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TheAbsurdist

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October 17th, 7:32PM, Farrel's Bar.

 

Her boss, Gerry (short for Geraldine) had told her that a rising star of the Alt-Country scene, a guy who went by John Perdition, was willing to do an interview while in Freedom City.  A couple tries, and it hadn't worked out with the guys who normally covered those kinds of artists.  Fortunately she was available.  Coincidence.  Or something like that.

 

The location for the meeting was a simple bar known for it's open mics.  Tonight was a little special, and John (a guy with a label deal) was just finishing up his couple songs, singing and plucking a banjo, covering material from more well known artists, ending with a song from a prisoner's perspective.  He looked all long, hard, and dusty roads.  His voice sounded like an authority when the topics veered to being half-passed out in crap motel rooms on painkiller binges, and having to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun on his hungover.

 

There was some applause as he took his banjo and walked back to his seat (this place generally fit more the 'introspective college type,' less so a tattooed ex-con who seemed at home with making a whole bunch of middle class folk more than a little on edge), wearing a worn in and patched flannel shirt and jeans.  He set about fixing the cantankerous tuning of the banjo.

Edited by TheAbsurdist

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Carmen pulled up outside and parked her bike, grabbing the brass and black wood Cantos devil stick as she pulled herself off her Harley and walked stiffly into the bar. 

 

She didn't quite know how to dress for this one. It was just that slight step out of her comfort zone of regular rock. It wasn't quite the leathers and bikes she was used to, but it sure wasn't the redneck cowboy boots and hats of the country and western scene either. 

 

So she had settled for jeans and boots, and a cut off t shirt that showed just a little too much to be safe, but not enough to be too risky. She may have walked with an obvious limp, but she still had a good physique and a wild streak. And besides showing a little of said body, she liked to show off the tattoo running down her spine. 

 

 

And not just for vanity. The tattoo was a sigil of protection, a very real sorcery that protected her from infernal forces. 

 

She walked up to the bar and immediately ordered a double whiskey. The pains in her leg had been creepingly bad last night and she was getting irritable with them. She knew alcohol wasn't the answer.

 

 

But it was the answer she took anyway. Damn it. 

 

 

She spied John at the bar, recognising him almost instantly. He had a kind of dusty magnetic charm, but she wasn't Carmens type. She preferred her men with more joy - not boundless joy, but the kind of defiant joy despite awareness of the aching of life. John seemed to be enjoy the ache to her. But that wasn't to say he was without charisma. He had that, like a hypnosis. And she was a sucker for an anarchist like he was. 

 

As she recalled his drug use and penchant for starlets, she spared a momentary wonder if  her t shirt wasnt an inch to high. 

 

Still, it couldn't hurt. She could handle herself even if he did get a bit frisky. 

 

Sure, she could handle herself. 

 

Even without a demon bubbling away in her stomach, ready to fire up her bones and sinews at her command. 

 

"Hi, John Perdition? Carmen Cantos. I'm here from Rock Report, about the interview? But let me buy you a drink first, my way of saying that was a great song!" she said, by way of introduction. 

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He finished messing with the banjo, not wanting to leave it out of tune before putting it up.  Nodding a bit at her words.  "Thanks, jes some soda water, please'm."  His voice was a drawl, raspy, but then the scar on his throat was all too visible, garnered from a shank in prison.  It was a miracle he could walk, let along sing.  John Perdition was an attractive man, in a rough sort of way, a few pock marks, and plenty of stubble, and he every inch of reputation.  On someone else the features might detract, with him it fit.  Tall, and lean, he certainly wasn't the bawdy rocker she was used to.  Though, he seemed intense, in a visceral sort of way.

 

Despite all of that, his response was a little distant.  Maybe his thoughts weren't on her, but then he was in the middle of a tour, so that made sense.  He turned to look at her a bit more fully, down a crooked nose that been broken a few times, and never set right.  "Yeah, they didn' say who was gonna be comin', jes that the normal guys weren' gonna make it.  An' jes call me John."  A crooked smile appeared from under his crooked nose and he held out for her to take.

 

Now as this was happening Tazel rose up the closer that hand got, a burn in the back of her throat like hot pepper and bile.  He hissed in her mind.  Carmen.  He is wrong, take us away from here.  From him.

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Carmen ordered the Soda, and washed down her whisky quickly with a hint of guilt. She had ordered it too quickly, for the wrong reasons. 

 

Guess it figures. The gut has snorted and injected his way through a mountain of drugs in the past. Now he stays clean....

 

"Sure thing Jon, call me Carmen. I never did do the whole formal thing anyway" she replied. "I hope you don't mind someone new" she added, bringing out a notebook, pen, and camera. 

 

"I came here to get the deal on how things are going with you. Could take a few pictures if you don't mind, but that's only if you don't mind" she added. It wasn't in the contract. But a few shots of them at the bar would spice up the text of an interview. 

 

"Let's start with how your life is changed now that..."

 

Tazel interrupted her with his warning...

 

....

 

Yeah, everythings wrong with you around, you little toad. She answered back to the brimstone in her belly. Well spit it out then, Tazel, what is it this time? is he wearing the wrong colour shirt? Should I go convert the schoolkids down the road to goat worshipping?

 

she paused an second to long before focussing back on John. He would have noticed. 

 

"...you are back on the straight and narrow, so to speak. Has your perspective changed with age and sobriety?"

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"Straight'n'narra', ah like that.  'S good one.  More zlike ah don' wanna make a jack*** outta myself.  Iffin' ya'll wanna snap a few go righ' ahead."  He lifted his arms and folded them behind his head, that easy, crooked smile still there as he looked her.  "Jes cause ah was raisin' hell 'til ah got my throat cut doesn' mean much.  But bleedin' out in a cell block gives a unique perspective.  Ah sure as hell didn' start out singin' with the angels"  Shrugging then an he laughed softly.  It was true, John had turned his life around, more or less.  But certainly touring was better than what he used to do.  Having only been active as a recording artist in the last five years or so.

 

The irony that he had become something of a favorite among the kind of people he used rob was no lost on anyone.

 

 

That snarl still there, trying to get out.  The tension screwing slowly, thrumming in her gut .Perdition means hell you condescending meatbag.

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Carmen shrugged. Another electric shock of pain lanced down her right leg, and like always she threw a silent curse at her father who had wrecked her nerve with that tattoo down her spine. 

 

"What the hell, I will then" she said, ordering another whisky. It took the edge of the pain. She liked to think it took the edge of the bitterness. 

 

"I can see getting your throat cut gives you a whole new look on life. You were lucky to have survived that. Lucky to sing like you do, too. Did it cause any problems with your singing? change the way you sound?" she asked, interested. She had been in an amateur rock band herself as a younger woman. It took some skill to sing properly, and good singers needed to treat their vocal cords with great care. 

 

Tazel, if you want to talk, be polite, or don't talk at all. That's an order! she snapped back. 

 

Even if the demon was a demon, she could never quite bring herself to fully hate the thing. It was bound to her, and she always felt she had to treat it with at least some...humanity? much as she hated demons, she hated slavery too. It was a no-win situation for her when it came to Tazel. 

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Shrugging, John kept his hands on the back of his head, fingers laced together, as he let his eyes rise and watch the ceiling.  "Some do.  Ah was never much of a good singer before.  Still ain't really all that good, tell a good story ta make up for it.  Guess that's how ah get 'round it.  Ya'll could say ah jes sold my soul at a crossroads, it's a better story then then truth where ah jes fell inta it."  Chuckling then a little bit over the notion, apparently finding it amusing.

 

That's because it isn't a story!  Look, mistress.  Look.  I can hear a voice - no voices - behind that human's voice.  There was a touch of panic to Tazel's words, incongruous to the ease of the person before her.

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As Carmen listening she felt the Cantos cane tingle, and saw a ghostly amber flame roar in the words of John Perdition. 

 

She gripped the cane tightly, in reflex. 

 

Holy smoke, are you telling the truth for once, Tazel?

 

There was hellfire and brimstone here somewhere, she was sure of it. Some infernal power had corrupted the reality of the world once more. 

 

"Selling your soul, huh?" she said, taking another drink to steady her nerves. Despite, or perhaps because of her dealings with the infernal, she was on her guard. There was possibly no one on the planet better equipped to deal with them, but they still made her nervous. 

 

Unpredictable. 

 

She had long suspected that the reason nobody knew or understood demons was that they were by definition undefinable. They were impossible. And they were real. Work out that paradox. 

 

"I have heard that story a few times. Always ends in tears. And lost souls" she said solemnly. 

 

"But I guess I can hope. Maybe this one might have a happier ending? Why don't you hit me with it?"

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Don't trust him!

 

Those words of Tazel left to linger and trail off before John spoke, another bit of a laugh, "Sure, sure, ah read the good book.  Did a lotta readin', and here ah'm spinnin' stories again."  Another grin, and he extended an arm out to grab up his water to get a drink himself.  "S'funny.  Ah don't get asked 'bout this much.  Whatcha wan me to say?  Ah come from a family filled with lowlifes and backwoods witchcraft.  Ain't not bruja out down Mexico way.  Got a lot of stories o'that sort.  Point is, ah got all comtemplative on a prison hospital bed and ah thought about doin' somethin' else for a livin'.  Well ah can keep a beat and ah can tell a story.  Ain't hard to put two and two together."  Another shrug, as he grinned at her 

 

If she considered him somewhat charming, he didn't seem to be plying her with it or really doing anything besides an 'Aw shucks,' sort of air, along with his lazy, raspy drawl.  Sure he had a morose sort of air about him that she had picked up earlier, but right now he seemed to not really fit it with his actions.

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What, and trust you? This is a country singer, Tazel, not some power mad supervillain or creature from mad dimension...where is exactly is the threat?

 

She paused for a moment. 

 

Tazel, of course, did have a point. 

 

Never mind...I don't trust him...it...whatever...

 

She pressed a hand to her forehead. 

 

"I'm sorry John, long drive, too much whiskey" she mumbled, trying to drown out Tazel and focus. 

 

"So what are we talking here? Some voodoo vibe? You sacrifice a goat to get your singing voice back?" she asked, politely, but with the edge of sting into her voice. 

 

She felt herself starting to look around her, check out the bar, its exit. She looked nervous. It paid to be nervous, sometimes...

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"See... most of the time there is a little chuckle, assume it's a joke and they move on.  They don' ask me more 'bout that kind of stuff, an' then look for the exit."  Said with a smirk as he looked over his the rim of his glass.  "There's the main on, and there is the exit through the back,  Since ya'lls lookin'."  And he shifted to the edge of his seat.  "Don' get me wrong, ah'm use to the college educated little whitebread types lookin' nervous, wasn't expectin' ya'll to."

 

And then he settled back in, seeming to enjoy, or at least be amused by her nervousness.

 

He knows!  He knows... he knoooooows!  Wriggling about in her gut, Tazel was spooked by Perdition.  He wasn't sharing why, but then this was also very atypical behavior.

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Pitch knocked back what she told herself was absolutely her last Whiskey. 

 

She didn't often trust Tazel, he was a master deceiver. But then, every know and again, like every master deceiver, he told the truth. 

 

She fixed John with a glare. 

 

"Well John, truth is, I'm not some chick who walks around with her eyes closed to the hidden things in the world" she said, her voice laced with steel and sarcasm. 

 

"My father ran a biker cult and was up to his neck in sorcery, demons, and voodoo. I don't pretend to know half of it. But I tell you this, I have felt the breath of demons. So when you tell me a story about back street witchcraft and selling your soul, and get to sing like that with a scar across where your throat should be, I get nervous. Not because I'm ignorant, but because I;m not!"

 

"So why don't you tell me exactly what you know about demons and sorcery? and what kind of hell you have fallen into..."

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"Darlin' this ain't a wise play.  Ya'lls givin' up ya'lls hand.  'Specially to someone like me, ah mean, can ah have ya'll credit card number too?"  He snorted a bit and he shook his head.  "Ya'll crazy, listen to me talk, my voice sounds f*****.  Even when ah sing, ah can get notes it ain't like ah'm doing opera.  Shoot, ya'll think ah'd cut a deal with the devil hisself and end up where ah am now?  Girl, ah dunno whether to laugh or be insulted by ya'll saying ah'm not blessed with an overabundance of ambition."  He didn't rise, his amusement growing, and looking nothing like the morose, dour person she imagined him to be.

 

The response from Tazel was a hiss like the crackle of flame.

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He's got a point Tazel. If he got into a deal, he got short-changed...

 

So what the hell is the deal?

 

Carmen had the uncomfortable feeling. But it was to late to walk away now. 

 

"So did you cut a deal, John? What exactly happened when you were bleeding out in Prison? Some Angel come down and give you a second chance?" she asked, softening her tone and even getting sweet on him. The John Perdition of old might have fallen for a pretty smile and all that went with it - although something told her that the John Perdition of today was a different man. How, different, well, that was anyone's guess. 

 

But I am to find out, Tazel. So grab hold of your hat...

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"What about ya'll sweetheart?  How'd it happen with the leg?  Or does it matter anymore?  Ah know how self-medication works, twists ya'll about, makes ya'll point the fingers, because it is easier."  Shifting closer as he spoke, his eyes locked onto hers, unflinching.  "Easier to see the devil in someone else, than admitting ya'll have a problem."  He rose to his full height, looking down at her from deepset eyes.

 

"Ah almost bled out.  Ah was in a hospital bed for awhile.  That's it.  There was no magical being comin' down to sprinkle fairy dust over me to save my goddamned life.  There was nothin'.  Eventually ah jes woke up."  He went into full pugnacious mode, however, ripping open the flannel shirt, showing his tattooed arms, as he tossed the shirt atop of the banjo case, leaving him in a tanktop, he lifted his arms up and pointed the inside of his elbows to her, showing her his old trackmark.  "How 'bout this?  Ya'll wanna know 'bout this sugah?  'Bout the time ah almost died cause of this?  Or how about the booze detox?  Ah've almost died more times than ah got fingers on my hand.  Ya'll wanna talk about that?  Or my music?  Or ya'll wanna talk about some Tolkien bulls***?  Cause ah'll make up some s*** to put in ya'lls rag, an' it will f*****' sell, ah can promise ya'll that."

 

Despite his amusement having shifted to annoyance, and him rising up over her, his tone got quieter, harsher.  He didn't yell.  He didn't need to, when his look was pure venom, and he was pressing in on an exposed nerve he saw a mile off.

 

Mistress... I don't think we should be here... we need to leave.  Now!

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I can see trouble ahead...I can see that much...

 

Carmen smiled, keeping her cool as well as she could. 

 

"It's about the music isn't it?" she asked. "That's why I'm here? Or do you see something else in me?" she asked. 

 

Give him a little rumble, Tazel, lets see what he knows...

 

The slightest glimmer of flame, like a glow, appeared in Carmen's mouth, like a haze. The vaguest puff of smoke, thick and black, like a puff of a cigarette, came from her mouth. If one hadn't been looking at her, one wouldn't have noticed a thing. 

 

She studied him directly, Hand on her cane. Wondering exactly what John Perdition knew. Or didn't. 

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"Sh-!"  And he paled at the sight of it, managing enough presence of mind to grab up his things then before turning tail and running.  Like anyone would do in that instance.  Like any normal person would do.  This left everyone in the bar staring at her, after John's made dash out of the building, knocking into and through people and chairs, glancing over his shoulder at her on his escape trajectory.

 

He is tricksy mistress... flee now... or chase him.. he is dangerous!  Though the sentiment was hard to believe, there was a quake of hate and fear in Tazel's voice.

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Chase him...yeah....real simple....

 

She glanced down at her leg from the knee down, with a titanium brace under her boot. She gripped the cantos cane. 

 

Ok, technically she could run. For a few seconds. Maybe half a minute if she pushed herself. Run. Not sprint. And it wasn't pretty. 

 

I can get out the bar anyway...

 

If she was Pitch, she could throw a chain and capture the man, all smoke, fire and fury. But this was a bar, people where watching, and whilst she didn't mind a few people knowing or even whispering about her - it was part of the mystique of being the daughter of Carlos Cantos - she didn't want it all over the news. 

 

So, ignoring the pained flesh and creaking brace of her ankle, she gritted teeth and launched herself after John...

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In the bar she couldn't catch him, flat out he was faster than she was, and there was obstacles, which he bowled through in his mad dash out of the building.  She made it time to the door to see a car skidding to a halt as it hit him and sent him sprawling up onto the hood ungainly, before he managed to slid off and keep running towards a bit of constructions across and down the street.  Disappearing into the darkness after popping over some orange plastic netting.

 

More bile and hate and fire in the back of her throat.  Get him Mistress!  You have him cornered!

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Who has who cornered...

 

I some pain, and out of puff, breathing hard, Pitch followed, not able to run any more but moving as fast as she could with Cantos Can in her hand. As soon as she hit the darkness...

 

Tazel, Fire me up!!!!

 

Her Body fired up indeed, her leather boots and trousers smouldering and growing studs, her tshirt blackened and burned, and her body doused itself in thick acrid smoke and wisps of flames. Her eyes burned and fire danced out of her mouth. Where once a woman stood, now stood Pitch, walking like a living bonfire. 

 

And as Pitch, the darkness held no mysteries to her. She peered ahead, and slowly walked ahead...

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There was no response from Tazel other than the smell of brimstone, and the heat spreading through her form as she became the Persistent, Pernacious, and Pugnacious... Pitch!

 

However, she was facing something that was new to her, an ex-con using no powers whatsoever.  Or at least that was what was happening right now.  Under her hellish glare the darkness hide nothing.  That did not stop the fact she was in the middle of a construction zone, and there was a lot of spaces to hide in.

 

"How 'bout ya'll go and f*** ya'll-self?"  Called out from somewhere, echoing in the darkness.  He was in no mood talk beyond that, but then, she knew he had no weapons, unless he had Infernal ones to call.  But thus far he has displayed no power whatsoever, all she had was what the accursed item was giving her, and Tazel's word.

Edited by TheAbsurdist

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How the hell did he get up there? Is he that fast, or I am that slow?

 

She didn't answer the question, and she hoped Tazel wouldn't either. 

 

"I'll go do that if you come down here and start telling me exactly what you know" she called back, smoking away, Flames licked her body and her eyes burned red. The Cantos Cane smouldered, two curved horns had grown out of its brass goats head. 

 

"If you really don't know anything about demon's and sorcery, then open your eyes" she said, and let loose a gentle (for her) breath of flame down the alleyway, burning up some of the garbage that strewed the street and sending a wave of heat upwards. 

 

I'm nothing to be afraid of, I can assure you. If I was, you would be toast by now. But there are plenty of things to be afraid of. Plenty. And if you made a deal or pact, I'm here to haul your ass out of that pit!"

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"Ya'll obviously ain't a f*****' people person sugah!  'Cause ya'll ain't even a glimmer o'reassurin' right now!"  He had gripped a big piece of wood in his hands, not really liking his chances, of course, but then she let out a gout of flame.  And yeah... he had no urge to go down there.  She was a fire breathing demon, what was she expecting?  He started to mutter under his breath about this being a really stupid horror movie, as he glanced about for something better than a stick.

 

 

Tazel, for his part, was not letting go.  Mistress... he was a liar before he was touched, he is dangerous, tricksy.  He hurt people before.  Just because he isn't selling drugs doesn't mean he has somehow become good.

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A liar, a tricksy? sounds like you, Tazel. I am sure you two would get on like a house on fire!

 

She gave a quick glance down the dark Alley, as clear as day, to check she hadn't actually set a house on fire. 

 

Has she gone to far? probably. She spent her life going to far. Biker gangs, Rock stars, Parties, and Black Magic. Why stop now? Her life was crash and burn. In for a dime, in for a dollar. 

 

"If you think I'm bad, you ain't seen nothing else, buster!" she said. 

 

Turn it off, Tazel, I think he has seen enough. 

 

The smoke and flames died down to her whisper and once again she was staring at darkness. 

 

"Look John, you have to trust me. I don't know what, or if, you have got into some kinda hole. But I am here to help, that's what I do. I seen all kind of stuff you wouldn't even believe, and every now and again, I can help. So, let me help..."

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Yes, but I am honest about it.

 

"Oh, ah ain't see nothin' yet?  Don' even start jackjawing me with that crap!"  He slowly, very slowly started down the stairs, as he held that makeshift club in his hands, his eyes wary, a little maddened with fear.

 

"Ah ain't some wet behind the ears kid, sugah.  Ah was boostin' cars when ya'll were sucklin' at yer momma's teat.  Tellin' me that ya'll somehow are on the side of the angels, how much of an idiot do ya'll think ah am?"  One hand reached under his tank top and pulled out a cross in a shakey hand, and there was no fear, no sizzle of the flesh.  His eyes on her the whole while.  "Ah've been stabbed, shot, ah f*****' died.  An' ah seen stuff too.  Doesn't mean ah made any damned deals! So stop lookin' for monsters sugah, and start lookin' in the damned mirror!"  And he was edging back from her, stick and cross held high.

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