How do you figure? Eric asked suddenly, taking Becker off guard.
Well, I can't be completely sure, because there are documents missing. Becker said. Namely, anything on your parents, but I can tell you, I know one thing.
And that would be? Eric begged, reaching for answers. He wanted them as bad as Becker had wanted them a mere 48 hours earlier. The room was spinning in wonder. What exactly had Becker uncovered?
See, I began to piece things together from the moment the cable disappeared. Where were we? Karen's party. The walls are very climbable. Easy to jump. And I have to remember who was at the party. Lots of people, sure. But then in Virginia Beach, I remember talking to Eric about his family, among a number of Brain Hemorrhages. Then I had my hallucination about the rabbit, and then I got the number. I think Kingston was right. My mind wanted me to believe those things.
So what does this have to do with anything?! Anson asked angrily, growing bored of Becker's pausing dramatically.
Let's trace the Zippler family tree, shall we? Becker proposed, walking over to the whiteboard on the basement wall. Eric had put it there to keep track of scales and remember certain tabs. Now, it served a new purpose.
Jay's heart did a back flip. How did Becker know about his family history? He had never told anyone, yet both Becker and the Shredder somehow knew. They were on that wavelength of insanity, becoming slowly coursed toward one another, be it through fate or their own curiosity. The flow of the plot was carrying two souls into a climax of conflict, and as Jason Zippler knew, only one would come out on top.
Albert Zippler had two children: Harold and Franklin Zippler. Becker said, creating an impromptu family tree with a purple marker. Now, as we probably don't know, Albert Zippler was Jay's grandfather.
A quick wave of revelation swept through the basement, with everyone eyeing Jay as if he was keeping one giant secret from them, which he was.
His father? Harold. Becker went on, illustrating his words on the whiteboard. But what of poor Franklin? Well, as it turns out, he went crazy in Operation: Desert Storm. Jay, it looks like mental disease runs in the family.
Shut up. Jay ordered. Besides, Uncle Frank is in Graystone Asylum.
They closed that, I think. Charlie added, muttering under his breath.
We're getting off topic. Jana said, letting Becker continue.
Ah, you'd think he went to Graystone. Your parents lied, Jay. I looked up Frank's records. He was in an asylum during Desert Storm. He was never in the army. In the asylum, he met a woman by the name of Lucy. And they had three children.
He paused here, placing him arms behind his back. His eyes went solid and cold.
Eric, Jana, and Ryan.
The room went silent. Everything had completely spun out of control. The means of logic in the universe seemed gone from reality, and yet there it was: placed right in front of them. Jason Zippler. Jana Zippler. Eric Zippler.
What? No warm greeting for your sister and cousin? Becker asked Eric in a warm manner. He was slowly tearing up.
Jana? Eric asked, starting to shiver and cry slightly. II never knew.
Neither did I. She replied, a bit less teary.
You were both adopted the first time because your parents were in the mental health facility. They didn't let your parents keep you. I assume because of the mental health thing. Then when your foster parents died in the fire, you were separated, I assume to avoid trauma.
No, wait, this is too far fetched! Jay cried, leaping from hi place on the couch. I'm their cousin? That's insane!
Jay, let's look at the facts here. Becker said. In Virginia Beach, Eric said he could remember one of his siblings had red hair. Well
He looked to Jana, who indeed had the red hair necessary for his point. And now that it had been tossed into the fray, Jay had to admit, they all did kind of look alike.
And Jay, have you looked at your hair? Becker asked Jay, whose eyes suddenly grew larger. His hair was a very light brown, almost to the point of being on the boundary of red. It was all making sense.
And the hallucination? Becker continued. Well, I remembered Jana used to have a white rabbit for a pet in freshman year. Alice, I believe the name was?
Jana nodded. She and Eric were now locked in a family hug, a sense of being reunited (and it felt so good).
The number? Becker went on. It was hers. But it seems someone's been hacking it. Jana? Brendan Krater is your ex-boyfriend, no?
Yeah, I broke up with him two weeks ago. She answered.
Well, here we go. He knows something about the Shredder. He texted me three hours prior to your house fire. How would he know?
There was a very long silence as things began to come together. Mike suddenly raised his hand.
So is he the Shredder?
I don't know that. Becker said. I'd like to ask him a few questions.
Well, that's the problem. Jana laughed nervously. I broke up with him because he was moving to Michigan.
Sh*t. Anson swore. There goes our best suspect.
I still want to know about this third cousin of mine. Jay said. Who's Ryan?
Don't know. Becker responded curtly. There was nothing on him in the files. It's one of the missing files.
So what now? asked Charlie.
I guess Becker began, but he paused to look around the room. Jana and Eric were still in tears, and Jay looked like he was ready to accept the truth. Mike was a tree of knowledge, and the revelation only expanded his weed-infused mind. Charlie still looked dumbfounded, and Anson's mind was elsewhere. Becker could imagine the things he was thinking of. Gina, probably.
We live. Becker finished.
Two weeks later, a strangely content Chagrin found themselves lounging comfortably in the rumpus room of Mike's Uncle's recording studio in Lake Tomahawk. Eric had just finished riffing off the lead to Mars and was spread out on the couch in back, resting. They had been in the studio for probably a few hours now, and it was a little past midnight. Mike's Uncle, Francis, was finishing up on Mars with some last minute editing. They were mostly done now, but in a word, they were exhausted.
Anson lay sprawled on a small coffee table near the couch. He had been drinking something nasty his mates in Mount Chardee had loaned him during one of their hot summer days together. He had hastily dressed in a classic Led Zeppelin t-shirt, with his pair of huge crucifixes hanging loosely down his neck. As Becker passed, he grabbed the unlabeled bottle from Anson's loose grip. He gave it a sniff.
Mad Dog 20/20. Becker muttered. How'd he get a hold of that?
Oh, his buds up in Chardee. Jay replied from the floor nearby. He was never one to particularly drink, but he seemed tired enough that he had to have had some. The front of his Rutgers sweatshirt was still damp from perspiration. It was rather stuffy in the studio and Jay had just drummed like a man on fire.
Best not let it go to waste. Becker laughed and sipped it gently, then gagged. Anson, now somewhat conscious, chuckled.
Low end wine, man. Anson laughed. Not for the weak hearted.
Your tastes are extraordinary. Becker coughed. And also not for the weak hearted.
Jay gave a laugh as Charlie came stumbling in on tired legs. He groaned loudly enough for the rest of the band to take notice, then fell onto the floor with a very vibrant smack.
Finish the vocals for Mars', I assume? Eric guessed. Charlie gave an unenthusiastic uh-huh from the floor, where he was lying face down.
But Francis says we have room for one more track. Charlie elaborated. And we need to come up with a title for the album and cover art, if we want to choose our own.
Christ. Anson slurred in a drunken stupor. Alright, where's my Strat?
Jay suddenly sat up with the aforementioned 1980's pale white Strat in his hands. He smiled obnoxiously.
Would this be it? I was using it to scratch my back! he taunted Anson.
Hey, no jokes, that was my dad's! Anson cried, snatching it from Jay.
Hush up and follow C, C, F, G. Eric ordered, fiddling with his guitar. He had always been good at coming up with progressions off the top of his head. Though he had an awkward feel to most of them, they worked in the long shot with some variations.
Jay quickly drew some drumsticks from his nearby backpack, oddly covered in pink flowers.
What's with the backpack? Becker asked with a laugh.
It's my sister's. Jay admitted. Can't afford a new one.
Right, well Becker muttered, stepping out of the room. He had to get back to the storage room for his bass. From the hallway, he could see right through the glass window into the recording room, where Francis was fiddling away with the editing controls. He had something extraordinary in mind, Becker could tell. He grinned at the thought of their demo disc.
But opening the door to the storage room, his grin faded. Everything was still there, but something felt off. The room's light was off, but Becker knew something was amiss. He stepped in slowly and reached for the hanging pull to the single light bulb. With a seething gesture, he tugged the string and light flooded the room, illuminating what he had feared: another message.
There Are Things Done In the Dark That Should Not Be.
Becker bit his tongue so as not to freak. The message was dripping in green spray paint. Wait, dripping? Yes, still wet. It was then Becker felt the breath on the back of his neck, and as quick as the light had come on, it went out and the light from the door was snuffed like a candle. The door slammed shut and Becker felt himself falling.
Good. Eric said, patting Anson on the back as he finished his rhythm part to their new work.
I play pretty good while hammered. Anson laughed heartily, falling over himself. Jay laughed at him.
As soon as I can get to the set, we can record it. Jay said.
We still don't have a bass line or lyrics. Charlie corrected him from the couch's armrest.
Speaking of, Eric said. Where IS Becker?
Dude, he's been gone twenty minutes! Anson shouted much too loudly for the small room.
More like ten, but I get your point. Jay responded carefully. Yeah, hang on, I'll find him.
He stood, walking to the hall. Anson laughed loudly in the background as Jay spied into the recording room. Francis was still hard at work, but there was no sign of Becker in the room with him. Shrugging, Jay kept walking down the hall toward the foreboding closed door to the storage room. Somehow, he could feel the bad vibrations. It was a sense of malicious intention and dark escape. Something was pulling him in. Like a horror film you don't want to watch, but end up doing so and find you cannot sleep. He hated the feeling, but he needed to do it.
Wrenching the door open, he found a land of darkness before him. Groping blindly into the darkness, he found the pullstring and nearly tore the lightbulb out of the ceiling. What he found was a true shock.
Becker had been duck taped to the wall, his mouth covered and his head hanging loosely from his shoulders. For a moment Jay thought he was dead, but then Becker stirred and opened his eyes. Jay would never forget his eyes. They were filled with terror and honest fear. The epitome of fear and loathing. He hated the sight; he wanted to erase it; to imagine nothing had ever happened.
But he moved forward and undid the duct tape slowly, helping Becker to the ground and peeling the piece of tape off his mouth. Becker sputtered and coughed, but ended up pointing to the wall. Jay looked up and saw the message. His eyes had turned to the same fear he saw a moment earlier in Becker's eyes. The realization and reality of fear.
That's our album title. Becker coughed, tears streaming down his face. Things done in the dark.
Leaning over Jana's work, Becker felt a sense of pride. Pride andother things.
Pressing the thought back in his head, Becker nodded at the movement of the markers across the paper. He had never realized what a good artist Jana had been. Then came a thought into his disturbed little brain: was everyone in the Zippler family like this?
He suddenly perked up as the door to his basement flicked open. Jay and Eric flowed down the stairs like the tides and took places at the random couches and tables now strewn about the large room. Anson had transitioned it into his bedroom very quickly. From every angle, one could find a band or swimsuit model poster on any wall. Anson laid nearby on the plaid-sheeted bed, resting. He hummed a soft tune to himself, but sensing others arriving, he sat up.
Howdy. He greeted Jay and Eric. Don't worry, I won't be here long. Got an appointment in Chardee.
Oh, come on. Jay said, exasperated. Wandering the industrial sites with the boys?
Si. Anson replied. I plan on a number of fantastic adventures.
No girls. Jana ordered, still working on the picture. Only Becker laughed, but he felt right doing it.
How ya doing after the other night? Eric asked Becker with a sheepish grin.
Dude, I told you. Becker replied, taking a seat on Jana's drawing table. I don't want to talk about it.
Ah, got raped, I see. Eric joked. Becker glared.
No, nothing like that. Becker said plainly. More likea lesson, I guess.
A lesson? Jay asked.
I'm not talking about it! Becker exploded, looking down at Jana's drawing. It was a picture of a figure standing in the light of a streetlamp alone, outlined by the darkness around it. It was then it hit him.
Hey, Jana? Becker asked. Do you have any more like that?
Uhyeah. She replied softly. I draw this all the time.
Well, then. Becker concluded, grabbing the drawing and holding it up to show the rest of the guys. Gentlemen, say hello to our album cover.
Niiiiice. Eric said, giving thumbs up. I never knew my sister had such skills.
You didn't even know your sister until last week. Jay corrected with a chuckle.
Hang on, Jana laughed. I got more in a folder I left upstairs.
And with that, she vanished up the stairs. Eric waited until the door slammed shut before speaking to Becker with a sly grin.
So, you are so interested in my sister. Eric taunted Becker.
What? cried Becker. No.
Your denial is pretty powerful. Anson noted, clutching his cell phone in one hand and a pen in the other. I'm just waiting til it all goes sour.
What do you mean? Becker asked, standing up and walking to his bass. It all goes sour?
You mess up with girls so much its like an art. Anson replied. You have socially awkward skills!
I hate you. Becker said simply.
Well, ain't that quaint. Anson laughed.
But then came the knocking at the back door, which had now been covered by a dark green set of curtains from Anson's private collection (from the pool hall dumpster). A curious look was soon exchanged by the group. Anson gave a nod, walked to the door, and slid the curtains aside.
Before him stood an older looking young man with scraggly long brown hair and a well-groomed bit of facial hair striking down his chin. He was dressed in a calm brown jacket, a pair of slacks, and a white dress shirt with a red tie. He looked as if he had just come from a job as an accountant. Anson slid the door open slowly.
Yes? Anson asked.
I'm looking for Eric and Jana Zippler? the man asked, raising a thin eyebrow.
Uh, sure. Come in, I guess.
Standing aside, Anson let the young man in. He walked with a strange stagger; a certain something off about him, like the one drunk guy in every town that wanders the main street back and forth from the liquor store to his sh*tty little house. He was that one guy you didn't want to talk to you, but he did. He had the air of discontent, and the atmosphere of a polluted planet such as ours. Far, far worse.
The man immediately looked to Eric with a warm smile. Walking over, Becker felt the air about him change. He was suddenly feeling very ill. The color from Becker's face faded like the sunset. He didn't want to think about it.
The man nodded at Eric.
Eric? the man asked.
Yeah? Eric replied cautiously.
It was then Anson realized he smelled like gasoline.
My name is Ryan Zippler.