"Amazingly, I can still eat."
Chapter 9: "Amazingly, I can still eat."
They call it the 'cop mask'. That blank expressionlessness that's not so much lack of emotion as a way of distancing oneself from the emotions. Distancing... so you can continue to do your job when inside all you want to do is scream while your mind runs gibbering around in circles, or when you're so overcome with disgust at the things that so-called 'human beings' do to each other that the thing you want to do most is puke. Or kill something... and you can't afford to have some piece of human debris seeing that in your eyes while you're talking to them.
Kevin O'Brien had it in firmly place at the moment, looking around this... place... that call had brought them to.
Calling it a crime scene was to diminish it with the word 'crime'. But there wasn't a line on report forms for 'atrocity scene'. In thirty years as a cop... he'd never seen anything quite like this, not even at the scenes of gruesome serial murders. He could see in the eyes of the rest of the Major Case Squad that they'd never even imagined
something like this.
There were eight bodies sprawled out on the clear area of the floor in various contorted positions where they'd fallen in death. Shell casings all around. Piles of what looked like ash, with more shell casings around them. Bullet pocks in the walls of the big industrial warehouse - enough to mark one hell of a firefight. And behind them... Behind them row upon row of people - or what had once been people - encased between sheets of heavy mylar with tubes running into and out of them. Dozens, possibly over a hundred of them. Dark tubes into which nothing flowed in or out, and monitoring devices that no longer glowed with indicator lights, if they ever had. A shut down computer console with leads running to those dead monitoring devices.
It's not emotionlessness, it never is. But there's times that you wish that it was.
Make that six
corpses sprawled out on the clear area of the floor in various contorted positions where they'd fallen in death.
Two of them were still moving, even with twelve inch stainless steel spikes driven through their temples and their necks twisted at an angle that nothing natural could assume and still live. Moving from the neck up, only, sure... but moving. Eyes staring blindly at whatever their twisted heads had ended up facing, and jaws snapping open and shut with a slow rhythmic motion.
Jaws snapping open and shut full of too long and too sharp teeth. Fangs, really.
They'd walked in on the scene cold, no warnings, as O'Brien had expected. That was how Major Cases did things: so that they could measure and compare first impressions of a scene against each others, pick out things the others might have missed in their first glance over a new crime scene.
O'Brien would have appreciated some warning, just this once. Judging from the careful lack of expression and the horror behind his partner's eyes, Frank Giambione would probably have appreciated some as well.
Detective Kevin O'Brien had walked in, taken one careful look over the scene, then turned around and found a blank spot on one of the warehouse walls to stare at, fists clenched and taking deep breaths. Stared at it for a long time. And then he'd turned back around, cop mask securely in place, and carefully and deliberately given the scene and the warehouse a long, thorough, painstaking examination. Sparing himself nothing, and afterwards he'd gone back over to his squad and Tom Kirkwood, passed the word to keep everyone except Major Cases out of the place for now, and found something else to look at. Something as unsettling in its own way as this grisly... factory.
Something else like Faith LeHane.
thrown up when they'd first walked in, that was the first thing he'd noticed. But she'd stopped dead just inside the doorway after taking in the entire scene, and her face had gone white and damned near bloodless, eyes wide and shocked. She'd put the edge of one fist to her mouth, almost absently, and bit down on it, hard - O'Brien had been half surprised not to see blood come out from that.
Then she'd straightened slightly and her fist went back down to her side to join the other one, and her eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared slightly. And her face... shut down, and she also deliberately looked the place over thoroughly with an almost clinical detachment. Not the cop mask, but something like it, and it took O'Brien a few minutes to realized where he'd seen something like that before.
Professional combat soldiers looked like that when they'd seen a surfeit of horror and death and they had to distance from it. Remote and detached, but never quite detached enough. It always marks you.
Kevin O'Brien didn't want to think about what a nineteen year old girl might have seen to put that kind of look in the back of the eyes and that kind of skill at her disposal. And he couldn't not think about it...
She finished her study of the scene, and nodded once. Shook her head slightly and the soldier look went away and something else came up in its place. Relaxed and still with something ageless and deadly behind the eyes. That predator look that he'd seen surface briefly in their first meeting at the hospital, and on the security vids, and then hadn't seen again. Until now.
LeHane raised her head, looking over the upper levels of the warehouse, then wandered over to squat beside one of the bodies on the floor - one of the dead ones - and the weapon and scattering of cartridge casings around it. She examined it thoroughly, visually, and then put her hand over one of the casings and froze there.
Giambione went over and handed her a pen, and she nodded and smiled absently at him, taking it and using it to pick up one of he empty cases to examine. After giving it a careful scrutiny, she set it back where she'd found it - exactly where, O'Brien noticed - and moved on. She stopped at one of the other corpses, looked over the body carefully without touching it, and O'Brien saw her note the shield on the belt case.
LeHane glanced up at Giambione again and asked, "Gloves?" Frank studied her for a few seconds, and then took an extra pair out of his pocket and passed them over to her. She nodded, pulling them on, and began to carefully examine the body, pulling back the sleeves and collar.
When she started to work the shirt out of the belt, Colby Burns started and said, "Hey now - hold on."
Detective Meadows cleared her throat and said, "Don't touch or disturb anything else until the ME gets here, please."
LeHane looked up at her, eyes flat. "Detective... ?"
"Meadows. Detective Christine Meadows." LeHane nodded.
"This is why you brought me here, isn't it?" She looked at O'Brien. Kevin nodded. "I'm not going to thank you for this, you know." O'Brien nodded again, and shrugged. She looked at Christine and met her eyes evenly, "O'Brien invited me here because he thought I might be able to add something to this. Assuming that he didn't bring me just to watch my reactions - or only just
to watch my reactions. You might want to object to him, and let me do my job."
"It's ok, Chris. Let her go," O'Brien said. Christine started to say something, then held it and shook her head, making a 'by all means' gesture. O'Brien knew he'd hear about it later, though.
LeHane nodded and went back to her examination. After a point, she nodded absently, almost to herself, and moved to one of the other bodies. Noting the badge there as well, she pulled up the shirt and undershirt and went directly to whatever had caught her eye on the first one, Giambione watching over her shoulder. She nodded again and motioned the rest of them over.
"Philly's finest?" She asked, looking up at O'Brien.
"Formerly," he gave her a saturnine look. "Makes it not just a mass murder scene, but a double cop killing." She nodded and pointed at the body, calling out an odd tattoo just above the waistline over the right hip front.
"Naw. Whatever else they were, they haven't been cops for a long time now." She jerked her head to the previous body. "You'll find an identical tattoo on that one as well."
"What do you mean by that?" Burns said, angrily. "Dirty yeah - no way to doubt that here - but still cops." The big black detective's partner, Carson, looked like he was going to erupt at that also. Tom Kirkwood, as usual, was staying carefully out of the way... but his eyes weren't missing anything, including the various byplays and undercurrents.
"If you want to claim them, go ahead. I wouldn't," she met his eyes levelly. "Peace, Detective. Not trying to insult your badge. Let me finish here and I'll lay it all out for you, if I can." O'Brien made an offhand gesture, and Colby and Carson subsided for the moment.
"Chalk?" LeHane apparently dismissed Colby and Carson from her attention and looked up at rest of them. Christine dug a fresh piece of marking chalk from her bag and handed it over with a curious expression. "Thanks."
She stood and wandered around the front of the warehouse slowly, kneeling at various spots and using the chalk to trace around the various scatterings of ashes within the other casing spray patterns. After finishing, she stood and looked around carefully as if making certain she hadn't missed any. She tossed the chalk back to Christine - over her shoulder without looking, O'Brien noticed - and Chris snatched it out of the air, looking slightly surprised when she caught it. She turned and prowled back over to the group of detectives and one reporter, making certain not to step on any cartridge cases, bloodstains, or ashes.
"Your men outside going to shoot me if I go out, O'Brien?"
"Not if I tell them not to," he took his radio and told the uniforms and plainclothesmen outside the building that one of his people was coming out, and not to interfere with her. Being very careful with his wording so as to not attract the attention of any scanner listeners.
"Gracias." She nodded to him and went out the main door they'd entered through.
Detective Carson looked at him. "What's she doing here, Obie?"
"Wanted to see what she'd make of this," O'Brien said, flatly. "Been interesting so far." All of them were carefully ignoring the still moving spiked corpses, or should-be corpses. LeHane had barely given them a cursory glance except to walk carefully around them on her earlier examination.
After a number of minutes O'Brien's radio crackled, "O'Brien?"
"Obie. And I said 'cell phones only' - no radio traffic on this until I clear it. Got that?" A double-click answered him, and a moment later his phone vibrated. He flipped it open and to speaker saying, "What?"
"You know that biker chick you brought with you?"
"She just came out, wandered around examining the building a bit, and then went straight up the freaking wall like a lizard. Jumped almost fifteen feet up to a drainpipe and went up to the freaking roof using handholds I can't even see
." Pause, "What the hell did you bring out here to consult with, Chief?"
"Anyone else see her?"
"No. Just me and my partner."
"Good. Let her alone." O'Brien paused, thinking. "Warn us if any news crews find out about this somehow and show up. And Do NOT let them past the tape. Period-end-of-discussion do not." Cell phone transmissions could be tapped into as well as radio, but police band scanners were a lot more common than cell phone band intercept equipment. Using the cells only, they could extend the time that Major Cases could keep a lid on this. And make it easier to narrow down the leak if any newsies - aside from Kirkwood - showed up.
Detective Carson raised an eyebrow at him. "Straight up a sheer wall to the roof?"
"We watched a blonde move faster than the eyes could follow on video tape the other night, Freddie," Giambione stated. "What makes LeHane's climbing and jumping ability any more remarkable?" Carson and his partner Burns looked decidedly non-plussed and unsettled, but didn't really seem to have a counter for that.
A few minutes later there was a quiet sound from above, and eyes went up to see LeHane dropping catlike through a roof access hatch that was no longer where it had been a few minutes earlier. She landed lightly - and almost noiselessly - on the upper walkway around that end of the warehouse and straightened, looking over the sprawled bodies below with an expressionless face and narrowed eyes. After a minute or so, she nodded again, apparently to herself and jumped - from an almost three story catwalk - and landed crouched in a clear spot among the bodies. Upon landing she straightened again and started moving between the chalk-outlined piles of dust and bodies, pausing and turning this way and that as she moved... occasionally shaking her head and backing up to retrace the graceful movements.'Almost like she's dancing,'
Detective Meadows thought. 'No - not dancing: re-enacting what she thinks happened here.'
When she reached the last body, she turned and retraced her route with her eyes and nodded again, then turned to O'Brien.
"She came in through up there. Not how I would have done it, but it seems to have worked," LeHane remarked in a dry voice. "And then she killed everyone in here, shut down the electronics and life support, and left out the front door. Like taking a stroll."
"She?" Stevie asked.
"I know maybe six people who could have done this without firearms - you'll note that all of the bullet pocks are away from the bodies, and very few of them are shot. The ones that were... I'll bet real money were shot with their fellows guns," LeHane said. "I'm one, and I didn't do it. The others aren't anywhere near this city - some aren't even in this country. So I'm guessing our blonde playmate paid this place a visit."
"You think you could have done this?" Carson's voice was skeptical, but not nearly as much as it might have been if he hadn't just watched that two-and-a-half story jump.
"Probably. I'd have done it differently, and I'd have soaked up some bullet holes doing it. Maybe enough to kill me," she looked not at Carson, but at the mylar encased bodies in racks and tubing at the back of the warehouse. "Tempted to say that blonde bitch did a Good Thing here, but I kinda doubt she did it out of pure goodness. This was a message."
"Message to who?" Giambione asked.
"Whoever owns this place," LeHane shrugged. "How did you guys find out about it?"
Giambione looked at O'Brien, then said, "Anonymous tip."
"Right." LeHane closed her eyes and shuddered briefly. "Scratch that, then. Message to you. And to me. And knowing that it'll get out indirectly to whomever owned this place."
"All right. What exactly do we have here, LeHane?" O'Brien's voice came out harsher than he intended.
He saw Faith glance around the warehouse again at the small group of officers and one reporter, and the noticeable lack of forensics teams and ME people. "We still off the official clock for now, Five-oh?"
He nodded. "For now. But not for much longer. I'm going to have to get forensics in here soon and the Medical Examiner's people, and then the lid will start quietly coming off."
Giambione smirked and said, "We hope 'quietly'. The clock is ticking now."
"Yeah." LeHane nodded again, slowly. "Let me see one of the weapons they were using before I answer that, please?" Giambione looked at O'Brien, and when he received a return nod, picked up one of the firearms and handed it to her. She examined it carefully and then pulled back the blot until it locked. "Empty... I need to see the ammo they were using."
Frank found one that still had rounds, and popped out the magazine and tossed it to her. She thumbed out several cartridges and looked them over, then tossed one to O'Brien. "10mm MP-5," O'Brien said. "Only examples of these were supposed to go exclusively to the FBI. Very odd looking rounds."
"Bet you that if you were able to check, you'd find that Heckler & Koch has a number of people with odd, hidden tattoos working for them. Bet real money that when/if you trace the serial numbers you find out that lot of these MP-5's never existed," Faith grinned mirthlessly, then took a deep breath again. "Ok. I've never seen one of these, but I've had it described to me. I've been told that there's something like this in almost every major eastern city... " She took a deep breath, "Those two are a pair of your 'exsanguination killers' O'Brien mentioned." She pointed at the two still - inexplicably and blindly - moving corpses. "This is a vampire blood extraction facility. They were waiting here for our blonde friend, with ammo designed to kill her. I'm not certain
what's in those bullets - but it's probably
some sort of concentrated UV gel with an electronic impact sensor.""Vampire?!?"
Colby Burns exploded. "Give me a break, lady." O'Brien didn't say anything, nor raise an eyebrow. Neither did any of the others... and he saw his partner nodding slowly, face expressionless.
"Vampire." LeHane merely looked at him, stone faced, then walked over to one of the twitching not-quite-corpses. "No pulse. Fangs. Low body heat. Still twitching and snapping with a steel spike through the temples and a broken neck. Haul it in to the morgue and remove the spike - and it'll heal and leave on you." She met his eyes with the same lack of expression and said in the same emotionless voice. "Twenty two corpses. Eight visible bodies and fourteen piles of ash."
She knelt down behind the twitching body and grasped it by the hair, pulling the head up. Her other arm moved suddenly, almost invisibly, and the head separated from the shoulders. It wasn't until she let go of the hair and stepped back and up that they saw the twelve inch bladed bowie in her right hand. The body burst into flames, and then disintegrated into flaming ash, the steel spike clattering to the floor.
"Christ!" Detective Carson stepped back, clawing for his gun. He wasn't the only one. The only thing that kept anyone from drawing on her was her calm and non-threatening stance and the sudden pyrotechnic display from the former twitching body.
LeHane didn't smirk or break her expressionless demeanor. Merely re-sheathed the knife under her leather jacket at the back and pointed at the remaining twitcher. "Vampire, Detective. One breed of them. Silver or sunlight kills them. Or decapitation, as you just saw. Your blonde bitch is a different breed of them."
She moved over to the corpse of one of the plainclothes cops she'd examined earlier and nudged it with her toe. "That's not 'one of yours' and it hasn't been for a long time. Neither is the other one. It's a Familiar, or was - a human that works for things like that," she pointed again at the still snapping 'corpse', "to help them do things like this." She gestured around the warehouse. "Take care of things for them in the daylight they can't do themselves; cover up for them and help misdirect people like you; get them information and political access; all in exchange for a promise that their 'Masters' might one day make them immortal as well. You can tell them by the tattoos, or similar ones - vampires like to mark their cattle."
She met O'Brien's eyes evenly. "You have an infestation, O'Brien. That's why your crime rate's been getting weirder for the past however many years, along with the other things you've mentioned. And now you have a war."
"If that's a vampire, then what are you?" Tom Kirkwood asked. Curious, non-threatening and definitely not disbelieving tone of voice. She looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Kirkwood. Tom Kirkwood."
"Kirkwood, of the Eagle?" She gave O'Brien a curious look when Kirkwood nodded, then looked back to Tom. "You look younger in your byline pic. I'm Faith," she said. "And I'm a Slayer. I was born to hunt things like that and kill them." She glanced around the warehouse again, "Every once in a while, I encounter something like this that makes me wish that people like me weren't necessary. And glad that we exist.".................................................................................
Faith was sitting with her back to the front wall of the warehouse some time later, arms folded over her knees and head resting on them with her eyes closed. There'd been a number of questions from the Major Cases detectives and Kirkwood, but not nearly as many as she'd expected. And a lot less revulsion towards her after her quick, shock vampire killing demo than she'd expected. Evidentially it had been the 'vampire' explanation rather than the strangeness that had shocked Detective Burns. Either that, or these cops adapted a lot faster to weirdness than Sunnydale cops ever had, and were a lot less inclined to look the other way from what was squarely in front of them. Even after she'd ashed the second crippled vampire on O'Brien's suggestion and with his blessing.
She raised her head slightly and considered the detectives. Rather... considered one detective.'Detective Christine Meadows. Slayer. Newly Awakened slayer,'
she thought. 'Easiest couple of grand I ever made, assuming I live through this - I didn't even have to go looking for her.'
She'd been distracted when her and O'Brien had walked into this... charnel house, but not so distracted that Detective Meadows hadn't registered on her slayer senses. Nor so distracted that she hadn't noticed it and surreptitiously hunted for the source of the *ping* on her inner radar.
Short hunt. Two female detectives. That kinda narrows down the field, huh?
Now all she had to do was figure out a way to talk to her alone and fill her in on what happened to her several months ago. And give her the information on the New International Watcher's Council, along with Giles' and Vi's number and information. Assuming she wanted to... Faith suspected that bringing police interest on the IWC wasn't quite what Giles had anticipated when he'd offered her the 'Locate new Awakened' contract. Faith laid her head back down on her forearms and closed her eyes again.
Footsteps coming toward her brought her back to the real world again, reluctantly. Two sets of footsteps. She kind of doubted that her first impulse of 'go the fuck away' would go over real well. Sigh.
"Are you ok?" O'Brien's voice was surprisingly gentle. Faith raised her head and blinked up at him, and at Tom Kirkwood standing next to him with a concerned expression and hands in his pockets.
"No. I may never be 'ok' again," Faith gave him a wan half smile.
Kirkwood gave her a curious and not-unsympathetic look completely at odds with what came out of his mouth shortly afterwards, "From the way you went over this place earlier, I'd kind of figured you were used to this sort of thing."
O'Brien's 'Tommy, you ass' glare almost perfectly mirrored Faith's incredulous stare at Kirkwood. To his credit, Tom Kirkwood seemed to realize he'd stuck his foot in his mouth all the way up to the hip a second after his mouth closed. He made a vague 'not what I meant to say!' gesture that was almost comical.
Faith shook her head and laid it back on her forearms. "Ask your friend O'Brien if he ever 'gets used to this sort of thing' sometime. I never have. It just doesn't always hit me this hard." She raised her eyes to his and looked at him, "I used to hide that a lot better, though," she said, softly.
"I open my mouth some days and stupidity emerges," Kirkwood said. O'Brien snorted and gave him a 'some days?' look that Kirkwood ignored.
"No worries. Join the club. It happens to me a lot," Faith said. "I've been trying to get past the will to be stupid for years, but I haven't made it yet."
"Time for us to go," O'Brien said. "Need to bring in the forensics people and the ME before the fact that we have a closed crime scene draws more attention than all... this... will on its own." He held out a hand and let her use it to pull herself up.
"Yeah." She glanced over at the back of the warehouse. "Just going to cover all this over?"
"Ha. Not possible," O'Brien said. "Going to do all the normal investigative work, and then we're going to find some plausible label to file it under when it comes out while we do the real investigation on the side."
Faith nodded. "Be careful. There's stuff out there that bites." She took a deep breath and turned away from the blood factory. She held out the four rounds of odd 10mm ammo she still had in her hand. "I'd like to hang on to these. I have some people I can send them to that can probably do a faster and more accurate analysis of what they are than your ballistics people can."
O'Brien studied her for a minute or so, then nodded abruptly. "Plenty here for the ballistics and lab people to look at. Doubt anyone will miss them."
"Yeah," Faith shrugged and put the rounds in a pocket. "If your labs can identify and figure out how to duplicate them - I'd suggest getting some made up for your squad's firearms." O'Brien nodded and she added, "So. Where to?"
"To talk. May as well go where we'd originally planned." O'Brien gave Kirkwood a look. "Later, Tommy."
"Amazingly, I can still eat." Faith shook her head. "I wonder if I should worry about why that doesn't make me want to throw up."