Chapter 18: Narrative interrupted — Sally speaking
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
Kammen had to die. I put three bullets in his heart, three in his head. And then I realized what I had done, put my gun in my mouth, and pulled the trigger. This is hard to explain, but at the very moment I was killing myself, I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I didn’t really want to, and yet I did. And I can’t explain what I felt any better than that.
I woke up sitting on a bed. Facing me in a chair was Sherlock Kammen. Alive. No huge hole in his chest, and his brains weren’t scrambled. Apparently mine were. I was so shocked and confused I threw myself across the bed, over to the other side, got up and tried to figure out how to get out of there. For that was Kammen, and I had killed him, and all I could think was that he had returned from the grave and was going to drag me to hell. Where the hell was my pistol?
Looking around steadied me a bit. I wasn’t any place familiar, that was true. But it probably wasn’t any sort of afterlife, either. The wallpaper had once been gorgeous, but had become faded with time. The glass lamps were chipped and dusty. I was pretty sure the afterlife did not look like a room in a hotel that had run down a bit from being fancy. Maybe if I was an interior decorator, this would have been hell. For me, no. And then I got to thinking about how Kammen was falsely rumored to be homosexual, and how interior decorators were supposed to be homosexuals, too, and that this might be hell for Kammen. I started laughing and laughing, completely out of control.
I was hysterical, no doubt about it. Look at me, hysterical female, every male chauvinist pig’s answer to why women weren’t equals. And then I looked at Sherlock. He was puzzled, and yet he couldn’t keep his mouth from turning up in a grin, to see me laughing this hard. It was such an odd expression that I realized that he couldn’t be dead, which meant I probably wasn’t dead, which meant that we were really in a second-rate hotel room. Sort of like our second-rate romance. And that set me off for another round of uncontrollable laughter.
I was laughing so hard I had trouble breathing at one point. But I finally got it together and walked around the bed to confront Sherlock. He stood up and waited for me. I stood directly in front of him, reached up, and touched Sherlock’s face. It was real. I reached up higher. The short curly blond hair was real, too. So I said the obvious. “Sherlock, you’re not dead. I killed you. Three shots to the heart, three shots to the head. I was told that would kill vampires. Why aren’t you dead? What the hell is going on?”
Sherlock smiled for real, lighting up his usually somber face. “I suppose telling you you shoot like a girl wouldn’t be helpful.” And he broke out laughing.
Okay, so it was his turn to be a hysteric. And while I might feel like slapping Kammen for a joke like that, for all I could tell he’d take being slapped as foreplay. Mother never told me about the difficulties in having a sado-masochist as a lover. Mother didn’t tell me much at all.
While Kammen was having his laughing fit, I looked around. There was my purse. I grabbed it, went looking into it for my standard-issue pistol that I’d had for years. It was fully loaded, and didn’t smell as if a single shot had been fired. I looked at Sherlock, who had finished laughing. I was beginning to wonder if it was my turn to start laughing again. Gives “funny farm” a whole new meaning. I held up my gun, gave him an interrogatory look. “It’s still fully loaded. Well?”
“You’ve been played by two sorcerers, Sally. The jerk who came in ordered you to shoot me and then kill yourself. My sorceress . . . hey, are you all right?”
Kill myself. I remembered the damn gun barrel in my mouth. I tasted it. My stomach tied up in knots. I sat down on the bed, doubled over. Sherlock sat down beside me, put his arm around me. I looked down at the gun. And then, I couldn’t believe it, I raised it up to stick it back in my mouth. Kammen grabbed my hand, twisted it so fast I couldn’t even pull the trigger, took it from me, put it behind him. He turned my head to look at him. “Hey, girl, it’s all right. That wasn’t you who did that. You didn’t try to kill me. You didn’t try to kill yourself. That was sorcery.”
“Sorcery? I didn’t shoot you?”
Sherlock stood up, took off his jacket. His shirt had blood all over it. He quickly unbuttoned it, pulled it open. There were three ugly wounds, encrusted with blood, spreading out to bruises, one on each side of his chest, one in his stomach. He looked at me, an amused grin on his face. “Next time you tell me I play rough, remember this, Sally. This is your handiwork. And if you don’t remember it that way, well, as I say, you were played by two sorcerers.”
I stood up, reached out and touched one of the chest wounds. Sherlock flinched. “Hey, that’s still a bit sensitive, Sally. You broke one of my ribs there.” I must have looked as puzzled as all hell, which is certainly how I felt, because he explained, “Vampire physiology, Sally. Can’t afford to leak blood, not if you’re a vampire. We’re tough. Tough doesn’t seem to include immune from pain, though. Hurt like the dickens when they went in. Maybe when I’m a century older I’ll be able to shrug off bullet wounds.”
I must remember that . . . in a century. “The head shots?”
Sherlock chuckled at that. “Oh, those. You nailed the sorcerer with those. Blew his forehead off. I take back that crack about your shooting, Sally.”
I was all right. Everything I knew was screwed up, but I was all right. I hadn’t killed Sherlock. I had shot him three times, but I hadn’t killed him. I guessed that was because he was a vampire. Next time have to use silver bullets, maybe. But that wasn’t necessary for sorcerers. I had killed the sorcerer who had attacked me with regular bullets. I had done OK. My world was insane, but I was OK. And speaking of my gun . . . ? It was on the bed, where Sherlock had left it. I reached over, picked it up, held it in front of me. “And the gun?”
“Couldn’t have you arrested for homicide, especially since it was really in self-defense. My sorceress wiped the memories of the witnesses and changed the ballistics of your gun. No one knows you killed the guy. I gather from what my sorceress said that he’s no major loss.”
“Your sorceress?” How weird was this going to get?
“The woman who was sitting with us in the booth.”
Oh, yeah, the one who looked just like Barbara Feldon. I had to think this through. I picked up my purse, put my gun back in it, put it back on the bed. Turned back to Sherlock and said, “How long have you had a sorceress, Sherlock?”
He pursed his lips before answering. “Since I was about nine.”
“School teacher? Maiden aunt? Friend of the family? Hereditary sorceress to your Scottish family? You told me your sister was named for a Shakespearean witch. Is she another sorceress?” I was losing it again. I had just cause.
Sherlock turned, walked a few steps away, turned back to look me straight in the eye. “I can’t explain, Sally. The less you know about her, the better.”
“In case you’re captured by a hostile sorcerer.”
I had sort of felt punch-drunk up to that point, but that remark brought everything into sharp focus. I was involved in a war between sorcerers. Sorcerers who could apparently manipulate me any way they wanted. And I was easy to find if they wanted me. I had an apartment and a job that meant I was a sitting duck. Whereas Kammen presumably did the Dracula solution and hid fifty coffins around the city, and his sorceress probably lived on a freaking astral plane.
I wanted to make a joke, but it came out serious. “Got a self-defense course against sorcerers I can borrow, Kammen?”
He shook his head. “We think we can hide you, Sally . . .”
I didn’t let him finish. “Hide me? Hide me? How am I supposed to do my job in hiding? No, Kammen, no. I am not going into hiding. I did not work this hard to get kicked off the force because of some damn magic war.”
Sherlock stood there, silent, looking as if he didn’t want to say what came out next. “In that case, our only safety is making it impossible for them to use you against us. My sorceress can erase your memory of everything that happened since I first contacted you. If you don’t remember anything or know anything, they can’t use you as a weapon.”
I had to restrain my fury at that suggestion. Eliminate my memories of you, Sherlock Kammen? That hurt. “Are you mad? No.”
He came over to me, took my hands in his. “Sally, listen . . .”
I cut him off. I did not want to hear this. I pulled away, announced, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom. This can wait a moment.” I headed over to the bathroom, pulled the door closed, walked over to the wash basin and stared in the mirror hanging over it. I looked ghastly. But, hey, I’d just shot a sorcerer in self-defense. Not just your run-of-the-mill killing, that. Might age a girl a bit.
Think, Sally, think. One way you lose your job. The other way you lose Kammen. And you don’t want to lose either of them, do you? The job I understand. I fought for that, have put my heart into it, even for thrice-damned IA. But what sort of future do I have with Sherlock Kammen?
I looked at myself in the mirror again. Twenty-nine as of four months ago. All my girl friends are married, have kids. But no, I had to become a cop. My mother told me I had to be some sort of pervert, a lesbian or a slut who just wants to get laid all the time, to want to be a cop. Let’s face it, she was right, Sally. You are some sort of pervert if you want Sherlock Kammen. Bad enough you were attracted to him when he was human (something you never told him and weren’t too keen to admit to yourself, either), but now he’s a vampire. What kind of pervert that makes you I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a name for it. So be a pervert, then. You want Kammen, keep him. If you can.
With that settled in my mind, I sat down on the lid of the john and considered what my problem was. Maybe there were possibilities Sherlock wasn’t thinking about. What was the danger? Well, first that sorcerers would interrogate me to get all the information I have, and that will endanger Kammen. Second, that they could turn me, use me to get to him and the sorceress behind him.
What did I know? Damn little. The cops who have been turned into vampires wanted to rejoin the police. Well, they’re going to have to tell CPD at some point, weren’t they? And Sherlock had a sorceress working with him, one he’s known since he was nine. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, how the hell did that ever happen? Keep it together, Sally. Don’t get side-tracked. Important point is you don’t know. You don’t even know her name. Just what she looks like. But she’s a sorceress. She can change her appearance. Hell, apparently she can pop out of nowhere. So I could just tell them everything I know, and they’d have no reason to bother me anymore after that. At least I think so. I’ll need to discuss this with Sherlock, make sure I haven’t overlooked anything.
I felt great about that for maybe five seconds, until I remembered the other part of the problem. They could turn me, use me as a weapon against Kammen. How do I keep them from turning me? After what had just happened, I thought I could dispense with the idea that I could fight a sorcerer. To them I was just a puppet they could play with. But there’s no point playing with me if they wouldn’t get anything by it. And there’s the problem, Sally old girl. The only way to do that is to break off contact with Kammen. If you can’t find him, they can’t use you. You have to lose him, even this way. Shit.
But . . . unlike having my memory erased, it would be only temporary, until whatever the conflict is about got settled, or at least Kammen wan’t part of it any more. That could be years, Sally. Yeah, but maybe not. And it beats permanently losing him or your job. Best of a bad world, kid. Grin and bear it.
With that resolved, I smiled to myself. You’re a perv, Sally. If you’re going to lose Sherlock for a while, you might as well enjoy being a perv. Tonight.
Sherlock agreed to the plan I’d cooked up in the hotel bathroom. He hadn’t required much persuading, for that and for the other little matter. So I got only two hours of sleep that night, but I went into work with a smile on my face. I immediately went to see the captain, Pat O’Shaughnessy, and dictated a statement about what I’d been doing with Kammen, save for the more intimate details. Pat was a good guy, one of the few good things about IA. He understood. He told me that I should stay at my desk and put my assignments in order, and that he’d get my statement to the deputy superintendent as quickly as he could.
I got summoned back to Pat’s office around three. I stepped into Pat’s office, and there was this civilian, a gray-haired woman with a sour look on her face, standing next to Pat’s desk. I had hardly closed the door before I found myself reliving the last twenty-four hours, plus the other times I’d met with Kammen. When I came out of it, I was on the floor, shaking. I looked up to see the civilian, clearly a sorceress, standing over me. You think you’re so smart, don’t you? I knew somehow it was her voice in my head. You aren’t. You’re pathetic. I don’t even have to punish you. You’re going to do it to yourself. But I guess that wasn’t quite enough for her. She swung her foot, kicking me in the head with her pointed shoe, before she left.
Pat came around his desk to help me up. I tried to shake him off, but my head hurt so badly I couldn’t do much effectively. Pat got out his handkerchief to dab at the hurt side of my head. I could hear him swear. The word “bitch” figured prominently. Somewhere along the line I think I passed out, because the next thing I knew I felt a stinging on the hurt side of my head and pulled away. There was Rachel, Pat’s clerk, bloody towel in one hand, antiseptic in the other. I glared at her.
I heard Pat say to me, “You back with us, Sally?” I looked over at him. He held up his hand. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
I felt like an idiot. I barked out, “Do you want me to count the ones that are curled against your hand, or just the ones extended upward?”
Pat offered the shadow of a smile, turned to Rachel. “I think she’s recovered. You can go, now.” Rachel, another one of the good features of IA, gave me a kiss on the forehead, dropped the towel and bottle of antiseptic on Pat’s desk, and walked out of the office, closing the door behind her.
Pat went back behind his desk, sat down. “I’m sorry about that, Sally.”
I turned my head to the left and right. I could do that and keep my eyes focused, which meant I was OK. “I didn’t think it was done with your approval.”
“Yeah, you know the score. Damn sorcerers.” He paused, then said, “You’re suspended for a week without pay. There will be an investigation, but you’ve already told us everything, and I’ve checked: there really is no evidence connecting you to the guy who was shot in the Sheldon. Whoever that sorceress is that your ex-detective friend has working with him is damn good. So we’ll just be going through the motions.”
Pat’s face flushed. “There is one other thing, though, Sally. That woman, the sorceress who was just here . . . I don’t know why, maybe just out of spite . . . she put images in my head of you and this fellow Kammen . . . you know what I mean.”
I suppose my face was as red as Pat’s by that point. Be brave, Sally. “I don’t know what she showed you, Pat, but I do have a relationship with Kammen. Doesn’t affect the truth of anything I said, and I’m not hiding anything material about him.”
Pat looked away, still embarrassed, then pulled himself together and in a more official voice said, “That’s neither here nor there. You investigated Kammen for IA once.”
I saw what Pat was driving at. I dropped into my “official” voice. “I investigated Detective Sherlock Kammen because of a drug deal that had gone sour. We found the cop who queered the deal, and it wasn’t Kammen. Nevertheless, I investigated Kammen to see if he was on the take. He wasn’t. There were also rumors he was homosexual and might be blackmailed.” I couldn’t help smiling at this point. Neither could Pat. “He wasn’t homosexual and he wasn’t being blackmailed. My relationship with him did not begin until after the investigation concluded.”
Pat had managed to drop the smile by the time I finished. “Thanks, Sally, for clearing that up. Because what the sorceress showed me isn’t part of the official record, what you’ve just said doesn’t need to go on record, either.” He put on his gruff voice, revved up the official sing-song. “You are on suspension for one week. Please hand over your badge and gun, leave the building, and do not return until a week from today. Your suspension is a result of your deviation from professional conduct. You should reflect on this during your suspension, and be prepared to properly perform your duties to the highest professional standards expected of officers in this department when you resume them. That is all, Officer Truax.”
I stood up. “Yes, sir.” I walked to the door.
Just as I was about to open it, Pat said in a soft voice, “I know it won’t do any good, but I’m going to complain to the deputy supe about what that sorceress did. Be careful, Sally.”
I turned, gave Pat what smile I could without crying. “Thanks, Pat.”
I went through the procedures and went home to my apartment. So far, so good. Our plan had worked.
Now, what to do next? I had a week. There was a sorcerers’ war going on. There were good cops who’d been turned into vampires through no fault of their own who wanted to rejoin the force. If Sherlock Kammen, his sorceress, the bitch who opened up my scalp, and whoever she worked for all thought I was through, if they all thought I was on the sidelines for the duration, they had another think coming. It was time to work the family connections. Uncle Horace knew stuff about the occult, my cousins Harry and Andrew both were aldermen, and I could think of a few colleagues on the force who’d help me out if I twisted their arms. And while I didn’t have a direct line back to Sherlock Kammen, his sister Kate had twice married distant relations of mine. I’d find a way to get to her.
Apart from cleaning up the blood matted in my hair, the only thing that bothered me was the sorceress saying I’d punish myself. I kept hearing her voice in my head, over and over. I didn’t usually do such a thing, but I drank myself into oblivion that evening to get that voice to shut up.
End of chapter eighteen
a bit long, maybe but still, this is one of the best chapters. i love the changing pov and how nothing is predictable, including bullets and gunshots…
You’re right: Sally’s chapter is about 40% longer than usual. I suspect Sally would like to be included in the list of things that are not predictable. 😉
She is – but it’s mostly what’s around her, including Kammen. BTW (changing the subject unpredictably), it seems to me the poem you posted calls for another post…
Oh, there’s quite a bit that can be said about Priscilla, somewhat less on why I was composing poetry. What did you want to hear about?
Well, that Sally T has nerve, and I hope she doesn’t come to a messy end. Damn sorcerer/esses. Nice change of POV, and gives me encouragement for a similar change-up I’m working on now for E&A.
Noticed this, BTW: “they had another think coming.” Although it’s possible that’s what you intended.
I realized as I was contemplating a reply that there is not a single person in this story who doesn’t have a mixed character that sometimes serves them well and sometimes poorly. Sally’s full of self-assurance and self-doubt at the same time, which logically isn’t possible . . . if people were logical.
Glad you liked the changed POV. I tried writing this chapter from Kammen’s perspective originally. Once again, it reduced Sally to a cipher, and the only way to get her back was to change the POV. Though I did have to give up using a few paragraphs from Kammen’s perspective that I really liked.
“another think coming” versus “another thing coming” — There’s a continuing argument about this, with the received wisdom being that “think” as either an obsolete or slang form for “thought” came first, though “thing” seems to have emerged not long after (and possibly independently). The 1982 Judas Priest song enshrined “thing,” but since “Martha’s Children” is taking place before then, I let Sally use “think.”