Wait and See - pt. 6.1
Chicago, July 28th, 1:15 am
DISPATCHER: 911, please state the nature of the emergency.
CALLER: Yes. My name is Sandra Links, I live at 1423 Woodbine Way. I just heard a man screaming.
DISPATCHER: A man screaming?
CALLER: Yes. From the parking lot of the hotel, next to us. What's the name of that hotel, Wilbur?
(unintelligible mumbling in background)
CALLER: Yes, it's that one.
DISPATCHER: It's… okay, I know the one that you mean, have you-
CALLER: I know you do. I call about it all the time.
DISPATCHER: Ma'am, have you actually seen anything?
CALLER: No, I think we haven't. It was just a terrible scream. What's that… oh, my Wilbur says he saw a man running from the coffeeshop. He might have been the one screaming.
DISPATCHER: Okay, so you saw a man running from the hotel's coffeeshop, and you think he might have been screaming. Been the one screaming.
CALLER: Yes. Could you please send someone over there to tell them to be quiet?
DISPATCHER: Did you hear any gunshots or anything that sounded like a fight?
CALLER: No… just the scream. But I am eighty years old and too weak and infirm to be woken up by black hookers and drug pushers screaming at one in the morning.
DISPATCHER: So it was just a scream.
CALLER: My doctor says I need plenty of sleep. I have orders.
DISPATCHER: Did you see where the man ran to?
CALLER: Wilbur? Did you see…? No, no he didn't.
DISPATCHER: Okay, I think that's all I need. You go back to sleep, ma'am.
CALLER: You'll send someone?
DISPATCHER: We'll send someone, yes.
CALLER: The last time I called no one came.
DISPATCHER: You called… this afternoon? About children rooting through your trash?
CALLER: Yes I did, and no one came.
DISPATCHER: Uh… I'm sorry ma'am, there's interference on the line.
DISPATCHER: I can't hear you. Sorry.
-CALL TERMINATED AT DISPATCH END-
Chicago, July 28th, 3:50 am
The Full Moon Killer slept soundly, dreaming deeply.
Tonight, he thought. It's going to be tonight. Tonight it all ends. Tonight it all begins. The Moon waxes and wanes and waxes and wanes, forever and ever without end.
He smiled. At last, now that things were winding down, it was all making sense. It didn't matter whether he understood it, of course: things had already fallen into place thousands of years ago, and he was just acting on a plan that had been decided on long ago.
But he was happy to finally know not only what, and how, but now - at long last - why. Few servants had that privilege.
And tonight was going to be it. Tonight, tonight, tonight…
Chicago, July 28th, 6:00 am
Trebuchet's room phone was ringing: BRING BRING
He rolled over in the bed, wondering who the hell was calling… what time it was.
It'd been a busy day, yesterday, and he needed sleep like no one's business with what was coming up today…
BRING BRIN *CLICK*
"Hello?" He asked.
"Hello, lover," a sickly sweet voice said on the other end: "How are you doing?"
Brian. It was Brian.
Trebuchet tried to hang up, but he couldn't. Nor could he answer. He was transfixed, like a beetle stuck with a pin.
He stared in space, across the room. The gloom between the main room, the closets and the bathroom was fuller than usual. It seemed like there was something there, in the darkness. Something large.
"I just wanted you to know that I still love you," the Man-Boy said: "You never understood that. I really did love you. That's why I chose you. That's why I did everything that I did, and everything that I'm going to do…"
It was like being in a vice, holding that phone. Trebuchet couldn't even breathe. There was only the phone and the voice, and what his eyes were transfixed upon, just out of sight…
thuHD-THUHD-thuHD - what was that noise? - thuHD-THUHD-thuHD.
"Remember that this was all meant to happen,": the voice went on, its voice slowly being overtaken by that other sound. The sound of a crystal the size of the universe growing… pulsing larger and larger to the beat of a hideous, alien heart. thuHD-THUHD-thuHD. thuHD-THUHD-thuHD.
At last Trebuchet's eyes had adjusted to the gloom.
There, in the darkness, he saw a woman leaning up against the wall, facing him.
She was young and somewhat overweight, with a bad, brown hairstyle under what appeared to be a paper hat.
He just knew that she was wearing brown and orange, even if it came off as black and grey in the darkness. And while he couldn't quite read the tag on her left breast pocket, he was sure that it cried SHARON! and asked HOW CAN I MAKE YOUR DAY?
She was trying to say something. He was sure of it. But for some reason the words weren't coming. And when she did finally open her mouth -
- a gout of ripe, black blood sluiced out from between her lips, as though every vessel in her head had burst and drained into her mouth -
*He was in Jenny's room. His pictures were all over the walls: pictures with her and without her in nice, tasteful frames. He had so much to say to her but he couldn't. His throat felt like someone had sewn it up with rotten leather strips and stuffed it with salt.*
- and she tried to speak to him, eyes staring madly, mouth working and lips moving but only to shape and curl the flow of blood -
*She was crying with her mouth open and her eyes shut. The tears were dripping down onto her fuzzy, blue knit sweater. The anger and sadness had scrunched her face into something resembling a withered, old apple.*
- and there was something stuck in her mouth - several somethings - all chittering and chattering like splintered metal tiles scraping against one another as she tried to talk to him -
***His feet are walking along the cracked pavement of the hotel's parking lot. The Moon is almost full and painting the world black and white. In the light of the Moon he and Willers look like ghosts.
The room is just ahead. The coffee shop is off to the right. Trebuchet's shoes feel like they are full of lead.
"Almost there," he says: "You can take the bed-"
"I need some coffee," Willers says***
Trebuchet's phone was ringing: BRING BRING.
He shuddered awake in the chair he'd curled up in, sweat beading on his forehead. Across from him, Willers was sleeping soundly on the bed, head under the sheets.
It had been another nightmare, but-
-suddenly he wasn't so sure.
He went for the nearby table, thinking the ringing was from his cellphone. His cellphone wasn't on the table, though. Where was it-
It wasn't the cellphone at all. It was the hotel's cheap, off-white plastic thing, complete with strobing, red light for the hearing-impaired. (Or was it? Why the hell would they need a phone-
He slowly got to his feet, shaking his head and staring at the red, blinking light on the phone.
BRING BRIN *CLICK*
"Hello?" he asked.
"Good morning. Room. 1! 1! 6!" a tinny and way-too-cheery voice on the other side said. It sounded like someone had stitched words together using a cost-effective audio editing program.
"This is your requested. Wake-up call. At. 6! A! M!"
He breathed a sigh of relief, even if this was room 119.
"Have a great day," the voice replied after a moment, unabated by that small detail: "And! Thank you for staying at-"
Trebuchet hung up, putting his palms against his head.
Chicago, July 28th, 6:05 am
Tiana turned in her sleep, rolling over to greet an empty space.
She opened one eye, and then the other. He wasn't there.
She raised herself up on one arm, looking around. His clothes weren't in her apartment, anywhere. Did he leave without waking her, or…?
Then she remembered: he hadn't been there at all. She hadn't seen him since yesterday morning. He hadn't even called.
"Fuck," she said, looking over at her bureau, at her cellphone. She should call. Fuck the time. Just call to be sure he was okay.
She'd been having another feeling. It'd been growing in the back of her head like a tumor since this whole thing started, and over the last day it'd gotten a hell of a lot worse. It was a terrible feeling of losing something, or someone, forever and ever, and it was all the more terrible for knowing that somehow it was her fault.
Tiana took a deep breath and shook her head: it was nothing. It had to be nothing. Just a weird after-effect of the awful, strong coffee her and Frank had been drinking all through the afternoon, until they'd called it a night. Or maybe the pie she'd ordered all by her lonesome, too angry at Trebuchet to call him but hoping he'd call her.
Or maybe something from the movie she'd seen on late-night TV: Nicholas and Alexandria, she thought it was called. Something about the man playing Rasputin had scared the shit out of her, making her remember certain things…
She hissed between her teeth, shaking her head clear of the half-memory, again. She was more than merely tempted to go dig out the rune bag her coven leader had given her as a present for making it in. If she opened it up and gave the stones a toss, she might have some idea…
But she was afraid to do it. Deathly afraid. Chosen or not, Goddess on her side or no, she didn't dare. There was a reason why even the Gods were hesitant to know the exact march of the future: trying it had almost driven her mad.
"Fuck fate," she lied, rolling over and hugging the pillow she often pretended was Johnathan. She didn't need a reading to tell her what she already felt, and she didn't need to know what exactly was to take place, either.
So she put the thought from her mind, and made herself go back to sleep again. As she did she said the same mantra over and over: It was nothing, she would handle it, she was Chosen, everything would be okay; It was nothing, she would handle it, she was Chosen, everything would be okay…
Chicago, July 28th, 7:00 am
Trebuchet sat at the table, looking at the alarm clock. When the time turned the hour he nodded, sighed and considered his ass up and about.
Willers was still asleep on the bed, arms crossed over his chest, left over right. Trebuchet chuckled. When he'd said he was going to go dead asleep, he wasn't kidding. That was… what, maybe one in the morning? Had it only been six hours?
He shook his head, going into the bathroom to take a leak. A long one, at that. It was hard to imagine he'd had so much stored up after only a few hours…
He looked at his reflection in the mirror. What had they done, yesterday?
His head felt like it was full of sand. Maybe a dehydration headache? He used to get them all the time when he exercised too much and didn't drink enough to compensate. It made it hard to remember unless he went through things step by step.
"We got dinner at the park," he said, still looking at his own reflection: "And we talked about the plan."
(Chicago, July 27th, 7 pm)
***Willers looked at Trebuchet, and, after looking down at the cheese dog Trebuchet had gotten for him, nodded. It was a slow, jerking nod, like a fish stuck on a hook.
"You've never tried it before, right?" Trebuchet asked, tossing his used wrapper away. He'd shoved his down while he'd been talking - hungry as hell after the day.
"No," Willers said: "Never like that. No."
"They've got them all there," Trebuchet said: "Maybe one might work?"
WIllers nodded, and then picked up the cheese dog, staring at it as though it were some sort of alien artifact. He took a careful bite out of one end. Then another.
"Anyway, I've got to get you in there, so you're going to have to FBI for tomorrow," Trebuchet went on.
"Can't get in there without an appointment," Willers said, somewhat nonplussed: "Strict security. Really strict."
"I've got that handled, I think."***
"We went to the Green Box," he continued: "It was just a few blocks away. We got don't-fuck-with-me suits and power ties for both of us… handgun for him," he remembered, still pissing.
Dehydration headache? How could he be pissing so much, then…?
"Then I called up Tiamat while we were still there…"
(New York/Chicago, July 27th, 9:23 pm)
***"Have you any ropes of silver?" Trebuchet asked as the phone was picked up. He was in the main room of the brownstone, where they stored the electronic equipment. Willers was off in a walk-in closet finding a suit that fit.
"They may one day overshadow your temples," an unfamilliar voice on the other side said in reply. Voice scrambling, again.
"Nikolai," the voice - which could only be the old man's - said.
"How is it going?"
"Well," he looked into the other room to make sure Willers wasn't listening: "We've got a geniune article, here."
"You're sure?" The voice asked. Was there more than the usual interest there…?
"Very," Trebuchet thought, suppressing a shudder: "He predicted two deaths. They happened."
"How does he do it?" the Old Man asked, not seeming to care about the deaths.
"He says that if he sees your eyes, he can see how you're going to die, and anything else about you that's tied up in your death. Names, people you know, who kills you… anything, really."
"So how's his mental state?"
"Fucking lousy," Trebuchet said: "What do you expect?"
"Nothing less. Is he worth Friendly status?"
"I've got one more test to do, and then we'll know for sure."
Trebuchet thought for a moment: what should he tell the old man, here? That he was going to help the investigation after all?
"Well, I want to see how he handles himself under fire," Trebuchet said: "He's got some social problems… hell, a lot of social problems. I want to try and see how he acts in a controlled situation."
"So if it goes bad, there's no harm done," Tiamat said: "Excellent idea. Do you need anything from my end?"
"Yeah," he said, relieved that the old man had bought it: "I'm going to need some backup, here. Fake Bureau ID for Willers. I've got a spare case and fake badge from the emergency box, but I'm gonna need a tag and a photo."
"Just a pair of IDs? No fake orders?"
"That's all we'll need where we're going. It's part of the control. I've got an in, there."
There was silence on the other end. The old bastard wasn't going to say no, was he…?
"You're in the Green Box. I'll send it along to the desktop."
"Will the printer be able to do good resolution?"
"High resolution, you mean," the old man said: "And yes. It's not as good as the real thing, but it's enough to fool the provincials. What name should he have?"
"I don't know. Pick something good."
There was a grunt, and then the old man hung up. When the printer came to life a few minutes later, the smiling, pre-incident face of Bob Willers was staring from an ersatz FBI ID.
He was now William Roberts.***
"We hung out there for a while, talking about the plan," he went on, , shaking his dick as he did. Where was all that piss coming from?
"And then we came back here…"
(Chicago, July 28th, 1:01 AM)
***His feet are walking along the cracked pavement of the hotel's parking lot. The Moon is almost full and painting the world black and white. In the light of the Moon he and Willers look like ghosts.
The room is just ahead. The coffee shop is off to the right. Trebuchet's shoes feel like they are full of lead.
"Almost there," he says: "You can take the bed-"
"I need some coffee," Willers says***
"And…" he began to say, but then he stopped. So did the piss stream, but he didn't notice it.
He didn't remember what happened then. He just could not remember a thing after Willers asking for coffee.
What had happened from there on? He vaguely remembered taking the chair while Willers took the bed. Willers said he'd be dead asleep in minutes. And then they'd both been asleep.
But before then… what? He couldn't remember. He undressed and took a quick, cold shower, trying to wake up some more to see if that made it come back. It didn't.
He looked around for a towel. There were only two: a big one and a small one. He grumbled, drying himself off and and wrapping the small one around his waist. Thankfully, it fit.
Willers was just getting up when he came back in. The man looked somewhat lost for a moment, and then seemed to remember where he was.
"Good morning," Trebuchet said: "You feeling okay?"
Willers nodded, sipping a cup of coffee from the coffeeshop next door.
"Where did you get that?" Trebuchet asked: "Did we…?"
"We did, yes," Willers said, nodding: "Don't you remember?"
Trebuchet shook his head: "No. I must have gotten dehydrated, yesterday. All that walking around."
Willers nodded: "I'll be a while. I need a shower. Badly."
"Yeah," he said, returning the nod and holding his forehead. They had gone in for coffee? Why couldn't he remember it? His brains felt like shit but he should have at least remembered something…
"I think I need some more sleep, anyway," he said, heading for the bed as Willers vacated it: "I feel like someone stole my head when I wasn't looking…"
Chicago, July 28th, 10:00 am
Lt. Meyer stepped up to the podium in the situation room, much like a proud man stepping up to the guillotine.
Almost everyone was there: the Chief, the grunts, other Lt.s - except for Anders, who had a case to deal with - everyone. Herb Garden wasn't there, but Meyer could feel his presence, standing there and damning him. The Chief wasn't exactly being so congenial, either, but at least the cold smolder was being given to someone else, today.
And he could also feel Denice's presence out in the hallway, silently cheering him on. They'd planned to buddy up for the day, anyway, using her car to get around to the hot spots. So she'd come in to his office see him just before it all went down, explaining that she couldn't be in the room but she'd be outside it.
And then she gave him a kiss for luck - one that he could still feel on his cheek a full ten minutes later. He'd liked that. He really had.
So he got up there, put his hands on the podium's sides and gave what was - others would say later - the best rally speech they'd ever seen. He covered all the angles: hooking up the best people to the areas they knew best; setting up a system for all the Lt.s to keep in contact within seconds of one another. He told them what to pay extra attention to and what to ignore: what to call in and what to call off.
And he made them all feel like they were part of something greater than themselves. A team. Maybe even friends. When he sent them out, they almost ran to their cars.
"Not bad," the Chief said, clapping him on the shoulder as he walked out. Meyer almost said 'fuck you very much,' but didn't. It was as if the words had been bitten back by the reverse momentum of what he'd said in the room.
He paused in his step, wondering for a moment. Then he continued on, out into the hall. The kiss wasn't as pronounced as it had been before, and damn if he didn't want another one.
Denice was sitting there, on a waiting bench, listening to her headphones with her shades on. She looked up at him, and turned them off, chuckling wetly.
"It went great," she said.
"You heard all that over the phones?"
She just smiled, blowing him a kiss: "Let's go get you some of your coffee and watch the city go by, sugar."
"Yeah, I think I need to wake up," he said, shaking his head: "You know, I can't remember a fucking thing I just said?"
She adjusted her shades and smirked: "Don't worry. I bet they will. You got your kit?"
"Then let's go on the who ride, sugar."
"Yeah," she grinned: "We gonna go lookin for trouble."
Chicago, July 28th, 11:34 am
Trebuchet and Willers stood outside the hotel door, looked off into the horizon -
* Black suits. Muted, plain ties. Black shoes. Sidearms tucked away.*
- and put their mirrorshades on in unison.
"Now remember," Trebuchet said: "That badge of yours is fake. So you stand behind me. Let me do the talking and first flashing."
"Right," Willers said, following him out to his car: "You go first. Right."
They got in, and Trebuchet gunned the motor. As he did, a police car drove into the parking lot, heading for the coffeeshop. One of the hotel's managers was standing outside the door, arms crossed and looking down at the sidewalk.
"Hmmm," Trebuchet said, putting it in reverse and backing out: "Looks like something happened."
Willers shrugged: "Something always does."
Trebuchet looked at him for a moment, trying not to say anything -
***"I need some coffee," Willers says.
"Coffee?" Trebuchet asks, looking at him. In the ghostly, pale moonlight he really does appear spectral. Manichean.
"It helps me sleep."
"Well, there's a McDonalds back there-"
- and then continued to back out, shaking the half-memory out of his mind.
On the way out of the parking lot they were almost struck by a big car making a hard left as they were right-exiting. Trebuchet almost yelled at the guy, but stopped in mid-curse, wondering where he'd seen the driver's face before. It looked like a well-kicked ass-
"Closed for renovations," Willers said, out of the blue.
Willers pointed at the McDonalds. Its' doors had big, cheery signs on them, with Ronald announcing the bad news with the same happy, wide-armed gesture he used to declare birthday parties and Big Mac for a Buck promotions.
"Wasn't hungry, anyway," Trebuchet said, shaking his head and continuing on.
About three miles down the road he remembered that he hadn't searched for his cell phone yet. Too much to think about. Too much to do.
New York, July 28th, 1:01 pm
Tiamat sat in his office, papers and books in Russian opened around the desk. He hadn't slept all night, but he hardly looked as bad as he should have for it. He knocked back a shot of vodka, not even bothering to hiss.
It was one of the things the Company had liked about him: with just enough water and food, he could go for four whole days before he had to sleep, and be up only twelve hours after that. It'd helped make him a name in the Company, that talent, and he still had it in spades. But these days, he used that talent for no one but himself…
The phone rang: one of his real phones, not the one patched into his computer. It might be work calling, just to make sure he was really sick at home, as he said he was when he called off that morning. They liked to check at random.
It wasn't work, though. It was Morgan Jones' phone. His caller ID said it was his oncologist.
Tiamat nodded, having expected this for some time, and picked it up. "Hello, Roger," he said.
"Hello, Morgan," the man on the other side said. Doctor Fhibes - Roger to his patients - had an annoying, thin voice. He also had a bad tendency of verbally ascribing his patients' ills to himself as well.
"The tests are back?" Tiamat - who was "Morgan Jones" when he needed to see a doctor - asked, figuring it could only be that.
"Yes, they are…" the voice went wheedy for a moment: "Morgan, I'd really rather discuss these results with you face to face."
"I don't have the time, Roger," Tiamat said: "Just the salient facts, please."
"Alright…" the doctor said: "It's metastisized. Badly. The blood count is… my God."
"It's not good, " John said, rather calm: "How long?"
"If we operate immediately-"
"No operations, Roger. How long?"
"Oh God… I don't know. Maybe a year. Maybe not. It's spread so bad…"
"A year," he said, nodding. It had been better than he'd anticipated. He allowed himself a small, sweet smile.
"Morgan, if we remove the affected areas… go on a crash treatment program? We can still beat this."
"Only for a year or two."
Fhibes sighed: "The survival rate for people your age with this kind of cancer is encouraging."
"25% is encouraging?"
"It's better than the 19% we had five years ago. You can't tell me you're just going to give up?"
"So when can you come by to talk about our options?"
"That's not what I mean, Roger," Tiamat said: "No pills, no ostomies, no chemicals and no surgery. I'm going to try something different."
"The so-called homeopathic route is a sham, Morgan. There's never been any real evidence of it working as anything but a placebo."
"None whatsoever. You're an intelligent man. You have to see that."
Tiamat chuckled inwardly, wondering how many shocks it would take to scare Roger into realizing just how the world really worked: "I do, but I'm going to take my chances."
"Well, that's your decision to make, Morgan."
"That's right. It is," John said, looking at the books and notes on his desk: especially the stack that'd cost him so many crates of hand grenades and a dead operative in Russia.
"I'm available twenty-four hours a day for you, Morgan. If you need anything-"
"I'll call," Tiamat said, and hung up.
With that, he went back to his desk, knocked back another shot of vodka, and went back to work. He was buoyed both by the news that Trebuchet had given him, yesterday, and having more time than he'd thought. There was no time for pessimism or doubt: just a need to do what needed to be done, for everyone's sake.
Especially his own.
Chicago, July 28th, 12:30 pm
"And you are?" the morgue attendant asked, looking up from the immaculate desk at the counter he was sitting behind. By one hand was a phone. In the other was the latest by Arinn Dembo. Back and to their left was a bolted, steel door with an electric lock on it.
"FBI," Trebuchet announced to the squirly little man as they flashed ID, Willers behind him: "Special Agents Froud and Roberts. We're here to see Doctor Al-Masafi."
"Are you on our list of visitors for the day?" the man asked, going into autopilot. He looked like the sort of man who liked to say no. He also reminded Trebuchet of a human squirrel.
"We're not, no. This is a bit of a special emergency."
"The dead are going nowhere, my friend," the man replied, smiling: "And no one comes here without an appointment."
Froud leaned over him, smirking: "Call Doctor Al-Masafi, please. Tell him it's Special Agent Johnathan Froud."
The man smirked a little, shrugged and, carefully marking his place in the book, picked up the phone.
"Yes, Doctor. Sorry to disturb you. We have two unannounced guests… yes, they're not on the list. I'm sorry to disturb you during your lunch, but one of them's insisting. A mister Special Agent Johnathan Froud?"
There was a moment of silence, and then an answer. The man nodded, looked rather perterbed and then hung up the phone.
"He says come on back," the man said, pressing a button under the desk. The electric lock hummed and clicked, and he got up to open the door for them.
Trebuchet smiled at Willers, dropping him a wink. Willers just nodded, staring straight ahead.
Led by the receptionist, they walked down a concrete stairwell into the bowels of the city morgue. The way got colder, and the concrete walls more damp, as they went down in levels.
After a few turns they exited the stairwell, and entered a long hallway full of closed, steel doors and refrigeration vents. The man knocked on the one closest to the exit - camp-town la-dies sing this song, doo-dah, doo-dah - and then waited. There was a hum and a click, and the door unlocked.
The room was an operating theatre. A beefy, male cadaver was on a table, having just been autopsied and sewn back up again. A plastic plate was lying on its stomach, with a half-eaten corned beef sandwich on rye atop it, sitting next to a can of Pepsi. A man was at a desk in the corner, making some notes, one hand close to a button marked OPEN.
"Ah, Johnathan," Doctor Al-Masafi said, turning around. He was a young, fairly lithe and bookwormy fellow of arab descent with short, wispy black hair and a receeding hairline. He wore a white coat and grubbies, and had a thin pair of glasses on his nose.
"Doctor Al-Masafi," Trebuchet said, nodding and smiling: "This is Special Agent Roberts…"
He looked over, expecting Willers to step forward and shake the man's hand. Instead, he was looking at the long, cold steel doors across the way: row upon row of small, steel hatches with handles. Condensation was forming on the corpse holders, dripping onto the floor and running down in thin streams to a grilled drain in its center…
Doctor Al-Masafi looked at them, and then over at the human squirrel: "You can go, Greg. I'll call for you when it's time for them to leave."
Greg nodded and left, closing the door behind him. It latched from the inside as he did.
"So to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" Al-Masafi asked, crossing his arms and looking somewhat feyish: "I prefer it if the Bureau makes an appointment. Fortunately I'd just finished my work for the morning, otherwise I'd have told you both to go to hell."
Trebuchet smiled: "Agent Roberts and I have been sent over to look at the work of the Full Moon Killer. He has some theories about them that he'd like to verify."
"And, of course, you don't have the proper authorization or paperwork," Al-Masafi said, just looking at Trebuchet, now.
"Hey, it's tonight," Trebuchet said, shrugging: "We just got put on this and we don't have much time. If you like, I can call up, but by the time they get anything-"
"It'll be too late for someone else, and then I'll feel guilty for the rest of my life," the doctor said, arcing the back of his hand up to his forehead: "Oh, the humanity."
"Is that a yes, Tariq?"
The doctor's eyes flashed for a moment, and then softened.
"Sure," he said: "They're over in the evidence locker."
"Where we keep bodies whose cases are still being worked on," he explained, walking towards the door: "The state got tired of exhumation orders. So we just keep them down here until the first trial's good and over."
Trebuchet blinked: "I bet the families love that."
"It's priceless," Al-Masafi smiled, and Johnathan remembered again why things had gone the way they had, before.
Chicago, July 28th, 1:00 pm
"What music did you say this was?" Meyer asked, looking fairly uncomfortable. It was either the heat or the ride, and even he wasn't sure which was worse.
"Prodigy," she said, drumming her hands on the wheel in time to the jaunty tune: "Didn't you never go dancing?"
"Not to shit like that, I didn't."
"Hey now… you wanna badmouth the music you get to walk, honey."
"It might be safer," he said, staring at the car they'd just passed. If she'd been any closer, they'd have been kissing the driver.
Tiana's idea of mobile HQ was to drive like maniac around the center of town. This way, they kept something of an equal distance between the other section leaders, who were, themselves, something of an equal distance from the extra squad cars. In theory, she and Meyer would converge on a possible call or sighting, and then call a few others in for assist if it went weird.
In practice, well… it'd been a few hours, and so far they'd come down like the wrath of Goddess on: one bag lady who'd gotten too grabby with a commuter; one mugger who'd made the mistake of nabbing someone who was already calling 911 to report a stolen wallet and overreacted badly; and some would-be vigillante who was trying to pace through the killer's last publicly known movements - in a black halloween cloak, of all things - in order to catch the guy at the scene of his next crime.
Needless to say, this was going nowhere fast. Meyer was looking more glum by the hour. Still, he tried to put a brave face on it: he was distinctly more likely to die in a car accident today than be fired tomorrow.
"'Smack my bitch - up,'" Tiana mouthed along with the song, pulling a near-bootlegger to navigate a hairpin at 55 MPH.
"Jesus," Meyer muttered: "My tax dollars at work."
"Hey, I paid for this car myself, honey."
"That ain't what I mean."
"Then what do you mean?"
"Ah… this," he said, waving at the two of them: "Jesus Christ. We've got one of best police forces in the United States. We got all the latest toys, anything we could ask for. And not only can we not catch this son of a bitch, but on the day we know he's gonna strike again, we're on a goose chase looking for anything."
"What else can you do?"
"Anything but this… but I guess this is all we got. We just have to wait and see."
"Sometimes that's all you got when the evidence runs out," Tiana said: "I lost count of the number of times I've been up a wall and down the other side wishing I had evidence."
"So what'd you do?" He asked, turning in the seat to look at her.
"Same thing we're doing now, sugar," she smiled: "Only I didn't have good company."
He laughed: "I'd be better company if you could put it on the classical station. If I have to hear any more of this dance shit I am gonna get out and walk."
"Oh, alright," she laughed back, turning the CD player off and finding the station. It was Mozart, as it turned out.
"Ah, perfect," he said, leaning back and checking his cell phone out of habit.
"You like him?"
"Yeah, I like him. You surprised?"
"No," she said, shrugging playfully: "I just figured you were into Jazz or something."
"Ah, fuck that shit. It's what you listen to when you got a date and want to get laid. I get home, I get changed, put on some classical and try to forget what I do for a living. That's my thing."
"Okay, what's your favorite?"
"Favorite guy or favorite one by him?"
"One by him."
"That's easy, the Magic Flute."
"Oh, I love the Magic Flute," she gushed: "Damn is that good."
Chicago, July 28th, 1:05 pm
Tariq's head bobbed up and down, working Trebuchet's cock like it was Christmas Day.
Trebuchet cradled the man's head gently with one hand, leaning back against the gurney as he was sucked. It'd been way, way too long since he'd had a man. And it was the same with Tariq, if his enthusiasm was any indication.
They were all alone in the operating theatre, except for the corpse on the other table. Willers was still in the evidence locker, looking at corpses, and would probably be in there for a while yet. And things had just… happened.
***"So he's going to check them for evidence?" the doctor sighed as he closed the door behind Willers and went back down the hall with Trebuchet: "I'd be curious to know what he finds. We've been over those bodies with everything we've got."
Trebuchet shrugged: "Agent Roberts has his own, unique methods. I never ask too much. I just let him do what he does."
"Yes, he did seem keen to get us out of there, didn't he?"
Trebuchet smiled: "Did you really want to be in there, anyway?"
"No…" Al-Masafi said, looking back at Trebuchet as he fished for the key to the door. It was a familliar look***
"Oh god…" Tariq said, flicking the end of Trebuchet's penis with his tongue: "Oh baby…"
He rose up and kissed him hard and long, playing with his cock as he did. Trebuchet leaned back some more, onto the gurney, letting his lover call the shots.
It was what he needed - Tariq, that is. Trebuchet had felt it the moment he'd set foot into the operating theatre in the first place: nostalgia, lust, insecurity… the same things that had led to their infrequent but memorable couplings even after the breakup.
***"Do you ever think about us?" Tariq asked, after the usual rounds of small talk, bullshit and brick walls had been gotten out of the way.
"Yeah," Trebuchet said, leaning against the wall: "I do."
"Why did we break up?" he said, sitting down in a roller chair at his desk.
"Tariq… we've been over this before."
"I know. I just want to hear it again."
"Because it's been too long since I've heard it… it's been way too long since I've even seen you… it's my job you're intruding on…"
Trebuchet smiled: "Fuck you."
They were, now, with Tariq - nimble as ever - sucking Johnathan as he lay over the gurney. He still had his lab coat on. Trebuchet still had his pants mostly on. They'd just thrown down like horny teenagers in a bad, gay fuck flick, fumbling their way towards illicit ecstasy in spite of everything and anything.
This wasn't the first time they'd ever gotten it on down here, of course. But never with a body in the room. Tariq had always cleaned up before Johnathan had come down, takeaway under one arm under the auspices of visiting his lover for lunch break. The food always went cold.
But it was the perfect setup. No one came in here without getting past the guy up front. No one got in the doors once Tariq had closed them from inside. They really were all alone down here.
Just them, and the dead.
***"So why?" Tariq asked, getting maybe a little too close to Trebuchet's personal space as he got up close to him.
"Because you're jealous… insecure…"
Tariq kissed him - quickly.
"Our careers are…"
He kissed him again - also quickly.
"I was your first, wasn't I?" the doctor pressed, looping an arm around his former lover.
"But I was your best, right?"
"Yes," Trebuchet lied, leaning into the next kiss the other man gave him: "You were-"***
The gurney was rocking slightly in time to the motion of Tariq's head and shoulders: CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK…
Trebuchet tried to touch his lover's head as he sucked him, but Tariq gently slapped them away each time. He wanted to be the one in control. He always had. That's why they'd really broken up, truth be told.
At least, that's what Trebuchet liked to think. He knew better. He really did.
***mean… I'm not gay," he'd said, running a hand over Brian's chest. He was warmer than anything he'd ever felt before, there in that bed. He couldn't take his hands off him. "I've got a girlfriend. We're getting married… I'm not-"
"Have you ever felt this way before, lover?" Brian'd whispered in his ear.
"How do you feel?"
"Wonderful…" Johnathan had replied: "Like I just… woke up, really. After being asleep for ages."
"Then maybe you have***
Trebuchet looked over at the corpse on the other gurney. Except for the pale skin and the nasty, sewn-up "Y"-incision on his chest, he could have just been a fat man sound asleep on the table.
***"Well, there's a McDonalds back there-"
"No it…" he's about to say 'isn't,' but then he turns around and sees that it is. The lights are out. The drive-thru is empty. No one's home.
"It's supposed to be open all day?" he says, unbelieving.
"There's a coffeeshop," Willers replies, looking at the place in question. Its windows are lit up, and inside, Trebuchet can see a familliar woman, standing at the counter.
"Shit," he says, nodding: "I don't want you going in there…"***
"MMmmMMmmMMM" Tariq moaned, changing his neck angle slightly so as to take it all in.
CREAK… CREAK… CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK
Trebuchet blinked. The corpse on the other table seemed to be moving.
CREAK CREAK CREAK CREAK-CREAK-CREAK-
The lunch plate was slowly moving up… then down… then up… then down… as though he were breathing.
*In Jenny's room. His pictures all over the walls: with her, without her - nice, tasteful frames. So much to say to her. He couldn't. Throat felt sewn up with rotten leather strips, stuffed with salt.*
Then up… then down… then up… then down…
*Crying, her mouth open, eyes shut. Tears dripping down fuzzy, blue knit sweater. Anger, sadness, scrunched her face into withered old apple.*
The head started to turn towards Trebuchet. Stiff muscles popped and tore under the dead skin with noises like cheap, stringy beef at the butcher's shop. Flab rippled and roiled underneath…
*Then Jenny looked up at him. It was Jenny's face but Sharon's eyes*
The cadaver's eyes opened. They were just like Sharon's. Just like Brian's. Just like-
Its mouth opened.
*A gout of ripe, black blood sluiced out from between her lips, as though every vessel in her head had burst and drained into her mouth and she tried to speak to him, eyes staring madly, mouth working and lips moving but only to shape and curl the flow of blood*
"…eta geht taec aep on sie reht" the cadaver said.
Trebuchet couldn't scream. It was just like this morning, only now he wasn't dreaming. It was real. Totally, absolutely, fucking real.
"JOHNATHAN!" someone shouted, bringing him out of it. The thudding changed to something else: THUD THUD THUD. THUD THUD THUD.
"What the-" Tariq said with his mouth full, stopping in mid-slide.
Trebuchet looked at him, and then back at the corpse. It hadn't moved. Nothing had changed.
Willers was in the hall, screaming as he pounded on the door: "JOHNATHAN! I'VE GOT HIM!"
"What the…" Trebuchet mumbled, sitting up and looking at the corpse. He was dreaming, again? Had he been? What…
"Coming..!" Tariq hissed, heading for the door and gesturing that Trebuchet really should get his pants back up. By the time he'd flipped the locks and opened the door, he had.
Willers exploded into the room, his entire body covered in sweat and his eyes almost starting from their sockets.
"I GOT HIM!" he shrieked: "I GOT HIM! I GOT HIM! I GOT HIM!"
"Bob, calm down," Trebuchet said, running over and holding onto the man as he writhed and squirmed. He was strong - unbelievably. It took both of them to get him under control.
"I understand, Johnathan!" Willers shouted: "I see it now! I SEE IT!"
"Jesus, I'd better call for-" Tariq started, but Trebuchet cut him off.
"We don't call anyone," he said, managing to steer the man over to a chair: "We sit here, we get him calmed down. That's it."
"What the fuck is going on here, Johnathan?"
"The hell I wouldn't. You start-"
"No. You stop-"
Trebuchet sighed: "It's Federal business. Now just get him some fucking water!"
Chicago, July 28th, 2:02 pm
"What is it?" Tiana asked, looking at Meyer. He'd just gotten off the phone with someone, and hadn't been talking shop about his own case.
"You mind heading on a side trip?" he asked.
"Sure. What's up?"
"That was Anders. He said there's something I gotta see."
She nodded, and then her own cell phone went off.
"Hello?" she asked, not recognizing the number.
"Who's that lobbing big rocks into yonder castle?" a familliar voice asked, giving her his call sign.
"It's someone who's gonna get himself a fist sandwich," she said, more relieved than angry: "Where the fuck you been, foo?"
"Long damn story," he said: "You alone?"
"No," she said, looking over at Lt. Meyer, who was looking at her for a moment.
"Okay, I won't talk long. We've got paydirt."
"You remember that old Gypsy trick?"
She shook her head: "The Roma got more tricks than I got groove. What trick?"
"Willers was able to get impressions off of the killer's victims," he said: "I had a hunch it might be possible, and I was right."
She blinked: "Damn, that's smart."
"Thanks. I thought so."
"Where are you?"
Trebuchet looked over at Tariq and Willers. Willers was sitting in a chair, by the door, staring into space. Tariq was dabbing his forehead with a cold compress, making sure he wasn't feverish.
"I don't want to go into that right now," he said: "You're out with Meyer?"
"Yeah," she replied, looking at Frank again. He pointed to the turn up ahead, and she took it fast.
"I'll call you when I know more. With any luck we'll get the bastard before he does anything else?"
"Who is he?" She said.
"I'll tell you when I got him," he said: "Call you later."
He tried to say 'I love you,' but something got in the way. Something -
***"There's a coffeeshop," Willers replies, looking at the place in question. Its windows are lit up, and inside, Trebuchet can see a familliar woman, standing at the counter.
"Shit," he says, nodding: "I don't want you going in there…"
"Because… well…" he thinks for a moment, and then he smiles.
"Actually… come on. There's someone I want you to meet."
Willers nods, and follows after. The bell rings as they walk in, and SHARON! - who is working after all - hardly bares the two of them a glance.
Trebuchet hears it, then: a gasp from Willers. SHARON! looks up at the two of them, now, and the utter contempt washes away. It is replaced by… awe.***
Tiana looked at the phone. Had he just hung up on her?
"Who was that?" Meyer asked, closing his eyes as she zipped into a space that should not have been able to accomodate her bug.
"Johnathan," she said.
"He got anything good for us?"
"No," she said: "Not yet, anyway."
"Hey, I'll make you a deal."
"Shoot," she said, smiling at the man.
"You tell me what's really going on, there, and I won't give you a ticket for reckless driving."
They looked at each other in silence for a moment. Then he smiled, then she did, and then they both laughed.