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Nicol found himself standing in his front room holding the head of one of the most controversial but innovative scientists in recent memory.
The moment was highly surreal to say the least.
He realised he had no idea what he was supposed to do with the head now that he had it, but then the plan had taken a turn for the weird.
Inspiration hit him when he thought of Laverick and their fateful encounter in his converted garage.
He limped over to his freezer, pulled the drawers open.
Cursing that he’d just been shopping, he began hurling frozen foods across his kitchen floor to make room for the head.
Finally he’d cleared enough space for it.
He closed the door, his skin crawling at the way Laverick’s dead eyes seemed to stare out at him through the frosted plastic of the freezer drawer.
The image stayed with him as if carved into his subconscious.
He limped halfway down the hallway towards the stairs, but turned back.
Grimacing, trying his best not to look at the horror contained in this most mundane of places, he opened the freezer.
He hastily turned the head round, unable to see those eyes for a second longer.
With the image in his mind altered enough to allow him to sleep, he washed his hands thoroughly a couple of times and staggered up the stairs.
He put his bloody clothes into a bin bag with the intention of burning them at a later date.
Then he showered himself for as long as he could bear to stand and crawled into bed.
Nicol was woken by the buzzing of his phone on the night stand.
In his drowsy state he mistook it for a giant wasp and lashed out instinctively.
His dreams had certainly been unsettling and bizarre after the macabre scenes in Laverick’s house of horrors.
He didn’t manage to get to the phone in time, but it soon began to vibrate again.
He already knew who it was so he dispensed with the formalities: ‘Alright, alright. I’m here.’
‘The fuck have you been?’
‘Sleeping. I had a hell of a time trying to get Laverick out.’
‘You did get him though?’
‘Part of him.’
‘The fuck’re you talking about?’
‘You’d best come take a look.’
Nicol pulled himself out of bed, feeling like he’d aged thirty years in the few hours he’d been asleep.
His upper body felt like it had been pummelled for most of the night, but even this paled in comparison to the agony coming from his leg.
The trip downstairs to make coffee was an ordeal but he had a feeling he’d need to be alert when his colleague got here.
He was halfway through his second cup when knuckles struck the door with enough force to dent the outer layer of wood.
‘It’s open,’ he called.
The door swung open and Bennett was there, six-two of sculpted muscle and bad attitude.
‘Jumping Jesus you look like deep-fried dog shit,’ Bennett drawled. He moved into the room, eyes scanning everywhere. ‘So where is he?’
Nicol beckoned him through to the kitchen, handed him a cup of coffee – black, three heaps of sugar – just the way he liked it; no point in even asking, Bennett always had coffee.
He drained a slug of it in one go, grunted in satisfaction, then continued looking around.
‘I’m not seeing him,’ he said, fully aware that he was stating the obvious. ‘What? Is he hiding under the goddamned table?’
Nicol shook his head.
Pointed to the freezer.
His body had already begun to tremble a little in anticipation of Bennett getting the bad news that was coming.
It was not good for his bad leg, sending fresh waves of pain crashing over him.
‘The fuck?’ Bennett’s right trigger finger was tapping on his upper outer right thigh, as it did when he was receiving bad news.
Nicol knew from experience that this was usually the location of his handgun.
Knew Bennett’s impulse was to draw his weapon and blow away the bearer of the bad news.
‘Bottom drawer,’ Nicol said, wincing in anticipation.
Bennett shook his head, already muttering curses under his breath.
He swung the freezer door open with his left hand.
His right trigger finger was still tapping on his leg.
Bennett pulled the drawer open, cursing as it caught a little at the top.
Subtlety, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, was not Bennett’s strong point and he slammed the base of his left fist into the drawer until the blockage was cleared.
‘Careful,’ Nicol said as he noticed the cracks that had appeared in the frosted plastic.
Bennett turned and scowled at him.
Then turned back and yanked the drawer so hard that the front panel came off in his hand.
‘Oh this is some fucked up shit right here,’ he laughed, not seeming to care that he’d just put his hand into the soggy end of Laverick’s severed head.
How can he just have the blood on his hands and not want to throw up? Nicol thought.
Bennett lifted the head out, cradled it to his chest like a new-born.
‘Hey, wanna help me bring some dead kids back to life, Dr Nicol?’ Bennett said in a curiously accurate impression of Laverick’s voice.
‘Lighten up, man. So what the fuck happened here?’
Nicol told him everything.
‘But you thought fast and got his head. Fuckin’ A! That brain contains everything we need to know,’ Bennett grinned, slapping Nicol on the back so hard it made him stagger forwards a couple of steps.
Nicol was surprised. Bennett was certainly not as pissed as he’d thought he’d have been.
‘I like your style, Doc. We take the brain behind all of this clever shit and we bring it back to life using his very own technology. Boy, I wish I’d thought of it. It’s some fucking poetic shit.’
Nicol went to say that he hadn’t actually thought of any of this, that it was just a happy accident, but thought better of it.
Best to let Bennett think he was that clever.
He might survive longer that way.
‘The only problem is that all of the digital children were in Laverick’s house at the time of the explosion,’ Nicol said. ‘So we’d not be able to study their internals to see what Laverick did to re-animate them.’
Bennett smiled, clacked his tongue. ‘Not true, Doc. I already watched the camera feed of Laverick’s street to see where you had disappeared to.
‘There was this car pulled up before the explosion and Josh Walker – the father of Caleb Walker, one of Laverick’s most recent digital children – went into the house. We assume it is he who was responsible for the explosion.’
‘Yes, I figured it was probably him. So what?’
‘Well the footage showed three of the kids shuffling outta the wreckage. They were real sorry looking little motherfuckers, but they should be enough to help us wrap our heads around Laverick’s magic trick.
‘They left in the car with Marsha Walker; she’s Josh’s wife. Caleb’s mother. As far as we know they are still living with her, way under the radar. We find them, we’ll find out what we need.’
‘And how long is that going to take?’
‘Well, you’ll like this bit, Doc. We’ve had the house under surveillance for a while now. I am personally going to breach the property tonight.’
Next chapter is here