Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chapter Ten

Hep and Scroat had been across the street from Thomas’s place, “fixing an electrical issue,” on Scroat’s bike for the better part of the afternoon before Thomas left. No one had bothered them, yet, but if someone stopped by, they had an answer ready.  The plan was to go into his house, snoop around and see if there was anything there that might explain how he’d been evading Death.
“Finally,” Hep said.  “I can only loosen and tighten the same bolt so many times before I start to feel entirely ridiculous.”
“You’d think he didn’t have a fucking job,” Scroat said.
They put the seat and side covers back on Scroat’s bike in roughly thirty seconds, and crossed the street.  When the reached Thomas’s front door, Hep pulled a set of lock picks out of his jacket.  Hep’s godly powers didn’t extend to commanding the lock to open, but he was unusually gifted with mechanical things.  Picking the lock took him less time than it had to get the lock picks out of his pocket.
Hep smiled at Scroat as he put the picks back in his pocket and said, “Would you look at that? He left door open for us even though he didn’t know we were going to drop by!  I’m sure he’d want us to go inside and make ourselves at home.”
“I bet he’d also want us to help ourselves to his beer,” Scroat said. “And it would be rude to refuse his hospitality.” 
The two of them walked into Thomas’s house. It was a decent place, with old furniture and some spectacularly bad art on the walls.  There was no beer in the fridge.  
They’d gone through most of the house and were nosing their way through Thomas’s bedroom when they heard someone come in the front door.
A woman’s voice called, “Thomas, are you home?”
“Shit!” Scroat whispered.
“SH!” Hep whispered back.  “Stay quiet, don’t move.”
“Thomas?  Your front door was unlocked and I saw the light on so I just came in.  Where are you?”
Hep and Scroat could hear footsteps wandering through the house.  
“Thomas?” Then, “Darned kid left his door unlocked.  Brilliant plan in this neighborhood.”
There were more footsteps, and then Hep and Scroat heard the front door open and close again.  Silence fell over the house.
They both let out a deep breath.
“Wow.  Good thing she didn’t come back here,” Hep said.
“Yeah, that would have been kind of fucked up.  ‘Oh, uh, howdy ma’am.  Don’t mind us, lurking in this here bedroom.’  It would have made the day just a little more complicated,” Scroat said.
“I don’t think there’s anything we’re looking for in here.  Let’s split.”
“Right behind you.”
The two of them had almost reached the front door when a woman, presumably the same one, walked in through the front door.  She appeared very surprised to see the two of them.  Hep guessed that this was Thomas’s mom.
“Shit!” Scroat said.
“Uh, Howdy,” Hep said.
“Who are you?  What are you doing in here?”
“We’re plumbers.  Thomas had a problem with the toilet in his master bathroom.  It was making weird squeaky noises when he flushed.  It’s better now, we were just clearing out.” Hep said.  
Scroat, for his part, tried to look innocent.  He failed.
Thomas’s mother took a deep breath and screamed, then turned and ran out the open door.  Hep and Scroat stood and watched as she ran up the street, still screaming.
“Well, that’s probably going to fuck things up a bit,” Scroat said. 
“Wouldn’t you know his mom would walk in on us,” Hep said.  
The two of them left Thomas’s house as casually as they could.  There wasn’t a mob of neighbors outside with baseball bats waiting for them.  Surburbia.  
When they were a few miles away, Hep and Scroat pulled off the road into a gas station to figure out their next move.
“We should probably get ahold of Death and let her know about that little fiasco.  I expect Thomas is about to get a whole lot more cautious,” Hep said.
“Unless he’s a complete idiot.  Which is totally possible,” Scroat said.
Hep found a payphone, and called Death.  She didn’t answer, so he just left her a message telling her they needed to talk to her.
Just after he finished buying a couple of sodas and walked back to the bikes, Death appeared.
“I’ve got ten minutes.  What’s up?” Death said.
Hep said, “Well, we waited around this Thomas guy’s house until he left and...” 
Death interrupted him.  “Hang on, you waited until he left?”
“So you saw him leave.”
“Well, we had to be sure we wouldn’t be disturbed.”
“Did it, perhaps, occur to you that there might have been something better you could have done instead of rummaging through his house.
Hep paused for a moment, then said, “You know, maybe we should have just grabbed him when he came outside.”
“Yeah.  Maybe,” Death said.  “But since you didn’t, what did you learn?”
“Just that Thomas’s mom has some fucking pipes on her,” Scroat said.
“We were interrupted by his mom,” Hep said.  “She ran screaming from the house after she saw us.”
“I see,” Death said.  “That’s not going to make anything easier.”
“Yeah, that’s what Scroat said earlier,” Hep said.  Death glared at him.
“So, did you find anything that would give us a clue as to what he’s up to, or what his intentions are?”
“Nope.  There wasn’t so much as a magic eight ball in his house,” Hep said.  “Maybe he suspected we’d drop by.”
“Awesome.  So we don’t have any additional info, and all we know for sure is that now he knows we’re looking for him.”
“That’s about it.”
“Great,” Death said.  She checked her watch.  “And I’ve got to go.  Next time you see him, just grab him, OK?  Otherwise, keep your eyes and ears open.”
She vanished.
Hep and Scroat looked at each other. 
“Beer?” Hep said.
“Beer,” Scroat said.

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