Brown Jenkins part three
by Duane Pesice
“I don’t know what I expected,” Nat said, “but this isn’t it.” He kicked the door closed and set the bags of groceries down.
Jenkin just looked at him.
The apartment was spotless. There was no sign that there had been any water, no holes in the ceiling and walls, and the washtub was empty and sitting in the middle of the living room.
“I’m not even going to ask,” Nat continued. “But I don’t understand the steam.”
“I told you. What you can see is only what you can see. There’s more of me than you perceive. I’m not what you think.”
“I think you’re a sarcastic rat-boy with some real strange connections. I’m surprised that I’m not freaking out that you exist, let alone that you’ve decided to room with me.”
“I am too.” Jenkin uttered a high-pitched snicker, meaner-sounding than a titter.
“Yeah. Whom the Gods would destroy and all that. I get it. But if I were crazy in the first place, that wouldn’t be operative, would it?”
“Depends. But you’re doing well. I ate your neighbor.
“Your neighbor, the guy with the bald spot and the bad sports jacket. He saw me. I had to kill him. Nowhere else to put him.”
“That’s not good. I can’t allow you to go around killing people.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“There has to be some way. I can find it.”
“Good luck. So when are you going to get a job?”
“I just did. I made a couple of calls while I was out. I assume you can tune the twelve-string?”
“In my sleep.”
“Do you have to come with me when I go?”
“Yes. I have to retune the guitar if it falls out of tune.”
“Fuck. With my luck, you’ll kill the promoter before he pays me.”
“Chance you’ll have to take,” said Jenkin, turning on the tv. “Did you get Cheetos?”
“Yeah,” said Nat sourly. He threw the plastic bag of cheese puffs to the beast and proceeded to stow away the rest of the groceries.
He fixed himself a liverwurst and onion sandwich and opened a beer, eating standing up.
“How can you eat that?”
“I love it. My favorite.”
“Gross,” said Jenkin, channel-surfing.
“Put on the baseball,” said Nat. “I like baseball. Did anyone see you kill and eat Bill?”
“Yes. There was a guy in the alley. I killed him too. Cut him to ribbons and threw the bits in the canal.”
“Why didn’t you eat him? Or why didn’t you throw Bill in the canal too?”
“Not enough room. I didn’t like Bill’s coat. It offended me.”
“Me too, but not that much.”
“I’m sensitive,” mused Brown Jenkin, retracting and extruding his claws. “Can we watch Wolverine?”
“Feh,”spat the beast.
“Stop killing people. And pets. Please.”
“I can’t promise that. But you’ll never be attached to anything. Nobody will believe the story. I’ve seen this movie before.”
“This is the worst–written script EVER,” remarked Nat, entering the living room. He set his beer down on the coffee table. “Seriously. Nobody would believe any of it. I’m finding it hard to believe, myself.”
Brown Jenkin regarded him solemnly. “That’s what happens. Did you expect no catch to things when you requested infernal intervention?”
“I expected my soul to be forfeit.”
“No such thing. Sorry you had different expectations. This is real. I AM AS FUCKING REAL AS THE ZIT ON YOUR NOSE.”
“Right. And I still need to work for my fame and fortune. Why don’t you just go away? I was doing perfectly badly all by myself.”
“I like you,” said Jenkin, wearing a huge toothy grin. He needed dental work.
Nat sat quietly, glowering, sucking on his beer. After a bit he got up and fetched another.
Jenkin fell asleep. He snored enthusiastically.
Nat drank, and thought his thoughts. His expression grew wiser and wiser. The corners of his mouth twitched a little and then broke into a smirk.
“You still smell like ass,” he said to the sleeping figure. He drained his beer and exited the apartment, walking a trifle unsteadily down the stairs and into the city.
He made various stops, buying a couple of bags full of choice items, Cheetos and rat poison prominent among them. There was a package of nets of various sizes, a collapsible dog kennel, several spray bottles, a gallon bottle of vinegar, and several plug-in room deodorizers. He stopped in the computer store and bought a cheap wireless webcam.
Returning, he whistled a little tune.
The sleeper had awakened, leaving his mess behind him. Nat cleared away the Cheetos bags and the gnawed remnants of an arboreal animal and unpacked his things.
The dog cage, once it assembled (with much swearing and several side-alleys), was placed next to the living room couch, on the side further away from the front window. The door was propped open, and he shoved it back under the end table, far enough so that it didn’t show unless you were on that end and looking for something on the floor.
The nets were so positioned that they would fall and engulf anything that came in one of the windows. Pull open the sash, and down came the net.
The room deodorizers were deployed, one in each room of the apartment, two in the bathroom.
He carefully injected the contens of a bottle of powdered rat poison into a bag of Cheetos and shook it until it was invisible.
The vinegar and spray bottles were for another project.
Nat sat on the end of the couch, away from the window, and practiced turning and heaving in one motion, throwing a pillow into the cage. When he was able to do that four times in a row, he stopped.
The pillow went back in the bedroom. When he was on his way back, Nat smelled that his quarry was approaching, that particular Brown Jenkin miasma of body odor, dead flesh, compost, and corruption.
He crossed and sat where he had been sitting.
At once he saw his error. The nets were all on the windows.
Jenkin came in the front door, dragging a cat by the tail. Several chunks had been bitten out of it already. It was not quite dead yet, as it was mewling a protest, but it was too far gone to fight back.
“No,” Nat said. “Give me the cat.”
Jenkin tittered sardonically and swung the cat by the tail, up to his mouth. He bit down, a gout of fresh blood oozing onto the hall carpet. The cat’s tongue stuck out like the business end of a New Year’s noisemaker. The light went out behind its eyes.
“Jesus,” breathed Nat.
“Better than that,” said the beast. “The King of Rats.”
Into the room stepped a tall pearshaped man with a balding head and spectacularly thick eyebrows, wearing a discolored brown suit.
“I like this place,” he said, looking around, leaning on his cane. This individual actually darkened the air around him slightly, giving him a sort of aura. “It has certain…charms. A kitsch. Yes.”
Nat stood, his weight on the balls of his feet. “Who are you, and why are you here?”
The figure chuckled. “I had been told you were an intelligent sort. No evidence of that, no indeed. I am the King of Rats. She (indicating a woman that had just entered) is the Queen. We have come to introduce ourselves. Our friend Jenkin speaks highly of you.”
“You can turn right around and let the doorknob hit you on the ass,” Nat said. “You’re not welcome here.”
“Ah, but I shan’t. Whether welcome or no, here is where I intend to be at this time. And, as I own the building now, I cannot be induced to vacate the premises by any officers of the law.”
“Well, I guess you have me then. So, speak your piece.”
“Brown Jenkin tells me that you want to renege on your agreement. That you no longer wish his company, or the gift.”
“This is quite true. The gift isn’t anything at all, near as I can tell, and Jenkin’s a horrible roommate. And he smells.”
The figure smiled. “Yes, he does. As in the joke about the goat with no nose, he smells terrible. No joke about that. Well, then, sir, the question is, what do we get in return for your end?”
“I had always been of the opinion that a soul was the offering. It isn’t like you people, and I use the term loosely, had me sign a contract or anything.” Nat shrugged.
The woman, a redhead in unkempt hippie garb, hissed.
“Now, Keziah, that doesn’t help our cause,” the man in brown said. “Well, Mister Jenkins, we have a problem, it seems.
“Souls don’t really exist, per se. There is a bit of consciousness, a random blot of energy, that remains, and it isn’t of much use to us. Just a single string of the great harp of life.”
Jenkin bit into the cat’s stomach and stretched out the entrails. “Anyone for tennis?” He said, bits of offal falling out of his mouth.
“We need you alive, I’m afraid,” continued the man in brown. “Or at least part of you. Your head.”
“Go find Alfredo Garcia,” said Nat, opening the vinegar bottle, which he then proceeded to swing about, spraying everyone with acrid liquid. He got everyone in the face, where he had been aiming, and that gave him the opening he’d need.
Nat beat feet out of the apartment. He didn’t think that the trio would show themselves in public.
A stakeout was inevitable, though. And that didn’t bode well for him. Evil things were afoot, bad vibrations in the great harp of life.