie asked Duane as he ran around to the other side of the car.
He shook his head. "We might need them."
"Against those fire demons?"
"There's more than just fire demons out there," he said. "You never know."
"Okay." Aggie slid her MP-4 into the well behind the driver's seat, making sure to put the safety on first. She then hopped into the car, turning the key. Duane was already in the front passenger seat, his machine pistol somehow hidden.
Aggie, driving carefully, pulled out, driving away from the bloody scene. Behind them, the roof of Belleville High still smouldered, the jagged hole in the roof barely visible in the night.
"So, our mission, which we have no choice but to accept," Aggie said dryly. "Figure out a way to wake up Katy-Ann, avoid getting killed by cops, people pretending to be cops, or just nasty people in general, and get rid of an unknown number of fire demons. Did I leave anything out?"
"That's a pretty good assessment," Jack chuckled. He yawned. "Some sleep might be nice, too."
"I doubt we'll get that," Duane said, his voice gravelly with exhaustion. "We have way too much to do." He thought for a moment, shaking his head. "Man, could this night get any –"
Aggie put her right hand across his mouth. "Don't say it!"
(to be continued . . .)
Papuasblya wrote:Oh, Stratty, you made me get my heart meds re-calibrated...