Wait and See - pt. 2
New York, July 24th, 5:35 am
There was a terrible, cold feeling running through him as he stirred awake, the alarm beeping by the bedside. It was the kind of feeling you got when a fever got too bad and you didn't want to get out of bed for fear of getting a cold draft, or the hot water not working… any excuse at all, really. The feeling of having cold, glass marbles rolling around under your skin…
Then he realized he was not alone.
He was erect, and there was a wetness, down there. Something was moving up and down his length, ever so gently and lovingly. Sucking him. Teasing him.
"What the fuck…" he mumbled, sleep going away very, very quickly. He'd gone to bed by himself. His hands were looking for the alarm clock, and then the light. No way was that him or anyone he could account for…
The light came on with a SNAP, and then Trebuchet screamed.
Straddling him, wearing nothing but the boxer shorts that he'd loved to run his hands along, was him. The kid. Hair tousled just so, eyes rolled up in their sockets almost to the point of bursting, tongue rolling along the vein…
"Isn't it good, lover?" the dead man asked: "I know what you need-"
"Hey!" the voice he'd never seen from next door screamed, pounding meaty fists on the wall: "KeepitDOWNINthere, asshole!"
Trebuchet sat upright in bed, sweating badly and feeling the last of the scream twanging in the back of his throat. The room was still pitch black. The alarm hadn't even gone off. He was alone. Erect, wet and pulsing… but alone.
The cheap-ass, battery-operated travel alarm picked that exact moment to BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP. If it hadn't, he might have screamed again.
He smacked the alarm, but it wouldn't shut up. Once more. Twice. A third time, and then, fumbling with it in the dark, arced it off at the other wall. It hit, cracked and fell, and bleeped no more -
*Code Name: Trebuchet; Real Name: Johnathan Froud; Age: 38; Profession: FBI Agent, primarily assigned to kidnapping cases; Notable Achievements: Masters in Criminology, Thesis on Flaws in the Diagnosis of "Stockholm Syndrome," ten successful kidnapping investigations out of eleven; Brought into the Fold: 1998*
- thank God for small favors.
Chicago, July 24th, 8:00 am
Meyer looked into the situation room through the glass in the door. Everyone was there: the Chief, the grunts… everyone working this case. They were all smalltalking and piling on the morning junk: coffee, donuts, McDonalds, a box of KitKat bars that were going down like ninepins.
There was someone there who didn't belong. He looked like he had a stick up his ass and was way too starched and polished for this time in the morning. Meyer knew who it was, and just hoped that the Chief would be able to keep him from opening his yap.
He walked in, and the noise stopped. All eyes fell on him, same as always, but the urgency and enthusiasm was long since gone. He might as well have been coming in to tell them he had head lice.
"Morning," he said, adjusting his tie and getting behind the podium. He stood between that podium and a big map of Chi-town, complete with six little red, numbered push-pins. It had been the bane of his existence for the last six months.
"Okay, we got days," Meyer started off: "Weeks are over, now it's days. This creep's gonna do it again. You know it, and I know it… and he knows it."
The Chief shifted on his shoes and stared up at Meyer, eyes half-shut with heavy lids. If Yul Brenner had lived to see the old guy's age, he and the Chief could have been mistaken for one another - especially when it came to the dry smoldering look the Chief was giving him now. The message was clear.
"Alright… enough bullshit," Meyer said, recovering: "You all know what we gotta do, here. We've got to start canvassing the city like crazy, again. We gotta look for people who are spending way too much time looking for other people. You know what they look like, you know what your guts tell you. For chrissakes, LISTEN to it this time."
"Excuse me, Lt. Meyer…" Stick Up His Ass said, getting to his feet.
"Yes…?" Meyer asked.
"My name is Herb. Herb Garden. I'm here on behalf of the Mayor-"
Someone in the back started laughing.
"That's not funny, Donaldson," the Chief said, but it was too late. Everyone was laughing.
"Alright… people, shut the fuck up," Meyer snapped, for all the good it did. He was on the verge of laughing, too.
"Well, I think I see half the problem, already," Herb said: "The Mayor sent me over to ask a question, Lt. Meyer. What are you doing to keep this… maniac from striking again?"
"You're looking at it, Mr. Garden," Meyer said, somewhat incredulous: "And if you'd been kind enough to let me finish-"
"What's this we're hearing about letting a psychic look at the case files?" Herb shot back without missing a beat.
Meyer did his best not to wince. He looked over to the Chief, who didn't even move a muscle or look in his direction, preferring to look at Herb.
"Well…*cough*" he said: "The guy's not a psychic, sir. He's a former member… distinguished member of the Chicago Police Department, and we're asking him for his insight into the case."
"Bob Willers," Herb said. It wasn't a question.
"Yes, former Lt. Willers-"
"Who was removed from the force following an armed altercation with a fellow detective, then remanded to the state's care, and then-"
"We know what happened, Garden," the Chief said, finally, still giving Herb that slow stove of a look: "If you've got a point to make, make it."
Herb reached into his suit pocket somewhat mechanically, and pulled out a rolled-up newspaper. He unfolded it, revealing it to be that morning's copy of the Chicago Tribunal - the local "radical" paper. On page one, above the fold, was a picture of Meyer and Willers, taken outside the station. It was yesterday, just as Meyer was done shouting and starting to be nicer.
"Of course, there isn't any truth to this, is there?" Herb asked, reading aloud: "'Police Department Turns to Acid Casualty to Solve Full Moon Murders' 'Police said to be' - quote - 'Baffled' - endquote."
The Chief moved his mouth as though he were licking a toothpick from one side to the other: "Tomorrow they'll be telling us Communists put Fluoride in the water. No one takes those folks seriously."
"But how long until someone respectable reads it and starts digging?"
Meyer looked back to the Chief, who pursed his lips and shrugged: "I don't know. You tell me. I thought your PR office handled these kinds of things."
"We do," Herb said, tossing the paper down on a nearby chair: "And I'm the one who gets to handle it."
"So handle it," Meyer said, really not liking where this was going.
"This is it," Herb said, pointing the finger of unearned authority: "You catch that guy this time, Lt. No maybes, no hopefuls. His Honor wants the Full Moon Murderer either in a jail cell or on a slab on or before the night."
"Yeah, well, so do we, okay?"
"Yeah, well, you just make sure it happens," Mr. Garden replied, heading for the door: "Because if he doesn't appear, your job disappears."
That got a reaction. Someone in the back said "Man… fuck you" and tossed a half-eaten Egg McMuffin between Herb and the door. Grumbling rose up like a bad fart and something else flew that way, too. The Chief didn't intervene this time, letting His Honor's PR handler make his own way to the door.
All the same, when the asshole had left, the Chief leaned in real close to Meyer's ear.
"So which one of us do you think he meant by that?" He whispered.
"I don't know, sir," Meyer said, looking at him: "I think maybe me."
"I think maybe you're right. So if I were you, I'd discount nothing at all that God happens to send your way… up to and including Mr. Willers."
The Chief clapped him on the shoulder, and then went back to looking at the cops in the room. If Meyer was half the man he'd like to say he was, he'd have turned around and punched the bald bastard. But he just took it, feeling the tightness around his heart again.
One week. He had one week.
Chicago, July 24th, 4:01 pm
"It's been… one week since you looked at me…" blared that damn song Trebuchet couldn't stand, wafting from a speaker into the glassed-in hallway leading to the soundproofed booths. Why did firing ranges have to have music? You couldn't hear it when you were doing your thing, anyway.
It'd taken him a a few hours to get dressed -
*Dark blue short sleeved polo under darker blue light jacket. Tan slacks held up by thin black belt. Heavy black sneakers. Gun strapped in harness under jacket. Badge in pocket. Cubs ballcap to hide the balding spot*
- get moving, get packed for Chi-town and then get through the mess at La Guardia to catch his plane. The good news was that he could get the fast track through the inspection checkpoints, being Federal. The bad news was that the TSA at La Guardia hated Federal with something approaching a fetish. He'd gotten more dirty looks in an hour than he'd gotten since…
"Dammit!" someone yelled from the supposedly soundproofed glass. From outside it sounded like a machine making a weird noise.
Said someone clutched his forehead and winced, holding the gun away like it had bit him. His target sheet had no appreciable holes in the right spots. A business suit and tie guy, with wrists you could break like candycanes in the wrapper, was experiencing supreme, scream-at-the-world disappointment at being a lousy shot.
Everyone in the firing range seemed to be cut from the same cloth. Business types. Housefraus. None of them had 'the look': the look that said they'd been doing this long enough to make this part of a normal routine than an exception or celebration. Bulging eyes, sweaty palms, eyes screwed shut, massive hesitations to pull the trigger and then a small, clutching spasm when the gun went off…
Trebuchet stopped, looking around. He could feel the nagging weight in his skull again, telling him things he really didn't want to know…
Fear. They were shit-scared that they could be the next victim, and that's what had brought them here. Fear in face of the facts, of course: they had a better chance of being mugged, raped or shot in a driveby any other day of the month than they had of being the Full Moon's victim on that one, special day.
But it was in all the papers, and all over the TV. And people do what the media tells them. So all the little people of the big city were here to learn to be Dirty Harry.
Trebuchet shook his head, sparing one more look at the guy - who was now shouting at the gun for failing him - and then going on.
Tiana had the last booth on the left, same as always. He put on the ear mufflers, but didn't bother to knock before coming in. She didn't bother to look around when he opened the door, either. She just kept shooting at the target across the way: five shots BANG on target, a pause, and then a sixth shot off to the left from where she'd drilled the others.
Saying that Tiana was amazingly gorgeous - and the very definition of whupp-ass - was like saying that Niagara Falls was an impressive waterfall. If Cleopatra Jones and Black Belt Jones had gotten married and had kids, she very well could have been one of them. Tall, with skin the color of gorgeous, stained wood, ropy muscles bulging ever so slightly under that skin and long, plaited hair tinged red at the ends.
She wore black sweatpants and a tank top that had QUEEN BITCH written on the back in red sparklies. Black leather shoes that probably had steel in the toes. Headphones were on under the mufflers with the tape player resting at her hip: probably Front 242, knowing her.
He looped a hand around her waist and leaned his head against the back of her neck, turning the tape player off as he did. She shifted back a little, melding her body up against his.
"Howdy, stranger," she drawled, reloading as the target was exchanged for a fresh one.
"Howdy yourself," he said, planting a small kiss on the spine of her neck: "You killed him yet?"
"Hope left in the day," she said, chuckling, putting a free hand on his and grinding it a little south of her waistline: "Dragon-boy let you in on the joke?"
"Yeah… it's a sniffout. Gotta see if this guy's usable or not."
"What if he ain't?"
"Then we don't let him in on the bigger joke," he shrugged: "That's all."
"Says you," she said, aiming the gun once more - one-handed, though - now that the target had been replaced: "I got a funny feeling this time."
"This is a milk run, girl," he said, knowing all too well what she was really feeling.
He noticed a small silver pendant on a thin, black, leather necklace. It looked like a capital "T" someone had drilled through the bottom and hung upside down.
He smiled: "They let you in, huh?"
"Uh-huh," she grinned: BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG.
*Code Name: Tiana; Real Name: Denice Freedman; Age: 41; Profession: U.S. Postal Inspection Service, special mail bombing taskforce; Notable Achievements: Remarkable record in apprehending mail bombers, Olympic grade triathlete, numerous martial arts titles; Brought into the Fold: 1995*
"I thought they weren't too keen on women…?" he said, noting her handiwork. Same as always: one big, ragged hole in the center, one small hole off to the left.
"They got some dumbshit rule 'bout hand to hand combat," she replied, chuckling in that awful, wet chuckle of hers: "Sent four of 'em off the mat, then the coven head said I was in. Easy."
"Why would you join something like that? I mean, if they don't want you…?"
"FBI didn't want my daddy working for 'em, neither. Didn't stop him."
"Did it over Hoover's dead body, though."
"Funny how that happened, huh?" She asked, looking back at him for the first time in the conversation as she reloaded.
"You fuck him?"
"No. The coven head."
"Hell no," she drawled: "He got a beard down to his balls. I like my men clean-shaven."
"And gay," he reminded her, smirking.
Chicago, July 24th, 5:00 pm
"See, this is what I'm talking about," Trebuchet said, pointing out the photo on the front of the Chicago Tribunal: "That guy there, I think that's Meyer. He's okay. It's this guy we're after, here."
"That the guy who sees shit?" Tiana asked, slopping down her cheese dog.
"Well, maybe he sees shit and maybe he doesn't. That's what I've got to find out."
"I know that, Foo," she poked him with a finger in the arm: "How you gonna find out?"
He sighed and looked around. They'd parked their asses not far from the fountain they always showed at the start of "Married… With Children." Not many folks around that day. Not many kids at all.
"Same way I always do," he said: "Set him up with some tests. See how he does."
"Need me to play a part?"
"Naah. I got my usual gang of hard luck cases for that."
She nodded: "So you just need me to watch your ass."
"Yeah. You mind?"
"I been watching it for an hour, honey. It's sweet as pie."
"You know what I mean, fool," he poked back.
"Nah… come on. I taught you that one. Still got the ell on the end."
"Foo," she said: "Like Kung Fu. Fu Man Chu. You gotta force the eff, turn the ooo into a eww and let it bounce around in the back 'a your throat."
"You got it."
"Okay. Couple a fly girls and a big, pink limo. Gin and juice. Yeah. Foo."
She laughed, balled up her sloppy dog wrapper and tossed it at his forehead. It hit perfectly.
Chicago, July 24th, 5:35 pm
"How long we been here?" She asked, taking her headphones off. The batteries were starting to run too low. The bag lady on the bench next to her was reading from a dogeared copy of the Holy Bible and rocking back and forth.
Trebuchet shrugged, looking at the big clock face on the wall, above and behind the desk sgt's chair. It read 5:35. Then 5:36.
"Too long," he said, getting up from the bench they'd been warming, heading up to the desk sgt to ask the obvious question.
"Yeah…" the guy was saying, talking on the phone to someone who obviously wasn't inquiring as to their services: "Look, I tol you… it's my friends, alright. You know I always come home to you, baby… yeah… you know it. Always, baby… hol on…"
He held the receiver away from his ear and gave Trebuchet that same blank look he'd given the last time he'd been asked a question: what, me work?
"Is the Chief ready to see us, yet?"
"He call you yet?"
"Well, seeing as how you're on the phone…?"
The guy pointed a thick finger at the phone. It had little lights at the bottom. None of them were flashing.
"Maybe you never see a real phone before," the guy said: "He call you, I'll call you. Till then you can take a seat."
"Look, we had an appointment-"
"Then maybe he cancelled and din tell you."
"He would have told us."
"Aww-right…" the desk sgt replied, swaying his head and going back to his phone conversation.
"Could you just call up and check?"
He waved Trebuchet off with the other hand: "Naw, baby… naw, that waren't no lady. Naw. He jus sound like one, thasall…"
Trebuchet turned around, sat back down and pursed his lips: "I think we got stood up."
"I could handle it," Tiana offered.
"We need to talk to the chief, not the coroner."
"Not like that, foo.
"Nah. Fuck this," he said, standing up: "Something's not right."
"You think we got stiffed?"
He nodded, looking at the Sgt. There was something more than not wanting to do more work than necessary, there. He felt accomplished, brushing him off; This was actually part of the job, somehow…
"Let's walk," he said, adjusting his hat and heading for the door.
Sure enough, as they started to walk out the front, the Sgt. made no attempt to ask if they wanted to leave a contact number. He'd been blocking.
"Now what?" She asked: "You want to call the dragon?"
"Yeah. Let's do that," he said: "Then let's get a pie. New York can't make a pie worth shit."
"There a good place around here?"
"Pick the one with the best sauce."
Chicago/New York, July 24th, 7:23 pm
"Brady…" the Chief said into the phone, leaning back in a padded chair that was either too big for him or too small for the job: "I can't risk it right now. Can't your guys come by after we've got this mess cleaned up?"
"No," Brady - otherwise known as John, otherwise known as Tiamat - replied into his home phone. His office was full of things past their date but kept in immaculate condition. Wood and brass, leather and red felt.
The newest thing was the computer he was running the call through, a program on the screen that was changing his voice, constantly scrambling his call and checking for bugs on the line. CIA DST always did good work.
"Because I want to know how this guy operates when the stakes are high."
"Same way he operates the rest of the damn time. He says things that make no sense, insists on sending things in on tape and has a damn good batting average. What more do you want?"
"One man working with him," Tiamat said: "If you don't want more than that, I can have his friend on standby."
The Chief tried not to sigh into the phone: "Alright… look… maybe you don't understand the situation, here. One of my better men - the one handling the case? He's getting ridden by City Hall. The Mayor wants him gone if there's another murder. And he's made that decision because this man was seen talking to the guy you're so fired up about."
"So you're worried that if you're seen talking to my people, you'll share the same fate?"
"I'm a little more worried about Lt. Meyer."
Tiamat scratched his chin, wondering whether to bring down the hammer or not.
*Code Name: Tiamat; Real Name: John Morgan; Age: 67; Profession: Former CIA Case Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, specialized in Soviet/Post Soviet Russian propaganda, now working for the John Adams Trust thinktank as an Analyst of Russian politics; Notable Achievements: (CLASSIFIED); Brought into the Fold: 1984*
Hell with it.
"Lt. Meyer…" Tiamat said: "He's the one who hasn't caught the killer yet."
"Not yet. It's a tough case."
"Tough cases call for tough cops. If Meyer can't find the killer, then maybe he should be retired."
"Yeah, but he'd be alright if it wasn't for me sending the guy the case file because you told me to!"
"I didn't tell you to. Our mutual friend did."
"Yeah? Then why do I get the feeling he did it because you asked him to?"
"I wouldn't know," Tiamat said, suppressing a chuckle: "What I do know is that our mutual friend's got your job in his hands, just like the Mayor's got your Meyer's job in his."
"I don't like threats."
"I do. They make things really clear. You get to understand just where you are in the world."
"I've known that for years, Brady. It's the little s-curve in the pipe coming down from the toilet bowl."
"So smile when you're shit on," Tiamat grinned: "The reason I'm making this call, instead of calling our mutual friend, is because if I called that man he really would be tempted to fire you. I think you're more useful where you are. Don't you?"
The Chief just glowered.
"I'll take that silence as a yes," Tiamat said: "Now, I'm going to give you a phone number. It'll connect you with the people you brushed off today. You make an appointment to see them bright and early tomorrow and then extend them all the courtesy in the world. The real case files, the inner workings of the investigation… anything they need."
"And what do I tell Lt. Meyer?" the Chief asked.
"Well, you just tell him anything you like. One of them's with the Bureau, so you can say he's checking out the field for a possible Federal takeover of the case, pending an invite. The other's with the post office, though, so you might have to get creative-"
"This is a man's life you're playing around with, damn it!"
"We're all soldiers and men," Tiamat said, echoing Zabolotsky: "And I've just shown you your orders."
With that, Tiamat smiled and hung up on the call.