Chapter 12: Cthulu Marching
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It took a t-bone steak, his chain, and a tow winch to keep Cerberus from getting away every time a plane’s shadow sped across the ground. When I finally got him into the jeep, he was panting for the first time I’d ever seen. His tongue was a giant slab of dripping pink lolling out of the side of his cavernous mouth as his broad chest moved like the bellows of a blast furnace.
Sarah gave me a small bag with some homemade goodies inside and a larger bag filled with various meat stuffs for the dog. In
“What do you think she’ll do with it?” Sarah asked.
“I have no idea. I’m afraid to think about what’s going through that twisted little head of hers.”
Sarah nodded. “Think she might sell it?”
“Sell it? I suppose she could, but I don’t know who the hell would want to buy it.”
“Well, there’s a market for that kind of thing. A pretty big market.”
I shrugged my shoulders and watched Cerberus track the airplanes flying overhead. “Eh, not too worried about it.”
“Just promise me you’ll be careful, Daniel,” she said.
“Don’t worry, Sarah. I can take care of myself.”
She grabbed my arm and escorted me to the driver’s side of my Jeep. “I’m sure you can, dear, but that’s not the point. I know the kinds of people who might be interested in this sort of thing. I ran in that circle for a while myself. They can be very dangerous. Very. So I’m telling you, be careful.”
For the first time I’d ever noticed, Sarah looked her age. I hugged her and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “I will. But this is Darby we’re talking about. I know how to handle her.”
“Really? And how many scars on that pretty face of yours are from her? This woman shot you in the head once already, Daniel. I don’t think she’ll hesitate to do it again. Not over this.”
Shoot me in the head? Darby would rape me with a soldering iron if given half the chance, so I’d count myself lucky if she showed me the quick and quiet mercy of a bullet to the brain. “She’s just doing it to be a pain in my ass, Sarah. She wanted that damn thing ever since we filed for divorce. And I sent my lawyer’s two oldest children to Harvard making sure she didn’t get it. She’s just pissed that I actually got to keep something out of the settlement.”
Sarah shook her head and crossed her arms. “If Darby simply wanted to be a pain in your ass she would have asked for alimony. Think, Daniel. She doesn’t need money, and even though she’s crazy, I don’t think she’s crazy enough to do anything with it herself. I think she has other ideas.”
“It doesn’t matter what she has planned for it,” I said. “Sell it. Keep it. I don’t care. I’m getting it back.”
“Listen to me. I don’t think she’s going to keep it. I think she’s going to sell it.” Sarah put her hands to the sides of my face. “And not for money.”
I gently pulled her hands away and said, “Well I know her, Sarah. She’s not just going to give it away.”
“That’s what bothers me.” Sarah started twirling her hair as she stared off into open sky. “I have an idea of what price she’s going to ask for. And there are only a handful of people who can pay it.”
“Well, if the price she’s asking for is my head on a plate, it’s going to be a seller’s market.”
Sarah grabbed me by the shoulders and squeezed. Her hands dug into my flesh with a strength that belied her tiny frame. “Don’t make jokes, Daniel. This is serious. I spelled that box so she would be blind to what was inside. And it was open for, what, thirty seconds? A minute? And she found it. She’s been looking for it the whole time, Daniel.”
I tried to shrug my shoulders, but her grip held me. “The woman hates me, Sarah. Of course she’s going to—“
“No! I mean, yes, she hates you. But this isn’t about you. She doesn’t care enough about you to go through all this trouble just to hurt you.”
Sarah was wrong, and it wasn’t just my suddenly wounded ego talking either. I once watched Darby spend half an hour berating a checkout girl for accidentally short-changing her five cents. She had the girl, the manager, and several of the rubber-necking customers in tears before it was all over. Later that night the checkout girl had tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists. Darby’s tirade wasn’t the sole reason, but it was the thing that had finally pushed the poor thing over the edge. When we had heard about it a week later, Darby had sent the girl a bouquet a flowers with a card that said, “Remember: down the lane, not across the street.” Over a fucking nickel. My ex-wife was a sadist and she most certainly would go to all this trouble to mess with me.
And it wasn’t exactly like she didn’t have a reason.
“Okay, then why?” I asked. “What other possible reason could she have for doing this other than just to make my life miserable?”
It was a sad and frightening thing seeing a frown on Sarah’s face. She aged in just the few hours I was there. Wrinkles grew in places where there used to be smooth, pale skin. Not only did I devalue her property, but I drained her life away as well. I’d have to start wearing a cape and calling myself ‘Count Dingo.’
“Darby’s a Graeae, Daniel. You think you understand what that means, but you don’t.” I tried to pull away but she held me fast. “Sweetie, I’m not trying to be mean but you have to understand. If you keep going on dismissing all of this as ‘nonsense,’” she looked to Cerberus in the Jeep then back to me, “it’s going to get you killed. You have no idea what Darby sacrificed in order to marry you.”
“If you’re trying to tell me I’m an asshole, I already—”
“No, no, Daniel. That’s not what I’m saying. Not at all.” Her voice softened into something close to music. “My point, sweet boy, is that I think your ex-wife is going to try and get her dowry back.”
I used to have this nightmare when I was a kid. I would be sitting at home, all alone when I would hear this low rumbling cadence, thundering in the distance. I’d rush outside to see what was making the noise and there, just barely visible over the horizon was some dark, Lovecraftian giant making its way toward me. Slowly, steadily, its god-like footsteps brought it closer. And I would always wake up paralyzed and nauseated. Even though I knew it was a dream, I couldn’t handle the fear and hopelessness of knowing that no matter how fast I ran or in what direction, that thing would find me.
I’d rush into my parents’ room, screaming and crying. My dad would crawl out of bed and tell me the same thing he told me every time I had that dream: “The only thing you need to be afraid of in this house, son, is me.” He was usually standing in his underwear with his eyes crusted over with sleep when he said this, thus insuring I’d return to bed and dream of zombies instead.
But the idea of Darby becoming a Brass Hand again made me long for those nightmares of marching Cthulus and undead dads.
“She can do that?”
“If she cuts the right deal with the right person, yes, she can.”
I steadied myself against the Jeep. I didn’t buy into Sarah’s theory that Darby didn’t care enough about me to mess with me. And if she ever got her dowry back, I’d be fucked six ways from Sunday. “I’ve got to go.”
Sarah smiled, and a bit of her youth returned. “I know.” I hopped in the Jeep and turned the key. “Ooh!” She said. “Hold on!” Sarah turned and ran into the house. She came back out waving something over her head. “You can’t forget this!”
She handed me the picture of her and my mom. “I told you, Sarah, I don’t want it.”
“And I don’t care. I know your mother certainly has her faults, but she really is a good person. Besides, it’ll help remind you that you’re not the only one with an albatross around your neck. Keep it. Please, Daniel?”
I took the picture, shouldered Cerberus out of the way, and shoved it in the glove compartment. “It’s Dingo, remember?”
Sarah reached through the window and put her hand on my cheek. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to.
I dropped the Jeep into first and drove away from the only woman who ever truly loved me.