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One week earlier.
Weston Nielson Chandler was a good, college-educated boy from a wealthy family, and he had a good, college-educated, spoiled by wealth Bohemian way of reading poetry. It was pretentious, and if he weren’t so good-looking, it might have been insufferable. But he was good-looking and he did have a certain artistic sensibility about him that wasn’t all pretense, so Angel made him read poetry to her the night the power went out in Chicago to drown out the sound of sirens and chaos.
“Before that spot I hung my head; my care had cut me to the core. From wounds of woe within I bled. Though reason bid me rage no more, I suffered still; my sadness spread. I knew of neither wisdom nor the consolation Christ had bred. My saddened soul still showed its sore; I fell upon that grassy floor asleep, my ravaged senses short, and dreamed a swooning dream before my precious pearl without a spot,” he read, and though Angel had no idea what any of it meant, she liked it just the same. “It’s getting too dark,” he complained.
She obligingly lifted their one battery-powered lantern. “And then what will we do? Keep reading.” He gave a wolfish grin and she ignored it. “Read!” she commanded.
“Why Pearl, though?” he asked. “Of all the things you could have picked, you went for a poem that’s like a hundred pages long.”
“Well, I like the way you read poetry,” she said plaintively. “And it’s not a hundred pages. One side is the original Middle English. It’s really half a hundred pages. It’s fifty pages.”
“You’re a weirdo,” he said. “I mean, you could’ve gone for the Celtic poetry. You’re half Scottish.”
“That would’ve made the Mexican half of me feel left out,” she replied.
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,” he said, quoting from memory. “Wandering by lone sea-breakers, and sitting by desolate streams; world-losers and world-forsakers, on whom the pale moon gleams; yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever, it seems. Isn’t that better than Pearl? Would that really make the Mexican half of you feel left out? And anyway, Pearl was originally written in Middle English so your argument is dumb and doesn’t work.”
“I’m not English,” she said curtly. “I’m Scottish. Those English people are filthy, megalomaniacal bastards.”
“Yeah. And they beat the ever-living crap out of the Scots on more than one occasion so they clearly have something going for them.”
“And I’m Catholic, and Pearl talks about Jesus, so it doesn’t make any part of me feel left out.” She smiled in triumph at him.
“Ode talks about God, too,” Wes said. “Of Babel and Nineveh. Of God’s future drawing nigh.”
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
“So do you.”
She sighed and set the lantern down, and nestled close to his side. “How many poems do you know by heart?”
He set the Collected Works of the Pearl Poet down with finality and slid an arm around her. “Hmmm?”
“You didn’t have to read that second one. You knew it by heart.”
Wes shrugged. “I was homeschooled. And I didn’t really have any friends.”
“That’s not really an answer.”
“I never counted what I memorized. I just know some poems. And I remembered them because when I got to Columbia, I noticed some girls seemed to like it.”
She grinned. “Is that cheating?”
“No. I put the work in learning the poetry. It’s not my fault girls like it.”
“Do you know any Shakespeare?”
“Everyone knows a little Shakespeare.”
“I don’t know any Shakespeare.”
“All that glitters is not gold,” he said. “Laughing stock. Live long day. Such stuff as dreams are made on. Too much of a good thing. Break the ice. Everyone knows a little Shakespeare.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I suppose. But I meant something longer than a phrase.”
He considered, and then said, “I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust. Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.”
She considered this, and then said, “That’s wildly depressing.”
“That’s Hamlet,” Wes replied. “Whine whine moan. To be or not to be. Oh no! We’re all dead now.”
She poked his side. “Quote me something nice.”
With a touch of drama in his voice, Wes quoted, “Perdition catch my soul. But I do love thee, and when I love thee not, chaos is come again.”
“I know that one. Doesn’t he kill her in the end?”
He smiled and kissed her cheek. “I would never kill you.”
She leaned into his kiss. “I would never let you. I would kill you first.”
“I don’t doubt it,” he said, resting his cheek against her hair. But as boyfriends went, he was a good one and he did eventually get it right. “One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night, but I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; yet if they press me sharply and harry me through the day, then look for me by moonlight, watch for me by moonlight, I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”
Every girl knew that poem. But Angel suppressed her smile and said, “They die at the end of that, too.”
“That’s pretty much how romantic poetry works. It’s not romantic if they get to live.”
“If you keep reciting poetry, you don’t end up turning into a poem, do you?”
“That is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever said,” he said, but then he added, “But to be safe, let’s just stop with the poetry, alright?” He drew her closer for a kiss, making his preferred choice of activity very clear, and because she loved to tease him, she said, “You can play piano for me! I like the idea of you playing piano by moonlight for me. That’s very romantic without an ounce of tragedy.”
He sighed and slumped against her. “You’re mean.”
“I’m awful,” she agreed. “But the power clearly isn’t coming on any time soon, so we can’t open the club back up. We have a lot of time to kill.”
“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity,” he said, his voice muffled against her shoulder.
“You are such a nerd,” she said.
“You’re dating me,” he replied, but he started to pull away from her to push himself up. “Alright. Fine. I’ll play piano. But I’m only going to play-”
The sound of a key in the door interrupted him, and then Tom Sutherland flung the door open and burst in, disheveled and sweating in the early summer heat. “Don’t you ever answer your phone?” he demanded.
Wes sighed again. “Uh, no. No power. Club’s closed. We’re not working. I’m hanging out with my girlfriend.”
“You hang out with your girlfriend all the time,” Tom said. “And you have a cell phone. Get up. There’s a reason the power went down.”
“And my cell phone has crappy service right now. Aside from the usual sorts of reasons?”
“Oh yeah. Come on. I’ll tell you both on the way.”
No amount of poetry would have drowned out the sirens and chaos when they got outside. Tom led them down a side street, trying to get around the worst of the congestion. “A McRae scout saw it. I heard a few of them talking. Said it looked like a person but not a person.”
“A were-something?” Angel asked, sidling in closer to keep anyone from hearing.
“I don’t know. He said human-shaped, but with claws. So that could be a were-something. Oh, and it was grayish. They think it’s moving in the tunnels under the city.”
“That’s wildly helpful information. That really nails down what it is. This wasn’t a wasted trip at all,” Wes said. “It’s not like the power is out in the city and we have to worry about looters breaking into the apartment and finding our stash of guns or anything.”
Tom waved a hand. “Jo was on her way home with Robert. She’ll kick the crap out of any looters. He’ll probably just watch, but he could give her some pointers.”
“And what are we gonna do, anyway?” Wes asked. “This is McRae territory. I’m sure they’ve got it covered.”
“When does one monster ever do all this damage?” Tom replied. “We gotta take a look at least.”
Wes couldn’t figure out how they would manage that. The power had been out for hours. The city seemed to have gone insane with panic. People were trying to get home or trying to stock up on food and water at stores that couldn’t get power to their cash registers. Busy intersections had turned into four-way stops. Horror of horrors, the internet was gone. He imagined he could feel the city’s tension rising, hotter and more oppressive than the summer heat.
And it all meant that they would have to go on foot to find this monster. The McRaes would have found it long before they got there. Wes exhaled slowly and started to say, “We should just go back,” when Tom froze and looked down at the ground.
Angel had frozen, too, staring at that exact spot. And then their gazes moved along the side street and back the way they came. “Was that it?” Angel asked.
Tom blinked. “It was something.”
“What?” Wes asked.
“Something just ran beneath us. Not human. Fast.” Tom set off running, Angel hard on his heels, and against his better judgment, Wes followed.
Thanks on this one go to Erin Klitzke. I'm finally writing Wes stuff, which I know makes her happy. So happy, in fact, that she will be joining me as a co-writer on this book, and will make her official start writing content in the next chapter. The whole thing is enormously helpful for me. For example, she knows Chicago way better than I do. So when I say, "Wes and Angel own a club together," and she asks, "Where is it?" and I say, "I dunno. Somewhere. It's kind of a college student hang-out really," she actually tells me where that somewhere might be and I don't really have to do any research at all. Which is neat. Thanks, Erin.
This also means that The Man Who Made Monsters will be moving to a Thursday release schedule so I can use Sunday for ramblings and for other projects. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Chapter 2 should be out July 23, which is a few days earlier than it would have otherwise come out. I'm not promising a weekly release yet but that's our hope for the future.
Anyway, you can visit Erin's website at www.embklitzke.com.