Chapter 13: He sleeps by day, more than the wildcat
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
That’s Ned’s story, as he tells it. Pretty much like Ned in reality. He makes himself out to be so naïve, but the kid has depths.
Martha’s another who’s deeper than she looks. You know how cults brainwash their recruits? Well, Martha’s little ritual of having her victims wake up bound in a coffin in the dark wasn’t much different. And that was no coincidence. Martha used fear, pain, and her supernatural attributes to reduce the resistance in her victims. And she did it pretty well.
But it didn’t work on me. I’d been into sado-masochism, bondage, and all that stuff since I was a teenager. It wasn’t something you talked about, back then, not like now, when just about anything about sex is open for public discussion. Back then, a love of whips and chains was considered disgraceful. But being that way myself meant that when I woke up tied up in a coffin, I thought someone who knew about me had set me up for some sexual games. And pain? Cripes, every time Martha slapped me (she wasn’t breaking fingers at the beginning in those days), I gave her advice on how slow torture would be much more effective. She didn’t want to hear it. I think that’s one of the reasons she let me go so quickly. And as for the supernatural stuff, well, I’d been in bed with the supernatural about as long as I’d been a kink. Martha didn’t faze me.
So Martha and I didn’t get along very well. She demanded respect, and I just wasn’t going to give it to her. She quickly found out that hurting me didn’t improve my attitude. And as I say, she got freaked by my suggestions about slow torture. Martha let me go pretty quickly, with even fewer lessons than she gave Ned. That was fine by me.
I was one the earliest cops turned into a vampire by Martha. Several of the early victims actually went back to the cops, looking to get back their jobs. The cops killed them. I didn’t know about that right then. (And Ned didn’t know about it either, when he came up with his idea of vampire cops. The brass wanted us to hate the cops turned into vampires. It would have cramped their style to admit some vampires wanted to return to being cops.) But I nosed around and found out that my former colleagues wanted to kill me. That put paid to the notion of going back. Instead, I set about building myself a life as a vampire.
I didn’t want to prey on people I knew, so I shifted to the North Side suburbs. Figured the rich and well-off who lived there sucked all their money out of the city for their luxuries, so they could afford to let me suck their blood and wealth to keep me in necessities. Amazing how few necessities one needs.
My biggest problem was that my library card got canceled. Had to create a new identity to be able to use the library. Soon after, I bit a U. Chicago professor to help me get a library card there. I was a vampire, a part of the realm of supernatural creatures. I wasn’t just going to rely on what Martha Fokker told me about them. Turned out supernatural creatures aren’t copious writers, but as weeks wore on I gleaned bits here and there from books and articles I found. Together with what I could pick up nosing around, I was gradually putting together a lot of knowledge about the supernatural.
Even after what I had found out about them killing cops who’d become vampires, I thought about trying to help out the police department. Managed to get a police radio, but could never bring myself to do anything more than listen to it and dream, so I did that only when I had to.
Eric the Red, whose stupid name was the least representative aspect of his person, ran the vampire gang on the North Side. His reach barely extended into the suburbs, so when his people came calling I sent them away. Eric wasn’t used to being defied, showed up one night with four lieutenants.
I was sitting in a diner. I picked a diner because it stayed open later than any other place in the area that wasn’t a bar. The diner’s staff let me stay there all evening because I was quiet and would handle all the trouble-causers for them. That and I left big tips, despite never ordering anything more than a cup of coffee, which I never drank. Eric and his people came marching in. I looked up. I knew what they were. I ignored them.
Eric came over, looked me up and down. I looked up at him, keeping my face neutral. “The rest rooms are the other way, kid,” I said, and looked down at my book again.
Eric sat down opposite me. He didn’t wait, said, “The North Side is my territory. No one takes prey here without my permission.”
I looked up. “Then you’d better give me your permission, Eric.”
He sized me up. “You one of Martha’s people?” You see, Eric wasn’t stupid. He recognized an ex-cop. It wasn’t so much size or build in my case, unlike, say, Ned. It was the way I carried myself and treated him. Eric was a half foot taller than me, one of those rangy blond Norwegians who looks like he ought to star in a Viking movie, and he had the muscles to go with his looks. He ran what was probably the most powerful gang of vampires in the city. But I’d been the law for two decades, and sitting there we both knew it.
I shook my head. “Martha and I didn’t get along well. I was too stubborn for her. She decided I was best left alone. You should do the same, Eric. Your turf doesn’t really come out this far, whatever you claim, and I’m not interested in horning in on you as long as you don’t bother my people.”
Eric got curious. “Your people?”
“Yeah, my people. The people here in the diner, the ones your bully boys are drooling over. The place I live out here. My favorite librarians. I like cute librarians, Eric.” I cracked a smile.
I let him wait a minute before I replied, “Nope, not so long as I’m left alone.”
“You got a name?”
“Sure,” I said. “Kammen, Sherlock Kammen.”
Eric laughed at that. “A cop named Sherlock.”
I corrected him. “A detective named Sherlock.”
He found that even more amusing. After he’d gotten over it, he turned serious. “I figured you were a threat, Kammen, the way you handled my people.”
“I just want to be left alone, Eric.” I wasn’t pleading with him, just stating a fact.
He nodded. “As you say, this isn’t really my turf. But I don’t want anyone hostile moving in. Understand?”
I stuck out my hand. We shook. After a few more words, Eric took his people and left. Damned civilized of him. Smart, too. Eric wasn’t the type to pick a fight just to satisfy his ego, and his rep could take my living here, as long as I didn’t align with his enemies.
Almost immediately after he left, Edna the waitress came over and slid into the other side of the booth. She was a young friendly bottle-blonde who was grateful to me for my tips and for my willingness to discourage any unwanted attentions she got. She put down her cigarette, blew out some smoke, and said, “So you’re a detective named Sherlock Kammen.”
I raised an eyebrow.
She gave me a tolerant smile. “You don’t need to look at me like that, Officer Kammen. I’ve just never seen friends of yours come in to meet you before. A girl can’t help but wonder.” She paused, then tilted her head as she asked, “You on some sort of undercover assignment or something?”
One could say that. So I nodded. “It’s a long-term undercover assignment, Edna, so please don’t tell people I’m a cop and keep my name to yourself. I wouldn’t want the Mob to shoot up this place when they visit.”
Edna perked up. “Really? Why would the Mob come here?”
“Kidnapping,” I told her, keeping a straight face. “They kidnap young waitresses, take them to Hollywood, and force them to become actresses.”
Edna looked blank for a few seconds, then burst out laughing. Patting me on the arm, she exclaimed, “You let me know! You let me know!” Then she grabbed her cigarette and stood up. Leaning over to me, she whispered, “You’re a real card, Officer Kammen. I’ll keep your secret for you.” Edna turned and headed down the aisle to the cash register, looking back every few seconds and laughing.
If it had been a month later, I would have thought to enthrall Edna and make her forget my name. I didn’t think she’d keep it a secret. But as near as I could tell, she did. The cops didn’t hear about me and come hunting me down to try to kill me. So I lived quietly. That is, until Ned O’Donnell showed up.
I never knew Ned as a human cop. But Zalensky, oh, Zalensky and I had crossed paths often enough. So when I saw Zalensky come in with this other guy who looked like a cop, I figured I might be in trouble. Then I realized they were both vampires, and I wondered just what kind of trouble I was getting into.
Zalensky slid in opposite me, along with the other guy. I looked more at him than at Zalensky, trying to figure out who he was. Young, probably a flatfoot, wet behind the ears still, no doubt. He was big, probably not quite six feet tall, broad in the shoulders, large round face. In those days he wore his brown hair in a crew cut, which looked terrible on him.
Zalensky didn’t smile at me. That was nothing unusual. Zalensky was one of those “of such vinegar aspect that they’ll not show their teeth in way of a smile,” ever. I think he practiced not smiling on a daily basis. In that flat monotone of his, he said, “Kammen, this is Ned O’Donnell. He’s organizing a vampire bureau to serve in the Chicago Police Department. He wants to make the pitch to you, see if you’ll join us.”
This was a double surprise. A vampire bureau? And Zalensky, who’s a cold organizational type, was deferring to a cop half his age.
I expected O’Donnell to start up with some statement about what a wonderful idea this vampire bureau was, and how I should be honored to join. He said nothing, just gave me this serious look. (When you’re as round-faced as Ned, looking serious is a challenge. Ned could manage it, though, when he was being professional.) Finally, I said, “Well?”
O’Donnell replied, “Are you interested in becoming a cop again, Kammen, or are we wasting our time?”
I laughed. “In case you haven’t heard, kid, the cops read us out when Martha sends her love letters to them. And if they can, they kill us.”
O’Donnell didn’t change expression. “I know that already. That’s not what I asked you. Are you interested?”
I looked at O’Donnell. He wasn’t showing much emotion, maybe impatience. Surprising. Zalensky was watching O’Donnell, not me, as if O’Donnell was the important guy in the room. So I figured the kid must have something on the ball. I said, “Yeah, I’m interested. That’s if you’ve got a plan, kid.”
O’Donnell replied, “I do have a plan. I’ve talked it over with a few other ex-cops, like Zalensky here. But no one gets a free ride, Kammen. You want to join, you’ll do your part to make it a better plan. Because we’ll probably get only one shot at this if we want it done on our terms, and I won’t settle for anything else. Based on what Zalensky tells me about how smart you are, I’ve got high hopes for you, Kammen. But so far, all’s you’ve done is tried to provoke me by calling me ‘kid.’ Not smart, Kammen. My opinion of you is dropping.”
For a kid, he was good. I had to wonder what Martha made of him. “I’m interested in being a cop again, O’Donnell. If your plan’s any good, count me in all the way, all the help I can give you. Who chooseth this, must give all and hazard all he hath.”
Knowing my habits, Zalensky scowled, while Ned looked quizzical, then nodded as if he understood. He reached into the briefcase he brought with him, pulled out a loose-leaf binder that reeked of mimeograph ink, dropped it in front of me. It slid along the Formica surface, bumped into my cup of coffee without knocking it over. “That’s it, the basics. Normally I explain it to our recruits orally, because most of them would be put off with this much reading.”
I flipped it open, saw how many pages it ran, glanced at the table of contents. “I’m impressed, O’Donnell. But one question before I go any further with this: Martha involved in this?”
O’Donnell grimaced. “No and yes. No: she is not a formal part of it, she did not draw up any of the plans, and she will not be a part of the bureau in any way.”
“But?” I prodded him.
“But, she gave me the list of the cops she turned into vampires, even offered recommendations on which ones I should approach first. So I have her approval, you might say. I gather from what she wrote that her approval doesn’t mean a lot to you.”
I had to laugh at that. “No, Martha and I didn’t much care for each other. She told you who to approach first, eh? Where did I rank, number one million?”
O’Donnell actually smiled. “You were one of the few she didn’t rank. Said you were smart, but she hated you too much to judge your character.”
I laughed again, louder this time. “I’ll grant Martha this: she was always honest. So how many you have on board so far?”
O’Donnell said, “Three others, including Zalensky here. You’re the fourth we’ve approached.”
I nodded. “I do have one more question up front, O’Donnell. What’s your rank?”
O’Donnell didn’t even hesitate. “Acting bureau chief.”
I looked over at Zalensky. Zalensky was something like an assistant deputy superintendent. He would easily outrank us both if we were all still human. I wasn’t sure, but O’Donnell’s claimed rank would actually put him above Zalensky. Zalensky looked back at me and quietly said, “Ned’s the boss, Kammen.” Typical Zalensky: simple and succinct, except when he’s chewing you out. I knew that from experience. Strange to see him deferring to a kid. But then again, Zalensky was an organizational man, someone who wanted someone over him as well as people under him. And Ned was the only game in town, I guess, if a cop were a vampire.
After a little more chit-chat, Ned and Zalensky left. I started reading through the binder, making notes on the side of the page.
Edna the waitress came over, slid into my booth. Ever since Eric the Red’s visit, she had made a habit of sitting down to chat with me about once a week. Usually she did most of the talking, which is how I gradually learned about her family and social life. My contribution was to ask questions to keep her talking, which led her to declare once in a whisper to me that I was “one deep detective.”
She put down her cigarette in the ash tray, pointed at the binder, and asked me, “What did your friends bring you?”
I closed it up, leaned forward, and whispered to her, “It’s President Nixon’s secret plan for ending the war in Vietnam. The only way it will work is if the Cubs win the Series. I’m here to keep Soviet spies from attacking them while they eat.” For Wrigley Field was nearby, and some Cubs players did actually eat there.
Edna threw up her hands. “We’re screwed!” she announced out loud, and then immediately covered her mouth with her hands. She turned around to see her boss at the cash register giving her an angry glare. Turned back to me and in a low voice as if she was angry she said, “See what you made me do!” But as she got up to leave, she gave me a sly smile and a wink.
Once Edna got involved with other customers, I went back to reading and taking notes, and the evening went away just like that. When the diner closed, I took the binder with me. I was going to go see the one person I trusted in matters like this. She’s dead.
End of chapter thirteen.