The story continues…
And there were more of them that night.
Three more to be exact. Gordon said that that was on the high end of average. He says we can expect to pick up from two to four every night that we work. Sometimes, he said, we’ll have a good night and not pick up any at all. Other times though, it 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 for reality or not, and I had landed right in the middle of it.
It got me thinking a bit though. The area we patrolled was about the size of two police patrol districts. Considering that there are twenty-five districts in Chicago, if you add it all up there are about twenty-five to fifty deaths every night caused by these vampires. Now, that’s just an average and I could probably assume that there are probably less deaths towards the outskirts of town, you probably don’t get as many in the more rural areas, but that’s quite a lot of murders to cover up every night. 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?
Again, thinking about it more. That’s just in Chicago; one city out of the entire world. Is the rate this much 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. How has no one found out about this before?
Which brings me to my next topic. What the hell was I going to do? 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 not show up for your second day. That’s the answer to the question about how no one has heard of this before. Anyone who has thought about or even attempted to bring it out into the open was surely erased from the system as easily as we erased all traces of those four murders last night. Who would I even go to? Surely all federal agencies have some connection to this.
If I went to the FBI for example, first off, what department do I go to? Secondly, who in their right mind would believe 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 and the next thing you know, no more Gus Showalski. Probably no more Showalski family either. That’s the way these things work, and I’m not willing to risk my family for anything.
So what are my options then? Run and hide, or except that there is some greater good that could come out of 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 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 in 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 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. A pawn in a greater game of secrecy between the real world and the accepted 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 general public. If you all knew some of the things that I’ve seen that have been swept under the rug. I’ve never been a big conspiracy theory kind of guy though. I always figured that the government wasn’t able to cover up something this big.
I did some time in the military just out of high school. I was just a kid, 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 initial 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.
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. Who would listen to me? 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 not get speeding tickets. Or maybe it’s for the free soft drinks or 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 are 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.
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 play. What if I could do something to make sure that not all of those people that end up in garbage bags 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. If I just gave it some time. If I could track some of them by their feeding times. 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 job with some kind of meaning, some kind of righteousness? I could lay low for a while. Play nice with Gordon and make him think that I was a model employee 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 dead people 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 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 brain. 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.
I’ll just have to sike 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 last night, that 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 though. I could make it work.
That’s the mindset I went into work with on that second night. Day two I suppose I could say. 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 do this. That was my state of mind, until the first body of the second night came up on the screen, that is.
I got into the car that was waiting at the end of my driveway 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 as ready as I can be.” 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?”
“Course you can, Gus, we’re partners aren’t we?”
“Of course, 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 ask 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, 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 don’t worry about taxes any more either, don’t ask me how, but somehow they’ve managed to even bypass the IRS. And that’s one of the most amazing parts if you ask me.
“As for who we report to, that’s not an easy answer. We work for an group, a part of the federal government, it’s managed by veteran slag hunters mostly. There’s a senator 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, 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. A group of very old vampires that keep watch over their whole community. They keep a certain order among the chaos. If their kind stray 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 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 pen that cuts through flesh and bone? How do you think we can keep our anonymity without some local government politician down 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 don’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 and you’ll never have a chance.”
“Does anyone in our organization have contact with them?” I asked.
“Only at the very top. I’ve never laid eyes on 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.”
“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, are there things that are being kept from me?”
I didn’t expect his reaction at first, but his personality was growing on me as time passed. He smiled, a smirk really, and looked directly at me. “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 gonna have to watch myself from here on out with you.” He turned back to the road and I could tell that he was contemplating what to say to me. “I’m gonna 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 gonna 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 I’m not privy to. Also, I won’t keep anything from you that would get you hurt.”
“All right, I can accept that.” 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 however, have a couple of other things that I needed to know. “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 around the corner. Gordon glanced over at the meter and turned the car in the direction of the red circle. He slowed when we were about half a mile out.
“Think you’re ready to see one in progress, or 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 and 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 leave us alone, but you don’t want to catch one that’s on the blood lust. They’re unpredictable. They can’t think straight and they don’t know that we’re protected by the Elders when their in that state.”
“Right, let’s do it then.” It seemed like a simple enough statement, until we rounded that last corner and turned into the alley where the vampire was still feeding. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget that image for the rest of my life.
Gordon had 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 before dropping the small body which he held up with one arm. The body 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 like she was trying to get away. There was a small blood trail that led from her neck down the front of her shirt.
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. He had a very long face 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 and my breathing got very deep. Sweat started to form on my brow and my hands were in 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 different level. This was too much evil to be overlooked. How could I live with myself if I let this senseless act occur? Most cops can go an entire career without catching a crime in the act, and here I am with the holy grail of crime happening right in front of me and I was supposed to do nothing? I mean, this was a murder, a child murdered right in front of me, and I was supposed to sit here?
I went for the door handle in a fit of rage and 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 it just didn’t register. I pried at the handle time and time again but for some reason I just couldn’t get out of the car. I pawed at it like an animal stuck in a cage. I even tried to put the window down so that I could climb out 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 mocked a kiss in my direction. He turned slowly and walked out of the back of the alley.
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. I’m sorry, man, 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 door?” 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. If you don’t have a clear head there’s no chance at all. None.”
“I’m sorry, Gordon. I overreacted. I apologize for that. I just, freaked out. Won’t happen again.” I said. 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’m sorry about that. I couldn’t have known. I never would have done that to you, all right? That was a bit much for your second day.”
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 we could have done?” I asked with one last bit of defiance.
“No, nothing at all we can do right now. I’ll handle this one, okay? You sit tight for a bit. I’ll be right back.”
I watched as he unlocked the door, mine included, and got out of the car. He went to the back seat and gathered up a couple of bags and walked over to the little girl. After thinking about it for a minute and watching him do all of the work I finally decided that if this was to be my job, I had to start somewhere. It was just slag after all, right? I’m not the one that killed that girl, just the one that cleans up the mess.
Just the one that watched her die, I heard my subconscious whisper.
I exited the car and helped him finish up 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 a word.
When we were both back in the car, after we processed the scene, I felt the need to apologize again. “I really am sorry about that. I’m usually a pretty calm person. Nothing much really gets to me. I overreacted, won’t happened again.”
“Don’t worry about it, all right. No harm no foul.” He said lightly as he as backed the car out of the alley and continued down the road.
“Other than my ego, I guess.” I said with a smile.
He stopped up the road at a convenient center so that I could wash up my hands. 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 water in my face and stared at my reflection for a while in the scratched mirror. I found myself contemplating what would happen if I just holed up in this grungy bathroom for the rest of my life. 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.
Luckily the rest of the night went by quickly and it turned out that tonight was one of the “light” nights. We didn’t have anymore blips show up on the screen for the rest of the evening. Gordon and I chatted about a few things here and there but nothing of any importance. 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 loony bin like his last partner? Or was he writing about the vampire and his victim? Maybe Gordon is hiding a secret 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?
I got home that night and took a very long, 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 got dressed before climbing into bed. I slid over to Martha’s side and wrapped my arms 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, then with a caring gaze that I hadn’t seen from her in quite some time. “Gus? Gus, what’s wrong? Sweetheart, you’re shaking, what’s the matter? Gus you’re scaring me, what happened?”
“Nothing, 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 mess 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? 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 creatures face staring at me. Licking his lips, blood dripping from his fangs. When I did sleep 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 He was standing there with a smile on His horrible face. 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 right now.
Maybe, hopefully, tomorrow will be better.