JBvFb: 3. The Gullwing

Follow the posts over the next few days and read the sample chapters (the first six) of  Jake Bowers Versus the Firebird.

The bewitching whispering began again, but it came from inside the car.  Jake and Farid looked at each other and then turned toward the noise.  An unseen force pushed the car door open to reveal a rolled up carpet that lay on the driver’s side seat.  The corner of the carpet opened slowly, like time-lapsed photography of a leaf reaching to the sun, revealing fibers of green and gold around the outer edge. The whispering grew louder, ringing on the wind.

 

Ela ba’an, Ela ba’an, Ela ba’an.

 

The strange words became tangible pulses of electric blue energy that swirled around Jake.

 3. The Gullwing

Jake looked in the hallway mirror and realized, a little too late, that his light brown hair was too long for his costume.  Last night, he should have used his dad’s clippers and buzzed it into a crisp military hair-cut. Maybe he’d have time after school before trick-or-treating.  He smoothed down the already crisp army uniform that he was wearing and touched the name tag over his heart that read, Bowers.  Mark had been gone for two and a half months, the longest time period of Jake’s life.

“Bye, Mom,” Jake yelled out, knowing that if he stayed any longer he’d be late for school.

The walk was routine now – down the hill that his house was on, over five blocks and cross the street.  Jake paused before walking into the parking lot and looked at the school that radiated nothing but gloom.  He hoped that the excitement of Halloween would help lift the feeling of dread that usually filled the halls of Hale Junior High.

Suddenly a shiver ran down his spine as he heard someone whispering behind him.  He couldn’t make out the words, but the sound was low and deep and the vibrations reverberated inside his body.  Jake turned to see where it was coming from.

The Gullwing was parked on the street across from the school.  It was surrounded by an odd assortment of colorful carpets and rugs that were draped around the sides and front, but Jake recognized the Mercedes from Monterey right away.  The coincidence had a creepy factor that was off the charts.  He crossed the street to examine the car more closely.

A man was placing a sign under the windshield wiper that read Farid’s Carpets, scrolled in a perfect calligraphic hand.  Jake guessed that Farid was foreign, from somewhere in the Middle East because of his olive skin and darker features, but he was dressed like an American. Nothing about the car or its wares looked like it belonged on the streets of his perfect suburban neighborhood.

Jake tried not to be obvious, but the scene was so strange that he caught himself gawking.  Just as he closed his mouth, Farid turned to look at him, flashing a stunning smile.  His teeth were bright white in contrast with his black goatee.

“Hello, young man,” Farid greeted Jake, “are you interested in a carpet?”

“Um, no,” Jake said thinking about the rugs at his home. “I just …”

Jake had nothing to say.

“Well, I have some very fine quality pieces here,” said Farid, “would you like to take a look?”

“Sure,” Jake walked closer to the car.  He was vaguely aware that students were entering into the school behind him, and he probably should have joined them, but he just couldn’t.  He was trapped in the moment.

The bewitching whispering began again, but it came from inside the car.  Jake and Farid looked at each other and then turned toward the noise.  An unseen force pushed the car door open to reveal a rolled up carpet that lay on the driver’s side seat.  The corner of the carpet opened slowly, like time-lapsed photography of a leaf reaching to the sun, revealing fibers of green and gold around the outer edge. The whispering grew louder, ringing on the wind.

Ela ba’an, Ela ba’an, Ela ba’an.

The strange words became tangible pulses of electric blue energy that swirled around Jake.

“Cool trick, Mister,” Jake said, and act which effectively broke the mood and stopped the whispered energy.

The salesman looked like he had seen a ghost.

“I guess, uh, you sell a lot of those carpets with that show,” Jake tried to lighten the moment.

Farid held his hand up and composed himself.  Then he took a long look at Jake, scanning him up and down.  Finally, his eyes locked on the military name tag.

“Bowers?” Farid’s eyebrows knotted up in disbelief.

“Yeah,” Jake shifted uncomfortably.

“BOWERS!?” Farid said, in a louder voice.

“Uh, I gotta go,” Jake said and pointed at the school, “the bells gonna ring, so see ya –”

He took off toward the school without looking behind him, melting into the daily morning grind of kids streaming through the front doors.

Jake ran into his math class and hoped that the school’s privacy policies would protect him from being hunted down by a weird carpet salesman.

The fifty-minute class seemed to stretch into days before the bell finally rang and Jake walked to his locker.  He went the long way around the school’s halls to see if he could glimpse the classic Mercedes through the large windows but the car wasn’t where it had been that morning.

SMACK!

Jake felt a surge of pain as his eye and nose hit the combination of a locker.  Blood began to gush, and for a moment Jake couldn’t grasp what had just happened to him.

“John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” sang a sneering voice.

Abel,  Jake thought. He straightened up and looked the bully in the eyes.

“Haa, haa!!!”  Abel laughed as he straightened the thick silver chain around his neck.

Jake just stared in disbelief.

Abel slapped his own chest and then tugged at his baseball shirt in a wannabe-gangster move.

“What, Bowers?  You got somethin’ to say?” Abel cracked his neck, ran his hand over his short spiked hair, and then sneered and walked off.

The blood began to run down Jake’s face and onto his shirt.  Always ready to witness a fight, the crowd of students that had formed a circle, now began to talk in muted whispers.  Jake avoided their expectant eyes and ran through the crowd toward the nurse’s office.

As he waited in the tiny room, Jake looked around.  A skinny black kid was asleep on one of the beds.  He looked at the other bed.  The once white sheets had an odd tinge, and there was a faint brownish stain on the blanket.  Jake began to itch.

He turned away from the bed and looked at his reflection in the mirror.  A bruise was forming under his left eye, but luckily his nose had stopped bleeding.  He grabbed a paper towel from the sink, wet it, and tried to clean himself up while waiting for the nurse.  He wondered why the students at school had secretly nicknamed her Frau Helga and not Miss I’m-not-in-my-office-when-the-students-need-me.

Just then the nurse walked in.

“What happened?”  The woman asked as she began to examine Jake’s face.

She wore German braids crisscrossed over her head and a giant mole protruded from her upper lip.  Jake fought back the urge to yodel.

“I tripped and fell into a locker,” Jake said stupidly.

“Uh-huh,” Frau Helga’s expression made it clear that she didn’t buy the story.

“Here,” she said, handing Jake some aspirin, and then with amazing force she tossed Jake onto the germ-ridden bed.

In a flash, the nurse gave Jake an icepack and a paper cup of water from the sink.  Jake could taste the pipes in the warm water as he swallowed down the medicine.

“Stay here and rest,” the nurse said, and then left the room, leaving the door slightly ajar.

Jake closed his eyes and tried to fight off the headache that was forming when he heard a conversation being held just outside the tiny room.

“It’s never reacted that way before,” said a man with a slight foreign accent.  Jake knew in his gut that it was the merchant, Farid. “It’s never reacted to anything before.  Absolutely nothing for hundreds of years!  It was like it woke up.  Regular ones don’t react like that to their riders.”

“Hmm,” said a second familiar voice, “Tell me again, what did you hear?”

“Ela ba’an.” Farid said, “It was like a whisper that went into the bones.  I can’t explain it more than that.  Do you know the word?”

“Maybe, hmm, maybe,” the second man said.  Jake placed the voice.  It was Mr. Lewis, his history teacher.  “It sounds almost like Assyrian … maybe even older.”

“Baan, in Persian means –”

At that moment, Jake opened the door to take a better look, but its squeak covered the end of Farid’s sentence.  Jake held his breath.

“Maybe we should give it to him and see what happens,” said Mr. Lewis.

“But it’s Bowers!” Farid was noticeably upset.

“I appreciate the irony here,” said the teacher, “but I am positive that he is not Commander Bowers’ son.  This boy’s father is a professor at Pepperdine, not the special forces military man.”

Jake walked close to the door. He wasn’t able to see anyone through the tiny opening, so he concentrated on hearing as much as he could.  Were they talking about him?  His Dad was a professor and did they mean Uncle Mark?  He was in the military, but not some Special Forces commander.

“Give it to the boy and see what he does with it,” Mr. Lewis urged.

“Are you insane?  Don’t you remember how I got it?  What if she finds him, or the carpet?  You know that she intends to open the Doorway to the Bestiary?”

“She has the journal from Prague, but not the Bestiary of Augustine.  Besides, we need the Rider as much as she does.”

“He couldn’t possibly be the Flyer of Tangura,” Farid spat out.

“All of your candidates have failed, and you said yourself, it’s never reacted to anything before,” the teacher urged.

With intense ferocity, the foreign man hissed, “If I give Tangura to this boy, you will not interfere, you will not train him, and you will not clue him in.  If he is the Flyer, he will instinctively know what to do.”

Jake’s mind flashed back to the green and gold carpet in the Gullwing that morning.  He could feel his body tensing up as he waited to hear more.

“Hey,” Jake’s spying was interrupted by the boy who had been sleeping, “what are you doing?”

Jake snapped to attention and whirled around, “Nothing… I, uh, was just trying to hear something.”

“Hey, you’re John Jacob,” the kid said, sitting up in bed.

“It’s Jake,” Jake shot back, still trying to hear the conversation outside the door.

“Really? I thought it was John Jacob.  Everyone calls you that.”

“Well, it’s not, it’s just Jake,” Jake wished that life had a volume control or at the very least a mute button, so he could hear the conversation over the boy.

“You look like a John Jacob though, or a JJ,” said the kid shaking his head.

“Nope,” Jake said as he gritted his teeth, “Jake is fine.  Ok?”

“Well, why does everyone call you that?”

The conversation outside the nurse’s office was over and Jake sat down on the crusty bed in defeat.

“My parents used to call me that.  Just a little kid name, you know,” Jake said.

The kid in the bed nodded solemnly, as if he were sharing a moment with his new best friend.

“Then, one day last year, I forgot my lunch at home.  So, my mom brought it in to my class.  She waved the sack in the air, and sang out, ‘where’s my John Jacob?’”

“Wow,” the kid said, “that’s embarrassing.”

“Yeah,” Jake said. “Some kids picked it up and started calling me that.”  By ‘some kids’, Jake meant Abel and his gang of bullies.

“Did you tell your mom?”

“No,” Jake said. “I just asked my family not to call me that anymore.”  The truth was that Jake didn’t want his Mom to feel bad that the teasing started because of her.

“I’m Caleb Jones,” the kid said and stuck out his hand to shake.

“Why are you here?” Jake asked ignoring the friendly gesture.

“I feel sick,” Caleb pointed to the bucket on the floor.

The bell rang.

“Well, see you around,” Jake said and left the nurse’s office, entering the corridor that was thick with human soup.  The men had left, but Jake couldn’t shake the feeling that he would see Farid again.  Soon.


 Want to read more? Check out the samples at your favorite retailer (by clicking the picture below), or read the next chapter tomorrow!

2014-08-05 17.05.42


 Other Chapters

Chapter One: The Ziggurat
Chapter Two: Monterey Historic Raceway

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