Sex, Oak and Rock ’n Roll
by Bill Kowaleski
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
I really shouldn’t have had that last drink, Josiah Pedersen thought as he stumbled along the dark, snowy sidewalk. But it was his birthday, his twenty-first, and that was something worth celebrating. He blinked and craned his neck, struggling to see into the darkness in front of him. There were shapes ahead, weird, impossible shapes coming into focus.
“Hey dudes!” Josiah shouted. “It’s January. Halloween’s over.”
Two apparitions — now just a few steps in front of Josiah — stopped and stared at him with their huge black eyes. Lit by the dim glow emanating from the windows of the Mini-Mart across the street, they looked a lot like those creatures he’d seen depicted in alien abduction movies: big egg-shaped heads, gigantic eyes, nothing but holes where the nose should be. They both wore a tight-fitting metallic gray material that covered them neck to feet. They just stared at him without making a sound.
He stopped, extended a hand, and slurred, “So like, bro’s, where’s the party? It’s my birthday today. Wanna celebrate with me?”
Josiah lurched forward, trying to throw a comradely arm around the nearer alien, but he slipped on the ice. As he went down, he twisted and his extended hand whacked the creature in the face, causing it to fall hard on the icy sidewalk.
The creature’s companion jumped back, pulled a small metallic cylinder from its waist and pointed it at Josiah, chirping like an angry bird as it did so.
“Dude, like I’m wasted. Gimme a break,” mumbled Josiah. He reached for the standing alien’s leg, as if he were intending to use it to help him return to his feet. When Josiah’s hand wrapped around the thin leg, the creature hit him hard in the head with the metallic cylinder.
In a drunken, roaring voice Josiah shouted, “Hey, jerk! What’s your problem? You wanna piece of me?”
Those proved to be the last words Josiah Pedersen would ever speak. The creature pointed the cylinder at his head. It erupted in blue flame. Josiah twitched, then lay motionless on the icy sidewalk. The fallen alien struggled to its delicate feet. Both ran into the darkness.
From the Mini-Mart across the street, Brad Olsen tore his gaze away from the surreal scene on the sidewalk, pulled his cell from the cash register, and dialed 911.
* * *
“Sean, your cell is warbling!” Cindy Johanssen walked out onto the lanai with the vibrating phone and put it on the koa wood table, then ran her fingers through her golden hair and adjusted her tight jeans shorts on her slender hips.
Sean took the phone from her, flashed one of his movie-star smiles, and said, “You look even sexier than usual today. But I haven’t gotten a call on this phone in, what, months?” Sean looked at the screen. “Hmm, Wisconsin area code.”
“Hey, Sean, Ollie Gustafson here. Remember me?”
“Sheriff! How could I ever forget. So good to hear from you.” Sean turned to Cindy. “It’s Gustafson!”
“Is that Cindy?” said Gustafson. “Man, I’d sure like to see her again. She was always one of my favorite people here in town. You know we all miss you two.”
“We plan on going back there this summer, Sheriff,” said Sean. “But it’s January now. No way I’d go to northern Wisconsin when it’s so warm and sunny here in Hawaii.”
“Well,” said Gustafson, “sorry to hear that, ’cause I really need your help. A lot.”
“How could I possibly help you, Sheriff?”
“Remember your buddy Wolf? He’s had to scratch out a living after those drug agents from your planet pulled that raid and took his co-workers off to prison. So he came up with a clever idea. If he couldn’t export drugs to Sirius Prime, he could import drug users to Wisconsin.”
“You’re kidding me! He’s got some kind of Sirian oak resin resort going?”
“That’s it. Bought an abandoned lodge just outside of town, spruced it up, ordered regular oak deliveries from Gerry Anderssen’s sawmill, and all of a sudden there was all kinds of goings-on there. Lots of noise, but they’ve kept to themselves... until recently.”
“I don’t like the sound of ‘until recently’,” said Sean.
“Yeah, seems that two of them mugged some drunk downtown last week. Killed the poor guy. Witness saw the whole thing, but your kind all look the same to us, so he couldn’t give us a positive ID. Wolf won’t let us enter the resort to question their guests, and when I got State Police backup and we tried to force our way in, well, we couldn’t do it. Something kept us from even getting within fifty yards of the place.”
“Yeah, protection field,” said Sean. “You can buy them at the Sirian equivalent of Walmart. Don’t imagine there’s any technology on Earth that could get through one of those.”
“So I need a Sirian to talk sense to Wolf. We can keep escalating this thing, bring in the military, whatever, but I’d rather solve this the simplest way I can.”
“Understand, Sheriff, I’m on my way.”
Sean ended the call and turned to Cindy. “Don’t you think Hawaii is way too warm? Wouldn’t you like to get back to some nice subzero weather like you grew up in?”
“You can’t be serious!”
As he began explaining, Cindy stepped back through the sliding glass door into their condo. Sean followed her saying, “Don’t you want to hear the whole thing? What are you doing?”
“Digging out my woolies. We’ve got to go help the Sheriff, and it’s gonna be damn cold up there!”
* * *
The Rustic Inn was quite a few notches down from the luxury condo that Cindy and Sean shared in a resort on the Kohala coast of the Big Island, but it was their only choice within thirty miles. That the door of every room opened directly to the minus twenty-degree cold outside didn’t help.
“Look at it this way,” said Sean. “It would be minus 29 Celsius. So we’re lucky it’s a Fahrenheit country.”
Cindy, bundled in two sweaters and a parka, still shivered in the passenger seat of the Camry they’d rented in Minneapolis. “Huh? Is this your Sirian humor again? Let’s get over to the police station where it’s warm!”
Sheriff Gustafson and his Deputy, Jim Walsh provided warm greetings, hot coffee, and lots of donuts from the Mini-Mart, locally famous for making thirty different varieties right on the premises.
Cindy smiled inside about the donuts, something hefty, graying, walrus-moustached Gustafson definitely didn’t need. Walsh, just two years out of a tour with the Navy, didn’t have the overhang the Sheriff had, but his square, peasant’s face, crew-cut hair, and short, blocky body were nothing to look at.
Nothing like Sean, that was for sure. People said he looked like a young Paul Newman, but she and a few others knew what Sean really looked like. Under the incredibly realistic second-skin disguise he always wore was something that would frighten young children.
Brad Olsen, owner of the Mini-Mart and three other businesses in town, joined them. A slender, intense, blond with classic Scandinavian good looks, he’d been friends with Josiah, though he was a few years older, and had taken the young man’s death pretty hard. He carefully answered Sean’s questions about the appearance of the strangers he’d seen attacking Josiah Pedersen.
“Definitely sounds like Sirians to me,” Sean said. “Not only the stun gun and the big heads, but that clothing. It’s typical resort wear for us. Pulls right off for the orgy room action.”
Brad’s eyes got big. “Did you say ‘orgy room’?”
“Sure, said Sean. Once we Sirians have snorted some oak resin, all we want to do is get naked and get down.”
Gustafson chuckled. “Maybe that’s why they don’t want us in there.”
“One reason,” said Sean. “There are probably some notorious Sirian criminals in there, too. The kind that don’t like any kind of law enforcement folks around.”
“So how you gonna contact Wolf?” asked Gustafson. “He’s always holed up in that place, and none of the carriers have a record of any phone for him, landline or cell.”
“I’ll just walk right up to the door and...”
“You seem to have forgotten about that protection field,” said Deputy Walsh.
“OK, so I left out a few steps,” said Sean. “First stop, Olsen’s U-Stor-It.”
Sean and Cindy pulled into a long narrow parking lot that ran alongside a low row of storage lockers. Sean stopped the car, dug for the key, made note of the number and drove all the way to the back, then turned left, along another long row of lockers, until he found number 241.
“Biggest ones in the place,” he said. “I can store it and use it here.”
He pulled up an overhead door that revealed a space as big as a three car garage, only twice as deep. Inside, the space was completely empty except for an enormous pipe on wheels. It looked like the kind of pipe used for sewers, or to channel water under a road. It was maybe ten feet in diameter and twice as long.
“Can I go too?” asked Cindy.
“Not a good idea, babe. Our sun would burn your skin in just a few minutes. Gerry should make you one of his famous second-skin disguises to protect you. Then you could go.”
“You gotta promise to take me sometime.”
“Yeah, I’d love to, really. But it’s always risky to go there. My customers are mostly busted now, and SDE knows that I was their supplier. If they catch me there, I’m not ever going to come back.”
“So, I don’t get it,” said Cindy. “Why are you going now?”
“I gotta go get a special tool that breaks through protection fields. They sell them at the Sirian equivalent of Home Depot. If I get the coordinates just right I won’t be but fifteen minutes.”
Sean pulled down the overhead door and methodically removed his disguise. He stuffed it into a duffel bag, then began chirping in Sirian. A control panel appeared next to the pipe complete with a large screen.
Cindy looked over Sean’s slender, alien shoulder as he searched for a merchant who sold the tool he sought. Finally he nodded, whistling and chirping rhythmically as curly characters appeared on the screen and a whirring whine rose from the interior of the pipe.
“Got the coordinates. Should be back soon.”
He gave her a hug, then turned to face the pipe. Inside, the darkness was swirling like a black tornado, and she felt a tingling all over her body. He picked up the duffel, walked briskly into the swirl, and disappeared. Within a second, the whirring wound down, the swirls disappeared, and she was suddenly very alone.
She’d seen his real form many times now, but it was always a slap in the face, a reminder that this was no ordinary relationship. She sighed. She’d thought this all through many times already, made her decision, and was happy with it. Yes, he was different; perhaps the most unique partner anyone on Earth had, but she cared for him, and he was wealthy, immensely intelligent, handsome, and loving. End of discussion.
She thought about waiting in the car, but Sean had said it would only be fifteen minutes. That time passed, and then a half hour and then an hour. She moved into the car, sitting there, the motor running, wondering what to do when a black Tahoe pulled up alongside her.
“Oh, hi, Cindy,” Walsh said through his open window. “What’s up? You’ve been here a while. Got the neighbors nervous.”
“Jim, I don’t know what to do. Sean went to his planet to buy some tools. He should have been back an hour ago.”
“Come over to the station and we’ll wait together. He’s got a cell, right? He can call you when he gets back. Maybe he ran into some buddies and they’re having a few.”
She waited at the station until Walsh’s shift was over, then accepted an invitation to a pizza dinner with Walsh’s family. But she could hardly eat a single slice. Before she drove to the Rustic Inn, she went back to the storage shed and pulled up the door. The transporter sat there, looming silently in the cold darkness. There was nothing else inside, no sign at all that he’d returned. She tried calling his cell, but only got a message saying that it wasn’t in range. That was an understatement.
It was a terrible night: cold creeping under the door, the underpowered heater roaring and buzzing nonstop, her thoughts turning to the terrible possibility that she had become the sole owner of a luxury condo in Hawaii, that she, at age 29, was alone in the world, that she had lost everything that mattered.
At first light, she showered, dressed, and drove the few blocks to the Mini-Mart where she gorged on two raspberry-filled and a French cruller. It helped. She could do this. She was strong, still young, still as attractive as when she’d earned her living sleeping with local businessmen and politicians. She... Her phone rang. On its screen was the single word SEAN.
“Where have you been?” she shouted into the phone before he’d had the chance to speak.
“Sorry, babe. Things got pretty intense at the hardware store. Somebody recognized me. I had to look up an old friend and hide at his place for a while. Turns out he knew about Wolf’s resort and got me to an unauthorized transporter linked to there. So that’s where I am, at Wolf’s Place. That’s the best translation of the Sirian name. They actually do a jeu de mots on the name of a local animal...”
“OK, OK, I don’t care!” she said. “Are you all right, are you hurt?”
“I’m fine, but I’m getting a little woozy. Oak resin fumes are thick in the air here. Can you drive over and pick me up before I lose control and head for the orgy room?”
Sean ended the call and turned to face Wolf. They sat in a dark, wood-paneled room, at a heavy, roughly-hewn log table, a remnant of the ill-fated lodge that had become Wolf’s Place. The high-backed chairs were similarly rustic, with split log frames and large square seats, sporting plush, pillow-like, dark green cushions.
The crest of the former lodge, an oval eighteen inches tall with JH in ornate ancient Germanic script, adorned both seat backs. The Jaeger Haus had been the dream of a wealthy Chicagoan who thought that a private hunting preserve in the north woods would enhance his fortune. But the nineteenth century was long over, and the recently wealthy could jet off to far more exotic destinations than northern Wisconsin. Wolf had picked it up in a foreclosure sale for next to nothing.
Sean put on his human disguise as Wolf spoke.
“So tell your Sheriff that we know who killed that kid, and we’ll mete out our own justice. I don’t want trouble in here. My customers don’t come here to get questioned by the local police, and besides, they see humans more like humans might see baboons: crude, undisciplined, stupid.”
Sean stopped pulling up the leg of his secondskin, turned to meet Wolf’s huge, black eyes, and said, “Any chance you could turn down that music? I can hardly hear you. And I happen to know that baboons are incredibly...”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Wolf, waving his delicate hand. “Whatever. Humans are just animals. Why pay any attention to their laws and rules? So one of them died. Roadkill far as I’m concerned. As for the music, it puts my customers in an oak-resin-buying mood, so no can do.”
“Look Wolf, there’s a lot more to humans than you think,” Sean shouted over the throbbing, droning noise. “And you’re on their planet, in their legal jurisdiction. What ever happened to ‘When in Metropolis Sirianis do as the Metropolitans do’?”
Wolf let out a series of chirps that were the equivalent of a Sirian snicker. “You really are weird for humans, Sean. Remember who you are, even if you do have a human mate who used to be a prostitute.”
Sean ached to punch him senseless, but held in his anger. “Look Wolf, if you want the Sheriff to leave you alone, you’ve got to tell me who killed that kid. He’s gonna need more than your word that you know who did it.”
“What does it matter who did it?” Wolf’s chirps were getting louder and faster, a sure sign of growing anger.
“Humans need closure, they need to pin the guilt on someone. Give me some names.”
“Sure, sure.” Wolf paused and looked into the air. Sean’s eyes caught motion. He looked down in time to notice Wolf’s left arm shaking. He’s gonna lie to me now, thought Sean. But no matter. I just need some names.
“That night, two thugs from my old drug gang, the Sirians you knew as the Northerners, brought down the protection field and took a walk. They heard human females were attractive and wanted to find out for themselves. They’re still here, and don’t plan to leave, since they’d be taken to the prison planet if they ever went back home. The names you want are Nefer and Ramses.”
“Thanks,” said Sean. He stood and faced the door. ”You can take down that protection field now and let me out. I’ll wait for Cindy outside. We’ll be seeing each other again.”
“I don’t think so.” Wolf reached under the table and pressed up on something. Sean carefully noted the spot, burning it into his permanent memory. “OK, it’s down. Now see yourself out. I gotta go clean the orgy room.”
* * *
Copyright © 2014 by Bill Kowaleski