"How much longer are we stuck here for?"
"Until we don't need to be."
Wren groaned. I tried to ignore it. It was all I could do to keep from tearing the room apart by the realization that I had been reduced from hunting for clues to baby-sitting.
"I don't know why you're bitching, you agreed to come down here."
"I agreed to help you keep an eye on things, not move boxes and spend hours in a car with you, the Runaway Picasso, and Pukey the Chipmunk. Three hours a drive with two women is no picnic."
"Because women talk about things that even I don't care enough to hear-"
"No, I mean, why chipmunk? She doesn't look like a chipmunk."
"Yeah she does. When she puffs her face and gets all annoyed and stuff, she looks like a chipmunk. You never noticed?"
"Can't say I have, no."
She is a tiny little thing, though. Red head, glasses, and very short; she comes up to about my chest, and up to Wren's stomach. She's got a fire in her eyes, though; haven't seen a girl this vivacious since Lizzie, and that's a plus. And yeah, when she does that face, I GUESS she looks like a chipmunk. Again, I never really noticed.
"I'm bored, Zee. Seriously, there's nothing to do in this dump."
"Really? Because right now, it looks like you're playing Call of Duty and shit-talking eight-year-olds."
"I'm thirty-eight and seven with a gunship in my pocket," he grinned at me and then reached for the mic. "Hey, Junior, it's a video game, calm down before you shoot your pants."
"And it's not so bad here. We're right next to the beach. It's nice."
"Yeah, well, the humidity seems to disagree with you."
I ignored him. Humid weather aside, it was nice down here. Plenty of places to go for walks, to clear my head. Not so much worry for my own safety, at least, not where we are. Given that things could go south at a moment's notice, I don't let my guard down. But maybe in another life, I could have come down here with Lizzie, had a vacation spot, maybe even have lived here. Maybe I would have still met Celeste. Who knows? Definitely not me.
"Daw, rage quit kids end the game, how fucking typical." He shook his head, got up to turn the X-Box off, then turned back to me. "Alright, back to reality, focus focus. We've got a proxy and two agents that we need to deal with. Where do we start?"
"We don't start anywhere. We're not hunting, Wren, we're lookouts. We're keeping Celeste out of trouble, not starting our own."
"You mean to tell me we've got three potential enemies within walking distance that we can easily dispatch of, and we're not going to do anything?"
"Every one we kill just brings another one in. Our killing Practical Cat is just going to have some other proxy get brought in."
"But this ain't some normal proxy. You've read the account. He wants this girl for himself. He's a complete psycho that's using Slender Man's name to do his own work."
"And you'd know the workings of a psychopath?"
He just gave me a look. Stupid question.
"Look, Wren, we let the proxy come to us. We don't go looking for him. He'll show up if he wants to. He doesn't need an invitation."
I said nothing. Keaton wasn't someone I wanted to talk about, much less someone I wanted to think about taking out. Though it made sense to.
"Listen, you said it yourself. Agents stopped getting freebies. He hasn't pulled out yet. That's on his head."
"So we kill him off?"
"Why not? Let's ice the bastard! Be honest, you've always hated the son of a bitch. I could never stand him worth a damn. So what's the problem?"
"Slender Man may not realize when he loses a proxy, but Fisk knows when he's lost an agent. He loses Keaton, he's gonna come after us hard."
"Like he hasn't already?"
"He's been playing easy. You know he has."
"Has he?" Wren leaned across the table. "Look, Mistress Van Gogh's been listening to police scanners on her phone. I've been listening in-"
"I dunno, some stupid phone application, she can listen to scanners on her phone."
"...Who the fuck's idea was that?"
"Hey, the hillbillies need to find out about the new world order somehow. Anyway, I've been listening in. Fisk's been getting a lot of flak from his superiors in regards to you shooting two of his guys in Indiana and leaving a third in a closet in Ohio. They're starting to wonder if he's the right guy for the job. That, and the shortage of volunteers to come and get you, he's running thin. He's not playing easy, he's running on empty."
Interesting to hear, and not what I had expected. Fisk had been doing pretty well in all other aspects of his job, unfortunately enough, and I didn't think one little setback would make them question him. Was I really that big a priority to them?
"Keaton's not pulling out because he's just like Practical Cat. Psycho's work for themselves, the fuck they care about orders for? That's the danger in employing them. Yeah, they're efficient killers, but they can't take orders worth a damn."
"Just like you, then."
"Exactly. See, this is why you keep me around. I know this shit, man. You and me, we'd be unstoppable."
"I'm not discussing this right now-"
And then, things got even worse.
The door slammed open. Both of us pulled our pistols out and aimed it at what we thought was an agent or a proxy but in reality was a pregnant British girl and two middle-aged companions, one male, one female. Ava Conquest and the Delmonts. They looked at the both of us wide-eyed.
"...Thanks for the welcome, Zeke?" Ava said.
Wren and I exchanged looks. Suddenly, the door to the master bedroom, where Celeste had been fliddling on her computer, flew open, and a tiny blur of red hair and sickly pale skin rushed past us.
"Ava's heeeeeeere!" the blur screeched. "Ava's here, Ava's here, Ava's here!"
She rushed over and quickly hugged Ava. I groaned.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me," I said.
"And suddenly we've become Three Adults and a Baby," Wren sighed. "As if this vacation could not get worse."
So, yeah. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, a knocked-up British librarian and her two associates decide to show up and give me more things.