Brown Jenkins part four
Nat had to think fast. But necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and he invented something.
“I’m going back,” he said. “I’m gonna turn it all back around.”
He ran back down the block and got his car. His guitar was already in the back seat.
The biggest question was—how would he spend the time?
He needed somewhere to hole up for about eight hours, until nightfall, where Mazurewicz and Keziah Mason and above all Brown fucking Jenkin wouldn’t find him, if they chose to follow.
Remembering the effect of water on Jenkin’s hide, he elected to head down to the canal and stay near the shore.
Parking the car in the forest preserve lot, he sat on a picnic table bench, mournfully picking, waiting for the sun to go down, ignoring the Frisbee throwers and sprinkler dancers and the noxious odor from the port-a-potties.
Occasionally someone would approach, and stand listening for a while, or sit at the bench, but he didn’t communicate except with his fingers and his grimace, and they would leave after a while.
A small hot breeze stirred the leaves, spreading the fecal aroma over the area, and clearing his vicinity of people.
That suited him just fine. He played on.
He stopped long enough to go to the liquor store and buy a pint bottle of Old Overcoat, which he nuzzled at frequent intervals until the sun began its journey into night.
It began to get a little chilly. He hadn’t brought a jacket, and the booze didn’t help.
He ignored that like he ignored the little voices buzzing around in his head.
He bought another bottle, a larger one, and set out for the double crossroad.
Just in case it mattered, when he got there, he parked on the other side of the road, away from the railroad tracks. He sat and picked and grimaced, and didn’t open the new bottle.
From time to time, he thought he heard an evil titter in the underbrush, but the culprit never made an appearance.
About ten, he put the guitar away in its case, stowed it in the back, and leaned back in the driver’s seat for a quick power nap.
Something like a spidey sense woke him at ten before twelve, by the dash clock. He started the car to charge the battery, turned the radio on low.
Two for Tuesday. They were playing Cream. He sat through “Born Under a Bad Sign,” moaning along with the music, and waited for what he knew was inevitable.
Sure enough, at six minutes to twelve, here it came.
Clapton sang Robert Johnson’s tune as if he had lived it, played it like he owned it, joined by Bruce and Baker at the height of their powers.
A minute in, Nat was playing along.
A minute later, the visitor came.
“You sound a little out-of-sorts, partner,” he said, in his baritone-with-buzzing-bees. “I thought we had covered that already? And where, may I ask, is your furry friend?”
“My furry friend? I thought he was your creature,” Nat protested.
“No. He is a free agent. I did not summon him,” the man in black said slowly. “He came of his own accord.”
Nat digested this. “He’s my problem,” he said simply. “And he is claiming to be your representative.”
The black man in black whistled softly.
“And what? You ask what of me?”
“If you didn’t call him, can you make him go away?”
“I could. If I wished to. I could banish him, give him something else to do. I could remove your gift as well. Is this your wish? And what would I get in return for these services?”
“I suppose my soul is out of the question?”
“Hmm.” The black man in black laughed sardonically. “Yes. I have no need for such ephemera. I do from time to time require physical service. Men, women, to do my bidding, perform certain tasks…would that be something that interested you? To keep your gift, rid yourself of your personal demon, and perhaps rise in my estimation? Would you learn more than most people are comfortable learning?”
“I suspect I already have…”
“You have a point. But there is much, much more. My agents undergo what you might call a “crash course,” or hypnopaedia. At some point, your appearance might change. I cannot say how, or when.”
“But Brown Jenkin will no longer follow me, or haunt my days and nights…”
“I can promise that. And will. Verbal contract only. Handshake agreement, between reasoning gentlemen.”
Nat considered. “Why should I believe you? That you’ll deliver on your end of this promise?”
“I have no reason to lie. Few get a second chance-I came here twice, for you.”
“Then I’ll be your Daniel Webster.”
“I am not the Fallen. But I understand your parallel. Very well, let it be so. Go home, Nathaniel Jenkins. Sleep, perchance to dream, and perhaps things will be clearer to you tomorrow. Farewell…”
And he melted away, into the darkness.
Nat drove away, thinking still that he heard a tittering in the distance.