Pain shot through Adam’s skull as he struggled to talk. Grant’s ponderous mass had fractured Adam’s jaw in at least two places. Waves of pain rippled through the wrinkles of his brain as Adam tried to concentrate on the healing spells he had learned as a youth. The pressure being applied by Grant’s massive hands didn’t help matters either. The motel room spun wildly each time the oni wanted answers; unfortunately for Adam, Grant had a lot of questions.
“If I’m going to be able to do anything to help you, I need my body before the sun rises. If I don‘t have my body by then, I‘ll die!” Adam explained, his words a muddy, indecipherable mess. He cursed himself for letting his body go with Carol. It was likely that she had left town, and she would never return. That gave Adam only about four hours to live, and he didn’t like his chances.
“You said that you could turn me human again. Now is your chance. You said you needed the red oni, and he’s here. What do we do now?” demanded Kyoko, her jaw gaping widely as she spoke.
“I need my body!” repeated Adam, as eloquently as he could. A little woman wearing a blue windbreaker appeared at the motel room’s door. Her shape slowly contorted until it was Kappa standing in the door. He looked at Adam with disdain, half wishing that Grant would crush the disembodied head and be done with it.
“He’s really does need his body. If you really want to be human again, we need to go to the other world. You can plead and beg, and maybe your humanity will be restored. First, we will need to contend with Iwao.”
“No, first we will need to get my body back!” demanded Adam. “Then we can deal with Iwao.”
“I’m not keen on teaming up with you again.” said Kappa, staring deeply into Adam’s eyes. The silence lasted for only a moment, but its intensity was palpable.
“Where is Carol going?” Kyoko broke the silence, soliciting a glare from Adam. He still could not believe that she would have so easily betrayed him. He wondered if she was still on his side. He dismissed that notion, and went over the plan in his head.
“She should be in the Dunwich Museum of Oriental Antiquities. That is where Grant’s kanabo is.” said Adam. His words were getting clearer with each passing minute.
“My what?” asked Grant, squeezing Adam’s head tightly.
“Kanabo! Your club! The source of every oni’s great power. Once you have your club, you will be invincible!” announced Adam, happy that his words were sounding less and less like the ravings of a drunkard.
“But if you take up your kanabo, you can never become human again.” warned Kappa. “Adam will only tell you the parts of the truth he wants you to know. He’s a survivor. Notice how he’s only given us just the right amount of information. He’s making sure that we leave him alive.” Adam smiled knowingly, quietly congratulating Kappa on his observation.
Carol screamed as the Vanagon tore down the highway. Her head hung out the window, whipping in the wind at the end of her slender neck. Her hair broke loose from her ponytail and writhed like a thousand tiny tendrils. She never liked to drive on the highway, and she liked driving on the wrong side of the highway even less. A moment of inattention spawned the chaos that rocked the Vanagon. The tsukumogami had broken loose from their cages; the upholstery was ablaze because the lantern spewed fire. When Carol turned her eyes from the road, the umbrella grabbed the wheel. The speedometer had stopped rising because the van was going faster than it could register. Jerkily, cars darted out of the way of the flaming spectacle.
“I’m going to die!” screamed Carol, he voice muffled by the wind. She saw chrome plated grill of a semi rushing towards the van. The glare of the headlights silhouetted a rotund form that stood in the road. She saw him for only a moment; she saw a streaming white headband, a mask that reminded her of Zorro, and then a soft cushion of fur that wrapped around her, keeping her warm and safe.
When she awoke, she was reclining on a fuzzy pillow. She looked up, and saw the smiling, dog-like face of a tanuki. “That could have gone very poorly for you.” he said in a gentle voice as soft as his fur. “I saw that you lost control, and I just needed to help.”
“Thank you,” Carol replied, still dazed. She tried to recall anything Adam had said about the tanuki, but drew a blank. She could only remember something about testicles.
“My name is Sam.” said the tanuki.
“I’m Carol.” she replied, “What happened to the passengers? I had three passengers.”
“I’m afraid that all I found was you. I’m sorry.” said Sam sincerely. “I can look around more if you want, but I’m guessing that they didn’t stick around.”
“My friend’s body was in the van.” announced Carol plaintively. “He needs his body to live.”
“Don’t we all?” replied Sam, stroking Carol’s cheek with his paw.
Don woke up and felt cold. He had fallen asleep in the woods and was still missing a leg. He was astonished to be alive, and thankful that the bleeding had stopped. He looked around, and saw shapes walking in the darkness. The moonlight illuminated the same well tailored suit he had seen hours ago, yet now there was no head where a head ought to be. A paper lantern floated ominously behind it, glowing with a bright orange light. An umbrella followed, carrying the cloth mask Don had found in a car wreck. Don knew he was hallucinating, and did not expect to feel the cold hand of the umbrella as it handed the red lame mask to him.
“Why are you giving this to me?” he asked, but the lantern’s light faded and there was no reply.