NaNoWriMo Day 10


Phil Warner woke up around dawn and took bleary inventory in the cold gray light of unforgiving morning. In driver’s seat of car. Car in HEB parking lot, HEB not immediately familiar to him Head aching. Body sore. Knuckles bloody. Throat raw. Mouth tasting like ashtray. Gun in pocket.

Well, son of a bitch.

“Ok, Branson, we’ve gotta talk.”

What have I been sayin’ this whole time?

“Screw you, man. Listen, you’re a ghost, and a wild west outlaw, and my great-something grandpa, and you used to murder guys based on their thinking slavery was wrong, and you hanged a wizard who is now after a hundred and fifty years coming to kill me somehow. I’m at the point where I think I can handle the buy-in on all of that, despite it all being profoundly nuts.”

It wasn’t about slavery for us, exactly. There were–

“Oh my God, shut up! Shut up! Your Civil War bullshit is not even the issue here! I mean, any one thing off of that jacked-up laundry list of crazy would be hard to come to grips with, you understand? And I’ve got all of it happening at once, and on top of that I’m pretty sure I’m getting fired today. I cannot handle this, and I need you to shut your damn ghost mouth while I try and think!”

He tried to think.

“Ok, so why do I smell like someone cremated the Marlboro man next to me? No, skip that. Why do I have a gun?”

Oh, that. Someone tried to rob me with it last night, and it seemed like a good idea to hold onto it.

“Ok, that’s fair. You didn’t happen to kill anybody while you were joyriding me, did you?”

No. Lawmen are the last kind of complication this thing needs.

“Ok, great! Finally some good news, because being possessed by my ghost ancestor isn’t something that’ll hold up in court. Now, fill me in on what you know about this ghost wizard thing that’s trying to kill me.”

Haverly managed to get a mouthful of my blood when we were stringing him up. I ain’t an expert, but I picked a few things up on the road, and got some new insights on this side too. Blood’s power, and it forms a link. I think maybe my bloodline still being around is the thing that’s kept him going, combined with the curse he leveled on us. I can sort of feel Haverly like ripples sent out from a stone falling in a pond. Maybe he can feel me, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure he can feel where you are, smelling my blood in you, and I know for a fact he’s been getting closer and closer every night. He’s very close now.

“Every night?”

He’s not flesh anymore. Things of spirit, at least the ghostly things like what I think he is, they don’t do well in daylight. Burns ’em right up, like bacon grease on a skillet. No, he’s staying out of the sun. But he’s been moving fast.

“Shit. Well, wait. Ok. So that gives us at least till sunset, right? That’s good. Ok, that’s not good, this whole this is nuts, but it’s not bad.”

Listen, boy. We gotta hit the road. We need to be gone. Sun sets, we gotta be pointing at it.

“This is some heavy shit. Give me a second.”

A second went by.

“Ok, so we’re heading west. What’s west?”

My bones. My gold. My pistol.

“Awesome. That is a super-helpful answer, and I am excited about the direction my life has taken. Side question, where are we?”

I saw a sign that said 183, and another one that said McNeil. It was a little confusing, and I had to borrow some of your knowledge to handle the driving. You were out at the time.

“Yeah, about that, that is freaking me out. So we’re in here together, but it’s my body, I’m in charge. You don’t go digging in my mind, don’t shove me into yours, and you don’t try taking the wheel again, or we’re through.”

Whatever you say.

Ok, my apartment’s all the way on the other side of town. I’m due at work in a few hours, and I don’t want to drive around in a big triangle.”


“I haven’t been fired yet. And once all this blows over, it’ll be nice to have a job to come back to.”

Maybe I ain’t been clear enough. There ain’t any blowin’ over here. This is bloody war to the hilt with the dead.

“Screw that. Besides, if I’m getting the hell out of Dodge, there’s something at my desk I want.”

Your funeral.

“Yeah well, you had your turn already.”


The Driver was clean now, as far as his skin and hair went. It had taken gallons of red water going down the drain, and the ruining of every ivory-colored towel in the motel room, but it was done. For the rest, it seemed unlikely that he would ever again be made clean.

His eyes were changed. The pupils seemed dilated out to the whites, which seemed tarnished or dulled. The effect was not unlike two ball bearings with big black holes drilled in them. His teeth were longer and sharper than they had been. He had something like a strand of gristle between two of them, in the back.

He dressed himself in sumptuous black, like Johnny Cash at a funeral, and carefully arranged his hair into something aggressive, like the ram at the prow of a trireme or the snout of a great white. He pulled on snakeskin boots with sharply pointed toes, slid into his gleaming leather jacket and walked out of the room, leaving the door standing open as he went.

There wasn’t any going back. Not now, nor never. All he’d learned and done in the years leading up to this moment, it had been capped.

He had the thing he wanted.

He had two boxes in the passenger seat of the gleaming black Cadillac. One was the black casque that held the old ghost. The other was a slim oblong case of polished wood that looked suitable for holding a gentleman’s cigars. The Driver slid this case into the interior pocket of his jacket.

The case contained six polished fingerbones, taken from the longest joint of the longest finger of the left hand. Each bone had a name etched into it in a this Phoenician script.

“Well,” he said, taking an unfiltered Lucky Strike in his lips and igniting it with the dashboard lighter, “let’s get going. Where to first?”

To the den, said the voice from the black box.

The Louvin Brothers were conjured from the speakers, wailing their warning that Satan was real. The Driver chuckled, finally worked that bit of gristle loose from his teeth, and put the pedal to the floor. The music boomed out loud as could be, providing fair warning to anyone in earshot.


Phil Warner looked and kind of smelled like someone who’d been drinking and smoking and fighting all night, but by God he was at work half an hour early.

Breakfast had been had. The car had been filled with gasoline. He had obtained supplies for traveling. He would now go into the office, get what he needed from his desk, and see if he could claim some sick leave on short notice.

This wasn’t likely. But he was here anyway, so what the hell.

His wrinkled T-shirt didn’t attract too much attention. The tousled hair and five day beard drew a little. The smell come off him drew more.

“How many cigarettes did you smoke?” he muttered as he walked down the hall ignoring the looks people gave him.

All there was. Been a long damn time. Now shut up and focus.

Phil turned down the row of workstations that was his, and stopped at his desk. It wasn’t generally considered wise to leave valuables or anything out on your desk, though he figured his Yoda bobblehead didn’t count. But there was one thing, and he wanted that handy every day, so he kept it locked in his drawer when he was gone.

He fished out his desk key, sat down in his chair, and turned the lock. The drawer held one legal pad, two half-used packs of Post-It notes, three ballpoints, a Sharpie, some random paperclips, and the small silver cross she’d given him.

That’s what we’re wasting time for?

“Shut up,” Phil said low as he took it by the thin silver chain and drew it out. “you got shot to death for being stupid, so why should I care what you think?”

Because I got the chance to learn from making the kind of mistakes that get you shot to death.

Phil didn’t have an answer for that.

The cross was a simple thing, a slimly delineated Celtic cross, two straight lines intersecting through a circle. Not fancy. Not expensive. He had to know it was there, and look at it in the roughest times. The metal wasn’t of much significance, but there was a weight to it from the remembrance of things past.

Holding it in his hand, it was like he could hear her voice again. Not like it had been that last time, but in the best days. Feel her hand in his, warm.

Those were good days, far away from here and now. He shed half a tear for them without knowing it.

Charlie came up behind him. His damn notepad was in his hand, and he was frowning. Phil cut him off at the pass.

“Hey boss, I was wanting to talk to you.”

“Oh, uh, yes?”

“Listen, I’m sorry I’ve been slipping. And I really apologize for flying off the handle yesterday. I was way out of line, I realize that. I’m pretty sure I’ve come down with something.”

“Hm, well, yeah you don’t look at all well, Phil.”

“I know it. I’m starting to thing whatever it is is contagious. Listen, I really think it’d be best if I were out sick today.”

Charlie blinked. “I, uh, see.”

“I really think some sick time would help me get my feet back under me, get me back into a place were I can do my best work. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.”

“Um, Phil, listen, I believe you’re running out of available medical leave. I don’t think we can really authorize-“

“I really think it would be best for the team if I weren’t around today. In fact, you might want to drink some Emergen-C or something, just talking to me like this.

I cannot believe you’re still having this conversation with this little man. You’re degrading yourself and wasting time.

“Phil, listen, I think it would, uh, be best if you were to go home. But as far as coming back-“

That was the point when the sound of something large and solid like the front end of a vintage Cadillac crashing through the large front window of the reception area crashed through the building, initiating a loud commotion at the entrance of the building.

Oh, shit. We gotta run!

“What in the hell?” asked Charlie.

Phil shoved past Charlie and headed for the hall.

Then the severed head went sailing down the corridor like a football, and all hell really broke loose.


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