Clay woke up in his bed shaking with a mixture of anger and fear.
He killed my Dad.
He swore loudly, and Apollo poked his head into the room.
“What happened?” He asked.
Clay hesitated for a split second. “The launch was canceled.”
Apollo’s face cycled through multiple emotions, sadness, concern, confusion and Clay swore he caught a bit of anger in there.
“And they’re just telling you this now?”
“It seems that way.” Clay muttered.
“They couldn’t give you some kind of warning?”
“There was apparently a bomb threat. They couldn’t just ignore it.”
Apollo seemed to understand and grabbed his briefcase just outside the door. “Well I gotta get to work. I’ll see you soon.”
Apollo left and Clay called Cosmos. Same conversation. This was starting to get a bit tedious.
Clay thought of maybe trying to do something productive, but figured that it was useless since he was probably going to lose all the progress he made. So he watched TV.
. . .
“Y’know what we should do?”
Apollo raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“We should go to Disneyland for the weekend!”
“We’re in the area, it’s the weekend, school hasn’t let out for Christmas break yet, it’s perfect!”
Apollo stared for a few minutes, but finally shrugged. “Why not? I’m game.”
“Woo!” Clay took off and started throwing things into a suitcase.
An hour later they were checking into a hotel.
“So what made you want to go to Disney?” Apollo asked.
“Well uh… I was pretty upset about the whole launch thing and decided that instead of bathing in my self pity, I’d indulge in some childish fun and rampant materialism.” Clay shrugged. “I mean, who doesn’t love Disneyland?”
“People who hate leg cramps and long wait times,” Apollo suggested.
“Shut up. We’re going to Disney and you’re going to enjoy it!”
Apollo laughed quietly. “Yeah yeah, I gotcha.”
. . .
Sunday came earlier than either Clay or Apollo had expected. It didn’t take much to convince Apollo to just check out of the hotel and spend the rest of the day at the park.
When they arrived home later that night, they found a note in front of the door to their apartment. Clay picked them up.
“Greetings! I have business to discuss with a Mr. Clay Terran. I swung by, but neither of you were home. I’ll check back tomorrow.” He read.
“Hm… wonder what he wants to talk about.” Apollo said as he trudged back to his room. “Man, there’s a part of me that wants to go to bed, but that means work in the morning.”
Clay shrugged. “You don’t do much at the office right?”
Apollo collapsed on his bed. “Eh… depends on Mr. Wright’s mood.”
“Then don’t tell him how you spent your weekend then.”
Apollo buried himself under the covers. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Clay walked to his own room and laid on his bed. He tucked his arms under his head.
Fulbright wouldn’t give up that easily, would he?
He tossed and turned for a few hours, his eyes heavy, but his mind refused to stop thinking paranoid thoughts.
At around one in the morning, Clay finally decided to try and do something somewhat productive. He sat down at his desk and looked Bobby Fulbright up.
One of the first results was a news article.
Police Detective Reported Missing.
Sure enough the article was about Fulbright. A link was at the bottom of the page with the caption ‘For an update on the situation, click the following link.’
Clay clicked on it and found that Fulbright had been found. The article detailed that he claims to have taken an impromptu vacation. A year long vacation. And he turned up just in time to become Blackquill’s escort.
I smell a fish. And this one’s more rotten than usual.
Clay was typing at his computer until he heard movement around him. He pushed himself away from the desk and raced out of the room.
“Oh hey,” Apollo said as he brewed a pot of coffee.
“Apollo, I have ground-breaking information to tell you.”
Apollo raised an eyebrow. “Alright, what is it?”
“Okay so… over a year ago Fulbright went missing.”
Clay nodded. “Yeah, and after a year he just showed up out of the blue and started being Blackquill’s bodyguard… escourt… thing.”
Apollo cocked his head to the side. “And?”
“‘And’! That’s all you have to say? How does someone just decide to take a year-long vacation and tell no one? I’m sure that if either of us were going away that long, we’d tell someone so people don’t, I dunno, report us missing!”
“So you think Fulbright isn’t who he says he is?”
“…Alright, I” ll ask around and see what I can find out.”
“Be careful. Okay?”
A small smile formed on Apollo’s face. “Since when have I been anything less than careful?”
“Well let’s see…”
“Hey, I take offense to that.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Well I gotta go.” He grabbed his briefcase, and was out the door.
So Monday seems to be the new I-survived-the-wrath-of-a-crazy-and-or-fake-detective record. Let’s see how much longer I can last.
Clay sighed and looked around for something to do. His gaze fell upon a bookshelf and the thought occurred to him that if he really wanted to, he could read every book on that shelf. If the days kept resetting, he had an unlimited amount of time to do anything. Hell, he could write a book if he wanted to. The thought almost made Clay feel important until he remembered that any progress made would be erased once he died.
Clay decided that all he could do was collapse on the couch and wallow in the futility of his existence.
A few minutes into his existential crisis, there was a knock on the front door.
God, what has the world come to where a guy can’ t feel like garbage without being interrupted?!
On the other side of the peephole, Fulbright was standing with his feet planted in the middle of the welcome mat.
Clay looked around frantically.
There has to be a way out of here.
The balcony opened up to a barrier that could easily be hopped. Clay did just that and took off running to his car. He wasn’t sure if Fulbright had seen him, but he wasn’t going to let that hinder his progress.
Hopefully I won’t be arrested for displaying suspicious behavior…
Clay’s heart was pounding as he tore out of the apartment complex and into the throng of traffic. Explaining everything to Apollo was going to be a blast.
. . .
Finally the Anything Agency came into view, and Clay burst in through the front door.
“Welcome to the Wright- oh hello Clay!” Trucy said, a big smile on her face. “What brings you here today?”
“I’d like to hear your explanation too,” Apollo said.
“Well, Fulbright knocked on my door.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What did he want?”
Clay shrugged. “I was too busy jumping a fence to ask.”
Apollo smacked a palm into his forehead. “Why.”
“I don’t know…” Clay said. “I felt uncomfortable is all.”
“What’s wrong with Detective Fulbright? I think he’s nice.” Trucy said, and Clay explained his suspicions to her.
“So Fulbright’s probably going to track me down and drag me to the precinct.”
Trucy’s eyes widened. “We can’t have that happen!”
The door to the Agency opened and they all froze.
“Oh hey Apollo. Who do you have here, a new client?”
Apollo shook his head. “This is my friend Clay. Clay this is Athena.”
Clay’s eyes widened. “You’re the one who threw a cop at Apollo!”
Athena started nervously running her fingers through her massive ponytail. “Ha ha… yeah, that’s me.”
“Ah it’s alright. I think I’m currently wanted by a cop so I could use your skills.”
Athena gave Clay a strange look. “Why’s that?”
“I jumped a fence and ran away from Fulbright.”
“He’s uh… not usually like this.” Apollo started, but Clay shook his head.
“Runnin’ from the cops changes you. I don’t expect you to understand.”
A small smile crept onto Athena’s face. “That’s a little dramatic don’tcha think?”
“I suppose.” He said.
“But drama’s a part of show business!” Trucy chimed in. “Like the time I locked Apollo in an Iron Maiden!”
Apollo shuddered. “Please don’t remind me of that. Those are some mental scars that have yet to fade.”
There was a loud knock on the door and Clay froze.
“Okay I gotta hide.” He ran through an open door and found himself in the fabled bathroom.
The toilet from the prophecy must be in here.
It wasn’t as bad as Clay expected, but he didn’t have any time to marvel at the porcelain menace before Apollo spoke,
“Oh hello Detective Fulbright.”
Gotta hide. Gotta hide…
The only viable hiding place was under the sink. Clay opened the cabinet doors and climbed in. It was a tight squeeze and a few pipes were jabbing into his side, but it was a hiding place all the same.
Clay couldn’t hear the conversation from his spot under the sink, but there also weren’t any gunshots so everything seemed to be going okay.
After a minute, there was a knock on the door and Apollo said, “I’m comin’ in.” The door opened and Clay could hear footsteps. “where did you go?” The door to the cabinet brushed against Apollo’s leg as Clay tumbled out. “How did you manage to fit in there?”
“Pure willpower. One can do anything if they just believe.”
“…Okay then.” Apollo said, helping Clay to his feet.
“So what did Fulbright want?”
“Asked if any of us knew where you were.”
“I imagine someone else did the talking?”
“Yeah, Trucy. She’s much better at the whole ‘lying’ thing.” Apollo ran a hand through his hair. “We should probably go back out there.” The two made their way back out into the common room. There was someone else there now.
“Oh, hi Mr. Wright.” Apollo said awkwardly. “This is my friend Clay. He uh… stopped by for a visit.”
Phoenix extended a hand to Clay, who shook it. “Nice to meet you Clay. What brings you to the Agency?”
“Just wanted to say ‘hi’ to Apollo I guess.” Clay replied.
“So why were you hiding out in the bathroom?”
“…Duty called and I answered. Y’know how it is.”
He’s going to think you’re insane.
“I’m sure Apollo can vouch for me.”
Apollo’s head snapped up. “What?”
“No, uh, it’s fine… Really.” Phoenix seemed to study Clay for a few moments. “Say, you’re one of the astronauts on the HAT 2 launch. Aren’t you?”
Clay rubbed the back of his neck. “Ha ha… yeah, I was until it was canceled.”
“Did you not hear about that?”
“Daddy’s a little slow when it comes to news.” Trucy said, a broad smile on his face. “Don’t take it personally.”
“Was that a recent development?” Phoenix asked and Clay nodded.
“Yeah, I only learned about it last Friday. It was pretty unexpected.”
“That’s a shame.” Phoenix said. “Do you have any idea if the launch is going to be rescheduled?”
“I dunno. I hope so.” Clay said. “But funding’s been stretched thin, so one can only cross their fingers and hope for the best.”
Phoenix nodded. “Well it was nice meeting you Clay.” He turned and walked back into his office.
“So… Fulbright said something about you and Apollo living in the same apartment.” Athena said, rocking back and forth on her heels.
“Yeah,” Clay said.
“So… when’s the wedding?”
“When I can afford a ring. Have you seen how expensive they are nowadays!”
“It’s highway robbery I’m tellin’ ya.”
Apollo rolled his eyes.
“Maybe if you stopped ordering so much takeout, you’d have more money.”
“You need to make a Kickstarter.” Athena said, causing Clay’s eyes to widen.
“You, are my new best friend.” He said. “Next to Apollo of course.”
“The title will be ‘HELP!-‘ gotta make sure it’s in all caps so people don’t overlook it- ‘engagement ring too expensive!’ People will have to help out.”
“Knowing the types of people who frequent Kickstarter, that just might work.” Apollo said.
Trucy stared with awe. “I need to make one to afford more posters for my magic show!”
“I thought you already had a poster design?”
“Well yeah, but I still have to get them printed out and Daddy already gave me a ten year advance on my allowance last year.” Trucy grabbed Clay’s arm. “You’ll help me make one. Right?” Everyone’s eyes were on Clay. He could feel the weight of his decision. This was life or death.
Oh right. I’ll probably die before I can make the page so it doesn’t matter.
“Sure, I’d be happy to.”
“Yay! I knew I could count on you!”
Clay couldn’t help but smile. “It’s no problem really.”
“Let’s make it now!” Trucy dragged Clay to a laptop where she sat him down. When she wasn’t looking, Clay sent out a help signal that was replied with a shake of the head. Clay made sure to note that they were not going to receive any Christmas presents.
So much code. So much code, and color theory, and PNGs. It wasn’t until the sun went down that Clay emerged from the room with a completed Kickstarter page. He felt like he was going to die.
No Clay. You need to be strong.
Trucy bounced excitedly.
“It looks amazing! Thank you Clay!”
Clay forced a smile. “I hope you get enough donations.”
Trucy nodded. “Of course I will!”
The Agency was closing down by then so while Phoenix locked up, Clay loaded Apollo’s bike into the back of his car.
“Hey, how about we head down to a bar and get some drinks?” Apollo asked once they were both in the car.
“Don’t you have to work tomorrow?” Clay asked.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. I guess we can just pick something up at a store.”
Half an hour later, they arrived home to another note left by Fulbright:
I checked back again and saw you weren’t here. I know you got my other note.
Clay shoved it into his pocket just as Apollo caught up.
They entered the apartment and both cracked open a beer and sat down on the couch.
“Remember that one time we got trashed in high school?”
Apollo groaned. “How could I forget.” He muttered. “I was grounded for two months.”
“And my Dad made me call Rah’bel and apologize for bringing booze to your house.”
“Oh my god really?”
Clay laughed. “Yeah, my Dad was all, ‘you need to apologize for breaking Rah’bel’s trust.'” Apollo folded his arms behind his head.
“I did not hear about that.”
“Oh my god she was freaking out. She was all ‘I expected better from you’ and all that stuff.” Apollo laughed.
“She said the same thing to me!”
“I mean, you’d think that someone who works in a bar and walks around with a cigarette dangling from her mouth-”
“An unlit cigarette.” Apollo corrected.
Clay took a swig from his beer. “An unlit cigarette dangling from her mouth would be fine with you drinking some booze, but no!”
“Ugh, she was pissed. I felt so bad when she started saying ‘what if you had gotten alcohol poisioning? You could’ve gotten seriously hurt!’ God that was the worst day of my life.”
“And here we are laughing about it six years later.” Clay said and held up his can. “Cheers.” They both toasted.
They sat drinking their beers and making small talk until suddenly Apollo said, “Sorry about Trucy. She can be a little pushy sometimes.” His speech was beginning to slur.
“It’s okay.” Clay replied with a wave of his hand and a swig from his third can. “I just said yes ’cause I thought I’d be dead before I could make it.” He turned his head to see Apollo staring at him.
“Dead. D… E… dead!”
Clay waved his hand once again. Whether to dismiss the point or just a mannerism his drunken mind felt repeating was unknown.
“Aww, who knows?”
Apollo took the can out of Clay’s hand.
“I think you’ve had enough of this.”
“Don’t you have work tomorrow?”
Apollo’s eyes widened. “Aw shit I do!” He put the can down as he stifled a yawn.
“Why did you want to grab booze anyway?” Clay asked, but Apollo just shrugged.
“I dunno. Guess I felt like it was a good apology… thing.” He stretched across Clay’s lap. “Hope you don’t mind.”
Clay just shrugged as he picked up the can Apollo had stolen from him.
“That’s your last one.”
“Well I can’t reach another one can I?”
“My plan has suc…ceed…” Apollo fell asleep before he could finish his sentence.
. . .
Clay woke up to an alarm and Apollo still stretched across his lap. A headache had formed and he was in major need of an aspirin and a glass of water.
“Ugh… hey Apollo,” he poked Apollo’s cheek. “Wake up.”
Apollo rolled over and fell off the couch. “Ow.” He pulled out his phone and turned the alarm off. “I’d better start getting ready.”
“I’m gonna hang out with you at the office again. Is that okay?”
Apollo shrugged, and made his way towards the bathroom.
Fulbright’s probably going to swing by today so we need to get out of here ASAP.
While Apollo was showering, Clay threw their belongings into two suitcases and tried to ignore the growing headache.
Now I’m gonna need a reason for us to leave…
“Clay what are you doing?” Apollo was staring at him.
“…We’re going on a field trip!”
Apollo brushed past him and started fixing his hair in the mirror. “Does this have to do with that crap you said last night about dying?”
Clay froze. “Did I say that?”
“Yeah, care to elaborate?”
“Not really, but considering the fact that you’re not going to accept that answer, I guess I am.” He thought about how to describe what was happening. “I… don’t really know how to explain it. I die, and then I wake up in my bed the Friday before the Launch.”
Apollo knit his eyebrows together. “And you expect me to believe that.”
Apollo pressed his lips into a straight line. “How many time have you… y’know.”
“Let me think… I’ve died like… three times?”
“And you didn’t think to tell me?”
“When I did, you didn’t believe me, and we both died mad at each other.”
Apollo’s face softened and he wrapped Clay in a hug.
“You still think I’m insane.”
“A little bit.”
“Then can you just humor me?”
Apollo sighed. “It’s probably not healthy, but sure. Where are we going?”
“A hotel. Finish getting ready then we’re leaving.”
“You gotta wait ’til you can drive.”
“We’ll take a bus then. Just hurry up!”
Apollo quickly finished doing his hair then threw the gel into the suitcase.
They caught a bus and checked into a hotel. Apollo had to head off to work so Clay was left alone in the room.
“Hopefully Fulbright doesn’t find us here.” Clay muttered and exited the hotel. He was going to meet Apollo at the Agency after he got a room.
Clay lifted his hand to the doorknob when it flew open.
“I got a donation!” Trucy said, smiling the biggest smile Clay had ever seen.
“Really, how much?”
“That’s great!” He entered to find Apollo and Athena whispering amongst themselves. “Hey,” they both jumped at the sound of Clay’s voice. “What’re you talking about?”
Apollo opened his mouth to speak when Athena said, “oh nothing.”
I don’t need Apollo’s superpowers to see that you’re lying.
“So you’re staying at a hotel?” Athena said.
Clay had to stop himself from narrowing his eyes. “Yeah, and your point is?”
“I was wondering if maybe you’d like to have a quick therapy session?”
“Why would I want that? I’m perfectly fine.”
“I’m just sensing some hesitation from you.” Athena gave him a pitying look and offered him a ‘reassuring’ smile. “It’ll only take a couple minutes.”
“Fine, but I’m not crazy.”
Athena pressed a button on her necklace and a holographic screen appeared. Clay was too upset to marvel at how cool the back of his mind thought it was.
“Commencing psychological analysis.” A little voice said.
“Alright Clay, why did you get a hotel room? Don’t you have a perfectly fine apartment?”
“We do, it’s just… I don’t trust Fulbright. He’s been visiting our house every day and leaving notes, and I don’t think he’s who he says he is.”
“He went missing for a year and conveniently turned up just in time to be Blackquill’s bodyguard.”
Athena looked down at the screen and was swiping it back and forth. “During your statement about not trusting Fulbright, I sensed an abnormal amount of anger. Why’s that?”
Clay hesitated for a moment. “…I’m sure Apollo’s already told you everything.”
Apollo shrank down.
“But… I’ve died, and… and come back to life.”
Trucy’s eyes widened. “You mean like a zombie?”
“No, not really. What I mean is I was killed and when I died, I was taken back to the Friday morning before.”
Athena looked down at the screen once again. “So you’re angry at Fulbright because…”
“Fulbright’s been the one to kill me almost every single time.”
“You’re kidding!” Apollo and Athena said at the same time.
“Then who else killed you?” Athena asked.
“I don’t know, it was dark and I couldn’t see anything.”
“If you’ve died before, why haven’t you told anyone?”
“He tried to tell me.” Apollo said. “But I didn’t believe him.”
“Polly!” Trucy said. “You’re supposed to believe in your friends!” She crossed her arms.
“Why are you blaming me! I believed Clay this time!”
“Barely.” Clay muttered.
“Hey… Shut up.”
There was a knock on the door and Clay stood up quickly.
“Well it was nice talking to you about my mental stability, but I need to split.” Clay scurried to the bathroom where he climbed under the sink.
“Oh Detective Fulbright! What brings you here again?” Apollo asked loudly. There was silence. “You want to talk to me?” Clay couldn’t hear anything after that. Either Apollo lowered his voice, or they moved out of earshot. Both possibilities made him uneasy as he hugged his knees to his chest and his heartbeat filled the empty silence.
There were no frantic shouts or signs that a struggle was ensuing, so he stayed put.
“Alright thank you Detective, I’ll keep an eye out for him.” The sound of a door opening and closing was heard and then footsteps approached the bathroom.
Clay climbed out and was met with Apollo standing in the doorway.
“Fulbright talked to you?”
“How’d you do?”
“Pretty good I think. My heart didn’t burst out of my chest so I’ll classify that as a success.”
Both men stepped back into the main area when a shot rang out. Clay fell to the ground as shouts surrounded him.