The place was a mess. The walls were covered in geometric designs, like an OCD-laden Pollock had been at work. Blue light streamed from the skylight, and there was a green mist in the air.
Worst of all, Brown Jenkin was still there, gnawing on a hambone.
“What the living fuck?” Shouted Nat. “What’s going on here?”
“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” said Jenkin around his bone. “They may be lean and athirst, but these angles will lead them astray.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The Hounds,” came the reply. “He’s sent the Hounds.”
“I’m not having this,” Nat gritted out. “None of this.” He stalked into his bedroom and got his revolver, loaded it. “Now, you get out of this place and out of my life, or I fill you with lead. On the count of three…”
Jenkin leaped. Nat swept him out of the air and into one of the walls.
The beast caromed off and came back rapidly, claws and teeth gnashing and flashing.
“I’ll have your liver and lights!” He screeched. “For supper!”
Nat ducked behind the bar, came up with a Louisville Slugger.
“Batter up!” He shouted, and swung.
Brown Jenkin bounced off the wall again. In his fury, he didn’t seem to notice the blow, which should have caved in his chest.
“I’ll cut you into little pieces,” he snarled, hugging the floor and coming up Nat’s leg, climbing his pants.
Nat jammed the butt end into his face and twisted. Blood erupted from Jenkin’s mouth, and he slashed out, shredding Nat’s pants leg and carving a deep trench in his calf.
Nat grabbed him by the nape of the neck and took a home run cut, tossing the beast in front of him.
The blue glow from above intensified.
Jenkin bounced off the wall a third time, leaving a huge dent in the plaster and a spreading stain.
“The pattern!” Screeched Jenkin. He ran out of the open door, Nat in hot pursuit.
Down the stairs they went, Nat pocketing his gun, Jenkin scampering down two, three steps at a time. Nat almost caught up to him, reached out, grabbed for the tail, got a handful of fur.
The foyer door was open. Jenkin streaked outside, Nat beating feet after him.
“A hole!” Jenkin cried. “I need a round hidey-hole. No angles!” He sped on.
Nat pulled up.
“Gone,” he said. “The little fucker’s gone.” The blue glow was following the beast like the spotlight on a ghetto copter. “I hope they catch him, whoever they are. I want my life back.”
He stood on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building and watched another Jenkin go by. And another.
“Instant replay?” He asked the air, scratching his head. “No blue glow.”
The blue light was streaming from between two clouds. Nat could make out something like stick figures near where the clouds parted.
Nat made his way back upstairs.
Two more Jenkins went down. And two more, three more, many more. His rooms were full of white-faced muskrats tearing and snapping at one another and at a blue stick figure. Blood was running down the stairs.
Where Jenkin had hit the wall he last time was a hole filled with stars. More beasts were coming out of the hole and joining the fray.
Nat waded in, kicked and pummeled his way to the bedroom, grabbed his cash and cards and keys. The strat and the acoustic were against the back wall. He got those too.
“Fucking gone. Fucking done,” he said, grabbing a handful of papers. He lit them on fire and tossed them into the room, closing the door behind him.
The whole building was ablaze by the time he got to the car. He headed west.
The blue light was gone. The clouds were a solid ceiling, with the smoke adding to the atmosphere. He chanced looking back from the stoplight a half-block away.
Sirens sounded. He hit the gas.
Something hit the hood with a whump! and bounced off the roof onto the trunk.
It crashed through the passenger side rear window.
“Miss me?” said a raspy voice that broke into a titter. “I had to exhaust a lot of possibilities to make this happen.”
“Go the fuck away,” Nat said, reaching into his pocket. “I’m done with you.”
“But I’m not done with you,” Brown Jenkin said. “I told you. I had to exhaust a lot of possibilities in order to make this happen. I burned a lot of futures, and sacrificed a lot of myselves in the process. You owe us.”
Nat shot him, point-blank.
“Temper, temper,” said the beast. “You missed.”
“Where did the fucking bullet go?” Nat screamed. “You should be little bloody bits!”
“I can’t be killed that way,” he was told.
Nat pulled over, grabbed the creature, found its neck, squeezed. Kept squeezing.
“How about this way?” He asked, squeezing harder.
Small taloned claws ripped his short open, bloodied his chest. He squeezed harder still.
“Die, motherfucker, die.”
Jenkin’s tongue was sticking out about six inches, and he was foaming at the mouth, frothing pinkly. His eyes were rolling in their sockets. He thrashed, his claws ripping and tearing at the air as Nat held him at arm’s length.
Then he was still.
Nat tossed his body in the back and kept driving.
“That won’t work either,” squeaked a little voice from the back.
Nat kept driving. Right back to the crossroads.
“This is where you got on,” he snarled. “This is where you get off. He grabbed Jenkin by the neck, held the gun to his chest, and fired the whole cylinder, one at a time.
“Nope.” Jenkin jumped out of the broken window and capered up on the roof. “You can’t kill me by those means. I still have plenty of possibilities.”
“I get it,” Nat said. He commenced killing the creature, over and over. “I have as long as it takes to exhaust your possibilities.”
He was still at it when the sun came up. The beast still wasn’t dead. He threw him in the trunk and headed back to his old apartment.
“One of him is too many Jenkinses. I need to close that hole. But how?”
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