“I don’t know why you sent Jonathan away,” Mike said, “but I’m glad because he was damned annoying.”
“Something is up with him,” I said. “I don’t know if he is a double agent mole person or what, but he is way too helpful. He’s ten thousand times more helpful than he normally is, and Jonathan is normally a very helpful person. And, while we are certainly entertaining, who would leave their parents alone during the world turning to shit to hang out with us?”
“Zombie,” Mike breathed. “Maybe he’s a zombie.”
“At last, you get your zombies,” Moira said. “At least now you’ll know what we should do at all times.”
“What are we going to do?,” Mike asked. “You don’t want to leave the pets alone, do you?”
“No, I don’t,” I said. “Too many people are hungry. We really don’t know who we can trust here, if anyone. Hell, those old lesbians might be cat hoarders, but they could also be cat farmers. Don seems cool, but we don’t really know that.”
“Do you really want to leave me behind?,” Mike asked.
“I vote no leaving Mike behind,” said Moira.
“No, I don’t want to leave you behind, Mike,” I said, “but you have to have your shit together. We can mourn your shitty old landlady later. Tonight, we have to work. We have to rescue Jill. Can you keep it together for that?”
“I actually think it’ll help keep my mind off my problems,” he said.
We left Mike’s building loaded like we were going on vacation. Moira had a backpack stuffed with cigarettes, beer, and a few canned goods. Mike and I had similar backpacks, but we also each had a soft pet carrier slung over our shoulders, the ones that airlines let you cram under the seat in front of you so your cat or small dog can fly in the cabin “with” you for about the price of a regular adult ticket. The old lesbians had let us borrow them. Neither Lexington nor Bethel appreciated being baggage, but it was the easiest way to carry them.
We headed east, toward Central Park. Of course BJ was loitering on the corner. I guess he didn’t have anywhere better to go.
“Be gone,” I yelled, “before someone puts a bullet in your head, too.” BJ slunk away uptown, but I knew he’d be back. I still felt weirdly watched. I spun around and looked behind us. I saw someone fade into the shadows against the buildings.
“I think Jonathan is following us,” I said.
“Shit,” Moira said, “like we didn’t have enough to worry about.”
“Ignore him for now,” Mike said. “Maybe someone else will kill his ass for us.”
I’d never been in Central Park in the middle of the night, like this. It was the scariest place on earth. Almost anywhere else in the city, even in horrible neighborhoods, there is usually the comfort of knowing that there are other people around somewhere. It’s not that way in Central Park. You step under those trees and you’ve left behind the twenty four hour delis and the apartment buildings and most of the light of the city. I was simply scared shitless. I glanced over at Moira and Mike. Their faces were pale, too.
In the distance, we saw two men trudging along. They had backpacks on. We had backpacks on. Scared shitless logic seemed to dictate that they were a lot like us. Perhaps they were also headed for the Burning Pit to rescue their kidnapped enslaved friend. By unspoken agreement, we raced to catch up with them. Safety in numbers, you know. As we reached them, the men spun on us and shouted, “Blah!Boogah!Blahblah!Eek!Boogah!”
We instantly recoiled. We jittered and collided with each other like the words were electric shocks. Night time in Central Park apparently frays the nerves of even the hardiest New Yorkers. We’d only thought we were scared shitless until a couple of homeless guys jabbered at us.