Winter Wonderland by Josh Whitener
“Gotta trust me here, kid.” John said from the room. His eyes were already looking through the small crack of the door.
“Where’s my mommy?” Peter asked worried
“Right outside, now I need you to do something for me, ok. I need you to hold my right hand as hard as you can, eh? Don’t let go no matter what and don’t say anything.” John said as he knelt down to the eye level of the boy. He snubbed his cigarette out between his middle finger and thumb leaving a small bit of ash on his hand.
Peter looked at John, giving him a small whimper, but he nodded his head. Kids are too gullible for their own good.
From outside the officers were looking towards the window. Too much time had gone by and one of them was about to venture out for Tommy when there was a startling scream from the boys room. Something that wasn’t ordinary, like a wild animal. The scream shook them all. Each one looking instantly to the person next to them before they bolted for the room.
The door crashed open, almost flying off its hinges and, with guns drawn; they looked around frantically for Peter.
“Where the fuck is ‘e?” on of them shouted. “Where’s Chamberlain?”
The room was empty. None of them could see a single sign of either of the two. It had no closets, but one of them checked under the bed, and still nothing. The window was open, letting in a small puddle of rain and a numbing draft from the outside cold.
“Shit!” the first exclaimed as he moved past the others to the door
“Around the back, check every part of the house and close it off. Don’t let him get away with him!” he shouted.
“Why didn’t they see us?” Peter asked standing next to John. His hand sweating as it clung to John’s.
“I’ll explain it later, kid. Right now you gotta follow me, but keep quiet until he gets outside.” He said in a whisper.
The others had already moved outside by now. John made a dash down the hallway and into the living room, with Peter still holding his hand. John took his hand off from the wall, leaving in view as small sign in ash. He moved quickly, not really stopping to think. Checking the window he looked at the area outside the main door. Only one of them was watching. He knew that the spell wouldn’t be able to reach outside the house. They could be seen.
He didn’t count on what would actually happen when he got here. All he knew was that he was the first. No one else had made it yet, but he was positive they would soon which meant he needed this kid out of sight until he could find out what was needed.
Why and I doing this? Chas was right.
The officer was still outside, but not moving, just standing in the rain. His hands were at his sides calmly. His suit was drenched. It was an odd sight, but there was one optimal difference. He was looking the other way. John took his chances. He leaned down to Peter again, and whispered.
“Ok, kid, when we get outside I want you to let go of my hand, ok? Run as fast as ya can no matter what. Just keep running. Understand?” John said
“What’s wrong? Why isn’t my mo…” he tried
“Just do it, alright.” John interrupted
Peter looked frightened, but that might have been a good thing now. He needed to be scared if they were going to get out of here. Even if he didn’t have a shot then maybe the kid would. They wouldn’t shoot him, at least.
They bolted for it. John pulling the kid along until they were just outside and John looked both directions. All clear. He didn’t waste much time now. Diving around the front car he let go of the boys hand, but not because he wanted to. Something came down on his shoulder. A hard sting of pain that extended all the way down his arm.
“AH!” he cried brining his other hand to his shoulder
Another officer had batted him down, waiting near the car. John had two seconds to see him before he came at him again.
“RUN!” he yelled to Peter
John set up for defense, as the officer came to him he noticed his eyes. Those eyes that screamed with frenzy. Like Mark’s eyes in his dream he had during their ride in Moscow. It was a strange thing indeed. These boys weren’t themselves. Too much frenzy and madness in them and John knew it when he was grabbed from behind too. As his right hand went up, it was caught by another.
He was barely able to see that Peter had made a run for it, but he managed to get a step ahead of the third, who, was already after him. John didn’t hear the sound of a car rolling up towards their street, though
One of them had John’s hands behind his back. The first one, the one that hit him, was already moving at him with the club. His mouth was salivating. Something got to these boys the minute they left the house. John couldn’t sense anything, maybe because he was under his own magic, but whatever it was there was enough of it to clog these poor sods. That’s when the trouble started.
John didn’t hear the car roll up. He didn’t even see the black exterior roll by his point of vision was he was hit. He did, however, here the gunshots. There was an immediate halt. John tried to turn and thought that the boy was gone, and he’d be next. The officers didn’t turn either, which made him think they did it. The idea that they were supposed to be protecting him never crossed his mind. Why did he do all this? He should have never gotten involved.
A shot rang and the bullet hit dead center to the third officer. Peter stopped, shocked. The noise made him cover his ears. As soon as the man was down the door opened and Peter was ushered into the car kicking and screaming. John could hear it even though his back was to the car. What was going on? Another shot was heard, and this time one of the officers turned. John saw this too. The first one dropped like a sack of shit onto the car, the bullet spun him like a top, that one. The second still had his hands but he tired to free himself. That’s when he was head butted from behind. A last ditch effort before the officer was shot as well. John tried to focus, but it was all too confusing. He saw a man in a similar suit with a gun moving towards him. He tried to put his hands up again, but this time it was excruciating and he let them go limp. A hand reached over and pulled him from the ground, and another man was moving to help Constantine in the car. Before long he was on the seat with the door shutting behind him.
The car left little time between them. It sped from the scene with the sound of sirens in its wake. But John wasn’t hearing any of it. He saw Peter in a seat, looking absolutely terrified and on the edge of tears. A voice came from behind Constantine in the front seat. It was a raspy voice, like he had something in his mouth. John saw a rotund man, with little hair turning to him as the car moved to ditch it’s location near the house.
“John Constantine. It’s a good thing we found you when we did.” Harrison Levi said calmly, and then turned to the road. The driver moved into the city streets, and at a slower pace than before.
Exasperated, John looked around with more confusion. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“I’d say the same thing you were doing. Only we’ve been a bit more prepared for this than you have, obviously.” Harrison replied.
Peter was starting to shed some tears. He was only ten and it didn’t take much to make him cry, and this was about all a kid like him could take. “Where’s my mother.” He looked to John for this answer.
John was about to speak, but Levi interrupted.
“She’s safe with us, Peter. We’re taking you to her now.” He said
“You better have some answers for me, Levi. It’s been twenty sodding years but I’d still know better than to let a dodgy tosser like you involved in this.” John said, hushed
“You’ll get them.” Levi answered seriously. “I could say the same for you, but what you tried to do will at least assure me that you’re serious about what is going on.”
Maybe he was, or maybe wasn’t at any rate it had all been a constant blurring up to this point. Finally able to get a chance to fucking breath was like it. The car turned around the round-about and headed east towards Boswell Street. After that Constantine didn’t see where they were going. He knew Harrison Levi a long way back. The old watery bastard had about ten years over him with enough distaste to spread around. But it was the very same reason he knew about Levi that it was for him not to be worried.
Jason entered the study with two drinks. He handed one off to Levi and then to Constantine. John was sitting near the fire; Levi hadn’t sat since they entered. He’d given John an ice pack for his head which he readily accepted and took a breather next to the fire, applying it to already sour skull.
“Thank you Jason. Will you excuse us now? Run and check on Master Tingerman, will you? See how he’s doing.” Levi asked
Scared out of his fucking wits. John thought
Jason left without argument, but he did give a callas look Constantine before making his disappearance. John would have liked to give him the finger, or even return the glance, but his eyes were focused on the fire at that moment. His mind was elsewhere until Levi’s distinct voice broke through his thoughts.
“They pack a bloody punch, eh? You’re lucky they didn’t beat you to death” Levi said in a warning tone
“Frenzy incantation.” John said bluntly “That’s not something you can do lightly, mate. Something big is playing here.”
“You’re a bit late to be stating the obvious, John. Something “big” as you put it is already playing and winning. Welcome back to London, mate. The bloody playing field.” Levi replied as he sips his glass of scotch
“This lad got something to do with it. At the school, there was a pattern. The killer used a specific pattern to root out the children he was killing. Except he didn’t get the one he wanted.” Then a thought sprang across John’s mind “What about the kid’s mother?”
“Dead.” Levi replied softly
“Fuck, mate. I’d have giving you more credit than that.” John said disapproving
“They got to her first. We just waited it out until…” Levi began
“Waited it out until what!? They sniffed out the right ones?” John demanded shocked
“Until we were certain they would make the first move”
“’They’. Who’s that then?” John asked.
“Some new, and some old. This killer happens to be part of the Castigo...” Levi started to explain as he sat in a warm seat across from John. “…a large cult following that’s been scarce around these parts of the world, but seems to be rising in small numbers, especially around London. To answer your question, yes, they take a liking bearing their mark so I wouldn’t expect to see them walking the streets.”
“Unless their gunning down preteens.” John said coldly
“Unfortunately.” Levi sighed and shook his head. “But in actuality we’ve only been up against the Tate crowd. Most of them…“ Levi began, but was cut off.
“What’s got them involved? I know they’re a poncy bunch but they wouldn’t want anything to do with that kid.”
“You’re right, John. They don’t.” Levi replied with a small frown.
John didn’t have to have it explained to them. He knew it himself, and he always knew it. They were a poncy bunch, but they were a center ring in London. They played the bigger part and knew when to step in. They needed to end what could possibly rip the world by the strings. They wanted to kill this child. Levi was trying to keep that from happening. He wondered at one point at what cost.
“I think you’d owe it to your friend, Clarice, for your injuries too, mate. She was the one that orchestrated that little rough up.” Levi replied
“What’s your end of this Levi? What are you getting out of it?” John asked as he pulled a cigarette from his pack.
“We’ve been at war for months, Constantine. You just haven’t seen it all the time. London’s center has always brought the terrible. I’m just on the home front, the same as you and with our intentions the same I think we can do each other a favor.”
“Why should I trust you? Your not one who knows how to fold when things get out of control. I remember what happened in Kadavu Island. You almost got the lot of us killed then.” John retorted
“You’d do well to remember a lot of things, John me old son. Newcastle for one. That’s why I know you’ll help this child, and that’s why I know you’ll keep your end of the bargain. Because you feel it’s…necessary. You live in this world and the only way you and I know to keep it from becoming a chaos feeding ground in to separate the problem form its source. The Tate Club has been under the influence of a man named Henrich Roland for quite some time. An elder by all means. It was rumored he died years before he started turning up in the private sectors. He’s the one in control of everything.” Levi explained.
John stared into the fire. His cigarette lit and already halfway finished by the time Levi was giving him the details and carelessly he tossed it into the fire. It was bad enough he was in the middle of something that had already started, but having an advantage never hurt. Especially if he was going to put himself up against old friends.
Some things never change, eh John?
“Well, mate. If it’s all the way you say it is then I’d guess we’re in for a bloody kick in the jewels. If I know them as well as you think I do then it won’t take them long to figure out what’s up your shirt sleeve. After all that’s the only reason I’m here, right? A fucking beacon’s more like it.” John sneered
“We’re ready.” Levi replied confidently
“You may be, but that treasure your holding in there is a human being. A fucking kid barely looking differently at the birds in his class and I didn’t risk me neck to keep him in here waiting to be killed. Clarice wouldn’t want to get her hands messing, but I’m guessing those colorful bunch of sods are.”
“Constantine. You’re so full of humanity aren’t you? I’d tell you this – “Levi started to shake his finger, but was distracted. The light on his desk flickered a bit. The bulb flashed discretely and it caught Levi’s eye immediately.
John noticed it too, but took a calmer approach to the matter. He rose from his seat, checking the window that faced the back of Levi’s property which was large scale of land that surrounded the mansion in a perfect circle. No one was out there, but it didn’t keep him from moving to the door that Jason exited from before.
“Guarding?” John asked, moving to the door.
“Wait?! Where are you going?” Levi asked, but there was not a hint of surprise in his voice.
“Get bloody serious, mate. You’ve got your vices, but you’re not going to be able to hold up against these bloaks with simple charms.”
“My security has got this under control, Constantine. Don’t think about doing anything stupid.” He warned, moving from the light that had now just gone out.
John was already out the door and into the main hallway by the time Levi’s words hit his ears.
Harrison Levi made a small smile as he saw John leave, slamming the door behind him. His eyes were sad, somewhat with a sense of relief. It was odd that he let John leave, but it was opportune. There was nothing else he could do now, but wait for the inevitable, and soon after he settled back into his chair someone opened the door and entered the room slowly and calmly. He just sat and watched the fire calmly.
John made his way through the hallway without conflict, but he could still hear the men running every which way, trying to find the source of all the security breaches. Poor sods. They didn’t know what else to do; they didn’t know anything better to do. This was simply over their heads, but hopefully not too much for John.
He’d seen where they led Peter too, and getting there was a trick. He dashed around the boy’s in black. His trench flailing behind him madly as he switched from room to room until he found the right one. It was simple enough. Levi wasn’t the type for high tech security. John would have guessed he didn’t hire as many men as he had before until he started getting involved in this, or even have the sense to upgrade the old mansion to something a bit more safe and sound. That was always Levi’s problem, getting involved when maybe he should have kept his bloody nose out of it.
He didn’t waste any time. He opened the door and entered in.
The sound echoed off his eardrums like a wild howl, but it was brief.
What a fucking stupid thing to do, conjob!
He could hear Peter crying out in shock. If John would have thought to he would have done the same thing. The guard inside had let out a shot that hit the door barely putting one into John’s cranium. He fell to the floor, putting his hands out, as if in some desperate attempt he could block the next one. Only it didn’t come. Maybe he was recognized, or maybe not, but he wasn’t thinking about that. The guard looked down at Constantine puzzled, almost embarrassed.
“Oi! You looking to get your brains on the bloody wall, squire?” He said approaching him, and grabbing his hands to pull him into the room, shutting the door behind him.
“Only in the mornings.” John muttered, rising to his feet.
Peter was looking at the men as if they were monsters. His face was pale and blank, he looked like he was going to be sick, and so did John.
“We gotta get him outa here, now.” John said.
“Boss told me to keep him ‘ere at all costs, mate.” The man replied.
John noticed there was a small riff in the room, the air was thicker. He noticed Peter’s pen and pad lying beside him. More importantly the drawing or rather the drawings on it.
“Bloody ‘ell.” John whispered.
“Yea, he likes to draw funny things, eh? You’re not taking him outa ‘ere, mate.”
John caught the tone and looked straight at him. “Do you hear this fuck’ng mess?! You’re fucked if I don’t get this kid outa ‘ere.”
Peter was inching his way to the paper, eyeing John the entire time. He started to draw, still eyeing him. The lines curved and bent all over the paper, and it wasn’t long before he had developed something. The two men were still arguing, and John got edgy by his tone while the guard fingered the trigger to his pistol, probably regretting he had such a bad shot.
John felt it right off. The guard didn’t feel it until it happened. His voice, as he shouted, became raspier, clogged with something, and almost like a gurgle. He tried to spit out another retort to Constantine but the words wouldn’t come. He was grabbing at his throat. Peter continued drawing, his hand like a kite gliding around harmoniously with the man’s chocking. John put his hand to the man’s shoulder, confused by the look of him. His face was discolored. He looked to Peter’s hands which kept moving even under the situation. His eyes caught the symbols on the paper, arcane magic and something he couldn’t quite recognized. Without hesitation he grabbed at the boy’s pen, snatching it away from him and then immediately looking back to the guard. It was too late. He was already dead.
John sighed and looked down to Peter who, for the first time, looked at him calmly, swallowing a bit.
“I want to go home.”
Inside Levi’s study the tattooed gentlemen entered. Half his was face covered by a thick shroud and he approached Levi’s chair from behind as the man continued to stare into the fire. His eyes were filled with a sense of relief, but also anxiety of an awaiting outcome. The flames danced in eyes as the hand reached around his head and covered his eyes. He could still smell the death on the man’s palm when it quickly blinded him from his view and in moments…a release.
The man stood from behind Levi with a small frown. It was almost too easy. Harrison Levi was dead and the rest of the men were already making their way outside, still scurrying around by the magick’s the Castigo had planted. They’d never find the intruders. Only the body of a very old and foolish man. The flames cracked against the burning wood and he was gone.
It took him only moments to find the room where the child’s scent of magick was too heavy to ignore. He expected him to be inside, the bullet hole through the door leaked of wild power and sick scents. When he opened the door the body of the guard as lying on the floor, a pen beside him. If he had seen the pad he might wonder why it wasn’t their as well, but he was more concerned where the child was. The window let in a cold breeze that made the hairs on his arm stick up. He was gone once more. A prize discovered by the wrong ones again.