Mr Teeth placed his glasses on the desk as Harold sat down opposite him. They'd been an impulse purchase when he'd stopped at the drugstore for some whey powder on the way here. Far from fixing his reading problems, however, all the glasses had done thus far was to give him a headache. He resisted the urge to rub the spot between his eyes.
"You can leave us," he informed the two fake UPS guys. "Tell Mr Peck to send me his final bill."
The one called Jeff grunted assent and the two men left the room, closing the door quietly.
There was a pregnant pause as Mr Teeth regarded Harold for a moment, noting the latter's change of clothes since the last time they'd met at Baron Samedi's. The little punk was still going with the scruffy look, it seemed, in contrast to his own businesslike dark suit and tie. Over the years, Mr Teeth had come to believe that his hugely muscular frame made much more of an impact on people when he dressed smartly. Jeans and t-shirts were all well and good when putting pressure on some kid in a back alley, but Mr Teeth himself rarely needed that kind of muscle these days - not that he didn't like to keep up the training, of course.
He leaned forward, steepling his fingers. The desk creaked slightly as he rested his elbows upon it.
"I've gone to a lot of trouble and expense to get you here," he said, "So I'll cut to the chase: I can see why you'd want to torch the club after we threw you out, but what have you done with my boss?"
So that's what it was all about! Harold was relieved. It seemed he wasn't about to be 'disappeared' after all. He remembered seeing Mr Teeth on the TV news saying he thought he knew who had burned down the club, but had never for a moment thought he was actually going to follow up on his suspicions – especially not to the extent of hiring people to kidnap him. He decided that the truth would be the best bet in this situation.
"Well," Harold said, "first of all, I didn't burn down your club and I have absolutely no idea where Baron Samedi is or what happened to him. I was actually in the middle of trying to find that out when your people waved guns at my friends and dragged me over here."
"You expect me to believe that?" said Mr Teeth.
Harold shrugged, "It's the truth. I wasn't even in town that night."
Mr Teeth did vaguely remember Mr Peck telling him that Harold had been seen getting on a train the day of the fire, but had decided that the little punk must have sneaked back into town on a later train or something. Who else could it have been?
Before he could pursue this line of thought any further, the silence was broken by the voice of Eddie Cochran singing I'm a-gonna raise a fuss, I'm a-gonna raise a holler.... It was Mr Teeth's phone. He picked it up, glanced irritatedly at the caller id and shut it off, putting an abrupt end to Mr Cochran's summertime blues.
"Look," said Harold, "I can prove I wasn't in town,"
So saying, Harold twisted his wrists apart, snapping the already weakened plastic cable-tie securing them. Seeing the sudden movement, Mr Teeth jumped out of his chair, gun in hand, pointing at Harold's head. Harold quickly held up his own hands to forestall any unpleasantness. Mr Teeth couldn't actually kill him, of course, but he'd already had to repair a considerable amount of damage to his vessel recently and he doubted Mr Teeth would be understanding enough to offer him pizza like the Reverend Box had.
"I'm just getting something out of my wallet," He said.
Mr Teeth lowered the gun slowly,
"You should have said what you were doing first," he grumbled, sitting down again.
Harold fished out his wallet. If he remembered rightly, it should still be in there tucked behind the bills. Yes!
"Look at this," Harold said, holding out a crumpled piece of paper.
"What is it," asked Mr Teeth, taking it.
"The bill from the Motel I was staying at that night."
Mr Teeth unfolded the paper and studied it for a few moments.
"You could have got this anywhere, it doesn't prove anything."
"You could always call them. I'm pretty certain they'll remember me, I left in rather a hurry and there was some damage." One kicked-in door, one smashed bathroom window...
Mt Teeth picked up his phone and, keeping a wary eye on Harold, dialled the Sleep-E-Zee Motel.
The Listener was awake again. No, that was too strong a word. The Listener was aware again. The voices were back, just on the edge of its hearing.
"If you don't believe me, just google 'parallel parking accident', the video's hilarious!" This was a new voice, quite deep and clearly amused at something.
"OK, if we can just focus on the job here please, people," This was the mosquito-voiced Dr Flowers, the Listener seemed to remember. "OK, careful now. Haynes, bring that dolly a bit closer will you? That's it. OK. Now lift."
"Ok, Doc, this'll be a slam dunk!"
There came a metallic whining noise and the Listener felt an unpleasant change in its world. A sort of slow invisible shimmering ran through its being like ink diffusing languidly through water. The whining stopped abruptly and the shimmering began to subside.
"Easy there," said another voice, deeper this time, "it's not quite centred. Haynes, move it a bit to the left will you?"
The machine-whine came again and with it the unsettling swirling feeling. Each swirl was almost enough to scatter the Listener's consciousness to oblivion. It was all it could do to hold on to the tatters of its self, to keep them integrated. The Listener wanted the swirling to stop. There had been a time when it could have made it stop, it thought. When was that? Memories hovered just out of reach, each one a faded postcard too indistinct to make out. Given time, though, the Listener felt sure it could make sense of them. Given time.
Suddenly, the Listener's world lurched and the voices were all shouting at once.
"Haynes, you idiot! I said LEFT!"
The whining noise cut off.
"Sorry, Doc, the damn tank swung when I wasn't expecting it," said a voice (Haynes's?), "I've got it now. I've got it."
"Alright," this was the Flowers voice again - it sounded very nervous. "Just slide the dolly a bit further under and let it down more slowly this time. There's absolutely no rush."
Another whine and swirl, albeit much shorter this time.
"That's got it," said one of the deeper voices, "Dead centre now, Doc."
"OK," said the Flowers voice, "Now unhook the chains and let's get it loaded into the truck, but for goodness sake, take it slowly!"
The world moved again, in a different way this time and, exhausted, the Listener allowed the swirling to carry it away into the dark.