Something About HarryBy: Dakota Cassidy
“This is OOPS, correct? The Out in the Open Paranormal Support crisis hotline?” Harry Emmerson hissed into his cell phone, casting a suspicious glance around the room he was trapped in.
There was a sharp creak, one he suspected was an office chair, and then a husky voice rasped, “Dude, you deaf? That’s what I fucking said when I answered. Now what’s your crisis, and it damn well better be a real one or I’m gonna use my vampy senses to sniff your location out. It takes a little time, but when I hone in on you, and I will, I’ll beat you to death with your very own leg. The one I amputate clean off your torso courtesy of my sharp teeth.”
Harry bristled, a spike of anger shooting up his spine, making his hair—a lot of frickin’ hair—stand on end. What kind of customer service was this? “How is a threat in response to my call for help in any way supportive?” he whisper-yelled into the phone, running his very hairy fingers over his equally hairy temple in exasperation.
“Look, pal. If you knew the kind of crank shit I deal with on a daily basis because of this damn hotline, you’d get the reason for the threat. So get to the point. Get there fast.”
The woman on the other end of the line sent a vibe that was anything but soothing. It was almost antagonistic. No, there was no almost about this. It was definitely antagonistic, and it riled him from the tips of his toes to the frames of his, as his sister had once called them, nerd-dweeb glasses.
Under normal circumstances, he wasn’t easily riled. Harry Ralph Emmerson was a problem solver, and he always remained calm whenever a quandary arose. But this problem? This wasn’t a problem that could be solved with a calculator, and it didn’t have a definitive answer. This problem would rile even the most patient and sage of wise men.
Harry crouched lower under the table, thankful for his flexibility, while fighting the strange onslaught of heat rushing through his veins. “Again, how is this supportive?”
“Awww,” the angry woman cooed with a mocking tone. “You just missed the sensitive, squishy paranormal-counselor-with-a-heart by like twenty minutes. She skipped off to have date night with her man. Instead, you’re stuck with the cranky, impatient, bitchy counselor-who-doesn’t-have-a-heart. Like literally. So get on with this shit. I got a kid to go home and feed.”
Harry cleared his throat and ignored the scream of his rumbling stomach. He’d just had trail mix a half hour ago. That should have held him over until dinner, but this ache in his gut was bigger than just a warning sign. It was time for dinner.
Images of heaping piles of red meat dripping in blood, with a side of more red meat dripping in blood, flickered through his mind’s eye in startling detail.
Swallowing hard, he remained as focused as he could with the caged lion in his belly. “I think we got off on the wrong foot. So let me start by apologizing for any and all faux pas I mistakenly made due to the stress of my predicament. I can’t promise there won’t be more. I’m walking a tightrope where my sanity’s concerned here, and that could make for bad judgment on my part. Please, can we begin again? First, I’m Harry, not Harold, Emmerson. Sort of like the writer, but not. My father’s name was Harry, and my mother loved—”
There was an abrasive peal of a horn in his ear. Like a bike horn. “Hear that, Harry?”
He gritted his teeth. “I did.” Jesus—it was still vibrating in his head.
“Good. That’s my ‘I don’t give a shit about your life story’ horn. It’s from my kid’s Barbie tricycle she won’t even be able to ride for at least another five years. But her Grandpa Arch insisted she have it because he’s addicted to woot.com and online shopping. Anyway, if I sound the horn—that means I don’t give a shit and you move on.”
Abrasive horn equaled moving on. Understood. “Got it. And you are?”
There was a grating snort, and then the woman with the steeped-in-whiskey voice said, “Well, Harry, not Harold, Emmerson, I’m Nina Blackman-Statleon—unwilling fucking paranormal crisis counselor and full-time vampire. Now, go!” She barked the order, making him cringe at how sharp and clear her voice rang in his ear.
He cleared his throat, loosening his tightening tie with his forefinger and stretched his neck, ignoring Nina’s use of the word “vampire” in order to maintain the vestiges of his sanity. “I read on the Internet that you can help me with my paranormal crisis needs. Is that true?” Jesus and hell. He hoped it was true. Because if it wasn’t—really, where else was there to turn? Who could you call when something like this happened?
Dean and Sam?
The lucid, almost always able to find a reasonable explanation, half of his brain said this number he’d found on the Internet and the crackpot who’d answered was all just a bunch of hooey.
Yet, despite his misgivings about vampires and demons, he’d dialed it anyway. Out of sheer desperation, and with more hair than a pack of Siberian huskies sprouting from his face, his fingers had punched in the OOPS number without ever looking back.
Because his sensible, thinking mind told him what had just occurred after he’d sipped his vitaminwater wasn’t a case of hypertrichosis. Not with the speed in which he’d been affected. It couldn’t be . . .
Not to mention, he was well and truly stuck in this room—under a table. There was no getting out of here—not like this—not at the end of a workday when every one of his colleagues could see him leaving the offices in tumbleweeds of unsightly hair. He needed help to escape quickly and quietly before he was discovered—all hairy and sharp-of-tooth. This OOPS website claimed it could help. It listed all sorts of examples of how they could help.
The tapping of a finger, like the sound of a hydraulic jack in his head, recaptured his attention. “Harrry?”
He grimaced at the throb of pressure Nina’s incessant thrumming created in his head. “Ms. Statleon?”
“Get . . . to . . . the . . . fucking . . . point!”
Harry squeezed his temple with his thumb and forefinger. “I need help. I’m trapped. Can you help?”
There was a sharp cluck of Nina’s tongue and then she said, “Depends on the crisis.”
“Could you be any more vague?” he snarled, baring his teeth. Oh, shit. He’d snarled. And bared his teeth.
“Could you be in a shittier position?”
Drool formed at the corner of his mouth. He swiped at it with an impatient thumb and fought the irrational, uncommon urge to hunt this woman down and rip her head off. “Meaning?”
“Meaning, I’m the paranormal crypt keeper, and if you piss me off, I’ll throw the key to the crypt in the goddamn Hudson.”
Four deep, willing-his-patience-back-into-existence breaths later, Harry realized she was right. “Again, as I said before, Keeper of the Crypt, I’m feeling a little out of control. Thusly, my emotions are erratic.”
Harry’s eyes narrowed, awed by the magnification of his eyesight. He was nearsighted, hence the nerd-dweeb glasses. “It means—”
“I know what the fuck it means, Vocab Man. I was just pointing out how dorky it is to use, you know, in this century.”
“Thank you. Your observation is both helpful and, above all, original.” Like he hadn’t been accused of throwing his broad vocabulary around a time or ten million. His sister Donna called it pretentious.
“Yeah. I’m all about enriching lives. So could we get to the reason you called? I’m bored now, and when I’m bored, I get cranky. You don’t want that, Harry.”
Intuitively, he somehow knew he didn’t want this woman named Nina cranky. “Do you have a list of credentials?”
“You mean like a certification from Ghostbusters that says we’re all official paranormal helpers?”
Was this Nina of the unladylike mouth and easily stirred pot mocking him? It made him incredibly uncomfortable when he missed a joke everyone else around him seemed to get. This happened far more often than he’d like to admit. “Well, yes.”
“Yeah. Sure. You wanna call the Paranormal Center for Paranormalness? I can give you my vampire ID number. Once you’ve got that, you’re golden, dude. Then, when you give it to the team of paranormal experts on paranormalness they’ll give you my shiny references from Anne Rice and Team Edward.”
Okay. She was mocking him. His sigh grated on the way out of his throat. “There’s no reason to be so flippant. I just want to be sure I’ve done my homework and I choose the appropriate organization to advise me . . . you know, for this problem . . .”
Nina’s hand cracked against a hard surface, making him cringe. “Christ. This ain’t Carfax, Harry. There’s no one else to compare us to. It’s not like you can call the Better Business Bureau and check on us or some shit. There’s no other group like us around. We’re it—the total shiz.”
According to the Internet, Nina’s shiz really was it. He began to estimate and calculate in his head the kind of money this sort of dilemma would cost. It wouldn’t be cheap, he suspected.
Was he really considering utilizing the services of a group of people who claimed, not only that they were paranormal themselves, but that they could guide him to the other side of the supernatural?
Oh, hell yes, he was. There was no other alternative. He was trapped with no chance of escape, and the option of calling 911 went out the window when his hairline had drastically changed.
“Harrrry,” Nina singsonged into his ear. “I’m getting bored. I explained bored, dude, right?”
Right. Bored made Nina cranky. Do not make the Nina cranky. Forewarned was forearmed. “And what do you charge for said services? By the hour? Pay as you go?”
“Well, if I was in charge, we’d charge. But I’m not. I’m just the muscle.”
His ears pricked—like really pricked. There wasn’t a sound around him that wasn’t overly exaggerated. “The muscle?”
“Yeah, you know, like when crazy-assed lunatics are making super vampire serums and some bent-out-of-shape nutjob djinn wants to steal a title from a nice kid who was accidentally turned into a genie? I’m the muscle they send in to take care of biz.”
Vampire serums and title-stealing djinns. That would take longer to process than . . . No. He couldn’t process that. Harry shoved the ridiculousness of that statement aside and plowed onward. “So, Muscle, who’s the brains in your organization? Maybe I should talk to him?”
Harry heard Nina’s chair scrape against the floor, and it wasn’t a nice scrape. It was an angry one. How he knew that, he didn’t know. He only knew that now he’d done it—razzed the beast.
“What makes you fucking think the brains belong to a man, you sexist cave dweller?”
Damn. He’d offended her. If he was clueless about general fodder and a good-natured ribbing, he was even more clueless when it came to women and their sensitivities. In other words, he often had no choice but to just shove his foot in his mouth before a conversation even started. It was sure to end up there anyway if he was left to captain the Good Ship Small Talk.
So he began again. With an apology. Because his sister Donna had always said that was the best way to make nice when you’d tripped over your tongue. “I’m sorry, Nina. It was a simple slip of a pronoun. One I regret. I just thought, in light of the fact that you claimed muscle as your title, a job sure to keep you a busy little bee, there would be someone else who’d claimed the other titles.”
“And you naturally thought that someone would be a man.”
Sexist pig here. “How not-of-this-century of me.”
“Look, I’m gonna get to the point here. First, in one way or another, we’re all the muscle. We’re three women with mad-ass ninja skills because we’re paranormal. Not that I wouldn’t cut a bitch before all this happened to me. I was tough enough already without the vampire shit added in. Anyway, sometimes we get the occasional mad-ass specialty ninja in to consult, but it’s mostly just us three chicks. And I’m the only chick you got right now. And we don’t charge. We’re non-profit, which means we personally bankroll this nutball scheme. And if Marty puts one more bullshit pair of shoes down on her expense report as necessary to meet and greet clients with? I’m gonna beat the feet right off her.”
“Marty,” he mumbled.
“Forget Marty. Just tell me what the problem is before I go all Girl, Interrupted on you.”
“I have a lot of hair.” Everywhere. Just everywhere. He held his hand up in the dim lighting and cringed as the confession spilled from his lips.
“Gillette. They make good razors. Nice and sharp. Marty and Wanda highly reco.”
“Who are Marty and Wanda? And I don’t think a razor’s going to make a dent in this. I don’t think a case of razors can make a dent in this.”
“Marty the shoe whore and Wanda the peacemaker are the other two chicks in this out-of-control BFF venture to save this shit storm of a world. So what’re you thinking is going on here, Harry?”
“How the hell should I know? You’re the one who’s supposed to have the answers,” he groused, then frowned. Jesus, he was cranky. His normally even temper was fluctuating wildly.
If he’d angered Nina further, she was sparing him with her next words. “You musta thought it was something paranormal because you called a hotline that specializes in paranormal crisis. But, dude, we do clearly state you fucking need to read the checklist, click off your symptoms, and get a determination before you bother us with your trite bullshit, didn’t we? It’s all in bold letters right there on our website’s super annoying front page with all the eyeball bleeding fonts and the big letter X across the picture of the vampires that sparkle.”
Oh, if he was nothing, Harry Emmerson was thorough. “I did just as the site asked.”
“Did you really read the checklist and click all the little buttons that nut Marty put on the website to determine what kind of paranormal crisis you’re in?”
Harry winced in shame as though someone could see him. “I did.”
“And what did that crazy technology say you were, Harry?”
“A . . .”
“Oh, c’mon, Harry,” Nina cajoled on a cackle—one that had a hint of devilry to it. “Be a man here. Please. Because all the other dudes in crisis have been really upstanding and manly. You don’t want to land in the Sissy’s Hall of Fame, do you? You’ll be labeled and that’s never happy-clappy. So spit it out so Nina can make all your supernatural boo-boos better.”
“Other men have had a crisis of this nature?” On some small, insane level, that was almost comforting to know. Of course, that information could all be an incredible hoax on behalf of this OOPS and their muscle Nina. Again, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d missed blatantly obvious cues.
“Men, women—whatever. You name it, we’ve fucking counseled it. Now on with it, Harry Ralph Emmerson. What did the website checklist tell you?”
He paused for a moment, noting a strange hum of vibration in his ears and an even stranger pull of his muscles. It was as if they were trying to force their way out of his skin.
Shaking off the unfamiliar sensations, Harry gritted his teeth and spewed the information the website had given him. “Its determination was that I’m a werewolf. Ridiculous, of course, and I’m sure you’ve all spent hours upon hours laughing about some of the results for these inane assessments. So what I really need to know is, what’s happening to me?” Did he really want to know?
Yes, Harry. A real man would want to know.
He nodded to himself. Right. Grrrr, manly.
“So I got a question for ya and don’t lie to me either. I can smell a bullshitter like I can smell a bag of O neg—even over the phone. It’s all part of the fucking vampire charm.”
“No lying. Swear it, Crypt Keeper. Ask away,” he ground out his assurance, clamping a free hand down on his thigh to attempt to still the shaking that had begun in his calves and wormed its way upward.
“You feelin’ a little like Chewie, Harry?”
Now a Star Wars reference he totally got. He forced himself to say the word from his clenched teeth as sweat soaked his furry brow. “Yes.” May the force be with him.
“You got some big, shiny teeth poking out of your head?”
Gripping the phone tighter in his hands, Harry replied—reluctantly, but reply he did. “Yes.”
“You thinkin’ about swallowin’ a herd of sheep whole?”
Well, not sheep per se—maybe some cattle . . . He rolled his head on his neck then moved it from side to side, noting a sharp crack. “I’m definitely hungry.” Sooo hungry.
“Does your face feel like it’s gonna split the fuck apart and explode into tiny pieces?”
That made him pause. His free hand instantly went to his fur-covered jaw and then he scowled with displeasure. “More cracking wise at my expense?”
Nina snorted. “It’s the only part of this fucked-up job that brings me a deep sense of satisfaction, Harry.”
“So all of these signs mean I’m a werewolf?” he asked, trying to keep the awkward high-pitched keen to his voice steady just as his eyes rolled to the back of his head and his pin-striped shirt split open with a harsh rip of material while buttons flew haphazardly, pinging against the steel table he hid under.
“I’m leanin’ toward a big, fat yes, Harry. Wow. Marty’s gonna blow a blond gasket over this shit. Me, Harry? I’m not so excited. We’ve done an accidental werewolf already. I’m bored with shifters who look like dogs, full moon festivals and buckets o’ Nair. I need something more, Harry. A new adventure, ya know?”
“Is boredom going to factor badly for me in your choosing to take this case?” Because he didn’t know how to spice this up enough in order to entice OOPS to help him.
That worrisome thought reeled through his brain as his body began to quake, shivering in ripples of violent, jerking motions. He fought to control it, pushing back with the heels of his feet to position himself against the wall and waited for the voice on the other end of the line to answer.
Nina’s next words brought a small measure of comfort. Really small. “If fucking only, Harry. Look, we need to get this freak show on the road, and if I don’t help you, Wanda’s gonna nag, nag, nag the living snot out of me and call me a heartless biotch. Not that I care, but I have sensitive ears. All her whining makes them hurt. Anyway, the show. So, because I’m a suspicious bitch, and you could totally be full of shite—which, BTW, will show you a side of me you’ll fucking regret you’ve seen when you’re floatin’ around in the afterlife, I need more details.”
He growled his discontent—low—feral. Oh, Jesus. “Like?” he spat, his back arching with a tight snap while his limbs reared upward.
“Like how the fuck did this happen?”
“I don’t know, Crypt Keeper. All signs point to the vitaminwater I drank. It was the last thing I did before thissss happened,” he gritted out, marveling that one’s head really could perform spinning Exorcist-like acts. He knew. Because right now, his eyeballs were looking directly at the wall his back was pressed to.
“Harry, vitaminwater?” Nina repeated with a dull tone. “What the fuck kind of lame shit is that? If you’re one of those conspiracy nuts that thinks the FDA’s spikin’ shit with their special juice so they can create a super race of killing machines, just remember, I can sniff you out. I’ll beat yer as**s just ’cus I can. Got that?”
As his head did a total three-sixty on his neck, and he was once again looking at the far wall as opposed to the wall he was flush with, he fought a sissy scream of terror.
“No tinfoil hats here. Ssswear,” Harry choked out, clenching his free hand on the corner of the wall to steady his wildly thrashing legs. The moment passed, and for a brief second, his body was calm.
Stretching his arms outward to ease the tight tension of muscle and skin, he said, “But I do know, this is . . . er . . . what’s happening to me, is very real. If my head flopping and turning around on my neck like one of those bobbleheads is any indication.”
“Shut the fucking front door!” Nina yelped just as the thrum of vibration reentered his body with an intense force of heat.
Harry, at war with the clothing peeling from his body, frowned. “Huh?”
“Dude, your head spun around on your flippin’ neck? Truth?”
“Yes!” he all but roared as he lost the battle with his trousers and they split apart, falling away from his lower body, leaving small clumps of thread.
There was excitement in Nina’s response—he smelled the emotion as sure as he smelled someone’s AKC registered Rhodesian Ridgeback but two miles away. On a farm. Yes. It definitely lived on a farm.
“Jesus Christ and Linda Blair. No fucking way. Marty can’t do that shit. I’m all atwitter, Harry. It’s like Dracula’s birthday and a Stephanie Meyer’s hootenanny all at the same time.”
“To have piqued your interest leaves me humbled and awed, Crypt Keeper. So does this mean you’ll come help now?” Hell. He hoped so. If someone didn’t help him soon, there’d be no sticky-hair-remover-device in the universe big enough to clean up the pile of fur he was leaving in his wake.
“Only because it sounds like you got some new whacked ability Marty doesn’t, and it means I can poke the shit out of her with it. But that’s the only reason, Harry. Otherwise, I’d just call Wanda to come brush out your hairy as**s and throw you a sirloin. So where are you, my brotha?”
When the crunch of bone began and his fingers sprouted long, black claws, things began to get fuzzy. Heh. Fuzzy. What an ironic play on words. “Like my location?”
Nina’s response was full of exasperation. “Duh, dude. Somebody has to come out and investigate this shit. But I’m gonna remind your as**s one last time, so don’t say I didn’t warn you, if you’re fucking with me—even though my vampy senses lean toward not so much—I’ll kill you from a hundred paces. Like boom, baby.”
The screech of metal ripped through the large room when Harry fell forward on his knees, knocking into the heavy table and toppling it. His eyes scanned the room with a hazy red film covering them, gripping the phone to his ear like a lifeline.
Nina’s urgent tone jolted him from the wonder of his uncanny vision. “Dude! What the hell is going on? Give me your location!”
The last words he was able to mutter before his face did sort of split apart and he acquired a gen-u-ine muzzle were, “Pack! I’m at Pack Cosmetics!”