Blazer Flame’s office was close to Recording Room G. Carla managed to calm everyone in the room after the gigantic Fred left. Joseph Taker kept to himself the entire time he was ushered from the recording room to the office. In just the span of an hour he already caused such a ruckus! 
Terrible, he told himself. Just terrible. 
The office was decorated from top to bottom with Blazer Flame merchandise. From his place on the sofa, Taker spotted shelves full of music industry awards and photos of the rapper with various entertainment figures. They framed a towering portrait of Blazer Flame that stretched from floor to ceiling. His gaze loomed over the visitors like a sentinel watching a treasure hoard. 
I take it back, Taker thought with a smile. Seeing that is even worse. 
Carla returned from the nearby pantry carrying two cups of coffee on saucers. She handed one to Taker and the other to Blazer Flame, who sat splay-legged on a chair opposite him. She sat beside Blazer Flame, folding her hands on her lap. 
“Have some cream and sugar,” she said to Taker, nudging with her chin to the table between them. 
Taker bowed slightly and removed his hat. “Thank you, my dear,” he said. “But won’t you have some yourself?” 
Carla made to answer but Blazer Flame cut her off. “She don’t drink any o’ that,” he barked. “And I don’t need no cream an’ sugar. A real man takes it black an’ bitter!”
Taker shrugged. “By your leave, then,” he said. He filled his cup with generous helpings of cream and sugar. As he took a sip, he noticed Blazer Flame gulping down his own drink. Once he finished, the rapper’s lips twitched and some of the black liquid dribbled to his chin. Taker took another sip. It was all he could do stop himself from smiling. 
Once he finished, Taker set down his cup. “Now, Mr. Gambino,” he said, looking at , “what is it you want my help with?”
Blazer Flame banged the table with his fist. Cups and saucers jumped an inch before they clattered back onto the table.
“First off,” Blazer Flame growled, “Don’t call me that! That ain’t my name no more. I ain’t my dad, get it?”
Taker nodded in reply. He gripped his cane tightly. His fingers felt twitchy all of a sudden. 
Blazer Flame seemed satisfied and reclined on his chair. “And second, Doc,” he said, emphasizing the last word, “I heard ya can get rid o’ my bad dreams.”
Taker chuckled. “What makes you think I can do that?”
Carla straightened her glasses. Her gaze was steely, and Taker looked away. 
“I have my ways of finding a lot about the people who talk to Mr. Flame,” she said matter-of-factly. 
Taker nodded. “And what sort of bad dreams are we talking about?” Taker asked Blazer Flame. 
Blazer Flame hunched over and steepled his fingers. “My dad,” he muttered. “That guy’s in my head again. Been years since he last came by. Been dead fo’ years now and he still wanna ruin my life.”
“And why would you want to get rid of those dreams?” Taker asked. “A significant part of your music relates to your experiences with him. In a way, you can say that he had a hand in your success as a musician.”
The rapper snarled. “He didn’t do nothin’ but ruin my life, growin’ up. I hate him, and I want him outta my head already.” Leaning back on his chair, he added, “I saw whatcha did with that big guy back there. That really some kinda magic?”
Taker raised his hands. “Magic is not what I call it,” he said. “This is more of a gift, a curse, not something I really wanted.”
Carla frowned. “And yet you made quite a living out of it,” she said.
Taker smiled sadly at her. “If you have seen the things I have seen, from the people who asked me to see them, you might think twice before saying that again.”
Blazer Flame banged his fist on the table. The cream and sugar jars jumped an inch before clattering back onto the table. “Enough talkin’,” he barked. “Can’tcha just point yer finger, tell me to forget and go?”
Taker frowned. “You may flatten a city with all the artillery at your disposal, but you still need soldiers to clear out the buildings and tunnels.” Setting down his empty cup. Taker added, “I could do what you asked, but it is too dangerous. Unless you want to risk forgetting everything and acting like a baby again.”
Carla’s eyes widened. “Has that happened before?” she asked. 
“Quite a few times. Especially when I was younger or less emotionally stable,” Taker replied with a chuckle. Returning to Blazer Flame, he added, “What you ask me to do requires time and precision. And to maximize the effects, I would have to ask you to sleep.”
“And why can’t we do it right now?” Blazer Flame asked. 
Taker tapped his temples. “Limits. When you are awake, you can guard against me. The mind does not like being probed. But asleep, your defenses are weakened. At that point, I can do anything.” 
Blazer Flame grunted. “All we’re doin’ is talkin’. Show me ya ain’t some fake. Get rid of that memory of Fred punchin’ me out if ya ain’t lyin’.”
Taker sighed. “Oh ye of little faith. Very well. It is a recent memory so you don’t have to sleep. But I must ask if it is okay to delve into your mind.”
“Why d’you sill have to ask?”
“Asking allows me easier access to your thoughts. I am trying to take the path of least resistance.”
Blazer Flame grunted. “Fine. Ya can go.” Pointing to Carla he added, “Better watch what he’s doin’, Carla. Ain’t no tellin’ what’ll happen.”
Taker smiled at Carla. “Rest assured, he will come to no harm. In fact, I intend to bring her along with me. She will be able to see firsthand what I will do, if that helps.”
Carla stiffened. She bit her lip but managed to nod her assent. 
Taker clapped his hands. “It is done, then,” he declared. His hands glowed a sickly green and he approached Blazer Flame. 
The rapper drew back but Taker smiled. “Worry not. This will not hurt if you stay still.”
The glowing hands touched Blazer Flame’s forehead. The rapper quaked in his chair. Taker felt himself falling into Blazer Flame’s head. Before he lost consciousness, he snatched Carla by the wrist and they both went tumbling into the darkness.


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