There were definitely more of them that night.
Six more, to be exact. Gordon said that this activity was on the high end of ‘average’. He says we can expect to pick up from two to four bodies every night that we work in our assigned sector. Sometimes, he said, we’ll have a good night and not pick up any at all. Other times, though...things can be a little more hectic. He said that the most he’s ever had to do in one night is nine. And after last night, I had no doubts about what was real and what wasn’t. This was no game. There was no choice about whether to accept it as reality or not. This was a brutal truth in the streets of Chicago. And I had landed myself right, smack dab, in the middle of it all.
It got me thinking about the larger picture, though. The area that we patrolled together was about the size of two police patrol districts. Considering that there are twenty-five districts in Chicago alone, if you add it all up right, that means that there are about twenty-five to fifty deaths caused, every single night, by these hungry vampire creatures. No wonder the murder rate is so high in this town! Now, this is just an average that I figured out at firt glance, and I could probably assume that there are less deaths towards the outskirts of town, you probably don’t get as many in the more rural areas, but...still...
That’s quite a lot of murders to cover up each and every single night. Even for an entire police force. I wonder what that would do to the per capita murder rate calculated by so many study groups to find out where the safest places to live are?
Or...if any highly populated place is safe at all.
Again, thinking about it more...that’s just in Chicago. Just one city, out of the entire world. Is the disappearance rate this high in other places, or does Chicago just have a larger population of vampires? Can these things get away with killing over nine thousand people every year just in Chicago? I certainly hope that my numbers are off somehow. Because it’s frightening to think that this many people could go missing and never be accounted for or found again. How has nobody stumbled across this horror long before now?
This brings me to my next topic. What the hell was I going to do now? It’s not just a question of stay or not stay. It goes much deeper than that. You don’t get into an organization this secretive and just decide not to show up for your second night shift. That’s the answer to the question about how no one has heard of this before. Anyone who has ever attempted, or ever even thought about, bringing this monstrous behavior out into the open was most certainly, permanently, erased from the system as easily as we erased all traces of those seven murders last night. Who would I even go to? Surely, all federal agencies already have some strange connection to this.
If I went to the FBI for example, first off, what department do I go to? I’m pretty sure they don’t have a ‘report a vampire bloodthirst’ complaint department. Secondly, who in their right mind would believe me unless they were already in on it and were willing to make a ghost out of me? They would probably go to their supervisor with it or make some joke over a cup of coffee to their co-workers and it would end up being heard by the wrong person The next thing you know...no more Gus Showalski. Probably no more Showalski family at all. That’s the way these things work, and I’m not willing to risk my family’s safety for anything.
So, what are my options then? Run and hide, or accept that there is some greater good that could come out of being in this position. If I tried to pick up and leave, my family would obviously object. My son, Jacob, graduates high school next year. Should I expect him to run off with me? To drop everything and leave everyone he knows behind? Martha’s a different story. We’ve been on the brink of divorce for about eight years now but we decided a while back that for Jacob’s sake we’d hold off until he was off to college. I would still never leave her behind. We might not always get along on everything, but on some level I still love her. Everything I’ve ever done in my adult life has been for my family. Hell, I took this new position for them. The better pay is going to get Jake through law school.
So, running isn’t an option either. Which ultimately leaves me with accepting the fact that I am now an over-paid garbage man for the legalized slaughter of Chicago citizens. A pawn in a greater game of secrecy between the real world and this...much darker world. It’s not something that I haven’t dealt with on some level before. There are lots of things that happen out there that never get mentioned to the press or the general public. If you all knew some of the things that I’ve seen that have been swept under the rug...you’d be afraid to leave your house for the rest of your lives. But nothing like this. Nothing ever like this.
I’ve never been a big conspiracy theory kind of guy. I always figured that the government wouldn’t able to cover up something this big. That with all the lying, crooked, politicians and corrupt officials...when it came right down to doing what was right, our government would have our backs.
I guess I was wrong.
I did some time in the military just out of high school. I was just a kid, an early graduate at seventeen at the time, and figured that once I was in I would be let in on all the big secrets. Didn’t happen. It was just a job like anything else. The only big difference is that if you don’t do what your boss tells you, you can go to jail. That and the fact that you’re not allowed to quit. That keeps the numbers up.
I wonder if that’s why they choose cops for this line of work. A police force is only a step away from the military. They actually call us ‘paramilitary’. For all I know they recruit from the military too. I would guess you’d need people who wouldn’t question things too much. People who are used to doing their jobs and understand that the public just can’t handle certain truths about the world around them. You’d also want people with a strong sense of duty and honor. If I didn’t have that, if I didn’t love the City of Chicago and the men and women I’ve worked with and the people I was sworn to protect, I wouldn’t even be having this internal conversation. Although if I didn’t have that, I suppose I would have never been picked for this position in the first place. And the circle continues.
That brings up part of my dilemma though. How can I work for an organization that lets innocent people die every night? In the same breath I need to ask the question: How could I stop it? I may not be a rookie cop anymore but I was definitely the new guy here. What could I possibly do? If it’s the public I’m worried about, how do I better serve them? I have taken an oath to serve and protect and I take that oath very seriously. Some people may think that cops are just in it for the power and authority and to keep from getting speeding tickets. Or maybe it’s for the free coffee or pizza at local restaurants. Now, while the perks of the job are sometimes nice, that’s not why the majority of cops get into the field. Those kind of bad eggs get washed out pretty quickly by a good training officer, and if not, those of us who have been around for a while know to steer clear of them.
But, make no mistake...there’s no ‘glory’ in this shit. You get your hands dirty, you bring the scumbags to justice, and you hope that you’ve got enough booze waiting for you a home to help you forget what you’ve seen and wipe the slate clean so you can start all over again the following day.
This night...I’m pretty sure that I don’t have enough.
So, if I can’t stop it, and I’m not willing to live with it, what can I do to change it? I suppose I could do my job, get in good with the higher ups, and then someday, maybe sooner than I think, I could be in a position to make changes. Although maybe, maybe there’s another choice. With the time that I’ve put on the streets I have come to know quite a lot of dirt bags. I’ve met my fair share of drug dealers and hookers and burglar’s. I know people who are simply a waste of air. The kind of people that the system can never help. I know where they operate, I know where they live, I know where they work, and I know where they play. And the law doesn’t let me put my hands around the throats of a single one of them. We just have to tolerate it. TOLERATE IT!
Well...what if I could do something to make sure that not all of those people that end up in garbage bags in the back seat of this vehicle are quite so innocent? What if I could make contact with one of these vampires? I could reason with them. After all, they were once human, right? They weren’t always blood sucking murderers. Actually, three out of the four bodies that we picked up last night were homeless guys that would probably never be missed anyway. If I could find the right one…
It could work, couldn’t it? If I just gave it some time. If I could track some of them by their feeding habits. Get approximate dates when one would feed that I think might want to team up and rid the streets of some of its not-so-finer residents. Could I justify this sickening job with some kind of meaning, some kind of righteousness? I could lay low for a while. Play nice with Renquist and make him think that I was a model employee. One that will play by all the rules. I’m sure that soon enough I’ll be given my own car and my own route and then I could put my plan into action. Yeah, that just might work.
Dealing with the dead bodies is going to be a whole separate issue though. Sure I’ve seen my fair share of corpses at all levels of decay and in all types of crime. I’ve seen stabbings, shootings, suicides, floaters (when someone has been dead in the water long enough that they bloat up and float to the top), I’ve even seen a couple of bombings where there wasn’t even much of a body left over to truly distinguish it as such, if it weren’t for the teeth and hair...and the fact that I almost stepped in the puddle of brain matter. All that aside, handling them like we did last night, cutting them up like processed meat and tossing them into the deep freeze in the back of the car, that’s a whole different situation.
My conscience wasn’t built for that kind of detachment.
I’ll just have to psyche myself out like Gordon said. He got me on that first one, when he started to ask about my wife and kid. I fell for it at first, too. To think that he wouldn’t have known everything about me before I got into that car was just absurd. He got my mind off of the fact that we were slicing up a human body for the benefit of supernatural creatures of the night. I could handle this if it did some good though. I could try to make it work.
That’s the mindset that I went into work with on that second night. Day two. That would be the logical sequence of events. If I were to just take it one day at a time, I’m sure I could actually get myself prepared to do this. That was my state of mind, at least...until the first body of the second night came up on the screen.
I got into the car that was waiting out front just like last night. I know he hadn’t been waiting long because I had been looking out the window every few minutes in anticipation. I had to be careful around Gordon if I was going to pull this off. Any veteran cop worth his salt could pick up on a lie. A certain look in the wrong direction or a scratch of the nose at the wrong time and bingo, I’m pegged.
“Ready for your second night?” Gordon asked.
“I suppose I’m as ready as can be expected.” I replied.
“Not still holding on to the whole practical joke thing?”
“No, I think that was pretty much thrown out after last night.”
He paused for moment, not making any movement to put the car in drive. Then he said, “All right then, let’s see if we can’t pick up the pace a little bit tonight. Just remember, you’re a slag hunter, you dispose of slag, don’t think about the alternative too much. You can’t prevent it, and we’re not supposed to interfere in the process of their hunt.”
That was an odd statement. I didn’t respond to it, but his sentence contradicted itself. I read over the rules and regulations in that book when I woke up this afternoon. The first part of his sentence is true, we can’t prevent it. There are just too many of them. The second part of his sentence though, the regulation says that we will not, under any circumstances, interfere in the course of the vampire feeding process. Gordon, however, said, ‘not supposed to’. I wonder what that was supposed to mean.
I let the thought go by quickly and nodded my head at him, letting him know that I would do my best to get my job done faster. He put the car in drive and we started patrolling our area. After about fifteen minutes of silence, I thought it was time to start getting some of my questions answered. “So, Gordon… can I call you Gordon?”
“Of course you can, Gus, we’re partners aren’t we?” He said softly. Slowly. A tilted grin appearing on his face as he kept his eyes on the road.
“Sure, it’s just that...I didn’t know if we had titles or something. You know how some people can be, wanting to keep things professional at all times.”
“I don’t see the point in politics, Gus. Especially in this line of work. We have to look out for each other, we have to rely on each other, and we have to trust each other. There’s no room for titles or bosses when it comes to the two of us in this car doing what we have sworn to do. It just doesn’t work.”
“All right, good to know. So then, could I hit you up with a couple of questions?” I asked.
“I would find it odd if you didn’t, actually.”
“Well, first off, who exactly do we report to? Do I still work for the CPD, or will my paycheck come from somewhere else now?” Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I was worried about right now was a paycheck, but I need to know who I’m working for before I try to do anything under the table.
“You’re still a cop, Gus. You can still carry that gun on your hip and you still have a badge, but you won’t find your name on any roster for the department anymore. Your pay will come to you directly deposited into your bank account, but it won’t be traceable back to any entity. And you don’t have to worry about taxes any more either. Don’t ask me how, but they’ve managed to even bypass the IRS when it comes to our black account money. And that’s one of the most amazing parts if you ask me.” He said. “As for who we report to...that’s not an easy answer. We work for an anonymous elite, in conjunction with a part of the federal government. It’s managed by veteran slag hunters mostly. There’s a handful of senators at the very top, hand picked by those that oversee the whole operation.” I raised an eyebrow at him and he continued. “This is the part that usually gets everyone flipped all upside down, but I suppose you wanted to know, and I’m not required to keep it from you so…”
“Come on, Gordon, the suspense is killing me here.” I mocked.
“They call themselves The Elders. Vempirae. A group of very old vampires that keep watch over their whole community. They keep a certain level of order among the chaos. If their kind strays too far from the way things are supposed to be, if they start attracting too much attention or if their numbers get too high for us to keep the secret, they act.”
“Wait, you’re telling me that I work for these friggin’ things? My employer is a vampire?”
“Don’t act so surprised, Gus. Who else would be able to fund such a thing? How do you think we can have a deep freeze in the back of this car, or a laser the size of a ballpoint pen that easily cuts through flesh and bone on the spot? How do you think we can keep our anonymity without some lower level, local, politician breathing down the back of our necks all the time?”
“So, are they the ones that recruited me?”
“No, all of that is handled in house. We’re an organization separate from any other government agency. We don’t report to any of them, but they all know we exist at some level. The Elders don’t meddle in what we do as long as we keep doing it so efficiently. That’s a big deal though. You don’t want these people pissed at you. Believe me...they won’t hesitate to send out their goons on anyone they have a problem with. If you screw up, they’ll dispatch one of their vampire hunters in your general direction and you’ll never see them coming until its too late to call on the Lord for help.”
“Does anyone in our organization, anyone that we can talk to, have contact with these...Elders?” I asked.
“Only at the very top. People you’ve never seen. Names you’ve never heard. Boogeymen that you could never prove even existed anywhere else other than in your own mixed up delusions. I’ve never laid eyes on a single one of them and I don’t want to. I do my job and don’t make waves. Been at it six years now without a hitch.”
Six years? Doing THIS? Jesus!
“Look, I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass here, but you said something just now that caught my attention. You said that you’re not required to keep it from me, so spill it. Are there things that are being kept from me that I’m gonna need to know to make it to day three?”
I didn’t expect his reaction at first, but his personality was growing on me as time passed. He smiled. Quite a wicked smirk, really. Then he looks directly at me with those dark shades on his eyes, and he says, “I like you, Gus. I think you’re going to make it just fine around here. Good on ya for catching that, but I’m going to have to watch myself from here on out with you. Wouldn’t want you getting any crazy ideas in the back of your mind.”
“This from the guy who spends his nights chasing vampire victims for six years and turns them into coldcuts before bed.” I tell him. “What crazy ideas could I possibly have after that?”
“Oh...quite a few.” He said, stoically. “Don’t think you’d be the first good cop to start thinking of a way to bend the system in order to keep the nightmares at bay. You aren’t. So, believe me when I tell you...it’s best to get your orders, follow through according to the guidelines of the program...and let nature run its course.”
“So...I take that to mean that I’m on my own out here. Do I got that right?”
He turned back to the road and I could tell that he was contemplating what to say to me next. “I’m going to be straight with you, Gus. I think you deserve that. And I just got done saying that we have to trust each other, so I’m going to give you the truth. Yes, there are certain things that you won’t be privy to until you’ve been around for a while. Just so you know, there are still things that I’m not privy to yet and this job is old hat to me at this point in my career. But...you have my word...I won’t keep anything from you that would end up getting you hurt.”
“All right, I can accept that. For now, anyway.” I thought about how far I wanted to take this conversation right now. I didn’t want him to start suspecting that I had an ulterior motive. I did have a couple of other things that I needed to know, however. “I was also wondering, how long does it take for…”
Just then a blip came on the screen. A red blip. Someone was being murdered by a vampire just a few city blocks away. Gordon glanced over at the meter and turned the car in the direction of the red circle. He slowed when we were about a quarter of a mile out.
“Think you’re ready to see one in progress, or do you want to wait until it turns yellow?” Gordon asked.
“Uh, whatever I guess. What’s the norm for new guys?”
“Everyone handles things differently. You have your laser?” He asked. I patted my suit jacket where I had the pen-sized laser tucked into the inner pocket. “Good. You have your sidearm, right?”
“Always.” I responded.
“Don’t threaten them with it. It won’t stop them. You take that thing out only when you feel you need it and you use it quickly if one of those things comes after you. Aim for the heart or the head. It might not kill them, but it’s the best way to slow them down. Like I said though, they pretty much know that we’re a necessary part of the process and they generally leave us alone, but you don’t want to catch one that’s lost in a blood lust. They’re unpredictable. They can’t think straight, and they don’t know that we’re protected by the Elders when they’re in that state of mind. Fuckin’ savages.”
“You’re telling me that I can fire off in their FACE, and it’s only gonna slow them down???”
“They’re not like us, partner. Not in any way. You point a gun at the wrong vampire, and they’ll have you broken down in a matter of seconds. And those are the ones who are nice enough to spare your life. The only vulnerability they have is the heart. And even then, it takes weeks for them to die. So unless you’re about 30 seconds from sunrise...it’s best to not try to fight one of these things. It will not end well for either one of us. Believe me.” He said. “Almost at the kill site. You ready?”
“Right. Great pep talk. Let’s do it then.” I said, my heartbeat racing as I tried to get my courage to peek out from behind my own shadow. Am I ready? Truly ready? It seemed like a simple enough statement...until we rounded that last corner and turned into the alley where the vampire was still feeding on his prey. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that image for the rest of my life.
Gordon shut off the headlights before we made the turn and stopped the car as soon as we were far enough into the alley to not be seen. The vampire stood up and stared at us for a moment still cradling the body which he held up with one arm. The victim dropped and landed on the pavement like a rag doll. It was a young girl, she was maybe eleven or twelve years old. One of her legs got trapped behind her at an odd angle and her head bounced off of the ground twice before it came to rest. Her mouth was open, luckily her eyes weren’t, and her limbs were still twitching as if she was still trying to get away.
There was a small blood trail that led from her neck down the front of her shirt. There was little left over after seeing the smeared blood on the face of her attacker.
I stared back at the large vampire that stood in front of us. He was maybe twenty feet away. I could see him plain as day and I was sure that he was reading my thoughts as his red eyes peered into mine. That was something else that I read up on in the slag hunter manual. They get in your head, you see? They see right through you without even trying. You can feel them rattling around in there, thumbing through your memories like the pages of an old photo album. It’s a frightening thing to experience for the first time. I never felt so exposed.
He had a very long face with rugged cheekbones, and looked to be about thirty years old. His hair was jet black and hung down to the middle of his back. If he had a black and red cape he would have been the epitome of the text book vampire image from the fifties. I hope he could see in my mind the malice that I held towards him right now.
I could feel my pulse rate quicken even more and my breathing got very deep. Sweat started to form on my brow and my hands were balled up into white knuckled fists. No matter how many times between yesterday and now that I told myself I could handle this job, it just didn’t matter. This was on a whole different level. This was too much evil to simply be overlooked. How could I possibly live with myself if I let this senseless act occur? Most cops can go an entire career without catching a single homicidal crime in the act, and here I am with the holy grail of criminal acts happening right in front of me...and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it? I mean, this was a murder, right??? A child, having their life taken right in front of me! And I was supposed to sit there and let it happen?
I thought about what Renquist told me about drawing my weapon on a vampire...but it took everything I had in me to not get out and empty an entire clip into this monster!
I turned away from it all, feeling extremely nauseous...and I wondered if I was going to lose all control. I can’t...I can’t take this. This ‘thing’ has got to die for what he’s done!
I went for the door handle in a fit of rage and disgust, but it wouldn’t open. I could hear Gordon next to me telling me not do anything rash. I could hear him trying to get my attention, trying to calm me. I could hear him, but whatever he said to me just didn’t register. I pried and pulled at the door handle, time and time again, but for some reason I just couldn’t get the door open. I pawed at it like an animal stuck in a cage. I even tried to put the window down so that I could climb in but it was no use. For some reason I was unable to free myself from the confines of the car.
I looked back at the vampire who was still standing over the little girl’s body. He smiled at me and I could see his fangs protruding down from his gum line. His tongue slowly came out as he licked the blood from the corners of his mouth and then raked it across his teeth. In one last act of defiance, he puckered his lips at me and blew a kiss in my direction. He turned slowly and walked out of the back of the alley...leaving us to do our dirty work for him.
I turned my attention back to the door and yanked at the handle once again, shaking the whole car while trying to get out. It wasn’t until Gordon put a hand on my shoulder that I remembered that someone else was there with me.
“Gus! Come on, Gus! Calm down for me. There’s nothing we can do. Calm down, buddy. We can’t interfere. Not now, Gus. This isn’t the time. Stop it, partner. You’re attracting too much attention. Just stop, okay?” He kept at his coaxing until I finally stopped and turned towards him.
“You locked the doors?” I said with tears of rage streaming down my face. I looked down at my hands and saw that my fingers were bleeding. Upon further inspection I saw the source. I had torn several of my fingernails halfway off during my failed attempt to get out of the car.
He nodded with an unexpected look of sadness on his face. “I’m sorry, Gus. It’s something that was taught to me the hard way. I had a partner jump out of the car once and actually go after one of those things. Can you even imagine what would happen to you if you had gotten out? Do you actually think you could have done anything? They’re too strong. Too fast. If you don’t keep a clear head and have your emotions in check, you’ve got no chance at all. None.”
“How can you stomach this??? She was...she was just a little girl! She has a family! Friends! How can you just SIT here and...”
“And WHAT, Gus??? What exactly was your plan here tonight?” He asked. “You want to know the truth? The truth is...there is a VERY delicate balance between darkness and daylight! If it begins to tip too far, one way or the other, we can set off a war between the species that we’re not liable to survive. Not just US...butyour family! Your friends! And mine! You’re playing by different rules now, don’t you get it? Your days of busting bad guys and watching them have their day in court are OVER! This is a whole new ballgame, Gus. And the only way to win is to preserve the balance that is keeping the rest of us alive.”
“I...I just, freaked out. Won’t happen again.” I said. My hands trembling. I attempted to get my fingers to stop bleeding but I found that if I put pressure on one hand the other would start to bleed again.
Gordon reached over me and into the glove compartment. The thing seemed to have a never ending supply of whatever he needed every time he opened it. He pulled out a first aid box and took out some gauze. “Here, use this.” He watched me fumble with it for a while and finally spoke. “Look, I couldn’t have known what was around this corner. I never would have done that to you, all right? That was a bit much for your second day. But we do what we do and we stay out of the way. We clean up the messes they leave behind, and we buy the city, and maybe the whole world, a little more time before the shit hits the fan and we ALL end up as somebody’s midnight snack. It’s just that simple.”
I was still fuming but my adrenaline rush was coming down for the moment. As long as I don’t look back up and see that girl lying in the alley I’ll be all right. “And there’s nothing that we could have done?” I asked with one last bit of defiance.
“No.” He said, void of emotion as he opened the car door. “I’ll handle this one, okay? You just sit tight for a few minutes. I’ll be right back.”
I watched as he went to the back seat and gathered up a couple of black garbage bags and walked over to the little girl’s lifeless body. Is that what she had become now? Garbage? The urge to throw up had never been so strong.
After thinking about it for a long while, watching him do all of the work, laser and all...I finally decided that if this was to be my job, I had to start somewhere. To mentally shut down and pretend that none of this was happening the way I saw it. Get out of the car, Gus. Do your job. It was just ‘slag’ after all, right? I’m not the one that killed that girl. I’m just the guy that cleans up the mess.
Just the one that watched her die...I heard my subconscious whisper.
I exited the car and helped Renquist finish the job. Gordon took the head again and quickly stuffed it into the bag before I got over to him. He gave me a nod as I put on my gloves and turned back to the task at hand. After we were done I carried one of the bags back to the car and tossed it into the deep freeze without another word.
When we were both back in the front seat, after we processed the scene, I felt the need to apologize again. “I really am sorry about that. I’m usually a pretty rational person. Nothing much really gets to me like this. It’s not like I haven’t seen the worst of the worst before.” It’s a strange sensation...swallowing your emotions and stuffing them down in your gut to that degree. It feels a lot like madness.
“Don’t worry about it, all right. No harm no foul. It’s not something that I would ever expect you to ‘enjoy’. I’d be more unsettled if it didn’t rattle you a little bit.” He replied as he as backed the car out of the alley and continued down the road. “A time will come when you’ll find a way to process the job in your head, Gus. You’ll begin to understand the collateral damage part of what we do...and you’ll go to sleep thanking God that guys like you and me are out here keeping the peace the way we do. Even when it hurts.”
He stopped up the road at a convenience store so that I could wash up my hands and splash some water on my face. My gloves had stuck to the dried blood and it made it tough to actually get them off. After I washed my hands off I taped up the tips of my fingers so that it wouldn’t hurt so much when I bumped them on something. I splashed some more water in my face and stared at my reflection for a while in the scratched mirror. I hadn’t even realized that I was crying until I saw the tears streaming down my cheeks. I found myself contemplating what would happen if I just holed up in this grungy bathroom for the rest of my life...never to see the sun again. If I just never came out, there was nothing they could do. Every time they came knocking at the door I would just say, “be out in a minute,” and act like I was finishing up the biggest crap in human history. It could work couldn’t it?
On the other hand, I could grow a set of balls and get back in that car. I could learn as much about these hideous creatures as I could so that I could eventually strike back at them. I could turn them into the prey and put us back at the top of the food chain. And to think, I was actually thinking about teaming up with them to get rid of actual humans.
My thoughts don’t make sense anymore. The trauma was beginning to set in. I can’t make heads or tails out of anything in my brain. What was I feeling at that moment?
Religious or not...sometimes you just do things with your life...and you wonder if God is watching.
Luckily the rest of the night went by quickly and it turned out that tonight was one of the ‘light’ takes. We only had two more blips show up on the screen for the rest of the evening. A guy in a business suit, and a college frat boy from uptown. Gordon and I chatted about a few things here and there but nothing of any importance. Not that I can remember. He actually turned down his tough guy routine and we got to know each other a little bit. At one point he flipped open a note pad and scratched a couple of things down. When I asked him what it was, he was guarded about his answer and just said that he likes to take notes sometimes.
I wasn’t sure what he was taking notes on though. Was it about me and my actions tonight? Would he report my outburst to our bosses and get me thrown in a looney bin like his last partner? Or was he writing about the vampire and his victim? Maybe Gordon is hiding a few secrets of his own. What did he say to me when I was in my agitated state of rage? He said something like, “There’s nothing we can do about it right now.” I wonder what he meant by that?
When we pulled up to my place, it was nearly five O’clock in the morning. And just as I reached for the door, Renquist told me, “Gus? I’d be lying if I said that your emotions are going to go wild on you for a while. You’ve got to wrestle with, and it’s going to take years to get yourself sorted out. Trust me, I know.” But then he added, “During this transition...you’re going to get a lot of crazy ideas in your head. Do yourself a favor...and let them go. You hear me?”
Still shivering from the evil chill of what I had been a part of, I said, “I can’t imagine that things are going to be this way forever. Right?”
He just said, “What you need to understand now is...there’s no going back. You’re a cog in the machine now. JUST a cog. And when a cog breaks down...it is easily replaced. Do you get my meaning?”
“Subtle, are we?” I replied.
“You’re two days into being a part of one of the biggest conspiracies in human history, Gus. It’s older than either one of us, and it’ll outlive us both. These measures have been put into place and the balance has been worked out since your great great grandfather’s first birthday, and you’ve got a lot of powerful people who are willing to do anything and everything to protect it. So toss that ‘one man can make a difference’ ideology right out the window. You hear me?”
Looking directly at him, I asked, “And what happens if I decide to back out of this deal and never look back?”
For the first time since I met him, Renquist lifted his dark sunglasses...and I noticed that one of his eyes was completely white. Blind. Almost as if there was no pupil at all. He didn’t answer me. He merely said, “Hug your wife tonight, Gus. Get yourself some rest. I’ll be back to pick you up tomorrow at sunset.” Then he added, “Get your family members a few safeguard marks. I know where to find them. They’re pricey...but you’ll sleep better. Trust me.” And with that, he drove off...leaving me on the side of the street, thankful to see the sky brightening with the rising Sun.
I took a very long, very hot, shower. As if the almost boiling temperature of the liquid cascading over my skin could wash away the horror of the evening. I toweled off and checked on my son, Jake...seeing him asleep in his bed. So peaceful. So unaware of what was going on outside of the walls of this house. Walls that I was hoping would protect him from the painful madness outside of their barrier. But...how do I protect him from this? From...them?
I had to dry my eyes again before climbing into bed. My emotions seemed so foreign to me at that moment. I slid over to Martha’s side and wrapped my arms tightly around her while nuzzling my head in next to hers. She stirred and looked at me with sleep filled eyes.
She was annoyed at first and said, “Gus, if you think I’m going to wake up just so you can…” She opened her eyes a bit more and looked at me questioningly. I wasn’t the same man that I was when I lfet the house that night...and she could tell. With a caring gaze that I hadn’t seen from her in quite some time, she said, “Gus? Gus, what’s wrong? Sweetheart, you’re shaking, what’s the matter? Gus, you’re scaring me. What happened?”
“Nothing. Honestly, it’s nothing, Martha. I just needed a hug, that’s all. I’m sorry I woke you.” I told her. What was I going to say? Well, dear, I’m working for this secret organization that’s led by ancient vampires who want us to clean up the carnage they leave behind after their fellow vampires kill innocent little girls in front of me while I do nothing to stop it. Yeah, that’d go over like a fart in church.
“Well, I know it’s something. Is it this new job that you can’t tell me about? Did something happen tonight? Is everyone okay?”
“Everything’s fine, hon. Go back to sleep.” I gave her a kiss on the cheek and felt comforted by her for the first time in a while as she pulled me closer to her and ran her hand back and forth across my arm.
I didn’t sleep much that night. Every time I closed my eyes I saw that creature’s face staring at me. Licking his lips, blood dripping from his fangs. When I did finally fall asleep from exhaustion, I had dreams of waking up in a coffin that was buried six feet under ground. I clawed at the wood above me to no avail. Blood dripped from my finger nails and landed on my face and in my mouth. At one point I started to drink my own blood, it was the only thing that would keep me alive in this prison. The lid to the coffin was suddenly opened and that monster was standing there with a smile on his horrible face, eyes blood red from the inside out. Blowing me another kiss.
I woke up in a sweat several times, each time Martha would be there to comfort me. I know we’ve had our little spats lately, but I don’t know what I would have done without her laying next to me that night.
Maybe, hopefully, tomorrow will be better.