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Dweller on the Threshold

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--------The Great Northern, April 6, 1989--------

The glass front doors to the Great Northern Hotel was shut and bolted.  The side doors were sealed, the power was cut, and everyone had been evacuated thanks to Audrey's cool handling of the staff. Inside, Albert Rosenfield stood alone in the darkened lobby, a tranq gun in his shaking hand.    

Harry Truman stood just outside, watching Albert with a tight lack of expression to cover up how worried he had to be.  Albert was worried enough for both of them, but he didn’t mind someone else contributing; it guaranteed they’d never run out.  Twin Peaks’ own Dudley Do-Right had refused to be the man inside, and with good enough reason Albert couldn't argue the point.  Hell, everyone had perfectly good explanations for being unable to go. After all the excuses were made there had been no one left except Albert and Audrey Horne, and there was no way in hell a schoolgirl was going to face off with a murderer when there was a law-enforcement professional to take her place.  He might be a forensic specialist who had never discharged a weapon in the line of duty, but he'd be damned if that made him back down from doing his job. 

Albert squared his shoulders and wiped any trace of hesitation from his face.  It wasn't the ideal situation, but the man inside did have to have utter control over himself, or at least the ability to compartmentalize like nobody’s business.  Albert might not be the cold-blooded reptile of Harry’s implications, or the asshole of his own invention, but when it came to taking his emotions and stuffing them down a dark hole where they could never be found, Albert was second to none. 

At Harry’s side, angular face set and grim, was Denise.  She was a steadying presence, her gun drawn and her eyes fixed on Albert.  Albert knew he had a friend in her, acquired unwillingly as all his friends were.  Her grip on her gun was white-knuckled and her lips tight.  Albert met her gaze and gave her a nod.  After a moment Denise returned it.  Behind Denise, Audrey stood. She'd worn Albert's coat all the way from the sheriff's station and clutched it around herself in tight fists, but she dredged up a smile when she noticed his attention. It was a sham smile, tight at the corners and at odds with her stiff posture.  Albert wished she’d stop approaching everything she felt from a ninety-degree angle.  It wouldn’t make her happier, but she’d know where she stood in the world.

Then again, maybe a little self-delusion wasn’t such a bad thing.  After all, Albert had locked himself in an empty hotel with a psychotic spirit possessing the body of the best man he knew.  Said psychotic spirit had already taken apart countless lives, and Albert had nothing more than grit, six tranquilizer darts, a fluttering sensation in his gut, a Taser, and a vague sense of nausea.  Deep down he knew he was an idiot, that even in his arrogance he had to admit the peril of this endeavor.  But this was the solution—the only solution, save a bullet to the head.  And that was not acceptable.  He stared Audrey in the eye until he felt the queasiness subside.

Self-delusion would have been fucking fantastic.

He gave her one curt nod, looked over the others (he hadn't bothered learning the names of either the army major convinced he'd been abducted by aliens or the lady who toted around her own firewood) and then turned his back on all of them.  He could no longer afford to dwell on thier concern.  He had to focus on the problem at hand: Cooper.

Had he known that Albert would be the one to come after him?  It certainly defied his own comprehension, and that was difficult to do. Yet in spite of not being a fool, in spite of having a far better idea of what he was walking into than was good for his state of mind, Albert had come.  Truman was outside.  The deputies were outside.  Denise and Audrey, who had come so damn far with him, now stood outside.  Even the Twin Peaks mystic quilting circle stood outside.  And inside the Great Northern, Albert was completely without backup.  If Gordon didn’t have him written up for this, then it was only by the grace of God and deafness.

“Night’s not getting any younger,” he whispered to himself, and thought he heard the rustle of wings somewhere behind him.  He closed his eyes, centered himself, and started walking.