Given the empty and rather disgusting state of the swimming pool out back, Asche didn’t think anyone would care if he stole one of the plastic pool chairs and brought it in front of his room. Then, figuring he already had a chair, he might as well bring one of the little plastic tables. Content with this, he further decided that even if today was the day Dietrich started giving a fuck again, the fuck he gave wouldn’t be for Asche drinking a beer in front of his room. With his chair and table and beer all set up, Asche sat down with his sketchbook and a few of his pencils. He really liked the look of the front office with the sign and the Cowboy looming over it. He wanted to draw it. Later, he wanted to put in an alien spacecraft trying to take the Cowboy. Yeah, that would be funny.
He was working on the Cowboy’s lasso when the taxi cab swung into the parking lot and cut to a quick stop right in front of him. Someone inside the cab shoved money at the cabbie with one hand and swung the door open with the other. Tristan half stepped, half fell out, and barely got the door closed before he was running across the parking lot and taking the steps up to the second floor. The cabbie made a very professional K-Turn in the parking lot before rolling back to the street, signaling his right turn, waiting three full seconds, and pulling out, heading north towards the city.
Above him, Asche could hear Tristan fumbling with the door key.
“Marguerite? Hey, I figured out who…Margie, are you here? Shit.”
Asche sat his book and pencil down on the table next to his beer and stood up quickly. It was the first time he’d ever heard Tristan say anything worse than ‘gosh.’
“Tristan!” Asche called up. After a couple of seconds Tristan appeared at the balcony. Even in the dark Asche could see his face was clouded with worry.
“Have you seen Marguerite?”
“What’s going on? Is everything okay?”
“I figured out who the ogre is,” Tristan said. Loudly.
“Say it again only with more feeling,” Asche said. “I don’t think the family in 101 heard you.”
Tristan rolled his eyes but still looked around to see if anyone else was in the courtyard. He disappeared for a couple of seconds, and Tristan heard his room door slam shut. Then there was feet on the stairs.
“I was at the university library, and there were books on…on stuff like this. And I found a thing on ogres. And it was all the same as that journal, except it said they feed every fifteen years. Not twelve.”
“Maybe the book was wrong,” Asche said. But Tristan was shaking his head.
“If it’s twelve years, we don’t have a lead. If it’s fifteen years…who just had a birthday?”
Light bulb on. Dawn over Marblehead. Asche groaned.
“Daphne,” he said.
“How could it be Daphne? She’s so…little…”
“Not when she’s an ogre, I guess. We need to tell Marguerite. And find Daphne.”
Asche could feel the blood drain away from his face. Apparently it had a visible effect, because Tristan immediately became alarmed.
“What? What is it?”
“Margie is with Daphne.”
“Some school report thing, I don’t know…They’re at her trailer.”
Tristan didn’t say anything, only started running to the front of the parking lot. Given the state of his suit and his hair, Asche guessed it wasn’t the first time Tristan had been going at a dead sprint today. Asche followed after him, finding it harder to keep up than he expected.
“Shouldn’t we have weapons or something?” he called through the panting.
“If I’m right, we shouldn’t need them,” Tristan called back.
At any hour there was barely any traffic in the Pasodoble and now was no exception. The two of them ran straight through intersection, barely looking for any cars, the light blinking red and yellow above them. The Happy Oaks offices was already quiet and dark, and no one came out to investigate as they ran past. A young couple with a couple of babies were playing on a homemade playset in front of one of the trailers. They stared as the two of them ran past, bemused. Asche slowed slightly.
“The Millers?” he asked. Both husband and wife pointed to the back, in the direction they were going.
“They live in the back somewhere,” Tristan called back.
“Down this way!”
Beyond a point, there was only two trailers on either end of the trailer park. One was completely dark. The other had lights on. They headed for that one, both of them running harder than they thought they could. Both of them trying to convince themselves that nothing had happened yet. Daphne was Daphne, most of the time. Asche was picturing them running up to the trailer and banging on the door. Scaring the crap out of Daphne and Marguerite and probably Winona. The three of them would be sitting around the kitchen table, a notebook in front of Daphne, remnants of dinner on the counter. And they would laugh. And then, of course, have some weird explaining to do, probably, but Asche could take that over the alternative.
Which was rapidly becoming the reality, it seemed. As they approached the trailer they could see the front door was standing wide open.
No, wait. It wasn’t standing. It was on the ground a few feet away from the trailer. Ripped off its hinges. Tristan ran and jumped into the trailer, Asche right behind him.
Well, he had been right about dinner remnants on the counter. They were also on the table, on the walls, and on the floor. The table was snapped in two. One piece upside down near the fridge. The other leaning against the back of the couch. There were holes, large ones, punched into the walls.
There was blood on the floor. And smeared on the walls immediately surrounding the doors.
“We’re too late,” Tristan said, his voice small and breathless.
“But where are they?” Asche asked. “If they’re dead, where’s the bodies? Where’s Daphne?”
From outside, somewhere in the desert, came a deep, rumbling roar. It sounded like the train…but not entirely so. Asche and Tristan looked at each other.
Tristan was cut off by two high pitched screams, so much quieter than the rumble, but still there. The two of them were out of the trailer before the screams ran out.