Cubicles, Blood, and Magic – Chapter 6: Zaliel’s Magi

As some of you probably noticed, instead of stopping at Chapter 4 of Cubicles, Blood, and Magic, we went onward to Chapter 5. I’ve decided to post to Chapter 10, and then switch to posting excerpts of new stories coming out. If you missed the earlier chapters, click here.

Cubicles, Blood, and Magic: Dorelai Chronicles, Book One

Lynn Kilmore

Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore

Copyright © 2012 by L. M. May

Published by Osuna Publishing

This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 6:

Zaliel’s Magi

The threat in Peter’s voice as he spoke to Eli in the busy diner—that he would expose Eli’s true identity if he refused to cooperate—was clear. Nervousness made my coffee taste too bitter to keep drinking, so I pushed it away.

Eli jerked a thumb at the two Magi that stood next to our table. “This is Peter and Beth. Peter, Beth, this is an old acquaintance of mine, Dorelai, and these are her coworkers. Dorelai, if you would do the honors?”

“With pleasure,” I said, though I felt nothing of the sort. I made the introductions to my coworkers as abruptly as I could without risking Peter getting pissed off.

At the end of the intros, Peter said, “I hear you all have been having trouble with severe nightmares.”

“What’s it to you?” Tim said. He folded his arms over his chest.

“I noticed the dreamcatcher you were given,” Peter said, lifting a finger off the table to point at the gift box. “I think you will find that your bad dreams will not come back.”

“You know,” Tim said, “it’s rude to listen in on other people’s conversations.”

Peter smiled, making Monica give a faint gasp of admiration at his stunning looks.

Tim and Vadin weren’t moved, but Stuart did blink once, then looked away. For whatever reason, Stuart’s open resistance to Peter’s charisma moved me. I knew he loved Theo, but here I was seeing it firsthand.

Peter said to us, “Sometimes a dream can feel more real than reality while you’re trapped in it.”

“Yes.” Monica swallowed twice. “There were times I felt I was trapped inside those awful dreams.”

I saw within the golden halos above both Magi’s heads that eyes (like those on the buildings) were appearing.

Eli gripped his water glass too tight as he took a sip.

I wanted Peter and Beth to get lost. I didn’t want the Magi knowing anything about me or what was happening to me. And with each passing second, the magical eyes were getting bigger above their heads, as if Zaliel were approaching from a great distance to listen in on our conversation.

“Dorelai had some terrible dreams too,” Monica said.

Alarmed, I said, “I think it was subliminal suggestions from everything I saw with you and Tim.” The whirling pupils of the Zaliel eyes above Peter made me want to get up from the table and flee, but I made myself sip my coffee instead.

I watched as Peter froze up a moment, as if listening to a voice spoken within his own mind. Then he said to me, “You’re a bit thin, Dorelai, like Tim and Monica. All of you look like you’ve been through a bad time lately.”

“Yes, they have,” Eli said, urgent. “Tim and Monica have resigned from their jobs at Granite Hills. So far, the nightmare problems have been confined to their particular team.”

This had Peter again freezing for a moment, listening to that inner voice.

Eli was tense, watching both Peter and Beth, never taking his gaze off them. It hit me that he was feeding them information that would be easy to gather from our group—so as to seem cooperative—but misdirecting Peter and Beth into thinking I’d had a typical reaction to nightmare dust.

“It’s been a stressful spring and summer for all of us at work,” I said. “I admit I’ve had awful dreams with all that has been going on.”

Peter said to Beth, “Go on outside. I’ll catch up.”

Beth hesitated, but then Zaliel’s eyes flared in her golden halo as if it were speaking to her, and she left, but kept looking back on her way out.

Peter grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the booth even though we hadn’t invited him to do so. He laid his glowing fingers on the table, spread out. Tendrils of golden light crept out of his fingertips to wriggle toward all of us, except for Eli.

Eli picked up his empty coffee cup and saucer, and slammed both down on the tendrils crawling across the table. He’d struck with an accuracy that could only come from being able to see Peter’s magic. “I’m sorry Peter, but it is rude for you to impose on them like this. There are protocols that ought to be followed.”

Peter scowled, and the golden light burned even brighter around him; it seemed whatever part of Zaliel he carried longed to reach through Peter to emerge into the diner. He made no move to get up, but did pull the golden tendrils back into his fingers. “You are correct,” Peter said, sneering, “there are protocols.” Abruptly Zaliel’s presence faded away from around him.

Stuart gestured for our waitress to bring him the check.

Eli’s and Peter’s behavior had to have looked weird to my coworkers, for as far as they could see, Eli’d slammed his saucer and cup down for no reason near Peter’s fingers. So I was not surprised when they all rummaged around for their wallets. What did surprise me was that Peter made no effort to charm them into staying. All he did was keep sneering at Eli.

Tim, not needing to pay, was the first to make his excuse to escape. “I need to get home. Betsy and the kids will be waiting.”

Monica and Vadin slipped out of the booth to let Tim out, and didn’t bother to sit back down, instead giving cash to Stuart. After quick goodbyes, the three of them left.

So it was down to Eli, Peter, Stuart, and me.

I gave Stuart the money for my meal, and Eli did likewise. Stuart then paid the check with indecent haste. He didn’t even bother to finish up the last of the pot of coffee as he normally would. Then he said to me, while taking turns to stare at Eli and Peter, “Well, Dorelai, we should head to the car.”

“I can give you a ride, if you’d like,” Eli said. “My car is close by.”

“Sure,” I said. “Stuart, I’ll be fine heading home with Samuel.”

Stuart pinched the bridge of his nose like he was coming down with a bad headache—making me realize he was worried I was on the rebound from Dereck.

I said to Stuart, “Samuel and I need to catch up on what he’s been doing these last few years in New York City. He’s an old acquaintance of my mother’s.”

That helped Stuart to relax. A little. He knew my mother would make “Samuel’s” life hell in NYC if he did anything to distress me. “Then let’s go,” Stuart said to us.

You go,” Peter said to Stuart. “I need to talk business with Samuel for a few minutes.”

Stuart said, “You—”

Eli put a light hand on Stuart’s shoulder. “Peter’s obviously had a bad day at work. I’ll take care of it.”

Stuart looked at me. “Go on home,” I said. “I’ll be fine.” I sipped at my cold coffee.

With that, Stuart gave up on trying to protect us and left the diner.

“Outside, ‘Samuel,'” Peter said. “Your friend can finish her coffee.”

*

While I sat at the empty booth, Eli stood with Peter and Beth outside the diner in the muggy heat, and despite Peter’s gesturing for them to go someplace else, Eli stayed put. The only concession he would make to the two Magi was to move further away from the diner entrance. But Eli made sure I could still see him through the diner’s storefront windows.

I’d already entered both the AOX and O’Keefe numbers into my cell phone. My phone was on my lap with my thumb hovering above the speed dial number for AOX; if Eli disappeared from my sight I’d make the call while rushing to get outside.

Finally Peter gave up trying to browbeat Eli into going off with him and Beth, and the glow around Peter brightened as Zaliel again surged to the fore. And Peter got a stiff frozen look that made me wonder if he was speaking with his own voice any longer.

Whatever Peter/Zaliel was saying, it made Eli angry, for Eli drew himself up, and that’s when I noticed Eli was taller than Peter by two inches. The rabbi stared straight at the glow above Peter’s head, saying something forcefully to Zaliel’s whirling eyes.

Peter/Zaliel got mad, and it looked like they were shouting at Eli.

I rushed for the diner entrance and shoved the door open.

That got Peter/Zaliel to shut up.

I kept the door propped open with my hand (so that the diners inside could hear) as I called out in a whining tone to Eli, “What’s taking so long? I’ve got grocery shopping to do before the sun sets.”

Zaliel retreated from within Peter, as Eli said to them, “Our conversation is at an end. Dorelai is waiting.” He spun around to join me.

Peter gave me a huge predatory smile that made my skin crawl instead of charming me as it was supposed to. “You’ve got such a unique name—Dorelai. It suits you. What’s your last name?”

No point in keeping it hidden. They’d dig it up easily enough. “Trelton.”

Caressing his lips with a finger, Peter nodded. “You’ve got beautiful eyes.”

“I hate to cut this chat short,” I said, “but my fridge is empty, and I have a lot of work to do tonight.”

“I look forward to seeing you again, Dorelai Trelton,” Peter said. “I happen to work near the Chesterton.”

I looked hard and long at Beth. She’d turned her face away slightly, and there was a furrow in her brow as if watching Peter try to pick me up pained her.

And it was all too clear to me that Peter’s supposed interest in me was just an act to pump me for information about Eli and Jake, and an attempt to get under Eli’s skin. Aloud, I said, “Don’t bet on it.” I waggled my fingers at Peter and Beth. “Nice meeting you.” Not. I took hold of Eli’s elbow. “Let’s go.”

Eli and Peter shared one last look of mutual loathing, then Eli led me off to his car. While Peter and Beth did follow us, they made no move to stop us from getting into Eli’s battered compact car to drive off.

*

“Why do I get the feeling,” I said to Eli as he drove, “that Peter is going to keep showing up like a bad rash.”

“That’s his way.”

“He’s such a goddamn scum-bucket. Fuc—sorry,” I barely stopped myself in time from saying rebbe, “I forgot whom I was speaking to.”

“No apology needed.”

“I’m sorry about dragging you to a grocery store. I do need groceries, though.”

Eli flicked on his right turn signal. “We’re being followed. A silver Mercedes.”

I took a quick peek back as Eli made the turn. Beth was driving the car with Peter in the passenger seat. “Fu—frick. Don’t they have anything better to do than stalking you?”

Eli grunted, and I recalled I’d better watch what I said outside Knossos.

“Well, they’re going to find watching us really, really boring,” I said.

Then my cell phone went off. My mother.

I didn’t want to answer it, but if I didn’t, she’d keep calling me back until she reached me. She knew how involved I could get with coding, forgetting about my phone.

“Hey, Deborah,” I said as I smooshed the cell phone against my ear. My parents had raised us to call them “Nicholas” and “Deborah” instead of “Dad” and “Mom.” My brothers and I got in the habit of calling them “Father” and “Mother” behind their backs as an act of rebellion.

“Darling, how are you?” Mother sounded blue.

A car alarm went off on the street we were driving down, and I covered the mouthpiece to block it out until we were past. “Sorry about that. I’m riding to the grocery store. I can’t stay on long, the sun will set in less than an hour.”

My first tactical mistake. I should have never mentioned I was paying attention to sunset on a Friday evening.

“Oh?” Mother was intrigued. “What are you doing?”

I cringed, and was glad Mother couldn’t see it. She would have known something was up then and there.

To distract her, I said, “I broke up with Dereck.”

“You did what?” Then she added, “Darling, that’s the best news I’ve heard all month.” She was so excited she began to bellow into her phone. “I’m so glad you did. He’s a schlump, not nearly as smart as you are. You’re better off without him. Never marry. It’s just a burden and a heartache for women. I have enough grandkids through your brothers.”

I took my phone away from my ear to stare at it in shock.

Unlike Mother, Father didn’t care if I ever married or not. Nor did he consider me to be as gifted as my brothers, and so hadn’t objected as Mother had when I’d “thrown myself away” after MIT by moving to Mather instead of going to Silicon Valley or New York.

For Father, “brilliant” and “woman” never belonged in the same sentence.

“Dorelai?” Mother called out. “Are you still there?”

I put the phone back to my ear. “Sorry, just in shock about you saying I should never marry.”

“There’s too much compromise involved for the woman.”

Clearly Mother and Father were having one of their fights again. Every August, as the season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur approached, Mother got restless and Father got defensive. Deep down inside, Mother wanted to go to shul, but Father would fiercely object to it.

My mother’s parents sat shiva for her when she married my father, and both had died without ever relenting to see us. Father never let her forget that; it was one of his favorite rants on the evils of the religious mindset.

I drew my attention back to my mother. “Maybe I’ll find a guy who can compromise.”

“Hah, not likely.” Mother ripped something open, and then there was a chewing sound. A chocolate bar, unless I missed my guess.

Eli made a left turn, and I realized we were approaching the grocery store I’d asked him to take me to. I covered my mouthpiece to say to Eli, “Just one more block. Storefront with green trim.”

“Who are you talking to?” Mother asked.

“Someone I ran into.”

“Who?”

“Samuel Parisi.”

“Is he Jewish?”

“Yes.” I smacked my forehead. Stupid of me not to lie about that.

“Is he married?”

“That’s none of our business, Deborah.”

“Ahhhhh, so he’s single.” Mother sounded intrigued. Not good, not good at all. “Well, I’m glad you’re getting to meet some new people. I’ll let you get back to your companion and grocery shopping, darling, and call you Sunday.”

She hung up before I could get my thoughts together. Then it hit me.

Shit. She’d be digging up what she could on Samuel Parisi. There weren’t that many Jews in Mather. Sooner or later, she’d discover no such person existed.

“What’s wrong?” Eli asked.

I stared, unseeing, through the windshield. “That was my mother on the phone.”

The steering wheel jerked under Eli’s hands.

I groaned. “Oh, she’s going to have a fit once she realizes what I’m up to.”

He wanted to talk about this, but having to keep up the persona of Samuel made it impossible. Though if anyone had been listening in on my conversation with my mother, it wouldn’t take much to figure out that Mother had no clue who Samuel Parisi was.

No matter how I looked at it, Eli and I were seriously screwed.

*

Eli insisted on pushing the grocery cart for me, saying that I needed to rest after such an exhausting day. Peter and Beth hadn’t bothered to follow us in, instead just sitting in their sedan in the store parking lot.

“Do you mind if I purchase a few things to pay for?” Eli said as he grabbed four six-packs of the cheapest, nastiest beer in the store to put in our cart next to the carrots and turkey bacon.

At the look on my face, he laughed. “They’re not for me. They’re for a friend. We also need cans of chicken soup.”

On impulse, I grabbed a bottle of red wine before heading down the next aisle. And on the way to checkout, two loaves of French bread from the bakery.

As soon as he saw the bread, Eli figured out what I had planned. “Are you sure?” he said.

“I’m an atheist, but I wouldn’t mind if you say Kiddush.”

Eli’s face scrunched up for a second, but he got the pain under control before tears could form.

That’s when I knew I’d been right in guessing that he’d had to light the Shabbat candles and say Kiddush alone on Fridays since being shunned.

“I’ve already got plenty of candles to choose from,” I said. I knew that for the mitzvah of Shabbat, Mother would forgive Eli—a little—when the whole Samuel Parisi thing collapsed.

*

As we parked on the street near my brownstone, I saw Dereck sitting on the steps with a bouquet of red roses. Strangely, he wasn’t talking into his ear clip. Just brooding.

I actually felt embarrassed that Eli would see this guy.

As we got the groceries out of the trunk to carry, I whispered to Eli, “That’s Dereck on the steps.”

“Ah,” he whispered back, “the guy you broke up with.” He looked behind us, and I followed his gaze to see that Beth and Peter had parked a few spots down from us.

Great, just what I didn’t need, an audience.

“Give me a few minutes to reason with Dereck, then come on up the steps,” I said. There were few enough bags of groceries that I could leave the carrying to Eli while I dealt with Dereck. I dug around in my purse as I walked toward the brownstone, shoving aside my wallet and gum and pens and a packet of tissues, so that I could pull out my keys before I reached the steps.

Dereck stood up, and blocked my way as I climbed. “Dorelai, I want to talk to you. Alone.”

“I told you we were through. There’s nothing to say.”

Dereck made no move to step aside.

I sighed in frustration. “I’m busy. I’ve got work to attend to tonight. Now go away.”

He jerked a thumb at Eli lugging the groceries. “That doesn’t look like ‘work’ to me.”

“He’s just a friend. I’m sorry,” I said, “but I don’t want to go out with you anymore.”

He shoved the roses in my face and I tripped down the steps, falling on my hip and hands.

The brownstone foyer door whipped open, and the roach-guy jumped out, twisting Dereck’s closest arm behind his back.

Ow!” Dereck yelled.

I became aware that the roses were scattered around me, my palms were stinging where they’d hit the sidewalk concrete, and an empty-handed Eli was kneeling beside me. “Are you all right?” he said. “Can you move?”

I was able to stagger back to my feet without Eli’s offered help. But from the soreness I knew I’d have a bruise on my hip.

Dereck was staring at me open-mouthed. He came back to himself to call out, “It was an accident!”

The roach said in a male human voice, “Likely story, asshole. Ms. Trelton asked ya to leave.”

Dereck protested. “I was just—”

“The lady said she don’t wanna date ya no more.”

The roach-guy hauled Dereck down the steps to his sports car while Dereck yelled at him, “You have no right to—”

Roach-guy shoved Dereck onto the hood of his sports car. “Get lost before I mess up yer face.”

Dereck’s face worked as he looked back at me, then he said, “We aren’t done talking yet, Dorelai. I’ll come back another day.” He got into his sports car.

Good riddance!” the roach-guy yelled at Dereck as he drove off.

As one, my gaze and Eli’s went to that of the parked Mercedes. The two Magi were standing on the sidewalk next to the car; they’d obviously seen and heard everything.

Roach-guy noticed at whom we were staring, and swore long and hard as he threw out the roses and gathered up the dropped grocery bags with his four arms.

Eli ran over to help, and soon they’d herded me up the steps and into the foyer before them. As soon as the foyer door swung shut, he said to Eli, “When I saw him push her—”

“Dorelai,” Eli said, “this is Mr. O’Keefe.”

“Hi,” I said as I used my key on the inner door of the foyer, shouldering it open for them.

Eli pointed at a metal toolkit sitting under the apartment mailboxes in the foyer. He said to O’Keefe, “Let’s swap. I’ll take the groceries, you grab your toolkit.”

O’Keefe handed all the groceries back over to Eli, then hefted the toolkit. “Can ya climb?” he said to me. “Ya hit the ground hard.”

My palms and hip were throbbing. “I’m fine.”

“Lemme go up first,” O’Keefe said. “Apartment 302, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“Gimme me yer keys, and I’ll make sure it’s safe.” The arm he held out had the outer shell and hairs of a roach, but at the end was a human palm with a knifelike thumb. I dropped my keys into his palm, and as his hand wrapped around them I saw there was a thick shell on the outside of his hand.

O’Keefe rushed up the stairs with a speed I’d be hard-pressed to match.

I lived on the top floor, which I liked because the skylight above the stairway made my stairwell bright during the day. As I slowly climbed the stairs with Eli, I heard the echo of my front door being opened and the rattle of O’Keefe’s toolkit hitting the ground. Then there was the racket of bangs and squeaks as O’Keefe searched my apartment.

When we reached my door, I found it propped open with O’Keefe’s toolkit. Eli stopped me before I could enter. “We need to wait for O’Keefe,” he said.

O’Keefe appeared at the doorway to my bedroom. “All clear. C’mon in, and lock the door behind ya.”

I locked the door as Eli hauled the groceries into the kitchen.

I said to O’Keefe, “I haven’t thrown out the garbage yet. The manila envelope and letter from Thursday night should still in the kitchen trash.” I surveyed my dining room and living room—nothing lying around had any sort of suspicious aura. Everything was the same as it had been this morning.

It was only me that was different.

O’Keefe grabbed a silver-glowing box out of his toolbox and followed me into the kitchen.

I grabbed my tongs from where they lay amongst the dirty dishes in the sink, and handed them to O’Keefe, saying, “I used these to move the letter and envelope around.”

Eli and I put groceries away as O’Keefe rooted through my garbage with the tongs.

When I grabbed the first six-pack of beer to put it in the fridge, Eli said, “You don’t need to do that. O’Keefe prefers it warm.” Eli made a face. “He pours it into a mug and microwaves it.”

“Bleck,” I said. “So the cans of chicken soup are for him, too?”

“Yup,” O’Keefe said. He fished the envelope from Thursday night out, to flourish with a triumphant “Ha!” Pulling it closer to his eyes to study (but making sure not to touch it), he then shoved it into the silver-glowing box. Then he fished out the letter, again taking his time to study it closely, before putting it and the tongs in the box as well.

“That was too damn easy,” O’Keefe said. “That evidence should’ve been stolen. If ya don’t mind, Ms. Trelton, I’m gonna take the entire bag of trash.” He pulled the garbage bag top together and tied it shut. “Gonna put it near the door.”

The sky through the kitchen window was fading to dusk.

I yanked open the cabinet under the sink to pull out two candles while Eli took the bread and wine to the table.

“Good thinking,” O’Keefe said. “We could all do with a drink after that shitfest downstairs.”

Eli came back into the kitchen to fill two cups with water, and took them and a hand towel to the dining room. Then he came back in to ask, “Napkins?”

“Upper cabinet to the left of the sink,” I said as I dug a box of matches out of a drawer.

Eli took the matches, candles, and cloth napkins out while I grabbed three tall water glasses to use (I had no wine glasses).

When I came to the dining room table, I saw that Eli had covered the two loaves with a cloth napkin. He took a glass from me, uncorked the wine, and filled it to the brim. He then paused, and reached up with both hands to touch the top of his bare head. “Do you have a hat?”

“Let me see if anything would fit.” I went over to the hall closet and opened it. There was a summer straw hat that would match his tourist get-up. I snagged it.

At the sight of it, Eli sighed, but took it to put on his head. He said, “Do you know Hebrew?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll pray in both.” He called out to O’Keefe in the kitchen, “Do you want to join us?”

“Nope. I’m gonna open up a can of soup to eat. But I’ll help ya make a dent in that wine when yer done.”

Eli lit the two candles, waved his hands over them as if he would pull the candlelight from them to his eyes, covered his eyes with his palms, and recited the blessing over the candles.

Once done, Eli uncovered his eyes, then picked up the glass of wine and began to pray Kiddush, first in Hebrew, then repeating in English so I’d understand what was said. I felt no presence of anything godlike, but the beauty of the words as Eli said them moved me.

“… Blessed are You, Adonai, Who sanctifies Shabbat,” Eli finished.

“Amen,” I said.

Eli gestured for us to sit. He took two gulps of the wine, then poured half of what was left from his tall water glass into another glass for me.

O’Keefe came out of the kitchen with an opened can of chicken soup and large spoon to sit at the table with us.

Picking up the wine bottle, Eli filled the last glass for O’Keefe.

I lifted my glass in salute to the two of them, and downed the Kiddush wine in a few minutes. Eli did the same.

O’Keefe swigged back his own half-empty glass in seconds.

Eli filled up our three glasses to the brim. “No more for you and me after this round,” he said to me, “we have to stay relatively levelheaded. O’Keefe has a natural talent for consuming large amounts of alcohol without getting drunk.”

“Ya betcha,” O’Keefe said, and swigged down his second glass.

“A good wine is supposed to be savored,” I said, “not chugged.” My insides were starting to get a warm tingly feeling. I tipped my glass to drink deeply.

Eli indicated that we should wash our hands with the cups of water and hand towel, and then he uncovered the two bread loaves and recited a blessing over them. He passed around chunks of the French bread for us to eat. I still felt stuffed from dinner, so I just nibbled on mine between wine swallows.

O’Keefe dunked his bread chunk in the can of soup before eating it. Like the rest of him, his mouth was a bizarre mixture of human and roach. Some drops of soup fell from his tongue onto the table. “I’ll clean up,” he said.

It had been a rough day, but I was starting to feel really, really relaxed and mellow. “No problem.” I rapped the wood of the table. “The wood’s stained and polished.” Then I began to giggle, and covered my mouth with my hands until it stopped. “I can’t believe that just came out of my mouth. That’s why I don’t drink. It makes me act stoopid.”

“You’re not stupid,” Eli said. He sipped at his wine. “Not even when inebriated. What you are is exhausted and overwhelmed.”

I looked into my glass to find it empty. I looked over at the bottle, but Eli pushed it out of reach. Sighing, I nudged my glass away so that I could fold my arms on the table and put my chin on my hands. My eyelids drooped.

“That was a mistake on my part,” Eli said to O’Keefe. “I should have realized it’d make her sleepy.” He got up from his seat, leaving his barely drunk glass behind, and came around to my side. “Sorry to do this, Dorelai, but we need to talk a few things over before you go to sleep.”

Grumbling, I followed Eli out into the living room as O’Keefe got up to follow.

I sank into my recliner chair, and pulled the lever so that my feet were propped up. Having my feet up felt soooooo good, and my hip had stopped throbbing. Or maybe it still hurt, and I just couldn’t feel it.

O’Keefe picked up my TV controller from the coffee table. He turned my TV on and set the volume to an absurdly high level. Then he and Eli leaned in close.

Eli said, “Dorelai, for your safety, O’Keefe is going to sleep on your couch tonight.”

I grinned, which felt weird. “I feel like I’m in a Kafka story.”

“So you … don’t object?” Eli asked.

A round of giggling escaped me and I saw no reason to stop it.

Eli palmed his face.

“Nice going, Rabbi, she’s sloshed,” O’Keefe said. “Didn’t know ya had it in ya. Chances are she’ll remember this conversation in the morning, but this ain’t the time to discuss matters of state.” He leaned forward so that I could see his strange face up close. Human eyes in a roach’s head. Wow. “Ms. Trelton, can I bunk on yer couch tonight—yes or no?”

“Yes,” I said. I clapped my hands. This was hilarious. “Ask me another question. This is fun!”

Eli groaned.

“Rabbi Eli, quit it,” O’Keefe said. “Louie said to get her home safe, and ya did. Considering what she’s been through today, this is exactly what she needs right now. Ya smuggle the evidence on over to Knossos, then get some shut-eye. I’m gonna nuke myself a beer and watch some TV. Trelton, is it okay if I watch TV?”

“Yes!” I said. O’Keefe’s accent made me feel like a kid again.

“Help me get her to bed,” O’Keefe said to him.

More giggles poured out of my mouth as they pulled me out of the recliner. Standing upright felt like too much work, so I let them put my arms over their shoulders to haul me into my bedroom.

At the sight of my bedcover, I said, “Bed! Yes!”

“Drop her on three,” O’Keefe said over my head. “One … two … three.”

I dropped back onto the bliss of a soft bedcover, and then my feet were being lifted and dropped to bounce on the bed as well.

Wonderful. I wanted to say it, but my mouth was too tired to move.

*

I awoke in the dark to find I was on top of my bedcover, and I heard the soft sound of my TV going. Took me a couple of seconds to figure out how I’d gotten there.

I was in my work clothes and shoes, and a fuzzy lingering taste of wine was in my mouth.

The recollection of my behavior made me wince. I’d been as giggly and silly as anyone I’d seen at a college party.

Rolling onto my side, I got off the bed to go to the closed bedroom door. I slowly turned the doorknob to pull it open and peeked out.

O’Keefe was sitting on my couch with his feet (wearing dress shoes) propped up on my coffee table. He wore a pinstripe suit modified to fit his body with its four arms. There was an unlit cigarette in his mouth that he was moving around like a toothpick.

And a semiautomatic pistol on his lap.

He was watching a bucktoothed chef flipping pancakes on a cooking channel.

I looked over toward the dining room; the light of the TV made it easy to see everything. The table was all clear and clean of anything from the Shabbat shenanigans. And my apartment smelled a bit like a brewery. O’Keefe had obviously been microwaving beer while I slept.

The bag of trash was gone from near my front door. Eli must have taken all the evidence over to Knossos. But O’Keefe’s opened toolkit remained.

“Dawn ain’t gonna be here for another two hours, Trelton,” O’Keefe said around his cigarette. “Go back to bed.”

I decided I would rather find out what O’Keefe might say if I stuck around.

************** End of Chapter 6 *****************

Chapter 7 will go up next Tuesday. (Note: If you are reading this post after May 21, 2013, click here to go to Cubicle‘s main page on this website so you can find Chapter 7.)

This e-book is available at iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Diesel, Sony, and other e-bookstores. These links will possibly change, and a print version will be out in fall 2013, so click here to go to Cubicle’s main page to see what is currently available.

See you next time, L. M.

Comments are closed.