One step closer to becoming the hero.
|Two days had passed since Mr. Nottle and Ethan, began their search for Keiko, the Jorogumo. Ethan observed a change in Mr. Nottle. The disgruntled Social Worker looked like someone had wrung him out like some old cloth. His five o clock shadow looked more like a quarter past midnight. Heavy bags were under his eyes, and he had become testy. He spent a lot of time on the phone.
"Yes, sir...I still haven't found a placement. Are you sure about that? Say it out loud and tell me it doesn't sound ridiculous...Do you see what I mean? He will be there within the hour...Thank you, sir," Mr. Nottle ended the call and heaved a big sigh of relief.
Ethan knew something was up. It probably meant the search for Keiko was over. His electric blue eyes studied Nottle, who was busy thumbing the bridge of his nose. His gaze remained fixed on the disheveled man, eager to know what was said.
Mr. Nottle seemed almost happy when he looked at Ethan, "You are going to be a guinea pig." His tiny hand turned the key bringing the old hatchback to life, causing it to shake violently in protest.
Electric blue eyes studied the mountain of Macdonald's wrappers and empty drink cups. Ethan's heart sank because his best chance of finding Keiko was gone, "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Since the appearance of superhumans, the government has been a little lost as to what to do about them. You are going to be in the first foster home trained for superhuman care," Nottle said.
Ethan reflexively covered his eyes, desperate to avoid another death-defying cruise with a person who had no business driving in the first place, "What does the government know about people like me?"
"They are using Dr. Horning's research as the base for the manual..."
"They wrote a manual?"
"It's the government. You were expecting something more sophisticated?"
"What do you know about the home I am going to?" Ethan hoped the people were halfway decent. The last thing he needed was another incident involving his powers.
"Olesya Yashin, she is a high school guidance counselor, "Nottle said. Ethan was laughing, and he followed suit, "I know the whole thing sounds completely ridiculous. You should know, Olesya, was handpicked for the assignment," He started laughing again.
Ethan stopped laughing and gave Nottle a strange look, "Thanks for everything. I know you didn't start with the purest of intentions, but you have made up for it and then some."
For the last time, they pulled onto the busy street, and into another death-defying drive, to their next destination, "You are a good kid Ethan. You deserved better than you got. That includes me."
Mr. Nottles toxic gas filled the car along with the silence. Ethan sat up with a start, "What about my gear?"
"I will make sure your gear finds you."
"What if I find Keiko?"
"You should call the police."
"They won't find anything. Jorogumo can use magic, and shapeshift..."
Nottle cut him off, "Ethan, why are you convinced it is a supernatural being? Where is the evidence to support your claim?"
It was a challenge. Something Nottle had taken to doing since Ethan was still in the middle of The Urge. It annoyed the teen, but at the same time kept him grounded in reality.
"The jorogumo is characterized by music, magic, and beauty and waterfalls..." Ethan trailed off. Didn't the last house have a zen waterfall? Items like that were not cheap and often had to be installed by professionals.
"Are you even trying Ethan? Where did you go?"
"I had an idea on how to track Keiko. As for my argument, we believed superhumans were something best left to comic books and the imagination. In light of my existence, I have to accept the fact the supernatural may exist," Ethan said
"Do you believe the myth entirely?" Nottle asked.
"No, I don't believe some spider lived to be four hundred. I think it might be a curse, something similar to the werewolf."
Nottle chuckled, "You are something else, Ethan. We are almost there. If you need anything...unrelated to Keiko, give me a call."
Olesya's house was a modest white building. It looked new on the outside. The white siding was unstained by water and weather. The grass was still bright green, and a small crab apple tree grew near the sidewalk. Ethan inhaled the air, detecting pulp mill, and laundry detergent.
Nottle handed Ethan his duffle bag, "Do not do anything until the rest of your gear arrives. In the meantime, I suggest you toe the line and try to keep your investigation secret."
Nottle pulled some papers out of his satchel and exited the vehicle. They knocked on the plain white door and waited.
Olesya was a slender woman in her early thirties, who looked like she belonged on a Russian brides website. A fairy tattoo was on her neck, and a rose on her hand. She gave Nottle a look of disgust, "How far off the rails did you go, this time?"
"It is a long and drawn out story. I made a mistake, and you now have to fix it," Nottle said in a forlorn tone. His eyes kept darting back and forth. His head turned toward the car.
"What kind of mistake?" Olesya asked. Her face stared at Nottle with scrutiny. He just kept urging her to sign the papers.
Ethan felt a little sorry for Nottle. He never meant for anything to happen. It didn't change the fact he crossed a line, "One he made quite by accident. I supposed to be in another home, Keiko turned out to be a serial killer, and now I am urged to find her."
Olesya softened a little, "How bad is it?"
Mr. Nottle sighed and held up a box filled with all the information Ethan had gathered, "The last two days have been far longer than they were supposed to be."
Ethan smiled and waved at her, "I know how to find her..."
Olesya silenced him with a wave of her hand as she signed the papers, "We are not to engage in vigilante activity. The manual was clear on the subject. We will turn everything you have over to the police."
Mr. Nottle smiled and bolted towards the car, "I wish you the best of luck with that. Be careful, Ethan, I will drop off the rest of your gear when it arrives."
Olesya ushered Ethan into the house. The smell of citrus and chamomile hit him the moment he stepped over the threshold. Her decor was a hodgepodge of Russian and western decor. She owned a lot of nesting dolls.
"My family keeps encouraging me to meet someone and have children. I have a lot of toys I will probably never use," Olesya said, sitting Ethan down on the couch.
Ethan was already annoyed with her. She was getting in the way of his investigation. He wished she would just burst into flames before she delivered some boring speech about the rules, "How are you going to stop me?"
Olesya went white. Her body shivered a little, and her eyes went wide, "I have a taser gun..."
"Use it on me then. I dare you."
Olesya called his bluff and ran to a room just off the kitchen. She returned with a large taser gun, "You don't want me to do this." Her hand was shaking violently. Ethan could hear her ragged breath, desperately trying to hold herself together.
In a flash, Ethan grabbed Olesya's hand, placing the sharp prongs on his chest. He took several calming breaths and braced himself, "Press the button."
Olesya was panicked and pressed the button. She squeaked a little her mouth agape in horror. The prongs tickled him a little as the energy poured into his body. Ethan held up a single finger and placed it on the warm plastic surface. It started to melt in Olesya's hand growing hotter by the second.
Ethan ripped the taser from her hand and threw it across the room. There was a bang, followed by the smell of burnt plastic. Ethan looked at Olesya grinned wickedly, "Looks like we are doing this my way." He found great satisfaction watching his caregiver stand there in stunned silence.
Olesya shook her head, "No, No, No. The manual said the taser was powerful enough to knock out a horse." She had fallen to her knees face in her hands, before tugging on her long silky black hair, "Why didn't it work?"
Ethan grabbed his investigation box, "I have electrical-based powers. I wasn't even sure I would be immune. Now, are you going to fret over one investigation, or do you want to stop a killer?"
Olesya's hazel eyes registered her defeat, "You better be right. I have to send a full report to family services. Calling the police is the correct course of action."
She did have a point. Neither of them could afford to be in trouble with the law. Inspiration struck him like a bolt of lightning, "We aren't hunting a criminal, we are conducting a paranormal investigation. Keiko is a supernatural being. The law doesn't cover that."
Olesya frowned at first and slowly smiled, "It could be a hobby we share. How many people enjoy ghost hunting?" She paused and sat on the brightly colored couch, "By the way, once we deal with your little problem, you must do something for me,"
Ethan joined Olesya, "Which is?"
"You must go to government-approved school. It is for children with special needs, don't give me that face. Like it or not, Ethan, you have special needs," Olesya said. Her eyes looked at him with genuine concern.
It was alien to Ethan. He had forgotten what it felt like to have someone care. He felt the buildup of tears and pushed them back down. Stop being weak, focus on the task at hand. He held out his hand, "You have a deal."
Olesya shook his hand and smiled, "Thank you."
The zen waterfalls turned out to be a dead end. They were expensive and costly to install, and no one was buying them now. Olesya broke the case wide open with a single thought.
"What if she is posing as an escort? Or a masseuse? Why play music when you can bring them to the front door?" She said.
"We dudes like to think with the small head. There can't be that many escort services in this lousy city, right?"
They focused on Japanese escorts only, coming up with a list of twelve names. Olesya posed as a John, contacting all of them for an initial meet. Of the twelve names, nine suggested they meet someplace public, two declined, and one suggested they meet at her house.
Olesya looked over at Ethan, "Are you sure about this?"
Ethan was already in his bulletproof vest, ballistic mask, and shock batons strapped to his hips, "I want the urge to end."
They pulled up a house sitting on the edge of being condemned, in the front yard, a zen waterfall. Ethan felt butterflies in his stomach. It was his first superhuman battle. He felt woefully unprepared, but the urge spurned him on.
He knocked on the door with confidence hands at the ready. He heard someone muted talking before the door opened. Keiko saw Ethan and punched him through the railing of the porch, "You again. This time I will not make the mistake of letting you go."
Ethan rolled around in pain for a moment before rising to his feet and kicking the door inward. A horde of cat-sized spiders greeted him. Each spider was a fiery red with a blackened skull on their abdomen, capable of breathing fire.
Ethan froze as the horde slowly walked towards him with tiny flickers coming from their fangs. What the hell is wrong with me? I didn't come all this way to die. He tightened his grip on the batons, trying to move.
Keiko laughed, "You would be surprised how many people fear spiders. If they don't fall to my beauty and charm, they fall to my children."
Two feet were between him and the firebreathing pests. Something in Ethan snapped, "Screw it." He swung at the leader, shocking it until the abdomen exploded. He looked at the front door beside him and dropped it on the eight-legged horrors wiping out a significant portion of the horde.
Keiko's face became a mask of the pain of anguish, "Retreat my children. Mother will handle this one herself," She said. Her silk clothing tore and fell away from her body, revealing eight hairy legs. She removed her face showing all eight of her eyes and fangs dripping with venom.
"Tell me something, hero. How does it feel knowing your first real fight will be your last?" She asked, scurrying up the wall and striking him with a spindly limb before Ethan could react. She struck him two more times, and the would be hero saw stars.
Ethan crashed to the floor, losing both batons in the process. Keikos nightmarish form landed in front of him, "You will feed me for weeks, you have more life essence than most." Keiko said, relishing the moment.
Come on, Ethan, think. How are you going to get out of this? It was then Ethan noticed Keiko was salivating profusely, he placed his metal knuckles against her fangs, "It's time for you to ride the lightning."
Keiko crashed into the wall as Ethan shot her full of electrical energy. He grabbed the Batons and started his attack anew. He drove Keiko towards the door, just as the police arrived. Some concerned citizen had called them.
Ethan dodged two attacks before solidly kicking the woman spider through the door frame where she crashed to the front lawn. Ethan followed kicking, punching, and shocking her at every turn.
The officers had shotguns trained on the combatants, Keiko slammed Ethan against the ground, a sharp leg pressed to his throat, "It ends here, hero. If it makes you feel better, I had to put forth some effort."
With a mighty heave, Ethan drove a baton through Keiko's exoskeleton and boiled her insides. Keiko tried to free herself, only to have Ethan throw her towards the police cars.
"What the hell is that thing?" one of the officers asked, as the wounded form of Keiko landed in front of him. White puss was oozing from her wounds dripping to the ground. The smell of burnt hair was gag-worthy.
Ethan rose to his feet just as both officers opened fire on Keiko, who by some miracle was still rising to keep fighting. Keiko stopped moving, and the officers surged forward, shotguns raised to their shoulders. The remaining firebreathing spiders billowed out of the house.
They never got to fire as Ethan ran forward arms wide open, "I killed your mother, come and get me. In seconds the creepy-crawly feeling of hundreds of spider's legs washed over him. He dug deep, electrifying his whole body.
He could feel the life leaving his body as he held the charge for five seconds. At least I have some idea of my limits now. The air smelled like sulfur as each arachnid combusted. Ethan collapsed, barely hanging onto consciousness.
Olesya ran to him, "Ethan, are you okay?"
The officers sighed, "Are you his caregiver?"
"Ma'am, we have to take him in for questioning. You have to be there, or he will be stuck waiting for a child advocate. Right now, all we want is to speak with him. My partner is taking pictures of the body as we speak."
Olesya gently tousled Ethan's hair, "I will see you at the station."
After several hours in lockup, the crown formally charged him with breaking into Keiko's house, and vigilantism. Ethan was not very surprised by this turn of events it was par for the course.
The officers spoke on his behalf, showing dashcam footage and pictures of Keiko's spider form, "This young man was willing to sacrifice himself to save us. He may have broken the law, but with good reason. We have connected Keiko with over a hundred missing persons in the last twenty years."
The judge called for a recess. Ethan was on pins and needles, and the familiar thrill of the urge returned, "Stand next to me in the courtroom, just in case."
The judge returned, "Mr. Argent, I would like to thank you first for your hard work on the Keiko incident. However, you should have called the police. You almost got killed, and where would that have left Ms. Yashin?"
It was a sobering moment for the young man, "She would be in trouble?"
"Charged with several federal crimes to be exact. I also know a regular officer wouldn't have stood a chance against such a creature. For the next year, you will assist the police with investigations, and learn the ropes of law enforcement."
Ethan felt relieved, and the urge relented, "I assume there is more?"
The judge nodded, "Given your history, you will see a counselor, and I warn you now not to miss a single appointment. I also think some community service will help you reconnect with society again. Walk the straight and narrow, Mr. Argent. The whole country is watching now."