It’s not often that a writing prompt truly captivates me for more than a few hundred words. With the exception of a few 1000+ word stories written in response to a few prompts such as Retirement, Boxed In, The LSA, to name a few, most of my responses are fairly short. Not to mention that my first book, The Novel Killer was inspired by a writing prompt on reddit. Any maybe this would have been just as short if it wasn’t for one thing: writing Unregistered Tenants and going for a run. That short dialogue only story totally at over 400 words took hold of my brain like, well, an eldritch horror possessing a middle aged woman’s body in order to build a temple dedicated to him on top of an apartment building. During my run, the combination of what I wrote for Unregistered Tenants and the prompt that would eventually inspire Code Inspection, just hijacked my brain and I knew that I had to write it. So when I got home I hoped straight onto my computer and hammered out this 5400 word short story in five in a half hours, non-stop. It’s probably some of the best writing I’ve done in a while and I’m super proud of this story.
I’ll have you know, like most stories on this part of my site, this is a first draft only proofread with a quick run through Grammarly to catch simple mistakes, so if there are any issues please let me know and I’ll fix them. I plan on giving this story a proper revision in the future, but for now you can take a look at what my brain on raw creative inspiration looks like.
Calvin pulled the tiny two-door pick up to the apartment building. A typical five over one which either symbolized the economic boom of the city of the past five years, or the unstoppable beast of gentrification that plagued the impoverished parts of the city. Whether the cookie cutter like design meant progress or cultural erasure, Calvin didn’t care. He and his team had arrived at the building for one singular purpose: to make sure the new construction done to the building over the past few weeks stood up to code. Based on the aerial photos depicting an emerging set of spires twisting and bending upwards several stories high, Calvin had his doubts that the city’s codes were respected. Not to mention the giant flames that witnesses had caught on camera shooting from the tips of the spires on a nightly basis. He had seen his share of vanity height additions to many buildings throughout the years, but never one of this nature. Calvin turned and addressed his team.
“What we have here is a clear code ninety-six subsection C violation,” he pointed up through the roof. His two teammates, Luke, another seasoned inspector like him, and their intern Penelope looked up at the roof as if the infraction could be seen through the felt lining. “An unpermitted development of pyrotechnics within critical aerial space. Penny, can you tell me why that is so?”
“Because the building is within two miles of a hospital with helicopter access?” She answered.
“That is correct. There are several other potential violations of the structure, but they have not been confirmed. I suspect we’ll see at least a code forty subsection F part gamma as well, along with a code two hundred sixty-four subsection A, and a code two subsection G part theta chapter seven as well. Can you tell me what those are Penny? Without referencing the code book.”
Penny bit her lip and looked up at the felt ceiling again before answering. The code book resting upon her lap, a thick tome confined to an oversized three-ring binder. It’s contents a complex series of codes, subsections, parts, chapters, and verses that when put together built the backbone of the city. Ensuring that any and all developments fit to a rigid set of standards designed to keep the citizens safe and happy, as amended by the city council.
“Hmm,” she said. “Forty, subsection F: The unpermitted design of unconventional building shapes and colors, dubbed the ‘eye sore’ code. Subsection F specifically calls out organic shapes. Two hundred and sixty-four subsection A aka the ‘lighting rod’ code states that no building should have any unregistered spires exceeding three (with the exception of a religious place of worship), in order to prevent crusting of lightning strikes. And code two, subsection E-“
“G,” Luke correct her.
“G, that’s right. Thanks, Luke. Subsection G part theta, chapter 7 states that no subterranean additions to a building can be built until it is cleared with the utility council. Although I don’t see how that fits here.”
“That’s not right,” Calvin said. “Code two, subsection C, part theta, chapter 7 states that construction within this part of the city must only happen on weekdays between the hours of 6 am to 6 pm. Today being a Saturday we should easily be able to catch them on that. Looks like you got to brush up on your code knowledge.”
“Sir if I may,” Luke asked.
“What is it, Luke?”
“I think that Penelope is right. Code two, subsection G, part theta, the chapter is about digging. I’m sure of it.”
“Let me see that,” Calvin reached for the book on Penelope’s lap, relinquishing her of the weight of the book, and threw it in the empty passenger seat. He flipped through the pages passing by codes he had memorized to heart and reached his destination. “That can’t be right,” Calvin shook his head. “This isn’t supposed to be for subterranean development. This copy’s a misprint.”
“Check subsection G, sir,” Penelope said immediately biting her tongue.
Calvin looked at her. What’s an intern doing acting so smart with him? He begrudgingly flipped through a handful of pages before arriving at subsection G. He skimmed the esoteric lines of code, reading them over and over again to make sure he hadn’t gone insane. But no matter how many times he read them they clearly stated the time constraints for all construction within this part of the city.
“You can have this one,” he finally said shutting the book, making sure to slam it enough to get a message across but not too firm as to damage the pages within it.
“What do you know, our intern has some instincts,” Luke said sticking patting Penelope on the shoulder.
“Lucky guess,” Penelope shrugged.
“Let’s get back to business,” Calvin said. “We’ll run a Morrison-Brimmy on them. I’ll go up first and when I signal you two up on the radio you’ll come up. Got it?”
“What’s a Morrison-Brimmy?” Penelope asked.
“Ah, so you don’t know everything little girl,” Calvin grinned. “Luke?”
“Calvin will go up to speak with the owner or foreman first, pretending to be a solo operator,” Luke explained. “He’ll run through his usual inspections. Playing softball with them. When he’s certain that he has their guard down he’ll give his signal, that’s when we come in, providing him with backup and showing them that we mean business. It’s named after Marvin Morison and Obadiah Brimmy who founded the maneuver and caught plenty of horrible violations with it.”
“Of course, you’ll only be shadowing,” Calvin said looking at Penelope. Penelope answered only with a gentle nod. “Alright,” he smiled, “let’s show these people who’s in charge here.”
Dar’goth stood upon the roof of his tiny little domain, dressed in the high priestess garb that his avatars from a time long forgotten used to wear within the temples of worship. A robe that had been traditionally made of the flesh of his loyal followers that would give their flesh to him for eternal glory, painted in crimson and violet. But in these modern times, so far removed from the simplicity of the world he once ruled with a fist of tentacle and hellfire, his sole worshipper and legal console, Anthony son of Smith, had made one of faux leather and finger paint. Not to mention that Anthony had no skills as a tailor and had mended the fabric too snug against Dar’goth’s avatar’s figure, constricting his breathing and movement. An embarrassing outfit that he wore in shame.
He had worn many avatars before, but those times had long passed. Rusty in his human form he inhumanly moved her body about. No longer a pile of formless tentacles he had to get used to her bony figure and limbs that only bent at the joints. Often he would trip over the brims of his robe stumbling onto a pile of timber or obsidian. Or he would fling his arms about wildly as he spoke as he used to do with his tentacles if he wanted to show that he was indeed serious.
The avatar he wore in this century was that of a frail middle-aged woman named Tabitha with a bob of a haircut, skinny arms that could hardly lift a sacrificial knife, and a set of eyes that no matter how mean he made them look they had a permanent affixation towards kindness. Of all the avatars he had worn this by far was in his top five least favorites. However, as Anthony had assured him, she held the status of the lord of the land beneath his feet, even if it were confined to a small segment of the city, it was a start.
Dar’goth walked with caution about the construction site, watching his servants do his bidding. The Book of the Eldritch resting in his hands.
“Miss Goth,” a worker said approaching him. Dressed in coveralls and a round shell of a hat upon his head like the rest of him. However this one was different, earlier that day he had addressed himself as “Foreman” a name Dar’goth hadn’t heard of. This Foreman seemed to be a leader of this so-called “Contractor” tribe and the people beneath him seemed to revere him in ways that Dar’goth wished to be. Of course with more torture and subjugation. Usually, Anthony would lead the day’s construction, allowing Dar’goth to practice his rituals within the confines of Tabitha’s office or Anthony’s apartment, however, Dar’goth had sent Anthony out on a mission to retrieve his favorite sacrificial dagger and pedestal. Sure those could wait, but Dar’goth was getting antsy and the construction of his new temple on top of the building had been going way over schedule. And to be honest, he had grown homesick and the thought of having at least one sacrificial altar in Tabitha’s office could help with easing his longing.
“What is it mortal?” Dar’goth asked.
“We’ve gone six hours without a break, my men are in need of some R & R. We’ll wrap up what we’re doing and we’ll take a thirty-minute lunch.”
“You rest when I tell you to rest!” Dar’goth demanded.
“You overwork us, we walk,” Foreman of the Contractors said. “And your precious little art project here won’t ever be completed.”
“Do not call the temple of my reverence an ‘art project’ or you shall be banished to an eternity of suffering.” Dar’goth opened his avatar’s jaws, unhinging her jawline. A tangle of tentacles slithered around from within reaching towards Foreman when he heard the sound of a door slam behind him. Dar’goth shut his mouth and looked over his shoulder to see who had intruded upon his feasting. At the door stood a man in a white button-down shirt, black khakis, and matching tie. He wore the same white-shelled hat that the Contractor tribe wore and grinned.
“Looks like the code department’s here Miss Goth,” Foreman said. “I’d advise you to give us a break before I report you for this violation.”
“Shut up human,” Dar’goth said shoving the man away and walking over to the man dressed in white and black.
Calvin arrived at the top of the stairwell. On the other side of the door, he heard the sounds of whirling saws, the percussion of hammers, and the buzzing of drills. He didn’t even have to open the door to know that code two subsection G part theta chapter 7 had been violated. No section E like Penelope had been so insisted on. When they got back to the office he would consult the official printing of the book and show her just who knew the code better between the two of them. He’d stake his life on it.
He listened through the door for any more clear violation when he heard the muffled conversation between a man and a, well he wasn’t quite sure what he heard. The other voice reminded him of the cliched voice that they give demons in horror movies, with a deep pitch and garbled distortions that sounded like somebody trying to speak while also barfing up a hairball. However, they spoke it didn’t matter, what mattered was the content of their conversation. The man had requested a break and the garbling voice refused to grant it. Although that was a labor law violation and thus outside of his jurisdiction of enforcement, it gave him probable cause to enter the premises. Calvin grinned and opened the door.
As he suspected a construction crew was hard at work on the other side of the door. Building away at some strange structure that resembled a pile of stone tentacles built of obsidian and wood. A woman wearing a tan dress made of what looked like tanned leather stitched together and painted in purple with red swirls across it stood talking to a man in a hard hat. The woman, not wearing a hard hat was in clear violation of OSHA conduct. The woman approached Calvin, walking in slow deliberate steps, bobbing up and down as if she were doing small lunges. When she stopped a few feet away a slight prideful grin gleamed across her face before returning to a flat stoic expression, save her eyes which seem to hold a trace of happiness within them. Calvin recognized her from his research, Tabitha Martin, the manager and owner of the apartment building.
“Who dares to trespass upon my sacred ground?” Tabitha asked. Her voice was not what Calvin had expected, but he hadn’t been surprised either. She spoke with that same deep garbling voice that Calvin had heard from the door. A jarring tone came from such a small sweet looking woman.
“Miss Martin,” Calvin said, “I’m inspector Gillian from the city’s code department. I am here under probable cause of violation of a plethora of codes. May I?”
Calvin showed himself to the construction site, passing by the workmen who had begun their break sitting on piles of wood while rummaging through their lunch boxes. They looked at Calvin unfazed, knowing that they wouldn’t be in trouble. Those who feared his smite held other titles. He showed himself through the half-built shell of the site. Wooden scaffolding and black rock hung in the air above him, with no sign of steel reinforcements, a violation of code five subsection I. On the ground sharp stalagmites that rose as high as his waist sat unsecured. He kicked at one, and it wobbled.
“Do you have any plans on securing these?” He asked. “Somebody could seriously get hurt.”
“The placement of the obsidian stakes is final. I have no concern for the well-being of people when they will be laying with the points sticking straight through their guts while their blood pours upon the ground.” Tabitha said.
“Look lady, I don’t care what you plan on doing with these things. What matters is that you secure them so that way nobody accidentally gets hurt on them,” Calvin said. He pointed to the ceiling next. “You have heavy stone hung on the air with no supportive steel. That’s a huge safety violation. What if it collapses? Huh?”
Tabitha just stared at him. Calvin approached the landlord and looked her in the eyes, those kind sweet eyes that betrayed the grimace on her mouth. She didn’t scare him, and so Calvin began throwing the book at her starting with the clearest violation of them all.
“Don’t even get me started at code two, subsection G, part-“ Calvin’s mouth dropped as he watched the woman open her mouth into an impossibly large diameter. A bundle of black tentacles extended from it and opened up into an abyss of the darkest black he had ever seen. The tentacles extended towards him. He backed away, unsure of what to do. He reached for the radio on his belt and shouted into it. “Code nine subsection J chapter Omega!” The tendrils snapped his feet and threw him off balance. He hit the ground with a thud, his head smelling against the side of the obsidian stalagmite. The world went blurry and then the darkness before the suffering.
Penelope and Luke sat in the back of the truck. Luke held the code book in his hand flipping to random pages and reciting the code number along with all the subsequent subsections and chapters. The woman might as well be the code book given human form because she could recite everything from memory. A feat that Luke couldn’t help but smile ear to ear the whole time. When Penelope had finished reciting Code seventeen subsection L the “Green Grass” code as it was known he shut the book for a break.
“You are something else,” Luke said smiling. Still giddy. “You got talent, no doubt about that. I don’t think I’ve met anybody like you. Even Calvin has to check the book from time to time.”
“Thanks,” Penelope smiled. Her cheeks a tad flustered. “Ever since I was a kid I remember playing building inspector with my brother’s Legos. He hated it, but my parents helped foster my gift and got me the fifty-fourth edition of the city’s code for my seventh birthday. It’s an older edition I know, but it’s all my father could get his hands on. I studied that thing from cover to cover. My brother wasn’t impressed. He says it’s why he went off to become an architect elsewhere.”
“Well that sure is something,” Luke smiled.
“Thanks. But I shouldn’t have spoken up today. I didn’t want to tell Calvin. He’s just so full of himself.” Penelope said. Luke looked sullen at her remark. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Luke shook his head. “It’s no that he said,” shaking his head. “I know what you mean by Calvin. He’s a great man and a worthy mentor, but he just has this ego about him you know?”
“I think that once he gets to warm up to you he’ll be more appreciative of your talent. You just gotta be patient with him. I mean it took months to even give me a little respect. He’s a tough one to crack that Calvin.”
Calvin’s voice filled the cabin of the truck covered in radio static while the snarls of a beast lay in the background. “Code nine, subsection J, chapter Omega!” It shouted before clicking away as quickly as it arrived. Luke fumbled at the ratio attached to his hip and brought the transceiver to his mouth.
“Calvin?” Luke asked. “Calvin, are you there? Over.”
Only silence answered.
“Is that what I think that is?” Penelope asked.
Luke looked at her wide eyes and nodded.
“I suppose this means that Morrison-Brimmy is off?” She asked.
“Let’s go,” Luke said opening the door and stepping out onto the pavement. Penelope followed suit, not without checking for any passing traffic first.
Code nine, subsection J, chapter Omega. The least enforced code in the city, not because it was easy to bypass or find loopholes in, but quite the contrary. In fact, it had been the easiest one of all during the time the original Codes were established (The Sacred Seventeen as they had been dubbed throughout the eras). But the times of buildings built of human husk and otherworldly materials had long faded away. At the time it was presumed that the fads of the time (human sacrifices, catacombs of skulls, blood cocktails, etc) were here to stay, but they ended up just being that, fads. Like alien abductions, black helicopters, and Bennie Babies the fire and brimstone worship of the elder gods had disappeared to time, but the Sacred Seventeen were untouchable. Between all the language about eldritch beings and the right dimensions for an outdoor sacrificial altar were some pretty good safety guidelines, such as the proper width of sidewalks, size of stairwells, and strong language about not reusing the same water from the toilet for drinking.
Code nine, subjection J, chapter Omega, the unpermitted employment of an avatar for the design and construction of a temple. The old gods had such dangerous ideas for their designs which were fine for them, being immortal and all, but their human subjects needed some protection as well. So the city council cemented the safety of their citizens first before the gods. Which might have something to do with them leaving the Earth thousands of years ago for better pastures. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers and the people of the city deserve safe buildings.
Penelope and Luke stood at the top of the stairwell, panting. Luke placed his hand on the door handle and looked at Penelope. “Are you ready for this?” Luke asked.
Penelope couldn’t hide her excitement. This was all she was hoping for and more. With one hand on her pen and the other on her clipboard she smiled and nodded. “We’re going to get these sons of bitches,” she said.
“That’s the spirit,” Luke said opening the door. The two held themselves up and walked onto the roof.
Dar’goth could feel his celestial stomach growl. It has been so long since he had had a human, that his stomach reacted like a vegetarian eating meat for the first time in years, he felt his gut fight back across the dimensional boundary. Not to mention the upset the human’s clothing had wrecked within his system. Polyesters, plastics, and wiring from all the devices people carried with them these days. What happened to the good old fashioned days when people wore all organic clothing made from the hides of animals or the woven fabric from plants sprouting on the ground? He knew he would need a break. He sat down as the Contractor clan rose wiping their hands clean from their lunches.
“Miss Goth, we’ll be resuming the work now. Until the code depart gives us an official declaration of cessation that is,” Foreman said holding back a snicker.
“You dare insult me, and you-“ Dar’goth held his avatar’s gut. Although it wasn’t the one that was giving him trouble there was a creature comfort to touching something that resembled his own. “You’ll end up like him.”
He looked up expecting to see Foreman trembling in fear but instead Foreman had turned his back to the old god and had walked away leaving Dar’goth all alone to suffer in his avatar’s body. He sat there while he felt his celestial body tremble in pain, his avatar’s responded with shivers. “I wish I hadn’t sent Anthony on that dammed quest,” Dar’goth groaned. And then the door to the roof opened again, He thought he was going to regurgitate the Code man the moment he heard the squeaking across the roof.
Across the roof at the door stood a man and a young woman, dressed in the same black and white attire as the Code man inside his belly, with matching shell-like hats to boot. The woman held a table of wood and paper and a stylus of plastic in her hand, while the man stood arms folded across his chest. They walked across the roof passing by the servants to the Foreman and spoke to him. The Foreman nodded and pointed directly toward Dar’goth, the Code people’s gaze followed Foreman’s fingers directly toward the old god. Dar’goth trembled, not in fear but because their looks reminded him of what he had just eaten which stirred his stomach. The woman smiled and nodded at Foreman and the two began walking towards Dar’goth, each step rumbling his stomach.
“Miss Martin?” The man asked. “Are you in charge here?”
Dar’goth leered at the man. “Miss Martin is no more, I am-“ his stomach twisted. “I am Dar’goth lord of the Dammed!” He spat those last words out carefully.
The woman with the tablet scribbled something down. “A colleague of ours has informed us of a code 9, subject J, chapter Omega violation.” She said. “Do you have a permit to operate a human avatar to oversee the construction of a temple dedicated to the old gods?”
“Do not question me!” Dar’goth said. He attempted to open his mouth towards his celestial half and show his tendrils at them, but instead, his human body let out a large burp. The pain struck again and he clutched his stomach.
“We’re with the code department,” the man said. “I’m Luke, and that’s Penelope.” He pointed at the woman. “I’m going to need you to answer my partner’s question with either a yes or a no.”
Pushed into a corner, the old god resorted to verbal threats. Mustering all his fortitude he gazed at the man and woman and spoke with a commanding voice. “You have ten seconds to leave my sacred grounds or you shall end up like your partner!” He gestured towards his stomach and grinned with malice. Hoping that they would get his message.
The man called Luke looked at the woman cupped his hands and muttered something to the woman called Penelope. The woman nodded. She looked around the half-complete temple and smiled. “I can see at least six, no seven, code violations on top of the chapter one subsection J chapter Omega. Unless you show us your permits I have full authority, as bestowed upon me in chapter one subsection A in the city’s code to shut down this project, indefinitely. So, miss or mister Dar’goth, do you have a permit to oversee the construction of a temple in an avatar’s body?”
Exhausted and defeated Dar’goth pulled out the black communication device Anthony had given him before his departure. Using the limited capacity of his human fingers he fumbled around with the glowing screen until he dialed up his sole worshipper and most importantly right now, legal console. The phone rang and then Anthony’s voice came from the rectangular stone called a “phone.”
“My dark lord, the keeper of my eternal soul, the one true god. How’s it going? I see you figured out how phones work.”
“There are humans here of the Code tribe that demand I answer to them,” Dar’goth snarled.
“Oh no,” Anthony said. “Of course this happens when I’m out of town. Hand the phone to them, I’ll settle this.”
Dar’goth, in humiliation, handed the phone to the two Code people and clutched his stomach. “Speak to Anthony, my champion and legal representative.” The man took the phone from his hands and Dar’goth watched.
The man and woman passed the phone from one another nodding and speaking in cryptic code consisting of numbers, letters, and an ancient alphabet that Dar’goth hadn’t heard in years. Until the woman called Penelope said, “Thank you for your cooperation, Mister Smith.” And handed the black slate back to Dar’goth.
“Dar’goth you there?” Anthony asked.
“Hello?” Anthony asked.
Dar’goth nodded again.
“I’m here you soulless mortal!” Dar’goth shouted.
“Whoa, I can see you’re having a hard day so I won’t take that insult personally. I mean I’m the one who brought you back from the abyss and gave you my landlord’s body. Hey, thanks for writing off my rent by the way. I don’t think I ever properly thanked you for that.”
“I have no time for small talk, what did you discuss with the people of the Code tribe?” He looked at them, eyes bloodshot in rage. They did not budge.
“Well, we’ve seen to have gotten in quite a pickle,” Anthony chuckled. “And to be honest it’s one hundred percent my fault. I’m a tax lawyer, not a code one so I may have skimmed a few lines here and there. My bad. Anyways, we decided to cut a deal. All construction halts until-“
“Construction does not halt on my watch!” Dar’goth shouted. The ground below his feet trembled. The woman took a half step backward before the man touched her shoulder and told her that it was okay.
“Until,” Anthony said, “god it feels so bad talking back to you. I hope you know that this isn’t easy for me, but I’m the one with a law degree so you have to listen to me okay?”
“Until we meet them on a few conditions. The first is that you return their boss who you gobbled up earlier today. The second is that we have a proper architect design your temple to meet modern code. And finally, you get yourself permitted as an eldritch construction supervisor. Otherwise, you will not be allowed on temple grounds until after construction is complete. Understood?”
“I have never been so humiliated in my life,” Dar’goth groaned.
“I told you after you came back that the human world isn’t as simple as it used to be. Which is why we’re given leeway here. It’s been so long since the original codes had been used that the code department has decided to forgive us for overlooking them, but we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and go from there. But hey, you’re temples going to get built so don’t feel so bad!”
“Hey, if it’s any conciliation I found your favorite altar and knife. I’m actually sitting right next to them in the back of a truck, they’re just beautiful. I can’t wait to see them in action. We should be back home in a few days. In time, just relax and just watch Netflix with the Celestial Emissaries. We’ll get your temple built in no time. Alright, I got to go. Be sure to return their boss first okay? Alright, bye. I look forward to eternal servitude!” The phone clicked off and Anthony’s voice was no more, leaving a silent cold slab in Dar’goth’s hands. He tossed the phone aside and looked at the Code people, he stood up and opened his celestial jaw, letting his extra-dimensional body regurgitate the punished mortal. Needless to say, once the human had left his otherworldly gut, the old god began to fill much better.
The pure endless void. He had been here so long that he had forgotten what light even was. Just nightmares his mind made up over the undying centuries, or millennia that he had resided within the deepness of the abyss. His thoughts turned to mush and delusions except for one phrase that lingered in his mind. It gave him a strange forgotten comfort like a, like a… well he had nothing to compare it to other than the endless expanse of blackness that he floated in. All he knew was that one simple phrase filled him with solemn joy whenever it crossed his mind. “Code department,” and by the end of his eternity those two words were the only two words that his mind recognized.
Pain. He felt endless pain seer through him as the darkness fell away to a beam of bright light. Except it was so much more painful than his nightmares. He tried to move away from the advancing rays but his efforts were futile. Against his will, he emerged within a world of piercing white light.
He heard sounds. He heard! He had forgotten what sounds, well, sounded like, except for the occasional muttering of his voice. Three voices conversed above him. One soft and light, another deeper and solid, and a final one snarled and baritone that the sound of it gave him nightmares. He lay in a fetal position until he felt a touch followed by those same two comforting words. “Code department,” the carrier of the deep and solid voice said. He felt a warmth course through his body. And maybe he smiled. The two beings lifted him off the ground dressed in strangely familiar outfits with dark pants and cloth dangling from their necks that reminded him of home. They dragged him away and he smiled, but only for a moment.
Penelope and Luke lifted Calvin into the backseat of the truck, strapping him. Luke hopped into the driver’s seat meanwhile Penelope sat in the back next to her boss. He looked like a corpse that had life shoved back into it against its will. Reduced to nothing but bone and sunken eyes he muttered over and over again to himself in a soft voice that Penelope couldn’t discern.
“We’ll take him to the hospital first,” Luke said staring the truck up. “You okay back there?” He looked over his shoulder towards Penelope. She nodded.
She leaned forward to make out the words Calvin said. His voice made a clicking sound followed by a “de” when she had been struck with an idea. It wasn’t much but it might comfort him.
The truck swung out into the road lurching forward. After Luke got the vehicle up to speed Penelope spoke up. “Can you hand me the code book up there?” She asked.
“I don’t think this is the time to study city code,” Luke said.
“Not for me, for Calvin,” she said.
Luke looked at her through the rearview mirror and nodded. Reaching one hand over he grasped the cover of the code book and handed it between the seats to Penelope. Penelope took and held it with reverence and smiled. She handed the book to Calvin, the book like a stone from Stonehenge compared to his frail atrophied body. Calvin’s muttering stopped, and using what little strength he had he began petting the cover and smiled.
Penelope hugged him. “Thanks for taking a chance on me.” The truck rumbled as it sped down the road towards the hospital.