Untangling a Soul
Thom could tell there was something wrong at Lancaster Jewels. Even though it looked fine from the outside, the telltale alarm light was off. There was also something off about the shadows inside.
"How are we going to get in?" asked Debtra. "Did Max/Lancaster just walk through the walls?"
"Souls can do that," Thurston reminded her. "You spent enough time as a ghost. Do you sense him?"
"Right, and yes, there's a creepy quality to the shadows in there."
"Look away, the two of you."
Thom obeyed, and he heard the click of the lock. "How'd you do that?"
"You can look again." Thurston walked through the open door, and Thom and Debtra followed him. Inside, the empty jewelry cases seemed to have been otherwise undisturbed. Thurston put a finger to his lips and motioned for Thom to lead them to the back.
"Safe," Thurston mouthed.
Thom nodded. He could feel the sweat gathering under his arms. It was one thing to dream about strange beings from unknown dimensions, but it was quite another to confront one. He had good night vision, but his hyper-alert mind tried to anticipate the attack. Had that shadow moved? Or was it too dark for the light that created it? Did merged souls act from one will, or two in conflict? Who was in more danger – him, Debtra, or the Professor? Or was it just whoever reached the criminal first? Would it try to merge another soul?
The office was empty, but the safe door was cracked open. Thurston motioned for Thom to get out of the way, and the older man stepped ahead, leaned over, and peered in.
"Is anyone --?" Thom started to ask, but Debtra's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Maximilian," Thurston murmured. "The game's up. You have the jewels. Why don't you let Mr. Lancaster get on to his final resting place?"
A black tentacle that glowed with a sickly greenish light wrapped around Thurston's neck and brought him to his knees. His eyes bulged, and his face turned red.
"Thurston!" Debtra screamed. Thom held her back and drew his gun.
"Whatever you are, let him go and come out! We're armed!"
"Police? Help!" That was a middle-aged man's voice in a whine. "I'm trapped in here with it."
Thurston flailed his left hand in a "stay away" motion. He clutched at the tentacle with his right one.
"Let him go, Maximilian!" The safe door flew open, and Thom pushed Debtra to the floor. He fired at the mass of darkness that poured out of it.
"Your weapons ain't gonna work on me, guv'nor," another voice said. "I've eaten the sapphires in here, like blueberries they are!"
"Help me!" The middle-aged man's voice sobbed again. "I've given you what you want, let me go!"
"Oh, no, you don't. There are more stores, more cities. We're going on a little tour, you and me."
The darkness resolved into a man's shape, fuzzy and glowing around the edges, its left hand still around Thurston's throat. It looked at the red-faced Professor, who had both hands on its wrist.
"This one's taking a while to die. Not that I've killed anyone before, but they didn't believe me. Put me in that statue. You know how hot it gets in there? It's like Hell. And the birds! I'm gonna kill every pigeon I find from now on."
Debtra stepped forward. "Maybe we can make a deal. You have the alarm codes from his memory. What if we let you go, and you leave Lancaster here?"
"And send the Minders after me to set a trap? No thanks, chickie. Me an Lancaster, here, we're going on a trip."
"Then let the Professor go! He hasn't done anything to you."
"I don't need witnesses." The merged soul turned its face to Thurston, who pulled at its arm. Thom heard a ripping sound, and he saw it split in two man-shapes, one round and golden and one still black and glowing.
The golden one whispered, "Thank you!" and disappeared.
Thurston held the other one, which asked, "What did you do?"
"How did you do that?" asked Debtra.
"Trade secret, my dear. I'll just tell you I had to be touching it to do that. Now, I have some questions for you, Maximilian."
"Well, let me take a seat over there, Perfessor, and we'll have a cozy little chat."
"I'm not going to release you that easily." Thurston pulled a phone-looking thing out of his pocket and tossed it to Thom. "Press the sequence 4284. That will summon Gurney and Troxley to take care of this creature."
Thom did so. The device beeped, and the screen went black.
"You ain't going to send me back to the statue, are you, Professor?"
Thurston raised his eyebrows.
"Oh, that's right, I know who you are. I studied before I got locked up. You're the one who objected to monumenting, and now that I been there, I see why. So tell me, Prof, do your young lady over there and that copper know who and what you are?"
"Silence!" The sound of Thurston's voice filled the room with an otherwordly echo, and he tightened his grip on the other soul's arm, twisting it. Thom fought the impulse to raise his weapon. Debtra wouldn't look kindly on his shooting her mentor in a moment of panic. She did, however, scoot closer to Thom, who put his arm around her. Just to reassure her. Yeah, that was his only motive. He still kept her out of the way between his hand and gun.
"You will answer my questions, you pathetic creature!" Thurston continued with that scary voice and then added in a softer tone, "You know what I can do to you."
Maximilian whined without saying anything intelligible.
"Now, first one, who framed you and got you locked up in that statue?"
"Now I ain't at liberty to share that, guv'nor."
Maximilian screamed. Thom cringed and pulled Debtra closer.
"Whatever you do to me, Perfessor, it's not going to be nearly as bad as what He would if I told you!"
It's been crazy busy at the office, so I'm glad I finished this one over the summer. I just wanted to say thanks to the five of you who are still reading. :)
Okay, enough mushiness, have some nachos:
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