Next little bit for you. In chapter two, our story shifts from John Fowler, Convenience Store Clerk Vampire Extrordinaire, to the Day Brothers, Shit Psychics. Have fun. If you’ve missed the first two parts, here they are:
“DAY,” the barista bellowed, over the ambient industrial noise throbbing from the speakers. “DAY, DEREK. DAY, DEACON. SMALL ICED AMERICANO, RED EYE CHAI WITH SOYMILK. DAY, DEREK. DAY, DEA–”
“That’s enough, thank you,” said Day, Deacon. “I’ll take those.”
But it had already begun. The coffee shop denizens, previously hunched over their laptops and smart devices, were peering at him disbelievingly. And, worse still, their eyes drifted immediately over to Derek, who, after all, looked exactly like him, and was therefore impossible to mistake for anything but his identical twin brother.
“Wow,” the barista said. “Are your names really–?”
“Yes,” Deacon said, preemptively striking. “Our mother was crazy. Thanks.”
He didn’t tip.
When he approached their table, Derek was already engaged in the standard conversation, with the standard petite and awed-looking college girl.
“A psychic,” she was breathing, right on cue. “Wow! Like, a real psychic? Like, she could actually see the future?”
Under his breath, Deacon repeated the next line in the conversation, matching his brother syllable for syllable.
“Yeah, she could. She even saw my future wife, can you believe it? Blue eyes, brown hair. She said…oh, wow. What a coincidence. She said she’d look exactly like you!”
And, in spite of the lameness of the line, the girl laughed. She was twenty, maybe. Far too pretty, and far too young, for the likes of the Brothers Day.
And she laughed.
Deacon puttered around by the coffee bar, examining the condiments and packs of sugar while his brother worked his magic. When he saw the number change hands–and Derek, ever the organizer, snapped the obligatory selfie of himself with his arm around the girl’s shoulders, for later identification purposes–he sidled back over.
“Ah,” Derek said, attaching the girl’s picture to her contact information in his phone. “Thank you, Gerard Manley Hopkins College. Your fount of wisdom is ever-flowing, and such beautiful flowers grow on your grounds.”
“Are you done?” Deacon said. “If I hear you wax rhapsodical one more time today, I’m going to be sick.”
“She was a lovely creature,” Derek purred, closing his eyes and steepling his fingers. “A woodland sprite from the pastoral lands of Aycock Dormitory. A veritable nymph of the liberal collegian Hesperides. An–ow!”
The ow was because Deacon had plunked his red eye chai down in front of him, and managed to spill most of it in his lap.
“How do you do it?” Deacon asked. “I mean, we have the same face. Pretty much the same hairstyle. But I haven’t gotten laid since we graduated.”
Derek smiled. “Simple, dear brother,” he said. “I work with what I’ve got.”
Deacon rolled his eyes. “Anyway,” he said. “I put the fliers up on the bulletin board. Hopefully, someone’s seen Beelzebot. He’s pretty hard to mistake.”
“It’s the eyes. How many wall-eyed cats do you know?”
There was a faint cough from beside the table. Deacon looked over to find the barista standing there.
“So you’re the Day brothers?” she said.
Deacon steeled himself. Derek, who would hit on anything with legs, performed a comical seated half-bow.
“We stand accused, madam,” he said.
But the barista didn’t proceed with any of the normal remarks about their stupid names. She didn’t ask if they were teased as children, or if they had any sisters named Diane or Danielle.
“There’s a letter for you guys here,” she said instead, proffering a much-crumpled envelope. “A lady dropped it off about seven years ago. We kept it around more as a gag than anything else, but, well–I guess if you actually exist, we should give it to you. Have a nice day.”
The envelope, in Mama Day’s spindly hand, read: Derek and Deacon Day, care of Cafe Colossus. Derek, wipe that grin off your face!
Derek’s grin disappeared.
“Not another one,” he said.
Madame Dorothea Day–the mother, as it happened, of Derek and Deacon Day–had indeed been a real psychic. She had achieved moderate fame in the sixties following supernaturally inclined rock bands, telling them which shows would sell out and which drugs would result in overdose. She was, some said, the sole reason all the Stones were still alive.
She had dropped off the face of the celebrity map in the mid seventies. She had married a plumber from Portsmouth, bought a ramshackle old house, started her own little family. The house had undergone constant and mostly ineffective renovations. She’d had some money, and it had lasted.
Sort of. The twins got a monthly pension. It was, combined, just enough to pay the electric bill.
Dorothea Day had been the bane of her sons’ combined existences for twenty-five long and prescient years. She’d been dead for three of them. Somehow–even beyond the grave–she managed to nag.
“Just open it,” Derek said, sighing.
Deacon popped the familiar blue waxen seal and unfolded the letter, which had obviously been composed on Mama Day’s ever-present and painfully anachronistic typewriter, and which was now yellowed with age.
The man who is about to talk to you is not to be trusted. Take his proposition anyway.
PS–Derek. The girl you were just flirting with has chlamydia. Your Mama raised a smarter boy than that.
PPs–Deacon. Those glasses make your face look fat. Why don’t you go get a nice set of contacts, like your brother?
Both brothers, in unison, groaned.
“These do not,” Deacon said, removing the trendy tortoiseshell frames he’d bought two weeks ago and glaring at them, “make my face look fat.”
“Chlamydia,” Derek moaned. “My sweet collegic flower has chlamydia?”
“I wonder,” Deacon said, “what it’s like to have a mother who wasn’t a fucking psychic, and who doesn’t nag you from beyond the grave. It must be so fucking nice. It must be so nice to be cooking an omelette, and not find a note next to the red pepper flakes telling you it’s going to burn–”
He trailed off. His sixth sense, carefully cultivated, was beginning to tingle. Bad things happened when his sixth sense tingled, not the least of them being, as this sense was attached to no visible organ, that he had nothing to scratch.
He scratched his nose anyway, in hopes, just this once, it would do the trick.
“Excuse me,” said a deep voice to their left. “Are you the Day Brothers, of Day Brothers Exorcisms and Psychic Investigations?”
Deacon sighed. They had just wanted some coffee. Why did every tiny outing turn into a full-blown excursion?
“Whatever it is,” he said, “we’ll do it. But we don’t trust you.”
The man blinked at them. It was only then, craning his neck to meet their visitor’s eyes, that Deacon noticed: he was about seven feet tall, and three hundred pounds if he was an ounce. His arms and hands were covered in snaking black and red tattoos, and a similar design was blazoned proudly on his cheeks and forehead. His head, from which every hair had been carefully shaved, was about the same size and shape as a bowling ball, and was polished to the same high sheen.
He was wearing, to make matters worse, a suit. It must have been custom-sewn for him–they didn’t sell XXXXXL suits off the rack–and his red silk tie was held in place by a silver tie pin that looked antique.
It was a rooster, Deacon realized, after staring at it for as long as he thought he could without getting the shit kicked out of him. The silver likeness of a rooster, with two tiny red jewels for eyes.
“…sir,” Deacon added. Reluctantly.
The man pulled up a chair and sat down across from him. The chair, one of those spindly things popular in trendy coffee shops everywhere, groaned audibly under his weight.
“Don’t you want to know what I’m asking you to do, first? Or what I’ll pay you?”
“Yes,” Derek said smoothly, shooting Deacon an exasperated look. “Of course we do. We’ll discuss payment after hearing our task, and we’ll send you an invoice as soon as possible. But we will do it. Just so you know.”
The man smiled. His teeth, Deacon noticed, were filed to blunt points.
“That’s wonderful,” he said. “My organization is very glad of the help.” He stuck out a hand larger than Deacon’s forearm, and both brothers shook it. Had they wanted to, both brothers could have shaken it at the same time without touching.
“Is there some place more quiet we could go to discuss this?” The man continued. “There is information of a…graphic. Nature. That I must show you.”
The Brothers Day were pretty used to graphic. It came with the exorcism business–Deacon reckoned that, in his lifetime, he’d been covered in more types of slime than the props department had manufactured for Ghostbusters.
But it was true, college kids studying for exams in a coffee shop weren’t used to it. And, worse still–they might get curious. What Derek and Deacon did wasn’t illegal, but it certainly wasn’t normal.
And they both knew it.
And Deacon, at least, clung to what shreds of normalcy remained to him with the tenacity of a drowning man.
“Come back to the house with us,” he said at last. “We can discuss it there.”