Timothy Tittleworth hardly recognises Half-Job-Bob as he strolls timidly into the Daily Grind a week after Planet Ice. He looks somehow ‘less’ than Tittleworth remembers. Thinner. Gaunt. Diminished. As if the pressures of the world are on his shoulders. Indeed, Tittleworth is surprised to see him alive at all! The last time he saw Half-Job-Bob he was being dragged into the seething black mass of evil, clawing at the tarmac and screaming for help. Tittleworth naturally assumed he was dead. He wishes he felt good about the fact he is alive but there is something odd about him that scares Tittleworth.
Half-Job-Bob’s hair, which was thick and black only a week before, is now thin and white. In some places, it is totally bald. There are yellowing bruises on his face. His clothes look unclean and ill-fitting as if he has lost a lot of weight. He looks twitchy and nervous. His dark eyes dart around the room continuously looking for imagined dangers. Half-Job-Bob’s eyes finally fix on him. It takes him several moments to approach Tittleworth, who is sitting at his usual table by the far window with an Americano. His fourth. Insomnia is still unleashing its blitzkrieg and his body needs caffeine just to keep running. He honestly believes if the coffee stops so will his heart. He is nothing more than a toy whose batteries are running out.
Half-Job-Bob takes the seat opposite. The sound of the wooden chair scraping loudly across the floor tiles makes him cringe. Tittleworth notices other patrons in the coffee shop staring at them with distaste. Tittleworth doesn’t blame them, he notices the smell too.
“What happened to you?” he asks.
Half-Job-Bob’s reaction is sudden and terrifying. He shrinks in on himself like an animal whose previous master was violent. Although his face is looking down at the floor, Tittleworth can see tears in his eyes. They have a sparkly, moist look. His dirty hands are shaking and he is attempting to steady them by rubbing them vigorously together. Tittleworth notices the ruined fingertips. Several of the fingernails are missing, and Tittleworth sees them snapping back on the tarmac in his mind’s eye.
“Are you ok?” Tittleworth asks. A stupid question perhaps, but what else can be said in such a situation?
“I have a message,” he whispers.
“From who?” Tittleworth asks, but inside he already knows the answer.
“The devil,” he hisses back at him. A string of spit falls from his mouth. “From her.”
Tittleworth doesn’t respond straight away. After a while, he says: “What’s her message?”
Half-Job-Bob looks up at him. “You must take your place as leader of the Order of Logical Monkeys,” he says nervously. He looks around the room to make sure no one has overheard. “She demands it,” Half-Job-Bob whispers. “She requires it of you.”
“The Order of Logical Monkeys?” TIttleworth croaks, his mouth now dry.
“She said she has lived up to her end of the bargain. It is all ready for the taking. All you have to do is reach out and seize it. Your time has come. You have the chance to be someone, to do something important. To have power and influence … just as you wanted.”
Tittleworth’s mind is now racing. So the whole Logical Monkey thing had been her after all. It explained a lot: the dreams, the strange encounters with people all over Solihull saluting him and telling him they heard the call. Now it is here he feels scared about moving forward. Terrified about taking what’s been given. Although in reality, he knows she will claim his end of the bargain now whether he seizes it or not. That was the deal. There really was no choice, only to step into this role and become what he’d always dreamed of: a man of power and influence.
“How?” he asks.
“There is a place, a unit under a railway arch, out of town. You are to go there. The way ahead will become clear.” Half-Job-Bob whispers. “I am to go with you,” he adds. “I am to serve you.” He rolls up his sleeve to reveal the Logical Monkey symbol burned into the flesh of his forearm as if it were branded with a hot iron. A monkey’s head, its mouth opened wide to expose its sharp viscous teeth. Surrounding this head are hands. Open palm and closed fist, alternating.
“Jesus,” Tittleworth moans. “Did she do this to you?”
Half-Job-Bob doesn’t answer. He just looks down at the floor and weeps.