Now Entering Houdenville

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Episode 3
Random Visitor

A hot day, and one annoying 406.


Across town, two officers from the local police department were trying to deal with a 406 and trying to stay enough in the shade doing it so their greasepaint wouldn’t get too streaky from sweat. Which wasn’t easy, since the 406 had showed up in the middle of an abandoned parking lot just outside of town. “I’m going to wipe it off,” one of them said.

You know if you do we’ll get zombies,” was the other’s reply. He was holding an umbrella. “I’m not protecting your ass if that happens, Todd.”

I’m your partner!”

You’re also an idiot – no hat, no base, no umbrella, just a lot of whining. It’s the middle of summer, moron, you knew it was going to be hot today.” He moved a step closer to the rusted metal gate that was leading down into who knew what, and then jumped back when a shiny green beetle scurried over one of the bars. “Aw shit, I hate these! I was hoping it was maybe a tunnel under the factory or something.”

Todd squinted, keeping his distance as the beetle was joined by two more. “Nope, those are definitely Death Scarabs.” He walked around the side of the pile of stone sticking out of the cracked asphalt. “I don’t see any vents, Jace. Should we just seal the door?”

Do you remember what happened when Jim and Tracy tried that?” His partner walked around the other side, also inspecting the solidity of the stone. “I don’t see any gaps either. We could call for backup, I guess – if we had four people spraying at once it might be okay.”

It would not be ‘okay’!” a cranky voice insisted, echoing out of the gate, and both officers hurriedly moved back around the pile and pulled their sidearms. “Do I come around to your house and spray toxic foam all over it with you inside?”

My house doesn’t randomly appear in the middle of an abandoned parking lot,” Jace rebutted, rolling his eyes. “And it also doesn’t have flesh-eating beetles as guard dogs. Mind telling us what you’re doing out here?”

Am I trespassing?”

The two officers looked at each other, and Todd shrugged. “I guess in theory?”

A chuckle. “Thought so. Police harassment looks bad in the papers, boys.” The gate creaked rustily open, and a wrinkled old man with a long white beard stepped out, the scratched jewel on the crown he was wearing not quite catching the light. He winced when he saw them. “Dammit, I was hoping you were just goth. Zombies?”

All over the damn place,” Jace confirmed. He lowered his weapon so it was pointing at the ground in front of the man’s feet. “Who are you and what are you doing out here?”

And why do you have Death Scarabs?” Todd wanted to know, lowering his barrel as well. “That’s possession…”

They came with the tomb.” The old man waved it away. “I’m King Aurelius, Lord of the Underground and Keeper of the Sacred Jewel…” Jace fired, and a stream of water splattered on the ground in front of him, getting the front of his ragged robes wet. “Hey, show some respect!”

Dude, you’re wearing a little girl’s plastic princess crown,” Jace told him, rolling his eyes. “You’re not even king of my left nut. Bought the tomb off someone or just stumbled in and started squatting?”

King Aurelius drew himself up. “That’s not illegal, it was abandoned. And it accepted me as the new owner, anyway – the beetles aren’t eating me, right?”

Point,” Todd admitted. “So did you just pop up randomly or are you here for a reason?”

The old man sighed and shrugged, letting go of the bluster. “All right, fine, randomly. Sort of, anyway. The tomb picked the spot, I didn’t. Not like I know how to make it move – it didn’t come with instructions!”

Can you control the scarabs?” He nodded slowly, concentrated for a minute, and the green beetles scuttled back into the tomb. Both officers lowered their weapons the rest of the way. “Okay then,” Jace said. “No, you’re right, you aren’t trespassing – the owner of the factory is long gone. And honestly, we don’t give a damn if you’re out here or not as long as you keep your scarabs under control. You can get a waiver for them from Animal Control if the inspector passes you.”

That got a raised eyebrow. “Warrantless search, boys?”

Don’t need one if you’re in possession of potentially infestuous pests,” Todd told him. “Chapter and verse from the rule book, Aurelious. Sticking with that as your name, by the way? Because Animal Control will take your prints and run a background check, just sayin’.”

Aurelious sighed. “Fucking bureaucracy is like a weed, it’s everywhere. Fine, fine – before I took over the tomb my name was Charles Goeringle, the new name came with the place, and honestly? I wasn’t upset about it, because nobody ever spelled my real name right anyway. So call it an alias if you want, but I’d prefer to be called King Aurelious.”

We don’t have a problem with that,” Jace agreed. “Animal Control is on the other side of town, it’s the little round hill with a moat around the bottom, you can’t miss it. I’ll put down that we gave you a warning and you’ll be checking in over there for your waiver – you have 48 hours to comply or we’ll be back out here to seal the place, understood?”

The old man nodded grumpily, then turned and stomped back into his tomb, the iron gate closing behind him with a protesting squeal of rusted hinges. The two police officers went back to their car and Todd called it in on his cell phone. “Dispatch, our 406 is a Death Scarab tomb currently inhabited by one Charles Goeringle who now goes by King Aurelious. Yeah…yeah, he claims the tomb brought him here, we think he’s a squatter. We gave him the standard 48 to get inspected…no, Jace fired a warning shot and it didn’t appear to be burning him, so probably not. Yeah…no, not until we’ve had a chance to come in and touch up our makeup, it’s damn hot out here. Okay…okay, over and out.”

Jace snickered. “Another call?”

Yeah, some of the zombies from the other night are trying to picket the grocery store. Benny is over there, but they want us to go be backup while he has another talk with them about causing a public disturbance.” He adjusted the car’s vent so that the barely-cool air was blowing directly on his face and neck. “Goddamn activists.”

Yeah, I heard this bunch were vegan. Think any of them have figured out they need to eat yet?”

I’m hoping they don’t. I’d rather sweep the bastards up than write them up any day.”

Yeah, I hear you.”

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