Bill Chambers just has one of those faces.
Summary: Written for the prompt(s): I was at the Broadway Heights Diner, I’d finished breakfast, and paid the bill. As I proceeded to leave, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and said: “I’m sorry to bother you, but. . . .”
I was at the Broadway Heights Diner, I’d finished breakfast, and paid the bill. As I proceeded to leave, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and said: “I’m sorry to bother you, but are you . . . Milo Andrakis?”
I blinked and smiled, standing back as another customer exited past us. This had happened to me a lot over the course of my life—I guessed I just had one of those faces—and shook my head at the customer, who seemed quite anxious and unnerved, his thin, pale face drawn in stark lines under a fly-away comb-over.
“Sorry, I’m not,” I said, putting on as reassuring an expression as I could, because whoever this Milo Andrakis-guy was, this guy seemed not too keen on having run into him. Maybe it was his bookie, or something. “I’m Bill. Bill Chambers. Pleased to meet you,” I added, holding out my hand and still smiling.
The other guy, small and squirrely, looked down at my hand, then up into my eyes again. His own were a watery, uncertain brown.
“Oh, I—I’m terribly sorry, sir! I didn’t mean to disturb you!” he replied, glancing down at my still outstretched hand and rubbing his own hands together nervously. “Terribly sorry!”
“Hey, it’s no problem-o,” I promised as another customer edged past us, this time going into the diner. She gave us both a dirty look as she went by. “People get me mixed up with other guys all the time. I just have one of those face, is all.”
“Yes, I—I suppose you’re right,” the other man said shakily, searching my eyes intently before paling further and looking away. Then he was hurrying past me with a muttered: “Er, have a good day, sir!”
“You, too, buddy!” I called after him as he scurried down the accessibility ramp and turned into the parking lot without glancing back. His shoulders were hunched as if he was walking against a stiff breeze, rather than a balmy spring day. His hands were shoved deep in his pockets and he was muttering to himself as he went.
“Okey-dokey, Smokey,” I huffed quietly to myself and stepped outside. Rather than take the ramp, I took the stairs, in case crazy was contagious.
I was just leaving work two days later when the Brothers got me.
I had reached the bust-stop across from the call center where I worked—I’d been doing overtime, yet again, and now, the parking lot was mostly empty—and was standing under the streetlight, gazing at the first stars coming out in the clear, dusky sky, when I heard a brief rustle of leaves coming from behind me.
Thinking it was a squirrel or a stray cat, I started to turn automatically, and that’s when I was grabbed.
Strong, slab-like arms wound around me and I began to instantly struggle. Before I could scream, a huge hand clamped over my mouth. It smelled of tree-sap and soil, and were so firm, I couldn’t even open my mouth enough to breathe, let alone bite the fingers mashing down my lips.
The arms around me held me tight and still.
Suddenly there was a vaguely familiar face looming in front of and markedly below my own. It took me a few moments to place it, but I did, and gasped through my nose.
The guy from the Broadway Heights Diner, two days prior, gazed into my eyes for long moments. Then he was untucking the front of my utton-down shirt from my jeans. I really started struggling, then, and the implacable arms around me squeezed tighter, still, till I could barely breathe at all.
Meanwhile, the guy from the Broadway Heights Diner was shining a small pen-light at my bared stomach and squinting. Then his eyes widened and darted to mine, then to the gaze of the two-armed oak tree holding me.
“He bears the mark, Brother Kern!” the guy whispered excitedly, fumbling in his picket as he put the pen-light away. For a moment I blanked, then realized he could only mean my birthmark—a big red blotch that covered half my torso in the vague shape of a dragon.
A low grunt sounded in my ear, along with a warm gust of breath. “Then hadn’t we best get him out of here, Brother Shem? She won’t be too happy if we finally get him, only to lose him, again,” a deep, gravelly voice ground out, like an avalanche of boulders.
“Right, you are, Brother Kern. Right you are.” The squirrely guy from the diner, Brother Shem, finally found what he’d been looking for in the pockets of his dark, no-color windbreaker.
He pulled out a small vial and a clean-looking pocket square.
“Now—you must be still, your lordship!” Brother Shem reprimanded me as he opened the vial and poured some of the contents onto his pocket square. I’d started to struggle again, though Brother Kern’s arms hadn’t loosened around me even slightly. The hand over my mouth clamped down harder than ever, leaving me only one way to get oxygen. Air whistled in and out of my noise audibly as I fought futilely. “It’s really for your own good!”
And Brother Shem stepped closer apprehensively, the pocket square held out and up. I’d seen enough movies to know I was about to get chloroformed or worse.
The arms around me finally tightened to the point of severe pain and breathing constriction, to make up for my renewed and redoubled struggles. My feet even left the ground as Brother Kern lifted me easily. The pocket square descended, and I twisted and turned my head away as much as I could. But it was no use. Sooner, rather than later, the cloth had covered my nose and I inhaled—
Something sweet, like incense, with a bitter under-scent, filled my nostrils and lungs, and everything went slowly grey . . . then utterly black.