Chapter 23: Bar Crawl

Mark

There wasn't much for me to do but wait, and thankfully none of the girls were home by the time I left for Dino's. I made sure to get there a little early to get a good booth, pop some quarters in the jukebox, and order a plate of Dino's "Bomb-Ass Nachos" and see if they were as good as I remembered. Louis got in just in time for the nachos to come and for Phil Lynott to proclaim that the boys are in fact, back in town. Just like back in the day.

Louis came in with a tired slouch and a big hicky on his neck, and snagged the first nacho.

"All these years and I still have no fuckin' clue how you do that perfect timing shit, you can't keep time for anything, bur for some reason you can time an appetizer and a song to hit just as I walk in."

I just smiled and took a bite of the second nacho, it was as good as I remembered. There really wasn't any secret to it, it was just an odd bit of recurring serendipity. For some reason whenever I would come to Dino's before Louis, I'd order an appetizer, pay for a few songs that would always include The Boys Are Back, and somehow Louis would always walk through the door when the food was ready and the song started. It only ever happened here at Dino's, and only when it was just the two of us. Part of the mystique of the place in my opinion.

"I still haven't figured out why your old lady gives you hickies like you're still in high school."

"What can I say? Meddy loves me and that's enough for me." Louis said with a smile "Dunno what I'd do without her."

We silently ate and sipped on light beer for a while, Louis wasn't one for small talk. As we polished off the plate I got down to business.

"What's got you slipping me evidence Louis?"

Louis shrugged.

"Been having weird fuckin' dreams-"

"What?" I thought to myself.

"You're stealing evidence from crime scenes because of bad dreams?" I told him

He continued on, ignoring my question.

"I've had nightmares before, about some of the cases I was workin', about what happened to Jess, sometimes about walking out my door and seeing Leviathan drown the bay. But then, last July I started getting the same recurring dreams."

Louis took a big swig of his beer, his eyes growing hollow.

"I'm walking down a hallway, it's always a hallway. There's people in there and they got no detail to 'em, like they're a hole where a person should be, sometimes I see real people. Real or not, they're always still, like everything's frozen, and something bad is always happening to 'em.

A little girl being dragged away into a van by a two headed snake, three kings butchering people on an altar, a woman chained up with a sword at her neck, weird shit like that. Meddy told me to start writing them down in a journal to make sense of em, but it didn't really help, they just kept coming and kept getting more real – no more snakes or kings or women in chains, just people. Sometimes it was something small, little kid getting a pet, old man seeing his granddaughter get married, guy getting a promotion. Sometimes I see people getting hurt, the kind of shit that I get sent out to, before I even get assigned to it!"

If I didn't know any better I'd assume he Triggered into a Thinker. I ignored his story and asked him; "What happened in July, Louis?"

He scoffed and shook his head.

"I didn't Trigger if that's what you're wondering. Most stressful thing that happened then was Meddy fretting over some bad feeling she had and me trying to calm her down. I know it sounds like I'm a damn Parahuman, Mark, but I got tested a couple months ago. No corona gamma or whatever-the-fuck."

He held up a hand, cutting me off before I could say anything else. The ice in his glass tumbling down as it melted and the guys playing pool in the back breaking in a new game.

Last night, I saw that apartment. Walked down that hall, the door was open, and I stepped inside. I sawJohn Doe, Mark. I mean, I couldn't see his face, but I saw him scribbling all over his apartment, saw him painting, he was looking at the TV and painting what was on the screen. I saw him stick the photo under the TV, right where I fucking found it."

I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't know what to say. I smiled and said;

"Well 'when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.' if you say you've been tested, and they didn't find the Corona Gemma then I believe you." Louis rolled his eyes at my correction. "OK. You find a photo you saw in your dreams, why give it to me? Wouldn't it help your case?"

"Not in this case, girl in the photo from a case that got taken out of my hands a month ago." I sipped the last of the watered down beer and chewed on an ice cube as he pressed his hands into his face.

"About a month ago I got called out to Winslow High, worst school in the Bay. Normally we have a school resource officer handle matters with school incidents, but this was a rough one. The girl's name is Taylor Hebert, she was shoved into a locker filled with biological waste and left there till school let out. No witnesses, she was shoved in during a passing period, and her locker was near a few classrooms. Took a janitor who got in late to get her out. With the staff shortage they've been dragging detectives from one prescient to another, and since they still haven't assigned me a partner, I got the short straw. I saw her in my dreams too. 'No witnesses' my ass, there were a bunch of kids recording the damn thing.

As soon as I'm about to start questioning kids, I'm told to drop it by my captain. 'No longer our concern' he said. I called bullshit and did a little digging, some dickhead in the Protectorate took over and when I called up the police liaison to give them what I had, I'm told that no such incident was reported and politely told to fuck off. I had to tell that girl's father that there was nothing I could do while his daughter was in the ICU, Mark. I deserved the ass kicking he gave me."

"This dickhead have a name? A title? Anything?"

"Nope. Classified. Someone tried to bury what happened to her, and I dunno if someone's gonna bury this too."

I shut my eyes, sitting in my office. The threads were on the board already.

"IF I do this." I said, my eyes closed and staring at the board. "I'm going to need somewhere to start. Know anything about the writing on the back?"

I heard Louis let out a sigh of relief. He knew I was in.

"Not a fucking clue. I can only read English and Greek and it ain't either."

"Any idea where the photo was taken?"

"No clue."

It figures that I'd have little to go on, I groaned and scowled at Louis

"Is there anything you can give me, Louis?"

"I got copies of the Hebert file in my trunk, seeing as how they technically don't exist on account of 'no such incident ever being reported' there should be no issue with you having them."

A missing person's apartment filled with strange occult images, a photo of a girl with gibberish on the back of it, and an attempted murder seemingly buried by the Protectorate.

It wasn't much to go on, but I'd see this through to the end. With the files secured in my passenger seat, I headed back home to get started.

It was going to be a long first night.