Wait and See - pt. 6.2
Chicago, July 28th, 2:42 pm
"Jesus H. Christ," Meyer said, shuddering as he looked down at the floor of the hotel coffeeshop. He wasn't laughing anymore. Outside, in the background, Tiana was busy being sick.
There was a dead woman there, lying on her back in a wide pool of blood. Her tacky brown and orange uniform was soaked right through with it. Her hands were laid over one another on her bosom, almost as if in prayer.
And her head and neck no longer had any skin on them. It had been slipped off like an orange peel, leaving only ragged muscle and bone behind. Her glassy eyes were staring straight up at the ceiling, unable to be closed for lack of lids.
"The victim's name is… um… Martha," Detective Anders stammered, trying to not look at the woman in question: "Martha M. Miller. 32 years old. We're… um… still working on the address."
"God, I hope she lives alone," Meyer said, holding a hand to his face: "I don't want to have to explain this to anyone."
"One husband, two kids. According to her manager."
"Shit," he sighed, looking at the ceiling. This was the last thing he needed, right now. The last fucking thing in the world.
"So what happened?" He continued.
Anders was a bit dumbfounded - now that he'd rediscovered his sense of shock - but went on: "She was supposed to work the Eight am to Four pm shift. The asst. manager came in two hours into the shift and found her like this… more or less."
"More or less?"
"Yeah. He's the one who put her arms like that. He was in here for an hour, trying to wake her up."
"Wake her up?"
"They go to the same church."
Meyer just shook his head, not following the logic and not giving a damn: "Have they found it?"
Meyer turned and looked at him: "The face? Have they found her face?"
Tiana came back from outside, hands pressed to her forehead.
"You okay, honey?" Meyer asked, turning to look at her.
"Yeah," she lied, shaking her head: "Sorry. It was… kind of sudden."
"Where is the person who found her?" Meyer asked, leaning down to get a better look, still pressing his hand to his mouth and nose.
"Over in the lobby. I already got a statement, if you want to read it…"
"Is it worth a damn?"
"No. It's pretty incoherent. He seems to have… well, I'm guessing he went into shock the moment he saw this."
"That's be the conclusion of the year," Meyer asked, looking up at him: "And no one came in before then? No one at all?"
"Well, the only person who she would have met would have been the person who worked the Midnight to Eight am shift. That's-"
"Now that's gotta be bullshit."
"What?" Anders said, looking more than a little flustered.
"This is a fucking coffee shop!" Meyer spat: "People are supposed to come in here all the fucking time. You mean to tell me someone did this to her, and left, and no one saw a damn thing?"
"The manager says no one comes in here at all. Not with the McDonalds next door."
"Well… you fucking tell them that," Anders spat: "Jesus! I'm just trying to do my fucking job, here."
"I'll tell them something, alright," Meyer spat back, easing himself back up again. The smell of exposed muscle was making him seriously ill.
Tiana squatted down, close to one of the booths, as though she were preparing to jump to the ceiling. Meyer looked at her, and then looked back at the corpse.
"Alright, you said there was someone who was working the Midnight to Eight AM shift?" Meyer said.
"Yes. I would have told you her name if you hadn't fucking interrupted me."
"Well, excuse me. What was her name?"
"Sharon," Anders replied, stabbing the air with each word: "Sharon. W. Beaumont."
"Did she punch out this morning?"
"As a matter of fact, no. They said no one saw her leave," Anders said.
"Alright, get a-"
"I've already put out a BOLO," Anders interrupted: "And I've got a car going over to her address, too."
"Good," Meyer said: "Now, I definitely want to talk to the guy in the lobby."
"He's all yours."
"And I gotta get some fresh air."
"Yeah… same here," Anders agreed, looking daggers at him as he followed him outside. Tiana was already heading there, hands together as though in prayer.
There were two policemen standing outside, ready to keep the crowd back if it appeared. It hadn't, yet, but give it time.
One of them - the more experienced of the two - was ashen-faced. The other was smiling oddly, as if trying to ward it all off with a smirk. He looked about two bad words away from cracking like an eggshell, though.
"So this is all we've got?" Meyer stated, hoping someone would prove him wrong: "One dead, fucked up body, one witness who's lost it, and nothing else?"
"There was one other thing" Anders said, pulling out a piece of paper: "We did get a report from 911. Last night, at one-fifteen, a woman called in a complaint. Something about hearing a man screaming in the parking lot. No description. He was seen going from the coffeeshop, but no one saw where."
Meyer processed that: "I thought you said no one came in?"
"You said in there that no one else came in before now?"
"Oh… well, no one we've talked to."
"Okay, so no one we can put a face to, who's here now, went in before now."
"Yes. No one else remembers hearing the scream, either."
"Not even the night desk clerk?" Meyer asked: "He had to have heard something."
"Uh, no," Anders said, facing taking on a clear shade of assness as he raised both eyebrows: "He says he was listening to his ICP CDs, with headphones on."
"Insane Clown Posse," Tiana said from where she was, off a ways.
"Insane Clown Posse?" Meyer repeated.
"Don't ask…" she begged, holding a hand to her forehead.
"Yeah… they used to be on Mancow all the time," officer eggshell piped up.
"That's nice," Meyer said.
"'Whole world hates us - Mancow made us…'" he busted, as though there were nothing wrong at all.
"That fucking explains everything," Meyer replied: "Now shut up."
"Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" officer eggshell giggled, busting into another rap: "'Back to reality - your son's on crack…'"
Frank Meyer chose that moment to lose his shit.
He went ballistic all over the poor cop, who was so far gone down the goofy-hole that Meyer might as well have been giving him the winning lottery numbers for all he noticed. He just stood there, giggling through a face full of tears while Meyer ripped him a new one.
Then Anders lost his shit and started ripping Meyer for ripping on the other guy. And then Meyer and Anders started ripping the shit out of each other, so loudly and violently that the ashen-faced officer had to step between them to stop a fight from breaking out.
Tiana ignored it. She couldn't make much sense of it, and didn't even care to try. Her head felt like it was full of fuzz, just being in the same room with that body. Out here she could breathe. Maybe even think.
Once she was certain no one was looking - they weren't - she unclasped her hands, and looked down at what she'd been hiding, all this time.
She'd taken it from the scene. It was something she was certain no one else had seen, lying like that under the booth. If she hadn't turned right around and tripped on her way outside she wouldn't have seen it, either.
It was a cell phone. And she knew whose it was. It'd woken the two of them up the other day, when the Chief had called them…
"Disgraceful!" someone said.
Tiana spun around, trying to hide the cell phone. Had someone seen her? Who? What?
There were two old ladies standing on the sidewalk, just looking at the four men and their argument. The pair looked like they were both on their way to morning Mass: all dressed up, clutching black, leather Bibles and purses.
The look in their eyes could have soured milk at 100 paces.
"Hi, ma'am," the officer who hadn't lost his shit said: "Police business. Nothing to worry about."
"You're all on drugs," one of them announced, steering the other back onto their way: "On drugs. Our children deserve better role models."
Anders just looked at Meyer, and vice versa.
"I think you all need to chill out," Tiana said, hiding the cellphone for real this time as she did: "This is some serious, fucked up shit, here. You wanna be mad at it, but you can't, so you're just getting mad at each other, instead. And that ain't gonna solve nothing."
"Yeah," Meyer said after a moment: "Listen, Anders…"
"Save it," Anders said, waving him off: "I'll secure the crime scene. You get your interview with the guy in the lobby. We'll see where we go from there."
He nodded and headed over to Tiana: "Thanks, Denice."
"No problem. You okay?"
"No," he said: "I am about as far away from okay as you get, right now. How about you?"
"I'm alright," she lied, nodding slightly: "What do we do, now?"
"Well, that is the question, isn't it?"
He stared off into space for a while, and then answered his own question.
"I can't just leave this," he said: "Not now."
"No, you can't, can you?" she asked: "What about the Full Moon Killer?"
"I'll get this started, and then we'll get back to that," he said: "You wanna help me ask some questions?"
"Sure - what are we gonna ask him?" she asked, following after him as he headed for the lobby: "I can do a decent Good Cop if I know what we're after."
"I want to know what he can tell me about the gal who worked the midnight shift," he replied: "I think that's our chief suspect right there, and I don't want to be surprised when we get our hands on her."
"After this, I don't think anything could surprise me," Tiana said, hoping to Goddess that wasn't taken as an invitation.
"Well, you said we were going to go look for trouble…" Meyer replied, forcing a very weak smile as he opened the door for her: "I think it found us."
Chicago, July 28th, 2:50 pm
"It's the Moon," Willers said, out of nowhere.
"What?" Johnathan said as both he and Tariq jumped a bit. Willers'd been really quiet for a long time, now, almost as if something had gone out of him along with the fever. The other two men had just sat down and waited for him to come out of it. It looked like he had.
"He thinks the Moon is talking to him," the man went on, almost in a trance: "It shows him things, but he doesn't dare ask it directly. Not directly. Only reflected…"
"In the eyes," Willers said, shaking his head and putting it in his hands: "The eyes. He sees the moon in their eyes and then he… he…"
His hands moved around his throat, eyes bulging in sympathy at what the victims must have gone through.
***"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.
"Good morning, Sharon," Trebuchet says, smiling: "We'd like some coffee. Regular… I think. Right, Bob?"
He turns around the look at Willers, but Willers isn't looking at him. He staring right at Sharon, who's staring right back at him. He just nods at her, smiling.
Actually smiling for once, as though something had been turned back on in his brain.***
Trebuchet grimaced, holding his head in his hands. He'd been hallucinating last night like mad all fucking day. What the hell was going on-
"This is evidence?" Tariq asked, bringing Trebuchet out of his problems: "This is what you came in here for?"
"Tariq," Trebuchet said, shaking the brain farts away: "I told you Agent Roberts has his own, special methods."
"So does Miss Cleo. You want me to give her a call, too?"
"Jesus," Trebuchet sighed: "Look, can you just be cool about this-"
"Cool? I ought to call up your field office and complain about your wasting city time, not to mention my time," Tariq hissed, getting up from his chair and storming around the room: "I've got a few more work units waiting for me today, and I did not need to spend my afternoon playing 'X-Files' with you two."
Trebuchet scowled, but then softened, feeling the same old insecurities in his former lover's emotions. He knew how to cool them off. He always did.
"Okay," he said, getting up and walking closer to his ex-lover: "Look, Tariq… I'm sorry. This is a bit weird, and I know we've wasted your time. But…"
"But what?" Al-Masafi asked, crossing his arms.
"But I just… well…" he sighed, taking a step closer so he could whisper: "The field office put him out here, and he's not so stable so they needed a minder. And I was out here, and I thought… you know, it's been so long since I've seen you…?"
He gave Tariq the wistful look. The look that says it all when you can't think of anything else to say, or you can't say what you need to. It was the equivalent of a dog putting his tail between his legs and cowering.
Tariq ate it right up, same as always.
"Where did you dig him up, anyway?" he asked, coming up closer and whispering in Johnathan's ear: "Phenomen-X?"
"Ask the Bureau," Johnathan whispered back, pretending to not notice Tariq's hand looping around to touch the top of his ass: "You ought to see all the weirdoes they're bringing in since 9/11."
Tariq blinked: "Really?"
"Yeah," he replied, lying like a rug: "We got a whole department of dowsers and spoon-benders trying to find sleeper cells. It's a fucking mess, and I get to help clean it up…"
Tariq nodded and whispered things back. They were loving things. Guarded things. Trebuchet smiled at the appropriate moments and leaned closer at the right times, playing the man's needs like a harp and feeling more and more soiled for it by the second.
Willers was just sitting there, looking off into space. Trebuchet fixed his eyes on him, wondering what he must have gone through in the evidence locker.
It couldn't have been fun.
Chicago, July 28th, 3:00 pm
Tiana and Meyer just looked at Samuel, who looked at them, coughing every so often. His throat was hoarse with crying, and his voice sounded like jelly on sandpaper. He was cradling a picture of Martha in his arms, dropping tears all over it.
Judging from the photos they'd been shown of the employees in question, Martha was a lot like Sharon. She was somewhat pudgy, with a fat face and thick arms. True, her hair was dirty blonde and curly instead of brown and shellacked in place, like Sharon's was, but other than that they might have been cut from the same mold.
The hotel's real manager was hovering nearby, doing his best to carry on in spite of the calvacade of police cars, emergency vehicles and the like in his parking lot. He had no idea what he was supposed to do, here, and it showed.
"I don't know what else *cough* I can say," Samuel told them, holding the photo a little closer: "I lost myself, in there. I did *cough cough*"
"I don't doubt that, Samuel," Meyer said, trying to be calm: "But could you just tell us why you didn't call for help right away?"
"I told you…" she whimpered: "I thought… maybe I could help her. I know she didn't have *cough* oh Lord Jesus, she didn't have a face. But people have worse happen to them and they get better… *cough*"
Meyer shook his head: "Samuel… she was dead. She'd been dead for…"
He trailed off, not liking the way his eyes were going. They were like cracked glass ready to shatter to pieces.
"What can you tell us about Martha?" Tiana asked: "Did she have anyone who might have wanted to do this?"
Samuel looked at her: "No. Not at all. She was a *cough* decent woman. A Christian woman. Oh, her children…"
"What about Sharon?" Meyer asked: "Did the two of them ever have any problems?"
Samuel looked at him, and then looked down.
"Well *cough* I didn't ever say anything about this, but…"
"Yes?" Meyer asked.
"There was one time *cough cough* Oh dear lord. Martha and her used to share a shift, before they put that McDonalds in. They did it for *cough* a week or so, and then Martha came to me and *cough cough* asked to change her shift.
"I asked her why. And she said that she and Sharon *hack cough* were talking, one day. She asked her what she thought about this one customer *cough*… and *cough* Sharon said she didn't care.
"She always said that *cough cough* 'I don't care. I don't care.'"
"So what did she say?" Tiana asked: "You can tell us."
Samuel looked up at her: "She asked Sharon why she didn't care. And she said… *cough cough* oh lord Jesus forgive me for saying these things… she asked Martha if she could keep a secret *cough* and she told her yes… and she said….
***"I. Fucking. Hate. People." Sharon enunciated, looking Martha right in the eye: "Lots of people say that, but they don't really mean it. But I do.
"If you handed me a button, and said that if I pressed it, everyone else would die, I'd press it before you got done talking."
Martha gasped, putting a hand over her chest.
"All people are shit," Sharon went on, eyes locked onto Martha's: "I've known that all my life. Nothing I've ever seen has ever made me feel any different. And do you know what I hope?
"I hope the next time there's a 9/11, it kills everyone but me."***
Meyer's eyebrows arched, and he shook his head: "Jesus."
"That's blasphemy," Samuel mumbled, clutching the photo to the point where it started to warp.
"You damn right," Tiana said, shuddering, feeling the alien weight in her pocket and wondering what Johnathan wasn't telling her.
Chicago, July 28th, 3:30 pm
"So let me get this straight, if you don't mind…?" Herb Garden asked the man on the other end of the phone: "Special Agent Johnathan Froud isn't officially attached to anything at all, here?"
"Not in terms of anything in Chicago, no," the fellow said. Said fellow was the phone jockey of the day at the FBI's Chicago Field Office: "According to what we've got on him, he's requested time off from New York in order to be out here. Personal visit."
"So you're not aware…" Herb began to say, but then said nothing.
"Nothing…" Mr. Garden said, looking out of his nice window at the one across the way. That window happened to belong to His Honor, who was only a few hours away from going on the air and telling the good people of Chicago to sit tight, stay inside and let the Police do their job.
"Well, I have to say this is a lot of asking questions for 'nothing,' Mr. Garden. Is there something we need to know about, here?"
"Let me get back to you on that," he said.
"Look, you don't jerk us around, buddy-"
"I'll call back soon," he said, hanging up. Then he steepled his hands before his nose and thought.
He'd been doing a lot of thinking since yesterday:
- Since that cunt from the post office had told him off, and the Mayor had told him to let it go because she was an old friend.
- Since his friend at the city morgue had told him the FBI had shown up - unannounced - this afternoon.
- Since a call to another friend at the CPD had told him that soon-to-be ex-Lt. Meyer'd had help from the FBI, and then hadn't, and now had the previously-mentioned cunt with him on it.
There was something going on here. Something that was not making much sense at all. Something that could cause irregularities that his circle of friends - and people he had dirt on - couldn't control. Something that could bloom into a huge scandal for His Honor.
Something that could cost him his job, in other words: either now, or soon, or as soon as the next election season ended…
No. That wouldn't be happening any time soon. Not if he could help it, and there were a lot of things he could do to make certain he could.
Herb Garden, esq. was a PR man, born and bred. And like any person who'd made it their life's ambition to ride on someone else's fortunes, there were some things in life that he was willing to accept, and some that he wasn't. A week without sex was acceptable, a day without coke was not. Small dips in His Honor's popularity were acceptable, a large dip was not. A bad press conference, really bad publicity and a scratch on his Beemer were all flat-out unacceptable.
And the biggest of all the unacceptables was the loss of his job. It took years to get a setup like this in fine, working order, but that meant that his fortunes were now directly tied to His Honor. If anything should happen to him, it affected Herb as well. He had too much riding on this to lose it on six - soon to be seven - dead people and the police's inability to catch their murderer.
He'd have rather someone shot him dead than lose his job. That was the honest truth of the matter. And he didn't care who he had to tie up, bend over and assrape to keep it.
"Get me Chief Hardesty," he commanded his speakerphone: "Tell him to present his ass in this very office. Now."
Chicago, July 28th, 4:00 pm
"I don't think I oughta take him down to the station," Anders said to Meyer, off in one a side room they'd commandeered.
Samuel was still out in the lobby, with Tiana handing him tissue after tissue. He'd done nothing but sob since he'd given away Sharon's little secret. The Hotel Manager had been giving him a lot of grief for not telling him about that little secret, too - something about saving Martha the embarrassment of having to tell the story twice - so he was really messed up, now.
"Frank?" Anders asked, looking at him. He really did look like an ass-face when his eyebrows were both up like that.
"Well, until we've dusted the place for prints, he's still a suspect, too," Meyer said, looking back at Anders.
"I don't think so. Look at the mess in there. You'd have to get bloody as hell doing a job like that, and how was he supposed to have cleaned up?"
"Good question. You gonna let him go, then?"
"Well… what's he gonna tell us that he hasn't already? I don't think we've got a suspect, here."
"Well, there you go," Meyer said: "I mean, hey, it's your crime scene. If you don't wanna drag him downtown, don't. I don't blame you."
Anders sighed: "Well… just for a few extra questions, until we get some lab reports back."
"Sounds like a smart thing to do. Just in case, right?"
"Fine," Anders said: "But if he goes to pieces on me, I'm not gonna be happy."
Meyer just looked at the guy, and then left the room.
Tiana looked up at Meyer as he came over. He cocked his head to one side, indicating they ought to go somewhere else. She nodded and then got up, patting the man's hands one more time.
"Samuel?" Meyer said: "We're gonna go, now. Detective Anders will be taking back over from here… okay?"
The man made no reply. He seemed to have come to a lull in the sobbing, but was just staring into space, as if waiting for someone to tell him it was all a bad dream. He didn't even seem to notice when Anders came over and asked him - in that nice way that means you have no real choice - if he'd like to come downtown with them.
"So what you think?" Meyer asked her, soon as they were outside.
"I think this is fuckin' fucked up, s'what I think," she replied, putting her shades back on: "Sorry about puking by your crime scene."
"Naah… it's Anders' crime scene. I don't give a shit."
"No, I really don't," he said, pausing a bit and turning around to look at the coffee shop. The techs inside were just now getting to do their big thing.
"I mean, I'm probably not even gonna have a job, tomorrow," he went on: "We might catch this asshole, we might not. Right now I can't make myself feel too concerned over this one, even after all that…"
He looked like he was going to say something else, but didn't. He just shook his head and turned back to Tiana's bug.
"What do you think?" he asked on the way.
She turned, half-stopped in her tracks and shook her head: "I don't know what to think right now."
"Well, I figure Anders'll get to the bottom of it, whatever it is," Meyer replied, opening the passenger side door of the car: "Back to work?"
"Yeah," Tiana said, hanging by her door for a second before getting back in. For a moment she thought about reminding Meyer that Johnathan was residing here, and that they ought to get the key and check it out. But something else told her that wasn't so important now…
Or was it? It was hard to be sure. She'd had a head full of fuzz since she'd seen the corpse, and run outside to puke. It'd gotten a bit better once they'd gotten outside the coffee shop, but it'd rebounded just looking at that picture of Sharon.
It was nasty-business fuzz. Death magic fuzz. The sort of shit she always got a head full of when the darkness came out to play, ever since
*call him together,' the mail bomber was saying: 'I'll call him, and he'll come, and he'll show you the error of your ways, slut!' He was ripping her shirt off with a strength he shouldn't have had. 'Imagine! His wonder inside you… his works to perform!' The air in the basement turned electric, somehow, and he started chanting*
that one time.
Tiana gritted her teeth and closed her eyes, tossing that thought back to where it belonged.
She wasn't going to let it stop her. Full Moon or not, she was not going to let it stop her. She may have been Chosen, but she had ways to deal with it…
"Back to work," she said - more to herself than to Meyer - and got into the car.
Chicago, July 28th, 4:05 pm
Willers and Trebuchet walked out of the morgue, following Gary up the stairs. The man shot them nervous looks every so often, as if he were expecting them to pull out their guns and shoot him. Trebuchet could sense fear and guilt from him, but was too damn tired to care.
Once they got outside, Willers looked one way, and then the other, as though he were looking for someone.
"So what now?" Trebuchet asked.
"He's going to be sleeping, now," Willers said, looking at Trebuchet: "Sleeping. Dreaming. But he'll find his one when it gets dark."
"Yes," Willers said: "He finds them the day before… then he takes them back to his place. They go willingly, not knowing. Never suspecting."
"And then he keeps them until the night of the full Moon."
"And they show him the world in their eyes," Willers said.
"Great," Trebuchet said, trying to force a joke: "I think they're on tour, so we can cut them out of the lineup."
"It's not just a song, Johnathan," Willers said, looking off: "It's what he wants. I can see that now. He doesn't dare ask the Moon directly. It's too big. Bigger than him. So he has to look in a reflection… offering a sacrifice…"
He made the gesture again: flapping his hands before his neck, like a pair of swinging doors opening and closing.
"The information we had… it said he probably choked them from the front, rather than the back?" Trebuchet said: "So he's choking them, while seeing the Moon reflected in their eyes?"
"Yes," Willers said: "And that's when it talks to him. When it's fed."
"What does it look like?" Trebuchet asked, seeing where this could be going: "The Moon. When he talks to it?"
Willers closed his eyes: "They never live long enough. Not to see. But they feel it. They feel it coming…"
Trebuchet nodded. This definitely was going into off-the-map country, now.
"We have to find him," he told Willers: "Tonight, if we can. We can't do it tomorrow."
"Yes," Willers agreed, looking to the left: "They go on foot. I'll have to retrace from one scene. I remember where he took the last one."
"Alright," Trebuchet said, wishing like hell he had his cell phone. Why couldn't he have spent the time to find it? He didn't dare call over a pay phone with this sort of information, and he could sure use some backup if this went where he thought it was going to.
And he couldn't really see it going anywhere else from this point.
New York,/Chicago July 28th, 5: 25 pm
"You do understand what I'm telling you, right?" Brady - ie. Tiamat - said, imagining the Chief of Police's face turning bright red on the other side.
The other man grunted something in the way of a reply. If he'd started out this conversation expecting to bully "Brady" into making this all better for everyone involved, that illusion was well and truly dismissed at this point.
"I understand the position you're in, there," the old man said: "But you need to ask yourself a really important question. Is Meyer's ass worth more than yours?"
"No…" the Chief admitted: "No. It isn't."
"Then you go to the Mayor's man, and you hand him Meyer's ass on a plate."
"And mine right along with it."
"That doesn't have to happen."
"It doesn't? Brady, need I remind you that I'm involved, here, too?"
"Of course not. I'm the one who involved you."
"Yeah, you and our so-called mutual friend."
"Our mutual friend will make sure nothing happens to your ass," Tiamat replied: "Just go do what you have to."
"I want guarantees, Brady."
"That's right. You heard me. I want a damn guarantee that I will still have my pension, tomorrow, if I go be your soldier today."
"And why do you think I will give you one?"
"Because if you don't, I will find you and fuck you," the Chief said: "You have fucked with me for the last god damn time, mister. What you did for me in the past has been more than paid for. So either I get a guarantee from you, or I don't play."
Tiamat blinked. In spite of it all, an inner smile spread across his mind.
Tiamat nodded: "You will still have your pension tomorrow, Chief. Trust me."
"I don't blame you. But what else can you do?"
With that, he hung up, and then considered his options. He would have liked to have a full day to think of something to do, but he was right on the cusp of way too much else. That and this really did need doing: he was going to need Chicago when everything was said and done, and people like Hardesty were a bitch to cultivate.
So he went to his computer's desktop, opened up his USEFUL PEOPLE folder, and clicked on CHICAGO, and then PHOTO EVIDENCE. He looked at the long list of JPGs, and before long he had what he needed.
He then hooked up the computer's phone to be "Brady," again, and placed a call to their Mutual Friend. He'd be in his office, right now, preparing to put in a late night with the Full Moon Killer sure to strike again.
Tiamat was sure he'd appreciate a chance to get out from behind the desk. In fact, he was counting on it.
Chicago, July 28th, 5: 27 pm
"Here," Willers said, looking down at the floor of the alley they'd walked into.
"This is where he took the last one?" Trebuchet asked, tired and sweaty from the quick walk. Willers moved really fast for someone of his girth.
"Not the last one. The one before last, maybe."
"But definitely one of them."
"Yes," Willers said, his eyes going wide again: "He stayed there in the shadows… waiting for the right person. Not just anyone. And then he…"
Willers gagged on what came next, and Trebuchet decided not to push him.
"Can you find where they went from here?"
"Yes," Willers said, pointing off in the direction they'd entered the alley from: "It's a long ways off. Long ways."
"That's okay," Trebuchet said: "Just slow down a little, huh? You're giving me a hell of a workout, here."
"Sorry," Willers replied, looking up at the sky: "I just want this to be over. It's too much. Too much for me."
Trebuchet looked at him, and nodded. He understood that all too well. There had been so many times in his own life - both before and after Nantucket - that he'd wished he could just hit 'rewind' on the days and avoid learning what he'd learned, or seeing what he'd seen.
***"Good morning, Sharon," Trebuchet says, smiling: "We'd like some coffee. Regular… I think. Right, Bob?"
He turns around the look at Willers, but Willers isn't looking at him. He staring right at Sharon, who's staring right back at him. He just nods at her, smiling.
Actually smiling for once, as though something had been turned back on in his brain.
Trebuchet's cell phone rang, just then, and he reached down to look at the number***
Trebuchet stopped for a moment.
Had he gotten a phone call? Who'd called him?
The cell phone's absence was really bothering him, now. For a moment he considered chucking the security and trusting to Ma Bell's inability to do anything right in order to call Tiana. But if it went bad then the folks upstairs might have his ass for dinner.
So he just stuck to the script and followed along after Willers, hoping they both knew what the hell they were getting into.
Chicago, July 28th, 5:30 pm
Herb Garden esq., like any good PR handler for a Mayor, had his own suite of offices. They were nice, well-upholstered things, with two-tone walls, moulding and glass doors that were nicely soundproofed. They were also right down the hall from His Honor's suite, so he could be over there in a flat minute if there was some sort of emergency.
He also had his own secretary. She'd been hired for both her chest size and her ability to know who to let through and who to insist on making an appointment for. She wasn't exactly what you'd call a brain trust, but she wasn't a complete bimbo, either. Herb liked them pretty, buxom and just smart enough to avoid really stupid mistakes.
And he had a waiting room, outside his actual office. It was a harsh, darkened thing, with his secretary sitting on one end - in the pool of light created by an ingenious use of track lighting - and his door looming at the other. Huge, imposing photographs of him and the people he'd managed hung on the walls, with a really big one of he and His Honor occupying the only other bright spot in the room.
Anyone who came in here for an appointment got to sit on the bench, halfway between the secretary's pool of light and Herb's door, with the big picture staring them right in the face. There was no question, from the way they were standing in the photo, that His Honor owed it all to Herb. And that made it all too clear to anyone who had to park their ass on that bench, and wait to see Herb, just where they stood.
Chief Hardesty was late for his appointment, but then he usually was. He came in, sat down on the bench, and waited, looking a little too calm for his own good. Herb made him wait a half hour over, and then had his secretary send him on through.
She smiled and gestured to the door, without saying a word. Hardesty didn't even look in her direction, really: he just got up, adjusted the folds in his pants, and headed on in.
She marked down the time in the logbook, and then went back to typing up some bullshit letters for Herb to sign later on. Every so often she imagined she could hear Herb telling the Chief exactly what he thought of him, in spite of the soundproofing on the door and walls. She always liked it when he got to yell at people; He was so good at it, and hardly got to cut loose, these days.
The Chief was in there for exactly twenty minutes and ten seconds, and then the Police Commissioner came into the office.
The Police Commissioner was an older gentleman of African descent. He wore "Buddy Holly" horn rim eyeglasses, and had a full head of white, short hair. He also wore really nice, blue suits: the kind that cost a small fortune. He had an unsealed envelope in his hands.
"Good afternoon, Janice," he said in his baritone voice (item: he'd sung in his church's choir since he was twelve years old), brandishing the envelope: "I just need to see Herb really quickly."
The Commissioner was one of the people who never needed appointments, never sat on the bench and was never told "no." Still, Janice raised a finger and tried to tell the man that Herb was in a meeting. He didn't seem to notice or care, and just walked over to the door as though it were his office.
When the Commissioner opened the door, a sliver of Herb's conversation leaked out: "… let me tell you that you are finished, sir. You and anyone else who had anything else to do with this… this fiasco are finished. Gone. Done."
"Ah, Mr. Garden," The Commissioner said: "Can I have a moment of your time-"
Then the door closed. Janice frowned a little, and wrote down the entry in the logbook.
A moment later, the Chief walked out. His tight-lipped smile could have been used to break iron bars across.
"… really wanted him to be in here for what I had to say next," Herb said inside the room.
"Well, I think he's done here for the day, really," The Commissioner replied, and then the door closed shut again.
"You hear that, Janice?" the Chief said, still smiling: "I'm done here for the day."
That was really funny, for some reason. He walked out of the waiting room chuckling under his breath.
Janice sniffed, noting it in her logbook, and went back to the letters. She sort of half-listened to the noises that came from within the room, and noticed that they didn't seem to be as pronounced as they had been. Wasn't Herb reading that man the riot act for entering unannounced, like that?
Five minutes later, the commissioner left the office, smiling smugly.
"Wu?" Herb's voice came from within.
"Yes, Wu," the commissioner said, turning around: "Oh, and don't make a move to fire Meyer just yet. Let the poor boy have his day. Maybe he'll get lucky?"
Then he closed the door, lost his smile, and turned to go.
"Thank you for your time, Janice," he said, waving to her on his way to the outside door: "You have a nice day, now."
"Thank you, sir," she smiled. It was a very fake smile. If he noticed, he didn't show it, and just walked on out.
"Janice?" asked her speakerphone not even a moment later. It was the Mayor's secretary, whose name was also Janice.
"His Honor needs Mr. Garden's opinion on his statement for tonight. Can you ask him to come over?"
"I'll try. He's a bit busy."
"Do that, please," the other Janice said, and clicked her phone off. Herb's Janice grumbled: the other Janice could be such a bitch.
She clicked the speakerphone on to Herb's office: "Sir? His Honor's needing your opinion on his statement for tonight. Can you go on over there?"
"I'll be…" The voice on the other end started to say. It came out in a high-pitched squeak that sounded like a tire deflating. And then there was a terrible, quick click, as though he'd turned the phone off a little harder than he should have.
Janice blinked, put down her pen and just sat there, not knowing what to do next. It would be a full ten minutes before she worked up the courage to go listen at the door. When she did, she heard sobbing, and it sounded like it was coming from the private washroom.
It was then that she realized the Commissioner hadn't had the envelope anymore when he'd left the room.
Chicago, July 28th, 6:37 pm
Sharon W. Beaumont's place was full of photographs, and none of them were easy to look at.
She lived in a three-story brownstone
*Garden Arms. 6100 Woodbine Place. Built in 1910. Three stories. Old, crumbling and creepy. Average length of stay: six months to a year. Number of fatalities on premises this year: 34, and counting.*
maybe three blocks away from the hotel that she worked in. Anders and the other Detectives liked to call these sorts of places "Funeral Homes" - if you lived here, you'd probably need one before too long. They seemed to breed violence like they bred rats, mold, fleas…
"… and killers," Anders said, looking at the room the super had let them bust into. For there was no doubt in his mind that they had, indeed, found the lair of the Full Moon Killer.
The place was dark and cramped, and smelled like ass. Nazi literature was spread all over the second-hand furniture, and dirty clothes were strewn all over the floor. Several loved-to-pieces, bleach-white teddy bears were perched atop the pillow on the danky, unmade bed: someone had thoughtfully sewn a swastika armband for each and every one. She even had swastika-patterned underwear in a drawer.
The walls were wallpapered in newspaper and magazine clippings about the Killer. Key phrases - names of the victims, estimated times taken, where found - were all circled with a bloody, red pen. The same color pen had been used to write RACE TRAITOR, NIGGER LOVER, JEW or NIGGER on the foreheads of City Council members, the Mayor and Chief Hardesty.
There was only one photo of Lt. Meyer. It was the one that'd been in the Chicago Tribunal the other day, and it was torn down the middle - thus removing Willers from the scene. She'd defaced it with a simple, misspelled message: YOUR NEXT CREEP.
But what really did it for Anders - other than the trophy wall - were the framed pictures on the walls, the bureau and the bedstand. They were high-resolution pictures - probably GIF files - printed on high-quality paper, so that it took him a moment to realize they weren't actual photographs.
They were medical pictures, all of them. Human heads in various stages of decay or dissection, maybe both. Peeled eyes. Split torsos. Chinese decompression victims. Skin-eating bacteria at work.
It was an exhibition of disgust, all lovingly presented like family photos. And Anders had the bad, terrible feeling that Sharon liked to look at them with one hand where it shouldn't be…
"We've got cuffs," one of the police officers who'd actually been able to stay in the room announced, holding a pair of them up. They had been in the drawer with the fascist panties, all along.
"And I've got… this," another one announced, holding up a well-thumbed book on human anatomy. It was the sort that medical students used. It looked like it was stained with blood.
"It's gotta be her," Anders said, trying not to look at the photos: "Mary, Mother of Jesus. It's gotta be her."
"I thought this guy was a strangler?" the one with the medical text asked.
"We'll find the hemp rope someplace else," Anders insisted: "Probably wherever she did them. Not here."
"We make the call to Lt. Meyer, then?" the man holding the cuffs asked.
Anders thought about that. He looked at the picture of Meyer on the wall, with that nasty promise etched over him in red pen. He thought of how the man had gone ballistic back at the hotel. He considered that it was probably the man's last day on the job, anyway, and who was most likely to replace him when the day was over…
"No," Anders said. lying off the top of his head: "We can't be sure what this Nazi chick's got planned. If I call him up and tell him she's got him marked next, he might play right into her hands."
"So what do we do?" medical text man asked.
"Keep him looking the other way," Anders said, dialing up a number. It was for one of the tac squads they had out. It was a long gamble on his part, but he figured it could pay off.
"Wow," the guy with the cuffs said: "That is a damn good plan, sir."
"Thanks," Anders said, hoping he hadn't just fucked himself in the ass, too: "I thought of it myself."