Chapter 22: Men that hazard all do it in hope of fair advantage
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
Three nights later, I was sitting in my old spot in the diner, reading the newspapers. They were loaded with stories about us vampire cops. Ned had unleashed the beat cops two nights earlier, and they’d made quite a splash, more than anyone who didn’t know the press would have expected.
Without official support, there were only two things we vampire cops could do. We could patrol in the air or on foot, and stop street crimes. And we could move to help pursue criminals fleeing on foot or by car if the police radioed enough information and we were in the right place. We couldn’t conduct investigations, and we weren’t going to be answering any phone calls. So we played to our strengths. And those made for good drama, and good newspaper stories.
Imagine some drug addict pulling a gun on the street to rob a pedestrian. The poor victim reaches into his pocket, pulls out his wallet, hands it over. And as the junkie takes the wallet, a vampire cop drops out of the sky and transforms into human shape a few feet away. The junkie turns away from the victim, and is surprised by the sight of the cop. He manages to get off one badly-aimed shot which hits the cop down by the cop’s now-useless kidneys. Doesn’t stop a vampire cop, who moves faster than any human to wrench the gun away from the junkie, and then sinks his teeth into him. A second vampire cop appears, one who had been watching the first one in the sky. The second cop sees that the situation is under control, and flies back to his colleague who has a police radio, and they transmit news of the arrest to the human cops. The regular cops show up, collar the junkie, and ask the vampire cop who he is. He identifies himself by name, rank, and a badge number beginning with a “V,” then disappears as the human cops take a statement from the victim.
I say imagine it, but that was what really happened on our very first arrest, carried out by a former beat cop named Sullivan. Ned’s rules were that his cops could drink the blood of criminals caught in the act, would identify themselves to the human cops by their Vampire Bureau badge numbers, would co-operate with the human cops as much as possible, and would leave as inconspicuously as they could. The idea was to make the human cops think we were already back on the force, to make them see us as cops first and vampires second, unlike the earlier vampires who’d gone back to them begging for their old jobs, or had been trying to escape being killed by the human cops. We were counting on them not wanting to shoot fellow cops. And we’d get out of the way as quickly as we could, before they could have second thoughts. We’d demonstrate that we were useful without forcing the human cops to decide whether we were legitimate. Legitimacy was a decision that would have to come from higher up. As it turned out, we were right about the cops on the street: they saw “cop” before they saw “vampire,” and not one pulled a gun on us the first two nights. (Had any of them done so, we were supposed to leave immediately, and under no circumstance attack the human cops.)
To gain that legitimacy, Ned, as our leader, and Zalensky, as the highest ranking officer when he was human, paid a call on the Superintendent, the Chief of the Chicago police, during the second night. I would love to have seen the Chief’s face when Zalensky flew into his living room and transformed into human shape. The Chief listened but didn’t commit himself either way, which is what we had expected. CPD had yet to say anything official, so I figured the Chief had to be talking things over with his staff and with Mayor Daley. In the meantime, the order went out unofficially to the force to avoid cooperating or confronting the vampire police as much as possible.
The press didn’t know what to make of us the first night, and the morning papers described our debut as a weird mystery. But as they interviewed people, they realized what a dramatic story they had on their hands: cops who flew down to foil crimes, who could be shot and still nab the criminal, cops who were vampires who vanished into the night! By the time the morning papers came out after our second night in operation, we were being compared to lawmen from the Old West
I say “we” because I was part of the Vampire Bureau, though I was not on any of these patrols. I was hunting down Make Love Not War, and making only slow progress.
I was laughing to myself over the way the newspapers were reporting the activities of the Vampire Bureau when Edna came over and slipped into the bench opposite mine in the booth. It wasn’t even yet 9 PM, and still pretty busy, so this was unusual for Edna; she usually didn’t take a break from her waitressing duties to talk to me until later in the evening.
She leaned forward and softly said to me, “What do you know about these vampire cops, Detective Kammen?”
I answered, “Oh, they’re ten feet tall, invulnerable to bullets, have bloodshot eyes, and can suck the blood right out of you in under a minute, even make you join them.”
She sat back, a disappointed look on her face. “All right, kid me. I just wanted to know if you knew anything more about them than what’s in the papers.”
I gave her a nice smile. “Actually, I’ve met them all, Edna. Apart from being a bit stronger and tougher and drinking blood, they pretty much look and act just like regular cops.”
She shook her head. “It sounds creepy. I mean, they could drink my blood, and what am I going to do, run to the cops?”
“When they’re on duty, Edna, they only drink blood from people they catch committing crimes. That’s a rule. So unless they catch you jaywalking, you’re safe. Though come to think of it, I’ve seen you cross in the middle of the block here . . .”
She lightly slapped my arm. “Stop that. You’re just trying to scare me.” I smiled to reassure her. So she then asked, “Anyhow, how come you’re so cozy with them? They part of your investigation?”
A set-up like that only comes once in a lifetime, and I couldn’t resist. I pulled out the Vampire Bureau badge, laid it in front of her without comment.
She picked it up, looked at it. Her eyes opened wide, swinging repeatedly from the badge to my face. She sputtered, “You . . . you’re . . . you . . .”
I reached over and took the badge from her. “A vampire cop, Edna. Why do you think I only order coffee? Your blood is the only thing I’d want to drink here, but that’s against the rules.”
That did not reassure her. So she took refuge in disbelief. “You’re pulling my leg again, Detective Kammen.”
I bared my fangs, then retracted them. “But you’re safe, Edna. In fact, I’ve made it my personal responsibility to keep this place safe whenever I was here. Never touched any of the customers or staff, never let any other vampire go after them, either.”
Edna wondered, “So all the time you’ve been here . . .”
“I’ve been helping plan what you’re reading in the newspapers and seeing on the TV. And watching out for a pretty waitress, to make sure she doesn’t get hassled.”
She blushed, smiled in an embarrassed sort of way. “Well, thank you, Detective Kammen.” She slipped out of the booth. “I’ve got to go. But from now on, your coffee’s on the house.” She gave a little laugh, said, “I’ll even get you a refill. Do you want it black, or should I put some blood in it?” And with her shoulders shaking with laughter, she turned to go take care of the other customers.
About 9:20 PM, Edna came over with one of the other waitresses, a girl I’d say was barely out of her teens, taller than Edna, bright red hair. Edna shoved the other girl in first, sat down on the outside end of the bench, and said to me, “Ah, Detective Kammen? I hope this is all right. I mentioned to Judy here that you were one of these vampire cops, and she’s got a brother who works for one of the local TV stations, and when she told him, without asking me whether it was OK, he told the people at the station, and they’re sending a news crew over to interview you. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but is that OK?” The way she spewed that all out made it clear she knew she was on thin ice.
I looked over at Judy, who looked both curious and apprehensive, turned back to Edna and asked, “Does this mean I get to drink Judy’s blood on camera?”
Judy gave out a shriek, clutched Edna’s arm. Edna shushed her. “It’s all right, Judy. Detective Kammen is teasing you.” She looked up at me. “You are teasing her, aren’t you? You said you wouldn’t hurt anyone here.”
“I promise you, Edna, the only person whose blood I want to drink here is yours.”
Edna wasn’t quite sure how to take that, but we were interrupted by the owner before she could reply. He was a fat man going bald whose remaining hair was black. He had come over to make sure everything was all right. He then proceeded to tell me how glad he was to have me here, and how he hoped I enjoyed all the fine dishes they offered. He went on like that for several minutes, much to Edna’s embarrassment, as she knew I’d never actually eaten the food there.
Meanwhile the news crew arrived with their cameras and lights, which took them almost twenty minutes to set up. Which was just as well, as I had to carefully consider what to say to them. We had not made good preparation: we had not drawn up any plans for a television interview that I knew of, and I had to second-guess what Ned would want someone to say.
Once it got going, the interview went well for the first few minutes. I explained that the Vampire Bureau consisted solely of cops who had been turned into vampires, that we wished to use our special capabilities to help the Chicago Police, and that innocent bystanders were in no danger from us. (That was strictly true only while we were on duty, a point I avoided making.)
“I’ve heard unofficially that the Chicago Police Department doesn’t consider you real cops any more, and they’re going to arrest you all for impersonating police officers. Do you have any comment on that, Detective Kammen?”
Ho, boy. Officially, Ned was negotiating this with the Superintendent. But to say that would leave my fellow vampire cops exposed, and jeopardize their work. So instead I said, “Well, I was an official Chicago police officer. The force may list me as dead, unofficially I’ve heard that’s so, but as you can see I’m quite alive. And you can’t revoke a police commission without a hearing. So as far as I’m concerned, I still am a police officer. I might even sue the department for back pay.”
That got a chuckle out of the reporter. He replied, “I hope not, Detective. Tax rates are high enough. But you are vampires. Do the people of Chicago really want to see monsters patrolling their streets?”
Just when I thought I’d softened him up. Well, time to haul out the Shakespeare. “Hath not a vampire eyes? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If we serve to protect the people of Chicago with our lives, are we not men? It is the criminals who steal and harm you that are the real monsters, not us.”
The reporter backed off. “You make a good point, Detective Kammen. I hope the Police Department feels the same way. Turning to another subject, what do you think about all this publicity the vampire police have been getting? Do you have any comment on that?”
I knew cops dislike cops who grandstand for the media, so decided to make this a peace offering to the regular cops out there. I looked directly into the camera and said, “We’re happy for the publicity, so the people of Chicago know what we can do. Apart from that, we’re just cops. I’d rather see the publicity go to all the cops who fight crime, every day. Just ’cause it’s routine doesn’t diminish the value of what they do.”
The TV station knew they had a scoop, and ran the interview with very little editing during the 11 PM news broadcast. (I was happy to see they included a bit with Edna in there.) By sunset the next evening, it had been on all of the local TV stations.
I spent the early part of that evening checking out my remaining leads on Make Love Not War around the University of Chicago campus. None of them panned out, so at 9 PM I flew over to downtown on my way to check out some leads at the lakeshore parks. The demonstrators had gathered there during the Democratic Convention in ’68, and some were still camped out around there.
No sooner did I transform back to human shape when I heard police sirens coming my way. I turned the corner and saw a green Chevy followed by a police cruiser heading right toward me at high speed.
Vampires are tough, but being hit by a speeding car would cause a lot of damage even to a vampire: it’s simple physics. I had no gun on me; I rarely used one, so I normally didn’t carry one. And I didn’t see any sign of an open window on the car, so transforming into a bat was likely useless. But I figured out one thing I could do. I walked out directly into the road. As the car was almost upon me, I transformed into a wolf and jumped onto the hood of the car, rolling into the windshield. I could hear the driver scream in surprise as he lost control of the car and it began to swerve. I let my momentum carry me up the windshield and onto the roof, where I transformed into a bat.
The car swung off the road, crashing into a light pole. I was trying to use my wings to slow down my rapid spinning from the angular momentum I had acquired, so I didn’t see it happen. Once I stabilized and reoriented myself, I saw two men get out of the car and start to make a run for it. Quickly I transformed into human shape and caught right up with them. One had realized he was being followed and pulled a gun, but I was too fast for him and got his gun away from him before he could use it. I knocked him down, dashed to catch the other guy, and sank my fangs into his neck. Probably because he was the first criminal I had apprehended as a vampire cop, he tasted especially good.
I’d expected I’d have to interrupt my feeding when the other guy stood up and tried to run again, but I didn’t hear him stirring. When I finally looked up, I realized why. He had been watching me feed on his friend, and had been scared into immobility. The police cruiser had arrived, and two human cops, guns drawn, were approaching.
I dropped my prey, who had already passed out, and pulled out my badge. “Detective Sherlock Kammen, Vampire Bureau,” I announced. “Forced their car off the road. These two tried to escape.”
The cop nearest the crashed car looked into it. “One in here, looks badly injured.”
The other one said to him, “Call an ambulance.” He turned to me. “You want to . . . hey, wait a minute, you that vampire cop that did the interview on TV?”
I bowed. “At your service. You’d better cuff him,” I said, pointing to the guy sitting up a few feet away. “This one,” I added, pointing to the one at my feet, “isn’t going anywhere for a while.”
We ended up cuffing both of them. The guy still in the car was the driver. He hadn’t been wearing his seat belt and had sustained a serious concussion. The ambulance took him out. The cop who recognized me, McKenna, wanted me to come with him to the station. It was against Ned’s rules, but I went anyhow. I wanted to see how news of the vampire cops was going over with the human ones. McKenna was loaded with questions on the ride there, and couldn’t wait to show me around to the other cops there. Most of them had seen the interview, were pleased with it, if not necessarily with the idea of vampire cops, and peppered me with even more questions.
The one exception was the precinct captain, who looked distinctly uncomfortable when I was introduced to him. He quickly disappeared, no doubt to get instructions from someone higher up. Since my whole purpose in accompanying McKenna back to the station was to assess how the cops regarded us, I stayed put. If the brass were annoyed at us, I wanted to know. I was fairly confident I could handle whatever they tried to do, even if they tried to kill me.
I was summoned to the captain’s office after I’d been there about an hour. I walked in and closed the door behind me. The precinct captain was sitting behind his desk. In front of it was a big redhead in a captain’s uniform. He growled at me, “You Kammen?”
He threw a punch at me. I thought he meant to break my nose. But he hadn’t counted on a vampire’s faster reflexes. I fell back, allowing his punch to connect with my cheek, and then staggered as if I’d been hurt. Holding my hand up to my face, I glared at him and yelled, “What was that for?”
He didn’t look too pleased. “Well, it could be for being a stupid prick. But we’ll come to that. My name’s Pat O’Shaughnessy. That mean anything to you?”
I shook my head.
“I work in Internal Affairs. Sally Truax works for me. That’s for what you’ve done to her.”
“Is she OK?” I asked.
He grimaced. “No thanks to you. But leave it. Do you know what sort of stupid idiot you are for coming here, Kammen?”
“I thought I was a stupid prick, but I expect I’m going to be enlightened on the details.”
“Right, enlightened.” O’Shaughnessy slowly shook his head. “Jesus, you live up to your rep, Kammen. The Chief and the D.A. are having fits with what you people are doing. You’re bringing in criminals, but because you’re not real cops, every single arrest involving vampire cops is open to challenge. Defense lawyers are already threatening to sue over clients who’ve had blood sucked out of them. And the D.A. is worried that every confession will get thrown out because you people somehow hypnotized them into it. And then there’s that goddam interview you gave. You have just made yourself the Chief’s least favorite cop, and that’s below cops on the take, Kammen. That’s below cops who protect whores and take it out in trade, Kammen. Do you understand me, Kammen?” O’Shaughnessy became increasingly loud as he neared the end of his tirade.
I did not raise my voice. I did not want this to escalate into a shouting match. “I’ve got it, Captain. And I know what has to be done. If they retroactively reinstate us and then make a few laws on what vampire cops can and can’t do, the problem’s solved. And Chicago gets a new breed of cops which give us a whole new range of capabilities.”
O’Shaughnessy just stared at me for a while, then turned to the precinct captain. “You, out. I need to speak to this knucklehead privately, and you’re too young for the cuss words I’m going to use.” The precinct captain, who was probably about fifty, looked very annoyed but left.
Once the door was closed, O’Shaughnessy dropped his bluster, spoke in a level tone. “Unless Sally’s wrong about you, you know it’s not that simple, Kammen. Now the order’s going to come down any minute to arrest you. They want to study you and question you before they do anything. Now it just so happens you’re the luckiest bastard alive, Kammen, because they haven’t actually given me that order yet. Before that happens, you’re going to walk out that door and keep walking until you get away from here. And tell your colleagues not to set foot in a precinct house until this is settled.” He paused, actually smiled at me. “Oh, when you leave here, go to the Ploughshares Bar and wait there until someone joins you.” And he winked at me. Then he yelled loudly enough to be heard through the door, “Now get your ass out of here and stay out of here!”
The Ploughshares was a very popular bar, quite crowded. Not so crowded that Sally Truax couldn’t find me within minutes of my setting foot in the door. But crowded enough that we quickly left and had a quiet conversation elsewhere. It wasn’t a long one. I had to get to Ned and inform him about what O’Shaughnessy had told me. But Sally and I made the best of it.
Ned was severely displeased to see me. He was manning a police radio as part of a team, and had to tell the other two cops to stand down while I reported. He took notes, staring balefully at me all the while.
When I was finished, Ned just sat there for a few minutes. Finally, he slowly shook his head. “I don’t know what to do with you, Kammen. You violate every rule . . .” He shook his head again. “If it was just this . . .” He looked at me sharply. “So when were you going to tell me that you were harassing my sister Nora?”
I was more disappointed that Nora had told Ned than I was concerned about how Ned was taking it. “I wasn’t going to tell you. I left it up to her to decide if she was going to.”
Ned threw up his hands. “You trail me, you threaten my sister . . . why, Kammen, why?”
I was taken aback by the charge that I’d threatened his sister, so much that I almost missed the important point: Nora hadn’t told Ned why I had spoken with her, else he’d not be asking me why. What else had she not told him? What had she told him? Well, at the moment it didn’t matter, but I’d have to go see her again to find out. I said to Ned, “You know I need to talk to Martha . . .”
Ned cut in. “No. That’s final, Kammen. And you’re off that assignment as of right now. You wanted to speak for us, fine, that’s what you’ll do. That’s all you’ll do. From now on, you’re our official spokesman. You’ll say what we want you to say, and only what we want you to say. And you’ll be handy so we can reach you anytime we need you. That is the sum total of your duties. Got that, Kammen?”
I nodded. There wasn’t anything else to say. Clearly I’d lost Ned’s trust altogether.
Ned’s mistake was thinking that would stop me.
End chapter twenty-two