The next night started out a little different than the previous two. Gordon stopped at the house a little earlier than I expected and actually came up to the door. He introduced himself to Martha and Jake, and made small talk with Jake about law school while I finished getting ready. I could hear Gordon’s distinct voice in the background as I got dressed. At one point Jake must have said something funny and Gordon actually laughed. I also heard my son chuckle a couple of times, which meant Gordon actually said something humorous. To say I was confused would be an understatement.
I retrieved my pistol from my bedside table and holstered it into my shoulder rig. I threw on my jacket and patted the pocket to make sure my laser was still there. As I walked down the hallway into the living room where Gordon and Jake were seated comfortably in two lounge chairs, I caught the last bit of their conversation.
“That’s one of the biggest problems I used have with being a cop. We wrestle these scum bags to the ground, get booted in the chest, punched in the gut, maybe elbowed in the face, cuff ‘em up and throw them in jail, and the next night, they’re out there walking around the streets again. My streets. Used to piss me off something fierce. Now, I understand that everyone has their place in life, and those snakes, and by snakes I mean defense lawyers of course, are paid to make sure that these scum bags have all their rights intact and get a fair trial and yadda yadda yadda, but for those judges to just, let them out, boy there’s nothing that used to get to me more. I also understand that the state needs most of them to plea out to lesser charges in order to keep the court system cleared up, but it never really mattered. It would still tick me off to no end.
“I used to work in the court house some times as a bailiff to make some overtime money. I would stand there and watch as these criminals, sometimes it was guys I had actually put in jail the night before, and I would watch as they were processed through the system like cattle. The judges didn’t know them like I did though. I would see just what those pieces of shit had done, I knew them on a much more personal level you see. I would talk to some of these guys every time I saw them on the street cause I knew they’d be up to no good. But the judges and the lawyers don’t know them like that, that’s why they could get away with processing them like pieces of mail. That was the difference that I had to see and experience in order to finally be able to make it in this line of work.”
“What difference is that?” Jake asked with intrigue.
“Hell, you’re dad probably knows just as I do. What do all the old timers say to the new guys about working the streets, Gus?” Gordon said as he turned to face me.
I knew just what he was getting at. I knew what he meant and had given this same advice to plenty of rookies over the years. Not in quite the same way of course, I was always a bit more straight forward with it, but he got his point across. “What is it, Dad? What’d you realize?” Jake was really reeled in to this conversation. I wonder if he realizes that this conversation was more for me than it was for him.
“You can’t take it personal, son.”
“That’s right, exactly.” Gordon said with a smile. A smile that was aimed in my direction. “The trick is to really not take it personal. You can’t just say that you don’t care that you arrest the same guy two or three nights in a row; that you don’t care about the paperwork that goes along with putting them in the slammer night after night. You actually have to believe it, can’t take it personal. And that’s no small thing now, junior. I’m talking about your work, your livelihood, your life. Some of the things that these guys do are unforgivable by any moral standard. But we can’t take it personal. Just have to realize that we’re all cogs in the machine. The scum bags do scum bag things, your dad and I lock ‘em up, and the lawyers let them loose so that the whole process can start over again.”
“But that’s not how the system is intended to work. The court system is supposed to find guilt or innocence and impose justice on the guilty.” Jake defied with exuberance.
Gordon let out a healthy chuckle and said, “You keep thinking that, kid. You go in to your career with that excitement. It’ll get you through law school if nothing else. And don’t get me wrong either, I’m not telling you to not believe that, hell, maybe you’ll be the one to change the world. Come back and talk to me in about fifteen years though, we’ll compare notes.”
And with that Gordon got up and started to head for the door. As he reached for the door handle he turned back to Jake and said, “Oh and one more thing, Jake.”
“What’s that, sir?” Jake asked.
“Don’t ever take a job as a snake. Don’t listen to all that mumbo jumbo about freeing innocent men. It doesn’t happen. A defense attorney might actually defend one innocent guy a year, if he’s lucky. The rest is just finding loopholes in the system. Go private or work for the state as a prosecutor. Just my humble advice.”
“Yes, sir, have a good night.”
“I’ll try to do that, Jake, thanks.” Gordon looked into the kitchen and waved to Martha. “It was nice meeting you, Martha.”
Martha walked over to the door and returned the gesture. Gordon started down the sidewalk to the car as I kissed my wife and said goodbye to my family for the evening. Taking off the family man hat and putting on my cop hat. I walked down to the car and tried to prepare myself mentally for the night’s activity. It’s something I trained myself to do over the years. I don’t need to be thinking about anything but work when I was at work. Gotta watch the blind spots, watch the shadows, and always, always, watch the hands. And, of course, let’s not forget: Don’t take it personal.
I got into the car without a word to my partner. The guy that started out just two days ago as a hard ass and someone I wasn’t really sure I could spend time with. Now he was at my house saying hello to my wife and kid and giving advice on how to get through this thing. I have a feeling I’m going to have a hard time keeping up with him.
A few minutes down the road I was the first to speak. “Thank you for that, Gordon.”
“Thanks for what?” He replied with a smirk. “You got a good kid there, Gus. He’s gonna do just fine. One thing I pride myself with is being able to judge someone’s character the first time I meet them. It’s one thing I was always able to do well. I could always dig through the bullshit and see right to a person’s center. I always knew when someone was lying to me even without all of those kinesics classes and interrogation seminars.”
“I know what you mean. Not really so much figuring someone out, it’s more of an instant feeling. Like you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.” I replied.
“Exactly, you get that too huh? I kinda figured that about you. You think we develop that after being cops, or are we cops cause we can do that?” He said nonchalantly.
“Pretty sure it was always there. We probably fine tune it while working the streets, but just cause of all the people we talk to. Practice makes perfect and all that.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much the way I see it.” He drove for a bit in silence, maybe planning what to say next. “Anyway,” He continued, as if the conversation had never stopped. “I got a good feeling about your kid there. Got the same feeling with you, Gus. I said it before, but you’re gonna make it out here. I know yesterday was a bit of an extreme, but they’re not all like that. You can’t take that stuff personal and you can’t make it out to be your fault. You know that. I know you do. You don’t work the road as long as you and I have and not figure that out. Scum bags are scum bags. They’re gonna do what they do whether you’re there or not. And you have to realize that some fights are best left for another day.”
“Yeah, I hear you, it’s just a bit of an adjustment.” I answered.
“I understand that. That’s part of my job though I suppose. Hell, it takes all of thirty minutes to explain what we actually do out here. Helping to understand how to cope with it is the majority of the gig. One thing you should understand though. Their court system isn’t as garbled as ours is. These elders, the ones that make all the rules, they don’t have to worry about silly things like due process and innocent until proven guilty. Someone gets out of line with them, they fix it. Real quick. Their assassins are professionals. They live for that and that alone. These are some bad dudes that you wouldn’t ever want on your tail.”
“So is there an age limit then? Will that… thing yesterday be dealt with?” I asked.
“Not really anything written in stone about that. It’s frowned upon, but not enforced so much, not by the elders anyway.” He said.
“There you go again with that vague talk. Last night you said that there was nothing we could do right then, and now you say stuff like that, not by the elders anyway. You want to let me in on that?”
He looked over at me and smirked. “Told myself to watch what I say around you. Maybe I’m doing that on purpose, sort of a subconscious thing.” He turned back to the road and continued to sweep our area. “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round, Gus. Would you agree with that?”
“Yeah, I suppose it does.”
“Well, in our world, the one that doesn’t revolve around vampires and all that, there’re people out there that would just as soon stick you with a knife as they would shake your hand. There’re others out there though that would take a bullet for you before thinking about themselves. Pretty big range if you ask me. Vampire’s world isn’t all that different really. Thousands of them get turned every year. With numbers like that, you gotta figure there’s probably just as many good ones as there are bad. If not more on the good side that is. They all go into that world with human morals to begin with. Sometimes it sticks with them, most times probably. The ones like last night, those kind don’t actually come around too often. They either keep on the move, or get weeded out by the others. Those are the ones that have what I like to call Dracula-itus. They get the idea in their head that they’re so much better than us and that no harm could ever come to them. Most of them get what’s coming to them sooner or later. It seems that karma still exists when you’re a vampire.”
“Good ones?” I said with some spite. “How can any of them be good? I mean, they kill people every night.”
“Yeah, they do. As a whole that is. Course you know that individually they only have to feed once a month or so. Good ones will be choosy on who they make their meal. Some of them don’t care, some of them have a certain type they like to prey on. Some of them say that young blood is sweeter, but they don’t get as much so they have to kill more frequently. Others say that they wouldn’t feed on any blood that hasn’t aged at least thirty years; they make it sound like a wine tasting festival.” Gordon explained.
“Gordon, the way you talk about it, it kind of sounds like you have conversations with them.”
And with that statement he gave me a look that could have killed. He looked me up and down once and then turned back to the road with a frustrated smirk on his face. I just can’t get a handle on this guy. One minute he’s chatting away with my wife and kid, giving me some very basic advice in the most humble way, and the next he looks like he wants me dead. What’d I say?
We drove around for the next hour without saying a word to each other. I was trying to figure out how I screwed up so bad and he was, well, probably planning a way to kill me. I knew what the regulation book said about conversing with vampires but Gordon had to know that I wasn’t the whistle blower type. Besides, it wasn’t like I meant it. I said it “Sounds like,” I didn’t come out and accuse him of anything. I wasn’t even all that serious. Unless he is, and he thinks that he can’t tell me about it. Or if he thinks that I would narc on him.
What if he is talking to them though? I mean, I thought about it after my first night on the road. I was going to try and find one to team up with and exploit my knowledge of the local dirt bags after only twelve hours. Would it be so hard to think that after all these years of service as a slag hunter he wouldn’t have been able to make at least one contact in their world?
As I started to think of a way to break the silence something happened that I hadn’t been looking forward to. It was the sole reason for us to be out here but I was looking forward to another slow night. A red light appeared on our screen just around the corner. Gordon looked at me, sizing up my reaction which I tried to contain behind a stoic poker face, and started to steer towards it. He pulled over just before the dot on the screen and lit up a cigarette. He still didn’t say anything. Was he waiting for the vampire to finish feeding, or was he thinking about me trying to jump out of the car again. It was hard to tell with him.
About five minutes after the blip had materialized Gordon finally spoke. “Well, Gus, whadoya think?” I didn’t really know what he was asking so he added, “Do you think he’s done?”
I’m pretty sure what he really meant was, do you want to go and find out at the risk of seeing another dead girl being sucked on by a savage, or do you want to wait? I had to show him that could handle this though. I had to prove myself to him. “There’s only one way to find out I guess. Let’s get to work.” I stated while trying to sound like I actually meant it.
Gordon put the car in drive and rounded the corner of the alley where the dot indicated. The scene that we found tonight was almost the exact opposite of last night. It was still gruesome and I was still disgusted by the sight of it, but it wasn’t as bad. What I saw, and was still trying to comprehend, was an adolescent boy standing over an adult male. The boy had blood all down the front of his shirt and was looking up at us like he wanted to pounce. For a minute I was sure that the boy was the victim and that somehow he had managed to fend off his would be vampire killer, but then I saw the fangs sticking out from his gums in an unnatural way. I just couldn’t get over the similarities between the two killings that were so obviously dissimilar. Last night the girl was the victim, tonight this boy, who looked all of fourteen years old, was the attacker. I wonder what this man did to deserve a death so heinous.
Gordon parked the car and got out while taking a drag of his cigarette. He threw it on the ground and stamped it out while I exited the car. The boy was staring us down and I tried to stare right back but at the same time I new that if he had wanted to he could have killed us both. I don’t think my poker face was really holding up. Gordon started to walk forward, not even waiting for the boy to move away from his kill. I thought for sure that as soon as we showed up and he realized who we were that he would leave. I guess this was one of the ones who wanted to stay and watch the clean up crew.
Gordon took out his laser and started cutting. I looked down at the massive wound on the side of the victim’s neck and couldn’t help but look at the boy again. How could someone who looked so innocent have caused this much damage to a grown man? It was sad actually that a child would be forced to do this. I realize that this was still murder and the boy had still made the choice to do it, but did he want to? I looked back at him for a second. I didn’t want to stare again but I felt… pity. He seemed almost confused. Like he wasn’t even sure about what had happened here tonight. The look on his face was something I didn’t really expect; regret. My look wasn’t really disgust in the crime as much as it was pity for the situation he had seemingly been forced into.
I joined Gordon in the clean up as another boy, an Asian boy that looked only a little older than the one with blood all over his shirt, walked up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. While taking quick glances and doing my best to do my part in getting this body off the street as soon as possible I could have sworn I saw a tear run down the younger boys face.
I cut up an arm into pieces small enough to fit into the trash bags while the younger one continued to watch us. The Asian boy was trying to get the other one to leave. I think I heard him call the younger boy Justin. It was odd to think of this thing as an actual person with a name and associates. He seemed to put pressure on him to get away and to stop watching. The younger one finally turned towards the older boy and they discussed going to get showers, like none of this was really a big deal. Only, it seemed, that this was a big deal to the young one. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed to me like he hadn’t been doing this for very long. I could spot a rookie when I saw one and he definitely seemed as shaken about this whole scenario as I was.
We wrapped everything up into the trash bags and put them into the back seat. Not wanting to stare at this abomination of youth any longer, I got back into the car and Gordon backed out of the alley without a word spoken between us. He drove down the street a bit and pulled into a gas station parking lot. I was still trying to get the picture of the teenage murderer out of my head while Gordon pulled a small computer of the center consol of the car and pulled a driver’s license from his pocket. He looked at the license and input the number into his computer. I looked over at him and then down to the license in his hand. It belonged to the man that we had just added to our stash of bodies in the back of the car.
Gordon saw my perplexed look and turned the computer towards me. “Just want to see what kind of person this kid picked as dinner. Going to run a criminal history report on the guy, see what comes up. Call it a hobby.” He explained.
I sat watching the people going in and out of the gas station; going about their daily lives totally ignorant to the fact that there’s a whole other world out there. A world of darkness and death. The funny thing about it though, most people don’t want to know. To a lot of people, ignorance is bliss.
“Hhm.” Gordon snorted. I gave him an expecting look and he continued. “Seems the kid there has some good taste.”
I thought back to the vision of the adolescent boy standing over a fully grown man; blood everywhere, the man’s lifeless body seeming so innocent in that dark alley. “Good taste? How is murder ever in good taste?” I inquired.
“That guy back there was Daniel Homer Tiedemann. A forty-seven year old single guy who still lives with his mom. About fifteen years ago he got picked up for loitering and prowling outside of a girl’s college dorm with a camera. Apparently he had a special spot to stand in the shadows so that he could take pictures of the girls walking to the showers. Five years after that he got arrested for burglary. He had broken into a house and stolen some panties from a girl’s bedroom. It says that when they went to pick him up at his mom’s house they found about five hundred pictures of different teenage girls and several other pairs of underwear from “undisclosed locations” in his bedroom. About three years ago he was the lead suspect in three rape/ homicide cases, but he got off on a technicality. All three bodies were found in alleys within five blocks of here.
“That kid picked out a rapist and a killer. He did in ten minutes what our court system couldn’t accomplish in fifteen years. He identified a bad guy and took him off the street for us. The prick was probably looking for another girl to go after when junior back there came along and interrupted. Now, don’t you think that’s about as close as it comes to good taste as you can get when talking about murder?”
The question was rhetorical. It didn’t need to be answered. Gordon knew as well as I did that justice had been done in taking the guy out. I just nodded my head and turned back to look outside. Gordon backed the car out and we continued our night.
There’s a general mindset among cops: there’s us and them. Meaning if you’re not one of us, you’re on the outside. If you’re not a cop, you couldn’t possibly understand what real life is. Yeah, I suppose you could separate people into bad guys and regular citizen’s, the sheep and the wolves, if you will. A great man by the name of Dave Grossman, a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, wrote a book called On Killing. In it he makes an analogy that there are three types of people in the world: Sheep, Wolves, and Sheep Dogs.
He goes on to define the sheep as the majority of the population; people who just go on with their lives not really worrying about what’s out there. The wolves are obviously the bad guys; those that prey on the weaknesses of others for their own benefit. Then there are the sheep dogs. You see, the sheep dogs are trained to protect the sheep. They’ll do so at the risk of their own lives and without thinking about their own safety. They’ll keep the wolves at bay at any cost.
The kicker is that the sheep don’t really like the sheep dogs most of the time. Sheep dogs look an awful lot like wolves, and that makes the sheep uncomfortable. The sheep dogs have to stay on the outside of the herd. If the sheep dog is too close it reminds them that there are wolves out there. The sheep don’t want them too close. That is, until the wolf is visible. Then the sheep go running towards the sheep dog for protection. If the wolf isn’t around though, the sheep are totally oblivious to its existence.
My point is, I wonder what Lt. Col. Grossman would say about my current situation. When I was a beat cop, it was pretty cut and dry. The citizens were the sheep, the bad guys were the wolves, and we cops were obviously the sheep dogs. Now we’re talking about murderers, things that go out at night and kill people for their own survival, possibly being blurred in somewhere between the wolves and the sheep dogs.
I found myself once again thinking of my different options about how to handle my new position. I could either keep my eyes open for an opportunity to take these vampires out, or I could try to work with them to rid the street of our scum. I feel like I’m on a seesaw with myself, teetering back and forth while I weigh the pros and cons of this situation. I want to ask Gordon why he would care who the people in the back of the car are. Why would it matter if they’re good or bad if we don’t do anything about it? He must be up to something. If he’s in contact with some of them I could help him. Or I could use his knowledge to try and kill these creatures of the night one by one.
We picked up one more body that night and ended our shift with a trip to our headquarters building. The back of the car had filled up and we had to transfer our bags into the incinerator at the main office. We pulled up to a large roll up door and Gordon hit a button on the dash. The door opened in a fast, fluid movement and shut just as quickly once we pulled in. The garage was fairly large, with several vehicles like ours already inside. Gordon backed up to the oversized furnace and we unloaded our back seat. Once we were finished, we pulled the car into a parking space inside the large bay and went up a flight of stairs and into an office.
The inner door had a key swipe that each of us had to go through separately for security reasons. Once inside the inner room of the office our identification was checked by large men with semi-automatic rifles. They gave us a nod and we continued through another door that opened into a long hallway. I had been here during training but I wasn’t sure where anything was so I just followed Gordon blindly. At the end of the long hallway there was an open door that led to a very large office. Gordon walked in without announcing himself and sat down in a comfortable looking leather chair across the desk from a dark-skinned bald man in a dark suit. He must have been six and a half feet tall and almost three hundred pounds of all muscle. The guy’s arms were at least twice the size of mine. His neck was almost non-existent and his hands were the size of dinner plates.
He was shuffling through some paper on his over-sized oak desk but put everything down when Gordon walked in. I took a couple of steps into the office but didn’t want to over step my bounds as the new guy by sitting without an offer. “Hey Boss, I’d like you to meet Gus Showalski. Gus, this is our boss.” Gordon stated. I took that as my cue to walk forward and shake the catcher’s mitt sized paws on this enormous man. His grip was strong but not overly tight. He held on to my hand just longer than I found comfortable and when he let go I took a step back from his desk but still didn’t sit. “Gus will be joining our crew. He’s going to work out just fine around here.” Gordon explained.
“Already Gordon?” The man looked up at me and nodded his approval. “You don’t usually give your okay on this kind of thing for months. He must be quite the catch.” His voice was very deep but I could sense some respect in his tone. “Have a seat Gus, always make yourself at home here.”
I slid into the open chair beside Gordon and said, “Thank you, sir. I’m happy to be here.”
At this statement his lips spread into a wide, closed-mouth smile bigger than I would have expected from him and I got the feeling that he could see right through me. “Now, I believe Gordon when he tells me you’re going to be fine after only three days, but I’ve never met anyone who was truly okay with this job so soon. You don’t have to bullshit me, Gus. I know what kind of shit you do every night. I didn’t get to sit behind this desk without getting my hands dirty. And I, unlike some of my predecessors, don’t forget what it was like. Three days is a bit soon to be over the shock of all this.” He said with a wave of his hands.
I gave a half smile half smirk and said, “Yes, sir, it’ll take some getting used to, but I believe I can make it all right.”
“Now that’s a truthful answer.” He said with the same huge grin. He sat back in his chair and continued the conversation. “Gus, if you ever need anything, anything that Gordon can’t provide for you or answer, you don’t hesitate to come to me. If that door is open you feel free to come right in. If it’s closed I’m either not here or talking to some very important people. In their minds anyway, but they fund the whole thing so we’ll keep treating them that way. Now, if you two don’t have anything else for me then I’ll get back to this wonderful stack of paper so that I can actually go home at some point today.”
“No problem, Boss.” Gordon said. “Just wanted to introduce my new partner. See ya round.”
“See ya round. You two stay safe.” He answered. I nodded and followed Gordon out of the office.
Walking back down the long hallway I couldn’t help but feel some sort of acceptance into this organization. Something tells me that that was more than just an introduction back there.
The trip back to my house was uneventful. We discussed some past cases from when we were on the road and traded some stories about tense situations that we’d been in. When Gordon pulled up to the curb in front of my house I didn’t get out right away. The sun was just starting to come up and the dew on the grass was beginning to fog in the yard. “I want to apologize for earlier. If I said something I shouldn’t have. I never meant anything by it.” I said.
“Yeah, Gus, I know. No problem. I’ll see you tonight.” He replied.
“Yeah, see ya tonight.”
And with that I got out and slowly walked up to my house. I heard Gordon drive away but I didn’t turn around. Something had changed in him tonight. It was subtle, but I could sense it. I wasn’t totally sure it was a good thing, but I don’t think tomorrow night will be the same routine as the last three. Something tells me that I could expect a lot more from Gordon in the nights to come.