Sunday, November 28, 2010

Exceptional: Book 2 - Part 6

I know it's been a while, but, yes, this story is still active. Since I've left you wanting a new chapter for so long, you can follow this link to the previous chapters. Enjoy.

James jogged in the cold. His breath turned to wisps of cloud before his face and he ran through them. He would be at Dr. Caine’s creepy, over-sized warehouse within a few minutes.

He just assumed Dr. Caine would be there. In his mind, the doctor had nothing else to do with his time. The old man even lived there as far as James was concerned.

James hoped he would be there. He didn’t find Dr. Caine to be the most ideal candidate for a heart to heart conversation, but he filled the only truly important criterion. He knew who James really was. He knew he was different.

James really needed somebody to freak out in front of. He needed somebody to talk to. It didn’t matter what James got in return as long as he was able to release. He was prepared to let the old man spout off about anything he wanted to after he got what he needed off his chest. He just needed an ear.

As he drew closer to his destination, James felt himself feeling calmer already. A touch of hopefulness grew inside of him. Perhaps he wasn’t settling for the only person around. Maybe this was exactly what he needed to do. He had been leery about opening up to the doctor simply because of his age. His father trusted him. He even knew his grandfather. Even Dave thought James could benefit from the relationship. According to his extensive comic book research, Dr. Caine could be just the kind of mentor James needed, an educated man of science without confusing family tie to James who could provide sound advice and guidance. Perhaps fate was leading him to seek Dr. Caine’s help, James thought. This might be the push he needed to get to know the doctor better.

James’ cell phone rang. He fished it out from his pocket just as he turned the corner and could see the large grey building where Dr. Caine conducted business.

CALL FROM…DAVE, read the screen.

“Now he calls,” James said gruffly. He hit ignore and shoved the phone back where he had found it.

(Beep beep)

There came the voicemail from Dave that James would not check. He didn’t even take the phone out this time. He merely pushed the button along its side that kept him from being bothered by any repeating notifications of the message from the friend he was ignoring.

James hopped the black iron fence surrounding the facility and had nearly reached the building. He found himself confused about where to enter. James hadn’t noticed how many different doors there were on his previous visits.


“Really?!” James said aloud as he promptly ignored the text message Dave was now sending him.

Which door was it? It hadn’t been an overhead door. James thought he remembered it being grey…or maybe green?


James resisted the urge to remove his phone from his pocket and throw it as far as he could as he ignored another text from Dave. That door had to be around here somewhere.


When the third text message came through, James stopped where he stood and took out his phone. Instead of checking a single message, he turned it off and dropped it back into his pocket.

“There,” he said to himself, frustration beginning to get the best of him. “Now where is that damn door?”

James began to run around the building to check if the door he was looking for might be on the opposite side. He felt like he was about to scream.

“And why does it stink so bad around here?”

Whoever was at the front door seemed to want it answered immediately. First the bell rang multiple times the way it does when an overzealous trick-or-treater arrives. Then there was knocking. The ringing and knocking alternated a few times, each becoming more aggressive. As James’ mother descended the staircase calling, “Just a minute,” wondering if someone was dying on her front porch, the knocking and ringing had interwoven into one big commotion.

She checked the peephole first and, seeing it was no threat, swung the door open as the bell still rang.

“David,” she shouted, both concerned and scolding in a this-better-be-good tone. “My word! What’s the matter?”

Dave stood at James’ front door, out of breath, his jacket open and with a stack of comic books tucked haphazardly under his arm. He cleared his throat and tried to compose himself as if he were trying to convince James’ mother that the frantic pounding had all been in her head.

“Ahem…um, yes, I was just, um…good evening Mrs. Barton. Is James home?”

“He left,” she said suspiciously as she eyed the boy. “You are going to freeze the way you’re dressed. Does your mother know you’re out like that?”

Dave ignored her concern and asked about James. “Is he due back soon?”

“I’m not sure. I think so. Should I tell him to call you?”

“No, no, that’s not good,” Dave muttered more to himself than anyone and shuffled back and forth on his feet. “Do you know where he went? Did he say anything? Was he upset?”

“He said he was going for a run,” James’ mother said. “He’s spent the last few days in his room so I was happy he was getting out. He didn’t seem upset.” She was growing more concerned about Dave’s behavior. She had never seen him like this before. “Why don’t you come inside and wait for him?”

“Noooooooo,” Dave dragged out his answer as he thought of what to do. “That’s okay, I’m just going to go now and if you see James some time soon, please ask him to call me.” Dave bit his lip and looked to the ground, then he turned down the walk and left, muttering to himself the entire time, “Where would he go?”

“David,” James’ mother called after him. “Where are you going?”

“Where?” Dave repeated while his mind was somewhere far away. “Where? Nowhere, I’m just…”

He stopped and turned to look at James’ mother, his eyes suddenly wide open. “Where!” He shouted. “Ware! Thank you Mrs. Barton. See you later!” Then he ran off down the street.

He turned the corner and was out of sight. James’ mother stood outside in the cold on her front porch and contemplated calling Dave’s mother. “Dear Lord, please don’t let him be on drugs,” she said aloud.

Meanwhile, Dave ran down the street, his open jacket blowing behind him like a cape. He knew where he was going to try and find James. Dave was headed for the old industrial complex on third street. He needed to find James soon.

“Ware. Ware…house,” Dave said and produced his cell phone. “C’mon, pick up.”

Dave slowed down and stared at the screen on his phone in disbelief when it went to voicemail faster than it should have. “He’s giving me the silent treatment. How dare he give me the silent treatment. I’m giving him the silent treatment.”


It was time to leave a message and Dave rushed the phone back to his ear.

“James,” he said loudly, “I don’t know where you are right now, but I hope it’s not with that doctor. Listen to me, James. You can’t trust him. He’s up to no good. You’re going to think I’m crazy, but you have to trust me. I should have seen it before but I wanted him to be good. I wanted him to be good so bad. He’s not good though James, he’s evil. Stay away from him. Call me when you get this.”

He hung up the phone, tucked it in his jacket pocket and continued on his way. Seconds later, the phone was back out. Dave began texting.






Dave was already out of breath but continued running as fast as he could.

“Not good,” he wheezed.

James swung the enormous iron door open. He thought momentarily that it seemed lighter than it ought to be before he reminded himself that he was stronger than he ought to be.

“Doctor Caine?” he called into the darkness.

He let his eyes adjust from the sun and eventually saw a dim light in the distance. It was at the other end of the building. It seemed like it was blocks away from where James stood.

Fumbling through the dark, James kicked at least a few unknown objects, nearly causing him to trip and fall on his face each time. On more than one occasion, he swore he heard something scurry off.

“Doctor Caine,” he called again into the distance. “It’s me, James. Are you here?”

James continued to advance slowly toward the far off light. After what felt like several minutes of walking, continually calling out to the doctor, James could finally see that the glow came from the lamp over the doctor’s lab table. It was the same table where James had watched him label blood samples. The light was on but the old man was nowhere to be seen.

“Doctor Caine,” James called again, softer this time.

He suddenly doubted his decision to seek out Dr. Caine. He felt that even if he had found him there, he would have surely been too busy to worry about the problems of a teenager who wasn’t even his relative. Besides, the warehouse stunk. James felt silly and humiliated. He wanted nothing more than to leave and was about to turn and go.

“James?” came a voice from behind. “James, is that you?”

James turned around to see Doctor Caine adjusting his glasses and wiping his hands vigorously with a rag.

“Doctor, I guess I didn’t see you there.”

“Yes my boy, I keep it awfully dark in here. Not worth the cost of lighting an entire building that is mostly unused. My apologies.” He walked closer to James than James felt comfortable with and smiled a yellow, long-toothed smile. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit here today?”

James found the doctor’s scent particularly overwhelming. The coffee and cheese on his breath. Blue cheese. And onions. James wondered what the man’s diet consisted of exactly.

And then there was the smell of the blood. The doctor was always working with blood. Blood of James’ relatives dating back generations. It didn’t seem right to James that anyone would be that interested in blood, or that content in spending so much time handling it, whether they had an extensive medical background or not.

“I just…I, uh, was…I mean, I wanted to talk to somebody,” James stammered. “I’ve been having a kind of rough time lately and I just needed somebody to…talk to. Somebody who understands that I’m different and could, you know, maybe give me some advice.” He turned his eyes to the floor in embarrassment. “I don’t know.”

While James spoke, the odors swirled around him. The blood and the doctor’s breath intertwined with one another. It made James think he would probably never be able to drink coffee without thinking he could taste blood. And there was another scent, beneath the others, but definitely there. Like every other scent James seemed to notice, it was familiar, yet foreign. He didn’t know what it was but felt he should.

“I have no problem talking,” Dr. Caine said and slid a chair toward James. “Please sit, my boy,” he suggested and James did so. “But, James, I fear I could hardly be a substitute for any amount of guidance your father might be able to offer. Is it something you feel you cannot speak with him about for some reason?” Dr. Caine made his way to his lab table.

“He’s not around,” James said.

Without hesitating, Dr. Caine continued sorting through items from his table and asked, “Is that so? Where has he gone?”

“I don’t know,” James shrugged. “On some business trip. I’m not even sure my mom knows where he is. It was a last minute thing and…well, now he’s not here and I screwed some stuff up and he’s not here to help and I really wish he was.”

The doctor turned from his table with a facemask in his hand. It was the kind of mask James had seen on doctor television shows. The kind the patient wears as they lie on the table during surgery.

“Calm yourself,” the doctor said. “I can see you are upset. Let me attach this to an oxygen tank and you can take a few deep breaths. It will help to clear your mind. Then we can talk some more.”

“Okay,” James agreed, desperate for something, anything that might help.

Dr. Caine walked behind where James sat in the chair. James heard the dinging of metal on metal.

“So tell me,” the doctor spoke from behind him, “did your mother seem distressed that you father had gone on this trip. You said it was a rather sudden turn of events, did you not?”

“She didn’t seem worried,” James said, trying his best to answer. He was distracted by that one smell. It caused him to turn his head from side to side now and then. It pawed at his face like a house pet that demanded attention. “I mean, I can’t remember the last time he went on a trip for work, but she seemed to think it was totally normal, so I didn’t really think twice about it.”

“Well it’s encouraging to know that she isn’t concerned. Now put this over your nose and mouth.”

As Dr. Caine helped James place the mask on his face, the odors became blocked. That alone was a relief to James. His thoughts became clearer almost instantly.

“Now I want you to start taking deep breaths as I release the valve,” the doctor instructed.

James obeyed. As he took a deep breath and another, his head cleared. The scents were gone. He could remember them, but they were no longer assaulting his nostrils, keeping him from thinking straight. As James heard the hissing sound and felt the rush of the gas on his face, he took another deep breath and felt a memory coming back to him regarding what the new scent he couldn’t quite place was. It was right there on the fringe of his memory like he could almost reach out and grab it.

“Good. Good. Keep breathing now, my boy. Just a bit longer.”

James took another deep breath and could feel the gas flow into his lungs.

His father. The scent was his father. It was the scent James had smelled before on the few times that they took runs together long enough to cause him to break out in a sweat. James took another deep breath, satisfied that he had finally placed what it was he had been smelling.

By the time James thought to question why he could smell his father’s sweat so clearly in the warehouse, his head had already gone fuzzy. The nitrous had taken effect and he collapsed off of the chair and onto the cement floor. The last thing James remembered seeing was the doctor opening a door in the floor. Then he blacked out.

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