This Shoal of Space:
Zoë Calla & the Dark Starship
(World's First E-BookPublished On the Web in 1996 For Digital Download)
a Dark SF novel originally titled Heartbreaker
by John Argo
Part I-Chapter 2
Part II-Chapter 66
ZoŽ drifted into the kitchen and took a cola (lukewarm, yuk) from the refrigerator. Sipping, she stepped out into the front driveway and looked up at the stars. It was a hot, dry night and there were lots of stars. She saw lots of airplanes and helicopters overhead. She remembered the Air Force on XIV East, and hoped they would solve the mystery soon.
The phone rang, and she stepped into the kitchen to answer.
"Hello, pretty little lady."
Her imaginary hackles rose. "Who is this?"
"Remember me? Ha ha ha. The Moonboy, is who. I want to speak with you very, very serious."
"Is this the clothing lady from the woods by the zoo?"
"Yes. How did you get my number?"
"You got a son named Max?"
A chill ran through her. "Yes."
"His name and number was in the baby clothes you gave to Mabel Stork for Evvie. Den de lady who answer say to call here."
"There has been nobody at my apartment."
"A lady wid a funny voice. Wiz, she say."
"Dass what I say. I need help and I am afraid to go to the Hard Man, Mr. Victor Hilarius. He come in here and beat up my soldiers."
"What could I possibly do for you?"
"I been losin' de good troops, Ma'am Old Friend. Like fust it was Christopher Marlowe, gone widdout a trace. Other people done disappeared."
"What about Mabel Stork? Was she one of yours?"
"Oh Ja no, ma'am, no no no. We seen her around, but she never belong. She one of the devil's folks. She de flesh of Babylon, far worse than Babylon, devil in the bone, evil in the blood."
"I'm kind of relieved to hear that."
"We all afraid down in de woods, Ma'am, in dis snow."
"What about the Santeria?"
"What? Oh, dat garbage. That was some passin' through Indios from Belize. They long gone. We too busy staying alive to dabble in dat. Besides, I-and-I a God-fearing JahJah man and the rest is good Christians, like Lord Rastafa HolySelf. But dem people"
It was hard to understand him, given his accent and the traffic noise and sirens. "What people?"
"The straight people, Ma'am O Buddy Mine. The ones, you know, wid the long black cars and the fancy schools. They been here on this spit of land longer than you and I and Santeria."
"Please, Moonboy, I have things to do."
"I be to the point den. Sometimes they come down here, the straight people soldiers, and they hunt for us like wild beasts. They was here again th' other night."
"Why do they hunt homeless people?"
"For the one they worship. The Bad One. They make no bones, they call him Beelzebub or Satan. They burn what they offer, an' de eat what they burn. Den dey go home to deir brick mansions, deir oil company offices, deir fancy schools and tons o' money in de bank dat dey own wit de money in it, and dead bodies in de walls on all de cardinal compass points."
Baby Stevie flashed through her mind. "What can I do to help you? Yes, I would like to nail those bastards too."
"Then you believe me. Good. I want you to come with your buddy the Hard Man. Come to the Old San Tomas Cemetery behind the Basilica. The straight people, they worship Satan, they be there. I got the skinny from my troops, Old Friend. You come. Bring down Babylon wrath. Bring the hard man wit his guns and flashlights. Make it rain, Lady. Please. Let de ice and snow fall with all the wrath of Babylon. Let it be night. We all pray."
"Give me your number. I'll call you back."
"I done told you now. It is in your hands. Bring de Hard Man and his guns and de rain and de flashlights. And dem shoes he kick us wit." He hung up on her, only the second person to ever do so in recent history.
Feeling overwhelmed, ZoŽ lay down on the living room couch and thought about Moonboy's phone call. The agonizing memory of the dead baby in her arms came back. Yes, she wanted to help. More than anything else (aside from having Max safe) she wanted to get her hands on that couple in the nice car and expensive clothing, who had brought the dead baby back and wanted another, live one. She wanted to throttle that woman, and her worm of a husband ("we don't want any trouble"), by their necks with her bare hands.
ZoŽ leafed through the phone book. Jules? Perry? Whom could she find on such short notice? She thought better of calling Jules, because she was afraid more for him than for herself, about getting him into more trouble than she already had. Perry she dismissed; busy with poor Matilda. She called Vic. He answered on his car phone. "Didn't expect to hear from you so soon."
Cut the crap, she thought. "Vic, you need to know something. I've had a tip that the Satanists are going to meet in the cemetery by the basilica tonight for a black mass."
"Thanks, but I've had the same info. Know what I'm doing? I'm on South 15th Street where all the jewelry stores are and guess what, I'm the only cop available to guard the whole street. The mob's been all up and down this area. The quake left broken shop windows and sprung doors, and if any of that stuff gets ripped, I get ripped. They ship me a new asshole from Mega/Rx. So I'm sorry, but I'm not interested right now."
"They might kill another baby. We've got to stop them."
He yelled: "No! We are stretched thin. I got two guys sitting on your doorstep and I want you to stay in that house with the doors locked."
"Can your two cops go with me?"
"No. You even suggest that and I'll pull them off there."
He hung up. She called Perry at home, got a tired voice. "Huh?"
"Perry! It's me."
"ZoŽ. Hey, I'm glad to hear your voice."
"How's it going?"
"Oh, still the same. Matilda is still in a coma. They're turning her twice a day and I wash her down to prevent bedsores. Keeps me pretty busy. Gotta exercise her arms, legs, and hands so they won't curl up."
"Perry, have you got access to Herald equipment?"
"Yeah, sure. But"
"I know, I was fired and it's all under lock and key. Listen, I need you and I need an infrared camera. Can you come up with something?"
"I dunno, ZoŽ. Awful short notice." He yawned. "There is an infrared service available to the photo lab for different night shoots. It would mean renting, though. It would show up on the Burtongales' tab."
She told him the reason for her request, and he sounded astonished. "So," she said, "you could say it was for a good cause based on an anonymous tip. If we can't shoot 'em with guns, we'll shoot 'em on film. Proof, you know; if it isn't violating their civil rights."
"Hell with their civil rights. Where and when do I meet you?"
"Thanks, Perry!" She told him the arrangement and hung up. Next she called Moonboy. "Vic can't come, but I'm bringing a friend from the newspaper."
"Hallelujah. By the church then. Look to the door."
She called Father Lawrence. "ZoŽ, how nice..."
"Father, I've had a tip there's going to be a black mass in the cemetery behind the basilica tonight. I've called the cops and they're too busy to mess with religious stuff tonight. I don't know if you guys can get worked up about it, seeing as how there's all this other weird stuff going on."
"ZoŽ, dear, I'll try to get hold of the Bishop. We've all been busy at the hospitals. Whatever you do, I beg you, stay home and lock your doors. We have been trying to nail those people for a hundred years"
"A hundred years!"
"Yes, it's a secret but I'm telling you so you stay out of there. They are the worst murderers. They are the dark side of wealthy, corporate America. They are Satan's own secret people."
"Who are they, Father? Seal of the Confessional?"
He laughed dryly. "They don't do Confession. Some are prominent people from San Tomas, but most are from all over. They network, they are underground, they are very clever. Don't go near them."
"Thanks." She let the receiver drop. No sense getting the old guy any more upset than he already seemed. She tried one more person. "Hello? This is ZoŽ Calla."
"Oh yes," Martina Strather said. "How are you? I'm surprised the phones are working. Are the lights out where you are?"
"Yes, yes. Martina, I just wanted to let you know. There's going to be a black mass at the cemetery by the basilica. Remember, I told you I'm worried about the children in the Jungle?"
"You want me to go?"
"If you want."
"I'm on your side. Give me time to make a few calls. I'll call you back."
ZoŽ found Roger sawing wood in the back yard. She hugged him. "I have to ask you a favor." He turned the saw off; its grinding wound down. He raised his safety goggles. He wiped sweat and sawdust from his forehead. She told him of her plan. "Honey, you're crazy. You could get killed."
"Perry is big. Moonboy knows how to handle himself."
"ZoŽ, ZoŽ," Roger said sitting down hard.
"Roger, You need to stay here with the kids." She saw that she would get nowhere with him. "Roger, I love you very much. I promised I would always be honest with you; otherwise I would have just gone out the back window or something. I may be able to catch the preppy, older couple I told you about. Remember I told you about the baby? Stevie?"
"I want you alive and well."
She took his hands. "You have taken risks; remember your stories about the desert?"
"Yes, but I was single and had no children."
"I'm going to go do this, Roger. I need you at my six o'clock. It's the only thing I'll ever ask like this."
"You want to be famous?" he asked bitterly. "A big story? Is that it?"
"No," she whispered, "I just want to be with you and have you be proud of me. Do you want to have to look at me, all your life, and know I was afraid to seize an opportunity to fight pure evil?"
He hugged her. His eyes looked wet and she realized he had lost his wife and did not want to lose ZoŽ.
She squeezed. "I'm a big girl, Roger. I'll be back."
Copyright © 1990-1996-2014 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.