Chapter 19: I never did repent for doing good
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
In twenty-four hours, I got three of the most important people in my life annoyed at me. It was nice to realize that becoming a vampire hadn’t changed my character that much.
Ivy was the first. You’d think that saving my life would tighten our bond. Instead, once we had got away from the corpse of the dead sorcerer and found a rundown hotel to hole up in, we ended up at odds with each other.
I had taken two blood meals along the way to bring myself into more normal condition, but still ached a bit from the bullet wounds every time I breathed. Sally was sitting upright on the bed with an absolutely blank look on her face. Ivy had been sitting beside her, considering her. I usually left Ivy alone when she might be doing magic, but Sally’s state alarmed me. “What happened to her?” I asked.
Ivy turned and glared at me. “She’s in shock, Shylock. She just saw herself kill you and kill herself.” She got up and began pacing, twisting her fingers together while she did so. In a more subdued tone, she said, “Sorry. The fault is more mine than yours. The man in the lobby was a sorcerer named Mitchell Foster. He had put a spell on the cop from Intelligence and given him the box to tail Truax. The spell was rigged to kill the cop and notify Foster if any other sorcerer tampered with him. I didn’t catch the trigger in time and tripped it.
“Foster must have been tailing his tail fairly closely. He confronted you two, and was so taken with his own cleverness in arranging your deaths that he didn’t notice me confusing Sally’s perception of what she was doing.”
Ivy’s voice had turned increasingly venomous. I thought I could guess why. I asked, “You knew this Foster?”
In a very tight voice, she replied, “We’d met when I was still alive. He worked as a troubleshooter for Cross, though he usually didn’t go in for doing the killings himself.”
She turned, looked at Sally. “It might be better if I had let her kill herself.” She turned to me, and I couldn’t tell whether the tone in her voice was from anger or bitterness. “You’ve been a fool to fall in love with this woman, Shylock. Relationships between humans and vampires never end well. They can’t. Keep it going, and it will end, it must end, with her being turned into a vampire.”
I had to correct Ivy. “I’m not in love with Sally.”
Ivy gave me this incredulous look, and then shook her head. “No, I suppose you don’t think so. And you’re right. You’re a vampire now, Shylock. You can’t fall in love with anyone, whatever you think. But she’s in love with you, and that’s enough. So look on her now, and remember what she was like when you take her life’s blood. Or perhaps Cross will kill her for you, once he finishes interrogating her.” She studied my face, dropped her head, looked at the floor, and muttered, “You do understand and you don’t, will understand and you won’t.” She looked up again at me with the saddest face I’d ever seen on her. “I suppose you learned that from me. I’ll wake her up out of her shock and let you two decide, Shylock. If you need my help, I’ll be ready.” Then she vanished.
Sally, naturally, was the second. I knew that she would be upset by my suggesting that she lose all her memories of me as a way to keep her safe. That just rammed home Ivy’s observation that she was in love with me. So I was relieved when she stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door behind her. And when she came out with a plan that would keep us apart for some time, I thought I didn’t have to worry about Ivy’s warning anymore.
But then Sally put her arms around me and told me she wanted to do the same combination of sex and vampirism we’d done the other night. I’d spent most of my adult life trying to contain my desires, but in the face of Sally’s willingness I could not stop myself. Nor did Sally seem to have any inhibitions. We forgot ourselves in each other.
There is no vice so simple but assumes some mark of virtue in its outward parts. It was only after I’d left Sally asleep in the hotel and gone home to my coffin that I woke up to how disturbing that encounter had been. I had drunk more of Sally’s blood than before, even made an affectionate game of it. Still more disturbing, Sally seemed to be developing sado-masochistic desires of her own. I had to wonder if they were truly her own, or if somehow I was changing her. Either way had an ominous feel to it.
I woke up the next evening knowing I’d end up annoying Ned O’Donnell. Assuming Sally had gone to her superiors, CPD now knew about us. Ned had to be told. He was not going to thank me for it.
We’d taken to meeting in an old abandoned office building set back from the street. It had belonged to the shop just in front of it, which had closed years ago. Ned was there, along with Zalensky, Hagopian, and the rest. With the recruits Hagopian was bringing in, we were up to twelve. Two were new that night. We all introduced ourselves, Ned gave an update on our plans, and most of our colleagues went out to find their evening meal. After a few of them talked with Ned, it was down to the four of us again, sitting around a table.
So I got up, and recapitulated what had happened the previous night. Oh, I left out Ivy’s name, and Sally’s relationship with me, but apart from that, I told them everything. I could see Ned get angrier by the minute. And then, to my surprise, he calmed down. Oh, he spared no warmth for me in his glances, but he seemed to have given over on his anger.
When I finished and sat down, both Zalensky and Hagopian held their peace, waiting to see what Ned would say. Ned sat there, shaking his head. Finally, he said, “I won’t bother detailing just what an insubordinate bastard you are, Kammen. But you’ve got us involved in a war between sorcerers. Tell me why I shouldn’t get rid of you altogether.”
I shrugged. “I am not bound to please thee with my answers,” I replied. I paused, heard Zalensky groan on cue, and then continued, “Because I didn’t get us involved in that war. The sorcerer that was killed looked an awful lot like the sorcerer Scratch Wilson described as working for Cross. He was hunting down the sorcerer behind Martha. The war’s between Cross and the sorcerer backing Martha. We inherited it because we’re Martha’s children.” I was tempted to add that the rest of us had our hands tied because Ned wouldn’t tell us everything he knew about Martha, but saw no point. If I was going to annoy Ned, it had to be for useful reasons.
Hagopian butted in at this point. “But you seem to have a sorceress working for you, Ned. Why haven’t you mentioned her before?”
If Ned hadn’t smiled at Hagopian’s question, I probably would have said something innocuous about Ivy not wanting to be involved. But given what I had learned from Ivy, that smile irked me. So I replied, “Probably for the same reason Ned’s hiding the dark-haired sorceress working with Martha.”
It had been a gamble, and it paid off. Ned was obviously startled by the remark. He sat back in his chair, gave me a long look, and then sighed. “Hagopian, Zalensky, take five. I need to have a private chat with our errant colleague.” The two of them got up and left, Hagopian pointedly ignoring me, Zalensky actually favoring me with a wink, a gesture so out of character for him I could hardly believe it.
Once they’d clear the room, I said to Ned, “Time for the dressing down, I take it.”
Ned shook his head. “I’ve already been told by Zalensky how useless that is. For that matter, he warned me that you’d be a problem, but you’d also be a valuable asset. Sometimes I’m hard put to see it.” He gave me a quizzical look. “How did you find out about Martha’s sorceress?”
I debated, decided the truth was the best. “From a photograph of the two of them together . . . in Bar Harbor, Maine . . . circa 1890.”
Ned’s mouth dropped open and he stared at me as if I’d sprouted another head. Once he got over his surprise, he said, “Maybe I should be asking you about Martha, not the other way around.”
He shifted in his chair, leaned forward. “It’s for things like that I need to keep you around, Kammen. You’re a damn fine detective, troublesome bastard that you are, and I want those detecting skills working for us and not just disrupting things. So . . . what I’m going to tell you next is between just the two of us, understand? The main reason I’ve kept Martha and her sorceress out of all this, despite your yammering at me, is because I wanted this to be just us and CPD. We have to be able to pull our own weight, just like every other cop. I still want it that way.
“The problem is, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out that way. As you say, we’re caught up in a sorcerers’ war. And I don’t really understand why. Love’s the only sorceress behind Martha, and I can’t even imagine her wanting to start a fight with Cross. It’s just not in character. Neither Love nor Martha is the real problem. So just what the hell is going on among the sorcerers, and why does it spill over onto us? We can’t afford a fight with any sorcerers, and I don’t think we could win one just yet.
“So, that’s your new assignment, Kammen. Find out what’s going on. Find out how to get us out from under this sorcerers’ war. Do that, and you’ll be doing more for all of us than any other single cop. I mean that.”
I pushed for more information. “So Martha and this Love?” Had to figure Love was the name of the sorceress.
“Neither are involved, Kammen. Love’s not interested in sorcerer politics, and Martha is no longer in the city.”
Not helpful answers. But it didn’t matter. I now had Ned’s approval to dig into the sorcerer problem, and as far as I was concerned that meant this Love and Martha were fair game, no matter what Ned said. “If this is a confidential assignment, you’ll have to tell Zalensky and Hagopian something.”
Ned nodded, even favored me with a smile. “Glad to see we’re on the same side again, Kammen. I’ll take care of that. Go call them back in.”
So I went and got Zalensky and Hagopian, we all sat down, and then Ned started up. “Seeing how Kammen had been telling us that our secrecy wouldn’t last long, and Hagopian’s been telling me that the beat cops we’ve recruited are getting anxious for some action, I decided it was time for us to go public. And the only useful way to do that is to go public as cops. So, here’s a present for you all.” He reached down, pulled up a box, and began passing out stars, Chicago Police Department badges.
My first thought when I saw this was to wonder where Ned had got them, and why he bothered. I still had mine from when I was still human, and I’d bet almost all the others we recruited still had theirs. Chicago cops love their stars, often more than their wives. And then I saw the stars. They looked like official stars but they weren’t. Whoever had designed these had had a sense of humor as well as some knowledge of the occult. The badge pointed downward, and the central design, supposed to be the city seal, had been altered. Not a bad idea: the kid on the shell at the top of the seal had always looked stupid to me. Across the top of the star was a scroll reading “VAMPIRE BUREAU” and the badges bore numbers prefixed by a “V.” Mine was number five.
Zalensky studied his and then looked up. “I’ll bite. Why?”
Ned answered, “On one hand, we have to look like cops. On the other hand, I don’t want it to look like we’re claiming to actually be cops until we’re officially accepted. So this badge is close enough to pass without getting us into trouble for impersonating. Don’t lose your official stars, but when we go out to convince CPD we can do the job, we’ll wear these until they accept us.”
Zalensky nodded. “Of course, that’s all bullshit, but it’s for the lawyers and that’s what they live on.”
Ned grinned broadly. “That’s right. We’re going to wear these, we’re going to go out on the streets, we’ll monitor police communications, and we’ll act to stop crimes and to apprehend criminals. We’ll take our proposal to CPD the first night after we act. And then we’ll keep at our jobs until the force takes us back.”
There was more to the plan, much more, but I didn’t hear it at the time. After laying out the basics, Ned mentioned I had a special assignment that I was anxious to get working on and excused me from our meeting.
On the face of it, Ned and I were back on friendly terms again. But I had to wonder. My assignment took me out of the next major step we were taking to get back on the force. By obliging me to keep my assignment secret, Ned was either driving a subtle wedge between me and Zalensky, or setting me up to be tossed out for talking to Zalensky about it. And by withholding information on the sorceress “Love” and Martha, Ned was making it harder for me to succeed. All in all, I had to wonder whether this newfound confidence in me was genuine, or whether it was Ned’s way of getting me out of the way, possibly even a way to get me killed.
End of chapter twenty
‘Yammering’; you’ve used my favourite speech-tag. I can never seem to fit it in. And, apologies for querying parts of that badge, my vision blurs when I’m tired. I can see it perfertectly well now. It’s an impressive design by EJ Barnes.
Since E.J. has yet to read this chapter, your comment will be read and appreciated.
The City of Chicago has one of those overbroad statutes that makes it illegal to reproduce the city seal or to “deface” it, a statute designed to prevent fraudulent use or the American equivalent of lese-majeste (a dubious concept). Both Ned and I wanted to tip-toe around this, for almost the same reasons! So the idea of altering the design came about.
So it became a give-and-take between E.J. and me over the design, both of us knowing something of occult symbolism, with E.J. having artistic authority and me having authorial authority. The longest debate was over what to do with the human figure, which in the original seal is an American Indian.
E.J. prefers to work from visual references if they exist, so we went hunting on the net for pictures of the various 1955 badges. Once the design was set, what was amazing to me, non-artist that I am, was watching E.J. take a design that had to be rendered in one color, and make it three-dimensional in appearance.
Does EJ work direct in digital or hard copy and scan? I’m guessing from the quality that, while the dragon lady’s stick was possibly charcoal on textured paper, this badge was digital from conception. Am I right?
The dragon-headed sticks were done either in conte on toned paper or ink.
The badge was done in gouache. The original image was 13″ x 13″. It was scanned in at 600 dpi to produce a TIFF image 136 MB in size. That’s a bit much to upload, so EJ also made a PNG file (something like a JPEG) that’s 828×828 and only 1.05 MB; that’s the source I used for all the images and the banner in this blog.
Neat. And now you’ve saud, I can see, at least on the silver (grey) areas that gouche was used. I thank you for the technical. Guess I still miss a skill I’ve now lost. But my decision was to write and abandon the art – amazing how quickly it goes when not used. Now I just meddle with clipart, altering and recombining. though occasionally I draw/paint digitally from scratch.
Well, you’re ahead of me. My ability to draw is so limited that I can’t even do a decent “hangman.” The most complex picture manipulation I’ve done is constructing the banners for this blog using the simple Paint utility that comes with Windows, and that’s been a trial-and-error business.
My regret is that I’ve never learned to play a musical instrument. I HAD to take piano lessons for a few years as a child, but I wasn’t so interested, I had a quirky problem with my right hand, and so I dropped it after a few years.
Love music but fingers and ears are disconnected. Can play one-handed piano, but I have to read the music cos the head won’t hold it, and then I can’t tell a minim from a quaver, so . . . totally new arrangements! Meanwhile, my sister scored the Star Wars theme for the school orchestra. Ho-hum, each to their own.
I believe the idiom would be “…Zalensky and Hagopian held their PEACE.”
Zalensky says “I’ll bite.” Yuk, yuk!
1. I was thinking of changing the idiom, because it some ways “piece” actually makes more sense. But everyone will assume I meant “peace,” so there it goes.
2. Zalensky’s sense of humor is like his smile: all but nonexistent.
Enjoyed this chapter and learning how the Vampire Bureau plans to debut their cool new badges — more nice work from EJ!
Look forward to see how these plans within plans will work out, and if Ned is smart enough to manipulate Kammen to his own ends.
I will of course pass along to praise to EJ; thank you!
Although Kammen doesn’t show it, I have to admit to some sympathy for Ned at this point in the story. He’s still trying to learn the ropes of being a leader in what is normally a disciplined hierarchical organization: the police. But Kammen simply won’t conform, and Ned has fewer ways of disciplining him than, say, Zalensky had when they were human cops.