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The Witch Doctor is IN (IC)

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January 13th, 2010 8:03 pm

(Continued from Interceptors: Liquid Therapy)

 

 

Morena Colby was banging around her small kitchen, chopping up veggies and mixing up a batch of her famous spinich dip; away from work, she was barely recognizable in baggy cargo pants and a faded Phish tour shirt, her shoulder-length hair in a simple blue headband. She finished the dip, took a swig from her Corona, then yelled back over her shoulder into living room, where a TV blasted loudly.

 

"Ma, I'm gonna have some people coming over, so I'm gonna be downstairs! I set the TiVo up to record Top Model!"

 

There was no response, so she headed down into the basement, carrying the tray of snacks downstairs with her beer clutched in her free fingers. Her father had alwasy wanted to finish the basement, but he was killed before he ever had the chance. There was a full bar and half the walls were panelled, but then the panelling just stopped. It made her a little sad whenever she came down here, but it also reminded her of how important her work was for the force.

 

Colby set the tray on the bar, hopped up on a stool and nursed her beer, waiting for her guests to arrive...

 

 


 

Still wearing her civvy clothes, Lynn gave the house a quick once-over from across the street in the shadows: decent-sized, maybe a three-flat, on a quiet street in a working class neighborhood.

 

"Okay, there is is; she said to head to the back door and ring the bell." She turned expectantly to her fellow teammates.

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Jack of all Blades stood uncomfortably in the shadow of a tall tree, dressed in matching jeans and a denim jacket. As he tied his bandanna mask behind his head, securing his black wig in place, he eyed the suburban home uneasily. "This feels weird. Shouldn't we be meeting on a rooftop, or at least appearing silently behind her when she turns around?" The fencer's tone was joking, but there was a slight strain to it; he made little attempt to hide that he was having second thoughts. "You're sure about this, Grim?"

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"You're sure about this, Grim?"

The changeling rested a sympathetic hand on his arm. "Hey, if it freaks you out too much, I can fade us both out, and then it just looks like Colt crosses the street." She shrugged. "Look, I dunno, she said for this kind of work she needs to work in her 'ritual space', whatever that means; I guess it's like a shrine or something."

She turned to the cowboy, her eyebrows raised expectantly. "You good to go, hon?"

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"Good as'm gettin'." Colt straightened his hat as he listened to Grim comfort Jack. "An I reckon 'ritual place' could be anythin'. Fer all we know, she just likes flippin' over tarot cards'n front'a her favrite poster." Colt's head cocked itself to the side as if considering what he had just said. It wasn't often that he found himself speaking without thinking about it first. Been hangin' round these two blabbermouths much too much.

Colt shook the thought out of his head. "I reckon, I been watchin' to much bad TV. We're known ta patrol this area quite a lot. Anyone asks'n we're jus here investagatin' some shady activity. Which ain't all lies anyhow." He gave Jack a slightly appraising look. Much better. he mused, satisfied with this second comment.

Colt wasn't sure what was up, but the closer he got to their appointed time, the more this whole thing was starting to unnerve him. Reckon I can't back out now. We'd never git Jack in'ere, then.

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"Oh, sure, give the demonically possessed guy grief, why don't you," Jack groused as he fidgeted with his mask. He might have been more comfortable in his full costume, but the Interceptors hadn't wanted to draw undue attention to Colby's home, and the idea of showing up st a stranger's home in his sash and bodysuit seemed vaguely impolite. The swashbuckler was suddenly seized by a conviction that he should have brought a bottle of wine or a box of cookies. His need to know what was wrong with him outweighed his discomfort, but only just. Grimacing, he shoved his hands into his jacket's pockets and began to stalk across the street. "Let's just go."

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"Okay, let's do this." Lynn sort of hunched up the shoulders of her leather jacket as the three Interceptors marched across the street and up the short driveway, past the silver Prius to the back door. Once out of view of the street, Grim conjured up her mask, then pushed the glowing plastic door bell.

In a few moments, the door opened to reveal a very relaxed looking Colby in her Phish T-shirt and cargo pants, tipping back a Corona. The sound of West African hip-hop blared over an old stero somewhere in the background.

"Hey, you guys made it!" She peered past them to look out towards the street. "So is this all of you? Here, c'mon in!" She pulled the door open and headed down the steps into the basement, the smell of herbs and incense wafting out into the chill winter air.

Grim's nostrils twitched like crazy as she tried to sort out the amazingly complex assortment of scents as she clunked down the old wooden steps in her boots.

"You guys want a beer?"

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"You guys want a beer?"

Colt smiled, taking off his hat he relaxed considerably, "Reckon I was thinkin' y'd never ask!" Colt placed his hat on the bar. "Seein's how we never met before," Colt extended his hand, "Name's Colt. Pleasure's all mine, ma'am."

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The swordsman gave Colby and her offer an nonplussed look. "Jack," he said simply by way of introduction after a moment. Instinctively, he reached out with his energy awareness to examine the detective. A cursory glance revealed that Colby was a simple, baseline human, giving off the dull hum of nervous system activity and body heat. There was a faint trace of something else, though, a whiff of an aroma picked up through proximity. It felt to Jack like the dirt one gets under one's fingernails after a satisfying day of work in a field, earthy and confident despite its elusiveness. The sensation seemed to trail downward into the house's basement, where he felt it grow bolder with pulsing strength.

"I'm the guy who's got himself choc-a-block full of hell on earth," he explained bluntly. "Grim says you can maybe help with that?"

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The ceiling of the basement was a little low in spots, with dropped soundproof tiles poking down where they covered pipes; off to one side was the laundry area, which Grim noted had the wonderful smell of clean clothes. One half of the basement was panelled with fairly nice wood, but the other half was still raw brick and concrete. A big gas furnance warmed the space, humming and growling in the back corner.

There was a wet bar and a neon MGD sign, but there were also lots of shelves thrown up, crammed full of odd knicknacks, some of it cheap tourtist crap, and some of it downright scary: bundles of birds' feet hanging on strings, jars full of murky fluids, and most of a dog's skeleton nailed to a slab of plywood. Colby stepped behind the bar like it was all business as usual.

"Name's Colt. Pleasure's all mine, ma'am."

The attractive policewoman smiled and reached across the bar, offering the cowboy a firm handshake; her grip was strong and fingers calloused, more like a farmer worker than a big city detective.

"Pleased to meet ya, Colt." She turned and opened an old-fashioned looking fridge that was filled with beer and liquor. "What'll you have? I've got Corona, MGD, Sam Adams, Rolling Rock...mostly domestic pale ales, but I might have a Carlsberg Elephant back in here somewhere..."

Grim looked slightly freaked but also intrigued as she moved around the room, afraid to touch anything but also wanting to look at everything. "Uh, I'll take an MGD while your at it...wait, do I smell spinich dip?"

"Grim says you can maybe help with that?"

Colby stood up, looked Jack up and down, and sighed deeply. "Well, I don't think I can make it any worse...but if my theory's right, you should walk out of this basement a free man."

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Jack winced as he stepped into the basement. "Right, 'cause that's what every vigilante wants to hear from a cop," he drawled wryly. He looked around the room, declining a beverage with a polite shake of his head. The young man suspected inebriation probably wasn't going to be a good idea for him tonight. "So... you're really one of the FCPD Colbys, huh? Damn. My... I've heard good things." Jack was familiar with a few of the local police through his mother, but the Colby family went beyond that into larger than life anecdotes. He wasn't sure how much of what was said was true, but even if only a fraction of it panned out, the name was still custodian to an impressive inheritance.

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"Pleased to meet ya, Colt." She turned and opened an old-fashioned looking fridge that was filled with beer and liquor. "What'll you have? I've got Corona, MGD, Sam Adams, Rolling Rock...mostly domestic pale ales, but I might have a Carlsberg Elephant back in here somewhere..."

"I'll try that there Elephant, if'n ya got any left. I never tried it before. Reckon a new beer's like a new day," Colt said sagely, "Never know what'cha gonna get." Receiving the drink across the bar, he lifted the bottle and took a sip. After rolling it around in his mouth for a second he took a swallow. "An once'n while, yer pleasantly surprised."

Grim looked slightly freaked but also intrigued as she moved around the room, afraid to touch anything but also wanting to look at everything. "Uh, I'll take an MGD while your at it...wait, do I smell spinich dip?"

Colt received the new bottle of MGD, Colt turned from the bar and approached his girlfriend. Noting her about to poke at the dog skeleton, he poked at her. "Reckon ya shouldn't play wit that. Y'll go blind." He smiled, offering her the bottle.

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"So... you're really one of the FCPD Colbys, huh? Damn. My... I've heard good things."

Colby shrugged easily as she settled onto a stool. "Ah, we try; there's not as many of us as there used to be, but Uncle Dan is still a terror, and his son Eddie is finishing up at the academy." She muttered under her breath as she takes a swig, "Even if he is an idiot..."

She pushed the snack tray across the bar, indicating it with a nod; it was mostly chopped veggies and dips, but there was also some Chex Mix, cheese and crackers and mixed nuts.

"You guys help yourselves, though Jack here here might want to hold off." She waved her bottle in his general direction. "We don't want you choking on your own vomit now, do we?" She gave him a wink, but her tone wasn't entirely light.

"Reckon ya shouldn't play wit that. Y'll go blind."

"Uh, yeah..." Grim grabbed the offered beer and took a big swig, still fairly unnerved by the whole situation. "So, what to we do first? Do we start chanting, dance in a circle or what?"

Colby shook her head as she drained the last of her beer, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "Nah, nothing like that; first off, I have a little look-see at our boy Jack through these-" She reached behind the bar and brought out a battered leather glasses case; to the swordman's perception, it leaked a pure crystaline light, almost like staring straight into a halogen bulb. "These babies let me analyze any magical effects he might be under. Then after that, if my theory is correct, I have him stare into this for a few minutes-" She dangled what looked like an Indian dreamcatcher, all beads and yarn, but suspended in the middle of it was a dull black stone; to Jack, it was a sickening void, like a little black hole that funnelled energy down the drain and out of existance...

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Jack grunted noncommittally when the detective made a light comment about the dangers of choking. She was absolutely right, but that didn't make it okay for his to joke around about it. Her jovial treatment of his condition was rapidly getting the fencer's hackles up, though, admittedly, that had been easier to do lately.

He instinctively shifted into a defensive stance when Colby presented the dreamcatcher, stopping himself just short of summoning a blade to his hand. "Dios, careful with that thing! What is the even supposed to be? S'all... eugh."

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Colt may not have had super senses, and he may not even have been in his area of expertise. But Colt still had a bit of smarts about him, and they chose that moment to start offering all sorts of warnings.

For his part, Colt simply took a sip of his beer and watched the display of artifacts. Though he said nothing, his mind was racing a mile a minute under the surface. I reckon anythin' that freaks Jack out that much at first glance's gotta be dangerous in some fashion. I know I can't see the 'eugh' but if'n Jack sees it that's good enough fer me. Ain't too sure if'n I like this much.

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"Dios, careful with that thing! What is the even supposed to be? S'all... eugh."

Colby taps the side of the dreamcatcher, spinning it slowly. "Well to quote Admiral Ackbar, 'it's a trap', and yeah, as a rule traps are pretty nasty; I had to wear special gatorskin gloves when I made this thing." Gingerly laying the unwholesome object on a metal tray, she opened the glasses case and pulled out an pair of ugly black plastic frames with no lenses; she held them with a great deal of respect, almost reverence. With great care, she slowly slid them on; Jack saw two powerful beams of pure white sweeping the room like a lighthouse.

"Alright, let's see what I can see- whoa!" She happened to catch sight of Grim, stuffing celery and spinich dip into her mouth in a very unladylike fashion. The changeling stopped in mid-mouthful, eyes darting back and forth.

"Whuh?"

"Nothing, I just didn't know you were so...Primal."

"Oh yeah, I'm-" She stopped to swallow. "I'm not really human anymore; haven't been for a while, actually."

The detective took a deep breath. "Well that's disturbing." Then she slowly turned her gaze towards Jack, passing over Colt as she went, her body slightly hunched over with effort. "Cowboy is strictly caffeine-free, good to know...and now we have a look at Zorro."

She held her gaze on Jack for quite some time, her scrutiny feeling uncomfortably like standing naked in the headlight of an oncoming train; from time to time, she cocked her head to one side or the other, or looked at the swordsman sidelong. After what seemed like several minutes, she removed the glasses and returned them to their case, lost in thought.

"Hmm...I need another beer." Colby hopped her butt up on top of the bar, flipped her legs over it, landed on the other side and opened up the fridge, all in one smooth movement. "Anybody else ready for another one?"

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Colt took a glance around the room. Bein's how she ain't made no rulin's yet. It ain't a good sign. He decided to break the silence. "I'll take another, ma'am. Long's it's caffiene free, that is." Colt smiled draining the rest of his bottle. Reckon I'm gonna need it.

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"Not the reaction I usually go for after a lady examines my body thoroughly," Jack snapped off reflexively with an airy tone. Given Colby's reaction, he had to assume the results of her analysis weren't going to be anything he wanted to hear, but he didn't appreciate the detective delaying her explanation. The examination itself had been uncomfortably like being aware of x-rays passing through one's body to someone aware of the magical energies at play; the fencer had a momentary fear of getting some sort of supernatural radiation poisoning. Allowing the soothing ambient power of the basement calm him, he folded his arms, simply asking, "Well?"

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"I'll take another, ma'am. Long's it's caffiene free, that is."

Colby absently passed Colt a fresh beer, then held up an MGD for Grim and raised her eyebrows; Grim politely shook her head.

"No thanks, I want to stay sober for whatever happens next."

The detective nodded, fetched another Corona for herself, opened it and took a long swig.

"Well?"

Their host shook her head. "Sorry. Well, it's not good, but far from unfixable; I think if we- " Suddenly there was a loud banging from the first floor, right over their heads. Colby sighed and then bellowed right back. "Alright, Ma, alright, I'll turn the music down! Jesus!" She stomped over to the stereo and turned it most of the way down, for the first time allowing her guests to hear the TV playing loudly upstairs. The policewoman returned to the rest of the group.

"Okay, I don't know how much you understand about your powers, but at least part of their function is mystical in nature." She indicated Grim with a wave of her hand. "Not Primal like Tinker Bell over here, but mystical nonetheless." She took a stool and set her beer down for a second. "Your energy manipulation is an active power, right? You reach out to take the energy that's around you and wield it." She made a grabbing motion with her hand. "But I think then when you were fighting this demon character, something grabbed back." And then she formed her other hand into a claw and locked the two of them together, simulating a sort of tug of war. "Problem is, neither side wants to let go." She picked up the dreamcatcher and watched as it lazily turned. "So tonight, we help you let go."

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Colt's face took on an apprehensive look. "This..." Then it suddenly changed to frustration. "Oh ta hell wit it. I cain't just keep blowin' it off any longer. This whole thing's damn creepy." Colt placed his beer on the bar, not carefully.

Colt came close to simply walking out on the gathering. Summoning his wits, he elected to sit instead, hoping that his change of position might in some way relax his nerves. "Ever since we got here, somethin's been hangin' in th' air, an I reckon it just don't feel right." Waving his hand through the air as he talked, Colt pressed onward. "I reckon I had it up ta here," He place a hand level with the top of his head, "with demons when that there army came ta town'n wrecked the place. We barely got rid'a'em as it were, an' now yer tellin' me one of'em's got Jack, here?"

"Well if'n that ain't too much, I don't know what is." Lacking anything else to say, and any hand motions to repeat, Colt simply sat in silence for second after drawn out second. Finally, he grabbed the beer and took another sip, almost pouting his way through it.

Though Colby would be left wondering, "What's eating him?" the two others that knew him better would be shocked at Colt's outburst. Having never heard a thing like it in the long months that they had known him. It was especially eerie for Grim. Much of the time, Colt acted as the foundation upon which she depended for support, and all of a sudden she'd caught a very vivid glimpse of what it would be like to have that foundation crumble...

Silence once again wafted over the West End basement. For a moment, even the furnace, stereo, and first-floor-television seemed to cease making noise entirely. Silence.

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"Yeah, poor you," Jack drawled sarcastically. The fencer felt a flash of anger and annoyance at Colt. The cowboy had established himself as a constant source of unflappability, and now was hardly the ideal time to prove otherwise. "So I've got some brimstone brand PMS - 'scuse the metaphor, ladies - it's not like we weren't expecting something like that. At least now it sounds like there's something we can do about it." Admittedly, having someone else to reprimand made staying calm himself much easier. Jack glanced at Colby. "I use 'we' loosely, 'cause I'm guessing this is a 'center of the mind', 'inner battle' sorta thing, yeah?"

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"I..." Colt was suddenly at a loss for words. As though he had just run out of steam, "Crap." Colt cursed.

His head fell suddenly. "Jack, I'm sorry. I reckon I don't know what happened. It's just't ever since ya showed me that there sword, I been gettin' more'n more freaked out. Like it just ain't sittin' right." Colt ran his fingers through his hair as he looked back up at Jack. "I c'n only guess't how your feelin'."

Somehow, Colt felt mildly better after blowing his stack. Like all he needed was to just let all the bad feelings he'd been building up get out. "But yer right. It does sound like there's a fix. An' I reckon we gotta try it. Inner battle're not, I'm here fer ya." Colt smiled apologetically. This gathering wasn't about him, after all. This was about helping Jack.

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Grim frowned and stood by her boyfriend's side, rubbing his arm sympathetically. Colby nodded somberly as she took a few steps towards Colt. "Your right, cowboy; demonic contamination is creepy stuff, but that doesn't change a damn thing; we still need to get that s*** out of your friend, and fast, before it has a chance to do any more damage, to him or anyone else."

"I use 'we' loosely, 'cause I'm guessing this is a 'center of the mind', 'inner battle' sorta thing, yeah?"

The mystical detective shook her head. "Actually, no; I mean, you're right, this is your fight and it's going to take place beyond this plane of existance, but you're not gonna be alone. No one should have to fight alone. I'm going to be your guide- " And then she pointed to Colt and Grim. "And your teammates are gonna be right by your side. What I'm gonna do is- "

Suddenly the TV upstairs turned off, and Colby rolled her eyes. "Oh Jesus, she wants to come down and visit. Ma, I'm working down here, don't come down!"

The lights started to flicker and dim, and then it felt like all the heat was sucked out of the room as an overwhelming scent of rosewater filled the basement. Colby covered her face with her hand. "Ma, please, this is not the time..." Jack alone saw a vague shape descending the stairs, like a greasy smudge in the air; the energy was feeble, like a battery that was almost completely drained. One by one it approached the heroes, and each in turn felt an icy chill run down their spine. The detective seemed mostly embarrassed as she addressed the air. "Mom, these are...friends. I'm working on something. Now can you please go back upstairs?"

Just as quickly as it came, the presence was gone; the warmth returned to the room, the lights returned to full brightness and the stereo resumed playing, but when had it stopped? Colby sighed, went behind the bar, and lined up a row of shot glasses. "Sorry about that; you guys need a little something to take the edge off?"

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Jack waved Colt's apology away. They were friends and comrades; nothing more needed to be said.

After the elder Colby made her brief appearance, the fencer continued to look up the stairs for a moment, nonplussed. A handful of Psycho jokes popped into his head, but ultimately he just turned back to the others in the basement and rubbed the bridge oh his nose. "I swear, when this is over, next sunny day we have I'm just gonna soak up some nice, normal UV rads, and screw all this Terminus and necromancy and chaos magic bull that keeps getting up in my face."

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Colt's eyes went wide during the strange encounter with what must have been the ghost. "Yea, I reckon I will have that drink." Colt said absentmindedly as he too watched the stairs. "Yer right, Jack. I could use a break from all'a this here crazyness too."

Colt looked up at Colby. "Ya reckon Jack's gonna need us too, huh?" Colt set his jaw. His determination showed on his face. "Well, much's it freaks me out, Lets do this."

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Grim's big brown eyes went wide during the eerie encounter; the fact that she was never really cold any more made the chill down her back all the more unnerving. She downed the offered shot and then moved to Colt, taking his hand in her own.

"Well, much's it freaks me out, Lets do this."

The shapeshifter nodded. "Yeah, I just want to get this over with, so I can go home and hide under the covers for like three days."

Taking a shot herself, Det. Colby shuddered as she stepped out from behind the bar. "Fair enough; no more interuptions or BS." She took out her cellphone and switched it off, then disappered into the murk by the furnace for a few seconds; there was a dreadful dragging sound, like a water-logged corpse being hauled onto shore, but it was just the urban witch pulling an old leather recliner out of the shadows. There was also an cheap folding TV tray table under her arm, which she set up next to the musty chair.

"Alright Jack, if you can set yourself down in the La-Z-Boy, we can get started."

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