Mr. Lockhart: Master of the Octopi


The other was Brigitte’s dad.

“You,” he said, and tried to push the guards off of him, but they piled on top of him and held him down.

I backed away a little from him, but there wasn’t much of anyplace to go, there on that ledge. Naked Girl’s head was only a few feet from my hand, I realized; the ledge was about six or seven feet up and she was standing below me.

“What’s he doing here?” I asked.

“He’s our coup de grace,” Steve said. “We own him, now.”

Brigitte’s dad was sitting up now, held by three guys on the ground. He looked horrible: he was all mismatched and I could see scars on him stitching almost. His left leg was shorter than his right leg and his arms were different lengths, too. He was barefoot and one foot was a different color than the other.

“Oh, no,” I said. I looked down at my own hands and feet. I looked up at Steve. “He’s not…”

“He is. He died. As you know. But we needed him. Not past tense, even. We need him. Because of the octopi.”

“What?”

You have no idea what it’s like to almost never have anything make sense to you, to have about every other sentence that you hear be complete gibberish. Imagine that, and then imagine, too, that someone’s always shooting ray guns at you, and also that you keep getting dragged places or going to Hell, and you’ll have an idea what my life was like for a long time there.

“The octopi. Like your own octopus. He controls them.”

“He what?

I know I sounded dumb, but that’s about all I could muster. I looked at Brigitte’s dad, who was trying to pull free. His head was a little crooked, too. I looked down at myself again. Is that how other people see me?

“Mr. Lockhart invented Octopi. Didn’t you, Mr. Lockhart.” Brigitte’s dad glared at him. I tried to remember if I knew Brigitte’s last name was Lockhart. Had she told me? “They’ve even got his symbol on them. If you look down on the bottom of the octopus, there’s a little heart-shaped padlock. That’s the Lockhart Industries symbol. He invented them and he secretly controls them all, something all the people buying octopi don’t know. He invented Read-Or units, too, and people don’t know what they can do, either.” He held up the little Read-Or unit he had and pointed to a little flywheel on it. “Want to see what Mr. Lockhart is thinking now? I bet it’s something about me. Or maybe something about you. But we can find out.”

Brigitte’s dad glared at him but kept his mouth shut.

“It was a shame when he died, but not as big a shame as it could have been because word never got out that he died. Our revenants were there and got his body to me and nobody has yet heard of the death of wealthy industrialist and CEO of one of the Three Powers. And nobody will.”

Steve really should have paused before that last sentence. Or at least laughed maniacally or something. But he didn’t. He wasn’t even talking dramatically. He had no flair whatsoever.

“Because we have him,” Steve was going on. He looked now at Mr. Lockhart. “We have both of you. This is her, as you know. You knew it when you and Reverend Tommy first grabbed her, didn’t you? Ironic, isn’t it? If only you’d known her career would end up like this.”

There it was again. Gibberish. But before I could ask what that meant, another guy came running down the tunnel and burst out, nearly tripping over Mr. Lockhart and panting.

“Sir. Steve! Sir. We’re under attack.”

“What?” Steve asked. He was calm, though. “Details.”

“There’s a hundred-foot-tall demon pounding at the gate at the front door.”

“Oh.” Steve turned back to me. “Now, we should continue.”

“Sir?” the man said.

Steve turned back to him. “Yes?”

“What should we do?”

“Is the Gate turned on?”

“Yes.”

“Then do nothing. One demon won’t be able to get through that at all. This wasn’t unexpected, you know. Sometimes they find us. It’ll get bored and go away after a while.”

There was a booming sound somewhere. Steve looked up at the ceiling. “So he’s punching it. Well, it’ll be fine.” He motioned with his hand and the man left. “Keep me posted,” Steve called after him. He turned back to me.

“There’s much more to tell you but we may not have much time.”

I looked down the hallway after the man. “Because we’re under attack?”

“No. Not that. That doesn’t worry me at all. What worries me is your old friend Samson. He’s desperate and might be desperate enough to try to make God remember who He is.”