12 January 2005
I was pretty distracted when Jackie called to talk to me about Alethea. Dad had spent the last week explaining to me, on and off, who Jeremiah is, and I had spent most of my down time occupied with my own stuff or thinking about what I had been told. There was also time spent helping Dad around the house, since he was still a little sore and not yet ready to handle snow shoveling or other manual labor. I also wasn't entirely at my best at this exact moment and she seemed to pick up on my hesitation.
"Have you been working on this at all?" she asked. I was sitting on the side of my tub, having just turned off the shower I was about to climb into when the phone rang. I took a swig from the bottle of whiskey in my hand, set it down, and reached for my pack of smokes sitting on the side of the sink.
"I mean, kinda. I've had other problems, too."
"Look, I'm just saying. A guy named Matteson and his wife die under mysterious circumstances, and immediately afterward Alethea's dad goes crazy and drowns himself? This is all pretty scary stuff! What the hell do you have going on?"
"A half-spirit guy who's been murdering people since at least the 30s and has a particular distaste for my family."
"You almost got the name right," I said, then lit my cigarette.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Mostly just learning about him. But my dad had some kinda brush with death and still hasn't told me what happened or if this guy was involved."
"Is this just normal for you?"
"Not yet. But what did you have?"
"Well. Okay, see, I was possessed by Alethea, right? Because I had kinda bound myself to help her. I don't think that bond is completely gone." I groaned and grabbed the whiskey before climbing into the tub and taking another drink.
"Are your spider-senses tingling?"
"No, ass. But also no, and that's the problem. She isn't in Chicago anymore."
"How specific is this sense of yours?"
"Not very. I don't think I could pinpoint her with it, and I'm a bit fuzzy on when she even left the city. But I can tell that she isn't close anymore; and John, the point is, if she isn't here, I think she's on her way there."
"I'll be sure to watch for sex-crazed possessed women."
"This is serious!"
"Look, I don't know what you want me to do, okay? I can probably deal with her if she shows up, but I don't know shit about whatever it is you've been doing to track her. If she wants me, she'll have to come here eventually, and I'll figure that out when it comes."
"And how many people are gonna get hurt while you wait around?" I went to take another drink and found the bottle empty, so I dropped the butt of my cigarette in the bottle and set it on the floor outside the tub.
"I don't know! None, hopefully! But I can't exactly drive all over Indiana and Ohio with, I dunno, a neon sign or something telling her to come faster!"
"I just feel like you could do something."
"You have any ideas on what that would be that don't involve magic which, I would remind you, I absolutely cannot do?" I heard her pause, then sigh. "Look. I'm down to deal with this. I really am. But waiting is about all I got until I unlock some new power or find something in a book I never noticed before or get a better idea from you. Okay?"
"You promise you're serious about this? You're going to do something about it as soon as you know where she is?"
"I promise, Jackie."
"Fine. Look, I gotta start getting ready for work. Just...be safe, okay?"
"Yeah. You, too," I said, before hanging up. I dropped the phone onto the floor and laid there for a minute, before finally getting up and turning the water back on.
4 January 2005
"You gonna talk or what?" I asked. We were sitting in a small booth at the Denny's in Cranberry, and so far Dad hadn't said anything of consequence since I met him at the airport. He sighed and closed his menu. "This was your idea, after all."
"It did sound more pressing when I was recovering from what should've been a fatal injury."
"Would've been, if Akshainie didn't have healing magic." I leaned back and threw my arms out.
"And who the hell is Akshainie!?"
"I don't know, really. She was with Benedict." I stared at him, waiting for him to explain who Benedict was, but he waved his hand as if dismissing the whole topic. "I need to read up a bit more on her kind. The point is, I took a bad blow, and when I woke up in the hospital and found out what happened I got concerned about what was going to happen if I die before you're ready."
"Ready for what?" Dad leaned back and smiled as the waitress brought our drinks to the table and took our orders, and we thanked her, then sat in silence until she was gone. Dad watched her go, probably to make sure he knew who was listening, while I started putting sugar in my tea.
"My father," he said, somberly.
"I thought you were gonna tell me something about mom."
"I am telling you something about your mother." He paused to take a drink from his black coffee.
"And it has something to do with Jeremiah?" He snapped his gaze to me.
"We don't use his name, boy."
"Look, I get it. You don't like talking about him, grandma liked to spit at the mention of him, even great-grandma's ghost seemed on edge when she remembered him. What's this asshole's deal, anyway?"
"He's a murderer, and a powerful one. I have dedicated the better part of my life to hunting him down, and have barely ever accomplished more than slowing him down. Saved some lives, but...always at a cost."
"You know I've pieced that much together," I said, leaning forward. "Get to the new stuff."
"We'll talk about how much you think you know another time. I already had a couple encounters with my father by the time I met Mary. She thought it was cool that I had all this interest in obscure topics, weird books and stuff. She liked my stories, said I was adventurous. She liked adventurous, when we were dating." He stared into his coffee for a long moment. "Anyway. Shortly after we were married, he came to find me. Try to catch me off guard for once instead of the other way around, and it very nearly worked. I managed to hold him off, get her to safety, but I think she realized then how serious this all was."
"What did she think it was before?"
"A hobby, I guess? She seemed to think it was just some weird academic interest, didn't realize there was the possibility I'd bring it home with me. That I was out there actually fighting anything that posed a real threat."
"But she didn't leave then." He shook his head.
"No. We fought about it for a bit, she wanted me to leave it all alone. Find some way to get off his radar and just live our lives. Maybe turn him over to the police. I tried to explain that wouldn't work, they couldn't handle him. We, John. We know what he is, what he's capable of, how to deal with him; this was a family affair, and it has to stay that way. Someone needs to save the world from him and others like him, and it ain't gonna be some pig."
"You don't think I know what he's capable of."
"You don't. Not yet. But we'll work on that, and you got a better protection against him than anyone I ever met. But no. She didn't leave right away, we had to fight about it first. Then she found she was pregnant, and when you came along, you know, she thought maybe I'd stop. For you. If I wouldn't stop to keep her safe, maybe I'd stop to keep my son safe. She didn't realize that not stopping was what kept you both safe."
"'Safe' seems like the wrong term."
"It was the closest we were ever gonna get with his blood in us."
"Did you tell her that?"
"I tried. But then I'd have to go deal with a case, or repay a favor, or stop some scheme I found out he was up to, and she was mad all over again that I hadn't quit yet." We paused and cleared our parts of the table as we saw the waitress approaching, thanked her again, and both watched to make sure we knew the moment she was back in the kitchen.
"So what happened?"
"You turned out to be what you are." He sighed and turned back to me. "Look. Don't think this was your fault. It wasn't. But you should know, when she realized you were seeing spirits without going looking for them? When she realized you were part of the system she wanted to avoid, and there was no way to break you free from it? We'd already been going back and forth about this for years, and she knew, then, that there was no way out for us. It didn't matter if she won, if she got me to stop somehow, it was always going to be part of our home, and I was always going to have to be on guard for it. She had to decide whether that was a price she was willing to pay to keep her family." He scooted his omelette around absently with his fork. "In the end, she decided it wasn't."
"What happened to her?"
"I don't know. I went hunting after she filed, left you with your grandmother. Did some favors, got information I needed, then I tracked him down. I extracted a blood oath, I made damn sure it'd be binding, that she would be safe from his machinations now that she was leaving. After that, well. She never called to tell me what she was up to. I don't even know where I'd look to find out, now." We sat quiet for a few minutes, staring at our plates.
Finally, I took a deep breath, and began cutting up my french toast.
"So. Tell me what he's capable of."
"Later. I'm tired, John. Let's just eat and go home." I looked up, and saw he was zoning out.
"Yeah. Yeah, okay, Dad. Just make sure you eat." He nodded and gave a weak smile. We finished the meal, and then the drive, without a word.
The blog of John Matteson.