The Hook, ch 44


Indra goes missing

Philo woke up in Indra’s canopy bed. His hands reached out for her, for the comfort and touch of her skin, but she was somewhere else. Groping awkwardly to the other edge of the bed, he realized he was alone. “Madre Dios,” he breathed.

He jumped out of bed and fumbled his way across the ocean of throw rugs to the door, then turned on the light. He dug the pants he’d worn the previous day out of the laundry and put them on with his silk pajama top, then grabbed his hat off the lamp by the door.

“Indra? Honey, where are you?” Philo poked his head into the break room, but she was somewhere else. Next he checked her studio, but had no luck there either. The ostrich feather that stuck out of his hatband bobbed as his head went nervously this way and that.

He knocked on the door of Tom’s room, which had been the delivery office in one of the building’s previous lives, but Tom didn’t answer and neither did Indra.

Finally, the crane bay. She might be hanging out on the couch with J.D. eating breakfast. But she wasn’t there. It looked like J.D. had slept at her own place last night, too; if she was at the warehouse she usually camped out on the couch and worked with her laptop.

He poked his head outside to see if Indra’s truck was out there. The Carstle sat quietly on the concrete yard, condensation showing on its windshield. It hadn’t been used during the night.

Only one more place to look, he thought; most of the warehouse was rented as storage units, but Axel and Alex had what had once been the security office. He headed up a wrought iron spiral staircase in the loading bay and knocked on the door.

After a pause, it opened. Axel was standing there in his underwear. “Gespatch’n,” he said blearily. Behind him, Alex blinked over his shoulder into the light.

“Look guys, I’m sorry to get you up so early in the morning,” Philo said, “but I can’t find Indra. Have you seen her?”

“Greff blatta Indra stochni derwen” Axel said. Behind him, Alex yawned.

“Uh, stochni … last night. You saw her last night? I’m sorry, I didn’t get the rest,” Philo said.

Axel shook his head. “Stochni derwen,” he repeated, holding up four fingers.

“Uh… four nights ago?” Philo asked.

Axel nodded. Alex came out from behind his brother and stood on the landing with Philo. “Greff blatta ya,” he said, pointing at the crane bay. “Indra so so kerro, Axelax

“You… you argued with her?” Philo asked.

Alex nodded his head.

“What did you argue about?”

“Indra so so kerro,” repeated Axel, frowning. “So kerro do krag, dremph.” And he pointed, this time in the direction of her studio.

“Damnit,” Philo said, “I’m not as good at this as she is. I’m only guessing at what you two have to say, so go slow. What the hell does ‘so kerro’ mean in your language?”

Axel mimed picking up a torch in his right hand and lighting it, making an eerily precise scratch, pop and hiss as he mimicked the action of a spark lighter. Then he mimed picking up a plate of metal in his left hand and cutting it with the torch — and the cut went straight across the fingers of his left hand where they’d be behind the metal. Finally, in pantomime, he dropped the metal plate and shook his left hand in mock pain. “Mo mo kerro!” he said.

“I … I hurt myself.” Philo translated. “Indra was hurting herself, and you had an argument about it.”

Alex nodded and touched his nose.

“She’s not hurt too bad, is she?” said Philo.

Axel and Alex shrugged, in unison. “Skrebben de man,” said Alex. “Honna, gi tonna.”

“Okay, right,” Philo said. “Look, if she’s Lost, we may need to take the Carstle out to find her. Can I count on you two to help…?”

They both nodded.

“Thanks, guys,” Philo said.

He ran back down to Indra’s studio. If she was hurting herself, it meant there was something she was deeply wrapped up in. And he wanted to see if there was any blood on the floor.

He skidded to a stop in front of Cruelty, transfixed by the ceramic bones and the startlingly realistic bronze feet that stood upon them. Most of the armature was still bare welded bars, but off to the side, large sections of bronze from the pour were laid. Indra had broken them out of their molds, but the metal that had filled the sprues and vents and channels still hung on the insides, a crazy mass of bars. Here were the arms, in three pieces each; here were the legs… it was startling how well dermagel had picked up the texture of old denim fabric. And here… this would be the top of the head, and the back… finally, he found it.

Philo turned over the face of Cruelty. It was a sneering mask, with its teeth bared in an ugly snarl. He weighed it in his hands, looking at it. Indra focused so much of her attention on the faces … and this felt … bad. It felt like it looked. For a moment he wished he was as sensitive as she was, so he could tell more about how she’d felt. But then he decided instead to be glad he wasn’t.

This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.

The complete novel is available from Amazon.

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