After the dinner ended, JB found himself pulled out of the restaurant and bundled into a car. Nobody talked to him, and he wasn’t stupid enough to ask where they were taking him. Blueblood must have ridden in a different car, since JB couldn’t smell his cologne.
JB wanted to go home, to wear his own clothes instead of this scratchy suit, to lie in bed and listen to his favorite CDs for a while. He’d even settle for sitting on the couch and listening to The Price is Right reruns on TV with his parents, something that normally bored him to tears. Basically, he was up for anything that would give him a break from this constant fear. Daydreaming about home wouldn’t get him any closer to it, but it was better than dreading what would happen when he got to wherever he was going.
They ended up at a hotel. JB realized it when he heard suitcase wheels squeaking and a voice checking in at the front desk. His escort marched him through the lobby, dragged him into an elevator, and then finally pushed him down into a cushioned chair inside one of the suites. His own room? No, probably not. Blueblood’s cologne hovered ominously in the air.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Dupree,” Blueblood said as if JB had freely chosen to visit. “I wanted to go over what our arrangement will be.”
A glass clinked, followed be a light sound of liquid splashing, and Blueblood settled into what must have been a chair in front of JB.
“I want you to use your abilities to foresee threats to myself and alert me before they happen. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?”
“Um…” The correct answer to that question was a confident ‘yes, sir,’ but that would be a lie. JB felt queasy. He wasn’t even going to survive his first day.
“Can I explain how my powers work?” he asked.
“Go on,” Blueblood said.
“I only get flashes of the future when something’s going to happen that puts me in personal danger.” The words spilled quickly out of his mouth. “Like if I was going to get hit by a car or something. If—I dunno—if the president was going to get assassinated, I wouldn’t have a clue, because it doesn’t directly affect me. But I don’t mean—I’m not saying I can’t do what you want me to.” JB felt it was very important to stress that fact as sweat dripped down the back of his neck. “Mr. Jeff—Pretty Boy Jeffries got around it by keeping me close all the time. He figured that if somebody shot at him with me nearby, it would be enough of a threat to me that I’d know it was coming.”
JB was out of breath when he finished. He waited painfully long seconds for Blueblood’s reply.
“Well, that’s inconvenient, but I figured there’d be limits. And I think we can do better than Mr. Jeffries.” Blueblood set down his glass with a thunk. “Mr Dupree, meet Cleto. Cleto, say hello.”
Somebody behind JB grunted.
“Cleto is going to be your keeper from now on, and if anything happens to me, he’s going to beat you to death.”
Blueblood’s voice was so light and cheerful that it took JB a moment to register what he’d said.
“I know you can’t see Cleto’s fists, but I assure you they’re enormous. Actually, Cleto, hold out one of your hands for Jean-Baptiste here to feel.”
“You don’t have to—” JB started.
“Go on. Reach out and touch it.”
JB extended a shaky hand and bumped into something. He felt it gingerly. The fist was as massive as promised, and the knuckles even harder that he’d thought. It was calloused and hairy, and JB pulled his hand back after only a few seconds.
“I don’t know if Jeffries ever beat someone to death in front of you,” Blueblood said, “but with his super-strength, he probably finished in under a minute. Cleto’s certainly strong, but he doesn’t have powers. It would take him a good deal of time to beat you enough to kill you. He’d probably have to take a few water breaks as you lie broken and sobbing on the floor. And he’ll be sure to explain exactly what happened to me before you die. That way, when you have a vision of it, you can warn me.”
The sweat on the back of JB’s neck had turned cold, and he wanted more than anything to run screaming from the room.
“Do we understand each other, Mr. Dupree?”
Poor JB. I wish I could say things will get better for him soon, but my characters tend to suffer. 😉
I’ll be taking a break next week before updating with an interlude on Monday, February 13th. We’re at roughly the halfway point of the series, and I hope you’re all enjoying it so far.