Winter Wonderland by Josh Whitener
December’s a fucking great month, right? There’s winter, Christmas, its all there. You’ve got the point where the sky turns over to gray and it’s almost like its going black. The fog gets so thick at times you can bloody well mold it. Not only that but you’ve got only the weirdest of the weird that come out at night just because it’s that time of year. Things start off with a bang and likely end up that way too. I would know…
The morgue was a nasty place to be. It doesn’t matter how used to it you are, the sight of dead bodies is just unsettling. But it also has its appeal. There is an old saying that even though their dead they still look alive. Well the reverse works the same way. Even though their alive, they still look dead.
“JESUS!” Chas screamed.
John was trying to restrain the body of Kenneth Parson on the rack. The coldness was making his previously lifeless body, jerk up and thrash when John put the small reanimation spell to work. It was a bad idea but he was out of options.
“A little help here, guv’.” John said in forced grunts.
Chas moved to secure the legs but he still looked like he just shit himself.
“What the fuck is going on, John! What the fuck did you just do?!”
“Easy, Chas. Just concentrate on getting this bugger down. It’s just like shock, mate. Like a splash of cold water.”
He reached into his bag and pulled out a small vile. It must have been no bigger than a test tube.
“Now help me get this in his mouth” John said calmly.
Kenneth’s body was still trashing, but with both the men’s arms holding him it left little option for escape. John had plugged a temporary reanimation sigil on the boy’s body five minutes previous. He didn’t think it would have happened this fast. At any rate he needed to get the final mixings inside an orifice. The boy’s mouth had been wide open, trying to scream but coming up with nothing but hoarse heaves and gasps. Chas cut in and put his hand over the jaw of the body. He grimaced at the noises it was making. He hadn’t seen anything like this since that incident with the Coopers. He hoped to Ch*ist that this wasn’t going to end up the same way.
Once John got a clear chance he poured in the mixture. It was a white powdery substance. It reminded Chas of chalk and water or something similar. He took his hands off the boy as soon as John had poured it in. John, apparently, had done the same, and it didn’t seem to affect his thoughts of whether the boy would continue his physical tantrum until he was on the floor. John stood back; his cigarette had fallen to the ground in the skirmish and left small strands of smoke that rose from the cold floor. Kenneth’s body was not trashing, it wasn’t even moving noticeably. His fingers twitched a little and the dead face of the small child grimaced and spread a wide, disturbing grin but not because he could help it. John and Chas both listened as the soul entered the body briefly to speak.
“Grrnnn...Whe..Grrnnn…Where?” it said.
John cut in quickly, brining his body to the edge of the metal bed and his words hovering over the boy’s body. It took a breath and looked around, scared, excited.
“Where are you?” John said.
“Limbo. We all are.” Kenneth replied.
“The man, the one that murdered you, what…” he was cut off.
“The bad man. Too much noise.” Kenneth said in a whisper. His eyes were still glued to the ceiling, as if John wasn’t there at all. If he could cry he would probably be doing so now.
“What did he look like? The bad man?”
“I don’t like this, John.” Chas whispered.
There was no reply from Kenneth.
“Please, John…” Chas urged.
“Shut it, Chas. We don’t have time for this.” John said angered, flipping over his wrist to check his watch.
About a minute and a half left of use as bad as it sounds.
“What happened there, Kenneth?” John said.
“GAA…ahh..He…He walked in….just came into the yard. I…was playing with my friends. We were building a dirt mound and then I heard the loud noises. Billy Pepper fell beside me and then I couldn’t see anything anymore.” Kenneth replied.
Chas nervously reached for a cigarette.
“What did he look like?” John asked, loudly. He was leaning in on his watch, eyes glued like it was a bomb detonation.
Kenneth’s body was trying to fight the stretch of the sudden urge of panic. There wasn’t much time before John would have to release him.
“He...he…had a stain…on…GAHH…his neck. Big…ugly…GAhhh….AAAHH.” the boy’s boy was reeling with pain. It was screaming now, but in hisses and releasing puffs of nothing.
John winced and quickly put his hand to the forehead of the cold corpse. In a few moments the boy died down again, and soon a literal new death. The white orbs of the boy’s eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. Chas had disappeared outside the hallway, probably just recently. With a small sigh John lit up a cigarette and slid the metal rack inside the metal compartment with a loud “clang”.
Outside, Chas was sitting on the ground near the entrance door. His hands were shaking slightly as he brought his cigarette to his lips. He watched the moon over the trees, full and fat. John opened the door calmly, seeing Chas he sighed and shut it.
“Sorry you had to see it like that, mate.” He said.
Chas was about to say something, but his mind decided otherwise and he just took a drag from his cigarette.
“Fucking tattoos on their necks. This is getting worse than I thought. Even though the kid didn’t have much. Doesn’t matter, though. I mean…not much of a tip off from what I was thinking. I guess now…” John started.
“Just stop, John. Just stop talking right now.” Chas interrupted.
John raised his brow, looking at Chas half-way surprised.
“You’ve got the fucking right to sit here and tell me that what you just did didn’t matter. Bloody hell, John. What is it you just actually did? You leave me with these small hints but the rest of it you keep me in the dark.” He said.
John sighed. “It’s for your own good, mate. You know what could happen. How many times have I been in and out of the gutter?”
“Then maybe that’s just all there is to it, then. Christ, John, it’s not you. Your me best mate, but all this. I know what it’s like to have kids, ya know.” Chas said.
“All right, mate. We can get out of here. Tell Starker he can lock up the rest with –“John began but again was interrupted.
“No, John. You don’t understand. I’m done with it. Right now. I…I just can’t do it anymore, ya know. Fuck, mate. I’m sorry.” Chas said, and as he did he rose from the ground, giving John a saddened expression before moving to the car.
John stood and watched Chas leave. There wasn’t much else he could do for the man. He was right.
Harrison Levi’s car pulled along side the curb. The door opened calmly and allowed for the waiting gentlemen to enter. As soon as the door was shut the car started back down the street. Inside Harrison was the first to speak.
“Good evening, Dr. Carpenter.” He said, turning his head more to see the man.
Dr. Carpenter sat beside Mr. Levi with a small frown. His curly hair was pulled back, tightened into a ponytail. His clothes were common, not distracting and he’d done without the medical scrubs for quick some time, but wore a tight fitting turtle neck.
“It’s an interesting place for a meeting, Mr. Levi.” He said nervously.
“Not a problem, doctor. I was sorry to hear about your position with Mr. Valentine.” Levi replied.
“We had a lot of problems, sir. John Constantine…” he began
“…Was not the cause of them. Valentine was an ignorant man with too much money and time. I, on the other hand, have no time. So let’s not waste it on past mistakes, yea?” Levi interrupted; his mouth emitted a small cloud of smoke as he chewed at the end of his cigar.
Carpenter nodded, keeping silent while Levi continued to speak.
“I won’t have this ending up like that. Now, tell me what you and whoever was left have done so far.” Levi said in haste.
“Uh...most, most of us have split up. There were some less than favorable competitors that bought out the holders months ago. Nothing much is left. There was nothing we really could do after that.” He said
“You’re not telling me everything, Doctor.” Levi whispered, learning his large body over the seat more towards Carpenter.
“What else is there?” Carpenter asked.
Levi delivered a hard smack to the man’s cheek, which twisted his body after the loud sound as heard after it struck his face.
“Jesus!” Carpenter shouted.
“Jesus is not who I’m looking for now, good doctor. You know who it is; now tell me where he is.” Levi replied.
“Fuck! I don’t know his name. I don’t know who the fuck you’re talking about, Mr. Levi.” Carpenter said shaking. Levi was a big man, he hated aggravating him, but there wasn’t much he could provide. He was just their doctor.
Levi looked out the window and quickly tapped on the glass of the car. Suddenly it made a screeching stop and moments later Carpenter’s door peeled open and the driver dragged him out. Levi exited calmly and walked around the back end of the car. Just in front of Carpenter were the docks and the driver, a man with no recognizable feature that Carpenter could associate with, pulled him by the neck to the end of the docks. That’s when Carpenter noticed these were owned by Levi. He could have set this whole thing up. He did set this whole thing up.
When they arrived at the edge, he could see the dark water of the Thames below him, and he swallowed hard. Levi’s raspy voice came from behind him.
“Perhaps I’ll be more persuasive now, doctor. Now tell me who the vessel is.” “Holy fuck! I don’t know his fucking name, alright. It wasn’t the real one anyway. We were set up., but I don’t know his fucking name. You’ve got to believe me!” Carpenter pleaded.
“Oh but you know something.” Levi continued.
The doctor stood at the end of the dock, hand pulled behind his back and another hand on the back of his neck. “Please…I can’t tell you. I…” he was cut off yet again.
“Is there a reason you decided on the turtle neck tonight, doctor?” Levi hissed from behind him.
Carpenter didn’t respond, and neither did Levi, but he did feel the driver pulling down his shirt, exposing his neck which bore a fresh tattoo along the side it. It was still aching. He sighed and lowered his head.
“You’ve already told one lie. Now as far as I’m concerned you’re a dead man if you make it two.” Levi replied. “Think about who’s got your bollocks in the grip now, and not who will later. The Castigo will not get word of this. I promise.”
Carpenter was at an ends. Sweat ran down his forehead and he was taking short panicked breaths as he looked at the water below. The sound of the driver pulling his gun was heard faintly, but the cold sensation of it pressed against his head was very real.
“All I know is that…is that his mother works at Beechcroft.” Carpenter finally admitted.
“Your hospital – excellent. Thank you, doctor.” Levi replied with a nod to his driver.
The driver released the doctor and started to walk behind Levi back to the car. Carpenter stood shaking at the edge of the docks still. He didn’t even have the chance to turn around before he knew that everything wasn’t alright. The driver had pulled a shot out that went straight through the doctor’s neck. Gripping his throat the blood spilled over his fingers and he collapsed over the docks into the water, sinking like a stone while he tried to gasp for breath.
Levi’s car disappeared back down the street.
The London Underground used to be a safe haven for Map. It might have been the reason that John got him there that’s he’s never really been able to escape it. John had made it there after the sun rose, but down there it was always dark.
“I don’t want to see you again, John. I want nothing to do with this, understand?” Map said under the glow of the lantern.
John was standing against the wall of the abandoned tube, his cigarette at his side. “You and everyone else, eh?”
“Not everyone else, John, nobody else. This only concerns the people who want to be concerned by it. The rest of us are trying to move on.” Map said, correcting.
Map was a tall black man. He’d been a mystery for a long while. John had known him from a few years back. Before he moved on to a tube worker Map was a very powerful voice in the occult scene.
“I’d like to move on, sunshine, but looks like this concerns me as much as it does everyone else.” John replied with a small smirk.
“With some luck this will get you killed and we won’t have to worry about you anymore.” Map said setting the light down.
“I’m touched. So who’s the “we” exactly?” John asked curiously.
“Clarice, Albert and the rest of Tate’s Club are already involved. They’ve been monitoring this for some time, but I don’t think you’ll want to know why.” Map added.
“There’s a pattern to this, Map. I’ve got word that it’s someone knew in town. Run marks around their necks, yea.” John said.
“A lot has been new here since you’ve been gone, Constantine. This isn’t something that’s news to any of them. You’re stepping into a game that’s already started. You’ll have to catch onto the rules quickly.” Map laughed.
John inhales and flicked the end of his cigarette down onto the rails. This was no time for games, and the longer he stuck around Map, the more he was starting to irritate him.
“So why don’t you help me with some clear answers. I know that there were three kids out from school that day.” John said calmly.
“What makes you think they didn’t get the one they wanted?” Map asked.
“It didn’t fit. The killer used a specific pattern that draws from geographical magic. He didn’t complete the ritual killing because the center person wasn’t there. Otherwise we would have seen one person killed rather than the entire class. They could have made this a clean job, but the fates played a card of their own and now they’re in a twist.” John’s tone was filled with anger. He thought he’d chock someone every time he thought of it.
Map nodded, seeming to agree with Constantine. “Your right, there were three that were missed from school. I’ve already seen them.”
“You know which one they want?” Constantine asked surprised.
“I do, but what makes you think you have the right to know?” Map added.
“I don’t, but you and I both know that no one counted on me in this.” He said as his face illuminated in the light of a match. He sucked at the end of his cigarette.
Map moved to look down the end of the tube. His face showed a sign of hesitation but he moved down to continue his work.
“Peter Tingerman.” Map finally admitted.
John gave a small nod, but Map didn’t see it. He just continued into the blackness of the tube and John moved the opposite way to exit through the emergency stairway.
Peter didn’t like staying with these people. They were so phony all the time. They never let him play outside. His mother never told him what really happened to his friends only that they all went to see The Holy Mother because it was the right time for them. He wanted to go with them. Kenny was his friend, and never came over to play anymore.
Now all he did was sit in the living room while the two men always talked on the special phones that he was never allowed to touch. Sometimes people came over. His mother comes sometimes, but she can never stay long enough. Everyone’s worried that the bad men will come for them and his mum tells him that everyone is going to look hard for the bad ones so he can go back to play. He used to want to be a police man, but now he doesn’t want to be anywhere around them. He just keeps drawing in his room, when someone’s always there.
Outside in the living room of the safe house, the two officers were reading the papers, studying the headlines with no real interest. Outside it was raining again, and Tommy should have been back already with the food.
“Bloody hell what’s taking ‘im so long?” one of them asked.
“That boy’s always late.” Another replied.
There were moments of passed silence before there was a knock on the door.
One of them gave a sigh of satisfaction and made his way to the peep hole. Through the glass he could see the reflection of Tommy Parkerson, but no food. He opened the door calmly already irritated.
“What the fu-“he began, but stopped.
Outside there was no one. Tommy was gone, and the rain was the only sound audible. The officer stepped out slightly. He could have heard one of them asking what was going on, but he couldn’t hear much of it. The rain started to sound louder despite it being a slight drizzle. It was freezing outside; he wrapped his arms around himself and still managed to step around the house, checking for Tommy.
The rain sounded louder and louder, after a few moments he couldn’t hear what was going on from inside, and he left the door open. Farther and farther he walked, but it only seemed like a few steps. He kept his calm, but the noise and confusion was blinding his sanity, wrapping around his senses like a virus. He didn’t even notice he was walking down the sidewalk past the neighboring houses. The others didn’t seem to notice from inside either. After all a man that looked and spoke like Constable Charlie Noland had already gone inside, giving a realistic explanation for who was at the door. The others settled back in their seats and returned to waiting for Tommy.
“I’m gonna check on the kid. Where’s he at now?” He said.
One of the officers gave him an amused look. “Round the next room, Chamberlain is watching him play. Give him a break, yea?”
“Sure. I could use some time with him.” He said.
Inside the kid’s room Chamberlain was watching the telly. Peter was sitting by himself drawing on his paper when another one came in the room. When he looked up he was surprised that he wasn’t dressed like the others. He looked less important somehow. The officer gave the remote to him and then went outside. Suddenly he got a bit scared, but it confused him that the other ones knew about him. He hoped this wasn’t another one of those men that tried to cheer him up. They never worked. He just wanted to draw.
Now inside the man tossed off his coat, a brown leather trench and checked the lock before looking to the kid. Peter was looking at him with a small frown.
“’ello, lad. Me name’s John, I’m a friend of your mum’s. She sent me to come and get you.” John replied with a small grin.
Peter looked at him for a while. “I can see my mum?” he said innocently.
“Sure kid, but we have to go now.” He said in a whisper.
Outside the dark tint of a black car rolled past the house. Inside someone was watching over the safe house, but something more important caught their eye. The officer was still walking down the side walk, his hair drenched in rain that didn’t seem to be felt.
Inside a thin man with a long tattoo around his neck spoke to the person adjacent to him. It was a robed man, shrouded with a tightly fitting garment around his eyes, almost covering them entirely. His skin was black, like a charred pig’s.
“Let no one stop you.” He said.
It nodded through the garments, only to be spoken to a second time by a woman sitting next to the first man.
“…no one.” Clarice said, giving him a stern tone.