Blaine stepped into the apartment, flipped on the light and locked the door behind him. The answering machine beeped as if in greeting. That meant he had messages. Maribelle? he wondered, hoped, but doubted it. She was still pissed at him. *If I could just talk to her.* He hadn’t been able to concentrate at work that day, not at all. Hell, he hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything. Nothing but Maribelle, and the trouble she was in. The danger she was in. And the monstrosity she was keeping as her new pet. *What is going on in your head, girl?*
Blaine plopped down on the couch. He felt exhausted. He thought about calling her. Instead he picked up the remote from the coffee table and clicked on the television. ESPN. He tried not to think about Maribelle alone in her apartment with the creature, or about what might happen to her if anybody found out what she was doing, hiding it. *You’re digging your own grave, and you don’t even know it.*
The doorbell chimed. Blaine jumped to his feet, crossed the room and looked through the peephole. “Shit.” *You don’t know how lucky you are, to have me watching out for your best interests, even if you’re not.* Blaine unlocked the door. “What do you want?” he said.
“A beer’d be nice, for starters,” Phil Hamm said.
Blaine opened the door. Hamm took Blaine’s seat on the couch as Blaine went to the refrigerator and grabbed a couple cans of Budweiser. He figured he’d be needing one, too.
“So what’s the plan?” Blaine said, handing Hamm the beer.
“You ain’t talked to anybody about our little arrangement, now have you?” Hamm asked. “Not even your girl?”
“I’m not stupid,” Blaine said. “You painted a very clear picture of what would happen if I did.”
“I just want that thing away from Maribelle. The sooner the better.” Blaine sat down in the chair across from Hamm. He cracked the top of his beer. “So why are we sitting around with our thumbs in our asses. You know where the creature is.”
“Seems the old lady that’s callin’ the shots, she’s kinda eccentric,” Hamm said. “We got us some new marchin’ orders, as of today.”
“What are you talking about?” Blaine demanded.
“Look, if it was up to me, we’d already have the sucker hog-tied, believe me,” Hamm said. “But Big Mama Natarajan has other plans.”
“I said I’d help you capture the creature,” Blaine said. “But as far as anything else goes, no.”
“Afraid you don’t get to negotiate,” Hamm said. “Not if you want all that incriminatin’ evidence against your girlfriend to up an’ disappear. Far as that goes,” he said, “I ain’t got much room to wiggle, myself.”
“What is it you want, then?”
“Me, I don’t want shit,” Hamm said. “But the crazy bitch that’s pullin’ my strings, she’s a different story. What she wants is revenge.”