I check my phone, shielding the screen from the rays of the sun to make sure I had gotten this right. Yup. 554 Glendale Dr. I am at the right place, but I just didn’t expect it to be such a dump. My Jimmy Choos are already covered in dirt, and I just landed here. Kids ride by on bicycles. Their eyes fixate on my outfit, which technically would be a compliment, except here I stand out like a sore thumb.
The rundown duplex I am at has a broken chain-link fence in front of it with a hole big enough that it was useless in keeping out whatever they fear. The area is overgrown with grass and weeds, and potholes the size of a basketball litter the street. I sigh, pocketing my phone, and step towards the concrete stairway leading to the entrance. Several women leave the building, giving me the most confused look.
“Hey lady, I think you are in the wrong place,” one yells.
“Yeah, Hollywood is about 40 miles that way,” the other comments and laughs.
Yup, definitely overdressed, but I mean, I am more covered up than I usually am. Sure my lace red crop top, black leather pants, and matching jacket scream entitled, but if you got it flaunt it, am I right? Maybe it is my recent nightmares or Erebus for breakfast, but I don’t feel like ripping them to pieces. Ew, am I good now? Gross.
I shrug off their comments, pushing the glass double doors open and entering what I guess could be called a lobby. The place is dimly lit, with parts of the wall falling off. I adjust my jacket, looking toward the stairs. But I had done my research. I know what floor I need. My body dissipates into a cloud of black mist and reforms on the 8th floor. A guy sleeping in the hallway screams at my arrival, jumps to his feet, and runs down the hall, yelling, “Diablo!” Cute. I haven’t been called that in a while. I turn back to the apartment door labeled 422, raise my foot, and kick the door clean off its hinges.
“Holy fuck!” Chuck screams as he flips over his rundown couch, spilling whatever food he had in his lap.
“Miss me?” I ask, my hands on my hips as I survey the room.
To say I am surprised to see Chuck’s new living conditions is an understatement. I had met him when Erebus started his failed dating show and used him to give me all the behind the scenes info, plus hide a body or two. He was my right hand back then, and after I destroyed the show from the ground up, I hadn’t seen him since, which is another reason I am here. Yes, I may be on the hunt for Titans older than literal time, but I also need help. Someone I can trust, but also not tell me how terrible my idea is. Besides, I don’t trust Erebus, especially after how weird he has been recently. Secret phone calls and suddenly having to leave? Nope. I need an assistant of my own, and who better than Chuck?
The once famous and rich producer is now living in what seems like a hole in the wall. The refrigerator looks like it used to be white but is now a dingy yellowish color. The so-called carpet in this place has holes where it looks like some creature tried to dig its way out. The living room is the size of an SUV, if even that. Craning my head, I take in what could pass for a bedroom with only a mattress on the floor.
“For the love of Rhea, Chuck, you really let yourself go.” I shake my head, turning my attention back to him. He is currently backed into a corner, clutching his plaid pajama knees to his chest as he rocks back and forth.
“She’s not real. She’s not real,” I hear him whisper.
I crouch in front of him, my hand going beneath his chin and lifting it upwards. “Yes, Chucky, I am afraid I am.”
He sniffles, his overgrown beard catching the tears he sheds. “Wh-What do you want? I did what you asked even when I didn’t want to.”
I sigh, placing my hands on my knees and standing up. “Yeah, so about that. That’s why I am here. I need your help again, and from the looks of it, you need mine.”
He laughs. Actually, that’s an understatement. He cackles like a mad man. “Help? Help you? Look where that got me. I have no career now. No money. My family thinks I am insane because I told them about a demon witch who forced me to cover up murders on a reality TV dating show.”
I turn back towards him, holding up my finger. “Okay, well, first of all, my hot aunt is the witch, not me. Second, why would you tell your family?”
“That’s it. I am insane. I knew it. This isn’t real, just another hallucination.” He says mostly to himself.
I sigh once more, getting tired of this back and forth. I walk towards him as he flinches and grab him by his stained white T-shirt, hoisting him up. I slap his face just hard enough to get him to pay attention to me. “Chuck, snap out of it. Look, this is real, okay? All of this is real, and yes, I may have played hopscotch with your brain here and there, but…” I pause. “You know what, I don’t have an excuse or a reason, really. I needed you at the time, you served a purpose, and I haven’t thought of you since. Which I know sounds cruel, but I haven’t. I can’t say I am sorry because I am not. Had time magically rewound, I would have done it all over again. For him.”
I slowly place Chuck back on the ground, smoothing his T-shirt before clasping my hands a little too forcefully on his shoulders. “So, what I am here for is a better deal. Think of it as me making amends. You help me again, and I will make sure you never have to sleep in a rundown, flea-infested room with no view again, okay?”
He is quiet for a moment, which I assume means he is weighing his options. He lets out a breath before nodding slowly. “Okay, but I want some rules first.”
I arch my eyebrow. “Oh, rules? Chucky, are you trying to turn me on?”
His face burns a crimson red before he fumbles over his next words. “What? No, no. I just…”
“Go on, what are your rules, little mortal.” I giggle.
“If I help you again, and that’s a big if, no more mind games.” He stops, looking down for a second. “That’s actually my only rule.”
“Really?” He seems almost shocked. “Oh, okay. Well, what do you need from me then?”
“Well, first.” I look at him and then this place once more. “We need to get you cleaned up and out of this place, and then we can talk shop. Sound good?”
He nods once. “Let me just get my shoes.”
I cringe. “Please, do not. I am sure they are covered in something I don’t want in my car.”
I clasp my hand on his shoulder, moving him towards where the front door once stood. “We are going to have so much fun together.”
“You never told me exactly what I am going to be doing.”
My shoes crunch on the splintered wood pieces as we move into the hallway. “Oh, it’s simple. We are hunting Titans.”